Friday, 31 December 2010

ActRaiser - SNES

I want to mention first off that I have not finished this game and only put one to one and a half hours into it, but I did make it to the first boss and played through both of the level types. It is basically just two games in one, an action platforming game and a city/civilization building game. They are not all that well integrated and I think that it would of been a lot better if more actions had ramifications in both worlds. The basic premise is that you control The Master and his servant Angel on their quest to regain control of their world by defeating a group of demons. This is done by exploring dungeons and defeating demons, in the platforming segments, and rebuilding cities and gaining followers, in the city building segments.

In the platforming levels you control The Master as he navigates dungeons and underground lairs filled with monsters in search of The Evil One and his six Guardians. These segments are not very well done, with the protagonist suffering from laggy and stiff controls, and really drag down the entire game in my opinion. Not that ActRaiser is horrible, many SNES games feature laggy and stiff controls, so while it might not of aged well it is in no way a bad SNES game. The platforming is done with a side view perspective with the view centred on the protagonist and with him taking up most of the screen, and is mostly comprised of killing demons with your sword, platforming, and dodging enemies and their projectiles, and every level is capped off with a nice boss battle.

The city building segments were by far my favourite. In them you play Angel and fly around shooting monsters, directing your budding city, and launching your godlike powers onto the landscape to mold it to your will. Your goal is to snuff out the monster lairs in the vicinity, find powerful artifacts, and grow your cities population to add to your power. Overall it is somewhat simplistic but still fun and quite unique.

Overall I would say that it is an OK game, but probably not worth playing if you don’t have nostalgic memories of the game. And maybe I just did not play enough of the game, but each part of the game seemed overly simplistic and not nearly integrated enough to make up for this. But the city building was moderately unique, and actually fun, so I think the game would of benefited from dropping the platforming segments altogether.

Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Monday, 27 December 2010

Iron Lord - Atari ST Screenshots - Part 1

Screenshots from a great (but incredibly difficult) game which is part RPG, part strategy, part arcade...  Will post another batch of screenshots soon, hopefully when I've managed to actually win the dratted archery and got a bit further in the game!

Iron Lord Atari ST Screenshots

Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Super Smash Bros. - N64

Super Smash Bros. has my absolute favourite multiplayer of all time, even better then all of its sequels in my opinion. Super Smash Bros., and its sequels, allows the players to take control of many popular Nintendo characters and pound on each other until a winner is decided. It is simply the most fun that a group of up to four players can have. Not that the games do not come with some single player, but this is really only useful for unlocking more multiplayer content, and even with only one player it is more fun to simply play vs. bots then to play the single-player campaign or the challenges.

One reason for its greatness is its simplicity. It is best described by the old saying: “easy to learn, but takes a lifetime to master”. The controls are very simple: normal attack, special attack, block, up, down, left, right, and jump. Both attacks can be combined with any of the directional buttons to produce different attacks, but no combos past this produce anything special. It is how you combine these attacks and most importantly how you position yourself that will decide the outcome of the battle. And it is the movement and positioning that most sets it apart from other 2D fighters; You do not play in small level arenas, for the most part you have quite a lot of room to manoeuvre and a diverse topology to play on and can retreat, dodge, and even jump over opponents to buy some time or to get to a more defensible location.

Their are also a few other small features that really give the gameplay that little extra polish. One aspect that I wish more games had is its shared screen, instead of the usual split screen, view that allows multiple people to play the game at a time and still not reduce the visibility of the game world. Another good addition is the items, these are quite diverse and very fun to play with. And finally the game even includes bots, but the AI does leave a lot of room for improvement.

Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Friday, 24 December 2010

TimeSplitters: Future Prefect - Xbox

TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, or TimeSplitters 3, is a FPS released for the GameCube, PS2, and the Xbox in 2005; And it is on the Xbox that I played the game. I cannot stress enough how fun this game is; Thinking back to when I was playing Xbox games, even though it is in one of my least favourite genres, Future Perfect easily comes to the fore as the best game I played on that console; And I played most of the good games on the original Xbox, with the most notable exception being TimeSplitters 2.

What really makes the game so great is all the extras put into it. While the game is a great FPS, and I believe that it can compete against Halo in this regard, this is only the outer shell of the game. In addition to this their is great humour, many interesting game modes, tons of extra challenges, lots of different weapons, and a diverse story.

Lets start with the campaign, it has three difficulty levels, that range from easy to really hard, and even allows two player split-screen coop. The story ranges from steam-punk style recent past to the far future in the midst of a huge war. The basic premise is that some substance that allows time travel has been discovered and a super villain/scientist has used it to travel throughout time to raise armies, wage war, and cause disarray in his quest for power. During the course of the adventure you will fight along side partners, sneak into compounds with a silenced pistol, break down doors with guns blazing, snipe enemy robots through a wall with the mag-charger, kill zombies with a thrown object or with your trusty bat, solve puzzles, fight unique bosses, battle in a giant mech, and all of this with witty comments and in humorous situations. The most unique and a very fun aspect of the campaign is the use of time travel to interact with your own future/past self. All throughout the story you are saved by your future self and then latter have to travel back in time to become the saver.

While the campaign is amazingly fun, and a great part of the game, it does contain the only issue I have with entire game. The campaign at a few parts can get unusually hard, and at the hardest difficulty is almost impossible. The first of these, and the most memorable, is the battle with the boss zombie moose. Their is not even enough ammo for this fight and as far as I can tell you simply have to hope that your NPC ally will deal enough damage so that it will be killed.

Another great part of the game, and something I spent countless hours on, is the multiplayer; And like the rest of the game it has diverse and numerous setting and features. The multiplayer has many modes and all of these modes have completely configurable AI bots, teams, and scoring, weapons, up to four player split-screen, online play, and endless numbers of playable characters with humorous catch phrases. Their is classical deathmatch and team deathmatch, with fully configurable teams. Capture the bag, TimeSplitters' version of capture the flag. Two modes that only allow one person to get points at a time, Bag tag, where you must get and hold the single bag for the longest time possible, and Gladiator, where you must be the gladiator to score points by killing. Elimination, a version of deathmatch where each player has a set number of lives. Two versions of deathmatch that are designed to make life easier on the life challenged, Shrink, where you shrink as you go down in the rankings and grow when you get closer to first place, and Monkey Assistant, where every so often a group of monkeys will appear and attack the leader and anyone in-between giving their kills to the last persons score. Vampire, where you must kill regularly to stay alive. Thief, where you must pick up the coins players drop as they die to get points. Virus, a favourite of mine, where the game starts with a single infected player who must infect others, by touching them,who in turn seek out new victims to infect until their is only one left, the winner. Zones, where you must capture and control zones to gain points. And finally Assault, where you must complete a set of objects in a set time limit or prevent the objectives from being accomplished if you are one of the defenders (all of which is some variation on breaking into a castle for the first few objectives).

And if their was not already enough content their are numerous mini games in the form of Arcade Leagues and Challenges. These games range from sniping challenges, zombie beheading, and operating two separate turrets at one time all the way to keeping cyborg monkeys dancing and bowling. And even a map editor, that gives you a unprecedented level of freedom for a console.

Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Dragon Ninja - Atari ST

Coin-op conversion, large sprites, full-screen scrolling... it was always going to be a recipe for disaster. To be fair I don't think Dragon Ninja was anything like as terrible as Altered Beast; however things moved too slowly for the game to be much fun.  It's a shame really as the game did look nice, the chip music wasn't too bad and most of the moves from the coin-ops survived the transition to a one-button joystick...

Dragon Ninja Atari ST Screenshots:

Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

The New Zealand Story - Atari ST

Not as fun or playable as Rainbow Islands, which came out at around the same time, but New Zealand Story was undeniably cute and the ST conversion wasn't too bad.  The graphics were relatively colourful and well animated, the chip music was... well, chip music, so fairly awful, but the game played quite smoothly and things moved at a nice speed.  Platforming fans could enjoy playing as a bow and arrow wielding kiwi.

The New Zealand Story Atari ST Screenshots:

Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Bandits at Zero - C16

Bandits at Zero was a supremely awesome horizontal shooter for the Commodore 16, released in 1986 by Mastertronic.  You flew a single plane over an area densely populated by enemy planes, which had a few different attack procedures and weapon capabilities.  There were also ships on the sea below who could blast you out of the sky given half a chance.

It was fast and frantic fun, though it also required a great degree of precision and some strategy to be successful too.  Precision was also key in the nighttime stages - not only did you have enemies to contend with, but getting hitched up with the refueling aircraft was a tricky business in itself.  I don't think I ever actually managed to complete the game, but I sure had a blast trying.  The sprites may have been small but parallax scrolling and fast gameplay pushed the low-cost 8-bit machine to the limit.  Timeless.

Associated Blogs:

CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

Games Reviewed / Mentioned by System

Atari ST
ZX Spectrum
Playstation 1





Game Boy Advance

Atari Lynx 
Sega Megadrive (Genesis) 

    Associated Blogs:

    CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
    Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

    Tuesday, 21 December 2010

    Just what is "Retro"?

    The question has come up recently and needs to be answered - just what is "retro" when it comes to video gaming? Is it games of a certain age? Consoles 2 or more generations back from the current generation? What do you think?

    To me, retro gaming is generally what I associate with having played during my childhood and teen years - but that would place it as games up to 1997, which would leave games even a over a decade old out.  So... what do you guys think?  Are there any slightly more modern systems that you'd like to see more about on this blog that we've yet to mention?

    Associated Blogs:

    CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
    Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

    The Dig - DOS

    The Dig is a 1995 2D graphical adventure game by LucasArts. It is a notable exception from other titles in their library as it is a serious title, and this is mirrored in all aspects of the game: the dialogue, story, art, music, and puzzles. The game was created by many talented and famous people; Including the well known science fiction write Orson Scott Card, creator of the Ender's Game series, and Steven Spielberg, the almost legendary film director and creator; And The Dig almost feels like a triple A film, with an amazing long and involved story, great dialogue and voice acting, attractive visuals, and atmosphere setting music.

    The Dig has been criticized by fans of LucasArts adventure games because of its serious atmosphere, too challenging Myst likely puzzles, and pretty much every other aspect of the game; calling it the weakest in the developers library. Personally, I do not know what game these naysayers are playing; And I can only come to the conclusion that they are blinded by it being different from the many other wonderful LucasArts games. And it is a very different game; But no matter how great The Secret of Monkey Island's witty humour was, every game cannot use humour; And no matter how stylish The Curse of Monkey Island looked, every game cannot just copy those graphics and hope to catch some of the magic that was in the game. So yes The Dig is different and unique, but that is where the potential for greatness comes in.

    The Dig is a epic science fiction tale of mortality and immortality, of aliens and humans, of technology and ruins, and ultimately of life and death. In the story a team of three astronautics are sent to save the earth from a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with earth. The team saves the earth, but gets transported to a seemingly abandoned alien world filled with mystery and danger. They must then explore the planet looking for a way home, or at least for a way to survive. They soon discover the ruins of a ancient, technologically advanced, race of aliens. With nothing showing where the aliens went of what happened to them. The team must delve deeper into the alien world to discover what happened to the long absent civilization and if they can ever get home to earth.

    What really makes the game great in my opinion is how well all the parts are fit together. The story, as mentioned previously, sets the over arching tone of mystery and wonder. This feeling is compounded by the graphics, particularly the alien environment and technology. The interesting gameplay and puzzles help to draw the player into this world. The great music grows this atmosphere, with a sometime eerie, sometimes alien, sometimes mysterious, and always epic score. And it is the superb and believable dialogue and voice overs that really solidifies it. It is rare to see all of a games attributes come together and work in concert to create such a great atmosphere and ultimately incredible game.

    And now to the gameplay. The gameplay is mostly divided between three main types: logic puzzles, inventory based puzzles, and exploration. The logic puzzles revolve around the alien technology; Figuring out how specific control panels and devices function, sometimes how to fix them, and then how to use them. The inventory puzzles are a pretty recognizable fair, similar to other classical adventure games, but particularly well done; Staying logical and entertaining throughout. The third and arguably the most entertaining aspect of the gameplay is the exploration. Exploring the alien landscape and discovering the alien technology and hidden chambers is just awe inspiring in its own right.

    The overall feeling of mystery and wonder created by the captivating and profound story, extended by the alien and mysterious graphics and environments, nourished by the epic music, and cemented by the solid and interesting dialogue and voice overs.
    The overly happy ending slightly distracted from the seriousness of the game prior to that moment.
    A great classical adventure game that is almost perfect in all categories.
    Release Date:
    November 1, 1995
    System Requirements:
    • OS: DOS, Mac OS
    • CPU: 66 MHz
    • RAM: 8 MB
    • Video: 256 colour VGA
    • Hard Drive: 1 MB
    Re-release: (
    • OS: Windows XP or Vista
    • CPU: Any 2002 era PC or better
    • RAM: 32 MB
    • Video: 2 MB - PCI Graphics Card
    • Hard Drive: 650 MB
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.5
    • CPU: 1.8 GHz
    • RAM: 128 MB
    • Hard Drive: 2 GB

    Associated Blogs:

    CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
    Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

    Monday, 20 December 2010

    Final Fantasy IV - SNES

    Cecil Battle
    Cecil Portrait
    Final Fantasy IV (or II in America) has been a favorite of mine since the very beginning, it was the very first RPG I had ever played and was one of earliest games I have seen to have a full great story and real fleshed out characters. It was first released back in 1991 for the SNES by Square but latter ported/remade to/for a wide range of platforms: The PlayStation in 1997, the WonderSwan Color in 2002, the Game Boy Advance in 2005, the Nintendo DS in 2007, the Wii Virtual Console in 2009 and latter that same year mobile phones, and it is slatted for a 2011 release on the PlayStation Portable.

    Tellah Battle
    Tellah Portrait
    As its name implies it is the forth title in the prestigious Final Fantasy series, a series that currently holds fourteen main titles and a whopping twenty eight games in total including all spin-offs and sequels, and that is not even including the two great movies, two anime series, and a handful of OVAs. The series is the second best selling RPG series of all time, and even the sixth best selling series of all time. In particular Final Fantasy IV holds a particularity prestigious place in the series, it is one of the few main titles to have a direct sequel, Final Fantasy IV: the After Years, and the first game to use the Active Time Battle system, a system used in many subsequent titles. Set seventeen years after the events of the first game, The After Years follows the the original cast and their descendants in a episodic adventure spanning eleven chapters and utilizing mostly the same game mechanics.

    Kain Portrait
    Kain Battle
    There are many reason that I think Final Fantasy IV excels. For one it has a great expansive storyline, and top-notch graphics. Additionally, it had simpler and easier gameplay then many other Final Fantasy titles, with little to no grinding being needed and the leveling system and character development being completely automated. And while customization can be very good in its own right, it can get in the way of the story and character development; And this is where Final Fantasy IV really shines. This game has the biggest most dense group of great characters and easily has over half of my favorite characters of all time. Their is Cecil the dark night turned repentant hero, Cid the genius mechanic, Edge the dual sword wielding, weapon throwing, and wise cracking ninja, Edward the cowardly prince who has lost his love interest to the enemy, Palom and Porom the young but extremely talented black and white mages, Tellah the wise sage past his prime, and Kain the dragoon, to name a few.

    Associated Blogs:

    CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog 
    Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

    Super Punch-Out!! - SNES

    Super Punch-Out!! is a boxing video game released on the Super Nintendo in 1994 that is a sequel to both a NES and arcade game. More recently, Super Punch-Out!! got a sequel on the Wii. The game is played in a behind the back perspective where the player must knock out a series of tougher and tougher opponents. To do this you utilize left and right body and face blows as well as multiple special moves that need to be powered up before use. But more important is the guarding, you can dodge in three directions, left, right, and back, and can block low and high.

    The best part of the game is probably the stylish colourful graphics, these graphics are very good and some of the best to be found in any SNES game; But overall I was not very impressed with the game. The game is very lacking in content; it has no story, no evolution of gameplay, no real developed characters, and is simple a series of boxing fights against a series of mostly similar opponents. And it is not even a very long series of matches, for the most part gameplay is padded by making them very hard. So for the most part if you are playing this for the first time you will win a few matches, die and start over and then win more matches, die and start over, repeat. So to me Super Punch-Out!! seems incomparable to the many great SNES games that offer many hours of ever changing great gameplay, with enjoyable story lines, and interesting characters. Not that the game does not have its own lovable style.

    Associated Blogs:

    CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog
    Jonathon Wisnoski - Game Reviewer and Commentator

    Thursday, 16 December 2010

    Circus Attractions - Atari ST

    This game features five game segments based on circus attractions (I bet that was a surprise to you, huh?) - Trampolining, Tightrope Walking, Juggling, Knife Throwing and Clown Jumping.  You can train in any of the events as much as you like, or go for playing each one and seeing what total score you can reach.  There is some functionality for multi-player and team play.

    Developed by Golden Goblins and released by Rainbow Arts back in 1989, this is effectively five simple games tagged together.  The games themselves are relatively fun, with controls that were a bit fiddly but essentially relied on you having good timing more than anything else.  The graphics were reasonably good; the chip music was something of an unwelcome assault on the ears!  It's a reasonable game, the different sections are fun for a while and it would work much better as a multi-player game - I think you'd get bored of it pretty quickly without any human competition.

    Circus Attractions has a particular fascination for me because I created a game along very similar lines (I called mine "Big Top", it was coded in STOS and was Atari STE specific, but sadly never got released [even as public domain] - as far as I can remember it featured tightrope walking, knife throwing, human cannonball - not sure if any other disciplines - and a rudimentary circus management section).  Was it better than this?  Probably not to be honest (though my sound effects were definitely better! :-D), but I wish I'd managed to send it to a few PD libraries so that at least the old game might still be knocking around the internet somewhere so that I could download it, play it on STEEM and tell people "I did that!  Isn't it awful?!"... or something.

    Forgive my indulgence, but Big Top was about the only proper game I ever actually finished coding!  Anyway, enough reminiscing.  Here are some screenshots of the game: 

    Circus Attractions - Atari ST Screenshots