Sunday, 13 December 2009

Retro hall of Shame # 3: Chase HQ - Amiga

What? Another post right after the last? You might think I'm mad (well, I am, actually) but I thought why not? But why am I doing it for a game I've looked at already. Well, the clue is in the title.
Chase HQ was ported to many, many systems. Some by Taito themselves and some by Ocean (The Taito versions being called Tatio Chase HQ). Some Ocean versions were spot on ie. Spectrum but one version smelt like dog shit and looked like a chav after a night out. Where did it all go wrong for the Amiga version?

The game sees you...... (fast forward a few lines. As the game plays the same as the arcade version, I wont repeat my self) .....if you don't get there in time.

The Amiga Verison...yuk...

This version also has the same status bar and easily looks the best thing in the game. Its a shame the rest of the game was utter crap. First off, the graphics look awful. Really dull and drab and don't have the vibrance of the arcade original or the Speccy version. The road side is very sparse of objects, apart from one cactus and a couple of signs. Maybe a building or two, but that's about it. Its just a barren wasteland. The graphics are smaller and the cars look terrible as well. The Amiga can handle much better graphics than this and is more than capable of the speed as well. There is no sense of speed at all. The sound is just as awful as well. The engine noise will make you go insane after 30 seconds. To me, It all just seems very rushed to get it out on the shelves. More often than not, you'll find yourself wrestling with the joystick. When you turn, it doesn't feel like your turning at all. Sometimes, you'll turn too much. The controls don't feel refined at all. There's no 'sweet spot', per se.

The sublime Arcde version. See the difference?

This, to me, is the worst version of one of the best Arcade games ever. The arcade game was fun, visually stunning and, sonically, was brilliant. The Spectrum version was exactly the same and was very enjoyable. The Amiga version is the bastard child of the arcade version and should have been dropped at birth. It goes up there with the Amiga version of After Burner, PitFighter and Turtles Coin-Op as the worst arcade conversions ever. It would be a crime to have bought it when it was released, and its a crime to even pick it up off eBay now.

0.5/5 - JSW's Even Bigger Bag of Wrong Award.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

5 Top Gaming Moments as chosen! (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

A new feature, this is a look at my 5 of the top Gaming moments from gaming's past. These are the moments that made me go 'bloody hell!!!' or 'f&ck me!!'. So, grab a brew and bag of Quavers and get ready to digest these bite size chunks of greatness.

5: Meeting Psycho Mantis - Metal Gear Solid (PS1).

Now, Psycho Mantis isn't your normal enemy. He can read minds better than Uri Geller and can levitate better than Raul Julia in Street Fighter. He can also scan your memory card and see what games you've played. Scary, huh? Well, when I first got to that part, it put a stupidly big grin on my young, spotty face. But nothing could prepare me for what happend after that. Evrery one of my moves was second guessed by him, meaning he could beat me every time. Unless I did a special trick that was better than what Paul Daniels could do. Not a lot, but it was.


Hideo Kojima is a gaming god anyway, with Snatcher being an almost interactive movie that was very accessable and very playable. So, when he threw in those two neat tricks, it was the icing on the preverbial cake. The game was the ultimate stealth game and this gave that part a more immersive atmosphere. Thats not to say that the game wasn't awesome anyway, it was, but when you tried to beat Psycho Mantis, you knew you were in for a battle and a half.

4: Slap the Ref? As if I would! - Taito Football Champ (arc)

Football is a gritty game. 11 men against 11 men. One team stands between you and the cup. The whistle blows, you kick off. As you pass the ball, the ref runs past and stops the ball by accident. You walk up...........and punch the ref in the mush, running off with the ball towards your opponants goal. Whoever thought of doing a slapstick footie game where you can punch the crap out the ref and not get booked for it, give them a cigar, as its makes the game a great laugh. Especially when you can then knee your opponents in the face when the referee is sparko on the floor and take their legs from under them, making them fly like Superman.

The graphics were great and with this added sense that the game didn't take itself too seriously, there was plenty of fun to be had. And when Elite got to convert it for the Amiga, it added being able to kick the ball at the photographers to knock them over and the added bonus of a streaker at unregular intervals! This game is worth emulating as its fast, frantic, fun and comical. All the fun of footie with having to buy a season ticket!

3: Ice Cream, Ice Cream! - Speedball 2 (A500)

Being a game that you can smack the crap out of your opponants and send them for an early bath and limb replacement, you wouldn't have thought that a game like this could have a comedy element in it. There you are, sending your opponent crashing to the floor, you slam the steel ball into the goal, your guys are celebrating, then comes from the stand.........'Ice Cream......Ice Cream'.

I don't know if it was intentional or not, but it does bring something funny to an otherwise serious game, based on the movie Rollerball with James Caan. Can you imagine that in the movie? James Caan slams the ball into someones face and the usher shouts 'Ice Cream'? Yes, I'll have a 99 with a flake and a goal, please!

2: Backstabbing bastard - Modern Warfare 2 (360)

I know I'm cheating with this one, as it's supposed to be from gamings past, but it's such a good twist, it would be a crime NOT to include it. WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. If you haven't played the single player section, skip this or read Jane Austin.

Anticipation was high after Modern Warfare. No one knew how good this one was going to be, but it didn't dissaponit at all, especially with its twist. Storming Makarov's estate in search of him, your team are under fire. You have to get vital intel from his PC after finding him gone. Whilst it's transferring to a portable hard drive, you have to fend off an attack from support troops. Once thats done, you head to the extraction point, russian soldiers chasing you, trying to kill you. You reach the area, then you get shot. Ghost carries you to the waiting chopper and Shepard. You hand over the HDD to Shepard. He then looks as though he is going to help you aboard.....until he points a .44 Magnum at you and shoots you in the chest. Turning the gun on Ghost, he shoots him in the head. Shepard then gets your bodies thrown in a pit, covered in gasoline then burned while you're partially alive, while in your earpiece you hear from Price 'Don't trust Shepard, Don't trust Shepard'. Cheers Price, it's a bit too late for that when my nuts are roasting here!


In my eyes, it can't get any better than that for modern gaming. It's one twist that made me think 'What the fu......', staring at my telly in disbelief. It shocked me that much.


With that one over with, its hard to pick a definitive or stand out moment for the no.1 spot to follow that. But, after much deliberation (well.......30 seconds worth!), I just had to go for this one......

1: Get the hell out of there! - Medal of Honor Allied Assault (PC)

Medal of Honor on the PC was one of the best WWII games to come out in 1998. It had top notch graphics, great sounds and bucket loads of gameplay. Its levels were diverse and nothing short of brilliant, including its heart racing, beach storming recreation of the Normandy landings. And there's no beach ball in sight.
Starting off in a Troop carrier craft, you get told your orders. As you near the beach, you get nervous. You know, as soon as that front drops, so will your brothers in arms. You hear the machine guns fire, bullets whizzing past your ears, your friends fall one by one. You jump over the side, thinking your safe. Then bullets impact in the water. You scramble out the water, bodies of the fallen lie at your feet, with more falling. You hear orders being barked at you: get to the wire and grab the bangolores. You go from crater to crater, getting closer to the imbedded bunkers, going back to pick up those bangolores. they detonate, making a hole in the fence. you decide to go for it, giving all you got. Blazing a trail towards the door to the bunker, you throw in a grenade. upon detonation, you hear screams. Going in carefully, you see one enemy on the floor. One more hides around the corner as you turn just intime to shoot him and he collapses at your feet. The first is cleared, so you grab the mounted machine gun and train it on the other bunker, giving them what they gave you. They fall one by one as you move out the bunker and make sure no one is left. Once the other bunker is stormed, you head to the rally point, knowing its over. But at what price?

If thats not heart-racing, I don't know what is. Playing it all those years ago made my adreneline rush, trying to do that level for the 25th time, and it still gets it going now. It's one of the pivital moments in First Person Shooter gaming. It changed the way I played FPS's forever and it made me realise what they went through for our freedom and the sacrifices that were made. It was one of the best gaming experiences I'd ever had. And I wouldn't change it for the world.

Yep, that's my top 5 alright. Some might disagree that 'You didn't include Half Life 2' or 'Why isn't Mario in there?', and yes there was good moments in them games too (apart from HL 2, as I hated it), but these moments stood out and have stuck in memory since I first played them, and they will stick with me throughout my life.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Retro lookback # 9 - Cannon Fodder - Amiga

War, according to Sensible Software, has never been so much fun. And I'm inclined to agree. A refreshing change to the platform games that came out at that time, Cannon Fodder did spark some controversy when it was released. Sporting a great big poppy, the Royal British Legion weren't too pleased about it. So, a disclaimer was put at the start of the game and all was right with the universe again. So once more unto the breach, dear friends.

Have you got a license for those guns?

Starting off with 4 soldiers (Jools, Jops, Stoo and another one who's name escapes me), you trundle through the jungle, shooting the enemy and wading through waist deep rivers. After a few missions, you get to use new toys like grenades and bazookas, to blow up huts and enemy underground bunkers. Even in a few missions, you can even kill a few villagers if you have a nasty side. After a few more, you can drive snowmobiles and take control of gun turrets to help you take out the bad guys. Some of the enemy even come equiped with their own bazookas and have no hesitation in firing upon you, even if you're hiding behind one of their huts, in some ways helping you in one of your objectives.
So, how does it play then? Absolutely marvellously. Some missions are sodding hard though and take nearly all your troops to accomplish. Every time you go back to Boot Hill, you'll see new crosses for their graves, making you feel a little bit guilty when they get killed. One feature, is once they've completed a successful set of missions, your men get promoted the longer they're alive. Using a mouse, you point and click where you want your men to go and where you want them to fire. Clicking on two of your men can assign them to their own unit, bringing tactics into play. Clicking on an enemy hut with both mouse buttons unleashes either a Rocket or Grenade, depending on what you have selected.


The sounds are quite sparse, but then it is meant to be in either the jungle or the antarctic, where the population is sparse, aprt from the eskimos. You do get machine gun fire, the sound of grenades being lobbed, rockets being fired and men screaming in pain when shot. Also, they continue to scream if they have been dealt a fatal shot but are not dead, meaning you can shoot them again and again and again, making them do rabbit hops. The music is great, with the main track, War Has Never Been So Much Fun, being sung by some of the team. The CD32 version has a video intro accompanying the title song, with all the Sensible team dressed up in full army uniform. You can see the game has been made with care and attention to detail and it plays excellently.hat doesn't detract
The graphics are awesome, with bucket loads of detail everywhere. The water moves, fires roar in the villagers camps adn an occasional bird flies overhead. It is sometimes hard to see your men on the jungle missions as your men are in green as well. But that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the game.
The only niggles are that some of the missions when you start are too hard. Apart from that, theres plenty here to recommend it. Even the second one can't surpass it, even though it is good, but you can't beat the original.

4/5 A JSW Nearly Flawless Victory.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Retro Hall of Shame #2: Highlander - Speccy

Immortals. People who can't be killed. Unless you lop their heads off. The subject of an awesome cult hit movie (and some very duff sequels), it would make for a cracking swords and scorcery compute game. Up step Ocean with their offering. Errrm......
Now, the movie Highlander was enjoyable. It followed Connor MacCleod on his way to be 'The One', fighting other Immortals to the final confrontation agains The Kurgen (played awesomely by Clancy Brown). It had spectacular scenery, awesome music (by Michael Kamen and Queen) and some cool lines, mostly said by Brown. Its a shame the same can't be said about the game. But where oh where do I begin (from the beginning, you arse! - radom person). Right, how does it look? Well, iffy. The sprites look squashed, they don't resemble the people at all and, although they have SOME detail, they just look, well, wrong. It looks like someone came along and chopped their legs off below the knees. Not even the face on the title screen looks like Christopher Lambert. The backgrounds are sparse with just a small smattering of colour but in the middle....nothing. Just a black square for a floor. So while the graphics are.....only just acceptable (in a bit of a crap way), how does it play? Terrible. Just terrible. Its far too hard for a start. Press fire and move joystick to swing yer sword. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. You just end up swinging your sword like a drunken loon with a blindfold on. Its made more difficult by the fact that the person you're fighting (be it either Ramirez, Fazool or the Kugen) all fight the same and are just as hard as each other (I'm just guessing at that as I can't even beat Ramirez).
You have to hit your opposite a number of times before they fall to the floor, allowing you to lop heir head off, thus taking you to the next level. But as its too hard, you'll never get to the next level. You'll just find yourself fighting the controls instead of the computer. Its a shame really, as it had shedloads of potential, but it was just really poorly implemented. And don't get me started on the sound. Just tap-tap-tap for when you do finally score a hit on your opponent.
Too hard with too fiddly controls but it looks ok (in a crap way). I just wish more time was spent on it as it could have been something special. Its special alright, but for the wrong reasons.

1.5/5 - JSW's Big Bag of Wrong Award

Friday, 16 October 2009

Retro lookback # 8: Rescue On Fractalus - C64

It's about time I looked at a game on the trusty C64, as I've had it for just under a year, and I love it as much as the Speccy. One of the first games I bought for it, for a mere £2.90, was a gem from Lucasfilm. And it had bugger all to do with Star Wars. Thats right, a game that didn't have the words STAR and WARS in its title. Its name? Rescue on Fractalus.

This game is a graphical marvel. Using Fractals instead of polygons or vectors or such, it made it a much more exciting game, and made it look absolutely stunning. You play a pilot who has to go down to various planets being taken over by aliens, and rescue your mining buddies from oblivion (or from being dated by Katie Price.....thats replaced the whale in my nightmares!!!) by landing your cruiser and picking them up. The controls are easy to use, and hard to master, but once you have, it makes the game a joy to play. S enables and disables your shields and A actives the airlock. In the skies above the planets, you have to fight the aliens' spacecraft as well, and you also have the chance to take out the little buggers on the ground before they take out your guys on the ground, who fight back when they are shot at.

The game is filled with little touches that make the game even more enjoyable. One example, when you land your craft, you hear the footsteps of the miner get closer and closer to the airlock. If the airlock isn't open, he'll even knock until you let him in! Another example is, you can even pick up the aliens and they try and take over the craft. I don't let that happen, though, as I crash it into a mountain. If I'm going down, the little bleeders coming with me! They ain't taking me alive!!! There is the chance later on that the Jaggi (the alien race in the game), kill the miners before you get there, steal their suits and don their helmets so that when you land, they would run up to the ship, throw off their helmets and try to get in through the windshield, and thus begins a frantic scramble to bring the shields back up before you get killed. Its things like this that add to the game, and bring a sense of 'Oh, shit!' to the atmosphere to the game.

You get the chance to select what level to start at (up to 5, I believe), with levels 1-3 being training levels. If you fancy diving straight in and blasting ET back home, you can just go straight to level 4, where the game really begins. Its this freedom in choice that separates it from games of today, where, on some of them, you can't skip the training. Being released in 1984, I found it to be so brilliantly compelling and so far advanced, that I thought it came out in 1987. How wrong I was. To be honest, this is one of the best games I've ever had the pleasure of loading up. If you own, or even if you have to emulate, a Spectrum or C64, you must play this game.

5/5 - A JSW Man Of The Match.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Retro Lookback # 7: Street Hawk - Spectrum

Would you believe it? A bloke who has a motorbike accident and has lost the use of both his legs would be able to ride a suped up motorcycle with machine guns and can go aster than shit through a goose. No, I can't either. But it makes an exciting premise to the tv show Street Hawk which, unfortunately, only lasted one season. But the adventures of a detective using a 2-wheeled version of KITT was enough to warrant Ocean making a computer game, all the way back in 1985, which was a subscribers version....which was poor. So, being the good sports they are, this second version popped up. Shall we do an Evel Kineval and jump right in?

You start off playing a sort of Spy Hunter rip off, manouvering around cars and shooting the bad guys. The controls on this bit are a bit stiff, but once got used to, become second nature, as you race towards a crime scene. You nip along at a fair pace, once your speed has built up, so its quite realistic. Plus you can jump over cars, which I completely forgot about as I crashed into cars left right and centre!! The next bit is, I suppose you could call it, the grandfather of Silent Scope. You control a small reticule out side a bank where some villains are staging a robbery. You view the little gits through a scope and, with said reticule, shoot them as they emerge from the front entrance. This bit is quite good, but gets really frustrating, as when you fire, the reticule resets itself.

As with all of Ocean's tie-ins, there is a lack of sound. The only sounds come from when you fire your gun, when you pass another vehicle and when you hit another car. There's no rendition of the Street Hawk theme, and no music in the game either. It doesn't look bad, with colourful buildings, but why does Jesse and any other motorbiker for that matter, look like a funny face when viewed from above??

Its not a bad game, certainly one of Ocean's best tie-ins, but then it could have been better, mainly due to the controls and sound.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Retro Hall of Shame # 1: Knight Rider - Spectrum

I used to love Knight Rider when I was a kid. Well, who wouldn't? A car that can talk, go faster than wind from Superman's arse and is virtually impervious to bullets, what's more to like? A computer game? Well lets ask Ocean about that. Oh, they've made a game about it. Well, whats it like?
Erm, well. Lets pop the hood and look at the engine, shall we?

Ocean were synonimous with Movie and TV tie-ins, ranging from the good (Robocop, Street Hawk), the bad (Robocop 2, Miami Vice) and the ugly (Highlander), as well as various home versions of well known arcade games. This, unfortunately, falls into the ugly camp. Why? Well, its not with the variety of gameplay on offer, oh no. There's driving, strategy and a gauntlet clone. The problem is the execution. It sucks. It sucks more than an oap with no teeth and an egg. The graphics on the map section are alright. You pick where you want to go by moving the joystick/pressing the right key and then you set off. Then it starts to go down hill. You can either drive and KITT shoot the what look like helicopters or vice-versa. To be honest, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference as doing either one is as boring as the other. When you drive, you end up fighting the controls and when you shoot, you end up fighting the controls. The controls are absolutely horrendous. The graphcis are just as bad. The helicopters don't even look like helicopters. They, I don't know what they look like, but they don't look like helicopters, I know that. And since when were roads yellow and fields blue? I got so bored playing this, I didn't want to find out how the gaunlet-style levels faired.
So, it plays like shit and looks like dog, but how does it sound? Oh, dear. The only music is on the map section, with an ok-ish rendition of the theme (which seems waaaaaay tooooooo sloooooooow) and the only sounds are 'pop', which is supposed to sound like a machine gun? Well, if machine guns sounded like that, no-one would have won WWI and WWII. They'd only be using pop guns.

It's another iffy conversion that came from a solid software house who, to give them their dues, they did release some crackers, but unfortnately, they released this stinker which, along with Miami Vice and Highlander, have gone down as 'what if's' instead of 'wows'.


Sunday, 27 September 2009

Retro Lookback # 6: Zero Wing - Mega Drive

Yes, its the game with the iffy intro and even iffier engrish transration, Zero Wing. Its your standard horizontal shooter. Much like R-TYPE, ThunderForce, etc, You fly your craft from left to right on an ever scrolling screen, shooting the bad guys until you get to the middle of the level boss, fight some more bad guys then the end of level boss.

Like R-TYPE and Truxton (Tatsujin to our Japanese cousins), its converted from the arcade game of the same name. As usual, it's not going to have visuals like the arcade, but the graphics are great for a conversion. The ship you control looks a bit too cartoony. But I suppose thats the whole point. It has an upgradable weapon system, which you upgrade by collecting power ups of different colours. Green for a chaser, blue for laser and red for normal cannon, and gift you two additional cannons, which float in proximity of your ship and change colour dependant on your weapon. You also collect speed ups, which are valuable because your ship moves like its stuck in treacle. In addition to this, you also have a very nifty little tractor beam, with which you can reach out, grab a ship and use it like a temporary shield. Or you can press the button again and use it like a projectile.

The difficulty is pitched just right, with the first level easing you in, and then saying 'Right, if you can do that level, try this bugger, then!!' Yes, it does have frustrating moments, but then all games have them.
The game is good, no doubt about that. It plays well, even after all these years, and still sounds great. The only thing with this version is the fact that they added a graphic intro (not a nudey one, unfortunately, or gore filled one) and a story involving a band of space pirates, lead by the guy with a very terrifying name, and of course who can't speak properly, CATS (ooooo, that's really shit me up!!). But....its translated very piss poorly. This is the game that can boast of starting off a whole craze using the (very badly translated) phrase 'All your base are belong to us'.

Well, at least its a serious shooter with some comedy, ableit unintentionally.

To some up, if you're looking for a shooter with something different, try else where. This game doesn't go against type, and for that it suffers, as there is no originallity here at all. It just feels like you've played it all before. But what it does do, it does well. It plays great, looks great (apart from your ship) and sounds great.

And remember, All your base are belong to us, You have no chance to survive make your time...........what ever the hell that means!!!!!!


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Retro Lookback # 5: Chase HQ - Arcade

"Listen up. There's 5 perps out there who need to be brought in. Use any means necessary, but bring 'em in. Go get 'em, guys!" What? I couldn't think of anything pulse raising as a starter. Anyway, TAITO's Chase HQ sees you in the drivers seat of a Porsche 911. But this isn't a normal Porsche. Oh, no. It comes equipped with 3 turbos and what seems to be a kevlar molecular bonded front (thats what comes from watching Knight Rider). And you'll need it, as the perps you'll be chasing are in sports cars themselves.
Chase HQ starts out like a normal driving game. Drive to a certain point before your timer runs out, which then resets to 60 seconds when you see your target (your bloke even puts the flashing light out as well!). Your objective then is to smash the living shit out of the back of his car, until he pulls over before his engine goes pop. At certain points in the 'tracks', the road splits, with a big arrow pointing where you should go. Take the wrong turning, and you'll have even further to go. Take the right turning, and your chances to catch the bad guy would have jumped. As mentioned, you have 3 turbo's per level, which DO NOT reset when you get to a certain distance from your target, but when you reach the next level. If you use them before you reach him, you're seriously screwed, so you have to be sure you really, really need them.
Controls wise, the streeing wheel feels realy comfortable in your hands, and the gearstick gives a good clunk when you switch between high and low gears. The responsiveness of the wheel is excellent, with you never having to wrestle with it to control your car. The graphics are what you would expect with a game from 1988. They are simply brilliant, and still have that charm they had from back in the fay. It even has speech in it, with Nancy shouting 'This is Nancy at Chase HQ.....' at you before you start your next mission, and when you're running out of time.
I loved this game and played it everytime I went to Southend or Yarmouth. I would actively seek out the game as soon as I got into an arcade. Special Criminal Investigation: Chase HQ II is worth checking out, as well. Its not as polished as C-HQ, but it adds weapons and some improved graphics to the mix. But C-HQ is where it all began, so make sure if you pass by a working cabinet or if you can emulate it with a steering wheel (essential), do it.


Sunday, 13 September 2009

Retro Lookback # 4: Express Raider - Spectrum

Home, home on the range...where crap graphics and joysticks play......erm, yes well, enough of that. Express Raider is a conversion of the Data East coin-op, where by you control the bad guy (for sake of argument, we'll call him Badguyo), and try to rob the express. Easier said than done, when you've got the whole of Dodge City's finest on your arse like a haemorroid. So, let's ride like we have wind and cast our critical minds and eyes over this one.

You start off by confronting, I suppose, the head honcho, ol' Wyatt Earp himself (I think so, anyway) in a one on one slap em up. Using either fists or knives (or it might be one or the other, the old memory playing tricks on me, y'see). This bit isn't bad, but it's more hit and miss with the punches/knives and it gets quite boring. Once you've sent him packing, it's then off on your trusty steed, chasing after the train. Once you've caught up with it, it then becomes a shooting gallery game, that spawns a few screens. You aim a little reticle, and as the deputies appear within windows, you have a few seconds to shoot them before they shoot you. This bit is quite enjoyable, but it does get a bit frustrating though, as sometimes you're over one side and the next deputy is on the other side. Because of the few second delay, it does become frustrating as well. The last part is running along the top of the train. Again, you have the deputies trying to thwart you at every oppotunity. This bit is quite tough. Actually, it's the toughest out of the whole game, needing perfect jumps everytime. Once you've got to the locomotive, its game completed and then loops to start again, but thid time its a bit harder. Oh, joy. Every section has a strict time limit. Fail, and you lose a life, which you will find yourself doing quite a bit.

First off, the graphics aren't all that. I know it's a game from 1987, running on a machine with 128k of ram, but still. The Spectrum is capable of such better graphics. Take a look at Game Over, made in the same year. The graphics are awesome, but these are horrible. The sound is minimal, at best and, from what I can remember, there's no music. The gameplay is ok, but apart from the niggles in controls earlier, there's nothing to recommend it at all. It's saving grace is the three game types, which do add some variety. Add the fact that you can do practise mode before getting stuck into the game properly, its a mixxed bag really.

OH, did I mention, that it was ported by Homega Software? (What do you mean, you've never heard of them? Mind you, nor have I!)


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Retro Lookback # 3: Alcatraz - Amiga

Alcatraz. Off the shoreline of San Francisco and once home to many notorious inmates, the prison has been closed for years, it's residents long gone. Until a drug dealer named Miguel Tardiez came along with his band of thugs and took over, using it as his base of operations and from which he can distribute his narcotics all over the world. Enter a crack special forces team to tackle the threat, destroy the drugs and laundered money and save the day (hurrah!).

Essentally, this is a follow up to Infograms' 1988 title, HOSTAGES. Well, I say follow up, it uses the same graphical style and gameplay as its forbear, but to me, that doesn't make it any less of a cracking underrated gem. Best played as a two-player, the screen is divided into two, with player one on top (oo-er!). This is used for the first level, which is side on, and is set on the start of the island, with you (and your friend if you have one) having freshly arrived by rubber dingy, ready to start your mission. Near enough as soon as you start off, you are attacked. And near enough everytime you dispatch an enemy, they leave a weapon behind, be it grenades or a flame thrower or a machine gun which you can pick up and add to your arsenal. The status bar is minimal, with just your health (represented by 4 red blocks), lives and a small box with your current weapon, but, in this game, that doesn't matter, as the screen stays clutter free, giving you more time to see the thugs coming. The graphics are nothing short of great. Even though the game is near enough full of grey, it still gives a gritty, forboding look. The animation of your character and the enemy is second to none. It makes it feel like you're really watching a movie. The second level is a first person shooter, with you looking down coridoors, blasting down the baddies patrolling them and looking inside rooms to find stashes of drugs and cash and maybe the occasional bad guy. Once you've torched the cash (nooooooooo!) and the drugs (hurrah!) the action changes to another side scrolling level (if I can remember correctly). Then its a building scaling level, with you avoiding the spotlights, then onto the final confrontation with Tardiez, then onward and upward to the end of the game. Oh, and you have 2 hours to do it all in.

Sometimes the controls in the fps levels take a while to use, and are maybe too sensitive when you turn and when you have to move your gun, but apart from that they're fine to use. Some magazines at the time griped with the way you switch weapons (when you're hiding in the shadows), but it brings in a sense of tactics about how best to approach the situation. Another thing, as well as hiding in doorways, you can even jump over walls (you can tell which ones) when the enemy come a knocking. Difficulty wise, it's pitched just right. It starts out easy, then the curve doesn't go up sharply, but gradually, which makes it easy for newcomers to this sort of game. The sound is up there with the graphics, which sound amazing. The gun shots sound real, as do the explosions, the flame throwers give a good 'whooooosh' when you fire them and even the screams of the thugs you kill are blood curdling. Yes, it might seem to be near enough the same as HOSTAGES, but it contains enough gameplay within its 2 hour time limit to keep you glued to the screen, wanting to find out what happens next.

Heartly recommended to fans of Metal Gear Solid, the game is a must. Go. Buy it. You know you want to.


Monday, 7 September 2009

Retro Lookback # 2 - Robocop 2 - Amiga

So, there's this copper, right, and he gets killed, yeah, then brought back to life as a robotic copper, right, and then he goes after the people who killed him. Sounds lame, but the movie was great then, and is now. So much so, Ocean decided to make a game about it. It done well. Very well, in fact. I bought a copy on the Spectrum and loved it (well, what 7 year old wouldn't?). Then the second movie came out. Which was as good as the first. So, naturally, Ocean made a game of this as well. Which was.......well.....

The second outing sees you going after the drug lord Kane and his gang of drug heads. He's made this drug called 'Nuke' (which really looks like sweet & sour sauce) that drug takers are going mad for. Thats the first part which is a platforming bit in the factory. Though not once did I see Robocopper jump on a floaty platform thing that you can control whilst collecting coke cans, which fall from the sky and make you fall a bit, with various power up's in. And thats where the controls let you down. A hell of a lot. See, controlling the hoverboard-cum-lift thingy is akin to controlling a car on ice. You'll spend about 3 mintues trying to get to the top, only for you to fall, having to do it all over again, ad infinitum. Oh, did I mention you have a time limit to do it in? Oh, well then, you have a timne limit to do it in. Once the times up, you lose a life. The next part sees you destroying all the red chips (errors) in Robo's posotronic relay thingymabob, again within a time limit. This part is well done with the puzzle not too taxing but not too easy. Then you have to go after Kane after his transformation into Robocop 2.

The graphics are really the best thing in this game. They look amazing, with some smoot animation on old Rustbuckethead and the perps he's shooting in the nuts. There's even digitised stills in between levels and a digitised Robo on the title screen, which is great. The levels, apart from the puzzle one, aren't that well though out though. Saying that, there is a bit where you can bust through the wall to get to the next bit. Why couldn't they have done this twice and left out the lift? And why, in every game, does there have to be conveyor belts? They take near enough all your time trying to fathom out as well. The music and sounds are good, with some good gun effects, some awesome music and groans of pain when the bad guys get shot. the status bar isn't as good as the Speccy and C64's though. Where those versions have Robo's chestplate (which looks awesome), we get generic status bar # 2. The energy bar is the best bit, with it being represented by a coke can which gets a bit more crushed the more you lose energy.

The Controls are the worst thing about this. The jumping is abysmal to say the least. He flies through the air without the greatest of ease and with the graceness of a leadweight (I know he's sposed to be a cyborg made of steel, but bloody hell!).

My opinion is divided on this one. While it does look (apart from the status bar) and sound good, it plays like a dog with bad level design marred by godawful controls. Only try if you're of a curious disposition


Retro Lookback # 1 - Tarzan Goes Ape - Spectrum

Released by Codemasters in 1991, TGA is a platformer. Well I say platformer in the sense that you jump on them (funnily enough). But, this one is a vertical platformer where by you jump on platforms whilst going up the screen. Which makes it different to yer normal platformer. Which is nice. You play Tarzan who has been turned into an Ape by an evil witchdoctor who has kidnapped your girly (shades of Toki here, but bear with me) and you have to find 7 ingrediants to make the relevent potion to return you to Homosapien form (thats Man to you and me), only to have to do it all over again on the next level. The ingrediants have to be collected in the same order as represented on the status bar at the top of the screen. All the while throwing your coconuts (oo-er!) at the various bad guys like crocodiles, birds and angry villagers.

So, graphics, then. They're up to their usual Codies standard: cartoony, very colourful (maybe too colourful) and very well animated. Tarzan always has a 'oo, blimey'-like expression on his face, which adds to the charm of this game. Only thing is, though, the birds beaks look like knockers...... Oh, yes, the enemies. Once you shoot them and advance up the level, if you come back down, they re-appear. So there's plenty of chances to fall on an enemy and die instantly. Problem is that you'll find yourself falling back down very frequently as the controls are very, very (very) over responsive. Just one little touch to the left sends Tarzan hurtling faster than a cannonball along the rest of the platform, which makes jumping and judgment very difficult indeed until you can master it efficiently.

There are some good spot effects, like when you hit an enemy with a coconut and the bleep when you touch an enemy. There are also some good music which only plays on the main menu, when you complete a level and when you die.

As stated earlier, the only few gripes are with the controls, the fact that the graphics are a bit too rich in colour, which could make your eyes go really funny especially if you spend too much time playing it and that the bad guys respawn, which does make the game difficult if you don't know what to expect.

All in all, its good, but be prepared for some bouts of frustration.