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.