Category: Informative

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Game Review: Clash at Demonhead

No, it’s not just one of the bands from the comic series “Scott Pilgrim”. Clash at Demonhead was the game that couldn’t decide who it wanted to steal ideas most from. First is the cheesy, comic sounding team that the protagonist is a part of (really, the “Special Assault Brigade for Real Emergencies? Is there one for fake emergencies too?) Next, you have to save Professor Plum from Clue, while learning Force moves from Yoda, and avoiding Voldemort’s mind control. Heck, unlike playing stella glow with various characters, you even have to collect his seven horcruxes in order to win the game.

Or do you? Turns out, there’s two parts to this game. You go through all the trouble of collecting the seven medallions, meeting with some skeleton who has the distinguished name of Tom Guycot for some reason, who swoops down on you twice to attack, then pretty much gives up, regardless of whether he hit you. He tells you about how he took Plum and how you have to get him back, which is one of those common courtesies that only the stupidest of villains do in pretty much every game and movie. Later you find your friend Michael, who tells you where to find some fairies or Sprite or something. For some reason when you play games, since you the player have never met an NPC, they treat it as if the character in the game has also never met someone who claims to be one of their best friends. Heck, even family gets amnesia in games where you get to choose your own character name, with your own mother going “I forget honey, what do I call you again?”

Anyway, you get to choose different routes to get to Mount Demonhead (if the name wasn’t a dead giveaway, just wait), where you shoot at all of these random things that jump out at you. I’m not really sure if those things are Qberts or something, and if they are the ones firing all of the guided missiles at you, or what the heck the flying saws are supposed to be, but they all have much better aim than most other video games, and they’re all weak enough that you can take them out with one shot.

You continue through the different routes collecting all of these medallions, feeling brainache, and generally shooting at anything that moves. You figure out that you’re too good for the mind control that the Demon trapped in the mountain is using on you, but your friend Michael wasn’t. It ends up being a trap set to have you set him free, making you one of those useless heroes that makes the problems that they have to then fix. Not only do you have to worry about nukes, but now a demon that is pretty good at kicking a skeleton’s ass, as evidenced when he takes out Tom Guycot like nothing.

Grab sword, slay demon, save princess… er, professor, all good. Except for the bomb. Which is done. Which your friend Plum didn’t really invent anyway, but was instead invented by aliens. So a skeleton kidnaps a scientist for the bomb that he built, yet he didn’t build it, and didn’t even invent the thing. Now I know that the game creators couldn’t extend game play, and ended up just making even more stupid storylines to cram into this crapfest.

The alien reveals that it created humanity, and only a millennium ago, at that. They then got annoyed when humans stopped listening to them, and like all kids who own a small pet, they decided on the obvious: blow the crap out of it until it dies. For some reason the magical medallions are the key to defusing the bomb, but at least semi-realistically, no instruction manual is given to you on how to do so, nor do they have any significant markings to let you know which goes where. Thus, you half-ass it and rush to cram them into whichever hole they’ll fit into, in hopes that you can stop it before it disintegrates you and the rest of the planet. Upon success, the alien pretty much gives up like Mr. Guycot, and simply walks away from this mess of a planet that he made. Your character basically flips him off as a farewell, and the day is saved!

Playability: 8/10

Confused storyline: 9/10

Inspiring a fictional band in a fictional story: 10/10 Oh Yeah!

Little Nemo: Dream Master (Adventures in Slumberland)

Last night I enjoyed reviewing Stella Glow Game. This Game is something Straight off the bat: this game has so much innuendo in it even before the title screen, I wonder exactly whose dreams we’re supposed to be witnessing here, Nemo’s, or those of a perverted game designer. Direct quote from the game: “Anyone who is smart enough to give me candy can’t be all bad”. That’s Nemo himself telling that to a rather fey looking guy in a pretty gay pointed hat.

A bit of history: The game is based on a movie. Or, to be more accurate, the game is based on a movie, which is based on either an animated series or theater show, whichever way you go, which was based on a comic series. Basically, any bit of media that was around before the conception of the NES got to touch this intellectual property, much like that designer wishes that he was able to do. The movie was released by Studio Ghibli in Japan in 1989, after being in development hell since 1982, with the corresponding game being released in 1990. As the movie didn’t make it to America until 1992, they weren’t really able to hit on the demographic that movie games usually go for, but instead focused on, and were able to get, plenty of gamers who would later watch the movie in response, making it one of the rare games that developed a market for a film, instead of the other way around.

As far as gameplay, you are exploring the twisted dreams of a young boy who is trying to live out the fantasies of every child, yet is being beaten down by creatures created by the evil Nightmare King. Your ultimate goal is to defeat him and rescue the princess, standard game fare. You accomplish this by moving through each level looking for keys, then using them to unlock the doors at the end of the level to move onto the next. You never know how many you will need, so sometimes you have to backtrack to complete, which gets annoying in the larger levels. The enemies are constantly coming too, and will continue to do so throughout the game, being repeated after each is defeated.

To ease your journey, and indeed a necessary function in some levels, you can ride different animals by feeding them “candy” to make them complacent. They seem to fall asleep before you try to ride them, so I can only imagine what’s in the candy that these game developers have given to this child. Also, when I say “ride”, I really mean “squeeze inside of the body of and move for them as if wearing the animal.” You slip into these animals like a glove, and use them to jump, dig, climb, and generally traverse the courses that you are in better than a boy who is able to control his own dreams could do on his own. Some of the creatures do have different health systems than you though, which can help you a bit in some of the more challenging levels, and being able to change your powers by dosing an unsuspecting animal is fun too.

The game can get rather difficult at times, what with the seemingly endless stream of enemies, and the inability to even list the number of keys needed on a level in order to know when you are done looking or not. Some enemies are hard to avoid running into, and despite the many different animals that you can inhabit, jumping on enemies is really all you can do to kill them; no fire flower or tanuki tail in this game, just good old stomping action. It does end up being an enjoyable quest that I could waste the better part of a day on, so I guess in the addictive gaming sense, it excels.

Playability: 9/10

Pedophilic Innuendo: 8/10

“Silence of the Lambs” skin wearing: 9/10

Game Review: Rad Racer

From the creators of one of the all-time best RPG series, Final Fantasy, Square was first introduced as the creators of one of the all-time worst racing games.  Sure, you could call me cynical for not liking it; after all, shortly after coming out, Nintendo Power fans voted it one of the top games for the NES.  Even now, reviewers such as FlyingOmelette and VGMuseum rate the game well, and for the time, it basically was good, being the only racing game out there (ignoring Out Run on the Sega Genesis, which this game has a bit more than resemblance to.)

As with many RPG games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Rad Racer had an idea that, while not new, became a genre standard due to its popularity. This is the checkpoint timer, in which not only do you have to complete the race within a certain time frame, but you also have to get to certain parts of a course in a time frame. This can really suck when you can’t even crash into a single item or vehicle once in race one before the first checkpoint, or you lose before you even started playing. This can be pretty embarrassing if say, you do this a half dozen times before making it through, while someone is watching and laughing at your inability to manage with the first level of a 23 year old game (a theme that you may notice pop up often on this site). If you don’t get to the checkpoint in time, your vehicle shuts down like OnStar caught you stealing it, and you coast and slow until you either stop completely and lose, or hit the checkpoint and have the vehicle magically restart. If that happens, you’re probably not making it to the next checkpoint at all, but at least you get to extend your shame another 45 seconds.

Rad Racer was also part of the 3-D series of NES games. It came packaged with the red and blue paper glasses that we associate with that “advanced” technology, and this mode could be turned on (or accidentally triggered mid-race) by pressing the select button. This of course was very useful when you lost your glasses within the first week of owning the game, and wanted to mess someone up while racing by making them see double in a crappier color scheme than the original, which was apparently possible. After that, this game lost its appeal quicker than it took to get it to work in first place, and less fun than the blowing and mashing of the cartridge into the system. Still though, I can see why other people like it: some of them actually like driving and racing.

Enjoyability for 5 minutes: 7/10

Enjoyability for 15 minutes: 5/10

Chance of getting laughed at for not even making the first checkpoint: 10/10

Game Review: Adventures of Musashi

This game is Pokemon. Period.

The only difference is instead of collecting a bunch of creatures, you have one animal friend, a tanuki that is just about as helpful as a high level pokemon to a trainer without badges:  it is absolutely worthless in a fight.  The game still has the same RPG style and look similar to Stella Glow characters, you wander and fight random creatures, and have little quests to complete.  The main goal of the game is ostensibly to fight some dead guy that was your dad’s rival, but getting caught up in the journey there is much more what the game is about.  Six years before Ash Ketchum took the world of gaming (and the world in general) by storm, Musashi was leveling up against weird creatures in fields, fighting living bamboo, pine cones, and corn.

The first order of business is to walk around town, equip some items to fight with, and venture out to find the lazy tanuki. Hell, when you find him the first thing that you have to do is rescue him. Along the way you need to talk to pretty much every NPC out there, since if you miss the wrong person, you’ll miss some item or quest that you need to do, and then you scramble around aimlessly fending off rogue plant attacks wondering where the damn Lapis Key or whatever is. Stocking up on items is also a pain, since you’ve gotta keep enough cureoil or other items around to heal yourself after battles, since you have limited HP and only yourself to use it from. If you die, you go back to your last save in a town, and lose hp, money, and more, making it even harder to get all of that back.

The game has great playability,despite some of its shortcomings. Playing after having played newer RPGs with a similar layout, it feels like a rip almost, which is why I have to keep convincing myself that this game came before all of those others that I know and love, and wonder how much of the production staff had to be the same. While I wouldn’t mind having more companionship than the near useless tanuki, but can settle on keeping a well stocked inventory, and grinding to level up stats before moving too far. This game constantly feels on the edge of pushing that Japanese/American cultural difference boundary, as you can find curses such as “Damn” in the game, character designs that would have been a bit risque for the system (like the soothsayer maidens), and a main character who seems to have a lot of women chasing after him, and doing a lot of chasing himself.

Entertainment: 8/10

Innuendo: 9/10

Poke-precursor: 10/10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Arcade Game

The first game was unfitfully boring, so I’ve decided to jump straight ahead to the second TMNT game for NES, which replaces the overhead view of the city with a sidescrolling fighter that never seems to end. There are turtles, there’s Shredder and his goons, and guess what, there is April kidnapped. I’m no chauvinist, but these women need to stop being so weak and take matters into their own hands sometimes. If every female video game character took a self-defense class or two, we’d certainly have a lot fewer (or at least repetitive) titles in the NES library.

The basic setup is walking down hallways, streets, etc, and fighting a near endless barrage of foot soldiers, as well as random other enemies and robots and the like. At the end of each level you have to take on one of Shredder’s main henchmen, such as Bebop and Rocksteady. They’re about as useless as they are in the cartoons, being generally easy to dispatch, and getting in your way less than the traps and pitfalls that you have to go through before getting to them. Falling through open manholes, getting crushed by signs, being hit by cars, these are but some of the few problems that you encounter in addition to enemies wielding throwing stars, dynamite, swords, electric lassos, and more. Usually it’s best for you to just move back and forth to punch at them then pull back and attack another target until they are all gone. Don’t bother with the jump kick, which usually would be a powerful attack, but 90% of the time has you jumping clear over your target, or directly into his fists. By the time you get to Tora and his 80′s winter fashion, you’re just glad to be past the retarded snowmen and snowplows.

Being able to play with two characters at once sounds like a cool idea, until you actually try to get a second player in on the game. This game is fun like other RPG Games with a nice ending. The cartridge systems usually have the advantage of quick load times and little lag, but not this time around. If you want to see your screen flicker and for once not be able to blame it on a bad RF connection or the damned lockout chip, then try out two player mode on this game. Any joy that you’d have from being able to kick ninja ass with your friend in your parents’ basement after school is destroyed when you realize that trying to team up ends up making you both die faster. Then you switch to single player mode and take turns, which works just as well as kids sharing things with each other always does.

Entertainment: 8/10

Repetitiveness: 9/10

Female Role Models (if you don’t mind being a useless plot device): 7/10

Game Review: California Raisins: The Grape Escape

A bit of an oddity this time, going with a game that is almost a complete project, but was canceled for unknown reasons. While genuine copies of the game like stella glow are in existence, they are rather rare and collectible. There are, however, companies that make reproductions of the game, so that is both a plus, where you can pick up a copy to play if you’d like, but also a negative in that there will be the hucksters that attempt to pass a fake off as the real deal.

When games try to have some theme to them, they usually come off as being completely cheesy, making no damn sense, or in some cases of spectacular failure, both. This game pretty much takes the cake on that, beyond the obligatory milking of a profitable brand. The only issue with the development is that by the time the game was nearing completion, the titular cover band that owned the market in cross medium promotions for several years was waning in popularity. Most likely, this is why the game was never released, as people suddenly wised up, and realized that a band made of anthropomorphic raisins doing cover songs to promote eating their disgusting kind was a pretty awful idea.

You play as one of the California Raisins, fighting off a bunch of other demented fruit that just show up endlessly out of nowhere, and are killed pretty easily with a shot of grape juice, or whatever it is that you appear to be squirting at them from your super soaker. Evidently some other crappy produce band isn’t even good enough to perform their own covers, so they have to kidnap most of the band and all of their music. You travel through four levels to start with, squirting them and hunting for music notes which represent all of the songs that you have gutted and destroyed throughout your sad, prune-like career. You also have to rescue your friends, so that at the end of the four levels, you can take on the manager of the rival band at his record studio (which is apparently built on top of a cloud), which isn’t too far of a stretch from the average drug fueled fantasy that most bands at the time had anyway.

The general gameplay is simple, and nothing really special, but the game itself is a bit difficult, mainly due to the amazing ability for enemies to just come at you from all angles and randomly change direction, making them hard to hit and to keep at bay. There are little health things that look like the sun wearing glasses to fend off his own rays, or little invincibility things that work for all of three seconds, but that’s about it. You are alone with an endless supply of your own bodily fluids to spray at other creatures, and the desire to get this over with as quickly as possible. When you get to the guy at the end it is pretty easy to get it over with, considering he’s suspended in the air and can’t move, making him a tenth as difficult as any of the other boss characters in the game.

The real question with this game is: why didn’t they release it? Play through it, and tell me that it’s unfinished. Sure, it could have been tightened up and refined a bit, but check out the credits, which I hope were also cut off in development, yet I doubt it:

That’s right, four people listed. Granted, I don’t see it taking that many people to churn out a game like this, but even back then, the average game studio had more people than that on call to keep the coders in supply of Crystal Pepsi and pot, but this seems just ridiculous. It gets this far, and Capcom backs down, apparently considering it not worth all of the time and money spent on this (probably a labor day weekend and a couple hundred bucks, but still) to print a couple thousand copies and at least recoup a bit of the development cost. That probably says something about what the company behind the game thought of their own creation, so you may just want to pass it up in favor of something a little less commercial, like the Barbie video game (guest post next week!)

Completeness: 8/10

Playability: 7/10

Brain-dead concept for shameless marketing: 10/10

Game Review: Back to the Future

Questionable time travel logic aside (as well as some brain-dead moves by the majority of the characters), the original “Back to the Future” film was pretty good.  The original game, however, was not?  How bad was it?  When the creator of the film franchise, who is a self-described gamer, by the way, calls it “truly one of the worst games ever”, you know it’s gotta be pretty bad.

This is not a character role playing like Stella Glow, Gameplay consists of running up and down a screen, dodging ballerinas, poorly placed glass window movers, and random bullies, as well as bats and angry birds, for some reason.  You are given a set amount of time before you are erased completely from history (as shown by the movie’s family photo rendered beautifully in crappy black and white pixels), and four lives to attempt to change the past to alter the future.  Along the way you move back and forth, as well as up and down the screen, picking up clocks that increase your time, and the occasional bowling balls and skateboards to empower you to the endpoint of each level.  Don’t even bother with them unless you’ve been playing this game nonstop for hours, as the planters/barricades/curbs/sidewalks/oilspills that seem to be in the middle of every damn street are pretty good at tripping you up every few seconds, in spite of your absolutely wonderful basic jump ability while paperboying your way uphill.

There are two levels like that between mini-games, at which point you get to perform some idiotic action, such as spurn the advances of your mother at the soda shop or keep your guitar in tune in the crappiest version of Guitar Hero out there. You don’t need to worry about going into detail on these parts, as the likelihood of you getting there before tossing the controller through your TV screen is much better than making it to the final level at the town clock.

Speaking of the final level:  yes, I realize that it was good suspense to have him accelerate and reach 88mph at just the last second in the movie before striking the cable in time with the lighting.  This does not mean that it needs to be translated directly into the game, where if you miss reaching that mark, or even get up to speed before you need to, the game is over, despite the number of lives that you may have left or the amount of time you wasted getting to that point.  It doesn’t make much sense if you cruise at top speed before the lightning strike, as there’s no mention of  “oh hey, don’t reach jump speed with more than a split second to spare, since that wouldn’t be dramatic enough.”  If you make it to the end and lose because it punishes you for being more prepared than Marty was in the film, don’t blame the filmmakers for this piece of crap.  Then again, they’re going with the same company for the remake, so I dunno…

Playability: 4/10

Frustration Levels:  7/10

Respect for the Source Material:  1/10

Game Review: Tiny Toon Adventures

I never really played this game on the NES when I was younger, but it was a regular time-consumer in my Game Boy days. Thankfully, ROMs have made it easy to catch up and replay lost titles, or load them up for the first time.

While the Game Boy version, “Bab’s Big Break”, was set from the girl’s point of view, the NES game starred Buster Bunny taking the role of Mario rescuing his princess, former-heroine-turned-plot-device, Babs. Along the way you get help from other characters from the show, both allies that have attacks and techniques to help you complete levels, and those that become useful near the end of the game, to defeat Montana Max.

I didn’t take as long to play through this one as I’d have liked, but similar to the other version, you have Plucky Duck with the ability to fly, Dizzy Devil with his twister attack to break through walls and take out enemies, and Furrball who is able to climb and slide down walls. There are also other allies like Hamton and Gogo Dodo that help you to unlock the final level, but have no playability in and of themselves.

The game was rather fun like stella glow, and one that I plan on spending more time with as permits. I usually have complaints about the cartoon games, but even unfinished (as this game had several elements that were left out involving the path to Montana Max’s mansion), it is a solidly playable game. I don’t really have any schlock to toss at it, and suggest finding a copy if you’d like an hour’s distraction.

Playability: 8/10

Allies: 9/10

Controls: 7/10

Game Review: Adventure Island

This one was actually fun. Some of the games that I try out to review like stella glow that annoy me enough that I don’t even bother going past level one to decide to try something else. With an extensive library of over 700 titles, the NES has something new when you think you’ve done it all (Unless you’re ubernerd and really have played all licensed games). With Adventure Island I, I was able to keep playing, which was a nice change of pace when I’m hunting for the garbage ones to review.

The game started out at a good pace, not too difficult, and built up slowly. As usual, the enemies make no real sense, but apparently there is a huge snail problem on this island. Luckily, inside of eggs you find useful and not at all confusing items, like hammers and skateboards. I can’t imagine how well it’d work on unpaved ground, but hey, at least you get a helmet too.

Without that skateboard, you’re pretty much dead with one hit, so it’s a little difficult when you have to start over at the same checkpoints repeatedly. Still, timing is everything when you are constantly moving forward, and getting a hang of the jumps for randomly appearing fruit and over opponents is a big help. After a while it does get a little repetitive, more of just a playthrough than actual thinking, but entertaining nonetheless. The mechanics are sound, as are the physics of the game. The palette is not garish, and the soundtrack is not annoying.

Overall: 8/10

Replayability: 8/10

Skateboard Invincibility: 9/10

Game Review: Batman: Return of the Joker

Batman is pretty much the baddest ass superhero out there. That can be said with no trace of joking or irony. Lacking the flight, super strength, xray vision, and other trappings of standard superheroes, he makes up for it in mental acuity, sheer badassery, and billions of dollars worth of gadgets and resources. It is like this with his game: no fancy skills needed beyond the ability to time jumps and fire weapons well.

Firing weapons, however, is one of my gripes. It totally looks like he’s shooting enemies, which would be ok and make sense in almost any game, but not for Batman. Batman does not shoot people. Then again, I’m probably only griping because he doesn’t have the ability to punch them in the face, which is far more satisfying. Also, it makes me feel like a bit of a failure when I can’t get the Dark Knight to dodge a couple of shots fired off by random henchmen.

In the game, the Joker has escaped yet-the-hell again from Arkham Asylum, and Batman has to stop him. It’s still a source of contention for me that the Joker is even allowed to keep escaping. Sure, Batman has a code of honor that keeps him from killing his enemies that have killed literally thousands, but there’s nothing to say that he can’t break a few limbs to make it a bit harder next time around. Hell, he shouldn’t even have to worry about it, as the guy is such a repeat offender that there should be no prosecutor that couldn’t get him declared legally sane long enough to get him into the chair.

Anyway, you get to collect power up weapons through levels while defeating baddies, blowing crap up, and generally having a “holy crap I am Batman” moment (now I know how Michael Keaton felt). Thankfully, for those of us who enjoy games in bite-sized pieces, at the end of every level you’re given a password to return to where you left off, the balance between arcade game run-through and dedicated save file that worked rather well for a short period. I didn’t get to the ending admittedly, so I’m just going to assume that Batman confronts the Joker after dispatching every goon and mini baddie, and breaks his frikkin back. It’s the only thing that would make sense.

Playability: 8/10

Controls: 8/10

Batawesome: 10/10