Thursday, 20 February 2014

The New Zealand Story

Welcome, enjoy your flightless birds.

Once again I only WISH that I was on drugs at the time of writing this, or at least the offices of the planning department of Taito when they came up with the story and idea behind this game. I can imagine it along the lines of them looking out of the window of the office building. Someone comments that we need a new platform game; akin to Bubble Bobble but 'different' and that the new characters and such need a little more grounding in reality. Then someone turns slightly and sees a zoo in the distance turns back to the board meeting and says "I think I have an idea..."

Then comes the bow and arrows, axe throwing cats, giant leopard seals and hedgehogs hanging from balloons. Lasers, bombs, fireballs, dragons, bears with visors, alien UFOs, whales encased in ice and I think I need to take some of that stuff they're on.

What is that thing, on a duck?

The New Zealand Story, based around the islands of New Zealand but in truth has so little to do with it that you might as well have just said "Fuck it, here's some levels" and away you go. Takes the lovely little Tiki, a small kiwi bird with running shoes, gives him a reason to be involved in this adventure which in the opening cinematic is about a large leopard seal kidnapping all his friends (including the one that's either smoking a fag or on drugs, lively bunch in the 80s) and setting across 5 worlds to go rescue them all.

But how do you do this? I hear you ask... or not, since few people will genuinely give a fuck about a game originating some 26 years before this review was written. You take the usual route of platforming, jumping, shooting, flying with the aid of various balloons and such, eventually coming to the cage at the end of the level holding whichever friend you had kidnapped from you, eagerly awaiting release and escape into the same maze you just navigated to get there in the first place.

There's no mention of what they do after, or how they get home, or why they're not forming a small army with you of angry, pissed-off kiwis, hell-bent on revenge and to club a seal to death for kidnapping them in the first place. (Possibly the ONLY time I will advocate seal-clubbing, this one deserves it for being a bit of a naughty boy)

Not a friendly place at all.

Oddly, there's a fuck-tonne of fruit to serve as bonus points within the game, a huge number of bonus warps and different ways to navigate around the levels and a wild assortment of power ups ranging from bombs, lasers, springs, joystick flight controls, time stoppers, fireballs and earthquakers to name but a few of the items available to you. Including the ability to collect letters to spell out "extend" for bonus lives here and a massive, and VERY massive, assortment of enemies to be encountered throughout the game.

Bears, snails, soldiers, bats, dragons, cats, I don't even know WHAT that is but it lobs stones, flaming gremlins, anemones, spike spitting blunderbusses, huge bosses (seriously, one of which you need to go into the boss to hurt it), spikes, HEAVEN itself! And the list keeps on going. Though usually you'll see the warp door open for enemies to come in and either hammer it with arrows or run your arse out of there, pronto.

The seal is a dick, you may hate him.
The game itself starts out with a lot of promise. Nice, bright and colourful, enemies pop out of existence and leave behind something to be collected or ignored, while your happy little kiwi, Tiki, runs around and hops from one place to another in an effort to collect all the things he requires to reach the goal of that particular level. The bigger issues come later on in the game when the setting and scenery takes a back step and it starts to REALLY feel like you're just running around a gravity focused maze... There's no fun to the levels that initially started the game and you're just aimlessly following arrows in the hope they're leading you the right way, it quickly becomes dull and lifeless while the enemies relentlessly spawn in trying to catch you off guard and pepper you with various items.

One down, many more to go.
Perhaps the most jarring aspect of this game is Heaven. Attained by dying on world 3, 4 or 5 in the game via some form of projectile on your last life of that credit and instead of game over, you go upwards, ascending like the first asshole in the rapture until you arrive at Heaven which is a level populated by spikes, very small (but many) platforms and at the end of it all, the virgin Mary (assumedly, there's no nametag). If you manage to overcome all the obstacles in the level, get to the holy mother herself, your prize is... Death. As if one of the hardest levels wasn't taxing enough, you get to "go to sleep" in heaven and your game is OVER.

Wow, shall I just put on a big shit-eating grin and lay down on the floor waiting for the next kick to my teeth then? As it turns out, you have to escape heaven (no clues on this) by finding walk-through walls and floors that will let you fall out of heaven and allow you to continue your game. While most of this game was likely made by people on weed, I swear this part was coded by the most sadistic bastard alive while on PCP.

Seriously, check this screen out.

Really now?

How fucked up is that? You die and everyone else is waiting for you. Game over, get another coin out and try again from Earth.

Aside from this overly jarring experience, the game is fine save for small issues of being ambushed by instant kill monsters, having the balloon popped that you're in/riding and either falling WAY back in the level's progression or (more often than not) landing on spikes which also negates a heaven visit. (In some cases I'd rather just death than the bullshit heaven) and in some places you need to be pixel perfect in your precision to navigate around some of the traps in the levels (by traps I mean the spikes placed RIGHT in your way). Going up or down a large tunnel will invariably have enemies spawn in that can take full advantage of the location and circumstance and rob you of a life.

Last boss, no contest with this weapon.

It really doesn't help when the penultimate level openly advertises itself as a maze either. And for bonus points, the ending is the story that would have been nice had they showed it at the start. But having said that, it's a fun little game if a little too maze-y which always brings me back to the game Abuse and its level editor which stated "do not design levels that shows you areas you cannot get to directly as it leaves players feeling like a rat in a maze" this game would have benefitted from that idea.