Thursday, 30 October 2014

Super Smash TV - SNES

Big money, big prizes, I love it ~Mr Emcee

It's been a long time since I last played this game on the SNES, I remember seeing it on display on an old 24" TV (flat screen? what the hell is that?) and seeing the near-arcade replication and thinking to myself "I must have this game" I wasn't disappointed at the time and in looking back, seeing the game recently again and experiencing it again, I've found that it's one of those that managed to survive the test of time and be almost as incredible as I remember it to be.

Secret rooms not listed. (Hint: it's the blank room of the 3x3, approach from left)

The concept is based off The Running Man, a Bachman book that was actually Stephen King, which then was HEAVILY adapted into a film with the ARHNULD, before becoming a free-for-all bloodbath (and thankfully so) with Super Smash TV. The idea being across all of them, that there's a TV show where contestants are allowed to submit themselves to be hunted down and killed LIVE on TV. In the book, it's set in the outside world, in the film it's a game show against specific "gladiators", in the game it's against an army of enemies and huge bosses.


Mine, grunts, walking bombs, oh my!

Controls are simple and I'm thankful for that much. The D-Pad moves your character around and the 4 buttons are your attack directions, giving it a bonus over the arcade game in that the twin joystick just wasn't as accurate as this set up. Collect items and weapons by just running into them and they're automatically selected or dismissed as soon as you collect them, particularly weapons as you'll lose what you had and immediately gain your new weapon replete with ammo, at the cost of your previous weapon's armaments. You also can collect landmines, in the 'immediately blowing up your body' sense.

He's big, he's bad, he's... immune only to standard bullets, grab the weapons.

Oddly enough, the arcade game gave away free lives if they players could collect them and that's carried over onto the SNES version in that the game has a limit on the number of continues the players can use. Having said that, the rest of the arcades power ups and systems are in place, ranging from the enemies that you'd find in the original from mobs with clubs, to robots with lasers, rolling tanks, turrets, snake trails, snake segments, buffalo, small snakes, snake men (why the snake theme guys?) and including the bosses in all their glory.

You win! But it's not likely you'll live long enough to collect it.
It's a very faithful adaptation, all the powerups are still there from orbiting orbs that double your firepower until they're touched, five shuriken shield, invincible shields, socks/speed up, presents for points, cash for points and finally (as I like to call it) the breath-taker, a nuke or smart bomb that gives you a few moments of peace to take a quick breather. Unless I start to really dig into the game there's very little here that's NOT in the arcade original and in some cases there's MORE than the original arcade had.

ORBS! No really, there's orbs coming.
These bonus extras include the secret rooms with their special pickups that can unlock the super secret room later on as part of the pleasure dome to give you the best ending of the game. It's a monster of a room that likely has more fighting going on in that one room than most of the game has to offer. The game really does love to throw everything at you, including the kitchen sink, which it will happily beat you to death with around the head and neck if you're fortunate. If not, it will CONTINUE to beat you around the head and neck long after they're gone and all that remains is a pair of crappy shoes. Yeah I'm not impressed with what you're wearing.

See, told you it was in the bottom right.
Key grudges for this game is that it is significantly, undeniably, slower than the arcade original. How this is the case I'm not sure given that once you've beaten the game, you get the 10x speed option to play through and it runs that very well indeed, maybe doubling the normal speed and having 5x speed just wasn't an idea that came to mind for the developers. Oddly as well, nearly all the sounds of the game sound like they were sampled from the arcade rather than converting the files down, nearly every sound effect has a slight, and it is slight, hiss behind the noise that gives away that it's been recorded and re-sample in this manner. Despite this, the third level has its own music rather than the arcade version (which ran the first level music again) and I must say it's well worth hearing.

Outnumbered? yes. Out gunned? No.
Two players working together should be able to smash (ha ha... god that was terrible) this game with relative ease and one player, playing diligently, ought to be able to beat the game barring some very unfortunate moments. My advice, stick the game in hard mode and leave it there, playing on easy or normal will stop the game after the first and second level respectively, play it in hard and enjoy it for what it is, fun, mindless, chaos.

Bring on the gore!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Goat Simulator - Steam

Welcome to a not-quite-simulation, of a goat.

I thought this was a joke when I first heard about it. I thought that this was someone's poorly photoshopped idea of a game or someone's attempt at modding that went awry or someone messing about with Blender or some other 3D posing tool/animation application, or even something from Gary's Mod.

Quests, options, mods, goats.

However, once the videos started to come out, I began to sit up and take note and recently took the plunge in getting the game for myself and seeing just what it is. Out of the box, it's exactly what it says on the tin, a goat simulator. Thankfully it's not an authentic simulation as I've yet to encounter a goat that can sacrifice people to demons, travel into the Game (Goat) of Thrones and declare itself as reigning sovereign or blow up vehicles and survive.

Large jumps, big air, goats.

It's a silly, sandbox simulation and to be honest, it's a welcome break from serious games. You control your goat with keyboard and mouse as you wander the landscape looking for things to do. Your "quests" involve things from hitting object, kicking objects, jumping on objects and doing various tricks and combos by jumping and rag dolling your way through twists, turns, loops and all other manner of amusing entertainment. It plays like a combination of Tony Hawk's Skater and Mario 64, the only thing you really can't do is grind along surfaces, otherwise you're set for the idea of both games together.

Explosions, trees, unsuspecting public, goats.

Blow up a petrol station, fly with fireworks, sacrifice people (I know I said it earlier, it still amuses me), take on multiple other goats in an arena, earn different powers and weapons from jetpacks to ball-launchers while you assault people and vehicles and try to take down planes and gliders. Travel to other lands and ride rollercoasters, meet DeadMau5 and kick him off a building before spinning some discs for yourself, then throw yourself off a building too or ride the lift down to the ground floor. (No... Not an elevator, it's a lift!)

It is a rather gormless looking thing isn't it. Goats.

The game doesn't take itself seriously and as such we don't get to be bombarded with overly realistic, gritty, browned-out textures. Everything is bright, colourful and just this side of a fictional suburbia to have escaped from Technicolor-land, the bloom effect and lens blur look impressive given the engine anyway but the interesting aspect of the design is that it's almost grounded in reality and looks for the most part like a city or a small suburb and then you'll turn a corner and find a giant bowling lane or break into a laboratory that seems to focus upon high-speed fans for the goat to become weightless in a manner of speaking.

Take a ride, headbutt people, goats.

However, it's not all fun and games. There's only so much you can do within the game and the novelty of the idea quickly wears off. While there's a few updates happening every now and then, it's not exactly enough to tide you over until the next update and when the realisation kicks in that there's little value behind the game beyond throwing yourself off large structures just to prove a point of getting some statues or getting some achievement points, it's ultimately a dull and repetitive game with a very crazy idea at the core. An idea that gets stale about 25minutes into the game and then becomes the family guest that won't go home and gets more and more awkward with every moment that passes.

Go home Dad...

Michael Bay, Explosions (say it with me now...) Goats!

That aside, there's potential behind the game and it could be made into something more entertaining. But with the stagnation already in place, it might be better to retire this game and develop the next stage further down the line as a repackaged item.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Drop Zone - C64

Title, enemies, points. Jut need the controls and we're done.

There's a lot of crap on the C64 if one were to take a look at the entire catalogue of games, place them all next to each other and try to find the decent stuff compared to the terrible stuff. For every Last Ninja, there's a Cisco Heat, for each Giana Sisters, there's a Dark Star. Drop Zone fits in the middle and more to the good stuff than the bad. Inspired by Defender, Drop Zone takes the idea behind the original Defender and forcibly slams home a healthy dose of originality, style, speed and intense gameplay mechanics.

Put these blue guys in the hole for more points.
Take a man, slap him in a space suit, then slap THAT into a jetpack chair and have him patrolling a perpetually loops landscape across an alien planet with infinite ammo and a few Smart Bombs (Screen killers) while guarding several 'men' from being attacked and killed while also getting bonus points for escorting them home and wiping out aliens (and not afraiding of anything). But even this description fails to do the game justice.

Later levels ramp up the difficulty quickly.
You fly by using the joystick and shoot using the trigger/button on the stick. Space bar will drop a Smart Bomb and any other button will activate your cloak (read: Makes you untouchable), while you're trying to pick up your men and deposit them in your base. Even though men aren't safe there, the aliens can drop red men down which will kill your men on contact or if they get into the base, kill another man in there. Dying while holding a man won't kill him thankfully, but he will need to be found and collected again. You don't have to save the men, but it's worth points which give lives. You can only win a round by killing all the enemies.

Lose all your men and it becomes a dangerous wasteland.
There's a whole host of enemies in the game, ranging from the generic green aliens that idly float around, faster ones that drop red men down that then go (for all intents and purposes) completely psycho with their rapid speed and fast firing. Later enemies split into seekers (a smaller and more annoying enemy), while clouds will dot the landscape raining death and lightning down upon you. IN SPACE!

Clouds... In SPACE!
The speed and fluidity of the game only help to accentuate how arcade focused the game is with its requirement for reflexes and incredible reactions times. It's not too fast thankfully as to be unplayable but you will need to keep your eyes open for errant projectiles that the aliens can unleash with uncanny accuracy. On top of that, take too long into the level and the "red pill" alien will turn up that actively hunts you down and rapidly bombards you with attacks, killing it will spawn another shortly after. The challenge ramps up steadily, getting harder and more numerous with enemies as the levels go on while the game is never strictly unfair, but it comes infuriatingly close at times.

Seekers tend to the most annoying, nimble and smallest enemy.
Simple, effective and gorgeous as far as graphics go for the game, be it the small volcanic eruptions or the large firework of death brought about by dying at any point where you simply detonate into a display-calibre pyrotechnic effect. Items and characters are almost colour coded with the careful design of each enemy/man, making it easy at a glance to pick out which enemy is which and where your men are.

Will be dying shortly.
The audio however is a short affair of beeps and boops that play rather well within the setting but there's no music to the game. At least it can't be annoying in this regard, though the explosions and shots are clear and distinct within the game and the alert sounds from the 'men' cut through all other noises to make it abundantly clear when one of them is under threat of being killed.

Whoo! Survived another level!
It's a good arcade thriller, showing that Defender could and was made better by those with the time and dedication (and advancement in tech) could surpass well-known benchmarks within the videogame industry. It's still a game I'll go back to every now and then for the nostalgia.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Death Star Interceptor - C64

It could be a lot worse... Dark Star worse.

Having looked at an atrocious game last week, I'm looking back at another space based C64 shooter that at least manages to be entertaining though not quite the golden answer to gaming we're all hoping for. Take one dab of fan boy-ism for Star Wars (Namely the Trench run from the last few action scenes of the film) add a dose of repetition and a few sound effects and you'll have yourself a good representation of this game: Death Star Interceptor.

Take off! Unless you crash... Seriously, who builds this?

The game starts with, oddly enough, take off. In which you'll have to successfully navigate yourself out of the entrance into Outer Space or risk losing one of your shields. Incidentally with all your shields gone, you'll lose a life. Once into Outer space you'll locked into combat with multiple enemies that will attack you on sight while being able to move slightly forwards into the background and pull back into the foreground to get around multiple attacks. Once you've killed enough enemies, the main enemy comes forth to give you a slap session before you chase them back to the Death Star and you so begin your trench run.

Fighting the main enemy.

On the trench run you'll encounter multiple different stages that will have a multitude of different enemies. Ranging from avoiding walls that block your route, shooting down missile attacks, going head to head against the main ship that happily fires several shots AFTER IT IS DEAD, to running down walls again with enemies attacking you, giant enemies, tanks and finally getting a shot at the exhaust port that lets you blow up the Death Star and ultimately beat the level. Yes I said LEVEL.

Once won, Death Star Interceptor plays through but faster and quicker than before.

It's the trench run... With a paint job?

There's enough variation in the game to keep it interesting though the drawn out access between levels can wane the attention from time to time and the constantly changing blue and white trench tends to hide and mask inadvertently the enemies' shots. Perhaps if the trench was more grey and darker grey than white and blue, this could have solved an issue. On top of that, all the enemies (and even the launch pad, strangely enough) cycle through the key colours the C64 has to offer as if undergoing a never-ending decision of which skin to wear to the game.

Dodge left or right, you've a few seconds to work it out or get hit.

There's a few odd quirks about the game however, firstly there's the fact that if you sit in the bottom right of the screen, you cannot be hit, you cannot die and you cannot lose, (You also cannot win as you need to be in the middle to fire the last shot) but it's a lovely little breather spot and you can kill SOME enemies there, infinitely helpful as progression is made by points scored rather than time spent in a level.

Those shots on the screen were fired AFTER the last enemy was killed.

Other small quirks are that the bullets/projectiles fired by the enemies can take various paths and routes along the lines of what the enemies can take for a small duration, resulting in shots being fired that bend and turn corners towards you and in some cases, can come back on screen from enemies that have left the view of the game and no longer pose a threat to the player (but clearly they still do). You can also get hit multiple times by the same bullet if you repeatedly move into and out of its reach.

Hide in the corner, it's safer.

The audio in the game is not very impressive however, the initial music takes priority over the control of the game and you've got to wait until it's done before you can start the game and playing the game is spent usually with some odd sine wave oscillating back and forth along the frequencies up until a certain level either overloads it or just silences the game, from there it's nice and quiet with the usual pew pew noises of your shots and explosions of dying and dead enemies.

I win, going home now.

All in all, it's not a great game but I'll happily cut my own arms off and feed them to my own arse while playing this than go back to Dark Star again.