Thursday, 26 February 2015

Gigawing - Arcade, Dreamcast

If it moves, shoot it, meh, shoot it anyway.

Also released upon the Dreamcast, Gigawing is definitely one of those Bullet-Hell vertical shooter spaceship games. While I have reviewed several in this series of ABC Arcades, it's something to behold and a very special game in that it's just so over the top and overblown with crazy and madness.

LOOKOUT! There's a hint of plot here.

Let's start with the basics. Gigawing has the lovely shooty button. It lets you shoot the bullets and beams at the naughty things trying to end your game prematurely. Tapping the shooty button lets you fire repeatedly and constantly, however, if you hold the button down, you activate a psychokinetic shield capable of reversing the polarity of all energy-based projectiles, inversing angle, acceleration and force to send the aforementioned projectile on an inverse trajectory towards the point of origin, causing impact and sustained structural damage to the recipient whilst spawning a collectible icon that increases and amplifies the point-based reward system implemented by the game. Or, it sends bullets back to enemies and turns into bonus points.

Score rating: Stupid. Soon to become, CRAZY AND DUMB!

You also get a wealth of bombs with Gigawing which regenerate upon death and can be picked up, these bombs (along with using the shield in the aforementioned paragraph) cause a huge level of damage to everything as well as a focused attack in the centre of the screen upon bigger enemies/bosses. This combination of bombs and regenerating shields, can help you survive most of the game with very little time actually spent on surviving the bullet hell parts of the levels. Until you run out of bombs.

Use your reflection shield to turn their bullets into your bullets. Try not to get confused.

Gigawing has the lovely choice of four different crafts and pilots. Each one with their own story and style of attack. What becomes more interesting is that the planes and characters will interact with each other to form new storylines depending on who plays as which character and whether you're doing well or not. Each character has their own reasons for getting involved, be it the loss of a loved one, protecting others or just for shits and giggles. Perhaps not the best reason but it's one I can happily subscribe to.

Between me and the boss, not sure who's firing more shots here.

The first 3 levels are determined by the character choice but levels 4-6 (and maybe 7 if you're good) are always in their respective orders. The display and visual aesthetics behind the levels are stunning. Bullets tend to come in blue and pink fluorescence while MOST gold coloured things are points (careful later on), the appearance and background of everything in levels is staggering. Regrettably you'll never see it thanks to the chaos going on within the level itself. It's really manic and if you manage to get a breather you can view some of the most intricate and detailed designs to grace a game, but as said already, it's a shame you'll only see it if you're dead.

The returning boss, and maybe the super last boss if you're good at this game.

Enemies are quite varied in Gigawing, ranging from spaceships to submarines, to medallion embued bosses and almost everything can spunk out a cloud of bullets and attacks that you can almost instantly return back to them but you will see times where EVERYTHING on the screen is a bullet of sorts and bosses are certainly no exception to this rule. Bosses, in truth, go one step further and seem to not only spam bullets left and right but also in curiously interesting patterns that leaves me wondering upon the mathematic formulae to create such patterns, while I'm trying to blow them up.

Because shooting everything needs context...

The music in Gigawing fits perfectly. Lead and Synths for industrial levels, serene and calm tones for the more picturesque levels, suitably manic mid-boss fight music and boss music that makes you wake up and take note "HERE'S A BOSS!" with a clash of synths worth of any video-game gladiator entering the ring for combat. Assuming the gladiator runs straight in for a kill rather than pontificating about the arena declaring their worth and self-value or just being a dick in general.

This thing will throw more bullets at you than you've seen so far in the entire game.

Overall, it's fun quick game that doesn't get too painful too quickly and with the incredibly ridiculous scoring system, won't cause too much of an issue in the fact that it's bright, colourful and fast paced on the action (so fast in some cases it suffers slow-down on account of how MUCH is going on in the game) but it's still worth while viewing or grabbing it on the Dreamcast.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Die Hard Arcade - Arcade, in case you hadn't guessed!

Who has bigger billing here? Fox, or Sega? There's only one way to find out, FIGHT!

Normally, one associates a game based on a film to be utter dross. A steaming pile of Atari E.T. Or worse. I could look back over a lot of Movie to Game adaptations and wonder aloud the immortal phrase "What the hell were they thinking?" while recanting various hashes and screw ups over the years from the Atari 2600 onwards, through the NES and SNES days, 8-bit, 16-bit and beyond. But as with all things involving large statistical data sets, eventually you'll come across outliers and extremes at that. Die Hard Arcade isn't quite one of those extremes but it's quite close to it.

The hardest fight in the game, this guy doesn't wash his hands before trying to punch you.

For those not the know, Die Hard is a film. Go watch it, now. When you're done come back and you'll understand the plot of this game almost flawlessly. For those who've already seen it and those that haven't done as they were told, I'll recap briefly the game anyway. Terrorists invade skyscraper, president's daughter is amongst hostages, you're sent in to infiltrate and rescue. Shit goes down, stuff gets blown up and you're left alone (maybe with a 2nd player, it's possible) to fight your way through the game and engage in a few Quick Time Events. Yes this game predates Shenmue, but so do a lot of others.

Given the time, it's not a bad attempt at recreating the film in limited polygons.

What do we have though with Die Hard Arcade? We've a multitude of levels and arenas in which our protagonists steadily get less and less dressed for the occasion in keeping with the idea of the not having any shoes etc, while punching, kicking, combo-ing and blowing up gangsters, crooks, ninjas, fat people, crooked cops and bent fire-fighters with the occasional big robot (yes I know...) and a few VERY large men here and there before fighting the boss, twice.

Hilarious, the boss can't find the child, it's like some whacky slapstick comedy show!

It plays quickly and the transition between one area and another is done smoothly as you watch the characters physically running down corridors wherein your Quick Time Event will take place, either jumping, punching, or kicking as required in order to incapacitate the enemy, otherwise you're going to have to fight a particularly tougher battle than normal. Almost a real credit eater in fact. Each area has its own features, some will have fans that hurt if you walk into them, a radar dish that moves quickly back and forth, weapons and items to use in combat, a fire engine spraying water like it's cannon time at the local riots and so on and so forth. Giving a mixed feel to each area and keeping things a little more fresh and different as they go.

QTEs, win them and kill an enemy outright, lose them and either get hurt or fight some tough characters.

There's a lot of variation even within the combat for Die Hard Arcade, multiple different combos and attacks to perform including back attacks, charged attacks, jumps, holds and combos, holds and throws, holds and combos INTO throws. *take a breath* pistols, machineguns, Anti Tank rifles (stolen from the terrorists I assume), pepper spray (works on masked people too), poles, sticks, brooms, robot arms, rocket launchers, chairs, boxes, barrels and even some health pickups of different strengths. Speaking of which, with pistols you can arrest enemies and take them straight out of the game if you get to grapple them while holding the pistol, a very nice touch indeed! Though if you run out of ammo, you throw the gun, which can cause damage too and is one truly hilarious way of ending a fight.

I don't remember this being in the film...

The music isn't all that memorable but it does play second fiddle to a wealth of explosions and fisticuffs, voices of enemies begging for mercy before trying to sucker punch/kick you, over the top hammy voice acting during cut scenes (always welcome) and a healthy compilation of gunshots, laser blasts (see robots for explanation) and water impacts during various traps and locales. Though the arcade itself can be customised to lower the noise setting, you likely won't hear the music over the sound effects and fighting anyway.

Paid poorly, the window cleaning robots go on the rampage, with lasers...

Despite the linear approach to the game, there's some replay factor in this in that it's just very entertaining and if you've got two players and get through to win the game, you go back to the Double Dragon method of winning in that victory becomes a fight to the death between Player 1 and Player 2. It's a bright and colourful game with enough tongue-in-cheek humour at the source material to be entertaining enough and steadily paced to bring back players for another go at the game. Not quite a long term play but worth a few run-throughs all the same.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Alien 3: The Gun - Arcade

Thankfully, more monsters than in the film.

It's an odd circumstance when you take a film that doesn't have much in the way of action and try to fit it into the sphere of gaming that is an arcade game. Players are not likely to pump money into what is basically "Space Monster BOO!" and you can expect even less for them to be entertained by it. It needs a challenge, it needs action and it needs to be unfair enough to force people to keep playing but not too unfair that people give up on the grounds that it's just a sink for credits and cash.

If you can't work this out, you're going to lose, fast.

Alien 3, as a film and basis of this game, does not provide the suitable backdrop for the arcade game. So a little (read: LOTS) of artistic license has been used to work this game. For a start, there's more than one alien (hooray!), there's multiple types of aliens and enemies such as robots, tanks, droids, cyborgs and most of this was never in the original film.

There's quite the myriad of monsters, body parts and action here.

Plot wise, you do follow SOME of it. You're two surviving marines from the 2nd film that have remained on the original ship, except it's been overrun and infested with Xenomorphs. Grab gun, infinite basic ammo and some "kill all" grenades and let the acid-blood-bath begin! Or we would if the game was that fun to play. While battling aliens and other enemies, you get to see set pieces from the film, run across the surface of the planet, see the factory installation of Fury 161, run the gauntlet with the other prisoners and then finally battle the "Plot" Alien boss and dunk it in liquid metal before a showdown with the Bishop Android/Man.

"We'll help!" By which they mean 'Get in the way ALL the time'

Your bosses and enemies are Aliens based, apart from the robot ones which seem to be thrown in there at the last minute and take their cues from Revolution X for annoying boss tactics. Including "Not being hurt when the game wants you hurt instead" and the more annoying "Only one part of my body is vulnerable and you're NOT seeing it any time soon" types that can't help but give you a beating before teasing you briefly like a cheap stripper in a backwards club.

Anyone remember this in the film?

The music cannot really be commented upon, as it is barely heard during multiple playthroughs, the balance seems very one-sided towards the sound effects which come through rather 'tinny' and the odd speech sample makes it sound like ALL the voices were done by one person irrespective of whomever is talking, be it player characters or NPCs. Bullets sound far too metallic and aliens have that odd rasping noise synonymous with plenty of other monster games as if it's been taken from "Bad Sound Effects volume 82 - monster edition"

Or that part where the robots ran around shooting people? That in the film either?

But what of the gun? It's a bulky lump but does feel almost like you're holding something worthy of blasting aliens, but doesn't seem to match the damage inflicted upon the monsters within the game. Mainly because each time you down them, there's a chance they get back up but damaged and attack in a different way, then they could be shot AGAIN and wait a little longer in writhing agony but if you get too close (because you're in an on-rails shooter no less) they might lunge yet again. You have to keep hitting them until they're dead. By dead, we mean they've changed colour and stop physically moving. However the gun is large, meaty looking and has two key functions; the trigger for shooting and a button for hurling out instant-death to most enemies and significant damage to bosses.

Grenades and flamethrowers add to your weaponry, sadly not too often enough.

Items and power ups are far and few between. You might be able to find some health, perhaps a few extra grenades and very occasionally a flame thrower that instantly kills whatever it hits, but will never last long enough for you to make significant progress and the delay between trigger pulling and impact is longer than the bullets so you're likely to be slapped about by the aliens anyway for a while you adjust to the delay.

Red vision, or how to make the game harder by doing very little.

That said, there is some replay value in the game, in that there's multiple routes one can take through a few of the levels and trying to get better and better scores is always available for the competitive streak in some people, but the annoyance and unfairness of the aliens and some of the attacks hitting while ignoring the damage you're dealing, will turn many people away from this game.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Monster Maulers - Arcade

There's monsters, these people maul them.

There's a rarity that pops up every now and then. A game that takes an idea and runs it in a slightly different direction and either flumps hard into the ground enough to bury itself from head to arsehole or just manages to rise above and become something unique in a heavily saturated arena of games of similar ilk.

Pick a boss, after that you're told what to fight next.
The idea of 2 people fighting together is not that novel. Done since Double Dragon if you're looking at the co-operative side of things, or against each other made famous by games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2 (I said famous, not originally). But few games have tried that 2 vs. 1 method in which you take Ryu and Ken from Streetfighter and have them fight against a boss (Street Fighter Alpha 3 actually DID this in various format versions) or have Sub-Zero and Scorpion team up to beat the ever-loving-shit out of Goro and such.

It's certainly creative on the enemies, if only I didn't look like a Dragon Ball Z reject.

There's a distinct difference though between having a 2vs1 game and a brawler. I'm not talking about a game where the players team up to slaughter hundreds of low level enemies with a few bosses, I'm talking about games where 2 players can take on 1 boss that's either stronger, faster, more prioritised or such. Mugen games allow for such combinations depending on the version (once again).

Speaking of rejects, here's the Blanka reject, complete with lightning/magic.

Monster Maulers however, is one of the few games that allows for two players at once to combat the bigger badder bosses/monsters in a sort of StreetFighter style that negates the Final Fight approach to co-op combat. One or two players will pick from 3 characters, to systematically attack and assault a rather varied and colourful selection of bosses and opponents a la Street Fighter.

I got eaten, it was an odd turn of events but the vorephile's will like this game.

The story is fairly forgettable; three barely-clad, plastic-looking, evil wannabes that would look entirely at home on a Japanese Kids Show of generic anime central, try to take over the world by holding it to ransom with a huge blimp with bombs that are launched to create some giant monsters in key places around the world. In response, a scientist warns 3 people that they need to go and punch, kick and energy blast these monsters to the beyond and then go and punch out a flying blimp warship.

This guy can also eat you, while this playable character does the most impressive splits I've seen.

Which in fairness, is probably more written in that paragraph than the game itself has managed to produce, sarcasm not withstanding on that one.

This dragon can also eat you. I'm noticing a pattern.

Cue you (and a friend if you have them and wants to play this game) picking an initial location to do battle with some of the more unique creatures seen in a beat-em-up. I don't mean unique as in the kind of flamboyant personality that hasn't been seen (or just not very often) but unique in that I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw a full-sized, armoured Centaur in a beat em up game. Or a giant combative Moai Head from Easter Island or even a large brain-pede thing... for what of a better description of a flying centipede/brain organism... Actually that was the description.

Yes, you too can hurl Centaurs across the room, and laugh at their pink dye-job.

From Giant Brains with armour plating, to Centaurs, Demons, Colour changing dragons, Easter Island heads, Giant Carnivorous plants and Slime Monsters, there's a great level of diversity and variation between the game's main bosses and enemies. Which then let's it fall flat on its arse with the final few monsters and bosses in the last level (which, oddly enough, plays more like a beat-em-up from Final Fight with the multiple smaller robots and such) where the bosses are just some prick in a robot suit.

In true old school style, they turn red when angry.

Dull. Especially when compared to the creatures you've spent 80% of the game fighting, breaking apart and forcing them to incur physical, modified and permanent damage. To then go up against the equivalent of a few robot looking shapes tossed together and spun around repeatedly like they just discovered there's a fucking rotate function in flash animation!

Sadly the final level, is very weak.

It's a shame really, it just stinks of a lack of effort on the last part of the game. Yes, the main antagonists are human (apparently, not really explained how people can do what they do... but oh well) but why not have them mutate into something rather than just being hidden inside or riding a large robot? "More attacks" is a possible answer but having seen some of the monsters fought earlier, that doesn't seem to ring true.

The boss before the boss time.

The main characters have a little bit of variation, despite all three looking like they're all 2nd rate contenders for the most generic hero team in the world. Your all-rounder guy, fragile but fast and combo-licious female addition and the slow but heavy hitting other main guy, form your little triumvirate. Each as a variety of attacks in the light, medium and heavy flavours and use of them in different guises, at different point, in different positions, can result in very different outcomes from combos to grabs and holds, to throws and so on. There's a lot of positional dependency for what constitutes the need for a low punch or a sweep, compared to when to punch in mid-air as opposed to grabbing and air-tossing the boss aside.

The range of speed and slick animations are quite impressive.

This can be a rather hit or miss set up with the addition of the fast movement and quick-paced combat. On top of that, there's the special moves from fireballs to powerful attacks and wall jumping which the monsters will either succumb to, block them, reflect them back in the case of projectiles or outright no-sell the attack and simply hit you with something that never worked against you before but does now, or counters with something you've never anticipated but happens to hit harder than anything has up until now.

Grabs, holds, combos, specials, all manner of attacks to unleash!

Having a second player with fast reflexes and good communication will allow players to pull off team-moves where both characters do a move together. Don't count on it though. Psychically fuelled TWINS will not be able to synchronise themselves into working together well enough to achieve much with these moves and on top of that, even these moves will get the same treatment as aforementioned.

Besides, suplexing Moai Head monsters, where else you going to get this?

That said, it's a fun game. Monsters always have double the health the main characters have (which essentially pushes focus on it being a 2-player game but a single player can tank the damage and survive especially with high lives if the arcade machine is set to "kind" mode). The great variation between monsters and settings, some with their own pre-boss fight set up too.