Thursday, 28 May 2015

Beast Busters - Arcade

Some beasts need busting, take 3 machine guns.

SNK have a name for themselves in making some of the tougher games out there. In particular, and namely so, the SNK boss syndrome where the last boss (or every boss if you're unlucky) is nightmarishly difficulty, has higher priority over all your attacks and does moves you could never hope to do. However, this is a light gun game they've made called Beast Busters and it's... following the same suit that SNKs bosses do.

Sounds like a nice vacation spot.

Beast Busters is a tough game, there's no two ways about that. Despite it catering for up to 3 players at once, each with their own excessively meaty looking sub-machinegun, it's a nightmare to play and unless you really are watching carefully, you'll end up shooting things you don't need to shoot and getting shot by the things you do need to shoot.

Bedlam, carnage, guns, zombies. I love it.

However, jumping ahead of myself here, Beast Busters takes the idea that a town has suddenly become a ghost town and rather than send in the authorities, it's decided that 3 gun-ho pricks will meander in and take a gander at the situation. Shit goes down, stuff blows up and everything becomes chaos and hell within the first level. Though to be honest, as soon as the first person you met was BLUE and SHOOTING AT YOU, I'd have turned around and walked off if I was still walking at that point. Though that wouldn't make for much of a game.

Should that not be "recently found" ?

Our 3 "heroes" are now stuck deep in enemy territory while trying to figure out what happened, how to escape and basically machinegun, grenade, rocket, flame and electrify everything they can to escape. You get a set of magazines of ammo and have to kill a specifically reoccurring enemy in each level for more to drop in for you to shoot to claim. Most enemies in this game aren't dead however, until they explode, so if they go down, they may get back up and keep attacking. Invariably, this means nearly every enemy must be killed twice.

Most mid-bosses have a pattern and weak point.

The enemies within Beast Busters are a colourful lot at best and not because they're blue skinned. There's some really gruesome looking enemies and monsters, ranging from diseased dogs, to giant birds/eagles/owls (I don't know), mutated piranha, giant head-neck turd bosses (help me please) and even flesh-monster-car creatures that puke rockets at you. Creativity is not in short supply in this game. The problem is that you're likely to run out of credits a long way before you get to see most of the more interesting enemies and bosses.

This is why you should always scrap your car, yourself.

Audio, there's little really to have for music as it's drowned out for the noise of screams and slaughtered monsters and enemies. However the sound effects are loud proud and quite overbearing but you'll manage always to know when you're nearly did thanks to the klaxon sounding "Warning: Now you are about to die" signal. Incidentally you WILL hear that noise a LOT and then "YOU ARE DEAD" being broadcast loudly proudly and spoken to you too as if one method just wasn't enough to hammer home that point where in you died.

Who the fuck writes this?

Even with 3 people playing Beast Busters and unless you're perfectly in psychic synchronisation, you will find yourself heavily overwhelmed within the first few levels and the pressure doesn't let up in the slightest after that. The most annoying part is that the plot maintains that going along the river will be safer and then you're looking at the most enemies and most simultaneously attacking groups you've ever come across within the game, so much for the "easier" route. (Though why it's level 4 at that point and easier was pretty much asking for things to get a lot harder).

Lightning grenades, in case explosions weren't enough.

If you manage to find a means of playing Beast Busters effectively, you're in for a fun ride of highly imaginative enemies and settings, interesting use of transitions between one part of the level and another and a gore fest almost unparallel for the time. But it's still going to be a difficult slog through some of the toughest gun-game sections seen barring Mechanised Attack (Also by SNK...) and with little replay value, brought down by the difficulty, you'll likely play this once or twice and skip it beyond that.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Shinobi - Arcade

Not a very good ninja if we can see him.

In what has become a slightly less iconic character for Sega these days, Shinobi was, at the time, a popular arcade platformer with the lovely little ability to play with multiple levels within an area while getting to relive the fantasy days when ninjas were cool and mysterious little things that children wished to aspire to before that lovely little hammer of REALISATION comes slamming down and informs you that ninjas are covert assassins and generally underhanded in their approach to their missions.

Kill peoples, save kids, rather noble really. But, Rocket Launcher???

However, what we have here is a simple, but smart, platform game from the late 80s that takes the idea of the ninja from childhoods and has them gallivanting off around the world to stop some prick from achieving some nefarious goal of similar. Joe Musashi takes it upon himself to travel the world and stop the evildoers from kidnapping children and also stopping world domination/destruction across 5 levels and multiple stages within each level.

I screwed up the special level... And taking this screenshot.

Joe Mysushi has a selection of talents within Shinobi. The ability to jump from the ground to higher platforms and back again, unlimited shurikens (not always prevalent in future games in the franchise), a special one-off move that kills everything on screen or damages bosses fairly heavily, and if he rescues the right kids he'll receive an upgrade to his attacks in the form of a large POW sign that gives him rockets instead of shurikens (What stealth was involved here again?). Sadly, Joe sushiboy is a one-hit wonder and any slight impact from any enemy's weapons will result in his death, though he can bump into some enemies and knock them about a bit. But the general rule in Shinobi is that you're a fragile little thing and getting taken out can be done sooner rather than later and often while being presented with nigh-ridiculous situations and circumstances.

There's a boss? Use the special for a few extra hits on it.

The levels within the game are fairly linear at the start, with the usual progression from left to right being considered the normal approach, but it's about half-way through the second level's second stage that the approach differs and you'll find yourself scanning back and forth through the level while seeking a way and means to ascend to the top while fighting off gunners, sword masters, ninjas and finding more kidnapped kiddies. It's at this point that a new approach to the way one plays the game needs to be developed (and quickly) so that the player can progress without coming up against the key issues of dying repeatedly. Checkpoints are a rarity in the level design and as such the happenstance of seeing the end and dying while it's in sight, becomes a little too regular to be fun.

Even if the boss is an attack chopper.

The audio within Shinobi is fairly lacklustre, the music takes a back foot for the mediocre plinks and plonks of an attempt to sound like some oriental mishmash fusion but is so weak that it comes across as poor ambience at best while the grunts, hits and impacts of shurikens upon metal are far more crisp and more pronounced, curiously it does sound like Joe Sugarboy has been recorded and digitised for his speech (read: grunts when getting hit or bounced about), which makes a welcome change to some of the characters from the 80s making the generic beepy boop noises.

A dossier of the mission... Or, just turn up and kill everyone.

Overall it's a solid little game that has a sharp incline in difficulty that spikes periodically just to try and catch people off guard and to encourage credits from pockets, there's an added frustration factor in Shinobi in that pumping in more credits will still leave you with no progression through the level as you don't pick up from where you left off within the game. Meaning you'll actually require some skill to beat it rather than paying your way through the game from start to finish. Ah the old days where you needed to be good at a game, I miss those.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Terminator 2 - Arcade Game

Does exactly what is says on the tin.

There's hard light gun games and then there's HARD light gun games (Not hard-light, this isn't a Red Dwarf invention), in that the games flood you with too many obstacles at once or the truly hard games where there's no chance in hell you'll survive the level without your lovely friend, another-credit. Sadly, Terminator 2 is one of those 'impossible' light gun games.

I don't remember this be so well armed in the films...

Following the story and idea behind Terminator 2, thankfully we get to do more than just Robert Patrick in the face, we get to travel around the future and shoot other robots and giant killing machines to our cybernetic heart's content. Yep, it's another "Let's set it in the future" Terminator Game because the usual time period is dull as dishwater for the most part. So what we'll get for the first few levels are some post-apocalyptic levels which are surprisingly detailed in their bleakness with the healthy mixture of over-the-top difficult bosses and special events that require being a pure master of the game to qualify for them, which in this case is the "good" ending.

That's it? Hardly an award-winning defence system.

Two players, two meaty machineguns and rocket/shotgun buttons which translate to doing a large amount of damage to the surrounding point of impact while you steadily scroll through levels and shoot a mix of Terminators, HKs, Goliath Tanks (Forming several bosses), Rocket cars, SWAT guys, scientists, helicopters and trucks before a duel to the death with the T-1000 itself.

Variety, or just different shaped enemies that still onslaught you with attacks.

While on the surface this all sounds well and good but you can expect to lose a credit to the first fight or even before getting to the first main fight in the first level of Terminator 2. Terminators will pop up in front of you at nary a seconds notice and shoot you in the face for a huge drain on your damage while all its mates are doing the same at the same time, oddly the one in front takes the most amount of damage while the ones in the background drop like flies to a few shots. The bosses in Terminator 2, tend to be bullet sponges of epic proportions and need to be fully dismantled before they'll actually fall to the wayside and usually give no indication that the boss is destructible in a specific order until a part of piece actually falls and then you realise you should have been shooting THAT part for far less time than you've actually wasted on everything else. Hardly fair and a tactic that Midway uses in a few light gun games (Revolution X... I'm gunning for you here).

One of the most annoying parts of the game, keeping the truck alive.

You're not entirely alone, you get a healthy load of rockets or shotgun rounds to blow stuff up. You also get refills on your gun to stop it over heating, or just an instant fresh pack of ammo and other items ranging from Smart Bombs, to bonus items, to health (VERY RARE), to Plasma/Miniguns that give more damage instantly, shields, points and more. But it all pales into insignificance when you consider that certain levels are designed to be purely unfair. In particular the vehicle escort missions, firstly with old John Connor in a pick-up truck being chased by Flying HKs, and later young John Connor in a van being chased by a chopper and truck in that order.

Whoo! Bad Arnie!

The trouble with Terminator 2 is that unless you're very quick or know it's coming, a single HK can take out the pick-up truck in a single strafing run and kill you outright before you realise you're dead. While the chopper in the later level can nip in and destroy the truck (and itself admittedly but you're trying to protect the truck) even despite being shot repeatedly. The last stint of the game is a simple you vs. T-1000 trying to kill it before it reaches John Connor and then being rewarded with a nice video (poorly rendered resolution) of the T-1000 dying just like when you saw the film.

It's back once again.

The audio for Terminator 2 is an interesting mix of some kind of background music that nobody really can hear but the key point to notice is the pseudo Arnie sound effects and speech samples (some him, some of someone that sounds like him) and a large amount of explosions. Otherwise it's not worth really writing about and graphically everything looks like some crappy attempt at rotoscoping someone into the game with a bit of a Terminator feel to them, especially the SWAT team and T-800's (they look like human Arnies).

By this point, you'll wonder where all the money went.

It's not worth the time and cash to play this, but perhaps put in a single credit and see how quickly it disappears into the ether, you may think it quick but you'll realise that was nothing compared to how badly the game can punish you, avoid.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Wonderboy in Monsterland - Arcade

Don't you just love when resolutions don't quite work

The original Wonderboy was a rather interesting little platformer that took the Mario approach, slapped in some graphics and sped up the fluidity of the gameplay. This outing of Wonderboy however has taken the adventure approach from platforming and put a lot more emphasis on combat, a pseudo RPG element to the game and thrown in a little exploration with it too.

Kill Dragon, Restore Peace. Nothing about political balance or economies.

You start off as Dicky McNoRealSignificance and before you can say "First Screen Away" you're talking to a fortune teller that lets you know that you're the last hope for the world and must go kill a dragon, and with that, gives you a sword and sends you on your merry way. What you're not told is that you'll have to fight, kill and find a hell of a lot of gold if you want to stand a ghost of a chance at getting anywhere NEAR that goal. As well as finding secret bosses, swords, weapons and everything else in between.

THE FIRST BOSS, is DEATH. (Yes I cheated and no I don't care)

Combat and movement in Wonderboy in Monsterland is very simple. Joystick for the movement, one button to attack, the other button jumps. Blocking is done automatically with a shield as long as you're not attacking and if you've got yourself a shield, while magic is cast by pressing down on the joystick. This does become problematic later in the game when enemies are dropping spells and there's ladders to navigate downwards, by pressing DOWN ON THE JOYSTICK... Anyone seeing this as a problem just yet?

Oooh, secret hidden door leading to more bosses.

Wonderboy in Monsterland, treats us to a rather jovial set of music, uplifting and jaunty as it bounces along with a slightly casual set of tunes with a light spring in their step. There's little sense of atmosphere beyond the entire game being treated as a kid's adventure and it fits in well with the graphics and setting.

"Take my large flute and blow on it... Gently..." -this is why I don't go adventuring any more.

Graphically in Wonderboy in Monsterland, everything is nice, friendly and rather cute. Even Death (your first boss), looks nice and cute for a skeleton wearing a robe and holding a scythe. Everything from snakes and yetis, to knights, demons and the last boss, the dragon, looks like a cheerful reject from some Saturday Morning show. The background and foreground are brightly coloured, clear and crisply presented while the design of the levels suffers a little in the later parts when having to jump and navigate up and down screen and the scrolling isn't enough to get through.

All healed up.
That said, Wonderboy in Monsterland, starts innocently enough with fairly linear levels and the unknowing behind each door that it could be a shop, a hidden trader for health and such (though in towns they'll be clearly marked) or a boss you weren't prepared to fight. That said, there's the hidden doors that are initially announced and unless you realise what the game is telling you, you have to press up to enter the door or walk past blissfully unaware that you're missing the chance to get more powerful swords and key items that will either solve the final dungeon or make Dragon very easy to defeat.

For what? A "?" and a "?" and that's all I get?

As for the final dungeon, the ramping difficulty for that last level is vertical to the point of coming back on itself as the maze is incredibly long, doesn't make it abundantly clear when you're going the right way or the wrong way at times (unless you have the bell) and is flooded with previous bosses, leaving you to the final battle against Dragon with likely far less hearts than you should have and few spells left. Though if you've the maximum armour, weapons and such, it shouldn't be a challenge. But with a strict timer throughout that drains lives, respawning enemies that stop dropping items after the 2nd or 3rd kill, you NEED to keep on the move or McNoRealSignificance will be gaining his wings sooner than expected and awaiting more cash/credits from the player.