Thursday, 25 February 2016

Xybots - Arcade

How... do you pronounce that?

Take 2 players, drop them into a maze filled with increasingly more difficult layouts and monsters/robots and make it part Third Person Shooter and you've effectively got yourself Xybots.

It's quite a bit daunting at the start

In taking from possibly the idea of Gauntlet but giving us an "in maze" view rather than the typical top-down view, Xybots not only takes the approach of giving us warning messages the first time anything new happens, much like in Gauntlet, but it also lets us see the action happening in the playing field. The view itself is split up into 3 parts. One screen for player 1, one screen for player 2 and the rest of the screen, which is the upper half, is dedicated to stats, layouts and the map for both players.

And then the difficulty kicks in

Play takes place for Xybots in the same arena for each player. As the players move and progress through the maze, they'll gradually map the maze out from their views. Sometimes players start together, sometimes they don't but they ideally have to find the same exit (and there's warps to other levels too). This leads to possible routes of attack where players can flank and ambush enemies that have specifically-directional shields. In other cases this isn't a good idea as the game may flag up that shooting each other will hurt and most hits take 10% of your ever-fading life bar.

Maps and sensors, though costly, will save a lot of time.

Yep, Xybots is one of those countdown games where the longer you take, the less health you'll have in the next round and such. However the game is unique with its control system in that not only do you navigate with the joystick to move forwards, backwards, sidestepping left and right, but turning is done by twisting the top of the control to turn 90 degrees either left or right depending upon the direction turned. If you're not aware the game can do this, you'll find several first few maps that have you running sideways down a corridor until you either learn it, get killed or miraculously get to the end of the corridor while being shot at.

Some enemies have shields, some fire back. Beware those that have both functions.

Enemies are the rather non-descript entities ranging from spaceships that pick up items and move them around, including coins which are used to buy things at the end of levels, health, keys, weapons and so on. Large robots that move and shoot at you while taking several hits to be killed fully, smaller robots that take similar hits but can selectively use shields to block and fire, insect looking things that move almost erratically and hammer the player with a huge level of shots while they themselves can only be shot at JUST the right time. Every now and then you get to meet a Master Xybot which needs to be shot repeatedly in key places to succeed and losing will knock you back some 10 or so levels. Sounds very fair to me.

Each new event gets a lovely little (annoying) message about it!

Speaking of sounds, the music in the game takes a very lacklustre approach and while it doesn't overwhelm the ambience of the game, there's plenty of room for extra that could be better used to build upon the mechanics of the game. While the sounds are the usual bleep and bloops we've come to expect from this time period, it's interesting to behold the digitised speech mechanic within the game. Otherwise it's clear that most of the focus has gone into the graphics of the game and the gameplay.

And there's bosses too... Good luck.

It's a fun game initially though the first few levels are a little too gradual on the difficulty curve while later levels will ramp it up to becoming a vertical way that eventually flexes back upon itself. Stick to it a little and have someone competent playing alongside you and you'll do well to enjoy this game.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Space Gun - Arcade

You're in Space, and you have a gun... Gun Space! -ah shit...

Light Gun time again as we venture to planets unknown in search of the mystic plot device as to why people have gone bye-byes and odd creatures are in their place making life miserable for all and sundry. Yep it's the age old alien space monster plot of Distant-Planet-Lost-Contact-With-Space-Ship-Go-There-To-Find-Aliens-Kill-All-And-Run motif. Or DPLCWSSGTTFAKAAR for short.

Blood guts and gore everywhere.

Very quickly the plot in Space Fun falls into the Aliens category of space monster madness in that a spaceship goes silent, so people go to investigate it, then a planet, then you stop an alien army... By yourself (and a friend perhaps) while armed with a machinegun and an assortment of weapons and, wait for it, a PEDAL! Yes that's right ladies and ladies, you heard it first here, a pedal used in a light gun game before Time Crisis was on the scene. Predating Namco's title by around 5 years or so.

The player is hardcore, a slash damage that size from something akin to a bear is an Ouch...

While the gun remains as one might expect, a gun. Space Gun allows us the ability to select between four different special attacks. While specials were available in Beast Busters (and quite a few there too) and also in games like Revolution X, Operation Wolf (Ah the grand-daddy) this time around we're able to select which special we wish to use. Ranging from the flame shot that incinerates most enemies if they're grouped together, rockets for the welcome-home feeling, a laser sword swipe that cuts through all enemies but is very narrow in it's spread of attack and an ice shot that freeze enemies for more damage with the main gun and could shatter most smaller/basic enemies.

Nice and large bosses to battle

All the usual cliché’s are there in Space Gun. Dark and difficult to see corridors filled with monsters that can have arms and limbs blown off, HEADS blown off and still attack you, pods that release ravenous teeth-filled spores, critters, creepy crawlies and many more assorted monsters that get bigger and more stubborn to succumbing to death and are otherwise known as boss monsters. While at the same time you've also got plenty of pods around that can give you ammo and health, or shields against the aliens, other people are around that need saving for bonuses at the end of the level (If you make it that far) and then there's the pedal that lets you backtrack to either slow down the onslaught of enemies or go back for something you missed! EPOCH MAKING!

AHEM-Ripping off Aliens-AHEM

Aesthetically there's some lovely little touches in Space Gun, the occasional instance of blowing glass out of a spaceship results in shielding coming down to prevent exposure to vacuum (but who puts GLASS between a walkway and outer space?), mutations of would-be hostages that become aliens just before you save them are animated in an interesting and fairly unique manner, while most of the game seems to rip/borrow from Aliens up to and even including the planet base looking like the main site of LV-426 from Aliens. Thankfully nothing in the game actually LOOKS like it's from alien... Aside from the eggs and wall crawling little critters... And most of the aliens.

Last boss, Hint: Be accurate...

Plagiarism or Homage? That's not for me to decide, but what I can comment upon is that while the game is fun, it has its hang-ups. For instance, the selection of the extra weapons is sequential, so getting to the one you want, while under the extra pressure and stress of fighting off aliens, you're likely to over shoot the one you need, or not hit the one you want and make various, multiple mistakes. On top of this there's the issue of the game purposefully overrunning you with more enemies than you can attack at once, or just hurling at you bosses and monsters that shrug off multiple shots before arbitrarily just giving you a dry slap.

Did you kill something, or sneeze?

It's not a huge list of awkwardness, and the reverse function with the pedal is rather downplayed. The biggest gripe with the game is the brevity, it's just too short but having said that, the final fight is made all the more interesting by having your accuracy be paramount to success. A fight between yourself and the last boss, while in front of the control panels that fly the spaceship. Happy shooting! It's certainly worth the time to play but don't invest too many credits for it.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Night Slashers (Arcade)

It's like killing monsters... Actually it's just killing monsters.

Data East has a history of hit and miss gaming. This one is more of a "skewed off to the side" kind of game. In the same vein as Final Fight, Mutation Nation, Violent Storm and other such brawlers, Night Slashers takes a sort of Van Helsing approach to gaming and pits three characters (The Heavy, All Rounder and Nimble Minx) against a medly of monsters from various franchises and source materials and you get to beat them up in a variety of fashions and ways.

How's it "uncanny" if he knows lots of martial arts?

You've your strong character, a mix of cybernetics and cheesy rock with a dash of California in there. Capable of picking up monsters and leaping around while using combos and attacks others can't. Your all rounder character that looks very synonymous to Van Hellsing while having a balance of combos and moves and then there's the token bonus nimble character that nobody really wants to pick as they can't take a hit as well as the others and has more moves than most people will bother to try and learn to be effective with them before having to select another character as they've just lost their last life... again. Night Slashers knows its cliches and falls into the same trap as almost every other similar game (Undercover Cops... Monster Maulers... Dynamite Cop 2... I'll stop there...)


INTROOO!!! Actual fighting is not as fun/easy.

Plot wise for Night Slashers, you get various monsters roaming the world and these 3 people are going to fix it. By killing everyone and not looking for a cure. Zombies are roaming the streets, Doctors have gone mad, Frankenstein's Monster is stalking in the shadows, a pastiche of Dracula causes trouble, someone gets to punch out a helicopter, a Mummy fights using wrestling moves (not bad for an emaciated guy...girl...dead person), all because some demon is returning to this plane of existence and your characters need to kill it. (No spoils but if you've seen certain episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, you know what to expect. Yeah that episode with the possessed book that got scanned into a scanner...)

Give it now! Cut this 'running away' shit and get to the fighting!

Graphically, Night Slashers is certainly riding high in the blood, guts and gore department. Everything you fight and kill dies (un-dies?) in a violent or gruesome fashion while cut-scene images look impressive and reek of 90s comic book stylings which adds to the cheesiness of the game but not in a negative manner. Likewise, getting critical hits on enemies throws up a comic book style effect to illustrate that you just hit harder than you ever hit before and often resulting in an instant kill with standard enemies. The largest problem, graphically speaking, is that the animations of the creatures and the characters becomes less fluid depending upon which movements the characters are forced to go through, usually getting up or moving more dynamically beyond the point of the generic "menacing walk" down the street.

At least he has an idea of what to do

Having said that, the audio in Night Slashers tries its hardest to give the player an experience with the music that ultimately falls flat in places but ambles along amicably enough to set a suitable mood without the emphasis on being too serious while not being overly slapstick (the graphics and Over The Top violence do that already), and while it's impressive to hear digitised speech and sound samples for the combat, it's rather repetitive to hear the characters repeating the same words over and over, ad nauseam, every time they get up or do a special move. The first few times it's ok, after that it simply becomes dull and monotonous.

Obligatory lift level

There's little here to come back to for Night Slashers, after the first time the game is beaten, aside perhaps to see the excessive violence and cheesy horror setting and in all regards, even that isn't enough to determine more credits from pockets. Repetitive gameplay despite the option for more attacks and combos and an awkward control system coupled with monsters and bosses that get stupidly high levels of priority in attacks, bury any chance of a real replay interest with the very undead it has with its own monsters.

Don't care, kicked your arse already.