Tag Archives: N64

Play Manchester 2016

The beginning of October marked the fifth year of the Play Manchester gaming expo held at Event City venue. With it’s usual and varied blend of retro gaming cabinets, upcoming indie titles on display, and a wider array of new upcoming mainstream releases than last year’s proceedings, Play Manchester 2016 was even more exciting and diverse than in 2015, and just are star-studded in addition with a special panel present that I shall be covering further in the article. First, I perused the various indie games that were on show at the event, and I was impressed with the amount of range of different gameplay ideas and conceptual designs that the new up and coming developers had to showcase.

Snake Pass

snake-pass

The first indie game I came across was a 3D platformer unlike any other. Developed by Sumo Digital, Snake Pass is a game in which the player controls a snake in order to slither around a series of levels and hunting collectible items throughout. Players must learn to take full advantage of the game’s insanely unique control mechanics to reach high places, overcome imposing obstacles and puzzles, and leave no stone unturned, as there are plenty of items to collect through each level, it seemed. What impressed me most about this game, in addition to it’s impressive-looking visuals, was the game’s style of play. With a completely different take on getting around levels and uncovering secrets, it plays out like no other 3D platformer I’ve ever come across. The developer also explained to me various ways that players could choose to play the game, ranging from emphasis on speed, elegance or thoroughness. I personally believe if the developers plan to integrate this idea into the game further, it would most probably add even more replayability to it, but in the state that it was in at the time, it still impressed me very much.

http://www.sumo-digital.com/snakepass/#

@SumoDigitalLtd

Dragon Bros

dragon-bros

Having discovered a greater fondness for side scrolling shooters since I first started blogging, having played more games like Contra and Metal Slug, I was also particularly amazed by another indie game made largely in the same vein, but with a very interesting twist on conceptual design. Dragon Bros, developed by the aptly named Space Lizard Studios, the game is insanely action-packed, filled with breathtaking pixel art and seemed a lot more accessible than the like of Contra; especially the first three games in the series. For me, Dragon Bros was my pick for the best indie title on display at this year’s proceedings; it was the most fun and addictive game, as well as the most interesting in terms of conceptual design. Though comparisons can be drawn between it and Bubble Bobble, since the main characters are two dragons coloured both green and blue, it takes place in a much different kind of world reminiscent of science fiction rather than the cutesy fantasy settings of the former.

http://spacelizardstudio.com/work/dragon-bros/

@SpaceLizardSt

Mao Mao Castle

img_0475

Another game on display I become insanely addicted to, and have been playing frequently ever since the show, is Mao Mao Castle. Created by Asobi Tech, the game is an on-rail free-to-play browser game requiring the player to take advantage of various different mechanics to rack up as many points as possible to attain the highest score possible. The story centres around a cat with supernatural abilities trying to find a way home to a levitating castle in the skies. Reminiscent of the 8-BIT era, it takes influence in terms of conceptual design largely from the varied works of Studio Ghibli; made even more obvious by the fact that the developers had a plushy of the Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro perched on top of the projector used to display the game. Usually the game is controlled using a PC mouse, but the version on display at the show used motion controls, and plushies were up for grabs for anyone who could rack up exceptionally high scores. I managed to win one of the three available plushies, and have been racking up higher scores ever since. I highly recommend this game, as it excels in gameplay above even many mainstream releases, as well as it stands out amongst indie games. The link to play is below:

http://aso.bi/maomao/

Unbox

unbox

Another 3D platformer with a difference came in form of Unbox developed by Prospect Games. The player must customize and control their own box-shaped character, and have a wide range of different gameplay modes to choose from, include four-way multiplayer competitive modes, challenge modes, an adventure mode, and even a kart-racing mode; all of which can played to unlock new outfits for their box character, and to attain a wide range of collectibles like in Snake Pass, or most 3D platformers meeting industry standards. Just as unique as the former, it provides an extremely different take on the genre compared to games such as Super Mario 64, Jak & Daxter and Banjo-Kazooie, but also coming with possibly an even greater amount of variety in gameplay and potentially more replayability. Though it may not be as revolutionary as any of the aforementioned titles were at the time of their respective releases, it’s certainly an evolutionary title, and did stand out os one of the better games on display at the event.

http://www.unboxgame.com/

@ProspectGames

Sub Level Zero

sub-level-zero

Another one of my favourite games on display at this year’s Play Manchester was Sub Level Zero; a lovingly crafted Roguelike shooter reminiscent of the classic game Descent developed some of it’s devout fans at Sigtrap Games. Procedurally generated, and with a map system heavily influenced by the Metroid Prime series, which I found to be particularly impressive, as well as surprisingly easy to interface with, Sub Level Zero also has a heavy influence on player character development, with upgrades for grabs, as well as a wide variety of different weapons to use during combat. In lieu of Roguelike tradition, it also offers a fair bit of legitimate challenge, like the likes of Rogue Legacy and Ziggurat. One of many games in display taking advantage of Virtual Reality Headset technology, this game also did extremely well to further alleviate what scepticisms I previously had with the idea back when I first tried the Oculus Rift last year at Play Blackpool. I found that it was a great deal of fun with the addition of VR technology, and made me believe to a greater extent that the concept will be able take off in time.

http://www.sigtrapgames.com/sublevelzero/

@SIGTRAPgames

Hyper Sentinel

hyper-sentinel

The last indie title I tried out was another space-based shooter reminiscent of the arcade classic Defender. Hyper Sentinel, developed by Ian Hewson, son of industry legend Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants who appeared on a panel at last year’s Play Blackpool show, it centres on not only shooting down various enemies that appear on-screen, but also collecting power-ups and defeating a boss at each level; normally in the form of a giant spaceship, somewhat reminiscent of Bosconian. Though it may not have been the most unique title on display at the event, with it’s influences blatantly obvious, it does o well to stand out from the game of it’s inspiration in terms of conceptual design, and was also quite fun to play too. It certainly presents as much of a challenge as the arcade classic, and is a must-try for any fan of the arcade era.

http://www.hypersentinel.com/

@HewsonJoystick

Tekken 7: First Impressions

tekken-7

One of many different upcoming AAA titles that were available to try out at Play Manchester this year was Tekken 7. After being sorely disappointed by the previous game, with it’s less than impressive conceptual design, many characters coming across as far too generic, and it’s almost impossible difficulty level at times, I was quite relieved to see how much the seventh game improved on the sixth in every aspect. I was also impressed to see how fluently it plays out in comparison to even the original trilogy of Tekken games, with moves being much easier and less frustrating to pull off. Also, like what Capcom have done with the advent of Street Fighter V, and what NetherRealm studios did with Mortal Kombat X, the developers have seemed to branch out conceptually in terms of character design, but in a way that still makes the game feel like it belongs to the series without them being too generic in design. Akuma from Street Fighter is also a welcome addition following relatively recent crossovers between the two series’. It also makes me excited for what additional characters Capcom may decide to add for when they will inevitably update Street Fighter V.

WWE 2K17: First Impressions

wwe-2k17

The main attraction on show in terms of AAA releases however, as officially announced by Paul Heyman of the WWE, was WWE 2K17. Boasting new wrestlers, a new submission system and the inclusion of Goldberg on pre-order, it marks the fourth WWE released since the publishing rights were acquired by 2K Games, and features all the usual gameplay modes synonymous with WWE games, such as the Triple Threat match, Fatal 4 Way, Royal Rumble and of course, the career mode; as well as the facility to create wrestlers. It is without a doubt the best looking WWE game ever developed, but in terms of gameplay, it did take me a little bit of getting used to; especially since I haven’t played a WWE game since the sixth generation, about the time when I grew out of it as a kid. Regardless, especially after getting used to the submission system, and being able to thoroughly enjoy the game for what it is, I was pretty satisfied with how the newer developers have managed gameplay in comparison to classic WWE games like War Zone, Attitude and Wrestlemania 2000. Though the Attitude era remains my favourite time of the company’s history, it was good to see how the WWE video game formula has been worked upon and handled in a way that works extremely well after so long.

The Tomb Raider Panel

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In terms of guest speakers, however, the main attraction was the assembly of and talk with many of the developers of the original Tomb Raider from Core Design to commemorate the franchise’s 20-year anniversary; many of the panel not having seen each other in as many years. The panel consisted of Jeremy Heath-Smith, the game’s executive producer and co-founder of Core Design, Natalie Cook, who was the original character model for Lara Croft, Richard Morton, who was the lead game, level and environment designer for every game up to Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, Gavin Rummery, who was the lead programmer for Angel of Darkness, Heather Gibson, another level designer for the first two games, Andy Sandham, who designed levels and wrote the scripts for the third game, as well as The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider: Chronicles, Murti Schofield, who wrote the story of Angel of Darkness, Nathan McCree, who composed the original soundtrack for the first two games, and finally Stuart Atkinson, who worked as an artist on the second game. The panel were also to be joined by former Eidos Interactive CEO and industry legend Ian Livingstone, but he unfortunately had to pull out due to ill health. Regardless, I would like to take this opportunity to wish Mr. Livingstone a full recovery.

The panel proceeded to provide an in-depth analysis of how and why Lara Croft was designed the way she was, and how the games themselves were designed the way they were and in what manner, and how both Lara Croft and Tomb Raider gradually went from a unique video gaming idea into a cultural phenomenon, and how it has managed to have such a profound effect on the industry as it has. Questioned were also raised by the audience concerning the reboot of the Tomb Raider series from Crystal Dynamics, and also about the degree of influence Naughty Dog took from Tomb Raider to develop their own Uncharted series. The team responded quite sternly in their answer to the Uncharted question in particular, commenting how many of the various gameplay features were heavily inspired by Tomb Raider, and the long-time Tomb Raider fans in the audience responded fittingly with an astonishing round of applause. Though I may personally prefer Uncharted to Tomb Raider, mostly due to the better start that Uncharted had in terms of controls, credit is due where it is due, and the team deserve props for helping to pioneer one of the most memorable video game series of all time, and so there response was justified in my opinion. Uncharted may have homed the great gameplay concept, but Tomb Raider established it, and has contributed a great deal to the popularity that gaming garnishes today. Especially with the recent release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PlayStation 4, the talk with the panel was an appropriate reflection on where Tomb Raider has gone, where it is going now, and where it could go in the future. It was extremely exciting to sit in on an extremely insightful presentation, and the made 2016’s Play Expo proceedings all the better for it.

Overall, Play Manchester 2016 was a thrilling experience, and would like to take the opportunity to thank the organisers at Replay Events for the making it the best event it could possibly be, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them next year.

 

Pierhead Arcade: First Impressions

pierhead-arcade

As a bonus, before I headed out to Manchester, Mechabit Games, a Liverpool-based developer, also invited me to try out the latest game they have been working on. Mechabit, who developed the RTS game Kaiju Panic, which was on display at Play Manchester 2015, and won my personal choice for best indie game of that year (shameless plug is shameless), have been working on a virtual reality game called Pierhead Arcade; a collection of interactive fairground games based in a virtual reality amusement arcade. After only having limited experience with VR gaming beforehand, I saw as an excellent opportunity to finally get hands on with the technology involved, so to speak. I wasn’t disappointed.

As I outlined in my Play Blackpool 2015 article, ever since I first heard about plans from of the industry incorporating virtual reality into gaming, I had a great deal of scepticism following the ill-fated release of such platforms as the Nintendo Virtual Boy, and early examples of motion controls before the Wii, such as the Nintendo Power Glove. Since first trying it, and going on to briefly trying it again at different expos, my scepticisms were gradually becoming all the lesser, as I slowly learned to understand how it could work if problems I would encounter would be fixed, such as blurry screens etc, and if there was adequate developer support for these platforms. But now after having seen games such as Battle Zone, and then having seen how much indie developers are beginning to support the platform along with mainstream developers, I now believe this may very well could be a future of gaming that could establish itself as here to stay; provided that developer support will continue, as what is looking increasingly likely, since the technology was on display at other major gaming expos this year, such as E3, Gamescom and EGX.

Pierhead Arcade itself not only takes advantage of this potentially successful technology, but presents players with an astonishing amount of variety, with games like Whack-A-Mole, Shuffleboard, Binary Dash and Skeeball to name but a few. The objective is to earn as many tickets as possible that can be cashed in for prizes, much like in most amusement arcades. There are also a couple of extras in the game, such as a claw machine, and a reception desk with various toys that can be played with, such as building blocks. Overall, the variety is staggering, and the game will make for hours of fun. I may do a full review of this game in the future, I would recommend that VR gamers try it out. Following up Kaiju Panic was always going to be a challenge for Mechabit in my opinion, but with this title, I’d say they’ve done a particularly good job of doing so.

In summation, I would like to again thank the organisers at Replay Events for providing me, as well as countless gamers across the country, with truly memorable experiences at the various Play Expo events this year, and I hope that you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Yoshi’s Story (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EAD

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director – Hideki Konno

Producer – Takashi Tezuka

Back in a time when the 2D side-scrolling genre was being phased out and the 3D platforming genre was coming into prominence, Nintendo attempted to revive the former by releasing a spiritual successor to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island; but with considerably less success on both a commercial and critical level.

Graphics – 5/10

Whilst the scenery of the game is fairly diverse and the game itself is very well polished, the overall visual style made it feel far too much like a kid’s game; even for Nintendo. Everything from the storybook style to the pretty annoying sound bytes used for the Yoshi characters made me think very little of what was on offer, and severely lacks the kind of atmosphere that came with games such as Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time. This title for me, just didn’t seem to give that kind of prominent impression, which other Nintendo games had; even for the time.

Gameplay – 6/10

Though it’s somewhat satisfying to rack up the highest score (something that was lacking in prior Mario titles), I still felt the game’s play was wanting. As it was clearly developed with kids in mind, the game is consequently very easy. The bosses, in particular, stand out as being some of the easiest bosses I’ve ever encountered in video games. Yoshi’s Story also had attached to it the most pointless and least threatening Nintendo character in my opinion; Pak E. Derm, who is an elephant with a stop sign, who blocks the player’s path. The player must pound the ground in order to make Pak E. Derm fall to the ground, allowing the player to pass. That mechanic is one of the most senseless things I’ve ever seen in any video game.

Controls – 10/10

There are no problems with the controls, at least. The game plays out very similarly to Yoshi’s Island, except there is no Baby Mario to accompany Yoshi on the adventure. But by that token, I think the game becomes much less intense as a result, but that’s down to gameplay.

Lifespan – 2/10

As the late 90s was undoubtedly a pretty poor time to try and bring back the 2D side-scrolling genre, I was at that point used to playing games that would last in excess of 30 to 40 fours, such as Ocarina of Time or Final Fantasy VII. It took me inside a day to complete this game, which whilst that may have been acceptable prior to the release of the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation, it certainly wasn’t them, and it definitely isn’t now. One fact about me is that I believe the longer a game can be made to last, the better. That opinion of mine was developed in me throughout the fifth generation of gaming, and since, I’ve never looked back. I’ve grown to think little of games, which seem like fleeting experience, unless they have other decent elements or substance in gameplay.

Storyline – 5.5/10

Yoshi’s Story involves Baby Bowser turning Yoshi’s world into a storybook and stealing the super happy tree, with the Yoshis resolving to reverse the damage. The game looks like a kid’s book; plays out like a kid’s book, and the story is very reminiscent of something someone would find in a kid’s book too. It’s as outlandish as anything else that Nintendo had come up with prior, but it’s just considerably more simplistic, and considerably less appealing and entertaining in my opinion.

Originality – 6/10

Nintendo can’t be faulted for attempting what they have succeeded at so many times; revolutionizing how video games are played out. But this time round, they failed in my opinion. Though they would eventually go on to revive the 2D side-scrolling genre with the New Super Mario Bros series, they didn’t get off to the best start with Yoshi’s Story.

Angrii

Angrii

To summarize, Yoshi’s Story is a forgettable title on an otherwise legendary console, in my opinion. Nintendo created some great experiences on the Nintendo 64 when 3D gaming started to find popularity, but they went back on themselves in a negative way with this game.

Score

34.5/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

WWF Wrestlemania 2000 (Nintendo 64 & Game Boy Colour)

Developer(s) – Asmik Ace Entertainment, AKI Corporation & Natsume

Publisher(s) – THQ & Asmik Ace Entertainment

Following the success of WCW Vs NWO: World Tour and WCW Vs NWO: Revenge, the World Wrestling Federation approached publishers THQ and tapped them to developed a WWF game using the same mechanics and visual style as the two aforementioned games; despite them being able to provide stern competition prior with the likes of WWF War Zone and WWF Attitude. The gamble, however, paid off greatly, commercially and artistically in my opinion, and whilst it’s disputed which THQ published WWF game is better out of this and WWF No Mercy, I prefer Wrestlemania 2000 for a number of reasons.

Graphics – 9/10

The primary reason why my own preference lies with Wrestlemania 2000 is because of the visuals. Not necessarily in terms of the game’s presentation from a technical standpoint, but from a conceptual one. The biggest advantage that this has over No Mercy is that the ringside intros are shown in full, and it was great to look at back in the day and think about how realistic it was, and it’s great to do it now for anyone who have been a fan of the WWF back around the Attitude era, and may be looking for the nostalgia factor.

Gameplay – 9/10

In game, players and fans will want for nothing. There is a plethora of different features and game modes that will keep players busy for hours on end. They can choose to go through a career mode, or of course set up multiplayer exhibition matches, or apart from that, each primary annual WWF event is available for players to try out, such as King of the Ring, Summer Slam, Survivor Series etc. The only criticism I have towards the gameplay is that the career mode is a little bit inaccessible compared to the difficulty level of the rest of the game, but it’s not to the point of being unbearable.

Controls – 9/10

The control scheme is almost perfect, if not for the fact that the movement can be a little bit awkward, and at times, it may be just as awkward to land a specific hit or perform a specific move. Apart from that, however, they work just as well as they did in WWF War Zone or WWF Attitude, and to a slight extent, I found that they are an improvement on the previous THQ wrestling games as well.

Originality – 6/10

The entire game is basically a carbon copy of both WCW Vs NWO: World Tour and WCW Vs NWO: Revenge, but I’m far too apprehensive to deduct too many marks for this, since that was the whole point of tapping THQ as publisher anyway. WWF liked this style of play, and wanted to adopt it for their games and all things considered, it worked splendidly. The formula would arguably be improved upon with new gameplay features with the Advent of WWF No Mercy, but as a starting point, this game was far more than a mere question of trial and error.

Happii

Happii

To summarize, WWF Wrestlemania 2000 is my favourite wrestling game of all time. Though I was impressed with prior WWF games that came before this, and even the two THQ games that came before this, this title blew them all out of the water, and in my opinion, no other wrestling game has come close since.

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Worms Armageddon (PC, Dreamcast, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Colour & BeOS)

Developer(s) – Team17

Publisher(s) – Atari, Team17, MicroProse, Hasbro Interactive & Infogrames Entertainment

The original Worms game was very much a question of trial and error, but still turned out to be a very good game. Worms Armageddon, however, took the same formula and built upon it extensively, making for a much better gaming experience than the first. Delivering more on their outlandish sense of humour and unique gameplay style, Team17 set the bar for innovation within the industry with Worms Armageddon, and continues to hold up as an excellent game to this day.

Graphics – 7/10

As well as having greatly improved visuals from the original game, with the character sprites being in a lot more detail than before, the settings in Armageddon are also a lot more diverse, and the sound bytes used are a lot more humorous and varied. However, for a number of reasons, the PlayStation port in particular, is much better than the Nintendo 64 version of the game. One of which is the inclusion of the many funny FMVs shown before each battle, which in the Nintendo 64 version, are absent.

Gameplay – 7/10

Thankfully, the great gameplay is present in all ports of the title. The biggest improvement is that there are a lot more game modes to indulge in, and thus, increased variety. As well as having single or multiplayer, there is also a training mode, which can be used to improve the status of either pre-created teams or custom made ones. All these new features work to keep things a lot more interesting than in the previous instalment, and give it much more replay value as well.

Controls – 9/10

Just like the first, however the only issue I have about the game’s control scheme is the system of measuring up wind resistance against trajectory to take the most accurate shot possible with bazookas or grenades. In my opinion, it makes the game unnecessarily difficult at times, given the most awkward of circumstances and unit positions. However, there are no problems otherwise. It can be argued that it is also easier to play it on the PlayStation than it is on the Nintendo 64, given size comparison between the two system’s controllers.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

Like the first game, Worms Armageddon is a game that can simply be picked up and played without players having to worry about making progress in the conventional sense or having to worry about how fleeting the experience may feel like after they’ve finished playing. However, with Armageddon, he extra gameplay features warrant heightened player interest, and thus can be made to last even longer than the original game would have done.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

In lieu of Team17 tradition, Armageddon, as well as the entire Worms franchise, has no established story, but only a basic premise; worms warring with each other. Again, the best thing about the premise of Worms Armageddon is the continuation of the comedic valued displayed in the many FMVs of the game, which play out before each fight. While they may not be quite as funny as the ones in the original game, they’re still quite humorous.

Originality – 7/10

Even at the back end of the 90s, when a lot of the innovation and outlandish ideas of the fifth generation had been well and truly established, Worms Armageddon in my opinion, was still able to stand out among many of the other different games that were around at the time. It wasn’t as if the idea had been completely fazed out by that time; the idea still hasn’t been fazed out even to this day, since Team17 continue to release and re-release instalments of it on a regular basis.

Happii

Happii

To sum up, Worms Armageddon is my favourite Worms game of all time, and one that I would highly recommend to any fans of the series who may not have played it yet. Team17 have produced very many ideas that may sound ridiculous on paper, but work well on console over the course of their foray into gaming, but this to me, is the one that stands out most.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Iguana Entertainment

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Entertainment

Designer – David Dienstbier

Producer(s) – Jeff Spangenbreg & Darrin Stubbington

Although this game was heavily slated as being a Doom clone, and with critics drawing inevitable similarities with the likes of Duke Nukem and Quake, there are those who still believe that Turok truly was the game to truly pioneer the 3D first-person shooting genre. This game remains one of my favourite shooters on the Nintendo 64, and for many reasons.

Graphics – 8.5/10

The first of which being is that though the visuals may not have aged well by today’s standards, they were exemplary at the time. Though there are a few glitches, the developers made up for that in the amount of diversity there is in level design and their attention to detail. Perhaps one of the biggest innovations they made in terms of graphical quality was the inclusion of effect such as fog; not only does it add to the omnipotent atmosphere, but it also adds an element of tension, since players will have a few seconds to react due to the limited visibility.

Gameplay – 8/10

Another innovation that Iguana Entertainment made was in terms of gameplay. Unlike any other first person shooter around at the time, including Doom or Quake, the original Turok took place in an open-world environment, allowing players a certain level of freedom in exploration. There are a lot of secrets to uncover throughout, as well as a plethora of enemies, and of course dinosaur-shooting action, to sink their teeth into, and immerse players into the game.

Controls – 7/10

Since at the time, 3D shooters were very much a question of trial and error, at least until the release of Perfect Dark in my opinion, the control scheme of Turok can be pretty awkward. Unlike in most first-person shooters of today, the character is moved using the Nintendo 64’s C-button controls; effectively an additional d-pad on the controller, which was used to adjust camera angles in most other games on the system. The analogue stick, on the other hand, was used to look around. I think in particular, using the C-buttons to move made jumping from one platform to the other, as was required from time to time, unnecessarily complicated. If Iguana Entertainment had just thought of using the analogue stick to move the character around, as Rareware would go on to do with Perfect Dark, then this game could have been ever better than how it turned out.

Lifespan – 4/10

Unfortunately, for an open world 3D shooter, lifespan also seemed to be a case of trial and error, since Turok can only be made to last for about four or five hours tops. Since there were games at the time, which made use of even less space than Turok, with which to have more gameplay substance, I don’t think it would be plausible to try and put that down to reasons such as hardware limitations or lack of memory within the cartridge, but rather that should simply be put down to developer imagination; or lack of it.

Storyline – 6/10

Playing out like most other video games in terms of story, there isn’t much to differentiate it from others. Based on a comic book of the same name, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter follows the story of a Native-American time-travelling warrior named Tal’Set, who was passed down the mantle of Turok, since he was the eldest male of his tribe. As a Turok, Tal’Set is charged with protecting the barrier between Earth and the so-called Lost Land. He must do this by assembling a powerful weapon called the Chronoscepter, and defeating the Campaigner; an overlord, who plans to use the Chronoscepter to break the barrier between Earth and the Lost Land, and rule over both dominions. Judging by the Campaigner’s appearance, intentions, supernatural powers, and his desire to rule over multiple worlds, I can immediately draw similarities between him and Shao Khan from Mortal Kombat; so much so, that it almost sounds like the same story.

Originality – 9/10

Despite the amount of comparisons I can draw with Turok and many other video games, the fact of the matter remains that until this game came along; open worlds in first-person shooters were non-existent, and would not become a standard until many years later, even if I was unable to realize or appreciate such a fact at the time when I was first playing it. Though it has its influences in terms of visuals and story, there was no other game like it, and it remains a cult classic to this day among Nintendo 64 owners; introduced to the series in a time before it would eventually be left into obscurity.

Happii

Happii

Overall, the introduction to the Turok series, Dinosaur Hunter, still remains a very enjoyable game, and one I would recommend to anyone wishing to explore past Nintendo game libraries. Though Goldeneye 007 is synonymous with pioneering the 3D first-person shooting genre, there were things in Turok that made it stand out just as much; if not, more so.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

South Park (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Iguana Entertainment & Appaloosa Interactive

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Studios

Designer(s) – Jeff Everett & Niell Glancy

Producer(s) – David Dienstbier

Developed amidst the immense success the animated series garnished throughout the late 90s, the South Park video game followed many of the same principles as Iguana Entertainment’s successful first person shooting title, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Unfortunately, however, the game received mixed to negative reviews upon release with critics remarking upon as being decent in the way of merely license and graphics, and nothing more; something which I agree with for the most part, since I believe it offers hardly anything in the way of gameplay compared to the original Turok, as well as most other FPS games.

Graphics – 6.5/10

Conceptually, the game makes use of many of the different setting and concepts that had been perpetuated within the TV show at that time, and the developers did a fairly decent job of not only celebrating what source material there was, but also expanding upon it to a certain extent, with it taking place in a wide range of locations such as UFO’s the streets of South Park, forests, caves, factories and toy stores. Problems arise on a graphical level, since whilst this game could be considered a precursor to the idea of incorporating cel-shaded visuals in games, it’s also heavily glitched.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

Though I do need to say as prerequisite I spent a lot of time playing this game, and therefore won’t be giving it as harsh a review as many other critics have, I have since gained a better understanding of where many of them are coming from. For me, the biggest problem is that it seems to much like a step down from Turok, since where that game was much more open-ended, and players had the option to come and go as they pleased, this game is stage-based, and consequently follows a much more linear path than the former, marring down the overall experience. That being said, however, what there is in the way of gameplay also present players with a pretty decent amount of variety. There are quite a few weapons to unlock, as well as a plethora of different characters from the series to play as in multiplayer mode.

Controls – 7/10

Since this game also incorporates the same control scheme as Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, I found myself having problems in this respect as well. Using the C-buttons on the Nintendo 64 controller to move are a lot more awkward than how future FPS games would be handled on the system, such as Perfect Dark, and therefore, controlling the game felt much more like a chore than an enjoyment.

Lifespan – 4/10

The South Park FPS also lasts around the same time as Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, which whilst it doesn’t make it seem as much of a downside as it does in the former, since Turok is more of an open-world game and therefore a longer lifespan would have possibly been expected, four to five hours still felt like a very underwhelming amount of time for a game to last; even back then. The average lifespan of a first person shooter would go on to be increased as time went on, but there was no way this game would have been able to compete with the seemingly never-ending adventure games available on the console at that time.

Storyline – 6/10

The story of the time follows the exploits of the show’s four main characters, Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny, as they battle their way to through a multitude of different enemies, such as cows, turkeys, aliens, robots and toys, in order to save their hometown of South Park amidst the approach of a comet from outer space. As expected, its as outlandish as most plots of episodes of the series were at that time, but in my opinion, it just isn’t anywhere near as funny as the show was. The creators would most certainly put more effort into the later game based on the License, South Park: The Stick of Truth, but the comedy portrayed in this game is much more of a case of hit and miss.

Originality – 6/10

As well as every other problem I encountered with this title, there also isn’t much in the way of uniqueness either. Many of the weapons used in the game have a fair bit of imagination to them, such as the cow launcher, the alien device, dodge balls and the Terrence and Philip dolls, again alluding to how much the developers chose to respect the source material, but in terms of basic gameplay structure, it is for the most part a watered down version of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.

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In summation, whilst there is some entertainment value to be had in playing this game, South Park is largely an average gaming experience overall, and one that has trouble holding up to this day. The control scheme will just seem frustrating at best to anyone who picks it up now, and it has nowhere as much of a comedic element to it as the show did.

Score

36/60

6/10 (Above Average)

San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing (PC, Arcade, Nintendo 64 & PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Atari Games, Midway Games & Climax

Publisher(s) – Atari Games & Midway Games

Designer – Ed Logg

Originally released as an arcade game back in 1996, San Francisco Rush was a generic racing game similar to the likes of Gran Turismo and Ridge Racer, that especially at the time, could never measure up to the quality of the many kart racing games that had already been released. Although I do have to say as a prerequisite that I spent a fair bit of time playing this game when I was growing up, I look back at it now and think that it scarcely hold up.

Graphics – 5/10

The best thing I can say about the game’s visuals is that they were pretty advanced for the time, and a lot of the textural details that were incorporated were very well handled. The problem is that because it is part of a genre that has bore witness to many shovel ware titles, even since the days of the Atari, it as never going to stand out among the others to any certain extent; not to mention that there are glitches galore. It may be pretty advanced for the time, but for the most part, extremely unpolished.

Gameplay – 3/10

The game consists of eight selectable vehicles and four selectable tracks depending on selected difficulty, and simply race across for either the best time or first position. Otherwise, there isn’t much else to it. Since it was originally designed as a pay to play arcade cabinet, there is a very limited amount of options in terms of variety, and consequently, it turns out to be even worse on consoles. Disappointingly, the only other option available to players is the facility to change their car’s colour.

Controls – 4/10

The main issue I have with the game’s control scheme is that turning corners, no matter how sharp or straight they may be, can feel like a chore for the most part. To make matters worse, certain turns were added to certain tracks that are almost impossible to try to traverse without crashing and having to reset the player’s own position.

Originality – 0/10

Not only does this game not stand out in terms of visuals, as I pointed out earlier, but there is actually considerably less variety in this game than there was even in other games of it’s kind around at the time. Later on, games such as Gran Turismo would be released, which would blow games like this out of the water, but for the time being, it was either Mario Kart, which was infinitely more fun, or a generic racer. To me, nothing has really changed since then, since I care very little for modern generic racers that are released even today, such as Forza or Driver, but for me, this game definitely began my distaste for the genre.

To summarize, the biggest redeeming quality of San Francisco Rush is not in its gameplay or visuals, but in the pretty funny music that plays whilst players register their high score. It’s the only element present, which works to differentiate it from other generic racing games, and in all honesty, it was most probably the only thing keeping me at the table like a bad gambler when I was a kid.

Score

12/40

3/10 (Bad)

Pokémon Snap (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – HAL Laboratory & Pax Softnica

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yoichi Yamamoto, Koji Inokuchi & Akira Takeshima

Producer(s) – Satoru Iwata, Kenji Miki & Shigeru Miyamoto

Pokémon Snap was one of many spin-offs to the Pokémon game series for the Game Boy developed during the fifth generation of gaming. The premise of the game revolves around taking pictures of wild pokémon, catching them all (and I use the term loosely) in a different manner to which gamers certainly would have been accustomed to at the time. This unique rail-shooter for me, made for a lot of entertainment growing up, and it’s still holds up fairly well to this day, I find.

Graphics – 7/10

Featuring some of the best visual quality the Nintendo 64 had to offer, there are some fairly diverse settings as well as minimal in-game glitches; something, which had been a problem for the console early on. Though the frame rate can drop at times, especially in the opening cinematic, it doesn’t become enough of a problem to warrant too many complaints or to hinder gameplay, most importantly. But what I like most about the visuals is how the pokémon are portrayed throughout the game. The settings speak of how each type of pokémon adapt to all the different environments present, which in turn, provides a much more realistic representation reminiscent of conventional animal behaviour. They portray the critters in a much more different manner than in any conservative game in the series that came before it.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game revolves around taking pictures of pokémon across the different stages of the game and unlocking each stage, whilst trying to rack up the high scores by taking the best quality pictures. It is very satisfying and fairly addictive to try and capture the perfect shot of each pokémon, and to rack up as high a score as possible. But a major problem I found with this title was that there are only 63 of the original 151 pokémon present, purely to coincide with the fact that it was released on the Nintendo 64. And as a result, the game is somewhat lacking in substance. I think if the developers had included all 151 pokémon, then there would have been a lot more for gamers to play for, and in turn, a lot more call for different level designs and for more substance in general.

Controls – 10/10

Although there are no problems with the control scheme, it is also fairly unique in a certain respect. It does blur the lines somewhat between first person shooters and simulation games, and combines elements of the two to make for something pretty exciting, also being comparable to such future games Dead Rising and Beyond Good & Evil.

Lifespan – 6/10

Although it can merely 2 hours to rush through each course and unlock all the extra items used to take pictures of certain pokémon, there is quite a bit of replay value to be had in re-visiting each course and trying to capture as many excellent pictures as possible. The Wii Virtual console version added even more with the inclusion of the facility to share pictures with friends. But after grinding through each course and collecting everything, it does become a case of racking up the highest score possible, but as I said earlier, I can’t help but feel there would have much more to it with the inclusion of all 151 pokémon.

Originality – 10/10

Pokémon Snap was and still is among some of the most unique games ever developed. The only games like this that have come along since are the likes of Fatal Frame. There was no concept like it at the time, and it’s a concept that has never truly been fully replicated since.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Pokémon Snap has been praised as a refreshingly unique game, and I couldn’t agree more. It comes highly recommended from me, and will make for a good few hours of fun gameplay.

Score

50/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Operation WinBack (Nintendo 64 & PlayStation 2)

Developer(s) – Omega Force

Publisher(s) – Koei

Operation WinBack, or WinBack: Covert Operations as it was known in America, was a late Nintendo 64 title, and an early PlayStation 2 title, ported to the following generation console, most likely due to the unprecedented amount of critical acclaim it received at the time. I do have to say as prerequisite that I spent a lot of time playing this game during the early years of the PlayStation 2’s shelf life, but as fairly good as it still is, and how influential it would later prove to be, I don’t think it entirely hoods up to this day.

Graphics – 6/10

The best thing I can point out about this game’s visuals is how good it looked from a graphical standpoint at the time; on both the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 2. It looked far better than most other games of it’s kind on the original PlayStation, and then it’s subsequent PlayStation 2 port did a pretty good job at showcasing what the console was capable of in it’s early stages. However, what I can’t wax poetic about is the conceptual design, which looks pretty generic. It was heavily influenced by the original Metal Gear Solid game, and I think the resemblances are plain to see.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

One of the better third person shooters released at the dawn of the genre, WinBack’s cover system was revolutionary, and made playing the game that much more easier to cope with than other future releases such as Second Sight. Although the running and gunning aspect of this game is fairly addictive, there’s not much else the game has to offer in terms of gameplay; no side quests or collectible items throughout. The only objective is to play through as fast as possible to get the best ending. The fact that the players are encouraged to rush through the game is very foreboding in itself.

Controls – 9.5/10

The movement mechanics are a little bit stiff, but otherwise, there are no problems. It’s actually quite interesting to see how well the developers had handled this early attempt at a third person shooter compared with many other future releases. Not only was the cover system revolutionary, but the manual aiming system that players could use would go on to influence a variety of different games. Though the original Metal Gear Solid influenced the visual style of WinBack, there were these gameplay mechanics that would go on to in turn influence the development of Metal Gear Solid 2.

Lifespan – 4/10

When rushed through, the game can take about 5 hours to finish, which considering this is a game influenced by the original Metal Gear Solid, is unacceptable. It was bad enough finding out that there was no way in which to save the other members of the S.C.A.T team (indeed, that’s what I thought the purpose of having their stats on the pause menu might have been for, though in reality, it has no bearing on the gameplay at all, which makes me question the reason for having them there in the first place), but the fact that there are no other activities in the game other than to run and gun, when there could have easily been something else added to it, is very disappointing in my opinion.

Storyline – 5/10

The narrative follows the main character Jean-Luc Cougar and the S.C.A.T team during their efforts to take back a powerful government weapon from a terrorist group called the Crying Lions. Not only is the plot extremely influenced by and reminiscent of the first Metal Gear Solid, but the voice acting is also extremely below par. There was use of spoken dialogue in the Nintendo 64 version, which in hindsight, is preferable to having to listen to the half-hearted efforts of the voice actors in the PlayStation 2 version.

Originality – 7/10

Despite the fact that there isn’t a great deal of originality in terms of the overall gameplay formula, which will leave players thinking that so much more could have been added to give them a lot more to play for throughout, the fact of the matter remains that the control scheme not only went on to influence Metal Gear Solid, but also some of the more successful future titles in the third person shooting genre, such as Kill Switch, Uncharted and Gears of War. The fact that this game served as an early prototype to some of the most successful game series in history, as well as a prototype for many other games in the early stages of the genre, makes it stand out a fair bit.

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Overall, Operation WinBack’s running and gunning mechanics can be fairly addictive for how short the game lasts, but I do think the game is wanting in content. I cant but feel that with either better voice actors, no voice actors at all, as well as a good few side quests thrown in for good measure, this game could have stood out even more among early PlayStation 2 titles than it ended up doing, but sadly, this wasn’t the case.

Score

37/60

6/10 (Average)

Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (PlayStation & Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Midway Games & Avalanche Software

Publisher(s) – Midway Games

Director(s) – Dimitrios Tianis & John Tobias

Producer(s) – John Tobias, Dimitrios Tianis & Michael Gottlieb

Taking just over a year to develop, and released in a time when 2D side scrollers were fast being considered a thing of the past, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero was the first and last game of what was intended to be a series of games concerning the back stories of several major Mortal Kombat characters, and was subsequently panned by critics; the main reason of which being it’s visuals. Personally, I‘ve always thought this game to be nowhere near as bad as most critics have labelled it to be, since whilst it may not be the best side scroller released at it’s time, it’s certainly by no means a bad game.

Graphics – 9/10

As I said, the majority of the flack that this game received was aimed at what techniques were used to render the game’s graphics, which in lieu of franchise tradition, was a blend of both digitised live acting and real-time 3D graphics. Though games like Night Trap and Phantasmagoria used the same technique, with varying degrees of success, it’s never looked better than in this game. After looking at it, I can’t understand why this technique wasn’t adopted by other developers; especially as it made the game look far better than Mortal Kombat 4 ever did in my personal opinion. The biggest gripe I had with the visuals is in terms of concept, since throughout the beginning and middle, the enemy characters are for the most part recycled, but this is rectified later on with the introduction of more variety in enemy design.

Gameplay – 7/10

Aside from it having underrated graphics, it also has underrated gameplay; especially for the time. It was inevitable that this game would be overlook amidst the 3D gaming revolution of the late 90s, it had some distinct differences between conventional side scrollers that the industry had previously become synonymous with. It almost plays out like a Metroidvania game, with secret items to uncover, and a small RPG element to it. The only thing missing is an open world. At its core, it is still a 2D fighting game in conjunction with the rest of the Mortal Kombat series, but the series’ developers introduced something different; an idea which would be further perpetuated by the likes of Guacamelee and even Dust: An Elysian Tail to a certain extent.

Controls – 8/10

Since the control scheme works on more or less the same principles of a Mortal Kombat game, the platforming isn’t the best ever seen in gaming. There were times when I thought it would have been better if commands had been made easier to register as opposed to the development team incorporating conventional fighting game mechanics. For example, having one specific button to activate ice powers rather than players having to try and string of specific buttons together.

Lifespan – 2.5/10

The worst thing about this game in my opinion, the aspect of where I can personally draw the most criticism for, is its lifespan. Even completing the game to 100% can take just under 2 hours, which whilst may have been impressive for a side scroller back in the third generation of gaming, had been long-since outdone by this time. It’s especially shocking, since CDs were supposedly capable of holding much more digital memory than cartridges, which was part of the entire point of introducing them to gaming in the first place.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story takes place even before the events of the original Mortal Kombat game, and follows Sub-Zero, a servant of the Lin Kuei clan, as he is hired by the sorcerer Quan Chi to retrieve an amulet of unimaginable power. Events soon unfold into something much more convoluted, and Sub-Zero is forced into even further adventure to uncover the truth behind the amulet, and what purpose it serves. The plot of the game fairly well written, and contains many themes and element synonymous with the series, but a point I do have to agree with mainstream reviewers on is that the voice acting is less than average, as was seemingly customary throughout the fifth generation of gaming.

Originality – 7/10

Amidst a time when the 2D side-scrolling genre was in the process of being phased out in favour of 3D platformers, this game introduced new elements to the category that had never been seen before, and in all, they worked fairly well together to provide a very different experience distinctive from most things seen in gaming at that time. I think it’s a shame that this series never became as prolific as John Tobias originally intended before he left Midway, since it would have been interesting to see exactly how it would have evolved and moved with the times if it had come into fruition.

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In summation, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, whilst not a magnificent game, is in my opinion nowhere near as bad as most critics have made it out to be over the years. I personally regret missing out on it during the time of its release, and would advocate any fan of the 2D side-scrolling genre try it at least once.

Score

39/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)