Tag Archives: Side Scroller

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy)

Developer(s) – Nintendo R&D1

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Hiroji Kiyotake & Takehiko Hosokawa

Producer – Gunpei Yokoi

As another Game Boy Game developed under the watchful eye of the late great Gunpei Yokoi at Nintendo R&D1, Super Mario Land 2 is, in many ways, a massive improvement on the original Super Mario Land, introducing a new world in the Mario series, as well as a new objective. It was also the first time gamers were introduced to the character of Wario, giving the Mario universe a new and more stable villain than Tatanga from the previous Mario Land game. After having first played this game only very recently, I can say it is definitely a must-have for anyone with a Game Boy, or a 3DS, since it is on the Virtual Console.

Graphics – 9.5/10

One of the most noticeable improvements is most definitely in the visuals. Whilst settings and character sprites may take up more of the of the screen than they did in the original game, that sacrifice is most definitely worth it, since not only does everything in the game look in far more detail, but unlike in Metroid 2, there is a very even balance between graphical detail, and how much of the screen is taken up by this, not causing as much of a hindrance as many people have cited about the second outing of Samus Aran for the Game Boy. Also, whilst the game’s soundtrack may not be as stellar as the original Super Mario Land, one noteworthy thing is that Kazumi Totaka composed it, and the fabled Totaka’s Song Easter egg can indeed be found within the game. On the game over screen, wait for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and it will play.

Gameplay – 9.5/10

Although the visuals have been drastically improved, and the adequate level of variety in setting design has been very much adhered to, the most significant improvement to me, is the gameplay. Playing out less like the classic Super Mario Bros game, and offering a gameplay experience more akin to Super Mario World, it offers greater variety in gameplay as well as the ability to finish it in any order the player so desires. Indeed, 6 Golden Coins was actually one of the largest games ever developed on the Game Boy at a whopping 4 megabits. It may seem like a very small amount by today’s standards, but at the time that was a big deal; especially for a handheld monochromatic system. As well as that, the same amount of stern challenge is also present as it was in the original game.

Controls – 10/10

The only gripe I had with the control scheme in the original Super Mario Land was that the controls could be somewhat unresponsive at time, and that it could cause a bit of pretty unnecessary frustration. Thankfully, however, the developers didn’t repeat the same mistake with this title, and there are fortunately no issues to address.

Lifespan – 5/10

Another improvement made was to the lifespan. The original Super Mario Land could be completed in a time of merely half an hour, but the second game can be to last closer to 2 hours. Whilst that isn’t really that significant an improvement, especially compared to Super Mario World itself, the thing to bear in mind is that a Game Boy cartridge could only hold so much memory, and it would still be a fair few years before advancement in cartridge technology would allow for significantly bigger open worlds and even more gameplay, like that which would be seen in the Pokémon games.

Storyline – 7/10

Aside from the gameplay being an improvement, there is also a slight positive deviation from the regular story of Mario having to travel a land to save a princess in the form of something quite different. In this title, Mario must retake his castle, which has been stolen by a new villain named Wario. To do this, he must travel the land in order to find the 6 golden coins needed to regain access to the castle, and thereby entering to defeat Wario.

Originality – 7.5/10

With a new world, a new villain, and even a couple of new power-ups thrown in for good measure, I’d say that the second Super Mario Land game keeps the series a fraction fresher than the original game did. The difference being is that more things that were introduced to the franchise in the second game would go on to become stables of the series, which was good in the way that that, in itself, would lead to Nintendo taking the character to greater heights of success in the future, with the likes of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy.

Happii

Happii

In summation, 6 Golden Coins is a thoroughly enjoyable Mario game, and I would recommend it to anyone else that may not have played it yet, or have been sat on the fence about trying it out. It may be a considerably aged game, especially compared to the many Mario games that have come out on other handhelds since, but it plays out just as well; if not better.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Super Mario Land (Game Boy)

Developer – Nintendo R&D 1

Publisher – Nintendo

Director – Satoru Okada

Producer – Gunpei Yokoi

Super Mario Land is one of the most outstanding Game Boy game to me for a number of reasons. Developed by Nintendo R&D 1 and produced by the late great Gunpei Yokoi. Super Mario Land for me, definitely earns its place as one of the more fairly memorable instalments in the illustrious Super Mario franchise.

Graphics – 9/10

Carrying on from Super Mario 3, Super Mario Land present players with a pretty decent level of variety in level design, with courses ranging from being influenced by Egyptian and Chinese cultures, as well as other courses having the more classic Super Mario feel to them. The variety in level design compensates for the initial lack of colour on the Game Boy’s screen nicely. But what I absolutely love about this game, and the biggest source of childhood memory for me personally, is it’s stellar soundtrack. Composed by Hirokazu Tanaka, the theme for the first level in particular has had a huge nostalgic impact on the gaming community, and does a flawless job of setting the happy-go-lucky tone of the entire game.

Gameplay – 9/10

Whilst Super Mario Land pretty much plays out like any other typical Mario game before it, and many other future Mario games afterwards, what stand out about Super Mario Land for me is its surprising level of challenge compared to that of previous instalments in the series. Though Super Mario Land is short, many level do require a bit of lateral thinking to get through I find. Even after over 20 years, there were parts of game that I struggled with when I played it to finalize my review. Another standout feature that came with Super Mario Land, which had never been seen before in any other Mario game before, and few since, is the rail-shooting aspect of gameplay. Inspired by Gunpei Yokoi’s Kid Icarus series, Super Mario Land presents players with the challenge of guiding Mario through level on either a place or in a submarine, with guns attached to them to shoot enemies along the way, which made for a very nice change of direction in terms of gameplay; one of many examples of Yokoi’s philosophy of lateral thinking with withered technology.

Controls – 9.5/10

Compared to other instalments in the series prior, Super Mario Land’s controls seem a little bit unresponsive. Mario sometimes may not jump when the appropriate button is pressed, which can cause some mild frustration. But other wise, the entire formula works as it was intended, which, as it had been long since perfected in the video games industry, was to be expected.

Lifespan – 3/10

For me, this is the aspect whereby the game falls short of the most, as it can be completed inside half an hour. Whilst the game is extremely enjoyable to play, like most titles in the franchise’s history, it still feels like far too fleeting an experience, given how short a time it can be made to last. Beginners will spend quite some time losing lives, but for experienced players, it can be completed in less than twenty minutes, which even for a Mario game at the game, was just far too short.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of Super Mario Land follows Mario’s adventure to rescue a character new to the franchise at the time, Princess Daisy, from the mysterious alien Tatanga, who plans to force her into marriage. Whilst the basic premise is identical to any typical Super Mario game, it is fractionally different from other prior entries in the series, and did introduce a few new characters who would later become much more stable in years to come, and incorporates a new villain to the Mario series as opposed to simply bringing back Bowser again. But overall, the game’s story is not exactly what one would call a blockbuster; especially as this game was designed in a time before video games were officially considered to be a valid form of artistic expression.

Originality – 7/10

Although Super Mario Land does ultimately play out like most other Super Mario instalments, it was kept fresh enough with the introduction of new gameplay elements as well as new characters and scenery to go with it. I think it’s pretty regrettable that the rail-shooting aspect of gameplay has appeared in no other mainstream Super Mario title since, as it was a good idea, and it kept gameplay intense as well as challenging.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Super Mario Land is a must have for old and new fans of the series. For me personally, it doesn’t get any more nostalgic than this, and will keep newcomers to the series for the short time it lasts, and present them with a fairly stern challenge along the way.

Score

44/60

7/10 (Fair)

Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Konami

Publisher(s) – Konami

Director – Masahiro Ueno

Producer – Kazumi Kitaue

Release relatively early on in the Super Nintendo’s shelf Life, Super Castlevania IV was a game directed by Masahiro Ueno, who was credited under the name Jun Furano, since Konami at the time prohibited the use of real names), who’s favourite game in the series at that point was the first, and wanted to create a similar experience, minus the frustrations that came with the first. To me, this game is the perfect jumping on point for people who want to indulge in the series, and is vastly superior to the original game in quite a few different ways.

Graphics – 10/10

The most obvious improvement is in the game’s visuals, which are not only many times more realistic-looking than the NES classic, but also present a darker and even grittier atmosphere than the former. The opening sequence in particular has been cited as one of the scariest moments in video gaming among many other critics. Another massive talking point is the soundtrack. Ueno also wanted the environments of this game to be a lot more interactive and believable, and has stated how proud he is regarding how well the music and sound effects were implemented; and to me, this is rightfully so.

Gameplay – 9/10

Aside from the extensive improvements made to game’s visuals and sound quality, dramatic enhancement was also made to gameplay. The difficulty has been greatly toned down, which I believe is a pivotal factor in determining why this is the best possible starting point for prospective fans of the saga. The original game was much more difficult, and therefore much less accessible to as wide a variety of players as there could have possibly been otherwise. Not only that but there are also longer levels, and by proxy, makes for a longer game overall.

Controls – 10/10

Another extremely positive change is that the control scheme has also been improved on to a great extent. The player can now attack in 8 different directions instead of just one, allowing for more of an edge in combat as well as the elimination of enemies delivering sucker punches that can’t possibly be avoided otherwise. Another feature introduced to the series was the facility to swing from hook to hook using the whip to get around certain obstacles in the game.

Lifespan – 7/10

Super Castlevania IV will take around an hour and a half to finish, which may not seem like very much today (or a lifespan even passable in most modern games), but at the time, it was longer than the average side scroller, and quite literally, three times longer than the original game. The levels are longer and much more drawn out, featuring a bigger map and more enemies added to slow players down. I would be shown what a truly great lifespan was in the following generation, but at the time, a game like Super Castlevania IV was fairly impressive.

Storyline – 3/10

The biggest problem with this game, however, is the fact that the story is exactly the same as that of the original game, and no real innovation or improvement has been made in this aspect. It is simply a re-telling of Simon Belmont’s quest to destroy the newly resurrected Dracula, and rid the world of his castle. The fact that it’s the same story being told again isn’t the only problem either. It’s also still extremely typical of the kind of story that was being attached to most video games at the time, and throughout the previous generation as well.

Originality – 6/10

2D side scrollers were the industry standard at the time, so consequently, there’s not a great deal present to make this game stand out to any great extent. It loses a lot of it’s uniqueness for the fact that isn’t as challenging as the first game, but that isn’t necessarily a bid thing. What is bad, however, is that the general setting and basic premise have been presented before, and despite improvements, there wasn’t much innovation made Outside of this.

Happii

Happii

Overall, despite the few things wrong with it, Super Castlevania IV is easily the best game out of the original four, and I would recommend it to any gamer who has yet to experience any other facet of the series before they try the any game in the original trilogy. It would get better from hereon with the release of Symphony of the Night, but this game is most definitely the best possible place to begin.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Strider (Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Double Helix Games & Capcom Osaka Studios

Publisher(s) – Capcom

Director – Koji Oda

Producer(s) – Andrew Szymansky & James Vance

A re-vamp of the classic arcade series, Strider incorporates elements from the first two games, the Marvel Vs Capcom series, and the original manga, and delivers a pretty intense and enjoyable gaming experience worthy of the eighth generation. Though it has its flaws, Strider has been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews and acclaim, and I also enjoyed it for a number of different reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

To me, the visuals have somewhat of a Street Fighter IV feel to them, in some of the characters exaggerated features and many of the futuristic settings. But for me, the elements that stood out the most were a lot of the boss fights, such as The Armoured Dragon and the Mutant Millipede. I think the bosses also give the game a Metroid feel to it, which is always a plus. The main issue I had with the visuals was that the scenery and style seemed to get a little bit repetitive; especially towards the end. But on the other hand, it’s also interesting to see how true the developers have stayed to the original source material and by the same token, true to fans of the original series.

Gameplay – 8/10

I can safely say that Strider is unlike any other side scroller I’ve played. The gameplay is exhilarating as well as being incredibly fast-paced. I never used to think that overwhelming speed could work in side scrollers after playing Sonic the Hedgehog (Which I will be talking extensively about next week), but after playing this, I think I’ve been proven thoroughly wrong. On top of that, I found that the game also provides a very legitimate level of challenge; on the level that I would perhaps liked to have seen the original Mega Man and Castlevania games provide, as opposed to them being so overly hard that it would deter people from playing them through word of mouth alone. Furthermore, unlike many other side scrolling games, there is also a fair bit of exploration involved in order to unlock such things as enemy info and concept art.

Controls – 10/10

Although it would have been expected that there wouldn’t be any problems with the game’s control scheme, the 2D side scrolling formula having been long since perfected, this game also had certain mechanics that I hadn’t ever seen in the genre, or mechanics I hadn’t seen in later-generation games in the genre prior to Strider, such as the ability to climb up walls or across ceilings. So in that respect at least, the game is also made to seem fairly unique too.

Lifespan – 7/10

At 6 hours, Strider does last much longer than the average side scroller and as I mentioned before, there are a fair few side quests to undertake whilst playing through it, but it did seem to me like somewhat of a fleeting experience just for how fast-paced the game is, and by that token, it did leave me wanting more at the end of it all. I would like to have seen more content, or perhaps more content in a sequel, which I think could happen given how much interest has been taken in this game.

Storyline – 5/10

In what is essentially a re-telling of the events of the first game, Strider Hiryu, the best assassins of the Strider organization, is dispatched to defeat the game’s villain, Grandmaster Meio in Kazakh City. To me, it’s all pretty bog standard and typical of a 2D side scrolling game, but the worst thing is that because gameplay is so fast and engrossing, not much time is given to gamers to actually think about whats happening; everything just seems to happen in the background. But of course, I’d rather a game have more focus on gameplay than story, which is why Strider doesn’t suffer too much because of it.

Originality – 6/10

For a game that stayed true to the source material as much as this, I’d also say that there is a fair bit in it to differentiate it from others. There is, as I said before, the unique side scrolling control mechanics as well as a lot of the boss designs. But what I approve of most is the fact that the developers have perpetuated the trend that gameplay should come before all else. Though the conceptual design is largely based on the original games and not much new has been brought to the table in that respect, it certainly stands out among many other games on the market today.

Happii

Happii

To summarize, Strider as fast, intense and enjoyable, and I would recommend it to anyone who owns any of the consoles the game is tailored for. With satisfying gameplay and very decent and challenging boss fights, it’s worth one playthrough at the very least.

Score

43/60

7/10 (Fair)

Stick It To the Man (Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & Wii U)

Developer(s) – Zoink Games

Released in December on PC, and later for a multitude of different home consoles amidst an ever-growing influx of indie titles throughout the eighth generation of gaming, Stick It To the Man is a classic 2D side scrolling game with puzzle elements, which has been met with overwhelmingly positive critical response, leading many gamers and reviewers to label it the spiritual successor to Tim Schafer’s unsung hidden gem Psychonauts. After playing it, I was in the end unsurprised to find how it had garnished so much praise, since it is one of the more creative games of it’s kind I’ve played in recent years.

Graphics – 8/10

Incorporating a wonderfully surreal and cartoony feel to it in terms of conceptual design, the in-game world looks unlike anything else I’ve ever seen in a video game before. The most remarkable thing about the game is settings, which are insane varied, ranging from trips into the main character’s subconscious to alien spaceships to city streets to inevitably, an insane asylum at one point. Even though the levels taking place in the city can seem a little repetitive, they are all kept distinctively fresh in their own individual basic structures, which in turn, add depth to the gameplay.

Gameplay – 7/10

On the topic of how the game plays out, it’s creative on a level that very few 2D side scrollers have been throughout the history of gaming; something which is extremely difficult to do in a market that was once saturated with games of the same ilk. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the same amount of variety as Psychonauts, it certainly hearkens back to what is arguably one of the most underrated video games of all time, relying on a strong puzzle solving element as well as certain degree of exploration.

Controls – 10/10

As the 2D side-scrolling genre had been long-since perfected by this point, it would have more or less same to assume that there wouldn’t be any problems with the game’s control scheme, and so there isn’t. It plays out as fluently and as wonderfully as any great game in the genre, but new control elements brought into it with the advent of this game also do little to unnecessarily complicate things either, which is always excellent to see.

Lifespan – 4/10

In my opinion, the worst thing about this game is the criminally short amount of time it lasts. Clocking in at about 3 to 4 hours, it only hearkens to the kind of standards of lifespan in games that were set throughout the third generation of gaming, and consequently, doesn’t count for a great deal in this day and age, when 2D side scrollers can be made to last many times longer on average. The fact that this game doesn’t indeed have quite a lot of depth to it made me feel as if it was far too much of a fleeting experience, and what little I was treated to ultimately left me wanting more of it than what was offered.

Storyline – 8/10

The game’s plot follows an averagely witted, yet humble man called Ray, who is walking home from work when an UFO suddenly lands on his head. He wakes up in hospital following a strange dream only find that he now has an imaginary spaghetti arms protruding from the top if his head that only he can see, which affords him the ability to read people’s minds and control certain elements of the world around him. Events unfold into a massive government conspiracy, which Ray finds himself in the midst of, and must use his newfound abilities to see it all through. The game’s story is clever, well written and extremely funny, providing a number of fourth wall-breaking jokes along with references to other popular games and some very humorous social commentaries.

Originality – 9/10

I feel the need to largely commend the developers of this game for their ability to make a game of this kind stand out among a deluge of similar titles that have been released across a period of over thirty years. It handles puzzle solving in a manner unique to not only the 2D side scrolling genre, but gaming itself, and whilst it does clearly have it’s influences, since gamers have been able to draw parallels with other title released over the years, it is still yet another example of how indie developers have done their best to provide a strong level of creativity across the gaming industry.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Stick It To the Man is easily one of the most standout 2D side scrollers I have ever played. Though I was left underwhelming with how short a time it lasts, I enjoyed what I experienced of it, and would still recommend it to any fan of the genre.

Score

46/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Shantae (Game Boy Colour & DS)

Developer(s) – Way Forward Technologies

Publisher(s) – Capcom

Director – Matt Bozon

Producer – John Beck

An early indie game five years in the making and having gone through a number of developmental ideas before release, Shantae is a traditional 2D platformer, but with elements of the Metroidvania genre thrown in for good measure. I was actually quite surprised to find out how good a game Shantae is, and would recommend it to anyone who may have a Game Boy or DS, and looking for a hidden gem.

Graphics – 9/10

For the time of its launch and platform it initially appeared on, the game could easily be considered revolutionary in terms of visuals. Aside from being extremely colourful, the universe of Shantae is extremely detailed and varied; featuring conceptual design inspired by not only Middle-Eastern culture, but also by pirate culture. It’s a very interesting blend, that has gone on to be a constant throughout the rest of the series, and works astonishingly well.

Gameplay – 7/10

Having elements of the Metroidvania genre attached to it, there’s quite a fair bit to play for in the game, and quite a bit of satisfaction to be had out of it for the time it lasts. Aside from the encouragement of exploration and challenging enemies, there is also a series of mini games present, involving activities such as racing and belly dancing to gain more in-game money. The belly dancing in particular can be quite a satisfying challenge if the player is able to complete the higher-ranked dancing sequences. But regardless, it presents a fair enough level of challenge without it being far too inaccessible.

Controls – 8/10

For the most part, the control scheme of the game is pretty straightforward. Moving and combat are easy to get to grips with, and how the in-city exploration was handled is pretty unique. The biggest problem with it, however, is that it has an open world, but no map system. I think that this is actually not only the biggest flaw in the game in terms of controls, but the biggest flaw in the game in general. It was something that was made complicated, but didn’t need to be so.

Lifespan – 6/10

Though it is on the Game Boy Colour, and that it could be argued that memory usage would have factored into it, 4 hours still seems to me as particularly underwhelming for a Metroidvania game. I cant hep but with perhaps a few more mini games, or some side quests attached to it, it could have been made to last a fair bit longer. It was at around this time that open world 2D platformers were being made to last longer than many others in the past, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so where this game may have been ahead of the time from a graphical standpoint, it was lagging behind in terms of lifespan.

Storyline – 6/10

Although the general atmosphere and visual style of the game was different to many others, the story wasn’t anywhere near as much so. It follows Shantae, a half-human half-genie hybrid, who is charged with protecting a small town called Scuttle Town. One day, the town is attacked by the pirate Risky Boots, who steals a prototype steam engine for her diabolical plan. And so Shantae resolves to get it back from her. For a video game story it is pretty typical; only kept somewhat interesting by small elements of humour here and there.

Originality – 6/10

Though it may have been particularly advanced for the time in terms of graphics, especially on a handheld system, I think it did want for uniqueness somewhat in terms of gameplay. It did have some standout mechanics for the time, such as the ability to transform into various animals to get around, but ultimately, the most standout thing was indeed not only the graphical marvel of the visuals, but also the game’s conceptual influences,

Happii

Happii

Overall, despite the absence of a map system and a prolonged lifespan, Shantae is still fairly enjoyable game, and worthy of the attention of anyone who may own a Game Boy. It isn’t the best platformer to have ever been released, but it indeed has its charms.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Robodemons (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Color Dreams

Publisher(s) – Color Dreams

Artist – Dan Burke

Yet another 2D side scroller, albeit a more traditional one, Robodemons was developed by Color Dreams, who would later come to be known as Wisdom Tree, selling video games from Christian bookstores. The company themselves have given two separate accounts of this history; one story being that they re-branded for the sake of spreading the word of the bible, and the other was that they did it as a joke. But I think anyone who has had the misfortune of playing their games will realize that neither is correct, and that they simply did it to keep their business alive after Nintendo forcefully halted the sale of unlicensed games in shops, which couldn’t afford to not carry Nintendo games at the time. Not only is this game living prove of this, but its also extremely bad.

Graphics – 6/10

As the best aspect of the game, the visuals are fairly diverse, containing satanic imagery, as well as being a very early example of an overly violent video game. The level of flesh in particular contains rivers of blood, platforms made out of brains and heart ventricles, which act as doorways to different areas of the level. It isn’t anywhere near as violent as Abadox was, but it was almost as intriguing. Major problems with the game, however, are that it is infested with glitches and the same song plays throughout the entire game, like in many of Color Dreams’ titles.

Gameplay – 3/10

The objective of Robodemons is to simply traverse each level, defeat enemies, whist racking up a high score not visible on the screen (as a result of inconsistent programming), and beat a boss at the end of it; and when I say simply, I mean the game is easy beyond comprehension. In the third level, it is even possible to beat the boss at the start without even coming into contact with it. The fact that the high score isn’t even displayed on the screen also encourages incentive considerably less than any other game on the market at the time, and even back then, not many people cared about the score to begin with.

Controls – 10/10

Since this kind of game was commonplace at the time, there shouldn’t have been a problem with it. Even so, I was glad to see that the developers got this aspect right at least. Not suffering from many of the same problems as many of the more challenging games at the time, including the original Castlevania and Mega Man, the controls are fluent and easy to get to grips with, and will cause no unnecessary complications for players willing to plough through the experience.

Lifespan – 0.5/10

Clocking in at about 20 minutes in total, this was overly short even for an NES game; and a late one at that, having been released in 1990. Side scrollers could be made to last at least an hour at this point, and for a game to last a fifth of that lifespan was and is unacceptable.

Storyline – 4/10

The game’s story is extremely archetypical for it’s time, save for the lack of a damsel in distress. An unnamed hero resolves to defeat a demon king named Kull. It does have a small element of artistic value, since it was inspired by the Divine Comedy, and the levels are supposedly structured in the same way as Dante’s journey through Hell, but the developers were never going to make the story stand out any more than what they needed it to, which at this time, was very little anyway.

Originality – 2/10

The only unique thing this game has going for it is in the kind of things that influenced it; but even then, demonic or disturbing imagery had been seen in video games, such as Castlevania and Abadox. It certainly doesn’t stand out in gameplay either, since the genre it belongs to was the standard at the time, and a trend that had been well and truly set.

Angrii

Angrii

In summation, Robodemons is most probably one of the worst video games of the third generation. It’s insultingly easy, very unoriginal, and was clearly rushed by a developer who was unsurprisingly unworthy of Nintendo’s seal of quality.

Score

25.5/60

4/10 (Poor)

Raid 2020 (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Colour Dreams

Publisher(s) – Colour Dreams & HES Interactive

Producer(s) – Frank Waung & Dan Burke

Released exclusively in Australia and North America as one of the many unlicensed games produced by the infamous development company Colour Dreams, Raid 2020 is largely considered to be one of the worst games available for the original NES; especially after having gained increased exposure across the Internet following reviews from the likes of the Angry Video Game Nerd and Stan Burdman. After playing the game myself, it’s no wonder why it has been given such a terrible reception. It’s mediocre at best; even for the time.

Graphics – 6/10

The best thing about the game is the visuals, but even they come into question. The conceptual design of the game is quite varied, with levels taking place on boardwalks, in futuristic cities, swamps, and even in space at one point. From a technical standpoint, the graphics aren’t too bad either, with the developers having taken advantage of some of the most revolutionary techniques used at the time; such as giving characters black outlines and use of shadow here and there. Even enemies from one of Colour Dreams’ previous efforts, Robodemons, make a cameo appearance towards the start of the game. The problem being is that most of the levels are largely recycled, and by proxy, it can feel as if the player is simply playing the same level three times in a row before advancing to the next stage. Also like Robodemons, the music the exactly the same throughout, which can become irritating after a while.

Gameplay – 4/10

Raid 2020 is a run-and-gun 2D side-scroller, with vehicular combat interspersed between levels. Though the game does have variety in the respect, compared to other games of the time, it can also be seen as being fairly inaccessible, since it is much harder than it ought to have been. This is compounded by the fact that there are things happening in the game that don’t make any sense, such as the player losing health after being hit by bird droppings or being hurt by stepping on tomatoes in the road, or being hit by flies.

Controls – 5/10

The control scheme is also very needlessly complicated to say the least; mostly due to the fact that the movement is extremely awkward, despite the fact that the 2D side-scrolling formula had been perpetuated for over five years prior to the release of this game. When the player presses the up button, the character moves diagonally up and left, and for down, it moves down and right, as opposed to simply moving up and down, as the player would have come to expect at this point.

Lifespan – 1/10

The game can take a grand total of 20 minutes to complete; just like Robodemons, it’s hopelessly short, even for the time. Given the fact that the RRP price of an NES game back then was anywhere in between $40 and $65 in the US in particular, I’m sure it would have felt like an insult to anyone who may have went ahead and bought it at the time.

Storyline – 3/10

The story of Raid 2020 follows a detective who is codenamed Shadow, who is on a mission to topple a massive drugs empire by the kingpin Pitbull. Though it does break away from the typical white saving the damsel in distress story that the industry had become synonymous with at that point, the plot still makes little to no sense, since not only are there merely vague explanations of what exactly is going on, but the dialogue interspersed between levels only appear on-screen for a few seconds, which would have made is even more unnecessarily harder to follow what exactly is going on.

Originality – 2/10

The only true aspect of originality this game has going for it is the fact that the gameplay is fairly well varied and it isn’t all jut the same thing over and over again. The problem being that everything else is the same thing over and over again. The individual levels are largely recycled throughout despite visual diversity between stages of the game, and personally, I’ve found that inaccessible games always make for a much more needlessly frustrating experience.

Angrii

Angrii

Overall, Raid 2020 is thoroughly deserved of the bad wrap is had gotten; especially over the last few years with the advent of YouTube reviewing. Out of all the efforts produced by Colour Dreams, it stands as being one of the worst; if not, the worst.

Score

21/60

3.5/10 (Very Poor)

Plok (Super Nintendo)

Developer(s) – Software Creations

Publisher(s) – Activision, Tradewest & Nintendo

Designer(s) – Ste & John Pickford, Lyndon Brooks & John Buckley

Producer(s) – John & Ste Pickford

Reborn out of an abandoned arcade game entitled Fleapit, Plok was a traditional 2D platformer typical of the type of game that Nintendo would most frequently publish at the time. It’s a pretty enjoyable game, and wonderfully weird in conceptual design, as many of Nintendo’s own efforts were. Interestingly, Mario and Donkey Kong’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto expressed a strong interested in working on the game himself, but in the end, Nintendo simply chose to publish the game in Europe. Designer Ste Pickford suspected the reason behind Nintendo’s ultimate reluctance was that they thought the game was too similar to the upcoming Yoshi’s Island for Nintendo to want to work on both. Although I think Nintendo unanimously made the right choice, that’s not to discredit Plok. For me, it still stands out as one of the better 2D side scrollers on the Super Nintendo.

Graphics – 7/10

As colourful and outlandish as most other efforts from Nintendo at the time, Plok features a fair bit of visual diversity in its level design, as well as some particularly strange enemies, such as walking vegetables and disembodied heads disguised as road signs. Even the main character himself is extremely strange in design, being a red creature in a yellow t-shirt capable of firing his own limbs at enemies to fight. Although at first glance the game may seem pretty weak from a conceptual standpoint, I think players do have to wonder what was going through the developer’s heads whilst making this game.

Gameplay – 7/10

For a game that was quite archetypical for the mid-nineties, it’s surprising to discover just how much variety there is gameplay. Aside from simply having to get from point A to point B in lieu of the genre’s tradition, there are also bonus sequences which require players to race through courses on various different vehicles; most likely a reason why Nintendo may have felt it to be too similar to Yoshi’s Island. There’s also a small element of Donkey Kong Country, whereby the player can collect the four letters from Plok’s name to receive extra lives, and even a reference to Metroid in the way Plok jumps.

Controls – 10/10

As 2D side scrollers were the set standard at the time, the developers could have had even greater problems than they ended up doing on a commercial level with this game if the control scheme hadn’t been handled correctly. Fortunately, however, there are no issues with the controls, and it plays out just as well as any other game in the genre, with no unnecessary complications.

Lifespan – 6/10

Plok can take just under 2 hours to complete, which was about the average lifespan of a video game at the time. It actually surprised me somewhat that this game lasted as short a time as did, since the similarities between it and Yoshi’s Island in terms of variety in gameplay are very noticeable, and Yoshi’s Island could be made to last about an hour longer than that; even longer if the player would try to complete the game to 100%.

Storyline – 6/10

The story simply follows the main character Plok, whom after having one of his many flags stolen, sets out to retrieve it. Only after doing so, arrives back home to find that he had been distracted merely for somebody else to steal the rest of his flags, and s Plok resolves to find them all again. Most games of that era, and the era before, were relatively light on story, and this is no exception. However, the developers did change things up as the game progressed, and there are a few interesting references. For example, one of the dud flags discovered at the end of one level is in the form of a pair of red dungarees; an obvious reference to Super Mario Bros.

Originality – 6/10

Taking into account both it’s gameplay variety and conceptual design, Plok stands out about as much as any other game of it’s kind could have done at the time, which wasn’t an easy thing to do, so at least some credit is owed to it’s developers for that. It would have taken some serious talent to make a game in the genre stand out as much as possible, and this title certainly does that.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Plok is a pretty fun side scroller, and it comes recommended from me. It isn’t one of the greatest games of all time, but it’s certainly one of the most standout games of its respective era; it’s just a shame that Shigeru Miyamoto ultimately decided against dedicating first-hand effort into it. We can only speculate how much better a game it would have turned out to be.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Pandemonium (PlayStation)

Developer(s) – Toys for Bob, Crystal Dynamics, Ideaworks 3D & Eidos Interactive

Publisher(s) – EA, Crystal Dynamics & Eidos Interactive

One of the earliest examples of a 2.5D platforming game, and released as a launch title for the original PlayStation, Pandemonium served as a breath of fresh air among a great deal of 3D platformers released early on in the PlayStation’s shelf life that, to say the least, left a lot to be desired. I personally found it to be a pretty enjoyable game, since at the time; it was as good and as creative as most other concepts for video games, and I fail to understand why it wasn’t built upon any further than it was.

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals did an extremely good job of showcasing what the original PlayStation was capable of on a graphical level. It even has considerably less glitches than many other early PlayStation platformers, such as Croc or Bubsy 3D. The game also excels on a conceptual level, featuring a number of extremely unique level designs and a number of unusually fascinating objects appearing in-game; such as huge watermelons used for making high jumps.

Gameplay – 7/10

As well as being one of the first games of it’s kind, it also has a fair bit of variety in gameplay attached to it, in the feature of being able to play as any one of two different characters intermittently, who have different abilities. The female character Nikki can double-jump, whilst the male character Fargus can cast spells and perform a rolling attack; similar to Crash Bandicoot’s spin attack. The gripe I have about it, however, is that instead of using the then-new feature of saving via memory card, the developers instead utilized password saves, which by this time, had more or less gone out of fashion. To me, it severely defeated the object of taking video games into the next generation, and can become quite the hindrance at times.

Controls – 9/10

Unlike many early PlayStation games, only a few issues arise concerning the control scheme. Because the perspective and camera angles are much different to the conventional side scrolling game, it can be a small annoyance to navigate through different passageways and make certain turns. Otherwise, however, there are no further complications, and handled fairly well for what was clearly a question of trial and error.

Lifespan – 6/10

Although this game is fairly short, it shouldn’t lose out on too many marks, since the industry was just undergoing the transition between the fourth and fifth generation s of gaming, and 3 to 4 hours was about the average lifespan of a game back then. The bar would be raised much higher within this particular genre upon the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but for a game to last this short was by no means unforgivable.

Storyline – 6/10

The story follows the adventures (or rather misadventures) of two friends called Fargus and Nikki, who whilst experimenting with various magic spells, manage to unwittingly cast a more advanced spell, which summons a huge monster called Yungo who completely swallows a nearby village whole. After consulting the book, the duo learns that they must travel across the land, and obtain a wish from a machine called the Wishing Engine to reverse the damage they have done. Aside from the fact that the tow main characters are a pair of idiots, it’s as wacky and weird as most other storylines in games were at the time, and shouldn’t lose out on too many points, since not only was there a great deal of emphasis on story at the tie anyway, but on a creative level, the fifth generation of gaming was an extremely strange time for the medium anyway.

Originality – 8/10

As well as containing some wonderfully strange aspects, like the in-game items, enemies and even the overall concept, Pandemonium was also instrumental in establishing a new sub-genre of gaming, that has in recent years, made quite the resurgence, being adopted by many different developers; including Nintendo. Games like Trine, New Super Mario Bros and Limbo have taken the industry by storm, and it was games like this, as well as NiGHTS, that served as the basis for it all.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Pandemonium exceeded my expectations when I got round to playing it. On the surface, it looks like a bog standard launch title, but it turned out to be one of the best of which for the PlayStation in my personal opinion.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)