Top 10 of '10: Number 6 - Game Room (XBox 360)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

In some ways, it pains me to put Game Room in my top 10. Arriving with something of a fanfare and the promise of several new arcade games a week, the ability to design your own arcade and to have friends over to visit, it sounded like a retro gamer's dreams come true. Well, barring a lottery win and buying an entire real arcade, that is.

At first, Game Room seemed great, despite the lack of publishers at the outset... all we were given were Konami and Atari arcade games, Atari and Activision 2600 games, and games for the Intellivision. Not exactly "arcade" games in many cases, but still interesting in many cases, and it meant we got to discover some of the more obscure arcade classics from Atari and Konami. But the fact that the release of the first add-on pack of games was delayed should have been a warning to us all...

I've got no more tens left now...

Still, I bought loads of games, played them all, unlocked new stuff for my arcade and earned loads of Achievements. It seemed a bit odd that we were still only getting games from the same few companies, but everyone expected the announcement of new parties before long.

And then it all went wrong. There were no new parties announced. Krome, the developer, was shuttered. Pack 13, ominously, was sent out in one go, rather than over three weeks, as had been the norm for a while. A Christmas present, perhaps? Apparently not... there have been no new releases for Game Room in 2011. And there hasn't been a single word from Microsoft as to what's going on with it. So you have to figure it's dead.

Arrrr... here, there be... ducks?

And the worst thing of all for me... after gaining 980 of 1000 Achievement points, and putting in around 30 hours, I was forced into an update... which completely wiped all my progress. And with the only Achievement I haven't yet won being for playing for 36 hours... well, I was too crestfallen to continue.

Which is ridiculous, really. For all I've said up there, I spent a lot of money and had a lot of fun out of Game Room in 2010. And I do still own all those games, and I do still enjoy them, so I'm sure to play again over time. Even though it's a dead duck in 2011, it was good enough to be my number six of 2010.

Advent Calendar - December 9th.

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Bottom of the Ninth (arcade/MAME)

I've got a soft spot for baseball... it started with HardBall! on the Commodore 64, dropped off for a while then returned with a vengeance while I was living in the States. Now that I'm back in England, I like to keep tabs on the game, and I've got ESPN America and like to watch games when I can, particularly when it's the Detroit Tigers playing.

Enough of the gymnastics, just throw the ball!

I do like videogame baseball as well... it's always difficult to play well, but you can just step up to the plate as a slugger and get in the odd satisfying hit every now and again. There have been so many efforts of varying quality over the years, but despite it being a small world these days, it remains mostly an American game and can be hard to get hold of in the UK. To that end, and despite it apparently being something of a franchise, I'd never heard of Bottom of the Ninth before.

The first thing I noticed was that, for an arcade game, this is very naughty indeed. What's the first thing you do with an arcade game? You drop your money in for a credit. Normally, you'd then play until your skills meant you were beaten, at which point you'd either chuck in some more money or walk off and find another game. Bottom of the Ninth gives you ninety seconds for your 25 cents (I doubt any found their way over here for anyone to put 10p into). Ninety seconds, in a game that lasts nine innings? What a rip-off! But I suppose it's the only way they could make much money... baseball games can last ages!

No point chasing that one... it's gone!

I would imagine that there are ways in which you can win extra time, although I didn't see any evidence of that while I was playing. The game itself is relatively simple, but it's possible to get into it to the point where you can't help adding more credits. That's easy enough to say, though... playing on MAME, you've effectively got an arcade machine set to free play. But although 1989, the year this was released, wasn't a vintage year for arcade games, I'd probably have preferred to save my cash for other games in the arcade than blow it all on this.

As for the game itself... it's baseball. You get a turn batting, where you get three outs, and then you get a turn pitching, where you have to get three opposing batters out. There's very little strategy involved... less even than the classic HardBall! But it's presented fairly well, and there's always a thrill in any baseball game whenever you belt the ball out of the park for a home run.

If you've read any of my other accounts of American sports games, you might see a pattern emerging in the scoring...

Bottom of the Ninth is an arcade baseball game, simple as that. I enjoyed my time with it (all two matches worth), but it's utterly disposable and less than memorable, and if I fancy playing an old basebal video game, I'm more likely to go back to HardBall! than this one.

Advent Calendar - December 2nd.

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Two Crude Dudes (Sega Megadrive)

This wasn't actually my first choice for today, but then I found out the game I was due to play was a sequel, and I'm trying not to play any sequels for this advent calendar project (there will be the occasional game that is technically a sequel, but they're allowed!). So, after a little bit of a dig around I came up with this substitute.

You have to say, that looks like a bit of a mismatch.

Two Crude Dudes is a side-scrolling beat 'em up set in a dystopian, post-nuclear future. It's actually based on an arcade game called Two Crude, and bad though the Megadrive game's name is, it's slightly less rubbish than the arcade game's.

Not that it matters... I'd neither heard of nor played either of them before, so I went with the Megadrive version. It's made by Data East, so it probably won't come as any surprise to find out it plays a but like Dragon Ninja (which was actually called Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, if I remember right... someone at Data East must have had a thing for dudes).

Hey, hang on a minute! I forgot my marshamllows!

It's as simple as you'd expect from this type of game... walk from left to right, and punch, kick and throw everything that comes your way. What matters is whether it's well done, or has a unique spin of its own.

Two Crude Dudes, thankfully, has a sense of humour. If it didn't, there's no way you'd play it more than once, because it really is a bog-standard beat 'em up in every other way. There's no special moves or anything remarkable. All you have is a steady stream of odd, mutated characters coming your way. If anything, it reminds me a little of Street Hassle, which I played in October.

Yeah, I've done that a few times. Usually when my Hula Hoops have got stuck.

I have to say, if I'd bought this for the Megadrive, I'd probably have been disappointed. It really is a shallow button-masher, with just the crazy characters making it stand out in any way. On the other hand, it has a simultaneous two-player mode, and I expect I'd have had a right laugh with that. As a one-player game in 2010, though, it's not something I can say I'd play much beyond the hour I gave it for this write-up.

Hydorah (PC Indie game)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

I can't remember where I read about Hydorah. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that I have it, and I can play it. And you've probably never heard of it before now, either. You're probably at a complete loss as to what I'm talking about. So I will elaborate.

Hydorah is the best arcade game you've never played. You've never played it because it wasn't actually in the arcades. But from just one play, you'll feel as though it should have been. You'd have ploughed countless tens into it, and come away bruised but satisfied. Just like you did with most of the best arcade games.

It all looks quite sedate here. Aren't the trees pretty?

At this point, I should actually describe the game. It's Nemesis. Or Gradius, if you prefer. That's the core (haha! See what I did there?), although it's got a few bits of R-Type in there too, but yes, it's pretty much a new, independent entry into the Gradius series. And it's absolutely awesome.

The programmers have deliberately made Hydorah as 80s as possible. And they've done a stunning job. It looks, sounds and plays the part to absolute perfection. That means it's hard. Very hard. It's sixteen levels of arse-kicking. Well, they say it is... I haven't seen a quarter of them, if that's the case. But it's not unfairly difficult. I knew what I was doing wrong every time, I was just too rubbish to cope.

Eye-eye! What's going on here, then?

In fact, if anything, Hydorah is quite generous with its difficulty. There's never too much filling the screen, there's no harsh collision detection, no cheap deaths. Just a feeling of "next time, I'll do better". It's a bit naughty in one way, I discovered... shoot the wrong stuff, and you'll lose points. Again, it's not done in a cheap way... if you think about it when you're playing, you should know better.

It does have a bit of a weird weapons upgrade system, which might be a detraction for some. You collect tokens, much like in Gradius, but you can't instantly "spend" them on stuff... you have to accumulate a certain number of them, and once you have, your lasers are powered up. If you die, you lose some of your tokens, setting you back a bit.

It does all look a bit familiar, but comfortingly so.

There are some insta-perks though, such as shields or an extra ship. And as you progress, there's a nice choice system in effect, where you can take your pick of earned weapons for the next level. It might have been nicer to go out there fully tooled-up, but it would also be easier...

Hydorah is a really lovely Gradius-type game. It looks and sounds absolutely superb, and it plays like an 80s dream, and I don't mean that in a bad way. I guarantee that if you have any kind of love for these kinds of games, you'll lose best part of your first afternoon with it, and will re-develop that long-lost trigger finger cramp. Best of all? It's absolutely free. There's no reason not to play this at all. So head over to developer Locomalito's website, and download Hydorah right now.

FIGHT! Commodore 64 vs. ZX Spectrum. Number 1: Bomb Jack

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , , ,

Here's a feature I thought would be a good idea, that would tap into our schoolyard memories and provoke, erm, "discussion"... ZX Spectrum vs. Commodore 64! We've all had those arguments as to which is better... and I felt like stirring the pot a bit more. Just for argument's sake.

Now, I owned a Commodore 64, but I'm perfectly able to accept that it might not have had the best version of every game. I thought it might be fun to take a game that was released on both, put them up against each other and see which is better. Let's see how it goes...

The first game I chose was Tehkan/Tecmo's Bomb Jack. OK, so it's an arcade game, and that being the case, why did I choose two no doubt inferior versions to look at? Even stranger... Bomb Jack is not a game I have any particular love for. I've never been any good at it, and I find it quite frustrating. And yet, I've subjected myself to it... twice.

Here's what we started with... lovely, juicy bombs.

The arcade game is actually quite nice. It's pretty enough... bold and colourful, with those lovely red cherry bombs hanging in blue skies. To get the best scores, you have to collect the bombs in order. Once you collect one, the next in the sequence will start flashing. That's the one you should go for. Collect all the flashing bombs and you'll receive a big points bonus.

It was never a favourite of mine; I never was any good at it. Playing it in MAME these days has given me a new appreciation of it... skilful play can see you weaving in and out of enemies, and it can get pretty intense. And of course, there's the risk/reward aspect of collecting the bombs in order for bigger points. It's a classic name, and in retrospect I would say rightly so.

Bit naughty, putting all that red in the background. Where are the bombs?

I had Bomb Jack on the Commodore 64... I did play it a fair bit but it was annoying. It wasn't well reviewed either, generally speaking. I'd also heard that the Spectrum version was really good... something that's stuck in my mind all this time, and partially led to this little feature.

Playing the 64 version again just brought home all its faults, but magnified this time. Jack's a fat lad, for starters... and oddly, you can actually feel the weight! Jack seems to drop more quickly than in the arcade version, and also seems to struggle to get his lardy backside off the ground. The enemies are all bigger too, but it's more than just a cosmetic problem... this extra size makes the screen very cramped, and it's very difficult (if not impossible) to manoeuvre around for the bombs. It's fast... but that's also a problem, given the size of everything. Also, bonuses are very hard to come by, which is annoying... and then you find out the game has a completely different (and lower) scoring system to the arcade version. Bomb Jack on the Commodore 64 is not very enjoyable.

That bird's nothing but trouble. One peck, and you're dead.

Having re-acquainted myself with the Commodore version of Bomb Jack, it was time to try the Speccy's effort. And the first thing I noticed was the size of the game's characters... they're small. Thankfully! When I say "small", I mean "just the right size". The game is perfectly playable on the Spectrum. Gaps can be squeezed through, enemies can be dodged, bombs can be collected in order, bonuses can be had. And the scoring system is the same as the arcade version's. Graphically, it's one of the nicer Spectrum efforts I've played so far, with colourful backgrounds and no sign of clashing. Nice work, Elite!

The home versions had a problem from the start, in that Bomb Jack in the arcade has a vertical monitor, and these versions had to be squashed hozizontally. One version coped with this far better than the other. I had quite a lot of fun with the Spectrum version of Bomb Jack. It's a very well implemented version of the arcade game, with precise controls and accurately-proportioned graphics. It seems as though they really took the time to lay out the screens with the horizontal aspect taken into consideration. The 64 version, on the other hand, doesn't work all that well. It does have nice red bombs, although they're more blood red than the big arcade cherries. But the poor scoring system and claustrophobic playing area really cripple it, and it's not really worth much time.

RESULT: Spectrum wins!

Unsung Classics. Number 6: Halley Wars (Sega Game Gear)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Once upon a time, many many years ago, I was wandering around an arcade in Whitley Bay, and I happened across a game called Halley's Comet. It was a vertically-scrolling shooter, and it looked awesome. So I played it, and loved it. I seemed to be really good at it... it only had a six-digit high score, and on my second go I managed 545,000. And then... I never saw the game in an arcade again.

Years later, I bought a Sega Game Gear. I really liked that little system. When I spotted that there was a game called Halley Wars for it, my interest was piqued. And when I saw that it was a vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up in the vein of Halley's Comet, I bought it immediately.

And I loved it.

Whoooosh! Those mini-comets cause a fair bit of damage. Best take them out ASAP.

It was quite a bit harder than its arcade parent... partly, I suspect, because of the controls, and partly, no doubt, because the screen was nowhere near the same height as an arcade screen and so there was much less time to react to enemies. Nevertheless, the prospect of saving the planet from an approaching comet remained appealing, and enjoyable.

I played this today using a Game Gear emulator, not something I've ever used before. I really like it... it has a nice Game Gear surround for the "screen". Brings back some happy memories.

Doesn't that look nice? I loved my Game Gear.

The game follows the arcade game of Halley's Comet pretty closely. Alien forces are using the approach of a comet as cover so they can attack the Earth. Your lone fighter must attempt to stave off not only the alien attack, but also the disaster of having a comet crash into the planet. Lasers are always a good bet in these cases, and your ship is therefore handily equipped, but powerups can be picked up along the way to help you on your quest.

This fella's a mite troublesome. He needs to be hit hard and fast.

If anything gets past your ship, be it alien spaceship or mini-comet, the planet will be damaged. Once this damage gets too great, the Earth is detroyed, and you're pretty much knackered up there in space. Or in other words, it's game over. It's a good premise for a game; it adds tension and forces you into taking a few more risks than you otherwise might.

Halley Wars, for an old handheld system, is a good little shooter. It seemed amazing to me at the time, and although it's obviously less so now, especially with the advent of MAME, I still think they did a pretty good job here. For me, it justified the purchase of the Game Gear, which is pretty high praise. Now that I can play Halley's Comet in MAME it's perhaps redundant, but I've had fun with it here nonetheless.

Bionic Commando Rearmed (XBox Live Arcade)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , , ,

Bionic Commando is a name that goes back a long way. I used to love the Commodore 64 conversion of the arcade game. It was tough but fun, with great music. I never got to play the arcade version, but that hardly matters. If you're American, though, the Bionic Commando name means something entirely different. A brand new version was produced for the NES, which although having a similar main character was a very different game.

It's this version which has been remade for the modern consoles. I bought it the day it came out, played the tutorial, hated it and never loaded it again. Still, the name holds an appeal, and when Capcom produced a brand new, all-singing all-dancing update, I was interested. I wasn't forty quid's worth of interested though... but months and months later, I was able to nab it for £4.50 from Tesco. Rude not to, at that. Before playing that, though, I thought it might be wise to revisit BC: Rearmed.

Good decision.

Ka-BOOOOM! Even the poster is shocked at the power of that one.

Having spent a bit more time with Rearmed and getting to grips with the controls a little more, I started to enjoy myself. The game reminded me quite a bit of Shadow Complex, although that game came out later. It also reminded me of Impossible Mission, strangely enough. I think it was the behaviour of the guards that did it... they'd wander around their little areas quite happily, but when I got near they'd maybe move faster or start firing. It's quite a bit like Impossible Mission's robot droids.

Once I got myself over the fact that your commando can't jump (which I still think is silly, but no longer insurmountable), I started pinging myself around the platform-strewn environments quite handily. And it becomes fun, swinging across a gap, landing successfully , taking out a guard, catching onto the platform directly above, hauling yourself up, hanging there, blasting another guard and then vaulting up onto the platform. Turning that into a fluid, seamless action is very satisfying. It feels right, it feels good.

That's the bugger, there. Let me pass!

There's a small amount of other spy elements here... hacking the computers is also IM-esque. It's a bit weird to start with, but it soon becomes manageable.

Just as I was really getting into it, though, I came to the first end-level boss. And that's where I remain. I just couldn't figure it out at all, even with the clues I was armed with. In fact, we came to an impasse... it couldn't hurt me, and I couldn't hurt it. After 15 minutes, it was back to the dashboard.

Shame, really... there's a lot of game for the MS points, and although it's tough, it feels more challenging than unfair. It's presented very nicely... modern, but with plenty of nods to the old-school. I expect I'll have another crack at this one, probably after I've had a look at GameFAQs or something. I hope the brand new version can live up to this one.

Galaxian (Arcade/MAME/Namco Museum)

by PaulEMoz in , , ,

Today is my dad's birthday, so in a tribute to him, I thought I'd play what is probably his favourite game ever: Galaxian.

Surely the whole of the Developed World knows Galaxian. It's one of the most established classics we have. And it hasn't just died away - Namco has kept it alive on every format known to man through their Museum collections. That said, it's taken something of a back seat to its sequel, Galaga, which many prefer.

Not me.

7000 points. That gets you an extra ship. That'll come in handy.

For me, Galaga over-complicates the formula. With its attack patterns, dual-ship capability and challenging stages, it throws a lot more into the pot. And it's a good game, there's no doubt about it. But I think it takes the swoopy-swirly aspect of the alien attacks too far, leading to much frustration at times.

Galaxian, on the other hand, is as pure as arcade gaming comes. It's just you, with your ship and its single laser, against an enormous alien force. That's it. The parameters never change, and eventually they're going to force you into a mistake and you'll die. It's inevitable.

Survival relies on you getting into The Zone. Galaxian was probably the first game I ever played where I got into The Zone, at the age of 8. It's probably the game most responsible for me loving videogames now. And for me, it's still as enjoyable as it was when I played it in the chip shop in 1980.

Dragon Buster (Arcade/MAME/Namco Museum)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

There are a lot of games on the latest version of Namco Museum. Pity the interface is rubbish, because it puts you off playing any of them regularly. But this blog is not about regular; it's (mostly) about playing games that I've never played before. And there are a few on this compilation that I can say that about. Before today, one of them was Dragon Buster. Pity that's not still the case.

Oooh, where to go, where to go... I'd rather just go home, actually.

Dragon Buster is basically a rubbish cross between Rastan (which isn't that great to begin with) and Wonder Boy in Monster Land (which is). You wander around subterranean passages and get attacked by ghastly monsters. I say ghastly... they really do look horrible, but only in a drawn-by-a-five-year-old way. For 1984, these are terrible arcade graphics.

Hey you! Yes, you! I put it to you that you are a rubbish skeleton!

As far as the game goes, I suppose its ideas outstrip their implementation. You have a world map, with choices of route, which was probably fairly novel at the time. It's just unfortunate that, whichever choice you make, it sees you wading through a sea of cack gaming. It's usually a case of walk right, stop, do a Pete Townshend swing with your sword at a rubbish animal, and move on. Occasionally you might do something exciting, like drop off a ledge or something, but that's your lot. Every so often you'll come across a pathetic looking dragon, which you can smite with just two hits. There are bigger, much more impressiver dragons to be slain, but not a lof ot skill involved.

You're a dragon? Really? You're cute. Wanna be my pet?

And there we have it. Dragon Buster was, research finds, pretty well thought of in Japan, with conversions to home platforms, sequels and even a board game! I find that a bit odd... it's really not a particularly good game at all. I doubt I'll be loading this one up much in the future.

The Legend of Kage (Arcade/MAME)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

This might seem to be a bit of a left-field, from-out-of-nowhere choice, but there's a reason I'm playing it, so stick with me!

The Legend of Kage is not a game I ever saw in an arcade. The only reason I'd heard of it previously was when I read a review of the Commodore 64 conversion in ZZAP! 64. They seemed to think it was distinctly average, and I didn't bother hunting it down for a play.

Fast-forward, oooh, donkeys years, and I find myself playing it in MAME.

And it's alright, actually. A bit odd for an arcade game, perhaps... although thinking about it, it plays a bit like a precursor to Shinobi, which I have certainly enjoyed quite a bit over the years, or maybe Ninja Spirit.

Ugh! Get away! Get awaaaaaay!

Typically, the game starts with a princess being captured, and you drop into the scene to chase after her. As you would expect, ninjas fly about, chucking pointy stars at you. Luckily, you can throw stars of your own, and you have swords for dispatching anything that gets a bit close for comfort.

You're also possessed of an implausibly mighty jump. This game sees you flying around in treetops a lot, with the ninjas whizzing by all around you. It's quite good fun, if a little strange. Other enemies appear through the game, including fire-breathing Raiden-types, just to mix it up.

The Legend of Kage is quite a nice little arcade game, which probably offered something nicely different at the time, and yet was more than likely the one that sat unloved in a corner while everyone else was playing Gauntlet. Still, it set me up nicely for tomorrow's game...

Unsung Classics. Number 2: Sega Rally (XBox 360)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

"Hold on a minute!", I hear you cry. "Sega Rally isn't an unsung classic!". And, it's fair to say, the original game is a classic that's loved by many, many people. The modern reboot, on the other hand, although critically praised seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye, with few people giving it the time of day.

What a shame that is. The new Sega Rally is an absolutely brilliant arcade racer, full of all the classic Sega touches that you'd expect. Wildlife wandering around on the safari courses. Flying vehicles on different courses... planes, helicopters, microlites and hot air balloons make appearances here. But there's far more to this game than little cutesy cameos.

The way it used to be...

Sega Rally is brutal. As racing games go, this is one of the hardest I've played. But it's also very fair and very true. In many of today's racers, you can just plough your way to the front and stay there, battering meek opponents out of your way and then cruising along as they drop back out of harm's way. That ain't happening in this game.

No, this game will challenge and fight you, every step of the way. You have to earn everything in this game... and I don't just mean race wins. You'll find yourself locked in a struggle to keep fifth place, and in a race of six drivers, that's saying something. Sega has set this game up so that every point counts for something, and it can actually feel really satisfying to finish in the top three.

Ooh, fourth place is within reach! Grab it!

The AI is nasty. Opponents aren't afraid to give you a good whack if it means retaking their place from you. And when you bear in mind how difficult it can be just to drive each course in a reasonable time, you'll find yourself cursing them any time you do that.

The environment also plays a part in your driving. Muddy courses will become rutted as they're driven on, and hitting these ruts on your next lap will slow you down or throw you off course. Pools of water will really slow you down. Sliding from gravel onto tarmac, you'll really feel the tyres bite. Sandy courses feel... "smushy". You'll feel bogged down in deep snow. Everything affects your car as you'd expect it to.

Any little mistake you make can, and usually will be punished. You have to really learn how to drive your car. It's very much about finesse. You have to know when to brake and how hard. You have to know when it's better to just ease off or let go of the accelerator, and when you can gun it. Different corners require different tactics, from a gentle nudge to a hard-braking powerslide, and if you get it wrong you're likely to be watching opposing racers zoom off into the distance. It can be heartbreaking to have battled your way into a good position, just to lose it when you screw up a hairpin or difficult double-bend. But you'll come back for more punishment...

Looks like the switch to Road tyres was a mistake...

Sega Rally is possibly the most difficult racer of the modern generation. But it's also the most gripping, to my mind. It's a game that you have to play in a room by yourself, because you get so into it. You'll find yourself regularly in that ridiculous position of trying to coax extra performance out of your car with your own body... leaning forward at times, or with your hands thrown way out to the side as you try and clip just a little off that tricky corner. It's absolutely intense, and there's not a lot of that around in today's games.

I bought this a couple of years ago, for about a tenner, and I'm still coming back to it. It's no more expensive than that now, and if you find yourself yearning for the good old days where games would give you a good kicking but lure you back for more, you really owe it to yourself to buy Sega Rally.

3D Starstrike (ZX Spectrum)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

This might be a short post, because there's not that much I can say about it. You see, 3D Starstrike is, almost lock, stock and barrel, Star Wars.

And who doesn't know Star Wars? Shoot the TIE Fighters, shoot the towers, fly through the trench... we've all done it. 3D Starstrike does have a few differences, probably so they wouldn't lose the court case in three seconds flat, but at the end of the day, it's Star Wars.

The towers shoot flowers. Big, deadly flowers.

Still, there's nothing wrong with that. Star Wars is great, and this was released in the days when clones were massively prevalent. Certainly, they were accepted as par for the course.

3D Starstrike is a good Star Wars game. I enjoyed playing it quite a bit. It's certainly better than any Star Wars game I played on the Commodore 64 back then. It moves at a fair old lick, and speed is essential in an arcade game of this type. It plays well, and it's a lot of fun. Good on ya, Speccy.

Manx TT Superbike (Sega Saturn)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Sega have been responsible, basically, for every arcade racing game I've ever loved. From Turbo in the really early days, they went on to produce (among others) Hang-On, OutRun, Super Hang-On, Power Drift, Daytona USA, Virtua Racing, Sega Rally... and then eventually they came full circle and released OutRun 2, and OutRun Online Arcade on the XBox 360. There have been other racers from other manufacturers... Chase HQ, Roadblasters, Ridge Racer... but I've either not been that grabbed by them or simply, as in the case of the Ridge Racer series, never played them.

So, Sega have held me captive for about 30 years now. But one racer they released and that I'd never seen, let alone played, is Manx TT Superbike.

It's an odd one, is Manx TT. I'm intrigued as to how this was given the green light. I can't say I know how popular the Manx TT road race is in Japan, but although I would have thought the answer would be "not very", it must have a decent following for a Japanese studio to go to the trouble of releasing an officially licensed game.

You need to be quick, but clip that wall and you'll be sorry.

Once you've got over the initial shock at the setting (and the eerie similarity of the announcer's voice to Stimpy the cat), in the arcade mode you have a choice of two courses on the Isle of Man: Laxey Coast (Easy), and the more difficult Manx TT course. No choice of bikes... you have to take what you're given. If you play in Saturn mode, there's a choice of bike and a bit more depth in the gameplay.

Depth isn't that important, though. What's important is fun, and sense of speed. And Manx TT delivers both, although not in as great a quantity as Sega Rally. It really is quite thrilling, though, to be tearing through traditional British countryside* in a worldwide-released video game.

Not Britain.

It's definitely a game to be played in short bursts, though. Like the majority of high-score games or arcade racers, you want to get in, make your mark and get out. You wouldn't play it for two hours at a time, but you would come back to it for a quick blast again and again. I'd certainly have been happy to have had this in my Saturn collection in the Nineties... it's not as impressive to me now as it would have been then, and although it doesn't have quite the appeal of Sega Rally, but it's a good little racer, nonetheless.

*OK, the Isle of Man isn't strictly Britain... but it sure looks a lot like traditional British countryside!

LED Storm/Mad Gear (Arcade/MAME)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

A bonus game today, as my missus is watching some cack on the telly that I'm not interested in. I only have the laptop available for gaming, so I've gone back to the arcades for a blast on LED Storm. Or Mad Gear if you prefer - I don't, I think that's a rubbish name.

LED Storm is a futuristic update on the Bumping Buggies/Burnin' Rubber style of game, which sees you racing against other cars and obstacles over dangerous courses, in a kind of crazy Cannonball Run affair. You can smash other cars into the sides of bridges or canyons and destroy them, although this is a bit dangerous as they will bounce you back. Safer is the option to jump on them... but jumping brings its own problems, as many of the bridges have huge sections missing.

Of course, you have to jump over those to safety, but if you're mid-jump in an attempt to smash an opponent, you're knackered.

Left: it's all a bit frantic at the moment. Right: you've made the jump, but there are other problems to deal with...

There are other reasons to jump... bonus balloons float by, giving extra points for your score, but more important than those are the energy cans that you can collect to prolong your game. Occasionally, you'll see a green canister floating by... jump for this and you'll receive a shield for a limited period, at which point you can just barge everything out of the way.

LED Storm is a game that was well reviewed on the Commodore 64 and Amiga, but I don't think I played it. I have a vague idea that my mate may have bought it for the Amiga, but it's not in my games pile so I'm not sure. It's a pretty enjoyable game, and playing it and then writing about it has seen off the TV cack quite nicely indeed. I can see it being frustrating for some, due to the slightly trial-and-error nature of the jumping, but I'd have been happy to see this arcade machine in any of my local haunts.