Back in August, on a day that coincidentally had the same date, albeit not the same year, of the day I was born, my wife handed me an unassuming wrapped box. Eagerly I tore off the colourful paper wrapping, hoping for Oreos, but not wanting to get too excited, to reveal the worn words ‘GameBoy Micro’. To be clear, I’m not a retro collector… more an enthusiast of retro-games… but there are a handful of items that I would like to own from that particular world and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the GameBoy Micro has been something I’ve eBay-drooled over for some time. And here, I now had one in my hands, one of my very own.
… of course, before I go any further with this technical breakdown of the unit, I need to thank my wonderful wife for such a thoughtful gift!
Continue reading “GameBoy Micro: Super-Sensible-Serious-Hardware Review”
Spoiler Warning: This article contains plot spoilers for the game ‘Night Trap’
Call me childish, but there’s a small part of me still smirking at playing ‘Night Trap’ on Switch; a game that Nintendo’s North American President once said would “never appear on a Nintendo System”. Even stepping away from that, it’s clear that the game wears the controversy that surrounded its original release like some robe of state and that without the original drama it’s fairly questionable that it would have received a 25th anniversary re-release. Now, I know that it’s a title that has an unquestionably vast library of opinion pieces, critical breakdowns, and impact articles already associated with its name, but now that I’ve finally experienced the game myself, something that my eight year old self would have been super jealous of having seen those futuristic FMV graphics splashed across the pages of Mean Machines Sega, it’s a good moment to throw out my own views on the controversy surrounding it and how it actually stacks up as a game.
Night Trap is one of those titles where the events surrounding it are at least as (if not more so) interesting as the game itself. Graphics are mainly comprised of live action FMV video that is cut and changes depending on your actions as a player and represents that weird time when CD based games were young. With this new physical format developers were presented with a vast amount of storage space compared to the cartridges that they may have been used to, and like all new tech, they didn’t seem to quite know what to do with it. Thus games like ‘Night Trap’ were born, and for a brief instant were going to be the direction that all games were going; real actors in live action video where the player gently influences the actions in something more like an interactive movie than a traditional game. It was released on the MegaCD (or Sega CD), Sega’s CD drive add-on for that 16-bit blast-processing fuelled monster the Mega Drive (… sigh… or Genesis), in 1992 at arguably the height of Sega’s presence in the home console market on a system that was at the time one of the more widespread CD based platforms. This relatively high level of exposure to the general public arguably led to what happened next, but the twist is that this game was originally meant for a completely different (and more primitive) technology.
Continue reading “Night Trap: Awww Grrrrrrr…”
I get it, I really do. Hamster Corporation’s ‘Arcade Archives’ series is all about emulating some beloved and well known… along with some much less well known… arcade classics. Bringing the coin-op pleasures of yesteryear up to date with faithful console ports is indeed a laudable goal, it’s just that Konami’s early 90’s western run-n-gun, Sunset Riders, really deserved more.
It’s a game that I’ve been interested in since I borrowed the Mega Drive version for about a week from a neighbour at some point during the early 90’s. Being mostly a platform gamer I hadn’t ever really played many run-n-gun titles, let alone one that was as vibrant as Sunset Riders. That wild west town of the opening stage with its saloons, bandits popping up from every location and … bulls running through the streets?… drew me in to the extent that, despite never owning it, I’d often fire it up at times when I’ve indulged in a bit of sneaky 16-bit emulation over the years.
With all this in mind I was delighted to see it inconspicuously tucked away in the new releases section of the Nintendo Switch e-Shop under the Arcade Archives banner recently and barely paused before parting with the necessary funds to start it downloading. Continue reading “Sunset Riders: Deserves More than Arcade Archives”
A few weeks ago I caved and signed up for the ‘Switch Online’ service. Sitting in a PC gaming chair for the past few years has meant that I’ve never paid for an online console subscription so the concept was pretty foreign to me. What finally won me over was access to the virtual console NES & SNES games and the vague idea that I might try a few couch online games…
… what my wife and I have actually done is sink a chunk of time into Tetris 99. Or more accurately many many small chunks because Tetris 99 is one of those games that’s delightfully easy to pick up in a spare ten minutes. For anyone not familiar with the concept, Tetris 99 is a Battle Royale version of that iconic soviet puzzle game where 99 players battle it out to be the last one standing. Clearing rows is necessary, not only to keep you in the game, but it also sends those garbage rows (missing one square) to the bottom of a target’s board, pushing them closer to failure. The whole thing comes together to form a satisfying experience that I found, despite not really being much of a Tetris player, is very rewarding even if I’ve yet to claim a victory (4th place being my best performance at time of writing).
One of the cool things about Tetris 99 is that there are no instructions, which means that in order to discover the subtleties of the game (for example how back-to-backs or combos work) involves playing it lots or finding an online guide. This bring me neatly on to T-spins (which, if you’re like me and have only a passing knowledge of Tetris, you’re unlikely to have heard of). I was having a pretty good game. One thing that I did know about Tetris is that a ‘Tetris’ is the clearance of four lines with a single piece and represents the best move in the game… right? In Tetris 99 this sends 4 lines of garbage (not considering other bonuses) to your opponent and I’d had a solid number of them by the time I was finally wiped out. Curious to know how many I’d racked up I checked out my game stats. I noticed an entire stats section devoted to ‘T-Spins’… and was compelled to go away and find out what exactly a T-Spin is, and why I’d want to start filling those columns with numbers. Continue reading “Learning to T-Spin: ’89 to Tetris 99”
I haven’t played the recent reamake of Resident Evil 3… I probably will, but for now it’s not too high on my ‘to-play’ list. What I do know about it is that it looks visually stunning and gameplay reports have generally been good, but it is nonetheless still receiving a mixed response from the community. For me, the more action heavy focus has dampened my enthusiasm. What I have played recently is the REMake (AKA the Remake of ‘Resident Evil’ that was originally released for the Gamecube) in HD on Switch. It’s a game that I’ve played before, but a little while back it was on sale and I really just wanted to jump in to something familiar. Despite its age, the gradual journey through the Spencer estate has never looked so good and as a game it still holds up after all these years. It’s also one of the few remakes that’s almost unanimously considered to be an improvement over the original release. It almost seems as thought Capcom did the impossible with it, they took a classic, a genre-defining classic no-less, and only a few short years later remade it in to something better than the original outing, so maybe they could learn a few things from themselves in how to go about pulling this off. Continue reading “The REMake is the Pinnacle of Remakes, So Should Capcom Just Stop Doing Them?”
A few months ago, the fabulous Kim from Later Levels and I had made plans to meet up at March’s London Gaming Market. Being on a bit of a retro kick recently, but not having access to a rich vein of retro-gaming shopping where I live, she suggested the market as a place where I could enjoy some good o’ fashioned spending and judgement free revelling in my own retro tastes with the promise of giving in to some impulse purchases for items that were unnecessary, but nevertheless ‘necessary’. After chatting about me almost definitely giving in and buying yet another obscure port of a certain game, Kim hatched a fun retro-plan: We would set a price limit and during our market visit buy each other some obscure retro game to play; the weirder the better! (and bonus points if neither of us had even heard of it).
… and then, you-know-what happened and we both ended up cancelling our London travel plans… Continue reading “Realm of the Dead (PS2): A Random Game Encounter”
Way back in the pages of a physical print magazine some time during the 90’s are the few screenshots of ‘Doom 64’ that were my first knowledge of this game. Despite some more recent interest in the console, at the time when it was relevant I was fairly indifferent to Nintendo’s last big player in the bit-wars. Something about these screenshots stuck with me however; I’d played Doom on PC of course, but this… this looked so… different. Even without my recent exploration of the Doom back-catalogue, I think the grainy memory of those screenshots would have drawn me in to picking up the (very reasonably priced) ‘Doom 64’ re-master-release that appeared on the Switch store a couple of weeks ago. Eagerly I downloaded it on release day, desperate to step in to, what I recall being, some dramatically new and cutting edge re-imaginings of the Doom universe…
… before playing it for about 10-minutes and switching it off, having not been very impressed…
… the fact that I’m writing this kind of gives away the reality that I picked it back up a few days later to give it a better shot; even then I had to push through a certain amount of ‘meh’ before I began to enjoy it; Doom 64 hides its true colours behind a pretty lacklustre couple of opening levels. Continue reading “Doom 64: New Old Doom”
… the dropship touches down on Mars and you tentatively step out. That murky gantry over some deep chasm your first taste of this isolated research outpost. Up ahead two shady characters mutter and plot; they’re altogether too suspicious. Unbeknown to you the suspicious characters go and talk to an even more suspicious and sinister character whilst you make your way to a suspicious commanding officer and…
Oh heck, everyone you meet in this damn game is suspicious & sinister. Someone desperately needed to tell the writer in Doom 3 that writing tense dialogue doesn’t mean each character tries to out gravely voice the other and that if you make everyone sinister then it kind of loses its impact. Anywho, where was I in the plot synopsis…
You get sent off to investigate some missing workers and then one of the sinister people does a thing that releases… “Doom”… (I guess) which possesses most of the humans in the local area and starts spawning in demons. Sadly for the demons their spawning accuracy is a little off and many end up trapped in a tiny cupboard waiting for some hapless space marine to touch the pressure plate just outside the hidden door and set them free. From this point on you are playing chase the objective, being sent hiking across the Mars facility to meet up/find/stop any combination of some people/evil force/object. It’s one of those games where whenever you get it the place you were trying to get to, you find an empty room, or a dying person, who lets you know that you just missed the person/thing/entity you were looking for and they’re now on their way to some new location about 5 levels away. Ultimately you go to hell (because it’s a Doom game) and retrieve an object which helps you destroy all the demons.
… and if it sounds like my plot summary is a little thin on details I’d like to remind you that this is supposed to be a Doom game and plot really isn’t the reason that I picked it up; not that anyone told Doom 3 that. If you really want to know what’s happening then you’ll need to sift through the mountains of PDA’s that belonged to the crew reading though emails and listening to audio logs (most of which revolve around ‘strange goings on’ and ‘crew members behaving oddly’) to get hints as to the reasoning behind the path you’re inexorably being sent along. Whilst Doom 3’s plot might not be the reason it has had a mixed reception over the years, the very fact that it has a plot attempting to be more complicated than shoot demons could be indicative of some of the underlying difficulties it faced finding its identity. Continue reading “Doom 3: Hello Darkness My Old Friend…”
Following an exploration of the original Doom and John Romero’s unofficial fifth episode, Sigil, a couple of weeks ago, I still felt as though I hadn’t digested quite enough Doom. It seemed like just the right moment to pick up the sequel, Doom 2, and answer a few of my own questions that I had about it. Firstly, just how different is it from the original? and is it the better game?
Like many people, my first real experiences of Doom outside of the shareware release was of the sequel rather than the full version of the first game. Unlike its predecessor, Doom 2 had a retail release which meant that it was (especially in the UK) much more widely available and I remember a friend of my sister bringing it around and installing it on our shiny new 486 PC; which let’s face it, as an early 90’s tween was my only real route to getting my hands on it. Running around the crumbling ruins of ‘Hell on Earth’ and blasting those damned minions with god-mode and all weapons was the way that I took my Doom-latte back then. Armed now with the Switch port, I cranked the difficulty to a respectable ‘Hurt Me Plenty’ and left it on mortal-mode to eliminate Hell’s forces on Earth once and for all… or until the next time… Continue reading “Doom 2: More Gore, Less Focus”
Growing up, I played Doom… but I never really played Doom. Does that make sense? Am I making sense right now? Let me qualify that; I was too young to play Doom, I mean, of course I was too young for the violence, but the point is that I was also too young for what is effectively fast paced first-person dungeon crawling. The labyrinthine like quality to levels loaded with secrets were lost on me as I jabbed in IDDQD and IDKFA to activate god-mode, all weapons, and keys just to shoot monsters. As a result I tended to get bored pretty quickly; I’d missed the point.
I don’t know if YouTube’s algorithms extend to delving in to your childhood, but for some reason recently I’ve been recommended many videos that outline the subtleties of Doom in the form of decino’s breakdowns of different game elements (it’s like they’re trying to show me what I missed out on). Picking apart the code itself I’ve been learning about monster, powerup, weapon behaviour and, armed with this insight, decided to pick up the recent Switch port of the original game (now that many of the initial problems have been patched) to finally experience the game as it should have been played. Over the week that followed I ploughed through the original three episodes, and the fourth episode (Thy Flesh Consumed) that was added in at version 1.666; ‘The Ultimate Doom’. It turned out to be one of the better four pounds that I’ve ever spent on a game and in its current state I have no problems recommending it (aside from an annoying bug where the game freezes if you put the system in to sleep) as a solid port. Blasting through the legions of hell I found a new appreciation for ID’s classic, how they’d managed to produce something so visually impressive on the limited PC hardware of the early 90’s, the thought that had gone into the various ingame elements, but most of all how the level design brings the entire game together. Continue reading “John Romero’s Sigil: Iconic or Demonic?”