Archive for May, 2008

The Lost Vikings

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

So say you have some vikings, one that can run real fast, one that is good with a sword and a bow, and one that’s tough and has a shield. Let’s then suppose that said vikings get kidnapped by aliens for some kind of experiment or other. Then we can further suppose that the experimentees get rowdy, like vikings occasionally do, and begin to plot their escape. Once we have all of that down we have a game called The Lost Vikings.

So you have to take all three of your viking buddies through the various rooms in the spaceship, all filled with lots of forms of insta-death, and use their unique abilities to proceed. You can and must switch between the three guys at will to try and maneuver your way around the dangers. Olaf, the one with the shield, can block things or use his shield as a stepping stone for the other guys. Erik, the skinny one, can run real fast, jump real far, and crash headlong into things and break them. And Baleog, the other one, can pretty much just run around and kill things. Of course, the real fun is trying to use their abilities in unorthodox ways, which is actually required to make progress in this brain-bending game.

I thought that this game looked pretty good when I saw it in the game magazines at the time. But what I guess I didn’t know was that you have to control all three of the boogers at roughly the same time and all three of them must survive every level. Which wouldn’t be too bad, except that if you make a misstep (i.e. get one of the vikings killed off in some hilariously tragic fashion) then the level becomes unsolvable. You do get unlimited continues to mitigate this somewhat, and I needed every one of them.

Unfortunately, I only had this game for one evening on a rental, which is not nearly enough time to get intimately familiar with the sort of arcane dance routine you have to do precisely in each level to win. I only managed to get through the first few stages before I gave in. And by ‘gave in’ I mean ‘took the game back to the rental store’.

Some time not too long ago, Blizzard rereleased this game for the Game Boy Advance, and put up a demo of the game here, which you can check out if you want to get a taste of sweet viking action.

Cruis’n USA

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Racing games where you race around some kind of track with some realistic-handling cars are just kind of boring to me, so I tend to play the more… eccentric racers, if I play them at all.

Cruis’n USA takes you driving the car of your choice down your choice of highways/streets against a slew of other cars and trying to get to the goal. The thing is, though, that the places that you go through are only kind of like the real-life places in the USA. But that’s fine. You get to go real fast down almost-real streets in an indestructible car, which is a lot different than I can do in real life.

One of the cool things about this game is that when you finish the race in first place you get to keep going, until you finish your cross-country tour, I guess. I played this game in my local arcades quite a bit, but was never quite able to get more than a few races under my belt until I stopped coming in first. And then the game starts to cost a whole lot more (a dollar for about 2 minutes of game time or about $30 per hour, ouch!). So I’d usually play this one to warm up my arcade muscles before I moved on to something a little more interesting.

Castlevania: The Adventure

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I’ve really liked most of the games in the Castlevania series, with the odd exception. So when I found out that the series was making its way to the Game Boy, my then pet gaming system, I immediately wanted it. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually have anything resembling an income at the time, so I had to wait until it made its way to my local used video game store, and then get it there for a pittance.

I don’t really know much about the story, other than Dracula has once again gone from being dead to not being dead, and you have to take the Belmont du jour to go and try to kill him again.

I’ve grown accustomed to Belmonts not being the most nimble folks in the world, but the Belmont in this game just seems, I don’t know, more plodding than most. He can barely run and jump, which is kind of a problem since there are several gigantic enemies that you have to try and avoid. And you’ll be able to, but only just, and only with pinpoint timing.

One of the things that’s kind of hard to convey in videos and screenshots is that the original GBA had a really smeary screen, which isn’t really that big of a problem until you have reasonably-detailed backgrounds like you do in this game. Then it becomes a big problem when you start to scroll the screen to the left and to the right and all of the backgrounds begin to blur so bad that they obscure absolutely everything on the screen, goodies, enemies, platforms, and everything. Then it gets real hard to figure out where you are, where the enemies are, and where the edges of bottomless pits are. Combine all three of those things and you have the makings of a fairly frustrating game. And, as a result of that, I never really made it much past stage 2 (out of 4!) before I decided to take it right back to the store I got it from.

Sonic Shuffle

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

I bought Crazy Taxi before I had a Dreamcast. And when I finally got my hands on the system, right before it was discontinued, it came with two (yes, two!) pack-in games: Sonic Adventure and Sonic Shuffle.

Sonic Shuffle is a rip… er… clone of Mario Party. You take your characters around various game boards and play mini-games to earn currency, and whoever gets the most wins! Only instead of Mario and Friends it’s Sonic and Friends, and instead of collecting coins you collect rings, and instead of being fun and exciting the game is boring and tedious.

I could only stomach playing this game one half of a time. I tossed it in the old Dreamcast mostly because it was free and I was hungry for something new to play. And it just didn’t do anything for me. All I could think of was how similar this game was to Mario Party, all the way down to the sound effects and the effects of the different spaces. And since I had already played that game to death I was just kind of done with the experience. And I kind of wonder, would I have liked this game better if I hadn’t already spent several dozen hours with a game that was mostly identical?

Mario Party

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Since the Nintendo 64 has four controller ports on it, it makes sense that you would eventually get some games that would make use of them all. And since I didn’t actually own Goldeneye, the first four-player game that I would spend any significant time with would turn out to be Mario Party.

Mario Party is a series of mini-games tied together by a overarching board game of sorts. See, you and three players take turns rolling a die and walking around the board. After all four players have moved they all go to play a mini game where coins are the prize. You use the coins to buy Stars, which are the main currency of the game. Whoever has the most stars at the end of the game is the Superstar, a.k.a. the Winner. There’s a little more to it than that, but you get the idea.

This game isn’t actually all that fun unless you’re playing with at least one other person, and each person you add bumps up how much fun you can have. There’s just nothing like having a close match between real, actual people. Especially when you steal their coins and stars at the last minute to win. Mwahaha!

Some of the mini games require you to rotate the control stick as fast as you can. Which sounds good in theory, but it quickly becomes apparent that the best way to do that is to mash your palm down on the stick and rotate it quickly around. This leads to two things: severely worn out/broken controllers and wearing a hole into the palm of your hand.

I played this game a whole lot, and although I never actually injured myself playing this game, I guess a lot of people did. Enough that Nintendo had to settle a lawsuit and give out some padded gloves to people who just couldn’t, you know, take a break now and again.

Puyo Pop Fever

Monday, May 26th, 2008

When I was first playing Kirby’s Avalanche I had no idea that it was based on a game called Puyo Pop. Or, more accurately, that it was the same game as Puyo Puyo but with the characters replaced with characters from the Kirby universe.

A few years later, when I got my hands on a DS, I saw a video review on XPlay that told me that a new Puyo Puyo game had come out that I had somehow missed completely. That is the only time I can remember that as soon as the review ended that I went immediately to the store to get the game.

This game is nearly identical to the old Avalanche game: colored blobs fall from the sky and you have arrange them such that four of the same color touch each other. Once they do they disappear, and with careful planning you can shower your opponents with trash to try and impede their progress. But this game also has been balanced a fair bit.

See, in the old game, it was the one who could make the biggest chain the fastest that would win. They’d bury their opponent with garbage, and there was precious little to do about it. In this game, though, you can do what’s called ‘offsetting’. What that means is that if your opponent sends you some garbage and you can make a chain before the garbage drops on your screen, then you reduce the amount of garbage that will fall on your screen, and if you offset enough to offset all of the garbage and then some, the difference is dumped on your opponent’s screen. It’s a significant change, and one that makes the game just work better.

There’s also the introduction of ‘fever’ mode. If you offset garbage enough times you get to go into a special mode where your puzzle is temporarily replaced by a series of pre-built chains awaiting for you to trigger it, giving you a chance to send a ridiculous amount of trash to your opponent. But just getting there is contingent on your opponent sending you trash in the first place, so you have to work a bit harder to bury your opponent.

One of the other things I really liked about this game is that you can play up to eight players with one copy of the game, which I liked to do a whole lot… even though I don’t know seven other people with DS units that I could get into the same room at the same time and who I could convince to play it with me.

But I have the option available to me, should that particular set of circumstances ever present itself.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

At some point before the GameCube came out there was a promotional video that showed some stuff that the system would be capable of doing. One of the scenes in the video showed a fight between Link and Ganon from the Legend of Zelda series. It looked pretty good for a demo.

Then, when rumblings of a new Zelda game being in development surfaced, lots of folks (me included) just kind of assumed that the super-awesome scene that we saw in the demo movie is going to be what the final game would look at. Turns out that we were all kind of wrong. Kind of very wrong.

The game, it turns out, was going to be cel-shaded, and what that meant was that everything in the game was going to look like a cartoon, and what that meant is that a lot of folks were completely thrown for a loop. In fact, the visual look of the game is really polarizing to fans of the series. I kind of got the impression that a lot of people thought they were ‘lied to’ when they saw that the game that they were getting wasn’t going to be the game they thought they were getting. But, I didn’t really mind too much.

I knew the game was going to be, beyond anything else, a Zelda game, and they hadn’t really let me down up to that point. And the graphics, I gave them a fair chance, and they did a pretty good job. The game looks good, cel-shaded or no.

The game takes place sometime after the events in Ocarina of Time, and somehow the world has become flooded. One day Link’s sister gets kidnapped by a big bird and Link has to go rescue her, and then save the world (natch).

Really, though, what you do is run to the bottom of a dungeon, collect the treasure inside, then try and find the next dungeon to do the same thing, but here’s the thing. The world is flooded completely, and all that’s left is a bunch of islands, which were mountaintops. The world is absolutely huge, and the islands are not. But you have to use your little skiff and sail around until you find the right island.

But that’s not all!

Late in thegame you have to find these shards of the Triforce. The problem is that they are literally hidden everywhere. You do get maps telling you the vicinities you have to search in, so you get to do a ton of sailing and a lot of plumbing the depths of the ocean. Kind of tedious, I’ll grant you that.

But the rest of the game was really good. My metric being that the game felt really short. Other than the sailing there was nothing about this game I didn’t like. Except for maybe the sidequest where you are tasked with taking pictures of enemies in the game to create statues. But, since that was optional, we won’t count that. I’d even go so far as to say that I liked this game better than the Wii offering.

Giga Wing

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Last night I had the opportunity to play Giga Wing. It’s one of those games where you take a very-destructible flying machine and move inexorably forward to deal with hundreds upon hundreds of enemy ships. Pretty standard stuff, really. But, pretty quickly, two things really stand out about this game.

First, the enemies somehow shoot lots and lots of instantly-fatal bullets, so many that the screen is often completely full of Hot Flaming Death(tm). But to mitigate that, you can charge up and occasionally use a ‘reflector’ shield that will bounce the bullets back in the general direction of the enemies, and will turn into collectibles.

The collectibles are the second thing to note. Each time you get one of the gold-colored collectible junkets, your ‘bonus multiplier’ goes up, which increases the rate that your score goes up (natch). The thing is, though, that there are so many items that increase your multiplier so fast that your score is going to get up to a ridiculous level really fast. My first time playing it, I had scored over 2,100,000,000 points. And Wikipedia says that the all-time high score at this game is 291,252,468,839,040 points, which I think I could buy.

Given enough credits at this game, it’s not too tough to get to the end. The game’s actually kind of short. But you need to memorize most of this game and have extremely-finely-honed reflexes to beat it with any kind of panache. Which you’ll certainly need to have if you want to fight the ‘real last boss’ see the ‘real ending’. It turns out that to do both of those things you have to finish the game with one credit. One! I think I have a better chance spontaneously becoming fluent in Esperanto.

The 3-D Battles of Worldrunner

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I’m not actually sure what to make of 3-D Worldrunner. It’s a little game made by Squaresoft before they got into the whole super-complicated RPG thing, but it’s nothing like those games… other than it’s completely inexplicable.

What I do know is that you take control of some guy clad in green who is inexplicably driven forward and must overcome obstacles to reach the boss of the planet. Once there he somehow gains the ability to fly and shoot fireballs. Beat the boss and it’s off to the next planet.

The cool thing, though, is that this game is presented in this quasi-3D perspective, and you’re always running toward the horizon. The only things you can really do are crash into things, jump, and, if you grab the magic potion, shoot fireballs. But, primarily it’s the jumping around and trying to figure out how to use your fantastic leaping ability to cross ridiculously huge chasms.

The other fantastically awesome thing about this game is that it used red/blue separation to make the image appear in actual 3D. On the original NES! And although my copy was used and didn’t come with a box or a manual or a little plastic dust cover, it did come with a pair of glasses. But, I couldn’t actually ever get the colors on my ancient console television to match the colors of the tinted film in the glasses, so it just made the game look kind of fuzzy.

Okay, so that part wasn’t as exciting as it could have been.


Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

The folks behind Bookworm also make lots of games that are fairly obviously clones of other games. And, while I would prefer that companies take chances and make games based on new ideas, I can appreciate the need to create a game that folks might already be familiar with to bolster sales. Making games is a business, after all.

Zuma is a pretty apparent copy of Puzz Loop, even to an untrained eye. But, since I don’t have any experience playing Puzz Loop, I guess my experience with Zuma will have to do.

Zuma has you taking control of this stone frog-thing at the end of a circuitous track that begins somewhere offscreen. A line of marbles comes down this track toward the frog, and if they collide with it, it’s game over. But, the frog also has the ability to shoot more marbles at the ones coming down the track. By matching enough of the same color they disappear, and if you make them all disappear, then you win the level and get to move on to the next, where everything moves a little faster.

I only played this game a couple of times on someone else’s dime and I really wasn’t all that impressed by it. It might be because the game starts out so slow and takes a ridiculous amount of time to get to the Good Stuff(tm). Or it might be that I didn’t think that the XBox 360 controller was particularly well-suited to play a game like this (a paddle controller would be awesome). But I really think I didn’t get a lot of mileage out of this game because it never ‘clicked’ with me. Lots of puzzle games are simple, but they have to tickle that special part of my brain that makes repetitive motions fun, and this one didn’t quite reach it.