Saturday, 17 February 2018

150 SNES games reviewed: #3 The Combatribes (Revisited)

The Combatribes started off as an arcade game which came out in 1990. It was a beat ’em Up of the walk along variety released by Technos Japan. A lot of you might not have heard of The Combatribes, but most of you are far more likely to have heard of Renegade and Double Dragon. Technos made a game called Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun which Taito converted into the game we know as Renegade (basically by removing the Japanese related stuff and changing the theme of the game to one they thought would do better over here) Technos also made Double Dragon but again Taito distributed it over here. 
The Combatribes has a lot in common with these games, but you get the feeling that Technos had looked at some of its competitors and picked up a trick or two from them. When I first came across the arcade machine in a local pizza parlor I had no idea that it was in any way connected to the above games, what struck me was that it was in a nice big cab and it had three joysticks each one was for a different character. This is where it started to remind me of the likes of Final Fight a little bit.

You had the blue player Berserker, a blond-haired man in a blue outfit, he is very much your Mr Average, he has an even split between speed and strength, so in Final Fight terms I guess he is the Cody of the piece. Then there was Bullova, a black man in a yellow outfit who is all about strength but is also very slow. The third and final member of the team is Blitz, a long-haired man in a red outfit, who is weak but very fast. He is one of those characters who you’re supposed to get the first hit with and just keep peppering away at your enemy so quickly they don’t have the time to strike back.

I suppose this leaves me with two questions to address, one being now I have given you a little history how does the SNES game compare to the arcade machine, with the other being which is better, Final Fight or The Combatribes?
The SNES version of The Combatribes made a few changes to the game.  Some of them can be seen as attempts to add to the game, some can be seen as ways of getting around some of the machine’s limitations and then there are the usual Nintendo reasons.

The SNES version features story sequences before and after boss battles, as well as an opening intro explaining the plot. It also has a different ending. I think all of this is just basically an added layer of polish it’s nice but it’s not the important bit.

The gameplay itself remains more or less the same, In the arcade version the characters’ health was represented by a bunch of numbers. Here it is represented by the standard life bar method. In the SNES version, the stages are also simpler, there are also enemies missing and the final boss is different.  None of this is really going to matter though unless you’re a big fan of the arcade machine and played it enough to know every little piece of it.

A one-on-one versus mode has been added to the game in it you can perform standard one-on-one beat ’em up moves (Street Fighter II type-stuff fireballs and and the like with some characters). The game’s enemies and bosses can also be used in this mode. You gain passwords by playing the regular mode which you input here to unlock them. It’s no Street Fighter, the moves are a lot clunkier, and on its own I wouldn’t really rate it, but as a bonus mode a bit of knock around fun you’d have to be a bit of a Scrooge to complain about it.

The game was ‘cleaned up’ in lots of ways from its arcade counterpart. Blood splattering effects were removed. Blood was removed from cut screens and both characters and gangs were renamed to less violent names. I am also sure one of the bosses in the arcade had some sort of racist or taboo name but what it was exactly escapes my mind.

As for comparisons to Final Fight well the graphics are very different. The characters in The Combatribes are a lot smaller, the backgrounds are colorful and there’s a lot going on. The buildings look tiny but then you get to see a lot of them and a lot of neat flashing signs. The first thing people will pick up on is that The Combatribes can be played by two players, it also has all three of its arcade characters in its SNES port unlike Final Fight which only managed two of them. Both games have their selling points and I won’t take it further than that or I will give away so much of my opinion on Final Fight that my upcoming review of that will be pointless.

The control scheme of The Combatribes is simple, which means you can pick it up and play it in seconds, as far as beat ’em ups go though there is not a massive selection of moves. It also has a few issues with the fact some of the bosses can be a little bit unfairly difficult. It often seems like they can move faster than you and to put it simply at times they are incredibly cheap. So this game can be fun if you like this sort of game but it can also occasionally make you want to scream a little bit now and again.

Visually The Combatribes is a little bit mixed. I think the characters themselves look pretty darn good and are animated pretty well. The backgrounds are also quiet bright but a bit repetitive. The presentation is not too bad with nice little cut scenes.

So what about the game’s sound? Well the music in the game is pretty darn catchy and I think you could definitely claim it has its own original sound. The sound effects are also very well done.

Whether you like The Combatribes or not will depend on what kind of games you like. If you don’t like walk along beat ’em ups, well The Combatribes is not going to change your mind. If you love them then you will most likely eat this up. If you can forgive a game a few flaws and want to smash heads with a buddy then this game gets a reasonably hearty recommendation. There are far better walk along beat em ups on the system but there are also a heck of a lot worse games. I wouldn’t recommend this as the first and most important beat ’em up to grab but if you’re looking for one you haven’t tried before and you can find this then I would give it a bash.

I would score it six out of 10. If my memory is correct reviewers back in the day were a lot harsher some scored it as low as 30%. I think the highest I remember seeing it get was 65%. Maybe my opinion of it is a little more positive than others because playing it takes me back to a time in my life when I would go to the local one screen cinema, watch a film and then head to the takeaway pizza joint after to enjoy virtually kicking thugs in the head while a man made me and my buddies a takeaway pepperoni pizza – but that is one of the best things about retro games is it not? They all come from a time in the past and have all sorts of stories and histories connected to them.

From a little bit of research it looks like you would be lucky to get a cart of it for about £15. It never came out in Europe to my knowledge so you’d have to either get an US or Japanese copy, again meaning that you would need an import or modified machine or to have an import converter.

OK so I originally reviewed this about 4 years ago, so has my opinion changed much? Not really I still think this is an enjoyable but far from perfect game. Prices do seem to have changed though it actually seems harder to get an American copy of this game, your talking more £25 instead of £15, the cheapest copies I can find are Japanese cart only copies being posted from japan for £10 but there would probably be quiet a wait on these, there is certainly a lot of games you could get more easily for less so that needs taking into account when deciding if you want to purchase this game.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

SNES Review 139: Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

It is funny how you sometimes consider a game to be a SNES game or a Megadrive game or a playstation game not because it was exclusive to that machine but because thats just the machine you most associate with it. For me Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf was always a Megadrive game, I owned a SNES and an Amiga at the same time as I had my Megadrive but back in the day I never even realized you could get Desert Strike on anything other than the MegaDrive. Desert Stike came into my life because of one of my brothers, he brought it home one day and began playing it, at first I just watched him but eventually I started having a go at it myself. I have to admit that other than Thunderblade I hadn't actually played many games were you controlled a helicopter at least not any that automatically spring to mind so this made it stand out.  In fact helicopters were not something I had thought about much at all with my only real exposure to them being airwolf and Howling mad Murdoch flying one in the A team.

So Desert Strike is a military themed shoot 'em up released by Electronic Arts in 1992 originally for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis I think my brother must have gotten it pretty soon after its release because of my strong association between the game and this format. The truth of the matter though is that the game made it to all kinds of formats obviously the SNES as I am talking about it here, but it also made it to the , Amiga, MS-DOS, Mac OS, the Master System, the Lynx, the Game Gear, and the Game Boy.

The game is clearly inspired by the Gulf War and depicts a conflict between an insane Middle Eastern dictator, who despite having a made up name is obviously a stand in for Saddam Hussein and the United States. The game came out after the gulf War had ended but there is a certain degree to which this game kind of has an America F*** Yeah propaganda sort of feel to it and there actually was some small degree of controversy regarding the game's subject matter back in the day with some people criticizing it saying it was a little bit distasteful with its  release being so close to the end of the Gulf War. Looking at it now and thinking of the context of it all sort of makes me think of Team America but still even noting this as insensitive as it might seem of me I personally don't really care if the game is semi based on reality if its a fun game thats enough for me. As far as plot goes it doesn't extend much beyond where the good guys and we are going to stop a nut case dictator by destroying his weapons but really for this sort of game what more do you need?

OK so when your playing Desert Strike you control an AH-64 Apache helicopter and ''if there's one thing you can be sure of, it's that nothing is more powerful than an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns AND missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine.'' to paraphrase Patrick Stewart. Well you use this absolute death machine to go on missions which involve all manner of objectives such as destroying enemy weapons and installations, rescuing hostages and capture enemy personnel. While doing this you need to be mindful of your ammunition it is possible to run out of both shells for your cannons and rockets but you can find more and pick them up. When I described this as a shoot em up it might have brought all kinds of ideas to the brain of someone who has not played it, usually shoot em ups are fast and your either going up the screen or left to right but Desert Strike is not like this at all. There is less emphasis on quick moving and more on strategy. The action takes place on open, multi-directional scrolling levels viewed from an isometric perspective, your not forced to keep moving you can go towards enemies at your own pace and you can back up, strafe and even retreat, this makes it have more of a thinking edge to it. Do you fly in all weapons blazing or slowly strafe towards a target or even decide your not ready and go seeking extra missiles and ammo?

As previously mentioned the levels in the game consist of several missions, which are based around the destruction of enemy weapons and/or enemy installations, rescuing POWs, or capturing enemies. How you do this though is where your grey matter comes into the equation, you need to look at the map work out the direction you need to go in and then meet whatever enemies you find with the appropriate response, obviously you could fire a hydra missile at a stick man holding a pistol but then what are you going to do when you have used all of your missiles and your stuck trying to knock out an anti air missile defense with a low powered machine gun most likely your going to die. So given this some of the strategy comes in knowing which weapon to use when, which target to eliminate first, when to fight and when to run. Your Apache has a very limited amount of armor, which is depleted as the helicopter is hit by enemy fire, when the armor is gone well then its bang bye bye helicopter time. If this happens three times then its game over.You also have a finite amount of fuel which is steadily depleted over time. Should the fuel run out the Apache will crash, again bye bye helicopter. You can however refuel by collecting fuel barrels. This means that really you need to plan mission routes carefully in order to maximize fuel there is a lot of balancing you need to do making this more thought based than a lot of shooting games.

The game controls well if there is anything I would add it would be cross-hairs to show where your missiles and guns are pointing and likely to hit but I suppose this would lower the challenge really. The game is fairly short but is pretty high on challenge its not one for those who are easily frustrated due to the fact if you just go in guns blazing your armor is pretty shoddy and you'll soon find yourself facing a game over screen, slow and steady wins the race here. Its also not the best game for re-playability as once you have it done and dusted your probably not going to pick it up again for quiet a long time as outside of the main game theres nothing to help prolong your time with it (no multiplayer or score attack or anything). The graphics are simple but functional, everything looks as it should even if its not overly flashy. It all sort of looks like highly accurate military toys which is kind of cool. The same can be said for the sound its all very functional, you have your helicopter noise your missile and machine gun noises your crashing noise but if you want music then your sadly out of look as the game simply doesn't have any. I know music would potentially hurt the realism but I would have personally liked the option.

So what do I think of Desert Strike overall? I think its a pretty darn good game really, I wouldn't call it perfect and I do have some issues with it but for me I would call it a 7 out of 10. I did grab my megadrive version and have a quick go on it and maybe its just me but it actually seemed a little bit better on there, having checked though apparently the main developer much prefers the megadrive version so if you have both machines id look to the megadrive in this case. I spent £5 on an American SNES cart of this game and having a look the going rate seems to be around £10 for either a Pal or NTSC cart with boxed copies being more between the £25 to £35 price range, obviously these prices vary but this gives you a rough idea of what to expect.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tanglewood an upcoming new Sega Megadrive/Genesis game

Ok so early last month I talked about. Paprium the hopefully upcoming new Megadrive/Genesis walk along beat em up. This is not the only new Megadrive game thats headed our way in fact there is a new platformer coming called TangleWood.

Matt Phillips the creator of  Tanglewood, has been working on this new Sega Mega Drive, for a few years now. It was a kickstarter and it has like a lot of kickstarters missed its initial target date but unlike in other cases plenty of information has kept coming forward and it looks like it should be out sometime this year. Here is a link to its Kickstarter page so anyone interested can have a look Tanglewood Kickstarter: 

Having a look through all the various Kickstarter options £20 will get you a downloadable rom of the game that you can play on your Megadrive via an everdrive or through an emulator ecetera. Then you can get a real cart for £50 or a boxed copy for £60 (there were cheaper early bird deals but they are no longer available). There are also more expensive options for limited carts and such.

Matt Philips claims to have taken inspiration from the art and movement of games like Another World and The Lion King, with his aim being to create something like them from the ground up. Having looked at concept art, screenshots, videos, and having even played the prototype rom I can say that from what I have seen it looks like this will be a pretty good game. Its also interesting to note that this game has been made with proper megadrive development hardware, he has been using an original Mega CD development kit alongside a computer running Windows 95 to program the game.

Its also nice to see that he has thought everything through and has answers for how things are going to be made, apparently he has an agreement with a factory in China who will produce plastic Sega style cartridges for him, he also has a contact in Canada who is the engineer and proprietor of a company called DB Electronics making the PCB game circuit boards to go inside the plastic. Apparently this guy is an expert and will be making sure this PCB works just like a real MegaDrive game from back in the day. He also tried to approach Sega to get the game officially licensed which would have been really cool. Unfortunately, Sega apparently no longer has the resources in place to test and do quality assurance on a project of this nature, apparently though they were supportive and friendly. Matt Philips also has some time working for well known studios on games which have been released under his belt as do all of the other people he has gotten involved in the project so its not like one of those projects where someone says they are going to do something they have no hope of doing, theyve all basically done this before just on different formats with different funding methods (basically paid by a studio to do it on there behalf).

I do like to see projects like this especially when they seem to be so well thought out. I never do tend to support Kickstarters though as well I guess I am just cynical after having seen so many fail or not measure up in one way or another. I don't like to pay for things I will get in the future, heck I don't even preorder games even if there like triple AAA titles from studios that have no chance of bankruptcy etc, I tend to like to hand real cash over and get a product straight away or at worst pay on card and it be shipped out the following day. There is also the issue that I personally wouldnt know what to go for, I own a Everdrive so could just get the rom but then part of me says well you have over 200 megadrive carts so your not usually a just a rom guy but then there different because there old classics and this is a new thing. This aside though I really do hope that the project is a roaring success as the maker seems to have seen this as a sort of childhood dream and seems to have really poured his heart and soul into it. As a kid I always wanted to write a novel and I know how much it meant to me to finally have done that, so I guess this is his novel and I wish him the utmost success with it.

Monday, 12 February 2018

NEWS RANT: The Oxfam Situation and Peters been a bad wabbit.

Oxfam's deputy chief executive has resigned over the handling of a sex scandal involving aid workers. So whats all of this about in short well Oxfam (which is a British Charity for those reading this from other parts of the world) is accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into claims staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.

Penny Lawrence said she was "ashamed" and takes full responsibility. I personally don't think she should but we will get into that later. Part of Oxfams funding is gotten through donations but they actually get more money from the government. Oxfam which denies a cover-up has met with the International Development Secretary in a bid to prevent its government funding from being cut.

A million and one things have been said about this whole situation, apparently this was being investigated but kind of on the hush hush. The government is now wanting all of the gory details and from my point of view it is wanting Oxfam to get on its knees and beg which if you ask me is pretty rich when you look at some of the things politicians have been caught doing. It was only just before Christmas when seven Conservative MP's were facing various investigations one of which had allegedly acted inappropriately  towards a young activist, as well as having“extreme” pornography on one of his government computers. Add to this the fact we used to have a Prime Minister who apparently put his John Tomas in a dead pigs mouth and this feels like it is all a pointless witch hunt.

I have but two questions I want answered about this whole situation and those questions are who paid for the prostitutes, and did the people using them pay out of there own money or was government money or donation money used? If they paid themselves then hey thats there own business and I don't really want to hear about it. If they spend there time working in other countries helping other people get valuable aid then what they do in there free time is there own business.

I wouldnt personally pay to have sex with a prostitute but I dont feel I have the right to take the moral high ground and to tell people that they cant do that or to say I am better than someone who does, that would make me a judgmental asshole.

OK so thats not the only thing in the news I have felt the need to talk about I have also felt the need to talk about Peter Rabbit. The makers of the new film Peter Rabbit have apologized after facing a backlash over their depiction of a character's allergy. OK so obviously the Peter Rabbit film is based on the books of the same name. In the film there is a scene in which a character who suffers a blackberry allergy is pelted with them by a gang of bunnies. Now I need to admit I haven't seen the film yet but I know the character pelted is the son of the man who turned Peter's dad into a pie. So I am going to go out on a limb here and imagine that most likely he is the bad guy of the piece and if he is anything like his old man then he wants to turn the bunnies into a pie, so this pelting is most likely in self defense and also its in a film and being done by cartoon rabbits so its also incredibly fictional.

Well apparently campaigners condemned the scene and some Twitter users adopted the hashtag #boycottpeterrabbit. The charity Kids with Food Allergies Foundation said in a Facebook post "food allergy 'jokes' are harmful to our community". Well I don't have a food allergy so maybe I just don't get this whole thing, I do however have a whole heap of other issues all of which I am perfectly willing to take the piss out of. Yet apparently a petition calling on Sony Pictures to apologize also attracted thousands of signatures. OK so now even if someone wants to murder you and eat you then you cant take advantage of a medical condition they have to save your life because that would be wrong? It is getting to the point where you cant make a joke about anything in even the most gentle way without somebody trying there darn best to be offended by it.

When you get down to it both of these stories are about people choosing to be offended, they are getting all mad and getting there panties in a bunch, what they are actually wanting is to impose there will, they don't want anyone else to have the freedom to laugh at something they personally don't find funny or to do something they wouldn't do. Well as always I hope this gives you all something to think about.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

SNES Review 138: Fatal Fury 2 AKA Garou Densetsu 2

OK so quiet a long time ago I reviewed Fatal Fury and at the time I said that Fatal Fury 2 and Fatal Fury special also hit the SNES but I wouldn't be reviewing them as I didn't own them, well guess what since then I got Japanese cartridge copies of both games. So here I am now about to review Fatal Fury 2 AKA Garou Densetsu 2.

OK so first lets put things in to a little bit of perspective. The original Fatal Fury 2 was a head-to-head fighting game released by SNK for the Neo Geo arcade and home platforms originally coming out at the end of 1992 (Early 1993 in the home). The first Fatal Fury came out at the end of 1991 so its sequel only came out one year later, but what a difference a year can make. The original Neo game was 55Megs with its sequel being the second game in SNK's 100-Mega Shock series making its cartridge almost twice as big (Apparently it was 106Megs). Looking at the size of Roms for Fatal Fury and Fatal Fury 2 on the SNES the first is 1.0MB and the second is 1.9mb So once again the second game is nearly double the size of its predecessor but I think its obvious that both of these games are very cut down versions of there Neo Geo counterparts. This doesn't make them bad games though as if you look at it a lot of the games we got in the home back in the old days be they on home computer or console were cut down versions of arcade hits it was all about how could you best cut a game down so that it would run on home hardware without cutting the life and soul out of the game. 

With the first Fatal Fury I said that the main problem with the SNES version laid with the conversion that unlike with the SNES version of Street Fighter 2 it was just to far removed from its arcade counterpart.  Well the SNES version of Fatal Fury 2 was made by Takara the same people who made the SNES version of the original but hold on its not as bad as it sounds.

One of the main things I found annoying about the original Fatal Fury was that if you played the arcade mode you only actually had a choice of three different characters to play it with, in this sequel you have a choice of eight this includes the three from the first game but also five others. After defeating all eight playable characters in the single player story mode (including a clone of the person you picked), you then face four bosses much like the original street fighter 2. This was true in the Neo version and its also true in the snes version.

OK as basically most fighting games live or die by there character rosters I think its about time I talked about the guys on offer here starting with those who are Playable fighters in the main game mode.

Terry Bogard - an American street fighting champion from a place called Southtown. Terry is somewhat cocky. For those into there street fighter 2 you can consider this guy here to be the Ken type of character. Although in all fairness he feels like a character in his own right not like a street fighter 2 rip off cut and paste job.

Andy Bogard - Terry's younger brother who fights using ninjutsu. He might be younger but he is far more disciplined and serious he is kind of a Ryu to Terry's Ken. 

Joe Higashi - the Bogards brothers friend and also a Muay Thai champion. Imagine if your in to your street fighter 2 a small faster Sagat (Street fighter actually got a character more like that later)

Big Bear - an Australian wrestler formerly known as Raiden (as he was called in the original Fatal Fury). It is pretty easy to see he is based on the real life wrestler Big Van Vader. He is your slow hard hitting guy basically.

Jubei Yamada - an elderly Japanese judo master once known as "Yamada the Demon" during his youth. Having grown up on a lot of old Kung Fu type films this guy basically reminds me of your 'Old Master' type figure.

Cheng Sinzan - an tubby master of taiji from Hong Kong seeking to open his own training hall. This guy is probably my least favorite character in the game.

Kim Kaphwan - a Taekwondo master from Korea. This guy is kind of interesting as his offense is pretty much all kick based, it actually works out a lot better than it sounds and I find him quiet an interesting character.

Mai Shiranui - she is the daughter of the head a ninja clan and Andy Bogards's love interest. Also the games token chick fighter basically.

The Boss characters are

Billy Kane - a staff-fighting master from the UK. Now I actually like that we have a Character from the UK in this game especially seeing as thats where I am from.I am not so keen on the fact he was apparently designed to look like the Dynamite Kid an English wrestler who to put it mildly is a bit of an ass but none the less I think he is a pretty cool character both in looks and in his fighting style.

Axel Hawk - a retired heavyweight boxing champion who quit to maintaining his health until he was hired by this games boss to be a sub boss. He is based on former heavyweight champion George Foreman which I think is kind of interesting seeing as Street Fighter 2 had a character based on Iron Mike Tyson.

Laurence Blood - a former matador who uses a fighting style based on a mix of bull fighting and fencing. His matador look is intresting and he certainly stand out.

The main boss is a guy called Wolfgang Krauser - a German nobleman seeking to defeat the men responsible for Geese's downfall. I don't really like the design of this character in all honest I do however like his fighting style its a mix between the German martial art named Kampfringen, the ancient Greek fighting style of Pankration and a bit of wrestling thrown in on top.

The game has very nice colorful graphics, I think all of the above characters are represented well both in how they look and how they move, I also have to say that I am very fond of both the games backgrounds and the tunes in it.

Now on to the bit that matters the most the Gamplay. The original Neo Geo Fatal Fury allowed you to jump between two different planes on the screen to avoid attacks but this was missing in its SNES conversion, this is in the SNES version of Fatal Fury 2 however and I think it really does help this game stand apart from other one on one beat em ups. Other than the ability to change the plane your standing on the gameplay here follows the usual formula of one on one fighting games from this time period, with you playing against the computer in a best two-out-of-three contest. Each of the characters in the game has their own special attacks that are performed by inputting specific commands and combinations many of them being the same sort of motions you would find in street fighter 2 but unlike the first Fatal Fury where they were an absolute pig to pull off here they are with a little practice pretty straight forward. For me this game is a huge improvement over its predecessor, more selectable characters to play through the game in one player, more tactical options and better control just makes the whole thing feel like quiet a big jump forward.

I do think that the game is a little limited as a one player game, but that is something that can be said about most one on one fighting games hey at least there are 8 diffrent characters to try and complete the game with which should keep you coming back to it for a bit. Where this game really excels though is when played with friends, with all of its bright and different characters it has a great roster for multiplayer. This game works at its best when there are a bunch of you and you all sit round and see who is the best maybe with a bit of a winner stays on tournament.

I find myself giving this game an 8 out of 10, yes that is the same mark I gave the original Street Fighter 2 the world warrior and I think thats rather fair because while the first Fatal Fury was lacking and looked a bit like a poor cousin this game is more of a serious contender. If you like your fighting games and want to give the Fatal Fury series a go on your SNES then just skip the first one in total honesty as its sequel is just more of the same but with a whole heap of extra polish. If you want this game well I spent £3.50 getting a Japanese Cartridge of this game, which is a decent price looking online its not hard to get a Japanese cart for around the £5 mark, if you want a pal cart though your talking more around the £35 figure which I think is far too much when you start looking at that kind of figure you should probably look into a download version or a compilation. There was a PS2 fatal fury collection with 4 Fatal Fury games on it for example, or you could look on some of the modern download services where you could get a download of the original Neo Geo version of the game for probably £6 to £8 less if you happen to find it on sale.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

SNES REVIEW 2: Ka-blooey aka Bombuzal (Revisited)

The game I am reviewing today (18 August 2014) was originally called Bombuzal and was made by a company called Image Works.

It was originally released for the Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64 but in 1990 they brought out a SNES version. For a reason unknown to me the US version which is the one I own was retitled Ka-Blooey. I don’t have any opinion if one title is better or not and as I never played this as a kid there is not a name I am more used to.

Image Works didn’t usually make games. They were usually known for being publishers. They published around 40 games and only made about four games themselves, and this is the only one which made its way to the SNES. So this is the last time I will be mentioning them in this series. Strangely enough despite being mostly known for publishing games they didn’t actually publish this on the SNES. This game was in fact published by Kemco, whose name is an abbreviation of Kotobuki Engineering & Manufacturing Co. They were a Japanese video game developer and publisher established in 1984. Kemco is probably best known by SNES owners as the publisher of the Top Gear series but that’s a story for another day.

The whole idea of Ka-Blooey is to try to set off every bomb on a level without killing yourself. At first this seems a little easy – you step up to a bomb, you hold a button, a countdown starts and then you move out of the way just before detonation. I know this sounds very simplistic but think about most good puzzle games. Tetris is just a game where you spin blocks around and form lines and yet that was probably one of the most popular puzzle games ever wasn’t it? Yes, the game starts off very simplistic but more or less every level something new is thrown in to the mix, and new problems are presented for you to try and overcome by using your grey matter to formulate a plan using everything you have learned up to this point.

There are apparently more than 130 levels and they get more and more challenging as you go. The graphics at the time were trying to be all 3D and cool, your sprite is large and has quite a bit of characterisation but in this regard the game hasn’t aged well. The water for example is just made up of blue rectangles. Sure everything is functional and easy to see so you can never blame the graphics for your failure so at least it has that going for it. The music can best be described as what elevator music must sound like to a man on acid. Add to this the fact that there are only something like five actual in game sounds – a teleporter sound; an explosion sound; a sliding sound; a dying sound; and a voice saying ”get ready”. The game is far from being either an audio or visual treat.
If you’re into games with a story then it is important to note this game has literally no plot at all. Sure a lot of great puzzle games don’t have plots but with this game having a central character you look at I do think a tiny bit of a story would help push you to make your way through the levels.

As you get further you will see that there are different kinds of bombs and you need to get used to how they blow up, how you can use this to your advantage and how to make sure you don’t end up blowing yourself up. On later levels there are enemies such as boulders and some weird looking things (I have no idea what they are actually supposed to be) which go around and which you need to blow up. There are also obstacles like ice blocks that make you slide and cracked blocks that fall after you walk over them and hard blocks that can’t be blown up.

The game controls OK, but it moves very slowly which doesn’t work in its favour. I never once found myself being particularly excited by it. At times you felt smart for working a problem out, but really from my perspective there was far more grind than there was enjoyment and that’s not the sign of a good game.

If I am to be totally honest I rate the game smack down the middle five out of 10. If you want to buy retro games there are a lot of better games out there to spend your money on.

It’s a functional puzzle game which both frustrates and rewards but at the end of the day it is deeply forgettable. I think I would have been a lot happier if I had played this game back on the Commodore 64 or the Amiga as it probably would have been a reasonably cheap game but if I had paid the price of a standard SNES game for this at launch I would have felt pretty darn annoyed.

As far as I can tell this game never got a PAL release, so if you want to play it then you’re going to have to buy an American Ka-Blooey or a Japanese Bombuzal cart. There is no real need to read anything for this game so either would probably be fine as long as you have either an import machine, a modified machine or a convertor. The price for this game cart only seems to be around £7 to £10. I got mine years ago when I was in Canada in what can best be described as a giant charity store for about CAN$3 after tax was added (they add tax at the till on top of the price you see on the shelf/tag, unlike ours which is included in the price you see).

Thursday, 8 February 2018

SNES Review 137: Toy Story

OK so its back to a Disney game again. I am going to be reviewing Toy Story  on the SNES. So Toy Story is a side-scrolling platform game which was released by Disney Interactive Studios in 1995. The game came out for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, the Nintendo Game Boy, Microsoft Windows and of course the Super Nintendo Entertainment System which is obviously the one I am going to be talking about.

The game might have been released by Disney Interactive Studios but it was actually made by Traveller's Tales, who are a British video game developer which was founded in 1989. Most people will probably know Travellers Tales for there  more recent games in particular there Lego games especially the Lego Starwars games. Travellers Tales still essentially exists it was purchased for an undisclosed amount on the 8th of November 2007 by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.

Toy Story was a pretty important film really when you stop and think about it, after all it was the film which brought about a new age of 3D animation, it was also to a certain extent the start of the end for Disney’s traditionally animated films. This is not the first time I have talked about Pixar in relation to games strangely that would be Unirally/Uniracer but this is the first time I am talking about a game which was at least to some degree trying to bring the official Pixar experience to a home console to decide whether it succeeds or not I guess one would have to define what Pixar as a studio really stands for, what makes its films different to others and does the game live up to this in any way shape or form?

Toy Story follows the basic plot of the movie, yes it doesn't follow it to the letter but if you have seen the film then you will basically know whats going on.  Most of the time you control Woody the cowboy who controls pretty much like you would expect for a typical platformer, the direction pad controls what direction your going in and then you can jump around and you can use Woody's lasso. I have to give the game credit for the fact that it is mixes things up a bit. There are the standard platforming stages where the idea is the usual leap over this and that avoid taking too much damage and reach the levels end. Then you get stages which can best be described as sort of scavenger hunts where you have to search for toys or other items. Then there are also chase stages and boss battles so you could say things remain pretty varied which can if handled correctly can help to make games like this remain fun for longer.

The standard platform stages suffer though from being formulaic,yes they tick a lot of the boxes decent controls, graphics which look quiet a lot like the source material but there is no real defining attribute to them that you wouldn't find elsewhere. Woody's platformer stages never introduce anything new to the game but I guess the developers felt that they didnt have to do anything much with them because they went to a lot of trouble to break them up with other different game types. For instant you have one stage which requires you to drive the RC car through a maze of toys that cannot be hit. The problem is that its a complete pain in the behind to control, if you have played something like micro machines on the megadrive or super skid marks or powerdrive then you know that driving with this sort of view point can be done a lot better. Then you get to ride on Rex the dinosaur in a scrolling from left to right chase sequence which sounds thrilling but its not really, this kind of thing has been done so much better in other games. I think a lot of effort went into keeping the game varied so as to try and prevent people from getting bored and I need to make special mention of a 3D Doom/Wolfenstein bit where you move around as Woody in a first person view which I thought was pretty cool and not something I expected to see in a Disney based game. The bad side is that the whole game can be done and dusted by a decent player in under an hour and you feel very little need to come back to it.

Thats the thing about the Film Toy Story its a timeless piece of entertainment in my oppinion it is about  fundamental things, it's about jealousy about how to deal with your own sense of insecurity at your place in the world, at how you exist in various social circles and how the introduction of a new person can alter a group dynamic but its also wrapped up in just good honest fun. I don't think this game really stands for anything other than an inevitable law of the 90's if Disney make a film that wracks in the dollar dollar then they will have someone make a game of it. I am not saying that its a bad game I am just saying that its a very forgettable game, something that you will pick up play and then soon forget. This is what makes games like Super Mario World truly special you play them and they grab a hold of you and take up a place in your life

I would give toy story a 6 out of 10, it is a decent enjoyable but ultimately forgettable game, you can get a cart of it for about £10 which if your looking for a decent platformer you could do a lot worse, but you could also do a lot better. Despite receiving mixed reviews back in the day apparently the game did well  but an interesting bit of trivia to note is that there was a lot less copies of the SNES version made apparently due to a Super NES chip shortage which prevented them from producing as many copies as they would have liked to.