Saturday, September 28, 2013

#68: Kablooey

I didn't know what to expect when I saw the next game was called Kablooey. Platformer? Shooter maybe? I was not expecting a puzzle game, but that's what I got. One with very low definition graphics if the title screen is any indication!
Game Instructions!
The game opened with an instruction screen which is something more games could use. Unfortunately the instructions were in a box that can show 19 characters at a time. Less than 1/7th of a tweet! It slowly scrolled sideways and took about 10 minutes to finish off. I almost fell asleep during it. Perhaps even worse, it didn't tell me what the buttons did, or how to explode bombs. It told me what the different tiles would do and that was about it. So despite 10 minutes of instructions I still didn't know how to play!

Graphics didn't get any better...
It turned out I had 2 buttons which were each duplicated twice so it seemed like I had 4 buttons but it was all a lie. One of the buttons let me pick up a bomb but I couldn't figure out why that mattered. (It turned out there were little trenches you could drag bombs along on later levels, so it didn't matter on the first stage where I was trying to figure out the controls. Terrible game design, that.) The other button started a detonation timer... Hold it down for 3 seconds on a bomb to prime the bomb for an explosion. Then I had a brief window of time to run one square away before the bomb exploded.

Explosions would chain, and bigger bombs had bigger explosions. You could still only run away one space, so manually detonating a big bomb was suicide. So the goal was to figure out the order to explode the bombs and the chains you wanted to have happen. I like puzzle games, and these puzzles were fairly interesting.

Unfortunately the interface was terrible. You died if you walked off the cliff, or got exploded. You'll note the board is set up with diagonal movement while the SNES controller is up/down and left/right. So sometimes I'd just walk off the cliff for no reason. Movement was also painfully slow, and the whole 'hold the button down for 3 seconds and then run' mechanic didn't seem to serve any purpose at all. Push a button to tag a bomb to explode when you walk off would seem to be a better interface. That way I wouldn't accidentally kill myself by mistiming things, which did happen. It also took forever to reload after a mistake.

On the plus side, it had actual speech to introduce the levels. Just 'Player One, Get Ready' in a very robotic female voice, but still pretty good for an SNES game. Minus points for being player one get ready instead of ready player one, though.

So while I like the idea of the game, and could see playing it as a browser game or something, the SNES game was painful to play.

Rating: D-

Saturday, September 21, 2013

#67: Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

Warrior or Worrier?
I will admit to being very surprised when I went to load up this game. Apparently there are 11 different Street Fighter II roms that were in the download pack I found when I started this little adventure. I played a fair amount of SNES SFII way back in the day, but I think it was mostly on the Turbo edition.
Uh, Gief? I don't think that's appropriate touching.
I kicked things off with my favourite character, Zangief! The gigantic bear wrestling dude from Russia. I do recall that some versions of the game have a terrible Gief, and some versions have a truly terribly Gief. And one version had an absurd Gief where his spin made him fly and he'd wrap around the top of the screen back to the bottom. This version has a truly terrible Gief. He doesn't move at all when he spins and he has no other move. A bunch of throws, which are impossible to use on a smart opponent. The AI did not start smart, so I got to murder them with Gief. Then they stopped being bad and I couldn't win.
I beat a few people with Ken, and then got stuck on Mike Tyson Balrog. Eventually I decided to pull out the big guns and use the cheating fat man on him. Cheating fat man doesn't really get to cheat in this version (Honda is rooting when using his hundred hand punch) but just standing still with it up was good enough. Balrog had no way to attack me through it, and eventually got bored and threw himself into the hands. Over and over until I won.

Then Vega blew me up and I got bored and quit. Street Fighter is still a great game, regardless. Better against a human instead of just the AI, but still fun.

Rating: B+

Saturday, September 14, 2013

#66: Spanky's Quest

Wait... Spanky is a... monkey? Really?
I had never heard of this Spanky fellow or his epic quest before I started playing the game today. I still know nothing about his quest and next to nothing about Spanky himself. Any story exposition for this game must have taken place in the manual. There was a very confusing intro sequence that explained nothing and then I was thrust into a quasi-platformer, quasi-puzzle game. I take the role of Spanky the monkey and my only weapon is a little purple bubble. Hit the attack button, launch the bubble. Hit the attack button again and the bubble will burst, turning into a tiny baseball which kills any enemies it hits. Some enemies have keys. Collect the keys, get to the exit. Repeat.

Look at the silly monkey!
Eventually I figured out that I could bounce the bubble off my own head. Doing so made the bubble grow in size, change colour, and caused a different sporting ball to burst out when I detonated it. Green would spit out a stream of soccer balls. Yellow would be a single volleyball, but if that volleyball killed an enemy it would burst into a bunch of volleyballs killing everything in the area. Orange would burst into a shower of basketballs that rained down destruction on everything. I could keep bouncing the orange one until I got it into a good spot, and I could even aim the bounces by positioning where I was headering it from.

That is one crabby apple.
A cute concept, but it didn't actually play very well. Spanky is a very sluggish monkey to control. Levels where I could segregate myself from the enemies and set up a good bounce were fun. Levels where the enemies could charge at me were a pain, since I couldn't charge up a good ball. So I either needed to have fantastic aim with the baseball or I needed to make precision jumps to avoid the enemies. Spanky doesn't control well enough for precision jumps, and only has two lives. I made it to the boss of the first level once on three tries, and that was enough.

The game suffers from many of the same flaws as other SNES games. It only uses two buttons. It had mediocre sound and no story. It didn't control very smoothly. It had a couple menus at the start of the game that couldn't be navigated with the control pad. Only the select button would move the cursor. I understand it's called the select button but I shouldn't need to go through every stupid option on the option menu before I can get back to the main screen!

I think I could have had fun with this as a kid, though. Get gameovered a bunch, but figure out what levels have enemies that can reach me and get to a safe spot as soon as possible. There does seem to be a game here, and that's a plus!

Rating: C

Saturday, September 7, 2013

#65: Clue

I have always been a huge fan of logic puzzles as appeared in puzzle magazines, and I've always been a huge fan of board games. It should come as no surprise that I loved to play the Clue board game as a kid. Video game adaptations of board games, on the other hand, tend to be pretty flawed. Either the AI is terrible or the interface is terrible or both are terrible. But since Clue is really just a single player puzzle with other people racing against your clock it isn't actually so bad.

Shake-a, shake-a... Boom!
The game had difficulty levels to choose from, so I chose the hardest one. It ended up giving me a game that wasn't the same as the Clue board game. The normal action of interrogating to find out what cards other people held seemed to be limited, and I used all mine up right away. The rest of my turns, and all of the AI turns, consisted of entering a room and nominating a person and a weapon. Then the game would try to link those objects together in some way, or not. So it might tell you if Mr Green was in the Lounge, or if he had the candlestick, or if the candlestick was in the Lounge. Basically turning the whole thing into a really big logic puzzle.

The AI found out for me that Mrs Peacock was in the Conservatory, and I had that card, so I got to exclude her from my calculations. I had the Scarlet and White cards dealt to me, and someone showed me Plum during my limited interrogations. So I knew it was down to Green or Mustard and put all my efforts into figuring out which weapons they had. Green had the candlestick. Mustard had the revolver. Either could have been the weapon. I excluded both of them from a couple of the rooms I had, and then the AI found out that Green was in the Hall. I couldn't see how I was going to get better than 50-50 to win with my earlier wasted interrogations so I went for it as an accusation. Success! Suck on that, Mr Green! Colonel Mustard rules the day!

The game had some cute music clips that played for each room and each character, which I liked. The game's music bugged out halfway through when I alt-tabbed to notepad where I was making notes and it ended up with the looping choppy sound that kept me from playing Jack Nicklaus Golf. Pretty sure that's an emulator flaw. I considered finding a different emulator but decided I could play Clue without sound and just took my headphones off.

This game was one I remember renting multiple times as a kid. I loved Clue. I still do, really. The movie is awesome and I've even named a Blood Bowl team after the characters. The SNES adaptation was still fun even 21 years later.

Rating: B+