Saturday, March 29, 2014

#94: Hook

Hook was a Robin Williams movie from 1991 that I really enjoy. The idea is that Peter Pan eventually left Neverland and grew up and had kids. Hook got bitter, found out about the kids, and kidnapped them in order to get Peter Pan to come back to Neverland so he could get revenge or something. So you've got Robin Williams as old Peter Pan trying to remember how to be awesome so he can rescue his kids. It's pretty great, and this game starts off with a _lot_ of cutscenes spelling all that out for you.
Tink is ever so jealous and bitter.
The game itself, unfortunately, is pretty bad. It's a platformer where you take the roll of adult Peter Pan. They sprite transform you from fat businessman to skinny elf dude which doesn't make a whole lot of sense but I guess they wanted to really drive home that you're Peter Pan. But the platforming is painfully slow. It actually reminded me a lot of the platforming in Act Raiser, except even clunkier. And in Act Raiser you were a statue come to life so a lack of agility made sense. Here you're PETER PAN! Even old, fat Peter Pan should be better than this.

No pirates allowed!
Anyway, I liked the movie and I wanted to like the game, but it just wasn't any fun. Maybe part of the problem is I didn't play it as a kid so I don't have any nostalgia for it? It certainly had good production values in terms of sound and graphics and cutscenes and stuff. This wasn't just a terrible rush job. No, it's like someone intentionally wanted the platforming to be this slow, and that makes me sad. It's not an unplayable pile of garbage, but it's not very good either.

Rating: C

Saturday, March 22, 2014

#93: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Sequel ho!
The original Home Alone game got a pretty decent rating from me (B+) but a lot of that was probably nostalgia. This game feels pretty similar, and the controls may even be a bit tighter, but I don't understand what I'm supposed to be doing or why I should be doing it. Maybe it's because I haven't seen the movie? I guess I don't understand why the movie got a sequel and I really don't understand why the game got one. Ok, looking at the box office numbers Home Alone was actually #5 all-time when it came out behind only ET and the 3 Star Wars movies. Adjusted for inflation it's still #38 all-time which is crazy! Thankfully Independence Day is #37 so my world still makes some amount of sense.
This sucks.
The game feels a lot like the first one where you have to run around, jump and dodge different animated objects and people, and collect things. The original game made some amount of sense, though. There are robbers so you're trying to store valuables in the vault. The people trying to kill you are breaking into your house so it makes sense that they're after you. Why is the french maid of a hotel standing on a bed throwing pillows at me? What kind of vacuum cleaner is big enough to eat a 5 foot tall boy?
Hey lady, do you have any pizza?
I also didn't know what I was supposed to be doing. There was only really one way to go, so I went that way, but I don't know what my goal was supposed to be. Am I trying to find my hotel room? If so, why do I keep getting off on the wrong floor? Why did it animate the elevator going up 10 floors when I first got on? It took longer to watch the elevator than to run past all of the obstacles on the ground floor! And I didn't find a single collectable that seemed relevant.

I don't know... Maybe this game made sense back in the day if I'd been one of the few people to watch the Home Alone sequel. But I wasn't, and this isn't back in the day, and I got game overed 4 times before the end of the first level. So for me this game sucks.

Rating: D-

Saturday, March 15, 2014

#92: Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest

I recently (ok, wow, it was 2 years ago, but it feels pretty recent) played through this game on my main blog for my Final Fantasy marathon. You can read about it here.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was a game Square put out in an attempt to make an easy, gateway RPG for American gamers. Their theory at the time was that we just couldn't handle slow, complicated games like Final Fantasy IV so they gave us a dumbed down version of that game and then gave us Mystic Quest instead of the awesome Final Fantasy V. Many people take out their frustrations on this situation on poor Mystic Quest, but I've never hated it the way most people do. I had fun with the game as a kid, and I had fun with the game during my marathon, and I had fun with it while playing briefly to generate these screenshots. Is it the best game ever? No. Is it offensive that Square didn't think we could handle FFV and gave us this instead? Yes. But if you take this game on its own and compare it to other SNES offerings it's actually a pretty good game.

I need the elixir from in here to save Kaeli!
Mystic Quest uses standard jRPG combat in that you have a turn based battle where you input attack or magic or item and then see what happens. It doesn't have standard jRPG random encounters or dungeon movement though. Instead you can see all the encounters on the screen and only fight them if you walk into them. Dungeon movement works more like an action adventure RPG where you need to solve puzzles using your various weapons. Chop down trees with an axe, hook shot across cliffs with a whip, hit small buttons with a sword poke... That sort of thing. Run around, jump, use bombs to open holes.

The game is both very punishing and very easy at the same time. Combat can be brutal since you have either 1 or 2 people in your party and the enemies often have instant death or confusion attacks which will game over you right then and there. But if you lose a fight you get a prompt to try it again! I actually died to the very first fight in the game where my only options were to attack because I got a miss and the boss got a crit. Crazy!

The story is decent, the music is great, the animations are really cute. The bottom line is that once you accept that the game is designed to be an easy entry level game it's actually really fantastic. I can see why people often vent their frustrations on missing out on FFV, but I don't think it's fair. Especially now when we can play both games. And back when I was a kid maybe I needed an entry level RPG. (I doubt it, since FFIV was my favourite game, but who knows.) I didn't feel offended as a kid; I really liked the game.

Rating: S-

Saturday, March 8, 2014

#91: Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

On the surface Desert Strike seems like a propaganda game designed to keep US morale high for the ongoing war in Iraq. No, not the recently ongoing war in Iraq, the old one. The game is very careful to not call out Saddam by name (his character is called 'The Madman') but it was very clear when it first came out that this was a game about Operation Desert Storm.

The game puts you in the role of a chopper pilot running various missions. Fly over here, kill a radar site. Fly over there, kill a power station. That sort of thing. It plays a lot like a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto, though. In the first mission you have 4 different quests. Then there's a 5th hidden quest that unlocks from the 4th one. There are other things you can do on the side too, like rescue more dudes. One of the dudes is even a MIA copilot you can use in future missions to increase your gunning skill. Yes, a sidequest to increase your stats.

Watch out for the little mans!
The controls are actually pretty smooth, and the graphics are really good for an open world scroller on the SNES. Really, really good. I was surprised today at how good they are, and I remember thinking it was really good back when I was a kid too.

It's not just the graphics and the controls. The missions make sense for a war in the desert. You have lots of flexibility on what order you want to do things, and the tactical map is a thing of beauty. You can scroll through to get locations on all sorts of things. Ammo pick-ups. Fuel. Enemy locations. Targets. Combat lets you use 3 different types of ammo!

I'd forgotten this game existed, but as soon as I started playing it again it all came back to me. In a good way. I am surprised at how good this game is.

Rating: S-

Saturday, March 1, 2014

#90: David Crane's Amazing Tennis

Amazing, eh?
I assumed David Crane was a tennis player who I'd just never heard of but it turns out he was one of the Atari game programmers who got fed up with how bad Atari treated their programmers and quit to form Activision. He was involved in games like Pitfall and Ghostbusters! Apparently he was a big enough deal that he got to put his name on a game, like Sid Meier with his Pirates and his Civilizations.
Gender, race, size? Nope, the only player
customization option is handedness.
He only has the one game named after him, and I can imagine why. Amazing Tennis is only amazing in terms of how bad it is. The characters are pretty sluggish and I had a hard time moving into position to even make contact with most of the balls. Maybe it's realistic to be able to hit the ball where the other person can't reach it but if I can't have a rally in a tennis game it isn't much fun. Especially since I couldn't find any way to precisely aim the ball myself so I had no hope of hitting the ball where he couldn't reach it. I actually managed to score a total of one point total across an entire set.
Kanyanta > Ziggyny
I'm sure part of it was just not knowing the controls very well, but I found the game to be sluggish, frustrating, and not fun.

Rating: D-