Saturday, August 30, 2014

#116: Imperium

Giant robots, yo!
November 1992 appears to have been the month for shooters I'd never heard of. I'm going to pretty happy next week when this streak breaks... But for now, another shooter!

This game started off with some good music and an actual intro. I know the backstory for the game. There are evil robots, and enslaved robots, and the enslaved robots built a super machine to fight the evil robots. The twist? Only a human can pilot the super machine. I don't know where they found a human, but I am that human. And now I get to ride the super machine. Woo!

This game actually takes a couple twists on the genre that I really, really liked. To start, you don't die in one shot when you get hit. You have 5 health bars and are just game over when they run out. So it's still harsh, but it doesn't mandate perfect play. The second twist is how powerups are awarded. Normally in a shooter you have a bunch of enemies that are irrelevant and a couple that give powerups. In this game every enemy is worth experience and you level up after set values of experience. Leveling up heals you and unlocks a new attack. You also have a speed value so you control how fast you move.

I found the game pretty hard, actually. I didn't make it to a boss or the next level or anything. But I like hard when the hard is from legitimate challenge and not from bad interface or mechanics. Add on the good music and an actual intro and this is a game I regret not playing as a kid.

Rating: A

Saturday, August 23, 2014

#115: GunForce

GunForce is another game that was entirely new to me. Guns make it sound like some sort of shooter. First person? Side scroller? Turns out it's more of a platformer. It's basically a Contra clone, actually. The opening sequence featured music that sounded like someone was trying too hard and a graphic sequence that was trying to use mode 7 graphics to be cool but failed miserably.

Get to the Choppa!
The game played a fair bit like Contra. Kill enemies, get some power ups, have better weapons. Jump into a vehicle or two. Get killed from one shot from anything. Lots of lives and continues and your power-up dropped on the ground when you died so it didn't feel too bad to die. It felt like it had the parts to be a fun game.
And then the game had to go and have a fundamental flaw. You walk faster than the screen scrolls. So if you walk forward you quickly find yourself at the very front of the screen. In a game where you die to one hit from anything. The way I saw it this left me with three options... Play the game enough to memorize where every enemy spawns so I can jump to avoid them and their bullets without seeing them. Juke back and forth to get the screen scrolling and then run back to safety, making very slow progress but at least having a chance to dodge bullets. Stop playing the game. I tried #2 for a bit but it wasn't fun at all so I moved on to #3.

The game also screwed up the controls. This is hard in a game with all of two buttons: jump and shoot. They decided to map 3 of the 6 buttons on the controller to jump and 3 to shoot but they went opposite of every other game that has ever been created. The button I think should be jump was shoot. The button I think should be shoot is jump. This is like when I tried to use OpenOffice but they'd flipped what tab and enter did compared to Excel. Maybe that was a fine way to control a spreadsheet. Maybe it's even the best way in a vacuum. But it's different from established conventions and that makes it annoying. I don't like to play games that are annoying.

The control issue I could have gotten over, but the scrolling issue is such a key component to a platformer that I can't even consider this as a real game anyone might want to play the way it is set up.

Rating: F-

Saturday, August 16, 2014

#114: Firepower 2000

Firepower 2000 certainly sounds like a shooter of some kind. The title screen with a dune buggy and a helicopter make me think it's going to be a scrolling shooter. And likely one where you change vehicles based on the level you're in. Could be interesting... Or it could be two bad shooters in one package.
Beep Beep in a Jeep!
Judging from the scores at the top of the screen I'm now pretty sure this is designed as a two player game where one player controls the jeep and one controls the helicopter. I was the jeep and I had a jump button in order to shoot things that were obviously up in the air like planes. I could also drive backwards if I wanted to (though the screen kept scrolling) and could shoot sideways or on diagonals so that was a nice twist.
Boss fight? Nope...
It all felt a little bland though. It was hard to shoot a lot of things since I didn't have a spread attack weapon so I mostly just dodged around. I thought I reached a boss but he eventually flew off. I suspect this game is much better with 2 players than with 1, since there were things I couldn't reasonably hit with the jeep that the helicopter could probably take out. Especially if it has a spread attack?

It still felt pretty reasonable though. It didn't suffer from the major flaws that other scrolling shooters have suffered from, so it gets a decent rating.

Rating: B-

Saturday, August 9, 2014

#113: Cyber Spin

That font is the best thing about this game...
Cyber Spin is another game that's new to me, and that I was way off base when I guessed what it would be from the name. Cyber Spin sounds like some kind of cyberpunkesque skating game or probably a platformer that looks like Tron. Instead it turned out to be a high speed racing game. The name probably comes from how easy it was to make the car spin out and crash into a wall? And by crash I mean bounce, because apparently this car can crash into a wall at ~400 km/h and take no damage like it was a bumper car.
Screwy turn ahead!
The one good thing this game has going for it is the way it flashed up the direction of an upcoming turn to let you setup for it. No track map was annoying but at least the little diamond signs gave me a chance of steering at high speeds.

Game over? I guess?
I raced a bit and got this cryptic game over screen. I'm guessing I had to actually race in under 45 seconds? I tried again, made use of the turbo button to put up what I thought was a pretty good time, and still was over 45 seconds. That's about enough of this game.

Speaking of a turbo button... They made a pretty bad use of the buttons on the controller! Y, a pretty standard button, did nothing. B was for breaking, something that was never needed in the first level at least. A was for going fast and you had to hold it down. X was turbo. I'm pretty good at holding down a button while pressing another one, but the Y into X combo is a weird one. I feel like that means it rarely got used in games while I was developing my controller skills. I was able to do it, but it was weird. L and R caused big skids in one direction or the other. Again, not needed on the first track. Maybe those are more relevant later on? I'll never know.

I don't much care for racing games, especially ones like this that look like they should be realistic but aren't. I get the appeal of games that emulate real racing even if I don't like them much. I get the appeal of games that go way crazy and are obviously using fake physics like Mario Kart. I don't get why someone would make a game like this one, or why someone would want to play it. Well done, past me, for avoiding this one.

Rating: D-

Saturday, August 2, 2014

#112: Chuck Rock

Even before the title screen loaded up this game started off with a pretty sweet rock tune. It got me pumped to try the game for sure. Then the title screen came up and I was hooked. Caveman rock band? Run it! Especially if I get to play someone in the band who made that sweet intro tune!

No options menu, no nothing. Hit start on that title screen and get thrown into stage 1. Of what turned out to be a fairly straightforward, plot-free platformer. I'm a caveman. I start each stage by saying UNGA BUNGA with pretty good video game voice synth. (I Blame Bunga.) But then I just need to run from one end of the stage to the other... My only attacks are to thrust my fat belly out, or to jump kick, or to pick up a rock and throw it. I don't even get a club to swing.

PS: Pterodactyl.
I wanted to play a game with a rocking caveman. Instead I got a very bland platformer. It actually controlled quite well, and still had pretty good music and sound. But I didn't know who I was, or why I was platforming. I beat the first boss without losing a life and got bored. I hoped the game over screen would be interesting to I slowly got myself killed. No dice for anything interesting there, either.

Normally I find myself disliking games in this adventure because they're really bad in some way. Terrible sound, or horrible controls, or brutal lag. This game has none of that. It's just super bland.But probably would have been fun back in the day!

Rating: B-