SEGA Mega Drive

[last updated: 16-MAR-2012]

Aquatic Games: Featuring James Pond

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 1995

Some of the games are fun, some are confusing, and some simply aren't enjoyable.


Aquatic Games is a selection of mini-games involving the James Pond characters (a series which I've never played, aside from this one game) getting into wacky mischief, although the term "mini-games" isn't entirely fitting, as a lot of them require like four minutes of your time for them to be accomplished. Additionally, outside of the manual, there's no explanation on what you're supposed to do in them; which is normal for an old game like this, but it meant that I had no idea what I had to do in the hop, skip and jump game for four years.

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Completion: No.

Comix Zone

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 1996

Not bad.


Comix Zone is a comic-themed video game. Who'd have guessed? Comic artist Sketch Turner is sucked into his own comic by the main antagonist and has to stop his plan of launching nukes or something deliciously vague like that - it's not until the final stage that you get even a hint of this, otherwise it's just post-apocalyptic sights and awful puns to clue you into the story. Mostly.

The gameplay is reasonably simplistic - you beat the crap out of enemies and proceed to the next panel. Sometimes there's a mild puzzle to solve first, such as shifting boxes, turning a level or destroying a trap, usually made easier by your inventory items - there's the typical throwing items and health juice, but there's the unique addition of Sketch's pet rat, Roadkill, which can nibble through weak scenery and activate switches. The combat is reasonably simplistic with high, middle and low attacks, though for that reason it can get kinda monotonous; there's enough variety to keep you going, but given how there's no level skip and the first level is a bit of a drag in comparison to later ones, it requires a bit of patience.

Where the game's greatness lies is simply in the atmosphere. The comic book art style is captured beautifully, from the moody backgrounds to the fluid animation and contrast in colour - it's beautiful to look at, and the music is suitably rockin' or funky as the scene requires. Throughout the game the heroine sidekick will radio in with plot developments and tips, while the enemies taunt you and reveal their evil plans while doing so - I'd struggle to call it immersive, but it helps tie the game together and is certainly less obtrusive than slideshow story scenes between levels or something. The story's a bit of a disjointed mess (why am I in the Himalayas?), but the banter keeps the fights interesting and the bosses are at least pretty rad.

The game is pretty short at only six or seven levels long, but makes up for it with the difficulty - Sketch sucks up damage like a drainpipe, and even simple things like busting open doors and boxes will take a little bit of his health away in the process. Sometimes you are given a continue or two if you die, sometimes it's an instant game over - there aren't many times where you die instantly as platforming is never a high priority of the game, but in later levels where you work with explosives quite frequently, it can be a nuisance. It's worth playing thanks to the comic book charm to it, but it doesn't have much in the way of replay value.

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Completion: Good ending.

Cool Spot

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 1995

Hell of a treat to look at. Gameplay doesn't quite compare.


Cool Spot is visually incredible. Everything in the game from the title character to the enemies, even mere collectibles, are all lively with smooth, beautifully drawn animation. People praise Sonic for having smooth animation with personality, but it really only extended to the playable characters - in Cool Spot, everything is like that. It's amazing to look at, and since the entire game looks consistently good, it makes for a serious treat. Likewise, the music is funky and makes the best of the Mega Drive's sound capabilities, and is composed by Tommy Tallarico, who is apparently loved by everyone in the world, ever; even grumpy old Socrates breached the realm of the dead to say that he likes Tallarico's stuff. So, yeah, the music's pretty good too.

Although a 2D sidescroller, stages are vaguely nonlinear - there is a basic direction to the goal (using heading to the top right of the map), but the main objective is to collect a sufficient number of Cool Points, as they will cause Cool Spot's captive buddy to appear somewhere on the map, allowing you to bust him free and move on to the next stage. Easy mode is basic enough that you'll usually have enough Points by the time you reach the cage, but harder difficulties will force you to explore every nook and cranny of the level to get enough of the good stuff. Each level has 100 Cool Points, and while Easy mode requires a meagre thirty of them to free your friend, Normal demands over half of them and Difficult needs ninety of the bloody things. It's just a little bit taxing.

Matters aren't helped by much the game loves to spit on you. Insects constantly hover over your head like vast, predator birds, while enemies hurl projectiles at you from just off-screen. Later levels genuinely love the idea of blind jumps, and even simply dropping down from a platform can be bad news since when falling, the camera puts Spot at the very bottom of the screen and doesn't adjust to a sensible position so you literally have no idea where you're going to land. See, the enemies can at least be dealt with if you're vigilant (Cool Spot can shoot in sixteen directions no matter what he's doing, so he's never defenceless), but the camera is most certainly not your friend. A majority of the levels don't feature bottomless pits, mercifully, but they do include giant thumb tacks, spikes and other manner of nasty surprises, so you always want to know where you're going.

My main beef with the game, however, is simply that it gets tiring very quickly. There's no more than ten levels, but halfway through things just get a little tedious for me. There's this uncomfortable vibe of being restrained, as if I can't quite do as much as I'd like to do in the game; Cool Spot's rather clunky way of moving doesn't help, and the rather unenjoyable goal of the game is probably the root of all the issues. It's not terrible, and I certainly commend it for being more involved than simply walking straight to the goal, but I don't think it's for me. It's worth checking out just for the graphics, though.

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Completion: on Easy.


Further reading: It's featured on the music downloads page.

Daffy Duck in Hollywood

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 1995

A pleasure to watch, not very fun to play.


Like many cartoon licensed video games, Daffy Duck in Hollywood is a platformer. No surprise there! But rather than doing something expected like, I don't know, walking from left to right, you're given a small square area to try and find sticks of dynamite in, and you can't progress until you get them all. Sounds like a recipe for me not giving a damn about it for many years!

Seriously, I wouldn't go so far as to say I was disappointed with this game, but it certainly wasn't what I was hoping for when I bought it. Looking at it now, it's certainly an entertaining and quirky little game. Daffy has four hit points, a bubblegum cannon and has a hundred seconds to find all the sticks of dynamite in the area before it blows, and there's a plethora of enemies and traps to hinder you. Some dynamite is out in the open, some are hidden behind obstacles, and all too often they're hidden behind the walls, forcing you to walk or crawl into every damn wall in the game to see if there are hidden passages or not. The main objective is getting the dynamite, but collecting all the hidden items is vitally important; there are jewels hidden around the stages, as well as letters and power-ups that spawn at various points and must be collected before they disappear, and although the stages aren't too huge (after all, you're given less than two minutes to explore each section), it can be pretty difficult getting everything there is.

The graphics are top-notch; gone are the days when Looney Tunes games looked like horrible napkin doodles, this is a beautiful game. Every character is animated as smoothly and characteristically as the best cartoons, with lots of pizzazz just exuding from each animation, not to mention the cartoony additions like running face-first into walls. The sprites are very large, just the right size to capture the detail, but it does make the screen feel rather small - even just having more than two enemies on-screen at a time can cause slowdown, and quite often you simply can't see far enough to see if the area is safe or not. Given how later stages love to throw you on slippery slopes straight into spikes, or have invincible projectile enemies waiting on higher platforms, that can be frustrating. You are generally given enough time to take it slowly and sensibly, but sometimes you do just have to rush and hope for the best.

There are eighteen levels in the game, each containing three sections; only six are accessible at a time, and after clearing six you face a boss. The bosses are really the lowest part of the game - not only are they all identical, but quite simply, the engine just isn't made for combat like that. You could argue the engine isn't even that well made for exploration either, but I'll just blame the graphics instead. The boss fights don't last long and it's quite easy to just let them slide, but still, they seem needlessly tacked on to artifically increase the 'action' quota.

Although rather wonky and in possible need of a little refining, I'd dare say it's not a bad game, and if you have the means of pacing yourself between stages (save states!) it can make for an entertaining little diversion. The game could have done with a password function, though, as slogging through all eighteen stages in one sitting is very unpleasant, and once it's done there's not exactly much replay value. There is allegedly a better ending if you collect every item in the game, but quite frankly, the game is difficult enough just trying to survive.

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Completion: Bad ending.

Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: 1994

Pretty fun!


Everyone hates Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. I love Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. This is a game of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. But it's a puzzle game that doesn't even have Sonic the Hedgehog in it. Wacky!

To get it out of the way, this is Puyo Puyo, a game where you drop two colorued blobs at a time to connect to each other; get four or more to make them pop and then try and make combinations and such like to beat your opponent. All this adds is graphics of enemies from the cartoon show as your opponents. At this stage, pretty much anyone who's played a puzzle game has played Puyo Puyo, so we all know what to expect, right? Good. I'm surly as of this review so trying to be positive is hard, though that's nothing new.

To be incredibly blunt, that's all there is. There's the main game, featuring a good twelve-or-so opponents and all with their own ways of playing, a training mode and a 2-player competitive mode, plus four levels of difficulty, and since the gameplay is actually incredibly engaging once you get to grips with it, it can certainly make up for Columns being the only other Mega Drive puzzle game of note.

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Completion: No.

Ecco the Dolphin

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 1996

I got nowhere in it. At all.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Ecco 2: The Tides of Time

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 1996

I barely ventured into this at all. It frightened me.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Flicky

RATING: n/a

CONSOLE: GameCube

WHEN: Spring 2003

NOTES: Part of Sonic Mega Collection

It's got the arcade feel. Not exactly a great compliment, though.


[no review]

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Completion: No ending?

Garfield: Caught in the Act

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 1996

Really quite dull.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Jurassic Park

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: 1994

It's okay, but that's about as far as it goes.


A side-scrolling platformer with a twist - not only can you play as Alan Grant, wherein your goal is to survive dinosaur attacks and escape the island, but you can also play as a velociraptor, whose goal is quite simple: eat Alan for breakfast. Given how movie-based video games would do everything in their power to prevent you from playing as who you wanted ("You Diver" in Jaws, the army in Godzilla, helpless teens in Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, and so on and so forth), it's definitely a very nice bonus, even if the raptor lacks the length and challenge of Grant's mode.

Alan can run, jump, climb and crawl, and has a plethora of weapons at his disposal, all varieties of gun or grenade. He encounters raptors, compies, pterodactyls, dilophosaurae and even the t-rex itself, though given how a majority of Alan's arsenal is only capable of stunning foes (either via flash grenade or tranquiliser), his main means of survival are just running like the wind. However, the controls are pretty terrible; he's not very responsive either when it comes to starting or stopping his walking, and getting him to stop at a precise spot to climb a ladder or push a button is needlessly awkward; a further inconvenience when the game demands very precise jumping skills in later levels. The game includes falling damage - nowhere near the extent of The Chaos Continues on the SNES where a fall too far can really mess up your stride, but there's plenty of instant death falls should you be careless; not bottomless pits, if you fall too far, the game decides "man, you're fucked," and just kills you and boots you to the beginning of the level.

This is a particular problem with the game - it's very glitchy. Dinosaurs can flicker into existence without warning; you can be pushed and knocked to the ground repeatedly while just absorbing a stream of damage; Alan will occasionally disregard your D-Pad input (mostly regarding ladders or stairs) and just keep running; and most unfortunately, the distance you fall before it's instant death seems to be erratic. Sometimes you definitely have to fall for a while, sometimes it kills you even though there's a platform within a safe distance (and you can actually land on it before the screen fades out), and sometimes should you so much as slip off a ledge and back onto the platform you'll die. It's a very untrustworthy game, and given the three lives you get without no continues, it can also be challenging for all the wrong reasons.

The raptor is a lot more fun, simply because while Alan is left to trek through long and haphazardly laid-out levels and focus on surviving, the raptor just gets to run around and jump kick the shit out of soldiers. The few times it is expected to do some platforming, however, it doesn't end well. The raptor is well equipped for it, with a fast walking speed and an absurdly high jump, but thanks to its long frame it can be hard to land on small platforms, not to mention that when turning around the standing base moves a little bit as well, so if you're close to an edge you can fall off simply by changing direction. You can imagine how useful that is.

Also, the final boss fight for either character is very disappointing. Rather than an epic faceoff against their respective nemesis, you're just given a situation where you cannot directly face the opponent, and instead have to attack the scenery to win. That, from my perspective, is the very definition of underwhelming.

On the bright side, the game has a brilliant atmosphere. The graphics have a very raw feel to them, with heavy detail and dark colours, the dinosaurs appear to be digitised from their models used in the film, which really helps recreate the same frightening vibe they evoked in the film. The scenery is relatively varied and colourful, though only the last stage is actually taken from the movie, the rest are merely generic jungles, buildings or volcanoes, but they look great. The music is odd, though - given the creepy atmosphere its minimalist vibe is fitting, but in comparison to the strong orchestra of the film, it seems quite contrasting when you think of it that way. If there's one thing to praise about the game, it's got a great ambience.

The game itself is clunky and rather unremarkable, despite the noble attempt to spice it up with the ability to play as a dinosaur - the level design is just too cumbersome and the mechanics too stiff to really bond well together; it's not like The Chaos Continues where it's got decent game mechanics flawed by external aspects, this one is just... wonky. The difficulty never really rises, there's no boss fights to look forward to, it's rather awkwardly presented. It's fairly short if you play your cards right, and both characters can be finished in about an hour.

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Completion: On Normal.


Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009

Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: 1994

Somewhat worse.


The original game has this bizarre charm about it, emitting a vibe of the developers having the basic groundwork of the game laid out, but left to work without a finished plan. Some levels are long and labyrinth-esque and bore mild puzzle elements (such as pushing boxes onto elevators!), whereas some were short and could be finished in a shockingly short amount of time (comparatively). It had a quirky vibe that seemed to suggest the development crew saying, "okay, we've got this red hot license to work with and got lots of great graphics at the ready - what do we do with the rest of the game?" And somehow, it just makes the game that little more charming.

Rampage Edition seems quite set in its way about how it presents itself, and does so by greater emphasising the destruction of every creature around you, mammal or reptilian, while also plonking you in vast, expansive locations. Repetitive vast, expansive locations.

The gameplay has been refined from the original version, and for Alan, it's a lot more satisfying - the controls are more precise and the weaponry available is more death-dealing, ranging from simple darts to shotguns to flamethrowers to rocket launchers to giant electricity cannons (that melt the flesh off anything it fries!). It's one thing to actually be able to control your jumps more accurately and no longer have such awkward small environments to work with, but being able to kill a dinosaur in one hit with the electricity cannon and watch it dissipate into a fine powder is just pretty hardcore. The raptor, sadly, gets the short end of the stick and is no longer the godless killing machine of the first game; it's nowhere near as fast or agile as in the first game, its jump now greatly limited, and you can't kill things by jumping into them. Both characters lose their ability to clamber onto ledges, though the lessened emphasis on platforming in crowded locations means it's no big loss. The raptor also has a strange new ability to go on a rampage after it munches on five boxes, becoming invincible and lethal to anything it touches, tinting the screen red. It harkens back to the more badass raptor of the first game, but it's really the only good element left for it now.

The levels are larger and rather maze-like (except for one, which is quite literally just a straight line), and while in theory this should add some replay value since each level generally has a second way to reach the end, it just means the game is a lot less fun. The goal is also rather vaguely defined - the raptor's forest level, for instance, requires going up a long way, moving to the right, and then going down a long way. You begin at the bottom, and since Alan's version of the level starts him at the top, you expect getting to the top is the goal. It really doesn't help that the level is so samey and repetitive that it hardly looks like you've gone anywhere once you reach the end, which has no obvious hint that it is even the goal, the game just cuts to black and boots you to the title screen. Likewise with the first game, there's no real difficulty progression (though the Ancient Ruins level does have a completely ridiculous cheap boss thrown in for no adequate reason), and thanks to the rather uninspired levels, the game feels more like a test of patience than a true challenge.

The game does try and mix things up for Alan by giving him instances of riding a gallimimus, a triceratops and a raft, though they're all fairly pointless. The gallimimus is used in the aforementioned straight path level, wherein you just run for a long, long time, occasionally jump over things and shoot at helicopters. The raptor gets the same level, and the only change is that, lacking a projectile, you have to spin-jump into the helicopter, which is kind of hilarious. The triceratops is entirely superfluous, used to knock down some walls that have no reason to be there in the first place, and actually renders a jump impossible if you take it all the way to the edge of the platform, so you need to ditch it as soon as you can. Although the raft was in the first game and actually made for an interesting level, if a needlessly difficult one (instant death abounds!), this time it's just a complete waste of space. There are lots of enemies swarming about, but they are of no real danger, and there's no risk of going the wrong way and killing yourself like last time. It's just a drawn-out and meaningless drift to the bottom of the level. As the game's penultimate stage, it's very lacklustre, doubly so for the raptor, who has to reach the bottom by a horribly cumbersome series of pipe platforms. It's the very opposite of fun.

Although the game suffers from a camera that focuses more on behind the character than what they're running towards, it can almost be said to be semi-decent at best. Alan controls smoothly and has a fun range of weaponry, and the level on the boat is definitely the most fun you'll have. It's just a pity that the rest of the game is so determined at being a royal bore.

On the bright side, there's some decent rock music on the title screen, and it has a great image of a raptor! On the downside, everything that made the first game so charming (the raw vibe, the minimal story, the digitised graphics, the varied levels) are gone, so it isn't the best of deals.

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Completion: On Normal.


Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009

Mega Bomberman

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: 1998

What the Bomberman standards should be.


With Louies, a single-player mode that doesn't suck and a variety of wacky characters to choose in multi-player, this is really what the standards of the Bomberman series should be. Instead of the usual, dreadfully boring "kill all enemies" gameplay, your goal is to destroy all the orb things and find the exit; sure, not the most engaging gameplay ever, but when you're dealing with a series that has barely progressed over twenty something years you can't complain. Pity the single-player lacks a co-operative mode, though.

This is one of the better Bomberman games, and if you still want more of the same, Saturn Bomberman improves upon this in every way.

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Completion: Finished.


Further reading: Check out the Totally Bombastic Bomberman Shrine Place!

Mickey Mouse - Castle of Illusion

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 1994

Generic platforming.


[no review]

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Completion: On Normal.

Mickey Mouse - World of Illusion

RATING: 2/4

WHEN: 1994

The same, now prettier and 2-Player!


A Disney platform game on the Mega Drive. What's new? There's a 2-Player co-operative mode. Glee!

The game is very, very simple; there are no complicated boss fights, puzzles, or anything; it's just plain and simple platforming. With 2-Player co-operative. However, depending on who you play as (Mickey, Donald, or both in 2-Player), you'll go to different areas in levels, which is an interesting concept, but it doesn't really increase the replay value.

It's basic, obscenely easy, and not terribly long. However, I do have fond memories of it, so that's all that counts (on the internet).

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Completion: Finished.


Further reading: I made some terrible and badly written comparison with the beta release of the game.

Pink Goes to Hollywood

RATING: 0/4

WHEN: 1996

Pretty rough.


The levels are inconsistent, the jumping is awkward, and the game's just kinda creepy. And to top it all off, it's a shaggy dog story. Just read the article.

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Completion: Finished, against my better judgment.


Further reading: It made me a broken man.

Ristar

RATING: n/a

CONSOLE: GameCube

WHEN: Spring 2003

NOTES: part of Sonic Mega Collection

A pleasant little romp.


[no review]

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Completion: Not sure.

Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: 1996

Could've been so much better.


Sonic the Hedgehog in 3D. If you were told about the concept after Sonic 3, you'd probably be rather excited - imagine the vastness of the levels, the variety of paths, the richness of the environments! Imagine the three dimensional speed! Of course, we now know that 3D Sonic is railroaded levels that drag on for far too long, lots of pits and some iffy controls, so oh well. Before then, we found that Sonic 3D was large levels ruined by rather iffy controls and a rather contradictory gameplay style.

Your goal is no longer just running to the exit, going super fast and going through loop-de-loops. No, the game has decided to rather strangely become a 3D sequel to the old arcade game Flicky, wherein your goal is to collect Flickies (natch) and take them to the exit. Zones are split into sections with five Badniks in total; each Badnik contains a Flicky, and your goal is a giant ring; throw the Flickies in, it opens up, you progress to either the next area or the next Zone. Simple enough.

The problem is that, in a good Sonic game, you can at least handle the speed sufficiently. Yes, you can go fast enough that the camera can't keep up, but unless a glitch occurs and the game classifies you as dead, you can usually rest assured that you'll land somewhere reasonably safe and your spin dash will keep you protected from any baddies. Regular running speeds where you remain on-screen are usually pretty safe, and all in all, you basically knew that just starting a basic jog would not get you killed. Not so for Sonic 3D! Obviously because shifting the camera drastically in eight directions would be unwieldy, Sonic is always in the centre of the screen. The problem is that everything is so big and Sonic moves so fast that unless you are an unwise madman, you'll never actually run at full speed for more than a second or two. Levels are filled with landmines, danger pads, Badniks, bombs and all kinds of seriously unpleasant paraphernalia, and you'll hardly get a chance to see them before they ambush you unless you take it slow and steady. Later levels completely contrast the series' inherent emphasis on speed and just make them into death-traps with constant spikes, elevations and pits where you can hardly get any momentum at all. Of course, that's ignoring the whole Flicky gathering thing, which changes a light-hearted romp through colourful environments into a scavenger hunt mixed with baby sitting. It's as much fun as it sounds.

Also, while having an isometric viewpoint could very well allow for interesting platforming in some games, it helps if you actually have a stable control on your character. Sonic is slippery and his speed ranges from static to locomotive velocity in an instant, and later stages force you to ascend slopes by hopping onto moving diagonal platforms. While the game handles slopes and diagonals relatively sufficiently most of the time, at these instances it just bites you in the ass and does everything in its power to keep clamping down. It's hard enough getting onto a moving platform, but a slight incorrect adjustment will make you start sliding; never mind that you're on the platform, you'll just be phased through it and sent back to the bottom.

If anything, it is a reasonably impressive game - the visuals are great, although the early instances of Sonic in 3D always looked rather gawky, and the checkerboard patterns help tie it in nicely to the look of the traditional series. The music remains up to the same standard of the previous games and was revisited in Sonic Adventure for good reason (plus Richard Jacques' remixes for the SEGA Saturn version are phenomenal); some of the levels are designed rather nicely, with Rusty Ruin being particularly memorable, though later on they do get rather samey and drawn-out. It could've been pretty decent if the engine and gameplay had been revised, but as it is it's just an awkward curiosity with not much in the way of lasting appeal.

Also, easiest special stages ever, honest to god.

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Completion: Bad ending.


Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009

Sonic the Hedgehog

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 1994

NOTES: First game.

A vague challenge.


[no review]

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Completion: Both endings.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 1995/1996

An overall excellent game, but a tad overrated in my view.


[no review]

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Completion: Both endings.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

RATING: 4/4

WHEN: 1995

Combined with & Knuckles, is the best Sonic game ever.


I love Sonic 3. The dynamic graphics, the bouncy soundtrack, the fact it's actually got a very storyline (even if it is unimportant and told only through a few small scenes and observations) and simply how big the game is... I love it!

Back in the day it was hip among my friends and I to hate it. It only had six levels, yet we paid 50 for it! Talk about a rip-off! But then I learnt what quality is. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a swell game and is a good improvement over the first instalment, and with it's many levels it's certainly better value for money, but to me, Sonic 3 is just... well, better. The levels are bigger, there's an actual difference between playing as Sonic or Tails, it's the introduction of Jun Senoue to the series, and so on. Sonic 2 is a good game, but my patience wanes a little around Oil Ocean Zone, and Mystic Cave I have to drag myself through if I played all the way up to there. Sonic 3 remains fresh all the way through. Though that's probably because it has a save feature and my attention span isn't one of my most lauded characteristics.

Of course, when locked-on with Sonic & Knuckles it adds the levels from it onto the game and allows Knuckles to play through the first six zones, and allow Tails to take part in the second half, which makes it a lot more "full" and only makes me love the game even more, never mind that I've fully completed it more times than I can remember. It's hard to explain my love for a game where my love has kind of entered my system and become as natural as breathing, especially when I try to avoid being a love-gushing fruit loop and adequately explain my reasons, but yeah, I can't. Hopefully you weren't expecting an adequate review from me.

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Completion: Totally finished.

Sonic & Knuckles

RATING: 3/4

WHEN: 1995

The second part of an amazing game.


I've always played this game only when it's locked onto Sonic 3. I've tried it by itself a few times, but in my personal opinion it doesn't work quite as well. The gameplay is still the same, aside from the addition of Knuckles, and it's not like they changed the physics or anything major, but it's more just the fact it's the second half of a game released on it's own. They're good, interesting levels, just like all of Sonic 3, but they don't work well by themselves, y'know?

Sonic 3 covers the very basics, from green lands, water level, obstacle course, carnival, snow level and technological level. Knuckles, however, kind of ends up repeating them slightly, though with some switches to make up for my terrible statement such as the removal of a water level (or any water at all from the game, thus making the bubble shield a bit redundant) and my very odd pretending that Lava Reef works as a carnival because there's obstacles. I should have thought this out better, but I'm basically saying that when you play the game it really feels like half of a game, whereas Sonic 3 works well on it's own.

Not that this makes it bad. It's still of very high quality, and considering it's main purpose was simply to lock onto Sonic 3 and make it complete, it's a little unfair to judge by the "broken" part of it, but eh, not like that's anything new for me.

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Completion: As Knuckles.

Sonic Spinball

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 1995

Long and tedious.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Spider-Man & Venom: Maximum Carnage

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: 1995

Frustrating.


[NEW!] When you think Spider-Man and all his web-slinging, wall-crawling, acrobatic action, you just think beat-em-up, don't you?
Maximum Carnage is a brawler in the vein of Streets of Rage, except crapper. While a good brawler would have a decent variety of weapons, items, attacks and enemy types, this game has... well, very little to offer. Spidey and Venom have web abilities that can be used to swing around, climb on walls, trap or grab enemies, or use as a shield. In theory, this is an intriguing idea that could really diversify the game's moveset. In practise, they're all startlingly useless and ultimately not worth using at all.

Brawlers are already a very shallow genre, but Maximum Carnage really has very little to offer. Spidey and Venom only have about five attacks at their disposal (punch combo, jump kicking, grabbing, throwing, and a desperation attack), and due to how easily they're knocked down, jump attacks are actually best avoided. Heck, there are only three enemy types for the first few levels of the game, and despite the plethora of recolours and palette swaps, it takes a long time before any of them learn any new tricks. When it finally adds a brand new enemy type around fifteen levels in, it's a genuine shock!
All of the regular enemies are, well, regular goons. Guys in trench coats, fat blokes, typical beat-em-up fodder. The bosses are actual supervillains such as Demogoblin, Carrion, Carnage, and other minor villains who no casual Spidey fan would recognise. And you will be fighting them a lot. I mean it: a lot. Some bosses show up again mere minutes after you just clobbered them. Shriek and Doppelganger are fought constantly throughout the game, and given how squirrely and awkward the bosses are, fighting them grows to be a royal pain. Imagine Final Fight if you fought Sodom three times in every stage. It's that obnoxious.

The game is very difficult; Spider-Man soaks up damage something fierce, and the bosses are frantic and violent, requiring really finicky tactics to take them down without losing valuable lives. Replacing lost lives or continues is a challenge thanks to getting so little points for victory and having your score reset after continuing. There are an impressive number of levels, and a few branching points where you play different stages depending on whether you're Spider-Man or Venom, so there's definitely some replay value...
But at the end of the day, there's simply really very little substance to the game and its gameplay. Beating up the same old guys wears thin really, really fast, especially when your moveset is so limited. If you want to play as Spider-Man, there are better games out there, and if you want to beat up wave after wave of violent punks, there are better games for that, too.

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Completion: Finished as Spider-Man, with copious amounts of save states and cheats.

Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade's Revenge

RATING: 0/4

WHEN: 1994

NOTES: First game.

Very frustrating.


[NEW!] You've got Spider-Man and the X-Men together in one game cartridge, and they're all playable! It's like a young boy's superhero-and-video-games-related dream come true! ... right?

Arcade's Revenge is a strange game. Unlike Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin where the title character gets some familiar settings to romp around in, this one dumps everyone into abstract death traps with a specific objective. Wolverine can't just run around the Savage Land clawin' up some 'saurs or whatever he's up to in the '90s, no - he's plopped in a toy-themed tower where wooden soldiers and dinky airplanes try to kill him. There's no opportunity for weather-related gimmickry when Storm is submerged underwater for the entire game. And Spider-Man? The poor sod is stuck collecting doohickies in poorly-laid-out hellholes like some lab rat. In lab rat hell.
(food for thought: what could a lab rat possibly do that would land it in a specialised hell?)

The whole game has a strange lack of coherence to it, and not just because everyone has a different play style. The graphics, the sounds and the physics, none of it really gels or feels natural. The player characters, enemies and backgrounds all look like they were done by different artists, with no attempt at a uniform style - you've got cartoony robots with bold outlines fighting superheroes with no outlines who run like maniac marionettes. Storm (and her entire part of the game) are so different in style that she hardly looks like a human being.

I could argue that the game suffers from a lack of real direction - how on earth can Spider-Man get around these dreadful levels? Where is Cyclops meant to go? How is Gambit meant to survive if he needs to restock his cards constantly? But I think the real problem is that none of it is just any fun. Whether it's the wonky controls, or the unforgiving level design, or the sheer wasted opportunity that you're using these acclaimed superheroes to trawl through mazes or beat up clowns - none of it adds up to anything entertaining.

About the only positive thing I can say is that some of the music isn't bad, but even it is as inconsistent as the rest of the game. It's one thing to play a bad game, but it's another to grow up with one - as one of two games we bought when we first got the SEGA Mega Drive, this stupid game has been pestering me for years with its obtuse objectives and unappealing nature.

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Completion: No.

Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: 1994

Colossally frustrating.


At a glance, Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin is a decent and innovative game, with great control mechanics, interesting features and nice exploration. Once you get to know it, it becomes a hideous bitch goddess which never lets you come out on top, not even for a second, and forces you to submit to the whims of lesser beings. There's probably a marriage joke in there somewhere.

On his own, Spider-Man operates pretty well. He has three melee attacks (punch, jump kick, crouch kick), can websling very fast and far, shoot webs, use them as a shield, and although he walks slowly, jumping and webslinging are easy methods of speeding up his movement. Climbing on walls and ceilings is fun and simple to do, if a bit finicky in close quarters. Rather uniquely, Spidey can also take photos of enemies in bosses, which award you with money after each stage, which refills your web fluid. It's not used as well as it could be, particularly since the game is only a few stages long, but it's an interesting feature and ties into the original mythos pretty well. To my knowledge, no other Spider-Man game has really taken advantage of his photography job in-game. Also, although there's health pick-ups, there's an option to ditch the stage and return to Peter's apartment to refill his health, at the expense of time.

Yep, time. The theme is that the Kingpin has planted a bomb and blaming Spidey for it, so he's got 24 hours to find the keys and deactivate it before it blows. The time counts down, but although it definitely ain't 24 real hours, you still have plenty of time if you play your cards right. Dying lands you in jail briefly, costing you two hours and throwing you to the beginning of the stage, while visiting the apartment speeds up time. Mercifully, it's not as prominent as it could be, so you're never exactly rushed to clear out the stages.

But really, the game so far isn't bad. It's combat that kills the rest of it. You see, the collision detection is downright horrible. You would not believe how much I want to emphasise that "horrible", because it's among the worst I've seen. Web shots are consistent, but given the fact it's just web, you can imagine how effective it is against most bosses or enemies (not very). Melee attacks have a bizarre mind of their own - will they connect, or will they miss? Aerial attacks are a particular nuisance; they're hardly necessary outside of the Hobgoblin fight, but they seem to be the least-connecting of the attacks and more often than not any strategy it could have added to use it is completely thrown out the window. And while I will admit the bosses are difficult, it's not because of devious tactics or devilish cunning - it's because the collision detection works entirely against you. When you and the enemy have an opportunity to attack, there is no doubt in the world that the enemy, even the lowest, grubbiest green-shirted burglar, is going to hit you first. All enemies will hurt you on collision, and given Spidey's ineffective webbing and low-range fisticuffs, it's almost mandatory to carry his web-shield at all times. Lizard is a perfect example of how horrible it is, as his tactics involve just running back and forth and tail whipping you. You can punch back, but as always, it seems to be erratic if it connects or not. There's no thought or strategy required, all you can do is keep restoring your shield and punching him as he heads towards you, and hope that he eventually dies.

This is why I didn't beat the final boss. Despite the permanent timer, you reaaaally have to be screwing up to be in risk of it running out before you beat the boss. The Lizard is a no-good nuisance, but you can sit there for a long time and still be able to defeat him. The Kingpin, however, is almost hilarious in how tight the timer is; you're given no more than a minute before Mary Jane is plunged into a vat of acid, and in that time you have to kick Kingpin in the head several times. Good luck getting the game to recognise it that often in that amount of time! Sometimes I can fluke and get at least five hits in, but presumably there's three more required before he falls. There's no challenge involved at that point, it's just hoping that God will decide to give a kid a break and let him complete a twenty year old video game. It doesn't help that if you die at that point in the game, no continue for you. Back to the title screen! (I hope I mentioned there's no password system)

It's a pity, because the platforming side of things ain't bad, and Spider-Man is essentially a perfect subject for something like Shinobi III. Instead we get something that's clunky beyond belief. Sad.

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Completion: Finished on Easy. Close enough on Normal


Further reading: One of many games I played in 2009

Taz-Mania

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: 1995

When source material is used inappropriately.


As you might be aware, I love Taz-Mania. There's something about mixing Warner Bros. animation with a satirical family sitcom and throwing in a Fawlty Towers parody for good measure that intrigues me. So considering their source material, it's understandable that the game is pretty weird and crappy. And it's somewhat interesting how they worked in a robot factory, a creepy giant bird, and a disturbing maze from what I just described of the show.

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Completion: No.


Further reading: Taz hate bad games.

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure

RATING: 1/4

WHEN: 1995/1996

I've just spoiled what you'll be seeing a lot of before the end of the game.


When I originally played this years ago, I found it difficult and due to short attention span, never really got far past the first cave level; I simply assumed it was difficult because my gaming skills were lacking. Now, I can verify that it wasn't my lack of skill, but it was the fact the game is goddamned balls hard. Or a bit of both with a sprinkle of biased judgement.

The game is your typical Sonic clone, soaring through generic levels with awkward controls, collecting items replacing rings, and such. The unique feature here is that you can call in buddies to kill all the enemies onscreen, but those calls are limited, and collecting 50 carrots grants you another one. You can't use them during boss battles, and there's never really any desperate need to use them, so they're fairly useless, but it's nice to see them making an effort for a change.

However, about halfway through the game, the difficulty leaps through the roof. The boss battles are never difficult, but stages become littered with lava, instant-death spikes, versatile enemies, and aquatic sections where you have no means of attack. The last three levels are narrow corridors with tons and tons of spikes, electricity generators, and disappearing platforms, and the game ends with a long chase where a single mistake will cost you a life.

And the coup de grace?

The passwords are long.

Very long.

Nothing ruins a game more than that. And everything I just mentioned.

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Completion: Finished.

Vectorman

RATING: n/a

WHEN: 2000

Not only is it the most visually impressive game I've seen on the Mega Drive, but it's also actually really good!


[no review]

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Completion: On the default difficulty.

Vectorman 2

RATING: n/a

CONSOLE: GameCube

WHEN: Autumn 2005

NOTES: part of Sonic Gems Collection

Haven't played.


[no review]

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Completion: No.

Zoop

RATING: 0/4

WHEN: 1996

It plays as well as it looks.


My brother bought this, and I honestly don't know what he was expecting. It wasn't cheap, the boxart didn't feature cool things, and neither of us are big puzzle game fanatics. So you can imagine how much we played it. It's a really average game; not terrible, just average, plain, and mediocre. Thankfully, a friend liked it muchly, and thus we traded it for some 3-in-1 game with Golden Axe and Streets of Rage on it, so that was cool.

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Completion: No ending.