Thursday 22 November 2012

REVIEW - Midway Arcade Origins (Xbox 360 / PS3)

Another generation of consoles, another repackaged collection of the same retro 'delights' that kept 80's kids enthralled in arcades everywhere. So how do these coin guzzling arcade games stand up today?

I should start by admitting that I never experienced the early 80's arcade boom, my first experiences of video games starting in 1989 when I was hooked on coin-ops such as Final Fight, Bomb Jack, Ghosts N Goblins and Bubble Bobble. Even then, games such as Defender and Arkanoid seemed dated to my young eyes. I have always had a soft spot for retro arcade games, though, and still play classics such as the aforementioned titles, as well as brilliant games like Mr Do, Rush N Attack, Galaga, Shinobi and many more. It was this love of simple, yet addictive, arcade games that made buying Midway Arcade Origins a no-brainer, especially at such a low price 

REVIEW - Sonic & AllStars Racing Transformed (Xbox 360 / PS3)

Ever since Super Mario Kart was unleashed on the SNES in 1992 developers have tried, with varying degrees of success, to capture the same magic that Nintendo managed with their cute and highly enjoyable spin on the racing game formula. When the initial bar is set so high it can be a hard act to follow, and what ensued was a plethora of cheap imitators to the fat plumber's crown. Sega tried themselves back in 1994 with Sonic Drift on their Game Gear hand-held, but it was fairly poor, and was quickly ignored (though it gained a sequel a year later). But it wasn't until 2010's excellent Sonic & Allstars Racing, developed by Sumo Digital, that we were finally given a worthy alternative to Nintendo's kart racer. It stuck fairly close to the template set all those years ago, but offered such huge fan service to Sega fans that you couldn't help but love it, flaws and all. Now Sumo have blessed us with a follow up, Sonic & Allstars Racing Transformed, so how does it compare to the high levels set by its predecessor?

Sunday 11 November 2012

REVIEW - Shark Attack Deathmatch (Xbox Live Indie)

Sharks are evil! Don't believe what the Discovery Channel tells you, great white sharks are not the misunderstood apex predators of the ocean depths. No, they are savage monsters with hearts filled with hate, and an insatiable hunger for human flesh, bones and organs.
We have all seen the movie Jaws, and its many appalling sequels, so we know exactly what sharks are capable of. As a result of these movies, 80's kids grew up with an inherent fear of the ocean and what possibly lurks beneath the surface. It is this primal fear of the watery unknown that Lighthouse Games calls upon to get your pulse racing and your nerves twisted.

Thursday 8 November 2012

REVIEW - Sega Vintage Collection : Toejam & Earl (XBLA)

Toejam & Earl is the funkadelic alien collect-em-up that first graced our screens way back in 1991 on Sega's Mega Drive console. It suffered low sales but gained universally positive reviews as well as a loyal following and cult status, Sega even using the duo as mascots for a short period.
The game put you in the sneakers of two alien rappers, Toejam, a tri-legged red dude with huge medallion and backwards cap, and Big Earl, a plump orange playa in wrap around shades and Bermuda shorts. These two hipsters are travelling back to their home planet Funkotron when, due to Big Earl's reckless driving, they collide with a meteorite, hurling them towards the nearest planet, Earth. The resulting crash smashes their ship into 10 pieces that are scattered across the globe, and in order to get home they (yup, you guessed it) must collect all 10 pieces. The game is set in a 2D top down viewpoint, and has often been described as a Roguelike. Indeed, strip away the green islands, space setting, wacky characters and cartoony visuals, replace it with dungeons and suitable adversaries and you would have a standard dungeon crawler on your hands. You have randomly generated levels and power up locations, unknown objects that have to be identifed or used at your peril, and the ultimate goal being to simply survive and reach the end.

REVIEW - Giana Sisters : Twisted Dreams (XBLA / PC)

The Great Giana Sisters was a controversial game released for the Commodore 64 in 1987, its controversy not due to any explicit content or even lude packaging (see Barbarian and Vixen for examples of this), no, there was nothing there to get The Daily Mail hot and bothered this time. The controversy was down to the simple fact that the game was not just a clone of, but a full scale rip off of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros NES title. Stage 1-1 was even an exact replica of the plumber's domain. The game was ported to the Amiga and Atari ST a year later but after Nintendo threatened legal action the game was removed from shelves, making it an instant collectable and cult title in the process. The next time the plagiarising sisters would grace a video game would be, bizarrely, on the Nintendo DS in 2009, I guess Nintendo decided that imitation was indeed the sincerest form of flattery, either that or they just mellowed out with age. Giana Sisters DS was a nice retro platformer with cutesy graphics, twee music, and fun gameplay, it hardly set the world alight but it was a solid 2D platformer, fitting the handheld platform perfectly.
Both the original cult classic and its DS follow up clearly captured the imaginations of the guys and gals at Black Forest Games as we have now been granted a brand new Giana Sisters adventure on the PC, with XBLA and PSN versions to come in the new year.

COIN-OP CLASSICS - Volfied (Taito) 1991

Volfied is the strangely titled follow up to Taito's earlier arcade titles, Qix, and Super Qix. Released back in 1991 Volfied took the line drawing aspect of its predecessors and set it in a futuristic theme not too dissimilar from their later Space Invaders sequels and spin-offs.

Whereas Qix has a very minimalist approach to its graphics, with basic sprites and geometric shapes as enemies, Volfied looks more like the space shoot-em-ups from that era of arcade gaming. Backgrounds consist of planet surfaces and space installations, while enemies are mostly mechanised or robotic in some way or another, this is especially true of the bosses that inhabit each single screen level. These behemoths are usually very striking, from huge robot hands and skulls, to centipede like creatures that snake their way around the screen. The smaller enemies that accompany them are either generic space ships, many of them looking quite similar to your own craft, or a smaller clone of the boss.
The sound is functional, with only title screen music, and a short riff that plays as you enter a stage, and sound effects consist of humming and basic sfx for the ship movement. To be honest, presentation is not Volfied's strong point, though it gets the job done and feels fitting to the basic nature of the gameplay.