Saturday 17 February 2024

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D3
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1987

Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! is a sports game that was re-released in 1990 as Punch-Out!! (NES).

+ Boxers ooze personality and their unique attacks give the game a puzzle-like element where button mashing is punished.

+ Despite the small amount of button inputs, there's lots of strategy to each bout, as well as various secrets to uncover.

+ Learning how to earn a Star Punch from each opponent is fun, and using them wisely can lead to devastating KOs.

+ Difficulty curve is spot-on and the Circuits slowly help to improve your skills before throwing the kitchen sink at you.

+ Includes a handy password system that allows you to skip ahead to different Circuits, or battle against later opponents.

+ Iconic cut-scenes with some amazing parallax scrolling effects, and the chunky character sprites have terrific animation.

- Some boxers are repeated in later Circuits, and while they do have new attacks, a fully unique roster would have been nice.

Monday 12 February 2024

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 (NES review)

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: 1994

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 is a platform game and the sequel to the 1990 NES original.

+ Ability to play co-op is a blast and there's even a cool new attack where you can throw your partner to harm enemies.

+ Controls are excellent (particularly for mid-air adjustments), and dispatching enemies by throwing boxes never gets old.

+ Escape stage includes a timer that adds urgency, and the three Amusement Park levels can be played in any order.

+ Includes cut-scenes throughout your adventure to break up the action and to keep you invested in the narrative.

- Level design and settings are rather uninspired, and do little to differentiate themselves from the original game.

- Main platforming stages offer minimal challenge, and even the bosses have basic, easily exploitable patterns.

- Game ending is extremely unsatisfying, as nothing gets resolved and the entire adventure seems like a waste of time.

Wednesday 7 February 2024

The Untouchables (NES review)

Developer: Special FX Software
Publisher: Ocean
Released: 1990

The Untouchables is an action game that's based on the 1987 movie of the same name.

+ Contains multiple gameplay styles to keep things fresh, and despite the high difficulty there's unlimited continues on offer.

+ Having to constantly monitor your squad's health and switch between them to stay alive is an interesting mechanic.

- Alley levels could have used Zapper support, as you'll typically take damage while moving the cursor across the screen.

- While fixed in the REV-B cart, the Border Raid stage features a cursor that only appears while firing, negating accuracy.

- Warehouse level has stiff controls that result in inaccurate jumping and delayed inputs when attempting to fire your gun.

- Train Station escort mission gives little visibility of what lies ahead, and the only way to succeed is through trial-and-error.

- Music is ear-piercing, and bizarrely, the game kicks you back to the title screen at the end of each completed mission.

Saturday 6 January 2024

Bonk's Adventure (NES review)

Developer: A.I
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Released: 1994

Bonk's Adventure is an action-platformer that was first released in 1990 on the Turbografx 16.

+ An impressive port to the humble NES that manages to retain much of the original's level design, charm and character.

+ Stages and locales have plenty of variety, with Round 5 being a highlight due to its meandering layouts.

+ Gaining invincibility and ploughing through enemies is a joy and feels more visceral than in Super Mario Bros. (1985, NES).

+ Bosses still feature gigantic sprites with barely any flicker, and there's only minimal slowdown throughout.

- However, unlike other late NES releases like Kirby's Adventure (1993), levels are sparse with feeble enemy sprites.

- Controls aren't quite as tight as they should be, especially when attempting minute, precise platforming adjustments.

- Remarkably easy to see the credits roll due to the abundance of extra lives and health top-ups scattered around.

Wednesday 3 January 2024

Bucky O'Hare (NES review)

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: 1992

Bucky O'Hare is an action-platformer that's based on the comic book of the same name.

+ Level design constantly surprises with its use of verticality and awesome set-pieces that make each area feel unique.

+ Allows you to choose the order in which you tackle the first four stages, and there's even a handy password feature.

+ Being able to switch between characters on the fly adds strategy, as well as puzzle elements in terms of how to progress.

+ Gorgeous graphics with detailed sprite work and cut-scenes, and the music does an excellent job of heightening the intensity.

- Difficulty is wildly uneven and many sections will have you tearing your hair out due to the reliance on trial-and-error over skill.

- Recycles many ideas from other NES games such as Life Force (1987), Mega Man II (1988) and Battletoads (1991).

- Too many sections lean on Blinky's abilities and overall there's not enough focus on the rest of the characters.

Friday 29 December 2023

Chicago Syndicate (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1995

Chicago Syndicate is an action game that's exclusive to Sega's 8-bit handheld.

+ Promising core concept that features an open-ended stage order where careful consideration of gang strength is required.

+ There's an incredible amount of attacks to choose from, which encourages experimentation to find your preferred moves.

- However, most attacks are under-powered, so you'll likely stick with the same 2-3 moves that do the most damage.

- Enemies are total sponges to both hand-to-hand and weapons-based attacks, which makes combat an infuriating chore.

- You'll often need to wait a second or two for an animation to trigger, which leaves you wide open to receiving damage.

- Poor level design (with copy-pasted sections) and some garish colour schemes where foes blend into the backgrounds.

- Does a bad job of explaining how to fully clear stages and learning the correct way to progress isn't immediately intuitive.

Thursday 28 December 2023

Castelian (NES review)

Developer: Bits Studios
Publisher: Triffix
Released: 1991

Castelian is a platform game that was also released on the Atari 7800 as Tower Toppler (1988).

+ Level design is superb and there's always multiple hazards / enemy types vying for your attention to keep you invested.

+ Frequently includes clever puzzle elements, such as purposely taking damage in order to reach lower platforms.

+ Platformer mini-game is more fun than Atari's shooter interlude, and the disappearing ledges provide a good challenge.

- Gameplay can be punishingly tough until you memorise layouts and enemy patterns, even on Novice difficulty.

- Both jump and shoot are mapped to the same button, which can occasionally lead to the wrong action being performed.

- Collision detection is spotty and your character often falls off platforms despite not being at the very edge.

- Controls in the platformer mini-game suffer from animation lag and you can't adjust your jump in mid-air.

Sunday 24 December 2023

Ufouria: The Saga (NES review)

Developer: Sunsoft
Publisher: Sunsoft
Released: 1992

Ufouria: The Saga is an action-adventure game that was released in Australia, Europe and Japan.

+ Very accommodating to newcomers in terms of its difficulty and how it guides players at the start of the game.

+ World design is thoughtfully and meticulously crafted, and backtracking is a real joy rather than a chore.

+ Never feels too overwhelming and unlike Metroid (1987, NES) the inclusion of a map helps to focus your plan of attack.

+ The four playable characters have unique abilities that can often be combined with quick-switching to open up exploration.

+ Catchy music with area-specific tracks and bass-heavy tones synonymous with Sunsoft NES games.

- The need to press Down while jumping in order to attack is cumbersome and doesn't always work correctly in tight corridors.

- Boss battles are a huge let-down, as most require you to employ the same attack strategies to defeat them.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Mr. Gimmick (NES review)

Developer: Sunsoft
Publisher: Sunsoft
Released: 1993

Mr. Gimmick is an action-platformer that was only released in Japan and Scandinavia.

+ Spectacular physics engine / level design, and attempting to find all six magic items to unlock the true ending is fun.

+ Learning how to competently use your star attack to reach higher platforms adds a cool puzzle-like element.

+ Enemy A.I. is mind-blowing, as foes make a conscious effort to dodge your attacks and evade perilous death pits.

+ Music has the typical Sunsoft flair with some funky bass lines, while the graphics push the console to the absolute limit.

- Controls are slippery to an infuriating degree and it can take a while to avoid over-shooting your intended target.

- Star attacks are under-powered and never make you feel that you have a truly effective way of battling swarms of enemies.

- While there's unlimited continues, the game removes your magic items, meaning you can't unlock the final boss.

Sunday 10 December 2023

RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: NMS Software
Publisher: Virgin Games
Released: 1993

RoboCop Versus The Terminator is an action game that was also released on the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Master System in 1993.

+ Mimics the action from the 16-bit version remarkably well, with a healthy amount of missions and satisfying weaponry.

+ Level design's heavy use of verticality is engaging, and there's many secret areas to hunt down for helpful items / weapons.

+ Allows you to play slowly and methodically, or brazenly reckless, in part due to the 8-way fire which gives you total control.

+ Great use of voice samples that are surprisingly clear and add personality to the game's overall presentation.

- Slowdown is rampant from the get-go and it can be very distracting when the action suddenly speeds up and down.

- A number of stages end rather abruptly due to this port omitting several boss battles found in the 16-bit version.

- Camera snaps around in a disorienting fashion, likely to overcompensate for the reduced visibility on the smaller screen.

RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Sega Master System review)

Developer: NMS Software
Publisher: Virgin Games
Released: 1993

RoboCop Versus The Terminator is an action game that was also released on the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Game Gear in 1993.

+ Mimics the action from the 16-bit version remarkably well, with a healthy amount of missions and satisfying weaponry.

+ Level design's heavy use of verticality is engaging, and there's many secret areas to hunt down for helpful items / weapons.

+ Allows you to play slowly and methodically, or brazenly reckless, in part due to the 8-way fire which gives you total control.

+ Great use of voice samples that are surprisingly clear and add personality to the game's overall presentation.

- Slowdown is rampant from the get-go and it can be very distracting when the action suddenly speeds up and down.

- A number of stages end rather abruptly due to this port omitting several boss battles found in the 16-bit version.

- Enemy bullets tend to blur into the background (especially during boss fights), resulting in sprite flicker.

Thursday 30 November 2023

RoboCop Versus The Terminator (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Virgin Games
Publisher: Virgin Games
Released: 1993

RoboCop Versus The Terminator is an action game that was also released on the Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear in 1993.

+ Level design's heavy use of verticality is engaging, and there's many secret areas to hunt down for helpful items / weapons.

+ Like Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992, SNES), the ability to switch between two weapons gives you real strategic flexibility.

+ Allows you to play slowly and methodically, or brazenly reckless, in part due to the 8-way fire which gives you total control.

+ Neat graphical flourishes, such as trash blowing through city streets, and a cool lighting effect when RoboCop fires his gun.

- Later stages are ridiculously difficult, and the sheer number of enemies and projectiles borders on absurdity.

- Slowdown is present in crowded areas, which isn't ideal in a twitch-based game where your instant reactions are key.

- Some bosses can be complete bullet sponges if you have the unfortunate occurrence of losing your powerful weapons.

Sunday 26 November 2023

Splatterhouse 3 (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Now Production
Publisher: Namco
Released: 1993

Splatterhouse 3 is a side-scrolling beat-em-up and the sequel to 1992's Sega Mega Drive / Genesis exclusive Splatterhouse 2.

+ Small, but respectable range of attacks on offer, with the powerful Mutated Rick having many exclusive moves.

+ High replayability, as the game allows you to choose your route through each stage and there's four different endings.

+ Music creates a seriously creepy vibe that heightens the gameplay and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

+ Stunning graphical effects, ghoulish enemy design and cut-scenes that deepen your investment in the game's plot.

- Time limits to save your loved ones are excruciatingly short and it doesn't help that enemies take a ton of hits to defeat.

- Gets very repetitive mid-way through, as the level design is entirely devoid of any memorable set-pieces.

- Lacklustre bosses aren't even remotely intimidating and instead feature cheap attack patterns that frustrate.

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Battleship: The Classic Naval Combat Game (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: NGM Productions
Publisher: Mindscape
Released: 1993

Battleship: The Classic Naval Combat Game is a turn-based strategy game that was also released on the Nintendo NES (1993).

+ New ships and weapons are added as you move up the ranks, which is a great way to spice up the combat.

+ Seeing the CPU waste one of its special weapons is gratifying and engages you further into demolishing its fleet.

+ An easy to remember password system is available so you can continue your progress at a later date. 

- Transition from a board game to a video game is dry and there's a distinct lack of personality on display.

- Could have used some additional grid sizes or hazards to keep players invested and to push the core concept forward.

- Strangely, there's no two-player Link Cable option, and playing against the CPU is rather lifeless in the long run.

- Music is downbeat and sombre, which is the polar opposite of what you'd expect in an intense, strategic battle.

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Gauntlet (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Tiertex
Publisher: U.S. Gold
Released: 1990

Gauntlet is a hack-and-slash game that was first released in the Arcade in 1985.

+  Your steadily depleting energy metre ups the intensity and forces you to constantly think two steps ahead in order to survive.

+ Plenty of secrets to be found and there are often several routes / exits in each stage that require careful key management.

+ Closer in stage design to the Arcade vs. NES (1988), and the four playable characters and 100's of levels offer great value.

+ Less slowdown compared to the NES version and the action runs a lot smoother, even with tons of enemy sprites on screen.

- Often feels as if damage is completely unavoidable, and there's many times where you'll be trapped with no way out.

- Frequently have to wait for a shot to land before you're allowed to re-fire, which can put you in harms way.

- Lack of a password system is unfortunate, as seeing all the stage layouts would require a serious gaming marathon.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Hardball! (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Dan Thompson, Mimi Doggett, Edgar Noel Bogas
Publisher: Atari, Accolade, Kixx, U.S. Gold
Released: 1987

Hardball! is a baseball game that was first released on the Commodore 64 in 1985.

+ Gameplay is intuitive with easy-to-use controls, and there's a wide array of pitch types to keep opposing hitters off-balance.

+ Impressive number of options in terms of infield / outfield player position, stat-based substitutions, and D.H. choice.

+ The umpire's "Strike!" call (complete with written text next to his sprite) is a really great presentational touch. 

+ Graphics are top-notch with lots of background detail and superb player animations.

- Only includes two teams (Champs Vs All-Stars), so the difficulty level can be somewhat overwhelming to newcomers.

- Takes forever for an outfielder to throw the ball back to the infield, and runners move very slowly around the bases.

- Your defensive players are unable to chase airborne foul balls, which results in missed outs.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Splatterhouse 2 (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Now Production
Publisher: Namco
Released: 1992

Splatterhouse 2 is a side-scrolling beat-em-up that's exclusive to Sega's 16-bit console.

+ Weapons are only available sparingly to add to the survival motif, but each one packs a punch and feels ultra satisfying.

+ Action has a rhythmic quality to its enemy / hazard placement, and the fair checkpoints help to eliminate frustration.

+ Stage IV features multiple paths where falling down a hole takes you to an underground sewer instead of an instant death pit.

+ Atmosphere is incredible from the outset thanks to the cinematic cut-scenes, creepy music and gory stage settings. 

- There's nothing here that advances the series and overall it's very similar to the original game (1988, Arcade).

- Bosses aren't particularly memorable and the eight short stages mean the game can be beaten in less than 30 minutes.

- Heavy slowdown when more than a handful of enemy sprites are on-screen, which can affect input responsiveness. 

Monday 2 October 2023

Bonanza Bros. (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: I.T.L / Sega CS
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1991

Bonanza Bros. is an action-stealth game that was first released in the Arcade in 1990.

+ Stealth-based gameplay can be fun at times, particularly when you squash an enemy while opening a door!

+ Variety of locales to stop the action feeling stale, and the sprawling Pyramid level taxes your problem-solving abilities. 

+ Given there's a time limit in each stage, the on-screen map is extremely handy for guiding you to the next item location.

- Includes only ten stages that offer little replay value, and a couple of levels from the Arcade original are absent.

- Controls aren't as responsive as the Master System version (1991) and there's always a slight delay after pressing a button.

- In single-player mode, the screen real estate is halved so you can't plan ahead as strategically and efficiently.

- Graphics are basic and blocky, while the music grows tiresome due to the sparse number of repeated tracks. 

Sunday 24 September 2023

Streets of Rage 3 (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Sega CS3
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1994

Streets of Rage 3 is a beat-em-up and the direct sequel to Streets of Rage 2 (1992, Sega Genesis).

+ Vertical rolls and upgradeable blitz attacks are great additions, and there's several hidden characters to unlock.

+ Inclusion of cut-scenes engrosses you into the story, and there's multiple endings depending on how you play.

+ 24 MEG cartridge results in outstanding graphics and detailed backgrounds (notably Stage 2's shark tank behind the bar!).

- Difficulty is dramatically increased from the Japanese version and the swarming enemies are ruthlessly aggressive.

- Bosses are an absolute chore, with many of the battles taking an age to conclude due to their huge life bars.

- Locales are uninspired (with many reused ideas from previous games) and some sections outstay their welcome.

- Music is disappointing, as the melodious tracks from the previous game are replaced with harsh, distorted sounds.

Saturday 23 September 2023

Taz-Mania (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Recreational Brainware
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1992

Taz-Mania is an action-platformer that's exclusive to Sega's 16-bit console.

+ Sprite animation is excellent, and the Jungle stage features lush scenery and parallax scrolling that draws you into the world.

- Atrocious level design from the outset that does its best to confuse players with unintuitive layouts and instant death pits.

- Cheap hits are plentiful due to bombs that are hidden behind foreground layers, or placed directly beneath a platform drop.

- On a similar note, upcoming platforms are typically hidden off-screen, which results in blind leaps of faith and trial-and-error.

- Mine-cart stage is rage-inducing, as you have little vision of upcoming hazards and have to rely on memorisation.

- Taz has an infuriating tendency to clip straight through platforms while in mid-jump, negating much of your hard work.

- Enemy design lacks creativity and the musical bleeps-and-bloops do nothing to enhance or compliment the gameplay.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Taz-Mania (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Technical Wave
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1992

Taz-Mania is an action-platformer that's exclusive to Sega's 8-bit console.

+ Level design improves as you progress and eventually opens up to include more adventurous areas with multiple paths.

+ Stage 3-2 features some tricky platforming in treacherous caves, along with excellent use of verticality to test your skills.

+ Taz's spin attack is effective in all situations and the momentum-based physics (e.g. walking down slopes) are impressive.

- Controls aren't tight enough and Taz reacts rather sensitively and unpredictably to your inputs, especially when in mid-air.

- Collecting a star for temporary invincibility isn't as carefree as you'd expect, as you can still take damage from stray bombs.

- Bosses are armed with extremely simple attack patterns that can be spotted (and exploited) within a handful of seconds.

- Between stage text attempts to create a back story for your adventure, but it transitions away before it can be fully read.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Action Fighter (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Sega R&D 2
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1986

Action Fighter is a top-down driving / shoot-em-up game that was originally released in the Arcade in 1986.

+ Driving concept has promise and neatly meshes the action of Bump 'n' Jump (1982, Arcade) and Spy Hunter (1983, Arcade).

+ Transition when landing or going airborne is good, and the ability to change vehicles is a fun way to add variety.

- Doesn't give you any chance to settle in, as there's no difficulty options and the action is rock-hard from the get-go.

- Enemies are total bullet sponges and the fact they take multiple shots to destroy makes you feel endlessly under-powered.

- Shoot-em-up areas suffer from white bullets that tend to blur into the cloud-based backgrounds for cheap hits.

- End of stage bosses have little imagination and they each involve repeating the same attack pattern ad nauseum.

- Once you've beaten the opening mission there's nothing else to see, as no new ideas / locales are thrown into the mix.

Monday 18 September 2023

Taz-Mania (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: NuFX
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1992

Taz-Mania is an action game that's exclusive to Sega's 8-bit handheld.

+ Gameplay has some solid ideas (with minor puzzle elements thrown in) and there's plenty of variety on offer.

+ Bosses are fun, especially the final battle that requires you to reach the top like Donkey Kong (1981, Arcade).

- Most of the gameplay ideas are poorly executed and don't last long enough to build upon their core concepts.

- Contains only a handful of generic enemies and the graphics lack detail while littering the stages with garish colour schemes.

- Jumping commands are sometimes ignored, and Taz will often perform a small leap despite you holding the button down.

- Music is absolutely atrocious and instead of memorable melodies you'll hear tracks that resemble fire alarms.

- As a whole, the game feels very unpolished and even seeing things through to the ending is a let-down.

Sunday 17 September 2023

Body Count (Sega Mega Drive review)

Developer: Probe Software
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1994

Body Count is a Sega Menacer light-gun game that was only released in Brazil and Europe.

+ Item drops are plentiful, which creates strategic decision making as to whether to collect them, or keep attacking.

+ Gritty stage locales are a perfect backdrop for your battles, and the music compliments the action while upping the intensity.

+ Graphics are outstanding with chunky sprites, destructible scenery, great use of colour and some neat parallax scrolling.

- Never gives itself an opportunity to build tension, as there's literally a non-stop swarm of enemies from beginning to end.

- Considering you're always so overwhelmed, there's no logical way of defending yourself and damage is unavoidable.

- Regular enemies are enormous bullet-sponges from the outset, and feeling so under-powered sucks out much of the fun.

- Opponents show no signs of visible damage until defeated, meaning you'll often wonder if your bullets are having any effect.

Saturday 16 September 2023

Fire & Ice (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Graftgold Creative Software
Publisher: Tec Toy
Released: 1995

Fire & Ice is an action-platformer that was only released in Brazil.

+ Level design is above-average and it can be fun traversing the well-thought-out stages in the hunt for key pieces.

+ Each world has some nice verticality to its stage layouts and the game slowly introduces new enemy types and hazards.

+ Your weapon can be used to dispatch enemies in interesting ways, such as ricocheting ice pellets off an opposing wall.

- Only one feeble boss battle in the whole game and as a result each world has no real pay-off for completing its stages.

- Controls are extremely twitchy and the frame-rate randomly fluctuates, meaning precision platforming is a challenge.

- Camera has a tendency to swing around wildly, which is disorientating and can lead to players feeling rather queasy.

- Occasional issues with collision detection when attempting to shoot an enemy or land on a platform.

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