Saturday 6 December 2014

Sega Game Pack 4 in 1 (Game Gear review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1991

Sega Game Pack 4 in 1 was released exclusively in Europe as a console pack-in (although some rare boxed copies do exist). As you might expect, it features four different games of which three are sports titles. 

First up is Flash Columns which is based on one of the modes found in the full Game Gear release of Columns. It's a puzzle game where you have to connect the falling gems into matching shapes. The twist here is that you only need to worry about getting rid of the flashing gems and you'll usually have to work your way through rows of other gems first. Once you do so you'll move on to the next level which is faster and more cluttered. I'm not a massive fan of these types of games but it controls really well and the energetic music keeps the action tense. Next up is Penalty Shootout - it's a very basic football game where you have to score more goals than your opponent. You have five penalty kicks per team and you must firstly choose whether to hit it to the left, centre or right; you'll then be given an option to place it high, middle or low. Each penalty kick has some serious swerve on it and when you play goalkeeper it's impossible to accurately predict where the ball is going to end up. If you score more goals than the CPU you move on to the next level. There's really nothing to this game and once you've played it there's very little reason to return. The next game is Tennis and it's single-player only with four skill levels and a choice of 1 or 3 sets. Surprisingly, Sonic the Hedgehog makes a cameo appearance and guests as the umpire for each match! There isn't a great deal of variety in the shot selection and you can only choose between top spin and lob. However, the controls are spot-on and you can easily place your shots to the front or back of the court by pressing up or down on the d-pad. The whole game reminds me a lot of Tennis on Nintendo's Game Boy (which features Mario as the guest umpire) and it's undeniable that Sega took some inspiration for this title. While it's limited in its options and gameplay, what is here is very well done and fun to play.

The final game is Rally which plays a bit like Outrun without the branching paths. It consists of five stages and your objective is to reach the checkpoint before the timer runs out. The graphics are basic but I do like the way the game transitions to a new background theme to show your progression. It controls really well and your car even has automatic transmission so you can just focus on avoiding fellow drivers. I really don't like the sound effect that plays as you turn into a corner though - it sounds like someone using a pneumatic drill! Weirdly, there's nothing on the track to celebrate the end of stage five - instead, your car comes to halt and looks like it's out of petrol. It's only when you see the 'Great Driving!' screen that you realise you actually beat the game!

Although Sega Game Pack 4 in 1 doesn't do much to show off the system the majority of the titles on display have fantastic gameplay and excellent controls. It's a nice compilation and each game is perfectly suited to the pick-up-and-play nature of Sega's handheld.

Random trivia: The only game that was made exclusively for this European compilation is Penalty Shootout. The rest had all been previously released in Japan under the titles Kuni Chan no Game Tengoku Volumes 1 & 2.

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