If you’re that strapped for cash, I’d suggest a part-time job. How ’bout a paper route? It builds character. It did in my case.
– Joe Friday (Dan Aykroyd)
Having a paper round in the 1980s must have been part of the middle class American dream as it seems to have been the thing that 12 year olds did; at least according to countless vomit inducing family movies that Hollywood seemed to chuck out back then. I wouldn’t know as in the 1980s I was barely a few years old living in a working class British town where the main topic of conversation seemed to be “What are we going to do when Thatcher closes the last mine?” I don’t want to get in to politics so I will get on with this review.
Paperboy is a real classic of a video game. Starting out in arcades it was hugely addictive and earned enough revenue to warrant a home console port making its way on to numerous consoles most significantly the NES and the Sega Master System. Given its success then it came as no surprise that a follow-up would be released. Paperboy 2 was released on to the 16-bit market on the Mega Drive (Genesis) and the Super Nintendo to name a few. The game was intended to build on what made the original game so much fun and address some of the criticisms.
One of the biggest changes made to the game was the option to play as “Papergirl” in an attempt to give the game more of a unisex appeal. There are no differences in how the game plays regardless of gender and is a purely aesthetic feature. Another change is that now you have to deliver to houses on both sides of the three streets your route is on and each of these streets represents a different level of difficulty – Easy Street, Medium Way and Hard Road. As in the previous game the aim is to deliver at least one paper to each house on your route. A perfect round results in more subscribers but miss one and that person unsubscribes. Miss them all and it’s game over.
This game is a lot of fun. It looks pretty good but its graphics won’t blow you away. The controls are certainly challenging to master and require practice to learn the right angle you have to be at in order to hit the mail box or the door mat. If that wasn’t tough enough then there are a plethora of things such as dogs, runaway prams, cars and killer bees that try and block your throw and/or knock you off your bike. You also have a limited number of papers and so have to pick more up along the way and you can guarantee they will be in awkward places. Lightning quick reflexes are needed at times to get the bike through the obstacles to pick up fresh papers. At the end of each street is an obstacle course that you don’t need to finish in order to complete the game but just gives you more points.
Yes it is challenging but it is a lot of fun. There’s just something about this game be it charm or the craziness of the street that keeps making you want to try harder. There are so many bonus points to be had by hitting things with your papers such as the fat man off the diving board in to the pool, the bikini off the sunbathing girl or knocking the car jack down trapping a guy underneath whose legs wriggle in pain – actually I am beginning to wonder if “Paperboy” is actually a character from any of the Grand Theft Auto games in their youth. It would make sense given his penchant for violence.
This isn’t a casual game as at times you really have to be paying attention at what you are doing even if on the surface it does seem that way. The premise is simple but the original Paperboy was notoriously difficult and this sequel doesn’t let up. It’s the enjoyability that keeps you coming back. My biggest gripe about the game however is that it is somewhat repetitive. You only have the three streets I mentioned earlier and while your week on each street does get more difficult as you progress it does make the game feel rather short.
This is definitely one for the collection and if you spot it – get it!
In both my The Simpsons: Bart vs the World and Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse reviews I have made frequent mention of how in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras there was a torrent of uninspired platform games that only sold because it starred a licensed character. With Disney’s Bonkers it could have very easily followed suit but I am one for believing that credit is where credit is due as Disney Software tried something different this time.
Bonkers was released on the Mega Drive (Genesis for you who hail from North America) in 1994 when the show was still running on TV. The plot of the game follows cartoon cop Bonkers D. Bobcat as he tries to win the “Officer of the Month” award by nabbing four of the biggest crooks in town. Each crook can be found in their own unique area of the city which has its own dangers and the player can choose who they want to go after first.
This is not one game but is in fact four mini games. In the first game “Harry the Handbag’s” raccoon goons are stealing Toon Treasures (including Mickey Mouse’s wizard hat from Fantasia and Aladdin’s lamp) from a museum. To stop them you must throw donuts at them (I thought cops carried guns?). Then you have to face “The Rat” in the junkyard where a robot is trying to stop you. In order to catch “The Rat” you have to brick up a wall to block the robot. The third villain is “Mr Big” who can be defeated by finding all the pieces of the fall-apart rabbit from the show. The final villain is “Ma Tow Truck” who is blocking the freeway and you have to race around in your police car stopping her by throwing giant bubble gum bombs.
OK – as I said I have to give them credit for trying something different when they could have easily made just another uninspired platformer with their trademark character but the truth is I would rather one average game than four small terrible games. This game infuriated me but it’s not the variety of the mini games that was the problem. It was the fact that in order to make the game last they designed it so you had to play four rounds of each mini game with the difficulty increasing each time. The frustration comes from the fact you don’t feel like you are achieving anything or progressing at all except that it gets more difficult.
The junkyard and museum levels suffered from appalling hit detection with the bricks/doughnuts and I ended up throwing large numbers of them at the same spot despite repositioning Bonkers. The control of the car was terrible and it felt more like a pinball at times than a squad car as it would bounce off the sidewalk and other cars.
On the whole this was a bad game. It feels like one of those titles thrown out there just to make a quick buck. The worst kind of game. It’s a shame because I have fond memories of the show but alas it does seem to be one of those Disney shows that had its one run and then was forgotten about.
Mark Berryman and Tony Wilkins finally find a retro Star Trek game that doesn’t make them want to go on a Klingon-style rampage.
Anyone who has read our Star Trek Generations – Beyond the Nexus review will know that when it comes to Star Trek and retro games that rarely do the two crossover in a good way. The aforementioned game was a painfully dull affair being a mix of confusing and slow space action, a puzzle game and a shooter. So when we found ourselves with a little known game based on the Deep Space Nine incarnation of the show we were understandably skeptical.
We knew nothing of this game before playing it. As we have come to expect from a Star Trek game there was the need to read a Captain’s Log but fortunately this one was quite short. The game begins with the player as Benjamin Sisko in his office when he receives a call from Odo asking him to go to his security office after an engineer has been attacked. Thus begins the story about political double dealings, mystical revelations and (surprisingly for a 16-bit era Star Trek game) a fair amount of action. DS9 – Crossroads of Time has several things in its favor that makes it stand apart from its brethren. Firstly the pacing is a lot faster keeping it interesting and the player is given a great deal of freedom to explore the beautifully rendered station. Action is defintiely the order of the day in this game with Benjamin Sisko grabbing a phaser within the first few minutes of gameplay and having to fend off Bajorans or Cardassians trying to blow up the station.
While some of the other Trek games of the era claim to tie in with the franchise this is one of the few that genuinely does. The game was produced during the early seasons of the show where the story of Cardassian-supported Bajoran separatists was a major plot point. This game builds on that storyline giving the player a feel of being involved. Perhaps the level every Trekkie wants to play however is the orb-generated Battle of Wolf 359 level where Sisko is back aboard his old ship, the USS Saratoga, fighting the Borg. Although sadly the level differs little from any of the others with the same gameplay it is still fun.
Gamewise it is a blend of action/adventure with some RPG elements. Many of the action segments where you run around with a phaser and have a specific goal such as diffusing bombs or fending off Cardassian troops play like several sci-fi inspired games of the time such as Batman Forever and Demolition Man. It is very much a 2D affair with no real way to outflank attacking enemies. Instead you have to duck or hide behind barrels, etc to avoid enemy fire before jumping up to attack. There are also some unique levels such as piloting a Runabout through the wormhole but again it is a 2d side scrolling affair albeit a beautifully depicted one.
Easily one of the better games of the Star Trek franchise to make it on to a 16-bit console we have to say from an objective viewpoint it is a game that will only really appeal to Trekkies so its a good thing we are. There’s just so much to give to the fans that it would really be lost on anyone else.
Thanks for reading…
Castle of Illusion appeared on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) in 1990 and was one of a number of Disney titles that were released on the console such as Tale Spin, Quackshot and the ever popular Aladdin to name a few. The plot involves Mickey Mouse rescuing Minnie from the evil Mizrabel who has kidnapped her and is holding her prisoner in her Castle of Illusion. Inside this enchanted castle are a series of ‘worlds’ which Mickey has to traverse while collecting rainbow gems in order to build a rainbow bridge at the end to reach Minnie.
At it’s heart the game is one of a million 2D side scrolling platform games. Each world has its unique enemies that attack primarily by bumping in to Mickey Mouse. Mickey can defend himself by jumping on top of his enemies using his butt to destroy them but failing that he can gain projectile weapons in the form of apples and marbles to hurl at them. The layout of the game comprises five levels in total with a boss at the end of each. At the end Mickey has to face Mizrabel herself.
When it appeared in 1990 this game received positive reviews but I find it hard to explain why. Personally I think this game is uninspiring. It oozes of things we have seen before in countless other games and like so many titles in this genre the only real selling point is that it stars a trademark character. The controls are sharp and responsive making it much better than most and some of the backdrops are beautifully rendered but apart from that it’s not very memorable. In fact I had forgotten I had it until I saw it recently on a website. I wouldn’t call it a bad game but given the success of Aladdin it falls by the wayside somewhat.
Thanks for reading…
Tony Wilkins reviews a Superman game on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis)
When making a game based on a well established and loved character you have to get it right. You can’t just put them in any random setting and hope it will work because the fans of that franchise (who will be the target audience) will revolt against it. Now I am not the biggest Superman fan as I have always leaned towards the Dark Knight but playing this game I can’t help but feel that the whole concept doesn’t work. On the whole it took me only five minutes to realize I was not going to like this title but I carried on.
The gameplay is not what you would expect from a Superman game. It plays like a bad Streets of Rage rip off and this is my biggest problem. Superman is not an overly violent character. Sure he has his moments where has to take action against the bad guys but ultimately he tries to find ways to resolve situations before resorting to the Man of Steel neck break. This is a beat’em up plain and simple and Superman resolves issues with his fists and feet. Later in the game you get to control other characters and when on these levels I think the format is more acceptable but on the whole the game suffers from it.
Controlling the characters is a clunky and dull affair and this being a 1994 game there’s no excuse for it. The Mega Drive (Genesis) had matured by then and there were many far superior handling games on the market that pushed the system much further like the universally loved Aladdin. It’s dull and uninspiring with not even the change in characters keeping it interesting. You cannot start the game off as another character which is a shame so you have to play the characters at set times during the unraveling of the story. The format is mostly a complete Streets of Rage rip off. You move forward a short distance and encounter a few baddies. You beat the living crap out of them then move on to the next bit. And so on. And so on. I lost interest very quickly. It works for games like Alien Storm but not here. Here it’s just tedious.
This was a poor game and I think a Superman title could be made far more interesting and exciting. Shame.
Thanks for reading…
Tony Wilkins looks at the Mega Drive sequel to a classic game
Funny thing about sequels; in the movies sequels tend to not be as good as the original. There are countless sequels to great movies that are absolutely dreadful and we would be here all day if we tried to list them all. In gaming however sequels tend to be better than the original with player feedback often being taken in to account to know what worked and what didn’t. Sadly in gaming there are exceptions and this is one.
Out Run was one of the truly iconic games of the 1980s beginning life as a full arcade experience complete with little car to sit in before exploding on to the early home consoles such as the Sega Master System. Sales were high and awards such as the Golden Joystick Game of the Year were plentiful. The plot was simple enough; a guy and girl in a Ferrari 355 Testarossa racing against the clock through idyllic countryside. It embodied what we wanted from video games – escape to the kind of action filled world we always dreamed of. It was a critical and commercial success and was destined for sequels.
There were a few on the Master System and some of the other consoles it was ported on to but the most loyal fans waited patiently for it’s leap on to the 16-bit Mega Drive (Genesis) console. The more sophisticated system promised to build on the experience but Out Run 2019 didn’t deliver on that promise at least not for me. I was disappointed with this title for several reasons. Firstly the graphics are blocky and clumsy looking compared to some equivalent games of the day; the two tone speeding ground being my biggest annoyance. This has the look of a Master System game at times and I feel like the Mega Drive’s ability was not utilized to the full. Gone is the Ferrari it being replaced with a Batmobile-style rocket car (perhaps the blonde is still there with you behind the golden brown windows). I understand it’s the future and they were going for a Blade Runner look but what harm would it be to at least make the car red to show some lineage to the Ferrari? Strangely the car on the cover is red so someone in the art department caught on to the idea. Actually the look of the game was a throwback to the fact that originally this was it’s own game for the Mega CD called Cyber Road but then it was renamed Junker’s High for a Mega Drive (Genesis) release before finally becoming Out Run 2019 as part of a marketing ploy.
One thing that hasn’t changed are the controls. The brakes are still only used on occasion with it being enough to handle all but the sharpest of corners by easing off the throttle. Even then you will probably find yourself go flying off the track by a near ninety degree corner that just appears out of nowhere. If you ever glance down at the speedometer you might be stunned to see speeds of around 400mph. It is fast especially when the booster kicks in but I think that saying you are doing 400mph+ is stretching it a bit far. Actually the US version is tweaked to display speeds of over 600mph while the Japanese version has a realistic speed of around 200mph. Whatever the speedometer displays the gameplay remains the same.
I won’t go as far to say this game is bad. I understand that it does have a fan base of its own but I will not be joining its ranks. Bland is the word I would use to describe it. I don’t feel like it improves on the original 8-bit games very much and so for me it is something of a missed opportunity.
Thanks for reading…
Tony Wilkins reviews Alien Storm for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis)
When I first got in to the retro gaming scene one title I was on the look out for from my childhood was Alien Storm. I have fond memories of the addictiveness of this game and I was curious to see if it had stood the test of time it being some fifteen years since I last picked up the distinctive black controller of the Mega Drive. So I put it on and immediately found myself feeling like I was in my early teens again as I was hurled into this world of invading alien hordes. It had stood the test of time well.
First released in 1990 as an arcade game it was later adapted for use on the Master System and Mega Drive. The story of Alien Storm is simple enough; Earth has been invaded by a multi-species alien race causing carnage and mayhem everywhere and it is up to three “Alien Busters” to send them packing. The game begins with you having to choose which of the three you want to play as. There’s a female character, a male character and a robot. They do have names but they vary from region to region and whichever console you play it on. Why they felt the need to do this I will never know.
Each character has a variety of weapons to use and a single special move. The weapons effectiveness is determined by a power gauge beneath the character’s health bar. When all the power is used then the character resorts to physical attacks until the power can be replenished however this often results in you sustaining some injury since you have to get close to the aliens. Obviously the special moves use more energy than the standard weapons but are essential for clearing the screen when you find that you are a little more outnumbered than usual. How the characters use their basic weapons changes as well to keep things that little more interesting however you have little control over this aspect. Its simply a case of hitting the fire button and seeing what he/she does.
There are three distinct game styles over the course of seven missions. The main game is a side scrolling adventure with the player controlling the character as he/she advances through the stage clearing it of aliens. Everytime the player encounters a group of aliens they must be destroyed before any further progression can be made. There are occasional bonus sections where the player takes on a first person viewpoint to clear a shop/warehouse/etc of the aliens inside. Finally there are high speed shooting segments that play like a sideways version Space Invaders.
Character animation is superb in this game given it’s origins from 1990 (especially good is watching the aliens grow legs ready for the high speed segments) and there are enough new aliens as you progress through the game to keep you interested. The controls are flawless and easy to get to grips with. Despite its relative simplicity it is huge amounts of fun especially when you have a companion in two player mode which does ease the experience somewhat.
Stood the test of time? It remains one of my all time favorite games.
Thanks for reading…