Tag Archives: retro

Tony & Paul’s 90’s Kids Show Intro Challenge

My brother-in-law Paul bet me I couldn’t name at least 3 of 5 of the TV shows we watched as kids just from the music in the intro. I set out to prove him wrong. No.2 is a British show so don’t be surprised if you aren’t from the UK and don’t recognise it.

PLEASE EXCUSE the clip that displays alcohol. I assure you we were sober when coming up with the idea and making this video…Honest…

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MULTI-GAME REVIEW: Breaking in to the Atari 2600

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Well, it’s been a nearly a year now since my mid-life crisis kicked in and I got hold of a Sega Mega Drive to relive my more innocent youth. While I have spent most of my efforts in getting hold of the games I used to own I have also started getting hold of the games I wanted but never got and this in turn has opened me up to the world of retrogaming at large. YouTube has been the key to this with channels such as the Angry Video Game Nerd and Classic Game Room being among my favourite things to sit down and watch while the wife indulges in her soaps on TV.

One thing that has cropped up repeatedly though is this belief that the retro gaming console is Atari’s 2600. Now, I was born on a rainy day in November 1984 and by then the Atari 2600 had already been around a little while. Now as far as I am aware the Atari 2600 was not nearly as successful over here in the UK as it was in the US. I vaguely remember playing a friend’s Atari 2600 when I was about 8 that his parent’s had got him for next to nothing at a car boot sale but at that time the Sega Master System and NES were the dominant consoles and we were never bothered with it. It just sat there gathering dust in the corner of his bedroom while Sonic and Shinobi battled the forces of evil in 8-bit glory (we were both Sega boys).

Now that I am more aware of the retrogaming culture I have been forced to ask myself; having not really played the Atari 2600 can I really consider myself a retrogamer?

Well this week I got a call from my brother-in-law and guess what? He’s got a hold of this classic console and a box load of game cartridges (no boxes though so putting in the games was a bit like playing Russian roulette). Now one thing you need to know about me and my brother-in-law is we are both extremely competitive with one another. I think it’s a primal thing. When I got in to RC helicopter flying a few years ago he had to go and get his own helicopter (click here to find out how well that ended for him). Retrogaming is another field with which we duel it out and we have had many a night where we have got a few drinks in and battled it out on Paperboy or Sonic. So to have the chance to do the same on this classic console required little persuasion.

My first impression of the console before I even switched it on was how retro it looked. It looks like a lot of old record players with that wooden panel at the front and has a rather friendly feel to it. It seems like ever since the Mega Drive nearly all serious consoles have had to be black, aggressive looking boxes while this one almost seduced me to play it. One of the things that is almost always mentioned in any Atari 2600 review is how you can plug the Sega Mega Drive’s controller in to it but I didn’t put this to the test as I wanted that original experience.

So we started playing. Thinking of writing reviews for these games I decided to do a review in bulk and give them a score out of five. So here are the six games I played in my first Atari 2600 session.


Beamrider

1

It’s the closest thing to Tron I have ever played. This then is the game that catapulted me in to the world of Atari 2600 and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a vertical shooter although it’s arranged so it has a 3D effect with your ship at the bottom firing at alien ships charging at you. The gameplay is smooth and it feels like its running on rails. Each level increases what’s on the screen including objects you have to avoid and at the end of each level is a boss who hurls scores of stuff at you. It’s simple unadulterated fun. A good start then.

4/5


Sea Hawk

2

The world is at war and it’s down to Lieutenant Tony Wilkins of the United Good Guys Navy to take his Korean War vintage MiG-15 (wait…a MiG? Well that’s what it looks like to me. Am I really the good guys then?) and battle air/sea forces for control of the oceans. The MiG has at its disposal an arsenal of guns (bricks) that shoot forward and torpedoes (long bricks) that drop forward at an angle. While it’s nice to be in a more traditional setting rather than just in space fighting aliens the biggest problem this game has is the Atari’s lack of a second button on the controller. In order to fire the gun you have to push the stick right then hit the button but this also sends you shooting across the screen and if you miss this will often send you hurtling in to a kamikaze-style attack. You kill the bad guy but you die too. It’s a big problem and I didn’t like the game as a result.

2/5

This wasn’t actually the second game I put in to the console. I put several games in but none of them seemed to work. I thought they were all crashing. As it turns out a lot of these games require you to hit RESET to start the game and I found this out purely by chance. Anyway back to it.


Karate

3

Daniel-san…Avoid this game. Now I am not going to harp on about the bad graphics. Being a retrogamer bad graphic design holds a certain charm for me. What I hated about this game was it was almost totally unplayable. I nearly smashed the controller trying to get my guy to kick or punch the other guy but all that happened was a feeble arm movement before I got my arse handed to me. Also why is my guy on the right? Almost every beat’em up I have ever played starts with your guy on the left.

1/5


Defender

4

Aliens have invaded Earth and it’s up to Lieutenant Tony Wilkins of the Earth Defence Forces to protect you all. Boy are you in trouble! Defender is one of the more well known Atari 2600 games and my justification for that is its one I have heard of. It’s a side scrolling shooter where you pilot your Viper from Battlestar Galactica over a cityscape against flying saucers that look like they are from the Adamski sighting (look it up). It’s pretty run-of-the-mill but what really endeared me to it was that gun you fire. The bolts are long and fast and make you feel like anything that gets in its way is going to be vaporised – not like those little “bricks” you shoot in Space Invaders.

4/5


Seaquest

5

The 21st century: mankind has colonized the last unexplored region on Earth; the ocean. As captain of the seaQuest and its crew, we are its guardians. For beneath the surface lies the future…So goes the forgotten 90s science fiction show of the same name. Obviously this has nothing to do with that show but it does feature a submarine and hostile sea creatures. The best way to describe this game is an underwater version of Choplifter. You have to take your submarine under the water and rescue divers all the while defending yourself against hordes of enemy submarines who are ably supported by Jaws’ extended family. When you rescue six divers you have to surface for them to disembark and then you progress to the next level. Every so often you have to surface to replenish your oxygen or your crew suffocates and at first this is quite safe but as the game progresses surface vessels attack you as well. It’s simple. It’s challenging. It is enjoyable but it’s also quite forgettable. Just like the tv show.

3/5


Bomb on Pixel City

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Little known fact; since World War II the Royal Canadian Air Force has lost more planes to birds than accidents or combat. Just saying. This game holds the distinction of being the one that brought out that competitive spirit in me and my brother-in-law. The premise is simple; you are flying a bomber over a city and have to drop bombs on the buildings to demolish them. As you progress the buildings get higher and tougher to destroy and eventually you have to contend with anti-aircraft fire. The first couple of goes I thought I had no control over the bomber and I kept getting blasted out of the sky until I realized I did have a zoom capability that hurtled the plane forward to evade incoming fire. You also have to dodge pesky birds that probably have a number of Canadian kill markings tattooed on their wings. The bomber is also constantly descending so you can’t miss the buildings too many times or you will go smashing in to the side of them. Once you get the hang of it this is surprisingly enjoyable. In the ensuing competition I did lose to my brother-in-law however who is gloating even as I write this. Probably the most fun I’ve had so far but I can’t really give it a full 5 yet because it’s only the 6th game I’ve played so far.

4/5


So there you have it. My first impressions of gaming on the Atari 2600. Am I about to give up my beloved Sega and become an Atari fanboy? Not yet but what I will say is I have had such a great time playing these games (and there are plenty more in that box) that I don’t think I will turn my back on the 2600 yet.

Time Travelling Games for the Master System

Its no secret that I am something of a fan of the Sega Master System. Its the console I have the fondest memories of from growing up and its the console that I like to prioritise when it comes to getting games for my retro gaming collection. However if there is one thing about the Master System I am not overly keen on it was their early case designs. Often they were comical when the game was meant to be serious but above all they were quite bland. Fortunately they only went this route for a short time and to encourage sales they started making their cases far more interesting.

However just for fun I thought I would take three iconic games of the more recent era and make an early style Sega Master System case for them (I had a spare hour). This is what I came up with.

GAME REVIEW: Assault City

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Assault City holds a unique place in my gaming history in that it was the first cartridge I ever had for my Master System. Up until getting this for Christmas ’91 I was stuck playing Hang-On and Safari Hunt; the two built in games for the Master System Plus. After having pretty much burned out my console playing those games I was eager to try something new. Putting in that cartridge felt like I was loading a 30-round magazine in to an M-16 assault rifle and I was about to go on the rampage destroying the robot monsters that were poised to wipe out humanity (bare in mind I was 7 at the time). So playing it again over two decades later how does this game hold up?

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First thing you should know is that this game is very story oriented with cut screens between levels full of story. Is that a good thing? If you like reading and you like a recycled Terminator plot then yes. In the latter half of the 21st century, robots have been our servants doing all the tasks we humans don’t like doing and then one day the control system used to function these robots rise up to annihilate their human oppressors. You play as Joe, one of the last of the humans remaining and he is hell-bent on destroying, Skynet…uh…I mean the control system which forces the robots to kill.

AC1

As a game this is a side scrolling shooter. You have no control over the speed at which the screen scrolls and this can be frustrating as it forces you to battle everything that comes at you. There are two versions of this game; the controller version and the Light Phaser version. Now I have never played the Light Phaser version as I am told the game is quite rare here in the UK. What I will say though is that the Light Phaser (if it was feeling accurate) would probably be the better version as I am sure you could shoot the hordes of robots a lot faster. Again though this was depending on whether it had the right conditions since playing Safari Hunt with the gun was often problematic. The controller version has the problem of the targeting reticle feeling slower than a bus at times. It can be an extremely frustrating aspect of playing this game as you seem to spend time sending it across the screen to attack a target that will have already fired at you by the time you get there and then another enemy will appear on the other side of the screen and the same happens again. All is not lost however because once you master how to best use the targeting reticle such as accepting a hit off the one guy on the left in order to destroy the four on the right you have pretty much mastered the game.

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What this game really has going for it however is the look and the sound. Firstly; it has one of the best looking covers of any Master System game in my humble opinion and I remember when I first saw it how excited I was by the picture of those two tripod robots. The look of the game itself for the most part is very good with some interesting robot designs. My only criticism of the robots is that some of the animation of their movements could be a bit smoother as there seems to be little in the way of transitions e.g. one of the bosses is this floating head thing that fires energy bolts from its mouth. The movement of this mouth is open then closed; there’s no opening of the mouth. Also the backdrops rarely change as you progress through the levels making the game feel reptitive at times. Some levels are more interesting to look at than others such as the junkyard but then you have scenes like the one in the picture below where its just blue bricks/lockers/whatever they are supposed to be. The music that accompanies the game is great and really makes you feel like you are in an action movie from the late 1980s.

AC4

I still enjoy this game although I can’t figure out how much of that is nostalgia. I understand when people say that some parts of it is quite repetitive because in places, it is. It’s also a tough game with some segments feeling like the entire robot army is pouring on to the screen then at other times you might just get one little droid to destroy before a few seconds of nothing before the hordes attack again. I do like that they included a hefty amount of story which makes it feel more than mindless shooting. If you are a fan of shooter games I would say this would appeal to you.

GAME REVIEW: Pacmania

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Ok, I was born in 1984 and didn’t get my hands on a home games console, a Master System, until I was about six years old in 1990. As a result I missed out on the true classic games such as Gallaga, Space Invaders and of course Pac-Man. I can vaguely recollect a friend of mine having an old games console with a wooden front called an “Atari” (of course in my wiser years I now know this was the classic Atari 2600 that I would kill to get my hands on). He would occasionally get it out and we’d play it but never for long and we ended up on the SMS or the NES which was what was hot back then. Therefore I had no nostalgic investment or loyalty in Pac-Man clouding my judgement when I recently found myself in possession of Pacmania for the SMS as I went looking for the next instalment of my growing SMS library of games. It was in fact my wife who suggested I give it a go as she had the game and the original on an Atari 2600 when she was a kid. So what did I think?

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First off, you should know that this not exactly the original Pac-Man. It is a reboot of the classic game featuring an isometric viewpoint to give the illusion of it being in 3D. The goal remains the same; to eat as many of the little blobs on the screen as possible and fruit for extra points while avoiding the ghosts. The first level has a Lego look to it in that Pac-Man is travelling between giant Lego bricks. I have to say that this is one of the best looking levels I have ever seen on a Master System game. It is colourful with a lot of detail. Sadly however, except for one or two other levels, this quality doesn’t continue throughout the game and most of the levels are rather bland looking in comparison. Can’t help but feel they started off too high in terms of the quality of the levels.

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The controls on this game are extremely frustrating at times and getting Pac-Man to change directions sometimes becomes a feat only witchcraft can accomplish. On occasion it feels like he downright refuses to change direction and just strolls past the turning. That’s annoying enough but if you are being cornered by ghosts and he refuses to take the escape route you are directing him to it becomes a hair ripping experience. It’s been a long time since I have shouted at a video game but that’s what I found myself doing as though Pac-Man was going to hear me and go, “Oh you want me to go that way!” You can jump over the ghosts but that is like playing the lottery. It’s here the disadvantages of the isometric view come in to play because I suspect the programmers made it so that if Pac-Man’s pixels pass over a ghost’s in anyway you lose a life. This means that you seem to be able to jump further over them with more success going sideways than when going down the screen.

pac4

With all these faults then why is it I keep going back to this game? Why is it I have developed a furious obsession with defeating this game? There’s just some charm about it and when you finish a level there is a real sense of achieving something and to me that is one of the most important features in any game. I don’t think this is going to make my top 10 but I have a sneaky suspicion that Pacmania will be a game I will be returning to time and time again. Maybe I am just a sadist. Who knows?

pac3

Thanks for reading…

GAME REVIEW: Putt & Putter

File:Putt and putter cover.jpgPutt & Putter was released on the Sega Master System in 1992 having been developed by SIMS Co. Put simply this game is a hybrid of both miniature golf and pinball and this is winning mash-up.The controls are relatively straight forward and it only takes a few moments to acclimatize to the game’s engine. For each hole you have to aim the ball to dodge certain obstacles that have been put in your path and then select an appropriate strength with which to send it on its way. Pretty standard stuff for a golfing game even today.

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That’s where the golfing side of the game ends however and the pinball part begins. EVERYTHING makes your ball bounce off, even the sides of the map you are playing, and each bounce gives it a little more energy so even the gentlest touch sends the ball flying. As you progress through the game you start to encounter maps where you have to actually use this ricochet feature to get the ball as close to the hole as possible in order to reach it in as few a moves as possible (the fewer moves it takes to pot the ball the higher you score). Some of these maps are intensely frustrating to play having hills that form valleys sending your ball in all sorts of directions. When the hole is located on a raised level there are always problems if you don’t get it straight in. Here in lies the fun of this game. Mastering the power bar and the angle at which you send the ball is a hugely entertaining undertaking.

pp0001I first had this game when I was eight years old and the Master System and NES were the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3s of their day. This was the game that was always brought out at parties and attracted the fiercest competition among friends and family. Like Team 17’s famous Worms series this is really is one of those games that is infinitely better when played with someone else so you can all enjoy each others success and misfortune. Putt & Putter is really a game/format that would be well worth an update for a modern console. That being said I have recently found out that follow up was launched on the Mega Drive (Genesis) and having tried it I wasn’t sold on it. Maybe my nostalgic memories have got in the way on this one. Either way this was one of the first games I got hold of again once I started retrogaming and I regularly play it now with my brother-in-law keeping the old competition alive.

Thanks for reading…

REVIEW: The Tick – 01×07 “The Tick vs Justice”

TickJust1

The Tick, Arthur, and Batmanuel must attend court after a battle with the villain Destroyo, who is arrested after his car is discovered to contain nuclear weapons. However, The Tick is confounded by the court system, and after Destroyo gets all of the evidence ruled as inadmissible, The Tick insults the judge and is sentenced to a night in prison for contempt of court. Batmanuel and Arthur are thus left to fend for themselves against whatever Destroyo might send to kill them. In prison, The Tick bonds with his cellmate while trying to make sense of his plight. Meanwhile, Arthur and Batmanuel cower for their lives while trying to find evidence for the case, and after staving off a ninja, manage to contact Destroyo’s childhood ballet instructor. He explains that Destroyo was ridiculed as a boy for being an overweight ballet dancer, and the next day, when Arthur is at the stand he reminds Destroyo of his most scarring memory, causing the villain to snap. The Tick then bursts from his seat and defeats Destroyo; sending him to jail.

TickJust2

This was an excellent episode of this short lived series that mocked the superhero genre and idolized at the same time. This episode is unique amongst the series and indeed this sub-genre of superheroes. In previous episodes the superhero life was used as a subtext for something else such as in “Arthur Interrupted” where being a superhero is akin to homosexuality. This episode actually tackles what life in the real world might be like for a superhero. It deliberately labels superheroes as nothing more than vigilantes because they operate outside the law and goes to show how incompatible bring a superhero is with the justice system. It also takes a shot at the justice system too such as how bureaucratic red tape can see villains go free even when the evidence is quite literally in front of them.

TickJust3

A real positive of the episode is that everyone gets a great line or scene. The Tick as a whole proved very generous in its portrayals of its main cast in each episode but this one especially. Nestor Carbonnell is particularly on form as the out-of-his-depth Batmanuel trying to protect Arthur from Destroyo’s henchmen. You would never see Batman quaking like he does in Arthur’s apartment during the whole attempted assassination scene. I loved how another ninja is killed by a sidestep move off a roof (I am of course referring to Shredder in the original TMNT movie). Carbonnell deliver’s his lines brilliantly and the scene where Arthur’s mother calls on the phone is comedy gold.

TickJust4

The key to this episode’s greatness is probably Kurt Fuller’s performance as Destroyo. He is a wonderful guest star who really throws himself in to the role and as such he steals every single scene he is in. Watching him and Liz Vassey in their Silence of the Lambs style scenes is wonderful as Destroyo’s efforts to weaken Captain Liberty’s will actually backfires and turns her into his own torturer with her needy ways. Its good that we see motivation for his actions in that he is a bullied child who has become the bully.

This episode was yet another example of how this show never got the break it deserved but with rumours of a return who knows; maybe Destroyo will return?

 

GAME REVIEW: Virtua Fighter Animation

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While the Master System died out in North America by 1992 it continued to sell well in Europe and Latin America and as late as 1997 new games were still being produced for it. One of the Master System’s last games released in that year was Virtua Fighter Animation. This was the only Virtua Fighter game released on the console and even then it was ported to the Master System from the Game Gear by Brazilian producer TecToy which is unique since most games the two systems shared originated on the Master System.

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The game is a pretty standard beat’em up utilizing a 2D format. Victory in each match comes from either reducing your opponent’s life bar down to zero, having your opponent’s life bar lower than yours when the timer runs out or forcing them out of the ring. Each round has a 30 second time limit with which to defeat your opponent and most of the time this is more than enough. You must win two rounds win the match and move on to the next opponent.

VF2

The feel of this game is quite clunky even for a Master System beat’em up although it does look quite smooth. Special moves are sparse and have only a marginally better impact on the other guy than your standard punch and kick. You can get your guy in close and unleash a barrage of attacks which will either throw them out of the ring or wear them down before they can respond. I managed to win a few rounds without receiving any hits back.

VF3

As a fight title then there is little here to keep you going if I was honest but the feather in this particular hat is the fact that it plays out in a story. This game is based on the Virtua Fighter anime series and in between fights you get to read caption screens that lead up to why you are in your next fight. This is something seen on few beat’em up games of the 8-bit era and indeed even many of the later Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games just had you fighting for the sake of it. What I will say is that some people will get fed up with these screens as they take a long time to scroll through. In fact half the game time in total is taken up reading them. I personally think they are a nice touch and set the game apart.

In conclusion, hardly a groundbreaking game but it was uncomplicated and held my interest enough to work through the clunky feel of the controls.

GAME REVIEW: Star Trek DS9 – Crossroads of Time

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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…