Posts Tagged ‘shoot ’em up’

Game 261/1001 according to the list

Genre: Platform/Shoot ’em Up
Platform: Mega Drive
Year of Release: 1994
Developer: Shiny Entertainment
Publisher: Playmates Interactive Entertainment/Virgin Interactive

Despite how big it must have been in some points, Earthworm Jim seems to have only slightly hit my life, bypassing me most of the time.  There was a cartoon series I’ve seen bits of, but nothing more than that really. Then there’s a video game, which I’ve seen people play a bit, but never much. And then it turns out to be better than I thought and, well, I played it.

Basic story? Earthworm Jim is, well, an earthworm, who becomes a sort of superhero through some strange suit. People try to steal the suit back, destroy him, and capture his princess. There’s nonsense. There’s lots of shooting and fighting. There’s rabid dogs. And you launch cows into space.

Our Thoughts

Time for a rare case of a game which went on to inspire a rather successful surreal animated series. A fantastic show that I would love to watch again at some point. Okay, so you’ve seen the show and played the demo of the game? You were ahead of me by a mile here. I also had a favourite villain. Who’s that? Evil the Cat. Very atypical. Although Professor Monkey-For-A-Head wins in terms of nomenculture.

This, at the same time, is mostly a colourful, funny platform game with shoot ’em up interludes. Where you can use your wormhead to traverse pits, hang on to wires and whip opponents into submission. I was going to make a crack about a worm-like appendage but thought it beneath me. Groan. There’s clever bits in the game, that’s for sure, and it looks lovely. It also has a fantastical sense of humour where villains spit out rotten fish and you launch a cow into the sky at any given opportunity. Something that comes back to haunt you at the end of the game.

Colourful, funny, with some nice sound effects, that’s true. But here’s the however. The game itself is decidely more average. In many ways the game still feels rather polished but there is only so much you can do with a 2D side-scrolling platformer. There were certain points where you had to go back on yourself in order to climb a ramp following a zig-zag pattern and this was rather a chore to manouvere yourself through. Just felt clumsy and unnatural. Quite a bit of the game feels that way. A bit clumsy, repetitive and at times quite obscure. A further hindrance here is that it doesn’t feel that innovative. It doesn’t do anything new or special, while the existing mechanics are clumsy at times. Jumps were unnatural and the game didn’t allow you to jump when you expect it, like when hanging from a chain – you can’t pull yourself up. This made it harder to see what you had to do – especially when you manage a jump the first time, but not the second time. Also there were times where certain things did not respawn as quickly as you would have expected meaning you had to walk back and forth a few times to make sure you could make your way through the level. One time, a pulley didn’t respawn, but stayed stuck at a point where I couldn’t reach it, meaning I was stuck and had to restart.

To be honest, a bit more work here would’ve been nice to keep the game a bit more playable. When you consider the time this was made and the effortless fushion of humour and gameplay this was easily  a must-have release back in 1994. However, when viewed through the eyes of people who are keen to invest in a copy of Portal 2 it can be seen as lacking at times. In a way it is games like this that help us to understand why there is such a large recency bias in this list since games, unlike music or films, tend not to age as well. Some games have such refined and unusual gameplay that they still feel like classics (this is the reason why Tetris and Arkanoid are still adored to this date). And with some, their simplicity help, such as with the original Super Mario Bros. But internet-only flash games now possess similar, if not better, credentials which can put games like this in the shade somewhat.

So there we are. A good game, I suppose, but it’s not top of the list for a good platformer. Not as good as I remember either, bit dissapointing to be brutally honest. Good enough for an occasional play. That’s it.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes a bit of style over substance, but it has great style anyway, so I can’t blame it for that. Give it a go – regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the TV series, which is awesomeness on its own. So I’m told. We never got the channel it was one.

With that said, this is a cartoon in game form. It’s worth trying it for that reason. Looks, fun and guts. Even if it gets frustrating sometimes.


Game 53: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Posted: May 12, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 253/1001 according to the list

Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Platform: SNES, Mega Drive
Year of Release: 1993
Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: Konami

And here’s the second of our zombie-themed game week of sorts. Zombies Ate My Neighbors, known as just ‘Zombie’ in certain more squeamish places. The premise is simple – there is a zombie invasion (well, zombies, mummies, haunted dolls, aliens, freakish plants, chainsaw murderers and more invasion), and you have to save the neighbours from being killed by them. This all made by the well-known Lucasarts, who were big in these days, although not always known for their action games.

This is one of those weird games you hear about every once in a while as being out there, but good. Is it?

Our Thoughts

So here it is, one of the games with the most insane names in the list. Zombies Ate My Neighbors just sounds weird, wacked and wild.

When you find out this game was developed by the guys at LucasArts it does make a bit of sense. You can tell from both the looks and the sense of humour. It really does fit well amongst the canon of their other games (like Maniac Mansion; which we will cover at some point). A few years ahead of the afterlife game Grim Fandango.

Where do we start? First of all; the theme of the game. You’re playing as a teen (two players supported) who has to kill zombies, mummies, chainsaw horrors, walking dolls and other such horror-themed enemies while trying to save their victims from the places they’re hiding out in. This can be gardens, houses, malls and other such familiar settings.

The interesting thing about this game is that the number of victims that you save is carried onto the next level. It means that the possible number of points in every subsequent level is dependent on our performance in the current level. After a while it can end up with you having only one victim to save since all the others have been taken out by some terrible creatures from the netherworld. Some of the victims turn up in unusual places… like why would you need to rescue a cheerleader from the courtyard of a haunted castle?

To be fair, this also adds to the strategy – do you save lots of victims, making it take longer to finish the level, or do you take less with you, running the risk they die because the enemies reach them earlier? Of course this means that the victims that are the hardest to reach are the ones which are carried over. Like in a maze level where you need to lure a chainsaw-wielding maniac to cut down the shrubbery completely surrounding a baby whilst making sure he decides not to split you down the middle or does the same to the baby.

Rather sick when you think about that. It’s worse when the baby is killed by a possessed doll holding a meat cleaver (which inexplicably sets itself alight after you shoot it). And yet the game is colourful and somewhat happy. It is somewhat helped by the retro 3D-glasses one of the main characters wear. He looks wild and somewhat out there. The sort of guy you’d imagine in a game like this, the wacky one.

An interesting thing to help you fight the hoards of nasties is a large array of weapons. Alongside the more traditional guns there are exploding six-packs, lawnmowers, bazookas and (the surprisingly effective) fire extinguishers which literally freeze your enemies. Then there is your main gun weapon – or possibly a super soaker when you look at the colour of the projectiles.

The retro nature of this game is further supported by the level names which all sound like 50s horror B-Movies (or even ones seen on this day). And in the end, it’s creepy, in a fun creepy way. Twisted, disturbing… and just fun. Kill the zombies and save the cheerleaders. What more is there to a horror B-movie anyway?

Final Thoughts

The references to existing movies are numerous and this game suits the movie genre. It’s oddly compelling, difficult but easy to learn and it feels quite possible to beat – if you didn’t have the problem that all your damage carried over and you only have ten victims to lose. Properly Nintendo-challenging in places, but doable.

Last, it’s worth noting a movie of the game has been announced for February 2011. Nothing more is known yet, but keep an eye out.

Game 48: Pang

Posted: April 22, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 172/1001 according to the list

Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 1989
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Upon the game’s release Pang (try not to confuse this with Pong) was critically lauded and received numerous ports across all the major consoles of the day. It was lauded for its addictive nature, bright presentation and became one of the indispensible titles for games such as the Amiga, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.

Since then it has received numerous sequels including one last year for the Nintendo DS. It really goes to show that once you invent a classic you can milk it for all it’s worth.

Our Thoughts

Now, this game is known under two names, so I have to use both to make sure Google picks up on it: Today’s game is Pang, also known as Buster Bros., depending on where you’re looking or searching. It’s the latest in a long line of Capcom games that we will be covering.  Yet neither of the characters have appeared in the Capcom crossover fighting games. I think they missed a trick there with the player being able to impale The Incredible Hulk with a grappling hook or having giant balloons gobble up other characters as random animals fall from the sky. The sharpened hermit crab was a bit weird.

Anyway, more to the point, this is a fun arcade game where you have to pop balloons. The way you are able to do this depends on the power-up you recently picked up.  The basic weapon is of little use in a confined space but it can be strengthened like a piece of cheesewire. Also you can blow them up with some rather brown looking dynamite. This is a double-edged sword as it does not get rid of them completely, instead all is left are the smallest possible balloons which may completely overwhelm you as a player. The best powerup is easily when you stop time. It makes things a lot easier. Unless you’re stuck between balls and can’t get to them. It’s also useful to use the shield, which means you can be hit once, rather than being killed by touching a balloon.

The graphics are good too, very colourful and cartoony, which suits the mood of the game. The location-specific backgrounds are nice too, looking beautiful. There are 17 different locations which feature monuments specific to the area. This includes the likes of Mt Fuji, The Arc de Triomphe and Uluru. Within each location are a number of stages which vary in difficulty. In the beginning the game plays rather simply with the stage being pretty much a blank with just you, your grappling guns and the malevolant balloons.  After a while platforms and ladders are added in so the game begins to play like the lovechild of Donkey Kong and The Prisoner. Making it more of an action game, and both giving you hideouts and places to get stuck if you don’t watch out.

You can see how much arcade games have grown up compared to that first game, Pong. It looks better, has bonuses added, adding interesting gameplay elements and turning this in a game that’s more than just ‘remove the balloons’.

Final Thoughts

Popping balloons is simple, but fun, and the basic gameplay elements have returned in many later (mostly internet) games. And the idea is fun – pop the balloons that fly around and try to avoid them having them kill you. It’s simple, it’s fun… and it gets deviously evil when you get to the higher levels. Suited for an arcade game and something that’s still fun to play around with.

Game 23: Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars

Posted: January 27, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

Game 352/1001 according to the list

Genre: Shoot ’em Up
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1997
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

DO A BARREL ROLL! *cough* Ahem. Sorry but the temptation was overwhelming.

As I previously blogged on here we received a bumper crop of game from my good friend Kat (HI KAT!!!) so we are fast-tracking the games she gave us to make sure we can give them back to her in time. So there is no better time than the present to start.

What a better way to start with Star Fox 64 (released as Lylat Wars in Europe). Commonly listed in critics Top 100 as one of the best games ever released, as well as being the second highest seller in it’s year of release, this game was the first to offer the use of force feedback in the form of the Rumble Pack with which it was packaged. Something that we truly take for granted in this day and age.

Our Playthrough

We gave the single-player of this game a good going over and, since it was there, had a look at the Multiplayer Battles. The game itself is actually pretty short so there really was time to try everything a few times.

Our Thoughts

I am about ready to kill that blasted frog! You seemed to need him badly in that last level (penultimate one. Ouch, then, even more). Also, are we sure Slippy’s a boy-frog? I thought a young one, from the voice.  It’d fit, the annoying small wonder boy who’s crap in actual use.

I’ll look it up.

*3 minutes later*

Yea Slippy’s male but voiced in this game by a woman. My case is rested. Either way, I do believe that we may have an early contender for most annoying video game character ever. Absolutely, as useful as they may be sometimes…

That’s something that I despute about them. Slippy actually has some use (which therefore makes their screaming all the more annoying) but the others just complain at you whenever they’re in trouble. Yet when you have two ships on your tail with no ability to shake them they happily let you crash and burn.

I believe Falco was out to get me. I bet they think you’re supposed to be better… making them something you want to drag along. At the same time, the controls seem difficult enough to need to backup sometimes. During the more linear levels the controls are actually fantastic. You just need to memorise the combination for a somersault as it makes no real sense. However, when you are in all-range mode it feels very stiff and unresponsive.

Left, right, up and down are easier than full 3D movement with very large turning circles and only being able to fire in the same direction as you’re moving in. Such controls are now far easier to implement because of the standard dual-analog sticks on most consoles (minus the Wii but that’s an extreme exception). However, back in the day, no major console would offer that until the year after this is released when the Playstation’s Dual Shock Analog Controller changed the face of gaming as we know it. Absolutely true, but that makes it seem backwards right now. However, at the time the controls must have been quite workable, and I suspect even more part of the difficulty right now.

Maybe part of the difficulty is that we are a bit pampered with the current controllers but since this is the technology of the day then we do need to view this in both the context of its time and how it’s compared to the current gaming environment. Very true, and while the game is primitive right now in all aspects – including, in a way, gameplay, this was the big game in its genre and on the console at the time.

It’s still held in extremely high regard as a classic example of a shoot ’em up and you can really see why. If the graphics were gussied up and the controllers updated to current hardware it would still be released to a lot of phrase. So when Star Fox 3DS is released expect a lot more hailing. Absolutely, and those are the only two real downsides of the main game. That and the multiplayer, which was pants. (Which is not the main game, but that as an aside)

The multiplayer… doesn’t have much of a point.  It’s slow-paced due to the lack of other things happening – it’s two of you, with slow controls, in an arena with nobody else. The general feeling is that it was an afterthought; just tacked on at the last minute to tap an extra market.  If a game did that nowadays that would be a severe black mark against it’s name and I think developers now know better than to do so. The games themselves are tedious and even when there is only 2 players the screen is still split 4 ways which feels mightily excessive.

Had it been done properly, I’d expect it to be during the main missions as well. You replacing one of the wingmen would’ve made the game both more playable and more exciting. Ah yes, that would have been amazing. It’s surprising really that they didn’t re-release it in such a fashion for the Wii. As the same game or a sequel? Well there was a sequel; it was just not as well received so it fell underneath the radar. I mean a true sequel as well rather than the one on the Dinosaur Planet. Okay. One opportunity for the future then that will be interesting to try. Once the next 970+ games are out of the way that is, or unless Star Fox 3DS or any future releases from the franchise make a re-draft of the 1001 list.

I’ll be too busy catching up to all the other games that’ll have come out by then, but a good point. Still, we’ll undoubtedly find more such games in the future. Exactly, makes you wonder what the true successor to Lylat Wars will turn out to be.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to say this about a game that was as big as this. To us, the graphics look dated – something easily ignored considering we started off with Pong, two bars and a dot, but the controls are not as responsive as we’re used to these days. It’s a good game, and if you can get past those it can be quite immersive – just look at the memes this game spawned and the hatred for that stupid frog – but a proper (spiritual) successor would do a lot of good.

Do a barrel roll!