Posts Tagged ‘Virgin Interactive’

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 14: Dune II

Posted: December 31, 2010 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

Game 231/1001 according to the list

Genre: Strategy
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1992
Developer: Westwood Studios
Publisher: Virgin Interactive

Three houses fight for control of Arrakis, or Dune, the only planet in the galaxy where the elusive Spice can be found. In the mean time, they also have to avoid sandworms and deal with the emperor.  Take over the planet, and you may as well rule the universe, with the power the spice, which is necessary for space travel, possesses.

Our Playthrough

We each played part of a campaign – the sinister Ordos for Peter (very unsurprising) and the noble Artreides for me (as if you didn’t know).

Our Thoughts

He who controls the spice controls the universe.

Artreides, Harkonnen and Ordos are the three houses fighting for control of the only planet where it exists naturally: Dune. It’s sort of the way it stayed with all subsequent games from Westwood – gather one significant resource (spice here, Tiberium in Command & Conquer, and I think gold found in, say, New York in Red Alert). Strange to think that if taken out of this space age setting Dune II is essentially about wars being fought over drug trafficking. Sort of like GTA without the option to have sex with random prostitutes. It’s just some fantastic in joke for those who know about the Dune mythology that what you are essentially mining is the equivalent of LSD. Which explains the scary eyes of everyone you encounter in the game. Except that the hallucinations are actually true visions of the future. That’s what all addicts say. Yeah, well, read the books before you judge them. I saw the film… and have since judged it heavily, even Sian Phillips couldn’t save it.

For those who don’t know, Dune is a science fiction series by Frank Herbert that’s about the planet named Dune and the politics and adventures to keep it in noble hands, as well as the ways to save humanity afterwards. It’s a bit complicated, but the book is a good read. It makes the film more bearable and interesting, which can be difficult to understand when you don’t know anything else from the story. To continue the history lesson and move on to our game, a video game was released in the early 90s, based in part on the movie and book, which has you travelling around Dune as Paul Artreides, the main character of the book, and drive the Harkonnen away while keeping the emperor happy and keeping up spice production. It’s an interesting game that gradually turns from adventure to a strategy game. For the sequel, Westwood ripped out the adventure elements and refined the strategy elements to what we have today.  And Dune 2, which is on the list and which we’ve played, became the RTS that was one of the major blueprints for the genre, for example being the direct predecessor to the Command & Conquer series mentioned above.

(Well done to those who stuck with the history lesson, it was touch and go on my part)

The main problem with this game is that old father time and his grandson master technology have taken a jackhammer to it. It is incredibly fiddly to control and at many times is just plain annoying.  However, you can see how it formed part of the blueprint for almost every strategy game that followed it. Basically, the game was one of the first, and certainly the first major game to be playable using the mouse (and in fact requiring it) and things like selecting multiple units at once wasn’t thought of yet. This makes the game extremely tedious to play to us.
(Side note: A semi-remake was released by Westwood in 1998 called Dune 2000. While the storyline differs somewhat, a lot of the unique features and the setting stays the same, just using a more modern engine similar to what we saw in the likes of Command & Conquer. While not loved by the critics and not being a great success, it might be just enough of a step up to make a similar game be more playable. I know I liked it) … I concur?

Seriously though (as much as I love pissing off the boyfriend) nowadays it is a game mainly for historians or Dune fans.  For those of us under the age of 25 this is not a game we could really get that excited about. Especially in a world populated with the likes of Total War and Age of Empires/Mythology. Because we’re too used to what are simple interface improvements now (such as multi-select and an interactive cursor, instead of clicking orders), this is hard to play. The graphics and sound being lackluster can be overlooked, but the gameplay makes it too frustrating to play too long and makes me wonder how we managed back in the day when this game was special and exciting.
I think what we are trying to say is that when viewed in relation to its contemporaries it was a revelation, but it’s like comparing the graphics of Jason and the Argonauts with those of Avatar. You can appreciate how groundbreaking the work put into Jason and the Argonauts works but due to us being spoilt with better technology we are less willing to suspend disbelief.  This is doubly so with the original King Kong. (For the record, he means the movie ‘Jason and the Argonauts‘, not the original Greek myth. And Avatar is the recent hit movie going by that name featuring odd blue creatures) (Way to underestimate our readers Jeroen) (I’d say that knowing a Greek myth is more highbrow than some semi-cartoon based on it) (It was live action you little… you know nothing about film. Shove off and let’s conclude this!)

So, not a good game to play because you’re bored, but a very interesting game in terms of history and to see how strategy games have developed. The granddaddy of them all.

Final Thoughts

As you can tell I was not that impressed with the game. The thing about this list that we all need to remember that this list it not about the 1001 best games but it  is meant to consist of a wide variety of games that are both fantastic and have helped shaped the industry into what it is today… to be fair Dune II was one of those games. It may not be great to look at now but you can not deny how influential it was.