Saturday, 28 April 2012

Silk Road 2 (X68000)

It's an action RPG! I actually meant to write about this game ages and ages ago, but never got round to it, then I got stuck and didn't play it again for about a year. But I recently decided to pick it back up, started a new file, and now I'm further than I was before. I'll probably have completed it in the near future!
Anyway, you play as a young elf-girl-thing with a tail, and you explore some nice SNES-looking countryside. There's a map screen, that shows the world split into a grid of squares, each representing one screen. Four of the squares have numbers in them, which represent bosses. When you defeat a boss, you get an item which gives you a new ability: winged bots that allow you to jump, flippers that let you swim, etc. I don't yet know what happens when you beat all four bosses, unfortunately.
The game plays pretty well, and the controlsare well designed, using only the directions and two buttons. The first button uses your weapon, some kind of blowgun that shoots bubbles, and when held down, allows you to select an item, via a Secrret of Mana-Esque ring menu. The second button uses the currently selected item.
After a boss, you'll usually end up meeting a crazy-eyed witch who sells you stuff. Here is my advice: always buy the red and blue ribbons, they're 200 gold each, and they increase your attack (red) and defence (blue).
The game is all in Japanese, though you might be able to get through without understanding. There were a couple of points where I had to ask for help from JP-literate friends, but after they'd told me what the text said, I felt a little stupid, as the solution was always something obvious. So, if you're maybe not as dumb as me, you might be able to get through the game without being able to read the text. There's not much of it, anyway.
Silk Road 2 is a really fun game, and it's definitely worth playing. There's also a PC port of the game, with nicer graphics, and even a babelfish-esque translation patch. I haven't played that version, because reports suggest it's somewhat bug-ridden, and I found this version first and was too stubborn to change.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Muncher (C64)

The Muncher is a C64 game that was also a tie-in with Chewits. Except that the version I played for this review didn't appear to have any kind of Chewits branding in it, and the title screen says "Monster". But other than that, it's the same game.
You play as a big green t-rex looking dinosaur (that, even in the version with the chewits branding, doesn't look anything like the dinosair from the Chewits ads), and you go from left to right, destroying as much as you can along the way. It looks a lot like Rampage, though there are differences. Like rather than having to destroy everything, most of the destruction in The Muncher is optional, and just for points, and the aim of each stage is to keep going right until you reach the end and go on to the next stage. You're constantly being attacked by tanks, helicopters and army men, though destroying any of the enemies (as well as passers-by) regains a small amount of health. You have a lot of attacks to kill them with, too, considering you only have the directions and one button: you can reach down and smash/eat enemies on the ground, jump up and smash helicopters in your mouth, and you also have a limited-use fireball attack  Plus, by moving from side to side, you can destroy the buildings behind you with tail whips..
Once your health runs out, your game is over, though there is a trick to come back from the dead by picking up an egg and later dropping it in a radioactive barrel. Either way, once you get to stage 3 (the army base), you'll probably die within a few seconds anyway.
The Muncher is okay. It has a nice big player sprite, and it's less boring than Rampage, but it's not really worth going out of your way to play.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Tank Force (Arcade)

Tank Force is the sequel to Tank Battalion, which got ported to NES and Game Boy as Battle City (why was that such a popular thing in the old days, changing the names of arcade ports? Was it a licencing thing?). The GB version of Battle City is easily one of my favourite games on that system, so you should definitely play it sometime. It gains a lot from the simplified graphics and the fact that you can't see the entire map onscreen at once.
But this post isn't about Battle City, it's about Tank Force! And I'll say right now, it's definitely a worthy sequel. In fact, it does everything a sequel should do!
If you don't know, the idea of the game is simple, the stages are simple, slightly mazey single screen maps with destructible walls, onto which enemy tanks will roll. You, also in a tank, keep killing all the enemies until they stop coming, then it's on to the next map.
Tank Force builds well upon this simple formula. The most immediatly obvious change is the improvements in graphics. TF is very colourful, and while the first game had simple, functional brick walls making up the stages, the sequel has various different buildings which, though viewed from above, still give the stages obvious themes: warehouse district, military base in a desert, etc.
There's also a lot of new actual game stuff, too. New power-ups, such as a range of temporary weapons, including a kind of sonic wave weapon that passes through walls without breaking them, allowing you to kill enemies from acros the map. There's new enemies too, including small, fast tanks that drop timed mines, and the biggest addition of all: bosses! The original game had no bosses at all, but every few stages in TF, you'll face really big super-tanks.
I think I'm beginning to sound a bit too much like a press release or something, with all this feature-listing and positivity. The problem is, I do just really like this game! I strongly recommend you play it, as well as the Game Boy port of the original.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Drome Racers (GBA)

This game is a Lego licenced game! This is worth mentioning, because other than a lego logo at the start, you'd never know otherwise. There's no nice friendly lego men like you see in most lego games, just vaguely futuristic-looking cars going really fast.
The coolest and most obviou gimmick this game has is that it uses polygons for the track, rather than the usual mode 7-looking style that most GBA racing games go for. It makes the game look a lot like Virtua Racing, which is kind of funny, since people in the olden days would often joke about how SEGA Model 1 games looked like everything in them was made of Lego! The cars, unfortunately, aren't made of polygons, using the "ugly blobby pre-rendered sprite" style that was inexplicably popular on the GBA, especially for licenced games. The music is worth mentioning too, having a nice Amiga/C64-esque sound to it.
You might think I'm going on about the graphics for so long to put off talking about the game, but that's not true! I just really like this game's graphics. Luckily, the game is actually fun to play, too! There are four championships of escalating difficulty, though you only start with the easiest, and unlock the rest one at a time. Most people would probably play them in that order, but why force them to like that? Some people might want to go straight for the normal difficulty, and a few might even want to go straight to hard! Tsk.
The difficulty curve is almost perfect, except for one problem. The problem being that the AI cars will seemingly have different abilities in each race, meaning that as long as you come in first at least once in a championship, you'll probably win it, since the AI players have so few points because they finish in a completely different place each time. If the AI teams had different distinct skill levels, so there was always one or two of them that were near equal to you from race to race, I think that would have been a great improvement.
The actual racing is pretty fun, and the game moves nice and smoothly, too. There are power-ups, in this game, of two kinds: weapons and boosts. They're assigned to different buttons, so you can carry one of each, which is nice. The weapons are the usual racing game weapons: missile, mine, homing missile, etc. They don't really affect the outcome of the race compared to weapons in most racing games that have them. The game probably would have been slightly better had they been left out, even.
The boosts, however are very important. There are two kinds: the kind that you can store (only one at a time, though) and use whenever you like, and the kind that are used as soon as you drive over them. Collecting and using the boosts strategically isn't 100% vital to winning, but you'll have a hard time doing so otherwise. It's a good idea to get the instant boosts as much as possible, and to use your stored boosts on every straight. Two other boost-related points: they seem to last a little longer if you can avoid bumping into things, so do that, and if you're boosting when you go over a hill, you'll soar through the air, which looks and feels really cool.
Overall, this game is great, despite the complete lack of tension in the championships.
Oh, and there are also drag races to decide which place you'll start in before each race, but they're pointless, since it's pretty easy to just charge straight into first once the race begins, anyway. And I forgot to mention the completely hateful slippy-slidy ice tracks that appear a lot later in the game. Boo.