Monday, January 27, 2014


Action/City Sim

I've been watching some old episodes of Nick Arcade on Youtube lately, and two things stand out to me about that show now. One is how little a show called Nick Arcade actually featured gaming, and the other is how when they actually did have any gaming, it was usually ActRaiser. From these segments I thought that this was another run of the mill action games, but it ended up being one of the most innovative games that I've played, to this day.

You start this game flying around an overworld. There are about 5 different cities, but they only become available at a certain level. The overworld music is hauntingly beautiful (I read that this game's soundtrack was in fact award winning when it came out.) You start with the first city of Fillmore

A helpful little angel tells you that you have to rid the city of monsters before people can start inhabiting it, so you enter the first action sequence.

In the game's action sequences, the angel inhabits a statue with a sword and is controlled by the player. These sequences are actually the weakest part of the game, but they are still enjoyable and present a decent level of challenge, especially the boss at the end of the action sequence. It took me 4 attempts to beat the boss, so you actually do get a sense of satisfaction from it.

After beating the monster boss, people begin moving into the city. This is the point where the game gets really innovative. It switches from a straightforward action game, to a god simulator/urban planning game. I don't think that very many games from this era featured such a high level of genre bending. When in the city planning stages, you control the angel in a zoomed in version of the overworld and you can use the angel to shoot arrows at assorted flying monsters.  You can also direct the citizens of the city to expand their road network in various directions and to destroy the lairs of the flying monsters which stops the monsters from spawning. You occasionally have to use your god powers to assist the citizens as well (Lightning to clear brush so that the city can expand further, rain to put out burning buildings, etc.)

This continues until you level up and are able to go to the next city. I honestly really enjoyed playing this game and played it for a quite a bit longer than usual for my reviews. Up next, we will see if ActRaiser's sequel can live up to the innovation of the original.


ACME Animation Factory

Hi Everyone, I'm back after a few years...

ACME Animation Factory

ACME Animation Factory
Probe Software Ltd./Sun Corporation of America
Genre: Art and Graphics/Educational

Today I played ACME Animation Factory, a game which fits in unenviable niche of "Mario Paint Clone" but where as Mario Paint was fun, this game clearly was created just with profit in mind. Here's a bit from the Wikipedia article:

"In ACME Animation Factory, the player is given a series of tools to create their own animated cartoons."

Sooo basically, it's Mario Paint, but with Looney Tunes characters and a clunkier interface. This is the first game that I've tested which uses the SNES Mouse accessory, which I'm glad to report is supported by my emulator.

Moving on to gameplay, the first thing that I did was to check out the music creator, because it was one of the few sections that I could reliably figure out what it would be. None of the sections of this game are labelled with text, so you have to just kind of figure out what's going on based on pictograms, I assume that this was to make it easier for younger players, but it just ended up causing a bit of confusion.

As you can see it has a somewhat similar interface to the music creator in Mario Paint, except that the nots are just circles rather than different shapes depending on the "instrument" this presented a bit of a problem to me as I am colorblind (more on that later) so I had trouble telling the difference between the green and yellow as well as blue and purple circles. The other odd thing is that it has a 3/4 time signature by default instead of the more common 4/4. Perhaps waltzes are more wacky and cartoonish?

Next I went to the drawing section of the game.

Please forgive anything that is grossly miscolored in that image, like I said, I'm colorblind so I have trouble with that. I did actually have a bit of childish fun sitting around for 10 minutes coloring this image though. There are multiple different scenes that can be chosen which is an advantage as they feature popular Looney Tunes characters. It also allows you start with a blank page and use simple Microsoft Paint style drawing tools.

Here's one masterpiece that I came up with. I was going to write something funnier with the Text  Tool, but it was a royal pain to use as you had to select each letter individually from a horizontal list (which would only show about 5 letters at a time). Next I went back to the main menu and selected an icon that looked like a Gameboy. What would this be? Some type of Gameboy linkup where you could print your masterpieces using the Gameboy Printer accessory, or even where you could use the Gameboy Camera accessory to import photos that you take into the game to be animated? What an exciting an innovative feature that would have been.

It just brought up a matching game.

I guess the matching game was alright as least because it had the added difficulty of those broken boxes, if you click on one of those you get a strike and three strikes means you're out. So yeah, fun.

After a full 45 seconds or so of the excitement of the matching game, I was bored, so I decided to check out animation.

Here's the animation screen, it was bland and the controls didn't feel good, I don't know, I'm sick of this review and I was really sick of this game by this point. The audio made no real impression on me one way or the other. The End.


Friday, August 13, 2010

ABC Monday NIght Football

ABC Monday Night Football
Data East/Season Ticket
Genre: Sports

I'm a pretty big fan of the Madden series. I think the last one I owned was Madden '08 for Gamecube, but nonetheless football games definitely tend to be my idea of fun, which was why I was excited to play this game for the first time, sadly the excitement was relatively short-lived.

Will you kindry notice the lack of real world teams, it looks like it's the New England Multicolored Brassieres VS the Detroit Flowers in this match. Real-world teams wouldn't make that big of a difference to me if the game was called "Super Action Football" or something, but if you call a game ABC Monday Night Football, then I'd rightfully expect to be able to play Patriots VS Lions if I choose. On the other hand, the Dallas team, rather than being the Cowboys were the Dallas 'Dollar Signs' which is pretty damn funny actually.

Yes I know, this picture could be the play selection screen from any 90s football game. One thing that bothered me was that these were the only eight plays that you could choose from, maybe I'm a bit spoiled from playing newer football games, but 8 plays just really didn't seem to cut it.

The game uses a rather confusing mode 7 system of showing the playing field. Notice that opposing players who are over 50 yards away look almost as large as the player. Due to this, the players tend to move around at astonishingly slow rates. It seriously is like something out of an Intellivision game (and I mean that in a bad way) the little legs are flying but the player seems to be running at about 2mph. These horrible controls are probably my biggest complaint about the game. It also seems to heavily use rubber band AI, even if you catch the ball 30 yards from the nearest opponent, you can soon see them barreling towards you literally at least 5 times a quickly as you're running.

After important plays, small videos show up of your fans, usually they're very upset.

But occasionally they will actually be happy. Graphically, as you can see, this game isn't the most beautiful thing in the world. I think it tries too hard to go for realism, which just isn't plausible on the SNES hardware. Probably the game speed would have been much better if they had gone with simpler/more clear sprites and nixed the unnecessary Mode 7 for the field. The game's audio suffered from similar problems, I was initially excited as the Monday Night Football theme played, but after that the game audio mostly consisted of garbled announcer's voices and that annoying bird sound (another similarity to Intellivision, perhaps Data East took a game from 1982, threw in some Mode 7 and some sprites that the SNES really couldn't handle and this was what they got) I really wanted to enjoy this game, and in some strange way I did like it (probably nostalgia for "Football" for Intellivision) but for the most part, the game mechanics were so slow and jumpy and that a large part of the fun was sucked out of this game.


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Aaahh!!! Real Monsters

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Realtime Associats/Viacom New Media
Genre: Action

Alright, this entry is probably going to be pretty short, that's how it goes when you play relatively mediocre licensed platform games. I've never played this game before despite being a big fan of the show it was based on back in the '90s. The characters, like on the show are the three young monsters Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina. In this game you take them on a mission to retrieve items for the Gromble at their monster academy.

As you can see, rather than choosing a character to play as beforehand, all characters are available at once, and you can switch between them with the L and R buttons. This is probably one of the more interesting aspects of this game, but it is not handled as well as it could be. The characters have slight differences in ability, but the differences are small enough that they tend to be more annoying and lead towards trial and error rather than being able to use your gaming savvy to instinctually know which monster to control in which situation. The graphics appear crisp and true to the original cartoon which is all that you can ask for in this sort of game. The audio was adequate. While the music wasn't overly catchy, it wasn't overly annoying either, it made for decent background noise while playing. My one qualm with the audio was the lack of audio clips of the monster's voices and well known sound effects from the show, it seems that in a licensed game this would be an important aspect. Overall the game couldn't keep my interest for more than ten minutes, and although it wasn't bad, it really wasn't good either.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

A.S.P Air Strike Patrol

A.S.P Air Strike Patrol
SETA/System 3
Genre: Isometric Shoot 'em up

Ahh Air Strike Patrol, I've never played you before but who knew you'd be the first Every SNES Game that I've reviewed that I actually truly enjoyed playing. I started this game up and was almost immediately confused, the one thing about this game that I must complain about is it's confusing menu system. For things like choosing what map to fly on, what aircraft to use, and getting target intel you have to use the menu system which is designed to look like using a battlefield console, but not very intuitive.

As the general point of the game is to pilot an aircraft in a fictional war (obviously based on Operation Desert Storm) the aircraft are accurate to the era; the A-10 and F-15E for ground attack, and the F-15E for aerial combat. When playing this game, one will obviously draw comparisons to the more popular Desert Strike which has a very similar gameplay mechanic except with helicopters instead of jets. Here is one of the five main maps in Air Strike Patrol:

The maps are relatively small and easy to navigate and you can find your location on the map during a mission simply by pausing the game. One of the frustrating parts of this game, that isn't shown on that map, is friendly units. The friendly units tend to get mixed in with enemies and cost large amounts of points if they are destroyed. On the first mission, I managed to completely decimate the enemy very quickly, but I accidentally destroyed one friendly tank and still ended up with negative points overall.

As you can see, around enemy installations, things can get very hectic very quickly with multiple enemy air and ground units firing on you, but the good news is that your aircraft tend to be very resilient and can take quite a beating without being shot down, not unlike the real A-10.

Like I previously mentioned this was the first game I've reviewed for this blog that really pulled me in and was highly enjoyable to play. The audio in this game was slightly better than average, the music was pleasant in the background, but not particularly memorable. The sound effects were outstanding however, with the sounds of explosions all around really pulling you into the game. The only things I would have to take points off for are the hard to maneuver menu system, and unoriginality (let's face it, this game basically is Desert Strike, except it came out 3 years later)