Category Archives: Gaming

No One Can Stop Mr Domino!

This article is from Retro Gamer. Click the title to hop over there.

A screenshot of Mr Domino approaching a car

This review was originally published in Play issue 37, July 1998

DOUBLE BLANK OR DOUBLE SIX? JVC LAYS ITS CUTESY DOMINO CHALLENGE ON THE LINE.

sound like a game for people who wear furry, zip-up slippers and huddle under tartan blankets, but actually it’s a rather addictive (if short lived) psychedelic domino laying extravaganza. Before you turn the page belly-up laughing, just check out the screenshots – they’re absolutely gorgeous and if this game had a middle name, it’d be ‘originality’ – a word you can’t associate with the vast majority of releases.

PaRappa The Rapper grabbed attention and to a lesser extent, the same can be said for Mr Domino. Playing it is simple, but mastering it takes patience, dexterity and a smidgen of luck. You play a cute domino chappy, who is carried along a predetermined course and the idea is to lay down dominoes at specific points in order to create chain reactions. Hitting certain switches triggers off amusing cut-scenes (those crazy Japanese), but if you manage to link every switch without stumbling over one of the many obstacles in your path, you’re rewarded with a special ending for the level.

A screenshot of Mr Domino about to be intercepted by an enemy

DOUBLE BLANK
Each course is effectively a track, so that after making one circuit you return the same point. It’s unlikely that every switch will be triggered on your first jaunt, so there a plenty of time-extending First Aid crosses dotted around ensuring that you can do a few laps to complete the stage.

Unfortunately you only get to manoeuvre Mr domino left and right, there’s little else to do apart from adjust his speed, as everything is on rails. It’s great fun for a while, but there are only six stages and we finished them pretty quickly. The humour in each level makes you chortle at first, but the effect soon wears off after you’ve watched it a few times. There are bonus tiles, including Fast Forward, Slow Forward and the annoying Reset tile, but nothing can hide the short-lived challenge that Mr Domino represents. Although it’s original, stunning to look at and good fun to play, we have doubts about how long you’ll be playing it for.

Tom Sargent

Looks: 8
Sounds: 7
Gameplay: 7
Value: 5
Topples: 7

Overall: 72%
Original, but lacks lasting challenge

A screenshot of a woman finding a bomb in her oven

Go to Source – Retro Gamer

 


Celebrate SNK’s 40th Anniversary With Retro Gamer 187

This article is from Retro Gamer. Click the title to hop over there.

Retro Gamer 187 cover Retro Gamer 187 subscriber cover

The latest issue of Retro Gamer is out on Thursday 1 November, and it’s a special celebration of SNK’s 40th anniversary. The magazine comes with a sticker sheet featuring sprites and artwork from the company’s history, as well as The Mini SNK Companion – a guide to 40 great games by SNK and on SNK hardware, featuring brand new developer interviews. In the main magazine, our cover feature looks back at the company’s life, death and rebirth with a selection of interviewees from the company’s past and present. We also have an interview on the development of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, due for release soon on Nintendo Switch.

Of course, that’s not all we’ve got in the issue. In our regular Making Of features you can learn how the London gangster game The Getaway moved from PlayStation to PS2 during its development, find out how Gauntlet: The Third Encounter arrived on Atari Lynx and discover the tale behind Lucasarts’ classic adventure The Eidolon.

Elsewhere you’ll find a feature on the Game Boy Color (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year), Ultimate Guides to the fantasy shoot-’em-up Gynoug and the over-the-top beat-’em-up NARC, a retrospective on the developer Atomic Planet and a Bluffer’s Guide to westerns. We also speak to DotEmu about Windjammers 2 and Streets Of Rage 4, get Darren Melbourne to reveal his Desert Island Disks and pay tribute to the late composer Ben Daglish.

As always, you can pick up Retro Gamer from newsagents, digital magazine retailers and of course online via My Favourite Magazines.

Go to Source – Retro Gamer

 


Rocket Knight Adventures

This article is from Retro Gamer. Click the title to hop over there.

A screenshot of Sparkster using his rocket pack to fly over the sea, with a snake like enemy belowThis review originally appeared in Sega Power issue 46, September 1993

If you thought dying was all about agonising pain and the haunting sound of the final scream, think again. The creatures in the world of Zebulos just throw up their arms, smile sweetly and utter a brief but poignant squeak. Paul Pettengale marches off to stab a few of them through the heart.

PREPARE YOURSELF for a shock. Here’s a game that brings a new lease of life to the platform genre. Well, a lease of life that’s been sitting in the fridge for a few days, but it’s a lease of life nonetheless. Yes, Rocket Knight Adventures manages to effectively combine a range of gamestyles – from the frantic shoot-’em-up to the mindbending puzzler – and very entertaining it is too.

Sparkster, leader of the Rocket Knights, defenders of the realm of Zebulos, has seen his master die at the hands of an evil pig called Axle Gear. The land is also under attack from the nearby Empire of Devontindos and, to make matters worse, Axle has only gone and kidnapped the princess of the realm. Drastic action is called for. Sparkster must crush the invasion, rescue the princess – and kill the pig while he’s at it. So off Sparkster trots (or whatever it is opossums do), mercilessly slashing killer pigs, tentacled trains and giant lobsters (to name but a few) from neck to navel with his magic sword. Of course, should things get out of hand, you can always activate his rocket pack and launch the guy skyward out of danger.

The action is great fun and unrelenting, with baddies coming at you from all angles, especially after the first level. They all behave in different ways too and most boast complicated attack routines which aren’t easy to suss out. But the game is challenging in other areas…

A screenshot of Sparkster hiding from a fire blast in a castle

When the rumbling terrain gets particularly tricky, for example, you have to employ your rocket pack to avoid the danger zones. (Then again, it’s great at any time for uncovering those hidden bonuses and extra lives.)

The huge sprites in Rocket Knight Adventures, while nothing groundbreaking in themselves, are good enough, and most of the characters (especially Sparkster
himself) are especially cute in a Japanese kinda way. One novel feature about the game is that you can interact with the backgrounds (in other words, jump between foreground and background areas). Unfortunately, the nasties can do the same so you’ll have to be nifty on the pad if you want to survive.

The sound and musical effects, however, are just disappointing – and, ultimately, so is the hectic gameplay. There are two difficulty settings, but the only difference between ’em is the number of lives and continues you start off with. If you play for the first time
on Easy you’ll get at least a third of the way, if not further, into the game. Poor really.

If you’re looking for a new platformer to restore your faith in the genre, however, it’s the best yet – despite the sickeningly cutesy scenario. My advice is to just skip Easy, play it on Hard and enjoy yourself. I know I did.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 5
Addiction: 5
Brainpower: 8

Final Verdict: 82%
Great looking, loads of gameplay and no two levels are the same. The action is so damn hectic you’ll be at it for a couple of weeks. Not so sure about the longevity after
that though.

A screenshot of Sparkster piloting a giant robot into battle

Go to Source – Retro Gamer

 


Metal Slug

This article is from Retro Gamer. Click the title to hop over there.

A screenshot of Marco Rossi on a precarious ledge, shooting an enemy soldier

This review was originally published in Edge issue 38, November 1996

Green Beret was great fun ten years ago, but surely a similar game could not impress today’s 3D-obsessed gamer? Joining the old school of sprite-heavy Neo-Geo games comes Metal Slug, a home version of the SNK coin-op shoot ’em up

The Eighties: a time when true 3D graphics were the stuff of dreams, when polygons were just things your maths teacher talked about, and when the 2D horizontal shoot ’em up was firmly in its heyday. Now, thanks to SNK’s trusty six-year-old trusty sprite-shunting technology and third-party developer Nazca, Metal Slug is here, boasting six stages of retro shoot ’em up chaos and a host of amusing touches.

In fact, Metal Slug is an addictive and totally hectic game which, with every scroll of the screen, brings in some new enemy or graphical set-piece to keep the player plugging away. In terms of staple shoot ’em up features, Slug has the inevitable list of weapon power-ups, including a heavy machine gun, a rocket launcher and a great flamethrower. There’s also a healthy arsenal of different enemies: soldiers, tanks, motorcyclists, helicopters, and even biplanes and frogmen.

A screenshot of the Metal Slug tank on a rooftop, mid-jump

A few nice touches have been carefully nicked from other games and then expanded on. The player has to free hostages as in Commando, the difference being that here they give you weapons. You can also get in a tank, à la Ikari Warriors, but this one can jump and has power-ups ( incidentally, the twoplayer option in Metal Slug is also a tremendous laugh – as it was in IW). Finally, and most significantly, Metal Slug has much in the way of humour. For example, enemy soldiers often sit around talking or cooking, but when they spot the player, they leap up, scream, and run away. It’s a great touch which ensures that you’re always checking new scenes for comic moments.

As is often the case with Neo-Geo games, though, Metal Slug ultimately suffers from its coin-op origins in that it only takes a few hours to complete. This is a shame, as there are plenty of great ideas and some beautiful scenery in the game. Ultimately, though, Metal Slug is an imaginative, humorous and enjoyable step back into the past – a brief glimpse at the way things used to be. Brief, unfortunately, being the operative word.

Edge rating
Six out of ten

A screenshot of Marco Rossi fighting through a ruined building

Go to Source – Retro Gamer

 


Sonic R

This article is from Retro Gamer. Click the title to hop over there.

A screenshot of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy and Robotnik at the starting line

This review originally appeared in Saturn Power issue 9, January 1998

Attention! Sonic R is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, one of the very finest Saturn games to date and the following review will tell you exactly why.

I have to be perfectly honest, when I first played Sonic R all those months ago I was more than a bit unsure about what Sega were trying to do. I mean, at the end of the day what the punters seemed to want was a Mario 64 clone on the Saturn. With Sonic in it. So they gave the programming task to the highly respected Travellers Tales and sat back.

They could’ve done a platform game very easily; the game’s engine is certainly up to the task as everything moves extremely fast and smooth – and you can see by these shots that the graphical quality is well up to the standard of any of the best previous Saturn titles, but why the nagging doubts? Well, simply put, I wasn’t sure what sort of game Sonic R was trying to be. At the heart of it it seemed to be a driving game, but there was also this platform element to it… you had to collect the coins and rings and then certain new sections and short-cuts open up to you. It’s only on playing Sonic R for a lengthy period that the true depth of the gameplay opens itself up to you, and it also happens to be completely brilliant.

You can, if you do so wish, just play the game as a straightforward racing game – although, to be honest, it won’t take you too long to come first in all the courses (it took me about an hour). There’s five highly detailed courses to choose from at the start, complete with devious short-cuts, collectable speed-up icons and enormous ramps. Then, when you start to get to know the tracks a bit better, you collect more coins, find the ring doors and start collecting the coins. Then, and only then, does the game start to really become addictive.

Once you start to get to know each level a bit more, you find that each of them has five carefully placed golden coins and it’s these you have to collect for the ‘special challenge’. Take it from me, it’s a toughie. Collecting the rings seems easy but there are carefully-placed doors that will only allow you access through them when you’ve collected the requisite amount of rings. These lead on to short-cuts through the level and, usually, a golden coin.

For once, the one player options are excellent. There are four choices of solitary gaming to choose from (apart from the obvious grand prix option, where you race against the four other computer-controlled characters) and they even break the golden rule and manage to be original. For a start you have the standard time attack (complete with flickering ghost mode) and the option to use this on any of the tracks the correct way… or reverse. Then there’s the ‘Collect five balloons’ game. What you have to do here, like, is collect five hidden blue balloons as quickly as possible. Obviously, as you work out their locations your time is bound to speed up, but the short-cuts can help you even further… if you can find them.

But, and this is the best one, there’s a new horse to the stable, a tag game. Here you try to catch up and ‘tag’ (basically, just touch them) each of the four computer-controlled characters in turn.

Tricky, though, as the last thing they want to be is ‘tagged’. They swerve to avoid you, then run away in the opposite direction. They wait around the other side of the course and change direction as you try to work out where they’re heading. It’s brilliant, tricky and guaranteed to make you scream with frustration as you catch three of the characters within 30 seconds but spend the next four minutes chasing Tails around the level.

So, what can I say about the graphics? They’re beautiful. If they were your girlfriend, you’d constantly be laughing like a demented fool about your good fortune. If they were your boyfriend then you’d guard him carefully from the weeping adoration from your less-fortunate friends. They’re that gorgeous. If they’re not the best yet seen on the Saturn, they’re certainly up there with the best of them… the likes of NiGHTS, Tomb Raider and Sega Rally spring to mind.

What’s most impressive about the graphics is, like I said before, it’s not just the fact that they look stunning or the fact that the shaded fade-in (there’s absolutely none of that disgusting pop-up you might have expected) looks dazzling, it’s the fact that Travellers Tales have managed to get all this working at such a bloody speed. Not only is it remarkably fast, but it’s also smoother than a freshly poured pint of Guinness on a roasting Summer’s day. Even on some of the more complicated levels, where there appears a million and one objects on the screen at one single time, it’s reassuring to know that there’s not even a smidge of slowdown.

A screenshot of Tails rounding a corner in pursuit of Sonic

The sound? Ah, created by the very talented Richard Jacques at Sega Europe, there’s a bevy of delightful tunes for you to pick and, to keep in with Sega’s bizarre interest to include vocals on their background tracks nowadays, they’ve got some old has-been warbling on in the background about how nice it is to be going so fast. She probably didn’t have a bleedin’ clue what she was singing about but, thankfully, there’s an option to switch off the vocals.

There’s a total of five very different and fairly large tracks at the start of the game (with another one hidden away for release when you’ve completed all the other five in first place) and this might be a bit of a down point (I’d have liked a few more, but that’s only because I enjoyed playing the game so much), but because the game gives you the freedom to explore the levels (levels/tracks… it’s difficult to work out exactly what to call them, so I’ll switch between the two if you don’t mind), it’s quite some time before you can even begin to say you know the layout of the tracks (levels?). This has the downside of making it a bit daunting when you first start playing, as you’re not entirely sure where you should be going and everyone’s overtaking you on the short-cuts, anyway.

You start off the game with a choice of the basic four characters and each of those has their own pros and cons (although we have to admit, Sonic is the best overall). There are various methods for collecting the extra five secret characters. One of the main things that distinguishes them is a character move. Sonic has an impressive double jump (excellent for short cuts), Tails can fly, Knuckles can… oh arse, you’ll find out when you buy the game.

There’s got to be a downside to everything and the spoilt plum in this fruity basket is the lack of a championship mode. Sure, you can play all the tracks against a range of computer-controlled characters but, unfortunately, you have to play them one at a time. There’s none of the ‘play through all the tracks and get something nice at the end for winning them all’ treaty thing of Sega Rally here, I’m afraid. Not a huge bugbear… more of an irritating teddy.

So, there you have it. At the very heart of Sonic R is a powerful racing game that looks gorgeous and is fast and smooth. Now that on its own would be all very well and good but it’s the sheer depth of the game and the slowly rising difficulty level of the challenges that will keep you playing for the weeks to come. The highest recommendation I can make is that this is, quite simply, one of the finest Saturn games I’ve ever played.

Dean Mortlock

SECOND OPINION

Brilliant, accomplished, professional, polished… but two years too late. Had Sonic R appeared for the Saturn’s first Xmas, Sega’s 32-bit machine would undoubtedly be scoffing a larger share of the videogame market pie as I write. Not that, of course, I would be writing this. In an alternative dimension, a near-identical universe mirroring our own (but with subtle differences), Sonic R stayed at the top of the Gallup charts for months after its ’95 release. And rightly so. It’s an excellent game.

James Price

VERDICT

Graphics – 10
The finest yet seen on the Saturn – and blimey, you should just see them moving.

Sound – 8
The familiar beeps and whistles from the original Sonic games, plus the usual cringy tunes.

Group play – 9
A couple of great two-player options and a great time attack mode. Loads for everyone.

Lifespan – 10
There’s loads hidden away and you’ll be playing the time attack mode for weeks.

Overall – 96%
I found this one of the most refreshing and enjoyable Saturn games I’ve played for ages… if it’s not the best Saturn game yet, then it’s very close.

A screenshot of Knuckles approaching a spring ramp

Go to Source – Retro Gamer

 


Sonic R

This article is from Retro Gamer. Click the title to hop over there.

A screenshot of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy and Robotnik at the starting line

This review originally appeared in Saturn Power issue 9, January 1998

Attention! Sonic R is, in this reviewer’s humble opinion, one of the very finest Saturn games to date and the following review will tell you exactly why.

I have to be perfectly honest, when I first played Sonic R all those months ago I was more than a bit unsure about what Sega were trying to do. I mean, at the end of the day what the punters seemed to want was a Mario 64 clone on the Saturn. With Sonic in it. So they gave the programming task to the highly respected Travellers Tales and sat back.

They could’ve done a platform game very easily; the game’s engine is certainly up to the task as everything moves extremely fast and smooth – and you can see by these shots that the graphical quality is well up to the standard of any of the best previous Saturn titles, but why the nagging doubts? Well, simply put, I wasn’t sure what sort of game Sonic R was trying to be. At the heart of it it seemed to be a driving game, but there was also this platform element to it… you had to collect the coins and rings and then certain new sections and short-cuts open up to you. It’s only on playing Sonic R for a lengthy period that the true depth of the gameplay opens itself up to you, and it also happens to be completely brilliant.

You can, if you do so wish, just play the game as a straightforward racing game – although, to be honest, it won’t take you too long to come first in all the courses (it took me about an hour). There’s five highly detailed courses to choose from at the start, complete with devious short-cuts, collectable speed-up icons and enormous ramps. Then, when you start to get to know the tracks a bit better, you collect more coins, find the ring doors and start collecting the coins. Then, and only then, does the game start to really become addictive.

Once you start to get to know each level a bit more, you find that each of them has five carefully placed golden coins and it’s these you have to collect for the ‘special challenge’. Take it from me, it’s a toughie. Collecting the rings seems easy but there are carefully-placed doors that will only allow you access through them when you’ve collected the requisite amount of rings. These lead on to short-cuts through the level and, usually, a golden coin.

For once, the one player options are excellent. There are four choices of solitary gaming to choose from (apart from the obvious grand prix option, where you race against the four other computer-controlled characters) and they even break the golden rule and manage to be original. For a start you have the standard time attack (complete with flickering ghost mode) and the option to use this on any of the tracks the correct way… or reverse. Then there’s the ‘Collect five balloons’ game. What you have to do here, like, is collect five hidden blue balloons as quickly as possible. Obviously, as you work out their locations your time is bound to speed up, but the short-cuts can help you even further… if you can find them.

But, and this is the best one, there’s a new horse to the stable, a tag game. Here you try to catch up and ‘tag’ (basically, just touch them) each of the four computer-controlled characters in turn.

Tricky, though, as the last thing they want to be is ‘tagged’. They swerve to avoid you, then run away in the opposite direction. They wait around the other side of the course and change direction as you try to work out where they’re heading. It’s brilliant, tricky and guaranteed to make you scream with frustration as you catch three of the characters within 30 seconds but spend the next four minutes chasing Tails around the level.

So, what can I say about the graphics? They’re beautiful. If they were your girlfriend, you’d constantly be laughing like a demented fool about your good fortune. If they were your boyfriend then you’d guard him carefully from the weeping adoration from your less-fortunate friends. They’re that gorgeous. If they’re not the best yet seen on the Saturn, they’re certainly up there with the best of them… the likes of NiGHTS, Tomb Raider and Sega Rally spring to mind.

What’s most impressive about the graphics is, like I said before, it’s not just the fact that they look stunning or the fact that the shaded fade-in (there’s absolutely none of that disgusting pop-up you might have expected) looks dazzling, it’s the fact that Travellers Tales have managed to get all this working at such a bloody speed. Not only is it remarkably fast, but it’s also smoother than a freshly poured pint of Guinness on a roasting Summer’s day. Even on some of the more complicated levels, where there appears a million and one objects on the screen at one single time, it’s reassuring to know that there’s not even a smidge of slowdown.

A screenshot of Tails rounding a corner in pursuit of Sonic

The sound? Ah, created by the very talented Richard Jacques at Sega Europe, there’s a bevy of delightful tunes for you to pick and, to keep in with Sega’s bizarre interest to include vocals on their background tracks nowadays, they’ve got some old has-been warbling on in the background about how nice it is to be going so fast. She probably didn’t have a bleedin’ clue what she was singing about but, thankfully, there’s an option to switch off the vocals.

There’s a total of five very different and fairly large tracks at the start of the game (with another one hidden away for release when you’ve completed all the other five in first place) and this might be a bit of a down point (I’d have liked a few more, but that’s only because I enjoyed playing the game so much), but because the game gives you the freedom to explore the levels (levels/tracks… it’s difficult to work out exactly what to call them, so I’ll switch between the two if you don’t mind), it’s quite some time before you can even begin to say you know the layout of the tracks (levels?). This has the downside of making it a bit daunting when you first start playing, as you’re not entirely sure where you should be going and everyone’s overtaking you on the short-cuts, anyway.

You start off the game with a choice of the basic four characters and each of those has their own pros and cons (although we have to admit, Sonic is the best overall). There are various methods for collecting the extra five secret characters. One of the main things that distinguishes them is a character move. Sonic has an impressive double jump (excellent for short cuts), Tails can fly, Knuckles can… oh arse, you’ll find out when you buy the game.

There’s got to be a downside to everything and the spoilt plum in this fruity basket is the lack of a championship mode. Sure, you can play all the tracks against a range of computer-controlled characters but, unfortunately, you have to play them one at a time. There’s none of the ‘play through all the tracks and get something nice at the end for winning them all’ treaty thing of Sega Rally here, I’m afraid. Not a huge bugbear… more of an irritating teddy.

So, there you have it. At the very heart of Sonic R is a powerful racing game that looks gorgeous and is fast and smooth. Now that on its own would be all very well and good but it’s the sheer depth of the game and the slowly rising difficulty level of the challenges that will keep you playing for the weeks to come. The highest recommendation I can make is that this is, quite simply, one of the finest Saturn games I’ve ever played.

Dean Mortlock

SECOND OPINION

Brilliant, accomplished, professional, polished… but two years too late. Had Sonic R appeared for the Saturn’s first Xmas, Sega’s 32-bit machine would undoubtedly be scoffing a larger share of the videogame market pie as I write. Not that, of course, I would be writing this. In an alternative dimension, a near-identical universe mirroring our own (but with subtle differences), Sonic R stayed at the top of the Gallup charts for months after its ’95 release. And rightly so. It’s an excellent game.

James Price

VERDICT

Graphics – 10
The finest yet seen on the Saturn – and blimey, you should just see them moving.

Sound – 8
The familiar beeps and whistles from the original Sonic games, plus the usual cringy tunes.

Group play – 9
A couple of great two-player options and a great time attack mode. Loads for everyone.

Lifespan – 10
There’s loads hidden away and you’ll be playing the time attack mode for weeks.

Overall – 96%
I found this one of the most refreshing and enjoyable Saturn games I’ve played for ages… if it’s not the best Saturn game yet, then it’s very close.

A screenshot of Knuckles approaching a spring ramp

Go to Source – Retro Gamer

 


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