Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Great Playthrough: Game 58 - Sonic Adventure Primal Rage!

Some sad news I'm afraid - this review was supposed to be of Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast, but sadly my disk appears to be scratched all to hell. Cartridge games are so much more reliable!

I did get to play a few minutes of it, and basically it seemed like it would be fun, although the voice acting is brilliantly atrocious! Never mind, hopefully one day I shall get a replacement copy....

So I was stuck. I couldn't play my next game, and who came to my rescue but my lovely wife who had bought her own retro game this week - so I hand the rest of this blog over to her, for our first ever GUEST REVIEW!!

Primal Rage
Released on: Arcade, Megadrive, PC, Playstation, SNES, Saturn, Amiga, 3DO, Game Gear, Jaguar
Played on: Sega Megadrive
Release date: 1994/1995

It's thousands of years into the future (but somehow also the past)! Giant dinosaur gods and the odd pallette swapped simian fight for domination of Earth, shifted into a Pangaea-like structure that resembles a t-rex skull and imaginately re-titled...URTH.

Meanwhile, back on Terra Firma, two little oiks with a love for dinosaurs and itchy button fingers discovered this Gorn-fest of an arcade game in an Exeter pub. My little brother and I watched the demo mode and the accompanying film with gruesome delight. Dinosaurs! Coming out of the sea! Eating people! And you fight until their hearts explode! And that monkey just PEED that dinosaur's FACE off!

My Mum did eventually come and see where all of her spare 50ps were giong, and she reasoned that as long as we weren't going to have nightmares, she didn't mind us playing a fighting game. Score one for eleven-year-old me!

Primal Rage was developed in 1994, at the height of digitised sprite video-nasty fighting game fever. To my delight, while on a business trip back to my home city I found the Mega Drive console version in a retro game shop, and for the princely sum of £6, it was mine.

So, does it stand talon to toe with the likes of Street Fighter, or should it belong in a museum?

The arcade version was a four-button/joystick affair, so translation to the Mega Drive should have been trickier than it is. Various combinations of buttons are required, and thankfully the A, B and C buttons are about the same width apart as the sections of my thumb (my phalanges, if you will – you at the back, stop laughing) and so I could pull off tricky combos with relative ease. You can also use the start button as a basic close-range attack, although it does mean you can't pause the game (you know, in case real dinosaurs start taking over, or you have to pee).

If you have any experience of fighting games, you probably have some kind of preference as to how quick or heavy you like your characters, what kind of attack they provide (close range, melee, projectile) and how hyped up their defence is – bear in mind that I was about eleven when I first discovered this game and therefore just smacked buttons until somebody's heart exploded, but I'm pretty sure now that it's where my predilection for lightning-fast bruisers comes from. There is a small roster of seven playable characters in Primal Rage:

Sauron (no, not that one), your common-or-garden Tyrannosaur (medium weight)
Diablo, a fiery red pallette swap of the former (medium weight)
Blizzard, a frost-wielding monkey (light)
Chaos, a farting, vomiting pallette swap of Blizzard (light)
Vertigo, a cobra/platiosaur hybrid (medium, long-range)
Armadon, a heavily armoured stegosaur/ankylosaurus hybrid (slow and heavy)
Talon, a raptor (very light), and my personal favourite.

Despite only 7 characters, there's a bloody good range of attack styles – Vertigo in particular has a good variation of long-range and projectile attacks, as does Chaos (and with the game being targeted at young to teen boys, these are all to do with farting, vomiting and flinging nose nuggets).

But enough of this! What of the game, mortal?

Well, this was definitely worth the £6 I paid. In fact, I would have quite happily paid thrice that amount for sheer replay value – I cleared the required hour that Brawny set me, and then got up this morning with itchy fingers, dying for another play. I favoured Talon, and while he was more than a match for most of the heavy characters, I noticed interesting attention to detail: Brawny played me for a bit as Sauron (until he got fed up of being sorely trounced), I noticed that his throws were dealing me a lot more damage. When we swapped again and played as Vertigo vs Sauron, I noticed whenever Sauron fell, he took more damage. Things like that can quickly turn around an unfair advantage in a fighting game. I remember the arcade version came with a hilarious “NO CHEESE!” message, flashing up a block of Swiss cheese with a line through it, if you kept using super moves. So it's not a game that can be won with button-mashing, which is a common criticism of fighting games right up to the present day.

Any downsides? Well, the game is spectacularly gory, which weirdly didn't bother me as a kid (and I had some weird childhood fears). Hearts explode; brains wither, there's acid vomit and piss flying about everywhere: it's like backstage at London Fashion Week. The game was cert 15 back in '95 and would probably get the same treatment nowadays, but further research uncovered an action figure range and a novelisation – how 90s can you get!? So it was presumably bound for greater things, and possibly it suffered from bad publicity, hence the reason its sequel is virtually unheard of and supposedly a pile of droppings.

But if you like fighting games, dinosaurs or chimps, you absolutely have to own this game.

(Interestingly, the arcade version will probably never be experienced ever again – despite being featured in Midway Arcade Treasures 2, the arcade version is locked with an unbreakable encryption, and none of the people involved in the games seem to want to help. Presumably they were sick of having to censor different parts of it. Word from Uncle Internet claims that the PC version is the closest you can get to the Arcade version, including all of the endings, so if you can find it, grab it with both claws!)

Rating: 8/10
Time played: Way over an hour
Would I play it again?: Does dromiceiomimus enjoy a varied diet including berries and leaves and also the odd small lizard and bird? (Yes, yes it does – and don't get me started on the “raptors” in Jurassic Park) 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Great Playthrough - Game 57: Castle of Illusion

So, in the last blog I promised you a game on a console that hadn't featured in this playthrough so far, and I don't aim to disappoint you guys!

It's time to play on my new Master System II! And what game will I be playing?

It's the return of photos containing an awkwardly
grinning Brawny!

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
Released on: Sega Megadrive, Sega Game Gear, Sega Master SystemPlayed on: Sega Master System
Release date: 1990

Firstly, before I carry on, I should give shout outs to both my gorgeous wife (who bought me the Master System II for my birthday) and the great folks at Warez, which is where I bought this game at a very reasonable price!

Believe it or not, the Master System is the first 8 bit console I have ever owned, and consequentially, I was so excited sitting down to play this game - and it didn't disappoint!

(Wow, I just noticed that I've ended the last two paragraphs in exclamation marks. I should keep an eye on that, or pretty soon I'll end up as one of those people who writes stuff in Comic Sans all the time...)

As many of you may know, or may have guessed by the fact I was excited to play the game, this is a 2D platformer. And a bloody well made one at that. This is from back in the day when Disney characters were in good video games - unlike such modern wonders as Disney Princess: Magical Jewellery, or Just Dance: Disney Party, or the money-sucking leviathan that is Disney Infinity.

So what's the plot?

Well, an evil witch has kidnapped Minnie, and Mickey has to go save her. He has to tackle a selection of levels (which you can attack in a non-linear order, no less) and find some gems, because then they will mean he can .. do something... which will mean he can save Minnie...

Oh who cares about the plot! The point is that this game contains running, jumping, bouncing on enemies to kill them and is set in a bright and colourful world - but still it doesn't feel like a rip off of any of the usual suspects - it is its own thing, and that is great.

It's also hard. Proper hard. There's a reason that something being "8-bit hard" is a phrase...

(Wait, is that a phrase? *Googles it* OK, it turns out it isn't a phrase. Ignore that sentence!)

It's amazing that this game was designed for children - because most children would give up on the first level! But instead of being like a lot of modern games, it always keeps you coming back for more. After my hour or so of play, I had completed two zones (including defeating two awkward bosses) and I would quite happily have carried on, were it not a ridiculous time at night!

The bad things about this game? There aren't a lot. The music is pretty damn repetitive, and very occasionally the collision detection can seem a touch unfair, but I'm really just nitpicking at this point. All of you who enjoy platformers, you should play this game. It's so good that not only am I likely to go back and play more, but I am seriously tempted to buy the Mega Drive version (as it has different levels etc) and then the sequels!

I can't get over how good it is. Everyone had told me that it was a great game, but I wasn't expecting it to be this good!

And you can all play (a version of) it now - it's recently been remade and released for current gen consoles (PS3, Xbox) - and while it's not an exact remake, it seems to have been enjoyed by many. Or you could head over to Warez and buy yourself a master system / mega drive and get a copy yourself!

Rating; 9/10
Time played: 1 hour 10 minutes
Would I play it again? Try to stop me!

Next time, it's yet another return for the infamous blue blur...