Super Hang-On – Review

Hold on to your hats guys, its time to rev that engine, feel the horsepower, and leave your competitors to eat your dust. Glory awaits!

Screenshot taken by the author

Super Hang-On is a single-player motorcycle racing game developed and published by Sega. Originally released in the arcade in 1987 as a sequel to Hang-On, it would later be released for the following:

1987 – Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum.

1989/1990 – Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Macintosh, DOS, Sega Megadrive, and Sharp X68000.

2003 – Game Boy Advance (Sega Arcade Gallery)

2010 – Wii’s Virtual Console (2012 in North America)

2012 – Xbox Live Arcade (Sega Vintage Collection)

I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version found on the Mega Games I (1992) package.

Gameplay

Whilst still similar to Hang-On, there is now a choice of four new tracks, based on the continents of the world. Each continent contains a different number of stages to increase difficulty (Africa = 6 stages, Asia = 10 stages etc.). A turbo button is also available should you need an extra boost.

Screenshot taken by the author

The Mega Drive version, which I played as part of Sega’s Mega Games I (1992), contains both the full arcade mode, and an original mode. The original mode is a bit more in-depth and allows you to gain sponsorship and earn money to upgrade your motorbike.

Screenshot taken by the author

How Does It Handle?

The bike is easy to control, and the game is easy to learn. However, the game can become frustrating when you crash in Arcade mode as there is no way to make the time up again, so you may as well restart the game. I also dislike the time countdown in Arcade mode too. In the arcade one can understand a time limit as you want games that are “quarter guzzlers”, but for gaming at home, it’s just plain annoying. Admittedly I didn’t spend that much time on this game as I’m not a racing fan, but if you are, I am sure that you will enjoy the challenge of this game.

Graphics

The graphics are clean, with brightly coloured sprites making it easy to distinguish yourself from other riders. The backgrounds and time of day change as you move through the stages of the races giving you a real sense of location and distance. At the top of the screen you have information telling you your score, speed, what course and stage you are on, and a countdown dial.

Personal Memories

I have vague recollections of playing this in the arcade at Folkestone Rotunda Amusement Park when I was a pre-pubescent imp. It had the full arcade set up complete with a replica motorbike that you could sit on and use your weight to lean left or right. Being small at the time, my father would stand at the back of the bike and help me lean it, ensuring I didn’t go flying off.

Did I Complete The Game?

Nope, nowhere near.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “A high quality racing game which is a must for speed freaks. Overall 86%.[1]

Mean Machines: “This cart manages to contain all of the playability of the coin-op, coulpled with slick audio-visuals. Definitely worth getting if you enjoyed the coin-op, or if you’re after a decent Mega Drive game at a bargain price. Overall 90%.”[2]

Sega Power: “Brilliant biking coin-op conversion. Terrific sensation of speed and movement, with good graphics and smooth 3D update. Thrilling to play and lasts for ages. Overall 5/5.[3]

Sega Power “Another coin-op classic of yesteryear. Fine, but a bit mouldy. Overall 4/5.”[4]

MegaTech: “Converted from the Sega coin-op, this is an excellent copy and has all the features of the original machine plus an extra challenge game thrown in for good measure! The graphics and sound are both excellent, and with playability to match, this is a race game that no Megadrive owner should be without. Overall 89%.[5]

My Verdict:

“I’m not a fan of racing games but if you are, this may prove a challenge. Beautiful graphics and scenery too, and enough replay value to make it worth adding to your collection.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Super Hang-On? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Mega Drive Review – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1990). Issue 1:82-4.

[2] Leadbetter, R.,’Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:127.

[3] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:54.

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Hang-On’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:98.

[5] ‘Game Index – Super Hang-On’. MegaTech. (May 1992). Issue 5:78.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition – Review

Get ready for a swashbuckling adventure and set your wits against the cream…well the dregs, of the Caribbean. Only by solving mind-boggling puzzles and matching your witty repartee with your enemies will you win the day.

Original title screen (screenshot taken by the author)
Special Edition title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

The first in a popular franchise, The Secret of Monkey Island was developed and published by Lucasfilm Games in 1990. The Special Edition was released in 2009. It can be found on many platforms including the Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST, Macintosh, CDTV, FM Towns, Sega CD, OS X, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. I chose to review the Version downloaded from Steam.

Plot

This single-player point-and-click adventure game starts with Guybrush Threepwood declaring “I want to be a pirate!”. What ensues is an adventure full of humour, perilous pirate trials, the rescue of a damsel in distress and the defeat of the ghost pirate LeChuck, all set in the Caribbean. Along the way Threepwood must complete tasks to progress in his adventure, many of the tasks are peculiar and to solve them involves thinking not just outside the box, but outside of any other shape you can think of as well.

What’s New?

The Special Edition sees the game get a makeover with slick new graphics, improved music and sound, and vocalisation which adds to the humour of the gags. However, for the purists you are able to revert back to the original music and graphics at the click of a button. On many of the screens you can opt to hear commentary from the games creators explaining how they created the graphics and music, which I think should be incorporated into more games.

How Does It Handle?

In order to interact with the world around you, you must choose from 12 commands at the bottom of the screen. These commands include ‘pick up’, ‘talk to’, ‘open’, ‘close’ etc. This can become quite tiresome, especially when you are stuck and need to enact the “try everything with everything” method of problem solving.

Graphics

Although cartoonish, and originally in 8-bit graphics, the backgrounds and characters are very colourful. Oddly enough, when close-ups of characters occur, they look very life-like, which is the opposite of the Special Edition. The music also sounds great and captures the pirate mood exceptionally well. For me, the Special Edition graphics adds more life to the environment.

Original graphics (screenshot taken by the author)
Special Edition graphics (screenshot taken by the author)

Music

The main theme is incredibly distinctive and will get stuck your head very quickly. The cartoonish pirate style in-game music works well.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

The only thing that let’s this game down, and it is only one thing, is that some of the puzzles are so convoluted that you will need to use a walkthrough to find the solutions to many of the them. I like a mental challenge as much as the next person, but most would never think of using a rubber chicken as a zip-line.

Did I Complete The Game?

I did finish the game, but there were many times that I needed assistance from walkthroughs.

What The Critics Said Of The Original Version:

Computer and Video Game Magazine – “Usually the entertainment you get from an adventure is derived solely from solving puzzles, but the hilarious characters and situations, and the movie-like presentations make playing this more like taking part in a comedy film so it’s much more enjoyable.  Overall 94%[1]

Dragon Magazine: “If you enjoy a great graphic adventure spiced with humour top-notch graphics, and a soundtrack filled with really good, original compositions, this is a must buy for you. We haven’t stopped laughing yet! 5/5.[2]

Zero Magazine: “At last an adventure game that’s enjoyable rather than frustrating. Overall 84%[3].

What The Critics Said Of The Special Edition:

Eurogamer.net: “Few games can stand the test of time with such confidence, and whether your interest stems from its genre-defining significance or its reputation as an unforgettable game, you won’t be disappointed by time spent on Monkey Island. Anyone who disagrees probably fights like a cow. Overall 9/10.”[4]

IGN.com: “The Secret of Monkey Island has a special place in the museum of videogames for its quick wit, its personality, and the way it surprises us at every turn. Playing this adventure will take you back to a simpler, more innocent time before games needed to bash us over the head with ultra-violence to get our attention. They definitely don’t make ’em like this anymore. The Special Edition doesn’t offer any new gameplay, so its appeal may be limited if you’ve already been initiated. But if you’ve never seen a three-headed monkey, download this now. Overall 8.7/10.[5]

Gamespot.com: “If you’ve got opposable thumbs, a sense of humour, and a brain that you’re not afraid to use, this puzzle-filled adventure is one well worth taking. Overall 8/10.”[6]

My Verdict:

“Avast me hearties, here be a fun, classic point and click pirate game for ye. The puzzles be tough, but there be plenty of laughs for a landlubber such as yourself. Now pass me the grog!”

Rating:

What are your memories of The Secret of Monkey Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Glancey, P., ‘Review: PC – The Secret of Monkey Island’. Computer and Video Games Magazine. (December 1990). Issue 109:112-4.

[2] ‘Review: PC/MS-DOS – Secret of Monkey Island’. Dragon Magazine. (April 1991). Issue 168:49-50.

[3] ‘Review: PC – The Secret of Monkey Island’. Zero Magazine. (November 1990). Issue 13:58.

[4] Whitehead, D., (16th July 2009). ‘Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition’. Eurogamer.net.  (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition-review?page=2 Accessed 13th December 2019).

[5] Hatfield, D., (Jun 14th, 2009). ‘The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review’. IGN.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20111208163158/http://xboxlive.ign.com/articles/100/1003651p1.html Accessed 14th December 2019).

[6] Calvert, J., (April 23, 2010). ‘The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20120804010019/http://www.gamespot.com/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition/reviews/the-secret-of-monkey-island-special-edition-review-6260007/ Accessed on 13th December 2019).

John Madden Football ’93 – Review

“Red…7…28…hut, hike!!!” John madden is back! Get ready for hard-hitting defensive plays and Hail Mary passes, as we delve into this offering from Electronic Arts.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Madden ’93 is another in the line of the Madden franchise. It was developed by Blue Sky Productions for the Mega Drive and Electronic Arts for the SNES. It was published by EA Sports Network and released in 1992. I chose to review the Mega Drive version.

The game looks identical to its predecessor (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ah yes, American Football, that favourite of North American Sports that just doesn’t seem to translate well in the UK. The computer games did, however, and this one was no exception.

Gameplay

You can play either one-player, two-player, or two-player co-operative which is fun to play, as I did with both my brothers.

Like its predecessor, you have the option to play Pre-Season, Regular Season, Playoffs and Sudden Death modes. Although I question the purpose of pre-season as it doesn’t add anything to the team or player stats. The only difference is that the play clock is disabled, meaning you can take as long as you like when selecting plays. A new mode, All-Time Greats has been added which is a smaller 8-team tournament.

Throwing plays is still the best tactic (Screenshot taken by the author)

What’s New?

Some of the new features include stumbling, taunting, head-butting, and one-handed catches. Although you can play in snow, wind and rain etc., they still haven’t added a random weather option, which would be a nice touch. Sadly, there is still no sign of real player names, but on a positive note, you no longer need a password as the game automatically saves your progress.

How Does It Handle?

The gameplay has been improved since it’s predecessor. It’s tougher to dominate matches with a throwing game as defensive players intercept and block the passes a lot more. The running game is slightly better with faster runners, but I’d still recommended not bothering and sticking to a throwing game.

Graphics

The graphics are pretty much the same as Madden ’92. In that, they still look very good. Not complaints here.

Did I Complete The Game?

In many modern sports games you don’t necessarily complete these sorts of games, as much as win the league and cup titles, and then move on to the next season. Completing early sports games simply means winning a tournament or league once before restarting with a different team. I have won the play-offs many times with several different teams including Chicago, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Philadelphia.

What The Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games Magazine: “Definitely the worst of the trio, and hopefully EA will learn that ’92 is virtually impossible to improve on. Overall 77%”.[1]

Gamesmaster Magazine: “John Madden ’93 is simply the most sophisticated, intriguing and complex game available on any system anywhere. If you fancy yourself as having a brain as well as a fast trigger-finger, this is the game for you. Overall 90%[2]

Sega Power: “Can’t fault it as a football game, but the differences between this and the ’92 version aren’t that noticebale. If you haven’t got any of the John Madden games, get it. Overall 5/5.[3]

Gamerpro: “John Madden Football ’93 is even more fun to play than Madden ’92…it’s clealy the benchmark for all other football video games. Overall 4.6/5.[4]

Mean Machines Sega: “Not a bad game at all, but hopelessly redundant nonetheless. Go for the slightly better John Madden ’92 if you’re after a definitive American football game and give this one a miss. Overall 89%.[5]

Awards:

Best Sports Game of the Year (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[6]

My Verdict:

“Overall, the game is more challenging than Madden ’92, which is for the better. A step forward for the franchise.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Madden ’93? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Anglin, P., ‘Game Review: Mega Drive – John Madden ’93’. (January 1993). Computer & Video Games Magazine. (January 1993). Issue 124:90.

[2] ‘Game Review: Mega Drive – John Madden Football ’93’. Gamemaster Magazine. (January 1993). Issue 1:66-8.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – John Madden Football ‘93’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:97.

[4] Weekend Warrior ‘Pro Review: Genesis – John Madden Football ‘93’. Gamerpro. (December 1992). :141-2.

[5] ‘Review – John Madden Football ‘93’. Mean Machines Sega. (December 1992). Issue 3:102-4.

[5] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Best Sports Game of the Year (All Game Systems) – John Madden Football ‘93‘. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :16.

Chuck Rock – Review

He may not be the sharpest flint in pre-history, but Chuck Rock has a head as hard as a rock and a belly that is deadly. So get ready to navigate jungles and swamps, battle dinosaurs, and rescue your wife before Garry Glitter has his way with her. Unga Bunga!!!

Title screen (screenshot taken by author)

Chuck Rock is a single-player side-scrolling platform game developed by Core Design. It has been published and ported to many other platforms including:

  • Core Design – Atari St and Amiga (1991), Commodore 64 (1992), and Amiga CD32 (1994)
  • Krisalis Software – Acorn Archimedes (1991)
  • Virgin Interactive – Sega Megadrive (1991), Sega Master System (1993) and Game Gear (1992)
  • Sony Imagesoft – Sega Mega-CD (1993), SNES (1992) and Game Boy (1993).

I chose to review the Mega Drive version.

Beautiful level design (screenshot taken by author)

Plot

Set in a fantasy prehistoric Stone Age, Chuck’s wife, Ophelia, has been kidnapped by Garry Glitter (no, not the disgraced pop star).

Gameplay

Chuck must navigate his way through jungles, swamps, ice-capped mountains and caves, all the while evading various dinosaurs and prehistoric animals; or if you are feeling brave, barging them out the way with your belly, performing flying kicks, or picking up huge boulders and throwing them. I’d recommend using the latter two to kill your enemies.

Chuck may look like a everyone’s least favourite uncle, but he is the hero of this tale (screenshot taken by author)

How Does It Handle?

The controls are easy to learn and are nice and responsive. The game is challenging with some tough levels. Oddly, the end bosses are all very easy to defeat with the exception of the third boss. The only boss that you need a strategy to defeat is the first boss, but other than that, it is simply a case of button mashing.

Graphics

Throughout the game the graphics look fab. There’s plenty to catch the eye and make you think “That looks cool!”.

The levels look gorgeous (screenshot taken by author)

Music

The music is good throughout the game. The opening musical number on the title screen is awesome and I found myself delaying playing the game in order to listen to the song the whole way through. It seems that even though Chuck isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, he has aspired to lead singer of a rock band.

Replay Value

Sadly this game lacks replay value, and once completed you may only wish to revisit it once or twice before turning your attention to the next challenge.

(screenshot taken by author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, I completed the game without the use of cheats. Sadly, Upon completing the game you are met another example of an anti-climatic ending to a game that deserved more.

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines: An excellent and quite original platform game that’s highly recommended to all Megadrive players. Overall 91%.[1]

Mean Machines Index: “A brilliant, humorous Megadrive platform game with real character. Its graphics are out-of-this-world, the sound completely brilliant, and the game play pretty good too! A must have for your Megadrive collection. Overall 91%[2]

Sega Power: Groovy goings-on 100 million years B.C. with wild sonics and graphics as Chuck rescues his wife from the evil Garry Glitter. Overall 4/5.”[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The gameplay could use a little fine tuning, but it is still very fun to play. The graphics are comical and the music jams. Overall 7.75/10.[4]

Megazone: “Graphics wise this game is a hit (as good as the Amiga on the Mega Drive), the sound is pretty good (not quite up to the Amiga, but still pretty hot) and some imaginative sprite drawings have been added to this game. Overall 85%.[5]

GamePro: “The game’s worth the bucks for the music and graphics alone. From standpoint of challenge and gameplay, it’s middle of the road – not too hard and not too easy. Overall 4.6/5.”[6]

My Verdict:

“Unga Bunga – The game has nice graphics and is fun to play. The simple button mashing as oppose to a strategy needed to defeat end of level bosses, is a mark against this game. The lack of replay value means that once completed I doubt you will want to play through again.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Chuck Rock? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Mean Machines. (June 1992). Issue 21:76-8.

[2] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137.

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:96.

[4] ‘Review Crew: Genesis – Chuck Rock’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (March 1992). 32:26.

[5] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Chuck Rock’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:36.

[6] Feline Groovy. ‘Genesis Pro Review – Chuck Rock’. GamePro. (December 1991). 29:70.

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut – Review

Original cover art

Ah the city of Paris, home of the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre. A city that countless visitors seek for romantic getaways, art and culture. American lawyer George Stobbart was visiting Paris. He was enjoying a coffee and minding his own business…then a bomb exploded in the café he was sitting at.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars (also known as Circle of Blood) is a point and click game developed and published by Revolution Software in 1996. It was released on multiple platforms including Android, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Linux, Mac OS, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Palm OS, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii, Windows, Windows Mobile, Xbox, Xbox One. Here, I will review the Director’s Cut which was released in 2009.

Director’s Cut cover art

Plot

This is the first instalment of the Broken Sword series. You play as American George Stobbart who witnesses the assassination of a man named Plantard. Whilst enjoying a coffee at a Parisian Café, Stobbart observes the assassin enter and then leave with a briefcase moments before an explosion destroys the establishment. Naturally Stobbart begins to investigate the murder because, let’s face it, the explosion almost killed him too and to rub salt into the wound, he appears to be a suspect. During his investigation he meets and allies himself with French reporter Nicole “Nico” Collard. What starts as a murder investigation soon unravels as a conspiracy plot involving the Knights Templar, which takes Stobbart and Collard to several different countries including Ireland, Spain, Syria, and Scotland in search of the murderer.

The animation style is in the beautiful classic animation tradition (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

Like with all point and click games, you control a cursor on the screen. By hovering it over certain objects or characters, you have the option to look at or interact with them. By moving the cursor to the lower part of the screen, you will gain access to your inventory and any objects you have picked up. When talking to characters, a number of pictures will appear and when these pictures are clicked, George of Nico will engage in a line of questioning.

How Does It Handle?

The gameplay is easy to learn and intuitive. The story is engaging, especially if you love a good conspiracy theory, and I felt immediately drawn in by it. The puzzles are challenging but not convoluted like in the Monkey Island series. I did need assistance to help with the odd puzzle, but I never got bored of this game.

Graphics

The game is designed to be reminiscent of the classic animated film genre. The scenes are incredibly detailed and the characters are well animated.

George and Nico’s adventures see them meet a number of undesirables (screenshot taken by the author)

Music

The music is rather understated and takes a back seat in this game. It is mainly used in cutscenes or when you solve a major puzzles. This game doesn’t need music though. The silence and minimalist SFX adds to the realism of the game.

Differences With The Original Release

The Director’s Cut has several differences when compared with the original release. The graphics have been improved and are smoother. There are extra scenes; in the original you begin with Stobbart at the Café, but in the Director’s Cut, you begin with Nico needing to escape Plantard’s house. Artwork of character profiles appear during conversation scenes, and there are extra puzzles to work your way through.

Did I Complete The Game?

I did, but there were one or two occasions when I had to use a walkthrough.

What The Critics Said About The Original Version:

Gamespot.com “Without question, Circle of Blood is an adventure of epic proportions and ranks as one of the most intriguing games to roll out this year. Its only drawback is that the graphics might be too real. After playing the game, you might find yourself wanting to pack your bags and take in the European sights first-hand. But if you’re lacking for travel funds and must stay home and play computer games, Circle of Blood definitely won’t disappoint you. Overall rating 9.2 superb[1]

What Critics Said About The Director’s Cut:

PC Gamer Magazine “Wonky visuals, but this is as close to the Da Vinci Code meets Monkey Island as we’ll get. Did I mention the hot French accent? Overall 69%[2]

Awards For The Original Cut:

Best Adventure 1997 – Generation 4 Magazine

Best Quest – Quest Magazine[3]

Awards For The Director’s Cut:

Pocket Gamer Gold Award 2010 – Pocket Gamer [4]

(Wii version) Best European Adventure 2011 – European Game Awards[5]

My Verdict:

“I love this game, and am a huge fan of the franchise. I love the graphics, the story, and the puzzles. If you like point and clicks, and even if you don’t, I’m sure you will find this game entertaining.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Anderson, R., (October 3rd, 1996). ‘Review – Circle of Blood’. Gamspot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/circle-of-blood-review/1900-2538410/ Accessed 10th December 2019).

[2] PC Gamer. (October 31st 2010). ‘Review – Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars Director’s Cut’. PC Gamer. (https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/broken-sword-shadow-of-the-templars-directors-cut-review/ Accessed 10th December 2019).

[3] Cecil, C., (July 18, 2011). ‘A New STEAM Age’. TED. (https://web.archive.org/web/20131217015330/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcUcl23D7mA Accessed 10th December 2019).

[4] Usher, A., (Jun 28, 2012). ‘Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars – The Director’s Cut’. Pocket Gamer. (https://www.pocketgamer.com/articles/042432/classic-point-and-click-title-broken-sword-the-directors-cut-makes-its-way-onto-android/ Accessed 13th December 2019).

[5] European Game Awards. (https://web.archive.org/web/20120415092901/http://www.european-games-award.com/ Accessed on 13th December 2019).

Aladdin – Review

Aladdin is a Middle-Eastern folk tale about a boy who went from rags to riches with the help of a genie. The western world embraced this tale, and is one of the more well-known stories from the Arabic world. In 1992, Disney released their animated film version, bringing Aladdin to a “whole new world”…er…I mean generation. Its popularity, due to a great soundtrack and an award winning performance by Robin Williams, saw a video game released a year after the films hit the cinemas.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Aladdin is a single-player side-scrolling action platformer which was developed by Virgin Games. It was published in 1993 by Sega and Disney Software for the Sega Megadrive, and by Capcom for the SNES. It was later ported to the NES, Game Boy, Amiga and DOS formats. I chose to review the Mega Drive Version.

Plot

The game is not identical to, but still has the same storyline as the film. You play as the hero Aladdin who must must rescue the Princess Jasmine from the evil Jafar.

Gameplay

Whilst traversing the levels you are able to jump, crouch, and climb ropes. To defeat enemies, you have the choice of a scimitar with which to slash your opponent or you can collect apples to use as projectiles. If you collect tokens of the Genie’s head or Abu’s head, you will gain access to bonus stages to gain extra lives and such.

The difficulty of the levels increase as the game progresses. One level which sees our hero trying to escape the Cave of Wonders is particularly hard and had me swearing many times at the TV and/or controller pad.

Aladdin was praised by critics for its graphics (screenshot taken by the author)

There are cut scenes between the levels allowing the storyline to move along, but you do not need to have seen the film in order to enjoy the game.

How Does The Game Handle?

The controls are tight, and the physics of the game are easy to get used to.

Graphics

The graphics are bright and colourful, and the animation is fun to watch. All the levels are detailed, look beautiful and make you feel like you’re playing the movie.

Music

The music consists of songs from the movie soundtrack so no doubt you will be humming along.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Frustratingly, at the end of the game you can only defeat Jafar by throwing apples at him. What the game doesn’t tell you is that you need 36 apples to defeat him. If you don’t have enough there is little else you can do other than restart the entire game, and ensure you use the apples sparingly.

“Prince Ali fabulous he Ali Ababwa” (screenshot taken by the author)

Replay Value

When the game is completed the ending is practically non-existant, which begs the question, should one have bothered to complete it in the first place. The answer, of course, is yes as this is a good game and worth playing again.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, but I wasn’t happy about getting all the way to the end before realising that I had to restart and play through again to ensure I had enough apples to defeat Jafar.

What The Critics Said:

Edge Magazine: “…almost perfect. The sound could have been better – but that’s a minor quibble. Anyway, at last the Mega Drive has a new platform king. Move over spiky blue one, Aladdin’s in town. Overall 8/10.”[1]

My Verdict: “Prince Ali! Fabulous He! Ali Ababwa. A fun little game that is well worth your time. Great graphics and music, however older generations might get bored a little easily with this one.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Aladdin? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] ‘Review Mega Drive: Aladdin’. Edge Magazine. (November 1993). Issue 2:92-3.

Age of Empires (Including Rise of Rome Expansion Pack) – Review

The history of the world is full of civilisations competing for resources, wealth and glory. Age of Empires offered the chance to relive those struggles, and immerse ourselves in a world that we are so far removed from.

Age of Empires was developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Games. It was released in 1997 for the PC, spawned a number of sequels and spin-offs, and has gained a loyal following. It was the original PC version I chose to review.

You begin in the Stone Age with rudimentary weapons and little technology (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

AOE is a real-time strategy game which sees you lead the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece, Babylonia and the Yamato, through the Stone Age, Tool Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, in order to rise up and become dominant empires. In order to progress through the ages, you need to build your base and grow your army. To do this you send villagers to gather resources of wood, food, gold and stone. Upon reaching a new age, better soldiers, weapons and technologies become available to you.

Build your civilisation to conquer the known world (screenshot taken by the author)

You have the option of playing single player campaigns, as well as a Random Map mode in which different maps are generated for each match. Other adjustments can be made to make the matches harder such as adding a Death Match mode. You can even create your own scenarios in the Scenario Builder and set your own match parameters. Multiplayer is also available to play online. These features give this game tons of replay value.

Each campaign contains a number of missions. Before each mission, you are given a timeline and briefing with mission objectives and hints to draw you into the game.

How Does It Handle?

The controls are simple. You use your mouse to hover over a unit (villager, priest, military personnel etc.) and click on them to gain control. You can then either move them or call them to action. For example, if you highlight a villager, and then click on a tree, the villager will begin to gather wood and carry it to the nearest storage pit or town centre. A menu also appears in at the bottom of the screen with options to build and repair buildings.

For military personnel, once they have been highlighted, you can direct them to attack enemy units or buildings. Default stances can also be set which will instruct them to attack enemies on sight, attack enemies within a certain range of your settlement before returning to their original position, or simply ordering them to stand their ground. ‘Standing Your Ground’ is useful for archers and artillery (for these units, there is also a ‘ceasefire’ option). With artillery such as catapults, you can damage your own troops so be aware when deploying troops.

When clicking a building, options will appear at the bottom of the screen where you can choose to research technologies or create new troops (obviously depending on the type of building). Each civilisation has a slightly different technology tree and so certain technologies will need to have been researched before progressing to the next age, or before certain troops and other technologies become available. For example, you can only build a market once you have reached the Tool Age. Building a market will allow you to build farms which in turn is a vital food source. However, you need wood to build farms. It all weaves together beautifully like an intricate web. Markets also allow you to offer tribute in the form of resources to other players.

Graphics

Visually, the game has an isometric view and I think it looks beautiful. The attention to detail of the landscapes, buildings and units make the game look awesome and really gives you the feeling you are watching these ancient civilisations grow.

Music

I adore the music too. The creators tried to ensure that the music was authentic to the time periods and cultures by performing with instruments that would have been used by musicians of the time. This attention to detail really adds to the atmosphere of the game.

Personal Memories

Just hearing the music again takes me back to when I was 16, playing this game for hours on end when I should have been studying for my G.C.S.E’s. I ended up with poor grades so let that be a lesson to you not to neglect your studies! I love the music so much that I often listen to the AOE soundtrack.

The Rise of Rome extension was released in 1998 and contained four extra campaigns based on the Roman Empire. These campaigns included the Rise of Rome, Ave Caesar, Pax Romana, and Enemies of Rome. The expansion pack added some extra features such as being able to queue the production of units, allowing you to continue with other objectives whilst your army is being created. It also allows the player to double-click a single unit to highlight all similar units on the screen, handy for when in the height of battle.

Help Caesar conquer Britannia (screenshot taken by the author)

Any Negative Points?

A few negative points include the lack of diversity in the units amongst the different civilisations. If you didn’t know from the campaign menu or didn’t select a civilisation when beginning a Random Map game, you could be forgiven for not knowing which civilisation you were. Regardless of what colour your army is, an indication to which civilsation you are can only be found by looking at the style of the border at the bottom of the screen.

The hoplite armies are also very overpowered. If you have a squad of about 10, you can pretty much decimate any confrontation with ease. Your only hope to defend against such an army is to either have an equal army of hoplites or get a few lucky strikes with a catapult. Having a large contingent of Heavy Horse Archers also helps as they can easily keep their distance. Lastly, some of the missions can become monotonous. Most missions are simply building an army and destorying the enemy base. There are a few more interesting missions such as finding and marking ancient horse symbols, but these are few and far between.

My Final Word

That being said, this game is utterly brilliant. What’s not to like? The game is easy to learn and highly addictive. There are plenty of different units with which to build your mighty army. The missions increase in difficulty, challenging your strategy to the end, and the replay value will have you coming back year after year.

If you would like to learn more about the origins of Age of Empires, I would recommend you listen to Season 3 Episode 22 of The Life and Times of Video Games podcast.

Did I Complete The Games?

I have successfully completed all campaigns without the use of cheats and loved every second of it. I will no doubt unsheath my sword again in the future, just to ensure I can still cut the mustard.

What The critics Said Of Age of Empires:

Allgame.com: “Although the building at the beginning of a mission is slightly repetitive at times, the game is still extremely enjoyable. Overall 4.5/5[1]

Gamespot.com: Age of Empires looked, and pretends, to be so very much more. It still has tons of potential and a fundamental gameplay that remains entertaining enough to overcome the flaws and merit a fair rating. The system can go very far with some fine-tuning, but as it stands it seems downright schizo. Is it a simplified Civilization or a modestly beefed up Warcraft? It’s almost as if the designers started out to create one game and ended up with another. Overall 6.8/10[2]

PC Zone Magazine: You’ll have to spend a few hours getting to know it before you’ll be able to find the fastest routes to each main advance and what you should be researching first to get to the weapons and buildings that suit your style of play best. But then this is the sort of thing that gets people hooked in the first place. And hooked you will be. Overall 9.4/10[3]

What The Critics Said Of Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome:

Computer Games Strategy Plus: “If you enjoyed Age of Empires, Rise of Rome will put fresh blood on your sword. Overall 4/5[4]

Awards:

Finalist – 1997 Computer Gaming World ‘Strategy Game of the Year’[5]

Outstanding Multiplay – CGW 1998 Premier Awards: Special Award[6]

My Verdict: “A classic real-time strategy game, and you even learn a little about classical history too. It has tons of replay value, and although it’s not perfect, I find myself drawn back to this game year after year.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Age of Empires? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Couper, C., (14th Novermber 2014). ‘Age of Empires – Review’. Allgame.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20141114122303/http://www.allgame.com/game.php?id=714&tab=review Accessed 10th December 2019).

[2] McDonald, L.T., (October 27th 1997). Age of Empires. Gamespot.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080726183453/http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofempires/review.html Accessed 10th December 2019).

[3] Anderson, C., (May 19th 2008). ‘Review – Age of Empires’, PC Zone Magazine. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080518133649/http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=2701 Accessed on 10th December 2019).

[4] Finn, D., ‘Strategy Review – Rise of Rome’. Computer Games Strategy Plus. (January 1999). Issue 98:106.

[5] ‘Best and Worst of 1998: Strategy Game of the Year’. Computer Gaming World. (March 1998). Issue 164:84.

[6] ‘CGW 1998 Premier Awards: Special Award – Outstanding Multiplay’. Computer Gaming World. (March 1998). Issue 164:89.

World Cup Italia ’90 – Review

I was seven during World Cup Italia ’90, and sadly I don’t remember much about it, other than my father jumping off the sofa in celebreation as England scored. I don’t recall the match but I have a feeling it may have been England v Belgium, and the goal in question was David Platt’s volley.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Released for the Sega Mega Drive in 1990, and the Sega Master System in 1991, this football game was developed and published by Sega, and can be played in one and two-player modes. To review, I revisisted the Sega Mega Drive version

Gameplay

You can choose from 24 teams in the World Cup, all with varying degrees of stats, to guide to World Cup glory and immortality. Brazil, Argentina, West Germany, Holland and England are the best rated teams for the era, but sadly, they do not use names of real players.

You view the game from a top down perspective, changing only during corners, penalties and goal kicks, when it changes to a more detailed, close up view. Also, when you score a goal, a picture of a player celebrating appears upon the screen for a few seconds before kick-off resumes.

In-game action (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The gameplay is superior to European Club Soccer (1992). For instance, there is a clear distinction between shoot, pass and cross funtions. You can tackle and head the ball, and the overall ball control is better. You also need tactics to score goals. For example, in the first half, you need to diagonally cross ball into the penalty box to head the ball over the goalkeeper. In the second half, the goalkeeper tends to stay on his goal line, and so long shots diagonally across the penalty box into the corners of the goal are best.

There are a few things wrong with this game however. Firstly, there are no fouls, so you can just hack away to your heart’s content. What really lets this game down though, is the length of each match. There is no way to shorten the match time, and each game seems unnecessarily long. This wouldn’t be so bad, but the simplicity of the gameplay soon becomes tiresome over such a long period of time. I achieved such a high level of skill at the game that I was scoring 20 goals per match because they are so long.

The more detailed set piece animation (screenshot taken by the author)

Graphics

The graphics are basic but they are colourful, clear and crisp. The added illustrations and animations during set pieces are a nice touch as the game would seem rather plain otherwise.

Music

The music is great.l! It has a very South American Latin feel to it which I’d be more than happy to listen to. The only annoyance is that every time to ball goes off for a throw-in or corner or when a goal is scored, the music restarts from the beginning.

The detailed stills are a nice touch (screenshot taken by the author)

Personal Memories

This game received poor reviews, but I seem to have a soft spot for it. I must confess that I love the music. Once it’s in your head, it never leaves. You’ll certainly find yourself dancing in your seat to the Latin beat.

This was also one of the first Mega Drive games I owned and completed. I felt such a sense of pride because I was only about nine years old and had often made it to the final only to be defeated.

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, I have led the teams of Brazil and England to World Cup glory numerous times.

What The Critics Said:

Sega Power: “…this soccer game is a disappointment. Tired old gameplay and average graphics make this one for soccer fans only. Overall 2/5”.[1]

Sega Power: “This soccer game is, to put it mildly, very poor. Tired old gameplay and average graphics make this a soccer fan game only. Overall 2/5.[2]

Raze: “Smooth scrolling pitch, good animation, lots of great set-piece screens and two-player mode is great fun. Poor title tune and corny during game, feeble whistles and strange groans, doesn’t always pick the nearest player. Overall 82%.[3]

My Verdict:Although you may get bored with the formulaic ways of scoring, the music will help ease the lengthy game time. I still prefer this to European Club Soccer.”

Rating:

What are your memories of World Cup Italia ’90? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – World Cup Italia ‘90’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:55.

[2] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – World Cup Italia ‘90’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:99.

[3] ‘Reviews: Mega Drive – World Cup Italia ‘90’. Raze. (March 1991). Issue 5:44-45.

Phantasy Star – Review

Role-playing games have the ability to take us out of ourselves and whisk us off to fantasy lands where we can choose to be warriors, mages, dwarves, and any other imaginary creature that suits us. We can select our own weapons, and if we are successful, gain strength and are harder to defeat. Phantasy Star promised to whisk us off to such a fantasy universe.

Screenshot taken by the author

Phantasy Star is a single-player role-playing game developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Sega Master System in 1987, and latterly re-released on the Sega Saturn, PS2, and Nintendo Switch. To review, I played this game as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Plot

The game is set in the fictional Algol star system which contains three planets: Palma – a lush and green planet, Motavia – a desert planet, and Dezoris – an ice planet. Algol is ruled by King Lassic, who early in his reign was considered kind and benevolent. He later becomes a cruel and sociopathic ruler. Soon, a rebellion begins to overthrow the now evil king. One hero, who falls during a battle, is Nero. His sister, Alis, the main protagonist (incidently, one of the first female protagonists for video games), swears to avenge her brother. She assembles a party consisting of a warrior named Odin, a wizard named Noah, and a cat-like creature named Myau. Together the party swear to kill King Lassic and restore peace to the kingdom.

The overworld is how you traverse the landscape (screenshot taken by author)

Gameplay

There are two gameplay modes. The first is from a near top down perspective whilst walking around the villages and planet surfaces. When walking around the surface of the planet, outside the cities, and in caves etc. You come across random battle encounters where you must choose to fight your opponent or attempt to run away. When exploring dungeons and caves, and in a battle, the view switches to first-person mode.

If you are successful in battle, you will gain experience points and money. Experience points allow the level of the character to increase and subsequently, your characters stats making them stronger in attack and defence.

The battle scenes are highly detailed and look great (screenshot taken by author)

How Does It Handle?

The game is easy to learn and enjoyable. The fight mode is simple, but it can become frustrating that when fighting multiple enemies, you seem unable to select which enemy to attack, which can hinder fighting tactics. The game contains a back-up save option, which if you play RPGs will know that this is very useful.

The dungeon-crawling sections are very atmospheric (screenshot taken by author)

Graphics

For an 8-bit game, I think it is a really beautiful game! The colours are vibrant, the sprites are well designed, and there is a great variety of them to fight. The backgrounds during the fight scenes are also varied and are very detailed. I’ll wager this game pushed the Master System to its limits.

Music

The music becomes tiresome after a while but since it is not essential to the game, you can simply turn the sound off and listen to your own music or podcasts.

Did I Complete The Game?

I did complete the game, but with the assistance of a walkthrough. Sadly, as I have gotten older, I simply don’t have the time or inclination to spend countless hours on these sorts of RPGs.

What The Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games Magazine: “Real RPG fans should definitely check Phantasy Star out, but anyone with a passing interest in this type of game might not feel they’re getting their money’s worth. Overall 75%[1]

S: The Sega Magazine: “An excellent entertainment – once you’ve teamed up with Odin, Noah and Myau and built up some strength, it’s like controlling an interactive movie. Brilliant? Yes it is. Overall 94%[2]

Mean Machines: “A sprawling RPG which offersa great depth of gameplay, decent graphics and a good challenge. There are slightly better games of this sort (and cheaper too – this cart costs £40), but if you’re an RPG fan who has them all, this is well worth getting. Overall 75%[3]

Sega Power: “If you’re into RPG adventures this is the one to go for. Explore stunning 3D labyrinths and solve a quest big enough to last for months. Huge. Astounding Get it. Overall 5/5.[4]

Sega Power: “If you’re into RPG adventures this is the one to go for. Explore stunning 3D labyrinths and solve a quest big enough to last for months. Astounding and huge. Get it. Overall 5/5.”[5]

Awards:

Best Graphics – 1989 Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Player’s Choice Awards[6]

My Verdict: “A beautiful 8-bit game, just a pity the story is a bit thin. However, all RPG fans should enjoy this game.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Phantasy Star? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.


[1] Rignall, J., ‘Mean Machines Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Computer & Video Games Magazine. Issue 89:92-3.

[2] ‘Special: Phantasy Star’. S: The Sega Magazine. (June 1990). Issue 7:11.

[3] ‘Games Index: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:135.

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:58.

[5] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Master System – Phantasy Star’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:100.

[6] ‘The “Player’s Choice Awards” – Best Graphics: Phantasy Star’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1989 Annual. (March 31 1989). :19.