Super Mario World

The Super Mario Bros. franchise is one of the most popular series of games ever to grace the planet. The brothers, who are plumbers by trade, seem to be regularly called upon to defeat the evil Bowser, and rescue Princess Toadstool (Super Mario 2 is different, as it was originally intended to be a different game). So get ready for a whole new adventure, of sliding down drain pipes, squashing Goombas, dodging Bullet Bills, discovering the secrets of the Ghost Houses, and the introduction of a new ally named Yoshi.  

Title Screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Mario World is a side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Nintendo, and released for the SNES in Japan in 1990, North America in 1991, and Europe in 1992. It would later be released for the Game Boy Advance in 1991/2. The version I reviewed can be found on the SNES Mini.

In Super Mario 3, Mario and Luigi saved the Mushroom Kingdom from King Bowser. In need of a vacation, they visit Dinosaur Land for some much needed R&R. During their vacation, Princess Toadstool disappears…again! While searching for her, the brothers find a dinosaur egg which soon hatches, and they are introduced to Yoshi.

The Overworld Map at the beginining of the game (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game begins on a map of the Dinosaur Land where yellow and red dots indicate the levels that need to be traversed before you can progress. If the dot is red, it means that there is a secret area or alternative route that once found, will open up another secret area. Ghost Houses also tend to have secret areas too.

One of the early levels (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game follows the standard Mario gameplay of running from left to right and jumping over obstacles and either evading or killing a variety of enemies. Power-Ups include the standard Super Mushroom, Star of Invincibility, Fire Flower that allows you to throw fireballs, and a cape that allows Mario to fly and/or descend slowly. Mario and Luigi can also perform a new spin and jump move which allows you to destroy blocks you are standing on or next to.

Yoshi has his uses too. He can eat pretty much anything. Some of the enemies he eats will stay in his mouth and can be spat out at other enemies. Depending on what he eats will depend on what he spits out. If he eats a Koopa Troopa (green shelled turtle), he will simply spit out a green shell, but if he eats a Koopa Paratroopa (red shelled turtle), he will spit out fire balls.

There are several underwater levels to challenge you but, unlike Sonic, Mario doesn’t need to find air bubbles to survive (Screenshot taken by the author)

Another new feature means you can now store a power-up in a blue box at the top of the screen. You can make the power-up drop down manually to change your ability, or it will automatically drop when you are struck by an enemy.

Evading ghosts in the one of the many Ghost Houses (Screenshot taken by the author)

Coins and Yoshi tokens can be collected as usual to increase points. Every 100 coins found will give you an extra life. Each level contains five Yoshi tokens. If you collect all five in one level, you gain an extra life.

More of the Overworld Map (Screenshot taken by the author)

Once a level is completed, you can still play it again, but with an addition that if you wish to exit the level before making it to the end, you simply pause the game and press select. You will then be taken back to the Overworld Map.

Super Mario World can be played in one- and two-player modes which allow you to take it in turns to complete levels. As you progress through the game you will be given a percentage of how much the game is completed. However, you don’t need to have played all the levels and/or found all the secret areas to complete the game. For those of us that simply must find every secret of a game, this will add to the replay value, as you will be replaying levels trying to find alternative routes and secret areas.

Brightly coloured levels with beautifully illustrated and animated sprites. The levels are challenging but fun, and look great. The music will get stuck on a loop in your head. Interestingly, when riding Yoshi, extra drum beats are added to the music which is a cool little addition. The game is easy to learn and fun for all ages to play. You will be drawn back to revisit the game time and again.

Did I complete the game?

I have completed the story but have yet to achieve 100% on the game.

What the Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games: “What a truly terrific game! With seven worlds and over a hundred sub-levels, Mario IV has incredible depth of gameplay. Overall 96%.”[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “The ultimate Mario adventure! Super Mario World is a perfect subtitle, with 96 areas to explore. Everything just plain blew me away! Overall 9/10.”[2]

Super Play: “An amazingly deep and playable platform game, and a credit to Nintendo. Unmissable. Overall 94%.”[3]

Awards:

Best Graphics and Sound (SNES) – Nintendo Power Awards 1991[4]

My Verdict:

“I had so much fun revisiting this game. It holds up very well. Beautifully illustrated and animated, and I love the music! There are loads of fun new features, and the game has great replay value. A true landmark of a game in the side-scrolling platform genre.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Mario World? 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: Super Mario World’. Computer & Video Games. (March 1991). Issue 112:48-50. (https://archive.org/stream/computer-video-games-magazine-112/CVG112_Mar_1991#page/n49/mode/2up Accessed 6th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Crew – Super Mario 4’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (August 1991). 25:18. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic_Gaming_Monthly_Issue_025_August_1991#page/n17/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[3] Brookes, J., ‘UK Review – Super Mario World’. Superplay. (December 1992). 2:84. (https://archive.org/stream/Superplay_Issue_02_1992-12_Future_Publishing_GB#page/n83/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[4] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ’91 – For Graphics and Sound (SNES)’. Nintendo Power. (May 1992). 36:58. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20036%20May%201992#page/n59/mode/2up Accessed 6th February 2020).

Super Kick Off

You stand in the tunnel and hear the chants from the stands echo all around you. Your supporters expect glory. Can you immortalise yourself and your team by winning silverware and reigning supreme? Tie up the laces of your football boots and adjust your shin pads. Its not just Kick Off, its Super Kick Off!

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Super Kick Off is the sequel to Kick Off 2. It was developed by Anco Software, Tiertex Design Studios and Enigma Variations, and published by US Gold, Imagineer, and Misawa Entertainment in 1991. It was released on the Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, and SNES.

The game is played with a top down view, similar to that of World Cup Italia ’90, but the overall graphics are more detailed, especially where the sprites are concerned. The game has also added footballers of different skin tones, making the game more realistic. The pitches are also prettier and the crowd is brightly coloured.

In-game action (Screenshot taken by the author)

The in-game menu icons are not labelled but are fairly self-explanatory. One league and three cup competitions, plus a two-player mode, adds to the replay value. It is also possible to increase the overall speed of the game and adjust the difficulty setting of the oppoenent, to add more of a challenge.

In-game menu (Screenshot taken by the author)

The teams are a random array of Europe’s better teams from the early 90s. The names of the players are not real but are close enough to distinguish who they really are (Griggs = Giggs etc.). Oddly, some players begin out of position. For example, when playing with Man Utd, Spruce (Steve Bruce), starts upfront instead of in defence, so a little tinkering is needed to amend such insanity.

The music is forgettable and not as catchy as World Cup Italia ’90 which had a very Latino feel to it. There are a few SFX but the gasps from the crowd everytime the ball is either saved by the goalkeeper or goes out of play is very annoying.

Half-time (Screenshot taken by the author)

Controlling the ball takes a bit of getting used to. You have to either manoeuvre the player around the moving ball or press the ‘trap’ button before changing direction. The ‘trap’ button also acts as the pass button and so many times the ball gets kicked wildly out of play. Tackling is pretty much non-existant other than running into the opposition to steal the ball, and the offside rule tends to happen at odd times during the match. Once you can beat the computer regularly on the hardest setting (14-0 if you must know), you know it’s time to stop playing the game.

Although an improvement on most previous football games, I am still at a loss as to how computer designers were consistantly unable to produce a realistic football game in the 80s and early 90s. You only need three buttons: For attacking – 1) short pass, 2) long pass, and 3) shoot. For defense – 1) standing tackle, 2) sliding tackle, and 3) control nearest player to the ball etc. It’s that simple!

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I won all leagues and trophies in this game.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “The best football game going, and one which every Mega Drive owner, regardless of their interest in sport, should leap out and purchase. Overall 95%”.[1]

Sega Power: “You wanted a decent football game and you’ve got one! You’ll need patience to get used to controlling the players, but it’s more than worth the effort. Overall 5/5.[2]

My verdict: “An improvement on most previous football games, and certainly worth playing. However, they are still a long way to go where football games are concerned.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Super Kick Off? 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 – Super Kick Off’. Mean Machines Sega. (February 1993). 5:18-21. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-05/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[2] ‘The Hard Line: Mega Drive – Super Kick Off’. Sega Power. (September 1993). 46:98. (https://archive.org/details/SegaPower46Sep1993/page/n97/mode/2up 25th February).

Star Wars: Rebel Assault

Star Wars is one of the most loved franchises in movie history, and has a place in the hearts of millions of cinema goers everywhere. Now it’s your turn to get into the cockpit and help fight against the evil Galactic Empire. May the Force be with you!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Rebel Assault is a rail shooter developed and published by LucasArts, and released in 1993 for DOS, MAC, Sega-CD, and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. I played the version downloaded from Steam. There is a spoiler below so watch out for it.

Training missions will see you flying through canyons at high speed… (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game is set during Star Wars: A New Hope, although for some reason, the Battle of Hoth seems to takes place too. You play as Rookie 1, who is a trainee Rebel pilot. Once you complete the trainee missions, you are sent to take on the Empire in battles that sees you navigate asteroid belts, fly in close proximity to a Star Destroyer and many other hazardous situations. There are three aspects to this game. First person shooter, overhead view, and third person view, depending on which level you are on.

…tracking and shooting Imperial Probes… (Screenshot taken by the author)

For the time, the graphics looked great, and the SFX and music are authentic music and sounds from the movie which really adds to the atmosphere of the game, making you believe you are in a Star Wars movie. Nowadays, the pixelated film footage from the movies looks fuzzy and cheap, and for some reason the original dialogue containing voices of the original actors has been replaced, which detracts from the game because it sticks out like a sore thumb.

…and traversing through asteroid fields. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Rebel Assault had so much potential, and as a Star Wars fan I loathe to criticise the franchise, but the gameplay really lets this game down, to the point where the fun of playing was drained out of the experience. An example of this is during the battle scenes. The cross hair used to aim is so jittery, and because you don’t have control of the craft, aiming is incredibly difficult and accuracy goes in the toilet. Using a mouse as oppose to a joystick or joypad surprisingly only makes things worse. Flying through the canyons and through caves also becomes frustrating because it is difficult to gauge when you are going to hit obstacles. The attempt to make the game 3D simply plays havoc with your depth perception, especially because this is a rail shooter and you have no control over the craft.

Cut scenes from the original movie was added which I thought looked great at the time (Screenshot taken by the author)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Another odd factor was that the ending of A New Hope was re-written for this game. There is no sign of Luke, Wedge or Han Solo, and it’s you who destroys the Death Star. You are then shown the ceremony at the end of A New Hope and see Luke Skywalker as he walks down to collect his medal…how come you aren’t awarded a medal? Unless that is supposed to be you of course, which wouldn’t make sense if you choose your pilot to be female.

One mission sees you take on a Star Destroyer (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game:

Sadly, I could not get past the asteroid field in Chapter 6 and became so frustrated that I decided not to continue playing.

What the critics said:

NEXT Generation: “The clips from the Star Wars movies, the music, and the 3D rendered graphics are all great – however, they all function as little more than window dressing for a not-so-hot, shooter-style game. The control is none too solid, and the gameplay is rudimentary. Overall 2/5.”[1]

NEXT Generation: “Yes the gameplay is silky and yes, the music and visuals are terrific, but this is, after all, an “arcade” game, and the rails here will get old fairly quickly. If you’re really into Star Wars, Rebel Assault will make you happy. Overall 2/5.”[2]

Computer Gaming World: “Rebel Assault is a gorgeous, fast-paced shooter that is a lot of fun to play. The problem is, the fun is too short lived, and the game certainly doesn’t lure us back to play again and again (No rating given).”[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Being a Star Wars fan I tried to give this one a chance but to no avail…The digitalised looking graphics are just too grainy, and the gameplay is simple and not interesting enough to maintain your level of attention. Overall 5.75/10.”[4]

My Verdict:

“For me, this game was a cheap way to cash-in on the Star Wars franchise and has very few redeeming features. The music and some of the graphics are the only reason why this game gets a 2-star rating instead of a 1-star rating.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Star Wars: Rebel Assault? 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:PC – Rebel Assault’. NEXT Generation. (March 1995). Volume 1 Issue 3:89. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-003/page/n91 Accessed 8th January 2020).

[2] ‘Review:PC – Rebel Assault’. NEXT Generation. (December 1995). Volume 1 Issue 12:195. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-012/page/n195 Accessed 8th January 2020).

[3] Schuytema, P.C., ‘Begger’s Canyon Anyone?”. Computer Gaming World. (February 1993). Issue 115:176-8. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_115/page/n177 Accessed on 8th January 2020).

[4] ‘Review Crew:PC – Rebel Assault’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (July 1994). Volume 7 Issue 7:38. (https://retrocdn.net/images/a/af/EGM_US_060.pdf Accessed 8th January 2020).

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

The lightning quick blue ball of spikes has returned, and this time he has speedy side-kick. Yes, Sonic is back with a faster, bigger, and more challenging game for those with quick reflexes.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a platform game developed and published by Sega for the Megadrive in 1992. It is the sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog with 8-bit versions being released on the Master System and Game Gear. In recent years, versions were released for multiple mobile platforms as well as part of a number of Sega collection packages for the PlayStation and Xbox systems. I reviewed the Mega Drive version of Sonic 2.

Sonic is accompanied by Tails (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic is back, and this time he has assistance from his trusty sidekick Miles “Tails” Prower, a two-tailed fox. Dr. Robotnik is also back, and again plans to steal the Chaos Emeralds to power his space station known as the Death Egg. Once again Sonic must make his way through an array of different levels evading the robotic minions of Dr. Robotnik. Like the first instalment, Sonic has the option to destroy the minions to release the animals that Dr. Robotnik has trapped inside them.

There are plenty of new features in this game. At the start of the game you can choose to play as Sonic, Tails, or as Sonic with Tails. There is no real difference between Sonic and Tails, but I would recommend playing as one or the other alone. The reason for this is the Special Stages where Sonic attempts to win the Chaos Emeralds. The stages are now designed like a half-pipe run and are broken into stages. You must gain ‘X’ amount of rings to progress to the next stage, all the while dodging obstacles that will make you lose rings if you hit them. If you have Tails with you, he will often get hit by an obstacle and will lose you rings.

The new half-pipe special stages (Screenshot taken by the author)

Once you have won all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic gains the ability to transform into Super Sonic by gaining 50 rings and jumping into the air. As Super Sonic you are invincible, can run faster and jump higher. However it uses up your rings at a rate of one per second. Once they are gone, Sonic reverts back to his normal self.

After you collect all the Chaos Emeralds, Sonic will be able to temporarily transform into Super Sonic (Screenshot taken by the author)

Sonic 2 also sees the introduction of the ‘Spin-Dash’, which enables Sonic to spin and gain speed whilst stationary.

The addition of a competitive two-player mode where you can race another player through certain levels and special stages adds an extra element of fun which I know myself and my buddies found particularly diverting.

With the release of Sonic and Knuckles in 1994, the two cartridges could be interlocked, enabling you to play through Sonic 2 as Knuckles the Echidna. Knuckles can glide and climb walls, enabling you find alternative routes through the levels. However, he cannot jump as high as Sonic and Tails, making some of the boss fights a bit more difficult.

Sonic and Tails must fight their way through an array of new machines built by Dr. Robotnik (Screenshot taken by the author)

The graphics haven’t changed that much since the first Sonic game. The Sonic sprite is a slightly darker shade of blue, and the enemy sprites are designed to have a more mechanical look. The levels are longer, less linear (you sometimes have to go back on yourself to find the correct route) and more intricately designed, making traversing the levels more challenging. Some of the evil minions are harder to destroy and the end of level bosses are certainly more challenging and inventive too. The music is good, but I don’t think its quite as memorable as the first game.

I did feel that the way you have no rings or means to get them for the last two bosses is a cheap way to make the bosses harder, and I found that frustrating.

The two-player mode is what my friends and I played alot when we got this game. I remember distinctly arriving at my buddy’s house and eagerly turning the game on for the first time. We played the for hours. Having revisited the game I noticed that in one-player mode and two-player mode, the game has a tendency to slow down and the sprites flicker a bit when Sonic and Tails are going top speed, in particularly when you are hit by an enemy and lose lots of rings.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game a few times through whilst winning all the Chaos Emeralds.

What the critics said:

Gamepro: “Its tough to follow a classic but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 earns top honours. There’s enough stuff that’s new and different in Sonic 2 to make it a must-have cart for fans of the original. Overall 19.5/20.”[1]

Gamesmaster: “The changes are there, but they’re just not profound enough to transform the agme into an essential buy for owners of the original. Overall 65%.”[2]

Computer & Video Games: Paul Anglin“At first glance Sonic may not look radically different to the original, but it packs a lot more punch than Bluey’s first outing. The levels are absolutely massive, with so much to do and so much to find that you’ll bust a gut trying. Overall 94%.[3]

Computer & Video Games: Tim Boone“For a start it’s all a tad faster, and the addition of Tails is a real master stroke to beef up the gameplay. Graphics are no great improvement over the original, but seeing as the first game’s were about the best you’ll find that’s no bad thing! Sound is ace too. Overall 94%[4]

Gamer Fan: Sonic 2 is amazing, faster and nastier than ever spinning through awesome new zones that will make your eyes bug out! The creativity and attention to detail is remarkable and to finish with all the chaos emeralds is a worthy challenge for even the best players. Overall 98.5%[5]

Mean Machines Sega: “Sonic has outdone itself. An absolute gem of a game which your Megadrive will be screaming out for. Overall 96%.[6]

Mega: “Sonic 2 is pure, top grade video game entertainment. No one should miss it. Fight for a copy.  Overall 94%”.[7]

Megazone: “Sonic 2 is a brilliant sequel, and does what most sequels don’t do – improve and expand on the original. Overall 96%.[8]

Sega Force: “One of the best games of the year and definitely worth the wait! Overall 97%”.[9]

Electronic Games: “Sonic the Hedgehog 2 offers the same exciting play as the first, but the welcome additions of two-player simultaneous play and more levels only enhance this exciting title. Sonic shows no signs of slowing down! Overall 91%.[10]

Awards:

Best Game of the Year (Sega Genesis) – Electronic Gaming Monthly Best and Worst of 1992[11]

Game of the Year – Megazone Games of the Year 1992[12]

Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Electronic Gaming Monthly’s Best and Worst of 1992[13]

My Verdict:

“There was something about this game that I didn’t like, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first. That being said, this is a solid sequel, and I did have fun revisiting the game. There are plenty of new features, to make it worth playing, and the addition of a two-player mode adds to the overall enjoyment of the game”

Rating:

What are your memories of Sonic 2? 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] The Unknown Gamer. ‘Pro Review: Megadrive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamerpro. (January 1993). 43:46-50 (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/54/GamePro_US_042.pdf Accessed 16th December 2019).

[2] Lowe, A., ‘Game Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamemaster Magazine. (January 1993). Issue 1:56-8 (https://retrocdn.net/images/1/18/GamesMaster_UK_001.pdf Accessed on 10th December 2019).

[3] Anglin. P., ’Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Computer & Video Games. (November 1992). issue 132:22-3. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Video_Games_Issue_132_1992-11_EMAP_Publishing_GB/page/n21/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[4] Boone, T., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Computer & Video Games. (November 1992). Issue 132:22-3. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Video_Games_Issue_132_1992-11_EMAP_Publishing_GB/page/n21/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[5] ‘Viewpoint: Mega Drive: Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Gamer Fan. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 2:9. (https://archive.org/details/Gamefan_Vol_1_Issue_02/page/n7/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[6] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Mean Machines Sega. (November 1992). Issue 2:60-3. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-02/page/n61/mode/2up Accessed 19th February 2020).

[7] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Mega. (November 1992). Issue 2:36-41. http://www.outofprintarchive.com/articles/reviews/MegaDrive/Sonic2-MEGA2-6.html Accessed 19th February 2020).

[8] Clarke, S., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:31-33. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[9] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Sega Force. Issue 12:14-16. https://retrocdn.net/images/b/bc/SegaForce_UK_12.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[10] Carpenter, D., ‘Video Game Gallery: Genesis – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Electronic Games. (December 1992). Volume 1 Issue 3:72-4. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-12/Electronic%20Games%201992-12#page/n73/mode/2up Accessed 25th February 2020).

[11] ‘EGM Best and Worst of 1992 Video Game of the Year’. Electronic Gaming Monthly 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :14. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed on 6th February 2020).

[12] ‘Game of the Year Awards 1992 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2’. Megazone. (December 1992/January 1993). Issue 25:21. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

[13] ‘EGM’s Best and Worst of 1992: Hottest New Character in a Video Game (All Systems) – Sonic The Hedgehog 2‘. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Video Game Buyer’s Guide. (1993). :20. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/04/EGM_US_BuyersGuide_1993.pdf Accessed 21st February 2020).

Columns

Reviewed by Nick Lawrence

In 1989, Nintendo released Tetris on the Game Boy, and it proved to be an instant hit. By its 25-year anniversary Tetris had sold over 70 million copies worldwide.[1] Sega, eager to compete, needed a puzzle game of their own. They settled-on Columns, similar enough not to deter Tetris fans, but different enough to try and attract a new audience. Sadly, Columns couldn’t imitate Tetris’ success.

Screenshot taken by the author

Columns is a puzzle game created by Jay Geertsen for the arcade in 1989. Its success led to it being ported to many other platforms. The version I played was from the Sonic’s Ultimate Sega Collection on the Playstation 3. It was originally developed and published by Sega in 1990.

The game consists of three coloured jewels being dropped to the bottom of a rectangular screen, similar to Tetris. However, instead of aiming to complete horizontal lines, you must match three or more of the same coloured jewels in either a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line. Once lined up the jewels will disappear allowing any jewels above to fall down to the lowest point possible. You will also be awarded points. You are able to cycle the order of the jewels to aid in your organisation of landed jewels. If a multi-coloured, flashing set of jewels appears, you can land any colour of jewel that you wish and all of that type of jewel will disappear. The higher your score, the faster the jewels will fall. Columns can be played in one-player and multiplayer modes, flash-modes and a time trial mode which add to the replay value of such a seemingly simple but highly addictive game.

Screenshot taken by the author

I have a real soft spot for this game and prefer it to Tetris, possibly because of the beautifully coloured jewels. The graphics in general have a classical Greek/Roman feel to them and each jewel is brightly coloured and easily distinguishable from the others. The music is rather basic but does have a tendency to get stuck in your head, but mostly you will find that you’ll turn the sound down and listen to your own music, podcast or an audiobook.

I used to play this game a lot and got pretty damn good at it. As you can see from the photograph below, the highest score I achieved was 5408848 at level 121. I would have continued but I had been playing for a while and was due to go out for the evening. I could have paused and come back to it but I feel that I had proved my aptitude for the game.

A photgraph of my highest ever score

Did I complete the game?

No one seems to know how high the score or levels go, and I don’t know of anyone who has “completed” this game, so I’m going to assume this is a game that cannot be completed.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Index: “Sega’s answer to Tetris, this puzzle game is excellent. There’s a huge variety of options, including arcade-style time trials, three different difficulty settings, nine different starting levels, and a two-plater head-to-head made which adds to the game’s lasting appeal. Overall 88%[2]

Sega Power: “A Tetris clone with a superb challenge mode. Simple and addictive. Overall 4/5.[3]

Sega Power: “A Tetris clone with superb one-on-one challenge mode. More of an end-of-blast relaxer than a main game. Simple, addictive , but expensive for what it is. Overall 4/5.[4]

Wizard: “Good puzzle game, drop jewels, like Tetris but a bit better. Overall B+.[5]

My Verdict:

“It’s like Tetris, but better in my opinion. Colourful, challenging and surprisingly addictive.”

Ratings:

What are your memories of Columns? 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] Johnson, Bobbie, (June 2009) ‘How Tetris Conquered the World, Block by Block’. The Guardian. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2009/jun/02/tetris-25anniversary-alexey-pajitnov Accessed on 10th February 2020).

[2] ‘Review Index: Mega Drive – Columns’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:138. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n137/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[3] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Columns’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:96. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Columns’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:53. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed on 29th July 2020.

[5] ‘Game Reviews – Columns’. Wizard. (January 1993). Issue 17:24. (https://archive.org/details/WizardMagazine017/page/n27/mode/2up Accessed 24th September 2020).

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II

In the voice of the great Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker, “And there he goes! Look at that! Villeneuve has passed him! Villeneuve has won the Brazilian Grand Prix!”.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II is a Formula One racing game developed and published by Sega. It was released on the Megadrive, Master System and Game Gear in 1992, and is the follow up to Super Monaco GP. The game’s development was also assisted by Senna, who supplied his own advice about the tracks featured in the game.

Naturally the object of the game is to win the Driver’s World Championship and/or the Senna GP. To win the World Championship, you must race 15 other drivers on tracks from the 1991 Formula One season. You gain points depending on the position that you finish. The higher the finish, the more points you accrue.

In Practice Mode you can choose to train freely or simulate a race. This enables you to familiarise yourself with the sharp turns of each track, and allowing you to perfect your racing line. In Practice Mode you can also select the number of laps you wish to complete, your starting position and sometimes, the weather.

The late, great Ayrton Senna died tragically from injuries sustained during a crash whilst competing in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix (Screenshot taken by the author)

In Beginner Mode, you first enter your name and select your nationality. You are then given the choice to run a few practice laps before the main race. When you select Race Mode, you can choose your preferred type of gear box (automatic, 4-speed manual and 7-speed manual). Before the main race starts you must complete a lap in the quickest time possible. Your time compared to the times of the other drivers will dictate you starting position. Your aim is to be the Polesitter.

Master Mode is pretty much the same as Beginner Mode with the exception that you may get the opportunity to drive better race cars by challenging rivals during races. If you beat the rival, you race their car from then on. There are five different car companies to achieve.

For the Senna GP, you simply compete in one race. You can choose from three tracks, and your lap times are given after each race.

In-game screen offering all the views and information you need (Screenshot taken by the author)

As mentioned, when reviewing Super Hang-On, I’m not a fan of racing games. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t do it for me, so I am reluctant to spend too much time on them. However, I will say that even though I found this game very challenging, I did enjoy playing it.

The game is challenging and much practice is needed to understand the physics of the game. Frustratingly, when a collision with another racer occurs, you aways seem to come off worse than the other racer. No serious damage occurs, it just slows you down. However, if you hit a sign or barrier at high speed, you will crash and your race is over.

The 16 tracks plus the Beginner, Master, and Senna GP modes increase the replay value considerabley, and fans of racing games will find that this not a game that will be completed within a few hours. Alas, it is a pity there is not a two-player option.

The graphics are bright and colourful, and should be praised for their realism. I’d argue that they are superior to F1 (1993). The music is very basic and easily forgettable, but then again you’re not playing a racing game for the music are you!

Did I complete the game?

Sadly no. The best result I achieved was fourth overall. In the World Championship.

What the Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “A very good racing game – but if you’ve already got Super Monaco GP, this simply isn’t different enough to be worth buying. Overall 87%[1]

Mean Machines: “If you already have the original Super Monaco in your cart collection, take a look before you buy because it is very similar. However, if you’ve just got your Mega Drive and fancy owning one of the greatest road racers money can buy, take a look at Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II – it leaves the others on the starting grid. Overall 94%”[2]

Computer & Video Games: “Super Monaco still ranks one of the best racers on the Mega Drive, right up there with the likes of Road Rash and Super Hang-On. However, it has to be said that this sequel is quite a disappointment because it’s too close to the original game! Overall 84%[3]

Sega Power: “Bigger and Badder sequel to the original game, this time with the golden touch of Ayrton Senna himself. Hit the gas and burn some rubber, baby. Groovy! Overall 5.5.[4]

My Verdict: “Becomes more enjoyable the more you play it. Fans of racing games with love the realism, and the challenge.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP 2? 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 – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. (June 1992). Issue 21:20-1. Mean Machines. (https://ia600306.us.archive.org/2/items/mean-machines-magazine-21/MeanMachines_21_Jun_1992.pdf Accessed 14th December 2019).

[2] Leadbetter, R., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:126. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n125/mode/2up Accessed 15th February 2020).

[3] Boone, T., ‘Review: Mega Drive – Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco Grand Prix 2’ Computer & Video Games. (July 1992). Issue 128:68. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/08/CVG_UK_128.pdf Accessed on 11th February 2020).

[4] ‘The Hard Line – Review: Mega Drive – Super Monaco GP II’. Sega Power. (September 1993). Issue 46:99. (https://retrocdn.net/images/b/b9/SegaPower_UK_46.pdf Accessed 17th February 2020).

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge – Special Edition

Avast me hearties! Guybrush Threepwood be back with a new adventure for ye. So grab your mouse and be ready for more whacky adventures says I.

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

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is a single-player, point-and-click adventure game, and the second game in the Monkey Island series. It was developed and released by Lucasart in 1991 for the Amiga, FM Towns, Mac OS, and MS-DOS. The special edition was released in 2010 for iOS, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The version I reviewed was downloaded from Steam.

Now I realise that I only recently reviewed The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, but I felt that I had to play this second instalment straight way.

Seven months after defeating the pirate LeChuck, wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood finds himself back in the Caribbean in an attempt to locate the treasure of Big Whoop. From finding ingredients to make a voodoo doll, to attending fancy dress parties, rigged gambling, and drinking and spitting contests, Threepwood attempts to locate the map that’ll lead him to Big whoop.

The gameplay and graphics are identical to The Secret of Monkey Island (I won’t repeat them here). Once again you are able to switch between the original and updated graphics at the click of a button.

Lucasart have done it again. They have produced yet another fun game with plenty of humour, challenging puzzles and plenty of head scratching moments. The animation is smooth, the characters and the backgrounds are colourful and detailed.

However, for some reason that I can’t put my finger on, I didn’t enjoy this game quite as much as The Secret of Monkey Island, and that may be because there was nothing new to learn. Then again, that may just be me being very picky.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I did complete the game with the assistance of a walkthrough on several occasions.

What the critics said about the original:

Amiga Computing: “…horribly close to being a perfect game. It’s certainly the best adventure game I’ve seen in ages… Overall 95%[1]

Computer and Video Games Magazine: “Already Monkey Island has staked a claim to the best game of this year…. Overall 96%.”[2]

What the critics said about the Special Edition:

“…good, but the lack of keyboard support took something away for me. That said, the game picked up on the problems I had with the first and changed it for the better. I did feel that this game took away some experiences, so that brought its score down a little. There are things you should be told but you should also learn on your own, and they gave away too much to the player this time around. Overall B+.”[3]

Awards:

Winner – 1992 Computer Gaming World ‘Best Adventure Game of the Year’[4]

My Verdict: “A worthy sequel. Funny, challenging and beautiful to look at…just keep your walkthrough guide close by.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s revenge? 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] Whitehead, D., . ‘Review: Amiga – Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’. Amiga Computing. (August 1992). Issue 51:10-1. (http://amr.abime.net/review_8171 Accessed 17th February 2020).

[2] Boone, T., ‘Review: PC – Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’ Computer and Video Games Magazine. (February 1992). Issue 123: 15-7 (https://archive.org/details/computer-and-videogames-123/page/n17/mode/2up Accessed 17th February 2020).

[3] Meitzner, B., (Sept 19, 2011). ‘Review: Monkey Island 1 and 2 Special Edition’. Gaming Bus. (https://web.archive.org/web/20110927164615/http://www.gamingbus.com/2011/09/19/review-monkey-island-1-and-2-special-edition/ Accessed 14th December 2019).

[4] ‘CGW Salutes the Games of the Year – Best Adventure Game of the Year’. Computer Gaming World: Collector’s Edition. (November 1992). Issue 100: 110. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_100/page/n109/mode/2up Accessed on 6th February 2020).

Art Alive

Remember when you were bored in computer classes in the pre-internet days of the early 90s? You had the choice of playing Solitaire or, if you were artistically minded, trying to create a some art with Microsoft Paint. Sega decided to make an alternative version for the Mega Drive. Did it inspire a generation of pick up their proverbial paintbrush and express themselves, or was Sega’s attempt to bring “paint” to their console a smudge on the face of electronic easels around the world?

Art alive is a paint program developed by Western Technologies and Farsight Technologies, and published by Sega, and Tech Toy for the Megadrive. It was released in 1991 in north America, and Europe and Japan in 1992. The Mega Drive version I reviewed was lent to me by a friend.

My wife is a professional illustrator and so I asked if she would give up some time in her busy schedule to review the game for me. This is what she said:

“I didn’t read the instructions, but the game was easy to learn and fairly intuitive. Even though there was a limited palette, the ability to use patterns was neat, even if they were only 16-bit. The SFX became very annoying very quickly, especially when accessing the menu. It was disappointing too that music was only played when certain tools were used. Having music throughout would have made the game more enjoyable. The limited nature of the title would make the modern gamer become bored very quickly. However, I’m sure it would have been more engaging when it was released.”

Screenshot taken by the author
Yes, I am a fan of the Retro Game Squad podcast. Screenshot taken by the author

Did she complete the game:

N/A

What the critics said:

Entertainment Weekly: “More of a toy than a game, Sega’s draw-and-paint program is pretty colourless compared with what you can accomplish on some mid-range personal computers, but it’s still a welcome alternative to those burnt out on mindless shoot-’em-ups. Overall C+”[1]

My verdict:It’s basically Microsoft paint…but for the Mega Drive. It might be worth picking up if you’re a collector, but other than that, I doubt it is even worth acquiring for your children, if you have any.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Art Alive? 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] Strauss, B., (January 31st, 1992). ‘The Latest Video Games’. Entertainment Weekly. (https://ew.com/article/1992/01/31/latest-video-games-2/ Accessed 14th December 2019).