Metal Gear Solid – Review

Every now and then, a video game comes along that defines a generation. The game in question is always innovative and pushes the boundaries of what we thought was possible from a video game. These are the games that are burned into the brains of gamers everywhere. We’ve all heard of them, we’ve all played them, we’ve all loved them! In the late 70s it was Space Invaders, in the 80s it was Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. In the early 90s it was The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and Sonic the Hedgehog. In 1998 it was Metal Gear Solid!

Title screen (Screenshot take by the author)

Metal Gear Solid (MGS) is a stealth game, billed as tactical espionage action. It was developed and published by Konami and released on the PlayStation in 1998 and for the PC in 2000. I used to own this game for the PlayStation all those years ago. However, for this review, I played the version found on the PlayStation Mini Classic.

Set in the year 2005, six years after the events of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990), a genetically enhanced special forces unit known as FOXHOUND has gone rogue and taken control of an island off the coast of Alaska. Why? Because the island contains a nuclear weapons disposal facility, meaning there are nuclear warheads present. Once they commandeer the facility, FOXHOUND threaten the US government with Metal Gear REX, a mecha capable of wielding and using nuclear weapons. To prevent nuclear weapons from being fired at the US, FOXHOUND demand the return of the remains of their deceased leader Big Boss as well as $1 billion within 24 hours.

Veteran Solid Snake is forced out of retirement by his former commanding officer and ordered to infiltrate the island and stop FOXHOUND.

The map allows you to see the line of sight of the enemy soldiers and security cameras, allowing you to evade detection (Screenshot take by the author)

The object of the game is to use stealth. Your mantra should be discretion is the better part of valour.

You take control of Snake as soon as he has entered the facility. To help navigate your way through the facility, you have a map in the top right hand of the screen that shows you where soldiers and security cameras are located. It also shows you their line of sight allowing you to evade notice. This is particularly handy because the game is played mostly from an almost top down view. There are only a few occasions when the angle changes: if you are crawling through a tunnel or under something, if you are pressed against a wall in an attempt to peer around it, or if you are using binoculars or a sight on a rifle or missile launcher.

A smart feature I was impressed with is the ability to knock down on walls and crates to get the attention of a nearby guard who will approach the sound. This allows you to slip by undetected.

Should you be detected, the music will change to a dramatic theme, your map will turn red and a countdown will begin once you have moved out of the enemy’s line of sight. Once the timer reaches zero, the map turns yellow and begins another countdown. You must continue to stay out of the enemies’ line of sight else they will spot you again and your map will turn red. Once the yellow timer reaches zero the enemy stop chasing you and you can use the map again to see where the enemy are located.

The codec allows you to communicate with mission control. They will either offer tips on how to procede or will contact you when the story is progressing (Screenshot take by the author)

You also have a codec, a communication device that allows you to speak to team members back at mission control. The people you communicate with will give you hints and tips on how to proceed. They will also contact you when the story progresses.

As the game progresses, you will trigger many cutscenes that will help story along and offer you more information. These cutscenes really draw you in. It’s the first game I played when I really felt like I was actively participating in a movie.

MGS really was a novel and innovative game when it was released. So much so that a training mode was needed. This could be found in VR Training Mode which allows you to get to grips with the controls and teachs you how to evade capture. It was very useful for gamers like myself who had hitherto been used to simple platform and sport games.

The cutscenes looked great for 1998, and really helped immerse you inot the story (Screenshot take by the author)

I remember when this game came out. A friend of mine bought it and lent it to me after he’d completed it. I was amazed! The graphics looked great for the time and the game felt eerily realistic.

The storyline is full of twists and turns and I still don’t think I fully understand what was going on. It will certainly have you reading up more about the game trying to make heads and tails of it.

The controls and camera angles take some getting used to. The almost top down perspective, even when firing your gun or rifle, make it difficult to see where the enemy is if they are not on screen which is very frustrating. The left joystick is used for aiming but takes practice to become accurate with it.

MGS really was imaginative in many ways. It broke the fourth wall on several occasions which, as a younger gamer, really freaked me out. Naturally, I won’t spoil it for you here but all I will say is that when fighting Psycho Mantis, you really DO need to think outside the box to defeat him.

MSG has several nice little touches too. For example, when it’s cold, you will see the breath from the sprites and when you are walking on snow, the guards will spot your footsteps. Also, when walking on some surfaces, if you run, you will create loud footsteps which will also alert the guards to your presence.

The over head angle can become frustrating as it is very limiting, particularly for a game where you really need to see your surroundings (Screenshot take by the author)

Did I complete the game?

Yes, but only on the easiest setting.

What the critics said:

Computer and Video Games: “Metalgear is distinctive in that the game is woven around the story, rather than the opposite way around. The story sections are all portrayed using polygons, but look as slick as any FMV. Occasionally it’s quite funny – the wobbly bum close-ups in the prison block should raise a titter – but it’s always gripping. Overall 9/10.[1]

Gamepro: “However, Metal Gear’s solid works get slowed by a few wrenches. An inconsistent frame rate occasionally stalls the eye-catching graphics. Especially annoying are instances where you zoom in with binoculars or the rifle scope, and the graphics slow to a crawl while you pan back and forth. Another annoyance is in the early stages of the game, as you’re constantly interrupted with advice from your team that’s all listed in the instruction manual. Yet, even with its minor and distracting faults, Solid is this season’s top offering and one game no self-respecting gamer should be without. Forget fast-food action titles with rehashed formulas that never worked; Metal Gear Solid elevates video gaming to high art. Overall 5/5[2]

Game Revolution: “Let’s face it – the hype surrounding Metal Gear Solid would be hard for any game to match. It won numerous awards after E3, and deserved most of them. In the end, we have a great game, one of the best for the system. But its diminished length and excessive no-interactive plot hold it back from truly reaching the highest plateau. Still, this is a must have for any PSX library and a ton of fun. Overall A-.[3]

Gamespot: “Five years from now, when we look back upon Metal Gear Solid, what will we see? The game definitely is revolutionary in many ways. It breaks new ground in gameplay and truly brings the video game one step closer to the realm of movies. It is, without a doubt, a landmark game. But the extreme ease with which it can be mastered and the game’s insultingly short length keep it from perfection. Plus, do we really want games that are more like movies? If Hideo Kojima, the game’s producer, was so set on this type of cinematic experience, he should really be making movies instead of games. While Metal Gear Solid currently stands alone, it stands as more of a work of art than as an actual game. It’s definitely worth purchasing, but don’t be surprised if you suddenly get extremely angry when you finish the game the day after you brought it home. Overall 8.5/10.”[4]

IGN: “I’m in awe. An admittedly ambitious project from the very beginning, Metal Gear Solid has managed to deliver dutifully on all of its promises. From beginning to end, it comes closer to perfection than any other game in PlayStation’s action genre. Beautiful, engrossing, and innovative, it excels in every conceivable category. Overall 9.8/10.[5]

Next Generation: “There are precious few games in this world that end up living up to the hype when they are released – especially when they’ve been hyped as much as this one. However, rest assured that this is a game no player should miss and the best reason to own a PlayStation. Overall 5/5.[6]

Official PlayStation Magazine: “Metal gear Solid is just asking to be teased and dominated, and any gamer wanting to lock horns with the ultimate in plot, action and originality must grab a copy immediately. Overall 10/10.[7]

Arcade: “A brilliant, technically stunning, well thought through release  that’s sure to influence action adventure games for many years. Overall 5/5. [8]

Awards:

PlayStation Game of the Year – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards (Editor and Reader’s Choice)

Adventure Game of the Year – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards (Editor and Reader’s Choice)

Best Sound Effects – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards (Editor and Reader’s Choice)

Best Graphics – Electronic Gaming Monthly 1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards[9] (Editor Choice)

Excellence Award for Interactive Art – 1998 Japan Media Arts Festival[10]

My verdict:

“A truly legendary and ground-breaking game. Fantastic graphics and a fully engrossing storyline that will draw you in and mess with your head. Challenging and inventive boss battles will really test your mettle. You will certainly play through this game more than once!”

Rating:

What are your memories of Metal Gear Solid? 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] Alex C., (15th Aug 2001). ‘Playstation Reviews – Metal Gear Solid’. Computer and Video Games. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080615233719/http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=8389 Accessed 13th December 2020).

[2] Major Mike, (13th July 2005). ‘Review – Metal Gear Solid’. Gamepro. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080602095023/http://www.gamepro.com/sony/psx/games/reviews/236.shtml Acessed 13th December 2020).

[3]  (10/1/1998). ‘Metal gear Solid – PS’. Game Revolution. (https://web.archive.org/web/20070219011314/http://www.gamerevolution.com/review/sony/metal_gear_solid Accessed 13th December 2020).

[4] Gerstmann, J., (September 25, 1998). ‘Metal Gear Solid Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/metal-gear-solid-review/1900-2546002/ Accessed 13th December 2020).

[5] Nelson, R., (22 Oct 1998). ‘Metal gear Solid’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/1998/10/22/metal-gear-solid-6 Accessed 13th December 2020).

[6]  ‘Playstation – Metal Gear Solid’. Next Generation. (December 1998). Issue 48:118-9. (https://archive.org/details/NextGeneration48Dec1998/page/n119/mode/2up accessed 13th December 2020).

[7] Griffiths, D., ‘Play Test – Metal Gear Solid’. OPM. (February 1999). Issue 42:88. (https://archive.org/details/official-uk-playstation-magazine-42/page/n87/mode/2up Accessed 13th December 2020).

[8] Pelley, R.,  ‘New PlayStation Games – Snakecharmer’. Arcade. (December 1998). Issue 1:126. (https://retrocdn.net/images/0/0e/Arcade_UK_01.pdf#page=128 Accessed 13th December 2020).

[9] ‘1998 Gamers’ Choice Awards’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. Issue 117:109-113. (https://retrocdn.net/images/4/4d/EGM_US_117.pdf Accessed 13th December 2020).

[10] ‘1998 Japan Media Arts Festival’. Plaza.bunka.go.jp. (https://archive.vn/gkmXZ Accessed 13th December 2020).

Star Wars: Rebel Assault 2 – The Hidden Empire – Review

Occasionally, even though the first game in a series may be panned by critics, creators will get a second bite of the cherry. When this occurs, one would hope that the creators learn where they went wrong in the first instalment and remedy these mistakes to help ensure the success of the sequel. Alternatively, they could just ignore all feedback because, let’s face it, it has a trademarked brand name in the title and will therefore sell anyway.

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Rebel Assault 2 – The Hidden Empire is an action rail-shooter developed by Lucasart (Factor 5 for the PlayStation), and published by Lucasart. It was released 1995 for DOS/Windows, PlayStation and Mac OS. I chose to review the PC version.

Rail-shooters are fine, but at least sort out the jittery aiming! (Screenshot taken by the author)

Set after the destruction of the Death Star, you play as Rebel pilot Rookie One. After a series of mysterious disappearances, you are sent out on patrol near the planet Dreighton to investigate. Your party soon receive a distress call from a ship whose pilot explains that he has valuable information regarding a secret project that the Galactic Empire are hatching in order to destroy the Rebel Alliance once and for all. Sadly, the pilot carrying the information is killed before you can reach him and your party is then attacked by Tie Fighters.

These levels would have been better suited with a light gun (Screenshot taken by the author)

The gameplay is almost identical to Star Wars: Rebel Assault, in that there are three gameplay types. The first is a rail-shooter where, for the most part, the computer pilots your ship whilst you take control of the crosshair and try to shoot at the enemy. Occasionally, you will be called upon to steer when a flashing arrow appears, indicating that you need to press that direction on your joystick/control pad etc. The second sees you shoot at stormtroopers, killing a certain number before you can progress to the next screen. The third sees you take control of a ship/speeder, and you must fly through a course, again, with occasional flashing arrows showing the safest way through.

I found the controls jittery, and it is very difficult to determine depth perception (Screenshot taken by the author)

The intro to this game is awesome. It’s great to have the original music from the movies, and text giving a brief backstory to the game. The opening scene really pulls you in and gets you straight into the action. Sadly, James Earl Jones didn’t reprise his role as Darth Vader. The graphics and sound are good, just what you’d expect from any Star Wars game.

Sadly, that’s about as many positives as I can give this game. The issues that plagued the first game were not fixed for the sequel. The controls are still just as jittery and frustrating to use. Whenever you release control of the cross hair, it immediately centres, which is incredibly annoying when you are trying accurately shoot moving targets with a joystick/control pad. I even tried to turn the sensitivity of my control pad down to 0, which helped aiming a bit. Annoyingly, you cannot change the axis for the joypad during the game. It is easier to have the controls as up is up and down is down for the shooting scenes, but have down is up and up is down for the flying levels. I don’t know why, it just feels more intuitive that way.

I can’t understand why they didn’t learn from the first game. If you’re going to have a rail-shooter then a light gun or allowing the user to use a mouse makes more sense. Using a joytick etc. to aim is just too annoying and inaccurate. The issue with the flying levels is that it is difficult to distinguish depth perception. For the levels where you need to shoot and occasionally direct your ship, ensuring you don’t collide with asteroids or the side of the space stations, is the pits and doesn’t compare at all to Star Wars: Tie Fighter.

Did I complete the game?

No, I rage quit after Mission 3 – The Mining Tunnels as I was so fucked off with the jerky, shitty flying controls!

What the critics said:

GameSpot: “There’s also a serious gameplay problem in the vehicular levels. The controls are too loose and jittery, meaning that you have to constantly fidget with the directional pad just to fly in a straight line. This also makes it almost impossible to dodge obstacles in your path. An even larger flaw is that, even with that awful control, the game is still much too easy to vanquish – any average player should be able to rip through it in two or three hours. Overall 4.9/10.[1]

GameSpot: “Rebel Assault II’s fine musical score, well-written script, and decent acting will be enough to satisfy those seeking a worthwhile multimedia “experience,” but the limited gameplay will most likely send hard-core gamers running back to Tie Fighter. Overall 7.5/10.[2]

Next Generation: “…you aren’t playing a game. You’re watching a movie that requires you to move a stick around and press a button at certain points until you get to see more of the movie. Overall 2/5.[3]

My verdict:

Star Wars: Rebel Assault 2 – The Hidden Empire seems to be unsure just what type of game it is. It has no redeeming features that would make a gamer choose this game over say, Tie Fighter or Dark Forces, as they are superior in every way. Jittery controls and poor targeting just make for a frustrating game that is no fun. What makes this game worse than Star Wars: Rebel Assault , is that they clearly didn’t learn from their mistakes.

Rating:

What are your memories of Star Wars: Rebel Assault 2The Hidden Empire? 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]  Gamespot Staff, (May 2, 2000). ‘Rebel Assault II – Review’. GameSpot. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/rebel-assault-ii-review/1900-2549039/ Accessed 3rd September 2020).

[2] Gamespot Staff, (May 5, 2000). ‘Rebel Assault 2: The Hidden Empire – Review’. GameSpot. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/rebel-assault-ii-review/1900-2532726/ Accessed 3rd September 2020).

[3]  ‘The Empire Strikes Out – Rebel Assault II’. Next Generation. (March 1996). Issue 15:92. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-015/page/n91/mode/2up Accessed 3rd September 2020).

Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon – Review

For better or for worse, game creators are always looking to innovate with video games. They strive to make games more realistic, to give gamers a feeling of awe and wonderment when they first see the game. They want the experience to be immersive, drawing the gamer into an imaginary world of escapism. Sometimes, the innovations are ground-breaking and the game in question is revered by creators and gamers alike, going down in history and regularly being referred to as “the game that broke the mould”. Sometimes, however, the game is a dud. Sometimes, creators try too much too soon before the technology has been fully realised, affecting the gameplay, sound and graphics, leading the game to be panned and unappreciated in the annuls of video game history.

Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon broke the mould of the format of the games that went before in the franchise. The question is: Is the game a dud or is it hailed as a giant leap forward in adventure gaming?

Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon is a single-player adventure game developed by Revolution Software. It was published by THQ in Europe and The Adventure Company in North America. It was released on Microsoft Windows, Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2003. It is the third instalment of the Broken Sword series. For this review, I chose to play the PC version.

The story begins a few years after the events of Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror. We find that Nico Collard and George Stobbart have parted ways. George has returned to the US to continue his career as a lawyer and Nico is still that hungry journalist we met during their first outing.

It is a dark, stormy night in Paris. Beneath the city, a clandestine meeting is taking place. We are given little information other than a moment in time of great significance is drawing near. An individual known as the Preceptor sends his minions on an important mission…and failure will result in Armageddon!

Next, we find George on a chartered flight, flying over the jungle in the Congo. His pilot is unable to evade an oncoming storm and the plane crashes.

No more point and click (Screenshot taken by the author)

Back in Paris, a software consultant by the name of Vernon Blier is working at his computer. In the background, the news is reporting occurrences of extreme weather around the globe.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon is the first and only game of the series to break away from the point-and-click style of gameplay. The game itself is more action driven. You can control your character making them walk and run, and creep, and there is an introduction of a new action menu. When you near something or someone that you can interact with, a little animated star-type cursor will appear on that something or someone. At the same time, a symbol will appear in the bottom right screen where there is a template of four buttons in the shape of a diamond. You have the choice to click which action you wish to take. There are also instances in the game where you need to time your actions precisely, else you may die and have to restart the action scene.

Straight away I can tell you that judging by the way the game is designed, it is clearly created with a joypad in mind. When playing on the PC and using a keyboard, the game feels awkward and clumsy. I was unable to get my PC joypad to work with the game but that may simply be down to my technological ineptitude. Eitherway, it shouldnt be that difficult to switch to a more game-friendly way of playing.

One rather annoying aspect of the game is that you cannot seem to skip conversations that you previously have had.

(Screenshot taken by the author)

Spoiler Alert

Occasionally, there is a convoluted puzzle like when you need to use an iron bar to break some silver coins out of a laminated book cover. I know, right? Also, there is a lack of inventivness in the puzzle department. On several occasions, the puzzles are simply the same tired moving crates and square boulders around in a logical way to climb over a wall or onto a ledge.

The graphics look great. This is the first instalment of the series where Broken Sword moved into 3D graphics, and thankfully they did a great job. The characters do not look polygonal at all, the backgrounds are detailed and well designed. When the camera gets a bit too close to Nico, it seems she has a bit of a pig nose reminiscent of Christina Ricci in Penelope (I may be exaggerating here).

Even though the game contains voice actors, the subtitles appear in different colours, signifying that a different person is speaking, which is a nice touch. It would still have been nice to have the name of the individual talking or a little portrait box indicating who is speaking.

Did I complete the game?

Yes

What the critics said:

Adventure Gamers: “An amazing, brilliant story, at times told with such directorial excellence as to bring out emotions normally reserved for Final Fantasy. Gorgeous, eye-popping cutscenes. Infuriatingly stupid puzzle design at nearly every step of the way. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is a game of breathtaking (sic) highs and ridiculous lows, and thankfully the highs definitely outnumber the lows (moreso(sic) if you’re better at crate puzzles than me, which apparently shouldn’t be too difficult). The bold attempts to innovate and push the adventure to new places are generally successful and quite welcome. Overall 4/5.[1]

Edge Online: “Extravagance was one of the signatures of the graphic adventure: extravagance to bring them in, and a cracking story well told to keep them. Both tenets of the Broken Sword series remain intact here, and that’s all the devoted fans could have wanted. A fairytale (sic) comeback. Overall 9/10.[2]

GameSpot: “Even if Broken Sword can at times be frustrating to play, it’s a joy to behold. The graphics sure aren’t cutting edge, but the attention to detail, vibrant colors(sic), and smooth animations give the game its own attractive style. (The “idle” animations of Nico repeatedly brushing her shoulder or stretching are odd and distracting, though.) The wonderfully elegant and evocative soundtrack varies from bold fanfares to jaunty comic bits to pensive piano interludes to suit the locales and situations. The voice-overs really bring the game to life, too. By and large, the actors are really acting here instead of just lazily reading their lines like you find in so many games. Unfortunately, the voice-overs highlight the game’s biggest flaw, a major sound bug. Occasionally, dialogue can cut out, a character will make two statements at the same time, or two characters will speak over each other entirely. This bug can ruin the mood or make it hard to know what on earth is going on when you miss vital dialogue.

It’s a shame problems like that mar Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. With its blend of cinematic style, 3D immersion, sharp writing, and likable characters, this is otherwise an adventure game that does the genre proud. Overall 8.1/10.[3]

IGN: “Cartoonish graphics, incredible voice acting and an engrossing story all make this a game to look at, that is – if you can get past the horrible interface and somewhat repetitive block puzzles. Finishing the game also has a reward associated with it, in addition to the impressive ending. This is something far too few PC games do. The ending left it open enough for the next incarnation of Broken Sword – the adventures of George and Nico. I just would ask one thing of the developers – please improve the interface and skip the block puzzles! Those are the two things preventing this from being the perfect adventure game. Overall 8.4/10.[4]

Game Chronicles: “Adventure gaming is alive and well thanks to designers like Revolution and publishers like The Adventure Company. Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon is a stunning achievement in interactive entertainment. With a solid story, engaging characters, stunning visuals, and delightful dialogue, this is one adventure you simply won’t be able to tear yourself away from. This is a must-own title for anyone looking to relive the golden era of adventure gaming Overall 9.2.[5]

Eurogamer: “In many senses The Sleeping Dragon is a leap forward for the genre. The actual play mechanics, the interface and the visuals are great, but you’ll be wishing Revolution and THQ had invested as much time and effort polishing the narrative and puzzle element to the same high standards. We’re in no doubt that it tried, but we can’t lie just because we think Charles is a good bloke. We’re caught in two minds, ultimately. One says we’re excited to be talking about a largely uncompromising adventure game that does much to revive a dead genre, the other is that we’re gutted that it’s populated with cast hired from Stereotypes Anonymous that should have been subjected to the firing squad at the concept stage. There’s much potential here, but Cecil and co. have some work to do before they can awaken The Sleeping Genre. Overall 6/10“.[6]

My verdict:

“It’s great to have another Broken Sword game to add to the franchise. The game looks awesome, the music is cool and the story is…ok. However, the controls are awkward when playing on PC, and I didn’t like the move away from the point-and-click style of controls. I also found some of the puzzles montonous and tiresome. I just didn’t enjoy this game as much as I enjoyed the previous instalments in the series.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon? 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] Dickens, E., (December 16, 2003). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon – Review’. Adventure Gamers. (https://adventuregamers.com/articles/view/17657 Accessed 1st September 2020).

[2] Edge Staff, (December 1, 2003). ‘Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon review’. Edge Online. (https://web.archive.org/web/20140911031744/http://www.edge-online.com/review/broken-sword-3-sleeping-dragon-review/ Accessed 1st September 2020).

[3] Osborne, S., (November 25, 2003). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon Review’. GameSpot. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/broken-sword-the-sleeping-dragon-review/1900-6084646/ Accessed 1st September 2020).

[4] Krause, S., (13 Dec 2018). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon Review’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/2003/11/25/broken-sword-the-sleeping-dragon-review Accessed 1st September 2020).

[5] Smith, M., (January 11, 2004). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon Overview’. Game Chronicles. (http://www.gamechronicles.com/reviews/pc/brokensword/sleepingdragon.htm Accessed 1st September 2020).

[6] Reed, K., (26 November 2003). ‘Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon’. Euronet. (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/r_brokensword3_ps2 Accessed 1st September 2020).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game – Review

Multiplayer arcade games used to be goldmines in the arcades. There’s not much better as a teenager than spending your pocket money battling alongside your friends in a bid to rescue a (insert person here). Many of these games were ported to home consoles meaning you could do battle without leaving the comfort of your own home. However, not all converted coin-op games were successful. How did Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game fair?

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (TMNT II on the NES) is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up, developed and released by Konami for the Arcade in 1989. It was ported to the NES in 1990 with some additional levels and enemies that were different from the arcade version. In 1991, it was released for the ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, PC and Commodore 64. For this review, I chose to play the NES version.

Tempted by a large bounty placed on the heads of the Turtles by arch-nemesis Shredder, two intergalactic bounty hunters kidnap April O’Neil and use her as bait to lure the Turtles out into the open. The Turtles give chase and must fight their way through 10 hazardous levels, enemies and boss battles to defeat Shredder and rescue their friend.

The graphics are far superior to the original Nes TMNT game (Screenshot taken by the author)

Straight away, it is clear to see how much the graphics have been improved when compared to the first TMNT Nes game. The levels and characters look great! They are colourful and vibrant, and the sprites are very well animated. The intro, although short, gets you straight into the action and contains the authentic TMNT theme. The game is faster, slicker, and the upbeat music really gets your blood pumping.

You start with three lives but can gain more every 200 enemies you defeat. You can also regain health by eating pizza slices.

Donatello takes on Bebop (Screenshot taken by the author)

I do, however, have a few gripes with this game. Firstly, these are supposed to be “ninja” Turtles, yet they have maybe three different moves: a flying kick, and two different ways to swing their weapons. WTF? There are no throws, there are no kick or punch combinations, and you cannot pick up extra weapons to throw at the enemies. Earlier games such as Double Dragon had more of a move set to prevent the fighting from becoming monotonous. Secondly, Donatello is supposed to have a bo, a long wooden stick. Yet, his reach is pitiful. You have to get close to the enemies, within their striking range, to attack. If you don’t wish the game to be too easy, simply slow down his attack or make his bo attacks weaker. These points made the game very frsutrating and dull for me.

Disappointingly, the NES version could only cope with a one- and two-player mode, so it loses some of what made the arcade version an awesome fighting experience.

Did I complete the game?

No, nowhere near.

What the critics said:

GamePro: “The heavy-duty faithful-to-the-arcade style game play (and it’s a long game!) are real crowd pleasers, and the radioactive mutants are as personable as ever. The new scenes blended in with the original arcade scenes are a great addition. The music could have been better but, hey, you can’t have everything.Overall 4.6/5.[1]

My verdict:

“This game looks fantastic! With the music, it looks and sounds just like a Turtle game should be! However, the gameplay is dull. These guys are supposed to be ninjas. Where are all their moves? The game becomes very boring, very quickly, even in two-player mode. I think this is a game for the younger gamer. It is overrated and only hardcore Turtles fans should bother with this game.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game? 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] Arcade, J., ‘Proview – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game’. GamePro. (December 1990). :106-8. (https://retrocdn.net/images/9/90/GamePro_US_017.pdf Accessed 24th August 2020).

Return to Castle Wolfenstein – Review

There is something inherently violent about humans, there really is no way to ignore it. Archaeological evidence of mass graves where the occupants show signs of sharp and blunt force trauma, and historical records of battles throughout history attest to this. This may be why gamers are drawn towards to violent games. Although, it is not so much the killing but the hero fantasy that we seek. We are never going to take on an entire castle of baddies using only our guile, sharpshooting and hand to hand combat skills in real life (thankfully). So we immerse ourselves in artifical worlds. Some may think there is something wrong with that. I say, what’s wrong with a little hero fantasy every now and them?

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first-person shooter, and a reboot of Wolfenstein 3D (1992). It was developed by Gray Matter Interactive (Nerve Software developed the multiplayer) and published by Activision. It was released for the Microsoft Windows in 2001, Linux and Macintosh in 2002, Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2003, and Steam in 2007. I chose to review the Microsoft Windows version.

It’s 1943 and World War II has been raging for four years. The Nazis have uncovered an ancient demon named Henrich who has been trapped deep underground in magical prison for 1000 years. They’re also developing a super soldier capable of destroying the allies and winning the war. You play as US Army Ranger William Blazkowitz who is charged with investigating the Nazis’ SS Paranormal Division and stopping their evil plans.

Even after 80 years, games about World War II are still popular (Screenshot taken by the author)

The missions consist of assassinations, data retrieval and sabotage. Some of the missions rely on stealth and your mission is over if you are spotted, which adds an extra layer of difficulty and breaks up the action nicely. It’s quite a long game, with some of the missions being quite lengthy for the time. There are plenty of authentic World War II weapons to choose from as well as fictional weapons such as the Tesla gun. Along the way, you will find ammo, armour and health packs to restore you weapons and health.

Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valour (Screenshot taken by the author)

The story, although fantastical, is engaging. The graphics and sound effects are good for the time, but the AI, as with lots of gmes of this era, still needs work. Enemies vary in strength and difficulty, these include standard German soldiers, experimental soldiers and the undead.

There is not much replay value here but the multiplayer addition was critically acclaimed.

Did I complete the game?

I am adamant that I completed this game when I first played it after its release. However, this time around, I couldn’t get defeat the final boss.

What the critics said:

Computer Gaming World: “If all you want to do is blast your way through countless Nazis and zombies, then this game is probably for you. But if you want a deep, engaging storyline with surprising twists and turns, this probably isn’t for your cup o’ tea. Overall 3.5/5.[1]

Eurogamer: “Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a worthy addition to the stable of id Software affiliated shoot ’em ups. The single player game is average to good and takes quite a while to finish, but the game really earns its salt by shipping with a first class multiplayer element. Overall 8/10. [2]

Game Revolution: “But in all, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is not what it could have been. As a story it’s utterly bizarre, as a sequel it’s sub-par, but as a stand-alone game it’s very good. The simple truth is that regardless of the detractions, killing Nazis will always be fun…always. There are few times that you can play a game and feel you made the world a better place. Wolfenstein 3D was one of those times. If the world isn’t any better after playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein, at least it might brighten your day. Overall 3.5/5.[3]

Gamespot: “In a weird inversion of the typical shooter model, Return to Castle Wolfenstein features an amazing multiplayer component coupled with a good if somewhat underwhelming single-player game. Then again, fans of id Software’s previous 3D shooters should be familiar with this model. But honestly, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is well worth buying for the multiplayer game alone, so the fact that you get a solid single-player game in the box can only be considered a bonus. Overall 9.2/10.[4]

IGN: “The single player campaign is certainly decent and will hold people’s interest long enough to get them accustomed to the various weapons in time to jump into multiplayer. It’s not quite the revolutionary trip back to Castle Wolfenstein that people may have been hoping for, but that’s no reason to discount it, as it is nothing less than a solid and satisfying experience. But it’s no doubt that the real value in the title falls on the multiplayer which is definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite a while. It all adds up to a really fun game that fans of the genre will love to get a piece of. Overall 9/10.[5]

My verdict:

Defeating the Nazi’s always feels fun and for the most part so is this game. I like the story, I like the graphics and I like the variety of missions. Unless you play multiplayer, there isn’t much replay value, but the game is long enough to certainly justify the purchase.

Rating:

What are your memories of Return to Castle Wolfenstein? 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] Price, T., ‘Reviews – Return to Castle Wolfenstein’. Computer Gaming World. (March 2002). Issue 212:74-5. (https://archive.org/stream/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_212#page/n75/mode/2up Accessed 3rd August 2020).

[2] Bramwell, T., (25th July 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’, Eurogamer.net. (https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/r_rtcw Accessed 4th August 2020).

[3] Radakovic, N., (1st July 2001) ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review’. GameRevolution.com.  (https://www.gamerevolution.com/review/32806-return-to-castle-wolfenstein-review Accessed 4th August 2020).

[4] Wolpaw, E., (27th Nov 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein Review’. Gamespot.com. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/return-to-castle-wolfenstein-review/1900-2827475/ Accessed 4th August 2020).

[5] Adams, D., (1st December 2001). ‘Return to Castle Wolfenstein’. IGN.com (https://www.ign.com/articles/2001/12/01/return-to-castle-wolfenstein Accessed 4th August 2020).

Altered Beast – Review

Altered Beast was one of the first 16-bit games I played as child and I have idealised memories of how good the game was. The question is…how will I feel revisiting it after 25 years?

Titlescreen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Altered Beast is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up with some platform gaming elements. It was developed and published by Sega, and released in the arcade in 1988. It was later ported to the Master System, PC, NES, Atari ST, Mega Drive, ZX Spectrum, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Amiga and MS-DOS. It was later released in the Wii Virtual Console, Xbox and PlayStation. For this review, I played the Mega Drive version.

After rising from your grave, you must fight your way through a graveyard whilst collecting orbs that turn you into an anthropomorphic beast (Screenshot taken by the author)

“Rise from your grave!” demands Zeus, as you emerge from your tomb. You play as a Roman Centurion who is resurrected by Zeus (I know Zeus was a Greek God and the Roman equivalent was Jupiter, but let’s overlook the mythological inconsistencies). Your mission is to rescue Zeus’ daughter, Athena, (Minerva for the Romans) from the evil Demon God known as Neff who has taken her to the Underworld.

The cutscenes are accompanied by some incredibly eerie gothic organ music (Screenshot taken by the author)

you must punch and kick your way through graveyards and caverns to reach the Underworld, all the while fighting numerous undead minions and monsters. In order to meet and defeat the end of level bosses, you need to collect three orbs which increase your strength and eventually morph you into anthropomorphised animals such as wolves, bears, tigers and dragons, each with unique abilities.

Chicken Stingers, as they are called in the manual, are similar to the pink creatures you ride in Golden Axe, with a similar attack. Does this mean Altered Beast and Golden Axe are in the same universe? (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game is tougher and more frustrating than I remember. The screen scrolls slowly from left to right automatically, meaning you have no choice but you advance. The controls are sluggish and your punching and kicking range is so small that you need to get very close to the enemies. They are quicker than you and so can kick your arse pretty easily. Modern critics argue that the game doesn’t hold up to today and I have to agree.

The graphics are clearly, early 16-bit. The sprites and backgrounds would be cleaner and more detailed if this game was released a few years later. Having said that, I still think the games looks good. The creepy gothic organ music during the cutscenes is pretty cool.

In a previous review, Shining in the Darkness, I discussed the possible links that suggest Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe were in the same universe, due to the presence of Gilius-Thunderhead, the green dwarf. During this review, I noticed that the Chicken Stingers, are identical (except for athe colour palette change) to some of the Bizzarians in Golden Axe. Does this mean that Altered Beast is also set in the same universe as Shining in the Darkness and Golden Axe?

Did I complete the game?

Yes

What the critics said:

Mean Machines Sega: “Altered Beast is a spot-on conversion of the coin-op. The trouble is, the game wasn’t exactly a smash-hit – it’s a very simply beat ‘em up with only five levels. The gameplay is very samey, and it doesn’t take long to get all the way through the game. Overall 67%.”[1]

Sega Pro: “For its day, it was amazing – speech, smooth scrolling and lots of playability. However, its finest hour has truly passed. Overall 74%.[2]

The Games Machine: Altered Beast turns out very close indeed to its arcade origins, complete with two-player mode. The main characters and enemy sprites look ever so slightly washed out, but the detail is all there, and background graphics are spot on. Overall 87%.[3]

Sega Power: “However much you enjoy the coin-op, give this one a miss. Poor scrolling, jerky animation and limited gameplay. Overall 2/5.[4]

My verdict:

Does Altered Beast deserve the accolade of being a classic title? There are many video games that acheive the accolade as a ‘classic’ but not all of them are worthy of title. Having revisisted Altered Beast, I can say that the concept was great, but the execution was lacking. The game is too short, the controls too sluggish and frustrating, and the graphics should have been better. I think this game is better remembered than played.

Rating:

What are your memories of Altered Beast? 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 – Altered Beast’. Mean Machines Sega. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 28th July 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Software Showdown – Altered Beast – Mega Drive.’ Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 28th July 2020).

[3] ‘Review – Altered Beast’. The Games Machine. Issue 19:17.  (https://archive.org/details/the-games-machine-19/page/n15/mode/2up Accessed 28th July 2020).

[4] Jarrett, S., ‘The Hard Line – Altered Beast’. Sega Power. (April 1991). Issue 23:52. (https://retrocdn.net/images/8/89/SegaPower_UK_23.pdf Accessed 29th July 2020).

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis – Review

“It belongs in a museum!”

I was introduced to the Indiana Jones movies by my older brother. I soon became a huge fan as a consequence. Controversially, I don’t think the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a bad a movie as most think. For the record, these films had nothing to do with me going into archaeology as a profession. Time Team holds that honour.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is a point and click adventure game developed and published by Lucas Arts. It was released in 1992 for the Amiga, FM Towns, MS-DOS and Macintosh. In 2009, a version was also released on the Wii. The version I chose to review was purchased from Steam.

“We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and X never, ever marks the spot.” (Screenshot taken by the author)

It’s 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. After a Nazi agent tricks Indy into opening an artefact before running off with its contents, Indy finds himself in a race to find Atlantis before the Nazis do. Whilst dodging Nazi henchmen, Indy must solve a plethora of puzzles and learn the secrets of Atlantis. Indy is accompanied on his adventure with colleague Sophia Hapgood, a former archaeologist turned psychic.

“What is Shankara?”, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game plays in a similar way to the early Monkey Island series. You have several commands at the bottom left part of the screen (“talk to”, “pick up” etc.) and need to use your cursor to highlight a command before clicking on the object or person you wish to interact with. Your inventory is located in the bottom right of the screen. When talking to a person, dialogue will appear at the bottom for you to select. Asking the right questions will help you progress in the game.

Originally, there was no voice acting. This was added to the enhanced version released in 1993. Alas, Harrison Ford didn’t reprise his role as Indy, which, for me, shatters the illusion of the game. The theme music is an 8-bit version of the film’s main theme which, let’s face it, would have been ridiculous if Lucas Arts couldn’t get the rights to a movie theme produced by Lucas Film.

“Half the German army’s on our tail, and you want me to go to Berlin?” (Screenshot taken by the author)

One thing I will say about Lucas Arts is that they know how to make a game look great. The graphics and animation are fantastic! The characters and backgrounds are very detailed and beautifully illustrated and animated.

Although this game was critically acclaimed, I just didn’t enjoy it but I can’t quite put my finger on why. Some of the puzzles were frustrating and convoluted, and I question whether an Indiana Jones game works in this format. Surely, an action-adventure game would work better!? After all, the beauty of Indiana Jones films is not necessarily the intellectual intricacies of archaeology, but more the action of swinging with your whip, fighting a foe who is twice as large as you, and beating him, and running from falling boulders or indigenous tribes.

There are three “storylines” giving the game good replay value, but I struggled to maintain my interest in one storyline let alone try the other two. There are also two alternative bad endings. I have been reliably informed by chums who have played the game that it is best to allow Sophia to join you on your quest, so i will no doubt return to this game in the future.

Did I complete the game?

No, I’ve yet to complete this one.

What the critics said:

Dragon: “We can’t speak highly enough of this offering, and we ask Lucas Arts to consider future Indiana Jones game releases to please gamers of all ages. Overall 5/5”.[1]

PC Review: “Fate of Atlantis is simply brilliant. I can honestly say I haven’t really enjoyed playing an adventure game as much since Indiana Jones and the Crusade. Overall 9/10”.[2]

Electronic Games: “The graphics here are spectacular, studded with the sort of period effects expected from the Indy films. Overall 97%”.[3]

Mega Zone: “Overall, this is one of the best adventure games I’ve seen in a long time (and I’ve seen a few). The combination of excellent graphics, great game play and the multiple plots (sheer genius) makes for great value for money. Overall 94%”.[4]

Awards:

Best Adventure – Mega Zone Game of the Year Awards ‘92[5]

My Verdict:

“This game is beautiful! The detail and animation of the sprites and backgrounds are first rate. The game play is simple but can get tiresome when trying to find the exact command needed to progress. I have to confess that I just didn’t enjoy this game all that much. I found myself becoming easily bored with it. For me, Indiana Jones is an action-adventure, not a slow-paced point and click.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis? 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] ‘Reviews – Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’. Dragon. (May 1993). 193:60-1. (https://www.annarchive.com/files/Drmg193.pdf  Accessed on 22nd July 2020).

[2] Presley, P., ‘PC Review – Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis’. PC Review. (September 1992). 11:40-4. https://archive.org/details/PC_Review_Issue_11_1992-09_EMAP_Images_GB/page/n43/mode/2up Accessed on 23rd July 2020).

[3] Video Game Gallery: SNES – Indiana jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Electronic Games. (October 1992). Volume 1 Issue 1:823. (https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1992-10/Electronic%20Games%201992-10#page/n81/mode/2up Accessed 22nd February 2020).

[4] ‘Review: – Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’. Megazone. (October/November 1992). Issue :46-7. (https://retrocdn.net/images/5/55/Megazone_AU_24.pdf Accessed 23rd February 2020).

[5] ‘Game of the Year Awards 1992 – Indiana jones and the Fate of Atlantis’. Mega Zone. Issue 25:20. https://retrocdn.net/images/c/c8/Megazone_AU_25.pdf Accessed 19th February 2020).

Age of Mythology and The Titans Expansion – Review

Ancient mythology has always fascinated me. It is the religion of the ancients before monotheism took hold. Although ancient mythology is not quite given the respect it deserves by modern theists, our world would certainly be poorer without it. Tales of heroes, gods and demi-gods have been the subject of legends and epic sagas for thousands of years, and more recently, movies and TV series.

Title Screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Age of Mythology is a real-time strategy game, and a spin off of the Age of Empires series. Developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Games, it was released in 2002 for the PC. An extended edition was released on Steam in 2014 but I chose to review the original version.

The civilisations are based on Greek, Norse and Egyptian mythology. You follow the story of Atlantean hero Arkantos who is hunting a cyclops. This cyclops is in league with Poseidon, whose plan it is to release the Titans and bring the rule of Zeus, Odin and Ra to an end. To stop the Titans from being freed, Arkantos and his army must travel from Atlantis through Greece, Scandinavia and Egypt to find and re-seal doors to Tartarus.

The gameplay is more or less the same as Age of Empires series. You must collect resources to build a base and an army in order to wipe out the opposition. However, there are a few features that distinguish this from the Age of Empires series. Firstly, you are able to train and use mythological creatures, but in order to do so, you must gain favour from the Gods (favour replaces stone in this game). Each civilisation gains favour in different ways (Greek – send villagers to worship at the temples, Norse – gain favour in battle and Egypt – gains favour by building statues). Secondly, when advancing to the next age (the four ages are: Archaic, Classical, Heroic and Mythical) you must choose which God to follow into the next age. Different Gods offer different units and abilities. You will also gain unique God powers to add to your arsenal. Some will aid in attacking the enemy, others will add to your resources gathering abilities. A great new feature is that whilst building your army, you can now produce up to five units at a time, meaning that five units will be released from the barracks instead of one which rememdies a gripe that I have had with the Age of Empires series. Interestingly, there is also a slight difference in how you gather resources and build with the Norse civilisation. Not only will you have a portable storage caravan, but the Ulfsarks, who are an infantry unit, can also build. Your villagers will gather resources as normal, but you can also produce dwarves who are better at mining gold.

The new 3D engine looks great! (Screenshot taken by the author)

The effectiveness of units is based on the rock-paper-scissors model: Infantry are good against cavalry, cavalry are good against archers, and archers are good against infantry. Mythological units are great against normal units but are vulnerable to heroes. Heroes are few and far between in the Greek and Egyptian civilisations, but any Hersir units can be upraded to hero status provided you have enough resources.

Throughout every map stage, there are hidden relics which are valuable to collect. Your hero can carry them to your temple where they will assist you in either supplying a trickle of a particular resource, making certain improvments cheaper, or regenerating certain units when they die.

The graphics have moved into the 3D realm and are stunning by 2002-3 standards. The music is memorable and fitting to the atmosphere of the game. Ensemble Studios have a habit of creating great music for their AOE series and AOM is no exception.

You must choose which God to worship. Each God will offer different units and abilities (Screenshot taken by the author)

There is plenty of replay value in multiplayer mode and changeable difficulty settings. I have played through this game multiple times over the years, and even spent hours on Random Map mode. You will quickly learn which civilisations and Gods you prefer to play with and use. In 2016, another expansion pack, Tale of the Dragon was released but I have yet to play this expansion.

Did I complete the game?

I have played through and completed these games many times, and I enjoy them so much, I’m sure I’ll play through many times in the future.

What the critics said about Age of Mythology:

Gamespot: “Of course, what’s most important is that Age of Mythology plays remarkably well. Featuring lots of interesting, inventive design decisions, plenty of fun-to-use units, and tons of variety, Age of Mythology is the last real-time strategy game you’ll need for a long time. It’s a necessary addition to any real-time strategy fan’s collection, and the game is accessible enough so that even those without much experience with the genre should be able to pick up and enjoy the game without getting overwhelmed. Novices and die-hard RTS players alike will all note the remarkable amount of care and quality that clearly went into every aspect of Age of Mythology–the sorts of things that have already established Ensemble Studios as one of the leading developers of real-time strategy games and that now reinforce the company’s position as a leader and innovator in one of PC gaming’s most competitive and most popular genres.Overall 9.2/10”.[1]

IGN: “I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s particularly gratifying that, in a year with so few RTS games (and fewer good ones), Ensemble has favored (sic) us with such a fantastic complete package. It’s a real ornament for the genre and a benchmark that won’t soon be surpassed. After thousands of words of explanation, the short take is this: if you love the RTS genre, you have to own this game. I won’t take any excuses. Overall 9.3/10.[2]

My verdict:

“What can I say? This game looks great, plays great, sounds great, and keeps the player thoroughly interested with the clear distinctions between civilisations and Gods. This game is an absolute  banger and I can’t sing its praises enough.“

Rating:

In 2003, an expansion pack, The Titans, was released. Adding more Gods and units, the story follows Kastor, son of Arkantos, who is tricked into attacking his allies and helping release the Titans.

Title screen

AOM: The Titans adds a fourth civilisation, the Atlanteans, to the mix. Although similar to Greek, there are some differences including the ability to turn most human units into heroes. They do not require drop off points for resources as each villager is accompanied by a donkey.

There is also the new addition of Titan powers to use. Gaia, Kronos and Oranos are the main Titans and with each age advancement you must choose which minor Titan to follow, again, each offer different units and technologies.

A new Atlantean civilisation has been added (Screenshot taken by the author)

On some of the missions, and in Random Map mode, you will be able to release a Titan to cause the destruction of your enemies. They are slow moving but incredibly powerful. They can be killed but you need a huge army with lots of mythical and hero units or a Titan of your own. Once the Titan is dead you cannot create another.

Release a Titan to smite your enemies (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the expansion pack?

I have completed AoM: The Titans many times and will no doubt return again in the future.

What the critics said about Age of Mythology: The Titans:

IGN: “Sure, I’d still like to have seen a completely new civilization based on an entirely different set of myths, but The Titans serves as a nice coda to the previous game, which I’m not sure would’ve been possible if the series had branched out a bit more. In the end, the balance and personality are what keep me coming back for more. Overall 8.9.[3]

Gamespy: “While I was in the game, I was having too much fun to give serious consideration to what are essentially minor quibbles. The bottom line is this: Age of Mythology: The Titans is a great add-on that gives AoM fans plenty of new toys to play with that are not only fun in their own right, but make the game they’re attached to much, much better. Overall 4.5/5.[4]

My verdict:

“What a fantastic expansion…a great new story and a new civilisation to learn about and use. The introduction of the Titans as a physical entity that you can use a great addition too.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Age of Mythology and The Titans expansion? 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] Kasavin, G., (November 1, 2002). ‘Age of Mythology Review’. Gamepsot.com. https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/age-of-mythology-review/1900-2896451/ Accessed on 14th July 2020.

[2] Butts, S., (November 4, 2002). ‘Age of Mythology Review’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/2002/11/04/age-of-mythology-review Accessed on 14th July 2020).

[3] Butts, S., (September 30, 2003). ‘Age of Mythology: The Titans Review. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/2003/09/30/age-of-mythology-the-titans-review Accessed on 14th July 2020).

[4] Rausch, A., (October 9, 2003). ‘Reviews – Age of Mythology: The Titans.’ Gamespy.com. http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/age-of-mythology-the-titans/498508p1.html Accessed on 14th July 2020).

Shadow Warriors/Ninja Gaiden/Ninja Ryūkenden – Review

Throughout the 70s and 80s, the popularity of eastern martial arts rose dramatically in popularity in the west through Bruce Lee and The Karate Kid movies. Naturally, gamers are attracted to games where they can perform a flurry of punches, an array of agile kicks and jumps, and master hand to hand combat because, let’s face it, these things take years of training and dedication which many of us don’t have the inclination for.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Shadow Warriors is a side-scrolling action-platform game developed and published by Tecmo. It was released for the NES in Europe in 1991, having previously been released in Japan in 1988 as Ninja Ryūkenden, and in North America in 1989 as Ninja Gaiden. It was later ported to the SNES, PC and mobile phones. For this review, I chose to play the NES version.

You control Ryu Hayabusa who travels to America to avenge the murder of his father. He soon learns of a person known as “The Jaquio” who plans to take over the world with the help of an ancient demon whose power is contaminated in two statues. The game contains 20 levels broken down into six acts.

I’m not sure why Ryu has a reddish tinge to him (Screenshot taken by the author)

The controls are very responsive and the movement tight, allowing for close control. Ryu’s main weapon is a sword but you are able to pick up and use limited numbers of shuriken. Ryu can jump and cling onto the walls, but can only climb if he is on a ladder. If not, and a wall is opposite, he can spring himself up by jumping between walls. Annoyingly, and this is common amongst early games, if you progress to a higher screen and you fall back down the whole you just came from, you die as oppose to simply fall to the level below.

The levels are very difficult and unforgiving, but you do receive unlimited continues. Sadly, I was only able to get to Act 3 as my version kept crashing. However, I really enjoyed playing this game and so will definitely return to it in the future. After each act, there is a beautifully illustrated anime-type cutscene furthering the storyline.

The graphics and music are standard for 8-bit home consoles in the 80s but withthe introduction of 16-bit consoles, begin to look dated by the time of its release in Europe in 1991. The Ryu sprite has a reddish glow to him, which is strange.

Between levels, there are beautifully illustrated cut scenes (Screenshot taken by the author)

Mean Machines: “A superb game, very similar to Shadow Warriors coin-op. Highly recommended top Nintendo beat ‘em up fans. Overall 88%.[1]

Mean Machines: “A superbly presented Ninja game which proves very playable. Overall 90%.[2]

Awards:

Best Challenge 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[3]

Best Ending 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989[4]

Best Game of the Year – Electronic Gaming Best and Worst of 1989[5]

My verdict:

“Tight controls, beautiful cut scenes but very difficult and unforgiving. A good edition to the ninja genre”

Rating:

What are your memories of Shadow Warriors? 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] ‘Nintendo Review – Ninja Gaiden’. Mean Machines. (July 1990). Issue 06:12-4. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-15/page/n107/mode/2up Accessed 10th December 2019).

[2] ‘Nintendo Review – Shadow Warrior’. Mean Machines. (July 1991). Issue 10:66-8. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-magazine-10/page/n67/mode/2up Accessed 10th December 2019).

[3] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:27. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20012%20May-June%201990#page/n23/mode/2up Accessed 1st July 2020).

[4] ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:28. (https://archive.org/stream/Nintendo_Power_Issue001-Issue127/Nintendo%20Power%20Issue%20012%20May-June%201990#page/n23/mode/2up Accessed 1st July 2020).

[5] ‘Best and Worst of 1989’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1990Video Game Buyer’s guide. 5:17. (https://retrocdn.net/images/d/d5/EGM_US_005.pdf Accessed 1st July 2020).

Robocop – Review

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!”

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Robocop is a beat ’em up/run and gun arcade game developed and published by Data East. Based on the 1987 film Robocop, it was released in 1988 for the Arcade, Apple 2, PC, Amiga and Atari ST. It was later release on the NES in 1989 and the Game Boy in 1990. For this review, I chose to play the NES version.

A crime wave has swept the city of Detroit and the streets are no longer safe. OCP, a private company, have developed a cyborg to assist law enforcement. Using his fists, and an array of guns, the cyborg known as Robocop aims to clean up the streets, destroy ED-209, and defeat Dick James, the mastermind behind the crime epidemic.

Before the game starts, the intro consists of a run through of Robocop’s cybernetic make-up, which I think would have been made better with a bit more backstory as to how Robocop came to be. Not everyone has seen the film after all. However, the cut scene between the levels are nicely illustrated and the phrase “Crime in progress” appears which is a nice nod to the movie.

A short but well illustrated cut scene kicks the game off (Screenshot taken by the author)

That game is very easy to play. Robocop is a big hunk of machinery and so he can only walk at one speed (As you can imagine, he cannot jump). However, he can also climb and descend stairs, crouch and block, and punch or fire his gun (Note: when descending the stairs you only need to press down as oppose to diagonally down). He can fire his gun in all directions except straight down. During the levels, Robocop can pick up and use other firearms other than his standard side-arm including a machine gun and cobra gun (Robocops standard side-arm has infinite ammo but these other weapons do not).

There is no time limit to the levels, but Robocop’s energy bar depletes as he progresses through the level. Once the bar is depleted he will cease to function and need to restart the level. Thankfully, he can pick up batteries along the way to restore his energy bar. Robocop’s health bar will deplete if he is hit by an enemy. Collecting bottles labelled ‘P’ will help restore his health.

Why unarmed criminals try to take on a cyborg I’ll never know! (Screenshot taken by the author)

At the bottom right of the screen are four symbols. When they flash they indicate the following:

Infrared Vision – Which will help you locate a weak wall that you need to punch to break through.

Punch – You can only defeat an enemy by punching.

Foe Detector – Begins to flash faster and faster the closer you get to a boss/sub-boss.

Energy/Power Alarm – Indicates when energy or health levels are low or when they drop dramatically.

Graphically, this game is good for an 8-bit console in 1989, and matches the likes of Ninja Gaiden. The sprites are detailed and clearly defined against the backgrounds, and when using his gun, Robocop even mimics the one-handed stance seen in the film. The backgrounds themselves are pretty good too. However, there is a fair bit of sprite flicker, especially from the dogs and when you’re shooting at the first boss.

Robocop will only use his gun when the threat level increases (Screenshot taken by the author)

Like the film, Robocop matches his weapon to the threat level of his attackesr, which I think is a very neat feature and adds an element of realism to the game. This means that Robocop won’t use his gun until he comes face to face with an enemy who uses guns, flamethrowers or explosives etc.

I do have a few issues with this game though. Firstly, the stupidity of the unarmed enemies and dogs. Why on Earth would you run towards a huge bloody cyborg that can dispatch you quite easily with one punch…especially when your only attack is a flying kick?! Also, you have one life, then it’s game over. You do seem to get an infinite number of continues but when you use them it takes you back to the beginning of that level. If you are going to force people to use continues and restart the level, then please give them more than one life.

This game only has one difficulty setting so there really is not much to keep you coming back once the game is completed.

Did I complete the game?

No, I barely got past the first level. I just couldn’t be bothered with getting to the end of level boss, dying and being sent back to beginning of the level.

What the critics said:

At present I have been unable to locate contemporary reviews for the NES version.

My verdict:

“Graphically, this game is good and the controls are simple and responsive. However, the game itself is very tough, and although it will certainly pose a challenge to gamers everywhere, the lack of lives sees you having to repeat the same monotonous levels over and over again. This game could have been so much more.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Robocop? 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.