Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – Review

Ask a retrogamer what makes a game “retro”, and you’ll get as many asnswers are there are grains of sand in the Sahara desert…well, maybe not that many, but what makes a game “retro”? Length of time it has been released? Has the console it was first played on been discontinued? Or are there other criteria that I’m not aware of that classifies a game as “retro”? I would love to hear from you about what you think makes a video game “retro”.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is an action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Released for the PlayStation 3 in 2007, it is the first of a series of games that follows the fortunes of treasure hunter Nathan Drake, as he pursues mythical treasures across the globe. Although it was remastered for the PlayStation 4 in 2016, for this review I played the original version.

Plot

You play as Nathan Drake, who believes himself to be a direct descendant of Elizabethan explorer Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596). Drake has been searching for the lost city of El Dorado and the trail as brought him to their current location.

The game begins in an undisclosed location (one assumes it’s near the Caribbean). Drake is being filmed by journalist Elena Fisher as they raise a coffin from the seabed. No sooner have they opened the coffin (I won’t tell you what’s inside) then they are ambushed by pirates. Once the pirates are dealt with, Drake and fellow treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan, continue to follow a trail of breadcrumbs. However, they aren’t the only treasure hunters who have an interest in El Dorado.

Gameplay

Uncharted is a mix of action-adventure and platformer. The game is split between intense fire fights and jumping and climbing (with a few puzzles thrown in for good measure).

Enemies can be defeated in numerous ways: You can use a stealth attack to sneak up behind them, although if you’re spotted this makes it incredibly hard to do. You can have a straight up fist fight with the option to perform a few combos, but if you are being attacked by more than one enemy, this option leaves you open to being shot easily. The third is to use an array of weapons including various handguns, machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles and grenades. You can only carry one side arm and one rifle/shotgun at any one time. When an enemy is killed you can collect ammunition or different weapons from them.

Guns can be fired in three ways: You can either aim and shoot (most accurate), shoot from the hip (not very accurate but good for an emergency at close range) and shooting blindly when in a covered position (very handy if you are low on life and have an enemy approaching).

For grenades, an arc will appear whilst aiming to show the trajectory of the grenade.

Hint: If you see an enemy about to throw a grenade, try to shoot him at least once. Even if he doesn’t die, he will drop the grenade and it will explode, hopefully killing him and anyone nearby.

Interestingly, there is no health bar in the traditional sense. Instead, when you are hit, a red blood like fog/splay appears on the edge of the screen which also indicates the direction of the attacker. If you continue to take damage, the screen will lose colour and become black and white. When you are near death, you will also hear a heartbeat pounding away. Drake’s health will return to normal once he reaches a location where he is out of range of enemy attack.

There are a few occasions where you will be riding vehicles. One is a jeep and the other is a jet ski. For the jeep, Elena will be driving, so that part of the game is done automatically. Your job is to use the mounted gun to destroy your pursuers. For the jet ski parts, you control both the jet ski, driven by Drake, and the attacking done by Elena. Simply press the aim button and Elena will aim her gun at any assailant (it does take a bit of getting used to).

To add some replay value to the game, there are 60 treasures hidden throughout the levels for you to find. They are tricky to spot! You will see some of them flash like a small white star. When you are near them, a triangle button icon will appear with a small treasure chest icon meaning you can pick them up.

Uncharted blew me away with its environments (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

I think the game handles really well. The controls are intuitive and there is a nice mix of intense gun battles and puzzles for you to solve. The only issue I had with the controls is that sometimes Drake will hide against a wall or crouch behind a wall when that was not your intention, leading to him being shot and leading me to swear at the controller. Another issue was when piloting the jetski. I found that you always needed to stop before firing, leaving you a bit of a sitting duck.

Graphics

This is a beautiful game. The characters look and move realistically and the environments are incredibly immersive and stunning to look at. Some critics did note a few graphical issues such as some screen tearing but I don’t think the average gamer would really notice/care too much.

Music and SFX

Apart from the main theme, which I love, the in-game music is quite understated but at the same time atmospheric, adding an air of mystery and suspense. It does not play all the time and when it does, you can be forgiven for not noticing as you will be engrossed in the game. The voice acting is great and sounds very authentic. There is great chemistry between Drake and Sully and the dialogue that continues as you move throughout the game feels natural between the two.

Replay Value

Although some argue that the game is too short, I think this game has lots of replay value. Collecting the treasures, along with completing other accomplishments such as killing a certain number of enemies with a particular weapon or in a particular way, will unlock bonuses such as concept art, unlimited ammo, alternate costumes and the ability to play as other characters. This, as well as the four difficulty settings give this game a huge amount of replay value. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth from this game.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed the game on crushing.

The gun battles are loads of fun and require an element of tactics when approaching a lagre group of enemies (Screenshot taken by the author)

What The Critics Said:

1Up: (The original article has been removed)Overall 8.5/10[1]

Edge: Amid all the comparisons Uncharted tempts, however, one thing remains: it is a great adventure story that plays excellently. There’s nothing substantially new in what it does – indeed its influences are obvious – and there are some minor problems, but through judicious pruning and reweaving Naughty Dog has crafted one of the finest action adventures to date. It’s involving in its narrative, a triumph of pacing, and simply a pleasure to play. Your move, Ms Croft. Overall 8/10”.[2]

Game Informer: Uncharted isn’t destined to be a classic; I don’t think there are enough new ideas here to put it in the genius category. However, this is game that is very sure of its identity and does the things that it set out to do very well. It’s a fun, fast, and memorable thrill ride, and perhaps the closest video games have come yet to approximating the experience of an interactive summer blockbuster. Overall 8.75/10”.[3]

Game Pro: Uncharted reminded me a lot of an Indiana Jones movie in that both are fun and enjoyable romps that are just good enough to make you forgive their respective weaknesses. It isn’t going to single-handedly pull Sony’s bacon out of the fire this holiday season but it is definitely a title that PS3 owners can be proud to call their own Overall 4.25/5″.[4]

Gamespot: It took us about eight hours to get through Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and it was an action-packed eight hours, without much in the ways of load times or informational status screens to break it up. The imbalance between the gunplay and the platforming is jarring but forgivable–but the platforming itself works pretty well and looks fantastic thanks to the game’s excellent motion-captured animation. If nothing else, Uncharted is a graphical showcase for the PlayStation 3, and it dazzles the senses at nearly every opportunity. Overall 8/10“.[5]

Gamespy: “Ultimately, there’s little to dislike about Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Even if you’re not a platforming fan, there’s plenty of action here to balance out the near-death leaps of faith. It might not have the running time of other titles on the market, but the leanness of the experience and time invested are fulfilling, plus the replay value is strong. It’s also worth noting that you might also be surprised by how much it pushes the envelope on its T rating. The violence isn’t graphic, but a bloody headshot is a bloody headshot, and the amount of blue language is surprising. It’s also utilizes the system’s technology wonderfully for both the visuals and load-free gaming. The PS3 has received a good share of solid games this year, but any gamers who own the console owe it to themselves to check out Uncharted. It stands out from the current sea of first-person shooters, and you won’t find a better action/adventure game this year. Overall 4.5/5.[6]

IGN: “Here’s the thing about Uncharted, the final sum is far greater than the individual parts. Maybe you don’t dig the combat or maybe the pop-in gets you down, but the overall package of an endearing story, outstanding score, great performances and fun gameplay should put this title on the top of your holiday wishlist. Say what you will about the PS3, but Uncharted isn’t just a standout for Sony — it’s a standout for gaming as a whole. Overall 9.1/10.[7]

My Verdict:

“I frickin’ love this game. It looks incredible, it has a great storyline and there is plenty of variety in the controls to keep you interested. It has tons of replay value and I think the experience of the game as a whole easily outweighs any graphical or game length issues it may have.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune? 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] Naruto. ‘Uncharted Review’. 1up. (https://n4g.com/news/83798/1up-uncharted-review-8-5 Accessed 28th December 2020).

[2] EdgeStaff. (26th November 2007). ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Review’. Edge. (https://web.archive.org/web/20130618105707/http://www.edge-online.com/review/uncharted-drakes-fortune-review/2/ Accessed 28th December 2020).

[3] Helgeson, M., (December 2007). ‘Pass the Popcorn’. Game Informer. (https://web.archive.org/web/20080409120343/http://gameinformer.com/Games/Review/200712/R07.1114.0939.00825.htm Accessed 28th December 2020).

[4] Kim, T., (14th November 2007). ‘Review: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’. GamePro. (https://web.archive.org/web/20071116013247/http://www.gamepro.com/sony/ps3/games/reviews/147948.shtml Accessed 29th December 2020).

[5] Davis, R., (19th November 2007). ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Review’. Gamespot. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/uncharted-drakes-fortune-review/1900-6183147/ Accessed 28th December 2020).

[6] McGarvey, S,. (14th November 2007). ‘Review – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’. Gamespy. (http://ps3.gamespy.com/playstation-3/naughty-dog-ps3-project/835136p1.html Accessed 28th December 2020).

[7] Miller, G., (13th November 2007). ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Review’. IGN. (https://www.ign.com/articles/2007/11/13/uncharted-drakes-fortune-review Accessed 28th December 2020).

Advertisement

Wii Sports – Review

Wii Sports holds the accolade of Nintendo’s biggest selling video game with 82.9 million units sold as of 2022. However, these figures seem less impressive when you keep in mind that it was part of the bundle when you bought the Wii.[1] That being said, one cannot fault Nintendo’s pushing of gaming boundaries here. The results may not have been perfect, but it sparked an array of easily accessible games for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Wii Sports is a sports simulation game developed and published by Nintendo. It was released for the Wii in 2006. For this review, I dusted off my old Wii and had a trip down memory lane.

Plot (or in this case, what is the game all about?)

As with all sport sims, there is no “plot”. Instead, there are five different sports for you to compete in and can be played with upto four players with the exception of boxing and baseball which are single- or two-player games. To play the games, you use the Wii remote to simulate the actions you would make if you were to play these games in real life.

Tennis

Gameplay

With up to four players, you can choose to play a single game, best of three games or best of five games. The direction you hit the ball is very much based on the timing of your swing and the position of your Mii (your character). However, when serving, you simply raise your remote as if throwing a ball into the air before swiping at it to send it towards your opponents. The rules and point system are the same as a real life tennis game.

How Does It Handle?

The fact that the direction the ball is hit is based on the timing of your swing and the position of your Mii can be frustrating because you don’t have control over the position of the Mii. Their movements are controlled by the computer and so one can be forgiven for shouting, in the immortal words of Eliza Doolittle in the movie of My Fair Lady (1964), “Move your bloomin’ arse!“. One little hint when serving is that if you can time it so that you strike the ball when it has reached its peak height, you will hit the ball incredibly hard and fast, making it difficult for your opponent to return the serve.

Graphics

For all the sports in this game, the Mii designs are never going to win prizes for asthetics. However, they don’t need to be breathtakingly detailed because that is not what Wii Sports is about, so I won’t hold their design against the game. The environments of Tennis are nicely coloured, and conjure up feelings of summer days watching Wimbledon and eating strawberries and cream. The varying arrays of greens is rather impressive.

Music and SFX

You only really hear music when you are selecting how many players will play or during the replays when you win the match. The SFX are very realistic. From the sound the ball makes as your strike it, to the cheer of the crowd when a point is scored, the SFX are awesome. The umpire calling out the scores after a point is scored reminds me a lot of old arcade games.

“New balls please!” (screenshot taken by the author)

Baseball

Gameplay

Up to two players can play at any one time. One player bats and the other player pitches. Once you get three opposing players out, your innings ends, and it is your opponents turn to bat. Each team has three innings but if one team leads by 5 runs, a mercy ruling is imposed and the game ends with the winner being the team with the most runs.

To hit the ball when batting, you simply need to time your swing as the ball approaches. However, the pitcher will use all their cunning and guile to throw different types of pitches to ensure you miss the ball. For example, by simply motioning the remote as if throwing a ball, your pitcher will perform a fastball (the fastest ball I can pitch reaches 151KM/H). The faster you throw, the faster the ball will travel. Holding the ‘A’ button while throwing will perform a swerve ball. Holding the ‘B’ button will perform a curve ball and holding both ‘A’ and ‘B’ will perform a splitter. This is where the ball swerves downwards at the last second making the batter swing and miss. If you swing and miss three times, your batter is out. If you hold your nerve and don’t swing at the splitters, four times, then your player will get a free walk to first base. Hitting the ball into the stands within the foul lines will earn you a home run, and all players at the bases can freely run home to score you points.

How Does It Handle?

As the pitcher, trying to disguise your pitch is all part of the fun. The fielding is automatic and so once you throw a pitch, the rest of the game is out of your hands. As the batter, timing your swing is everything. Once you hit the ball, that is pretty much all there is to it. You can’t steal bases, you simply hit the ball and let the computer do the rest. It is a simple game, but suprisingly fun in two-player mode.

Graphics

Again, the graphics are adequate for what the sport is offering. Clear and colourful graphics…what more do you want from such a game?

Music and SFX

You hear the Wii Sports fanfare (which is very memorable) as the players line up at the beginning of the match, and another piece of music once the match has been won (which is not very memorable). Some noticeable SFX consist of when you strike the ball and when the ball is caught by a fielder. However, the main SFX comes from the constant crowd noise giving you a real sense of stadium atmosphere.

“Let’s go Blue Jays!!!” (screenshot taken by the author)

Ten-pin Bowling

Gameplay

This can be played with up to four players. Each player has ten frames. In each frame, you are allowed to bowl twice, with the object being to knock down all the pins. If you knock down all the pins with your first ball, your frame is over and it is the next person’s frame and so on (Note: For frame 10, if you get a strike or a spare, you will end up bowling an extra ball. The maximum score you can achieve is 300 (My highest is only 192). Before bowling the ball, you can adjust your aim, then you simply hold down ‘B’, and perform a bowling motion, letting go of ‘B’ as your follow through.

How Does It Handle?

The game handles very realistically I think. As a right hander, there will always be a natural draw to the left when bowling (to the right if you’re a southpaw), but the method to adjust your position and trajectory is easy to use (this doesn’t mean getting a perfect game is easy though). By twisting the remote as you bowl, you can add spin to the ball as it sails down the lane which is fun to try and master. One nice little quirk of the game is that if you let go of the ball too early, it will fly backwards and land with a thud making the spectators jump.

Graphics

Nothing spectacular is needed for this type of sport, but there are some nice touches. For example, seeing the reflection of the pins and the ball as it is being bowled adds to the illusion of a slick and well maintained bowling alley. Also, when the camera pans around so that you can see what’s behind the bowler, you can see all the Miis wandering back and forth to their lanes.

Music and SFX

The main SFX are the satisfying noise of the pins as they tumble together and fall. Interestingly, for this game they have chosen a lo-fi soundtrack l, that I didn’t notice at first, that plays throughout. However, the post-game music is a nice guitar-riffed country-esque affair, and arguably the nicest piece of music in the entire game.

“We’re gonna score tonight. We’re gonna score tonight!” (screenshot taken by the author)

Golf

Gameplay

Up to four players can play at any one time. The aim is to get around the nine-hole course in the least number of strokes. To the left of your Mii, you will see a gauge. As you swing the remote, a blue bar will appear to fill the gauge. The harder you swing, the more the gauge will fill. However, if you swing too hard, the gauge will turn red, causing your shot to either draw or slice uncontrollably. You can take as many practice swings as you like but when you wish to hit the ball you will need to press and hold the ‘A’ button to move the Mii forward to prepare for your shot. To help gauge how hard you should swing, dots on the gauge correspond with the dots on the map to your right. This will indicate where your ball should land (taking into account wind and elevation etc.).

How Does It Handle?

I think the game handles well. You are able to swing the remote incredibly lightly too when putting, allowing for the deftess of touches.

Graphics

Again, a lovely array of greens set against a cloudy but blue sky, with the odd sand bunker or water feature present. The colourscheme is strangely relaxing and comforting.

Music and SFX

The main SFX are the when you strike the ball, and when it lands in the water, on land, or when you get it in the hole. If you hit the ball well you are greeted with a “Nice Shot” vocalisation and a cheer from the crowd which (realistically) dies down as the player addresses the ball for their next shot. There is also the pleasant ambience of nature around you complete with bird tweets.

Driving for show, putting for dough (screenshot taken by the author)

Boxing

Gameplay

Up to two-players can play at any one time. The object is to knock your opponent out. Using the Wii remote and the nunchuck, you block, jab and hook as you would if you were really boxing. You can also tilt the controllers left or right to bob and weave and evade the opponent’s strikes.

How Does It Handle?

Although this game shows the potential future of sporting sim games, I didn’t spend much time on the boxing. There is little finesse to the game and I feel that you just end up slugging it out. I’m sure there are people out there who practically make their Mii dance, but I did not have the inclination to become as proficient.

Graphics

Your Mii is transparent but your gloves are fully opaque. I would have liked the option of first person perspective for this game.

Music and SFX

The only music you hear is an urban beat sounding piece after the fight when your stats are shown. The most distinctive sound you’ll hear is the crowd noise as they cheer during the fight. There’ll be plenty of familiar sounding thuds as punches are landed too.

“You’re gonna eat thunder and crap lightning” (screenshot taken by the author)

Extras

As an extra bonus, the game also contains two other features. The first is a training mode which gives you three different training sessions per sport to help improve your skill. The second is a fitness mode which uses tennis, baseball, and bowling to test your speed, strength, and stamina. It then calculates your Wii age…my last attempt put my age at 33. At the time of writing this in 2022, I am 39 so I’ll take that.

Replay Value

Personally, I found this game to have tons of replay value, especially in two- or multi-player modes. The gaining of experience points was a good option too as the competitve amongst us will ensure their Mii has the highest number of points. However, I do also concede that Wii Sports may also be a Marmite game. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it!

Personal Memories

Many years ago, when I used to live with a buddy, Friday nights were for listening to Reel Big Fish and playing Wii Sports. We’d crack open the beers and would compete mostly on golf and baseball. We occasionally play bowling and tennis, but our hearts lay with golf and baseball. We actually became pretty darn good at the golf game and could birdie most holes.

Did I Complete The Game?

As with most modern sport sims, this is not the sort of game you complete.

What The Critics Said:

Allgame: “As a key launch title, Wii Sports accomplishes everything it sets out to do. It introduces the system’s control scheme in an appealing way, it incorporates the cutesy Mii characters for a personal touch, and it shows off some of the console’s communication capabilities by sending players notes whenever they achieve a certain milestone. More importantly, it is exactly the type of game that will bring users of all ages and skill levels together for laughs, cheers, and some excitement about what may be in store from Nintendo in the years ahead. Overall 12/25.[1]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: Good – Grandma can play, comes with the system. Bad – Zero depth. Coolest Feature – Seeing your customized Miis wandering the sidelines. Overall 19/30.[2]

Eurogamer: “…what it’s actually got here brilliantly embodies the Wii’s dramatic premise: that this kind of control can appeal to people who don’t play games and people who used to play games as well as people who’ve been playing them for as long as we have. That’s not to say that it’s all things to all people, or that it’s without flaws – but when you get lost in tennis late at night, you can be playing because your opponent’s smart, and needs to be forced out of position with varied ground shots, top spin and precisely angled shots; or you can be playing because, golly Michael, come see what Tom’s brought home, it’s a sort of magical tennis racket. It’s more than the parlour game that we all expected, then, but perhaps the beautiful thing is that it still can be that if you want it to. Overall 8/10.”[3]

Gamepro: “Even though Wii Sports is included in the system, we don’t want to give it too much leeway because it’s free. But, realistically, we can’t help but enjoy the fact that we’re getting a solid sports experience for nothing. It’s definitely more fun in groups and won’t have a great deal of longevity, but anyone who doesn’t find at least some fun in Wii Sports has a heart of coal. There, I said it. Overall 4.25/5.”[4]

Gamerspot: “The first time the games included in Wii Sports were shown to the public, it was simply as tech demos to prove that Nintendo wasn’t totally crazy for building a whole console around motion-sensitive controls. Though there’s still kind of a tech-demo feel to Wii Sports, it’s a fun, unique package you’ll enjoy so long as you don’t expect too much detail from it. Overall 7.8/10.[5]

Gamespy: “Wii Sports is at its best in a group setting, where the familiarity that everyone has with these games makes them incredibly easy to pick up and play. It’s a game you can play with your friends and family, and it perfectly highlights the direction that Nintendo is taking with the platform. It’s not the best-looking game on the system, and it’s definitely not the deepest, but it may well be the most fun. You’re not forking over any money for Wii Sports, so consider it the best money you won’t spend this year. Overall 4/5”.[6]

GameTrailers: “Wii Sports is incredibly fun to play for the first couple days you have it, and you’ll undoubtedly sell some Wiis for Nintendo if you bust it out at a party. But eventually, the relative lack of depth to any of the games exposes it for what it is–a free game that comes packed-in with the system. Overall 8/10.[7]

GameZone: Mario. Tetris. Mario World. Wii Sports. These are the four games Nintendo has chosen to include with four of their game consoles. In terms of sales and longevity, Wii Sports won’t do for Nintendo Wii what Mario did for the NES. Wii Sports won’t be played by as many people as Tetris. It is, however, a killer, innovative showpiece that will draw in anyone who witnesses all that it can do. Sure, it lacks goals and can be beaten very quickly. But the ultra-responsive technology and high multiplayer replay value are far greater than any other party or sports game collection. Excite Truck is good, but this is the one that should’ve been packed in Wii kiosks all over the country. Overall 8.5/10”.[8]

IGN: Wii Sports is a successful showpiece for Nintendo’s new hardware and a fantastic means to get non-gamers talking about Wii. Not all of the games are spectacular. Given the choice, I’d prefer not to play either boxing or golf, which is disappointing because both sports seem like a fine fit for the remote. But the games that do work really work. Baseball is good in short bursts. Tennis is a lot of fun, especially with two or more. And bowling is fantastic – I can’t wait for Nintendo to use these mechanics and release the inevitable (and much deeper) Mario Bowling.

What you’re going to find in Wii Sports is a title that demonstrates the potential of the Wii remote, but comes up short in depth and visuals. Play it for an hour with friends and you’ll love it. Your non-gamer friends will be dazzled by the immediately intuitive controls and the imported Miis. But the title sacrifices incredible depth and visuals for an immediately accessible experience. Overall 7.5/10.”[9]

Nintendo Gamer: “…even though the tennis, golf, and baseball aren’t that great, there’s still no denying that Wiis Sports is a lot of fun. Bowling and boxing alone make it a great party game, and the rest of the sports, though flawed, at least provide a glimpse of what the Wii is capable of…Overall 78/100.”[10]

Nintendo Life: It’s simply a fun game that is somewhat plagued by the simplicity and a few other errors, but offers a refreshing and satisfying experience. Overall 8/10.”[11]

Nintendo Power: “The whole fitness aspect is cool, but in the single-player game you’ll experience everything Wii Sports has to offer in a matter of hours. Then again, the game does come free with the console, so ГИ stop whining. Overall 8.25/10.”[12]

Official Nintendo Magazine: “Maybe a month or two down the line you’ll have put Wii Sports back on the shelf because the basic nature of the games means that once you get used to them there isn’t much of a replay factor (although the training mode does provide a number of missions for you to complete). But if someone comes over to your house and asks to see how the Wii works, Wii Sports is the game you’ll use to demonstrate. It’s simple yet has a surprising amount of depth, and when played with
a group of friends is one of the best multiplayer experiences on the Wii. And it didn’t cost you a penny. Overall 90%
.[13]

PALGN: A very solid first effort for the Wii, and provides just a taste of what is, and what will be, great about the Wii console. Pick it up, play it and have fun. Very nice. Overall 7.5/10.[14]

Videogamer: “Undoubtedly, Wii Sports did start out as “just a tech demo” but the game that’ll arrive with your Wii has come a long way since then. It’s come far enough, in fact, that were Nintendo to sell this separately for say £20, it would be something akin to a must buy. It may not win any awards for the best looking or sounding game but it’s great pure fun, and is instantly accessible to pretty much anyone. We all know roughly how to swing a tennis racket, or bowl a bowling ball – even if we haven’t done either before – and the Wii Remote does a great job of recreating the sensations of the real thing by being neither too accurate nor too forgiving, but just right. Overall 8/10.[15]

My Verdict:

“I have a real soft spot for this game. The multitude of fond memories I have playing it with friends may account for my generous score. Wii Sports will never win awards for graphics, but the colours and sports designs are pleasing to the eye. Most of the music and SFX are easily forgettable, but I think there is so much fun to be had playing this with friends that it can be forgiven its shortcomings.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Wii Sports? 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] Sirani, J., (November 8th 2022). The 10 Best-Selling Video Games of All Time. IGN.com. (https://www.ign.com/articles/best-selling-video-games-of-all-time-grand-theft-auto-minecraft-tetris accessed on 20/11/2022).

[2] Marriott, A.S., ‘Wii Sports – Review.’ Allgame. (https://web.archive.org/web/20141114211231/http://www.allgame.com/game.php?id=49826&tab=review accessed 21/11/2022).

[3] ‘Wii Reviews – Wii Sports’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (January 2007). Issue 211:63.

[4] Bramwell, T., (December 1st 2006). ‘Wii Sports Revolutionary?’. Eurogamer. (https://www.eurogamer.net/r-wiisports-wii accessed on 20/11/2022).

[5] Mr. Marbles., (November 16 2006).  Gamepro. (http://www.gamepro.com/article/reviews/86628/wii-sports/ accessed 20/11/2022).

[6] Davis, R., (November 19th 2006) ‘Wii Sports Review’. Gamespot. (https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/wii-sports-review/1900-6162054/ accessed on 20/11/2022).

[7] Villoria, G., (November 14th 2006). ‘Reviews – Wii Sports’. Gamespy. (http://wii.gamespy.com/wii/wii-sports/746088p1.html accessed on 20/11/2022).

[8] (November 19th 2006). ‘Wii Sports’. GameTrailers. (http://gametrailers.com/gamereview.php?id=2661 accessed 20/11/2022).

[9] (December 7th 2006). ‘Wii Sports’. GameZone.com. (http://wii.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r29662.htm accessed on 20/11/2022).

[10] Casamassina, M., (November 13 2006). ‘Wii Sports Review’. IGN.com. (http://wii.ign.com/articles/745/745708p1.html accessed on 20/11/2022).

[11] Staines, D., ‘Wii Sports’. Nintendo Gamer. (January 2007). Issue 1:54-55.

[12] Joo, J., (November 24th 2006). ‘Wii Sports Review’. Nintendo Life. (https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/2006/11/wii_sports_wii accessed on 20/11/2022).

[13] ‘Wii Sports’. Nintendo Power. (January 2007). Issue 211:96.

[14] East, E., (January 9th 2008). ‘Nintendo: Wii Reviews’. Official Nintendo Magazine. (http://www.officialnintendomagazine.co.uk/article.php?id=2423 accessed 21/11/2022).

[15] Larsen, P., (December 7th 2006). ‘Wii Sports Review’. PALGN. (https://web.archive.org/web/20071228032840/http://palgn.com.au/article.php?id=6137&sid=d23b3592c374f829cb0f456ef6d94064 accessed 21/11/2022).

[16] Vandervell, A., (November 28th 2006). ‘Wii Sports Review’. Videogamer.com. (https://web.archive.org/web/20061208205821/http://www.pro-g.co.uk/wii/wii_sports/review.html accessed on 21/11/2022).


Zaxxon – Review

Zaxxon holds the accolade of being the first arcade game advertised on television.[1] A 30 second commercial was created by Paramount for around $150,000.[2] The advertising seems to have had the desired effect as the game was a commercial success and one of highest earners for arcades between October 1981 and September 1982.[3]

Zaxxon is an isometric shooter developed and published by Sega for the arcade in 1982. Over the next three years, Zaxxon was ported to the following: Aaple II, Atari 8-bit family, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, ColecoVision, Commodore 63, Dragon 32, IBM PC compatibles, Intellivision, MSX, Sega SG-1000, TRS-80, TRS-80 Color Computer, and the ZX Spectrum. Over the years, it has ben emulated to many consoles. For this review, I played the version found on the PlayStation 3 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Plot

You must pilot a ship through a series of heavily defended space fortresses, destroying as many enemy buildings and crafts a possible.

Gameplay

The aim of the game is to earn as many points as possible buy hitting various targets throughout the levels. Danger comes threefold: You must evade enemy fire, evade walls and electrical fields, and be careful not to run out of fuel. To replenish your fuel, simply destroy fuel drums when you see them. Each level also contains a certain number fo enemy planes. If you destroy all the enemy planes then you are rewarded with bonus points.

Zaxxon consists of three levels played in a loop which increase in difficulty as the game progresses. Level 1 is a fortress that you must fly through, level 2 is a battle in outer space, and the third is also a fortress culminating a boss battle at the end.

At several points throughout the fortesses, you will need to ascend or descend to fly through gaps in their defensive walls. To gauge height, your ship casts a shadow and the HUD displays a sort of altimeter.

How Does It Handle?

I think the game handles well. The controls are responsive, but it is very easy to ascend or descend unintentionally which can cause you to crash. This difficulty in judging height can become frustrating. You also need to keep pressing the fire button so be prepared for your thumb to get a workout.

Graphics

Zaxxon has been credited with being the first game to use axonometric projection which emulates 3D from a third-person viewpoint.[4]

I think the levels look really good. There is a good array of colours and detail to the levels. No complaints here.

Music and SFX

There is no music in this game, but there is a permanent sort of white noise in the background adding to the illusion of flying in space. However, the predominant noise you will hear is the pew-pew sound when you fire, followed by booms as you destroy your targets. Also, during your dogfights, when an enemy locks on to you, you will hear a distinctive beep, reminding you to perform some evasive manoeuvres.

Replay Value

If you like this game and have a competitive nature, you will return to this game often. It is a pity that there is no two player option.

What The Critics Said:

At present, I have yet to find a contemporary review. Wikipedia claims that an article from Computer and Video Games magazine has given Zaxxon a position review but upon reading the article they do no such thing. They simply describe how the game is played.

My Verdict:

“I didn’t spend that much time on this game as I just didn’t enjoy playing it. The graphics and SFX are good, and the gameplay is fun if you like this sort of game. I’m not saying this game is bad, far from it. It just wasn’t for me.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Zaxxon? 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] Wolf, M.J.P., ‘A Brief Timeline of Video Game History’. in eds. Wolf, M.J.P. The Video Game Explosion: A history from PONG to Playstation and Beyond. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pxviii.

[2] Harmetz, A., (Saturday, July 3rd 1982). ‘Movie Themes Come to Video Games’. Star-News.

[3] ‘Industry News – AMOA Announces Jukebox and Games Awards Winners’. Cashbox. (October 30th, 1982). :37.

[4] Therrien, C., ‘Graphics in Video Games’. in eds. Wolf, M.J.P. The Video Game Explosion: A history from PONG to Playstation and Beyond. Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p240.

Space Harrier – Review

“Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. Get Ready!”

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Space Harrier is an arcade rail shooter. It was developed and published by Sega and released for the arcade in 1985. It was later ported to the Master System in 1986, the Game Gear in 1991, and the Mega Drive’s 32x in 1994. Non-Sega releases included the TurboGrafx-16, Famicom, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009). It was the latter version that I chose to review.

Plot

The arcade version had no plot as such, but when it was released on the Master System in 1986, a back story was given. It explained that the once peaceful Land of Dragons was attacked by an army of monsters and robots. As Space Harrier, you are sent to defeat the invading army and return the Land of Dragons to its peaceful existence.

Gameplay

Played in third person, Space Harrier runs briefly before taking off. You then fly around the screen destroying or evading oncoming enemies. The enemies consist of an array of robots and monsters. One such monster is a mammoth with one eye…weird! You must also be aware of the many stationary pillars throughout the stages. One hit from your enemies or a collision with a pillar will result in death.

Space Harrier will always default to the centre of the screen, so if you let go of the controls, he will automatically move to the central position.

There are 18 Stages, with numbers 5 and 12 being Bonus Stages. The Bonus Stages sees you riding a Haku-esque (Studio Ghibli fans will know what I mean) dragon. The object of the Bonus Stage is to smash down trees or pillars to gain extra points.

Don’t forget to evade enemy fire and stationary objects (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The game is very fast and chaotic, and I think there is little finesse required. I often felt that I got through the stages on sheer luck and persistence. If it wasn’t for infinite continues, I would not have made it past the first few levels. However, the manoeuvring controls are tight, but you must remember to keep tapping the fire button. There are no automatic weapons to make the game easier for you.

Disappointingly, there is only one weapon for you to utilise. It would have been nice to be able to pick up a few power-ups along the way.

One of the issues with the third person view and the speed of the game is that it is difficult to judge the depth of the projectiles being hurled at you. When being peppered with fireballs, it is difficult to determine when they will hit you. So much is happening that you are simply trying to fly in random patterns before slamming into an enemy laser or fireball. Again, I think you just need luck more than skill.

According to a reviewer from Computer & Video Games magazine (see below), the game will adapt its difficulty based on how well you play it. I’m unsure if this feature was on my version, but I certainly noticed that some levels appeared to be faster than others.

In the Bonus Stages, although you can direct the dragon, you can’t really steer it.

Graphics

The sprites look great! Space Harrier is brightly coloured and nicely detailed. Sadly, you don’t have much time to admire the illustrations of the enemy sprites as they whizz by incredibly fast. Only when you die, and if an enemy is close to the foreground do you see how awesome the robots or dragon creatures look.

The level design is quite basic. The floors are coloured in bi- or tri-tonal chequered patterns and change colour with every stage. The skies tend to have multi-coloured horizontal stripes patterns. The backgrounds contain minimal detail, but you don’t really have time to admire them as your attention is on the incoming enemies and pillars.

Music & SFX

When I began writing this review, I had to go back and play a few levels just to listen to the music. The music is actually good and fits the game well but because of the on-screen action, my brain seemed to filter it out.

I loved the vocalised “Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. Get Ready!” at the beginning of the game. Is it me, or does the sound Space Harrier makes when he does is very similar to Altered Beast (1988)?

I also like the fact that when you hit an enemy, there are two distinctive sounds to indicate whether the enemy has taken damage or not.

Replay Value

For me, there isn’t much replay value with this game unless you are a fan of rail shooters. I doubt I will return to this game again. There isn’t even a two-player mode to compete against a friend with.

I really like the enemy sprite designs (screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes, although it took me around 16 continues. If we equate this to £1 per continue, it took me £16 to complete. That’s not too bad…or is it? I don’t know how to gauge these things. My final score was 29438560.

Spoiler Alert!

I felt cheated when I beat the game. A message appears simply stating “The End”, and that’s it!

What The Critics Said:

Computer and Video Games: “What makes it so interesting is, other than the fast and exciting game play and clear bright graphics, is that the machine will judge for itself how proficient you are, and change the level of difficulty accordingly, sometimes within the same screen.” No Rating.[1]

Sinclair User Magazine: “The fabulously colourful 3D graphics, the movement of the sit-in cabinet were, and still are, breathtaking. The first thing you’ll notice about Space Harrier as you climb into the pilot’s seat is the seatbelt. It makes you wonder what type of ride you’re in for. Take it from me – it’s turbulent. Still using the basic blast-everything -which-moves theme, Space Harrier hurls you up, down, left and right while managing to tilt the cabinet in a roll in whatever direction you push your joystick. It’s hair-raising and great fun.” No Rating.[2]

Computer Gamer: “The game is basically of the shoot anything that moves, and if it doesn’t explode get out of the way, type – but the graphics are extremely good, and the 3D effects are quite good.” No Rating.[3]

My Verdict

“This game is fast and furious, and the way the original cabinet would move you around as you played must have been revolutionary. Without the cabinet, the game is probably a lot of fun for rail shooter fans, but I came away from it feeling like I’d not actually done that much. The sprites look great, and the controls are tight, but I don’t think there is that much skill required for this game, and I don’t feel like playing it again.”

Rating

What are your memories of Space Harrier? 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] Edgeley, C., ‘Arcade Action – Space Harrier’. Computer and Video Games. (Feb 1986). :83.

[2]  ‘The Arcade Coin-Op Giants for 1987 – Space Harrier’. Sinclair User Magazine. (Feb 1987). Issue 59:92.

[3] ‘Coin-Op Connection – Space Harrier’. Computer Gamer. (March 1986). Number 12:26.

Shinobi – Review

I can’t speak for females, but I would wager that most boys (and men come to think of it) have fantasised about being a ninja at one point in their lives. The idea of being a stealthy assassin dressed in black and wielding “cool” weapons such as nunchaku, shuriken, and kusarigama is an appealing fantasy…until you realise the amount of training and self-discipline one would need to achieve such expertise. Thank God for video games, eh?

Titlescreen (screenshot taken by the author)

Shinobi is a side-scrolling hack-and-slash action game. It was developed and published by Sega and released in the arcade in 1987. It was ported to the following:

  • Master System (1988)
  • Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, NES, PC Engine (Japan only) and ZX Spectrum (1989)
  • Wii Virtual Console and Xbox Live Arcade
  • PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as part Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009)
  • Nintendo Switch as part of Sega Ages series (2020).

Plot

The evil Zeed Terrorist Organization have kidnapped young students who belong to the clan of ninja master Joe Musashi. Joe must battle through a number of levels dodging gunshots and flying swords in order rescue his students.

Rescue the hostages by walking into them (screenshot taken by the author)

Gameplay

The controls are very basic. You can walk, crouch, jump and attack. Depending on your proximity to the enemy will determine if your throw a shuriken or kick. There is only one movement speed, but you can jump into the background and back into the foreground to evade enemies and save your students. You have an unlimited supply of shuriken and when you rescue certain hostages, they are replaced by a gun. You can also find a katana to replace your melee attack too. If things gets too tough, you can use your ninjitsu attack, but only once per level. Your ninjitsu attack changes Depending on the level: thunderstorm, tornado, or doppelganger.

Although you can harmlessly bump into enemies, this is a one hit kill game. If you are killed, the stage begins again minus the hostages that you have saved (if you saved any that is). This game has infinite continues and you will simply restart the stage (apparently this does not happen if you run out of lives on the final stage though).

Each level has a time limit of three minutes. You can gain points by finishing the stage quickly, and refraining from using your special attacks or melee attacks. After each boss, you will fight in a bonus game where, from a first-person perspective, you must throw shuriken at encroaching enemy ninjas. Winning this bonus round will gain you an extra life.

Complete the bonus stage to gain an extra life (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

This game handles incredibly well. The controls are very responsive allowing you to duck or jump and evade enemy attacks. Also, the ability to jump to and from the background adds an element of tactical gameplay too. The game isn’t as fast and furious as The Legend of Kage (1985) but I think the characters look and move more realistically.

The bonus stage was a nice little addition too, to break up the gameplay and offer something a little different.

One of the frustrating aspects to the game are the beige coloured enemies who guard the captives. They have three attacks: they swing their sword, throw their sword at you, or throw their sword in the style of a boomerang. It is difficult to determine what the sword is going to do.

Also, I found the first boss much tougher than the ones at the end of stages two and three. It was incredibly difficult to judge the flight of the fireballs that he shoots.

Graphics

The graphics aren’t ground-breaking but I still I think the game looks good. The sprites aren’t, as detailed or as colourful as the likes of Rastan (1987) or Ninja Gaiden (1988) but I prefer them to The Legend of Kage (1985) and Captain Silver (1987). There is enough detail about the sprites to make them interesting to look at. Th levels and backgrounds are good too, but not very memorable.

Music and SFX

The main music from the first two stages and the boss battle have a good beat and fits very well with this style of game. It returns for later stages and is quite memorable for me, but the other music from the game doesn’t seem to stick in my mind.

I like the voice over stating the mission numbers at the beginning and end of each mission as well as the “Welcome to Bonus Stage” introduction to the bonus stage. The SFX in general are fine. There are no annoying sounds or trings that drive you nuts.

Upgrade your shuriken to the more powerful pistol (screenshot taken by the author)

Replay Value

I think there is replay value to this game because, although it is very difficult, it is very fun to play and I can see myself returning to again.

Did I Complete The Game?

No, as of yet, I cannot get past the first stage of mission four.

What The Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games: “Fast moving and very challenging, Shenobi is well worth playing. I particularly liked it for the controls which weren’t too complex. A straightforward kick and punch game with bags of action.” No rating.[1]

Sinclair User: “Conventional combat ideas – but the gameplay makes up to make a winner. Overall 8/10.[2]

Commodore User: “Shinobi doesn’t break much new ground but nevertheless bares the hallmarks of a coin-op wow. It’s tough, but not so tough that you lose interest. It combines several different kinds of shoot ‘em and beat ‘em up action in one well thought out, well executed game. It looks good, it plays brilliantly and it’s coming to an arcade near your soon. Overall 8/10.[3]

Verdict:

“I like this game. It’s fun and it’s the sort of game I would have spent all my money on in the arcades. There’s nothing ground-breaking about it but there doesn’t need to be. Good music, good graphics…simply a solid game.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Shinobi? 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 Action – Shenobi’. Computer & Video Games. (March 1988). Issue 77:92-3.

[2] ‘Coin-Ops – Shinobi’. Sinclair User. (June 1988). Number 75:83.

[3] Kelly, N., ‘Arcades – Shinobi’. Commodore User. (February 1988). Number 54:104.

Fantasy Zone – Review

In this world of almost unlimited access to video games through emulation, we forget sometimes that once certain games were only released in selected countries. I myself used to own a Honey Bee, which allowed me to play Japanese games on my Mega Drive. Although ported to consoles around the world, as far as I can tell, the Fantasy Zone arcade cabinet could only be found in Japan. It proved very popular in Japan and so it is anyone’s guess as to why it was never exported to Europe or the US.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Fantasy Zone is a side-scrolling shooter developed and released by Sega. It was released for the arcade in 1986 and was later ported to the Master System, MSX, NES, Sharp X68000 and PC Engine. Each port contained slight alterations to the game. Later releases include:

  • PlayStation 2 as part of Sega Classics Collection (1996), although there were some very noticeable changes to the graphics.
  • Sega Saturn as part of Sega Ages (1997)
  • Mobile devices in 2002 and 2003
  • Virtual Console (2008)
  • PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009)
  • Nintendo 3DS (3D port) as part of 3D Fantasy Zone: Opa-Opa Bros. (2014).

For this review, I played the version found onSonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Unlike many other side-scrolling shoot ’em ups, you can turn and fly in the other direction (screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

The Fantasy Zone, a solar system with 8 planets, is under threat from the evil Menons who are using foreign money, acquired by illicit means, to build a force of flying monsters. You must destroy the Menons and recover as many coins as possible along the way.

Gameplay

You control a sentient spaceship called Opa-Opa. Armed with your Twin Shot gun and single bombs, you have 8 stages to conquer. In each stage you must destroy 10 specific ships in order to collect the coins they drop. Once you have collected all the coins from one planet, you can move on to the next…after a boss battle, of course. Oh, and unlike many shooters I’ve played, this one allows you to turn around and fly in the opposite direction.

Throughout the stages, you will occasionally see a balloon which has the word ‘Shop’ written across it. Flying into these balloons will allow you access the shop and spend your hard-earned coins on upgrades and weapons:

Shot Type Upgrades:

  • Wide Beam – Damages over a wider area than your Twin Shot
  • Laser Beam – Incredibly powerful laser
  • 7-Way Shot – Shoots in 7 directions at once

Bomb Type Upgrades:

  • Twin Bombs – Launches two bombs at once
  • Fire Bombs – When it hits its target, it fires out a blast in two directions destroying everything in its path
  • Smart Bomb – Damages every enemy on the screen
  • Heavy Bomb – Drop to smash through anything it comes into contact with.

Speedup Parts (Each upgrade allows your ship to fly faster):

  • Big Wings
  • Jet Engine
  • Turbo Engine
  • Rocket Engine

Other:

  • Extra Life

Weapons and bomb power-ups have a limited number of ammo. When they run out, your ship will revert back to your default weapon.

Beware, one hit from an enemy and your ship will get destroyed, losing and power-ups you have bought!

Don’t be fooled by the cutsie appearance, this game is tough (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The controls are very responsive, allowing you to quickly evade enemies. You can keep your thumb on the fire button to release a steady stream of fire, or quickly tap the fire button for more rapid fire.

As the levels progress, the main enemies you need to kill require more hits to be destroyed and the screen becomes busier with smaller enemies increasing the level difficulty.

Graphics

This game is very bright and colourful. There is plenty to look at and take in and the many enemy creatures are nicely illustrated and animated. At first glance, you can be forgiven for thinking this is aimed at kids. After all, compared to the likes of Alcon, Darius and Lifeforce (also released in 1986) the graphics have a very cartoon-like feel. These graphics will sit well with some but not with others who may desire a more adult look to their games.

Music and SFX

I quite like the music. It has a good beat and I found myself bopping along to it as I attempted to evade the many flying enemies. The change in tone to a lower register for the boss battles adds a feeling of danger. You find yourself saying “Right, here we go”.

When shooting the enemies where you gain the main coins from, the noise changes slightly which I though was a nice touch, and there is a satisfying ‘boing’ sound when you blow up the smaller flying enemies.

Replay Value

There is an addictiveness to this game as well as an element of competition in two-player mode. It is a pity that two players can’t play at the same time but it is understandable as it would likely take away the option to scroll the screen in both directions.

As the levels progress, the main enemies take more shots to kill (screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

At present, I can only get to the third planet.

What The Critics Said:

At present, I have been unable to find a contemporary review for the arcade version.

Verdict

“It may look cute, but it doesn’t play cute. This game is a real challenge! Bright and colourful, with nice music, its simplicity is also its appeal.”

Rating

What are your memories of Fantasy Zone? 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.

Congo Bongo – Review

There will always be a debate about emulation vs original hardware. Some argue that you can only experience the true essence of a game upon playing the original. Others aren’t that fussed or simply can’t afford or access the original hardware. Why should they miss out? I tend to fall into the later category. I would never have played Congo Bongo had it not been for emulation…and I’m glad I did.

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Congo Bongo (also known as Tip Top) is a platform game developed and released by Sega for the arcade in 1983. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3.

Plot

One night, deep in the jungle, an unnamed safari explorer has his tent set on fire by a huge ape named Bongo. The explorer then proceeds to chase Bongo to try and capture him.

Gameplay

The explorer must pursue Bongo across four screens. Whilst in pursuit, there are a number of obstacles for you to evade and conquer. These include jumping across water, dodging other jungle creatures who wish you harm, or evading coconuts thrown by Bongo. You are unable to attack any of the other jungle animals, but you can jump over them to avoid being hit by them.

The four stages include:

  • Stage 1 – The hunter must climb a series of cliffs whilst dodging coconuts thrown at him by Bongo and avoiding the smaller monkeys that try to throw him off the ledges.
  • Stage 2 – The hunter must cross a swamp by riding on the backs of diving and swimming hipposs. There are also poisonous snakes and scorpions to avoid.
  • Stage 3 – The hunter must cross a plain and crouch into holes to evade the horns of charging rhinos. He must then climb more ledges to get to the next stage.
  • Stage 4 – The hunter crosses a second swamp with lily pads, fish, and hippos. Once you reach the other side of the swamp, you must dodge more charging rhinos that are blocking the ledges where you can capture bongo.

One you reach the end of level four the game repeats from the first level with increased difficulty.

Watch out for the cocnuts! (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

I think our hero moves at a good speed and is easy to control once you gets used to the isometric view. I find it helps to rotate my controller to match the directions he will go on the screen. The jumping is tight too. No complaints there. As you can imagine from old arcade games, this is a tough game to master. I think I’ve only ever managed to get to level five or six before losing all my lives.

Graphics

I think this game looks great for 1983. I love the blue of the water, and the animation of our hero as he climbs out of the holes and climbs up the ledges of the mountains. I think the animals are nicely animated too. No issues for me here.

Music & SFX

There is no intro music or in-game music, but there is a nice little piece of celebration music as you pass each level which for some reason reminds me more of a wild west game than it does a jungle game. There is also a strange little riff when you die and float up to heaven.

The noise that the coconuts make as they are being thrown and bounce down the mountains is annoying, as is the low level bassy noise when the rhinos are on screen.

Replay Value

I can imagine that when this game was released it had tons of replay value. I can envisage groups of friends hanging around the machine seeing who could get the highest score. I can also see this game being quite addictive too. There is something about it which draws you back to it.

Did I Complete The Game?

I don’t think this sthe sort of game you can complete but I only reached level five or six before losing all my lives.

I didn’t know there rhinoceroses in the jungle?! (screenshot taken by the author)

What The Critics Said:

Computer and Video Games:  “Donkey Kong in three dimensions is the fascinating idea behind Tip Top. (No rating)“.[1]

My Verdict:

“I think this would have been a good game in its day. I like the look of it, but the music just doesn’t fit for me. It is also incredibly difficult. Other than that, I can see this game becoming addictive.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Congo Bongo? 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: Jungle Revenge in 3D – Tip Top’. Computer and Video Games. (July 1983). Issue 21:30.

Golden Axe Warrior – Review

It is always a pleasant surprise when you find out that a game that evokes so many fond memories from your childhood has prequels and sequels. Sadly, some of these are often vastly inferior to the original and are clearly a quick cash in for game companies. However, some are rather interesting, especially when a different genre is attempted. I’d never heard of Golden Axe Warrior until I began playing Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Golden Axe Warrior is single-player action-adventure role-playing game. It was developed and published by Sega and released for the Master System in 1991. It would later be released as part of the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For this review, I played the version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009) for the Playstation 3.

A spin-off of the Golden Axe franchise, I was unable to find out where it fits into the series (if, in fact, it does). It is possible that it may simply be a reboot in a different genre.

Plot

In ancient times, a race of evil giants rose up and fought the Elders. At one point, it looked as though the giants would emerge victorious…but from imminent defeat emerged a hero carrying the Golden Axe bestowed upon him by Thor, God of Thunder. This unnamed hero put down the giant’s rebellion and peace ensued in the kingdoms of Firewood, Nendoria and Altorulia for many years.

As time passed, the war was nearly forgotten until the evil giant Death Adder eyed the kingdoms greedily. He first conquered Nendoria and Altorulia but could not invade Firewood as the kingdom was protected by nine magic crystals. One day, a greedy minister betrayed the King of Firewood, stole the crystals, and gave them to Death Adder, allowing him to finally invade and defeat the kingdom.

An unnamed young hero (you) soon sets out to recover the nine crystals, find the Golden Axe and defeat Death Adder. To do this, you must locate, and search nine labyrinths created by Death Adder and guarded by his armies of minions.

Gameplay

Starting out with a short sword and a shield, you must begin to explore the world one screen at a time. Each screen will spawn a differing array of monsters both in appearance and difficulty. Defeating these enemies will allow you to pick up horns, which you can use to buy items, health, and magic potions. Occasionally you’ll come across towns where the inhabitants offer tips on where to go next. Some even lead you to secret objects. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to acquire better weaponry and armour. You can also learn the Thunder, Earth, Fire and Water magics.

There are many shops dotted throughout the map where you can buy items. These include:

Magic Oil – Use when your armour gets rusty (flashes).

Golden Apple – Fills up your life gauge.

Magic feather – Whisks you away from danger and back to where you last saved your progress.

Small Key – Can be bought or found and used open locked doors in the labyrinths.

Other items to look out for include:

Yellow Horn – Worth 1 horn.

Blue horn – Worth 5 horns.

Bread – Increases your life guage a little.

Meat – Increases your life guage a lottle (like a little but a lot).

Heart – Adds an extra heart to your life gauge.

Magic potion – Will fill an empty magic pot (if your magic gauge is full, it will add another pot to it increasing your magic gauge).

Ice Bell – Allows you to see rocks that can be smashed open.

Torch – Allows you to light up dark rooms.

Magic Rope – Allows you to ascend and descend certain parts of the mountains.

Thief’s Key – Opens locked doors in labyrinths and can be used Infinitely.

Speed Shoes – Make you run faster.

Hourglass – Freezes all monsters on screen for a short time.

Don’t forget to be on the lookout for sages where you can save your progress and inns where you can pay to stay the night and restore your health.

You will need to make your own map to record all the secrets you find (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Although the manual contains a map of the world, annoyingly, the map in your inventory is a blue-lined grid which tells you basically nothing about where you have been and where you yet need to explore. It stays black the entire time. However, this does allow a bit of old school mapmaking and note taking to do yourself…which I find fun!

Your sprite is easy to control but there is an element of finesse to the fighting. For example, when your enemies are throwing their weapons at you, you can manoeuvre yourself to block the attacks with your shield. You must also ensure you are not swinging your weapon at this time else you will take damage.

Graphics

First of all, I love the title screen. Definitely the sort of imagery that would have a younger version of myself chomping at the bit to go on a fantastical adventure.

The hud is unintrusive and allows you to keep track of the magic crystals you find, the number of horns you loot, your life and magic gauges, and the weapon/item you are wielding.

I think the in-game graphics are good for an 8-bit system, and better than any top-down RPG I’ve seen on the NES (prove me wrong gamers). However, I don’t think they compare to the quality of Phantasy Star’s (1987) introduction, or open world graphics where the towns and sprites are more detailed and colourful.

The labyrinths are where you’ll find the magic crystals (screenshot taken by the author)

Music & SFX

I quite like the intro music. It gets the blood pumping. The in-game music is good too. There is a relaxed, mellow air when you walk around the villages but when you’re out in the open it takes it up a gear with a melody that will get stuck in your head whilst you reach for your sword and prepare to charge at your enemies!

I don’t really think there is much to comment to discuss where the SFX are concerned. There is a semi-pleasing explosive noise when you kill an enemy, and a rewarding noise of some description when you pick up a goody, but these sounds are very forgettable.

Replay Value

As much as I enjoyed this game, I can’t say I would return to it as I don’t think there could be enough variation in the game to warrant a second run through.

Spoiler Alert

Keep an eye out for the cameos of Gilius Thunderhead, Ax Battler and Tyris Flare (in this game she is a princess).

Along the way, you’ll find faster modes of transport (screenshot taken by the author)

What The Critics Said:

Mean Machines: “It’s no sequel to Golden Axe – instead Golden Axe Warrior is an unsurprising and uninteresting role playing game. Overall 40%.[1]

Sega Power: “An arcade adventure based on the Golden Axe characters. Akin to Golvellius, this is a flick-screen quest for amgic and monsters. Pretty, but too tame for true RPGers. Overall 2/5.[2]

My Verdict:

“I have a soft spot for this game and had a fun time playing it and creating my own map. I think it has been harshly judged by critics who unfairly compared it to Zelda: A Link to the Past, in which it can never match in graphics or music, and called it a poor clone. I still think this game is worth playing.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Golden Axe Warrior? 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 Hard Line – Golden Axe Warrior’. Sega Power. (October 1991). Issue 23:57.

[2] ‘Master System Review: Golden Axe Warrior’. Mean Machines. (April 1991). Issue 7:72-3.

Alien Syndrome – Review

Sadly, I was a bit too young to experience the heyday of the arcade. Being born in 1983, the closest arcade we had was at the Rotunda Amusement Park in Folkestone, England. My parents took me there a handful of times but mainly for the rides. We only ventured into the arcade to play a few games. I remember playing either Hang-On or Super Hang-On where my father had to help me shift my weight on the bike to steer. I also recall a clay pigeon shooting game, but we mostly stuck to playing pinball machines. By the time I began to venture into arcades on my own as a teenager, many of the games had been replaced by fruit machines. There was still a good selection of video games but my pocket money would never last as long I wished it to. Nowadays, the Rotunda has long since gone, and the nearest arcade is over 20 miles away. C’est la vie!

Title screen (screenshot taken by the author)

Alien Syndrome is a run and gun game that can be played in single-player or two-player co-op mode. It was developed and published by Sega and released in the arcade in 1987. A year later, it would be ported to Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, NES (published by Tengen), Master System and MSX. Later ports also appear on the ZX Spectrum in 1989, Game Gear and Sharp X68000 in 1992. For this review, I played the arcade version found as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Plot

An alien fleet as appeared in our solar system and has captured has captured a large number of humans. You must travel from ship to ship and rescue 10 captives for n each before a bomb explodes killing all on board.

Gameplay

You can play as either Ricky or Mary (or both in two-player mode). As you run around the ship looking for captives to free, you will encounter many weird and hostile aliens. You are armed with a gun and will find many power-ups along the way including flame throwers and lasers. Once you have rescued enough captives, you will be told to head for the exit. Once through the exit, you will encounter a boss battle. Once that boss is defeated, you will head to the next alien ship. However, there is time limit so be careful you don’t take too long rescuing the captives. To rescue the captives, simply walk into them.

Shoot those blobs! (screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

The controls are tight, much needed for a game of this sort. You are able to fire in eight directions and there is a nice array of different weapons, each with their own merits. These can be found by looking for metallic doors with letters painted on them (L for Laser etc.). You can’t hurt your partner or the captives so I’d recommend pounding that fire button!

Each level also contains maps that are attached to the walls. When you walk near one, a small map appears which shows the exit and locations of the other captives.

This game is very difficult and unforgiving, and you will die a lot!. It’s one of those games that older gamers would tell younger gamers about whilst stating things like “Games were harder when I were a lad!”. The difficulty does diminish the fun a little, but I think that if you had a dedicated friend who was willing to play a few hours with you, I reckon it would be completable.

Graphics

The graphics look good. Certainly not as colourful as the likes of Gauntlet (1985), but the backgrounds and levels are certainly more detailed and interesting to look at. There are also levels (like Level 3) where enemies rise and fall giving the game a real feeling of depth. The enemy sprites are more detailed and are nicely animated too.

Music & SFX

At the beginning of every level, a robotic voice states “The time bomb is set!” which is a nice touch as it adds to the tension of the level.

The music is there, but I think you become so engrossed in what’s going on that it is easy to forget it’s there. Add to that the constant zapping from your weapons and I think your brain seems to filter the music out. I’m sure you would miss it though if it wasn’t there.

Replay Value

There are many ways to increase the difficulty of the levels including adjusting the difficulty setting, number of lives and by reducing the timer limit. The two-player co-op mode also adds to the replay value because it is quite a fun game to play with a friend.

Don’t be fooled by this weird brain-type thing, the bosses are tough (screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

No. At present, I can’t get past the second boss on my own and couldn’t get past Level 4 in two-player mode.

What The Critics Said:

Computer & Video Games: “It is a classic L and R job with the usual high strains of play and presentation expected from Sega. Overall 8/10.[1]

My Verdict:

“This game is tough…but fun. You just enjoy running around the levels blasting away to your heart’s content, especially in two-player mode.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alien Syndrome? 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] ‘Mean Machines – Alien Syndrome’. Computer & Video Games. (April 1988). Issue 78:23.

Altered Beast (Arcade) – Review

One of the great things about emulation is that you get to play arcade games that you didn’t get the chance to experience first time around. Compared to their console ports, the arcade versions usually had better graphics and sound…but are a lot harder!

Title screen (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. I have already reviewed the Mega Drive version of Altered Beast (1989). For this review, I played the arcade version found on Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).

Smash your way through a graveyard filled with the undead (Screenshot taken by the author)

Plot

“Rise from your grave!” commands 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.

Gameplay

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.

The Gothic organ that plays over the cutscenes is awesome (Screenshot taken by the author)

How Does It Handle?

Interestingly, there is quite a difference between the Mega Drive version and the arcade version. For example, the punching and kicking is noticeably slower in the arcade version. This all changes, however, once you transform into your beastie. Your speed increases significantly and you pretty much fly around the screen, which you don’t do when playing the Mega Drive version. The arcade version also sees a slight delay when you try to jump higher because our hero crouches briefly before leaping. This adds an element of realism to the game but takes some getting used to.

Graphics

Being an arcade version, the graphics are obviously superior to any of the console ports, especially where the backgrounds are concerned. The sky on Level One, for example, blends the different shades of blue seamlessly, and the sprites themselves are smoother and more detailed with more vibrant colours. The two-headed dogs, for instance, are more defined and you can actually see what they are. As a kid, I thought they were some kind of bull. When you kill an enemy, rather than just explode, bits of their broken torso fly at the screen towards you which is a gory but cool touch. The animations for when you transform into your beast look great and your attacks are better illustrated and animated. I also like the fact that when you are greeted by Neff at the end of the level, you actually see him grow before he turns into the boss which is a nice little addition. After the boss fight, Neff’s head appears and sucks the orbs out from you, returning you to your puny self. The blue field that surrounds you whilst he does this looks great.

Music and SFX

The music itself isn’t all that memorable but I do like the way that for each level, it starts off quite understated but jacks up when you transform into your beast, and for when you fight the boss battle. The best music from this game, though, comes during the cut scenes. When the purple disc appears showing the various stages of Neff’s ritual, a creepy, Gothic organ plays over the top. It certainly sends a shiver down my spine.

When you collect an orb, your hero proclaims “power up” as he grows into a more muscular version of himself. This is so iconic that I’d wager any gamer worth their salt upon hearing that soundbite would be able to tell you what game it came from.

I also like when you meet Neff and he states, “Welcome to your doom!”. In the arcade version he actually sounds scary, as oppose to the raspy greeting your get on the Mega Drive.

Collect three orbs and become magical beast (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I Complete The Game?

Yes

What The Critics Said:

The Games Machine: “Altered Beast is an interesting coin-op in that while not being a highly visual game like Space Harrier, Out Run and the like, it offers enough in its gameplay warrant a good play. Overall Positive.[1]

Commodore User: “…the gameplay really doesn’t vary greatly, or increase markedly in toughness. Still, a cleaver game, and still worth a few tens of anybody’s money.  Overall 7/10.[2]

My Verdict:

“Although the graphics are clearly superior to any port version, the action when you’re human is slowed down and gives the game a laboured pace. Disappointing really as even the arcade version falls short of what could’ve been so much better.”

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] ‘Confrontation Co-op – Altered Beast’. The Games Machine. (November 1988). Issue 12:30-1.

[2] Kelly, N., ‘Arcades – Altered Beast’. Commodore User. (September 1988). Issue 60:94-5.