NES Collection #005: 720 Degrees Review

I knew I was going to be playing some bad games in this collection, but this is disgraceful.

Game: 720 Degrees

Platforms: NES, GBC

Price: ~$5

This game is awful. I already don’t really like skateboarding games, but this game did nothing to change that. Awful controls, graphics, and sound absolutely destroy this game.

Let’s start with the gameplay. The game takes place on a “world map” where 4 events and shops are located. The events are: Jump, where your character jumps off a few ramps to do tricks; Ramp, where your character does tricks in a half pipe; Slalom, where your character goes between sets of flags; and Downhill, where your character attempts to follow a winding course downhill. At the shops, equipment can be purchased.


Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Unfortunately, the controls let it down. Skateboarding games need tight controls to work, but 720 feels sloppy. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience to move your skateboard down the courses, and even more frustrating to do tricks to earn points. Points are necessary to earn more tickets for events (you only start with three) but even this is executed poorly: you can usually earn enough points without tricks from slalom and downhill to get the final ticket for each class. Once you move up a class you’ll inevitably be killed by killer bees three times for being too slow, but you can contiue from this class anyway, and the cycle starts over. There’s no punishment for losing.

The graphics and sound are also bad. The graphics often have awful colours placed next to each other, creating a disgusting assault on the eyes, and the music is some awful attempt at recreating the “hip” tunes the kids are into, you, dawg. Needless to say, the chiptunes fail miserably.

Upon completion of the fourth and final class, you continue from that class forever, like 10-Yard Fight. Unlike 10-Yard Fight, there’s nothing here to keep you coming back – at least that game had decent controls.

Positives

+ It trys to be a decent skateboard game

2.fw

Negatives

Frustrating Controls

– Poor Graphics

– Awful Music

NES Collection #004: 3-D Worldrunner Review

Before Square found fame with Final Fantasy, they focused on other, less successful games, like this one.

Game: 3-D Worldrunner

Platforms: NES

Price: ~$8

Solar System #517 is under attack, and it’s up to you to stop it. 3-D Worldrunner is a sci-fi platforming game that is so far the most visually impressive game I’ve seen on the NES.

It’s visuals are impressive because the entire game is 3D, like racing games from the period. Your character can move a whole 360 degrees round the world, and take whichever course you want – although some courses are easier than others. The actual enemies themselves aren’t super detailed, but it’s enough to tell the differences between them. Pressing the select button switches the game into 3D mode, which can be used with the old red-and-blue 3D glasses. I couldn’t get this to work though, I think due in part to my lack of a CRT monitor.


The gameplay is also well executed. The stage scrolls towards you, but you can speed up or slow your character. Running into poles will give you items, such as a gun, that can then be used on the enemies of the level. You’ll also have to navigate over chasms, small and large. It’s decent platforming, and offers enough of a challenge. The end of each world has a boss battle against a dragon that requires you to move around the screen and shoot at it.

My complaints here are that the gameplay gets a little repetitive, and the difficulty has a massive spike in world 6, which requires you to jump on top of pillars to get across the chasm. I actually couldn’t get past this, it was too difficult for me, and just feels really unfair.

The game offers some replayability with a hard mode that speeds up all enemies by two.

All in all, this is a pretty good platformer that’s well ahead of its time in graphics. I’m giving it 4/5 objectively and 3/5 subjectively.

Positives

+ Great Graphics

+ Solid Gameplay

7/10

Negatives

– Slightly Repetitive

– Artificial Difficulty Spike

NES Collection #003: 1943: The Battle of Midway Review

This sequel to 1942 loses the simplicity of the old one, but becomes a much better console game in the process.

Game: 1943: The Battle of Midway
Platforms: Arcade, NES
Price: ~$20

From the moment I started up this game, I knew it was going to be better than 1942. The graphics just look so much better, and the movement is much more fluid. 

The basic premise is the same: you, a lone fighter pilot, are tasked with destroying the entire Japanese amarda. Even though this premise remains the same, the gameplay has been tweaked to create a more engaging console experience.

Firstly, you can earn points to upgrade your plane throughout the game. These upgrades range from defense to fuel to attack and special weapons. Hang on, fuel? Yes, fuel. This game introduces a sort of timer mechanic that means your plane loses fuel throughout the level and when hit by an attack. This means the one hit deaths of 1942 have disappeared, and now the game can throw some harder situations at you, without it feeling unfair.

Special weapons also receive an upgrade. The “POW”-erups that were present in the last game now contain much-needed fuel. Shooting at them can turn them into other powerups such as burst weapons. Another new weapon is the weather attacks, a press of the A button in game results in an elemental attack, such as lighting, disabling the weapons of everything on screen. Both weapon powerups and elemental attacks require a lot of fuel though, so there’s an element of strategy to when or if you use them.

Level design has also received an overhaul. Now each level contains two stages: the first, consisting of planes, bombers, and all the weaker enemies; and a boss section, which can, for example, take place closer to the ocean. Bosses range from cruisers to aircraft carriers to giant planes, or even just a relentless assault from bombers. This is a much better design than the fairly similar level designs of 1942, which were only broken up by the occasional boss battle.


My one major complaint with this game was that it can feel unfair at times, when it just doesn’t need to be. I have no doubt that I will encounter artificially difficult games in this NES collection, but this shouldn’t be one of them. Planes will cole straight for you, with no way of dodging them. Some planes can drop below your line of fire, making them more difficult to kill. I would have much rather preferred some proper strategy here, because 1942 didn’t have this problem to the extreme that 1943 does. A midpoint between the difficulty styles of the two games needed to be reached. There was some minor stuttering occasionally, but nothing major.

I regret to say I couldn’t finish this game. It was too similar to 1942, and the difficulty just felt unfair. Maybe one day I’ll finish this, but for now I have to move on.

1943 is a definite improvement on the previous installment, with numerous gameplay and design enhancements, and so I’m giving it a 4/5 objectively. Subjectively though, although I appreciated the game I just couldn’t get into it, so I’m giving it a 3/5.

Positives

+ Good Level Design

+ Gameplay enhancements

7/10

Negatives

– Unfair difficulty

NES Collection #002: 1942 Review

Scrolling shooters are one of those games that I think everyone is exposed to at some point. 1942 was one of the earliest examples of those types of games, and the NES version was a port of the arcade version. But can this port hold up without the constant need to input quarters?

Game: 1942

Platforms:
NES, Old Computers; Gameboy Colour; PS2, Xbox, Wii

Price:
~$20.00 on eBay

1942 is set during World War II, in the Pacific Theatre. The player controls an aircraft called the “Super Ace”, and is tasked with destroying the entire Japanese airforce. Upon starting the game, the screen displays “level 32” and the game counts down from there. Along the way, there are four evenly-distributed boss fights.

The game consists of shooting down enemy aircraft, and occasionally shooting down a formation will result in a power-up, such as two planes joining you or an extra canon. The gameplay is wonderfully simple, and is executed well, but it is the other aspects of this game that bring it down.

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The graphics are average, but the biggest graphical problem was the difficulty in distinguishing between planes and the occasional island that appears on the quest. Bullets and green planes especially fail to stand out on the sand or grass of the islands, and for a game built on dodging those things, that’s a pretty big problem. Additionally, I found that enemy aircraft would clip into the background, and sometimes the game itself experienced lag when there were a great deal of enemies on-screen.

The music is pretty bad. It consists of a militaristic march-like rhythm played on a single note and a snare drum. The only musical variation occurs when the player dies or when the player completed a mission successfully. Although the rhythm was a little catchy, it got boring pretty quickly. Something with more variety would have been better suited to this game.

The difficulty level in this game is also bizarre; it’s generally slowly rising, but I found the last boss to be the easiest and the final level was comparable to the first in terms of difficulty. When I got stuck, I found I could leave the game for an hour, come back to it with a refreshed mind, and then sweep through the level I was having trouble with as well as the next few levels. You have three lives in this game; if you lose all three you can continue from the title screen, which starts you at the last level you died. As far as I know though, You can’t save, so if you want to get through the whole thing, you’ll need to leave your console on.

1942 wasn’t the worse game I’ve ever played, but it wasn’t very good either. I give it 2/5 objectively and 3/5 subjectively

Positives

+ Simple yet effective gameplay

+ Arcade fun

5.fw

Negatives

– Graphical issues

– Awful music

– Occasional moments of boredom in the 32 levels

NES Collection #001: 10-Yard Fight Review

I’m not the biggest sports person, and for a while I considered skipping this title because it’s an American football game, and I’m not American. I decided to stick with it, and it was an interesting experience.

Game: 10-Yard Fight
Platforms: Arcade, NES
Price: They go for around $6 on eBay, but there were some more expensive versions when I looked.

10-Yard Fight is one of the most simple sports games I have ever played: it wouldn’t be out of place on mobile devices today. The gameplay is simple; your player starts in a formation, running a ball up the field until your character gets tackled, at which point the first of the tackle (“downs”) begins. After this, your character then has four “downs” to move the ball up another 10 yards, or you can kick the ball to move the ball further back. An interception, a ball kick, or a lack of 10-Yard movement results in a turnover, and the opposition attempts to run the ball past your defences. To defend, you choose from one of two characters, and then run forward to tackle the CPU character in possession of the ball. It may not sound simple from my description here, but it lacks plays or other advanced strategies that irked a lot of other reviewers when I did my reading for this game.

The game has a basic career mode, starting at a high school level and progressing towards the super bowl. Each higher level of difficulty results in a slightly tougher AI, but I found that as I experienced the game, the AI became a pushover, and I was able to defeat the computer every time (eventually winning the super bowl 28-7). Once you defeat the super bowl, you just play it over and over again – there’s no high score system or anything else I know of.

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The design is nothing special; the graphics average; music non-existent. The sound effects that do exist are the pattering of feet on the ground (which admittedly, is a decent tune, but doesn’t last long), a slide-whistle for the ball kick, and a awful chord of noise, which I presume is meant to applause from an audience. The most awful aspect of the game, however, is how slow it is; it takes forever to move anywhere on the field, and running forward feels like wading through a swamp.

I also found some graphical glitches in that players would sometimes fade towards the end of the field, which was a little distracting.

Although this game as its flaws, there were a few moments where my heart beat slightly faster in the excitement of it all, and for an early NES game, that’s a pretty good accomplishment. I give 10-Yard Fight a 2/5 objectively, and a 2.5/5 subjectively.

Positives

+ Encapsulates the feeling of sports well

+ A simple design means anyone, even non-Americans, can play it.

4.5.fw

Negatives

– Graphics are nothing special

– Sound isn’t good

– Simple AI

– Slow movement

New Series Incoming: The Complete NES Collection

First things first, I haven’t had much of a chance to write on this site recently, which is a real shame. I quite enjoy writing here, but my life got too busy and I had to sacrifice some things.

That being said, I do want to continue to write here. 

Today I’m announcing a new series, of something very few have attempted before: I’m going to play through the entire NES library. I missed the NES by many years, and I never had the chance to play some of the “classics” on that system, something which I think would be hugely beneficial to my gaming ability (at the moment, I’m very terrible at higher-difficulty games).

This is going to be a very long-term project, and usual reviews and editorials will continue as normal. Gamesland news will be discontinued, and any important news will be opinionated in an editorial. 

Here’s hoping to a good year in 2017!

Tales from the Borderlands Review

Tales From the Borderlands – Full Season Review

Telltale’s become really famous the past couple of years, in part due to their fantastic emotional storylines and tough decision making gameplay. And when the company announced its partnership with Gearbox Software and 2K Games to deliver Tales from the Borderlands, I was a little surprised. But then I started thinking – and the two seem like they could be a good combination. The art is similar, the world is large, so surely this game would have to be somewhat decent, right?

There’s one problem: I’ve never properly played any Borderlands game. I played about half an hour of the second game with a friend once, but that’s all I had when I started playing Tales from the Borderlands. So I was not discovering whether this game is good from the point of view of someone who is familiar with the franchise, but a newcomer, who knows next to nothing about the world.

Game: Tales from the Borderlands
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS3, XB1, XB360, iOS, Android (mobile versions are the full game)Price: ~$25 USD for the complete season on PC. On other platforms, the first episode can be played for free, and the other episodes can be bought together in a season pass for about ~$25 USD.
A Copy of this Game was Provided for Review

For those of you unfamiliar with Telltale Games, allow me to fill you in on the genre of games they make. Telltale develops episodic adventure games. The games generally revolve around a character that the player controls, and makes decisions, dialogue choices, and also solves basic puzzles to advance the game. Telltale games are known to have tough decisions to make, such as choosing whether to keep a character alive. If that sounds a little boring, its because Telltale games are a heavy, emotional narrative that causes you to become emotionally attached to the characters, which is what makes these decisions so difficult.

Episode One, Zer0 Sum, opens with the player-controlled character Rhys, his accounting buddy Vaughn, and their helpful secretary friend Yvette. Rhys is expecting a promotion at his company, Hyperion, famed for the psychopath Handsome Jack, and Rhys has killed a lot of people to get to his position. However, he finds his rival, Vasquez, at his old boss’s desk, as Rhys’ old boss floats past the window. Vasquez demotes Rhys, and Rhys wants revenge.
To take revenge, Rhys and Vaughn head down to Pandora, the planet their space station orbits around, to take advantage of a deal Vasquez was going to make regarding a “vault key”, which can open a vault which leads to treasure. But the deal starts going wrong.

At this point, we’re introduced to a second player-controlled character, Fiona, at a camp in the future (the majority of this game is told as Rhys and Fiona were telling it to their kidnapper). Fiona promptly explains that Rhys is wrong, and starts telling her side of the story.

Fiona is sisters with Sasha, and they work with their father, Felix (who adopted Fiona and Sasha). They’re con artists, and are attempting their biggest con yet: to sell a fake vault key to a Hyperion employee (Hyperion isn’t liked much on Pandora). This is, of course, how they run into Rhys and Vaughn. A host of unlikely events ensue, and ultimately the characters must work together.

That’s all the necessary context you really need to understand the game, and since so much of this game revolves around the plot, I won’t talk about any other part of the plot in order to prevent spoilers.

Because the plot in this game is really, really, good. I thought episode one was a rather bland affair, with too much backstory, and then it just seems to drag on and on. The first episode took two and a half hours for me to complete, whereas the others only took about two. And even though its only an extra half an hour, in the first episode when you haven’t developed an emotional attachement to the characters, it just seems to drag. But episode two is a lot better. And episode three was even better. And episode four was even better. And episode five was a thrilling and fantastic conclusion to the series. Each episode seems to take everything up a notch, and it really works. In Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I thought the series dropped off a little after episode three. In Tales from the Borderlands, each episode keeps getting better and better. And I think that’s because there’s several constantly developing mysteries that expand over the course of the episodes.

The plot is also helped with the fantastic voice acting. These characters all manage to convey so much with their voices, and also have a varied cast. There’s a few robots, for example, that behave like the other characters in that you can interact with them. The superb acting in this really makes it feel like it’s real. It helps a lot with the immersion.

The graphics in the game are Telltale’s usual affair, cel-shaded graphics, and they looked pretty good. The Steam page says its not recommended for computers with Intel Integrated Graphics, which I have, and so I was surprised the game even ran. I had the graphics on low, but the game still looked nice. The art is superb, and it fits in the Borderlands universe perfectly.

Tales from the Borderlands Full Season Review

An example of the art and humour that is in Tales from the Borderlands

The gamplay was also great. Dialogue choices are displayed on four lines at the bottom of the screen, and you just choose one with your mouse to advance the plot/make a decision. All of the decisions are timed as well, and if you don’t make a decision quickly enough, you say nothing. Fortunately, there’s usually more than enough time to read your options and make a decision. The puzzle solving sequences are nothing complex, but are still enjoyable. They’re usually walking around and pressing some buttons. The action sequences are much more enjoyable, and revolve around quick time events using WASD, Q and E, and mouse clicks. They’re also simple, but some of my favourite moments of the game come from the quick time action events.

Tales from the Borderlands puzzle solving

An example of what the puzzle solving view looks like

I was also somewhat surprised at how good the humour was in this game. There’s some really good moments of genuine humour, such as Rhys and Fiona bickering with each other in the present day, Telltale poking fun at how their games work (such as substituting the infamous _______ will remember that for other things), and general moments of absurdity. I was chuckling at some moments, because this game manages to pull of humour really well.

Tales from the Borderlands humour

Telltale poking fun at themselves with a different message instead of the “remember this” message

But, this game also manages to pull off other emotions great as well. There’s some really saddening moments in this game, and at times you do have to make some tough decisions. Things that seem like small decisions can come back and surprise you later. And the game transitions from humerous moments to sadder moments great as well. No part of this game feels out of place.

However, I think this game has a few problems. The first major one I have is with episode one, I honestly think it was too long for an episode. As I played the rest of the series, I see why episode one was so necessary, but playing it was just so unenjoyable. Episode five felt like it dragged on a bit at the start as well, but it kept having new developments to keep it interesting, so it didn’t stay that way. Episode one doesn’t really have the new developments until the final half an hour, and then it just felt a little too late to get me interested again. So if you download episode one for free to try it out, and you think it drags on a little, trust me, it gets better.

I had two minor problems with the game, which aren’t that big of a deal, but would have been the icing on the cake. The first is that the quick time events would sometimes come out of nowhere, and I would miss them and die. Fortunately, the game only restarts at the start of that scene, which is a five minute wait maximum, so it’s not too bad. Some missed quick time events can be recovered from without a penalty, which is nice. The second is that I didn’t always feel like the choices I made mattered. I feel like some of the major choices of the game would have resulted in the same outcome anyway – and with some reading, I found this to be true, which is a little disappointing from a studio that prides itself on having choices matter. I didn’t have this problem with The Walking Dead, but apparently that was the same way. I had a hunch on this one though. I’m willing to overlook this flaw because the story was really good, and also because there was a section at the end that did have consequences for you depending on how you treated certain characters, and whether you said the right thing at a certain time. I was impressed by that, because I think that’s actually a fairly sizeable consequence, some of which resulted from really small decisions I’d made earlier in the season (and when I say consequence, I don’t necessarily mean something bad).

All in all, I was really impressed by this season. Even though I knew next-to-nothing about the franchise, the game fills you in on the pieces you need to know, and still delivers a fantastic storyline even if you don’t know the franchise. I was reading that sections of this game tie in with The Pre-Sequel!, which is another Borderlands game, so I think if you are a fan you will definitely have an even better time playing through this than I did. In fact, if you are a Borderlands fan than this game is definitely worth playing. If you’re not a Borderlands fan, but want a good, exciting, humourous and tragic sci-fi story, than this game is worth playing. But I think that to some people, the humourous nature and style of this game might not appeal, which is a shame because this game has really good plot twists and is probably one of my favourite games from the past few years.

I found it quite difficult to rate this game, because I probably would have been willing to look past its minor flaws, but I just couldn’t get past how much I found episode one average. I would have given episodes three, four, and five a 10/10 score, but I think overall, this season is dragged down slightly by its first episode, which is a real shame.

Positives

+ Fantastic Plot

+ Fantastic Voice Acting

+ Fantastic Humour

+ Great Graphics

+ Great Gameplay

9.5/10

Negatives

– First Episode was Average Compared to How Good the Rest of the Series Was

– Unexpected Quick Time Events

– Some Decisions Felt Like They Didn’t Matter