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 Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts

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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyFri 9 Apr 2021 - 15:50

Journey is one of these games that I feel almost guilty for not playing. I think I've got it on PS4, maybe this year will be the one where I get round to it.

~

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I finished Micro Maniacs on the PSone over the course of an evening. It was the 2000 follow-up to the fantastic and best-selling Micro Machines V3, but seemed to be a bit unfancied and a bit of a flop at retail. Soon, it made it’s way into every bargain bin up and down the high street, and I remember seeing it for under a fiver all the time. That’s a shame, as neither it’s sales or cost fairly reflect it’s quality. It’s a good game!

Micro Maniacs adopts the tried-and-tested overhead racing view from all the Micro games, though giving it the same 3D twist as the aforementioned Micro Machines V3. However, this time you’re not racing in scaled-down model cars across a snooker table, in a speedboat on top of a bathtub or in a helicopter over a greenhouse. The cover gives the game away: in Micro Maniacs, you’re controlling miniature people instead of miniature vehicles, and you run instead of drive.

There’s a plot about evil doctors shrinking people and giving them superhuman powers, but it’s all a bit unnecessary in a game like this – it just seems to be there so the art designers could show off their animations. I prefer to focus much more on the racing itself, and it’s pretty good. Micro Maniacs is fast, and while that brings some control issues, I felt the speed (and superhuman powers) brought a lot more excitement than problems. The tracks are generally quite good fun as well, with my highlights being a track called Heart Bypass where you’re racing in an operating theatre over a patient’s bed and organs, Full Steam Ahead with it’s model train track and village, and Rush ‘n Flush, where you have to jump into a giant toilet, go through the pipes and come out the bath (?!?). Mostly, the tracks are clever and well designed.

When PSone games seem to be shooting up in price every year, Micro Maniacs has stayed at under a fiver. I don’t necessarily think it’s better than Micro Machines V3, but it’s got enough of it’s own identity to be worth looking at if you like the Micro series. 7/10.
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The_Jaster
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySat 10 Apr 2021 - 20:49

I remember there being a demo disc for that which I played a fair bit as well it being an occasional rental game.
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gjones
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySat 10 Apr 2021 - 21:28

I never saw the appeal of characters running - it just feels wrong. Sonic R is the primary example of this. Do the tiny dudes in Micro Maniacs accelerate and slow down? Do they slide round corners? I'm trying to wrap my head around it all!
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySun 11 Apr 2021 - 8:33

You accelerate with X, but the Micro Maniacs don't slow down round corners - you either need to brake with Square or hop round them with R1.

It's not that much like Sonic R, it's honestly just Micro Machines V3 with a different skin.
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Buskalilly
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySun 11 Apr 2021 - 9:49

I get what Gjones means, though; it just feels wrong compared to cars.

Did they lose the license to the toys or something, I wonder?
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyWed 14 Apr 2021 - 20:59

I don't think they did - there was a remake of the first Micro Machines in 2002, and then Micro Machines V4 came out in 2005ish. I think Micro Maniacs was just a spinoff.

~

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For reasons unknown, I used to make a point of playing through Theme Park World around every Easter. I’m thinking that it was a cheap game to rent from Blockbuster, and one that reliably gave me good value for money throughout my school holiday. Fifteen years after leaving my academy, I decided to renew that tradition. As well as doing hee-haw else during lockdown, I’d fondly remembered Theme Park World’s late 2000 PS2 port as being an addictive and entertaining management sim.

Aye, this is still good stuff. Just like the original PC/SNES/Mega Drive Theme Park before it, in Theme Park World you're put in charge of creating profitable amusement parks. There’s four different 'worlds' here, with themes such as a Horror one, an Outer Space one and a Wonderland. You unlock new theme parks and progress onto them once you've got enough money and Golden Tickets from your previous successful ones. You make your money by having different and exciting rides, rollercoasters, go-kart tracks, shops, features and sideshows. As is the theme park videogame simulator tradition, you can tweak the prices at your various vendors as well, to get more customers through the gates and to extract more profit. You can do things like oversalt the fries to increase your drink sales, and do things like use more ice in those drinks to keep your own costs low. It’s all pretty commonplace stuff for this type of game, but it’s done in an uncomplicated way. Managing the other aspects of your park - such as it’s layout, it’s staffing, it’s finances and the overall mood of your visitors - will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played this type of game before too.

Yet it’s really clear how technologically limited Theme Park World is on the PlayStation 2. Maybe because of system memory and because there’s so much happening on screen, you’re badly restricted with how many ‘things’ you can have in your amusement park. And even then, there’s not much to choose from: generally, there’s only about five rides per world, and one rollercoaster and go-kart track apiece. On top of that is maybe a choice of four sideshows and shops, and about a dozen features. Even at its best, “your park has precious few features. It’s like Norfolk...with a gate”. 

While always entertaining enough even with those limitations in mind, Theme Park World’s major issue is that, cosmetics aside, everything’s always the same. You can honestly approach every single theme park in exactly the same way, do things in the same order and build everything to the same specifications, and you’ll get exactly the same results every playthrough. For that reason, it’s hard for me to recommend Theme Park World for any reason other than to piss about on it for an hour. However, I’ve still got a massive soft spot for it, and my memories of it as a teenager remain fond ones. Plus: the narrator in the UK version is class. 7/10.
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gjones
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyWed 14 Apr 2021 - 21:38

Oooh this is on my list of games to check out. I had the original Theme Park on PC back in the 90s and I didn't really play it properly. It felt tougher and less enjoyable than Theme Hospital (which I adored) but this looks like a fun evening or two. Can you ride the rides? I always thought that was amazing yet it's such a stupid feature.
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyThu 15 Apr 2021 - 17:18

Aye, one of Theme Park World's main selling points at the time was it's Camcorder Mode, which let you stoat about your park with a first-person view and ride the ride for yourself. I didn't think to mention in it my post up there, because it looks mince these days. 

"A fun evening or two" is definitely what you'd get out of Theme Park World.
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Muss
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyThu 15 Apr 2021 - 20:11

I had Theme Park World on the PS1 and used to make plenty of circuits to then race about on in first person mode. It looked mince then but being able to make something and then do something with it too was pretty fun. I could never get the entertainers to make people queuing very happy though.

Micromaniacs is another game I owned and I liked it quite a lot. Sometimes the controls are a bit weird owing to that top down view you have as sometimes left becomes right but for the most part it was pretty good.

What separates it the most from Micro Machines, other than it being people doing a run, is the unique powers each character has. Some of them are absolute duds but I liked playing as them all nonetheless.

As you say the track design is really good and I can still remember that toilet level quite vividly, as well as the one where you randomly race on bees. I'm sure if I played it side by side with a Micro Machines game I'd find the games very similar, but I feel like the running element also brought a freshness to the track layouts which they couldn't get away with in Micro Machines - although that could be overstating it, I haven't played it in a long time.
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyFri 16 Apr 2021 - 8:40

That's fair comment about Micro Maniacs. I don't think the world was arsed with a fourth 'straight' Micro Machines came in less than a decade (six if you include the Micro Machines Turbo Tournament '96 and Micro Machines Military spinoffs). Maniacs' running element did bring a bit of a freshness, and if it had been a commercial success I think they could have done more with it on PS2/GameCube/XBox.
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyMon 19 Apr 2021 - 17:54

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The best games I’ve played in 2021 so far are Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury, Chrono Trigger, and...Dunk Dream ‘95?! Aye, this obscure 3-on-3 basketball game is genuinely one of my favourite games that I’ve played in ages. 

If you’ve ever paid attention to Data East’s mid-90s output - and who hasn’t? - then you’d maybe recognise a game called Street Hoop. That’s a very good NeoGeo sports game, with satisfyingly chunky graphics, loads of vocal personality and watertight controls. Dunk Dream ‘95 is it’s sequel, basically. It does all the things that a great sequel should. In this case, Dunk Dream ‘95 adds tons of graphical flair and special effects, even better music and new trick moves on top of what was already a superb game. Dare I say, I might even prefer Dunk Dream ‘95 to any of the NBA Jam games…?

Not all these retro reviews need to go on for ages, and I think I’ve already said my bit here. It’s disappointing that Dunk Dream ‘95 isn’t more widely available. It’s never been part of Arcade Archives, and it’s never been on PlayStation, XBox or Nintendo at all. It’s on Antstream though, and it’s honestly one of those kind of games that’s worth subscribing for. I love it. 9/10.
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Balladeer
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyWed 21 Apr 2021 - 19:03

'One of these things is not like the others...'
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Jimbob
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyWed 21 Apr 2021 - 21:12

Wow. I don't think I can bring myself to subscribe to Antstream, but it does look like a better version of NBA Jam - I did love NBA Jam, mind, but sometimes there was something sort-of uncomfortable/frustrating about the movement.
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Rum
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySat 24 Apr 2021 - 9:20

BioShock: Remastered

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I played the remastered edition on Switch but it's fundamentally still the same game that was released in 2007 so it's going here.

It holds up! I first played BioShock while I was at uni, probably in 2010ish, on a tiny TV in halls. I got into it after watching my flatmate play it, and while I've never been into FPSes particularly, I was reeled in by the aesthetic, story, the RPG-esque upgrades, and the fact that you could put it on easy mode and not have to worry about actually being good at FPSes. Playing it a decade or so later, those aspects ensure it's still fun.

I'm sure most of you know the details but for completeness: you start off having crash landed in the ocean by a lighthouse. You swim over to it and get in a bathysphere which takes you down to the underwater city of Rapture. It soon becomes clear that things have gone to shit, but you get radio transmissions from an Irish fella called Atlas who directs you through different areas to ultimately help you escape. There are loads of splicers ("SPLOICERS") though, genetically mutated soldiers that have gone a bit demented from exposure to gene-splicing substance ADAM, used to give people superhuman powers. You get different plasmids throughout the game (made of processed ADAM) so you can fight with skills like fire and electricity as well as using your standard array of weapons. Shortly into the game you are introduced to Little Sisters, essentially lab rat little girls who gather ADAM, and Big Daddies, lab rat adults conditioned to protect them at all costs. The story is primarily advanced through little cassette player things, with recordings from various characters that document the fall of Rapture. These aren't mandatory and you can miss them if you don't explore levels thoroughly.

One thing that was better about playing it on Switch was that I could see everything, from darker corners of the levels to the small onscreen text. This was particularly useful for the recordings - I set it so that I got subtitles and I found it SO much easier to follow who said what and who did what and how different threads of the plot weave together towards the climax of the game. And there were quite a lot of details I'd forgotten!

The game looks and runs great and it's still fun to play, though there are a few tedious aspects to it, like hacking (though I seem to recall they made that more fun in the sequel). I also know that when I played through the games originally I thought BioShock 2 was more fun to play albeit with a slightly weaker plot, so we'll see how that goes when I get to it. (Controversially I enjoyed Infinite the least out of the three.) I'll probably play a couple of other games before diving into BioShock 2 though.

Would I recommend it? Sure. You've probably all played it before, but if you fancy playing it again the Switch version is a great version of it. It includes the DLC, which I haven't touched, but I might one day. It also has a little museum level set up with unused assets from the game's development, so you can wander around and see what ideas they had that didn't make the cut, which is a nice touch.
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySun 25 Apr 2021 - 22:36

Thanks very much for that, Rum. When you say that you were "reeled in by the aesthetic, story, the RPG-esque upgrades, and the fact that you could put it on easy mode and not have to worry about actually being good at FPSes", it sounded like something I'd maybe like to give a try. I'm totally unfamiliar with the Bioshock games.

How long did it take you to complete? If it's not stupidly long, then this might be the clincher...
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Rum
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyMon 26 Apr 2021 - 17:10

I think I got through it in about 11 hours. I probably could have played it on Normal mode rather than Easy and been fine, but doing the latter just meant I didn't really have to worry about any kind of resource management and could just dick around with plasmids and weapons and know I could get through everything no bother.

I bought the BioShock Collection when it was on sale for £15.99 a few weeks ago so if they do that reduction again I'd say go for it. You can also buy the three games separately too though if you're not sure.
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyMon 26 Apr 2021 - 19:27

As mentioned elsewhere, I should probably play BioShock, and probably won't.


The Secret of Monkey Island TM

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As part of a point-and-click binge with The Lady, we played through one of the original masters of the genre - all in old-style pixel art and chiptunes, just like she remembers it.  

Whether it's really fair to say we 'played' this, though, is up for debate.  There were very few bits where we weren't referring to a walkthrough, or The Lady's childhood memories, for puzzle solutions: the very opening, most of the pirate ship, and the insult swordfighting perhaps.  It wasn't for lack of trying, not originally - but LucasArts' obscure solutions, the often large environments, Guybrush's slow pace, and bad memories of spending ages wandering the locales of Grim Fandango forced our hands.  What we have, then, isn't much of a game at all, and what 'game' there is is pretty bad.  There's one bit where it obviously thinks it's being ingenious, pulling an interface screw, that had my putting my head in my hands.

The rest of the game still really shines though.  The graphics aren't all that in this day and age, but the music's still eminently hummable, and the writing is still top-notch.  I can absolutely see why certain bits became iconic, especially the swordfighting.  I laughed out loud a good few times.

Back in the day I have no doubt that this was top-of-the-range stuff.  Now it's too annoying a game, or too ungamelike an experience (depending on your approach), to be that.  We still had fun though, and it's still better than Thimbleweed Park.

Retro score: 7/10
'Now' score: 5/10
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyTue 27 Apr 2021 - 22:33

In my head I've got a list of 'classics' that I should get round to playing, and a LucasArts adventure game is definitely on there. Maybe soon!

~

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I had the Wii set up, so bollocks to it – let’s give Need For Speed Nitro a bash. I’m all for arcade racers that emphasise speed and drifting over realism and engine tuning, and the guarantee of "owning the world at over 200mph” on the back of the box wound me in.

This was the first purpose-built Need for Speed game on Wii. There were other games from the series on Wii beforehand, true, but they were all ports that were handled with little care and with added – rubbish! - motion controls marketed as their unique selling point. Here, you can almost stretch yourself to saying “fair play” to the developer for the obvious effort that they put into this. If you squint your eyes, you could almost trick yourself into thinking that it’s as full-fledged as the Need For Speed games were on the PS3 and 360. No, it’s not quite on the same scale, but Nitro does have a big-time presentation (if that makes sense) and confidence in it’s stride (if that, um, also makes sense). Yet with half-a-dozen race events, a big career mode where you win better and more powerful cars, police chases and car crashes, I’d argue that Need For Speed Nitro is more like Burnout 2 than anything.

I won’t overegg it: the gameplay is that of a fairly ordinary arcade racer. You drift, you draft, you boost, away you go. The thing that differentiates Nitro from the hundreds of others of games of this ilk is the way you earn style points, which you need to unlock new cities/events/cars/customisation tools. You “Own It!” by staying in the lead and tagging the surrounding environment with your graffiti. Watching the landscape change colours while you’re blasting along the track is a fairly nice visual treat. It’s purely cosmetic in the wider scheme of things, but to be fair it’s implemented quite well. And while I said that “the gameplay is that of a fairly ordinary arcade racer”, at least it’s a fast, well-handling one that runs at a smooth 60fps across a decently-varied array of tracks.

I get that I’m the only one who’s mental enough to play through Need For Speed Nitro in 2021. But that’s okay, and it’s okay. These types of games have been badly underrepresented on Nintendo consoles over the last decade, and going back in time you could do far worse. 6/10.
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyTue 27 Apr 2021 - 23:45

I keep nearly purchasing the Bioshock Collection as I haven't played the original since its release in 2007. Sounds like it's still a banger and I'm intrigued to see how 2 and Infinite hold up - do they look significantly better @Rum? I might just grab the 360 version for a few pennies.

I love the idea that a classic like Secret of Monkey Island is on par with Need for Speed Nitro. I also love the idea there's a place where people revisit completely different ends of the retro spectrum and tell it how it is on an online forum. Balla's write-up kind of confirms why I have avoided old point-and-click adventure titles as they were pretty opaque and unforgiving at the time. "Do this, then this, and this, but in THIS order" "Oh of course! *rolls eyes*"

NFS Nitro is news to me - don't think I knew it existed. Like a bowling ball shoved up a Scottish striker, it's right up my alley. The graffiti element sounds interesting if lightweight and it sounds like a meaty enough package (oi oi). I've just rekindled my love affair with arcade-y racers (review coming soon about that) and while a big career mode and comparisons to Burnout 2 turn my head, I'll likely skip over this one.

Thanks for the interesting write-ups lads!


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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyWed 28 Apr 2021 - 19:19

I think it's fair to say that SoMI was probably better for its time than NFSN! For all that Cappa doesn't seem to have a bad thing to say about the latter. Shocked Nice to see EA trying on Nintendo - doesn't happen often.

But yep, SoMI and LucasArts in general haven't aged well for precisely the eye-rolly reasons you mention. The really bizarre thing is that someone said, 'Hey, you know all that tedious nonsense that made these games really irritating? Let's do exactly that!' and developed Thimbleweed Park in the modern era. Rolling Eyes If you're going to play a conventional point-and-click in this day and age, I'd strongly advise picking Sam & Max Save the World over either of those two.
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The Cappuccino Kid
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyFri 30 Apr 2021 - 9:48

@gjones wrote:
Like a bowling ball shoved up a Scottish striker, it's right up my alley.

I read this several times and I've never been so confused in my life.  Confused
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyFri 30 Apr 2021 - 11:18

@The Cappuccino Kid wrote:
@gjones wrote:
Like a bowling ball shoved up a Scottish striker, it's right up my alley.

I read this several times and I've never been so confused in my life.  Confused

LOL yeah it was a bit terrible. Ally McCoist - the one famous Ally I could think of.
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Rum
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptyFri 30 Apr 2021 - 17:55

@gjones wrote:
I keep nearly purchasing the Bioshock Collection as I haven't played the original since its release in 2007. Sounds like it's still a banger and I'm intrigued to see how 2 and Infinite hold up - do they look significantly better @Rum? I might just grab the 360 version for a few pennies.

To be honest I don't really remember how it looked on 360, but the Switch version looked great. Smooth framerate and the remastered versions have slicker visuals. According to people more tuned into these things, it officially Looks Very Nice.

It's worth keeping an eye out on the PS Store etc depending on what consoles you have (I forget) - the complete collection has dropped down to something like £7.99 on there before! I can't imagine it dropping much below £15.99 on the Switch though because of the Ninty tax.
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySat 1 May 2021 - 9:27

Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 Superpangsnes

Loved some Super Pang back in the day. Licensed by Capcom for the SNES, it’s a port of Mitchell Corp.’s arcade belter from the early ‘90s. It was also a cornerstone of the greatest gaming deal I ever got. At the start of the millennium I gave an old primary school mate a tenner and an third-party N64 Rumble Pak in exchange for a SNES with a dozen games – what a result. There were some belters in that bundle too, like Super Mario Kart, Starfox and ISS Deluxe, but Super Pang was the one I played again and again. I could never beat it on my puff though, and that’s the same today. I tried and failed: Super Pang is far too hard to complete on its Super Nintendo terms. I ended up getting the Capcom Puzzle World collection on PSP so that I could play it’s port there, as it has unlimited continues and easier difficulty options.

You’ll have seen countless bootleg/Flash/free-with-ads homages to Super Pang before. On a single screen and without a jump button, you basically run around popping bubbles using your harpoon. You sometimes have to shoot down enemies and you occasionally find other types of harpoon and projectile weaponry, but what you do in the first stage is essentially the same as what you do in the fortieth and final stage.

Two things keep Super Pang interesting, and that’s the movement of the bubbles and the level design. The bubbles split into two when they’re hit, and then keep splitting on impact until they’re all gone. Bigger bubbles move slowly and bounce lightly, whereas smaller bubbles move more rapidly, bounce higher and are a bit trickier to strike. It’s not as straightforward as I’ve described it however, as the screen can become engulfed with dozens of tiny, speedier bubbles. Dodging these, popping them and saving your life (one hit and you’re done) can become really frantic, challenging and exciting.

The aforementioned level design adds to Super Pang’s diversity and difficulty a lot. Once they add ladders, breakable walls and different assortments of structural barricades, the levels can become surprisingly clever. I appreciate that make you stop to think about how to tackle the task of popping all these bubbles with just a bit more strategy. If there’s any fault it’s that the game gets stupidly hard, but that’s Super Pang’s arcade coin-munching origins I suppose.

Overall, I liked Super Pang’s arcade-style gameplay well enough. Yet it’s plain to see that it would be a superior game with a second player alongside you. It’s just too hard in it’s original state and on your own. That said, with save statuses and a rewind feature I think it would be an ideal game for a reappearance on SNES Online. It’s not there though, so…er…enjoy Doomsday Warrior and Prehistorik Man instead I guess! 7/10.
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PostSubject: Re: Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts   Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 EmptySun 2 May 2021 - 12:14

I have heard of Super Pang but I have no idea why. Have you talked about it before Cappa? Maybe it popped up in NGamer a couple of times.

Speaking of difficult 2D retro games, this morning I finished...

Commander Keen in Keen Dreams (the remastered Switch eShop release)

Last Retro Game You Finished And Your Thoughts - Page 16 Comman10

The Commander Keen games were probably my introduction into video games, now that I think about it. There were six main games (sort of):

  • The first three made up the Invasion of the Vorticons trilogy, which was released in 1990 and had you playing as 8-year-old Billy Blaze - Commander Keen - hunting down stolen parts of his spaceship and preventing an alien invasion;
  • Goodbye, Galaxy! was released in 1991, a two-parter where Keen tries to stop the 'Armageddon Machine' from being used to destroy the galaxy as we know it, and finally;
  • Aliens Ate My Babysitter! was released in 1991 as well and is a standalone game, which may have been developed by separate people at the same time as the GG games? I'm not really sure. Basically you have to save your babysitter who was kidnapped by aliens.


Anyway, the first three games were pretty basic, and the latter three games were a bit slicker (by 1991 MS-DOS standards - less pixellated, better graphics, slicker gameplay, etc). BUT, this review isn't about those games. This is about Keen Dreams.

Keen Dreams was a weird middle child which *sort of* falls in between the first three and the last three games (it's not an entry into the series in the same way). I haven't read the Wiki article properly but as far as I can tell, after the Invasion of the Vorticons trilogy, a few developers went on to form their own company, but had contractual obligations when it came to making Commander Keen games and they ended up producing Keen Dreams as a result. It was kind of like a spin-off that also worked as a prototype for Goodbye Galaxy and Aliens Ate My Babysitter, where all those slicker things I mentioned were tested and developed (stuff like parallax scrolling). (Though I'm not sure what the involvement was of the people who made Keen Dreams with regards to the following games...) Following? GREAT

All this leads to Keen Dreams being kind of a weird experimental game which doesn't have the same kid-friendly sci-fi-lite feeling of all the other games. Plot-wise, essentially Keen refuses to eat his vegetables at dinner and is sent to bed, and then he has trippy dreams in different areas on an alien planet populated by evil fruit and veg. The ultimate goal of the game is to defeat the big baddy, a huge evil potato called Boobus Tuber (in case you forgot this had been developed in the 90s). To do this you need to collect 'Boobus Bombs' (hehe) which tend to be in hard-to-reach parts of the different levels - you use these to take him on at the end of the game, so you want to collect as many as you can. Each level tends to be themed around a different vegetable - Spud City, Parsnip Pass, etc - and each foodstuff behaves differently, with potato soldiers marching around with bayonets, squashes jumping around to (yes) squash you, broccoli running around and headbanging you to death if they catch you.

I didn't enjoy it as much as the other games as a kid because it felt like a weird spin-off - you're fighting vegetables rather than aliens, for one. But the main thing is that you don't have a raygun to shoot and kill enemies - you throw little seeds at enemies instead, which temporarily turn them into flowers. You can then run past them, but they'll come back to life shortly after. (There are Easy, Normal and Hard modes, and the only difference between them is how long the enemies remain as flowers.) Playing it, I dunno, 23 or so years later though, I find it kind of fascinating how different the games feel because you never feel truly "safe" since the enemies are just frozen, not dead.

I did have to constantly save, though - if you get hit by a vegetable it's a one-hit kill and you have to restart the level, and you don't get many lives. You can save anywhere you like, though, so you can essentially treat saves like a checkpoint system. I would never have been able to blitz through the game without doing that. (I did a similar thing with Donkey Kong Country on Switch Online recently, but with the suspend and rewind system - I would never have had the patience to beat the game otherwise.)

Otherwise, the story is pretty minimal and the levels are very clearly 30 years old now. I wouldn't recommend it particularly if you have no nostalgia for the Commander Keen series, but for me, stumbling across this on the eShop a while ago and spending a couple of hours reliving the same feelings I felt when I was a 7-year-old in the late 90s playing old MS-DOS games was pretty lush.
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