Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 29: ROM Check Fail

The objective of ROM Check Fail is simple. Clear all the enemies from the screen. What makes it challenging is that every five seconds everything, the hero, the villains, the setting, the music, literally everything, changes. From Link slashing asteroids with his sword to Mario jumping on Space Invaders to who knows what.

ROM Check Fail takes elements from classic games like Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Spy Hunter, Qix, Arkanoid, Buster Bros., Gauntlet and others that zipped by faster than my brain could process them, and mashes them into a frantic, kill or be killed celebration of all that is video games.

And if that isn't genius enough, what really makes playing ROM Check Fail compelling is that each element, from goombas to ghosts, follow the rules of their original games. The player's ship from Space Invaders, for example, can only move horizontally while Pac-Man can move an all four directions but has to eat the energizer to be able to defeat enemies. Every five seconds the strategy needed to win changes. Sometimes the only thing you can do is wait for the next change to happen.

The reward for clearing all twenty levels is, appropriately, a barrage of final screens from a number of games. Since most of the games used for ROM Check Fail, like Asteroids and Defender, don't actually have ends, these come from Out Run, Street Fighter and others.

ROM Check Fail is by no means a deep game, but it is unique, interesting and usually fun. Sometimes the randomness works against it, with some screens being at best impossible to clear and at worst impossible to survive. But with ROM Check Fail, like weather in Kansas, if you don't like it, just wait a few seconds.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 28: Space Battle

I know you put a lot of time and effort into making your game, Programmer, and I do appreciate it, don't get me wrong. But in the future you might want to consider putting just as much effort into the name for your game. Space Battle isn't just a really dull name, it's, well, it's already taken. See?

It was a pretty popular game. I don't know how you could have missed it. A little research is never a bad thing. That brings me to my next point. A lot of progress has been made in cloning Space Invaders for the Atari 2600 by games like Space Instigators and INV+. It might behoove you spend some time with those games. Not to copy them of course. Just to see what can be done with this sort of game.

I'm not saying Space Battle is bad. Not by any means. The landing sequence is a nice little addition. You could maybe change the color palette a little though. The enemy ship is really hard to see against that black background. And maybe add some more obstacles, like in Lunar Rescue and This Planet Sucks.

You could maybe make the invaders themselves a little more of a threat too. As it is now they just sort of drift back and forth and fire at random. In games like Space Invaders and Megamania, the invaders not only move across the screen, they move down towards my ship at the bottom of the screen. This greatly enhances the sense of urgency and adds to the thrill of playing those games.

I'm sorry if it seems like I'm only pointing out the flaws in your game, but I'm trying to help you out here and there's no need to fix what already works, right?

This is all just the opinion of one person, of course. I'm sure you have your reasons for doing things the way you did.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 27: Zenji

I think this game paralyzed the creative centers of my brain. I can't think of anything to write.

Nope. Still nothing.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 26: Action 52 Friday with G-Force

G-Force failed to meet even the ridiculously low expectations I have for the games on the Action 52 cartridge. In fact, I have to resort to completely making stuff up to have anything to write at all.

Years of friction between the Rastafarian Space Empire and the United Federation of Planets Owned by Rich White Guys has finally boiled over into full-blown hostility as the Rastafarians send unmanned drones into the express tunnels leading from the Rich White Guys office towers to their beach homes. Insisting that you are the only man capable of beating back the invasion (but really just wanting you out of the way so he can nail your wife), the commander of the UFPORWG defense forces orders you into the tunnels in your hot pink fighter jet.

Actually, G-Force is a side-scrolling shooter with three levels which I presume loop infinitely. I made it through the third level each time without firing or moving. The first two levels were only slightly more difficult. Even with an average price of just $3.85 for each game on the action 52 cartridge, I'd have to say that G-Force is a complete rip-off.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 25: Alex Kidd - The Lost Stars

Playing an Alex Kidd game, any Alex Kidd game, for the first time is like playing Super Mario Bros. 2 for the first time. It's not quite what you expected. Lost Stars is closer to the original formula than successors Alex Kidd BMX Trial and Alex Kidd in High-Tech World (the latter, like SMB2, a game from a different franchise rebranded for the American market due to Sega's mistaken belief that Alex was a commodity), but much simpler.

Alex Kidd - The Lost Stars is, in a word, easy. Alex zips through a series of worlds (including the obligatory underwater stage) looking for lost Zodiac signs. Each level is timed and getting to the end is mostly a matter of memorizing the locations of the platforms and enemies and running through without stopping.

I will give Lost Stars credit where it's due in one regard though. The game is gorgeous. Graphically, it blows away all of the 8-bit Mario games. Too bad that in no way makes up for the lack of challenging and diverse gameplay.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 24: Transbot

You know what Transbot reminds me of? No, not those episodes of the Maury Povich show where audience members try to guess which of the guests are women and which guests are dudes. It reminds me of pretty much every video game I played between 1986 and 1990. See if you can pick it out of the four screenshots below.

It's the game on the bottom left. Just another side-scrolling space shoot-em-up from a time plagued with side-scrolling space shoot-em-ups.

The plot is pretty standard. Sometime in the future some aliens have invaded earth (or some earth colony or wherever) and it's up to the intrepid pilot of the Transbot to single-handedly repel the invasion.

Power-ups from passing supply trucks arm Transbot with different weapons and transform in into either plane or robot mode, whichever is appropriate. I recommend power-up "C" which fires a shot half the height of the screen.

The aliens invaders never really progress beyond the "space bacteria" stage. Shooting colorful blobs over varying terrain without an end in sight gets old fast. There aren't really levels or bosses in Transbot, just one big loop. That's not even old school. That's just dull.

Transbot is a nice enough looking game. The graphics are clean and colorful. The endless nature makes it a great choice for a 1983-style marathon session, if it can hold your interest that long.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 23: MLB 2K8 Donkey Kong Barrel Blast

The Nintendo Wii is tailor-made for baseball, so I was excited to learn that, a year and a half after its launch, someone had made the first real baseball sim for it. Even if that someone was 2K Sports, a company whose understanding of baseball is roughly on par with my understanding of quantum mechanics. Admittedly, I haven't actually played a baseball game from 2K since World Series Baseball 2K1 on the Dreamcast, but that game was so abysmal that seven years might not have been enough time to fix it.

But the only copy of Major League Baseball 2K8 at my local Blockbuster had some sticky residue on the disc and wouldn't load. And that's how I ended up with Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.

If you played Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64, you might remember it as not quite Mario Kart. Or you might not remember it at all. I guess that's what happens when the primary purpose of a game is to pimp characters getting their own games soon (Banjo and Conker).

Ten years from now I'll probably have vague memories of Donkey Kong Barrel Blast similar to the vague memories I have of Diddy Kong Racing. It looks pretty, but it's not quite Mario Kart. And the novelty of the control scheme, simulating pounding on barrels strapped to the racers' waists by shaking the wiimote and nunchuk, wore off as the carpal tunnel began creeping into my wrists.

Not that the controls are important. The monkeys follow the track on their own. Once I got up to top speed, there wasn't much left to do but coast to the finish line. Sort of like the programmers did when they made this game.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 22: Fuzzical Fighter

With a name like Fuzzical Fighter, it has to be good. Anything could happen once you press the start button. It could be a platform game, some king of action/puzzle game, maybe even an early fighter.

Fuzzicle Fighter is an RPG/shooter. Really. If you thought Final Fantasy would have been the perfect game if only there'd been a few more spaceships, then this is the game for you.

The RPG elements are pretty basic. Each level begins with a king describing the blight that has stricken his kingdom. Then it's into town to heal and buy items and upgrades for your cute fighter. Each town has the same three vendors, but new items become available as you progress through the game.

Then it's off to shoot the aliens plaguing the planet Funny. I'm going to assume something got lost in the translation there. Anyway, this is the main part of the game, and it's good. It doesn't quite match up to Fantasy Zone, to which it bears more than a passing resemblance with its large, colorful sprites and whimsical settings, but it's still a lot of fun.

I really can't say anything bad about this game, which, let's face it, is a rarity for me. It's a shame Fuzzical Fighter never made it to America where it might have built a nice little cult following for itself and been remade into an obscure PS2 title.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 21: Zone Ranger

I suppose I could be grateful. I could say "Thank you , Activision. Thank you for making the closest thing to Sinistar I'll ever play on a classic system." But I'd much rather dog on them.

As the first generation of video games was winding to a close, Activision, a company which had made a name for itself with original games like Kaboom and Pitfall, ran out of ideas and resorted to producing carbon copies of other games.

You see those equal signs? That's math, brother. Math don't lie.

Zone Ranger isn't an exact clone of Sinistar, but it looks and feels like it until the signature cry of "I live" doesn't happen and Sinistar doesn't chase down my ship and eat it.

I'll take Zone Ranger over any of the dozens of ill-conceived rip-off games that flooded the video game market of the early 1980's. It looks good and plays good, though it does at time suffer from a bad case of "what the fuck just killed me" syndrome and lacks that sense of shit your pants urgency that comes with knowing that at any second a nearly indestructible space juggernaut could be bearing down on me.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Day 20: Sammy Lightfoot

Originality is for suckers. Why go through all the time and effort of coming up with a new idea when it's so much easier to repackage someone else's and sell it as your own? If everyone tried to be original all the time, we'd be living in a world without Captain Marvel, the Monkees or Mr. Pibb and I, for one, find that positively unthinkable.

Sammy Lightfoot, the rooster-haired hero of the game Sammy Lightfoot, needs to reach the top of a series of platforms. If that doesn't sound familiar to you, what I need you to do is stop playing Halo 3 for a second and enter the words "donkey" and "kong," in that order, into your search engine of choice. Go ahead and do it now. I can wait.

There are three screens for Sammy to conquer, each one filled with dangers like bouncing balls, waving streamers and the 7-Up spot. Not the most intimidating collection of baddies, but the video game world was still a couple of years away from the introduction of that most terrifying creature: the walking mushroom.

Once Sammy reaches the end of the third screen, he dutifully returns to the first to repeat the cycle ad infinitum. Sure, that gets tedious after a while, but wouldn't you much rather play a video game forever than have it stop after just a few hours and force you to read the names of the Japanese guys that made it?

Sammy Lightfoot makes up for its lack of originality with its overwhelming badness. The levels are sparse and unimaginative. Gameplay is slow and forced. And the hero looks like a chicken, with his big hair, beak nose and flipper arms. It's no wonder someone made a game called "Kill Sammy."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 19: Action 52 Friday with Illuminator

This music is way too dramatic for this game. It sounds like end boss battle music. Which it probably is, just stolen from some other, possibly enjoyable game.

The twist to Illuminator, which otherwise would be the bare minimum of what could be considered a video game, is that the lights don't work. Killing one of the drones aimlessly wandering the platforms, whose only crime appears to be having enough phosphorus in their bodies to light the room for a few seconds, provides you a chance to locate the next drone to kill until they're all dead and you go to the next room.

What Illuminator really needs is a point. Someone to rescue, some object to find. Really any reason to be slaughtering so many defenseless people and giant butterflies would do. 'Cause, y'know, next time there's a power outage, my first response will be to find a flashlight, not start incinerating everyone.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 18: Killer 7

Killer 7 is "cool." And with its unusual premise, stylized violence and ghosts in gimp suits, it can't go more than 15 seconds without reminding anyone within earshot just how cool it is. Sort of like Quentin Tarantino.

In other words, its pretentious and not much fun.

Yes, Killer 7 is from Goichi Suda, the same man who gave the world No More Heroes, one of the Reasons To Own A Wii. The difference between the two games is that No More Heroes lets you play it while Killer 7 mostly makes you watch.

Most of the game is spent holding down the A button and watching your killer run around from highly cinematic camera angles, waiting to find a ghost to talk to or to hear the tell-tale cackle of one of the Heaven Smile ghouls, which means its time to shoot something. When that happens, Killer 7 becomes a first-person shooter, albeit a first-person shooter in which your character is rooted to the spot.

The rest of the time, Killer 7 is an animated choose your own adventure book. Want to use the stars? Go to page 43. Talk to the guy holding the luchador mask? Page 38.

I wish Suda would have trusted me with his game enough to give me a little freedom. It's like he doesn't think a mere gamer like myself could possibly appreciate all the coolness without having it force fed to me, to which I respond thusly:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 17: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

At the height of their popularity, Bill & Ted inspired four different video games on four different platforms with no connection to each other whatsoever. One of them (Bill & Ted's Excellent Game Boy Adventure) arguably has no connection whatsoever to Bill & Ted. The other three put you in control of Bill or Ted in a series of historical locations, searching for historical objects which somehow help Wyld Stallyns become the most important rock band in history.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Atari Lynx Adventure eschews the humorous interactions and leaping into every bush in sight hoping to find the lawn chair of Bill & Ted's Excellent NES Adventure in favor of a series of find the object that will get you the object that will locate the object you need puzzles. I'd be able to tell you more except this scare stone I have doesn't scare a goddamn thing and I'm kind of stuck right now.

I'm going to have to get back to you on this one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 16: Merlin's Walls

Quick, what's wrong with this picture?

That's right. It's sideways. The makers of Merlin's Walls thought it would be pretty awesome to make a home console game that plays on a vertically oriented monitor, just like arcade games. That's pretty spiffy except that it makes this game a total pain in the ass to play.

Let's assume for a minute that someone out there is willing to turn his TV on its side in order to play this game the way it was intended. First, his TV would need to be flat on the side so it could stand vertically, which very few modern TVs are. If it was, he'd probably have to unplug everything from it to make sure no cables get twisted or damaged in the rotating process. He might even have to take the TV out of his entertainment center in order to stand it on its side. And 15 minutes later, when he's done playing Merlin's Wall, he has to put everything back the way it was if he wants to watch TV or play one of his old-fashioned, horizontally oriented games.

And maybe Merlin's Walls would be worth all that trouble if it was any fun at all to play. Instead, it's boring and frustrating. It's a first-person maze game with no enemies to fight and no way to know where you are or where you're going. The walls all look the same. There's no compass or map. The only indicator of any sort is the timer bar on the left (top) of the screen, which only lets me know that the game is about to abruptly end.

Merlin's Walls is more an interesting, though totally impractical programming exercise than a game. Turn the thing 90 degrees to the left, throw in some monsters and give me a call.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Day 15: Disco No. 1

Over the past hour I have cultivated an intense, irrational hatred for this game. Irrational because substituting a penguin on ice skates for the early metrosexual on roller skates transforms Disco No. 1 into Thin Ice, one of my favorite Intellivision games.

I hate the background music, which isn't disco. It's "Popcorn," the same cheesy synthpop song that serves as background music for Pengo. I hate the narc in the suit who sticks his tongue out after he busts me. I hate the 20 second warning, which completely disrupts the flow of the game. I hate the girls I'm supposed to ensnare, who all look more like they're having seizures than dancing. I hate the little victory dance my skater does after completing a level, which looks even more spastic.

I also hate the booze on the floor and the guy with the broom, but it's more of a hatred by association than a genuine hatred.

I hate Data East for birthing Disco No. 1.

I hate broccoli. I hate Oprah. And I hate Disco No. 1. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Day 14: Splatterhouse 3

I planned on just copying yesterday's blog, changing the 2's to 3's and calling it a day. Not only would that have been pure comedy gold, it would have saved me a lot of time. But those bastards went and changed the formula.

They didn't change it much. Rick still has to fight his way through a creepy old mansion full of hideous monsters to rescue Jennifer. Now he can move in all four directions, combo punches, throw enemies and preform spinning kicks, making Splatterhouse 3 play more like Double Dragon than Splatterhouse.

Instead of a straight shot to the end, there are now several different paths through each level. But if you want to get the the end before time runs out and Jennifer meets her horrible grisly end, you'll only get to see about a third of each stage. Don't worry if she does die. The game will go on, you'll just get one of the many alternate endings.

In addition to the weapons lying around the mansion (including the return of the 2x4), Rick now collects power crystals which give him the ability to transform into a large, powerful (but very slow) beast for a limited time.

The change in gameplay means that monsters no longer burst open after one or two punches. It now takes several shots to down each one, and most of them do nothing more than fall backwards and writhe a little before dissolving. Rick doesn't swing the 2x4 like a baseball bat anymore, splattering zombies against the far wall. Rather, he clubs them over the head and they just fall to the floor.

The ooze and puss that burst forth with every attack is what gave the first two Splatterhouse games personality. Now the game is little more than Final Fight in creepy zombie land.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Day 13: Splatterhouse 2

If you read comic books in 1990 (or found some comic books from 1990 years later in the 25 cent bin of a dealer desperate to get rid of them), you saw the double-page ads for the original Splatterhouse. It and Bonk's Adventure were the only Turbografx-16 games to receive any substantial marketing. To this day those games are probably recognized by more people than the system that played them.

Unbeknownst to all but the most hard-core gamers (including myself until very recently), two Splatterhouse sequels were released for the Sega Genesis.

Splatterhouse 2 sticks closely to the model established by the first game. Rick learns that his girlfriend Jennifer did not die as it appeared in the first game, dons the Terror Mask and returns to the burned ruins of the West Mansion to punch a lot of squishy zombie things.

Along with his fists, Rick has an arsenal of found weapons at his disposal. The shotgun returns, but now Rick has access to chainsaws, potassium bombs and a large bone, all of which add to the carnage.

There are a lot more gooey details in the sequel than the original. Monsters burst open rather than simply crumble into a puddle of slime. The trade-off is the music, which is no where near as creepy and atmospheric as in the first game. And Rick's echoey "Ow" has been replaced with a simple grunt.

Splatterhouse's appeal as never the original gameplay. It's solid and challenging, but hardly unique. It's the addition of copious amounts of gore and wonderfully rendered creatures that make the franchise stand out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Day 12: Action 52 Friday with Star Evil

Didn't anyone tell the Action 52 guys that a shoot 'em up space game is only as good as its made up, alien-sounding name? There's no way something called Star Evil could ever hope to stand up next to classics like Galaga and Zaxxon.

It doesn't help that Star Evil had to fit on the Action 52 cart with 51 other games. The whole game probably used something like 17 lines of code.

Star Evil is a vertical-scrolling shoot the other ships and don't crash into the walls game done on the cheap. The only obstacles that kill 100% of the time are the large blocks, which is unfortunate since every level seems to start with your ship directly behind two of them. Some enemy ships can be flown through and destroyed with no damage to yours and the walls sometimes forgive transgressions.

Stage bosses move randomly, sometimes lingering forever in places you can't get to them. And rather than die in a glorious explosion, they simply vanish and the next level begins.

Despite its glitches, Star Evil is functional and actually looks decent, which is probably the nicest thing I'll ever be able to say about any of the Action 52 games.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Day 11: Bravoman

Bravoman is Mega Man for preschoolers. He's Baby's First Mega Man. He's three times as big as Mega Man, he's all yellow and green and instead of shooting enemy robots, he punches them with his springy Inspector Gadget fists.

Bravoman is out to stop the presumed evil Dr. Bomb by fighting his way through stages short enough for all but the worst cases of ADHD and battling bosses with at best a vague interest in preventing him from reaching the mushroom cloud-coiffed mastermind.

Running and punching is the name of the game here (except for the third level, when it inexplicably becomes and underwater version of Super Cobra). The game is colorful and has a very playful, innocent quality to it, but there isn't a lot of variety. It's just run to the right, jump the occasional hurdle and punch a few robots.

It's not that Bravoman isn't fun. It is. But it feels a little too much like that generic Mario Bros. knock-off those of us who grew with Commodore 64s instead of Nintendos had to play. Like many Turbografx-16 games, it's missing that little extra something that turns a good game into a great game.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Day 10: Fantasy Zone - The Maze

The Pac-Man craze was long dead by 1988. That's one reason no one bought Fantasy Zone - The Maze. Released only for the Sega Master System (the other reason no one bought The Maze), it's a departure from the brightly-colored, side-scrolling shooter formula of the first two Fantasy Zone games. The Maze is a brightly-colored maze game. But there's a twist! No, there isn't.

Fantasy Zone - The Maze plays like a colorblind version of Pac-Man/Mouse Trap/Ladybug/Lock 'n' Chase/Solar Fox (let me know if I'm leaving any out) with one exception: you have to buy power-ups using the points you've accumulated. These include a couple of different kinds of guns and bombs and temporary invincibility. The last one is pricey, but can help you zip through a screen in under 30 seconds.

Fantasy Zone wasn't exactly original, but its cutesiness made it stand apart from Gradius, R-Type and other shooters. But cute is a standard ingredient for maze games, making FZTM just another face in an already large and unruly crowd.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day 9: Chakan - The Forever Man

Actually, it only feels like forever. What I thought was going to be a mindless hack 'n' slash turned out to be one of the most excruciatingly difficult games I've ever played.

Chakan is cursed with immortality. In comic books and video games, immortality is always a curse that can only be broken once some impossible task is completed. Maybe if these guys spent their immortality enjoying life rather than working all the time, it wouldn't be such a curse.

Chakan's task is to rid the world of supernatural evil, which he does by whacking it with a sword. If he gets to it. Each level is filled with intricate jumps and endless tiny, hard to hit enemies as well as the occasional large, impossible to kill enemy.

And the game never ends. In what was a novel idea for the time, there are no lives. Every time Chakan falls into a pit, he simply returns to that level's entrance and tries again. The cycle repeats until the Genesis is unplugged and thrown into the wall in frustration.

Nothing about this game makes me want to put in the time it would take to get good at it. If I win, Chakan doesn't get the girl or save the world. He dies. This is just a murky, depressing pain in the ass.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Day 8: Ninja Quest

I have a theory about role-playing games. In good role-playing games, the player fights enemies that fit in the game's genre. Sword and sorcery games have goblins and dragons. Sci-fi games have cyborgs and aliens. Bad role-playing games try to distract players from their badness by using out of place enemies. Robots in a sword and sorcery game for example. Or enemies that aren't even enemies, like dining room furniture. In really bad role-playing games, the player fights clip art.

Ninja Quest is a really bad role-playing game. There's nothing very "ninja" about it at all. It's a typical first-person dungeon crawl, a la Wizardry, with a clumsy interface and a fervent belief that putting the word "zombie" in front of any random word automatically makes it funny.

Right away Ninja Quest gave me problems. I had to change my computer's screen resolution to 1280 x 960 just to see the whole thing. That's a lot of screen for a text adventure with pictures. Typing which direction I want to move is fine. It's quaint. It's retro. Having to type the exact right thing in order to pick up an item is annoying. Upon finding a grenade lying on the dungeon floor, I typed "get grenade." Nothing happened. "Get 1 grenade." Nothing. "Get 1 grenades." I am now the proud owner of 1 hand grenades.

When an encounter begins, a new window appears asking me to select which weapon I want to use by entering a number from 0 to 5. This window completely overrides the regular command input, meaning that I don't have the option to flee a battle. Having players type "use hatchet" would work just as well and give them more options.

The images of the so-called zombies look sloppy. Everything in the game has a jagged white edge. Some of them are photos, some are drawings, all of them look out of place in front of that Apple II green background and none of them have been zombified in the least. Photoshop is your friend. A few minutes turning things green and adding a little decay would have improved the look and enhanced the retro flavor.

I guess you get what you pay for, and Ninja Quest is freeware.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Day 7: Fight Night

Nintendo had Mike Tyson's Punch Out. Even Sega managed to get the Rocky name to use for a boxing game for the Master System. Atari got Fight Night, a game originally designed for home computers and ported to the Atari 7800.

This game would have benefited from the inclusion of the kangaroo standing in line on the title screen. As it is, there are 12 human boxers. Actually 6, but each one has a brother of another color. Six of them appear in the Main Event mode, which is the standard challenger fights his way through a series of boxers to get to The Champ scenario.

Getting to The Champ is easy. Punch high when the computer blocks low. Punch low when the computer blocks high. The computer will often take 5-10 blows to the same spot before moving its block. Using this strategy, I zipped through the first 4 fighters, registering first round knockouts in every fight. Alternately, you could let each computer fighter win and select "Next Boxer" from the continue screen. That's right, you don't have to actually beat anyone to get to The Champ.

Beating The Champ is more difficult, but only because he can KO poor Crazy Craven in about 3 punches. Just stick to the game plan and the title will be yours before you know it.

Fight night has 3 other modes. There's the practice mode, which is completely worthless. Sparring mode pits any 2 of the 12 fighters against each other. Tournament mode is the only 2-player mode. Players alternate adding boxers to a bracket. Regardless of who selected what boxer, player one always controls the fighter on the left, player two the fighter on the right.

Fight Night tries to look cartoony. I guess it's supposed to be funny (Dip Stick does hit below the belt, which, as we all know, is hilarious). But the graphics are so blocky that it just looks sloppy. Despite the long line of people (and marsupials) waiting in line on the title screen, there's no audience visible, though there is a near constant staticy waterfall noise that is presumably the roar of the crowd.

Remember that whole jumping off a bridge speech your mom gave you when you told her you wanted to get your ear pierced? Just because the other guys have boxing games for their systems, the doesn't mean you need to throw a piece of garbage out there just to have a boxing game for your system.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Day 6: Pesco

Pesco started life as an unlicensed port of Pac-Man. You might remember the original Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man. It looked like this:

The new version looked like this:

A handfull were produced and given away, but rather than face the prospect of being sued into oblivion by the owners of the World's Most Recognized Video Game Character, maker Ebivision retooled the game and sold it as Pesco, which looks like this:

As you might expect, Pesco follows the Pac-Man model very closely. The player controls a thing in a maze, eating things while being chased by other things. In this case, a fish eating dots being chased by 3 crabs, which is almost exactly how I would describe a Pac-Man clone from the early 80's called Piranha. Anyone who's seen the movie Multiplicity knows what happens when you make a copy of a copy.

Along with originality, Pesco also lacks sound effects. Eating a crab or one of the sea-themed bonus items results in a very disappointing complete silence. The one noise the game does make, the sound of Pesco eating a dot, sounds more like it should be coming from one of those Coleco table top games than a TV set.

I think I can safely say there are more than enough Pac-Man-like games out there, and this one adds absolutely nothing to the formula.