torstai 19. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - The Flintstones: The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak! (1994)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1994
Available on: NES
Developer(s): Taito
Publisher(s): Taito
Players: 1

So came the time the once high and mighty Nintendo Entertainment System was fading away due to the system’s technologically superior little brother. Game companies saw the NES as a semi-profitable unit due to the 16-bit’s high price, but most of them passed up the opportunity to come up with anything new or truly remarkable for the last-generation console. There was one option left: the option of sequels, to their hit games which made NES the No. 1 choice for a lot of gamers back in the day. Taito released a sequel to The Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino & Hoppy in 1994 – named The Surprise at Dinosaur Peak!. The game wasn’t very successful, but nowadays it’s considered a collector’s item in many countries. Does it stand up to the quite decent first game?

A negotiation with pissed off pterodactyls? YABBA-DABBA-DOO!

Fred and Barney set out to find their kids Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, and find them stranded by a flow of lava from a volcano known to the people of Bedrock as Dinosaur Peak. The two prehistoric mates must find a way to enter the volcano and consult its keepers to stop the flow, and save their children.

If you’ve seen even a glimpse of the first game, you’ve seen this one. There are some minor changes, for better and worse. Character animation is slightly better, and the enemies are stunned and defeated instead of just exploding in a cloud of dust, but the environments look quite bland. Background art is very rare, there’s just empty space for most of the time. The music is not quite as irritating as in the first game.

The wicked witch from the Sega game takes
a turn on the NES.
There are some seemingly minor changes to gameplay which turn out very satisfactory. Upon hitting an enemy or an obstacle, you no longer take that infamous, annoying jump backwards, instead your character jumps up and down in place. There are many horizontally moving platforms, though, and if you get hit while you’re on one of those, the platform keeps moving and you stay in place, which might turn out a quite frustrating little flaw. Collision detection is better and that makes Fred’s club easier and more ideal to use. The boss fights are still quite simple by nature, and this time you can get by with just your club. Some of them are surprisingly difficult and require fast thinking – but most can easily be taken care of by locking the opponent up in a corner and clubbing away.

This time, the Select button no longer changes your secondary weapon/item – instead you switch between Fred and Barney. Barney has a few advantages over Fred; he’s much smaller in size, his primary weapon is a long range slingshot, and he can climb thin bars like a monkey. Sometimes you need quick switching between the two, even during jumps, ‘cause Barney can’t hang from ledges. It’s pretty frustrating at first, but brings some more tactical thought into the gameplay. Bringing Barney in, and the well known limitations of the NES control scheme eliminates the ability to carry more than one secondary weapon or item at a time, which is kind of a drag. A good thing about the secondary weapons is that the probability of running out of the hearts needed to use them is eliminated by a self-replenishing meter, which activates the weapons.

Barney's braver than he looks, he's still smiling.
Either that, or he's retarded.
Collecting stars fills up the YABBA-DABBA-DOO meter and when it’s full, you gain an extra life. Most of the collectables from the previous game are still here. Just like in the previous game, the “Enemy” character has a couple of minigames for you to “enjoy”. In addition to the returning basketball game, there’s an ice hockey game. These are just plain boring. They’re extremely easy once you learn a basic moveset, which you will nearly always get by with, but if the Enemy happens to gain the upper hand at any point, it’s hard to beat him ‘cause the game doesn’t respond too well to tackles. Also, the A.I. seems to rejuvenate each time you score. On top of all, the Enemy challenges both Fred and Barney, so you’ll have to bear these tedious minigames for two rounds each. To break away from a traditional platformer with something other than boring minigames, there’s a surfboarding stage as well as a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up stage to keep you on your toes. Surprisingly fun, both of them.

The level design is far more complex than in the first NES game; you have many new kind of obstacles and situations coming your way. Some sequences near the end of the game are quite merciless and require some practice, especially the effective switching between characters at the correct moments, but when you’ve reached the end, I don’t think you’ll remember the game being too difficult. The game is not quite as intriguing as the first one – when it comes to thematics and the plot, but it is a slightly better gaming experience. Despite a completely whacked ending, the game will leave a good taste in any Flintstones fan’s mouth, I reckon.

Graphics : 8.5
Sound : 7.2
Playability : 8.0
Challenge : 8.2
Overall : 7.9

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