maanantai 31. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts (1991)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1991
Available on: GBA, SNES, Wii Virtual Console
Developer(s): Capcom
Publisher(s): Capcom
Players: 1

When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was launched, Capcom was working on the early drafts of a new game in the dreaded Ghosts 'n Goblins series. Two direct sequels to Game Boy's spin-off hit Gargoyle's Quest were already at some level of planning, but since the last game in the main series, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, effectively skipped Nintendo's consoles altogether, it was time for retribution. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts was announced in early 1991 and released in the end of the year to an overwhelming, but kind of confused critical response - it was hailed from the very beginning as the most difficult video game of all time. And that's exactly what it is.

It's insane. Like Charles Manson-insane.

A self-proclaimed emperor by the name of Sardius kidnaps Princess Prin-Prin in order to obtain a royal heirloom, the Goddess' Bracelet, which put to proper use, is the only weapon in the world capable of destroying him. He is well aware of Sir Arthur's reputation and his desire to rescue his loved one, so he forces the brave knight to face his toughest challenge yet.

I feel... ravaged. Like my rear's been shred to pieces. Like every bit of my soul, dignity and masculinity has been destroyed, in a matter of hours. You'd probably like to think in your sick, little twisted mind that I've just had a bad night at the Blue Oyster bar, but that's not it - I played a little Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. You know, I played Ghosts 'n Goblins and I told you it was the most difficult game I ever played. Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Sega Genesis was hard, extremely hard, but manageable, almost, compared to the first game. It had helpful features, such as power-up generosity and the ability to aim your weapons in four different directions, which made it a little, not much, but a little easier. I went into Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts thinking that whatever's been said about it, I think it's going to be the easiest game of them all. I mean, it's been three years since the release of Ghouls 'n Ghosts. There's got to be some new features that make progress even easier than before. Oh, there are new features all right... but make no mistake, they are here to make your life a living hell.

I ain't going down there. I ain't.
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts will drive you insane for the exact same reasons as the first two games in the main series. You will find yourself seeing colours you never thought existed, hearing voices, and reflecting on irrelevancies such as what exactly does Prin-Prin see in our hero? He looks like Robinson Crusoe and he's been wearing that same armour, not to mention the underwear, for six years. And vice versa: why in the hell are we still destroying our lives playing these games? Because they're good. Unluckily so. We can come up with a thousand excuses to rip the cartridge out of our holy apparatus and throw it to the crows to feed on, and every single one of those thousand excuses is related to the game's difficulty - the true, mortally devastating challenge it provides even the most, most, most etc. seasoned player. Still, we can't quit. We simply cannot stop trying. And remember, switching the power off or ripping the cartridge out of the SNES will do you no good. There's no password, no save feature at all... you just gotta keep playing 'til you beat it. TWICE. ...Oh yeah, this time there's a twist. LIMITED CONTINUES... as well as some other just dandy shite I'll sink my teeth on in just a minute.

The graphics are good, but at first, it's a bit of a letdown since Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Genesis was released three years prior and it had much clearer, larger sprites. However, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a longer game, and it has dynamic, multi-dimensional level design to compensate for the fuzzy sprite work, and a better frame rate. The classic music has gone through some massive remastering, and it sounds awesome.

This time, there are four difficulty levels for you to choose from, and you can also choose the amount of lives you begin the game with. Before, it wouldn't have made any stinking difference, but like I said, there are limited continues - how much the limit is depends directly on the difficulty level. "Practice" has been shoved off, but in my mind, in order for a casual player to have the slightest hope of beating the game, Beginner is the way to go and it's almost just as insulting. Normal is of course the default level, though once again, it's far from normal. Expert is a pure nightmare, and to top it all off, we have Professional - even trying the game on that level with hopes to beat it is like playing Russian roulette, ALONE.

OK, so the first thing patient players of Ghouls 'n Ghosts will probably notice is that Arthur can no longer throw weapons in more than two directions, left and right. In terms of gameplay, what we have here is an updated version of Ghosts 'n Goblins, with level design from Ghouls 'n Ghosts. A lot worse, though. There are enemies that might spawn right in your spot, either by complete surprise or in situations in which you simply cannot move. Jumping over an obstacle might land you straight on an enemy, and vice versa. You have a double jump ability, but using it removes all adjustment control from you. You cannot control the direction, or distance of the double jump once you've executed the move. Like always, enemies and obstacles are everywhere. Even the levels are built to kill you! It's sincerely hard to make precise jumps in a place that changes its shape on the go, or has a large obstacle in the middle of the chasm, with some sort of vehicle on the other side, just waiting for the right moment to mow you over. There's simply no rest. You cannot stop for one second to plan your next move. It's trial and error all the way - mostly error. Oh, and checkpoints? Well, there aren't too many of them this time around. Just one per stage, the halfway mark. Good luck.

These ghosts are some of the best examples of
enemies who come and go as they please.
I simply don't know what more to say about the game to those people that have already lived and died playing the first two games, except that it's more difficult than either one of them. I was passing judgement way too quickly when I said Ghosts 'n Goblins was the most difficult game ever. It's still one of them, no doubt about it, but Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts takes violent challenge to a whole new level. It can kill you. And it will. If you don't believe me, just fucking try it.

The thing about the whole series is that they're not bad games at all. What makes Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts sincerely a bit weaker than its Genesis counterpart, is the double jump and the subsequent ousting of Arthur's more practical abilities. Besides, I think intentionally making each game more ridiculously difficult than the last was not a very good selling point to begin with for Capcom. However, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is still one of Capcom's best-selling games even after the rise and steady growth of the Resident Evil series, so I guess there are people out there to whom challenge means everything when it comes to good games. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts certainly has that.

Graphics : 8.7
Sound : 8.9
Playability : 7.8
Challenge : 10
Overall : 8.0


a.k.a. Cho Makaimura (JAP)

GameRankings: 80.57% (GBA)

Nintendo Power ranks Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts #144 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

REVIEW - Ghouls 'n Ghosts (1988)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1988
Available on: Amiga, ARC, Atari ST, C64, GEN, PC, SMS, Wii Virtual Console, ZX
Developer(s): Capcom, U.S. Gold, Software Creations
Publisher(s): Capcom, U.S. Gold, Sega
Players: 1-2

People were hardly over the shock of the first game, when already Capcom was working on a sequel to the infamous Ghosts 'n Goblins. In 1988, it hit the arcades and frustrated the hell out of everyone that had already been driven to a nervous breakdown by its predecessor. Still, they couldn't get enough of it and Ghouls 'n Ghosts became a hit. The home port of the game landed on every home computer available at the time, but Nintendo missed out on the fun when it came to video game consoles, as Sega's new 16-bit Genesis console allowed Capcom to make a game that was visually downgraded from the original arcade title as little as possible. The result was a critically acclaimed 16-bit game, that just didn't sell that well due to Nintendo's huge popularity over Sega's in some parts of the world... and perhaps due to the fact that one hardly pays for a mental suicide. The game is very good, but it ain't easy.


Sir Arthur is a man that does not rest when the soul of his significant other is in question. The Prince of Darkness has risen and reaped the souls of half the land, including that of Princess Prin-Prin. Donning his favourite armour, Arthur sets out on another quest through the monster-infested lands to slay the greatest of demons.

That's it, I've burnt out. Too early to say that before even getting to the likely main feature that is the SNES game? Maybe. That's why I'm trying my best to keep a level head. When I first started this game, it didn't feel nearly as difficult as Ghosts 'n Goblins on the NES. The controls - keep in mind what I've said about my personal opinion on the Genesis' controller before - are great, very smooth and of course, very simple. A and C are both used for jumping, while B is used for attacking. You can also attack upwards and downwards, which is the most advanced part of the basic gameplay - very simple, which is just what we all liked about Ghosts 'n Goblins, the simplicity when it came to gameplay. When it came to general difficulty, the game was everything but simple, but at least that difficulty wasn't brought on by technical issues - it was just made to be hellish. The first stage of Ghouls 'n Ghosts was quite a breeze. I had some trouble with the boss, but the pattern of his attacks was easy to work out. In the second level, I had some more trouble with several issues. In the third level, all hell broke loose. Yep, this is definitely an apple from the same tree as the '85 classic.

Spikes, assholes and auto-scroll from
below. Welcome to hell.
The graphics of the game are absolutely great, so great that it feels like Sega put a little too much effort into drawing the line between the technical differences of 8- and 16-bit technology. It was only the late 80's and in that sense, they perhaps set the bar a little too high. The music's much better and more diverse than before. The theme song from the first game is still intact as a slight remix, as well as the death chime which hasn't changed at all - and yes, you'll still be hearing it on a steady interval. You see, in case you haven't figured it out yet, Ghouls 'n Ghosts is a son of a bitch.

From the beginning, it very much seems like Capcom is straight on fucking with us. Most games have difficulty levels to choose from. Ghosts 'n Goblins didn't, although the first round could be interpreted as being "normal", though it was far from it. Ghouls 'n Ghosts does let you choose the difficulty level, between Professional and... Medium? Normal? No, PRACTICE. I probably don't have to tell you that the "Practice" mode is way more difficult than any average game in itself. Not only is playing on something called "Practice" and getting the assrape of a lifetime insulting, but what's even more insulting is that there's a reminder of your chosen difficulty level in the bottom corner of the screen, all the fucking time. Yeah, you got enemies on that side, you got enemies on this side, you got enemies all over the God damn screen! There's no escape! ...But remember, it's just "practice"! Capcom did pretty much the same thing years later with Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, in which the "Normal" game mode was dubbed "Easy" mode for some reason... almost as insulting as "Practice" in my opinion. But not quite.

Oh, and one should not forget the tongues.
Well, as tradition goes - even the second time can be seen as following tradition - you have to beat Ghouls 'n Ghosts twice to see the true ending. Easier said than done. If you do the first time in Norm... I mean, PRACTICE, it will automatically switch to Professional on the second round. Playing on Pro from the beginning simply means that you have to do Pro mode twice, and that my friends, is something I will never be able to do. It's hard to admit, but that's just how it is. Like I said, the beginning of the game feels a lot easier and smoother than the whole game of Ghosts 'n Goblins, but before you can spell out "horse shit", the game's difficulty turns upside down. The third stage is the proverbial watershed; it's perfectly possible to survive it, but it shows you the game's true face in various ways. The first half of it has an automatic scroll, which is never a comfortable element in a platformer. The second half is full of death, literally. You need to jump across tongues - these tongues belong to stone statues that kill you on impact. That's not all, each solid platform out there kills you on impact. That's still not all, there are enemies everywhere, and not just any enemies, but flying bastards. Oh, and then there are these wizards that look like Dracula, and hide themselves in seemingly normal treasure chests, waiting for you to release them so that they can change you into an old geezer or a helpless duck. You're gonna need a fine heap of good luck here.

"I'm ready, so where's the boss?" "Dude... you're
standing on him."
Well, at least the bosses aren't nearly as bad as the stages needed to be beaten to be able to reach them, and like in the first game, lives are completely irrelevant. You have infinite continues - no save or password feature, however - and even if the screen says "Game Over", you will still start from the last checkpoint. If you didn't, I'd have given up on this game a lot longer before I finally did. If I have to name something else that's fair about the game, it's that at least on... *sigh*... Practice mode, it's quite generous with extra armor, which used to be such a rarity in the first game. Don't you go thinking it would give you any extra health, though - just a little more physical power, which can be helpful, but it's all gone once you hit something. You'll still be spending most of the game in your underwear. I actually played the game wearing only my heart-studded boxers just to get the right vibe. And now I'm going to murder myself after admitting that.

Considering my usual discomfort with the Sega Genesis it's not saying much, but Ghouls 'n Ghosts is one of my favourite games on the platform. Perhaps it doesn't sound that rational after everything I've laid down here, but something about its ridiculous difficulty makes it so addictive; once again, there's nothing wrong with the gameplay. OK, the third stage is nothing but frustratingly difficult, but everything else offers up true challenge that only the most dedicated players can ever hope to conquer. The first game was good, but Ghouls 'n Ghosts goes way beyond looking better.

Graphics : 9.0
Sound : 8.5
Playability : 8.0
Challenge : 9.8
Overall : 8.2


a.k.a. Dai Makaimura (JAP)

GameRankings: 90.00%

Although the game was never meant to be released on an 8-bit console, Sega released a Master System port of Ghouls 'n Ghosts in 1990.

torstai 27. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Ghosts 'n Goblins (1985)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1985
Available on: Amiga, ARC, Atari ST, C64, GB, GBA, NES, PC, Wii Virtual Console, ZX
Developer(s): Capcom, Micronics
Publisher(s): Capcom
Players: 1-2

Feeling somewhat depressed? Like the whole world is against you, or like it's crumbling at your feet? Yeah, I totally know what you're going through. I have just the game for you... anything other than Ghosts 'n Goblins. This game was Capcom's commercial breakthrough and it is still considered one of their best titles even though it came long before long-standing franchises like Mega Man, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry and of course, Capcom's commercially renowned Disney games such as DuckTales and Chip 'n Dale - Rescue Rangers. It was released in the arcades in 1985, and it is considered the most difficult arcade game to beat, ever. Well, the NES version that came around a year later, not until 1989 in Europe though, is just as hard. It has had grown men resorting to near-suicide. It is difficult beyond belief... but that doesn't make it a bad game. In fact, the relationship between the simplicity and intensity of Ghosts 'n Goblins is, should I say, pretty damn awesome.

Satan's being an asshole

A knight in royal service sets out to save his beloved Princess Prin-Prin from a world of demons ruled by Satan himself. The brave knight's path is blocked by a terrifying horde of zombies, dragons and other minions of the devil.

I have a confession to make. Even though Ghosts 'n Goblins, all of its sequels and spin-offs are cult, and not just any cult, but parts of a franchise created by one of the biggest game developers in the world, I was not that familiar with any of the games before starting this sub-marathon - if at all. I've always confused Ghosts 'n Goblins with Wizards & Warriors, for some reason, and I've also come a long way to stop calling the game Ghouls 'n Ghosts, which of course, is the name of the sequel. One thing I always knew about the game was that it's regarded one of the most difficult games of all time, along with the SNES installment Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, one of my classmates had the game. I didn't get along with him very well - he was an annoying prick and his family was deeply religious - but I remember us having some civil conversations from time to time, and almost every time he mentioned his always brand new NES controller. In my later years, I've figured that he had broken about a dozen controllers because of this one game, since he didn't have that many games on his NES. It makes perfect sense... in turn, why his dad (a priest) would allow him to have a game that makes direct notions to Satan, doesn't make any sense at all. But enough of the off-topic rant: welcome to hell.

Where did you die for the first time in Ghosts 'n
Goblins? This is my answer. And it's, like, the
second screen of the game. Imagine that.
The graphics are, well, the best graphics you can expect from a game that was released on this particular platform in 1986. It's surprisingly detailed and colourful, and it looks appealing in every way. Pixelphobes beware, though. Ain't much to talk about when it comes to the music - the same tune keeps repeating over and over again (it's classic, though), and the sound effects are horrid. The sound you'll be hearing for most of the time you are willing to sacrifice to the game, is the sound of death. You know how the death tune in Castlevania has become somewhat of a staple to indicate a game's difficulty level, just because you died and had to hear that sound a million times in Castlevania? Scratch that, we have a winner here - at least Castlevania had a health bar.

You know, considering my attitude with deeply frustrating games, I'd love to say Ghosts 'n Goblins sucks, but I simply don't think that. I don't know what it is about the game, perhaps that it's very old, and extremely simple in nature, and that it has fair controls, are good excuses for it being above all the similar, "difficult", but also extremely mediocre games that came after it. It's a platformer. It might not seem that way at first, since there are not much platforms in the first stage (luckily so), you're just going forward and trying your best to kill each enemy that comes your way - they come from everywhere. Left, right, up, down. EVERYWHERE. Large, marine enemies that take a million hits from any weapon such as demon pigs (or whatever they are) do not respawn, but flying bastards do. So Castlevania wasn't the first game to have them. Neither was it the first game in which your character takes a huge leap backwards whenever he's hit, and yes, water's fatal. Everything that moves in this game is fatal. You have two points of health. You start off with armour and regain it after beating each stage. You can also find armour on the field, but it's extremely rare. The armour is kind of like your health bar. One hit and you lose the armour, and are forced to struggle in your underwear for the rest of the way. One more hit, and you're dead. How much do you think our dear sir really loves his princess? ...'Cause I'm in the third stage, I have the heartburn of a lifetime, and if I don't stop now, I think I'm going to have a deadly ulcer.

Who am I kidding? I can't quit the game! I simply can't do it! Look at that one spot, it looks so easy. Why couldn't I get past that if I really try? Come on, gotta do it! On the mark, get set, go! Yes! ...What's that bleeping sound? Oh well, I'll just carry on... I just died. What the hell? There's no enemy in sight. Oh well, it was probably just a one-off glitch or something, I'll forgive that. Remember the timing... yes, made it again, and this time I even have my armour intact. But there's the bleeping sound again, what the hell is that? I died again?! With the armour still in place? What the hell is this? ...Oh. There's a time limit. A little past two minutes, in each stage. Makes me wonder how in the hell I got past the tower of pigs in the second stage so quickly that I hadn't heard that bleeping sound before. And it makes me a bit depressed, maybe... woozy, even. Well, the game might be unfair, but at least there are features that are missing from a million games that came out years later: checkpoints, and an infinite chance to continue from them, so the number of lives doesn't really amount to anything. Capcom knew they were making one difficult game, and if you got past just one single stage, they considered it an accomplishment and rewarded you for it. However...

Trapped naked in the tower of pigs. OK, OK,
they're some sort of big demons, but as kids, we
called each enemy whatever came to our minds
first when we saw them. And they sure as hell
act like pigs.
...If and when you finally think you've beaten the game, it throws you on the floor, pulls your pants down and drives a sweaty schlong right up your anus, calls you Mary and forces you to call it "uncle". You have to beat the whole game TWICE, plus the final boss, to be qualified to brag to all your Internet associates on the boards how you beat Ghosts 'n Goblins on the NES. You guessed it, the mandatory second round is a "Hard Mode". This is where I draw the white flag - I give up. Congratulations - I have never given a challenge rating of 10, now I will, and I think I'll take another swing at Battletoads, Castlevania III, or the yet to be reviewed Journey to Silius, or another infamously difficult game that is child's play compared to Ghosts 'n Goblins. The game is seriously the most difficult video game I've ever played, and in the correct sense; it's frustrating, sure, but addictively so since it has good, simple gameplay, you certainly see everything that is hazardous to you and you don't have to see an irreversible "Game Over" (read "Fuck You and Have a Nice Day") screen after every single death - just a sort of loading screen with the map and your current location, as if you didn't know where you were already. It's the kind of game in which beating one stage is a perfect cause for celebration. Don't take the beers out just yet.

Ghosts 'n Goblins, although I gave up on it out of desperation, frustration and depression, was addictive, fun to play and a great break from what I will certainly remember forever as my worst 8-bit week ever. Now that I've broken the ice, I'll gladly take on the rest of the franchise... after a little, healthy rest, 'cause I sincerely believe there's going to be more infernal torment coming my way.

Graphics : 7.5
Sound : 5.0
Playability : 7.0
Challenge : 10
Overall : 7.3


a.k.a. Makaimura (JAP)

GameRankings: 75.69% (GB)

Nintendo Power ranks Ghosts 'n Goblins #129 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.

keskiviikko 26. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Friday the 13th (1989)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1989
Available on: NES
Developer(s): Pack-In Video
Publisher(s): LJN
Players: 1

What Dracula is to Frankenstein and vice versa, Jason Voorhees is to Freddy Krueger. Jason's little more of a persistent bugger than Freddy, though. He has been around ever since 1980's horror classic Friday the 13th, although as we all even less dedicated horror fanatics know, he wasn't the killer in that particular flick. An early version of him only appeared in the ending of the film as a sequel-paving spook, while the actual killer in that movie was his mother Pamela. Jason went on to appear as the prime evil in a total of nine direct Friday sequels before appearing in the Friday/Elm Street crossover Freddy vs. Jason, and finally, a reboot of the Friday the 13th franchise, in which the goddess Julianna Guill and her pair of 10+ bare breasts made a big screen debut, so Jason was kind of a side character in that movie in my opinion. Enough talk about the movies, but I wanted to bring the Freddy vs. Jason bit up for a reason. Less than a while ago, I did a review of LJN's A Nightmare on Elm Street. It just so happens that about a year before its release, LJN also covered Jason's beloved slasher franchise. A Nightmare on Elm Street's a bad game, no doubt about it, but I find it playable to some extent, while Friday the 13th on the NES is one horrible display of LJN at their worst. And that's pretty bad, mind you!

Like a machete to the skull

Six camp counselors and a group of kids settle at Crystal Lake. The camping area is invaded by the mentally deranged murderer Jason Voorhees, who begins a hunt for the counselors and children alike. The counselors need to work together to put an end to Jason's madness.

Do you remember an NES game called Silent Assault? I don't blame you if you don't, I almost missed it as a kid myself. It was quite a decent game, in which you controlled some sort of a commando type and hunted down aliens that had invaded the Earth. Pretty decent run 'n' gun action. I'm sure you find this pretty damn interesting and all, but what does it have to do with Friday the 13th? Absolutely nothing. Oh, but there is one thing. Silent Assault was an unlicensed game, meaning it didn't have the official Nintendo seal of quality on it. Friday the 13th does - so much for the validity of the seal of quality. It's more like seal of quantity. I'm not sure if I've ever played a worse NES game so far than Friday the 13th. Oh, wait, I have: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I had already forgotten about it! What a week I'm having, huh? Well, unlike Attack, Friday the 13th is the type of God-awful game that rather makes me laugh than pisses me off. You just know even before playing the game, that it's going to be one of the most laughable and tedious gaming experiences you've ever had.

The graphics aren't worth a dime. First of all, the character avatars look like early prototypes of Nintendo Miis. Everyone's so damn happy even if there's a blood lusting maniac on their trail. The Jason sprite is pathetic, and every playable character looks female. It's like they took this one female sprite, let's say that of Crissy's, and then just changed the palette with each character, forgetting about the physical differences between men and women. Every environment looks exactly the same. The sound is simply nerve wrecking, all the way from the putrid sound effects to something that can't even be called music.

"Mark, I've come to tell you that this thing
between us... it just doesn't work. I'm an ugly
bundle of pixels, you're an ugly bundle of
pixels. We're too much alike. Both of us have
breasts, for God's sake."
The game's plot is (very loosely) based on the first movie. Let's see, Jason looks like a middle-aged, fat pedophile and at first he isn't even holding any sort of weapon; every time you see him, he throws a rock or something at you as if trying to annoy you rather than to kill you, or sloppily beats you with his fists like some low-level opponent in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!. As the game progresses, Jason's variety of weapons does too, to the usual: a knife, an axe, a machete. Kind of weird from Nintendo to accept something like this, and surprisingly authentic management by LJN... the one and only example of it. Pamela Voorhees does appear in the game... as some sort of a Medusa-like boss. There are zombies, or something, I'm not quite sure what they are, wandering around the whole camping area. It's a good thing that LJN was always right on the mark with these movie licenses! The designer must've been on dope or else he was just plain retarded. "Oh, so we're making a horror game? What's it called? Friday the 13th? OK. What's it about? A crazy killer on some summer camp? OK, I'll see what I can do." Enter a huge, very much alive severed head, and a pack of zombies. Hey, it's a horror game so it's gotta have something! A large, mute, deformed and deranged guy with the primitive urge to kill, and who's always one step ahead of you, is not scary. What next? Vampires inhabiting the caves by the lake? No, actually it's Mrs. Voorhees' aforementioned head that inhabits the cave by the lake.

The so called idea of the game is to switch between six camp counselors, who all have some special talents, wander around the camp for three in-game days and nights and save as many kids as possible, and yourself as well, from Jason and his zombie buddies. If you can survive and protect the others for the required three days and nights, the game is over. This only takes something like 45 minutes in actual time, but of course you could spend that time doing something more creative, like... I know, learn to sing "Kumbaya" through your nasal cavity! Seriously, 45 minutes is a short time, but you'd be amazed how tight of a virtual noose can be strung around your neck by a game in such a quick zap.

I wonder if Paul is aware that the black guy's
always the first one to die in the field of horror?
The Crystal Lake "world map" is a mess, but you need to figure out fast ways to move around the camp, 'cause the game literally consists of running around it, and not just to any random spot, but to Jason's location and prevent him from killing a group of kids or your fellow counselors. The game's over if all of the annoying brats die, or if all of your colleagues die. How do you find Jason, then? Well, there's the Jason alarm which goes off just about every five seconds, disrupting whatever you were doing. You need to check the map for Jason's current location and somehow find your way to him and play a quick game of Punch-Out!! against him, as quickly as possible, or you're screwed. Whenever you're NOT bothered by the Jason alarm, you can just freely go into the cabins and light their fireplaces to prevent Jason from ever entering those particular cabins again. Yeah, that's right. A fire a day keeps Jason away. Don't ask why, but that's just how it is. You can switch between the counselors any time, or wait until you randomly meet another one so you can pass him/her your items, and then switch to that guy or gal. There are also some random items, or rather clues, found in the houses, which don't make much sense, if at all.

What's most tedious about interior areas in this game is most definitely the 3D experiment the developers found crucial to go with them. It's hard to find a way back out of the cabins, and all of them look exactly the same. Back in the late 80's, it was perfectly OK to do small-time experiments with 3D and demonstrate its capabilities, but it was not cool at all to stick incomplete stuff into a commercial game. Not even a commercial game as bad as Friday the 13th.

It's not a hard game. It's boring. Constantly moving between a dozen different spots on the map that all look exactly the same with the ultimate goal to light up some stupid fireplaces, doing that occasional retarded deathmatch with young master Voorhees, and jumping from one end of the map to another once that annoying alarm rings, and repeating this cycle for the duration of the whole crapfest is not my interpretation of a very entertaining game. What's interesting is that I just happened to read about this game on the Internet and found a guy that actually somewhat likes the game. I would love to have a chat with him, since 99,9% of the people I know share my opinion: it is one of the worst video games to be released commercially, ever.

Graphics : 3.0
Sound : 2.5
Playability : 2.4
Challenge : 2.5
Overall : 2.5

REVIEW - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1994
Available on: GEN, Sega-CD, SNES
Developer(s): Bits Corporation Ltd.
Publisher(s): Sony Imagesoft
Players: 1

By 1994, Irish actor/director Kenneth Branagh had developed himself quite a reputation as a Shakespeare specialist and one of the last real artsy-fartsy directors in the golden commercial era of Hollywood action, when suddenly he wanted to do a movie about Frankenstein. Considering Branagh's style, it was out of the question to do a strict horror film or another type of movie that would even remotely resemble the movies that made Frankenstein's monster famous, so he based his $45 million project on Mary Shelley's original novel, making the character of the monster a sophisticated and intelligent, but dangerously naive and sensitive, easily provoked being. I think the movie turned out decent, though it flopped at the box office. Any movie with Robert De Niro playing a main character can't be all that bad, now can it? I think the movie could've made for a decent game, too. Oh, there was a 16-bit game based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein? I heard rumours of it coming up almost 17 years ago, I didn't think it was actually released. Who published it? ...Sony Imagesoft? Oh, Lord. Well, it was the year of the critically acclaimed Mickey Mania - maybe they got this one right, too. I mean, there has to be one decent Frankenstein game out there, right? RIGHT?

No, there's not a single decent Frankenstein game out there.

Overcome with grief over his mother's untimely passing, young Victor Frankenstein promises to find a way to cheat death. Years later as a medical student, he finds out of an experiment made by one of his professors at the university, which involved constructing a human being. Victor hides away in his apartment with journals stolen from the professor to be able to cheat death by reattempting his failed experiment, and creating artificial life from exhumed body parts. Victor is able to create a man, but he immediately realizes the mistake he's made, and abandons his creation. What he doesn't realize, is that the monster is very intelligent and it has emotions - and when provoked, it is extremely dangerous to everyone around it. It's out to exact revenge on its uncaring creator, and people would be wise to stay out of its way.

The movie isn't that well known, so I'd like to talk about a bit more before going into the game. I've always dug the vintage Frankenstein interpretation just as much as the next horror fan, but it was a high time long before Kenneth Branagh took his chances, that Mary Shelley's original novel was touched by someone. It was a horror story, but I think that moreover, it was a drama. Robert De Niro is one of the greatest character actors of our time, just to mention a few examples I'd have to bring up young Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather II, Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and from his more recent roles, Max Cady in the 1991 remake of Cape Fear. I think he was the perfect choice to flesh out Frankenstein's monster, and his performance indeed was the driving force of the movie - I'm not a huge fan of Branagh's overtly melodramatic and romantic style in general. Although it was most of all a drama, when the first screenshots of the game were released, I thought it would've turned out pretty good if the right people were making it. I dug the idea of making the monster the villainous protagonist, beating up everyone who got in between him and his creator. The graphics also looked quite passable. What the screenshots did not tell you, is that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a clumsy and cryptic, utter waste of time that in my mind, just cannot be completed from the beginning to the end.

The graphics are indeed pretty good, although judging by the overall bland look of things, the game could've easily been released three years before than it was. Animation speed deserves some extra credit, though, it's very smooth - much smoother than the bad controls you must use to be able to admire it. The music's also basically bearable, but extremely repetitive and boring in the long run. I don't know if "long" is a correct adjective to be used here, since you'll most likely be done with the game forever after desperately trying to put up with all the shit it throws at you, making it to the end of the first stage just to greet almost certain death. That's right, I haven't even got past the first stage, but I think I've seen all there is to see. I truly hope so, at least, 'cause there's nothing good.

Are you going to put me out of my misery now
or should I come back later? I'd prefer the first
option, sir.
Getting through the first stage and to the first boss fight takes about ten minutes... if you know what to do. If not, it'll take something like 90 minutes. Let's take it from the start. You're Frankenstein's monster, or as he was referred to in the movie, "the creature". The character has a nasty limp, but he can still make quite impressive jumps and roll around like an armadillo. Your weapon is a stick. That's right, a pathetic freakin' branch - which you can set on fire to "enhance its attack power", which simply does not happen. Setting it on fire increases its pathetic range with half an inch, but that doesn't help a whole lot since enemies' weapons have much more impressive range. Just to be able to hit an enemy, you have to take damage yourself, since the bastards protect their personal space with their weapons constantly stuck in your chest, and you need to hit every on-foot enemy at least twice from close range to kill 'em. Well, at least they don't respawn, at all, but there are very few confrontations which you have the tiniest chance to escape unscathed.

The art of the cryptic sets in right after you start the game. You can enter buildings, but in most of them you'll just get your ass kicked and benefit nothing. In some, though, there are items for you to collect. What's the purpose of these items? I sincerely don't know. Some books give you unnecessary and retarded clues, but items which could stand in for much-needed equipment don't seem to have any use at all. GameFAQs has always helped to me to understand some of the most cryptic features of some of the most cryptic games, but 'FAQs doesn't have anything on this game, except for complete passwords. It has been my principle from the very beginning of writing video game reviews, that I will not cheat. Even if my potential of getting forward in this game depends on a password, I'll not use it. It's not how the game was meant to be played... but then again, if this is, Lord have mercy. It gets worse.

There are these ropes you have to pull, usually to summon elevators. Well, some of them simply have no practical use at all. The stage is practically filled with these enigmatic nooses. In the very first screen, I spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out what I should do. I double-checked each building, ran back and forth the screen to declare that yeah, there still were two ropes at the end of the screen. Why? Now I could see perfectly clear that there was a lift rail to the left of me, but I could not see what was at the other end. I deemed the lower rope useless and tried the upper one, again and again, to summon the lift. I almost gave up when I tried the lower one just for the fun of it and then struggled my way to the top with the awesomely bad controls, and there it was, the lift, which I had to struggle to get on, since the creature doesn't understand the simple concept of an adjustable jump. It's the same ridiculous haul every time, regardless of how long you press the B button. The upper rope controlled another lift at the other end - which simply cannot be seen from down below.

Well, another similar scenario and about 45 minutes later, I found myself finally grasping the cryptic and generally lacking nature of the game and making progress a whole lot faster. Since just about every enemy of the game had landed at least one attack on me, my health was at the absolute bottom and I really hoped there wouldn't be a boss fight. Well, then I got the first health item of the game and suddenly, I felt prepared for anything... except a guy on a horse with totally unblockable attacks and incredible speed, who was aided by a whole cavalry of standard enemies. I died before even getting a look at what hit me. Well, no biggie, I can do this. I made it to the boss, the gate I opened to get to 'em was an obvious checkpoint. Or maybe not. You apparently only have one life to spare. Game over. Sony Imagesoft, you can bet your ass the game's over. I didn't just spend the last 90 minutes of my life trying to figure out this game, just to be ravaged by a fucking cavalry for my efforts. I did it 'cause I wanted to believe that you fucking bastards had made a semi-playable movie license for once.

Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein have many things in common. Both are remarkable novels which gave birth to two of the greatest monsters in modern popular culture. Both were made into movies in the 90's, under these very titles - one is considered an all-star masterpiece in gothic horror, while one is hardly remembered. Both movies were also adapted into video games by two different companies, but these games were published by one and the same company, Sony Imagesoft - and both of them are some of the most atrocious crap that gave movie licenses a bad name.

Graphics : 7.5
Sound : 6.5
Playability : 3.3
Challenge : 3.0
Overall : 3.2


GameRankings: 20.00% (GEN), 59.50% (SNES)

The Sega-CD versions of Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein were released as a 2-in-1 bundle in late 1994. What a run for your money, don't you agree?

tiistai 25. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - The Adventures of Dr. Franken (1993)

Genre(s): Action / Platform
Released: 1993
Available on: SNES
Developer(s): MotiveTime
Publisher(s): DTMC, Elite Systems
Players: 1-2

In 1992, MotiveTime and Elite Systems collaborated on a quite decent, campy Game Boy platformer strangely named Dr. Franken, which even more strangely starred a perfectly humanoid version of Frankenstein's monster, called Franky, who wandered around a castle in his pajamas and apparently tried to reassemble the scattered pieces of his bride. One year later, this game was totally revised for mothership SNES as The Adventures of Dr. Franken. I always thought this would be quite a decent game, I read a lot about it when I was a kid and the colourful, slapstick style of the graphics appealed to me. Well, some truths are better left unknown. It's like I'm experiencing Bubsy II all over again.

Why is it alive?

For the first time ever, I must say I have no stinking idea what the plot of the game is; as if it would even matter. The bottom line is this: you're Frankenstein's monster, or a version of him that's pretty much a cross between Herman Munster and a Californian surfer kid. You go around the world, starting from Transylvania - what a damn surprise - gathering scattered parts of your passport in maze-like areas to advance to the next country. I always wanted to see a campy game that had a family-friendly Frankenstein's monster as a world travelling tourist. Or maybe I didn't.

The graphics are still quite OK, I have nothing to really complain about. Quirky, colourful, toyish stuff. The music is also quite good. There's some original groove and then a couple of Bach pieces, including an adaptation of "Moonlight Sonata" thrown in. On the surface, The Adventures of Dr. Franken looks perfectly playable. The moment you put it in, you know it's not going to be great, but you'd like to think it's still a harmless platformer.

Bubsy II came out a year after The Adventures of Dr. Franken, so I guess Dr. Franken influenced Bubsy, not the other way around. The stages are similar back-and-forth runs in cube-shaped, confusing hallways with no point until you've reached the actual goal of the stage, like gathered a certain amount of certain items - then, you can exit the stage and be done with it. The more you play the game, the more it starts to feel like the worst and most unnecessary movie licenses in video game history, although it isn't one. Kind of like Wayne's World or Blues Brothers. Think about it: can a game I compare to one that is currently the 4th worst game of VGMania review history, and two movie licenses that aren't just bad but do not make one tiny little shard of sense, be even remotely playable? Well, sure. But don't expect getting anywhere in it. And for the love of God, do NOT pay for it. It's quite rare, and rare is what it should remain. Please. Buy your girl something nice. Love her. Be good to her. Put your greed and ambition as a collector of video games aside when it comes to Dr. Franken. You'll not regret it.

It doesn't matter if I stop now, the non-existent
traction will probably make me hit that guy.
The items you need to gather are indeed pieces of passports and they're usually guarded by enemies that respawn as soon as their spawning location slips half an inch from the screen. The controls are simply putrid. The oversensitivity of Franky's movement is just the beginning. There are two action buttons, Y and A. The second is for a frontal attack, the other's for a roundhouse kick to the back. Which one's which depends on your heading. The X button executes a somersault kick that needs to be timed perfectly or you'll get your dignity stolen in the usual American prison way. The L and R buttons are used for different projectiles, that should be used only in the most desperate situations - your ammo capacity is very, very low. So is your health bar, although it doesn't look like it. You have seven full ticks by default, but that don't mean jackshit - it's three or four hits, and you're done. Health items come in generous amounts, but they aren't of much help if you happen to get, let's see, stuck on a staircase and spammed by unblockable attacks by an enemy you simply cannot counterattack from your current position.

OK, so you made it to the next stage after the very frustrating beginning. Ooh, at least the game has bang for your buck - there's like two dozens of different stages marked on the world map, how about that? You don't even have to do them in a single, strict order. Well, let me tell you that the game is never going to change. It's the same boring, hectic, merciless drivel all the way. And let me tell you something else. You lose three lives, your game is over. No passwords, no battery, it's back to square one with you. Now, what is the travelling speed of a SNES cartridge, in miles per hour? Only one way to find out.

It seems I just can't find a decent game out of all this material I've laid before me. I'd love to find a totally hated game that I like - I haven't written a total contrarian's review in a long time. Well, the search continues. The Adventures of Dr. Franken was a pathetic pitstop, and it just became the reigning 8th worst game in the aforementioned VGMania review history. (This list will be made public some time in the future, by the way.) If you want to enjoy the best qualities of the game without having to actually play the wretched thing, just browse through Music in the main menu.

Graphics : 6.8
Sound : 7.5
Playability : 4.5
Challenge : 4.0
Overall : 4.3


a.k.a. Dr. Franken

GameRankings: 65.50%

REVIEW - Frankenstein: The Monster Returns (1991)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1991
Available on: NES
Developer(s): Bandai
Publisher(s): Bandai
Players: 1

Let's play Word Association. Dracula. Go. If you're into classic horror like me, I strongly suspect your answer would be Frankenstein's monster, since these two horror icons were the earliest and greatest distinct movie monsters of their time. Frankenstein's history dates back to the year 1818, when only 21-year old British girl named Mary Shelley released an initially anonymous novel entitled Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus. One of the most controversial but critically acclaimed novels of its time, the book touched the subject of man playing God and building an artificial human being, only to find that he has made the biggest mistake of his life. The first known movie adaptation of the novel was made in 1910, with Charles Stanton Ogle as Frankenstein's monster, and the most famous one was released in 1931, starring Boris Karloff as the monster and Colin Clive as his creator. Over 25 movies have been made since then, that have prominently featured Frankenstein's monster in some shape or form, and almost every single one of them was made before 1991. So, my question is: what game was Bandai really working on when they made Frankenstein: The Monster Returns? Believe me, it has NOTHING to do with what Ms. Shelley had in mind.

Good brain, bad brain... no brain

The evil monster of Frankenstein has been buried in an old countryside cemetary for years. During that time, the villagers who killed him have been enjoying life in a small paradise; the sun has shined the whole time and crops have flourished, free from the evil energy of Frankenstein. One fateful night, a bolt of lightning hits Frankenstein's tombstone and resurrects the evil mastermind. A brave young man sets out to put Frankenstein back into his grave and save the life of an innocent little girl.

Luckily Death soon got his old job back in
Super Castlevania IV.
Whew... I'm not really sure where I should begin. Well, first of all, as it was revealed in the second movie starring Clive and Karloff, The Bride of Frankenstein, the monster did not die in the fire set by the villagers. Secondly, why in the hell would a crime against nature be buried in a cemetary close to the village he wreaked traumatic havoc in? How in the most dramatic fashion of fuck is Frankenstein's monster an intelligent, evil overlord? He was intelligent in the original novel, extremely so, but his naivete and incomplete talent to manage emotions made him angry and afraid, and that is why he turned to murder. In the first Karloff movie, which the game is somewhat based on, the simple-minded monster was accidentally given a criminal's brain, which made him aggressive. Aggression was the only emotion the monster felt, he was pretty much dumb as a boot and couldn't speak. Not in any adaptation of Franken-fuckin'-stein is the monster a tough-talking equivalent of Satan himself, who has full control over each and every evil, unnatural being in the big book of cliches, such as a horde of demons from hell and even the Grim Reaper. And sure, if we want to be even more specific and technical about it, the monster does not have a name. Frankenstein was the name of the scientist that created him. Are Dr. Frankenstein or the monster's origins even mentioned in the game? Take a wild guess. This American-Japanese collaboration is like a camp on camp; even Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein had more street cred. Did someone dare to speak Young Frankenstein's title in a negative manner? Fuck off, that movie ruled!

Now that the history lesson on Frankenstein's monster is out of the way, let's concentrate on the game. It's no surprise the game isn't very good, either... but it's kinda playable. The graphics are OK in a warped sort of way, at least the game doesn't fall in the same category as many cheap games of its time and look totally bland and/or spammed with two or three different background textures. The music is simply horrendous, really high-pitched "suspense" music, which suspenses nothing except for my nerves which are already still wrecked after playing Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Luckily Frankenstein: The Monster Returns isn't quite THAT bad.

There is one well-known web personality that disagrees with me, though. You know, when I started playing this game, I had no recollection of AVGN doing a review of it. It was when I made it to the second stage and fell into a pond, and was forced to fight a merman ripped straight off Castlevania underwater, that a series of deja-vus hit me. I immediately paused the game and hauled my ass to James indeed did a Halloween special on games based on Frankenstein's monster back in 2009. I watched the video, and found it a bit funny that not only was I indeed playing the "main feature" of the Halloween special, I also have James and "Franken-nerd's" warm-ups, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Adventures of Dr. Franken next up on my list of games to review... promising. The Nerd was wrong about one thing: you certainly CAN jump from one lily pad to another without ever having to face the merman. There's a boss waiting at the other end, who was totally skipped in the video due to the Nerd resorting to the use of a password; Medusa, who in my mind was one of the most irritating bosses in the whole game.

Everything else that the big N pointed out is pretty much correct. He summarized the game's problems quite well, and actually, there's a lot of stuff that I would've said even without the Nerd's influence. Let's get back on those issues in just a moment, but just in case you haven't figured it out, Frankenstein: The Monster Returns is a poor man's Castlevania game with a similar gallery of monsters ranging from the obvious main cheese to the Wolfman (or Manwolf...) and Dracula - we just can't seem to shake this guy. It's a very straightforward action game. An image of the Castlevania franchise's second game, which I will not mention by name for the millionth time in the course of two days (not yet anyway), is created by the game's occasionally cryptic and pointless nature. Like the Nerd said, pointless battles against even more pointless sub-bosses and random events might've been intentionally made to make the game seem more complicated. The gladiator-ish main character (who you can name yourself, ooh) starts out with his fists and a moderately effective jumpkick, but you gain more weapons as you go. The goal is to zap your way through a total of four stages and face the EVIL, MALICIOUS, DEMONIC DARK LORD THEY CALL FRANKENSTEIN... who's dressed in something that looks like Dr. Frankenstein's lab coat, to add to the confusion... and then, a ridiculous, giant, naked version of him. Simple.

Don't you worry, my silly, illiterate namesake
avatar of mine. I'm sure Emily is perfectly
Now I'm just going to quote AVGN more or less directly, 'cause nearly everything I'd have to say about the game was pointed out by him in the video; I'd sound like I'm copying him anyway. Let's start with the first stage. Actually, let's just go over the first two stages extensively, since I don't want to point out each problem of the game every time it rears. You start off on some medieval-looking (...) city street, with hordes of enemies running around. After a while, a "sub-boss" appears in the form of a few standard skunks (?), very easy. You can then enter a building which is inhabited by another sub-boss, a water dragon whose attacks are almost impossible to avoid throughout the whole ordeal. Your reward for beating the guy: a flask of potion to replenish the health you lost while fighting him. Very rewarding indeed. Then, there's YET ANOTHER sub-boss, Death, or the Grim Reaper, if you will. He's pretty simple to beat, but then a bat that looks more like a pterodactyl appears out of nowhere - you don't quite know what to make of his sudden appearance, since you can't go left or to the right, and he doesn't appear hostile. Even when he "attacks", he doesn't do damage, he just grabs you and flies off. Well, the thing is he's Death's little pet and he's taking you to the beginning of the stage. Well, cryptic, but no harm done, right? Wrong. You need to beat Death all over again, and when that damn flying rodent appears, you have about half a second to hit him before he grabs you to finally be done with Death and open up a new path. In case you're wondering - yes, Death's cycle is endless. The real boss is a demon horse that's in cahoots with Frankenstein - well, of course he is - and during the boss fight, the game actually feels playable, for a while.

You'll have dealt with a lot of practical problems up until this point. Enemies can hurt you even during their dying animations, and the physics, especially collision detection are non-existent. Your weapon, whatever it is you're holding, sometimes just passes through enemies and sometimes there's even a spark indicating that you did hit the enemy, he just didn't react to your attack! In turn, enemies' attacks can deal damage to your character in certain spots of the terrain, even if you're not in their range.

The forest's a buggerfuck. Enemies appear out of the blue behind trees, with no indication of danger. When you reach the end of the first screen, you might find yourself wondering where to go until you realize that hey, your character can climb certain types of walls. From the top of the wall, you'll find this wounded guy who gives you something you can destroy the ALMIGHTY FRANKENSTEIN with, he gives you a... what is it, what is it?... a potion. Yay. Well, what's next? You can't climb back down. If you try to approach the guy again and the obvious gap behind him, the screen cuts to him babbling again, this time something about the evil He and She Monster of the Trees. Well, OK. Let's take our chances and jump down the gap on the left side. Whew, I didn't die at least. I know this is the way back to where I came from, but perhaps the "Trees" was some sort of a clue. I'm trying to jump up and down the branches, climb a tree, anything, until I'm right back at the starting point. What the fuck?! Well, I climb the wall again, this time the guy doesn't say anything. I smell a cryptic bullshitter, so this time, I just walk past him, successfully jump down the gap on the right side, and voila, I enter a fight with the He and She Monster, and the final path of the forest's unlocked. Pull my finger.

No completely original enemy in the game. Well,
except for the skunks.
Well, AVGN's infamous lily pad bit comes next, and like I said, it's a piece of cake. Apparently, he didn't stand quite as close to the edge of the pad as he possibly could. It's still hard to avoid the merman, even if you make it to the other side it's up to the game to decide whether you jumped far enough or not, but it is possible to avoid being dragged underwater altogether. Remember the potion that guy gave you on the top of the wall? Well, the first form of the Medusa boss makes damn sure by taking advantage of the game's lacking collision detection, that you won't have the potion when you come face to face with Frankie. Not even in the next stage. The second form's a breeze.

The rest of the game is full of more and more ridiculous bits of dialogue and more concrete problems such as the whole last stage, but after you're done with all I've reviewed here, you're already done with half of the game, so with the awkward password system helping you out, you will finish this game eventually. You might have to struggle to maintain your interest in the game, but it isn't hard in any other sense than being immensely frustrating for most of its brief duration.

I knew I wasn't taking on any sort of a masterpiece here, but the game has so little to do with Frankenstein that it actually hurts my feelings. As a game, it's not the worst piece of trash I've wasted my time on in the last few days, but I can safely say the same thing I have said about all the others: I'm never playing it again. And God damn it, since some of you might be waiting for the moment I'll just blurt it out: I AM seriously considering writing a whole new review of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Its name has popped up way too many times already in the reviews of much worse games, such as this. We'll have to see if this plan ever comes to fruition... a part of me hopes so, another part of me wants to put a gun to my head.

Graphics : 6.7
Sound : 4.0
Playability : 4.9
Challenge : 4.5
Overall : 4.9


a.k.a. Frankenstein

maanantai 24. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1991)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1991
Available on: GB, NES
Developer(s): Imagineering
Publisher(s): THQ
Players: 1

I don't want to sound like some sort of old, artistic geezer who knows everything of even the most irrelevant history of popular culture, but I have to take you "younglings" to a little tour through time 'cause I'm guessing many of you are laughing your asses off at the very name of the game right now. You can read about all of this on Wikipedia, but I think I could summarize it all a bit better. In 1978, an independent screenwriter named Costa Dillon and writer/composer John De Bello created a b-movie that was ironically a parody of b-movies, called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The concept of the movie was simply so absurd that critics, of course, hated it, but it gained a cult following. Ten years after the movie's release, the writers decided to do a sequel - Return of the Killer Tomatoes, which was one of George Clooney's first movies. The movie sucked ass, it totally missed out on the spirit of the first one. Although two more sequels were made later, it was this first sequel that spawned an animated series simply entitled Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. This series was one of the greatest pains of my childhood; it aired on Saturday mornings, right in the middle of great cartoon marathons. I was brainwashed by it. The theme song chimed in my head for years, right up until I became a teenager. Yesterday, I found something worse than any Killer Tomato sequel ever made, something worse than the animated series ever was: a video game based on the animated series, created by some of the very same geniuses that gave us Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. AAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!

(I'm drawing a blank...)

Dr. Gangrene is threatening the world with the launch of the Doomsday Tomato. It's up to Chad Finletter and his friends to save the world from deep red destruction.

Looks like Bart vs. The Space Mutants, only a
whole lot worse.
I'm pretty sure the prologue will turn out the longest part of this review. Like the header of my choice implies, I'm simply at a loss of words with how bad this game is. It's so generic that this shouldn't even be called a review, this is more like some sort of brief insight on perhaps the worst game I have ever played, at the very least on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I truly hope I never have to witness such an abomination again. As if it weren't enough that it's based on one of the worst cartoons ever, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes has absolutely no value as a video game. Knowing who made it, the thought of trying to complete Home Alone 2 once more did cross my mind. It's simply so bad that I would gladly take on that crime against humanity again. I'd probably even enjoy it after utterly destroying my gray matter with this absolutely horrible bullshit.

The graphics aren't very nice considering that the game came out in '91, well after some true graphical breakthroughs on the 8-bit platform, but in a way, this abomination was visually somewhat ahead of its time. The lighting effects and the pseudo-3D were something you didn't see in every NES game back in the day. These graphical effects are the only elements in the whole game that save it from a straight line of 1.0's. The music is horrible, all the way from the awful theme song, which sounds even worse sequenced for the NES than it ever did on TV, to the original compositions by Mark van Hecke. Each step your character takes makes an annoying noise. What does that tell you of the quality of the sound effects?

If you're wondering where the game came from...
You control this little obnoxious bastard called Chad, jump on any tomatoes you see, watch them shatter into tiny bits of tomatoes and then watch as these tiny bits chew on your helpless, traction-less ass until you've lost a life. The controls are absolute hell, the game is cryptic as hell, and it's simply not fun to play, not one second. Once again I'll compare this game to the Home Alone games on the SNES and say that both of those games were fun, if only for five seconds - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes goes from bad to utterly non-playable in under a nanosecond. Once again, words can't describe how much I fucking hate this game. Still, I implore you to play it. Why? Because maybe one of you's crazy enough to go and kill the shit out of everyone who was a part of its development. I'll probably get sued for that comment, but I don't care - every decent person knows it should be them sitting on trial, for creating this Frankenstein's monster of a game. Hell, let's sue everyone who was ever part of the cartoon series' production. Two flies, and so on.

I'm not gonna say anything about the difficulty level. I simply cannot force myself to play the game enough to see how far I get in it. I know there are only four or five stages, but beating two is perfectly enough for me - it's an achievement in itself to bear the game that far. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is, with utmost certainty, one of the worst games I've ever had to witness with my own eyes and thumbs. I pray that no game I'll review in the near future sinks as low.

Graphics : 5.8
Sound : 1.0
Playability : 1.0
Challenge : 1.0
Overall : 1.1


GameRankings: 62.00% (GB)

REVIEW - A Nightmare on Elm Street (1990)

Genre(s): Action / Platform
Released: 1990
Available on: NES
Developer(s): Rare
Publisher(s): LJN
Players: 1-4

In 1984, many good things happened. Yours truly was born, and Johnny Depp made his big screen debut in a cult horror film called A Nightmare on Elm Street. To tell you the truth, I had no idea that a video game, let alone a Nintendo game, based on the terrible tales of Freddy Krueger existed before I saw the Angry Video Game Nerd do a video review on it a couple of years back. A game made in 1990 - six years after the flick it's based on - published by LJN, totally bashed by AVGN, it looks ridiculous from every possible angle... how could I possibly resist?

Nine, ten, never play it again

A child murdering maniac by the name of Freddy Krueger was burnt to death by a group of kids 20 years ago. Now he's back as a spiritual being, who kills Elm Street's teenagers in their dreams. Four teenagers take it upon themselves to find Freddy's remains and destroy them, ending his reign of terror once and for all.

Freddy's such a bad ass that he has Satan for
a henchman.
A Nightmare on Elm Street isn't based on any of the movies, if it was it would probably been banned by Nintendo of America in a heartbeat. It's a basic, watered down, and dare I say an unnecessary movie license in which it's never really implicated that Freddy kills people, he's more of a boogeyman scaring the shit out of teenagers, and slapping them around a bit in their dreams. As per usual in any 8-bit "horror" game, Freddy has wild rats, bats, ghosts and zombies helping him out, which steals away the last bits of authenticity. Sure, some thin references to all five Elm Street movies that came before the game are present, so it's clear that Rare at least knew something about the movies when they began developing this game... although I don't remember the Dream Warriors ever dressing themselves up as ninjas or wizards.

The title screen of the game is very cool and it almost makes one expect a decent experience from it. The game isn't that ugly either, but each house (stage) looks the same. The normal Freddy sprite looks OK, but otherwise, the boss design sucks. Most of the bosses are Freddy's different body parts, and the head doesn't look anything like Freddy. Since the game was developed by Rare, it's pretty much expected that it's David Wise who wrote the music to the game, and the music is indeed one of the game's strongest qualities. Not Dave's finest work by a long shot, but listenable shite. The game is one of the few licensed games on the NES, especially those graced with the butt-ugly rainbow logo of LJN, that actually features a theme song of whatever it's based on.

What a lovely neighbourhood.
So, the idea is to hack through every house and basement on Elm Street with up to three of your friends (how you would find that much volunteers to play the game is beyond me), find every bone there is, fight a boss and make your way to the school's boiler room from the first flick to sort of burn Freddy for the second time. Of course, it's all made less simple by many different factors. There's a lot of platform jumping, the physics of the game are more than lacking, and then there's the case of two different realities - ironically, the one that should give you more trouble is much easier to conquer. Via an "unique effect" - which is ripped straight off Simon's Quest (I have mentioned that game way too many times lately) - you're thrown into the dream world whenever a certain meter of yours drains out, in other words whenever your character falls asleep. What's funny is that it can happen even during a jump. Quite a feat, if you ask me. In the dream world, the enemies are tougher and if you're not quick about it, you will have to deal with Freddy himself. You can prevent your character from falling asleep by drinking cups of coffee, and you can force your way back into the real world by finding a stereo set and waking your character up with the power of rock.

However, like I said, you shouldn't do it. In the real world, your only weapons are your fists, in the ends of your very short arms - the range of your attacks is pathetic and with the crappy physics, enemies can easily deal damage to you from even a short distance away. They touch you four times, you're done - you have a decent amount of continues, but you wouldn't believe how fast even they can drain once you get to the parts in which either getting the one last bone you're after, or falling down a chasm, is all up to sheer luck. Anyway, in the dream world, you can morph into a Dream Warrior. What kind of a Warrior, depends on the icons you collected in the real world. You can switch between them all the time as long as you remain asleep. The Dream Warrior costumes are absolutely ridiculous and they're like a merciless joke on the alliance of teens in the third movie, but by the time you get the whole system you really won't care whether it feels like an Elm Street game or not. The game is somewhat entertaining at first, but it turns damn boring damn fast, and Freddy's pretty far from the scariest murderous bastard in movie history when you can simply spam his ass with shurikens, never letting him come even near you.

What a nightmare. I'm being chased around by
a raving lunatic and dressed up like Richard
Even all of the actual bosses are child's play as long as you are asleep and dressed up like an idiot. An effective idiot, but an idiot anyway. Getting through this extreme bubblegum-horror borefest is pretty much all up to your luck with the oversensitive controls and their close relationship with narrow platforms... and perhaps one single boss whose movement makes him extremely hard to hit, while he will most likely hit you with every single one of his attacks.

I must say that A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the longest lasting LJN games I've played: after all, it takes 15 minutes to simply understand the game, you might like it for another 15 minutes, and one more 15 minute period is needed to confirm that the game does, indeed, suck. That's 45 minutes of fully patient playing right there, and it's a pretty strong feat considering what kind of utter crap I expected out of this game. It's not exactly awful at all, it's just immensely boring and I don't see any reason to waste any more of my time with it ever again. It's a game that can almost be enjoyed, once.

Graphics : 6.6
Sound : 7.3
Playability : 5.7
Challenge : 5.1
Overall : 5.5

REVIEW - Bram Stoker's Dracula (1993)

Genre(s): Action / Platform
Released: 1993
Available on: Amiga, GB, GEN, GG, NES, PC, Sega-CD, SMS, SNES
Developer(s): Psygnosis, Traveller's Tales
Publisher(s): Psygnosis, Sony Imagesoft
Players: 1

Founded in 1989, Sony Imagesoft was a subsidiary of CBS/Sony, which originally published games exclusively for Nintendo systems, before, for some reason, they were signed to publish games for Sega systems as well. The strict rule was that everything that had Sony Imagesoft written on it was total crap, they were the new LJN. The most common thread between the two companies was that you could take any bad movie license and bet your life on either LJN or Sony Imagesoft's logo being on the box art, and it usually was. If not them, it was THQ (Home Alone!) or Ocean Software, but at least they had some playable games. 1994 was a year that Sony Imagesoft surprised the hell out of critics with quality games like Skyblazer and Mickey Mania. In 1995, Sony Imagesoft became a part of Sony Computer Entertainment, who today are one of the highest-grossing video game publishers in the world - responsible for the releases of most PlayStation exclusives. What a beautiful story, huh? Well, all sins of the past can't be forgiven. Especially if one of those sins happens to be Bram Stoker's Dracula. Although its shittiness doesn't quite match that of Imagesoft's other pride and joys from their movie licensing days, such as Last Action Hero and Cliffhanger, it is bad. Oh Lord above, it is bad. Worst of all, it came out on nearly every platform of the era.

Don't know about blood, but it does suck

A British lawyer named Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania to offer his legal aid to a mysterious Count Dracula. Soon he finds himself trapped in the count's castle, while its immortal, vampiric owner is on his way to meet Harker's lovely fiancee back in England, whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love from centuries past. With the help of vampire expert Dr. Abraham van Helsing and others that have suffered due to Dracula's actions, Harker sets out to slay the abomination and save his bride-to-be.

Yeah, I wouldn't have found a human skeleton
on the wall any suspicious, either.
I watched Bram Stoker's Dracula for a school project back in 1997, I was 13 years old. I didn't get it. What's surprising is that I watched it again on TV back in 2005, I still didn't get it. I thought reading the book would give me some insight of what the hell was going on in that movie, so I read it in 2008. I didn't get the book, either. The movie is confusing, but it has a non-Hannibal Lecter type of crazy Anthony Hopkins delivering unforgettable one-liners, and Gary fuckin' Oldman playing the big cheese, so it isn't all that bad in the core sense of the word. The book is just a damn boring collection of journals, I really had to struggle through the whole thing, but it has some good parts which I truly enjoyed reading. I still want to like both the book and the movie so badly, but I just can't, not even as a gothic horror fan, but the bottom line is that they both have good parts. Bram Stoker's Dracula, the video game, doesn't.

Since Sony Imagesoft never actually developed any games besides some cheap games based on TV quiz shows and just felt the need to get the "credit" for every shitty licensed game there was, this game was actually done by Psygnosis, which in my mind was a quite formidable game developer at the time. It's amazing that out of the seven people who worked on this piece of crap, at least two also worked on the game that brought Psygnosis to the map, Lemmings.

Let's start with the graphics, which are probably the game's best quality, though far from great. I've seen uglier games on the NES, and as a matter of fact, I've seen a worse pixelated version of Keanu Reeves. The guy on the screen doesn't look like Keanu one bit, but at least he doesn't look like total crap. I don't know if I should even start with the music, since thoroughly going through every annoying bit of soundtrack in this game would take me the rest of the night and I would probably run out of appropriate nasty words halfway through the deal. The music is obnoxiously bad, and I'll leave it at that. Not to mention the sound effects.

Wouldn't hurt to put on some pants, Gary.
The NES version of the game is not much more than a platformer of the most generic kind. A single stage is comprised of two different phases, daytime and night time (or nightime, as it is so graciously typoed). There really ain't no difference between the two, except that kind of like in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, "nightime" is when most monsters come out of their hiding places to drive you nuts, and appropriately, "nightime" is also when you'll face off with the bosses in the game, that are just about as generic as they can get. The only difficulty of the bosses lies in their cramped hiding places. Figure out some boring strategy and go with it. Getting to the bosses is something different.

You have three lives in the beginning of each game. A generous abundance of extra lives is something you should not expect, and the cherry on the top of the cake is that even continues have to be earned as items. Yes, that's right, there are no continues. Three lives plus the very rare 1-Up, that's it. What else? Well, usually you get full health after each death. In this game, you only get half. What else? Seemingly normal lifts can suddenly give way and drop you into spikes or water, which is apparently just as hazardous to your health, mandatory leaps of faith into chasms can lunge you right into the heart of a storm of ghosts, hands can suddenly appear out of walls (read: nowhere) and slap you to your death, and an enemy might spawn right in your spot and kill you just before you exit the stage you are in. This game simply can't be beaten without an extensive knowledge on the art of trial and error... and of course, a truckload of patience that you are easily prompted to spend elsewhere.

Just as any unimaginative NES platformer, Bram Stoker's Dracula borrows a lot from other games. Items are gathered from question mark blocks... hmm, I wonder what game they are from? There are secondary weapons such as hatchets and holy water, but unlike in Castlevania, you don't get to choose between weapons. You are stuck using the secondary weapons instead of your "trusty" knife as long as you have enough of them. Non-surprisingly, you usually run out of them when you would actually need them, which is in boss fights, but at least Psygnosis had some thought put into this: secondary weapon tokens fly all over the screen in most boss fights.

If we're talking about challenge, we absolutely must take into account that Bram Stoker's Dracula is downright impossible... to stand. You play it, you die. You play it again, you die. One more time, you die. By that time, if you're still interested, you'll have memorized every awkward obstacle and the spots where enemies just magically spawn right in front of you. You find a secret passage, and an item which grants you one chance to continue. Right on, you're doing well! ...But you're bored out of your God damn socks so it really doesn't matter. Since you're so bored, you'll probably just run forward and get punctured by some damn spikes... from several inches away, but just because you're on the same floor level (it really happens from time to time, with certain sets of spikes). Before long, you die. And that's about it. Not much use in wasting quality time on a game that has enemies, obstacles and other hazards coming out of the purest blue, and most of the time, only three lives to spend. It's not very short, either... at least not short enough.

Unlike Imagesoft's worst, though, Bram Stoker's Dracula on the NES is a quite harmless game. It doesn't really hurt to try it, it's just not any good and paying for it is one of the worst mistakes a gamer can possibly do. Almost a fun way to kill some very, very extra time - but I think when it comes to vampire killing on the NES, I'll go back to the Castlevania trilogy. Yes, even Simon's Quest.

Graphics : 6.5
Sound : 4.0
Playability : 4.3
Challenge : 5.0
Overall : 4.5


Well, I just said that Bram Stoker's Dracula on the NES, although bad, is not one of Sony Imagesoft's absolutely worst games. The SNES rendition of the game is. Think about every frustration you have ever experienced while playing a video game, and you will most likely find it from the confines of this abso-fuckin'-lutely wasted piece of cartridge plastic.

The graphics of the game aren't BAD, they just simply look like NOTHING. Very similar to dozens of other movie licenses: large sprites, generic backgrounds, not much details, not much happening. Same goes for the music: not exactly awful in this version, but totally unmemorable. Kind of like the same ambient stuff used in the horrible Batman Forever a couple of years later.

Although this version of the game was also developed by Psygnosis and published by Sony Imagesoft, it was developed by a wholly different group of people, and it's actually rubbed in your face that the game is based on the movie. The imagery is very close to the movie, and Francis Ford Coppola is mentioned by name in the credits. I feel sad for one of the best movie directors of our time right now... as a funny sidenote, Fred Fuchs is also mentioned! Three cheers for Fred Fuchs! When it comes to the Psygnosis staff that was actually part of the game's development, I have to say I'm even more surprised of the quality of these guys' later projects than I was in the NES game's case. Well, I guess every career has a beginning...

During all my years as a video gamer, I've very rarely played games that are so bad they piss me off as a person. I usually just laugh at them, except if I've paid for them. Luckily I very rarely buy games on instinct, I have to know they're good before I spend one stinking cent on them. However, when I was a kid, I played anything, especially games based on movies and TV shows I liked. These games were rarely bought, but I rented a lot of games from the local video store, and Bram Stoker's Dracula was one of them. Even to me, a kid that couldn't tell shit from flowers when it came to video games back then, the game was one awfully snotty slap to the face. Trying it again after all these years almost made me lose belief in humanity.

I'm in the second stage and wondering why
in the hell I'm still playing this game.
The NES and SNES game have very little in common. The NES game was at least some sort of a platformer, while all you do in the SNES game is move forward and kill a lot of folks and animals. To make things a little more cryptic, in some stages you need to locate Dr. van Helsing to be able to find the exit, which you've probably already been to a couple of times - you simply cannot exit before picking up a "weapon upgrade" from dear old Abe. This "upgrade" doesn't help you one stinking bit - your sword remains just as pathetic the whole time. The most important thing the two games have in common is death. Well, the SNES version at least has three continues to offer you from the very beginning, but if you have any sense for gameplay at all, you'll be done with the game after your first visit to the continue screen.

Everything that moves is hazardous to your health, and yes, some obstacles and hazards still appear out of complete blue, and with no logic at all. Just about everyone's an enemy. Yep, even that drunk passed out on the floor, or a pile of crates. He's your enemy. Don't know what Harker has ever done to him, but he hates his guts and has a lot of spare bottles to throw at him.

On a 99% certainty, you won't be patient enough or interested in this game enough to try to beat it, but it is possible, more than that since if you just keep mashing the attack button(s) and memorizing the locations of every random spike coming out of the ground or a boulder falling on you, you will finish the game in no time. Even the bosses are just as pathetic as the game itself.

It still might not be Imagesoft's worst game, can't say I'm overwhelmed by a desire to get into those two or three games, but it is most definitely still one of the worst commercial games released on my favourite console of all time, so you can pretty much imagine how much love and respect I have for the company's SNES catalogue in general. Compared to this major piece of horse shit, the NES version is more than playable. The title screen looks much closer to home than the one of the NES version, but everything else squeezed into this poor cartridge should never have seen the light.

Graphics : 6.0
Sound : 5.8
Playability : 2.8
Challenge : 2.5
Overall : 2.7


GameRankings: 20.00% (Sega-CD), 56.50% (SNES)

The PC version was also developed by Psygnosis, but unlike any other version, it's a first-person shooter.