Monday, March 30, 2009

Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure- Genesis-Konami

Next on our list of games is Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure. This was one of my favorite games when I was a kid. I adored the show, and I loved the game to pieces, though I never actually had it. So it has been quite a long time since I last sat down to play the game, long enough in fact that I remembered nothing about the game save the fact that I loved it as a kid. So does it stand up to my memories? No. But is it good? Well, let's talk about that.

The story of the game is pretty much standard Tiny Toons stuff. Buster finds a treasure map, and Montana Max steals it. Of course, in the process of fleeing Monty, with the help of Gene Splicer, manage to brainwash Plucky, Dizzy, Hampton, and Clamaty Coyote. He also kidnaps Babs, Fifi, and Shirley. Sadly, the story is missing the wit that made the show so much fun to watch. During the opening scene and in conversations with the bosses, Buster comes off as very plain and rarely has any clever quips to say. And while all the statements do feel like something Buster would say, it definitely feels like it's missing that spark.

Yet, while the story may be missing that spark that fans want, the game is certainly not lacking in references. Even the most common of enemies have come from somewhere within the show. You'll not only be facing off with the likes of Roderick Rat but also the wolverine from the episode about "Peter and the Wolf." And the sprite work of these characters is beautiful, especially the amount of detail that went into Buster's sprite. The only really goofy animation is Buster crossing a rope hand over hand, which really just looks like he's grabbing the rope back and forth with both hands rather than actually moving along it.

However, looking good is not all that a game must do to be good. It is in the actual playing of the game that it falters some. The game controls sort of like a cross between Sonic and Super Mario World. Taken from Sonic is Buster's running animation and the sense of inertia, but that inertia seems a little exagerated, so much so that at times it felt like the rabit was actually resisting my commands. What is taken from Mario is the basic hop and bop gameplay. Unfortunately, the angle of attack seems much less forgiving in this game and any attack not coming from withing a thirty degree angle above the enemy is more likely to hurt Buster instead. The jumps also feel off. Normally, when people say that, they mean that the controlls feel floaty. Buster, on the other hand, controls as if he's got a rubber band attaching him to the ground, and at the moment the jump button is released, he'll rocket to the ground. If you're capable of pressing the jump button fast enough, Buster can jump without ever really leaving the ground.

Bosses in the game are comprised of Buster's brainwashed buddies that are being controlled by Dr. Splicer. Unlike how most games would do it, Buster doesn't actually fight his friends to free them of their brainwashing cap. He actually fights the crazed doctor while dodging the attacks of his friends, which is a nice little twist on the formula. After defeating Splicer and saving one of his buddies, Buster will talk with them for a moment, which is often when most of the game's humor occurs. One such example is when Plucky fights Buster twice, once under the control of Splicer and the second as the Toxic Avenger just for the heck of it, which is a nice homage to Plucky's character and a neat throw back to the show.

Perhaps the sadest part of the game is that, for the most part, the level layout is generally very good, and those times it's not are either early in the game where it is playing like Green Hill Zone or late in the game where it's being hard just because it can. In later levels, enemies are placed at just the right spots to make you jump into a trap. Luckily, this annoyance can be allieviated in two ways.

The first is by using Buster's special abilities. In each area, Buster will have access to a minor side character, such as Sneezer or Lil' Beeper, who, after collecting fifty carrots, will be usable by pressing A. This freezes the action on the screen while the character summoned preforms an attack destroying all enemies on screen. However, this action is often fairly slow and gets rather annoying after seeing it a few times.

The second way to decrease the annoyance is by collecting hidden bells in the levels, which add one extra heart to Buster's life bar for as long as he remains alive. With the bells, it is possible to gain up to five hearts, but as soon as you die, Buster goes back to three. Luckily, health refilling hearts are plentiful enough that most players should be able to keep their hearts at five for a good while unless they blunder into one of the instant death spike traps.

The game's music is for the most part good, although the various remixes of the main Tiny Toons theme does get annoying after a while, especially considering it is used so often: At the Title, as the main music of the first area, sped up for the invincibility item, and sampled for the stage victory music just to name a few. Those songs not sampled feel inspired by either the Sonic games, Carnivale music, orsometimes both. The sound effects, on the other hand, are fairly annoying, especially the jumping noise, which is a bit on the shril side.

Though I must accept that the game is not as good as I remembered, it is far better than it could have been. When it comes right down to it, Buster's Hidden Treasure is the exact opposite of Goof Troop. The gameplay is flawed, challenging, long and has added replayability due to hidden levels and bonus stages. It is not broken by any means, but it is frustrating. With a little time and patience one will eventually stop feeling those little kinks in the games armor.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Goof Troop-SNES-Capcom

Being a child of the nineties, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I spent a large chunk of my afternoons watching the old Disney cartoons such as Chip n' Dales Rescue Rangers, Duck Tales, and Tale Spin. Goof Troop, while not the best of these, won a place in my heart with its goofy antics (Hyuck) and heart warming moments of tenderness. The game is much the same. Created by Shinji Mikami and Satoshi Murata in 1993, Goof Troop is silly, enjoyable, and lovingly crafted even if it is not the greatest of games to come from the shows on the Disney Afternoon.

The game has been described as an action adventure game, but I feel that does one of the games main selling points an injustice. For at its heart, I feel that Goof Troop is a puzzler. Sure, there are a lot of moments where one must find item A and take it to location B to reach area C, but one of the big differences to me is the combat. Yes, there are enemies in the game, but neither Goofy nor Max are capable of attacking without items found either in the level or on that screen. This can range from the hook shot, which does no actual damage, to pots and barrels that must be gathered and thrown. The throwing items are always finite and a miss or two can result in restarting a room.

The other point I wish to make on the game being a puzzler is that most of the actual obstacles in the game are sliding block puzzles. Every level has a couple and it is always impossible to proceed without completing them. Though these puzzles are for the most part very easy, some of them require a tricky bit of finesse to see them through, often calling on an unexpected move or two before all the blocks end up in the right spots.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the game is very easy. Sitting down the other night, I was able to beat it in just a few hours, which is a little bit disappointing. However, remembering that this game is aimed at kids, makes the simplicity of the game seem more tolerable, and even makes some of the later puzzles come off as down right devilish. A player, seasoned by Zeldas, puzzlers, or point and clicks, won't have an difficulty realizing that the board they are carrying will allow them to cross that gap, or that the key that they just found will open that locked door they saw. On the other hand, the inventory is limited to two items in single player and to one a person in two-player.

That brings me to probably the strongest point of this game. It is a co-op puzzler. You and a friend are able to take control of the Goofs as you guide them through the island on their way to rescue Pete and PJ. And each of the two players plays a little bit differently, with Goofy being able to do twice as much damage with his throws, and Max capable of moving at twice the speed. This creates a strong sense of player purpose in co-op where each player knows what they need to do and when. The person playing as Goofy is the enforcer, so to speak. His role is to use his brute strength to protect his son, while Max uses the hook shot to stun them. Max on the other hand should be the one sent through the trap rooms, because one player clearing a screen will warp both to the next room. Traps with tricky timing that would be challenging for Goofy to get past can be easily bypassed by Max.

There are five levels in the game and, waiting at the end, are bosses just itching to send the Goofs packing. The boss fights always play out the same way. You dodge their attacks until an item appears that can either be picked up and thrown back at them or caught and thrown and then nail them in the face with it, which is very satisfying.

The bosses are probably the most challenging part of the game, as they are capable of eating through your hearts and lives rather quickly if you're not careful. More often than not, I and my co-op buddy found ourselves overrun by some of the later bosses forcing us to cash in one of the continues we gained by finding the light blue diamond.

There is a reason that the bosses can eat through your stock of lives so quickly, and that's due to a rather unconventional health/life system. Each of the goofs can hold up to six hearts that are gained by eating cherries and bananas, but once that sixth heart is filled, any other health item ingested will grant the player another life. Unfortunately, it also reduces all health to zero. Not only that, but if the player dies, they restart with no health. So a player going into a boss with six lives and four hearts may only be able to take eight hits before the game over screen flashes. On the other hand, it is not hard to gain health and lives, as they are hidden conveniently under barrels and in patches of dirt that can be dug up much like in Zelda. These spots replenish after leaving the screen, so even though they are random, there will usually be something there. Also, if one is playing with a partner and that partner dies, all that needs to be done is to move to a different screen and that player will be able to come back with two lives.

The music is definitely one of the game's strong points. Filled with whimsy and that Disney feeling, the music is vibrant and well suited to the various areas of the island that the Goofs are traversing. And yet, for all the skill that went into the music, there is none on the title screen, and even odder, there is no midi form of the Goof Troop theme song, which is a real shame.

Goof Troop is one of those odd games you run into every now and then. It's a game that for all intents and purposes has no real flaws other than its length and difficulty. It can be breezed through in a little over three hours by anyone with any previous experience with video game puzzles, and the experience never changes. It is a great game that would have been made far better by just a few more levels. However, if you've got a buddy, a love of puzzlers, and a few hours to kill, I'd definitely consider giving this rough diamond a try.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Blackthorne was created by Blizzard Entertainment and released on the SNES in 1994. The story is told through cut scenes that show at the end of each area and through what the player can gleam from talking to the inhabitants of the planet Tuul. The player is quickly learns that Kyle Blackthorne is the son of the previous king of Androth who fell to the power of the demon Sarlac and the might of the Ka'dra'suul kingdom. There are some mentions of a light stone that is given to Kyle before he is beamed to Earth, but the exact reasons as to why it is important are a secret to Kyle in the beginning. Our hero spends the next 20 years on Earth, joining the military, being court-martialed, and preparing for the day that he will return to Tuul to retake his kingdom.

And return he does, after a surprise encounter in the desert, Kyle wakes up in the mines, and the game begins. The game play is very similar to games like Prince of Persia and Flashback. Meaning each screen is made up of three floors that the player must navigate via climbing, jumping, fighting and exploring. Though the game is a lot more linear than Prince of Persia (by that I mean that there are fewer secrets), those that are familiar with the old version's game play will feel right at home with the methodical pace.

Movement through the game isn't slow, per se, but it is deliberate. There is a run button, but more often than not, it makes the player's movements a bit more unruly than is safe. And as a deadly or damaging drop may be only a screen away, it is often better to walk than to hope you can notice and stop before bumping into something nasty.

The combat in the game is focused on gun play, but unlike the gun play in Flashback, one is more likely to survive going toe to toe with an enemy even if they are heavily armed. This is due to a simple cover system that Blizzard included. While the shotgun is drawn, pressing up on the d-pad causes Kyle to lean into the background. While in this state, all dangers will pass him by without dealing any damage. Of course, his enemies can do this as well, so the fire fights end up being more about timing than having a quick trigger finger. One thing I feel compelled to mention, is that like Prince of Persia, healing items are hard to come by. So even a mistake that didn't kill you at the beginning may have disastrous consequences later as the level slowly eats away at Kyle's health.

The world that Kyle explores is broken into four areas with different levels in each. At the end of each level, the player is given a short 4 digit alphanumeric password that will allow them to return to that section. These passwords are always the same and do not take into account any items the player might have in their possession at the end of the level. This is, unfortunately, normal as the game always strips Kyle of all items at the start of every level. Of course, Kyle's health is also refilled, so after a few of the more difficult levels, the player may feel more rewarded than gypped.

Not only that, but because all items that are needed for a level are found in that level, it is impossible for a player to get completely stuck. However, it is possible to mess a section up badly enough to need to restart. Such as if the player misses a grenade toss and ends up blowing up the wrong thing, a quick press of the start button will bring up the level restart menu, allowing one to go back and fix said mistake. Of course, the games difficulty will force the player to restart levels many times simply due to punishing them for any mistake that is made.

Unfortunately, this means you'll be playing the same sections of the game over and over again, trying to complete a run that will get you to the end of the level before your health is whittled away by enemies, traps, and falls. This can get a tad repetitive as the levels do not change at all. The enemies will always be in the exact same place and for the most part will act in the exact same way. Thankfully, this is elevated somewhat by the music, which has a heavy and oppressive feel that adds to the sense of danger and mixes well with the dark and somber tones of the backgrounds. One interesting thing about the music is that there seems to be a thread of power and defiance that is struggling against the surrounding, bleak tones. This thread seems to grow stronger as the player progresses though the game until it is the driving force behind the music.

All in all, Blackthorne is a very good game. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by it. It was one of those games I remember reading about in magazines as a child. I was obsessed with Flashback, and because of that I had always wanted to play Blackthorne. Over the years, I must have created in my head the idea of a game that was far better than Flashback. I don't know if that's just the nostalgia talking, and maybe if I went back, I'd find Flashback a tad underwhelming. I do, on the other hand, know that Blackthorne did not live up to my own self-created hype. It's a fine game, though, a lot of fun and well worth the few bucks you'll spend on it if you find it in a used game store or if it ever comes up on the Virtual Console. Just make sure you're ready for the methodical pace.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Gunforce was released in America in 1992 by the company Irem. The games full name is "Gunforce- Battle Fire Engulfed Terror Island." So it should come as no surprise that I picked this game up more for the ridiculous title than for Irem's pedigry, which is solid considering they are the creators of R-Type. It's a good thing that I used that reasoning, because the game's ridiculousness extends well beyond its title.

The game is simple enough to pick up and play. Your character moves quickily, shoots in eight directions, and is generally controlled exactly how you want him to be. The controls are simple, needing only to move, jump and shoot. Oddly enough though, you have two shoot buttons, and four jump buttons. There are no differences between them. You can play for a while shooting enemies with the B button, then switch it up and shoot them with the A button for awhile. You can spend some time in the game jumping enemies by pressing Y and then switch to R just for kicks.

The actually issue that I had with the controlls is my own. I have it so ingrained in my mind that Y should shoot and B should jump in games like these, that I routinely died because I pressed the wrong button. And I almost always have to readjust after lulls in the combat.

But that's not really a complaint as the game is fairly easy, especially for a game that feels so much like it's trying to be Contra. Most of the enemies in the game are little more than lemmings whose sole goal in this life is to die by your hnads, or machine gun fire, or flames, or proton bazooka.

Occasionally, these lemmings will fire a shot at you, which can easily be dodge by ducking. While ducked, the bullet will fly through your head, but deal no damage. That should be the first sign that the hit detection in this game is a little wonkey. Sometimes, it'll look like you're going to be hit, but you're not, while at other times, you'll be hit even though you were out of the way. I've died to a bullet grazing the back of the truck I was driving, which usually just deals damage to the vehicle, but that time, I was the one that died.

Speaking of vehicles, they are one of the best and worst things about the game. They are powerful and can take many more hits than your character can, and they have infinite ammo for whatever weapon is equipped, which is generally the laser canon. Of course, the drawback is actually using the things. Getting in and out of the various vehicles is a chore, as you are able to latch onto more places than just the mounted turret. So often you end up dying just trying to get into the thing the first few times you play. Also, there's no driver, so it looks kind of silly as you chug along, blasting away with the turret and running over the lemmings. But no vehicle comes close to the chopper for sheer goofiness, as it takes up half the screen and looks exactly the same in the air as it did on the ground. Also, when you get it in the first level, it will come to a point where it will simply no longer move forward, and if you back up, you end up trapped, which forces you to bail a screen or two from what looks like the landing pad.

The bosses in the game are also disappointingly easy, and the first one feels so similiar to the first boss in Contra that it felt like I already knew how to beat it. This, of course, may have been exacerbated by the fact that it only had two distinct attacks, and that the game gave me one of the most powerful weapons in the game right before hand: the bazooka, which allowed me to destroy the boss in seconds.

The music is a bit of a mystery to me as most of the time it is drowned out by the gunfire and other sound effects in the game. There is no music at the title screen, so the only thing I've really heard enough of to comment on is the little jingle as you enter your initials, which isn't bad, but sure can get annoying if you let it sit for awhile. The sound effects in the game are good and the weapons really sound as if they have a good kick to them. Plus, the scream your character makes when he dies is hillarious, and I often found myself chuckling as he slumped to the ground, which may say something about me.

All in all, the games a bit of a mixed bag. It has some severe issues, but it is enjoyable and I found myself having a good time despite myself. It's not a game that one can sit down and play for hours as the flaws would eventually begin to bog down the experiance. It's easy for the type of game it is, and there is no options menu to change either difficulty or controls, but it's not broken. Shooter fans will definitely find something to enjoy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

King of Dragons-Capcom-SNES

The King of Dragons is a beat-em-up for the SNES. It was made by Capcom and released in 1991. I picked this game up at a whim due largely in part to the fact that it was a Capcom game, but also because the name of the game just sounds like silly, simple fun. And that's exactly what it is. The story is that the dragon Gildress has unleashed a hoard of malicous fiends across the Malus countryside. And guess whose job it is to fix all of this and set the kingdom back on the path of peace and prosperity. Yup. You. Luckily, you're more than ready for it.

The game starts with a character select screen, where you can choose to play as one of five different heros: Elf, Mage, Fighter, Cleric, and Dwarf. Each of the different characters plays a little bit differently. The Elf is fast, uses a bow, and will die to a missplaced leaf sticking to his shin. The mage is slow and cumbersom, with a slow attack, but devestating power. The fighter seems to be the most balanced of the charaters. While the cleric can take more damage than all the others, but moves slowly. The Dwarf is powerful, and it has been said that he has a very good defense. I disagree with this as every other hit I took seemed to knock off a third of his HP, but maybe it gets better near the end of the game. There are other deferences as well, such as range, strength when casting magic, and speed to level, which creates a good, solid feeling of diference between the five characters.

However, despite all of that, the gameplay is rather standard. You have three or four buttons depending on whether you've gone into the options menu and fiddled with the controls. And they are you standard attack button, magic button, jump button, and should you have chosen to add it, a rather useless block button. The meat of the combat involves walking up to an enemy, or jumping if you're looking for the tactical advatange, and pressing the attack button until the enemy dies. There are no combos in the game, and magic sacrifices a rather heafty chunck of health for what seems to be three or four hits on different enemies, not to mention feeling useless against most bosses, due to the health lose and the fact that you can deal damage quicker by just smacking them in the face with your weapon.

Speaking the bosses most of them range from simple, to frustrating, to downright stupid. One battle about midway through the game has you fighting a ring of wraths, where all you can do is slash at the ring until either one of the floating heads takes damage or you do. Standard enemies are better as they range from merely cannon fodder to challenging cannon fodder, with a few actually fighting in much the same way you do.

I've been rather harsh on the game so far, but it's not all bad. The enemy designs are nice, and the levels are bright and colorful. The level up system and the weapons and armor found at fixed locations around that game offer a compleling reason to keep playing. The game is also rather short. I was able to beat all 16 levels in around an hour. And for the most part, I had a good time.

It definitely feels a little front loaded however. At the beginning of the game, you are greated with enemy type after enemy type as you progress with few actually being recolored sprites, or if they are, they have a different weapon type that causes them to fight in a different manner. Unfortunately, after about the 12th level, almost all the enemies and even the bosses become simply more powerful recolors, which was very disappointing.

The music is pleasent but entirely forgetable. While playing, I'd occasionally find myself noticing it and thinking that I'd like to listen to it again. But if you pressed me for what it was like now, I couldn't really answer except that it was standard Capcom music with a fantasy vibe and a bit of epicness dashed in for spice. And no, that doesn't make sense to me either.

That game is fun though, and can be played two player, which actually makes the game harder as you share both experiance points and continues. With a buddy playing, I've made it all the 12th level, but alone I was able to beat the game with lives to spare.

King of Dragon's isn't a great game by any means, but it isn't bad either. And it's definitely more enjoyable if you have a friend along to laugh at the goofy stuff that goes on, such as your characters releasing a terrible sounding war cry at the start of every stage and new life. It's a fun little time waster that's not too deep or too hard of a game and can be easily beaten in an afternoon.