Saturday, 27 December 2014

GROW: Star Wars Rebel Assault

Review by ThoRn (@RetroGameRevive)

Designer(s)Vince Lee
Platform(s)Sega CD
Release date(s)November 1993
Genre(s)Rail shooter (Interactive movie)
Mode(s)Single player

What does Star Wars and Christmas have in common?..... Well...  Nothing really if you try and find the similarities between the two but for me Star Wars Rebel Assault, Christmas Holidays and my Childhood go hand in hand.  In Australia being in the southern hemisphere we obviously have our Christmas during the summer and naturally the summer holidays is the perfect time for an 11 year old to let loose, which consist of two main things:  Riding our bikes and playing video games.  Now, I was never fortunate enough to have a Mega CD of my own but luckily I had a friend that did (if you read my 'Night Trap' review...  Same friend).  It was the summer holidays between grades 6 and 7 and we spent 90% of that summer playing Rebel Assault.  

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away we go back to 1994/1995 and get all nostalgic about some FMV Star Wars on my favorite console of all time.....

You are Luke Skywalk errrrrr?  I mean Rookie One, a moisture farmer from Tatooine (sound familiar?) who has decided to join the Rebel Alliance in an attempt to defeat the empire.  You start out with a couple of training missions to get you used to the style of gameplay but before you know it, you are in your X-Wing taking on Tie Fighters and making an attack on the Imperial Star Destroyer, Devastator after it has captured the blockade runner  Tantive IV.  

The story tries to follow as close as it can to Episode IV 'A New Hope' and Episode V 'The Empire Strikes Back' with the two main battles from those movies, 'The Battle of Hoth' and 'The Battle of Yavin' (Death Star Attack) both making it in to the game.  I will just note very quickly that the Sega/Mega CD version is missing a chapter based on the Imperial Probe Droids that is available on the PC, MAC and 3DO version but I honestly don't think it takes away from the game at all.

Even though the story does jump from Episode IV to Episode V and then back to IV again, it still makes sense to the plot of the game and after all, what could be more satisfying then taking down an AT-AT on Hoth and blowing up the Death Star?

As one of the first FMV games released it was a true pioneer of the genre, even though it was a genre destined for failure.  Nonetheless it was still a Star Wars Rail Shooter which immersed you in to the world of the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire.

The game consists of both flight and on foot stages (well, only one stage being on foot).  Both of these game types used the same cross hair style shooter mechanism although during the flight stages you are also required to to use the directional pad to maneuver the ship to avoid obstacles that would cause damage to the vessel.

If you have played any other rail shooters in your time, this game really doesn't differ a great deal and wont take too long to master.

As the High Priest of the Church of the Sega/Mega CD I find it very difficult to speak ill of my beloved Mega CD but when it comes down to it, we all know the limited 64 color pallet doesn't produce the greatest in video quality and unfortunately this game does lack in that department more than other FMV games released on the console.  You will encounter times when you cannot tell the difference between objects and will crash in to things which can become quite frustrating but after you have played it a few times you get used to the visuals and can start to enjoy the game for what it is.

It's CD quality Star Wars audio, need I say more?  From the very beginning you are treated with the Star Wars theme and a voice over narrative of the plot to get you in the mood.  The game is full of clear speech and great music but being an early CD game, you will have to deal with the break in music during a mission as the track ends and restarts but other than that it sounds great and really helps create an immersive environment during the battles.

This is the part where the game gets a lot of negative comments as it was originally designed to be played with a PC flight stick but I really think it's just a matter of getting used to the control style.  There are really only a couple of missions that would have made full use of a flight stick but LucasArts worked around it by using the diagonals of the game pad as a sharp turn and the standard 'left/right' as a softer turn.  It's a little hard to explain as I can't recall any other games using this style of movement with a digital pad but if you do decide to give this game a crack I do strongly advise you just be patient with the control learning curve and it will feel fluent soon enough.

But on the flip side you only need to worry about one action button.....FIRE!!!

I think the best advice I can give with Star Wars Rebel Assault is patience is the key.  Take the time to understand the color palette (basically distinguishing the difference between solid objects and shadows) and the controls.  It's by no means perfect but when you get the hang of things, this is one great rail shooter and easily goes down as one of the great Star Wars games of the 90's.

May the Force be with You.

Until next time...  Stay Retro

Sunday, 21 December 2014

GROW: Troddlers

Review by @madsdk

Developer: Atod Design
Publisher: Storm (The Sales Curve)
Platform: Amiga
Release: 1992
Genre: Puzzle platformer

This week's retro review if of a brilliant puzzle game that a lot of people have never heard of. The game is called Troddlers, and was developed by little known Swedish developer Atod Design. If you're into puzzle games at all, please give the video review a look, I'm sure you'll enjoy Troddlers. Don't fret if you're not into Amiga gaming - Troddlers was released on the Super Nintendo as well for you console loving people.

Merry christmas and a happy new year to all of you! I hope the new year brings you lots of retro gaming joy.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

GROW: Midnight Resistance

System: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis
Released: 1991
Developer: Data East
Publisher: Sega of America
Designer: Koji Akibayashi
Genre: Run 'n' gun

Midnight Resistance started out in the arcades back in 1989. It's a standard run 'n' gun game of the fairly easy kind, but what made it stand out in the arcades was its rotatable joystick - like in the popular Ikari Warriors, released in 1986. By rotating the joystick you control the direction in which your avatar is shooting, meaning that, unlike most other run 'n' gun games, you can move in one direction while shooting in another direction, which leads to some brilliant gameplay and excellent boss fights.

The Sega Mega Drive / Genesis version of the game is of course missing the rotary joystick, and the standard control setting (mode A) follows the more classic setting of shooting in the direction the joypad is pressed, but allowing you to freeze the shooting direction by pressing B. I bet you could get used to controlling the game like that, but for me the game plays as a hot mess when using control mode A, so the first thing I do when booting up this little gem, is to switch to control mode B-2. In the B-1, B-2, and B-3 control modes you rotate the gun by pressing the B button, and after a little while this becomes second nature. This way you can play the game _almost_ like it was meant to be played.

The story of the game is simple: Your family has been kidnapped by a mad scientist, so being the super buff mercenary that you are, you of course set after the bad guys to rescue them. The game takes you through a total of nine very different levels, taking you through a dystopian, and somewhat weird, future. What makes this a really strong title, is the great diversity in the stages - no two stages feel alike, and no two boss fights feel alike either, making this an all over enjoyable experience to play. The game is somewhat easy on the Mega Drive, but not too easy if you ask me, and if I have to be perfectly honest, it fits perfectly with my temper for playing old games. When you, like me, have other obligations and thus limited time for playing games, a game such at this one, that you can quickly pick up and master, fits just fine. It's a game you can learn in half an hour, and you can probably learn how to get to the final stage in a couple of hours, but in order to beat it on a single credit you'll still have to work on it for a while - I know I haven't gotten there just yet.

In each stage you collect a maximum of six keys, and these can be used at the end of the stage to upgrade your primary and secondary weapons. The primary weapon being your rifle, and the secondary being different versions of missiles and bombs. Sometimes you can even purchase extra lives. My primary weapon of choice are the three-way rifle that shoots one bullet straight out and two more at 45 degree angles - extremely useful for clearing the screen of bad guys. For secondary weaponry, I prefer the homing missiles. They do a fair amount of damage, and I don't have to worry about aiming them at anything :-) I'm sure that you'll find your own favourites, whether is be the flame thrower, the shotgun, the three-way rifle or another gun, they are all useful in their own right.

Being a very popular title, Midnight Resistance was ported to a number of home computer platforms apart from the Mega Drive. In my opinion, the home computer versions suffer badly from the bad controls though, seeing as they only have a single button on the joystick.

Midnight Resistance is an excellent title and one I think should take pride of place in any Mega Drive collection. If you've never before encountered a run 'n' gun shooter that decouples the direction of character movement from the direction of shooting, I'd strongly recommend that you give this game a try.

Until next time... Stay Retro.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

GROW: Tetris Attack

Review by Trantor

Grow: Tetris Attack
Developer(s) Intelligent Systems
Nintendo R&D1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Composer(s) Masaya Kuzume
Platform(s) SNES (Satellaview), Game Boy, 3DS Virtual Console
Release date(s) SNES
  • NA August 1996
  • EU November 28, 1996
  • AUS 1996
  • JP November 3, 1996
Game Boy
  • NA August 1996
  • JP October 26, 1996
  • EU November 28, 1996
3DS Virtual Console
  • JP December 11, 2013
Genre(s) Puzzle
Mode(s) Single player
Distribution 8-megabit cartridge   

The sweat is pouring down your forehead.  You manage a furtive twitch of your bloodshot eyeballs to the other half of the screen... you see small square stones being lined up.  Horror grips you as you frantically look for an escape strategy.  You then hear the most horrific sound of them all... a high pitched "Weehoo!"  Stone death rains from above.... your hopes dashed, you have fallen...

Ok, time for just one more round.

This is the typical experience of a two player Tetris Attack game.  A phenomanlly fast paced and exciting action/puzzle game from Intelligent Systems, one of Nintendo's many in house development studios and also one of its main technical design hubs.  Intelligent Systems is famous for games such as Super Metroid and Advance Wars.

The game can be divided into three main modes: Puzzle, Story and Vs.

In Puzzle mode, the game is a fairly typical match-three variant.  The big difference is that the only means of switching blocks out with one another is through a small two block horizontal parser, which lets the player swap the positions of two blocks sitting side by side with one another.  This limitation makes solving puzzles very challenging in advanced levels and forcing the player to think many steps ahead to create complex chains in order to clear all the blocks from the screen.

The Story and Vs. modes have a very different gameplay mechanic.  While the two block swapping mechanism is still in effect here, the goal is now not to clear the screen, but to create large chains of combinations that result in stones dropping on an opponent.  Using a split screen, both sides are constantly bombing the other with flat, horizontally laid stones which eat up valuable screen real estate.  These stones vary in size and ease of elimination, based on the number of stones destroyed and the type, because beside regular colored stones there are now also "rock" stones that create stone slabs dropped on your opponent. 

The story mode allows you to play as Yoshi, as you are on a quest to free the other characters of the Mushroom Kingdom who have been caught in a spell cast by Bowser.  This mode features a level cap based on the difficulty level (you don't get to actually beat Bowser on Easy or Medium difficulty, with the game stopping you before that.)  This gives the game an impressive replay value in single player as you try to finally beat it in Difficult mode.

Tetris Attack was a relatively low key release back in 1995 in Japan as Panel de Pon, where it featured a cast of original characters.  The US release was made a bit more high profile through the swapping out of the characters for those from Super Mario World 2 and the Tetris license.

The 2 player VS mode though is the real reason to play this game... again, and again and again.

The frantic pace of the game and the limited movement ability, makes this game very easy to pick up but devilishly hard to master.  The strategies employed to create combos can become very intricate for advanced users and games can run as little as 30 seconds all the way up to 4-5 minutes when both sides are evenly matched.

Personally I've been playing it for years now, as one of THE go to party games in my home (beside Scorched Tanks and Street Fight Alpha III).  The matches are quick, deep and you never feel like you just got a bad draw, like in Puzzle Bobble.  The game does absolutely everything right and pity the fools who have yet to feel its glory!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

GROW: Red Zone

Review by ThoRn
Publisher(s)Time Warner Interactive
Designer(s)Mikael Balle
Jesper Vorsholt Jørgensen
Composer(s)Jesper Kyd
Platform(s)Genesis/Mega Drive
Release date(s)
  • NA 1994
  • EU 1994
Genre(s)Helicopter, Real-Time, Shooter
                                                               Source of above information: Wikipedia

It's 1994 and the 16-Bit wars has been raging on for a few years now, with each side still in contention for video game domination.  It's at a point where Sega and Nintendo really need to start trying new things and pushing the limits of the hardware to their full potential.  The Super Nintendo already had the Super FX chip doing amazing things and not to mention Donkey Kong Country hit the stores in time for Christmas 1994.  The Mega CD was somewhat of a fail but the 32X was on its way to breathe new life in to the Mega Drive but what about the Mega Drive as a stand alone console.  What did Sega's black box have to show the world it still had a few aces up it's sleeve?  The Answer, RED ZONE.......

Zyristan, a small Eastern European nation has been invaded by a group of communist following the collapse of the USSR.  Cities were invaded, nuclear weapons had been seized by the dictator of the group.  All seemed lost until a team of specialist have been sent in to disable Zyristan's nuclear weapons and take out the dictator and his group of communist rebels.

There are two different game modes throughout Red Zone, the first being overhead, shooter Helicopter stages.  It feels somewhat similar to Desert / Jungle Strike but with insane difficulty and awesome graphics.  Unfortunately this is a one life, no continues sort of game so you will need to spend the time getting to know the levels. Anyway, back to the helicopter stages.  Even though you are met with insane difficulty you are equipped with an array of arsenal which can deal out quite a lot of damage to the enemy.  But you only have limited ammo so use it wisely.

The 2nd game mode is another overhead style shooter but this time you are inside buildings and bunkers on foot.  I wouldn't say the 'on foot' levels are quite as challenging as the helicopter levels but they do offer some great close quarter combat gameplay and again great visuals.  Speaking of...

As soon as you power up your Genesis / Mega Drive you are met with some very impressive visuals.  Somehow Zyrinx managed to create an amazing rotoscoped Full Motion Video intro.  It may only be in red and black but it still looks absolutely brilliant and you wont see this on any other cartridge game on Sega's 16-Bit platform.

As for the gameplay, once again it is amazing to see what this developer could do with the hardware.   You have full 360 rotation with multiple layered sprites and scaling.  The best way to describe it would be to think of Sega's Super Scaler games from the late 80's.  Everything is still a sprite but uses multiple layers to create a very effective 3D experience.  It looks great in the helicopter scenes but really shows of in the 'on foot' stages as you can see the depth of the walls and not to mention the ability to drop down levels which really shows off the multiple layers and scaling.

Some people are not a fan of the music in this game but I for the life of me can't figure out why.  The music is composed by Jesper Kyd who is the composer behind the 'Hitman' franchise.  It's some of the best use of stereo separation I have heard from a Mega Drive game but is also some of the best deep bass techno you will find on a 16-bit console.  If you have played 'The Adventures of Batman & Robin' on the Mega Drive then you will have a fair idea of what you are in for when it comes to the audio for Red Zone.

It's a very difficult game and can become quite frustrating very early on.  But you need to treat it like we did back in the day.  You need to take the time to learn where the enemies are and their attack patterns.  Once you get past that you will have some great solid gameplay with some outstanding visuals and music to accompany your experience.

Until next time...  Stay Retro.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

GROW: Armored Warriors

Review by ThoRn @RetroGameRevive
Armored Warriors

Composer(s)Takayuki Iwai
Release date(s)October 24, 1994
Genre(s)Beat 'em up
Mode(s)Up to 3 players simultaneously
Arcade systemCP System II
DisplayRaster 384 x 224 pixels (Horizontal), 4096 colors
(Source for above information: Wikipedia)

When you think mid 90's arcade, you will probably think of a few things but chances are two of those things you think about is the word 'Capcom' and the phrase 'Beat em Ups'.  Capcom and Konami were the Kings of 90's 'Beat em Ups' but in my own opinion I will have to give Capcom the larger of the two crowns as they just kept them coming every year, and never released a sub-par game.  Now, the majority of Capcom Beat em Ups were released on the CPS 1 board but for the few that were released on the CPS 2 board these games were just epic!  The hand drawn animation, the music, the fluid gameplay mechanics.  The CPS 2 was the peak of 2D in the arcades (CPS3 was great but limited to only a few fighters).  So with all the great things this Capcom board could do, Let's go get in some Mechs and play 'Armored Warriors'...

It's the year 2281 and former Raian captain Azrael has converted himself in to a cyborg to try and become the perfect warrior. He and several thousand cyborgs have declared war against the Raian Kingdom.  He has stolen mobile weapons from the army and invaded Merkid, the captial of Raian.  Not only that, he has also taken the Raian civilians as captives.  The United World Government has started to organise a response to the attacks and has dispatched its elite corps squadron called 'Bloody Armor' to go to planet Raia to take out Azrael and his enemy forces as well as rescuing the captured civilians.

'Team-Up' mode
If you have played any other Capcom Beat em Ups then you will be right at home with 'Armored Warriors'.  There are 7 levels in total, each consisting of a different mission and ends in a Boss fight.  What sets this game apart from others is the ability to augment your mech through each stage.  As you progress through the level your mech can take on upgrades in areas such as the arms, legs and hand held weaponry.  But you can lose them if you take on too much damage.  The best part of this augmentation feature is that you can engage 'Team-Up Change' which essentially combines all the players mechs together to form a 'Voltron' type mech which can deal massive amounts of damage.

Oh, did I mention this was a 3 player cabinet :)

You are given the option to choose from 4 different characters each having their own strengths and unique abilities.

1st Lieutenant Jeff Perkins, Call Sign: RASH (AEX-10M BLODIA) - The 'All-Rounder'.  His Mech is suited to most combat situations.  He lacks the firepower of some of the others but makes up for this with his long range attack abilities

Captain Ray Turner, Call Sign: JUSTICE (SVA-6L REPTOS) - A melee master. His light and mobile mech is designed for close range combat as well as being very proficient in high speed situations

Major Glenn Reed, Call Sign GRAY (AEX-10H GULDIN) - The Heavy Hitter.  This mech can dish out the damage and also has the ability to absorb it as well whilst charging through the enemy.  The down fall to his strength and power, low speeds.

2nd Lieutenant Sarah White, Call Sign: SIREN (AEX-12J FORDY) - Built for speed.  This mech is the fastest of the group, it has high mobility and uses 'rush' attacks for primary offense.  Unfortunately this mech lacks the defensive armor but when used well, she can use her speed to avoid most incoming attacks.

This is actually one of the earlier games to be released on the CPS 2 board but you wouldn't know it when taking in the visuals.  It might not be as visually striking as 'Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara' but it suits the gritty mech and war look perfectly.  Your characters hand drawn sprites are fantastic to look at and the detail in your mechs is outstanding with the hydraulics and pistons all moving fluently as you lay a 'beat down' on your enemy.

Hand drawn Goodness
You also get a great sense of size when you see the cyborgs come out and attack you.  They do very little damage and I don't think they are there for any other reason than to give you that feeling of being a giant machine towering over these human sized Borgs.  Take note of when you pick your character and you watch the animation of your pilot getting inside for a great size perspective.

I wouldn't really call it a gripe, but I guess my only negative about the visuals is that the color palette of the levels doesn't really change a great deal from stage to stage.  The location and environment changes on a regular basis but I just felt they didn't push the brightness and the depth of the CPS 2 color palette to it's full potential.  But I can easily look past the backgrounds as there is always so much action going on you don't really have time to take in the scenery not to mention the stunning animation and amount of frames of your mech is where the true beauty in this game really is.

The final battle

I think it's quite obvious I am a Capcom fan but the one thing I could never fully appreciate was Capcom's QSound.  I understand the technology behind it and think the idea was great but I always felt QSound had this slight muffle when listening the effects.  Maybe it's just my ears as the music was always clear but the sound effects just felt a little low on the bit-rate.  Maybe it was just the way it was compressed.  With that said I still feel the audio in this game is top notch, especially the music.  There is guitar and synth keyboard and it's all ROCK BABY!  It's hard to go past the music as it was composed by the brilliant Takayuki 'Anarchy Takapon' Iwai who is responsible for such great games like the Darkstalkers series, Marvel Super Heroes, Red Earth and Street Fighter Alpha 3.  It's the perfect accompaniment to the hard hitting sounds of the mechs bashing together and the destruction of metal from your enemy.

Simple yet effective arcade controls.  Melee attack, Jump and Fire!  Three buttons is all you need to save the day.  You can also engage other attacks depending on what weapon you pick up.  For example if you pick of the grappling arm, you can grab your enemy, pick them up and bash them into the ground a few times before letting them go.  You can also do multiple hit moves by using joystick combos, such as double tap forward then melee can initiate a slide attack which can take out multiple targets at once.  The best advice I can give is play around with the controls and I have no doubt you will discover new moves that are not only effective against the enemies, but also look awesome!

It's a Capcom Beat em Up.  It has everything you need for a great co-op experience.  So if you ever get the chance to play this great game, don't let it pass you by.

Until next time, Stay Retro.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

GROW - The Terminator - Sega / Mega CD

DEVELOPER       Virgin Interactive     
PUBLISHER       Virgin Interactive     
COMPOSER       Tommy Tallarico       
RELEASE          1993                        
GENRE             Platformer                
                       Run and Gun Shooter
PLAYERS           Single                      

When retro gamers think of video games based off movies they usually think two things, Terrible & LJN.  But not all were destined to that slaughter house.  Terminator 2 was unfortunately scooped up LJN and several less than great games were produced under that rainbow of sorrow but the good news is they left the original movie alone which gave Developer and Publisher Virgin a chance to make a good game from a good movie.  And folks, that is exactly what they did.  Let's go hunt some Terminators.....

The game essentially tries to follow the movie from start to finish so if you have seen the movie than the game doesn't need too much of an explanation.  For those of you who have not seen the original Terminator flick I strongly suggest you watch the movie before you play the game if you want to appreciate it for what it's really worth.  But to cut a long story short you play as Kyle Reese in the year 2029 and are sent back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and her unborn child who as we all know becomes John Connor, the leader of the resistance that takes on Skynet.

It's actually quite hard to compare this game to any others as it borrows from different genres to help create a 'semi new' experience and type of gameplay.  Without a doubt this game is very heavily a platformer but it's the speed at which you progress through the stages which makes it its' own unique style.  It might not be as heavy on the enemies and bullets like you would experience in Contra, Gunstar Heroes and Metal Slug but it still holds a very strong 'Run and Gun' feel.  The way these two genres have been combined could have gone seriously wrong but Virgin did a great job creating a unique experience using Dave Perry's engine.

Before each level starts you are treated to some 16-bit FMV clips straight out of the movie which although are great to watch are also there to outline which part of the movie you are actually going to play on the upcoming level.  Yes, the clips are about 1/4 of the screen and are grainy but I always try to review games in a light that would be similar to the way the game would have been reviewed back in 1993 and back in 1993 that was one epic way to start a level!

Although there is technically only one path to go from start to end, each level is full of branching paths where you will find weapon powerups, ammo, grenades and health packs.  So be sure to go everywhere because who knows what you might find to help you on your journey.  You will also find the levels have quite a few checkpoints scattered throughout the place and trust me, if you plan on playing this game on the 'Hard' or 'Super' difficulty you are going to need every last one.

The controls are simple but effective and feel great on both the Genesis / Mega Drives 3 and 6 button controllers.  You have 'Fire', 'Jump' and 'Grenade toss'.  I did notice there is the slightest bit of lag controlling Kyle Reese, but once you get a feel for the game it's far from noticeable.

This game fits perfectly on the Mega Drive hardware with it's dark and gloomy tones whilst still using the full spectrum of the Sega CD's color palette with each level having its own unique style and colors.  Virgin have even thrown in a few transparency effects as smoke billowing from the fires burning around you in certain stages.

Normally when I say I game lacks parallax I would usually follow it up with a negative, but not this time.  Just because this game only has one foreground layer and one background layer in most levels it is used in a way to create a huge range of depth and distance.  For example when you get to level 5 and are fighting your way through the city streets you will be running past buildings in the foreground but in the distance you will see this huge City Skyline scrolling by as you progress through the stage.

Two words...  Tommy Tallarico.  Need I say more?  This man knows how to compose a score for a video game.  Each level has its own soundtrack to start you on your mission and is an absolute treat to listen to.  I will actually go as far to say this... "The Terminator for the Mega CD contains a track called 'Destinationz Unknown' which is the most epic song I have ever heard for all video games past, present and future."  The sound effects themselves might not be as high caliber as the music but they still do a great job throughout the game.  From the gun shots you hear to the screams of the enemies you kill to the final sounds of the T-800 crawling towards Sarah Connor.

The fact this game has been rated as the best 'Terminator' game produced definitely says something.  Unfortunately the levels can feel a little repetitive sometimes as you are essentially performing the same task every mission but in my opinion it has a solid arcade feel to and being that unique mix of Platformer and Run and Gun it's certainly a game experience you wont find in too many places.

Until next time...  Stay Retro.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

GROW: Worms


Release date
  • 1995
DesignerAndy Davidson

Worms was by no means the first artillery game, but it definitely was the game that popularised artillery games for the gamers of the nineties. Artillery games, i.e. games where you try to bombard your opponent by selecting an angle and force, can be traced all the way back to 1976, where Mike Forman published a BASIC game called Artillery in the magazine Creative Computing. Later on in 1991 artillery games were popularised by the game Gorillas, primarily because it was distributed as part of QBasic for MS-DOS 5.0, and therefore came pre-installed on many PCs of the time.

Like in any artillery game, the objective of the game is to blast the opponent into smithereens. In Worms each team has four worms and using an arsenal of weapons, ranging from grenades and bazookas to shotguns and explosive sheep, you have to eradicate the other team. Part of what made Worms such a good game was this wide variety in weapons to choose from, and the fact that each weapon was actually useful in different situations. Seasoned Worms players, who were able to throw a grenade with immaculate precision and timing, could bounce grenades off of walls and hit you even when you thought you were very well hidden. The action is divided into 60 second turns, where you have to position your current worm correctly for the shot, shoot, and retreat to a safer location. To add to the fun, chain reactions were a very common thing in Worms - you'd shoot at a worm, who'd then fly into a mine that bounced onto another worm, who then exploded (worms explode when they die) and set fire to a barrel of gasoline, that ran down a hill and pushed a third worm into the water. Setting off these chain reactions is immensely fun, whether they are planned or not :-)

Not all of your items are weapons. Some are used to either defend yourself by building barricades, or to help you move around the level. Expert players soon learned to use these accessories - e.g. the excellent ninja rope - to move quickly around the level, place a stick of dynamite, and then make a hasty retreat.

Fun is definitely the keyword with Worms. This was not a game that took itself too seriously. The game included speech, and the worms all had little sentences that they would say during combat. Like saying "watch this" or "fire" when firing, muttering "revenge" when hit, saying "bye bye" when dying and so on. All of these were done in a very cute little voice, which made it all the more adorable amongst the carnage that is Worms.

Worms turned into a series of games that is still running to this day. I fondly remember Worms Armageddon (1999) and Worms World Party (2001), but there has been countless other entries in the series, the latest one being Worms Battlegrounds which was released for the PS4 and XBox One this year.

The original Worms is an excellent game so I'd definitely recommend that you give it a go. I'm not sure where you can find the original game, but the second game in the series, simply named Worms 2, is available at

Saturday, 27 September 2014

GROW: Lemmings

Developer: DMA Design
Publisher: Psygnosis
Designer: Dave Jones
Composer: Brian Johnston, Timothy Wright
Release: 1991
Platform: Amiga and pretty much every system ever. 
Lemmings back in 1991 was a revelation, a genuinely fresh concept of having  you assign your suicidal rodents to help them escape.  This is a video all about that game, how it came about and what the Lemmings developer DMA Design went on to do.  I hope you enjoy...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Visual Guide to Amiga Games: Cannon Fodder

This week the Visual Guide to Amiga Games, an ongoing coffee table book project by @madsdk, takes a look at a great Sensible Software game. No, it isn't Sensible Soccer, although that was a great title as well. Feast your eyes on the wonder that is Cannon Fodder - and if you haven't already, go play this game now! Hint: To fully appreciate these images, click the cogwheel in the upper right corner and choose "View Full Resolution".

Saturday, 20 September 2014

GROW: Bruce Lee - C64

DesignerRon J. Fortier
PlatformCommodore 64
Release date
  • 1984
GenrePlatformer / Fighting

This week I wanted to take a look at a personal favourite of mine: Bruce Lee for the Commodore 64. To try something new, I decided to do a small video review/playthrough of the game, instead of the normal text-only reviews we do each Saturday.

The video is quite short - only 5 minutes - so I hope you'll want to watch it in its entirety. Enjoy the show!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

GROW: Night Trap - 3DO

DeveloperDigital Pictures
PublisherVirgin Interactive
DistributorHasbro Interactive
Release date
  • NA 1994
  • JP June 2
GenreSurvival horror, Interactive movie
ModeSingle player
Review by Clint 'ThoRn' Thornton

FMV (Full Motion Video) is one of the greatest and most beautiful disasters of the early to mid (and even some in the late) 90's.  But just because it was destined for the slaughter house, does not mean at the time it looked to be the 'Way of the Future' and everyone who got to experience it when it first became commercialized in video games couldn't help but be taken in by this 'One Hit Wonder'.

Although Night Trap on the 3DO was released 2 years after it's initial launch on the Sega/Mega CD and most Night Trap enthusiast will take Sega's 16-Bit CD version over other platforms as this holds most nostalgia for them (that includes me), I think the 3DO is by far the most polished version and also offers a few useful additions to enhance the game play like a map of the house in your HUD.  Now....  If you haven't heard of Night Trap then there is something seriously wrong with you,  but I forgive you because now you have and after this review you will want to play it....Maybe,  I probably shouldn't hold my breath on this

Ok, let's get started on the undisputed champion of interactive FMV games and let's play some Night Trap!

SCAT (Special Control Attack Team) agent Kelli Medd (Dana Plato) has gone undercover in to the home of the Martin family with a group of innocent girls for a slumber party invited by the daughter of Mr and Mrs Martin.  She has been sent there to investigate the disappearance of 5 other girls who previously stayed at the house as well as looking in to some other 'odd' occurrences that have been happening on the property.  Your job is to follow the girls around the house using a series of cameras and traps that have been set up in each room and and hopefully uncover the mystery of the missing girls whilst protecting the the ones currently in the house.  As the evening progresses you realize you are up against a vampiric group called 'Augers' who have one thing on their mind, attack and capture.  I don't want to give the ending away as I would prefer you to experience the game for yourself if you have not already done so.

You are referred to as 'Control' in this game and this is exactly your purpose.  As stated before you control all of the cameras and traps throughout the house and using the HUD on the screen you have a meter which starts to spike and at the right moment when you have an Auger or two on screen and your meter peaks you hit a button to release a trap and capture the intruder(s).  Now, the concept is easy but the execution is a challenge as you don't actually receive any information telling you when an Auger is approaching in another room that you are not currently watching.  This is where the challenge lies as you are essentially required to use a pen and paper to help with your on-screen interactions writing down the times and the rooms when an Auger enters the house.  Well that's what I did when I played this game back in the 90's.  Although there is a story you can follow, if you choose to follow each character from room to room you will be watching your little Auger capture meter climb higher and higher on all the intruders you have missed as they will all enter the house through a vacant room and that is usually when you need to capture them.  Now to make things even more interesting you will find each trap is locked by a color access code which throughout the game needs to be changed so you still have control of the traps.  But to know which color code you require you need to know when a member of the family is talking about it so you can hear what color it is.  So let's recap quickly....  Most of the time if you follow the family members (or sometimes the girls and boys) you will get to follow the story but you wont be capturing many Augers and you need to capture a certain amount to continue on with the game.  If you try to continuously scan each room looking for the Augers you will get the chance to capture them but you will also be risking missing out on hearing the next access code color to control the traps as well as missing out on the plot of the story.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Controls are very straight forward in Night Trap as you basically use your control pad to move from room to room, using one button to enter that room, using another to set the traps and a 3rd to change the access code color.  Using the start/pause button is also a necessity in this game as it will pause time but still allow you to change from room to room.  And if you use a pen and pad like a did it will also give you the opportunity to look at your notes so you know what room and at what time you will be capturing your next Auger.
The infamous scene which sparked controversy all over the world

When it comes to FMV games there is not really much depth when it comes to discussing the graphical and audio highs and lows.  The game itself has been filmed to feel like a horror/thriller movie, well like your typical cheesy 80's horror movie (but we all know the best horror movies came out of the 80's).  Using the hardware of the 3DO the video footage is very clear and uses most of the screen except for your HUD down the bottom.  The sound effects and music are all of good stereo quality but there really isn't too much more to look in to.  Overall I would say it's of VHS standard and considering that was the video format of the time and also what format this game was originally supposed to be released as, you really can't find any negatives in this part of the game.

Night Trap is a bit of a cult classic these days and even though the depth of the game play isn't much deeper than the kiddies pool at your local aquatics center it's regarded as on the pioneers of 'violence in video games' which is one of the big reasons it holds its cult status.  But that's not what draws me in to this game.  It's very much a nostalgic game for me as my memories are playing it at my friends house (you know, the kid who lived down the road and had everything) working as a team moving around from room to room whilst taking all these notes....  And speaking of notes, the reason why I decided to write this article is because I found something from those days and thought I would share it with you all.  From memory I would have taken these notes in 1995.
My notes as a 12 year old
I found the times and rooms up to the 27 minute mark and compared them to all the walkthroughs that are available these days and I have to admit, we did very well and were pretty accurate capturing everything considering we were only 12 and 13.  Although I did notice I spelt 'Entry Way' as 'Enter Way' and 'Upstairs' as 'Upstars' :)

It really is hard to write this article and praise it like I do with the other games I review, but I have also told myself to only review games that I think are good and worthy of being reviewed in a positive light.  So how do I justify it?  Well I can't, but I think that is the charm of Night Trap and the hold it has on me and many others out there.

Not all games have to be 10 out of 10.  Not all games have to hold up over time.  Sometimes you can't really explain it, but then again why should you.  It doesn't matter what the game is and how other people look at it.  It's about how that game makes you feel, how that game puts a smile on your face when those old memories come back and how as time goes on we will always have those moments and they can never be taken away.

Until next time...  Stay Retro!