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