Alien Rampage, PC

Alien Rampage is an old-school run-and-gun shooter from 1996 with all the ingredients required to make an entertaining game. Smooth scrolling; cool explosions; lots of different weapons; plenty of different monsters; gory gibs; an agile central character. But… there’s something about it that misses the mark. A number of things, I think.

Firstly, the graphics are patchy. While the main character (an obvious ‘tribute’ to the Predator) is well animated, and the explosions are nicely done, the background graphics are a bit rough IMO, and (initially at least) somewhat blandly-coloured. The foreground jungle grass and hanging vines get in the way of the sprites in a rather disconcerting way – I’ve seen the technique used far better in other games.

Secondly, I think the main character is too big, which impacts on the gameplay as a whole. If he was smaller, you’d be able to see more of your surroundings as you run and shoot. As it is: the play window – due to the scale of the graphics – feels too restrictive.

On the plus side: the controls are responsive and the main character moves about well. He does have a rather strange jump when swinging off a rope though…

Still available to buy on Steam/GOG.com, Alien Rampage is a fun blaster for a short while. It’s even more fun if you play it with the hidden cheat mode switched on…

Note: What is interesting about Alien Rampage is that it originally started life as a 2D Duke Nukem game developed by 3D Realms, but was shelved then eventually sold off to Inner Circle Creations, who renamed it and released it with an alien lead character.

Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/516440/Alien_Rampage/
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/alien_rampage

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Hyper Sports, Arcade

Hyper Sports is the iconic 1984 sequel to Konami‘s arcade hit Track & Field.

It once again features multi event sports challenges for one or more players, this time featuring swimming, clay pigeon shooting, vaulting, archery, triple jump, and weightlifting. And maybe pole-vaulting, although I didn’t see it in the version I played.

Jolly music, exuberant player sprites, and bad translation characterise Hyper Sports, but the arcade original is still a really solid challenge for those who like sport-themed button-bashers.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyper_Sports

Voodoo Nightmare, Atari ST

Created by Zippo Games and published by Palace Software in 1990, Voodoo Nightmare is an original and fun isometric action adventure with a pleasing mix of overworld exploration and dungeon-crawling.

You control – I don’t know what it is – a bizarre character called Boots Barker, who kind of looks like a cross between an iced lolly and bottle-opener. Is he meant to be a voodoo doll? Or a fetish? Even the manual offers no explanation as to what Boots Barker actually is, but I guess it’s not really that important… He is one of the weirdest game characters I’ve ever seen though.

The aim of the game is to explore the jungle; find and solve puzzles; and also find and complete dungeons as you encounter them. The first dungeon – The Spider Temple – is a fairly simple collect-the-gems-style maze game. When you collect them all you appease the spider boss and are returned to the overworld to continue your exploration, and onto the next dungeon. So no boss fight. At least initially.

Graphically, Voodoo Nightmare is colourful and well-drawn and even has night and day periods. The enemies are a bit skittish (ie. ridiculously fast-moving and unpredictable), but are easily dealt with by either jumping on them or throwing knives at them. They also disappear at night, which is strange!

Some of the mazes in the game are quite complex, so play can get a little frustrating at times (just trying to find your way around), but solutions to puzzles do click into place if you invest enough time into exploring. Is it worth the time? I would say it is. Voodoo Nightmare is a hidden gem on the Atari ST.

More: Voodoo Nightmare on Atarimania.com

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, GameCube

Intelligent Systems and Nintendo released this fantastic follow-up to Paper Mario on the GameCube in 2004.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is a nice improvement on an already great game. It’s a turn-based level-grinding RPG, with flat, paper-like characters running around a 3D landscape. As Mario explores he encounters set and random battles with various foes and can use gamepad moves and button prompts to enhance his attacks and buff his defences. He can also have companions who fight with him and each have unique abilities.

The Thousand Year Door – like its predecessor – is a superb example of a hardcore level-grinder, wrapped up in a Mario coating, and it looks amazing and plays absolutely brilliantly.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_Mario:_The_Thousand-Year_Door

Full Throttle, ZX Spectrum

Mervyn Estcourt‘s motorbike racing game, Full Throttle, wowed gamers when it was first released in 1984.

It was one of the first bike racing games to look good and feel even remotely playable, although by today’s standards it is quite archaic and not particularly great to play.

Full Throttle is quite an early game in the Spectrum‘s life, though, and an important link in the evolution of the bike racing game.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Throttle_(1984_video_game)

Rocketball, Commodore 64

IJK Software released Rocketball on the Commodore 64 in 1985. It is based on the infamous 1975 film, Rollerball.

Just like in the film, Rocketball is played on a oval, inclined rollerskating track. Two teams of skaters must collect a rolling ball that is fired into the arena and throw the ball into the correct hole to score a goal.

There are four teams to choose from in the game: Houston, Madrid, Tokyo, and Moscow.

One big downside to Rocketball is the fact that there are two goals, which is very confusing and often leads to own goals (I scored a last minute own goal to give my opponent the match on one occasion). The goals are colour-coded, but it’s not clear at all which is yours. Rocketball would have been better with one goal, but then again: it’s ridiculously simple anyway and removing one goal might have made it too simple.

Rocketball is an entertaining distraction for an hour or so, but not much more than that. It would obviously have been better with motorbikes in it (like in the film), and it might have benefited from a few more player moves, or at least a bit more depth to the gameplay. As it stands, Rocketball is alright – nothing special.

Note: It’s funny to see the advertising boards in the game, including one for the now defunct fizzy pop brand “Quatro”. There’s an ad for IBM, Kodak and one for Coca Cola too, so I’m guessing they were paid-for slots.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocketball

Smash TV, Atari ST

On the face of it the Atari ST conversion of Williams Electronics‘ classic Smash TV looks pretty good, but scratch below the surface and you might realise that it has one or two major deficiencies.

Like – for example – the fact that using the rotating shield prevents you from walking near the outer walls (the shield’s collision detection seems to prevent this). Which I would call a major bug – one that ruins the game.

Secondly, why doesn’t the single joystick control system employ a more logical use of joystick and keys? Then a player might have been able fire in directions other than the one they’re facing. A bit of creative thinking – and programming – might have even had a joystick and mouse combination, or at least something better than there is.

Graphically, this conversion is not bad in places, but certain things (such as the bosses) are very amateurishly drawn.

Gameplay-wise: this seems like a rough approximation of Smash TV. The boss battles in particular are grossly unfair in terms of survivability – particularly in single-player mode.

Overall: not a good conversion. Not a patch on the original, or the SNES version, or any half-decent Smash TV conversion for that matter.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smash_TV