Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Nintendo 64

Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a surprising 2001 release – on the Nintendo 64 – for British developer Rare, in collaboration with Nintendo.

What is surprising about it is that it is an “adult” game – meaning: it contains cartoon characters behaving in ways that you don’t normally see in a Nintendo game, like vomiting on people’s shoes, making sexual innuendo, and using mild swear words.

The game begins with a cinematic Clockwork Orange-style scene, with Conker (a squirrel) looking over the top of a glass of milk as the camera slowly tracks backwards while a pseudo Beethoven musical score warbles away in the background. You know – or at least should know – at this point what kind of game this is going to be… And that is: extremely satirical, and with maybe a bit of a screw loose…

When Conker’s Bad Fur Day eventually gets going the first thing you have to do is get rid of Conker’s hangover, which is an unusual way of introducing a player to the game. Then you go on a surreal 3D platform adventure, full of Pythonesque characters, toilet humour, silly and poor taste jokes, endless tasks and puzzles, tons of film references, and of course the occasional boss battle (including one where you fight a giant turd).

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a game that will appeal to adults who like puerile humour, and also to children as a “forbidden” game that “must not be played under any circumstances”, but they all do… It’s actually not that bad in terms of its ‘adult’ nature, and doesn’t contain anything too contentious, which is why Nintendo allowed Rare to make the game in the first place.

More: Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Wikipedia

Knight Lore, Famicom Disk System

Knight Lore for the Famicom Disk System was developed by Tose Co. Ltd. for Jaleco with the blessing of its original creators, Rare. It was published only in Japan in 1986.

It doesn’t bear too much of a resemblance to the ZX Spectrum original, other than the basic idea, the isometric viewpoint, and the main characters remain the same. That said: it is not a bad game to play (if you ignore the silly tune that plays when you walk). It’s basically a ‘fetch’ game, where you collect and take objects to a cloaked figure who asks for them.

The game comes on a double-sided disk, so you have to swap sides to load it and make it playable. The text is all in Japanese, but if it says ‘B’ on screen, you know it’s time to switch to side B. And vice versa.

Why this version of Knight Lore was released only on disk and not cartridge I don’t know. The disk swapping is a drag. The game is not too bad overall. Compared to the original, though, I’d say it’s a little lacking. Graphically it’s quite good, although the colours are a bit too… green. Anyway, it is what it is (a little disappointing), but it is worth a play if you’re interested in Knight Lore history.

Knight Lore on The King of Grabs:
ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Amstrad CPC, MSX, Famicom Disk System

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

Solar Jetman, NES

Or, to give the game its full title: Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warship.

Solar Jetman is a really good gravity game in the style of Thrust or Exile, and also a spiritual sequel to the classic Ultimate games Jet Pac and Lunar Jetman – it starring the titular ‘Jetman’ of those titles.

Developed by Zippo Games for Rare, Solar Jetman was originally planned to be an original game, but Rare ordered Zippo to make it a Jetman game and a Jetman game it became.

The essence of the game is to fly around, in your thruster craft, picking up items and taking them back to base, while at the same time blasting floating aliens, gun emplacements, and various other enemies. All the time you’re fighting the effects of gravity, and on some planets it’s much stronger than others. On top of that there are areas with no gravity, and with gravity reversed, so it can become very tricky.

If you run out of fuel, or your craft is destroyed, one fun aspect of Solar Jetman is that you don’t die, but are then left alone in your spacesuit, and must make your way back to base. Do that, and you get another craft to fly, without losing a life.

Solar Jetman is a lot of fun to play, and is much more challenging than it looks on first inspection.

Solar Jetman is also notorious for developer Rare having a number of other conversions in the pipeline, but having them all cancelled before launch. And then seeing them miraculously leaked onto the internet decades later!

The 1990 NES version was the only version of Solar Jetman that officially made it to market.

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

Monster Max, Game Boy

Monster Max on the Game Boy is a direct descendant of the classic isometric platform game Head Over Heels, it having been created by Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond – the same team who made Head Over Heels, and a string of other hits on the ZX Spectrum.

And Monster Max is a brilliant little game! The movement, jumping and inertia are slightly more refined than in some of their other games, which makes Monster Max a joy to play.

You control Max (a monster, with a mad looking face and a rhino horn on his forehead), and can pick up two objects at a time (one for each button) and can use them to activate certain powers. So if you pick up the boots with the ‘A’ button you can then jump by continuing to press the ‘A’ button. If you press the ‘A’ button again, but on a different item, you pick the other item up and drop the item you previously held. Which gives an interesting feel to the puzzle-solving. There’s a Duck for ducking under things, bombs for blowing stuff up, Super Spells and Swords kill enemies, and Power Springs give you double-height jumps. Ritman and Drummond pull all the tricks out of the isometric platform-gaming handbook with Monster Max. There are trampolines, protective force fields, lightning that makes you run faster, and even a cool map.

The soundtrack, by David Wise, is quite funky and relaxing too, and compliments the game perfectly. Monster Max is a fantastic game overall – well presented and great fun.

Monster Max was well received critically, back in 1994 when it was first released, although it apparently didn’t sell well. And therefore a planned North American release was cancelled. Which is a real shame, because I think it is Ritman and Drummond‘s best game, and one of the best Game Boy games ever released. Still: all you Americans out there can now experience its joys in an emulator, if you can find it. Monster Max is most definitely worth searching out.

Monster Max is an obscure, British retro gaming classic!

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

Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, Megadrive/Genesis

Rare‘s classic isometric action game, Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll, was first released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. This Sega Megadrive/Genesis port came later, in 1993.

And it is this Sega conversion that I prefer, because the graphics are more colourful, the controls are slightly more responsive, and there’s an extra level (12 levels, instead of 11). Not that I’ve ever seen the last level…

So anyway. Yeah… Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll. It’s a fun retro game. A classic from Rare. Some say one of their best. Is it that good? Play it and see for yourself…

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_Rattle_%27n%27_Roll

Tarantula - canned Scavenger game

Scavenger: Legendary Canned Games, PC

***CANNED GAMES***

Last night I published a collection of rare screenshots, given to me by Scavenger in 1994, and showing a number of games that were being developed, but were ultimately canned. Meaning: cancelled. Never released. Never saw the light of day.

They are quite interesting. Hope you enjoy them.

The King of Grabs

Scavenger Canned Games Series:
Canned Scavenger: Aqua
Canned Scavenger: Spanish Blood
Canned Scavenger: Tarantula
Canned Scavenger: Terminus

Spanish Blood by Scavenger

Canned Scavenger: Spanish Blood, PC

***CANNED GAME***

A seafaring stroke pirate 3D adventure game from Scavenger in 1994. One of four games they were developing that was ultimately canned and never came out.

These shots came from an E3 press kit at the time, if memory serves me well.

Scavenger Canned Games Series:
Canned Scavenger: Aqua
Canned Scavenger: Spanish Blood
Canned Scavenger: Tarantula
Canned Scavenger: Terminus

Aqua - canned Scavenger game

Canned Scavenger: Aqua, PC

***CANNED GAME***

Aqua is another 1994 Scavenger title that was being developed. but never came out.

An underwater swimming game that ultimately got canned!

Scavenger Canned Games Series:
Canned Scavenger: Aqua
Canned Scavenger: Spanish Blood
Canned Scavenger: Tarantula
Canned Scavenger: Terminus

Tarantula - canned Scavenger game

Canned Scavenger: Tarantula, PC

***CANNED GAME***

Tarantula is a game that was developed by Scavenger for the PC back in 1994, but was never completed and ultimately canned.

These shots were given to me by the Scavenger PR people at the time.

Scavenger Canned Games Series:
Canned Scavenger: Aqua
Canned Scavenger: Spanish Blood
Canned Scavenger: Tarantula
Canned Scavenger: Terminus

Terminus - canned Scavenger game

Canned Scavenger: Terminus, PC

***CANNED GAME***

No idea what this game was about, but I do know that it was called Terminus.

Another of the four canned games developed by Scavenger in 1994-1995.

Scavenger Canned Games Series:
Canned Scavenger: Aqua
Canned Scavenger: Spanish Blood
Canned Scavenger: Tarantula
Canned Scavenger: Terminus