Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for June, 2008

Retro Game Review: Yars’ Revenge

Posted by ptcgaming on June 22, 2008

Screenshot from Wikipedia. To go old-school, click on the headline above to see an original commercial for the game. Looking at it today, it’s pretty darn funny!

System: Atari 2600
Released: 1981
Developer: Atari/Vatical Entertainment

Background:Yars‘ Revenge” was the best-selling original title for the Atari 2600 console. Though it was initially the port of another game, “Star Castle,” it looked nothing like it when released. In the game, your insect character, or “Yar,” had to shoot through a shield to destroy the “Qotile” hiding behind it. The “Qotile” would at times turn into a swirl and lunge after you. Meanwhile, an enemy torpedo followed you around, trying to destroy you. You could hide from the torpedo in the “neutral zone,” but you weren’t allowed to shoot from there. Upon destroying the shield, you could then fire a projectile at the “Qotile” to destroy it.

Graphics: 3/5
For an Atari 2600 game, the graphics in this game aren’t half-bad. Think about it: You can tell your character is some insect-like creature, and the “Qotile” isn’t just a block. And when it goes all swirly on you, it looks like a hurricane fast approaching you! There are also alternating levels where the shield is constantly shifting, making it difficult to just shoot a straight hole through the middle of it.

Sound: 2/5
Sound on the 2600 is very limited. This game follows that mold. There are the usual pings and blips, but nothing extraordinary beyond that.

Controls: 4/5
It’s the Atari 2600 for crying out loud! It’s a joystick and one button! Anyone who couldn’t learn how to play a game on this console has no thumbs! (Note: Sorry to those who don;t have thumbs.) The joystick moves the “Yar,” and the button shoots. You can move around to just about anywhere on the screen.

Gameplay: 4/5
The game seems simple at first, but if you play enough it gets harder. For example, the enemy torpedo gets faster as you progress in the game. Also, the “Qotile” will begin to do different things in swirl mode, making completing levels more and more difficult. There isn’t really any “end” to this game, so you just keep on playing until you’re dead!

Overall: 3.25/5
While the sound and graphics don’t say much when compared to today’s gaming platforms, the simplistic controls and play make this an addictive title, even though it will soon be 30 years old.


Posted in Atari, Reviews | 2 Comments »

Retro Game Review: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!

Posted by ptcgaming on June 21, 2008

Screenshot taken from somewhere online. Seriously, there’s like a thousand Web sites with screenshots of this game on it.

System: Nintendo Entertainment System
Released: 1987
Developer: Nintendo

Background: Even though its big character draw was replaced with “Mr. Dream,” “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” remains one of the most popular games to ever grace the NES. The game is somewhat of an arcade port, but your arcade character has been replaced with Little Mac, who teams up with Doc, his trainer, to fight his way to the top. The game features memorable fighters such as Glass Joe, King Hippo and Bald Bull, among others, each with their own fighting styles.

Graphics: 5/5
For being released in the earlier days of the NES, the graphics are top notch. They eclipse the graphics of earlier releases such as Super Mario Bros., Metroid and Pro Wrestling. None of those games showed off their player’s or opponent’s muscle definition like “Punch-Out!!” did (Check out how ripped Iron Mike is!). The color combinations are easy on the eyes, and all of the fans in the seats actually have faces! Side note: This game is so detailed you can see the part in Mike Tyson’s hair, too.

Sound: 3/5
Mario, who guest stars as the referee, doesn’t speak except through comic bubbles. The majority of the sounds, with the exception of the background, cut scene and entrance music, are pretty limited when fighting. There’s only a handful of sounds shared by all fighters.

Controls: 5/5
It literally takes about 30 seconds to learn how to play this game. A throws a right punch, B throws a left punch, up throws and uppercut and select is for your super-duper-knockdown punch. Press down to block and there you go, you’ve learned the control scheme. Just remember to move left and right to dodge.

Gameplay: 3/5
This game is fun and still addictive more than 20 years later. But while every other fighter does something special, Mac is pretty much limited to a handful of punches. You stand in place the entire game, as opposed to another NES boxing release, “Ring King.” Another downer is this game is for one player only. Imagine how awesome it would be to pit Bald Bull vs. Super Macho Man!

Overall: 4/5
This game remains an NES classic, and a hard one to find at that. Many people you find selling it want a nice chunk of change for it. But if this is a game you cherish more than ice cream and pie, it may be worth the price. 007-373-5963

Posted in NES, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Retro Game Review: Bo Jackson’s Hit and Run

Posted by ptcgaming on June 20, 2008

Screenshots taken from Gamespot GameFAQs
To bring back a little nostalgia, I’ll be spending some time reviewing some of my all-time favorite (and not-so-favorite) video games from before the fifth-generation consoles came out (the original Sony PlayStation/Nintendo 64). Those of you who grew up in the 80s and 90s should remember playing several of these. The first title in this series is “Bo Jackson’s Hit and Run! Baseball and Football.”
Year released: 1991
Developer: THQ
Platform: Nintendo Game Boy
Background: Starting in the late 1980s, Bo Jackson was the superstar athlete. And who could argue? Apparently, he knew everything (I still remember the commercial like it was yesterday). So in 1991, the two-sport athlete got a shot at his own release for the original Game Boy. That same year, Bo Jackson Baseball was released for the NES. However, “Hit and Run!” was a combination of both Bo sports, adding a football game to the mix.
Note: Since the baseball and football games are glaringly different, I’ll be breaking down each one separately.
Graphics: 1/5
Even for an original Game Boy title, the graphics on the football side of “Hit and Run!” are pretty bad. There are only two teams (East and West), and they are simply black or white. When the players are running, their arms and legs barely flicker, and it always seems one leg is shorter than the other. The playing field looks simple, yet decent, but it’s hard to tell which dark spot on the field is the football and which one is the shadow of the ball!
Sound: 1/5
The fact the game has this ear-piercing music that plays while a play is going on can kill the entire football experience. The other sounds are simplistic and bad at best.
Controls: 2/5
Controlling players is easy. Tackling players, well, not so much, which can probably be attributed to the bad graphics. Passing is easy except for the fact you have no idea who you’re throwing to until the pass is thrown. Switching between players can also be a chore when the function works properly.
Gameplay: 3/5
This rating is enhanced more by the game’s features than the game itself. Plays develop and move along slowly, but this game features several enhancements that are standard in football games today. Aside from the coin toss, the game features formation/coverage/blitz choices on both sides of the ball, time outs, penalties and a create-a-play option. You can also select the length of each quarter.
Overall: 1.75/5
Easy control while carrying the football and some ahead-of-its-time features saves this game from being a complete bust.
Graphics: 3/5
While the field view when a ball is in play is about as good as the football game’s in-play screen, the pitching/batting view is about as good as you’re going to get on the original GB. The shading on this screen adds quite a bit to the game’s look and feel. The scoreboard screen looks impressive, too.
Sound: 1/5
About as good as football without the annoying in-play music.
Controls: 3/5
Hitting, pitching and throwing are relatively easy to do. However, guessing which fielder the game is letting you chase the ball down with makes you want to throw the game out the door.
Gameplay: 3/5
The fielding problem affects this rating, too. However, just like football, this game was ahead of its time in many ways. You can choose what kind of pitch you want to throw (Ex: instead of having to make a pitch curve manually), move the pitcher side-to-side on the mound and the batter all around the batter’s box. You can also bean the batter. A lack of team choices (but still more than two) also brings gameplay down a little.
Overall: 2.5/5
Other than bad sound and confusing player control in the field, this is actually a really good baseball game built for the GB.
A mediocre football game takes some of the luster from a reasonably good baseball game.

Posted in Game Boy, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Why retro is more fun

Posted by ptcgaming on June 3, 2008

There was a day when Spy Hunter was king – and not that ramped-up 3D version, either. (By the way, you’re not supposed to shoot all the cars.) Photo found on Wikipedia.

So let me see, hold ‘R,’ aim with the lower stick down here, cross my legs right over left, spin around and press ‘A.’

Sound familiar? Does it sound like the steps necessary to just shoot something in one of the million World War II first-person shooter video games put out these days? I mean how many FPS games do we really need? All the ones out now share what, about five different themes?

I’m more of a simpleton myself. Which is why over the past few years I’ve found a way to go back to a simpler time, a time when games were fun and extraordinary graphics weren’t the only focus of game developers.
A few years ago, I chucked out 50 bucks and purchased a GameBoy Player for my Nintendo GameCube (Before you chuckle at my ‘Cube ownership, be aware I mainly bought it to play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker). Anyways, the only reason I bought it at the time was because Nintendo had re-released Super Mario Bros. 3, only the greatest NES game of all time, for GameBoy Advance. So instead of dropping 100 bucks for a GBA or a used NES console (I took mine apart years ago, and strangely it hasn’t worked since), I bought the GB Player and cartridge and came out cheaper (The GBA port also contained a copy of the original Mario Bros., too.). Besides, I’d rather play the games on a console hooked up to my TV than a GBA anyway, which today is admittedly hypocritical since I own a Nintendo DS.
Over the years, I’ve purchased other classic ports for GBA, most notably the original Super Mario Bros., a cartridge with the original versions of Final Fantasy I and II and the SNES gem, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. But it was a recent purchase that really reminded me how much fun games were way back when without all the bells and whistles.
Just the other day, while at an unnamed store whose logo consists of two red circles, I found in the infamous bargain bin a dual-game cartridge that featured original versions of Spy Hunter and Super Sprint.
While Super Sprint to me is not more than a prequel to NES’ RC Pro-Am, it was Spy Hunter that was the reason I spent the 10 bucks for it, which was a just fine price to me for this little piece of gaming history. For those of you born pre-1988 who have no idea what the big fuss is all about, click here.
Explaining how to play Spy Hunter is simple: Drive fast, shoot enemy cars, don’t get dead. Easy as that. Today, you’d have to add a hundred different options and features to make today’s gamer want to play it.
Still, Spy Hunter was fun, and still is to me. The port I found is just like the original, except the music either isn’t there (which is a bummer), or I haven’t figured out how to turn it on. All the action sounds are there, though, and the game is still fun.
As were, and still are, numerous games from back in the ’80s and early ’90s. It was fun to kill of enemies in the original Legend of Zelda without having to hold the aim button, raise your shield and catch a fish while hordes of enemies run after you. Or how on Kung Fu you could kick the guy at the front of the group and everyone falls down. Or how you unsuccessfully tried for hours to shoot the damn dog on Duck Hunt!
It’d probably be asking a bit too much to ask today’s developer to design a fighting game as simple as Double Dragon or Contra (still the best shoot’em up game ever). But what those games lacked in graphics (which were actually cutting-edge for the time) they made up for with fun.
Today, I have to read 20 pages of a game manual to figure out just how to equip a gun. Remember how simple it was in Zelda, when all you had to do was pause the game and pick what special weapon you wanted to use?
I wish it were easier, and cheaper for that matter, to acquire some of the old stuff from back when. Of course, I also wish after 20 years of trying I could get Little Mac to knock Mike Tyson out, too!

Posted in Retro Gaming | Leave a Comment »