Saturday, September 27, 2014

#120: Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia is a lot like the last game we enountered, Out of This World. It's a puzzle platformer ported from an old computer game with an actual plot. Prince of Persia is more about quickly finding your way through a maze where Out of This World was more about a precise sequence of inputs but they're both very similar feeling games, especially compared to other SNES offerings. It's a little odd they both came out in the same month but I'd imagine November is a pretty key month for getting out games in order to hit the Christmas rush.
Slowly climb down or fall to your death!
I really like how the game had an intro cinematic explaining what was going on. The sultan's vizier (Jaffar, obviously) is trying to marry the princess. But she's in love with the player character and doesn't want to marry Jaffar. So Jaffar locks up the player and summons a magical hourglass with 2 hours on it. You have that much time to break out of prison and rescue the princess or she will be forced to marry Jaffar instead. The time ticks down as you play the game, and if you die you have to restart the current level but you don't get the time back. So there's time pressure to do well, and the game looked to have a high score mechanism so there was replayability added in with trying to go faster and faster on subsequent playthroughs!
En guarde!
The first level involves jumping and climbing until you find a sword and then using said sword to kill a guard and escape out of this section of the dungeon. The controls change when you're on the same floor as an enemy and you switch to swordfight mode with block and lunge buttons. If your sword is drawn and you get hit you take 1 damage. If your sword is not out you are instantly slain. Seems reasonable enough!

The controls in the game are a little wonky with the character always running if you don't hold down the 'creep slowly' button and with stopping/turning involving a skidding turn, but you get used to them and they really make the game feel distinct. If someone tells me a game has Prince of Persia style movement I know what they mean even with 20 years between plays of the game.

I recently hurt my wrist and while it's getting better I can't keep playing for hours on end or I probably would be doing so with this one. I'm sad that I had to stop after a few tries at the second level (eventually dying to a hidden spike trap on the floor!)

Rating: S-

Saturday, September 20, 2014

#119: Out of This World

Out of This World is a puzzle platformer type of game where there's really only one correct sequence of inputs that will advance the storyline and plenty of incorrect sequences that result in your gruesome death. It reminds me a little of Dragon's Lair that way, actually. Screw up, watch yourself die in a hilarious fashion, try again.

I got too close to a worm and it poisoned me!
The graphics in this game blew me away. I remembered how the game looked but for some reason I was thinking that had to have been a PC version since there was no way the SNES could do this sort of thing. Turns out I was remembering the SNES version. The cutscenes are incredible and the gameplay screens look pretty darn good too. I guess there's actually not a whole lot going on in them so they probably just had a lot of good artists working on it? The minimal movement probably saves on SNES processing power? Maybe? I don't know. I just know it looks fantastic.

I beat the first level and unlocked my friend and a gun. The gun has a limited number of shots and you need it to last through a pretty big stage so you can't waste any shots. I am not good at not wasting shots. Eventually I decided I wasn't likely to beat the level anytime soon and gave up, but I was actually making progress. If I was looking to spend a day or two learning a puzzle platformer this game would be the one to do it on. I watched a speedrun of this game in one of the marathons I watched earlier this year and it is pretty sweet.

This game also had a legitimate intro movie where it set the stage for what was happening in the game. More SNES games need to do this! I imagine a lot of the story was actually shunted off into manuals which I don't have but it's still nice to see some of it in the game itself.

Rating: S-

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#118: On the Ball

Get on that ball!
I was thinking a game named On the Ball was going to be a sports game of some kind or maybe a platformer where you're rolling around on a ball. I was very much mistaken. It turns out On the Ball is a puzzle game where there's a ball which is dropping towards the bottom of the screen thanks to gravity. You as the player need to rotate the terrain clockwise or counterclockwise to guide the ball to the goal. It's a clever little puzzle game.

Colour/pattern overload!
They don't show you an overview of the entire level and the view is pretty zoomed in so they added on arrows to the terrain in an attempt to direct you towards the exit. It worked pretty well. There are zones on the harder levels that subtract time if you bump into them with no real warning that they exist, but I suspect those are the sorts of things you get better at avoiding with practice.

Through everything... Turn... Turn... Turn...
I feel like the puzzle genre has evolved over the last 22 years and I'm not much for time limits and losing when you're too slow at solving a puzzle, but I wish I'd played this game as a kid. I have a feeling my whole family might have gotten into playing it. The game even keeps high scores (I hope between sessions) so you could race for best times and such. Actually, I wonder if anyone has ever speedrun this game?

Rating: B+

Saturday, September 6, 2014

#117: John Madden Football '93

Wow, when I turned this one on did the memories every flood in. The opening music is stuck in my brain for ever and ever. The intro graphics are cheesy, but they're the right kind of cheesy. And they got real, solid voice coming through. Touch-touch-touch-touchdown! HUT! HUT!

You sure did, John.
I didn't own this game as a kid but I'm pretty sure Robin did and I'd borrow it every now and then. I never played football as a kid, and I didn't really watch it on tv either. But playing this game showed the possibilities that existed in this sport. It's like Pounder says; football is a two player strategy game where the random number generator is played by large men. Madden '93 has full playbooks. It has audibles. It has different pass targets for each play. It really is a turn based strategy game.

And the crowd goes wild!
EA started to get some of the little things going with this version of the game, too. I got sacced for negative yardage on one play and the crowd booed at me. Pull off a 25 yard pass and it shows a clip of fans cheering and plays a nice roar. They didn't have the NFLPA on board so my Detroit team was lead by #20 at running back instead of by Barry Sanders, but it's ok. #20 is still awesome.

The controls still felt smooth. I was certainly rusty but I'll blame that on getting old not on the game itself. This was a very good football game. It still is, really. I could see myself playing this game for days on end again if I didn't have so many other games to play.

Rating: A+