American Gladiators

American Gladiators
American Gladiators

The 80s, you’ve been missed.  But, really, couldn’t we have done better?  Who knew that Gametek had published this dung shrine?  They’ve published gems like Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud, and Jeopardy!  Surely it’s the same thing to make a game about gladiators and sporting stuff, right?  Fail.

The best part of this game is the intro screen.  You get a near-picture-perfect view of the classic 80s team.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Turn it on.  Watch the intro screen.  Smile.  And go watch some 80s cartoons or something.

The gameplay is beyond silly.  The controls are unresponsive, unclear, and, largely pointless.  If you haven’t watched the TV show religiously, don’t even try.  Nothing is explained.  No rules.  No objectives.  Nothing.  You have to psychically know what you’re supposed to do.   It’s like playing the Price is Right without being told why you’re randomly shouting out prices.

There are different game modes for each one of the events, all of which feel like they were written for the Atari 2600, with the same graphics, and worse controls.  Unforgivable for the SNES.

The game has two redeeming qualities.  One, it supports simultaneous two-player action through split screen.  The only time I could see that you would ever want to play it would be after watching a marathon of American Gladiators, while high on Cheetos and RC Cola, and you have a half hour before Nascar is on.  You could whip out the game and button mash with your TV-watching cohort mindless for a while.  Bragging rights to the person with the best button mashing, and the most Cheeto-coloured controller.

Adidas logo
Adidas logo

Two, yes, that is an Adidas logo in the game.  This ad is one of the earliest game ad placements I can remember, and that makes American Gladiators interesting in its own respect.  One has to wonder if Adidas negotiated the placement with Gametek, or if it came along for free with their partnership with the show.  Or, maybe Gametek just threw it in for kicks.

Verdict: This game makes a better advertising history research project than a video game.  The controls are frustratingly useless.  The game modes are confusing and pointless.  The music is irritatingly repetitive.   It’s an obvious example of a game by Americans for Americans with about as much thought put into it as “reality” TV.

Alien Vs. Predator

Look at that hole in that wall! Holy toledo! It relaly looks like a hole in a real science fiction wall!
Look at that hole in that wall! Holy toledo! It really looks like a hole in a real science fiction wall!

Three things I don’t get:

1. Alien fanaticism
2. Predator fanaticism
3. Love for beat ’em ups

Seriously. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I liked Alien (but the second, third, and fourth movies didn’t really tickle me), and I liked Predator and even Predator 2 (for the laffs). But I don’t get the infatuation with making them fight each other in comics or video games or those terrible movies by that Anderson guy. And I definitely don’t get the point of games where you’re supposed to walk right and hit Y over and over until you get to the end. Now, to be fair, sometimes you hit B to JUMP and then Y, but really, it’s very little variety.

Now, in the defense of this game, it’s got some awesome art. Like, the backgrounds are as good as in a lot of the IREM games. That’s saying something because those guys knew how to draw a pixelly SNES background.

I really don’t know what to say. If you like mindless xenopunching, and picking up projectiles, and then throwing those projectiles, and you wonder who’d win in a fight between alien and predator (spoiler: all signs point to predator), check it out. If you’re not remotely bored, don’t bother. Seriously. WRITING this is boring.

Alien 3

alien-3
Someone's got a case of the Mondays...

I have never completed any of the movies from the Alien franchise. Oh sure, I’ve caught little snippets here and there but I’ve never seen an entire “Alien” movie. There’s a reason for that. Growing up on the South Shore of Montreal, I was
a very sheltered boy. I didn’t cross the street on my own until my 13th birthday, I couldn’t be alone without a babysitter until I was 15, and had a curfew of 8PM until I was 16 so it is also safe to assume that my parents did not allow me to watch a lot of science fiction movies growing up either. But the thing is, my parents couldn’t be around ALL the time. I remember one night, I was staying with one of my cousins and he had rented  Alien. We gathered around big screen to watch it and I remember nothing about that movie until this scene.

chestburst
Phallic imagery at it's best.

I ran out of the room in tears, locked myself in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out until my mother came to pick me up. I was 18 years old.

This game kind of made me want to relive that experience. Yeah, for a minute or two this game seems pretty cool. You’re running around with a flamethrower flaming these suckers but it really isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be.  While graphically pleasing, the gameplay gets old really fast. Maybe it’s just that I really suck at video games or that I have the memory span of a goldfish (“Hey look a castle….. Hey look, a castle…. Hey loo…”) but having to consult a map and then try to remember the blueprints of the ship just doesn’t fucking do it for me. I played this game for about 3 hours and I didn’t get fucking ANYWHERE. So I ran around scorching shit for a little while, I killed some aliens, drank a beer then deleted the ROM.

Aladdin

That nutty monkey!
That nutty monkey!

I have a few minutes before the drugs take hold, so let’s take a look Aladdin.

First off, this is a Capcom game and they usually manage to cobble together entertainment I can stomach. I am cautiously optimistic about this!

The game seems to follow the plot of Disney’s Aladdin, which automatically makes me feel pretty badass, since I know that while I start as a scummy, filthy, disease-ridden street urchin, I will later have unimaginable wealth and bang a princess. It’s only a matter of time, just like in real life. Hi, Zara Phillips!

I have to admit, this is the first game I’ve reviewed – and I’ve reviewed TWO already – that I’ve genuinely enjoyed. The graphics are pretty, the control is actually fairly responsive, and the gameplay is…fun! Are these games supposed to be fun? After playing this for I while, I will forever regard Aladdin as a brief oasis in the DESERT OF SHIT*.

As I run down the streets of Agrabah flipping around, jumping on rug vendors’ surprisingly supportive roofs, and throwing apples at people’s crotches, I can feel a smile working its way onto my face – although that might be the previously mentioned drugs kicking in. Whatever, I’m enjoying the hell out of this game! The look of absolute horror on Abu’s face when Aladdin gets dusted is great, and causes me to run headfirst into arrows several times just so I can laugh at his little crestfallen monkey despair.

Even the password you get for completing a level is kind of cool: it’s a series of images and trying to remember a series of images makes me feel like Johnny Mnemonic. If I had a monofilament whip, you’d be in trouble, let me tell you. Assuming I didn’t cut my own hands off first, and I can totally see myself doing that. I like my hands, I don’t want to lose them! Even if I can buy one or someone will send one to me for free, I probably shouldn’t own a monofilament whip. It’s for my own good.

😦

Back to Aladdin: if you have access to a SNES and this game, or more likely a computer and this ROM, I definitely recommend playing Aladdin, if for no other reason than to taunt Abu with the harsh reality of being a homeless monkey without a grinder and the steady supply of opium that relationship provides.

* Not to be confused with the DESSERT OF SHIT which is an entirely different beast and oh lord i hate the internet so much

Al Unser Jr’s Road to the Top

He looks kind of like Dan Akroyd.
He looks kind of like Dan Akroyd.

When I was a kid I had the worst motion sickness known to man. The worst instance of this was on a road trip from Cold Lake, Alberta to Pouce Coupe, BC. We bought gigantic slushies on the way and I promptly got sick, spewing Red Dye #15 over the entire van. It was a bad scene. There are tonnes of tricks to deal with motion sickness; focusing on the horizon, closing your eyes. None of these work, much like hangover cures. They basically make you feel a little better about the fact that you have a stomach full of live bees or a splitting headache.

Al Unser Jr’s Road to the Top is a game that makes me think of my greatest hits moments of motion sickness. The entire thing is rendered in mode 7 and not even pleasant MarioKart mode 7. You get to race Go-Karts, Snowmobiles, IROC cars, and finally Indy cars. There’s no progression to speak of. You choose a race, run through it and almost win, hit a hazard, lose, and move to the next race. It shows your placing, you pick another route, and continue.

At the beginning of every race you are treated to a mammoth view of Al Unser Jr’s (I presume it’s him because his name is on the game but who knows) horrifying visage. He explains why the track you’re about to race is great, which is usually a lie, and then the race begins.

I’m not being funny with you, the mode 7 graphics literally make me ill. I make it through about three tracks before my jaw gets leaden and my mouth waters. I played through mirror’s edge (which didn’t make me nauseous, only angry), watched [REC] and Cloverfield, and none of these things have ever had that effect on me. This game makes me sick. It’s also not very good.

Air Strike Patrol

Yay.
Air Strike Patrol

Ah, to be a pilot in the Gulf War, where I could blow up everything in sight!  Well, if you’ve ever had that wish, Air Strike Patrol is here to fulfill that particular American fetish.  But, if you did have that wish… Dude… Seriously… You need to get out more.  Sad.

ASP tries to capture not just the mechanics of flying around and blowing everything up, cause, obviously, all F16s are equipped with SNES joypads to control them; but also tries to capture the world environment surrounding the Gulf War.  And it’s kinda cute, in a nostalgic, reminiscing kind of way.

Unfortunately, the game suffers fro a severe case of suckitis, specifically in the case of the UI design.  I’ve seen microwaves with better UI design.  The interface for the launching of games is so confusing and unclear that it took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to actually start a round.

Once in the cockpit (hehe, cock), you fly around looking for your mission objective to blow up.  Your plane has two speeds: crawling in the air, and way too fucking fast.  What’s worse is that it really reveals the sprite scrolling limitations of the SNES. When flying horizontally, you move ridiculously fast.  When flying vertically, you inch along like a snail, only with wings.  Slow, snail-like wings.  It’s very strange.

Then there is the missile lock on system.  Your weapons are so well calibrated that they’ll lock on to everything that moves.  Except most of your mission targets are /stationary/.  That’s right.  You can lock on to tanks, civilians, trucks, missile launchers, but not a radar tower, or an oil tank.  Or, you know, MIGs.  Can’t lock on to those either.  What’s best is that the lock-on is automatic!  And, your lock-on system is so refined that it will lock on to UN troops too!  Ohhhhh, but it flashes a warning before you accidentally blow them up.  And what’s your punishment?  At the end of your mission run, GNN news (real clever) forces you to watch a special report on protects against civilian casualties and problems with friendly fire.  Boo. Hoo.  What a pain in the ass.

The long and the short is that the game looks like an attempt at competing with the Genesis’ contemporary Desert Strike, which didn’t suck donkey balls.  The actual missions are fine, once you figure out the awkward controls and learn to only fire when you /don’t/ have a missile lock.  The UI is so painful, it makes you want to smash your controller on the ground.

ASP User Interface - Yes, it blows.
ASP User Interface - Yes, it blows.

Oh, let’s not forget the logical mission flow.  You fly until you run out of fuel.  Then what do you do?  Land?  No, no.  Fly some more until you /fly out of the zone/.  Obviously that’s how you deal with a fuel shortage.  You make it back to base every time.  Somehow.

Verdict:  I’ve played worse games, but if you spent cash on this game, even as a child, you’d be annoyed.  The action is kinda sad.  The music is repetitive.  The controls are awkward.  The meager sense of accomplishment you get from completing one mission is pretty much completely overshadowed by the 20 minutes you spend pushing buttons to try to get to the next mission.

Air Cavalry

aircav

I used to live in a very rural area. Not rural like town of a few thousand, what I might call “subrural;” no, I was in a town of 800, near a couple towns of under 5000. The closest “city,” as it were, was Owen Sound, Ontario, with a whopping population of about 25,000. Owen Sound is subrural, but, where I lived, surrounded by cows and kids who talked about how awesome Massey Ferguson tractors are (seriously), it was as rural as rural came.

My dad was the minister at a presbyterian chruch for chicken farmers, dairy farmers, corn farmers, and, oddly, nuclear plant employees (we were near a plant called Bruce A, which was shut down in 1998, around the same time we moved to Ottawa. It was a huge blow to the tiny village, as they employed most of these people; I’ve heard it since re-opened).

Every girl in that town loved horses. In a way that’d only be considered tacky in a urban or suburban school, horses adorned sweatshirts, binders, hats, pencils, pencil cases, pencil sharpeners, and anything else with enough flat space to fit a palamino. While the boys were tractor-crazy (I wasn’t joking: Massey Ferguson. If you know what that is, you are probably from my hometown.), the girls were horse-crazy.

Air cavalry will not fulfill the fantasies of those young girls. It’s about helicopters. There’s a bunch of mode 7, and a HUD that takes up half the screen so your SNES can process it all. You fly around and shoot things in a helicopter. It looks pretty cool, but it’s one of those games where you go around and it feels easy but after a while it feels as if the difficulty gets raised artificially and dying becomes “cheap.” Then again I always thought planes were cooler than helicopters. This is probably because of those delicious candies they sold for a wihle that taught me what an F-14 Tomcat and a B-2 Bomber were. What were those candies? It’s lost to the annals of history, I suppose. Like this game was until today.