Kablooey

Kablooey

Kablooey
Kablooey

Kablooey is a somewhat entertaining puzzle game.  It is both a follower and precursor to a number of puzzle games in this category.  The game is challenging, and you feel a certain sense of accomplishment each time you clear a stage.

Standard grid-based game with bombs to deal with
Standard grid-based game with bombs to deal with

The concept is somewhat novel for the era.  Tile-based game.  You have to walk around and blow up bombs in a particular order such that you don’t fall in the water, or get blown up.  My biggest complaint is that the game tries to do too much at once.  You have a limited amount of time, and you have a limited number of lives (but infinite continues, so what’s the point?), and you can die just by stepping in the wrong direction by mistake.  I much prefer puzzle games when they don’t try to also put an adventuresque element to it. If they had made it now, they’d also throw in some sort of leveling system, and achievements.  Instead of all the clutter, I wish they’d just focus on the puzzles.  Make them challenging enough on their own so that you don’t have to taunt the player with making them fall off the edge because they pushed the wrong direction.  Chu-chu Rocket is masterful at this sort of game.  You don’t get frustrated when you get it wrong.  You just try again.  Here, you have to try again not only when you get the puzzle wrong, but also when you run out of time, hit an enemy,  scratch your nose and nudge the d-pad.  It doesn’t add anything to the game and takes a lot away.

You can see part of the game board layout from an aerial view, but not all of it.
You can see part of the game board layout from an aerial view, but not all of it.

I also wish they’d just show you the whole game board at the start of the stage.  I get that they’re trying to make it more challenging, but it doesn’t end up that way. You have to move, pause, move some more, pause again, to get in the whole stage.  It’s basically impossible to do them in one go.  You have to die a few times to learn the layout.  You just automatically run through each level at the start and then suicide to see the layout.  You have infinite continues. Why not?  Would have been easier to just give the player a flyover at the start of the stage, at least.

Verdict: Kablooey gets  a lot right: interesting concept, challenging puzzles.  But it suffers from trying to do too much, adding a lot of things that just frustrate the player without making the game more enjoyable or challenging.  I suppose that approach is forgivable for the early nineties.  Nowadays, Popcap games has learned the lessons from the trailblazing of games like Kablooey and makes much more fun puzzle games.  Oh, and the music is repetitive.

John Madden Football

John Madden Football

John Madden Football
John Madden Football

Let me just go right out and say it: I hate sports games.  I especially hate football games.  It doesn’t help that I greatly dislike the sport of football as well.  I’m much more of a fan of refined-skill games like soccer.  Or should I say real foot ball.  Fucking Americans polluting the namespace.  That’s right.  I went there.

Fake left, dodge right, long, cut-in chicken leg, hook deep run pass, with a cherry on top.  Who cares?  You're just going to be sacked by the computer bee-lining for your QB anyways.  Why bother?
Fake left, dodge right, long, cut-in chicken leg, hook deep run pass, with a cherry on top. Who cares? You're just going to be sacked by the computer bee-lining for your QB anyways. Why bother?

Sports games always try too hard to simulate the experience of some sort of fantasy league.  I guess that’s great if you’re the type who likes fantasy football.  I can’t stand it.  If I’m going to play sports games, I’d rather play games that consider the sport, its rules, and the related management as loose parameters to apply to a game that is primarily designed to be fun.  Good examples are any Mario sports games.  They’re not really sports games.  They’re fun games that happen to use the rough parameters of whatever their title sport is.  Another good example is the classic NES World Cup Soccer.  It was ridiculous and silly, which made it tremendous fun.  It didn’t care that you were breaking every rule of soccer.  It was interesting.

The visuals are rather mundane.  And I'm not asking for life-like realism here. I'm asking for something interesting.  It was done in the NES era so hardware isn't the issue.
The visuals are rather mundane. And I'm not asking for life-like realism here. I'm asking for something interesting. It was done in the NES era so hardware isn't the issue.

So how does John Madden Foodball fare?  Well, it makes good use of the expensive franchise that went on to sell over 16 sequels and counting.  I assume when he dies, they’ll start selling Posthumous John Madden Football, where he comes back from the grave to say his cliches for the voice-overs.

Verdict: It’s a sports game! What?  What do you want me to say?  You are either in that niche target market and drop $60+ every year for the newest and greatest football game, or you’re a gamer.  They’re all the same.  That’s all.  End of discussion.

Jeopardy! Deluxe Edition

Jeopardy! Deluxe Edition

Jeopardy! Deluxe Edition
Jeopardy! Deluxe Edition

It’s always hard to recreate game shows in a different medium.  I have self-respect, so I’ve never played one before today.  I lowered my standards to please my loving audience! Ya bunch o’ ingrates!

The game is as you expect: Alex Trebbek dubbed voice overs for a couple of things–but not the actual question reading–and your standard array of generic characters.

You even get to play as Bubbles!
You even get to play as Bubbles!

The questions seem to be picked from the show.  That is, they aren’t dumbed down for an American audience.  I find this somewhat strange.  Japanese RPGs were dumbed down for American audiences because they were “too hard”, yet Gametek figures people will sit through all the simulated effects of the tv-show just so that they can show that they don’t know some obscure fact from 20 years ago? Seems like an odd market split to me.

Who fathered a child where?  And why? Ugh.
Who fathered a child where? And why? Ugh.

While playing, I found myself a lot more curious about the randomizer, the question selection, and the comparison algorithms.   You have to answer textually.  Does that mean spelling counts?  It certainly doesn’t in the real Jeopardy.  Or is there an intelligent comparison algorithm that is more forgiving?  Playing with the computers is also somewhat frustrating because they are painfully slow.  You spend most of the game waiting.

Verdict: If I were really stuck on reliving the nostalgia of the tv game show, I’d much rather watch the SNL skits, or play a variant that adapts well to the computer medium, like You Don’t Know Jack, which is essentially the same thing, without the interminable waiting simulator.

Nice suit, Trebbek.  Does it come in men's?
Nice suit, Trebbek. Does it come in men's?

Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadget

I was loading up this game figuring, “here we go again, another stupid platform franchise game”.  I’m not sure if it was the lowered expectations, or if it was the game itself, but I managed to actually have some fun with it.  Much to my surprise, it didn’t completely suck.

Surely I paused in time to save myself from this pit... ...  Damnit!
Surely I paused in time to save myself from this pit... ... Damnit!

The game is hard.  Like, Pitfall hard.  But, at least, it gives you what you need to get the job done.  You collect all of Gadget’s abilities, and then spend hats to use them.  Every object in the game (walls, enemies, etc.) holds some sort of power up, be it more abilities, or hats.  And you need them.  All of them.

Go go Gadget bitch-slap!
Go go Gadget bitch-slap!

Once you get the hang of the game, and don’t lose all of your lives on the first jump, there’s actually some thought put into it–more so at least than most franchise games.  It also has some lol moments from the TV series.  Doctor Claw is just a disembodied hand floating on a chair.  Penny ends up getting in trouble, and the chief shows up in random places and gets blown up by the mission files.  It’s good for a chuckle.

Dr. Claw!  You're just... a claw...  ... Uhm... ... Nice nails?
Dr. Claw! You're just... a claw... ... Uhm... ... Nice nails?

Verdict: If you don’t like platform games, then you probably won’t enjoy anything other than the small amount of nostalgia from your childhood.  If you like really challenging platform games, and have a drive to push through them until you’ve made them your bitch, then Inspector Gadget will give you the challenge you seek.

HyperZone

Normal or reverse.  Best game modes evah.
Normal or reverse. Best game modes evah.

For every generation of console, there is a game that comes out that is more of a technology demo than a game.  HyperZone is that game,  only it fails as a technology demo as well.  It attempts to show off the “3D” capabilities of the SNES,  but does so in such a pathetic manner that it’s just laughable.

Could you have more colours?  No, srsly.  You don't need to demonstrate the /whole/ pallet on screen at the same time.  Really.
Could you have more colours? No, srsly. You don't need to demonstrate the /whole/ pallet on screen at the same time. Really.

The game is more suitable as an epilepsy inducer.  Maybe it could be deployed at testing clinics when they need someone to go into a seizure so that they can measure the brain waves.  Give them this game for five minutes and you’re set.

Oh noes! Invasion of the yellow squares!
Oh noes! Invasion of the yellow squares!

The game consists of coloured shapes flying at you.  Oh, and some of them shoot other coloured shapes at you.  And, uhm, you can shoot coloured shapes at them.  And if you draw–errr, I mean fly–out of the lines, that’s Bad™.  And the horribly bad worse-than-8-bit soundtrack somewhat audibly changes when a boss coloured shape shows up to shoot boss coloured shapes, so that you know that this shape is Scary™.

The game is laughably bad.  Obviously more time was put into the physics engine than the gameplay design.  It is filled with unforgettable things like having only two buttons: shoot and brake. WTF?  Brake but no acceleration?  Oh, cause it’s like auto high-speed.  Hardcorzzz.  And if you die because you draw–I mean fly–out of the lines, you repop outside of the lines and immediately start taking damage again.  Laughable.

Stage 2! The Red Stage™
Stage 2! The Red Stage™

F-Zero was a release title that used a similar design, only it didn’t suck.  Later games like Starfox and Stunt Race FX did a much better job of the simulated 3D, and they were interesting.

Verdict:  HyperZone should be forgotten and ignored.  The game is laughably bad, and not in a good way.  The most interesting screen is the Game Over screen.

Finally!  This game needs a suicide button to make the end come faster.
Finally! This game needs a suicide button to make the end come faster.

Home Alone

Home Alone
Home Alone

Another movie game.  Turn off brain.  Check.  Set expectations low.  Check.  Let grey matter ooze out of ear.

Mlllaaaaargggggghhhh…

It’s funny because you figure with all the failures in the dawn of gaming, they would stop making this sort of shit.  But that’s the rub: they’re failures in terms of anything remotely related to a gaming quality metric, but, somehow, they still sell.  Video games (and other media and pop culture to a similar extent) are somewhat unique in that respect: they sell almost entirely based upon their marketing appeal.  The game itself is separate from the marketing.

Get used to seeing this screen a lot.  It would be so much funnier if someone appended "es".
Get used to seeing this screen a lot. It would be so much funnier if someone appended "es".

The experience of playing Home Alone is based pretty much entirely on the nostalgia of the film.  That’s it. The developers make a point of trying to tie it in to the good-guys-bad-guys silliness of the movie, which was amusing as a kid, granted, but fails here when your worst enemies are in fact bats and rats, and the kind developers somehow decided that when there are bats or rats, you CAN’T USE YOUR SLINGSHOT CAUSE THAT MAKES SENSE!

Fucking bats, and rats. Why can't I shoot you with my slingshot?!? WHY?!?
Fucking bats, and rats. Why can't I shoot you with my slingshot?!? WHY?!?

The game is full of the usual poorly designed, half-assed side scroller theme.  There are a thousand games like this, and the only thing that sets this one apart is the “collect the valuables” aspect, where instead of mindlessly moving sideways, you have to think enough to go back and forth to the drop spot.  Once you’ve amassed enough valuables, you have to get past the nigh interminable array of bats and rats to seal the valuables in the vault.  I don’t remember any bats and rats in the movie, and with this number, the house would be condemned!

If you want to gather loot, go play the original Duck Tales.  It was fun while presenting an interesting challenge.
If you want to gather loot, go play the original Duck Tales. It was fun while presenting an interesting challenge.
Same concept, better level design, better controls with two buttons, and a lot more fun.
Same concept, better level design, better controls with two buttons, and a lot more fun.

Verdict: Home Alone is exactly what you expect: A poorly thought out movie-based game with awkward controls, frustrating gameplay, dismal music, terrible graphics, and laugh-out-loud design choices.  If you really want to be nostalgic about the movie, watch it with silly subtitles or commentaries and heckle it.  You’ll have more fun.

Hammerlock Wrestling

Hammerlock Wrestling
Hammerlock Wrestling

Wrestling games can be entertaining, but usually only in 2 player mode.  Invariably, the computer gets to cheese out and do things you can’t possibly do, which just gets frustrating.  Here, we don’t see that problem as much.  The computer acts like a wrestler, and makes mistakes too.

Hammerlock wrestling is somewhat entertaining.  You can have a good time with a friend and be all silly.  The game mostly suffers from crappy graphics and sound.  It’s not really SNES worthy.  It feels like a NES game.  It could also give an epileptic seizure to even the most resilient of gamers.

Those flashing white and blue streaks fly by the screen EVERY TIME YOU HIT ANY BUTTON!  It's more distracting than an emu pecking your eyes out.
Those flashing white and blue streaks fly by the screen EVERY TIME YOU HIT ANY BUTTON! It's more distracting than an emu pecking your eyes out.

You have your basic kick, punch, run, and drop-kick.  When your opponent is on the ground, you can do a joint lock, pin him, pick him up, or do a fancy move diving off the ropes.  Pretty straightforward.  Lots of button mashing.  Destroy your controller to beat your friend.

But wait, there’s more!  The game totally features Bruce McGill as Baron Kaiser!

Bruce McGill
Bruce McGill
Baron Kaiser
Baron Kaiser

Verdict:  Hammerlock Wrestling is an average game that will provide a few fun times and will create a bit of competitiveness between friends.  The computer isn’t as cheap as in other games, but the moves are kinda limited.  Try it out if you’re curious, but don’t get your hopes up for anything epic.