Magic Sword

Friendship: The Videogame
Friendship: The Videogame.

Magic Sword is a game about The Power of Friendship.  What appears on the outside to be an overly linear, side-scrolling hack ‘n’ slasher through a castle that sports faaaar too many treasure chests, keys, and doors (far more keys than there are doors, in fact) belies a rather profound co-operative single player experience.

Waiiiiittaminutesingle player co-op?!  How is that even possible?!”  I hear your brain explode.

I know, I know!  I was surprised too!  I’ll try a few different illustrations to give you an idea of what I’m talking about here.

Okay, okay, I’ve got one:

Imagine you’re playing a NES game two-player with your Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.), except he actually works.

'Operating' being the operative word.  NOT!
'Operating' being the operative word. NOT!

Oh, you say you’re not one of the five richest Tsars in Europe, and you don’t actually own a R.O.B.?  Well, then this one’s for you:

Imagine you’re playing an escort mission, except the AI that follows you around isn’t completely useless, and *gasp* actually helps you.

I know!  It’s ridiculous and unheard of in videogames, and that’s what makes Magic Sword so amazing.  For once, the AI on your side isn’t as dumb as dogshit, walking off of cliffs, or any of that nonsense, and you don’t feel like ringing their neck.  More than that, you actually feel close to this virtual warrior with whom you share your travails.

I got your back, bro!
I got your back, bro!

My only real issue with the game is just how short-lived some of these friendships can be.  As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of treasure chests lying around the castle, which you smash open to collect a lot of keys (treasure chests containing keys – go figure), which you use to open – you guessed it – a lot of doors.  Well, behind a vast majority of these doors is a new traveling companion.  Unfortunately you can only travel with one companion at a time.  Oftentimes you’ll encounter three doors in a row, meaning you’ll travel barely one in-game metre with your new buddy before he disappears and is replaced by an even newer buddy.

Sorry White Wizard, you're ditched!  Dark Wizard is my new Best Friend now!
Sorry White Wizard, you're ditched! Dark Wizard is my new Best Friend now! Best Friends Forever!

Just where they disappear to, I’ll never know, but at least there’s 50 levels packed to the gills with keys and doors, so you’re sure to become acquainted with them again (*how* they get trapped behind other doors to be rescued yet again, is another mystery).  Just think of it as an episode of Friends, or something – sometimes Joey just hangs out with Chandler; sometimes Joey hooks up with Rachel; mainly Rachel hooks up with Ross (and then changes her mind); Ross is Monica’s brother; Monica is Chandler’s girlfriend; Phoebe plays “Smelly Cat” on her guitar far too often at the cafe downstairs where Rachel works YOU GET THE IDEA – they’re on rotation.  I suppose if you wanted to stick with say, the ninja for a bit longer, you could just *not open the doors* for a while, but when you’ve got this whole Spartacus-frees-the-slaves thing going on, you really don’t want to.  It’s satisfying.  You open the door, a friendly warrior appears, he or she says “thank you!”, throws you a special item to you, and agrees to fight alongside you.  So basically, you get to make nine new friends during the course of the game, and they’re all completely awesome.  Like this guy:

"You can always depend on the kindness of strangers/ To pluck up your spirits, and shield you from dangers/ Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret/ Yes, a stranger's just a friend you haven't met/ Youuu haaa-ven't met!"
"You can always depend on the kindness of strangers/ To pluck up your spirits, and shield you from dangers/ Now here's a tip from Blanche you won't regret/ Yes, a stranger's just a friend you haven't met/ Youuu haaa-ven't met!"

It doesn’t matter that the dungeons-and-dragons setting has been done to death; it doesn’t matter that your character is a blatant He-Man rip-off; it doesn’t matter that the game is altogether too easy; it doesn’t even matter that the title is grossly misleading (there is no singular ‘Magic Sword’ as such, rather multiple magic swords that you obtain during the course of the game, and your quest is to destroy the Black Orb, as wielded by the Dark Lord Drokmar…) – this game plays like a good friend.  And friends aren’t always perfect.

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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.

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.

Cool World

Cool World
Cool World

Remember the iconic 80s movie?  I do, but only vaguely, as memory is strange after 20 years.  Clearly one has to watch the movie right before playing this game, because no explanation is given whatsoever.  You just fall into the game, and go.

Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!111one1111juan
Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!111one1111juan

The game is a sort of sidescroller exploration game.  You can pick up and carry items, but only one at a time.  Makes for limited puzzles, but does make you pick up everything that you can get your hands on in an obsessive kind of way.  I could have spent a lot of time exploring this game years ago.

The colours would kill an epileptic, but the surreal feel is well done, if a little choppy.
The colours would kill an epileptic, but the surreal feel is well done, if a little choppy.

The game is somewhat frustrating to figure out at first.  You have to collect nickels, but it’s not clear how.  If you go too close to one, this guy walks up to you, and asks you for a nickel.  Since you don’t have any, you can’t give him any, so he just kills you.  Repeat 3 times, game over.  Not too fun.

Expect to see this screen a lot
Expect to see this screen a lot.

Eventually, you find a punching glove.  With it, you can fight back.  Sorta.  Except it’s all insta-death.  Progress is slow and frustrating, with a lot of backtracking

This guy will annoy the piss out of you every time you stand still for more than like 5 seconds.  You hve to jump like a meerkat with a bladder condition to stay out of their reach.
These guys will annoy the piss out of you every time you stand still for more than like 5 seconds. You have to jump like a meerkat with a bladder condition to stay out of their reach.

I like the idea of trying to capture the oddness of the movie in the game, but it really requires a lot of patience to figure things out.  I hate using guides, but the alternative of spending many hours learning the game is not as appealing as it would have been a decade ago.

The game does at least feature infinite continues.  In that manner, lives are sorta unimportant.  You continue exactly where you last left off, with the items you had.  So, one has to wonder why they bother with “lives” at all.  Just push the character back for a few seconds or something and it has the same effect.  Games of this era thought they had to meet a formula with “score” and “lives” in order to be taken seriously.  The driving scene echoes the usual “must have some sort of auto-side scrolling obstacle course” feel for games of this era.  Same deal.

Why does every sidescroller need some sort of retarded car/motion scene where there are pits everywhere and it's more fun to figure out how many ways to die than face the frustration of actually making it through the scene?  This isn't creative.  You can make a good game without this shit.
Why does every sidescroller need some sort of retarded car/motion scene where there are pits everywhere and it's more fun to figure out how many ways to die than face the frustration of actually making it through the scene? This isn't creative. You can make a good game without this shit.

Games don’t all need this to be good.It’s nice that modern games can do this sort of creative thing, while pushing the boundaries of conventional play modes.  Overall, it’s a lot more suiting, and satisfying.

Verdict: Cool World was an early experiment at a slightly different game style.  Its primary failure is trying to incorporate the “necessary” game components like lives, score, side scrolling crap, to grow up to be a “real game”.  It would have been much more interesting if the game had really broken the mold in the SNES era.  It could have been as epic as Flashback, and rocked socks everywhere.

Cliffhanger

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

The game lets you pick the number of lives you want to start with. Srsly. Do I need to continue this review? The developers are shouting loud and clear: We fucked up. Our bad. Sorry. Here, pick the number of lives you want. Don’t even need to bother with a Game Genie.

All tough guys wear short sleaved shirts in sub-freezing, mountain temperatures.  WAT!
All tough guys wear short sleaved shirts in sub-freezing, mountain temperatures. WAT!

The classic design of a bad side scroller: Pits that insta kill you that are exactly one millimeter smaller than your maximum jump range, repetitive music, stupid AI that likes to walk into knives, repeatedly. Oh, and of course, the infamous super move that somehow drains your health. Apparently Stalone’s muscles were so tense that every time he did a tripping kick motion, he ripped 3 more tendons, so you take more damage than you could ever conceivably take from the enemy you kill. Better yet, the amazingly costed super move is interruptible by any bad guy who decides to poke you in the middle, and you still take the full damage. Yay. And then there’s the avalanche scene, also know as the how-to-spend-all-7-of-your-lives-in-approximately-21-seconds scene.

Oh noes! An avalanche! Try number 324.  Fuck it.  Just lie down and die.  It's easier and it's the same outcome anyways. Gotta wonder what's under those moggles.
Oh noes! An avalanche! Try number 324. Fuck it. Just lie down and die. It's easier and it's the same outcome anyways. Gotta wonder what's under those moggles.

This game is not fun for more than 48.7 seconds. Sure, games don’t HAVE to be fun, if they have some artistic merit, or the tiniest of redeeming factor. This game has neither. That leaves only the fun factor. There must be fun to be had somewhere?!?! The most fun I had playing this game was putting down the controller, and watching one of the cookie cutter bad guys who was wearing the exact same outfit as the 57 other guys – no seriously, what do they all shop together, buy in bulk or something? – punch the living shit out of Stalone, over and over and over. Apparently if you stand still, and don’t block, they just sucker punch you, repeatedly. No kicking, nothing. Just whap, whap, whap, whap, whap, whap, punching, the, crap, out, of, his, stupid, face.

Here it comes!
Here it comes!
BAFF!  In your FACE!
BAFF! In your FACE!
You want some more of this? HUH!?! PUNK!?!
You want some more of this? HUH!?! PUNK!?!
BIFF!  Take that! You like that, huh?  You naughty boy.  Dirty boy.  You like that!
BIFF! Take that! You like that, huh? You naughty boy. Dirty boy. You like that!
GAZZOOK!  I got lots more of where this came from! And you still have infinite continues!
GAZZOOK! I got lots more of where this came from! And you still have 6 more lives!

Verdict: This game doesn’t even deserve the title of franchise rape because the Cliffhanger franchise really didn’t have that much prestige to it to begin with. If you have the urge to play a difficult side scroller, play something with character instead, like Double Dragon II.

Captain Commando

Today’s Captain Commando review comes from our special guest author Karen! If you like her stuff, let us know!

Captain Commando
Captain Commando

Type: Side scrolling action

Characters: You get to play as one of four commandos each with their own special attack.

Who do you want to be? Duh the Mummy!
Who do you want to be? Duh the Mummy!

Mummy Commando (aka Mack the Knife)

  • Alien warrior
  • He uses 2 knifes
  • Special attack is spinning with blades out

Captain Commando

  • Captain of the commandos (hence the name)
  • He uses an energy glove
  • Special attack is electrifying the floor on both sides.

Baby Commando

  • Super smart baby who rides an robot suit he designed
  • Special attack is explosives on both sides

Ninja Commando (aka Ginzu the Ninja )

  • Master of Ninjitsu
  • He uses a sword
  • Special attack is jumping and setting off explosives

Plot:You beat up mutants or aliens. No idea why. The description is here if you must know.

Controls: Just 3 buttons and the arrows. Y = attack, B =jump and A = special.

Lives: 5

Levels: There are 9 levels. City, museum, ninja house, circus, seaport, aquarium, underground base, enemy’s spaceship and callisto.

The game is pretty easy to play. Mashing the attack button yields different animations. The commando punches, kicks, grabs by the throat and throws enemies all with the same button. The special attacks are powerful but drain your life. Mack’s attack is the best as you can move around the screen while spinning.

There are also power ups hidden in crates and barrels (shock!). These last a short time. Way too short in the case of the bazooka. Only 2 shots! Totally unfair. Other power ups are the mallet, knife, throwing star and gun.

You start a level then beat up everyone in your path. Then there is a boss fight. Most of the levels follow this same pattern. Except the seaport.

In the seaport level you ride a hover board chasing after a mad scientist. I passed the level in spite of crashing into barriers multiple times. Also there were random power ups on other hover boards. Maybe if I figured out how to get to the machine gun, it would have helped. Not sure if the guitar or saxophone would have.

Saxophone of power
Saxophone of power

When you die you get the option of switching characters. Which is useful if you want to see if a different special attack will help.

In the end I did not finish the game. I made it to the underground base which is level 7 of 9. Much further than I thought I would get considering the type of game.

My favorite part was that 2 of the enemies, Carol and Marbin, would electrocute and inflame respectively their companions. Nothing says teamwork like collateral damage.