Author: kerr9000

150 SNES games reviewed: #6 The Rocketeer

So I tried to play The Rocketeer and prior to the game starting there were a few screens with drawings and words, but with my Japanese copy they were of very little help.

The game starts and what I am met with is nothing like I imagined. In my head this game was a 2D R-Type style shoot ’em up, where I flew from left to right as the rocketeer saving the day and instead here I am flying a yellow what looks like a crop dusting plane against a red and a blue plane round and round these pillars in a race.

The controls are clunky at best and things seem to favor the AI controlled planes. If I hit them it send me towards the ground. If they hit me the same thing happens, I head towards the ground. I failed to finish the race time and time again. I just can’t seem to manage the 10 laps but I push on with the hope this is just the start and if I can somehow get through this there will be the glorious treat of seeing my character strap on the rocketeer’s rocket pack and I will be flying shooting and doing something much better.

Eventually I finish the race but in second place, I am shown the same failure screen I have been met with so many times before, but I try again and again spurred on by the hope of something better – eventually. I finish first I scream to the heavens in triumph – rocket pack here I come – but no I am robbed. I am back in the plane racing again but this time I need to complete 15 laps not 10. Another hour passes, I get better at managing 10 laps, but can’t manage 15 so I am stuck. I press reset and leave the machine in the hope it will play a gameplay demo which will at least show me some future stages. I need to see something worth playing to renew my hope.

So I watch with bated breath and the first thing it shows me is what I have just been doing. I wait a little longer and there he is The Rocketeer…. and he is flying around and around racing with the same bloody planes on the same course. This is when I simply gave in, I decided the game might change, you might finish one more race and get the rocket pack and then one more and fight crime but it doesn’t matter because I will never bloody see it.

I got this game in a lot of four Japanese games for £10 and that kinda seems too expensive. I won’t claim I am the first person to say this – that honour goes to Dara Ó Briain of Mock the Week fame – but:

“Video games are the only form of media which withholds content from its users unless they are good enough at it. A book or film has never quizzed anyone or made them pass a test to be allowed to continue reading or watching.”

When I first heard him say this it didn’t quiet make sense, after all it’s the challenge that makes video games what they are, is it not? Now I have flown around this course 300 times it makes a little more sense. When I reviewed fellow movie license Hook I said how good it was that Tinkerbell just flew in sprinkled you with fairy dust and got rid of the need for levels which would have featured a boring powerless Peter Pan and by playing fast and loose like that with the source material had led to a better game. Well, this kind of treatment would have been very welcome with The Rocketeer, just skip the dull plane flying and races and slap him in the suit from stage one.

The graphics are about as basic as you can get on the SNES and I can say pretty much the same about the sound. I haven’t mentioned them until now as even if this was the best 16-bit game I had ever seen or heard it would not make up for the awful gameplay. Another thing that annoyed me is the two player mode. I foolishly thought maybe you’d race against each other but no it’s one of those you watch me play a life then I will watch you. A further annoyance is that despite the two player being of a take turns variety it still expects you to have two joy-pads. If it’s only one at a time then a pass the pad system would have been a nice little choice. Overall I have to give the game two out of 10, its that blah.

I already mentioned what I paid so how much would you have to pay if you fancy being a video game masochist? There does not appear to be a PAL version as far as I can tell but if you hit eBay you can get a Japanese cart for £5, but again you will need a foreign console, modified machine or converter and a lack of self-preservation.

I recommend you don’t bother. In fact I am going to go so far as to recommend a modern game which you can get much cheaper. A game which I think represents the idea of being a rocketeer much better than this piece of excrement, despite being its own IP.  The game I recommend is Dark Void. Sure it didn’t get brilliant reviews, but I really enjoyed it and its now super cheap I saw it in Game the other day for £2, and although its never going to be considered a classic I consider it something of a flawed gem.

150 SNES games reviewed: #5 Super Bowling

Super Bowling was made by a developer called KID and was published in Japan by Athena and in North America by Technos.

Sometimes it is unofficially called Super Turkey Bowling as the game and its cover is full of cartoon, humanised turkeys.

I have quite a history with this game basically it came into my life when I saw it in my local games shop called Games World. It was a Japanese copy and it was sat there for the low, low price of £5 for the cartridge. The main thing that drew me to it was that it was a cheap game I could grab with my pocket money. It turned out I didn’t actually have to pay for it as my brother stumped up the money and got it for me. He knew I had played a lot on a Neo Geo and arcade game called League Bowling and he was basically hoping that this would be something a little bit like that.

There are three play modes. The first is called Turkey Bowl, and is basically the main game and its straightforward bowling. Then there is golf mode which gives you a set situation with certain pins to knock down in a set number of throws (par). It’s actually a neat little attempt at something different. The last mode is practice which basically allows you to set up whichever pins you would like so you can try and train yourself for the best way to knock down the pins if certain situations arise.

The bad part is that there is no story mode, league mode, or AI characters to play against to give this any real longevity as a single player game. All you can really do is play rounds of bowling again and again to try and get better at it and to try to get a higher score. Where the game shines is in its funny cartoon presentation and in the fun you can have with it as a party game. Get four of you around this game laughing and competing and it can become just as good a stable of a multiplayer SNES party as Super BombermanNBA Jam or Street Fighter II.

The game plays not unlike a pad controlled version of Wii Sports bowling. You pick your bowler, which hand they will use, what weight of ball and then when it comes time to throw you get to control where you throw it – the power you put into it and if you want to try to put any kind of spin on it. When you score spares or strikes there are short cartoon animations of little dragons flying over your head or angels shooting devils with a bow and arrow and it really adds to the cartoonish glee of the game.

To cut to the chase, what would I score this game? Well I would give it a respectable seven out of 10. It would score higher if they had added more to the single player game but as it stands its a great piece to play with friends but maybe not that necessary now that Wii Sports and Wii Sports U are out and so easy to get hold of. But I do wish someone had used the power and abilities of the Wii to make a modern version of this game. Sure I love Wii Sports bowling but I do think there was room for something with cartoon turkeys twirling in the air, crazy tunes and fun anime style characters. I think the fact that to my knowledge no one made a crazy but good bowling game for the Wii like this is a real shame.

When I did a quick bit of research on Super Bowling, it seems you can grab the US version for about £10. If you look around hard enough and I even saw boxed copies for £15 (my version is Japanese cart only and was a gift). If you want to look for this game you need to realise that there is no PAL version so you need to buy an imported copy and then make sure that you have the means to play it. Also ideally I would say make sure you have the friends to play it with.

150 SNES games reviewed: #4 The Duel: Test Drive II

New day, new game, I figured I would do something I haven’t done so far; I would review a driving game. I picked the game via a simple method; it was the first driving game I pulled out of my box of SNES carts.

The Duel: Test Drive II is a racing game developed by Distinctive Software and published by Accolade, a name I am sure most of you have heard of. It came out between 1989 and 1992 on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple IIGS, Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, MSX, SNES, Sega Mega Drive and ZX Spectrum. So just about everything you can think of at the time but I will be focusing on my experiences of the SNES version (which came out in 1992).

The presentation on the game strikes me as a little bare bones. There is very little to choose from and very little you can alter. It gives you the impression this is very shallow for a game people were paying £40 for back in the day. You start the game and you are given a choice of three cars. They are basically extremely popular sports cars from back in the day – a Lamborghini, a Porsche and a Ferrari (I can’t remember the exact models). Your choice of difficulty determines whether the car will use automatic or manual transmission. You get to choose one of four courses to race on, each labeled with an indicator of its level of challenge. You then either pick one of the games three cars to race against or you pick a stopwatch to merely treat it like a time trial.

You control the car from an internal view, so you can see all of the dashboard and it is different depending on the car you pick. Once you start the game you race along a highway stopping for petrol when a big stop indicator tells you to. If you don’t stop for petrol you will run out of gas and lose a life, and if you hit another car you will also lose a life. Each level also has one or more police cars along the course who I assume try to either crash in to you or arrest you causing you to lose a life. I am not sure because in all honesty I was never caught by them, I  didn’t even seem to see them. If you’re going above the speed limit at a set point on the road then you will hear a siren, but every time this happened I just kept my finger on the gas until the noise disappeared.

I am going to cut straight to the chase with this game If I had been reviewing it back in 1992 then it might have scored better, but as it stands I think I need to give the game a three out of 10. Some people hold the SNES up as a golden era when everything was great, and in some genre’s this might be the case, but I don’t think semi-realistic racing simulations was one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not awful to play – it looks decent enough and it controls well enough – but it commits a huge cardinal sin of gaming with the simple fact that it is just boring. There is no music, the graphics are functional and the choices of cars and tracks are just too limited for me to recommend it.

The game feels a bit more like some kind of tech demo. It feels like there are things there which you would want to see in a full game but the ideas just haven’t been pushed far enough. If I had paid full price for this on release I think I would have soon found myself very bored of it, especially if it was the case that I had the money to grab this game and then had to wait and save again for my next game. I guess that this was probably better if you were an Amiga, Atari ST, or other home computer user as it was a whole lot less cash on release on those formats. I am starting to think that the SNES is at its best when getting games designed specifically for it instead of various ports.

As for the price you might pay for this now, copies seem to be quiet thin on the ground. There is currently a boxed UK copy on Amazon at the time writing for £15, and I can’t see any others elsewhere to compare it with. I can’t remember what I paid for mine, it’s an NTSC cartridge only and I have had it since my childhood. I can’t really recommend anyone spend more than £5 on this game I am afraid. There are many better games out there both retro and modern especially in the racing category.

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