Tag: 150 SNES Games Review

150 SNES games reviewed #37: Spindizzy Worlds

Spindizzy Worlds is a puzzle game published by Activision, originally released on the Amiga and Atari ST in 1990, which was then ported to the SNES by Ascii Entertainment.

The game is a sequel to the 1986 video game Spindizzy which was released on early home computers such as the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, etc . Spindizzy Worlds uses an isometric view, and the player controls a robotic device named GERALD (who looks like a yellow spinning top). His name is an acronymn for Geographical Environmental Reconnaissance And Land Mapping Device. The idea of this game is to explore a star system before it is destroyed, collecting the jewel like icons there as you go.

The best way to think of this game is as a less cutsey prototype of Super Monkey Ball, which features a yellow spinning robot instead of a trapped simian. Now take that image and push the graphics back about 10 years from Monkey Ball and you will be pretty darn close to what is on offer here.

Gerald will spin everywhere you direct it – but you’ll have a tough time getting it to stop at first, meaning you’re going to go shooting off of this and that platform, you’re going to get half way up a ramp and fall off, and you’re possibly going to do it again and again. Going up and down elevators is hard because no matter how careful you think you’re being, or how softly you think you’re using your fingers, sometimes you will find that you just cant seem to hold the little blighter in place long enough. The trick to this is Gerald travels at around his medium speed, if you try the face buttons then you will soon learn that one of them if held makes him go faster and another acts as a sort of brake or slow movement button.

A lot of this game kind of relies on you knowing when to go quickly and when to slow down, and of course once you think you have the hang of this the game will decide to give you a treacherous task to perform and decide to up the ante by making you have to do it quickly. Of course, this stops the game from becoming a cakewalk once you think you have gotten the hang of things, but it can also cause the game to get incredibly frustrating and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are not people who have torn there own hair out in flights of swearing and frustration. However I have seen people play this like they have some kind of neural link with the bloody game. Just like in Super Monkey Ball there are some players who with the right amount of practice manage to get so in tune with the controls and Gerald’s strengths and limitations that they can turn this in to a form of video game ballet and it becomes amazing to watch. Players like this are a rarity though. Most people will bounce around like a mad spinning top shooting off the sides or crawling at the pace of a snail and I think that in a way this makes this a hard game to show footage of. I am not saying that I am incredibly bad at this game or anything but I am quiet a shaky person mostly due to medication I am on for epilepsy, so I hardly make this kind of thing look graceful.

The graphics and sound are both adequate but that’s the best I can say about them. They don’t really add anything much to the game. For me this game is a bit of a Marmite game, you will either love it or hate it. If you want a fun challenging puzzle game then it might be worth giving it a whack but I would only recommend this if you have played the living hell out of things such as Monkey Ball, Kororinpa and Marble Madness and simply need more of that kind of game. If you decide you want a crack at this game you can get it online with a cartridge-only PAL copy going for around £7 which I would say is quite a fair price for this title. My copy is boxed but not in the best of shape and in all honesty I cant remember where the heck I got it from, or when I even got it.

I would give this game six out of 10, but like I said I think it is a real Marmite game. I can see some people saying it deserves eight and I can equally imagine people calling it a poor sliding mess and claiming six is far too generous, and that they would have given it three. If you like puzzle games maybe give it a bash but I can promise you that if you don’t usually like this kind of thing then this game will not be the one to change your mind.

150 SNES games reviewed #36: Super Strike Eagle

Super Strike Eagle for the SNES was both developed and released by MicroProse. Yes, that MicroProse.

MicroProse was a US video game publisher and developer, founded in 1982 by Bill Stealey and the one and only Sid Meier. It developed and published numerous games, many of which are fondly remembered either to this day as groundbreaking or as titles with huge cult status, examples being the Civilization and X-COM series. The majority of its internally developed titles were often either vehicle simulation games or strategy titles.

The name MicroProse still exists today but it has basically nothing to do with the original company, all of the big names and talent from the original MicroProse left and formed Firaxis Games in 1996. The name MicroProse was acquired through the original company having been bought up when it was struggling and the people who brought it at Hasbro have since sold the rights to the name and various other assets which have been sold on and on till they ended up in the hands on someone who wanted to use it.

The basic story behind this game is that you are a fighter pilot flying for the United Nations whose overall objective is to bring various governments around the world back into cooperation with the UN basically by blowing the crap out of them. Yes this could be termed as diplomatic negotiations James T Kirk style, or at least it could be if there was a mini-game involving sex with hot alien women, but I digress.

The game uses three different perspectives. When you take off the game starts you off in third person, utilizing its Mode 7 graphics to give you an interesting interactive take off. Then once you’re up in the air the view switches to an overhead world map, where the plane can be moved between objectives. In this view you can see enemy jets and missiles and if you can keep your distance then you’ll stay in this view. When enemy planes get close to you the game switches briefly to a first-person cockpit mode. This is kind of like Wing Commander, in that you chase the planes and try to get them in your sights. This is kind of the most realistic looking part. When you find yourself near to mission-critical targets (ones which you have to bomb) then the game again switches view, this time to an overhead bombing mode, this is where the game uses its Mode 7 scaling and rotation abilities the most.

I find the game fun. It kind of just leaves you to it though and doesn’t hold your hand much which is either a good thing or an awful thing depending on how you like your games. Also the switching of views is something which some people will probably like, others will probably be confused by. In my opinion though this is one of the things that makes the game really interesting and different. Some of the graphics are amazing for when this game came out but they are a little bit dated now. There is a real sense of effort with this game though, like they tried to throw every trick in the book at it in order to make it stand out. Back in the day I remember this game getting a lot of 65%-type ratings. To me there seemed to be a general attitude of this game not being the kind of thing that belonged on a console. Now days though we have seen just about every type of game possible both on PC and on console. Yes, some might lend themselves to one slightly better than the other but I always feel the need to salute people who try to get a new trick out of an old dog, who try to break convention. For this reason I give this game seven out of 10. Back in the day If I had played this game I would have scored it even higher than that I believe.

I bought this game specifically for this review because I managed to get a US copy boxed with manual for £6 including postage, and at that price I have to admit I am incredibly happy with this game. There are a few copies online now knocking around the £8 to £12 figure for boxed US copies. As for UK PAL versions though they seem to be few and far between with people asking up to £25 for a cart alone. This game is an easy import it played on my modified machine and through a regular cheap converter with no issues at all so it might even be cheaper to get a boxed copy and a cheap import converter rather than go PAL.

150 SNES games reviewed #34: Power Drive

When I buy retro games they tend to belong to one of three categories. They are games which I owned as a kid and want to get again because I have fond memories of them, games I remember friends owning and which I have fond memories of playing at their houses, or are games which I can get cheap and figure what the heck I will give it a bash.

Today’s game comes from the second category. I had quite a few friends at school and all of them owned one console or another, but the most owned console was probably the SNES. Not everyone had the same taste in games though. So sometimes when I would go to visit a friend’s house I would get to play a game that I otherwise wouldn’t have got to try. One particular friend was mad on sports – cricket, football, boxing, motor racing – and unless it was a crazy sports related title like Punch-Out!!, he would have it.

One day when I went round he had a new game, one I hadn’t really heard much about and that game was Power Drive. The first thing I noticed on its case was that it was published by U.S Gold, but at the time I had never heard of the developer Rage Software.

U.S. Gold was founded in Birmingham in  1984 as the publishing division for a software distribution company called Centresoft. Its primary reason for existence was to republish popular US computer games in the UK. For ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC users the U.S. Gold logo became a big part of our lives. U.S. Gold no longer exists and nor does Rage Software. Rage’s first title, Striker, sold more than one million copies and established Rage as a major creative force in the interactive entertainment industry. But ironically the very thing that started them off – a football title – would ultimately be its undoing. In 2000, Rage began to expand into publishing. Due to a long run of games that did not sell as expected, the lack of sales and costs associated with their  David Beckham franchise tends to be considered to be what ultimately led to the company going bankrupt in 2003.

When my friend popped Power Drive into the cartridge slot I have to admit that it was nothing like what I expected. Putting it simply Power Drive is an arcade racing game based around rally driving. There is not a great deal of opening presentation to the game, you pick your car from an initial choice of two and then you start your career.

The graphics are isometric, you can see the whole of your car almost as if its a remote control car that you’re looking down at. This might seem to be a little basic at first but with the tricks under the game’s bonnet such as full sprite rotation and super smooth screen scrolling in every direction you soon realise that what looks on paper like average graphics actually look a hell of a lot better when moving. There are a few tiny issues with screen flicker but this mostly happens when the arrows that warn you of upcoming turns appear over the top of other objects. It’s only a momentary issue and you can still tell what direction the arrow is pointing so it doesnt really affect your game. There are night levels, and the following might sound like a strange thing to praise but the car’s headlights are handled brilliantly. Both of the headlight beams are animated separately, which just looks brilliant. The two lights overlap each other and it’s just a brilliant little touch which I can’t help but mention. That’s enough about the cars and their headlights, it’s time to talk about the backgrounds. They at first seem a little bit basic. The tracks and the scenery both look a little plain at first but they are full of subtle little details which take into account the characteristics of the country you are in.

The music is typical early nineties game music. I can’t claim it’s amazing but then again it’s not bad. Basicaly it does its job which is to be moderately exciting and to muffle the engine noises, etc so that they dont became a pain in the butt. You can turn the music off if you would prefer to hear your engine or if you’re going to play your own music while you play.

The game has three types of stages, they are individual time trials, head-to-head races against the computer, and skill tests. There are eight rounds of gameplay, set across a range of countries. As you race you get prize money for winning races but it is important to note that the cost of repairing your car is very realistic compared to other games, meaning if you have repeatedly ping-ponged your car off of the walls then 90% of your prize money is going to be spent on knocking your car into shape. You can race with a knackered car, but it becomes harder and harder to control and slower so it’s not really recommended.

At first this game will seem hard because it doesn’t control like a lot of other SNES racers, or at least not many of the wildly popular ones. If you have played either RPM Racing or Rock n’ Roll Racing then Power Drive would be down your alley. Once you get used to the controls though it becomes a challanging but fun driving game. I would give this game eight out of 10. I really enjoy it still today and can easily throw it on for a quick hour again and again. This game can be got for around £10 to £15. If you want to try it I would keep my eye on the various sites and try to grab a copy as close to the £10 mark as possible. The game is not wildly talked about and doesn’t seem to have any particularly big cult following.

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