Tag: 150 SNES Games Review

150 SNES games reviewed #39: James Pond’s Crazy Sports (aka The Super Aquatic Games)

You have your Sonics and your Marios, then there are all the lesser-known platforming heroes – some of which are in games which could rival the likes of the above and others who are in games that are poor, pale imitations.

If you owned an Amiga there were certain characters you were bound to know and love, and one of these was James Pond. He was a well-loved star of several games but they weren’t Amiga exclusive. In fact I think all of them ended up on the Mega Drive, and the SNES got everything apart from his first game. (James Pond 2: Codename Robocod was released on the SNES under the name Super James Pond, almost ignoring that there was a previous game.)

Now you might think that I am going to be talking about Super James Pond or its sequel James Pond 3: Operation Starfish but actually the game I am going to be talking about today is James Pond’s Crazy Sports (known as The Super Aquatic Games in the US, and just The Aquatic Games on Mega Drive). Basically this game took the character of James Pond and used him to front  an aquatic-themed parody of the sports mini games joystick wigglers like Konami’s Track & Field.

This game is the only James Pond title not to be a platformer. You can’t help but think the developers had the idea they could spin the character off in to other genres and in doing so might help him to grow in fame and begin to approach Mario levels.

The first thing I noticed when booting this game up was that I knew the opening music. I more than knew it, it was something I have found myself humming before and then it hit me it was a particularly cheery eight-bit version of Ode to Joy (from Beethoven’s ninth symphony). I have to say this was a good start as I put a smile on my face before I had even pressed a button.

Now in talking about James Pond’s Crazy Sports, I have to admit some of these issues are not really raised in relation to the game but to the whole genre at that time. There’s only so much you can do when it’s bang buttons like mad till you win or lose. It tires your fingers, you get blooming scared you will break the pad. The game does nothing to teach you how to play it so you end up spending so much time just messing around working out what you are supposed to be doing. Sure back in the day you would have had the manual and that would have helped but it wouldn’t have been that hard to put some in game instructions – some text on the screen – before an event? All of the games are really basic and despite my best efforts I couldn’t come anywhere, I admit I didn’t hammer the pad as hard as a kid would have done back when this came out but who really wants to risk breaking a joypad from an old system when the number out there is finite?

I loved the three James Pond platformers as a kid. I found them funny charming and enjoyable. I even enjoyed picking up the Nintendo DS re-release of the second one so the problem here is I was and am invested in the character. I think James Pond rules and if you can’t manage to sell a spin-off to someone who clearly loves the original franchise then you are clearly barking up the wrong tree.

It’s just a shame. The game’s bright, has good music, but just doesn’t deliver. It feels souless and shallow and well I feel I need to give it 2.5 out of 10 – a sad, sad day for James Pond.

At first I thought it didn’t even hit these shores as all the copies I saw were American and between £10 to £15. Add to the fact that a modfied machine wont even play it without a heavy-duty Datel Universal Adapter and it’s expensive. But then I realised that in the UK it had a different name and it’s about £8 to £10 for a PAL game, but it’s still not worth it.

150 SNES games reviewed #38: Looney Tunes: Road Runner (aka Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally)

What is in a name? I often find it funny when the name of a game gets changed from region to region. Sometimes there are legal reasons, sometimes they just think a particular name will help something sell better to a certain group of people.

Here we have a game known in Europe as Looney Tunes: Road Runner, in the US as Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally, and in Japan as Looney Tunes: Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote. The game is based on the Looney Tunes characters Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Maybe the name has something to do with the cartoons popularity or image in each region who knows. What I do know is I probably like Japan’s title the best, as Wile E. Coyote is the star of the show in my mind. Sure we are supposed to like Road Runner, but why? Because he runs away a lot and makes cheeky little meep meep noises? I cant help but relate to Wile E. the guy/animal who is just trying to do what is expected of him – trying to eat and survive, and keeps having life backfire in his face.

I walked into this expecting a mediocre game, largely because it is made by Sunsoft and its a Looney Tunes game, so I was judging it a little bit based on my thoughts on Taz-mania which I played a while ago.

The graphics are pretty decent. They have a fair degree of character in them but don’t get bogged down with too much detail. The sprites for Wile E. and the Runner are cool, and the graphics automatically remind you of the old cartoon while still managing to be clear and not get in the way of the game itself. If I have one major gripe in this area it is the backgrounds are the same throughout the entire level, this does make things seem a little more boring at times than they perhaps should but I guess its not the worst thing in the world. The sound in this game is a little hard for me to judge. Sound effects wise there is very little, there’s the typical skidding noise, a jump noise, a pecking noise, the odd meep meep and a few noises associated with things attacking you. The music for the levels sits right on the middle of the fence between being catchy and annoying to the point that I cant even come to a conclusion if I like it or hate it. All I can say is you won’t find yourself doing a Mario and humming any of this later when you have moved away from the console.

The gameplay is kind of what you’d expect. You’re the runner and you run, Wile E. is constantly after you and you are trying to escape from him. So each level has you running past obstacles, making jumps and trying to find your way until you reach the finish. Usually at the end of the level there will be some quick confrontation with Wile E. For example in the first level he chases you with a steam roller, you win and you get to see him beaten usually in the end somehow by one of his own devices in typical comic fashion. The ways that he tries to stop you may change but the strategies and weak points are always pretty easy to work out and adapt to on the fly. The largest flaw is that the gameplay is repetitive, which gives you no incentive to play the game for extended periods. The speed at which the game can move sometimes beceoms an issue as things fly past without giving you adequate time to deal with them. It was almost enough to make me wish that I was playing a PAL copy on a PAL machine to see if the usual drop in speed PAL games can experience helped. Knowing other games I have set aside to review though I know that this is an issue quite a few platformers bumped into, some of them could really have used a good long play on the Sonic the Hedgehog games to look at how they deal with this issue.

Looney Tunes: Road Runner is an average game in every single way. It just leaves you with a feeling of complete and utter averageness. It’s not good enough to remember, nor is it bad enough to laugh at or get mad at. It just exists in the middle neither good nor bad. Five out of 10 all day long.

If you want to try it a PAL cart will fetch you about £10 you might get an American for closer to £5 but strangely the Japanese copies I have seen have cost more money. Maybe people don’t realize that it’s the same game or maybe did not come out over there. Who knows? Sometimes the retro video game market is a beast with no rhyme or reason.

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.

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