Friday, June 30, 2017

Month Overview: June 2017

Shadow Hearts - Covenant 9.0
Suikoden II 9.0
Gungrave 6.5
Tony Hawk's Underground 7.5
Midway Arcade Treasures 3 7.5
Jersey Devil 6.0
Hidden Invasion 2.0
Spider-man(PS1) 7.5
Spider-man 2 - Enter Electro 7.5
Spider-man - Mysterio's Menace 7.0
Spider-man(PS2) 3.0
Spider-man(GBA) 4.5
Spider-man 2(GBA) 4.5
Spider-man 2(DS) 4.0

 Spider-manathon began this Month! And we're off to a rather mediocre start. The PS1 games were pretty good, but as soon as we jumped ship to the PS2, it sunk, it sunk deeeeeep. The first gameboy advance was pretty good for what it was, it's funny because it's pseudo 3-D sprites are downright hideous, but it is a good game! And then came both movie games, which look league and bounds better... but made levels even more mazelike, added time constraints and turned the gameplay into a scavenger hunt rather than a traditional side-scroller, much to the games' detriment. Spider-man 2 on the DS is particularly bad about it, but it felt even more tedious that time around, tacked-on touchscreen controls didn't help its case. The good news is that now we've got Spider-man 2 and Ultimate Spider-man, both on the PS2, which I remember being particularly good, Ultimate being the last Spider-man game I had played, and my favorite.

Game of June 2017:
 A game deserving of every bit of praise it gets, Suikoden 2 features a rather deep storyline, with interesting characters and twists. So much so that Suikoden V, which borrows from almost every game in the franchise, borrowed the most from Suikoden II and, in my opinion, pulled it off even better. That said, Suikoden II did it first, and what a treat it was.

 Shadow Hearts Covenant is easily one of the PS2's finest JRPGs ever made. The story is interesting, characters are endearing and the combat is a blast. I feel about this game kinda like how I feel about No More Heroes. No More Heroes/Shadow Hearts had made up in personality and style what No More Heroes 2/Shadow Hearts Covenant polished up in the gameplay department. So while the gameplay is much better, it's also missing a bit of the personality that made the first entry so fantastic. So long horror elements, you'll be missed.

Review #412: Spider-man 2(DS)

 Yet another subpar entry in the ever growing library of handheld Spider-man games....
 We've danced this dance before, Spider-man 2 on the DS is everything that has come before on the Gameboy Advance but under a new coat of paint. A pretty coat of paint, but it's the same ol', same ol'.

 Once again, this is a very loose retelling of the second game based on the second movie, it even uses still of the game instead of the movie itself. Which means that the game isn't very faithful at all, and you'll see a few faces that didn't make it into the movie. The game should take you about an hour and a half to finish, more if you want to torture yourself and unlock everything.
 The worst part about previous games was the fact that they were 2-D scavenger hunts on mazelike level while under time constraints, well, hope you like'em because this game is exactly the same. I mean, only a few levels have a 'real' time limit, but if you want to get an A rank you will need to be fast. And believe you me, there's no chance in hell you'll get an A on your first time through, and probably, not even on your second run. And you'll want an A rank if you want to unlock special moves, but frankly, 7 of them are useless, the only one worth using is the impact web, and you start the game with it. Alternatively, you can put a Mysterio's Menace cartridge on the GBA slot of the Nintendo DS and gain access to all eight moves, that's what I did.

 Spidey can punch and kick with the A and Y buttons, X slings web towards whichever direction you are holding, which will propel you towards whichever object it hit, if it hit any. L is used to engage in 'Spider-Sense', when an enemy is about to hit you markers will pop up on Spidey's head, pressing L at that moment will slow down time, which is pretty neat and useful. This being an early Nintendo DS game means that there're forced touch-screen minigames. Every single boss has an attack which will have you pop that stylus out of its socket in order to hit objects, and then clumsily put it back before the boss sucker punches you. Fun.
 Every single issue this game has comes together in the last level. It's long, filled to the brim with bottomless pits and obstacles and enemies which will throw you helplessly into the pits. You have to web-swing through gaps in the floor, but be careful not to get hit by a flying enemy that there was no way you knew was coming. Oh, and you have to find 12 computers to deactivate. And if you die you have to start from scratch. And each computer involves a touchscreen mini-game. Which you must repeat if you die. Because it's very easy to die in this level. But there're no checkpoints. And you have to find everything in the friggin' maze again. Because the game sucks.

 Yeah... Spider-man's debut on the DS is pretty sad. It's sad, because controlling Spider-man is pretty smooth, and if the game design was any fun, it could've been a really good game. It also looks very pretty, so it's a shame to see it flop so hard.
 4.0 out of 10

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Now Playing: Spider-man 2(DS)

 What's with Spider-man and mazes?
 Why? Why can't I have a single portable Spider-man game that isn't designed around finding needles in haystacks? It isn't much fun having to go round and round and round again searching for the single thug that's outta my sight. Worse, if I want to unlock the special moves I have to finish the stage as quickly as possible. Poor game design is poor.

 At least the game is rather pretty, swinging around is fun and the combat is serviceable. But I've had my feel of half-assed scavenger hunts on mazes while under time constraints. It's not fun, it wasn't fun then and it won't be fun ever. Ever.

 At least it's better than both movie Spider-man games on the GBA.

Review #411: Spider-man 2(GBA)

 Not Spider-man's finest.
 Spider-man got another movie, and thus a new onslaught of tie-in videogames was unleashed upon the gaming world. While the home console iteration was a franchise-defining entry that set the bar for future games to come, the second entry on the Gameboy Advance is... troubling.

 It's not worth discussing the game's premise because it does a very poor job of translating the story of the game based on the plot of the movie, which means it's all kinds of terrible. What you need to know is that you'll be facing many foes that didn't make it into the movie while Doc Ock is left as the big cheese. There're about 21 different levels, but the game is fairly short overall, clocking it little over two hours.
 As far as basic gameplay goes, the game plays pretty much like the previous one: Spidey can jump, swing on web, punch and kick. Instead of having to find power ups to use special web shots, you now earn experience points after each mission which you can then use to power up Spider-man, making him tougher or learning new moves. It's a fantastic addition, but some of the new moves can mess a bit with the player, for instance, tapping forwards twice, even if by accident, will have Spider-man perform a sliding kick which may throw you off. There're new mechanics, like picking up stuff by pressing down and HOLDING punch which doesn't work very well, and is needed for a boss fight, and you'll need to get used to swinging since you must also hold Jump if you don't want to perform one of the useless new acrobatics.

 Level design is still kinda lame, featuring maze-like levels and scavenger-hunt type levels, at least most levels don't run on a timer now and most levels feature a compass to guide you, but not every level, which is a bit baffling. Every now and then you'll enter a '3-D hub level' in which you can either partake in one or two side missions or advance to the next story level. It's a neat idea, but the 3-D hub runs very poorly, it's nigh unplayable, and they had the gall to have a story mission taking place in said buggy hub. What were they thinking?
 They redesigned a few of Spider-man's animations. A few, which means that Spider-man's proportions will switch between the old ones and the new ones depending on what action you perform, which is all kinds of silly. There're other design flaws, like moving platforms that instead of moving in smooth cycles kinda stutter their way through it, and it's very easy to just go through them when you try to land on them. All in all, some levels are worse than the worst Spider-man had to offer, but a few are better than its best, make of that what you will.

 Spider-man 2 makes a bunch of small tweaks that really work in the game's favor, but they also kept most of what was bad about the previous game and added worse things on top. The end result is yet another mixed bag of elements that don't really work well together. It's hard to say which game is better, because while this game was more fun than the previous game at times, it was also more annoying than the previous game ever was, and that's saying something. So, pick your poison, me? I'd stick with Mysterio's Menace.
 4.5 out of 10

Now Playing: Spider-man 2(GBA)

 More of the same?
 I start the first stage, first thing I see? A time. And it's yet another maze-like level. BOY AM I GONNA HAVE FUN. But then I notice it... a compass! Telling me where stuff is, THANK YOU, it looks like they figured out the previous game's shortcomin.... Wait, it only tells you where the pizza place is, the customers? Find them yourself. OH BOY.

 Luckily, this time around not all stages are timed, which is a plus. The 3D bonus segments are the absolute pits though, they lag SO badly, they'd be unplayable if only they weren't just means to an end. Controls have been tweaked a bit, for the better I think, but it's hard to get rid of my muscle memory from the previous game.

 Spider-man 2 on the GBA seems to be just more of the same, but maybe, just maybe it'll prove itself to be a tiny bit better. Maybe, I'm not that hopeful.

Review #410: Spider-man(GBA)

 At least it's better than it's home console counterpart, right?
 I miss the days of olde, when handheld consoles would get vastly different games, albeit under the same title, as home console games. In this case, Spider-man on the GBA is a 2-D platform game that could've been as great as it looked.

 As is to be expected, the game follows the plot from the movie, however, as is to be expected, it's a very, very loose retelling of said story, omitting even more plot points than the console counterpart and adding even more minor plots, such as Norman Osborn hiring Kraven the Hunter to take down Spider-man. There're about 11 levels total, and about 8 bosses, and the game should last you a while. for all the wrong reasons.
 A can be used to jump, and you can press it twice two web-swing, B performs your punches and kicks(With a quarter-circle forward special attack!), the R button is used to throw a web line in order to stick to surfaces and L button uses your special web types. Web types are swapped by grabbing the power ups peppered throughout stages, which is interesting to say the least. Spider-man can cling to almost any surface, and is, in fact, too clingy. It's easy to get Spider-man haunch into a crawl accidentally, and getting him out of it can be a hassle, particularly if there're any openings nearby, wherein pressing up or down(Depending on where you're crawling!) will make Spider-man crawl towards said opening instead of getting out of the crawl! This will get pretty annoying eventually.

 Stage design was particularly lackluster, stages are very maze-like in nature, which was probably a good idea in order to get the most out of the web-slinger's abilities, but every single mission in the game is time, which is always fun, and too add salt to injury, about 60% of the stages are of the 'Find X amount of Y' variety, which are EVEN more fun. I lost a couple of lives due to the stupid timer and because I couldn't find the 18th friggin' bomb, or maybe because I hadn't found the blue key I needed to open a door, etc. Not only are scavenger hunts on 2-D action games not fun, adding a timer on top of it isn't doing it any favors, just ask Superman 64 or Hidden Invasion about it.
 Levels have a fair amount of collectibles, be it pictures that Peter can take to unlock movie stills, golden spiders that unlock other bonuses if you collect them all and secrets that usually house life ups or extra health. There's the occasional bonus stage in which you must swing throughout buildings and find all the balloon bombs before the time is up, which are alright albeit nothing special.

 The best thing you can say about Spider-man on the GBA is that it's better than it's console counterpart... but that's not saying much, now is it? For what it's worth, the game basics work well, playing as Spider-man is fun, the moveset was well thought out, which shows on the simpler levels(The ones that don't have you finding a ridiculous amount of bombs!), but sadly means that at its worst it's not much fun to play.
 4.5 out of 10

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Now Playing: Spider-man(GBA)

 Itsy Bitsy Spider...
 I remember how I always adored this game's artstyle and how much I liked it over Mysterio's Menace... I remembered wrong.

 I mean, so far it's not too bad, but the mission structure is a bit... annoying? Each level seems like a scavenger hunt of sorts while under a timer inside a labyrinthine stage, it's not much fun. The game is pretty neat to look at though!

Review #409: Spider-man(PS2)

  Down came the rain and washed the spider down.
 Both Playstation 1 games were pretty good if flawed, so when it came to bringing Spider-man to the then-current gen Treyarch opted to emulate those games, I mean, they had their job cut out for them, what could go wrong?

 While promotional materials would have you believe that this game follows the plot from the movie, the reality is that this is a pretty mangled version of said movie. They added Vulture, Shocker and Scorpion into the mix, and they turned the movie's simple plot into a garbled, senseless story thread that's best if you don't think too hard about it. At least they got Toby McGuire to do Spidey's lines, right? If only he'd have done a better job at it! As for the game's structure, it works like the Playstation 1 games, stages are prefaced by numerous cutscenes detailing what's happening, and the levels themselves are pretty linear affairs, although there're a few collectibles and upgrades to be found.
 Remember all the fancy stuff Spidey could pull off in the PS1 games? He can do that and more! A ton of new attack combos were added, and there's a few new maneuvers to perform while swinging... if only it worked well! The controls are sloppy and unresponsive, the camera has always been a point of contention with these games, but this is the worse its ever been and you can't snap it behind Spider-man's back, what's more, turning the camera while moving will lock the direction of the analog stick until you let go... which means that movement ends up working very clunkily. It's a mess. The game's stages are larger than ever before, so when it works, swinging around feels the best it's ever felt, but it's hard to get a hang of how to raise or lower yourself while swinging, it's VERY weird since it seems like the web-sling can go upwards and upwards and upwards while sticking his web into thin air.

 While the game sometimes runs at a smoother framerate than ever before... it also dips into slowdown pretty frequently. They manage to shoehorn in a couple of stealth sections that are simply horrid and boring, the game could've easily done without them, and it would've made for a better game! You can unlock three extra costumes, a silly bowling mini-game and the ability to play as the Green Goblin, featuring tweaked stages and a very, very different moveset. On a different, better game, that last addition alone would've been fantastic, but as it stands, it's really not worth the hassle of playing this entire mess again.
 Treyarch's first forray with the arachnid hero is a sloppy mess of a game. They took the easy, but safe, route of trying to emulate the great PS1 entries, but the result is a sloppy, clumsy shadow of said games. The good news is that Treyarch would eventually hit gold once they tackled the next game in the franchise, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
 3.0 out of 10

Review #408: Spider-man - Mysterio's Menace

 Not too shabby!
 Spider-man's handheld adventures hadn't fared so well, the Gameboy titles were questionable to say the least, but with the advent of the Gameboy Advance came more bits, more colors, more power and more Spider-man.

 Mysterio's Menace premise concerns a bunch of bad guys causing chaos at the exact same time albeit on different locales, so Spider-man must traverse 7 different stages. Hilariously enough, the game's title kinda gives away who is behind everything, even though Spider-man barely figures it out after clearing the sixth stage. At the start of the game you can only pick from one of three stages, and clearing each of these unlocks another one, for a total of six, once all six are clear you're free to go to the seventh, and final, after Mysterio. You can, if you are so inclined, explore every nook and cranny of every stage, and you should, as each stage houses at least one permanent upgrade to our hero. The game's progress is saved with a password system, archaic, yes, but passwords are pretty short, so it's not too bad.
 A jumps and can be pressed twice to swing with your web, B attacks, R shoots a web that wraps around enemies leaving them defenseless and L shoot webbing that causes damage on impact. The controls work pretty well, but Spider-man's range on his punches is pretty pathetic, so approaching enemies can be hazardous, so you'll learn to love the R button's web. Enemies have pretty cheap attacks that cover wide areas, which makes it even harder to approach them, and makes tangling with enemies a bit annoying at times. On the flipside, bosses are surprisingly easy to take out.

 As a whole, it's a rather simple game, but it's pretty fun to play. There're a couple of annoying stages, but most of them are relatively well designed and will have you crawling around floor, ceilings and walls, and even swinging to avoid spikes or broken circuits. The 2-D cut-outs used for cut-scenes are nothing short of amazing, feeling as if they came straight out of a comic book.
 This isn't the best Gameboy Advance game you can get, nor is it the best Spider-man game out there, but for what it is, it's pretty good. It probably won't last you more than a single car-trip, but there's fun to be had during the short rump through the crime-infested city of 2-D New York.
 7.0 out of 10

Now Playing: Spider-man - Mysterio's Menace

 A two-fer-one
 Mysterio's Menace was a game I used to play back when the GBA was all the rage. I distinctly remember this game because I'd play it a lot after returning home from highschool.

 I've played a level, Pier 54, and it was alright. Spider-man's punch range is pathetic, enemies are very cheap and can easily score hits on the wall-crawler, which is kind of annoying. I love the fact that you can upgrade Spider-man by finding object throughout the game. It seems like a mixed bag of good and bad things.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Now Playing: Spider-man(PS2)

 Seriously, what the hell? The smooth framerate is nice and dandy, but why the hell are the controls so... unresponsive and the movement so... wonky? I finally have control over the camera, but it's pretty slow and I can't snap it behind my back with L1, which was a terrible design choice.

 And don't even let me get started on the swinging, why is Peter constantly rising over the sky? It looks silly and dumb. I don't know if you can tell, but it's not shaping up to be a good one...

Review #407: Spider-man 2 - Enter Electro

 Does it weave a sturdier web?
 Spider-man on the PS1 was pretty good, regardless, Activision handed the rights and the engine to Vicarious Visions and had them churn away a sequel. Surprisingly, it doesn't falter at the hands of another developer, yet made up of both enhancements and detriments when compared to the previous game.

 The big bad this time around is Electro, joined together by Hammerhead, Shocker and Sandman, with the appearance of The Lizard for good measure. It does have a better, more in-character story than the previous game, hosting Electro and his quest for power, but it's still not a selling point when it comes to this game, you're in it for the fantastic depiction of Spider-man in 32-bits.
 Running on the same engine, the game plays pretty much the same way as the previous game, granting the player a very functional Spider-man that can stick to walls and ceilings, swing with his web, punch, kick and throw his enemies as well as certain objects, and use his web to tie his enemies, hit them with impact web, throw them around, enhance his punches or create a protective shield over himself. Spider-man can do a lot of stuff and it's fun to pull off, it's a great engine for the character and it works well. The camera seems to track Spider-man better than the previous game, but my gripes with reversing controls when wallcrawling remain in this game.

 The game looks better, character models are more detailed(Spidey's suit has its black webbing now!) and animations are better, just look at Spidey's crawling animation or his kicks. Levels are bigger, which usually means more fun, but there're no checkpoints and dying means having to redo an even larger level which might be a bit annoying depending on the level. I glitched through the floor as well once, fun times.
 There's a lot of level variety, and they did away with the previous game's chase sequences, which is a bonus on my book. That said, there're a few clunkers, like the level in which you have to stop the play, since until you understand how to do it, it'll leave to a lot of quick-losses and long loading times in-between retries. The 'The Gauntlet' level is particularly boring, consisting of a tower that must be climbed as you go through repeated obstacles. Basically, it has a few better levels than the best from Spider-man 1, but it also has a few worse levels than its worst.

 The game features about twice the amount of costumes, and they can be customized to add perks or handicaps which I felt was a fantastic idea. There's a new 'Training Mode' which... is kinda superfluous to be honest, but at least it's there, right?
 When it comes down to it, the good overweights the bad as far as comparing it to the previous game goes, but only by a tiny margin. Both games are very good Spider-man games that do the character and the license justice.
 7.5 out of 10

Now Playing: Spider-man 2 - Enter Electro

 I hadn't played Spider-man 1, but it wound up being pretty dope. Now, Enter Electro I'm familiar with, I had played this game quite a handful of times way back when, and I had a blast with it.

 First thing I did: Costumes cheat. I like playing with different costumes, particularly with Ben's Scarlet Spider costume, and this time around you can take away the perks or handicaps, so I can finally use the Spider-man 2099 costume(Since I mean to play as legit as possible). Also, I liked how they redid a few scenes from the first game but with newer and better character models.

 The first level was a retread from Spider-man 1's albeit during the afternoon, and it felt... tighter? It's hard to explain why, but I think they were more mindful of how Spidey moved and his jumping worked when designing distances and what not between buildings. Suffice to say, it felt better.

 As for the second level, at first I thought it was kinda crappy how much it had you going around in circles trying to trigger the next 'event', but... I think it was done on purpose. There were few, if any, stages as open as this one in the first game, and it let you play around with Spider-man's movement. You are free to go around, getting used to swinging and swing-cancelling at your leisure, so even if it wasn't made on purpose... it works great.

 It's too early for a better assessment, but the game's shaping up to be either more of the same or more but a little better, and I'm leaning towards the latter.

Review #406: Spider-man(PS1)

 Here comes the Spider-man!
 As I've said in my first impressions entry, I'm pretty sure that this was the first game to be both a great game and a game that made the most out of the Spider-man license. This is a stage-based linear action game that puts you in the boots of Spider-man, web-slinging in-and-out of trouble, fighting popular villains and doing everything a spider can.

 The game offers a healthy selection of baddies: Doc Ock, Rhino, Mysterio and even Venom, alongside cameos of super heroes like Black Cat, Captain America, Punisher and Daredevil. Just don't think too hard about how they behave in the game, as there's a few out-of-character moments, particularly Venom who's been dumbed down, literally. The story is pretty focus on the symbiotes, but it does a good job of shoe-horning in every baddie for you to fight them, which in a licensed game and of its era, it's pretty neat. Regardless, you won't be playing this game for its story, that's for sure, but rather for the fanservice.
 And the fanservice isn't just cosmetics, Spider-man can stick to almost every surface and crawl around, he can web-sling through the air, web his enemies, create a dome of web, add webbing to his fists in order to increase damage as well as lift some objects and throw them around, in case you don't want to just grab your enemies and throw'em or punch'em. There's a very wide slew of actions that Spider-man can perform, which is nothing short of fantastic, and the game does a fantastic job of making you feel like the wall-crawler. There's this section in the beginning in which you must infiltrate a building and save the hostages, and it felt so good to crawl through the roof, webbing enemies from above before they knew what struck them!

 While it works fine for the most part, there were a few chinks in the design. Sometimes when zipping straight to a roof can invert your controls, which isn't too much of an issue 'till you find yourself in timed stages, like stalking Venom or the end-game's chase sequence. It can really throw you off and force you to restart the entire stage. The camera is a bit lackluster as well, while you can tap L1 to shift it behind you, it doesn't do a good job of following behind Spider-man by itself. The controls also show a few problems when trying to get specific type of web attacks to come out or to aim, like the Mysterio fight which had me throwing Impact webbing at thin air. Luckily, none of these issue ruin the game.
 The game offers a hearty challenge on its default difficulty, you will probably have to retry a few stages until you figure out how to deal with obstacles or enemies. There're aren't many puzzles, besides figuring out how to defeat a few bosses, but what few puzzles there were were pretty neat. Fulfilling certain conditions, or using cheats, lets you unlock costumes, of which there're plenty and they are pretty cool, I just wish they didn't come with secondary bonuses(Or handicaps!) since I really wanted to use the Spider-man 2099 costume but I didn't want extra strength!

 Spider-man on the PS1 is pretty darn great, while it's no longer 'the best super-hero game' out there, it's still got it. This game is easy to recommend even if you don't like Spider-man. And if you do like it, don't expect too much out of its story besides excuses to have you fight all the various villains. I mean, J. J. Jameson calls Peter and tells him to call 911, like, what the hell??
 7.5 out of 10

Monday, June 26, 2017

Now Playing: Spider-man

 Neversoft struck gold. Again.
 Neversoft once again prove their worth, not only did they create the ultimate Skating game for its time, they also made the ultimate Spider-man game. Y'see, before Neversoft arrived, Spider-man games came in two flavors, either they:

A) Were good games, like Separation Anxiety or the Arcade game, but at the cost of being a bit more... 'generic' when it came to mechanics, only using the most basic of Spider-man's abilities.


B) Were Spider-man games, like Spider-man and X-men or Spider-man VS the Sinister 6, which were built around Spider-man's unique abilities... but weren't good games.

 Spider-man on the Playstation manages to be both a fantastic game and an Spider-man game. Like, Spider-man's got so many abilities, and they are simple to get the hang of. I've gotten up to the helicopter raid escape and I've been having a blast. I have very fond memories of Spider-man 2 - Enter Electro, so it'll be interesting to see which game has aged better.

 As to why I started Spider-man? I'm 10 hours into Shadow Hearts 3 so I decided to take a little break from all the turn based battles, plus, I'm running out of space on my Spider-manathon shelf, so might as well start now!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Now Playing: Shadow Hearts - From the New World

 It's... it certainly is different.
 Koudelka was pretty good. Shadow Hearts 1 and 2 were pretty darn amazing. From the New World is... different. Just the opening scenes lets you know that this is gonna be a very different game, in tone. The first part of the game takes place during the day, there's no threat of war or what have you, and the protagonist is very happy go lucky. And the very first opening moments have a sexy woman getting naked just because Japan is Japan and go forbid a woman doesn't show her assets.

 I got through the first dungeon, and it's alright. I find it interesting how Johnny is kind of a weakling, I got so used to Yuri and his 3-attack judgement ring, how he'd have SP for days and what not, but Johnny feels like a glorified Anastasia, with his silly 'Snap' ability, 1-hit judgement ring and low SP threshold. It's an interesting change!

 So far, I'm not very hopeful. I think the most probable scenario is me liking the game because it's fun, but not being able to enjoy it as much as previous Shadow Hearts since every single horror element, sans demons, is gone.

Review #405: Hidden Invasion

 The hidden invasion of bad games.
 Welcome to 'How not to make a beat'em up 101'. That's the fastest and easiest way to describe this travesty.

 You pick your character, generic dude bro cop or generic sexy woman cop and must battle the aliens that managed to invade earth and take control of most of the population. Both characters play more or less the same, but at least their cutscenes get different voice overs and both characters change clothes three times throughout the entire, and mercifully short, adventure. There's a two player mode, in case you're a dick and want to sucker someone into enduring this with you.
 Both characters can punch, kick, grab, shoot and grenade their way through endless waves of enemies, but you'll quickly find out that the best ways to deal with enemies is using their own guns or exploiting the overpowered grabs and throws. And why wouldn't you? Enemies respawn constantly, gang up on you constantly and love to get in some cheap hits when you're busy. Bosses can be particularly annoying when playing by yourself, since enemies may respawn infinitely even during boss fights.

 You'll be permanently under a timer for no reason whatsoever besides pissing off the players, and while I never ran out of time, it's a needless annoyance. Usually you'll be given a compass to guide you on where to go next, but it's absolutely useless and changes direction more often than the camera. Oh, the camera is absolutely nuts, it changes angles ever 2-3 steps which messes with the controls and how you're moving, so you might get stuck between angles until you figure out how to deal with the controls.
 That's got nothing on the numerous bugs and glitches though! Certain enemies have the ability to 'lock' your progression until you kill them, kinda like older beat'em ups in which the scrolling would freeze until you defeated every enemy. Well, turns out that some of these enemies can move you by moving away from you and thus moving the 'invisible wall'. It's particularly prevalent during stage 2, in which enemies would move by position as they fell down when I shot at them! And this one time, one of these 'screen lock' enemies decided to escape away from me, moving me around until it finally got me stuck on a crate, leaving me unable to progress. Fun.

 Avoid Hidden Invasion. I know, it's very tempting since the game is dirt cheap, I got my copy for 2 bucks. 2 bucks! But not even the multiplayer mode is worth it. Not only is the game not fun to play, it's also filled with bugs, glitches and inconsistencies, it's not even 'so bad it's good' bad. This game is better left off hidden in the annals of history... for our own sake.
 2.0 out of 10

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Now Playing: Hidden Invasion

 This game is a joke.
 I hope you don't have motion sickness, because boy oh boy is this game a trip! The camera is absolutely insane, bonkers! You can't walk half a mile without the camera shifting and screwing up your movement. I also LOVE how enemies respawn constantly, and they love to throw stuff at you, knives, batons, bullets, you name it!

 It's horrible, horrible! What a bad, bad game.

Review #404: Jersey Devil

 The hero we deserve, not the one we need.
 Jersey Devil is a pretty obscure 3D platform game released exclusively on the Playstation 1. Starring the Jersey Devil himself, a little anthropomorphic animal styled like a nightly super hero, not unlike Darkwing Duck, that must do battle with Dr. Knarf, a pretty basic premise to outline the entirety of the game. The game is also prefaced by a beautiful 2D animation detailing how JD and Knarf first met. As a matter of fact, the game deserves some praise for the presentation, everything looks as if it came straight out of an animated show.

 There're 12 levels as well as four bonus levels. In each level you must destroy all Nitro Boxes in order to increase your 'power'(Does nothing for gameplay) and be able to enter the bonus levels, as well as save every hostage(2 per level, they do nothing but add to your completion level). Of course, if you can't be bothered you may as well just ignore both as the game can be finished ignoring either anyways. There're six worlds, with two stages each(not accounting for the four bonus stages), and it's usually one long stage followed by a shorter stage. Each level has a boss too, and they are relatively decent, since a few may require a bit of thinking.
 Jersey Devil has the most basic of movesets, he can jump, glide, punch, spin-attack and lift-and-throw boxes. The combat is pretty wonky, since enemies have weird invincibility frames during certain animations and JD's punch range is pathetic, so it's better to just spam your jumping spin attack and hope for the best. The jumping fares much better, while the physics behind jumping and gliding don't feel quite right, it works... when you're not going through platforms, which is a rare occurrence, but frequent enough as to be worth mentioning. Some things that may look like stuff you can stand on may just be decoration you can simply go through, and the camera does you no favors, while you can move it around with L2 and R2, it's pretty slow, and very rarely, the camera will also get in your way. The second slides level was a bit glitchy too, one of the slides threw me into the void three-four times, so I opted for an alternate route.

 Weirdly enough, JD will autojump whenever you get close to the edge of a ledge, which is annoying. The jump may throw you off and get you killed, or it may screw up with the jump you were planning to make, thus getting you killed again. And die you will, a lot. There're a lot of ways to die instantly, but the game is very, VERY generous with lives, I finished the game with over 70 lives to spare.
 I wish I could say that Jersey Devil is a 'hidden gem', but it's way too rough around the edges. What I can say, however, is that the game was left crying for a sequel that fixed everything, because Jersey Devil is a fantastic foundation for something else. A likeable, if a bit generic, cast of characters, a fantastic art direction and gameplay that needed refinement but works relatively well already. But alas, it wasn't meant to be...
 6.0 out of 10

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Now Playing: Jersey Devil

 A super hero with horns.
 Jersey Devil's a game I've been interested in for the longest time and today, for the first time in my life, I got to play it. I've played a small section of the first level, and it's alright. It lacks the oomph that other mascot platformer games of its era have, and the jumping doesn't feel quite as good, but I think it's got a very interesting premise, and a very neat character. And the opening animation was brilliant.

 Here's to hoping that the game maintains this level of quality and doesn't dip, because I think we may have a fun little romp in our hands.

Review #403: Midway Arcade Treasures 3

 More like Arcade antiques, am I right?
 Midway Arcade Treasures 3 was the final compilation they released on PS2, this time focusing on Racing games. While this offering only housed 8 games, it features more modern, heavier games than previous volumes. It's also the only volume to focus on a single genre, whether that's a good or bad thing depends entirely on your taste.

 What I discovered while playing some of these games for the first time and replaying others is that... most of these haven't aged well, and most of them are good for arcade releases, but will feel lacking in content if held to console game standards. Also, most of the games were meant to be played with a steering wheel-type joystick, so the analog stick doesn't work quite as well due to the sensitivity of the steering.
 Super Offroad and Super Offroad track pack: An isometric four-player racing game, it's rather fun for what it is, and it's got a nice upgrade system that lets you enhance different parts of your vehicle after each race. Tracks start repeating after a while, sometimes having you race in the opposite direction, and controls are rather sluggish. The track pack is basically the same gameplay but on different tracks.
 5.0 out of 10

 Race Drivin is a very primitive 3-D first-person driving game. It's slow and clunky to a nigh unplayable degree. The game is nice to have as a curiosity of what the earliest days of 3-D were like, but as a game it's terrible.
 1.0 out of 10

 Badlands is, basically, Super Offroad on a post-apocalyptic setting. The same enhancement system is here, but now you can shoot against other racers.
 5.5 out of 10

 I think S.T.U.N. Runner could've been a fun game if only the hadn't botched the emulation on the PS2 version of this compilation. Basically the game runs faster, WAY faster than intended, which makes certain obstacles pretty much unavoidable. It's a bit different from other games, although you are being timed, you can only steer left and right to avoid obstacles, there's no acceleration button, and you also get to shoot at obstacles ahead of you. It's an interesting game, and it's possibly fun when running as intended. Possibly.
 3.0 out of 10

 Now we get into the good stuff, starting off with San Francisco Rush The Rock Alcatraz Edition, yeah, the title is quite a handful. You've probably got good memories about the game, but, sadly, it hasn't aged very well. Handling feels very clunky, and the once oh-so-fun physics now feel a bit wonky. There're 7 different tracks, and they are a pleasure to look at... sadly, the music is awful, just awful. And the sound design is absolutely terrible, the screeching tires will make your ears bleed. It's particularly grating since laps are rather long, and in between the annoying music and the horrible tire sounds... let's just say that extended play sessions will take a toll on the player.
 6.0 out of 10

 I had never played Offroad Thunder before, heck, I had never even heard of it, but boy was I pleasantly surprised! It features three different modes, which are basically all just variations of racing with a flag gimmick or a point based gimmick, that can be played on the same 8 tracks. Speaking of those, the courses are brilliantly designed, discovering them was quite a treat. The game does suffer from some hefty slowdown though.
 7.0 out of 10

 The bad news is that this is not an arcade perfect port of San Francisco Rush 2049, the good news is that this is a port of the Dreamcast enhanced port of said game. This means more modes, more tracks, more everything even a fun little multiplayer battle mode. Not only does this game look better than San Francisco Rush, it also looks better, sounds, plays better and smoother too. There're only six tracks total, with two being unlockable, but you can customize a lot of parameters, like number of laps, fog, wind or even if you want to race through the track the other way around. Rounding this up, you can also customize various parts of your car to personalize its stats, looks and style. San Francisco Rush 2049 is pretty good! Very skimpy on content, but very replayable.
 7.5 out of 10

 And lastly, the crown jewel of this collection, Hydro Thunder, and once again, we get the Dreamcast port of the game, which adds a few new tracks for a total of 12. The game plays like a dream, you must course through water and sea, collecting boost icons trying to beat all 15 other races. Tracks are gated behind how you perform in races, get Top 3 on all easy tracks to unlock medium, get top 2 on those to get hard tracks, etc. Sadly, this also means that if you're not good at the game, or don't care to get good at it, like me, you won't get the final 7 tracks, oh well! Hydro Thunder is a blast to play, and it's the best all-around package.
 7.5 out of 10

 If you ask me, how much mileage you'll get out of this compilation is directly tied to how much nostalgia these games manage to get out of you. A lot of the games simply haven't aged very well, some are better off left as curiosities, and the even a few the best games are lacking in depth and/or content.
 7.5 out of 10

Review #402: Tony Hawk's Underground

 It's been quite the ride, filled with bails and nails.
 It's interesting how everyone's got their own favorite Tony Hawk game, huh? Starting with 2 up to Underground 2, each game and those in-between have their own collective of people that consider it the best in the series, heck, even American Wasteland's got a few! Underground 1 marked quite a change for the series, now a story mode surrounding your created skater would become the norm, and it introduced the ability to get off your board, a godsend!

 The game features the usual assortment of modes: Story, in which you follow your created skater's story as he deals with Eric Sparrow's antagonizing shenanigans over and over and over again. The story is surprisingly fun, and Eric is a character you'll learn to despise, making for an engaging villain of sorts. Free Skate is back, of course, and so is the usual gamut of multiplayer modes. Besides creating a character, there's a new 'create a trick' menu, but it's not too in-depth and I didn't really care about it.
 For as amusing as the story is, the mode itself is a bit lacking in polish. There're a bunch of car driving missions, which while not annoyingly hard, certainly are a bit of a bore. The controls are sluggish, the driving feels awful, the stages were not meant for cars and the missions are uninteresting, luckily they did away with these in future installments. There were a few too many 'Find X amount of Y' missions for my liking, it even seeped into other missions like 'Find X and perform Y trick next to them', you don't even get a compass, so they are timed scavenger hunts, kinda like the older Tony Hawk games.... of which I'm not that much of a fan and it's worse since these stages are quite large. The challenge is finding the stuff, not performing it, it's not fun, it's not challenging.

 What it does get right are the new additions and how stats work. Stats are gated behind challenges that you must perform, like grinding for 8 seconds in order to enhance your grind, and these challenges are gated behind story progression. This makes sure that you won't be too overleveled for current tasks, which is fine, while also having, in my opinion, the most fun way to increase your stats. As for the ever growing pool of moves, tricks and techniques, we've got getting off your board, which lets you easily reposition yourself as well as wallplanting, by pressing X and down when going towards a wall, which serves not only as a way to extend your combos but to avoid losing one if you would've hit the wall.
 I think Underground deserves to get praised for all that it brought to the series. Whether you like it or not, having an actual story became a focus point on the series, which I liked, and the new mechanics, getting of your board and bouncing off walls would become some of the best tools to get around levels or extend combos, with creativity and ingenuity. That said, for as much as the game meant for the future of the franchise, I do think that Underground 1 is a bit lackluster, but entirely enjoyable.
 7.5 out of 10