Category Archives: Game Reviews

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) – Part 01 – Intro

This review has been a long time coming, mostly due to procrastination on my end. I had been struggling with the decision to include Gameboy Advance titles on the site for a while, mostly because I didn’t want to admit the GBA was already a retro system. I still have my Gameboy SP sitting on the shelf next to my DS and 3DS. I even still play on it occasionally. But I can’t deny the facts anymore. The system came out back on March 21st, 2001. As of this writing, the system is already 17 years old, sporting graphics comparable to the Super Nintendo. It is a Retro System, and it belongs on my site. That’s not a bad thing though. It is a great system with a lot of great games on it just waiting to be played.

If we’re going to be welcoming the Gameboy Advance to the site, I felt it needed to be done right. I picked a game I had heard great things about but have personally never played, and that game is “Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga”. Following in the footsteps of the Super Nintendo Classic “Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars”, this game puts Mario and Company into a Roleplaying game setting as opposed to the traditional Platforming setting the Nintendo Mascot is usually associated with. While it may sound strange at first, it has proven to be a winning formula, still living on today with multiple games in the “Mario & Luigi” Series as well as the ongoing “Paper Mario” Series. I have previously played Super Mario RPG and found it to be a great game, which gives me high hopes for this spiritual successor. So let’s dive in and see what this game, and the system in general, have to offer us!

 

Gameplay

-The Adventure Begins-

The game opens at Peach’s Castle where, in a rare event, Princess Peach is actually performing part of her royal duties. Today, Peach is meeting with a goodwill ambassador from the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom. Queen Bean was even so kind as to send a gift for our Princess Peach.

Unfortunately, the whole thing was a trap. As soon as Princess Peach opens the gift box, a weird contraption pops out and sprays an ominous green smoke onto our princess. It turns out these two aren’t goodwill ambassadors at all. They are in fact the Evil Witch Cackletta and her Loyal Minion Fawful. What terrible thing have they done to poor Princess Peach?

As the useless Toad Guards flee the room, leaving Peach completely defenseless, Fawful dons a new contraption on his head to vacuum up all the green smoke. Peach collapses to the ground while the pair laugh maniacally. Curiously, the two fly off out of the castle shortly after, leaving the princess behind. Was this not the usually kidnapping setup? They couldn’t possibly have straight up killed her could they? That would be just too dark for any Mario game.

Meanwhile, at the home of the Mario Brothers, Luigi is outside hanging laundry, unaware of what is going on elsewhere in the kingdom. That is, until a Toad shows up shouting about an Emergency Situation at the Castle. Apparently the Kingdom Courier was already sent out for the brothers but for some reason never made it. Hearing this, the Toad runs inside the house looking for Mario.

Once inside, the Toad searches all throughout the small home looking for Mario. It doesn’t take long before he hears our hero humming to himself in a back room. The Toad rushes inside to deliver his urgent message, but something in that room gave him quite the shock as he lets out a massive “Eeeeeeek!!!”

The Toad quickly runs from the room, face red and disoriented, and promptly knocks himself out by accidentally running into a dresser around the corner. Our Hero Mario emerges from the room shortly after wearing nothing but a towel. Apparently Mario was showering at the time which is what startled the Toad so much. I dare not imagine the sight that poor Toad walked in on. After knocking the Toad around a little to wake him up, he finally manages to get enough of his message out to Mario for our Hero to take action.

Knowing something terrible must have happened to his beloved Princess Peach, Mario wastes no time, rushing out the door still in just the towel. He quickly grabs the clothes that Luigi was hanging to dry and puts them on. A little too quickly perhaps and it would seem poor Luigi has become tangled with the clothes line and is being dragged behind Mario as he rushes off to the castle.

By the time the brothers arrive, Bowser has already shown up, no doubt looking to kidnap the Princess for himself in the confusion. Mario’s sudden stop at the sight of Bowser unfortunately caused Luigi to go flying headlong into Bowsers back, knocking the Koopa King over and enraging him.

This brings us into our first battle of the game. In typical RPG fashion, all of the actions are menu and turn based. You scroll through the menus to select your attack, then you select a target, and finally you perform the action. Once your attack is over, the enemy has their turn to attack. From there you go back and forth until someone dies. This should be very familiar to anyone that has played an RPG before.

However, this isn’t your typical RPG. In Super Star Saga, all of your attacks have “Action Commands.” What are Action Commands you might ask? Well,  at specific parts of the attack animation you can press the action button again to do additional damage. It’s a small change to the formula, but it is a powerful change and one that really keeps you in the action rather than sitting back and watching the fight. Getting even a single extra point of damage can really change the flow of battle.

Not only that, but you can also dodge enemy attacks in the same way. Every enemy attack has a specific point in its animation that will allow you to dodge the attack entirely. The extra damage of Action Commands were nice, but this is actually a complete game changer. Your characters are no longer damage sponges that will just drink a healing potion after the battle. You now have to pay attention in battle and manually avoid the attacks. If you get good enough at the timing, it’s possible to play through the entire game without ever taking a single hit of damage this way. Not that I would ever be capable of that.

The battle continues for a few more rounds until Bowser has finally had enough and calls off the fight. Although, his antagonizing that he would have won had he not stopped no doubt would have started a new fight of its own. Thankfully one of the Toads chimes in to remind us that something terrible has happened to Princess Peach. It turns out what Cackletta stole was actually Princess Peach’s voice.

As if stealing her voice wasn’t bad enough, Cackletta somehow replaced her voice with an “Explosive Vocabulary”. That description, while literally accurate, might be a little confusing, so let me explain. Rather than speaking normal words, everything Peach says has been replaced with a weird font full of bombs and spiders and other odd shapes. Then a moment after she says it, the characters fall to the ground outside the speech bubble and literally explode. Hence the name “Explosive Vocabulary”.

We quickly find out that this is the reason Bowser hadn’t kidnapped her before the brothers arrived. Even if he did kidnap her, she would just end up destroying his castle. It would seem our heroes will have to travel outside of the Mushroom Kingdom to the neighboring Beanbean Kingdom if they want to return Peach’s voice. Bowser is actually quite enthusiastic about the idea and openly encouraging Mario for once, though for a selfish reason. He even goes so far as to offer to personally escort Mario to the Beanbean kingdom in his Koopa Cruiser.

The shock of Bowser and Mario actually working together must have really gotten to Peach, because she said something which became a rather large speech bubble of Explosive Vocabulary. Terrified of the impending doom, everyone quickly rushes for the exits. As the bombs hit the floor, the whole castle is filled with a massive explosion which shoots out all the windows and buckles the walls. I sure do hope Princess Peach survived all that…

Peach’s fate aside, we return our attention to Mario, now out in the castle courtyard. Finally we gain control over Mario and can begin the game proper. In true RPG fashion, you are free to wander around, explore the environment, and are encouraged to talk to everyone you can. Many of the people you talk to will offer you advice towards what you’re supposed to be doing. This Toad for example tells us that Bowser is waiting in his Koopa Cruiser towards the other exit. Since we’re towards the South side of the Courtyard at the moment, I’ll take that to mean Bowser is waiting for us up North.

Before we head off to the Koopa Cruiser, I think it would be best to explore the Courtyard a bit and get familiar with the quirks of this game. While the main mechanics are nothing all together unusual for an RPG, there are some things that are a bit unconventional. For one thing, Mario can actually Jump. For Mario that’s to be expected, but for an RPG that is an extreme rarity. Most RPGs I have even played had no need for a jump button. In fact most characters in RPGs would find themselves trapped behind even an ankle high barrier.

Other things we’ll have to keep in mind are the fact that Mario will actually have an item inventory as opposed to consuming every item on contact. This of course is common for an RPG, but not so much for a Mario game. Then we have a bit of a blend between the two worlds in regard to item boxes. Instead of the typical treasure chests you would find in many RPGs you will instead find various ?-Blocks scattered around the world filled with helpful items. So you’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

Being an RPG, we’ll also have to be aware of random side quests we can do. This Toad for example has lost his “Precious Belonging” and would be thrilled if we could help him find it. It’s early in the game, so this one isn’t too hard to finish, just keep searching around the ledge until you find it. But there are sure to be much more complicated quests going forward. Most of these quests you won’t really have to do, but usually you’ll get a nice reward for doing them. Plus you’re a Hero, you should be helping people in need anyway.

After thoroughly exploring the courtyard, it’s time to gather everyone together and head north to the Koopa Cruiser. Be sure to tell this lost Koopa Troopa where to go, we’re going to need everyone we can get if we’re heading over to the Beanbean Kingdom. Head north yourself and you’ll find Luigi waiting for you to tell you Bowser is waiting.

Just north of the Courtyard, we enter Toadtown Square and find arguably the most important feature to look out for in the game, the Save Point. This game is going to take a long time to complete, and you’re going to want to save as often as possible. Seriously, nothing is worse than dying in a random battle and losing hours of progress because you haven’t saved in forever. So keep an eye out for these Save Albums and use them every time you see them.

Now that we’ve saved, it’s time to head off to the Koopa Cruiser. But before we get there, we’re stopped in our tracks by Peach’s loyal steward Toadsworth. Toadsworth has gone to the trouble of preparing a Suitcase for us to use on our journey. This Suitcase will act as the backdrop for the menu screen, which I think is a nice touch. Instead of being a generic menu screen where all your items are just magically stored in the void, we can see that Mario is actually carrying all his items and outfits inside this suitcase. He also scrapes together 100 coins to help fund our journey to the Beanbean kingdom.

With Mario now well equipped for his adventure, it’s time to see him off. It would be nice to have Luigi join us, but apparently he’s planning to stay behind and protect the Mushroom Kingdom in Mario’s absence. So instead Luigi and Toadsworth are simply going to see Mario off as he heads to the Beanbean Kingdom.

Finally we arrive at the Koopa Cruiser to see a rather annoyed Bowser waiting for us. Bowser wanted to leave as soon as possible and we were just wandering around the Courtyard instead. Even if he is annoyed, he can’t help but boast about his new Koopa Cruiser. No doubt it was built with the intent of using it against Mario. How ironic that its maiden voyage would be to help Mario instead.

The Koopa Cruiser can’t leave without its crew however, and so Bowser calls for his Bowser Baddies. Unfortunately, no one shows up. The only ones here are the lone Koopa Troopa we gave directions to earlier, and Luigi, who only showed up to see Mario off. Not knowing this, Bowser begins to assume Luigi is here to join in the adventure. Luigi, the natural coward that he is however, has no such desire to venture off to the Beanbean Kingdom.

Seeing where this conversation is heading, Luigi attempts to escape the area. Unfortunately for him, it was at that same moment that the rest of the Bowser Baddies started entering the square, pushing him back towards the Koopa Cruiser. It looks like Luigi may actually be swept up in the crowd and forced to join the adventure against his will.

Everyone has boarded the Koopa Cruiser and it is time for us to depart for the Beanbean kingdom. Everyone that is except for one deserter. Who would dare desert the Bowser Baddies? Such an act cannot be tolerated and Bowser orders the crew to initiate cruiser pursuit to chase down this lone individual. No one defies King Koopa.

The Cruiser lists off with the power of its jet engine to hunt down this deserter. Of course, who else would try to escape the Bowser Baddies than someone who was never actually a member? I speak of course of Luigi. Somehow he managed to push his way through the crowd and is desperately trying to remain in the Mushroom Kingdom. Sadly, such a thing is no longer possible for the younger Mario Brother as the Koopa Cruiser extends a robotic arm to catch him and drag him on board.

Inside the Koopa Cruiser we see Luigi sulking, having been forcibly brought onto this adventure. Before long, Bowser’s voice can be heard over the loudspeaker trying to get the Brothers’ attention. Not only is Luigi forced to join the adventure, but Bowser continues to not remember his name, referring to him as “Green Guy” and later “Mr. Green Mario Brother Guy” instead. With the speed of the Cruiser, it’s not long before we arrive in the Beanbean Kingdom.

Now that Luigi has officially joined the adventure, we need to get used to the fact that there are two people in the party now. Moving around is easy enough, Luigi will simply walk behind Mario wherever he goes. However, you are capable to control the brothers independently. If you look at the top right corner, you’ll see the action icons listed for each of the brothers. Because of this, you can do things like make Luigi jump while Mario stands still. You even have the option to swap the brothers around so Luigi is leading the party. This is a relatively minor thing in the long run, but still something that will need to be kept in mind.

Because of this unique control scheme, there are certain aspects of the game that will be rather unconventional. For example, you will occasionally find “Bros. Blocks” instead of regular ?-Blocks. The difference between the two is that once you hit the block the first time, it will move sideways over the other brother who will then have to hit it as if playing a game of volleyball.

As we approach the Beanbean Kingdom boarder, a topic comes up that probably should have been thought about sooner, our passports. Even in the fictional world of the Mario Universe, you must have proper documentation if you plan to cross the border to a different country. Thankfully, there is a Koopa on board who is well versed in creating passports. The legality of these passports may be questionable, but at the moment we really don’t have time to worry about such things.

Mario is first to get his picture taken, and as we’re getting ready for our picture, the Koopa warns us to stand still and not press any buttons to hold a pose. Naturally this means we are absolutely going to be pressing every button we can and hope for a good pose in the end. That’s how we ended up with silly passport pictures like these. Now that we look at it, there’s something I find interesting about the passports. Despite everyone forgetting Luigi’s name, he is actually on the left side in the Suitcase menu. Since most people read left to right, the person on the left is usually the first one you notice and therefor typically given to the more important character. Not only that, but if you look, at level 1 Luigi is actually slightly stronger than his older brother, sporting 12hp compared to Mario’s 10hp.

Before we can make it up to the deck to meet up with Bowser, we are stopped again by another Koopa Troopa. This time, it’s to teach us how to fight as a pair. Back at the castle we were given the basic tutorial for how the flow of battle works. But now that Luigi is with us, we need to learn how to control him as well. Just like in the overworld, you control Mario and Luigi independently in battle. This means that all of Mario’s actions will be performed using the A Button while all of Luigi’s actions will use the B button. This includes both attacking and dodging, so I’m sure it’s going to take a little bit to get used to trying to dodge attacks.

In addition to the two person battle tutorial, we are also introduced to the concept of Counterattacks. We’ve already mentioned before that all of the attacks in this game can be avoided if you dodge them at the right time. However, now we know that if you time your dodge just right, you will actually counterattack the enemy. Done right, you will completely avoid damage while at the same time causing a small amount of damage back to the attacking enemy. Just be aware that not EVERY attack is capable of a counterattack. Bowser’s fire breath attack for example is an attack that you are not able to counter.

As we make our way to the deck, we end up getting dragged into several more battle. Right now there’s still simple battles with Goombas, but even simple battle still give you experience afterwards. Very quickly, we have gained enough experience for Mario to Level Up.

As with any RPG, increased level also comes with increased stats. You gain more Health Points (HP) so you can take more damage, and Bro Points (BP) which act as your magic later in the game. Power (Pow) to increase your attack damage, Defense (Def) so you don’t take as much damage, Speed so you get your turn sooner, and Mustache Power (Stache) for… um… actually, I never did figure out what your Stache power does. Anyway, what I really like about this game is what happens after your stat increases have been added to your current value. A Lakitu shows up and actually lets you select a stat you wish to add a bonus to and further increase. After making your selection, a slot wheel will spin and you have a chance to get between a +1 and +5 increase to your selected stat. I feel this adds a great deal of customization to your experience. Depending on your play style, you could focus your attention on raising your Power so you can just steamroll through your enemies. Or perhaps you’d rather raise up your defense so you can become a tank and absorb all the damage. Whatever your playstyle is, you can tweak the experience to your liking.

It looks like the tutorials aren’t quite done yet. Just a little further down the path we encounter a Koopa Troopa who is trying to round up a few Goombas. In exchange for our help, he is going to teach us about going into battle. Unlike many RPGs, Super Star Saga does not have “Random Encounters”. Instead, you can see the enemies on the field at all time. Touching them will start the battle, or if you like, you can avoid them and skip the battles entirely. However, the advice we are given by this Koopa Troopa is to stomp on the enemies to initiate battle. Done right, this will actually cause all the enemies to take a small amount of damage before the battle has even started. Sometimes the enemies will even start the battle stunned, giving you an even bigger advantage.

On the flip side, if you aren’t paying attention, and an enemy happens to touch whichever brother is in the back of the party, you will take damage instead. Not only that, but you will actually be knocked over at the beginning of battle, which makes it so you are unable to dodge any attacks until your turn comes around. Such a situation can quickly become devastating, especially at these low levels. Personally I find this to be slightly complicated to pull off, mostly because of the isometric view. Very often I found myself overshooting the jump with Mario and basically ramming Luigi straight into the enemy, starting the battle off at a disadvantage. But that’s just me and my poor coordination.

We’re almost to the Deck when our progress is stopped yet again. This time, it would appear someone has carelessly placed a bunch of cargo right in the middle of our path. We’ll have to clear out this mess first if we want to move forward. Thankfully, this is a rather simple problem to fix. Just north of the mess is an !-Block we can use to activate “Mr. Pinch”. “Mr. Pinch” being the nickname this particular Koopa Troopa has given to the overhead pinch crane. Don’t ask why.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pinch accidentally mistakes Luigi for a piece of cargo. It grabs him by his head and lifts him up into the air before anyone can really do anything to stop it. Poor Luigi, his day just keeps getting worse. He didn’t even want to come on this adventure in the first place.

Trying to make the best of a bad situation, the Koopa Troopa suggests Luigi could become the ship’s lookout. After a quick transition, we FINALLY make it to the deck and see that Luigi is indeed being used as a lookout. A random Koopa Troopa comes to report to Bowser that we are nearing the Beanbean Kingdom boarder. It is then that Luigi sees something in the distance so disturbing that his eyes literally pop out through the binoculars!

Out of nowhere, the Koopa Cruiser comes under attack as an explosion rocks the ship, freeing Luigi in the process. Before anyone can even guess what happened, Cackletta appears to taunt our heroes. Flying around on… what is that? …A rocket powered rocking chair? Between the chair and the face, there’s really no question here that Cackletta is psychotic and needs to be stopped. Even if she hadn’t stolen Peach’s voice.

Bowser ends up being the one to speak for the group, criticizing Cackletta for her misdeeds while at the same time praising how cool of a plan it is. Cackletta of course is unfazed by any of it, allowing it all to simply feed her ego as she gloats some more. Apparently stealing Peach’s voice is only the first part of her master plan, and she intends to head back to the Beanbean Kingdom as soon as possible to go onto the next step.

Naturally we don’t get a chance to fight Cackletta before she flies away, she is obviously intended to be a final boss. Instead she instructs Fawful to take care of us. At this point I would like to stop for a moment and talk about Fawful as a character. Fawful is obviously a second in command and therefore should be treated with caution. However, Fawful is such a gimmicky character that it’s hard to take him seriously. If you just look at his speech pattern above, you’ll see what I mean. He is intentionally written as a character with terrible translation from Japanese, as a nod to the bad translations seen in the NES era of gaming. On top of that, he insists on using metaphors that make no sense in any context. “Princess Peach’s sweet voice will soon be the bread that makes the sandwich of Cackletta’s Desires!” What does that even mean?

And it only gets worse from there. “Mustard of your doom!” should never be the witty remark you say before attacking someone. Again, what does that even mean? But here we are. Fawful has his awful monologue and then suddenly launches an attack at Bowser from his helmet contraption.

As Mario and Luigi check on Bowser’s condition, Fawful flies onto the deck and our battle with Fawful begins. Unfortunately, being in battle doesn’t stop Fawful from talking. Before each attack he still taunts our heroes by calling them “Fink-Rat!!!” Once again, what is he even talking about? I have never once heard the expression “Fink-Rat” in my entire life. I can barely even imagine what it means beyond the basic knowledge that it is some kind of insult.

Shortly into the battle, Bowser regains consciousness and actually offers us up some advice for defeating Fawful. According to Bowser, Fawful’s shouts of “Fink-Rat” are more than just random insults. The color of the text is actually a hint towards who he is planning to attack. If it’s red, he’s going to attack Mario. If it’s green, he’s going to attack Luigi. It’s a good early warning system so you can prepare to dodge the attacks.

Armed with this new knowledge, dodging all of Fawful’s attacks become much easier. You still have to pay attention to what’s going on though. Occasionally Fawful will attack both brothers one after the other, starting with the hinted to brother. So you still need to be ready to dodge with both of them.

A few rounds of battle go by, and eventually Fawful’s headgear breaks, dropping him to the deck with the rest of us. You would think this would make him easier to fight, since he can’t launch any more energy balls at us, but it does have the downside that now his attack pattern has changed. Instead of yelling an insult and shooting at one of the brothers, he now simply rushes one of them and tries to slam into them. Still, while the colored hints are gone, the attack itself remains very telegraphed, allowing plenty of time for you to react and dodge the attack, or even counterattack if you time it right.

It doesn’t take long before Fawful is defeated and the battle is won. However, it is a shallow victory on our part. Fawful is quick to call down yet another Headgear to fly around on before exclaiming “I have fury!” Whatever that is supposed to mean.

Fawful was instructed to stop us, and he still very much intends to do that. After a few more nonsensical taunts, Fawful lets loose with a massive barrage of energy attacks against the Koopa Cruiser. Faced with such a large scale attack, there isn’t a whole lot our heroes can do besides panic, and panic they do.

Just like that, the Koopa Cruiser is shot out of the sky with our heroes on it. Our focus quickly shifts to a yet unknown General Starshade who has noticed the explosion and is currently observing the aftermath through his binoculars. From his perspective, Mario and Luigi can be seen plummeting towards the ground at such speed that they resemble meteorites. We can only hope they land someplace soft, or this adventure might be over before it has even begun.

Despite the incredible height from which they fell, Luigi manages to stand up from the crash relatively unharmed. Mario on the other hand was not so lucky, having landed head first into the ground, embedding himself all the way up to his waist. Only his stubby little legs are left sticking up out of the ground. A sad end for our hero. Always the loyal brother, Luigi goes over to collect what remains of his older sibling.

By some miracle, Mario actually survives this impact. Much like Luigi, he seem to be mostly unfazed by the whole experience. The Koopa Troopas however don’t seem to be doing as well. They are also somehow alive, but they clearly aren’t going to be walking away from this any time soon.  I do wish to commend them for their devotion to Bowser. Two out of the Three Koopas we find tell us to look for Bowser who has apparently landed on the opposite side of the boarder. The third Koopa even laments the fact that they had yet to pay off the Koopa Cruiser before its destruction.

Even with all of Fawful’s interference, we did manage to make it to the border between the Mushroom and Beanbean kingdoms. This particular border checkpoint happens to be stationed by two Hammer Brothers who, if you couldn’t tell from the décor, happen to be huge Mario Brothers fans.

I believe it’s because of that admiration that our border crossing isn’t going to be as easy as a simple stamp on the passport. According to the Hammer Brothers, in order for us to cross the border to the Beanbean kingdom, we must first “…do some jumping worthy of the Mario name!” Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds awfully suspicious, and possibly an abuse of power. What if someone who isn’t Mario wants to cross the border? Do they also have to do jumping worthy of Mario?

Again, according to the Hammer Brothers, we must “…jump to avoid touching the Royal Border Line!” if we wish to cross over to the Beanbean Kingdom. The Royal Border Line being nothing more than a simple jump rope. The Hammer Brothers will rush around the room and you have to make Mario and Luigi jump in time to avoid touching the rope.

They aren’t content to just run side to side however. The Hammer Brothers will be twisting and curling that rope like a snake the whole time. Sometimes they’ll rush around to the other side of the room to catch you off guard. Other times only one of the brothers will move, twirling the rope around you. They even go as far as to fake you out and try to hit you as you land from your jump. It’s a somewhat tricky, but at the same time it is a fantastic way to quickly get you used to controlling the two brothers at the same time.

If you manage to make it through the whole challenge without either brother touching the jump rope Royal Border Line 3 times, then the Hammer Brothers will grant you entry to the Beanbean Kingdom. Much like our interactions with Bowser, it’s a weird feeling to have our former enemies wish us well, but there you have it. At the same time, how bad are the enemies going to be in the Beanbean kingdom if the Hammer Brothers are warning the Mario Brothers to be careful?

We don’t make it far past the border station before one of the Hammer Brothers comes and stops us. Apparently we are the first two people to EVER manage to cross the border since the Hammer Brothers have been on duty. So I guess that answers my question from earlier, yes other people are also expected to jump worthy of Mario, and no they did not succeed. Anyway, to commemorate the occasion, the Hammer Brother gifts us a map of the Beanbean Kingdom.

Before we head off, I would like to point out that the Royal Border Jump is actually the first of several Mini Games scattered throughout the main game. If you return to the border, the Hammer Brothers will let you try a more challenging version of the Border Jump. If you succeed again, you will be rewarded with “Hee Beans”. What are Hee Beans? I have no idea. But I’m sure they will be important later on, so I’m happy to have them.

Kirby’s Dream Land (GB)

I know I’m a little late to the party, but here it goes anyway. HAPPY 25TH BIRTHDAY KIRBY!!! That’s right! This year marks the 25th anniversary of everyone’s favorite pink puffball, Kirby. Sorry Jigglypuff, we love you too.

Anyway, Kirby’s Dream Land for the Original Game Boy was released on April 27th, 1992 in japan and August 1st, 1992 here in the USA. It marked the first appearance of the now iconic character known as Kirby. However, he was a somewhat different character in his first appearance than what he is now. Sure, his appearance was still the same, and he could still run and jump, and inflate himself like a balloon. He could even swallow enemies up whole and spit them back out like projectiles. So you may be wondering, what could possibly be missing if he can do all that? The answer is his copy ability! In his first outing, Kirby did not yet possess his now character defining ability to copy his opponent’s powers. He was also white instead of pink, but that’s a limitation of the system more than anything. So with that in mind, and in celebration of his 25th birthday, let’s head off to Dream Land and see how well the game has aged!

Gameplay

The game starts you out in Green Greens with no introduction, so let me fill you in on the backstory according to the Instruction Manual. On a distant star, there is a place known as Dream Land. There, the Dream Landers use their magical Sparkling Stars to work and play and create food. One night, King Dedede and his band of thieves came down from Mt. Dedede, ate all of the food in Dream Land, and stole the Sparkling Stars. Without the Sparkling Stars, the Dream Landers can’t make any more food and soon became very hungry. That’s when Kirby showed up, and took it upon himself to get the Sparkling Stars back from King Dedede!

With that out of the way, let’s get right into the actual game. Even without his copy ability, the gameplay itself still feels very familiar. Kirby can still inhale his enemies and shoot them back as projectiles. He can also inflate himself and fly around the world with ease.

There is also a decent sense of exploration in the game, with Kirby being able to enter various buildings along the way, usually with goodies inside. And of course, there are the warp stars half way through most of the levels that will bring you to the other areas.

After taking the warp star, Kirby finds himself in his first mid-boss battle with Poppy Bros. Sr. This enemy generally keeps its distance and will throws bombs at our hero. This makes him a relatively easy boss to defeat. Just suck up the bombs and spit them back at him. Before you know it he’ll be defeated and Kirby will be on his way.

That won’t be the last time we’ll be seeing the Poppy Bros though. During the rest of the stage we’ll see several Poppy Bros. Jr. Often times they’ll even be riding on the back of a Grizzo giving them a slight height advantage over little Kirby.

As we progress through the stage, Kirby’s flying ability really starts to come in handy as we need to fly to the top of a hollowed out tree. You have to be careful though, because there are quite a few enemies that seem to call this hollow tree home.

Shortly after making it through the hollow tree, Kirby will find himself falling right in front of the game’s first boss, Whispy Woods. Since his first appearance here in Kirby’s Dream Land, Whispy Woods has become a highly recognizable recurring boss in the series. He usually shows up as the first boss, since he is in fact very easy to beat.

As you can see, he is a sentient tree, so he really can’t move at all. What he can do though is drop apples from up above in hopes of hitting Kirby on the head. There is usually plenty of time for Kirby to get out of the way, and now he has a projectile to shoot back at the massive enemy.

Other than that, the only other attack Whispy Woods seems to have is to blow little puffs of air in hopes of making Kirby go away. That of course doesn’t work, and Kirby makes short work of the tree, causing it to start crying and handing over the first of the Sparkling Stars.

After a quick victory dance, we find ourselves in Stage 2 – Castle Lololo. If you don’t know, this castle is named after another Hal Laboratory character, Lolo, from the Adventures of Lolo Series. Unlike Kirby, The Lolo games are puzzle games which I find very fun, and hope to someday review on this site.

The journey through the castle is quite different from what we faced in Green Greens. For starters, it feels like there are a lot more enemies in this area. It is also a bit more maze like in its layout, forcing you to swim through some tight spaces.

Thankfully, there is a nice invincibility lollypop just lying around at one point. This lets Kirby just fly right though the swarms of enemies without a care in the world. Of course, this effect is only short lived, but it serves its purpose well and helps Kirby reach the Warp Star of this stage.

This brings us face to face with Lololo himself, acting as the midboss for the stage. This is another incredibly easy fight. The whole time, Lololo is just pushing boxes out in front of himself which Kirby can suck up and spit back at him. After a few hits Lololo is defeated and we can continue on our adventure.

After the midboss fight, there really isn’t a whole lot left to the castle. All you have to do is float up a tower avoiding the spiky Gordo enemies as well as a few others. Then easily take care of the group of enemies on the roof. After that, the boss battle is straight through the door at the top of the castle.

In this fight you once again fight against Lololo, this time accompanied by his girlfriend Lalala. Their battle strategy, if you can even call it a battle strategy, is much the same as the previous battle with Lololo. They will simply appear from the doors pushing boxes and walk across their platforms.

Death Count: 1

While not a very difficult boss in general, the tight spaces can make it hard to get out of their way. Eventually this became too much for me and I died. It’s shameful, I know, but look at this whole site, it’s a shrine to my pathetically shameful deaths.

Anyway, after that first attempt, I learned quite a bit about what I’m supposed to do in this battle. The second attempt went much better. This time, Lololo was the first to be defeated, having only shaved a single hit point off of Kirby so far. With the battle now one-on-one, Lalala was no match for Kirby and was also quickly defeated.

And with that, Kirby collects his second Sparkling Star, does another victory dance, and we’re off to Stage 3. This time we’ll be heading to Float Island. From the title card, it looks like we’ll be in for another open area like Green Greens.

Just as expected, we are outside again, but it’s quickly apparent that this is a much different area compared to Green Greens. For starters, there are a lot of environmental hazards you need to be aware of here. The Palm trees in the background for example will actually drop their coconuts on Kirby’s head as he walks under them. Then for some reason there are several canons hiding in the water ready to shoot our hero as he flies over.

After avoiding all those hazards, Kirby finds himself in a rather dangerous looking cave system. Just look at those stalactites hanging there! They’re easily sharp enough to rip our little hero to shreds. There are also strange floating heads called Kabu which seems to be able to fade in and out of existence, making them somewhat more difficult that other enemies.

We do however find a very helpful secret. Hidden in this mass of blocks is a secret door. Once you pass through this door, you’ll find yourself in a small path of star water, at the end of which is a much appreciated 1up.

We continue our journey and eventually make our way out of the cave and quickly find ourselves on a large boat. It’s here that we find one of the rare power-ups in this game. Eating a plate of spicy curry will grant Kirby the temporary ability to breathe fire at his enemies. It’s not quite the same as Kirby’s signature copy ability, but it’s as close as this game is going to come.

From here, it’s just a short distance more before we find the Warp Star, making the midway point of the level. However, there is no Midboss this time. Instead Kirby find himself stuck in the blowhole of a rather large whale. The whale of course isn’t too happy to have Kirby there and quickly blasts him out and up into the sky.

Rather than flying off into the distance, Kirby actually manages to land on the clouds themselves. Of course, he’s not alone up here in the sky. There are actually a few enemies here already. They don’t pose much of a threat however. What’s curious is that there is a Mint Leaf up here as well. At least, I’m being told it’s a mint leaf. It looks more like a lemon that any type of leaf I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, eating the mint leaf will give Kirby “Minty Fresh Breath” which means he can puff out an unlimited number of air bullets. He’s going to need that too as the next boss battle will take place entirely in the air against the blimp boss Kabula.

Due to the flying nature of this battle, it takes on a very classic side scrolling shooter feel to it. Kabula will be flying around shooting randomly in every direction. All you have to do is avoid those shots and pretty much never stop shooting air bullets. Occasionally Kabula will actually try to ram Kirby, but this is also fairly easy to avoid.

Before long, Kabula will explode, releasing the 3rd Sparkling Star, and marking the end of this stage. Once again Kirby will do his victory dance, and we move onto the next area. It would appear Kirby never does manage to get out of the clouds, as the next area is Bubbly Clouds. Curiously, we see a whole army of Kirby popping out of the one cloud during the title card sequence. I wonder what that could mean.

Bubbly Clouds is home to some rather unusual new enemies. The first of which is Scarfy, which at first glance looks like a fairly normal cute floating ball with cat-like ears. However, these enemies cannot be inhaled like other enemies. Attempting to do so will only make them mad and transform in the Mutated Scarfy. Once mutated, they will chase after Kirby and explode on contact. It would be best to simply avoid these guys whenever possible.

There are also strange demon heads called Kookler floating about. They appear to have a somewhat gelatinous body texture, as they seem to squish and contort themselves as they move around. Otherwise, they aren’t much of a threat.

Continuing forward, we eventually make our way to a castle in the clouds, and our first introduction to the Sir Kibble enemies. These guys are one of my personal favorites because they would normally give you the Cutter ability, which lets you throw a rather large boomerang like projectile. Unfortunately, Kirby lacks the copy ability in this game, and so Sir Kibble is simply another enemy to destroy in this game.

Death Count: 3

Shortly after passing through the castle, we find ourselves in a rather tight cloud maze full of enemies. Sad to say, this ended up being too much for me, and I died a few times while trying to pass through here. The maze itself isn’t very difficult to navigate however, and we soon find our way to the exit.

Unfortunately, this brings us face to face with the midboss of this stage, Kracko Jr. Kracko Jr is actually one of the more disturbing looking enemies you encounter in the whole game, as it’s simple a giant floating eye surrounded by 4 small orbs. Curiously, Kracko Jr is capable of spawning enemies to attack Kirby with. This of course backfires as those enemies quickly become projectiles for Kirby to fight with.

Kracko Jr. will also occasionally throw out several small black orbs as well as attempt to dive bomb Kirby. Both of these attacks are fairly easy to avoid, and Kracko Jr will quickly be defeated. Unlike other stages where the warp star brings you TO the midboss, defeating Kracko Jr will actually produce the warp star and allow you to continue to the rest of the stage.

After flying high up into the stars, we quickly find another mint leaf. However, this isn’t to be used in another boss battle. Instead you use it to break your way through a rather large wall. If you do it strategically, you can even pick up a few goodies along the way.

Shortly after this you find a plate of curry with lets you clear out a long corridor of blocks. Just be careful you don’t accidentally fall down any of the holes in the floor.

Following the long corridor, all that’s left of this stage is a flight straight up through the stars, all the while trying not to be damaged by the many enemies you encounter along the way. Waiting for you at the top of the stars is a small doorway. Just pass through it and get ready for this stage’s Boss fight.

It would seem Kracko has done some growing up since we last saw him. Instead of simply being a floating eyeball, he now has a much puffier appearance. Now he looks more like a large cloud…with a massive eyeball stuck in it… it’s still kind of disturbing you matter how you look at it.

Death Count: 4

Anyway, the battle doesn’t exactly go well for us. Kracko is regularly dive bombing Kirby, which with its larger body is now much harder to avoid. Not only that, but it now has a double beam attack which covers a large area of the screen. Needless to say, Kirby was dead before any damage could even be done to the boss.

The second attempt goes much better than the first did. Now that I’ve seen the attacks, I have at least some idea of how to avoid them. During the battle, Kracko once again spawns enemies which Kirby can shoot back as projectiles. The battle was pretty well balance between the two of them, but Kirby ultimately won out in the end.

This gives us the 4th Sparkling Star and yet another victory dance. With all the bosses defeated, we finally make our way to the castle atop Mt. Dedede to face off against King Dedede himself.

We crash through the walls of the castle and right into the main chamber where we find 4 doors. If you look, you can see they all represent the 4 bosses we’ve already defeated. But there’s no door to fight King Dedede himself. It looks like we’re going to have to boss run all four bosses in a row before victory will be ours.

We start things off easy by getting Whispy Woods out of the way first. Surprisingly, there actually is a short level before the boss fight itself. At the end of the level it took me a second to figure out how to get through the doorway. For some reason there was a Gordo floating right in the doorway. The only way to get rid of this was to touch the impostor Kirby that was standing behind it.

This brings us once again to our battle with Whispy Woods. He is much more powerful this time around, but his attacks haven’t changed much, and he is still incredibly easy to defeat. Just launch a few apples at him, and before long he’ll be crying for mercy.

After this I thought it would be fun to fight Kabula next rather than fighting them in the original order. Just like with Whispy Woods, the battle with Kabula hasn’t changed much. Kabula does seem to be moving and shooting much faster this time around, which does make this a little bit difficult, but nothing we can’t handle. After an intense battle, Kabula once again explodes, and we’re half way through our boss run.

Following that battle, we head over to fight Lololo and Lalala again. Their battle seems almost identical to the first time we fought them. They might be moving a little faster than before, but if they are it’s not a noticeable improvement. Without much trouble they too are defeated.

Death Count: 5

This leaves only Kracko left for us to battle, and only a single hit point to do it in. This of course proved to be impossible. We only managed to get one good hit on Kracko before getting hit ourselves and dying. Thankfully, you progress through the boss run is saved, and we still only have to fight Kracko.

Our second attempt at Kracko goes much better. Well, we win the battle at least, but we took a pathetic amount of damage in the process. Just like the other bosses, Kracko seems to move a bit faster, and attacks more aggressively. We win in the end, but we are left with only 2 hits and a single life going into the final battle with King Dedede.

Death Count: 6

And so we fly into the center portrait of King Dedede and almost immediately die. We barely had a chance to learn anything at all about his attack pattern before we died. Thankfully, that wasn’t actually our last life. We get one more chance at it before it’s over.

Even with another attempt, we don’t make much progress. King Dedede just has too many attacks and not enough openings. It actually took me a while to figure out how to attack him since he doesn’t seem to produce anything to be used as projectiles. Equipped with his giant mallet, he will regularly come running at Kirby and swing it hard enough to produce stars on impact.

Not only that, but King Dedede seems to have the same inhaling ability Kirby does. If you get too close, he might just swallow up little Kirby whole and spit him back out like a projectile himself.

The air isn’t safe either as Kind Dedede, despite being a penguin, has remarkably powerful legs which allow him to jump incredibly high into the air. So high in fact that he lands hard enough to produce two stars around him on impact.

As it turns out, these stars are actually the key to victory. They are the only things to appear during this battle which can be inhaled and shot back at him. But they disappear so quickly that you’re going to have to stick close to him if you want a chance to swallow them up in the first place.

Death Count: 7

Unfortunately, it took me too long to come to this realization and we once again die. Since it was our last life, that of course means a game over for us. All the inhabitants of Dream Land are doomed to starve to death now. Or they would be if it weren’t for the continue we have. Thank the gaming gods for continues!

Death Count: 8

With a full new set of lives, we head back into the ring with King Dedede. We’ve made improvements, that’s for sure, but still not enough to win. King Dedede apparently also had a few extra moves hidden under his sleeves that we hadn’t seen yet. The first is mostly useless as he’ll occasionally run straight at you and fall on his face. The second however is the one which killed me. Apparently if you’re flying above him, he’ll occasionally jump straight up at you and swat you out of the sky with his giant mallet. These are good things to know.

It’s once more into the ring for our hero Kirby. Using everything we’ve learned over the past few battles, it looks like we can finally win this one. We take a few hits, but we deal them right back out. And just when King Dedede thinks he has Kirby cornered, we knock him flying right out of the ring!

As King Dedede goes flying off into the distance, Kirby remains back in the ring doing his victory dance. We now have all of the Sparkling Stars and the day is saved.

And so, Kirby inflates himself larger than ever before, turning himself into basically a hot air balloon. One large enough to carry the whole castle off the mountain top and let it rain food down on all the Dream Landers. They’ll never have to worry about food again.

As a reward for beating the game, you are presented with the secret button combination needed to play the “Extra Game”. I’m not going to play this, but from what I understand, it’s basically a hard mode for the game. If you want to give it a try, good luck, but that’s all you’ll be seeing from me, Thanks for reading.

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

Without his copy ability, the game did feel a bit bland. However, it was still a very fun and enjoyable game with a lot of character.

Graphics – 9 / 10

I really like the graphics in this game, and the fact that it’s an original Game Boy game just makes it all the more impressive. Really it deserves a perfect score, because there isn’t much more you can get out of the limited system. But I’m going to take one point off simply on the technicality of Kirby’s design. While he may be an iconic Nintendo character now, I can’t overlook the fact that he was originally intended to be a place holder for a real character to be designed later. He’s still rather expressive and charming despite this, but he is without question one of the most simplistically designed characters ever.

Audio – 10 / 10

The Kirby soundtrack has a very unique sound to it which works perfectly with the game. It has a very upbeat and cute feel while still keeping the fast pace action energy of the game. Again, the fact that this is coming from a Game Boy, you really can’t ask for anything more.

Story – 2 / 10

In game, there is really no mention of any kind of story at all. Had I not tracked down a copy of the manual I would have had no idea why I was doing anything I was doing. I know most old games were like this, but this is definitely at the extreme end of the spectrum for lack of story. It only gets any score at all because it at least had something in the manual.

Total Playtime – 0h 36m

It’s a REALLY short game. Had I not died it probably wouldn’t have broken half an hour. While that is very short there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it is a Gameboy game, so it’s almost intended to be played in a short burst. Also, there are a lot of areas for exploration, as well as the whole “Extra Game” to offer a bit of replayability. Then the general simplicity of the game as well as the short length would probably make this a good title for speed runners.

Total Deaths – 8 Deaths

All in all, I’m not too upset with that death count. I managed to make it all the way to the final boss before I had to use a continue. Even before that I didn’t die for the first time until almost half way through the game. In general it’s a fairly easy game to play. King Dedede is really the only “Hard” enemy you face.

Overall Score – 8 / 10

Even without his copy ability, this is still a very solid and enjoyable game. It’s short, and fairly easy, but it’s also incredibly charming. Since it’s the first game in the long series, it’s hard not to compare it to the later games and their improvements. But at the same time, there never would have been later games if the first one wasn’t already a masterpiece of its own. You don’t get the strategy or customization options you see in later games, but you still get a very enjoyable adventure with Kirby. Considering you can pick up a used copy of the game for generally less than $15, there’s no reason you shouldn’t add this classic to your collection.

Looking forward to another 25 years Kirby!

 

I hope you enjoyed Kirby’s Dream Land. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Earthbound – Week 01

It’s been a long break from writing for me, but I’m finally back at it. I’m going to be doing things a bit differently this time. Instead of the weekly full articles, I’m going to try a more average blog posting style with this game. I’ll be playing for maybe 30 minutes a day, and posting daily updates as I play. I’m hoping that will be a bit more manageable and I’ll have more fun doing it. For the first game with this new posting structure, I thought I’d go full out and play the cult classic Earthbound!

Before we get into the game, let’s start with a brief history. Earthbound, known as Mother 2 in Japan, was first released for the SNES in 1994. It’s the sequel to Mother for the NES, another great game which unfortunately never found its way out of Japan until 2015 when it was released on the Wii U Shop as “Earthbound Beginnings”. During its original US release, it sadly received little praise from reviewers and was somewhat overlooked. However, Ness’ inclusion in the Super Smash Brothers Series brought renewed interest into the game, and Earthbound became the cult classic it is today. Now it seems to pop up within the top 5 games on every “Best of the SNES” lists I ever happen to see. It was also a key inspiration for Undertale, one of the most well received indie games in recent years.

One final note before we get started. I refuse to review games that I don’t physically own, but the average $300 price tag on Earthbound has put it a little out of my reach at the moment. I do however own a Rom Cartridge of the fan version “Earthbound Uncut”. So likewise, I will not be playing the official US version of Earthbound for this playthrough. Instead I will be playing a fan hack known as “Maternalbound” which is the closest equivalent to Earthbound Uncut. The differences between Maternalbound and Earthbound are minor, and aim to make the game closer to the original Mother 2 release. It removes much of the North American cencership and restores the game to what it was supposed to be. So the basic game will be the same, but there will be a few subtle sprite and dialogue changes compared to the official Earthbound release.

Now that that’s all out of the way, lets dive into this SNES classic, and see what I have been missing all my life!

–DAY 01–

In typical RPG fashion, the game starts with you naming your characters. Less typical however is stating your favorite food and thing. I picked Pizza, because pizza is delicious, and you can have infinite different kinds of pizza, making it the best food ever. Then of course my favorite thing is gaming. For the characters themselves however, I left them all at their default names. Maybe if I knew something about them first I would have customized their names. But I think their default names are fine.

The year is 199X, and something big is going to happen in the small town of Onett. One night, young Ness is startled awake from a loud noise outside. Naturally, that means our young hero must go investigate the disturbance.

Amazingly, the police have already arrived and set up road blocks throughout the town. While that would be inconvenient for the residents, it does make it easy to not get lost this early in the game. After talking with a few of the police officers, we discover the origin of the noise. It would appear a meteorite has crash landed just outside town. Also the town is apparently infested with sharks?

With no other path to follow, we venture up the hills outside of town until we’re almost at the peak. Unfortunately, the police have blocked off the final stretch to the top. It would seem we won’t be able to get any closer to the meteorite after all. We are however introduced to our neighbor Porky, who I believe is named Pokey in the official release.

Even from just the brief interaction I had with him, he comes across as the brown nosing weasel type character. I don’t think I’ll be able to trust him. Also, can we take a second to look at his character sprite? I’m sure the intent was that his eyes are hidden in his hair, but it looks like he’s some kind of Cyclops. Anyway, he also seems to be annoying the police officers at the hilltop and they wish I’d do something about him.

With nothing else to do since the roads are closed off, I’m forced to simply go back home without starting some grand adventure. Or so I thought. Shortly after returning to bed, there is a loud frantic knock at the door. Maybe we’ll have an adventure tonight after all.

It’s Porky. Apparently the police suddenly left the site of the meteorite to deal with the Sharks going wild in town. He also clears up that the sharks are a gang, not actual sharks. Anyway, in the confusion, his little brother Picky has gone missing and he needs my help finding him. If anything happens to Picky, their father is going to spank him 100 times! As much as I feel like I can’t trust him, I’m willing to help him find his little brother.

At my mother’s request, I take the dog with me to search for Picky. Now that I have some backup, the game allows me to actually enter combat, and I love the way it is handled in this game. Rather than using the typical random encounters of most RPGS, it utilized monster in the world map that you could avoid if you so desired, but would enter combat with if you came in contact with them.

I also love the humor present during the battles. The enemies are very fun looking, and all have their own distinct personalities. Even if it’s just subtle changes to the dialogue, they enemies aren’t just “Attacking”. The Runaway Dog will make a loud piercing howl, or the Spiteful Crow will peck at your eyes. Your own party as well can have some humorous actions, like when Porky plays dead, or uses Ness as a shield. I knew I couldn’t trust him.

Turns out, I also shouldn’t have trusted the dog. No sooner do we make it to the top of the hill does the coward run off on us. But that’s ok, we found Picky alive and well. He was napping behind a tree, tired out from searching for Porky. According to Picky, it was Porky who went missing after the police left, and not the other way around. Whichever story is the truth doesn’t really matter, either way we now need to make our way home before their parents notice they’re missing.

We don’t make it far before Porky starts to hear a buzzing noise. The source of which is a small bee like creature sent from 10 years in the future, a future where Giygas has sent the world into the horror of eternal darkness. However, there is a well known legend handed down from ancient times about a boy who will shatter the nightmare and restore the light. The bee believes this boy to be Ness, and thus my quest to save the world officially begins.

And so, Buzz Buzz joins our party as we make our way home. However, we are quickly stopped by one of Giygas’ henchmen, The Starman Junior. From the sounds of it, Buzz Buzz was once a hero who opposed Giygas Now that he’s only an insect, the Starman Junior plans to get rid of him once and for all.

Even as an insect, Buzz Buzz proved to be exceptionally powerful, at least in comparison to Ness. He cast powerful shields around the party to protect us from the Starman Junior’s PSI attacks. He was also doing 125 damage with his attacks, compared to Ness’ 9 damage. Our victory against the Starman Junior was really all the work of Buzz Buzz.

There’s no way I would have been able to defeat the Starman Junior on my own. But we have a long road ahead of us now. Giygas will surely send more henchmen after us. On top of that, Buzz Buzz warns that Giygas’ influence will drive both people and animals crazy, so we’ll have to fight them as well. We’ll have to get stronger quickly if we plan to survive.

So thank you for reading so far, and be sure to check in on my progress as I defend the world from Giygas’ evil!

–Day 02–

With the Starman Junior defeated, there’s nothing left to do now but guide Porky and Picky home. If we’re lucky, we’ll get them home before their parents notice they were gone. Sadly, that is not the case. Both their parents are home and OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER FACE?!?!

Ahem, anyway, their dad seems normal enough. He apologizes for the trouble his kids have caused and warns them that they’re going to “get it now”. Both children run off upstairs to their room, quickly followed by dear old dad. Then WHAM! They get it. I guess Porky was serious when he said his dad would spank him if he found out they were out so late.

It’s amazing how quickly the tone changed after that. No sooner does their father come back downstairs is he asking me to leave. Not just the house, which would be reasonable considering the time of night. No, he’s asking me to leave town forever, me and my whole family. Apparently he has loaned my father quite a bit of money, possibly $100,000 by now. It might have been less, but either way, the loan is what is causing them to live in poverty now.

To this, his wife interjects about how he is much too lenient with the children. Too lenient? He just followed them to their room and beat them for being out at night. Should he have killed them instead? Buzz Buzz clearly has the same thought process as I do, and he quickly attacks her after hearing such an insane comment. On top of being insane, she’s also very stupid, mistaking Buzz Buzz for a dung beetle of all things. How do you mistake a bee for a dung beetle?

Without warning, she strike Buzz Buzz down with such swiftness that it puts the Starman Junior to shame. Clearly she is the true agent of Giygas! Poor Buzz Buzz. I was just getting to know him, and already he is struck down.

With the last of his strength, he tries to relay his final words of wisdom to young Ness. He tells that Ness must unite his power with that of the Earth, letting the planet channel and multiply it to defeat Giygas.

To do this, we must visit eight points around the world and make them my own, whatever that means. One of the locations is actually near Onett. It’s called “Giant Step” and it’s going to be our first stop towards saving the world. With these words of advice given, he dies, leaving us alone on our quest.

Or not, he apparently has more to give us. This time it’s a present, the Sound Stone. With this, we can record the melodies from the eight locations we have to visit. I’m not sure what good that is going to do, but as the first key item in the game, tradition dictates this will be the most important item I will receive throughout the entire playthrough. So I shall cherish it always.

With those final words, Buzz Buzz fades from existence, and the quest to save the world is truly underway. Before we leave, I thought it would be best to check in on Porky and Picky upstairs. Sure enough their father beat them good. They don’t even want to sit down their butts hurt so much.

Upon leaving their house, we found that it is already morning. Before we can even set out on our adventure some guy in a top hat and suit literally falls out of the sky to talk to me. He is apparently a photographer and wants to take my picture, which he does. Then as quickly as he came, he vanishes once again into the sky. That’s apparently the type of game we’re embarking on here.

Now that the police barricades are gone, we can finally head down into Onett. We could, but I have some exploring I would like to do first. For example, there is a house up on the hill towards the meteorite where some weird treasure hunter guy lives. He mentioned last night that he wanted to talk to me in private, so what better time to check in with him than now.

The treasure hunter has dug quite the elaborate tunnel underneath his house. After following him to the deepest part of the cave, he shows me a life size golden statue that he has unearthed. Interacting with it reveals that it is “glowing strangely”, however that is the only information I can gather at the moment. I’ll have to make a mental note of this however. I’m sure it will become important in the future.

After a bit of training against the random animals on the hill, it’s time to head down into the city. The first stop is the library. I’m very happy to have stopped in here, because the receptionist is handing out maps of the town. Now I won’t have to worry about getting lost.

The people in the library were also all very informative, and gave out some helpful advice for my quest. Um, everyone except this guy in the mask… he’s just creepy… Anyway, the other more helpful people told me about, among other things, the location of the Giant Step. It’s in the North West corner of town.

Knowing this information, it’s my job as the savior of the world to go absolutely everywhere there is to go in town before even considering going to the Giant Step. Visit every house, talk to every person, and search every garbage can for food. Don’t judge me! I’m a young child setting out on my own. I need to take food from wherever I can get it.

After searching a few houses, it’s time to settle in for the night at the hotel. But a room costs $35 for the night, and I’m not exactly desperate for health at the moment. Instead I think we’ll just use the complementary desk phone to call dad and have him record our progress. Oh yeah, that’s how you save in this game, you have to call your dad.

Join me again next time as we continue exploring the town. We might even head up to Giant Step if there’s time.

–Day 03–

After the call to dad, I leave the hotel to continue exploring the town. It isn’t long before I encounter some suspicious looking people who end up chasing after young Ness. Sure enough, these are members of the Sharks Gang I’ve heard people talking about. I thought maybe I could handle them, but I was wrong, so very VERY wrong. Even just that single gang member was more than poor Ness could handle.

Death Count: 1

And so it would seem young Ness has died. We barely even started our adventure. I guess I should be glad that I literally just saved my progress and haven’t even had a chance to do anything yet. How about we start over and try that one again.

So obviously I’m nowhere near ready to try fighting the Sharks, which means I’m DEFINITELY not ready to try to fight whatever boss might be waiting up at the Giant Step. I guess the best thing I can do is try to level grind a bit against some of the random animals running around town.

Naturally, all that fighting really works up an appetite. Maybe we can get something at the bakery. I’m hearing good things about this Lucky Sandwich. Apparently it’s similar to a fortune cookie, except the fortune is a prize, and it’s a sandwich instead of a cookie… Ok, so it’s not really anything like a fortune cookie. And at $128.00 each, I doubt I’ll be trying one any time soon. Who has money to spend $128.00 on a sandwich?! Even a $7.00 cookie is expensive. Unless it’s one of those giant 12” cookies you see at the mall. Guess I’ll just buy a skip sandwich for $38.00. Honestly, this better be one amazing sandwich.

Maybe I can find something cheaper at the Burger shop to snack on after that sandwich, even if it’s just something off the dollar menu. Sadly, we’re not going to be getting any cheap food here either. How can they even think to charge $14.00 for a hamburger? Now I’m glad I found that discarded one in the trash the other day. Poor Ness is going to be bankrupted just trying to feed himself in this world.

Not that I seem to have money anyway, but we might as well check out the selection at the drug store as well. In this game, the drug store apparently doubles as the weapon & armor shop. They have a decent collection of items, though I’m not really sure what the stats are on anything. I’ll have to collect some money and come back to buy one of each item.

On the plus side, I haven’t really gone that far yet. I can simply run home and have Mom make me some Pizza whenever I’m in need of healing. No reason to throw money away this early in the game if I don’t have to. Thanks Mom, you’re the best.

In between battles with the local wildlife, I finish exploring the rest of town. That is, all except for the area around the arcade where the Sharks are hanging out. Apparently I’m not the only one frustrated with the Sharks. The police officers at the station seem to have their hands full just trying to deal with them. A quick stop to the Town Hall reveals that even the mayor is looking for someone to put a stop to them.

If only there were some place I could go and just relax for a while. Luckily there is! Just to the west of town is a small cottage for sale overlooking the ocean. It’s even very reasonably priced at a mere $7500.00. That’s of course out of my price range at the moment, but it’s not an unobtainable amount. I’ll have to come back here later in the game and see if I really am allowed to buy it. I hope I can. I love when you get to buy your own house in games.

Only one more stop in town to look into, and that is the hospital. Considering the beating I took from the sharks already, I expect I’ll be spending a lot of time in the hospital. To my surprise, there also seem to be magical healers in each of the hospitals for any sickness or condition that can’t be cured normally by the hospital. Conditions like being “Diamondized”, where your head gets as hard a diamond, or “Mushroomized”, where you grow mushrooms on your head.

I foresee myself becoming sick often in this game, so for my own mental health it’s best to stop now. Join me next time as Ness trains hard in an attempt to rid the town of the Sharks!

–Day 04–

With the town thoroughly explored, it’s time to really get serious about training. I need to get stronger, and I need better equipment if I’m going to ever hope to defeat the Sharks. So for now, I think it would be best to head back home and train in the hills for a while.

Along the way, I happened to find something interesting. There was a “Magical Butterfly” that made Ness relax. There was someone in the library that mentioned magical butterflies, but even after encountering one, I’m not really sure what they do. It wasn’t an enemy, and the message simply said Ness relaxed. But I don’t really notice anything different. Maybe this will become clearer as we get deeper into the game.

While training I started to notice a rather unique game feature that is actually very much appreciated. As Ness gets stronger, it’s eventually obvious to everyone that he’s going to just destroy the weaker enemies. So rather than bore the player to death with the random encounters with weak enemies, you just skip the battle entirely. Upon encountering a sufficiently weak enemy, the game will simply declare you the winning and award you the appropriate amount of experience. Honestly I’m surprised more games don’t have a system like this.

Another interesting feature to this game is the method by which you actually gain money. Normally you would fight enemies and after the battle you would be rewarded with experience and money. It’s such a common mechanic that no one really ever questions WHY the random stray dog was somehow carrying around $12 for you to collect after killing taming it. In this game however, you are still rewarded with money for every battle you win, just not directly. Instead, you need to call your dad and he will deposit money into your bank account based on how many enemies you’ve defeated. Then whenever you want it you can go withdraw the money from an ATM. It’s a small change, but it adds a nice touch of realism, which is actually ironic in this otherwise surreal game.

After a bit of training, Ness has leveled and is now level 5. Likewise, Dad has rewarded all my training with quite a bit of money. I can actually afford some of the equipment back at the drug store. I think it’s time for me to head back to town and upgrade all my equipment.

I manage to buy nearly everything at the store. The Cheap Bracelet and Baseball Cap both add quite a bit of defense to Ness, raising his pathetic 4 defense all the way up to an impressive 14. Likewise the upgrade from the Cracked Bat to the Tee Ball Bat raises Ness’s attack from 12 to a respectable 16. Now that Ness is properly equipped, I think it’s time to test our new strength against those Sharks.

This time around however, we get a little unlucky. When I engaged in battle with one of the Sharks, it seemed like a second one decided to join the battle. I’m not sure if I’m ready to be taking on two of them at once. Thankfully, my new equipment is better than I thought. The Sharks’ attacks are practically bouncing right off of Ness now, and it doesn’t take long before I defeat them both.

Not only does Ness win the fight, but we were rewarded with a hamburger that one of the Sharks was holding. It looks like we’ve finally discovered a good source for food. Why should I be spending $14 buying my own burgers when I can just beat up some punks and take theirs?

It’s getting late, so how about just one more before we quit. Interestingly, this one seems to be special. Rather than attacking me, I had to actually initiate conversation with them to start the battle. But who is Frank, and why would he want to beat me up? I guess we won’t be getting any answers today, because these punks are dead tamed, and it’s time to stop for the day.

So join me next time. Will we find out who Frank is? Will we rid the town of the sharks? Will we make it to the Giant Step? Only time will tell! See you next time.

–Day 05–

Now that I know I can beat the Shark Punks walking around the streets, I think it’s about time I help clean up this town. A task that is easier said than done. There are actually quite a few Sharks roaming around the streets. Not only that, but every time I fight one of them, they seem to just call in more reinforcements. Eventually it felt like I was fighting the entire gang all at once.

It took longer than I expected, but I finally cleaned the streets of all the Sharks. However, they aren’t completely eliminated. They still have their base inside the local arcade. Naturally, there are quite a few of them inside just waiting to avenge their fallen brethren.

Unfortunately for the sharks, the members in the arcade aren’t any stronger than the ones out in the streets. Ness on the other hand is getting stronger with every fight, eventually leveling all the way up to level 7. How can they even hope to beat Ness now?

The Sharks on the second floor of the arcade have a bit more confidence than the first floor, but they don’t put up much more of a fight. Really, all that’s left now is their boss Frank. But that will have to wait for another day.

Will Ness be able to beat Frank and put an end to the Sharks? You’ll just have to come back next time to find out. Thanks for reading.

Vegas Dream (NES)

Everyone dreams of someday winning it big and living out the rest of their lives in luxury. And there isn’t any place better to realize that dream than the wonderful city of Las Vegas! Even without the promise of wealth, gambling video games have always been around. Today we’re going to take a look at one of my favorites of them from back on the NES, Vegas Dream.

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I don’t think I ever actually won a game of Vegas dream before. I would usually end up having to take a walk of shame home a penniless loser. But that never really mattered to me. I still remember it being a fun game to play, primarily because it had such fun interactions throughout the game. So join me in Vegas and let’s see how well this game holds up now.

Gameplay

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The game starts out simple enough. You arrive fresh off the plane in beautiful los Vegas with $700 in your pockets, and hopefully a bit of good luck. The casino you end up staying in has a fairly limited selection of games to play, only four in fact. You can choose to play Blackjack, Roulette, Slot Machines, or Keno.

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We’ll start our night off with a little Blackjack. Of the four games available, it’s kind of surprising that it’s the only one that isn’t entirely luck based. For those who might not know, the object of blackjack is pretty simple. You’ll be dealt two cards with the option of asking for more. The basic goal is to get your hand to total up to 21 without going over. Whoever is the closest to 21 wins.

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Despite it being the only skill based game available, it still feels like it’s unfairly rigged for the dealer to win. Nearly every hand the dealer ends up with an exposed face card, or they end up perfectly at 21. Of course, when you control the deck, it’s not surprising they can get all the best cards. So you know what, let’s move on to the next game.

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Roulette is a much easier game to play. Just guess what number you think the ball will land on, and if you get it right, you win. Of course, there are a variety of options that are more or less risky. You can place relatively safe 50/50 bets by guessing if it will be red or black, or even or odd. You can also go risky and bet the exact number that will come up. It’s really risky, but it will have a huge payout. Then you can bet just about anything in between.

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Damn you ZERO!!!

Roulette will usually end up being my go to game since the 50/50 odds make it relatively safe, while quickly increasing my money with some high stakes bets. But we have 2 more games to check out, so let’s move away from the roulette table for now and see if we have better luck somewhere else.

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The slot machines are roughly what you would expect them to be. You can pick a variety of price points ranging from $1 spins all the way up to $100 spins. Of course, the higher the price, the bigger the payouts. You also get the option to play only the center line or you can pay extra to play the top and bottom lines as well.

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Ignoring the fact that virtual slot machines are inherently rather boring, the biggest problem I have with playing the slot machines is the fact that you can’t win anything with diagonal lines. Without the diagonals, it’s virtually impossible to actually win anything. The whole time I was playing I barely won anything other than the single cherry in the first column. And even then it’s winning at a loss, since that only pays out 1x my bet, but I paid 3x to get all 3 lines. So we’re moving on from the slots to our final game.

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The final game, Keno, is most similar to your standard lottery drawings. Or more precisely the quick draw games you may have seen at some restaurants, bars, or even bowling alleys. You pick between 1 and 15 numbers, after which point 20 winning numbers will be picked at random.

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Generally speaking, you need to have at least half your numbers win before you can break even with your card. Of course the more matching numbers, the more you’ll win. This game is by far the most random of all the games available, and because of that it has always been my least favorite or the selections. So we’re not going to spend much time here.

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With only 4 games to choose from, you would probably expect things to get boring pretty quickly. However, that is where this game really excels. While you’re playing, you’ll occasionally be prompted with a random event. You can choose how to react to these situations however you like. Personally I choose to go along with all of them just to see what will happen since every situation has a 50/50 chance of going good or bad. For example, I have the option to give $200 to this random stranger or to ignore them entirely.

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Regardless of what you choose to do, you’ll hear how things went on the nightly news. In this case, my random act of kindness was later rewarded with $1000 when that woman won it big. So it’s a good thing I offered to loan her the $200.

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However, not every situation will end up pleasantly. In another instance a waitress was walking by and accidentally spilled the drinks she was carrying onto my jacket. She felt so bad that she offered to take my jacket and have it cleaned for me.

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Unfortunately I found out later on the news that she was actually the thief. By giving her my jacket, she ended up stealing my wallet, and with it half of all my money. You win some, you lose some I guess. That’s what makes these situations so much fun.

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There are also times when you’ll be challenged to some private high stakes games with other casino guests. Sometimes you’ll use the Keno board for a simple game of high or low. Or maybe you’ll have a simple Red or Black guess at the Roulette table. These are another fun diversion from the normal gameplay.

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Of course, this is Vegas, so if you end up with a bad streak of luck, you’ll quickly find yourself penniless and ready to walk away in shame. However, the game offers you up one last chance before your game over. You’ll get a spin at the slot machine for some really high winnings on the line. Sometimes you might just get lucky and be able to head back to the floor.

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While in real life you would probably play until whatever random point in time you feel you’ve had enough, this game does have a definitive winning condition. You start off with $700 with the ultimate goal of not leaving Vegas until you’ve managed to win $10 million dollars. You’ll have to make some huge bets if you ever plan to make that kind of money. Thankfully there’s a little trick I picked up on. The game has a password save system so you can come back some other time right where you left off. I just wrote down the password and bet it all on even at the roulette table. If I won I would get a new password, if I lost I would load up my old password and try again.

 

The money shot up pretty quickly when it doubles ever win, and before long I had the $10 Million I was aiming for. Unfortunately, the money seems to have turned me into one of the world’s biggest A-Holes. So maybe I would have been better off returning home penniless…

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

All of the games play as well as you would expect them to. Sometimes it feels like the game cheats, but that might just be because the games are naturally hard to win. Honestly the only thing I can think to complain about is the fact that Blackjack doesn’t total up the cards for me, I have to actually do the math myself. Of course that’s a minor issue, which is easily overshadowed by the fun random situations that break up the otherwise repetitive gameplay.

Graphics – 8 / 10

There wasn’t anything too graphically intense to be shown in the game anyway, so there’s not really anything to criticize. I’ve always been relatively happy with the graphics of the game.

Audio – 7 / 10

The audio is ok, but it can get a bit repetitive and annoying after a while. Also some of the music is a little bit too high pitched at times for my taste.

Story – 8 / 10

The $10 million dollar goal is a bit high for someone heading to Vegas with only $700, but that’s hardly the main focus of the “Story” of the game. The “Story” is all the little situations that present themselves while you’re playing. The fact that every situation has a winning or losing outcome makes them even more fun. You can’t just memorize “Don’t trust the waitress when she spills the drink” because there’s a 50/50 chance that waitress is a normal and honest waitress. So technically speaking, the story is different ever time you play it. For me, I had a call my grandfather had died, leaving me $6000 in inheritance. I helped a woman who later returned the favor when she won big. But then I lost half my money with the fake waitress stole my wallet.

Total Playtime – 0h 47m

I technically cheated just so I could see the good ending. Doing that, you can beat the game pretty quickly. If I played a bit more conservatively though it would probably take much longer.

Total Deaths – 0 Deaths

I know I was playing high stakes games, but not anything life or death.

Overall Score – 8 / 10

I really love this game. I’m not much of a gambler in real life, I simply don’t have that much luck, but I do like the occasional gambling video game like this. This one is probably one of my favorites because of all the little situations that come up. They really break up the repetition and help keep the game from becoming boring. Everything in the game plays well, but I can’t really ignore the fact that there isn’t much substance to the game. If there were more games to play it might have held up better. Particularly more skill based games like poker for example. However, the game as presented is very well made, and I still like it after all these years. If you’re interested, you can easily pick up your own copy of the game for less than $10, so why not pick it up and see what happens to you in Vegas. Better yet, the game does offer 4 player co-op, so you could easily make a game night out of it.

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More often than not, this is how my games ended. Sadly walking home without a penny.

 

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I hope you enjoyed Vegas Dream. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Cool Spot (Genesis)

Remember in the early 90’s when 7 UP was the coolest drink ever? No? Me either. Still, I do remember their ad campaign, Cool Spot. For anyone that might not remember Cool Spot, he was the mascot for the 7 UP brand for the late 80’s through to the mid 90’s. Somehow they took the random red dot on their logo, gave it arms and legs as well as a pair of cool shades, and called it a day. It might sound kind of stupid now, but it must have worked for them to keep it around for as long as they did. Moreover, I can’t think of the last time I actually drank a 7 UP since the campaign ended. I know I’ve had Sprite and Sierra Mist since then, but never 7 UP.

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Regardless of my soda drinking habits, we’re here to talk about videogames. If you haven’t already figured it out, retro games were crazy, and everyone got their own game if they were even slightly popular at the time. To that end, we’ll be playing Cool Spot’s self titled game for the Sega Genesis today. I remember seeing this game when it first came out, and I remember wanting it so badly for some reason. Unfortunately I never ended up getting it, so I’m happy to finally get a chance to play it. Let’s just hope all these long years of waiting haven’t been in vain. Truth be told, I really don’t know much about the game other than the fact it’s a platformer starring Cool Spot. So now that I finally have a copy of the game, let’s jump right in and see what I’ve been missing.

Gameplay

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The game begins with no introduction to speak of. This is really a shame because as I’ve mentioned, I have no idea what the back story of this game is. Obviously we play as the mascot Cool Spot, and if this splash screen is any indication, we are tasked with rescuing other Cool Spots who have been trapped in cages. It looks like we also need to collect 7 UP logos and cups as well as collect tons of regular non mascot Cool Spots.

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We start out on the beach, and it looks like this game is going to primarily be a collect-a-thon style game. There are tons of the little Cool Spots scattered around the world just waiting for our hero to collect. Apparently our main objective is to collect at least 60 of these spots before we’ll be allowed to complete the level.

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Of course, what game would be complete without a whole collection of enemies waiting to stop you? For this first level, the whole beach is literally crawling with crabs waiting to sink their claws into our hero. Good thing he isn’t defenseless out there. Somehow he can shoot soda bubbles out of his hands to defend himself.

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Progress along the ground is fairly easy, even if there are a ton of enemies. The latter half of the level however is slightly harder. You’ll have to grab onto the balloons floating in the air and jump from one to the other. Occasionally you’ll even have to bounce off of a floating soda bubble to keep going. The problem I have with this area is that there are a lot of blind jumps, and a single miss will have you falling to the ground, forcing you to start the whole trek over again.

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There aren’t any enemies up here in the air though, and the ones on the ground never respawn, so there isn’t much stress here. Just don’t take so long that you run out of time. Eventually you’ll find your buddy locked up in his cage. One good shot with your soda bubbles and he’ll be free once again.

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Before moving onto the next level, I happened to unlock one of the game’s bonus rounds. This is fairly easy to accomplish if you explore the levels enough. You need to collect 60 Cool Spots to be allowed to open the cage, but collecting 85 will grant you access to the bonus level. In these levels you are confined to the inside of a 7 UP bottle. Here you need to bounce around collecting as many Cool Spots as you can before time runs out. More importantly, each bonus round contains one of the letters in the 7 UP slogan “UNCOLA”. Do your best to collect all of these, because they act as your continues. At the time of the game’s release, collecting all the letters in UNCOLA would also give you a splash screen at the end of the game which you could send in to win a contest.

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Death Count: 1

From here we move our search away from the beaches and onto the pier. While the location may have changed, the goal hasn’t. You’ll still be exploring the level looking to collect 60 of the Cool Spots while defending yourself against the various enemies. This time around you’ll still be fighting some crabs, but you’ll also be fighting worms which must have escaped from the bait bins, as well as a good number of flies.

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Death Count: 4

In addition to those enemies, there is also the occasional clam to deal with. These guys can be quite annoying because their hard shells will simply deflect Cool Spot’s soda bubbles. You’ll have to attack them when they open their shell if you want to kill them. Curiously there is also the rare fish popping its head out of the puddles of water in the wood. I don’t know how deep that puddle could possibly be, but I doubt it’s enough room to sustain a fish.

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Death Count: 5

The first level tried to slow you down with the blind jumps at the end, but this second level doesn’t resort to such cheap tricks. Instead it simply tries to get you lost in the maze of ropes and then bombards you with enemies around every corner. Just keep pressing forward and you’ll eventually find your buddy and free him.

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The quest to free our captured friends quickly moves inside as we now find ourselves exploring the space inside the walls of a building. This is definitely no place for an unsuspecting Cool Spot to find himself. With the confined spaces limiting your movement, and the plethora of exposed nails threatening to impale you, you’ll be lucky to make it out of this wall alive. Although I must say, it is rather fun to launch yourself with the mousetraps, just don’t get stuck under it.

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Death Count: 7

Despite all the mouse traps, they don’t seem to be doing much to control the mouse population here. In fact the mice seem quite happy and comfortable in their red and white pajamas. It’s almost as if they’re simply angry at our disturbing their sleep. They’ll pop their heads out from holes in nearly every piece of wood and throw their cheese at you to make you leave.

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Death Count: 9

They’re hardly the most dangerous or even numerous enemies in the wall though. The whole place is swarming with spiders waiting to drop down on you. If I’m not mistaken, those markings look to be that of the black widow spider as well. A bite from one of those will surely ruin your day. Squash as many spiders as you can, and before you know it you’ll have rescued another of your friends.

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Death Count: 12

When we finally emerge from the wall, we find ourselves surrounded by water inside what I assume is some kind of inflatable pool. Unfortunately, Cool Spot can’t swim at all it would seem. You’ll have to jump between the lily pads, boats, and rubber ducks to keep yourself out of the water.

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Death Count: 17

However, you’re goal isn’t at the other end of the pool. Instead it’s high up in the air. You’ll have to jump up onto the various toy blimps and space ships hanging from the ceiling if you wish to proceed. This part I had a real problem with because there are a large number of blind jumps up in the air, and missing any one of these will have you plummeting down into the water below.

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Death Count: 18

What makes this even harder is the fact that the background moves at a different speed than the foreground. Because of this, you really have no frame of reference anymore for where your next platform is once it drops away off the bottom of the screen. What’s more, the tiny UFOs tip over as soon as you touch them, so you get very little time to assess the situation and plan your next jump. Somehow I managed to make it though here to free my friend.

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Death Count: 20

Now that we’re safe from the threat of drowning, it looks like we’ve stumbled into a toy store of some kind. There are dozens of toy robots and chattering teeth patrolling nearly every inch of this level. When you’re not under fire from the robots, you’re probably trying to avoid the green goo balls bouncing around everywhere.

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Death Count: 23

This level really does feel massive, and it can be easy to get lost in here. It’s also very easy to fall off the higher platforms and be forced to backtrack quite a distance as you make your way to the top of the level. It’s a good thing all these shoes are just randomly laying around though. Their laces provide a convenient rope for you to climb up. Eventually you’ll find your way to the top and manage to free yet another of your friends.

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Somehow it looks like we’ve gone and trapped ourselves inside a pinball machine or something while we were exploring the toy store. Now we’re stuck tumbling down all these ramps completely out of control. Then just when you think you’ve reached the bottom, you end up getting sucked up a tube and thrown right back to the top.

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Honestly, this was the easiest level in the game. There are no enemies around attacking you and unless I missed them there weren’t even any environmental hazards to worry about either. You are free to just have fun rolling down the slopes collecting Cool Spots without a care in the world. You do still have a time limit though, so don’t take too long before you head off to rescue your buddy.

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Death Count: 25

Most unfortunately, this is about where the game peaks. From here we’re pretty much just playing the game over again in reverse. And so we exit the pinball machine and are right back into the toy store. Obviously the level layout is much different and more complicated, but it doesn’t throw much new at you. The only new enemies I think I saw were some yellow pencil topper goblin things.

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Death Count: 27

Just like before, you’ll be fighting your way through wave after wave of toy robots and chattering teeth and even the occasional racecar. So climb up those shoelaces and fight your way to the top of the map. You’ll be leaving piles of scrap in your wake as you force your way to your caged friend.

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Next up we have my most hated level from the whole game, “Loco Motive”. In this level, Cool Spot is riding through the toy store on top of what must be a toy train. The train itself isn’t bad, and was a nice change of pace from the last levels. The problem is the background. You can’t tell from the still images, but the background is actually rushing by as fast as you would expect it to while riding on a fast moving train. This level honestly gave me a bit of motion sickness just looking at the background and I had to look away occasionally. This is especially upsetting because I’m not usually prone to motion sickness.

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Death Count: 28

That’s not what makes me hate this level so much though. Much like the pool level earlier, you eventually have to start traveling upwards to reach your goal. This time instead of blimps and rockets to jump on, we’re now jumping on the backs of goofy looking fat kids. My problem is that the blind jumps were hard enough before without a motion sickness inducing background throwing off your trajectory.

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Death Count: 29

It’s virtually impossible to judge how far you’ve jumped with the background rushing by like it does. This left me falling down to the train so often that for the first time I actually ran out of time for the level. Eventually I did manage to make it to the cage and free my friend, as well as free myself from having to look at that background anymore. I can honestly say without exaggeration that even if the rest of the game was wonderful, I would never play this game again simply to avoid this level. I have never before gotten motion sickness from a game, and I don’t wish to repeat the experience.

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Death Count: 30

Thankfully, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to worry about that anymore as we once again crawl back inside the walls of the building. Other than the occasional dancing electrical sparks, not much has changed since we were last crawling through here. There are still tons of mice in pajamas, and even more black widow spiders infesting every corner of the map.

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Death Count: 31

As a whole, this map does feel a lot bigger than last time, but that might just be my imagination. However, because the whole map is so tightly confined, it’s hard to actually get lost. It’s not like the much more open toy store levels we just left. Just keep following the helping hands and you’ll eventually free another Cool Spot.

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Death Count: 35

Now that we’re back outside, we’re once again on the pier. That means lots of crabs, flies, and the occasional oyster. Again, there isn’t really anything significant to set it apart from our last adventures on the pier. The level is much more difficult, and there are a lot more spots where you can fall and need to backtrack, but not much else new.

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Death Count: 40

There were a few spots I thought were a bit poorly designed though. Simply because Cool Spot has such a high arc to his jump that you end up hitting your head in the tight areas. I think that was the point though, you have to make the jump perfect, or you fall and have to try again. Overall it wasn’t a very difficult level, and we eventually free the Cool Spot from the cage. Just one left to go.

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Death Count: 41

So here we are on the final level. And wouldn’t you know it, we’re back out on the beach where we started. Personally I’m a bit upset with this circular level progression the game made. It makes the whole quest feel somewhat pointless.

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Death Count: 42

This time around, the balloon to balloon jumping takes it to a whole new level. In fact it’s the majority of the level. Now the balloons are actually moving around as well, which makes it even harder to land your jump. There are so many of them this time though that it’s not much of a problem and before long we free the last of the captured Cool Spots and finish the game.

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In an anticlimactic finale, all the Cool Spots get together to spell out “COOOOOOOOL!” with flash cards. Then they just kind of wander off as the credits roll. All of this is accompanied by what sounds like the song “Wipe Out”, and that alone is supposed to make the whole thing feel cool and relevant. But without any kind of big boss fight at the end, or even a relieve of who the villain was, the whole game ends on a flat note for me.

Verdict

Gameplay – 6 / 10

The controls and general gameplay of the game are fun, even if they are a bit generic. Unfortunately the game is full of tiny annoyances. Nearly every level has a handful of blind jumps and leaps of faith. The only thing more annoying than the blind jumps are all the backtracking you have to go through when you miss them. Then there are the swarms of enemies which boarder on the obnoxious level. Thankfully they never respawn, so they are at least somewhat manageable. They’d be even more manageable if the game allowed you to stand still while attacking, specifically in the diagonal directions. Because the diagonals incorporate in part the left and right directionals, you start walking in that direction as you’re shooting. Not only does this bring you ever closer to the enemy you were trying to kill, but it also moves your aim off your target. The real nail in the coffin though is the complete lack of boss fights. It leaves the whole game feeling shallow. Yeah you rescued all your friends, but you never learn anything about how they got captured in the first place, and there’s no real resolution to know it will never happen again.

Graphics – 7 / 10

I thought the graphics were generally great. All the enemies were rather large and very detailed and all the animations were very fluid. Unfortunately they started recycling assets very quickly, just the layout was different. My biggest disappointment wasn’t even when I was playing the game, it was afterwards when I saw a YouTube video of someone playing the SNES version. There are just so many little details that are so much better on the SNES version than they are on the Genesis version. Just one example that really sticks out is the balloons. In the Genesis version they are all solid red, but in the SNES version they are multi colored and semi transparent. These little details go a long way towards the graphics.

Audio – 6 / 10

Honestly I just finished playing the game and I’ve already mostly forgotten what the music was like, so I’m giving it a midrange score out of ignorance. If I don’t remember it than there must not have been anything too horrible, but there also wasn’t anything that was overly memorable either. Don’t get me wrong, the music all fit the tone of the game very nicely, but it was all so generic that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it all came preprogrammed on the synthesizer.

Story – 0 / 10

I love RPG games with deep stories, that’s part of why I grade all the games on story. But I know not every game needs an epic story to be a great game. That’s why a lot of times I’ll simply give games like this a “N/A” score. This game was an exception and it earned an honest 0 because its half assed excuse of a story I found detrimental to my enjoyment of the game. Without the manual, there is no story to speak of. You have no idea WHY your friends are trapped in cages. All you know is that you need to free them. If you have the manual you’d know that they were captured by “Wild Wicked Willy Will” while you were out surfing. That’s why you are the only one that wasn’t captured. It’s a simple story along the lines of other platformers, but other platformers at least show you the villain throughout the game. Everyone knows when Bowser kidnaps Peach, or when Dr Robotnik does… whatever it is he does… Serious, what is Robotnik’s plan other than stop Sonic? Sorry, getting off topic. My point is that “Wild Wicked Willy Will” is such an anonymous villain that even Google couldn’t find him. So his inclusion in the manual is pointless and adds nothing to the game. In fact, the lack of resolution with him at the end of the game makes his inclusion infuriating because there’s no resolution at all. It’s because of this that the half assed attempt at a story is actually worse than no story at all.

Total Playtime – 1h 43m

It’s a very short game which no doubt relies on its difficulty to create the illusion of value. Honestly I doubt I’d ever be able to beat this game normally.

Total Deaths – 42 Deaths

If I slowed down a bit, I probably could have avoided a lot of my deaths. The fact that the enemies never respawn really helps to keep this game balanced. However, all of the blind jumps can make the game very frustrating, especially on the pool level where a missed jump means instant death.

Overall Score – 5 / 10

Before I start badmouthing the game, let me start by saying I generally did enjoy playing this game. However, it is objectionably a generic game at best and a bad game at worst. The lack of story or boss battles or really any other gameplay elements beyond collecting items destroy any satisfaction you would normally get from playing a game. It also removes any possible replay value the game might have. You can only collect so many Cool Spots scattered around the levels before you just stop caring. Without any boss battles to raise the excitement, the whole game is just a bland trek from the start of the level to the end. And while the levels themselves are rather large, your progress through them is mostly linear. You also only need the smallest amount of exploration to collect the minimum 60 Cool Spots before you reach the cage at the end of the level. Add to this the minor frustrations present in nearly every level, and you are left with a generally bad game. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun. Like I said at the start, I still enjoyed playing the game. It’s just that the game will never make my top 10 list, and in fact I doubt I’ll ever bother to play the game again, there’s simply no reason to.

Cool Spot (Genesis) - 64

That’s the only trophy this game is getting…

 

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I hope you enjoyed Cool Spot (Genesis). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Desert Demolition Starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (Genesis)

We’re back yet again with another Looney Tunes video game. I can’t really blame game companies for making so many different games for the franchise. There are just so many fun characters to play as, and just as many fun villains to be fighting against. Not only that, but thanks to the shared universe you could have any combination of the characters show up in just about any game. There is however one odd pair in the whole Looney Tunes universe, even compared to all the other odd characters. This pair rarely interacts with the rest of the characters and instead is mostly off doing their own thing out in the desert. I’m of course talking of the Speedy Road Runner, and the self proclaimed “Super Genius” Wile E. Coyote.

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Honestly, this pair feels like they would work so perfectly together in a video game. Playing as Wile E. Coyote you get to experience all his hardships while trying to catch the Road Runner. You’ll get to use all his different Acme products, and hopefully try to avoid having them backfire on you. Then there’s the option of playing as the Road Runner, speeding away at the last second and watching as Wile E. Coyote’s plans fall apart. That’s exactly the type of game we’re going to be looking at today, because it just so happens Desert Demolition lets you play through the entire game as either one of the characters. So let’s open up those Acme product catalogues and head out to the desert to see what trouble we can get into.

Gameplay (Wile E. Coyote)

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Playing as Wile E. Coyote, the game drops you right in the middle of the desert, exactly as you’d probably expect. Of course, you’ll be chasing after the Road Runner, and due to its speed and maneuverability, you’ll more often than not fail to capture it.

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However, even when you do manage to capture the speedy bird, your reward is lackluster to say the least. Rather than being some great victory for the coyote, the Road Runner simply explodes into a cloud of bonus points and extra time.

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Even if catching the Road Runner isn’t a hugely important facet of the game, getting to use all the different Acme products is still quite fun. Of course this first level starts you out with one of the most recognizable of the coyote’s toys, the rocket skates. These babies send you flying through the desert just as quickly and just as uncontrollable as you would expect them to, and they are just a joy to play with.

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Since the main goal of the game isn’t actually to catch the Road Runner, you’re only real goal boils down to simply reaching the exit at the end of the stage. In itself this is a very easy feat to accomplish, simply continue to the right while avoiding all the random dangers that fill each stage.

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As you play, you’ll constantly be changing locations between levels. One level you’ll be out in the desert where we started, the next you’ll be chasing the Road Runner through a small town. All the while you’ll be finding new inventions to help you along the way, like the helmet unicycle thing. Honestly, who would ever think that was a good idea?

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Beyond the town, you’ll chase the Road Runner across a moving train full of dangers. There’s no fear of falling off the side of the train, but you might just accidentally blow yourself up with one of the many explosive barrels sitting around.

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From there, the pair finds their way into an old abandoned mine. This level feels a bit out of place for me. I can’t think of a single time when they were ever in an old mine. The coyote also seems especially uncomfortable trying to use that jackhammer to break apart the rocks.

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He seems a bit more comfortable outside on the cliff sides. Here he can happily fly around in another of his more famous acme products, the wing suit. If only wing suits worked as well in real life as they do for the coyote. Just be careful or you might find yourself falling painfully back down to earth.

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Through our travels we’ve been slowly but surely making our way straight towards the Acme factory. Inside, the Road Runner has quite the nasty treat in store for us. He has hijacked one of the construction vehicles in the factory and is threatening to run poor Wile E over.

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Thankfully, safety has clearly never been a top priority for the Acme Company. As such they have explosive barrels already lined up and ready to be dropped at the flip of a switch. Drop a few bombs on the Road Runner’s vehicle and it will soon be disabled for good.

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For stopping the Road Runner, and presumably for using so many of their products, Wile E. Coyote is invited to an Acme Corporation staff meeting where he is awarded the Customer of the Year Award. Congratulations Wile E., you’ve won your award and beaten the game.

Gameplay (Road Runner)

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Playing as the Road Runner is slightly different than it is for the coyote. For starters, you’re now the prey instead of the hunter, so there actually is an enemy this time around to be concerned with. Also, as the Road Runner, most of the gameplay will be spent simply speeding through the levels as fast as you can since there’s no point in sightseeing with Wile E. hot on your tail.

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While you do play through the same levels as before, they appear to have been altered slightly to make them more accessible to the Road Runner. For example, many of the levels have speed boosts which allow the Road Runner to run up walls and even upside down through giant loops.

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Playing as the Road Runner does feel significantly harder than playing as the coyote. This is due in no small part to the Wile E’s apparent ability to teleport around the stage. All the Acme crates that you used to be able to jump into are now potential traps hiding a coyote ready to jump out at you.

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While that change should seem pretty obvious, there is one other change that makes playing as the Road Runner harder, and that is in regard to restoring your health. As the coyote you could simply collect a bottle of water and you’d be healthy again. As the Road Runner however it’s a bit trickier. You need to find one of the random piles of bird seed which are both harder to spot and seemingly less common. Then you have to actually stop and eat it as opposed to simply collecting it.

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Death Count: 2

Even with this added difficulty, the game as a whole is still fairly easy. Before long you’ll be speeding across the train. Then you’ll be navigating your way through the abandoned mine. Eventually you’ll be running up walls in the canyon, and finally find your way straight into the Acme Corporation factory.

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Inside is virtually the same boss battle as when you played as Wile E. Coyote, just with the roles reversed. This time Wile E. is driving the truck while you as the Road Runner drop bombs on him. The same basic strategy still applies though. Pull the levers to drop the bombs on the truck, and eventually the truck will break.

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Once again, completion of the game will bring you into the Acme Corporation board meeting. However, in a twist I never expected, the Road Runner is not awarded “Customer of the Year” like Wile E. was. Instead it’s reveled that the Road Runner is actually the Acme Corporation President. This revelation explains a lot about why the inventions never work as intended. Unfortunately this news was too much for Poor Wile E. Coyote, and he opts to jump out the window to his death.

Verdict

Gameplay – 7 / 10

The gameplay can be summed up pretty easily as “Fun but short”. Playing as Wile E. Coyote is exactly the fun you would expect. You get to use a variety of very memorable Acme Products in your quest to catch the Road Runner. Unfortunately, Catching the Road Runner in and of itself isn’t much of an accomplishment. This I felt was a real shame since that was the whole point of the cartoons. Also with only a small handful of levels and a very tight time limit, there isn’t a whole lot to do in the game. That’s made even more obvious when you play as the Road Runner. You speed through the levels so fast you don’t really get to see anything.

Graphics – 7 / 10

Graphically I’m a bit torn with this game. Both the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote are animated perfectly. You can tell the artists really studied the cartoons to get the mannerisms just right for all their actions. The environments as well were well animated in the style of the show. However they made a lot of odd shading choices. Perhaps it looked better back on the old tube TVs where the colors would blend together. But on a modern system where you can see ever pixel clearly, you notice that everything have a distinct striped pattern to it which I feel takes away from the appeal of the graphics, if only slightly.

Audio – 5 / 10

The audio in the game is ok, but it suffers from a quirk seemingly all Looney Tunes games have, that being that the music is directly related to your actions. When you’re standing still, the game is virtually silent. That’s not much of a problem since you shouldn’t be just standing around,but even when walking it’s hard to call the audio “background music”. It’s really more like white noise. Granted the audio fits with the action on screen, but the lack of a good soundtrack is definitely missed.

Story – N/A

I’m giving the game a pass for not having a story, simply because the shows never really had a story either. As Wile E. Coyote, you want to catch the Road Runner so you can eat it. As the Road Runner, you want simply not to be eaten. There never really was much else to know about what was going on.

Total Playtime – 0h 34m (Combined Time)

Even with two characters to play as, the whole game barely breaks a half hour. Wile E. Coyote’s gameplay took a little bit longer, maybe 20 of the 34 minutes, but ultimately neither was very long. It would have been fun to explore more since the levels are fairly expansive. However the ticking clock at the bottom of the screen makes that difficult.

Total Deaths – 2 Deaths (Both as the Road Runner)

The game as a whole is by no means a hard game. Playing as the Coyote I didn’t die a single time. Playing as the Road Runner is somewhat harder, but it’s still not a huge challenge. There are options to make the game harder or easier, but these changes don’t amount to much. They make the opponent AI a little smarter or dumber respectively, and maybe change some of the time limits. But the levels themselves don’t change any.

Overall Score – 6.5 / 10

I have always liked this game, ever since I was a kid. The gameplay for the most part is fun, and the game’s only real fault is being too short. I would however like to point out the difficulty involved with the final boss. Like the rest of the game, it’s not overly difficult, there’s just no build up to it. Most games would spend the levels training you so you know what to do by the time you reach the boss. This game however just throws you in the middle of it and wishes you the best. Had I not played this game numerous times as a child, I could imagine not having a clue what to do at the end. But that has never stopped me from greatly enjoying the game. Obviously playing as Wile E. Coyote is significantly more fun than playing as the Road Runner. Just that thrill of getting to play with all the different Acme Products you remembered seeing from the show and hoping you can handle them better than Wile E. ever could. Honestly if you’re a fan of the show, you should really check the game out. It’s very short, but it’s also a lot of fun.

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Bye bye Wile E Coyote. You will be missed!

 

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I hope you enjoyed Desert Demolition Starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (Genesis). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck (Game Gear)

It looks like we’ll be heading back down memory lane with another of my Game Gear favorites. Today we’ll be looking at what was one of the first games I ever beat on my own, Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck. Growing up, I know I beat this game quite a few times. I remember it being a fun, but fairly easy game with a lot of charm. Unfortunately I can’t remember a whole lot about the game past the first few levels. Let’s hope it comes rushing back to me as I play.

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I’ve never played the original Chuck Rock game, I should probably pick that game up at some point to review too. Anyway, in Chuck Rock II, you play as Chuck Rock’s son, Chuck Rock Jr. It would seem Chuck’s archrival Brick Jagger has captured dear old dad, and now it’s up to you to save him. And so Chuck Rock Jr puts on a clean diaper, grabs his wooden club, and sets out on his own adventure. Do you have what it takes to survive the harsh prehistoric world to rescue your father? Let’s find out!

Gameplay

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The game starts with no introduction. Instead you’re simply thrown into the world and expected to find your way, which was a common opening for most games back then. You’ll quickly find yourself coming across some of your caveman neighbors who for some reason act as enemies in this game. Most of them seem to be minding their own business. Especially this guy who’s wig doesn’t seem quite dead yet.

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Even if the enemies aren’t all that threatening, the environment will be. In addition to smashing your enemies, you’ll have to use your club to smash down a few brick walls as well. You’ll also have to hold on tight as you swing over the occasional spike pit. But it’s all for the sake of saving dear old dad after all.

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Before we get too far, I want to point out that the game is just full of hidden surprises even right from the start. There are tons of hidden passages full of treats to find, and lots of invisible platforms to reach even more treats. Even out in the open, many of the flowers will give you points if you attack them. They look like just plain scenery, and really serve no other function, so it’s kind of impressive that they hid some points inside them.

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Anyway, the journey ahead is going to be full of many dangers. Landslides could happen at any moment causing rocks to come tumbling down the hills on top of you. You’ll have to swing across tons of vines, and risk your life over the spike pits. You’ll even face off against fierce dinosaurs hungry to make you a meal.

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…or at least your neighbors dressed up as dinosaurs for some reason. But don’t let any of that stop you. Face every danger head on and before you know it you’ll have made it to the end of the stage. We’re one step closer to saving dad now!

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There are of course great dangers lurking just around the corner for young Chuck Rock Jr. It seems he’s caught the eye of a hungry dinosaur, a real one this time. Despite being what looks like a brontosaurus, a plant eater, this dinosaur is eager to make a quick meal out of our diaper wearing hero.

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Chuck Rock Jr isn’t going to be quite the easy meal however. With his wooden club in hand his swings are strong enough to knock the teeth right out of the hungry dinosaur’s head. Next time he should pick a safer target for dinner, especially now that he’s lost all his teeth. It would be kind of hard to gum a creature to death.

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We may have escaped being eaten alive, but now it looks like we might be cooked alive instead. Just around the corner our young hero finds himself surrounded on all sides by red hot lava. Not only that, but the volcanoes in the distance are erupting, sending flaming balls of lava into the air.

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It would be hard for anyone to survive in these harsh conditions, yet alone a baby. However, the local dinosaurs seem to have figured it out. Equipped with full body fire retardant suits, these dinosaurs are perfectly safe from the heat. In fact they are so well adapted that they have come to master the flames with the use of their flame throwers. Wait a minute. Fire suits and flame throwers? What kind of dinosaurs are these.

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With genius dinosaur enemies like this, it’s good to know you have some friends on your side. In this case it’s a small turtle that seems to rather enjoy the lava. If you ask him nicely, he’ll be willing to ferry you across the lava to safety on the other side.

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Curiously, we seem not to be the only person here in the scorching waste. It would seem a mother is dragging along her children as they try to cross to lava fields no doubt in search of the greenery of the stages we just left. Unfortunately she becomes very hostile at the sight of our young hero and must be dealt with. Sadly this leaves the infants alone and vulnerable. They will no doubt soon die as well without their mother.

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Though we have become surrounded by death, these lava fields are also capable of breeding new life. Such is the case with the giant bird egg we find and witness hatch. Normally a bird would imprint on the first creature it sees and treat it as its mother. Sadly that is not the case with this bird. It is born with an instinct to kill by dropping flaming hot rocks on its enemies. This is something we can’t simply ignore, and we must teach this bird a lesson.

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This newborn sure does grow quickly. After a few dips in the lava, the creature seems to have grown out its feathers and even its beak looks more birdlike. No longer one to drop boulders on its prey, the bird now dive bombs at our hero in an attempt to finish the job personally.

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Again, we can’t let such actions go unpunished, especially from a newborn. With some quick actions, little Chuck Rock Jr brings his club down on the new born bird and sends it sinking back down into the lava where it belongs. Let’s hope mama bird wasn’t around to see any of that. I’m not sure we’d be able to handle her at our age.

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We made it out of that lava field and back to the safety of the green forests. No longer in the safety of our own neighborhood we won’t find any other humans out here. We will however find many of our distant cousins, the monkeys. These guys will constantly be jumping around, and throwing their bananas around at you. At least they aren’t throwing poop at you. Still, it’s very rude of them, and there’s only one way to stop them for good, a nice strong bash with your wooden club.

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Other than the monkeys, these levels are very similar the first stages. Swing from a few vines, try to avoid spikes and rocks, and just get to the end of the stages. The only new element I think worth noting are the giant ants you can occasionally ride to get across the spike pits.

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The monkeys of the forest may have been only a minor annoyance, but they’re no match for Ozric’s tentacles. This octopus like creature is ruler of the water, and a major threat to the life of young Chuck Jr as it spits water and throws small swordfish at our young hero.

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In a situation like this, there’s only one thing to do, grip up on that club and swing away at those swordfish. If you hit them just right, you can knock them into the air and arc them back to hit Ozric right in his oversized head. A few hits like that and he’ll be down for the count.

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Swimming past Ozric brings us down into the sewer systems. The idea of a sewer system on its own is very advanced for these cavemen, but where did they get all that toxic waste? That stuff doesn’t exactly occur naturally, especially not in clearly marked barrels like that.

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Also where did all of these pipes and conveyer belts come from? Am I missing something here? Did we travel into a different game entirely? I thought we were following a little cave baby rescue his cave dad. Are we working under Flintstone rules here where everything is stone age but somehow also futuristic?

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Survive the polluted horrors and you’ll finally find Chuck Rock and come face to face with Brick himself. At least I think that’s Brick. Is Brick a green fish bird thing? I have no idea who Brick is because I never played the first game. Whatever it is, it will regularly shoot its head off straight into the air as gears and springs come popping out. So I guess this must be some kind of robot controlled by Brick. Again this is very advanced for cavemen.

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After a few hits the green fish thing will disappear to be replaced with a somewhat more human looking thing that must finally be Brick himself. I think it’s supposed to be a seat back, but it has always looked like he has a massive tail like a kangaroo or something. With his robot fish thing destroyed he’ll try to finish you off himself by rising up and hitting you from below.

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Step out of the way when Brick goes for the kill, then swing away at his stupid face. How dare he kidnap your father like that? How dare he make a child travel across that treacherous world to get here. Bash him good until he can take no more and you’ve saved dear old dad.

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Just like that dad is safe, mom is happy, and brick goes to jail. All’s well that ends well.

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Verdict

Gameplay – 8.5 / 10

The gameplay is fun, but admittedly very simplistic. Each stage is fairly short and straight forward, but there are tons of secrets to find if you feel like looking for them. Then the controls are very responsive and everything is very intuitive. There are also a few standard mechanics I thought the game handled really well. For one thing, many of the spike pits are set up in a way that they won’t constantly damage you. After the initial damage you can safely walk among the spikes without fear of death. Finally there are the boss battles which are the cornerstone of any good action game. They all telegraph their attacks very nicely and make for fun but fairly easy fights.

Graphics – 9 / 10

I thought the graphics were very impressive, especially for a Game Gear game. The environments are all very vibrant and detailed. All the characters also have a lot of expression and humor to them, like the people dressed like dinosaurs or the dinosaurs with flamethrowers.

Audio – 9 / 10

I love the soundtrack of this game. All the music is very upbeat and fits the game perfectly.

Story – 3 / 10

The story as described in the manual is a fairly interesting one. Unfortunately none of that is really portrayed in the game. Really, you could go through the whole game without ever knowing what your goal is. However, that was common place for games of the time.

Total Playtime – 0h 40m

It’s a really short game, and even with all the secret areas there really isn’t much you can do about that. It’s kind of to be expected though. The game has no save system, and the Game Gear can only stay on for about 2 hours on a full set of 6 batteries.

Total Deaths – 12 Deaths

The game isn’t very hard, and most of my deaths were from simple carelessness. Like I said, I used to be able to beat this game legit when I was a kid. As it is, I only died 2 times more than would have been allowed in a legitimate playthrough. I’m sure I could beat it for real if I played it again right now. On the subject of deaths, I would like to point out how well this game handles dying. Any time you die, you get to continue playing right from where you died without much interruption to the gameplay.

Overall Score – 8.5 / 10

I loved this game as a kid, and I still love it now. The game is very short and easy, almost to a fault, but what little game is there is a fun one. The graphics are great with a lot of humor on the little screen. Then the music is fitting and memorable. Possibly most importantly are the fun boss battles. They were all easy if you paid just the slightest attention, but they still felt like epic battles. The first boss in particular has always been my favorite. There’s just an odd thrill to knocking its teeth out and seeing as his face became bandaged and swollen. If you still have a working Game Gear, do yourself a favor and pick up this great title. If not, there’s also a version for the Genesis which has extra levels in it. Honestly I’ll have to pick up that version for myself at some point too. Whichever version you end up playing, you’re almost certain to have a good time.

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Yay! We’re a family again!

 

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I hope you enjoyed Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck (Game Gear). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Pokemon Diamond (DS)

I’ll be starting my next Pokémon adventure soon, but before that I thought it would be nice to collect my whole Pokémon Diamond journal in one place for easy reading. I’ll also finally give the game a proper review like I always meant to do. So without further ado, please enjoy my journal from Pokémon Diamond!

Pokemon Diamond Logo

Table of Content

Part 01: An Adventure Begins!

Part 02: Filling out the Party!

Part 03: Saved the Galaxy, Now I’m Lost in a Cave!

Part 04: My Life as a Berry Farmer!

Part 05: Relaxing by the Lake!

Part 06: Stop That Grunt!

Part 07: Train to be the Very Best!

Part 08: The Bucket List!

Part 09: Playing in the Snow!

Part 10: Catching the Legends!

Part 11: The Final Stretch!

Part 12: The End of a Journey!

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Verdict

Gameplay – 9 / 10

Since this is the first Pokémon game to arrive on the DS, the second screen came with a few changes. Mostly I think the game handled things very well. Being able to use the bottom touch screen to select your attacks was a great choice. Then the addition of the Poketech and all the apps you can get for it were a fun use for the bottom screen while exploring. Honestly my only gameplay complaint is with the item system. The fact that your bag can carry an infinite amount of stuff is great. No more being forced to drop stuff off at the computer to make room. However, the removal of the computer storage entirely was an annoyance. It’s nice to have everything with you, but sometimes I WANT to drop things off in the computer just to get rid of clutter. Without that ability I’m stuck scrolling past a lot of items every time I open my bag. The game easily makes up for this fault with the addition of the occasional companion. Not only are these instances a great help to get through a difficult area, but they offer up an amazing opportunity for some amazing level grinding.

Graphics – 8 / 10

The sprite work in this game doesn’t appear to be much improved from the Gameboy Advance games. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. All the Pokémon have always been highly detailed and this game is no exception. The overworld might suffer slightly, but this is a common trade off in most 2D RPGs and can’t really be held against it. They have at least made attempts to improve the appearance of the overworld. Instead of being the flat tiles of previous games, everything is layered to give an almost 3d appearance, allowing things to shift with your perspective. Personally I didn’t care for this effect because it causes everything to look heat rippled. However, I do think it is the right direction for the series to be going in.

Audio – 8 / 10

The Pokémon series has always had good music to back up the gameplay, and this game is no exception. They have also improved some of the Pokémon calls as well as introducing some rather unique calls to certain Pokémon, for better or worse. That distinct call for Kricketune for example can actually become quite annoying.

Story – 8.5 / 10

I was actually really pleased with the story of this game. It really dug deep into some of the lore of the Pokémon universe. Gen IV offered up true gods and creators of the universe this time with its legendaries, and it’s funny in a way when your 10 year old character captures it to become essentially your pet. It’s like, hey look at my pet rat. I taught it how to tackle. That’s cute. Now check out my god of all creation. I taught it not to destroy all of humanity. Honestly any time you can start your day with a walk to the lake, and come home with the god of time and space as a pet, you’ve had a good day. On top of that, the story was much more engaging than previous titles, with characters meeting you out in the world to thicken the plot.

Total Playtime – 62h 54m

The Pokémon games, and honestly the RPG genre in general, have always been known for being very lengthy games. At just under 63 hours, I definitely got my money’s worth with this one. On top of that, there is still a whole list of post-game stuff I could do. I may have seen all the Pokémon to fill my Pokédex, but I didn’t catch all of them. I also know that are a few side quests that only become available after you have beaten the elite four. You could easily play for over 100 hours and still not finish everything.

Total Deaths – 0 White Outs!!

That’s right! For once I have a game where I never died. My Pokémon may have been knocked out a few times, and without any recordings to look back on I can’t give any solid numbers for that. However, I do know that my whole party was never wiped out even a single time while playing. I did good this time.

Overall Score – 8.5 / 10

The Pokémon series has always been a joy to play since the very first game, and Pokémon Diamond is no exception. While this game didn’t add anything particularly groundbreaking to the series, you can still see where they started laying the groundwork for future games. For example, the move to a 3D rendered world rather than the flat sprites of previous games hints towards the fully 3D games seen in Gen VI. The story itself is also much more engaging than previous titles, and with a lot more on the line. You’re not just stopping Team Rocket from stealing a few Pokémon, you’re stopping Team Galactic from literally destroying the whole world. Beyond these changes, the game follows in the already successful footsteps of the games before it. With hundreds of Pokémon to choose from and hundreds of moves to teach them, you can customize your party to suit your personal play style. You can also play the game a dozen times with different parties for new experiences. Then of course there is still a very deep substructure for the competitive players to dive into and craft the perfect Pokémon from. As deep and complex as that substructure may be, the more casual players like myself can still easily play through the whole game completely oblivious to their very existence. So don’t let the fanatics scare you away from the franchise. You don’t need to know the names and stats of all 700+ Pokémon. You don’t need to know anything about EVs and IVs. You don’t even need to research the perfect party. All you have to do is pick up a Pokémon game and enjoy the experience, whatever that may be for you.

Art Pikachu

Thank you for reading, and look forward to Pokemon Black & White!!

 

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I hope you enjoyed Pokémon Diamond. If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

 

Taz-Mania (Genesis)

When I played Taz-Mania for the SNES last week, I just wanted to see what I was missing since I had only ever played the genesis version. If you’ve actually read that article you’d already know that I wasn’t quite impressed with it. At the same time, I remembered the genesis version not being very good either, but I still felt really nostalgic for it and wanted to play it again. I just never really planned to be reviewing it back to back with the SNES version.

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Whether I originally planned it or not, here we are playing Taz-Mania for the Genesis. Unlike the SNES version, the Genesis version is your standard 2D platformer. I also remember it being very hard with a lot of cheap shots thrown in. Even so, it was still one of my favorite games growing up and I played it so much I actually beat it back then. At least I’ve always thought I had beaten it once before. Now that I’m thinking about it, I have a perfect memory of the first half of the game, but I can’t remember even a single thing about the second half. So maybe I never did beat it back then. Only one way to find out, we’ll have to play this game through to the very end. Join me won’t you?

Gameplay

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Our game begins with Taz’s dad telling a story to the family. According to him, Tazmania used to be ruled by giant birds so big, their eggs could feed a family of Tazmanian Devils for a whole year.

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There is also a legend that these giant birds still live somewhere on the island. The promise of giant eggs is apparently all it took to convince Taz to go get one. No sooner does his dad’s story end does Taz spin off into the distance in search of one of these eggs.

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The island of Tazmania has quite the dramatic climate zones to it. There is an icy peninsula to the south, snowcapped mountains in the middle surrounded by dense jungle, and of course the burning deserts of the north where our game begins. Even though it clearly looks like a desert in the world map, the levels look very rocky as if we’re actually in the mountains instead.

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Taz controls just about how you’d expect him to in a game like this. He runs and jumps and of course can perform his trademark spin, during which time he’s nearly invincible. He also has a habit of eating nearly anything he touches.

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Most of the time he’ll be eating health items like the various foods scattered around the levels. Other times he’ll be eating power ups like the hot peppers that let you breathe fire. However he’s not above eating smaller enemies as well. You’ll take some damage from touching them, but it’s just so much fun to pick them up and eat them.

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Death Count: 1

You can’t eat all the enemies though, only the smaller ones. That means these larger square rock monster things are off limits. You can’t eat them, and you can’t kill them, you can only stay away from them. That’s fairly easy to do because they’re very slow moving. However, they can gang up on you when you’re stuck in the quicksand.

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Death Count: 3

The levels are also full of geysers shooting up into the air. These form platforms to help you get to higher areas, but they are also somewhat dangerous. Some of them will simply smash you into the spiky rocks above, killing you instantly. If you miss the platform, the stream of water shooting up will also damage you. And in the earliest instance of the games bad design, you can occasionally fall down the gap between the ledge and the geyser, again falling to an instant death.

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Death Count: 6

As further evidence of the bad level design, there is a zig zag of platforms Taz has to fall down. Unfortunately, waiting at the bottom of each of these leaps of faith is a bomb that Taz will instantly eat if you touch it. Unlike the food, bombs will obviously hurt Taz if he eats them, and so the first time through the level, you’re going to eat every single one of those bombs and possibly die.

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Death Count: 8

Since this is a platformer, the main goal of each level is fairly simple, just make it to the end of each stage where the conveniently placed wooden sign will point you in the direction of the egg. The levels aren’t very long, so at least for the first few levels, you should be able to just fly right through them.

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After a few levels, you’ll come across your first boss fight. Here two of the characters from the show, Bull Gator and Azl, are driving a truck back and forth trying to kill you. All you have to do is jump on the roof of the truck a few times to crush it in. it’s a very easy boss and you shouldn’t have much trouble with it.

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Following the boss fight Taz finds himself inside some kind of Acme owned factory. With all the cars around on the ground floor, I always thought it was an auto garage. But I don’t know any auto garages that have conveyer belts and spinning blades randomly along the upper floors.

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There are also a few giant presses that don’t seem to really be doing anything important. There are also several furnaces that keep popping open to reveal the fires inside. But otherwise this is a very short, rather uninteresting level.

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However, completion of it does bring us to the inner workings of the factory. Here we find ourselves actually on the assembly line where they’re building some kind of tanks. Unfortunately for us, there are several inspection points that Taz can’t go through. Not without getting electrocuted anyway.

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If we want to make it to the end of the factory, we’ll have to find the control switches to temporarily shut the factory down. Now that the assembly line is shut off, we can safely continue our journey.

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Death Count: 9

We’ll have to repeat this process several more times before the stage ends. Each time however there are more switches to choose from before you find the one that shuts the line down. Choosing the wrong switch will leave Taz with quite a nasty electrocution. That is if he isn’t killed by the multiple mounted guns already constantly firing at him.

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If you manage to make it through the factory in one piece, we’ll finally be in the icy southern peninsula of the island. Taz has really traveled quite the distance already. Here, the whole ground is covered in ice, and Taz will be sliding around very uncontrollably, just like you’d expect from an ice level.

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Death Count: 10

Luckily you won’t have to worry about the ice very much. Most of the level is actually spent jumping from ice drift to ice drift. So really your biggest concern is falling into the water. If you miss your landing, Taz will instantly be frozen into an ice cube when he touches the water.

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Even after all these years, I still remember a secret area on this map.  Right before the level ends there is one last ice drift just kind of sitting there. If you actually ride this down until it sinks, you’ll find that the water it was floating on is fake. It will actually bring you to a small cavern under the ice with a few fish for Taz to eat, as well as an extra life and an extra continue.

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Turning north, Taz quickly leaves the frozen waste to return to the dense jungle. Here we find ourselves under attack by whole families of primitive mice with little loin cloths and stone spears. There are also quite a few sentient plant monsters roaming around. They use their roots as legs, giving them somewhat of a spider appearance. But their heads are very lizard like in appearance.

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Death Count: 14

The real threat of this level however is the level itself. It is filled with so many leaps of faith and bottomless pits. Add to that how quickly Taz travels while spinning and you can easily spin yourself right off the ledges and fall down to your death.

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The next level is much simpler. Your task is to jump from needle thin branch to needle thing branch as you try to make your way up to the top of a massive tree. This level still has a lot of leaps of faith, since you can’t see the branches on the other side of the tree. But at least if you miss, you’ll just fall to a lower branch and try again.

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Make it to the top of the tree, and you’ll enter into another boss battle, this time against Francis X Bushlad. This young tribal member is on a mission to hunt Taz to fulfill his rite of passage into manhood. However, the fact that he’s wearing what looks like a diaper and hunts with a bow and arrow, I always thought he was supposed to be some kind of cupid. As for the battle itself, simple keep spinning on top of him and he’ll be defeated before you even know what happened.

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We’re not out of the Jungle yet however. First we must travel down the river. This is probably the turning point for the game from a forgettable platformer into a hellish pile of crap. For this river level the logs floating in the river are in a foreground while the platforms of land are in the background. You can jump between them whenever you want, but there is no indication of which level you are on. Not only that, but there aren’t just the 2 layers, there are actually about 5 layers for the different log paths as they float down the river. What this means is that even though you might be positioned vertically above the logs, you’ll unknowingly be on the wrong layer and splash down in the water instead of landing on it. The only thing saving this level is that there are a lot of solid platforms to jump between, keeping you out of the water entirely.

 

 

Death Count: 20

Things just get harder from here as Taz travels into the mountains at the center of the island. Deep inside the mountains we come across an old abandoned mine cart and must use it to travel through the cave. But this is going to be the most dangerous mine cart ride ever.

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Death Count: 27

You’ll have to use the cart’s scissor lift to safely rise up above obstacles, but you’ll have to be just as quick to drop back down or you’ll smash into the ceiling of the caves. There are also several portions where the track has broken. Rather than fix it, they seem to have just set up traffic lights to tell you how to clear the gap. Green means go fast to clear a large gap, while yellow means go slow, or you’ll smash into a low hanging support beam.

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Death Count: 42

Amazingly, that wasn’t even the worst part. Deeper in the mine, the game ramps the difficulty up to 11. For starters, the whole cave is a bit of a maze, so you have to remember where you’re going. But to make things worse, there are several instances of trap elevators that will break as soon as you step on them, sending Taz plummeting down to his death on the rocks below.

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Death Count: 49

The worst thing however is trying to jump from elevator to elevator. These sections have the elevators swinging side to side at a very fast pace and spaced far enough apart that you can barely see where you’re going. Even if you could see it, the landing area is so small that it’s almost impossible to land on it. This all wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that missing the jump means instant death when you land of the sharp rocks below.

 

 

Then if you do manage to make the near impossible jumps, the game isn’t done being annoying. The level has several instances of rubber band elevators. What I mean by this is that the elevator doesn’t move up and down with the levers like the ones you control. Instead you jump on it which makes it drop down, and then it will bounce back up. You jump again to make it drop lower and then bounce higher than before. You keep doing this over and over until you eventually make it to the top. Most of them only require one or two good jumps to reach the top. But the one towards the end requires several minutes of jumping before you can actually reach the top. And if you mess up any one of your jumps, it will also set your progress back even further. I’m not sure if spinning down actually helps at all, but it made me feel like it was working better.

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Death Count: 52

Immediately following this stupid rubber band elevator is a fast moving elevator doing figure 8’s. You have to time your jump very carefully just to land on it without falling to the rocks below. Then you have only a tiny window of opportunity to jump across to the other waiting elevators.

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These however are also unsafe and will drop as soon as you land on them. You’ll have to be quick and jump to the next elevator which will also fall. Just keep jumping and eventually you’ll finish the level and be done with this stupid cave, and back on your way to finding that giant bird egg.

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Death Count: 69

The game however has other plans for you. Once again it will throw you into the river with its multiple layers. This time however, you don’t have the benefit of solid platforms in the background. Instead it is just a long stretch of river with the occasional small rock to stand on. Even then you’re not safe because tiny little crocodiles will jump out of the water onto the rock in an attempt to eat you.

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Death Count: 72

The second half of the level even manages to make it worse. For the second half the river is flowing to the left instead of the right. So now you are forced to jump from tiny platform to tiny platform since the logs are now completely useless. So to recap, you’re now taking leaps of faith to land on tiny platforms you can’t see on 3D layers you can’t tell you’re on. It was at this moment that I realized I never actually beat the game as a kid. I have a perfect memory of the desert and the factory as well as the jungle and even the mine cart and parts of the elevators. However I have no memory of this river or anything that happens after it. So in truth, I must have never made it past the elevators in the second mine level and my brain was just tricking me into thinking I had beaten it.

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Death Count: 80

After several attempts to clear the level properly, I finally caved and just went for a full on reckless approach to the level. Just jump as high as I could and spin jump as far as possible. The water will bounce me back up and then just keep spin jumping again and again. I didn’t have much health left when I made it to the exit, but you know what, I don’t care, I still finished the level.

Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 65 Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 66

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully the rest of the game sticks to a much more traditional platformer style with few annoyances. And it kicks this off with yet another boss battle. This time you’re fighting the mother of all the little plant monsters you killed in the previous levels. This one is much bigger than the others, but thanks to Taz’s spin attack the battle isn’t hard. Just keep spinning and occasionally jump spinning to hit the monster in the head, and it will easily die before you.

Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 67 Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 68

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re heading into the final stretch of the game now as we travel to the small islands on the west coast of the main island. Here you’ll be traveling through the ancient ruins of a long lost civilization. If the statues are any indication, the ancient civilization was also a breed of Tazmanian Devil. However, their absence doesn’t stop the statues from breathing fire from their seemingly infinite supply of fuel.

Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 69 Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 70

 

 

 

 

 

 

These levels were actually quite enjoyable, especially after the last few levels had me raging so much. They follow the basic platforming formula without any major annoyances. The levels are set up like a maze and there are enemies around every corner. But they aren’t much of a threat, just spin through them and you’ll gradually find your way to the exit.

Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 71 Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 72

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the game throws a new annoyance at you with the third of these ruin levels. This level is the exact same level as the first of the ruins levels. I thought somehow the game glitched and set me backwards instead of forward. After the hell they just put you through, I guess the developers figured no one would ever see these last levels, so why bother making more of them.

Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 73 Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 74

 

 

 

 

 

 

The level does have a single change to it. The exit isn’t there anymore. Instead a path has opened up to a previously blocked area. Inside, one of the stone Tazmanian Devil statues comes to life and is yet another boss battle. Just like all the other battles, simply spin attack until it’s dead.

Taz-Mania (Genesis) - 75