Category Archives: Gameboy (Color) Games

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.

 

The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror (Gameboy Color)

There’s this cartoon I’ve watched since I was a kid called “The Simpsons”, maybe you’ve seen it? It’s been on for 27 season, almost 600 episodes, dozens of awards, star on the walk of fame. It’s kind of a big deal, but you’ve probably never heard of it. That’s ok, I’ll fill you in. For starters, it’s a cartoon take on the typical family sitcom and it features a population of people who mostly have bright yellow skin. It’s primarily a comedy, so every episode usually features some kind of crazy situation, but it tries to stay at least semi realistic. Around Halloween however, all the rules get thrown out the window with their traditional “Treehouse of Horror” Episode.

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The Treehouse of Horror episodes break the mold by being more of an anthology than the typical single story episode. Each segment of these specials are generally a parody of some horror movie or another with the Simpsons own twist on the story. Between the popularity of the show, and the popularity of the Treehouse of Horror series itself, it’s no surprise that eventually a game would be made about it. That’s what we’re going to be looking at today, The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror for the Gameboy Color. Released in March of 2001, towards the end of season 12, the game tries to throw you right into the action by recreating 7 of the stories featured in the Treehouse of Horror episodes up to that point. Did they pick the best the series had to offer? You’ll just have to dive in and judge for yourself.

Gameplay

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The game starts just as the Treehouse of Horror series did, with the story “Bad Dream House”. Loosely based on the movies Amityville Horror and Poltergeist, the Simpsons move into a house which is seemingly possessed by evil spirits. The house has kidnapped the family dog, Santa’s Little Helper, and it’s up to Bart to rescue him. But before he can, he’ll have to replace the fuses in the basement so he can find his way.

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As implied, the house is possessed right now, so most of the enemies will come in the form of inanimate objects like flying books and vacuums. However, the basement is also full of giant rats and spiders. When I say giant, I mean GIANT. They’re about half Bart’s height, so I would guess they’re at least 2 feet tall. NO THANK YOU!!!

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Death Count: 1

Unfortunately, we’ll have to visit the basement rather frequently if we want to progress. Without replacing the fuses, the various rooms will be too dark to navigate. There’s also a ghost broom that comes to kill you if you linger too long in any of the darkened rooms.

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To make matters even worse, most of the upstairs rooms are locked. So in addition to finding fuses, you’ll also have to keep an eye out for any keys that might be lying around. Even if that means having to run around the toxic waste filled sewers below the house to find them.

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Death Count: 3

Replace all the fuses, find all the keys, and now it’s time to venture up into the attic to rescue Santa’s Little Helper. Of course, the house isn’t just going to give him back willingly. You’ll have to fight the spirit of the house to free your beloved pet. As it turns out, we’ve already encountered this spirit once before, it’s the ghost broom, now in solid form thanks to the light.

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A few hits from your slingshot, and this house is now clean of ghosts. With that, Bart has rescued his dog, and we have finished the first chapter of the game. And since this game uses a password save system, it would probably be best to take this time to write that password down.

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Next up is “Flying Tonight”, based on “Fly vs. Fly” From Treehouse of Horror VIII, which was itself based on the movie “The Fly”. In the show, Bart is the one who gets his body fused with that of a house fly thanks to an accident with a matter transporter. However, it would seem Maggie is the victim of the matter transporter this time. Avoid the many hazards that face little fly size Maggie as she makes her way back to the matter transporter to reclaim her body.

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Death Count: 4

The introduction description for this level is incredibly vague about what you’re supposed to be doing. The counter down in the bottom right corner doesn’t really give you much of a clue either. It counted down how many fuses Bart had found in the previous stage, but the simple smiley face isn’t really much to go on this time. With all the spiders, and bees and Maggie-fly eating plants around, we can’t exactly be flying around forever.

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As it so happens, the main objective of this stage, beyond simply reaching the matter transporter, is to turn the switch to all 5 of the fans, or whatever they are. Maybe they’re some kind of power box seeing as they start spraying sparks all around as soon as you flip the switch. Whatever they are, there are 5 of them you need to find.

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In addition to the 5 switches, there are also 3 microchips you need to find in order to repair the matter transporter. These are fairly easy to find in the course of navigating the maze looking for the switches, so don’t stress too much over them. Collect all three microchips, turn on all the switches, and just like that the matter transporter is repaired and Maggie can be turned back to normal.

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This brings us to “Plan 9 from Outer Springfield” based on “Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies” from Treehouse of Horror III. The name itself is also a parody of the movie “Plan 9 from Outer Space” which is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. If you’re a fan of terrible B-horror movies, you need to see it at least once. Anyway, the show depicts Bart accidentally raising the dead after reading an old book in the library. Now Marge has to fight her way through the hordes of zombies to get back home and protect her family.

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This section of the game is a typical run-n-gun type level. Marge will have to gun down any zombies that get in her way as she runs up the street to her house. Don’t worry though because whatever that gun is, it has infinite ammo, so just always be shooting.

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You can even grab power ups along the way for a temporary boost in your fire power. You’re options are to fill your gun up with piles of manure for a disgusting poop flinging adventure. Or your other option is a much cleaner choice of shooting water puddles for a nice wide spread attack.

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You’ll need all the firepower you can get as you make your way home, especially since the trek is packed full of mini bosses. First you’ll have to face a zombie Apu as he squirts you with bottles of mustard and relish, adding a little bit of extra flavor to you before he eats you.

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Death Count: 5

Next up is zombie Moe, who true to his rat like nature will spend his time in the sewers, only leaving to become annoying for those above. Moe will move between the different manholes very quickly, and with the wide spread of his attack, he can be somewhat difficult to take care of. Play defensively and eventually you’ll rekill him as well.

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Death Count: 6

Then comes the zombified Principal Skinner. Skinner gave me the most trouble out of any of them. He moves very fast, and throws text books at you deadly accurately. I had a lot of trouble just trying to get my hits in while avoiding his attacks. After a few attempts though, he went down just like the others.

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This brings us home to our final challenge, Zombie Krusty the Clown. Krusty was actually easier than the others, but made up for it by having a much larger amount of health. He’ll throw what I believe are bowling pins at you, but they move rather predictably and are easy to avoid. Just keep firing and eventually you’ll be back inside the house to protect your family.

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We’ve made it to the halfway point. Now prepare yourself for a true classic with “Vlad All Over”. This level is based off “Bart Simpson’s Dracula” from Treehouse of Horror IV in which the Simpson family discovers Mr. Burns to be a vampire. As such, Homer gets to live out many people’s lifelong fantasy of finally killing their boss.

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This level can become pure platforming hell if you let it. You’ll have Homer jumping all over the place between the narrow ledges, chandeliers, and even the occasional unstable platform that drops out from under you. Homer came prepared with a crossbow filled with garlic cloves, but against the living suits of armor, it doesn’t seem like it will be enough.

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Death Count: 10

Even if he did bring more firepower, it wouldn’t do him much good against the creeping vines that threaten to engulf him as he races to the top of the castle towers. Every jump needs to be absolutely perfect or you’ll find yourself overtaken by the green menace that chases you.

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Death Count: 12

Why Homer would want to get to the top of the towers is a mystery in itself since Mr. Burns’ coffin is down in the basement. Plus the top of the tower is heavily guarded by spear wielding sentries, phantom arrows shot by unknown archers, and even the rare bat, which may be Mr. Burns himself checking up on our progress.

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Back inside the castle, Homer quickly descends down into the castle basement. But reaching the basement alone won’t be enough to find Mr. Burns coffin. He’s well protected behind his iron gate. In fact, you’ll have to navigate a series of rooms before you can find the switch to the coffin room. Rooms filled with rats, spiders, ghost hands, disappearing platforms, and of course the dreaded spike pits.

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Death Count: 14

In all the excitement, Homer seems to have lost his garlic launching crossbow. Without it, we’re powerless to defeat a powerful vampire like Mr. Burns. Of the whole game, this is the only section of the game I remember from when I played it all those years ago. Mostly because I thought the game was broken, and Google didn’t have the answers to EVERYTHING yet. I actually had to call THQ’s help line because I was sure I had discovered a game breaking bug that somehow made it past the play testers.

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Death Count: 15

Luckily for everyone involved, there was an alternate solution to our problem, and Mr. Burns himself provides it. While he may have boarded up all the windows in his castle, age has loosened them and made the boards quite brittle. Now a simple kick can knock them free, flooding the room with sunlight. Once all the windows are open, Mr. Burns will be backed into the corner and disintegrate in a puff of smoke.

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While the vampiric Mr. Burns may be nothing but dust, that doesn’t stop normal Mr. Burns from wanting to suck the life out of his employees. Based on “If I Only Had A Brain” from Treehouse of Horror II, Mr. Burns is trying to make the perfect, tireless employee by building a robot version of Homer. Using Homer as your template in itself was probably his first mistake in this whole plan. But to bring the robot to life, he needed to steal Homer’s head and brain to power it, which was his second mistake. You don’t make the perfect employee out of your worst employee.

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Now in control of robot Homer, you’ll need to search for your missing body parts hidden throughout the nuclear plant. Unfortunately, Mr. Burns never told any of the employees about the plans to turn them into robots. Naturally, they don’t take the news very well and try to destroy him. Or so the intro screen would have us believe. During the actual gameplay the employees seem rather calm about the whole thing, simply going about their daily work. This is Springfield we’re talking about. These people see crazy things like this happen every week.

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Death Count: 17

Just take a look at the working conditions around here in the plant. The walls are dripping with some mystery green slime. There are barrels of toxic waste just lying on the floor around every corner, some of which have fallen over to spill their contents. Of course this has gone to create giant radioactive rats to infest the power plant. There are even giant hydraulic presses right above the walkways, threatening to crush anyone that walks under them.

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Death Count: 18

Being in a robot body sure does seem to have its advantages in such a dangerous environment, but Homer really would like to have his real body back. He spent his whole life growing it after all. So it looks like we’ll have to search every corner of the nuclear plant until we find out body again. But where could they be hidden? They’re not in any of the obvious places like inside the toxic barrels. And they aren’t just sitting out in the open. Instead they’re hidden in the most unusual places, like hidden inside a fire extinguisher, or stuffed inside the fuse box. I have no idea how that is supposed to work. The mechanics of fitting a body part inside a fire extinguisher are bad enough, but how could you possibly get a body part inside a fuse box?

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Spatial awareness aside, Homer does eventually recover all his body parts. With a quick twist of his head off his robot body, it is once again placed on his fleshy shoulders. While such actions would usually warrant a huge lawsuit and massive investigation, we can rest assured that this will be treated as just another Tuesday at the office.

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Here in Springfield, Mr. Burns isn’t the only one hacking off people’s body parts. It seems the elementary school teachers have grown tired of teaching stupid children and have opted to start eating them instead. Based on “Nightmare Cafeteria” From Treehouse of Horror V, it’s up to Lisa to free the students from their cages before they become tomorrow’s lunch! She’ll have to be extra careful or she might become part of the menu as well.

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Death Count: 19

Luckily for Lisa, eating children seems to render you nearly blind. All Lisa has to do is press herself up against the wall and she becomes invisible to any of the teachers walking the halls. Unfortunately, the teachers suffer from very annoying AI in this section. They walk around randomly, rather than along any kind of preset route. This makes it very frustrating and time consuming to get past any of them. Since you have limited time, this becomes a very tense situation.

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In addition to simply avoiding the teachers, Lisa will have to search all the classrooms not only to find the various caged students, but also to find the keys to their cages. Unfortunately, each key only unlocks a very specific cage, so you’ll also have to keep track of where all the students are you’ve found so you can get back to them later. The icon in the top left corner thankfully keeps track of which keys you have collected, and which student they belong to.

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Free all the students, and the day is saved. Because of the teachers taking so long to randomly walk past our hiding spot, I was almost certain I wouldn’t finish this stage in time. Somehow I managed to get to the last students with just seconds to spare. I got lucky too, because I forgot which room they were in. I just happened to pick the right one at the end.

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This brings us to our final story, this time based on “King Homer” from Treehouse of Horror III. Itself based on the movie King Kong, King Homer must rampage through the streets of Springfield in search of his true love Marge. The army has already been called in to stop him, so you’ll be fighting your way through tanks and bomber planes as you rampage through town knocking down buildings.

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This segment plays very similarly to the game rampage, but it’s not quite as polished. For example, you can only destroy the small buildings that are about the same height as you are. All the other buildings you’ll have to climb over. You also can’t punch the tanks on the ground, or at least I didn’t find a way to, you simply have to jump on them. At least you can always block their attacks to negate any damage at all you would normally receive from their guns.

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Death Count: 21

Make it to the tallest building in town, and prepare yourself for a boss battle with a fighter plane. You’ll have to climb quickly to get out of the blast range of all the bombs it’s launching. Then it’s up to you to knock it out of the sky with your mighty fists. Nothing can stop you from reaching your beloved Marge.

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With that annoying fighter plane out of the way, King Homer does finally reach Marge. However, he has a rather unconventionally way of showing how much her lovers her. Almost immediately after grabbing her from the top floor window, he starts using her like a living yoyo. She’s probably dead now. The human body can’t really withstand that kind of stress.

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With that, we have finished the game. Each member of the Simpson family then falls out of the tree one at a time. I can’t help but notice that Maggie is still a fly though. I thought the whole point of her game was to change her back. Either way, she and the rest of the family each get sucked up into the UFO that was hovering above the Treehouse, never to be heard from again.

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And that’s the end. After being sucked up into the UFO, the game goes right back to the start menu. There are no credits, or final resolution to the game. Not even a “Thank you for playing” splash screen is shown. You’re simply brought back to the start screen and told to move on with your life.

Verdict

Gameplay – 6 / 10

The gameplay obviously varies between the minigames, but the one consistent factor is that it’s never great. The instructions you are given at the start of each stage are vague at best and you’re expected to work out the details for yourself. In Maggie’s fly stage for example, I was actively avoiding the switches since turning them on simply created a new hazard. I was lucky to notice the counter in the corner drop after I turned one of them on or I never would have figured out the solution to that level. On top of that, everything plays very slow, to the point it almost feels like there is a lag between your button input and the actual action.

Graphics – 9 / 10

It’s a Gameboy Color game, so the graphical capabilities aren’t that great to start with. With that in mind, the graphics were pretty good. You could easily identify all the characters, and their animation was well done. Then the environments were very well decorated with a lot of detail. Or at least as much detail as the Gameboy Color could handle. There were even a small handful of Easter Eggs thrown in, like Blinky the fish in the sewers, or boxes of Mr. Sparkle dish soap in Maggie’s stage.

Audio – 5 / 10

The soundtrack is just ok. The music sets the tone well enough, but it is very repetitive and not at all memorable. In fact it kind of just drones on until eventually you start to ignore it completely. There also weren’t a whole lot of sound effects used in the game. This left the audio solely reliant on the music which I’ve already said wasn’t great.

Story – 4 / 10

This is where the game really drops the ball. Each of the stages has a nice enough story behind them. In fact, the Treehouse of Horror episodes they are based off of are some of the best released up until that date. However, the game doesn’t show any of the resolution at the end of each stage. They all just kind of end after the goal is completed. Bart doesn’t escape the house, Lisa doesn’t escape the school, and even Maggie was never changed back into a baby as evident by the ending sequence. Speaking of which, that was one of the worst game endings ever. It didn’t wrap anything up. It didn’t even show the credits or anything. Just like all the individual sections, the game just kind of ends.

Total Playtime – 1h 49m

It’s a relatively short game, and it’s not really all that difficult either. While it does have a lot of variety thanks to the different levels designs, it doesn’t really have a whole lot of replayability. All the levels are almost entirely linear. And none of them are particularly great to the point of wanting to replay them anyway.

Total Deaths – 21 Deaths

Some of the levels are harder than others, but the real difficulty comes from simply figuring out what you’re supposed to do. The level “If I Only Had a Body” for example, I died 2 times before I managed to find my first body part, simply because I was wandering around without any clue as to what I was supposed to be doing.

Overall Score – 6 / 10

As a fan of the Simpsons, and especially a fan of their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes, I really want to like this game. In fact, that’s the reason I bought it when it first came out all those years ago. I don’t want to say it’s a bad game, because it does have some charm to it. However, I can’t deny the fact that it’s not a great game either. As mentioned, there’s no resolution to any of the levels, so there’s also no real reward for playing. Without any feeling of accomplishment you end the game feeling like you’ve simply wasted your time. The gameplay is also generally slow and dare I say boring at times. It’s not a particularly rare game, and you can buy your own copy for around $10. So if you’re a fan of the Simpsons, why not pick up a copy and try it for yourself? You’ll probably enjoy playing through it once, but I can’t imagine you’ll ever add it to your personal favorite games list. However, if you’re not a diehard Simpsons fan already, there isn’t really a whole lot here for you to enjoy.

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Useless Fool?! I’ll show you a useless fool!!

 

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I hope you enjoyed The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror. 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.

 

Tamagotchi (Gameboy)

You remember Tamagotchis don’t you? Of course you do! They kicked off the whole digital pet craze of the late 90’s. If you didn’t actually own a Tamagotchi, no doubt you owned at least one Digimon, or Nano Pet, or Giga Pet or any one of the various other virtual pets available at the time. If somehow you were living under a rock at the time, I’ll give you a quick explanation. Tamagotchis were small digital pets that lived inside little egg shaped keychains. You kept them with you all day, and throughout the day they would get hungry, or want to play, or go to the bathroom, get sick etc. Everything a real pet would do. Basically all the fun of owning a pet without any of the real mess or fear that you might actually kill something with your bad care taking. I actually still have a few of them, and every so often I’ll put new batteries into them for fun.

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At the peak of the craze, someone had the bright idea to make a Gameboy adaptation of the fun little virtual pets. It made some sense I guess, the Gameboy was already portable like the actual pets, and the bigger screen would allow for more possibilities. Only good can come from this improvement in technology, right?

Gameplay

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Tamagotchis have apparently crash landed their space ship on earth, killing everyone on board, but sparing the unhatched eggs. Or so I’m to believe from the brief intro scene. It’s up to you to raise and care for them in place of their real parents.

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Unlike the original Keychain version, you actually get to choose the style egg you’re going to raise. Not that the egg itself makes much difference. It hatches into a little baby in seconds and will need immediate attention. Mostly, it just needs food and someone to play with it.

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Food is easy to take care of. There are 3 different choices of food, which are bread, meat, and carrots. Each type of Tamagotchi has a favorite and least favorite type of food, but they’ll eat whatever you give them all the same.

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Fun can be a little trickier to fill. You can of course go the easy way and feed him ice cream and cake. Everyone loves some ice cream and cake. But be careful because too much could make it sick. Not to mention it will also make it fat and generally unhealthy.

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The better, healthier alternative is to actually PLAY with the Tamagotchi. There are 3 different games you can play, but only the first game actually makes him happier. In it, the Tamagotchi will look either left or right, and you have to guess which way it’s going to face. There’s no skill involved in this, no subtle indications to pick up on, or any other kind of clues. It’s completely random and you just have to hope you were lucky enough to guess correctly at least 3 out of the 5 tries.

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The other two games are learning games. There’s a math game which will make your Tamagotchi smarter, and a sports game to make it stronger. Both of these games are made all the more difficult by the fact that you don’t have direct control of your Tamagotchi. In the math game, you can press the arrows to tell it the right answers, but it won’t always listen.

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Then with the Sports game, you need to catch the falling balls. You’ll have a bit better control over him now, but not complete control. It will respond fairly well, but it will also occasionally jump around on its own. This can make this otherwise simple game very frustrating. You want him to just wait in the center, but he wants to go jump off to the right. Then of course the ball shows up on the left and there’s no way to get back to it in time.

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After stuffing your Tamagotchi with food and then making it run around, inevitably it’s going to have to poop at some point. As a baby it will simply poop on the floor, and you’ll have to just flood the whole house with water to clean it. Thankfully it will use the toilet when it gets older, if you manage to get to it in time that is.

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That’s pretty much going to be your normal day with a Tamagotchi. You’re just cycling around between feeding it, playing with it and cleaning up after it. Each in game day will take about an hour, but you can advance the clock while it’s asleep, cutting that down to about 30 minutes. After a few days, it will grow to a toddler and again to an adult.

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The only other thing you can really do with your Tamagotchi is to enter it into competitions. The beauty contests have you make weird faces, while math competitions are identical to the math game, and then the races are just a straight sprint. These are kind of fun, but you can only enter once each in game day, so it’s not really an engaging feature.

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As you care for your Tamagotchi, it will hopefully stay in good health for most of its life. But no matter how good your care, it will still get sick eventually. When it does you need to give it either pills or shots to make it better, depending on what appears to be wrong with it. It won’t like it, but it will quickly feel better and be back to its normal self.

 

Unfortunately, your Tamagotchi won’t live forever, no matter how good your raise it. Sometimes it will come on suddenly, and there’s just nothing you can do to save it. One second it’ll be bouncing around with joy and the next it’ll be laying on the ground breathing its last breath. Such is the short life of a Tamagotchi.

Verdict

Gameplay – 5 / 10

Technically, everything functions the way it’s supposed to, and perfectly reflects how it is in the keychain versions. Unfortunately, about half the game is just watching it bounce around doing nothing. It’s a very low interactivity game, and the mini games aren’t engaging enough to keep your interest. You are capable of caring for up to 3 Tamagotchis at once, which helps to keep it engaging. At any given time, one of the 3 is bound to need some form of attention. But it doesn’t really make the experience any more entertaining. It just adds more repetition.

Graphics – 6 / 10

The graphics are an improvement over the original, which was never really in doubt. Unfortunately they aren’t anything special. There’s just a generic house background and slightly larger sprites for the characters and items.

Audio – 6 / 10

The background music is cheerful enough, and fairly entertaining. But you’ll be listening to the same 30 second loop for the vast majority of the several hours you play the game. There is other music in the menus and mini games, but these events are so short that you won’t have time to enjoy the change.

Story – N/A

There really isn’t a “Story.” you found an alien egg and it hatched thinking you’re its mother. Now take care of it. There’s really no story beyond that.

Total Playtime – 5h 19m

I may have “played” for several hours, but I wasn’t even paying attention to it for most of that time. To be honest, most of the time I was either on here writing more articles, or otherwise surfing the internet. I don’t think I’m exaggerating much when I say at least 90% of the game is simply sitting there waiting for it to need you again. Just take a look at little Tama’s final day up above. I left all the empty time in the video as an example of how little you actually do.

Total Deaths – 1 Death from Sudden Heart Attack

There are various different sicknesses that might end up killing your Tamagotchi, but they were only really a problem in the keychain version. You might not have heard your Tamagotchi warn you it was sick, and by the time you noticed, it was too late. But with this version, you’re watching it the whole time. I think my little guy only even got sick once, and that was a tummy ache from too much ice cream. Really he never has to die if you don’t want him to. Once he becomes an adult you can always send him back to his home planet. Then again, he might die suddenly and for no apparent reason like my little guy did.

Overall Score – 5 / 10

Technically it does everything it set out to do, and it does it well. The problem is that what it set out to do isn’t really suited for the Gameboy. The keychains were fun because they were always on, and always with you. They felt like a real pet. But most of all, you weren’t watching it do nothing for hours on end. The game emulates the keychain pets perfectly and in some cases improves on the original formula, but without that real time interaction, or rather lack of interaction, the whole game lacks substance. If you want a virtual pet, get an actual virtual pet, because this just isn’t going to do it for you.

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Written in loving memory of little Tama

 

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I hope you enjoyed Tamagotchi. 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.

 

Penguin Wars (Gameboy)

When I got my Holiday Bonus from work this year, most of it went towards presents. I did manage to set aside just a little bit for myself, and I used it to expand my Gameboy library. I didn’t get my hands on a Gameboy until the Gameboy color series was already out, so I missed out on a lot of the early titles. I got a few classics like Tetris, Mario Land, and Kirby, but there was one game that caught my eye and I just had to buy it. That game was Penguin Wars.

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I had never heard of this game before, and I’m not really sure what it was that made me want to buy it so badly, but it went straight into the cart. When I got them home, it was the first game I tested, and I felt like a little kid again. Just that pure joy of putting in a game, not knowing what to expect, and having it be just a pleasure to play. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take a look at what made the game so much fun.

Gameplay

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Despite being called “penguin wars”, you can actually chose to play as any of the 5 different animals. There’s a Penguin, a Bat, a Rabbit, a Rat, and a Cow, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. The Cow for example moves the slowest, but throws the hardest, whereas the Rat moves the fastest but throws really slow.

 

As for the gameplay, it’s very similar to dodge ball. Each match is played “best of three games” to decide the winner, with each game having a 60 second time limit. You each start off on opposite ends of a table with 5 balls each, with the ultimate goal being to send all 10 balls over to your opponents side of the table. If no one wins within the time limit, whoever has the fewest balls on their side wins.

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Like I said before, the game is basically dodge ball. Hitting your opponent will stun then temporarily, giving you the time you need to send all the balls over to their side. But watch out, because if you get hit, you’ll go down too. The AI is also very relentless and won’t let you back up once they knock you down.

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Of course the best and easiest defense is to simply dodge the balls as they come, but you can also throw your own ball into theirs to deflect it. The physics were actually pretty good in this game, sending the balls bouncing around the table when they collided.

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If the match starts to run long, around the 20 second mark an obstacle will appear in the center of the table. These can range from a “slime monster” which bounces the ball back at you, or a spinning disk which sends the ball flying in a random direction. Sometimes it’ll even be a…God only knows. Given my choices from the manual, my best guess says this is the “Crazy Dog”, but that’s no dog I’ve ever seen. To me, it looks like some little guy with a ponytail, and every time you hit him he chugs a drink. It’s weird, but oddly cute at the same time.

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Speaking of oddly cute, I have to point out the match against the Rat. The poor little guy is so short he can’t even throw the balls. Then when you hit him, he falls over screaming for help and trying to quit. You just can’t help but feel bad for him a little.

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After you beat all 4 of the other animals, you’ll be crowned the winner of the tournament. How did the Rat take 3rd place? He couldn’t even throw the ball. I guess it doesn’t matter, because the fun isn’t over just yet. After your moments on the victory stand, the whole thing starts over again, this time with the other animals powered up.

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You’ll have to be extra careful this time around, because they’ll be rocketing over “Power Balls” every chance they get. You can give them a taste of their own medicine by powering up your own shots as well, but the charge up leaves you more vulnerable, so use it at your own risk. Either way, let the war continue as long as you can hold out!

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

The gameplay is incredibly simple to pick up, using only the direction keys and a single button for every action. But the fun is in the simplicity. Anyone can pick up the game and right away figure out how to play. My only complaint comes from how brutal the AI can be after knocking you down. Often if you fall down, you stay down.

Graphics – 8 /10

While the graphics are limited, what is presented is very well done. All the characters are cute and very likeable. Then the pseudo 3D effect of the balls as they roll across the table is very impressive for the Gameboy.

Audio – 6 / 10

The music is actually very nice in the game, there just aren’t a lot of different songs. That’s not why it gets such a low score though. When the game first boots up, the logo sound is a loud, sustained, single note screech that nearly made me go deaf. While this isn’t really a part of the game proper, it’s still your very first impression of the game, and it’s not a pleasant one.

Story – N / A

A bunch of animals got together and wanted to play dodge ball. You got a problem with that? I didn’t think so.

Total Playtime – 0 h 21 m

It’s a really short game. I actually managed 2 full tournaments in that time frame. But that’s typical of many Gameboy games, especially these types of games. It’s only meant to be played in short bursts, and that’s fine.

Total Deaths – 3 Loses

I made it to the final match of the 2nd tournament. I don’t think that’s too bad. I can probably make it farther if I played more.

Overall Score – 8 / 10

This is one of those games you can happily come back to again and again. The gameplay is simple, but has just enough challenge to keep you on your toes. With its combination of cute characters, catchy music, and tight controls, it’s hard to find any real fault with this game. Also, I found my copy for just $5, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t add this game to your collection.

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I hope you enjoyed Penguin Wars. 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.

 

Alice in Wonderland (GBC)

November 26, 2015 will mark the 150th anniversary of the original publication of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and I’m actually really excited about that. If you’ve never actually read the books, I insist you give it a try. They are an amazing read, and have so much more to them that never made it into any of the movies. If you do read it, you might want to try one of the annotated versions. The story is intentionally very silly and confusing, and the annotated version gives you a lot of insight into what’s actually going on.

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As part of my celebration for this anniversary, I’ve decided to play Disney’s Alice in Wonderland for the Gameboy Color. The 1951 animated Alice in Wonderland has always been my favorite Disney movie. Growing up I would watch this over and over again until I think I eventually broke the tape. However, it’s only loosely based on the book, and actually received quite a negative initial reception for being too far from the original source. It has since gained a huge cult following, and is regarded as one of the greatest Disney Classics. So with that in mind, let’s jump in and see how far the Gameboy Color can be pushed.

 

Gameplay

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Just like in the book and movie, the game starts with Alice day dreaming during lessons from her older sister. It is her older sister right? She could easily pass for a young mother. Anyway, Alice spots the White Rabbit running off, and out of curiosity of seeing a rabbit with a pocket watch, she chases after it.

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There is a lot of detail in this game that is impressive for a Gameboy Color game. Little details like the reflection distorted in the water. Or the upside-down reflections in the mirrors as you fall down the rabbit hole avoiding random objects. These little details are just so uncommon for Gameboy games.

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In the Hallways at the bottom of the rabbit hole, the game begins to play like a typical platformer. Alice, the innocent girl she is, has no weapons, and can only defeat enemies by jumping on them. These enemies include giant stop watches, and the musical instrument frogs from the movie.

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Scattered around wonderland, you’ll also find mushrooms which allow Alice to grow or shrink in size. These add some puzzle elements into the game by forcing you to find the mushrooms to make your way through openings too small for regular Alice. Then find a way to change back to make jumps too high for small Alice. It’s a fun element added to the game that nods at the numerous times Alice changed size in the movie.

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The goal, at least in these early stages, is quite simple. Hidden in the level are keys to the doors. Find the keys and bring them to the door to continue on your adventure. Though, this is often easier said than done.

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The game isn’t necessarily HARD, it just has instances that cause a lot of backtracking. The moving platforms for example gave me no end of annoyance. Jumping from one platform to the next requires patience and timing, and a missed platform will send you back to the bottom. With 15 moving platforms to reach the top, this section took me some time to get through.

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Your reward for making it to the top however is the first boss battle of the game, The White Rabbit’s Pocket Watch. It’s a rather simple fight, jump on its head until he is defeated. As an added bonus, every time you hit him, an accordion bird will fly by with power-ups like temporary invincibility or restore your health. I also got a super jump once. This made Alice jump to the ceiling, which was nice for jumping over the boss, but it threw off my timing and made it hard to actually land on his head to damage him.

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Death Count: 3

 

After the fight with the pocket watch, Alice becomes frustrated that she’ll never catch the White Rabbit. This causes her to start crying enough to create a river. She shrinks down, lands in a bottle, and needs to navigate her way through the river of her own tears. It’s a dangerous river full of rapids, fish, and krakens. Forgive me for trying to find logic here, but this river is made of her tears, so where did the fish and kraken come from?

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From here, the game becomes a bit open world. You’re free to explore several iconic areas from the movie, like the Tea Party, and the White Rabbit’s House. To fully explore them, you’ll have to help recover lost items for some Wonderland’s Residents. The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Dodo, and The Red Rose, each have lost something important to them, and will reward you with an item necessary to explore the other areas.

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Find the Walrus’ cane in The White Rabbit’s house, and he’ll reward you with a compass. This will let you navigate through the Caterpillar’s Woods. Here, Alice can float up inside giant bubbles to find hidden smoke letters the caterpillar blew. This area is primarily a puzzle maze. There are lots of branches making small passages which require the shrinking mushroom. There are also a few spots that required perfectly timed jumps. Ultimately not a hard level and it was quite enjoyable. Collect all the letters to make “ALICE” and the Caterpillar will reward you with a Medal, in this case the Spade. You’ll have to collect all 4 medals if you want to be allowed into the Queen’s Courtyard.

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While exploring the caterpillar’s woods, you should have found the Carpenter’s hammer. Return it to him and he’ll give you some fresh baked biscuits to bring to the tea party. This is no normal tea party however, not when the Mad Hatter and March Hare are involved. To proceed from this area, you need to unlock the gates. Where is the key you might ask? Well, that is attached to the Dormouse’s tail. He runs just as fast as Alice, so you’ll have to be clever and cut him off if you watch to catch him. But beware, because the Mad Hatter and March Hare will steal the key back if they catch you, and they actually can run faster than Alice. You’ll have to do this 3 times to unlock all the gates and escape this madness, as well as recover the Dodo’s lost Handkerchief.

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Trying to escape the tea party apparently greatly offended the Mad Hatter, as he attacks you when you try to leave. As far as boss battles go, he’s pretty easy. He will throw his hat at you, which is slow moving and easy to dodge, and then just stand there waiting to be attacked until his hat returns to him. Stomp some sense into his head, and he’ll reward you with the Diamond Medal.

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Death Count: 9

 

After fighting the Hatter, you’ll be thrust into a foot race with the White Rabbit. I’ll be honest, these races were the hardest part of the game, and I’m sure some people will be thankful they’re optional. The race isn’t very long, but it’s through a maze, and you have to run it PERFECT, or there’s no way for you to win. The White Rabbit is just so much faster than Alice and the slightest slip up or hesitation will be enough for the rabbit to navigate to the exit before you.

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If you do beat the rabbit, talking to the Brush Dog will grant you access to a secret area. Ultimately nothing very special, but the completionist types will probably love it. Personally I wasn’t very thrilled since it didn’t really add anything.

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When you’ve had enough of secrets, let’s go return that handkerchief to the Dodo. He is so grateful that he gives you the Tweedle Brothers’ hats to return to them. More of a chore than a thank you, but either way it progresses the game. The Tweedle’s area was actually a bit frustrating for me. It’s a rather large maze with lots of enemies like the pencil birds and glasses birds wondering around, as well as the Tweedles themselves. The objective is actually quite simple. Make to the exit at the top of the map without dying. A very easy task for the patient, but the impatient like myself will have some trouble running though this area. To make matters worse, when I did eventually make my way through, I realized I had never found the Red Rose’s conducting wand which was hidden in the maze. This forced to run the maze all over again, plus actually search for the wand.

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Death Count: 12

 

The Tweedles are so happy you came to visit, that they just have to dance. Alice, however, is apparently not in a dancing mood, because this becomes another boss battle. As with the other battles, it’s not too hard. The Tweedles will mindlessly jump and dance around as you stomp on their heads. They’re also spaced nicely apart allowing you to jump from one’s head straight onto the other’s. A few head stomps each, and you’ll have won. They’ll thank you for playing, and reward you with the Heart Medal. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes I had to fight this particular boss battle a second time after I went through again to retrieve the conducting wand.

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Having further brain damaged the Tweedles, let’s repent with the good deed of returning the Red Rose’s conducting wand. She’ll be grateful and reward you with the key to the White Rabbit’s house. An odd thing for her to have, but this is wonderland, so no point questioning it. This obviously will grant you access to fully explore the White Rabbit’s house, and retrieve the last of the four medals.

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Inside the White Rabbit’s house is very similar in play style to the Hallway area earlier in the game. There weren’t a lot of enemies in this area, and instead the focus is put back onto platforming and well timed jumps. VERY well timed jumps actually, even a tiny split second off would be enough to ruin a few of the jumps. True mastery of the running jump ability is required for this area. The moving platforms also return, testing your patience as you wait for the perfect time to jump to the next one. I really wish they were just a little bit more synchronized.

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Just like in the movie, while exploring the White Rabbit’s house, Alice eats some cookies and grows to monstrous size, becoming stuck in the house. It’s up to the loveable lizard Bill to climb up the house and pull the monster out. Changing the play style yet again, you now control Bill instead of Alice as he makes his climb up to the chimney. I’ll admit I had a bit of a hard time with this section. Not because it’s actually hard, but because it requires patience which I simply didn’t have at the time I was playing it. Bill can’t jump, he can only climb his ladder and fall off ledges, so getting lost is kind of out of the question in this section. That didn’t stop the developers from putting arrows everywhere to make sure you knew where to go. The only obstacle comes from the various birds flying around that will damage Bill or push the ladder off the platforms.

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It’s a short section with a big payoff. After guiding Bill to the chimney, you’re treated to several images making up the scene of bill being stuffed into the chimney, causing Alice to sneeze, and launching him unfortunately into space. Mistaking you for the hero who vanquished the monster, the Dodo rewards you with the Clubs Medal, thus finishing the set.

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Death Count: 27

 

You’re also forced into yet another race with the white rabbit. This one seemed even harder than the last. It’s still not a complicated maze, but the level of perfection required is just so unheard of, and feels out of place with the rest of the otherwise fairly easy game. Beating him again unlocks a secret area with the Brush Dog, but that’s again underwhelming. The real reward is knowing you can now enter the Queen’s Courtyard.

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Upon entering the courtyard, you quickly come across a card guard frantically painting the roses red. Being the kind person Alice is, she agrees to help. With only a limited amount of time, Alice needs to find all the white roses and paint them red, or it will be off with her head. As true to the movie as that is, I don’t recall any of the rose bushes ever trying to EAT Alice as she painted them.

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Death Count: 30

 

With all the roses painted red, the Queen of Hearts remains in a fine mood and asks Alice to play a game of croquet with her. Just like in the movie, the cards don’t exactly play fair. Not only does the flamingo Alice is using as a club act up, but the cards move around when it’s Alice’s turn. Patience and timing, once again it’s all about Patience and timing.

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OFF WITH HER HEAD!! It’s the only logical conclusion to losing a game of croquet, at least if you’re the Queen of Hearts. Alice must run for her life through the hedge maze if she wants to survive. This section is very similar to the Tweedle’s area. The map is a maze with lots of enemies, but they’re not particularly interested in Alice. Instead they just walk around in patterns. Hurry, but be careful as you make your way to the outer edge of the maze.

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In one last act of desperation, the Queen of Hearts sends the full deck of card guards after you. Alice must fight them all off if she ever wants to get home again. On their own, the card guards are pathetically weak, dying instantly with one hit. But as the battle progresses, they become faster, and appear quicker. The later parts of the battle actually do become quite hectic. But keep at it, and Alice will surely escape back to the real world in no time.

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Falling through a magic portal, Alice wakes to find it was all just a dream. A crazy, seemingly drug induced dream. Either way, you have completed the game, congratulations.

 

Verdict

Gameplay – 7 / 10

The ever changing game styles really make this an interesting game. One second it’s your standard platformer, the next you’re running a maze from a top down perspective. You just don’t know what’s coming next, and it’s so much fun. However, the controls aren’t as tight as they could be. Alice’s jump in particular feels a little short, making some of the platforming elements require more precision than should be necessary.

Graphics – 9 / 10

Considering it’s a Gameboy Color game, these are some of the best graphics I’ve seen from the system. All the character sprites are detailed and the backgrounds are very impressive. Then there are the cut scene images that seem to be pulled straight from the movie. Admittedly, there were the rare graphical hiccups, but nothing that ever really detracted from the experience as a whole. In the end, the graphics were thoroughly impressive.

Audio – 8 / 10

Just like with the graphics, the audio was top notch. Most of the songs were compressed versions of the movie soundtracks and were easily recognizable. One little touch that I thought was great was how the music changed pitch when Alice changed size. Whenever she shrunk down, the music would switch to a slightly higher pitch, then back again when she grew to regular size. It’s the little things like that that really stand out. Unfortunately, some of the sounds were a bit too high pitched, which probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but with headphones on like when I played, they can be deafening.

Story – 8 / 10

It followed the story of the movie rather well, touching on most of the major scenes. From chasing the rabbit down the hole, to the tea party, even the crochet match with the queen, you can’t really ask for much more from an Alice in Wonderland game. The choice to make the second half non-linear I think made the story a bit choppy, but the ability to freely explore wonderland like that was fun in its own right, leaving me with a bit of a mixed emotion. Being one of my favorite Disney movies, I was just happy to be able to relive some of the more iconic scenes on my own.

Total Playtime – 2 h 04 m

A little short maybe, but a wonderful amount of fun.

Total Deaths – 31 Total Deaths ( 20 of which were lost races against the White Rabbit)

Over all, this was a relatively easy game. The final boss battle against the deck of cards got a bit hectic, and those races against the rabbit could seem impossible, but I was rarely frustrated with the game as a whole. The younger audience might have a tough time with a few spots, but most veteran gamers will rarely struggle. At times, patience was the real key to this game, which made it harder than necessary at times for me.

Overall Score – 8 / 10

It has a few flaws, but this was still a wonderful recreation of the classic Alice in Wonderland movie. Everything you could have asked for was there and more. Not just that, but it felt like it really pushed the handheld to its limits to create the best game possible for the system. Search out a copy for yourself and be happy to have such a wonderful game in your collection. While you’re at it, pick up a copy of the books, and celebrate 150 years in Wonderland.

 

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Happy 150th Anniversary to Alice in Wonderland!!

 

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I hope you enjoyed Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. 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 Trading Card Game

The Pokémon franchise is arguably one of the largest, most popular franchises in the world today. It has spawned several generations of games, hundreds of episodes of anime, over a dozen movies, and merchandise of all kinds. The Pokémon franchise has gained such wide popularity that in 2008 scientist even named a newly discovered protein in the human body “Pikachurin” after the series mascot Pikachu. Most important to today’s topic however, the Pokémon franchise has created its own spin off trading card game series.

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When the trading card game was first introduced, I remember the lines of people as I waited to buy booster packs. Everyone wanted them, and they quickly became both hard to find and very collectible. The feeling of opening up a pack and finding a shiny was almost incomparable to anything else at the time. Unfortunately I never actually learned how to PLAY the game. I didn’t mind much, I was happy being a collector, plus everyone I knew that collected Pokémon cards was also strictly a collector. A little over a year after the Initial North American release of the card game, a Gameboy Color adaptation was localized and would go on to sell over 1.5 million copies in its first year. It had proven to be insanely popular, and after playing it, I can see why. It follows the rules and gameplay of the actual card game very faithfully, as well as replicating nearly all of the official cards released to date.

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So, with little knowledge of how to play, let’s dive in and see what I’ve been missing all these years.

Gameplay

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The legendary Pokémon trading cards, I must have them. I’ll just stop at GameStop on the way home from work and pick them up. What do you mean I can’t pick them up at GameStop? How else do you get legendary Pokémon? BY BEING THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD?! But… I’ve never even played the trading card game before…

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Thankfully, the game starts with a nice tutorial battle to teach you the basics. If you’re interested you can find full tutorials on the Pokémon website if you want more details on how to play.

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For just the basics, you each play with a deck of 60 cards. You draw 7 cards into your hand, and place between 2 – 6 cards down as prizes for when you knock out an opponent’s Pokémon. During your turn, you draw a card and can place 1 Pokémon in play and up to 5 Pokémon on the bench. Each turn you can attach 1 energy card to your Pokémon which is needed to perform attacks. You can also play trainer cards, which have various effects like healing your Pokémon or searching your deck for specific cards. You end your turn by attacking, if you have enough energy, and then it’s your opponent’s turn. The match continues with this back and forth until one player either collects all of their prizes for knocking out the opponent’s Pokémon, or if the opponent doesn’t have any more Pokémon on the bench to send into play.

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After you finish the tutorial match, you are presented with the most difficult task of any Pokémon game. You have to choose your starter. I love all three of the original starters for different reasons, but I’m going to pick my favorite starter, Charmander. The starter deck you get from Dr Mason isn’t a great deck, but it will get you through the first few battles until you can customize it yourself.

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Here is where the Pokémon trading card game differs greatly from the rest of the main series Pokémon games, or even just RPGs in general. There is no linear story. Your goal is to go to each of the 8 clubs and challenge the club masters so you can win their medal, similar to the gyms and gym badges from the main series. Once you’ve collected all 8, you will be allowed to challenge the 4 Grand Masters, similar to the Elite Four. However, since the cards themselves don’t gain levels or become stronger, the only thing that separates a rookie player from a pro player is the balance of their deck. As such, you are free to challenge any of the clubs, in any order, at any time right from the start. There’s no world to explore, there’s no subplot to complete, there’s no towns to visit or anything. There is just the world map with the 8 clubs and a very small handful of important locations.

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All of the clubs are laid out in the same way. You enter the club to an empty lobby with the exception of a receptionist who will give you some information about the club. To the left is a lounge with a few NPCs to talk to, as well as the link counter and a computer. Occasionally one of the club members will be hanging out in here as well and challenge you to a match.

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Heading up from the lobby brings you into the Clubroom. Here is where you will have most of your duels and where you will challenge each of the club masters. You can’t challenge the master right away though. Most of them require you to challenge all of the other members first before they will duel you. Some of them are a bit more annoying with their requests, like the fighting club master who sent his members off to the other clubs to train. You have to FIND them before you can even challenge them.

 

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When you first start out, even the regular members are going to be tricky since your starting deck isn’t all that great. Thankfully, every time you beat a club member, you are rewarded with 2 booster packs full of random cards. You can also have rematches with any of the club members as many times as you want until you build up a deck you are happy with.

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I had a bit of difficulty making a good deck. You really do need to have a theme behind it for it to be functional. At first, I tried a fire & psychic theme, since the love the ghost types, but that didn’t work out too well for me. Eventually I settled on a pure fire deck, and that ended up lasting me for most of the game with only minor adjustments.

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Once you have a good deck made, go ahead and challenge the Club Master. The Club Masters play just like any of the regular members, except they use 6 prizes and have a slightly better balanced deck. But since there are no levels, once you beat one Club Master, you’re pretty much good to challenge any of the other clubs. You might need to make small adjustments to work around type disadvantage, but that’s about it. My fire deck had some trouble in the water club, but even then it was well balanced enough that I was able to win with it. If you want, Dr Mason even has a machine that will copy the deck of any club member as long as you have that club’s medal. It very helpful if you’re not sure how to make a good deck yourself.

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did you really name your deck after yourself? that’s so lame.

 

Since the game is nonlinear, it also has very little story. The only thing that really breaks up the gameplay any is the occasional challenge from your rival, Ronald. He will show up and challenge you in the lobby after winning certain numbers of medals, and if you beat him he will give you a rare promo card. Otherwise, he lacks much character depth and is just another random opponent.

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Once you collect all 8 medals, it’s time to face off against the 4 Grand Masters. Again, because there are no levels, these 4 play just like every other battle, and if you’ve made it this far, they shouldn’t give you much trouble.

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The only thing that makes this different from other battles is that you’re not allowed to leave the table until you’ve beaten all four of them in a row. But don’t worry, you’re still allowed to save and adjust your deck in between battles. You just won’t be able to go around collecting lots of new cards, so it’s not a big deal.

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As is tradition, once you beat the 4 Grand Masters, you are told you were too late, and someone else has already beaten them, your rival. Since he already beat the masters, he is currently in possession of all of the legendary cards. No reason to worry though, while the legendary cards are powerful, they also take a long time to set up. Once you knock one of them out, it seemed unlikely he would recover from the blow.

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Beat your rival one last time, and OH MY GOD THE CARDS ARE MAGIC! Are all the cards magic or just the legendary ones? Whatever the case may be, congratulations, you have become the greatest Pokémon Trading Card Game Master in the world and completed the game.

Verdict

Gameplay – 8 / 10

I’ll admit I was addicted to this game while I was playing it. Everything was really simple and easy to pick up. Then there’s just an evil joy to using your Charizard to do 100 damage to a Rattata that only has 30 health. The only real fault I have with the actual gameplay is a fault present in all card games and board games. So much of your strategy boils down to luck. You’re lucky when you get a Pokémon and its evolutions all in your hand at once. You’re lucky when you flip a coin and get 3 heads in a row for maximum damage. You’re unlucky when you flip a coin and get tails and your Pokémon doesn’t wake up from being put to sleep. One of the club leaders I lost to after 40 rounds because we were very evenly matched. On the rematch I beat him on the 3rd turn because I had a lucky hand and he didn’t. There’s just nothing you can really do about it in a game like this though.

Graphics – 8 / 10

It’s a Gameboy Color game, so you can’t be expecting realistic CGI graphics or anything fancy like that. It’s good for what it is and you can’t expect much more from it. Where it really shines though is with the Pokémon cards themselves. Since they’re based on the real world cards, they managed to capture the image of each card the best they could and to great success given the limitations of the system.

Audio – 6 / 10

There was nothing particularly wrong with the audio. The music was pleasant, and fit the game nicely, and the sound effects were spot on. It’s just that nothing really stood out as memorable. To be honest, I can already barely remember the soundtrack, and I just finished playing it.

Story – 2 / 10

This is where the game really failed. The story is so shallow as to be non-existent. You want the legendary cards, and the only way to get them is to be the best in the world. So that’s what you do. You also have a rival, who also wants the legendary cards, and is given no further character development beyond that point. The fact that it’s just a card game is no excuse for a lack of story. The Yu-Gi-Oh card game series for example has you protecting the world from reincarnated Egyptian gods through playing the card game. So story IS possible in card games.

Overall Score – 8 / 10

Overall, I really enjoyed this game. Even with the shallow story, it didn’t take anything away from the total experience. It a fun game that is easy to pick up, but has a lot of depth and customization. I had never played the Pokémon card game before this, but it was a wonderful experience and I might have to start collecting again. My poor wallet, please forgive me.

Total Deaths – I never DIED. I wasn’t playing poker in the old west or anything. But my final record was – 47 Wins – 14 Loses

Total Playtime – 11h 40m

11 hours is a good length. Any longer and I think it might have become repetitive. There is still more to do after you beat the game though. You can still go around challenging club members to try to collect all of the cards. There’s also the challenge hall and challenge machine for some additional, well, challenges. So you could easily keep playing for hours more after you beat the game.

 

MVP

Pokemon TCG (32) Pokemon TCG (33)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With 35% of all the knockouts in my playthrough (yes I counted all of them) Arcanine is my Pokémon Trading Card Game MVP. He requires a little time to set up, but with 80 damage, the take down attack was able to knock out most of the opponents Pokémon in one hit. Yes it causes 30 points of self inflicted damage, but with 100 health and a few potions, it was worth it. The flamethrower attack was also well worth the 1 fire energy cost to use and caused good damage on its own with 50 damage, enough to take out many of the weaker Pokémon, or 2 hit KO nearly any other pokemon.

 


 

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