Wednesday 29 July 2009

Virtua Hamster

X-Cult recently dumped the previously unreleased "Virtua Hamster" for the Sega 32X.

It's a very early tech demo with no real gameplay value. Your lifeless polygon hamster travels through linked tubes, occasionally passing a placeholder opponent or collecting "items".

There's not really much to be said about this one, but interesting nonetheless. Virtua Hamster was later cancelled, so it's unclear how much further development work was done before it was axed (though it did get a little bit further). But hey, 3D hamsters in tubes. Can't get that on Nintendo.

Tuesday 28 July 2009


Char sent me his recently dumped "100-in-1" Game Boy Advance pirate. As I'm not usually the first or second person to have a go at a game, I thought I'd post about it.

I mean it's nothing amazingly special, just PocketNES with a bunch of ROMs. But there's a few hacks, a couple of homebrew games and the odd pirate original included (bonus points if you can guess which ones). Gives me an excuse to review a lot of quick sprite edits on one go, so expect a tORP page soonish. One day I'll also get around to finishing that page on Hummer Team's Tiny Toon Adventures pirate (there's a lot to talk about there).

In other news, the Taxman, known for his Retro Sonic engine (Retro Sonic XG, Sonic Nexus) is developing a Sonic CD port to the iphone. It's been pitched to Sega after a "what iphone games do you want" blog post, who have promised to bring it up in one of their board meetings. A Sonic fangame adopted by Sega? Might be more likely than you think.

Saturday 25 July 2009

SAGE 2009

It's currently the 14th Sonic Ameteur Games Expo! Though I work at a Super Mario fangaming website, I often find myself drifting towards the hedgehog end because at the end of the day, I am a veteran Sega fan. You see, Nintendo are still hanging about producing games in the same vein as they were a decade or two ago (see: new Super Mario Bros Wii). But Sega? Sega stopped making Sonic games as I knew them in the late 90s, and though they've had a few hits with the Adventure series and the handheld titles, it's still not quite the Sonic I remember. SAGE often is.

I have more faith in the fangaming scene when it comes to producing quality Sonic games. Now granted, there's always some awful titles and many games are never finished, but SAGE is always a good place to go if you want to see some of the best games the fangaming scene has to offer. There's no Retro Sonic XG or Sonic Nexus this year, but there are others, such as...

Sonic Robo Blast 2 (again)

I find it difficult to believe a fangame can spend more than a decade in development and still not be finished, but then again when Sonic Robo Blast 2 started, there wasn't really much of a fangaming scene at all. SSNTails and the SRB2 gang have given us the first demo in three years dubbed the "marriage edition" (because SSNTails is so old he's getting married!), adding in a couple of new levels and fixing all sorts of problems. Aside from that 80MB download, this is probably the "biggest" SAGE release this year now.

Sonic: Time Twisted

I played this last year (or the year before) at SAGE and back then I would have classed it as "average" at best. This year, it's vastly improved and is actually worth mentioning. Don't really know what's going on with the whole "time travelling" thing - there's a lot of it and it doesn't really seem to serve any purpose yet except to get in the way, but nevertheless, another great demo. It's not a perfect match for my slow PC however (but it's a similar situation with all Game Maker games).

Sonic Zero Remastered

Another good game, though the fact it's using the Sonic Worlds engine probably gives that impression straight away. With only one level, there's not much to comment on, but it's still helping to fill that gap Sega left us, and it looks nice.

Sonic: Project Mettrix

Stealth seems to have his E02 engine up on display every SAGE nowadays, and with that comes Project Mettrix, the Sonic fangame that demonstrates the engine. Mettrix is about as close as you can come to having a perfect Sonic 3 & Knuckles engine, and it's always nice to see Shining Island Zone once more. The new level this year, Bronze Lake, does look a bit out of place though. Mettrix isn't exactly an artist's wet dream but this one doesn't really fit with the character sprites at all. If you don't care about graphics though, you'll have yourself a great game here, and let's not forget that not all great programmers are great artists.

Sonic Gemini

A co-operative platformer where you switch between Sonic and Metal Sonic. At a grand total of 13 frames per second, I can't really comment on this one much either, but it has the potential to be something special. It might lag a bit, but it's still nice to look at.

and there's a dozen more but I'm aware these blog posts take up quite a bit of room on the front page without condensed versions.

So check these games out sometime, especially if you're one of the many thousands of people longing for a return to the classic Sonic experience.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Space Chase

Here's a game from years gone by - Jason Storm in: Space Chase, deveolped by Safari Software and published by Epic MegaGames in 1993 for DOS computers.

Space Chase is one of the many DOS "classics" I had the fortune to grow up with. It's a lightweight 16 colour sidescrolling platformer in the vein of the original Duke Nukum and the Commander Keen series, except unlike those, nobody remembers it. It didn't get any sequels and Safari Software went on to produce better things like Traffic Department 2192 and Highway Hunter (before being bought out by Epic)

Time and time again I've revisted Space Chase and its many episodes. When I first played it, having installed it from it's brand new floppy disk, I could safely say it was an "okay" game, (bare in mind of course this was the mid-90s and I didn't know much better). Now in the grand year of 2009 having played both the best games and worst games ever created... it's still an "okay" game.

Space Chase has numerous flaws, many of which I'm only starting to fully understand today. The graphics aren't brilliant, the gameplay is very basic and sometimes broken, the music is awful and the sound effects are pumped out of the built in PC Speaker (and in the case of DOSBox - pumped out of the emulated PC Speaker which in many cases sounds worse).

Yet, it's not a terrible game. Sure some parts will melt your brain but there's still something appealing about walking around in very ridgid 16 colour worlds picking up lots of items. I'm compelled to like it despite its flaws, and since we've known each other for so long it's difficult to lecture it this far down the line. But then again, that MIDI music is terrible and is now haunting me like many awful yet catchy tunes in the past.

What's the point of this post? Dunno, but it's Space Chase - it doesn't really get any publicity at all, ever.

Sunday 19 July 2009

A Quest for Freedom

Look what I've found, it's the hard-to-find religious game Onesimus: A Quest for Freedom known for using the engine and graphics from Jill of the Jungle. I'd played about two minutes of this thing a decade ago and had to download it from a Spanish website just to have a second try. Needless to say it's not a very common game.

But alas like most religious games the end result was sub-par. Why? Because there's only about four or five levels not stolen from the Jill of the Jungle games, and the original levels are dull. It also loves to throw in unavoidable quotes from the book of Philemon that have little relation to the game at all aside from the title. And would there really be an ICE CASTLE in the time of the new testament? There's also a few sprite changes, probably because the devils/demons probably weren't appropriate, so what better than flying topless men? Oh and don't expect transformations or anything interesting like that.

I think the most embarrassing thing is the ending, in which you go to "Paul's house" who effectively says "believe in god". What a waste of a journey - the apples have been saying that since level one. But at least I can now say for certain now that there is no reason to play this game if you've got Jill's adventures.

It's a good nostalgia trip though I suppose.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Shooting down 48 UFOs

Before Nintendo had any sort of foothold in the video games market, they, like so many others, produced Arcade games. After Taito released Space Invaders in 1978, every video game company on the planet decided it would be fun to... uh... make more Space Invaders, and Nintendo swiftly followed.

Nintendo's first attempt was actually a game called Space Fever, though it never made it outside of Japan. Basically... it's just Space Invaders but with three different options that change the course of the invaders. Oh and there's some colour. Needless to say it was outclassed by Taito's machines, which were all over the globe, but hey, it's close.

Then came Space Firebird (which I'm not picturing because the pixel ratio is nuts) a galaxian/galaga clone which added bombs into the mix and for some reason felt it would be nice to have the player move in an arc, rather than a staight line. Again... not much success here, though it is worth noting that this game was published by Sega-Gremlin (yes, THAT Sega). Gremlin died during the video game crash of 1983, in case you're wondering.

And finally Radar Scope came along. Though it looks a bit like a "tilted" Galaxian, it's actually a very different game. Bare in mind that in 1979 there wasn't much you could do with a Space Shooter without spending too much money, Radar Scope gives the bottom of the screen some health and you're tasked with the job of protecting it. Plus, despite that "tilted" look being a bit dated in this day and age, it too was pretty impressive for the era. Remember, this was all before Donkey Kong and Pac-Man or DigDug or whatever

Unfortunately by the time it reached western shores, people had simply stopped caring about the game, and Nintendo of America were forced to convert 2000 of the machines into Donkey Kong ones (apparently if your DK Arcade machine is red, it used to be a Radar Scope one). But the sad thing is, despite Nintendo's commitment to dig up the past at every given opportunity, they've clearly lost the hole they buried Radar Scope in, because it hasn't been seen, referenced or duplicated since. It didn't even get a port to the NES, even though the less advanced Galaxian managed with no problems at all. Even other games such as Gorf or Phoenix, which I would have cited as being more obscure, have had ports. Exerion, as I mentioned below, nearly got TWO ports to the NES and that arguably aged worse than Radar Scope, which still doesn't look too bad today, and was actually made by Nintendo. Crazy.

So yeah, Radar Scope. Give it a try sometime.

Friday 10 July 2009

Nintendo World Championships 1990

One of the fabled gold Nintendo World Championships 1990 NES carts popped up not too long ago and sold for a whopping £10800, making it probably the most expensive complete NES game of all time. Why so much? Well, only 26 carts of its type exist in the whole world, (though there's a further 90 boring old "grey" carts) and only 12 of those 26 carts have ever surfaced. Since obviously these things are no longer being produced in any format, demand is very high.

Originally these carts were used in a timed contest, with some fancy DIP switches on the side to adjust the time (the default being 6 minutes 21 seconds... don't ask me why). They were released in small quantities as competitions via Nintendo Power and other events, and are now deemed "the rarest of the rare" as far as video games go (if you discount Nintendo's PowerFest '94 event in which only one sole SNES cart survived and went for thirty times that amount)

But what's a NWC game look like? Well... a bit like this

Yes that's right, some kind soul did dump one of the 116 NWC carts a few years ago. But is it honestly worth £10k? No. Well, not from a gaming perspective anyway. You could probably obtain a large amount of the NES's game catelog for that price, but if you do feel the need to invest... probably wise to hang onto the game once you've received it, because every time one pops up on ebay it sells for more than its predecessor.

So the contest was simply to "get points", but in order to do so you need to play Nintendo games. After the time is up, the points are totalled and... that'll be your overall score. There's not much use for these carts unless you're competing with someone, as you'll see, but with scheduled events such as these you have to admire Nintendo's efforts in the late 80s/early 90s. Shame they didn't continue that outside of America and Japan. "World" Championships this isn't.

First up, Super Mario Bros. Yes, a third of your money would be going into purchasing one of the most common NES games on the planet, and it's a gimped version at that, obviously lacking the two player mode and giving you 99 lives. Your task? Get 50 coins, making it the most time consuming of the three titles. As soon as you get 50 coins you'll move on, but if you don't bother, I'm assuming you can probably beat the entire game as per normal, as long as you do it within the time limit (which by the way, is never shown on screen so you better make sure you have a stopwatch if you're wanting to be strategic).

Second, Rad Racer, a game by Squaresoft from the days where they weren't afraid to make games outside the RPG genre. Simple stuff this time around - finish the track. Personally, I don't see what's so "Rad" about Rad Racer. Sure it might have been "rad" for the hardware, but it was originally released in 1987, a year after the the hugely successful OutRun, and by the time 1990 had rolled along, there were plenty of better racing alternatives. There's been some minor changes to reflect the NWC, and some modes have once again been dropped.

And finally, a forced game of Tetris's A-type mode from the gimped Nintendo version. This game goes on forever, and is just an extra way to score points. As usual, we'd have been much better of with Tengen's offering, but to give them credit, at least they had the sense to assign the rotate commands to buttons this time around. I would expect that normal kids probably wouldn't have been able to get up to this round (or at least stay here long enough to get some lines). Might have been better to have split those six minutes into three equally timed sections in which players have to score as much points as possible.

And that's it. So if you're interested do note that you're paying ten grand for what is essentially some gold coloured plastic. But to give them credit, the concept of 26 golden NES carts scattered across the world is quite fun... it's just a shame that the internals of those carts are worth nothing.