Wednesday 30 April 2014

Snake Rattle N' Roll Review (NES)

A breath of fresh air upon release on the NES Snake Rattle N Roll could truly be the strangest game in the history of the world. Taking control of either Rattle or Roll you must help your snake to the moon by climbing up a very big mountain that consists of eleven increasingly difficult levels. 

In order to progress from one level to the next your snake must eat a certain number of creatures called Nibbley Pibbleys in order to gain weight. Once your tail has become heavy enough you can open up the exit door by jumping on a huge set of scales located somewhere on the level. As an added touch of genius the Nibbley Pibbleys that appear as different coloured blobs, have different characteristics on each level. For instance, On level one they just bounce around, but in subsequent levels turn into fish, helicopters and ‘splats’ among other things.

What makes the game really stand out however is the isometric viewpoint. Although it can prove a touch tricky to make crucial jumps without dying at times as players are often needed to turn in mid air. Along with the isometric viewpoint the enemies are truly bizarre and in can kill you in about a million and one different ways. A shark could eat you, you could be flattened by a giant foot, trapped by a toilet seat, fall to your doom, let the timer run out, swallow a bomb or get cut in half by mincing blades and that’s just to name a few dangers our beloved snakes face.

Adding to the fun is a brilliant two-player option, with both players on the screen at once it leads to many arguments over who keeps eating all the little Nibbley Pibbleys. Taking this into account the Pibbleys come in three different colours, grey and blue ones when eaten by the snake of the corresponding colour cause you to put on more weight than those of the other snake. What every one is after though are the rare yellow Pibbleys as they add more weight than the other colours, meaning co-operation only goes so far as you race around trying to eat them up before your mate does. 

With such a difficult game it's crucial that the controls are spot on, and luckily they are. The snakes are incredibly maneuverable, jumping and eating with ease. The only slight problem is judging where certain platforms are in the field of play. However, after a few attempts the gaming world is very straightforward to work out, meaning when you die, and you will numerous times, its because your reactions are too slow. 

Overall, Snake Rattle N Roll holds an awful lot of charm, it's a shame that Rare never made a next generation sequel as a new version could possible have brought about world peace. Unfortunately, it seems likely that the lovable snakes will remain hidden away in video gaming history, such a shame. Anyone out there with a NES must try and hunt this down as there is nothing else like it around. Another gem from the team that back in the good old days turned everything they touched into gaming gold.


Monday 28 April 2014

Bomberman Generation Review (Game Cube)

Ever since ‘Dynablaster’ on the 8-bit systems little bomberman has been laying bombs and blowing up blocks for all he's worth. But after such a bright start with the exceptional Super Nintendo outings the little chap has seemingly lost his way in the gaming world. So then can his latest adventure redress the balance?

Bomberman Generation represents an almost complete overhaul of the original format -we are now presented with something resembling a cell-shaded version of the first the Game Boy Advance Title. A sort of Bomberman role-play game if you will.

The single player game is set across six different environments, each consisting of six stages. And it all looks truly lovely. The change to the new cell shaded look certainly benefits the series and seems to suit the style of the game very well. The purpose of the single player game is to guide Bomberman through the six worlds in search of missing bomb fragments. On the way you can create new types of bombs and most intriguingly capture sort of Pokemon type things called Charabom’s. These Charabom’s then help to raise Bomberman’s ability in areas such as kicking bombs and how much damage is taken from enemies.

At both the middle and end stages of each world you have to take on a boss creature. This can prove frustrating as each villain has a weak spot, which is the only way that they can be damaged and you are given no clue where the weak spot is. It all moves along nicely with responsive controls and though your character appears to be very slow when you start the game you'll pick up a a few ‘speed up’ icons tand it stops being problem.

However, thought the game plays well, looks beautiful and generally hits all the right spots. There is a problem. It’s just that the single player game is just a bit dull. After you have wondered through to about the third world you don’t feel like you're seeing anything new. This problem is caused by the puzzle solving aspect of the game. All of which revolves around bombs, unsurprisingly. Now I appreciate there is not a great deal of variety available in solving puzzles with bombs. You can blow down walls and poles to make more platforms, or you can kick bombs to… well blow down walls and poles to make platforms. This coupled with the fact that the bombs take too long to explode can cause frustration.

Furthermore, you’re not looking at a game that’s going to last you a long time. (Not in the single player mode anyway). Each world takes about an hour to get through and unless you want to make sure you have got all the Pokemon things, or want to play the truly dull mini-games, when you have finished it I cant see anyone having the urge to go back to it.

Multi-player is where any good Bomberman game should excel and I am glad to report that this version of the game has all the magic of previous outings. The controls work perfectly, meaning you don’t get stuck on corners, a problem very apparent in some versions on the game. Basically, here you have the multi-player from the Super Nintendo outing updated with the new visuals.

Coupled to the basic game mode is a selection of new options to try and allow you to blow people up in a whole new way. New modes include a game where exploding bombs change the colour of the panels on the floor to that of your player. Thus creating a sort of Othello with bombs type of thing. Pure genius. A game where you have to bomb moles is also included. It all looks great and works perfectly. For this reason alone Bomberman deserves to be returned to the high acclaim it once received in the good old days of retro gaming.

To sum up, Bomberman Generation is a good game. The multiplayer mode is as excellent as ever, and even though the single player mode lacks the magic of the multiplayer it isn’t that bad really. In small doses it can be fun, especially when involved in one of the battles with the Charabom's. Anyway, who buys a Bomberman game for the single player game? No one that’s who.

Overall - 7/10

Wednesday 2 April 2014

killer7 Review (Playstation 2)

Some time long ago Capcom announced five games that they said would bring back gaming innovation to the industry. First up was the Rhythm action styled shooter P.N.O3, and then came the sublime slice of description defying slow motion brilliance that was Viewtiful Jo. These two gems where followed by what many people feel to be the best game of the generation, Resident Evil 4. Somewhere along the way Phoenix sadly bit the dust and the last instalment of the Capcom five was killer7.

killer7 is set in the year 2003, a terrorist group know as the Heaven Smiles are causing death and destruction across the globe using strange demonically laughing bombs. The only solution to combat them is Harman Smith and his seven highly skilled assassin personalities. It is fair to say that the plot starts out obscure and confusing with the title drip feeding you information about both the killer7 group and the treachery that is going on in the governments of the world. It's only during later sections of the game that things begin to tie up a little more coherently.

The first thing that strikes you about killer7 is the games neo-noir tinged anime style. Truly there has never been a title presented with such gloriously detached visuals. To begin with it can be hard to feel part of the playing experience as the game keeps you at arms length with the obscure visuals meaning many gamers will see nothing to relate the on screen experience to. After a while the killer7 ethos begins to wind its way into the subconscious and once you have become accustomed to it you realise there is actually an interesting game underneath it all.

Separating the visual aspect of the game from the gameplay is impossible. Capcom's title turns what we perceive a game to be on its head. killer7 is as much about what you are taking in visually and sonically as it is about what you are doing. Controls are simple, press one button to move forward along a pre-determined path and another to turn 180 degrees. That’s it. At junctions you can choose which route to take by moving the analogue stick (something that can be awkward). Combat involves holding R1 to move into a first person perspective then pressing L1 to scan for enemies, once discovered they can be shot at. It works like an on-rail light gun game but with a controller and after a while will become second nature to you.

More so than most titles killer7 is a game you have to become accustomed to- mainly due to it being rather obscure. It requires players to re-evaluate how they use their gaming skills and many may become frustrated early on. Really, you need to make it through the first mission before you will truly know if you like the game or not and for a lot of people that will require too much effort. Once the first mission is out the way you should find thinking in the killer7 way is as instinctive as double jumping or duel wielding.

Helping players along is a very useful (if spoiling) map that shows the location of objects, save rooms and where each member of the killer7 will be needed to use their unique abilities in order to proceed. It does take some of the adventure aspect away from the title having everything pretty much laid out for you but there is so much for your senses to take in that most will be glad of it.

Each level varies nicely in terms of location and enemy type so there is always something new to see and explore. Your personalities can also be upgraded with the blood taken from fallen heaven smiles, giving them new skills along with the usual health and power upgrades. Couple this with the excellent cut scenes that appear during and between levels and you may find you just have to know what happens next. The further you go into the twisted world the more interesting it gets and the more accustomed you become to it.

It's fair to say that killer7 has probably turned out pretty much exactly how the developers wanted it to. There are definitely no broken controls or gaping flaws outside of the players inability to gel with the subject matter or not being able to adapt their skills to it. It is hard to imagine any way the game could be changed to make it better, there simply has never been anything like this before. It's testament to the development team that it actually works, when for long periods of time no one could quite work out how on earth there was going to be any actual ‘game’ in there.

With the PS2 version come a few technical problems however. With the PS2 showing its age at an ever increasing rate upon when the game released it was always going to struggle with a title initially designed for the Game Cube. The visuals have not really suffered at all but no doubt due to this there are long loading times. This would not be so bad but every new room or section you enter triggers a four second (at least) loading screen. As you will need to move back and forth a lot to change personalities and use objects this can become annoying. The PS2 version also suffers from bouts of slowdown during combat. The slowdown is both very noticeable and highly off putting. Luckily it only seems to occur after a shot has been fired so at least it will not trouble your aiming when you are under pressure. The best thing we can say about it is that you get used to it and it does not detract from the title too much.Playing on the Game Cube removes all the technical issues.

Overall, Capcom has delivered another unique title that makes us think about gaming in a different way. killer7 represents an original and highly risky concept that could have gone horribly wrong. But due to the skill of the development team we have a highly innovative and visually visceral title that pushes both our senses and the boundaries of what we consider a game to be. We only hope Capcom keep making such wonderfully unique titles long into the future. There is no denying that it takes some getting used to but give killer7 a chance and you just may grow to love it.

Overall 8