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MrPopo
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by MrPopo Sun Sep 15, 2019 1:04 am

1. Octopath Traveler - Switch
2. Dusk - PC
3. Forsaken Remastered - PC
4. Tales of Eternia - PS1
5. Resident Evil 2 (2019) - PC
6. Pokémon Trading Card Game - GBC
7. Metro Exodus - PC
8. Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales - PC
9. Project Warlock - PC
10. Magic: The Gathering - PC
11. Ghost 1.0 - PC
12. Call of Duty 2 - PC
13. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - PS4
14. Revelations: The Demon Slayer - GBC
15. Mechstermination Force - Switch
16. Shadow Warrior Classic Redux - PC
17. Lost Sphear - Switch
18. Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal - PC
19. Dragon Quest III - NES
20. Rage 2 - PC
21. Blood - PC
22. Harvest Moon 64 - N64
23. Battlefield V - PC
24. Sigil - PC
25. Shining Force III: Scenario 2 - Saturn
26. Shining Force III: Scenario 3 - Saturn
27. Borderlands 2: Commander Lillith and the Fight for Sanctuary - PC
28. Gato Roboto - Switch
29. Timespinner - Switch
30. Amid Evil - PC
31. Pillars of Eternity II: Beast of Winter - PC
32. Pillars of Eternity II: Seeker, Slayer, Survivor - PC
33. Pillars of Eternity II: The Forgotten Sanctum - PC
34. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night - Switch
35. Orphan - PC
36. Project Nimbus - PC
37. Hardcore Mecha - PC
38. Grey Goo - PC
39. Giants: Citizen Kabuto - PC
40. Wolfenstein: Youngblood - PC
41. Fire Emblem: Three Houses - Switch
42. Metal Wolf Chaos XD - PC
43. Ion Fury - PC
44. Final Fantasy Adventure - GB
45. Astral Chain - Switch
46. Rebel Galaxy Outlaw - PC
47. Blasphemous - Switch

Blasphemous is the latest Metroidvania with Souls elements to grace us. What sets it apart is its aesthetic; it's heavily influenced by the flagellants of the Black Death, so the storyline is based around people getting fucked over by a capricious divine force and their goals of performing penance for their sins, real and imagined. It ends up leading to some really fun enemy designs (lots of "weight of your sins" enemies) and a unique take on the standard bleak world. It also manages to avoid being just Souls in 2D, like Salt and Sanctuary is.

The game's story is mostly delivered through item descriptions and bits of dialog with NPCs. You don't really know why your character is doing what he's doing, because he took a vow of silence. But near as I can tell, the world is a world where the divine exists and it hates people. In their despair people take to various forms of penance for their sins. One NPC is part of an order that walks barefoot, binds their arms behind their back, and face the ground at all times as they walk the world. Another NPC became a living saint by praying hard enough to take on the pain of all the people who flagellate themselves to appease the force known as the Miracle, turning into a mindless fleshbag that constantly bleeds but does not die. It's clear the everyone lives in fear, for who knows who will be affected by the Miracle next?

Your goal ends up being first unlocking the road to the main cathedral, and then climbing it and killing the main pontiff. There's no clear reason why you should; maybe I missed a breadcrumb here or there. Standing in your way is a variety of people who were changed by the Miracle and are doomed to be Castlevania-esque monsters. In order to combat this you have a sword and the ability to cast magic spells. Your sword has a basic combo to it (with the last hit dealing the most damage by far, so you want to use it), as well as the ability to parry enemy attacks. The window on the parry is pretty generous, and combined with your dash with invincibility frames you have a fairly basic combat system that requires patience and reading enemy patterns to succeed against bosses. This is where I preferred the game to Salt and Sanctuary (where I've got a save about halfway through); most enemies can be dealt with as your standard Castlevania enemy, and you only need to bust out the heavy reflexes and planning on bosses. It makes all the various bits of backtracking you'll do as you get some movement abilities or unlock shortcuts much less of a drain, as you can either take out enemies quickly or dodge them easily as you get better. The boss fights, for the most part, are at the right level of difficulty; you need to know their move tells to react to them properly, but there's enough leeway with your healing and damage numbers that you don't have to be perfect. There's one boss that just sucks due to some crappy design that makes it very heavily RNG based, but aside from that I enjoyed the bosses.

I'd say the game probably is best compared to Hollow Knight with M2R's counter, if you're looking for a one sentence description of how it plays. The death mechanic is the most forgiving of the Souls-inspired Metroidvanias; you lose some max mana bar that you get back if you go to your death spot, and that can also be recovered for some currency in some locations or by beating a boss. No other lasting effects, and the magic spells aren't that great most of the time. There's nice variety in the platforming, as well.

All in all, another really well done Metroidvania that I recommend to fans of the genre.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Mon Sep 16, 2019 12:37 pm

1. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (Famicom)
2. Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu (Famicom)
3. Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken (Famicom)
4. Hello Kitty World (Famicom)
5. Galaxian (Famicom)
6. Esper Dream 2: Aratanaru Tatakai (Famicom)
7. Ninja Jajamaru-kun (Famicom)
8. Jajamaru no Daibouken (Famicom)
9. Front Line (Famicom)
10. Field Combat (Famicom)
11. Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (Famicom)
12. Mississippi Satsujin Jiken: Murder on the Mississippi (Famicom)
13. Space Harrier (Famicom)
14. Geimos (Famicom)
15. Attack Animal Gakuen (Famicom)
16. Sky Destroyer (Famicom)
17. Ripple Island (Famicom)
18. Oishinbo: Kyukyoku no Menu 3bon Syoubu (Famicom)
19. Bird Week (Famicom)
20. Baltron (Famicom)
21. Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Famicom)
22. Challenger (Famicom)
23. Ikki (Famicom)
24. Dough Boy (Famicom)
25. Atlantis no Nazo (Famicom)
26. Bio Senshi Dan: Increaser tono Tatakai (Famicom)
27. Yume Penguin Monogatari (Famicom)
28. King Kong 2: Ikari no Megaton Punch (Famicom)
29. Congo Bongo (Atari 2600)
30. Coconuts (Atari 2600)
31. Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (Switch eShop)
32. Dragon Quest V: Tenkuu no Hanayome (Super Famicom)
33. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Super Burger Time (Switch eShop)
34. Fire Fly (Atari 2600)
35. Fire Fighter (Atari 2600)
36. Space Jockey (Atari 2600)
37. Airlock (Atari 2600)
38. Makai Hakkenden Shada (PC Engine)
39. Squeeze Box (Atari 2600)
40. Lagoon (SNES)
41. Atlantis (Atari 2600)
42. Xak III: The Eternal Recurrence (PC Engine CD)
43. Blue Blink (PC Engine)
44. Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys (PC Engine CD)
45. Cally's Caves 3 (Steam)
46. Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet (Steam)
47. Contra (NES)
48. Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Switch eShop)
49. Arcade Archives: Moon Cresta (Switch eShop)
50. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja (Switch eShop)
51. Ice Hockey (Atari 2600)
52. Indy 500 (Atari 2600)
53. Video Olympics (Atari 2600)
54. Fast Eddie (Atari 2600)
55. Muv-Luv (Steam)
56. Air-Sea Battle (Atari 2600)
57. Combat (Atari 2600)
58. Street Racer (Atari 2600)
59. Food Fight (Atari 7800)

60. Galaga (Atari 7800)
61. Donkey Kong (ColecoVision)


Galaga
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Though Pac-Man was Namco's biggest 80s hit, I was always more of a Galaga man. This is a game that needs little introduction, but allow me to do the honors anyway. Galaga is a "fixed shooter" (the type of classic shooter modeled off Space Invaders) that initially appeared in arcades in 1981. The game's a sequel to Galaxian, which was released two years prior. Galaxian received a nice helping of console ports early on: to the Atari 2600, 5200, plus an Atarisoft ColecoVision variant. Home conversions of Galaga took a bit longer to trickle out. The SG-1000 port (renamed Sega-Galaga) arrived in 1983, but only in Japan. Meanwhile, the 1985 Famicom release existed for three years before being localized. This left the Atari 7800 Galaga as the one and only home console option, at least initially. A system launch title, it fares relatively well.

Gameplay is outrageously simple. The player controls a spaceship that can only move left and right. Pressing the fire button blasts lasers at the invading aliens. Destroy all aliens to advance to the next stage. Note that this is a "one-button" 7800 title, and ill-suited for that console's default controller. I'd stick to the 2600 stick or something that's comparatively comfortable. While Galaga does feature autofire, it's that crummy sort that's significantly slower than timed button taps. This is because the player's ship can only emit two bullets at a time, so proper aiming and positioning is crucial. One unique element found in Galaga is the "capture system." Certain enemies don't just blast the player's ship, they outright steal it! This deducts a life, naturally. However, it's possible to get the ship back by defeating the offending alien. The player's ship then transforms into a mega-ship: two ships linked horizontally, with the ability to blast two columns of bullets. One common strategy in Galaga is to purposefully allow a ship to be captured early on: though a life deduction is a harsh penalty in a game that only divvies out three, the extra offensive power is well worth the price. Possessing the mega-ship is also invaluable when it comes to the game's occasional bonus rounds, where the player can rack up points by blasting a series of swooping (but non-hostile) alien spacecraft.
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This particular 7800 port was developed long before its actual retail release, and is noticeably compromised in some departments. The graphics look a bit washed-out, and the tougher "boss" aliens aren't as large or distinct as they should be. Everything feels smaller and more compact overall, which makes dodging enemy attacks a bit easier. Thankfully, the fantastic iconic tunes survived the conversion; they sound great on the 7800.

So, out of the plethora of space shooters released in the olden days, why is Galaga still talked about? Well, because it rules. It's the subtle things that make the game superior to its peers. Most important is the behavior of the enemies themselves. The aliens of Galaga don't approach in a massive "hive" (like Space Invaders), nor do they show up piecemeal in a series of "waves" (like Moon Cresta). It's more like a combination of these two formations. A mass of aliens may hover overhead, but it will also break off into dive bombing groups. Enemies swirl around the playing field, looping both horizontally and vertically. Some are particularly fearsome, taking multiple shots to vanquish. All said, the alien fleet comes across as smart and adaptive, as opposed to a group of mindlessly charging drones. Also, unlike its predecessor Galaxian, there's a real sense of progression to Galaga. While it is a score-chaser at its core, Galaga showcases stages that truly feel distinct, with a smoothly increasing difficulty curve. The game doesn't just get arbitrarily faster as one progresses, but more elaborate and intelligent as well.

All told, Galaga 7800 is both a solid port and one of the console's stronger titles overall. Is there any compelling reason to play this particular variant today? Maybe... The NES port undoubtedly turned out better (and more faithful to the arcade original). Speaking of which, playing an officially emulated version of the arcade game is incredibly simple as well: it's even shown up on Steam! Galaga 7800 is best suited for lovers of the Atari 7800, a group that I'm proud to be a member of.


Donkey Kong
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Strange to think that this Nintendo classic was in fact also a launch title for a non-Nintendo system. When Coleco grabbed up the rights to release home versions Donkey Kong they created a cart for their own system, and subsequently developed ports for the 2600 and Intellivision, as well as a mini-arcade tabletop cabinet. Donkey Kong was in fact the ColecoVision's pack-in game, and it made a huge impact. Gamers were looking for "arcade perfect" ports, and while this is still way off, it's miles ahead of what was seen on the 2600 or Intellivision. The existence of Coleco Donkey Kong buoyed sales of the ColecoVision, and an entire generation of (slightly) older gamers seems to revere this the same way I revere Super Mario Bros. on NES.

The core platforming gameplay is retained from the arcade. The player takes control of "It's a me" Mario, is his pre-Super days, as he attempts to rescue the fair Pauline from the brutish ape Donkey Kong. One obvious alteration from the arcade game is the fact that only three stages (not four) are present here. Every old console port has the conveyor belt stage excised: it was just too tricky to recreate. Of the three remaining stages, two (barrel stage and elevator stage) are completed when Mario ascends ladders to reach the screen's top, while the rivet stage is over once Mario has walked over a series of (you guessed it) rivets.
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At its core, this is a competent and rather fun port. The controls are functional, though not ideal due to the ColecoVision's laughably excessive keypad controller. Only a single button is required, one for jumping, which leaves thirteen buttons unattended. Movement with the controller's joystick is fluid, however there's a famous glitch present while climbing ladders. If one begins to climb a ladder, releases the joystick, and then resumes climbing, Mario moves at a much faster pace than normal. It's amusing to take advantage of this oversight, on some of the game's taller ladders. Enemies can be defeated if Mario grabs a hammer. The programming here is a little off. First, even acquiring a hammer requires a very precise collision between Mario's sprite and the hammer's. It's all too easy to simply sail right through one by accident. Next, once Mario gets a hammer he's completely invincible, and isn't thwarted by sneaky side hits. As far as the enemy roster goes, Mario's old foils are back: barrels tossed by the big DK and sentient flames.

Graphically, the game's quite impressive for a second generation title. The colors are striking and bold, and reminiscent of the arcade, though the developers got a little lazy with the specific color choices. Every stage features the same reddish hues that characterize stage one. Stage environments have been modified a bit (to be specific, the long horizontal girders have been cut down from six per stage to five). This makes the game feel roomier than the arcade original, and chops overall difficulty down somewhat. Sprite work is crisp and utterly fantastic, and the game's iconic sound effects shine through nicely. Some specific animations are missing, and of course the "cutscenes" are gone.

Today, we have officially emulated the arcade version of Donkey Kong. And we have the time and tools needed to dissect these old ports to find their specific shortcoming and idiosyncrasies. Make no mistake though, this is a decent port of a very good game. While ColecoVision consoles are getting harder to acquire, this particular cart remains extremely common. Anyone with even a passing interest in the system owes it to themselves to try the pack-in game.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Mon Sep 16, 2019 3:16 pm

Midtown Manhattan penthouse apartment IQ level post, Bone.

Galaga is just a rock-solid game, and your post does it justice. Also, I’ve been tempted to run all of the Nintendo ports on non-Nintendo systems, and I appreciate you DK review.
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noiseredux
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by noiseredux Mon Sep 16, 2019 3:40 pm

Galaga rules.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Tue Sep 17, 2019 3:21 pm

MrPopo wrote:Souls-inspired Metroidvanias


Oh dear, is this the new thing in indie gaming??
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Ack
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by Ack Tue Sep 17, 2019 3:31 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:
MrPopo wrote:Souls-inspired Metroidvanias


Oh dear, is this the new thing in indie gaming??


Yeah, probably. When they're not doing throwback roguelike FPS or 8-bit style platformers, Metroidvanias inspired by the Souls series seems like an obvious choice.
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by marurun Tue Sep 17, 2019 3:48 pm

Basically, they remove the ability to grind your way out of tough fights.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Tue Sep 17, 2019 4:39 pm

1. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (Famicom)
2. Dragon Scroll: Yomigaerishi Maryuu (Famicom)
3. Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken (Famicom)
4. Hello Kitty World (Famicom)
5. Galaxian (Famicom)
6. Esper Dream 2: Aratanaru Tatakai (Famicom)
7. Ninja Jajamaru-kun (Famicom)
8. Jajamaru no Daibouken (Famicom)
9. Front Line (Famicom)
10. Field Combat (Famicom)
11. Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (Famicom)
12. Mississippi Satsujin Jiken: Murder on the Mississippi (Famicom)
13. Space Harrier (Famicom)
14. Geimos (Famicom)
15. Attack Animal Gakuen (Famicom)
16. Sky Destroyer (Famicom)
17. Ripple Island (Famicom)
18. Oishinbo: Kyukyoku no Menu 3bon Syoubu (Famicom)
19. Bird Week (Famicom)
20. Baltron (Famicom)
21. Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Famicom)
22. Challenger (Famicom)
23. Ikki (Famicom)
24. Dough Boy (Famicom)
25. Atlantis no Nazo (Famicom)
26. Bio Senshi Dan: Increaser tono Tatakai (Famicom)
27. Yume Penguin Monogatari (Famicom)
28. King Kong 2: Ikari no Megaton Punch (Famicom)
29. Congo Bongo (Atari 2600)
30. Coconuts (Atari 2600)
31. Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (Switch eShop)
32. Dragon Quest V: Tenkuu no Hanayome (Super Famicom)
33. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Super Burger Time (Switch eShop)
34. Fire Fly (Atari 2600)
35. Fire Fighter (Atari 2600)
36. Space Jockey (Atari 2600)
37. Airlock (Atari 2600)
38. Makai Hakkenden Shada (PC Engine)
39. Squeeze Box (Atari 2600)
40. Lagoon (SNES)
41. Atlantis (Atari 2600)
42. Xak III: The Eternal Recurrence (PC Engine CD)
43. Blue Blink (PC Engine)
44. Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys (PC Engine CD)
45. Cally's Caves 3 (Steam)
46. Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet (Steam)
47. Contra (NES)
48. Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Switch eShop)
49. Arcade Archives: Moon Cresta (Switch eShop)
50. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Caveman Ninja (Switch eShop)
51. Ice Hockey (Atari 2600)
52. Indy 500 (Atari 2600)
53. Video Olympics (Atari 2600)
54. Fast Eddie (Atari 2600)
55. Muv-Luv (Steam)
56. Air-Sea Battle (Atari 2600)
57. Combat (Atari 2600)
58. Street Racer (Atari 2600)
59. Food Fight (Atari 7800)
60. Galaga (Atari 7800)
61. Donkey Kong (ColecoVision)

62. Cosmic Avenger (ColecoVision)
63. Mouse Trap (ColecoVision)
64. Zaxxon (ColecoVision)


Cosmic Avenger
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Konami is generally credited with inventing the side-scrolling horizontal shmup, with 1981's one-two punch of Scramble and Super Cobra. However, a third game of this specific genre dropped the same year. Titled Cosmic Avenger, it was developed in Japan by Universal, the same outfit behind Space Panic, Lady Bug, and Mr. Do!. While Konami's classics continue to be featured on compilations to this very day, the now-defunct Universal's effort received a single port (ColecoVision, 1982) and has since faded into obscurity.

Like many of these old scrolling shooters, Cosmic Avenger consists of one lengthy stage, that eventually subtly loops without a hint of fanfare. The player guides a ship that must contend with both airborne and grounded targets. There are malicious flying saucers, stationary bombs, turret guns, even moon buggies that resemble those found in Irem's Moon Patrol (though this game was released first). Thankfully, the player's ship is equipped to deal with the onslaught. The ColecoVision's two fire buttons are used to emit both forward-traveling bullets and bombs that drop down in an arc. Controls are mostly okay, despite the inherently awkward nature of the ColecoVision's controller (and yes, the keypad buttons are to be ignored). The player has some control over the scrolling, as pressing right on the joystick causes both the ship to speed up and the screen to scroll ahead faster. Interestingly, it's not possible to outrun all enemies, as some will give chase, even reappearing back onscreen once passed. A handy "radar" along the screen's top indicates both the position of the player's ship and such enemies. It needs to be stated that the scrolling here is rough; we're not talking MSX levels of choppiness but it does become nausea-inducing after some time.
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The ColecoVision did a decent job at replicating the graphics of early arcade games, this one being no exception. The game opens up in a beautiful alien cityscape, heavy on the reds, purple, and blues. There are some really cool touches to the architecture, including multi-windowed skyscrapers and spotlights that shine forth diagonally. Unfortunately, the city quickly gives way to more barren territory, including a nearly all-black moonscape and a very blue underwater stretch. The audio is of mixed quality. It's competent for the most part, but the underwater shots are given this shrill annoying ring to them. There is music, scarcely, but it just amounts to a generic "level start" jingle.

I find many of the earliest scrolling shmups to be of questionable quality, as they lack the addictive score-chasing nature of a simple fixed shooter like Galaga, while also lacking the incredibly unique scenery found in later scrollers like Gradius and R-Type. Cosmic Avenger though, it gets the job done. While far from outstanding, it's still an enjoyable effort from one of Japan's most interesting forgotten developers. Along with the aforementioned Scramble and Super Cobra, we're looking at a pretty solid "trilogy."


Mouse Trap
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There sure were plenty of single-screen "maze" games back in those early days. One such game was Exidy's Mouse Trap. Exidy is perhaps best known for some strangely controversial and ultra-violent arcade titles. This is a bit of a shame: partly because those games weren't particularly interesting, but also because Exidy's best output was in the realm of simplistic Golden Age classics. One of Exidy's most notable titles was Mouse Trap, originally released in the arcades in 1981, ported to the ColecoVision the following year as a launch title.

Mouse Trap seemingly follows the Pac-Man blueprint extremely closely. Each stage takes place within a small single-screen maze, where the player controls a mouse who must eat all the "dots" (they're supposed to be small pieces of cheese) in order to advance. There are also dog biscuits to collect. These transform the mouse into a dog (seriously), who can then "eat" the cats, booting them out of the maze. They eventually reenter after a brief time out. There are also some larger items to collect, which aren't necessary but do add to the point total.
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Yes, Mouse Trap certainly would not exist without Pac-Man, but don't dismiss this as an outright clone just yet. Mouse Trap does its own thing, and does it relatively well. First and foremost, the mazes are completely sealed at the edges, and lack those iconic screen-looping paths that characterized Pac-Man. Instead, to avoid getting the mouse caught in a narrow corridor, the player must manipulate a series of blue, red, and yellow gates. These can be swung open and closed by using (wait for it) the keypad on the ColecoVision controller! Buttons 1 to 3 correspond to each of the gates, which can thus be opened and closed separately. The goal is to strategically entomb those filthy felines and clear a path for the mouse to that sweet succulent coagulated dairy. It's an innovative control scheme (the game came packaged with a controller overlay), but I nevertheless find it hard to play Mouse Trap without looking down at the controller periodically. Then there's the matter of the dog biscuits. These are not activated automatically, but are instead stored by the player until needed, and can even be carried from one stage into the next. This makes the game significantly easier than the likes of Pac-Man (at least initially) as one can always bust out a biscuit (button 5) in a panic moment. Defeated cats reenter the screen along the edges, rather than the center, which takes a moment to get used to.

And there's more! A bird enters the maze occasionally. This feathered foe is immune to the dog attacks and must simply be avoided. That said, playing on the lowest difficult omits these periodic avian ambushes. There's also a big rectangle labeled "IN" at the center of each maze. Should the mouse "go in" it is then transported to a random corner of the maze, making this a risky move indeed. All said, there's quite a bit going on here. The gate manipulation is highly reminiscent of Lady Bug (also a ColecoVision launch title), and the creative approach to the otherwise straightforward "maze genre" lays the framework for Exidy's excellent Pepper II, released shortly after.

Graphically, the game holds up well. The maze itself is rather sparse looking, which aids in navigation, while the gates stand out boldly against the black backdrop. The sprites are rather hilarious. The cats are bright yellow and twitch around feverishly. Meanwhile, the mouse is represented by a perpetually-chomping giant mouse head, which becomes a woofing bulldog head when powered up. There are some tunes in the game, which switch out every three stages or so. I can't tell if these are originals or public domain tracks, but it's pretty upbeat stuff that suits the game nicely.

Progressing in the game causes the cats to move faster and faster until it's nigh impossible to avoid them. In early stages, it's actually possible to simply ignore the gate mechanic in favor of the dog biscuits, but one must begin to master the gates come stage five or so. All told, Mouse Trap provides an unexpected twist to the maze game formula, and is quite the intriguing launch title.


Zaxxon
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Zaxxon is a scrolling shooter by Sega, released in the arcades in 1982. It then saw an almost comical number of ports, many of which are only semi-functional. While Japan eventually received a very solid iteration of the game on Sega's own SG-1000, North American gamers were wise to turn to the ColecoVision. Arriving months after the arcade original, Coleco's take on Zaxxon is a fine example of competent arcade-to-console porting.

Zaxxon stands out among the sea of space-themed shooters, due to its unique method of scrolling. Is it horizontal? Is it vertical? It's isometric! This means that the game's landscape is oriented at a slant, from the screen's bottom-left corner to top-right, creating a type of three-dimensional perspective. The controls are naturally altered to accompany such a viewpoint. Pressing right on the joystick moves the player's ship towards the screen's bottom-right, while pressing left does the opposite. Unlike other early scrollers (say, Konami's Scramble), the ship of Zaxxon can't fly "on ahead" into its ever-scrolling environment, nor can it pull backwards. Instead, it's locked along an axis, and pressing up or down changes altitude. Maintaining proper altitude is crucial, as enemies appear at various height and there are segmented laser-emitting brick walls that must be cleared successfully. Note that the altitude controls are inverted in that stereotypical airplane fashion, where pushing down pulls the player's ship up and pushing up causes it dive down. To assist with the altitude positioning, Zaxxon features a persistent shadow displayed under the ship, as well as an altitude meter that rises and falls based on the ship's location.
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While it sounds confusing on paper (or, at least, when I attempt to explain it) everything comes together brilliantly in the game. The ColecoVision's girthy joystick is perfectly suited for maneuvering the ship, and the shadow/meter combo synergizes perfectly to indicate altitude. Moreover, there aren't many buttons to contend with. Either side button on the ColecoVision controller can be used to fire (straight ahead, at present altitude), everything else can be safely disregarded. Of course, Zaxxon isn't simply an obstacle course: there are hostile aliens to contend with, plus an ever-depleting fuel meter. The enemies manifest themselves in various ways. Some mimic the behavior of the player's ship, flying ahead and firing rapidly. There are stationary ground targets (which "conveniently" block fuel containers), rocket launchers that shoot vertically, and saucers that hover just a smidge above the ground. Staying alive requires that one grab fuel, and often. Don't run into these canisters to collect them. Instead, employ video game logic: just blow 'em up! On the game's lowest difficulty setting, skipping an occasional canister is fine. But crank that difficulty dial up to "4" and the ship becomes quite the gas-guzzler.

In addition to being an isometric pioneer, Zaxxon is also remembered fondly for its intriguing graphical style. The landscape is some sort of bizarre retro-futuristic creation, what the developers at Sega imagined 2050 might resemble. The game takes place on a series of floating bright blue highways, which periodically drop off into the vastness of black space. Each "highway" segment is littered with strange symbols, artifacts from an ancient alien race. I'm not wild about the "all-black" segments, as it can be hard to properly determine altitude with no shadow, but the remaining detailed sections are top-notch. There's no music whatsoever, but the ship's engine hum corresponds to its altitude. The pitch lowers at it gets closer to the ground. Genius. Zaxxon is a looper, but, perhaps taking cues from the likes of Phoenix and Gorf, it features a "mothership" final boss. This is a nice way to end each loop, but the battle itself is a bit sloppy, and the boss doesn't even have the courtesy to explode when defeated. He just kind of saunters away in boredom, effectively taunting the player to give it another go.

All told, I think I like this just as much as the arcade game. It exquisitely captures the spirit of the original. While other hardware of the era struggled to run Zaxxon (generally failing at replicating the isometric view and/or showcasing questionable control schemes) the developers at Coleco absolutely nailed it. One of the slickest games of '82 and an absolute must-play.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by prfsnl_gmr Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:32 pm

If you drop a penny, by the time it reaches the ground it will be going faster than a bullet - level IQ post, Bone.

You really should collect all of your second generation reviews into a book. There’s so much good analysis and content there.
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2019

by BoneSnapDeez Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:57 pm

Phone number IQ comment.

As much as I love the second gen, I'm getting burned out. Too many of these games in a row is a brain-frying, my dudes.
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