REVIEW: Puggsy (1993, Genesis)

Greetings, retr0pians. Let’s take a brief moment to talk about one of the most iconic video game developers of the UK…

RareWare

…I already talked about those guys a while back.

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Wha-no, I already did one of their games in my previous review!!

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Ah yes, there we go. Established in 1989 by Jon Burton and Jonathan Smith, Traveller’s Tales has made dozens upon dozens of games throughout their 27-year lifespan, their most well-known ones being the more recent and critically acclaimed Lego games. Although they have a roughly rocky past, with many of their games back then being EXTREMELY spontaneous in quality, there were certain exceptions when they managed to pull through and offer a game that showcased their true abilities. And today, I’ll be taking a look at one of their more lesser-known games, the 1993 puzzle-platform game Puggsy.

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Based off of the 1989 Amiga demo Puggs in Space and originally developed for the Amiga by Dionysus, the game’s story revolves around the titular character, a clumsy but good-hearted alien named Puggsy as he attempts to recover his stolen ship from a tribe of native raccoons. And before you ask, no, I don’t know what sort of drugs they were on either. Is this one of the games that TT put all of their effort into, or is it just another one of their long line of misses? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS – Whenever I see someone say that the Genesis’ technical and visual capabilties were inferior to the Super Nintendo, I can only imagine the look on their face when they see this game. Not only are the graphics and backgrounds lushisly detailed and varied, but this is simply GORGEOUS. Many of the worlds have a distinct, striking, and almost fantastical feel to them, making them fun to explore and platform throughout. It actually kind of gives off the feeling of a Jim Henson production – The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Fraggle Rock in particular. Heck, many of the characters, including Puggsy himself, look like they could fit in with Kermit and the gang with no problem! You know what, I’ll go even further: this might be the BEST looking game on the Genesis that I’ve come across yet!

THE SOUND – If you think that I’m already praising the living H-E-Double Hockey Sticks out of this game…oh man, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Where the graphics offer a visual splendor of a world, the music offers many catchy and varied tunes that go along with each level perfectly. For example, the theme for the Beach level above has a tropical, upbeat feel to it, while other levels such as Darkblade Forest have a more tense, bass-esque feel. One thing that all of these tracks have in common is the fact that they are memorable, INCREDIBLY well-composed, and push the Genesis’ sound chip to its limits.

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Life’s a real beach.

THE GAMEPLAY – Just when you think that you’ve already seen the best that this game could offer, the gameplay comes in to make sure that you’ll end up having a one-of-a-kind experience. Starting off with the controls, Puggsy feels very natural and solid in his movements, and although he isn’t “slow”, he isn’t as fast as Mario or Sonic, fitting his chubby apperance quite nicely. As for the level design and gameplay itself, it is nothing short of outstanding. What really makes it stand out from all the other platformers at the time is that it isn’t just your typical A to B stuff – this allows you to explore the levels, and rewards you for doing so. And then there’s the game’s main selling point: the physics. Similiar to Super Mario Bros. 2 (the USA version), you can pick up items and throw them at your enemies. However, unlike Mario 2, Puggsy fully uses the concept to its advantage, and does it amazingly. Each item has its own unique form of usage, and can even help you solve the many puzzles and obstacles that you’ll encounter throughout the adventure. Of course, there is ONE problem that I have with the gameplay: somewhat cheap deaths. What I mean by this is that although the enemies are fairly placed, there are times when it feels like the game wants to just randomly throw something unexpected with you, which kind of prevents the gameplay from being flawless. You can however get hit points by collecting shades and sneakers, which can also make you move faster, but they don’t really show up that often. But even with that in mind, when the rest of the game is so dang good, it isn’t even really that huge of a problem.

THE BOTTOM LINE – Magnificent graphics, a stunning soundtrack, and addictive gameplay make Puggsy one of the most under-appreciated and greatest video games of the 16-bit era. Platformer fans and maybe even non-platformer will adore it, for there is plenty of fun to be had.

9/10

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REVIEW: Superfrog (1993, Amiga)

Hey, kids! Wanna play a game about a frog with superpowers? No? WELL TOO FRIGGIN’ BAD, ‘CAUSE WE MADE IT ANYWAY!!

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Released in 1993 for the Amiga and developed by Team17 (who are most known for the Worms series), this obscure little title revolves around the titular character as he goes on an epic quest to save his beloved from an evil witch, with the help of his sidekick Spud the Potato. As you can see from my avatar, I like this game quite a bit. So, let’s stop wasting time and get to why I like it!

THE LOOKS – To be fair, the game doesn’t really stand out in terms of level themes. There’s the grass level, the haunted castle level, the carnival level, and so forth. But with that said, the graphics themselves are actually pretty good! Of course, being a mascot game, the visuals are bright and detailed, and the character sprites have a cartoonish, but appealing look to them. Also, one thing I would like to point out is how the levels would often throw in some visual gags. However, they don’t overdo it and or try to force it in like say, Boogerman. While not the greatest in terms of looks, the graphics are still nicely pulled off.

THE SOUND – A lot of computer games back in the day tend to have good music, and this is no exception. Even if it’s not theĀ greatest soundtrack ever compared to other platformers at the time like Rocket Knight Adventures or Sonic, it’s still pretty neat for what it is. Each track has a simple, but pleasant melody to it, and fits each world nicely. As for the sound effects, though…yeah, they’re nothing spectacular. They’re really just stock cartoon sound effects, and even though they’re not irritating, they’re still not very interesting.

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Superfrog, making his way through the Magic Woods.

THE GAMEPLAY – It’s pretty clear that this game is trying to ride off the success of Sonic, and this is evident by the fact that the main character is fast. However, Superfrog isn’t “so fast to the point you can’t see what’s coming in front of you” like Bubsy. This in turn results in his speed being quite manageable, making platforming easy as pie. The level design on the other hand, is a different story altogether. Unlike the Sonic or Mario games, where you can just go through the level and get to the sign/flag, Superfrog’s is much more like a maze or a scavenger hunt. In order to get to the end of each level, you must collect a certain amount of coins by searching throughout the level. Once you have all the coins you need, you just need to get to the end of the level. The level design itself is very well-designed, with each world having distinct patterns and various obstacles. And of course, it wouldn’t be a platform game without your attacks and power-ups! For the attacks, you can just jump on your enemies like any other video game character at the time, or throw Spud at enemies that are higher than you. With the power-ups, you can restore your health and extend your time by drinking Lucozade, with all the others being your typical invincibility and extra life power-ups. If there is one problem I have with the gameplay, it’s that the hit detection can be a bit spotty at times. But compared to some of the other disasters that I’ve reviewed, it’s not really much of a problem.

THE BOTTOM LINE – While not setting new ground by any means, Superfrog is still a fun and challenging platformer that offers a decent alternative to the games that it was inspired by. Platform game fans and Amiga fans will probably like it, and for the others…well, I guess it’s a matter of taste.

8/10

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REVIEW: ToeJam & Earl (1991, Genesis)

Today’s game is a…bizarre one, to say the least. Developed by Johnson Voorsanger Productions and released for the Sega Genesis in 1991, it’s none other than the cult classic ToeJam & Earl.

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The game’s plot revolves around two alien rappers (Don’t question it) as they have crash landed on the planet Earth, which is inhabited by elderly men in carrot costumes and giant hamsters (Hey, what did I say? Don’t question it!). But is this game truly deserving of its surprisingly large following, or does it fall flat faster than every single Sega console released after the Genesis? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS – “Simplistic, but charming” is the best way to describe the game’s visuals. The graphics have a rather “animated” feeling to them, with some character sprites having some cartoonish and quite creative designs. The backgrounds, although recycled, are also very appealing, having a detailed look to them. Unfortunately, the visuals lead up to what is personally my biggest problem with the game: the main protagonists themselves. Now, hear me out for a brief moment. You ever heard of the term “product of its time”, or in this case, “products of their time”? Yeah, ToeJam & Earl are pretty much that. From their gangsta lingo to their designs in general, everything about them just feels…dated. Maybe it’s just me, though.

THE SOUND – The music is also one of this game’s strongest traits. The music itself is well-composed and quite catchy, having a great use of instruments such as bass and the saxophone. The sound effects are also good, giving out a feeling of satisfaction whenever you pull of a certain action. But every time I listen to the music, it reminds me of something. But I don’t know what…

Eh, probably my imagination.

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The titular protagonists, in all their 90’s infested glory.

THE GAMEPLAY – Now THIS is where the game really gets good. Throughout the game, you’re mostly traveling across the Earth trying to collect your ship pieces, collecting various power-ups and items and avoiding earthlings along the way. You can also restore your health by eating food – but only good ones, such as fries, ice cream, and candy canes. Others, such as moldy cheese and old cabbage will NOT help you in the long run. There’s also a co-op mode in which you and your friend can play as either ToeJam & Earl, which greatly increases the fun factor. The gameplay itself is rather slow-paced, but for a game like this, it works very well to its advantage.

THE BOTTOM LINE – ToeJam & Earl offers a great amount of fun, quirkiness, and creativity, but the archaic title characters hinder it from being one of the Genesis’ top 10 games. If you’re a hardcore Sega fan, then you will most definitely love this game. As for others, well, judge it for yourself I guess.

8/10

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retr0ial: Will Mutants in Manhattan be The Best TMNT Game in Years?

As you may know, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had a HUGE comeback in recent years. They’ve had a new TV series, a critically panned but financially successful movie reboot with a sequel on the way, and even spin-offs for the TV series planned! However, there has been one medium that our favourite heroes in a half shell have been struggling to find propesperity in for what has been years now: video games.

Ever since the release of Tournament Fighters, it seems that every single TMNT that has come after has failed to live up to it. Various titles have ranged from being just decent, to painfully mediocre, to…well…I’ll let these do the talking.

However, just as it seemed that people had given up on the idea of the property delievering a great game again…along came Platinum.

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Yes, the team behind the two critically acclaimed Bayonetta games, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and The Wonderful 101 had singed a deal with Activison to develop a game based off of the property. Prior to this, however, Platinum had actually worked with Activision in the past. In 2014 and 2015 respectively, they developed the not-so-great Legend of Korra, and the mostly positively recieved Transformers Devestation. If you ask me, I honestly think the results so far look incredible – the comic book style visuals are striking but dazzling, the action looks insanely frantic and fun, and it just gushes with TMNT charm in every way. Should Activision not rush it, we could very well possibly have what we have been clamoring for years: The best TMNT game yet.

What are your thoughts? Be sure to post them down below, and don’t forget to leave feedback!

REVIEW: Mega Man (1987, NES)

Today, we’re going to take a look at the first installment of what is quite possibly one of the most beloved video game franchises of all time: the action-platformer Mega Man.

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Originally released in 1987 and developed by the now not quite as beloved Capcom, the game’s plot revolves around the titular character as he traverses the world to defeat the evil Dr. Wily and his six robot masters: Cut Man, Guts Man, Ice Man, Bomb Man, Fire Man, and Elec Man. How does this game hold up almost 30 years after its release? Let’s find out shall we?

THE LOOKS – Of course, being a 1980’s game and a early NES game, the graphics are rather simplistic, with the character sprites and backgrounds not having very much detail. However, for a game released in the 80’s, they are quite dazzling. Although they’re not very detailed, each level is very colorful and varied in how it looks, fitting each Robot Master nicely in the context of their name and their abilities. To give a good example, Guts Man’s level is basically a construction site, while Ice Man’s level is an island covered completely in ice. Even if they haven’t exactly aged well in some areas when compared to the sequels, the graphics are still very good for a 1987 game.

THE SOUND – One of the things people tend to praise the most about the franchise is the music, and oh my jeebs, they are definitely in the right. The music is simply great, with each level theme giving out a feeling of action, as well as each one being VERY nice to listen to in its own right. The sound effects are also good. Not spectacular, but still good. However, with that said, everytime I hear that sound a Robot Master makes when they’re defeated, I really can’t help but to feel a sense of contentment…

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Mega Man in Cut Man’s stage.

THE GAMEPLAY Now here’s where I tend to differ from most people when it comes to this series. One of the things people compliment the most about this series is the challenge that it offers, but I really can’t help but to disagree. You see, just because a game is challenging, it doesn’t automatically make it good. A good example of this would be the Bubsy games, but that’s a topic for another time. When you’re a designing a game and want to make it difficult, you have to make it fair. The problem I have with this series is that sometimes, it feels difficult in a bad way. Most of the time, it tends to throw enemy after enemy at you, and while some of easy to defeat, most of them are WAY faster than you are, and when you add in the fact that some can take off a large percent of your health and respawn the moment you go back to the spot where you killed them, it kind of makes it a bit too frustrating. Now of course, there are plenty of positives to outnumber the negatives here. The way Mega Man controls, even though it’s not exactly rock solid (PUN COMPLETELY INTENDED) compared to the later entries in the series, is pretty good, making platforming throughout the stages quite fun. The stages themselves are also very well-designed, with each one containing power-ups and collectables galore, as well as requiring you to really time your jumps. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Mega Man review if I didn’t mention that after you defeat a Robot Master, you get its abilities. This alone makes the game very unique from other platformers at the time and even others to come after it, even helping you get to somewhere that you previously couldn’t, as well as giving you more power against your enemies. The gameplay, although frustrating at times, is definitely one of the strongest traits to be found here.

THE BOTTOM LINE – Despite the frequent bouts of unfair difficulty, Mega Man offers a unique, well-designed, and vibrant experience. If you’re a retro game historian, pick this game and its sequels up immediately, as they are excellent examples of NES games.

7/10

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