Color A Dinosaur: An Analysis Of A Masterpiece

Throughout all the years that I have spent playing video games, one question that has stuck firmly with me is the topic on whatever or not they can be considered art. While many have offered varying viewpoints on this, I can say that there is one game that has singlehandedly made the answer point squarely to “YES”. I am of course talking about FarSight Studios and Virgin Games’ Color A Dinosaur.

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Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the year of 1993, Color A Dinosaur gives you, the player, the task of bringing vibrancy and wonder to the beasts that once roamed the Earth. Right off the bat, gripping and thought-provoking ideas have been brought to the table. While games such as InFamous and Epic Mickey have utilized the morality concept, Color A Dinosaur had already took it to its’ utmost advantage years prior; you have been granted with the ability to either create life or let it wither away to an achromatic oblivion, void of anything resembling soul. This, in turn, leads into the visuals….

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…dear god. If this doesn’t prove my point about how this game is an objective work of art, I don’t know what will. Just take a long glance at that triceratops’ face. THAT is the look of someone who is ready to take on the world. After all, what could possibly stop him? A tyrannosaurus? Naaah. A meteor shower? An actual bath shower would pose more of a threat. An ice age? A total cakewalk! What’s that, you say? You want to see more? Well, I’m not sure what could top this symbolic brilliance, but I’ll try.

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In stark contrast to the triceratops’ fearless enthusiasm, it could be argued that the stegosaurus pictured in this scene shows reasonable concern to the prospects of having color brought upon him. However, despite his slight unease, he allows the process to go forth, not wanting you to carry the guilt of leaving him colorless. Dear god, it’s all starting to make sense now – the “FOR AGES 3 TO 6” text located at the upper left of the boxart wasn’t informing us of the game’s target demographic, but an immensely clever ruse on FarSight’s part to keep us away from playing it, as they knew that its’ artistry and high quality was so severe that they were convinced that noone could handle it or understand it!!! IT ALL MAKES SENSE!!!!

…okay, I might have gotten a bit “carried away”, if that is the proper way to describe it, but my point stands nontheless that Color A Dinosaur is a true, unsung classic of our times. It is more than just a game, it is a thought-provoking, poginant tale about creation, our duty as individuals of this planet, and what we must do to ensure a brighter future for those who live on it. And for that, it is worthy of more than a A+. That’s right – Color A Dinosaur has reinvented the alphabet as we know it. That is literally how good it is. 

With that said, have an episode of Xavier: Renegade Angel. One Adult Swim’s most underrated cartoons IMO.

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REVIEW: Cheetahmen (1991, Action 52/NES) *100th ARTICLE!!!*

Every once in a while, there comes a game that is so relentlessly, unabashedly awful that it manages to go down in the history books. Action 52 is one of those games.

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Noted for attempting to break the mold by featuring 52 titles in one cartridge, the game was the brainchild of aspiring developer Vince Perri and his studio Active Enterprises, and was released for the NES in 1991 followed by a 1993 Sega Genesis port, with a planned SNES port getting scrapped. While AE had remarkably high hopes for the game, literally everything but success barged through their door when the time came for the big release as extremely poor word of mouth spread throughout. That’s not to say that they’re wrong, though – in fact, they’re pretty much dead on, as the game itself is simply atrocious. From glitchy and in some cases completely unplayable titles, retina-assaulting visuals, and much, much more, it’s no wonder why Action 52 has went on to become one of the shining beacons of horrible video games. With that said, there’s one game that stands out more significantly than the rest, said game being Cheetahmen.

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(NOTE: This is the title screen of the Genesis version. The NES version doesn’t have a title screen, though it does have an opening cutscene.)

In what could best be described as AE’s attempt to cash in on the immense popularity surrounding the original 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, the game follows a trio of anthropomorphic cheetahs, two of which named after ancient Greek gods (GOLLY GEE GOSH, I SURE DO WONDER WHO COULD HAVE INFLUENCED THAT IDEA!?) named Hercules, Apollo, and Aries, as they valiantly battle to thwart the dastardly plot of the mad scientist Dr. Morbis. With that out of the way, can these ferocious felines possibly offer any sort of redemption to such a catastrophe of a game, or was their placement as the very last title an indication that AE saved the “best” for last? Let’s find out, shall we?

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THE LOOKS

Well, one thing’s for sure; they haven’t eased on the godawful visuals by a LOOOOOONG shot. The best way that I can describes the graphics is that they look less like an NES game and more like an Atari 2600 game that was given a makeover to include a tiny bit of detail. In addition to that, the character sprites are some of the worst that I’ve ever seen in an NES game. Not only is it difficult to make out what a majority of them are even supposed to be, they all look lazily and sloppily designed, some of them often flickering most of the time. But you wanna know what the worst part about this is? The graphics are just the least of the problems here…

You hear that obnoxiously repetitive tune above? Well, you better get used to it, because that is literally ALL THAT YOU’LL BE HEARING THROUGHOUT THE GAME. The NES Rocky and Bullwinkle game, while worse on a technical level, at least changed the tunes around for a few levels. But that’s not even the most insulting part! In the sequel (trust me, I’ll get around to ripping that piece of crap a new one at a later date), THEY DO THE EXACT SAME THING!! There’s being cheap, and then there’s…I don’t even know how to describe this!

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THE GAMEPLAY

On paper, the gameplay isn’t complex by any means. It’s your typical side-scrolling platformer with some elements of a beat ’em up thrown in for good measure, with some levels having you shift control to another Cheetahman, whether it be the the club-wielding Aries (who you start off with), the bow and arrow-wielding Apollo, or the muscular Hercules. In execution, however, it is literally broken far beyond possible description. First off, the controls are horrible. Not only are they incredibly stiff and clunky, but they can also be barely responsive at times. The level design is tepid through and through, offering nothing to stand out from the rest of the NES library while being boring and bland at best to infuriatingly tedious at worst. Add in some cruddy hit detection and all of the other aforementioned issues, and you’re left with one sad mess.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Action 52 has rightfully earned its’ status as one of the worst video games ever made, and Cheetahmen only enforces that fact even more with its’ hideous visuals, remarkably lazy soundtrack (if you can even call it that) and gameplay that brings one of the most legendary video game consoles of all time to a whole new low. Simply put, avoid it and Action 52 as a whole like the plague. Now if you excuse me, I’ll be busy taking up an occupation as a poacher in the savanna.

THE RETR0PIA RANKING

F

BONUS QUESTION: What do you love the most about Thanksgiving?

Also, thank you all for ONE HUNDRED ARTICLES! Here’s to another one hundred!

REVIEW: Little Samson (1992, NES)

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Despite having a pivotal role in the history of games, Taito is one of those companies that for some reason, no one ever seems to talk about anymore. Because of this, many titles developed and published by them have went under the radar, one of which is the subject of today’s article.

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Released for the NES in 1992, Little Samson revolves around a young boy (who is also the titular character), a dragon, a rock golem, and a mouse, each with their own unique ability, and their efforts to save a mythical kingdom from the threat of an evil prince. Is this game truly bigger than what its’ title implies, or is it better off staying in obscurity? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS: It goes without saying that some of the NES’ more forgotten titles are…”lacking” in the visual department, to say the least. With this game however, I can easily say that it’s one of the best looking games to ever come out in the entire 8-bit era. For a game that was released fairly late into its’ console’s lifespan, many of the backgrounds, character sprites, and the general aesthetic are just pure eye candy, helping to invoke the intended “mythical kingdom” feeling with great success. If there is one problem that I have with the graphics, it’s that the sprites of the four protagonists don’t really contrast that will with some of the more “detailed” ones.

THE SOUND: I might have a lot of great things to say about the visuals, but I can’t really say the same for the soundtrack. It’s kind of difficult to describe how I feel about it; it’s not abhorrently godawful, but it’s not mind-blowingly spectacular either; it’s just, for the most part, kind of forgettable, thus not really giving me anything to work with.

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THE GAMEPLAY: In concept, the gameplay offers a somewhat unique take on the action-platform genre, given that you have four characters at your disposal that you can switch between at any given time. Despite this, unfortunately, it still can’t save the gameplay from feeling rather derivative from other platformers at the time, most notably the classic Mega Man games. Not only do various bits and pieces of the level design feel ripped straight out of them, but placement of the enemies and even the controls feel like that too. Granted, it’s not all bad. Even if it is uninspired at times, the levels can actually be pretty enjoyable. Sadly, those moments aren’t very frequent.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Little Samson is an average platformer that has some cool ideas, but ultimately ends up making you feel rather blank. If you’re a fan of the Mega Man games or platformers in general, that I guess you might enjoy it. As for everyone else, I’d suggest that you look somewhere else.

THE RETR0PIA RANKING: C+

REVIEW: The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy (1991, NES)

Whenever people think of noteworthy individuals in the gaming market, some of the more “recognizable” ones, such as Shigeru Miyamoto, tend to come to mind. However, that’s not to say one of the lesser-highlighted ones don’t have strong followings/legacies of their own, if the people behind today’s game are anything to go by.

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While some people might not realize it, Phillip and Andrew Oliver, or as most people call them, The Oliver Twins, helped to truly ignite the then-mostly-untapped market of video games in the United Kingdom. Without them, many beloved UK-based developers, such as Rareware, Team17, or Traveller’s Tales, most likely wouldn’t exist as we know them now. As such, I figured it was time to shine the spotlight on what is possibly their most well-known creation through a review of the 1991 adventure-platform game, The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy.

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Developed by Codemasters and released in 1991 across several platforms such as the Amiga, the Genesis, and the Game Gear, the version we’re taking a look at today is the unlicensed NES version, published by Camerica. The game’s story revolves around the titular protagonist, an anthropomorphic egg who must embark on a quest to save his fellow Yolkfolk from certain doom and rescue his girlfriend Daisy from the evil Zaks. Is this game truly “fantastic” as the title suggests, or is this a rotten egg that’s not worth your time? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS – I have to say, for a game that wasn’t licensed by Nintendo themselves, the graphics here are…actually pretty decent! Okay, it isn’t visually flawless by any stretch, but they are still nice. Although they are kind of simplistic in some cases (then again, this IS a NES game), the graphics are still very good for what they are, providing a vibrant use of colors as well as some creative character models and neat backgrounds. I don’t really have that much to say since, well, they are kind of simplistic like I said earlier, but it isn’t really a severe con, especially since the NES is by no means the greatest video game system of them all in terms of visuals (not to sound like I’m dissing it or anything).

THE SOUND – While I don’t really have that many things to say about the graphics, the music on the other hand is most certainly a stark contrast. Despite the fact that all of their NES-released games went unlicensed, that still didn’t seem to deter the folks at Codemasters from producing some insanely catchy tunes, this game in particular having some of the best ones I’ve heard in an NES game, licensed or not. The music as a whole does a great job of making you pumped to play throughout the entirety of the game, as it really gives off a sense of adventure and energy. Even if the Amiga version is slightly better, the sound here is still incredibly impressive for an unlicensed game.

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Jeez, when does this guy NOT have a smile on his face?

THE GAMEPLAY – The best way I can describe how this game plays is this: take the gameplay of Zelda, merge it with the level design of Mario, throw in a few elements of a point-and-click game, and the end result will be, well, this. Many other games have attempted to merge two respective gameplay styles together, some succeeding, and some failing miserably. But that does leave one little question; where exactly does this game fall in? The former, although it is still a bit flawed. Starting off with the good stuff, the level design is actually really good! It’s very open, but still filled with tons of stuff to find as well as plenty of platforming to go around, as well as some rather clever and challenging puzzles and segments, one of the latter of the two taking place underwater, as you have to keep your oxygen bar filled up while trying to get back on dry land, another being a relatively fun minecart ride. Speaking of the puzzles, this is where the point-and-click elements I mentioned earlier come into fruition. What I mean by this is that there are are certain parts in which you’ll run into an obstacle, and will leave you with no other choice than to look into your inventory in order to determine what you’ll need in order to progress. Some might be tough to figure out, while others might not be as tough. It all depends in how used you are to adventure games. You also must collect a certain amount of stars (and by certain amount, I mean a LOT) scattered all throughout the world in order to get to Zaks.  But now that we got all of that out of the way, it’s time to move on to what’s bad. Starting off with the controls, they’re fine and solid…when you ignore the jumping. For some reason, no matter what way Dizzy jumps, whether it be left, right, or upwards, he cannot change his direction. This might not sound like it’s THAT much of a problem, but say you were to jump off of a ledge and decided to change your direction. No matter what button you press, you still end up going in that direction, whether you like it or not. And considering the fact this game is rather lengthy, this can be pretty hard to get used to. Next, there’s Dizzy’s health meter. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game in which your health can get depleted this quickly. No matter what comes in contact with Dizzy, you can garuntee that his health will go down faster than a Sonic character. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they ruin the game, but they do kind of bring down the experience.

THE BOTTOM LINE – The Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy is a flawed but still enjoyable demonstration of the abilities of two of the most influential video game developers of the U.K. Though it might not be for everyone, I’d suggest giving it a try if you want a platformer that’s not the typical “A to B” stuff.

7/10

REVIEW: Wally Bear and the NO! Gang (1992, NES)

Greetings, retr0pians. Back in the day, one of the most prominent issues in our youth was the usage of drugs – an issue that was so prominent, in fact, that just about every medium of entertainment had to go out of its’ way in order to inform people about the dangers of drugs, whether it be through adverts and posters, television specials, and of course, video games.

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Released in 1992 for the NES and developed and published respectively by American Game Cartridges and American Video Entertainment (truly the pinnacle of creativity), this unlicensed and infamous title revolves around the exploits of the titular protagonist as he travels throughout his hometown to reach a birthday party planned for him and his group of drug-resisting anthropomorphic buddies called the NO! Gang at his Uncle Grizzly’s house, having to put up with bomb-throwing mice, dogs, birds, and demonic underground fortresses, all while learning about just how “totally not rad” and “un-cool” drugs are, yo! Ugh…you can’t make this stuff up, folks. Let’s just get this over with, shall we?

THE LOOKS – Okay, I know that preferences of graphics can tend to be subjective, but…JEEZ, is this thing absolutely hideous. For starters, the use of colors just looks very off-putting. There’s plenty of greens, blues, browns, purples, and a barrage of others, but unlike a GOOD looking game like Little Samson, they don’t really blend together successfully, and just end up looking like a complete and utter mess, with an overall lack of detail, effort, or care, which could NOT be more prominent by the fact that the backgrounds keep repeating themselves, a la a Hanna-Barbera cartoo- no, scratch that. Hanna-Barbera cartoons actually have charm to them. The character sprites don’t fare any better either – I guess I can see what they’re trying to do with the whole funny animal design and approach, but all of the end results just look incredibly unprofessional and just downright lazy! For instance, Timmy Tiger looks like a green monkey with stripes, Billy Bunny looks like Bugs Bunny’s lesser-known and lesser-talented cousin, Stevie Squirrel looks like a deformed weasel, and Toby Turtle doesn’t even REMOTELY resemble a turtle. I wouldn’t go as far as to call the graphics “horrible”, but as they stand, “ugly” is the perfect word I’d use to describe them.

THE SOUND – If the complete and utter lack of thought that went into making this game wasn’t already obvious with the graphics, then it will most certainly show it’s presence with the music. The music, much like the visuals, just give off a feeling of laziness – the melodies lack a consistent rhythm, and are just so ruthlessly forgettable and droning, they might as well not exist at all! It also doesn’t help that, for some inexplicable reason, the programmers thought that it was a good idea to have the music loop over, and over, and over, and OVER. The sound effects are equally as forgettable, being quite possibly the most generic ones of any NES game, licensed or otherwise. But alas, none of the things I’ve said so far don’t even come close to the true horrors on display here….

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Another day, another skateboarding bear in the neighborhood.

THE GAMEPLAY – …you know, I kind of find this game’s message of not doing drugs to be outright ironic and a tad bit hilarious – because judging by just how mind-numbing, frustrating, and downright terrible the gameplay is, the programmers and designers might as well have been stoned themselves! From the VERY MOMENT you start playing, problems-a-plenty rear their heads; the controls are somehow stiff and awkward at the same time, and the jumping is complete garbage. Oh, and I forgot to mention…EVERYTHING. IS. OUT. TO. KILL YOU. Okay, I kind of already stated that in the introduction, but still. Although you can manage to defend yourself somewhat with a frisbee that can kill your enemies as well as a skateboard power-up that can make you go faster (oh, and both can give you more than one hit point), so that’s one thing I suppose this thing at least got kind of right. But, by far, the definitive worst thing about this game has to be the painful repetitiveness. Here’s pretty much how the whole game goes: you go out and about, desperately trying to not get killed, until you come across a location that just so happens to have one of your buddies. Said buddy then proceeds to tell you about a problem that is going on, all of them resulting in a hammered-down moral. You then go through the location (which can range from laughably easy to insanely hard) in order to solve the problem. Once you solve the problem, you go out and about once again, desperately trying to not get killed some more. Stretch this out for a total length of 20 minutes, and yet you’ll still somehow feel like you’ve wasted hours of your life by the time you’re done!

THE BOTTOM LINE – Wow…I can see why Nintendo didn’t want anything to do with this in terms in licensing it as an official member of the NES library. Wally Bear and the NO! Gang is just a pitiful excuse for a game, with tons of forced morals, a painfully “hip” protagonist, lazy music, unappealing graphics, and gameplay that might just give you a newfound appreciation for watching paint dry. In fact, I’d rather watch Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue on repeat than EVER touch this waste of one of the most innovative consoles of all time’s capabilities ever again. Do like an anti-drug PSA, and just say “NO!” to this crud pile. Wait a second…bomb throwing mice…where have I heard that before?

…eh, I’m probably just overthinking it.

2/10