Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for the ‘Decent’ Category

Undo

Posted by Tracy Poff on November 12, 2016

Undo by Neil deMause (credited in the game as “null dogmas”) is a 1995 interactive fiction game, entered in the first annual interactive fiction competition. The premise is that when the game opens, you’ve just finished the last puzzle in a buggy, corrupted interactive fiction game, and have only to reach the exit to win.

The game is very brief–I spent about ten minutes beating it, exploring everything as thoroughly as possible–but it has a few entertaining bits. For example, if you check your inventory, you’re told that “You have everything that you need.”, and in the Binary Room you can take 0 (or take nothing) and your inventory will change to “You have nothing.” If you take other objects, e.g. take 1, then “You have nothing and a 1.” You can drop nothing and then “You have a 1 and everything that you need.” Inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, if I’m not mistaken, quite appropriate for a piece of IF which is about a piece of IF.

The game’s solution more or less makes sense, though you’re more likely to stumble across it than to reason it out. I’ve written some invisiclues-style hints for the game, if you’re stuck.

Undo has a few neat ideas and an interesting premise, but it doesn’t really do anything with them, and feels more like Speed-IF than a real game. It can safely remain a relic of the past.

Advertisements

Posted in 1995, Decent, Freeware, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle

Posted by Tracy Poff on February 23, 2016

Since we’ve most recently looked at a couple of arcade-style single screen platformers, let’s change it up a bit with something a bit more reminiscent of Pitfall!.

Smurf Rescue (colecovision) - cover

(cover from MobyGames)

If Pitfall! had Smurfs, anyway.

Smurf Rescue (colecovision) - 01

Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle (also known as Smurf Rescue) is a 1982 release by Coleco for the Colecovision, also ported to the Atari 2600. The first thing you’ll notice upon starting the game is that, compared to its contemporaries, Smurf Rescue is beautiful. It’s got lovely, colorful, detailed graphics, and the animation is pretty smooth, too. It’s even got some nice background music (from Simple Gifts and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, the arrangement of the latter sounding rather like a track from Pokemon, to me).

Smurf Rescue (colecovision) - 02

Our hero, called by the manual simply “Smurf”, must jump over fences, tufts of grass, ledges, stalagmites, and other obstacles on his way to Gargamel’s castle, where Smurfette is being held prisoner. Successfully making a jump awards points (helpfully printed on the screen), with more difficult jumps being worth more points.

Smurf Rescue (colecovision) - 03

The game features several different types of terrain. On the way to the castle, you’ll pass through several screens of a type, and then enter another. You’ve got an energy meter which is constantly decreasing, but it is refilled when you encounter a new type of terrain.

Smurf Rescue (colecovision) - 04

When you finally reach the castle, and leap to Smurfette by way of a skull, you’re awarded a large bonus and the game starts over. You keep your points, though, so you could keep playing to see how high a score you can achieve before running out of lives.

Smurf Rescue (colecovision) - 05

That’s all on Skill 1, though. On the higher skill levels, there are enemies to avoid, as well. The hawks shown above will swoop around and chase you, so you’ve got to duck or otherwise dodge them. The game is much harder when you’ve got to contend with enemies, rather than just worry about making the jumps, and on higher levels there are more screens between you and the castle, and your energy depletes more quickly, too. For something that seems a cutesy kids’ game, Smurf Rescue can definitely provide a challenge.

The game’s weakest point is its control scheme. You’d think, given that the Colecovision’s controller had an astounding fourteen buttons, they could have spared one for jumping, but, alas, it was not to be. You jump by pushing the joystick up. Furthermore, you can jump at two different heights, but to make a higher jump you must jump twice in quick succession, rather than something sensible like holding up on the joystick longer. When you’ve got to dodge enemies while carefully judging the right place to jump, this control scheme is a real pain.

Let me direct your attention to a solicitation for the game from a catalog:

Smurf Rescue (catalog entry)

There are a few things of note, here. First, “All screens shown in CBS Colecovision format.” it proudly declares. The screenshot on the back of the game box is similar. But you’ll notice that it doesn’t match my screenshots above. I imagine the promotional shots were taken while the game was still in development, so we’re getting a look at what might have been. The artwork differs a little from the box art, too.

Second, I don’t believe it is possible to have 3570 points on the first screen. Maybe if you backtracked.

Third, the description states “And, to maintain his strength, he must eat hard-to-reach berries.” There aren’t any berries in this game. That’s just an outright lie. Was there a feature like that at the time the promotional shots were taken, and the ad copy was written? It’s hard to imagine that feature being removed at such a late stage, but it’s possible. Or perhaps there was some miscommunication, or the ad copy was based on outdated design documents. I always wonder, when the advertising doesn’t match the reality, exactly what caused it.

There were several different clones released on the Commodore 64: Smurfs by Carl Muller, Smurf Rescue (which had a followup, Smurf 2: The Revenge) by Courbois Software, and Smurfen by C.A.W. Brand and M. Brand (which features a rather cool rendition of “Billie Jean”). There have been more recent projects based on this, too, such as this neat little thing made in MIT’s Scratch language, and this Amiga game by Mikael Persson, which unfortunately encountered legal trouble.

It’s worth giving this game a try, just for a bit of variety. If you don’t mind the controls, it’s pretty fun.

Posted in 1982, ColecoVision, Decent, Full Review, Platformer | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon S: Quiz Taiketsu! Sailor Power Kesshū!!

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 16, 2014

Today, I’ve got something else obscure to look at: Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon S: Quiz Taiketsu! Sailor Power Kesshū!! (original title: 美少女戦士セーラームーン S – クイズ対決! セーラーパワー結集!!), a Sailor Moon quiz game for the Bandai Playdia.

Sailor Moon S Quiz (Playdia) - cover

Once again quoting my description on MobyGames:

Tsukino Usagi and her friends, the Sailor Senshi, are attending a lecture by a picture book author, Misaki Asako, when a Daimon called Quiz appears to steal Asako’s pure heart crystal.

There is one stage for each of the five Sailor Senshi (Sailor Moon, Sailor Mercury, Sailor Venus, Sailor Mars, and Sailor Jupiter), which may be played in any order. In each stage, the player must answer a series of twenty multiple-choice questions, testing his or her knowledge of the Sailor Moon anime, which represents a battle against a sub-boss. Upon successfully completing a stage by answering at least 16 questions correctly, the sub-boss is defeated, and the player receives a password, after which another stage may be selected.

Upon receiving all five passwords, the player may restart the game and enter the passwords, unlocking the final stage, in which the five Sailor Senshi are joined by Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune for a final twenty question quiz.

Throughout the game, there are clips of animation in the style of the anime. Upon completing the game, a karaoke version of the anime’s opening theme is played over clips from the game.

Playdia-Console-Set” by Evan-AmosOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A few words about the Playdia itself would not be amiss, I think. It was a CD-based console, released in Japan in 1994, reminiscent of the (similarly doomed) CD-i. Most of the console’s library (according to Wikipedia, which has a list) was quiz or edutainment software, and much of it seems to be licensed titles based on anime. The first three games (according to GDR), released on 1994-09-23, were based on Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon S, and SD Gundam. The Playdia currently has no emulator available, so the only way to play these games is to buy the console. It looks like they’re around $150 on eBay, and this particular game will set you back a further $50, so I don’t recommend it.

I based my description on a scan of the manual and a video playthrough, both provided by SailorVGame.org. They are also the source of the screenshots in this post.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-00h50m44s102

Title screen

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-00h52m00s121

Opening movie

The game opens with a brief animated movie setting up the plot. I’ll not recapitulate that here–you can read the description above. The quality of the animation is quite on par with the TV anime. It is perhaps a little more static than the anime, but it’s well drawn and the video output by the game is of good quality.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-00h58m03s238

The first thing the the player must do is decide whether to begin at the beginning of the game, or to enter a password and skip the first five stages, going straight to the final quiz. This is, I suppose, because the Playdia doesn’t appear to support any kind of saved games. Passwords are the only option. The password is in the form of five pictures which the game reveals, one after each successfully-completed stage.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h01m32s210

The player can choose the order in which to take on the first five stages, but all five must be completed before proceeding to the final stage. Unless, of course, the password  has been gotten some other way.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h00m59s11

The game itself is simply a series of multiple-choice trivia questions. There are twenty per stage, and six stages (counting the final stage), making 120 questions per complete playthrough. The back cover of the game boasts 300 questions, so I assume that they are randomized. Questions are generally read aloud by some character in the game.

The questions on Usagi’s stage are related to the Sailor Moon anime. The question above, “「つきにかわて、おしおきよ」は、だれのせりふ?” (“In the name of the Moon, I will punish you” is whose line?), is very simple, but they do get progressively harder. The nineteenth question on Usagi’s stage asks for the name of Prince Demand’s younger brother. Demand was a character in the previous season (Sailor Moon R), which had recently finished airing. Despite its title, this game was released right in the middle of Sailor Moon S, so it’s no surprise if it’s not filled with questions about the still-airing season.

The other stages have questions on other topics. Minako’s question number seven, for example, asks who was born from a flower: Oyayubi-hime (Thumbelina), Kaguya-hime (from a Japanese folktale), or Shirayuki-hime (Snow White). Ami’s question number one asks what kind of shoes to wear on a rainy day: rubber boots, slippers, or sandals.

After ten questions, a clip of the currently-selected character’s transformation sequence (straight out of the anime) is played, followed by the remaining ten questions. If the player has answered at least sixteen questions correctly, the password from that stage is revealed. Otherwise, the player is encouraged to try again. Either way, a clip is played of the stage’s boss being defeated.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h34m27s13

Upon successfully completing all five stages, the player may restart the game and choose to enter the password. A series of five doors are presented, each offering a choice of four pictures, one of which is the correct password for that door. After the correct password is entered, another anime clip plays, in which Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune join the others, and the final stage begins. More Sailor Moon trivia is in store (question 10: What was the name of Chibiusa’s first love, the genius artist?).

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h41m22s29

Incidentally, the questions are not purely text based. In the above case, the Daimon asks who is displayed in those pictures.

vlcsnap-2014-07-16-01h44m02s125

Following the completion of the game, a short closing animation is played, followed by a karaoke version of Sailor Moon‘s opening theme, “Moonlight Densetsu”.

And that’s the game! It’s actually not that bad, I suppose, as trivia games go. Certainly far too easy for any but fairly young children, but I suppose that young fans of the series might have enjoyed the game.

It looks like there were actually four games for the Playdia based on Sailor Moon. Considering that there were only about thirty games in total, that’s a pretty substantial amount. Fortunately, SailorVGame.org has manual scans and gameplay videos for those available, as well, so I’ll probably write something about them, in the future. It’d be nice to be able to write about the console’s complete library, but I suspect that it’ll not be so easy to get details on all of the games. I won’t shy away from the detective work, though, so we’ll see how it goes.

Posted in 1994, Bandai Playdia, Decent, Full Review, Trivia | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Archery

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 19, 2014

Today, a look at a game I’ve just added to MobyGames: Archery by Brian Blankenship.

archery_000

Archery is a very simple shooting game. A target descends along the right side of the screen, and you have to push the spacebar at the right moment to let fly your arrow, with the aim of hitting the target as near the center as possible.

archery_003

You get three shots (in a row) from each of five different starting locations, and shots that hit closer to the center score more points. You can play alone (for high scores, one assumes), against another player, or against the computer.

archery_013

Interestingly, if you play against the computer, the computer can get a high score, too. Embarrassingly, the computer seems to be rather better at this game than I am.

The author, Brian Blankenship, wrote this game in 1985. On December 31, 2013, he posted the BASIC source code to the game on SourceForge. He posted a few comments on abandonware sites around the net. Here’s what he had to say:

I am honored to find sites like this still showing this game from so long ago. I wrote this while bored, waiting to be laid off from a law firm that was splitting up. I was playing “Track and Field” occasionally at arcades, and could barely make it to the archery part, which inspired me to make this game.

Yes, it is very lame by today’s standards, and in hindsight I could have made a lot of improvements. I tinkered with it while it held my interest, and released it to a few BBS’s in the Indianapolis, IN area. Had no idea it would see somewhat large distribution.

Even if Archery is “lame by today’s standards”, I found it to be quite a fun (though simple) game. I imagine it’d be worth playing with a friend, at least for a few matches.

Posted in 1985, Action, Archery, Decent, DOS, Freeware, Full Review, Shooter | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Spring Thing 2014: The Price of Freedom: Innocence Lost

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 14, 2014

The Price of Freedom: Innocence Lost by Briar Rose is an entry in the Spring Thing 2014. If you’re planning on playing and voting for games in this competition, you should probably stop reading now.

Innocence Lost is the first part of the story of a Greek boy, Andreas, who, along with his brother, Alexius, is sold by his father to a Roman slaver. This part covers Andreas’s childhood, with later parts yet to be released.

The game is a browser-based CYOA-style story, hosted by ChooseYourStory, a site I was not previously familiar with. Three of the ten games in the Spring Thing use it, though, making it the single most popular ‘engine’–so I suppose it must be popular.

Here a brief digression: it troubles me to have games in competitions hosted externally and unavailable for download. When the host disappears–and it will, eventually–those games will simply be gone, unless the author has somehow archived them, or some enterprising player has done the same. This won’t affect my scoring of the games, but I hope that authors will keep this in mind when choosing a venue.

After the story begins, the plot proceeds in a frankly predictable fashion. The protagonist and his brother are put on a slave ship to be taken to Rome. There, they meet and befriend a young girl, Lula, who has been a slave for some time already. When they arrive in Rome, all three are purchased together, and it turns out that they are to be trained, along with other youths, as gladiators. The story briefly follows their training and culminates in a battle between six of them and six competing trainee gladiators.

The player’s choices throughout can impact Andreas’s strength, speed, or ‘approval’ with another character. The most substantial change the player can make is affecting which and how many (if any) of the children die in the battle at the end of the story, including possibly Andreas himself.

The mechanism of this change is the strength, speed, and approval scores mentioned earlier. During the battle, certain decisions will succeed or fail, based on Andreas’s strength or speed, and after the battle the other characters in the story will have (brief) conversations with Andreas that are impacted by his approval score with them.

When Andreas’s strength, speed, or approval score with another character changes, it’s displayed by the game in conspicuous colored text, inline with the story. This is a little distracting, but more importantly it had a strong influence on how I experienced the game. From the very beginning, because of these notifications, I was aware that the game was keeping tracking of the approval statistics, and I soon learned about strength and speed, so when making any choice, I could not help but think about how it might impact Andreas’s stats. It put me into a mindset to engage in metagaming, and made it more difficult to immerse myself in simply roleplaying as Andreas.

When first meeting Titus (the owner of the gladiatorial school) and Rhode (the trainer), for example, Andreas may either describe his education to Titus or attempt to bite Rhode’s finger. I, as the player, had a shrewd suspicion that doing this would impress Rhode with Andreas’s fierceness, but Andreas’s motivation wasn’t to impress her–he wanted to bite her because he disliked her. I’d have thought that, even without the approval scores being made explicit, but if they had any impact, it was only to widen the gap between player and player character.

This gap was especially noticeable on subsequent playthroughs. It became clear, at the end, that ‘winning’ the game meant keeping all six children alive through the final battle, and that doing this would involve having sufficiently high stats, so my replays quickly devolved into simply trying the different options to learn what impact they had on Andreas’s statistics, then finally going through the game making all of the ‘right’ choices, so as to preserve all of Andreas’s teammates. It took me an hour to play through the story once, but less than twenty minutes to play through it five more times, start to finish.

Innocence Lost‘s biggest weakness is its linearity. Your choices have literally no meaningful impact on anything but the final scene. Andreas can’t be bought by anyone other than Titus. He can’t be killed prior to the battle. Your choices incline the story in one direction for just a few paragraphs before it returns, unerringly, to the single path the author determined. This, combined with the very visible statistics, makes the game more about optimizing statistics than influencing a story.

The writing in Innocence Lost is reasonably solid, if unexceptional, and the characters are interesting enough for the brief time we know them. Unfortunately, Innocence Lost makes poor use of the medium. Of course, a degree of linearity is to be expected from a game that is the first part of a trilogy. Perhaps the later installments in the series will give the player more choice. If not, this story may be better suited to static fiction, abandoning the conceit of choice in favor of more strongly developed relationships between the characters.

I give The Price of Freedom: Innocence Lost a rating of 6/10. Fun enough to read, but unexceptional as a work of interactive fiction.

Play time: 1:16 for six complete playthroughs.

Posted in 2014, Decent, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

All Quiet on the Library Front

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 12, 2014

All Quiet on the Library Front by Michael S. Phillips is a 1995 interactive fiction game, entered in the first annual interactive fiction competition. The premise is that the PC is a student enrolled in CS 441 – Interactive Fiction who has been slacking off for the entire term. To save his grade, the PC must navigate the university library to acquire a biography of Graham Nelson, to use as a source for a term paper.

Phillips’s first (and, to date, only) contribution to interactive fiction, Library has the hallmarks of a first game: it is set in a fictionalized version of the author’s workplace; it contains many references to the IF community; it has a rather thin premise. That said, it’s competently implemented and reasonably well written.

Library‘s main sin is that it’s too simple. Its puzzles are very straightforward, its NPCs don’t seem to do anything but serve their very limited purposes, and there’s little else to do but what’s required. I only finished with 26/30 points, and I have no idea what the other points could be for, but I don’t have any particular urge to get the rest.

Most of Library‘s scenery is implemented, though some actions, like x me, give default responses. On the other hand, you can kiss alan for a response that’s both humorous and useful as a hint–well done.

Overall, Library is just mediocre, and there are too many better works of interactive fiction for me to recommend it. If I were rating it for the ifcomp, I’d give it about a 4/10.

Play time: 30 minutes to win, plus about 10 more of exploration.

This review is based on Release 2.

Posted in 1995, Decent, Freeware, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Achievement Unlocked 2

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 4, 2013

Achievement Unlocked 2 is a 2010 platformer by Armor Games.

snap0824-title

Much like its predecessorAchievement Unlocked 2 is a commentary on metagaming. The player controls once again a small, blue elephant, and has no other goals than to unlock all of the achievements. Here, Achievement Unlocked 2 tops the original, featuring 250 absurd achievements, more than double Achievement Unlocked‘s 100.

snap0827-start

Of course, it wouldn’t be a worthy sequel if you couldn’t unlock achievements just by starting the game, and this once again sets the tone for the whole game. There are plenty of achievements for things like clicking on interface elements, as well as the more ‘traditional’ sort for standing on certain squares or collecting all the coins in the game.

The main thing that sets Achievement Unlocked 2 apart from its predecessor is that it features multiple rooms. In a parody of the current DLC craze, though, you’ve got to buy the DLC to unlock the extra rooms, using the coins you collect in the game. In addition to the initial room, ‘Floor 1’, you have access to the elephant’s home, as well as four more floors and the roof of the building you’re in.

If you unlock all 250 achievements, you can see the ending… but is it really worth it?

One of the title screen’s messages is “Why risk it when you can just create a sequel?”, and the fake review quote in the shop for the second floor reads “If you like the first floor you’ll probably like the second.” These are certainly intended as parody, but they sum it all up pretty well. The second game in the Achievement Unlocked series is more of the same. If you’ve played the original, there’s probably no reason to bother with this one. If you’ve never played the first, you can take your pick; either game will do.

Posted in 2010, Decent, Flash, Freeware, Full Review, Platformer | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kangaroo

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 30, 2013

Kangaroo is a platformer by Sun Electronics, released in June 1982.

kangarooa0000
The player controls a kangaroo whose child has been kidnapped by mischievous monkeys. Gameplay is pretty standard for arcade platformers: walk on platforms, climb ladders, avoid pitfalls and enemies while collecting bonus items; pretty much the same as Donkey Kong.

kangarooa0001
The kangaroo, of course, can jump, and is also equipped with a boxing glove, so that she can punch the monkeys that harass her on her way to rescue her child. The monkeys throw apples at her, which can be punched to return to sender.

Rescuing the child ends the level and begins the next. There are four variations before the levels replay at higher difficulty.

Kangaroo has simple graphics, music, and sound effects, on about the level one expects from a game from 1982. Its quality is comparable to Donkey Kong: decent for an old game, but nothing special these days.

Posted in 1982, Arcade, Decent, First Impressions, Platformer | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ponpoko

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 29, 2013

Ponpoko is a platformer by Sigma Enterprises, Inc., released in 1982.

ponpokov0000

Ponpoko is a very standard ladder-and-platform collect-em-up, in which you play the titular Ponpoko, a tanuki.

ponpokov0005

It is required on each level to collect the food while avoiding the pins (bizarrely called ‘apple cores’ in a flyer for the Venture Line release) and enemies (which look rather like mice but are apparently hairy caterpillars). The pots with question marks on them may contain bonus points (good!) or snakes (bad!). When you complete a level, you gain a bonus depending on how much time you used, and move on to the next level, with a different layout and a different kind of food to collect.

Ponpoko features fairly nice animation, but uninspired sound effects and no background music. It’s a decent game for its time, but it doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

I’ve recorded a sample of the gameplay:

Posted in 1982, Arcade, Collect 'em Up, Decent, First Impressions, Platformer | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Night Mission Pinball

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 22, 2012

Night Mission Pinball is a pinball game for the Commodore 64, published in 1982 by subLOGIC.

Night Mission Pinball 01
Night Mission Pinball supports up to four players, and can be controlled with either the keyboard or a joystick. The controls are responsive, and the movement of the ball is pretty decent, for an old game.

Night Mission Pinball 02
Old 2D pinball games often feel like the ball is just sliding around, influenced by the objects on the screen, but not really bouncing off them. There is a little of that feeling in Night Mission Pinball, but it’s not bad. If you think you could do better at balancing, you’re in luck, because this is one game that will let you tweak to your heart’s content.

Night Mission Pinball 03
You can adjust 38 variables here, to make the game play however you like. If you’re more artistically inclined, you can also adjust the colors, though your options there are a bit more limited.

Night Mission Pinball is a good game. For gameplay, it’s about on par with Pinball for the NES, which I reviewed previously, though its graphics aren’t as good. Pinball is a year or two newer, though, so that’s reasonable. The table layout is good, but it’s nothing special. If you’re a fan of old games, this one is competently done, but the state of the art in pinball games has advanced quite a bit, over the years, so a more modern game is likely to be more satisfying.

Edit: I’ve included a brief video to demonstrate the gameplay.

Posted in 1982, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Pinball | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »