When I hark down memory lane to consider the next BFTP addition, there are a few things that run through my mind. There are a plethora of little titbits of games gone by that flood me with waves of nostalgia. These could be a particular section of a game that was unique, the characters or comedy within the game, or indeed the recalling of memories of when I was younger and playing said games – either alone or with friends and family. It is unusual for a game’s music to play so heavily on a fondness for a game, but for me that is one of the things that separates out Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon from other games. And with it celebrating 15 years since its EU release this week, it felt like the right time to highlight to the masses a game that not only had very good, unique music, but was a game that was as mad as a box of frogs as well.
Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon was a 3D platformer / adventure game that was an N64 exclusive way back in 1998. The central protagonist was the titular Goemon, a lad from Zazen Town, who with his friend Ebisumaru set out on an adventure to stop the Peach Mountain Shoguns from travelling across Japan and turning it into some gaudy array of theatres and stages on which they can perform. Throughout the game, they will meet fellow companions Yae – a female ninja – and Sasuke – a mechanical ninja robot – who will join them on their quest. They can even summon the giant robot Impact (who comes complete with his own camp theme tune) to battle against giant bosses. Think of a cross over between 1990s TV series Power Rangers and the Rig fight scenes in the Lost Planet series and you won’t be far from the mark. So yes, completely bonkers.
The source of the craziness is born from the fact that this game is so overtly Japanese, and that’s not just because the story itself is set in the Land of the Rising Sun. The quirky fun that is so often represented in Japanese gaming culture is here in spades, and you just can’t help but fall in love with it. And the quirkiness extends not just in the random and fun nature of the story and characters but in the humour of the game as well. For example the entire point of the game is to prevent Japan from becoming a giant stage, but the game counters this by putting in canned audience laughter after character punch-lines, and cheers at the end of particular series of dialogues between key characters – as though the game itself is one big theatrical performance.Click here to read more...
There are lots of reasons why I love doing these BFTP articles, but one of the main ones is that I get the chance to take a look back at some great games that simply wouldn’t be made today. Imagine the following marketing pitch if you will:
Dev “So we’ve got this great new game idea, it involves 3 Vikings who get kidnapped by an alien”
Marketing “Vikings kidnapped by an alien?”
Dev “Yes, in his UFO”
Marketing “Er, why?”
Dev “Because the alien is looking to create an inter-galactic zoo”
Marketing “Get out!”
Thankfully for me and you, The Lost Vikings wasn’t made in today’s environment where games had to make sense. It was made back in 1992 by Developers Silicon and Synapse (who would later become Blizzard) and focussed much more on clever puzzles and its distinct brand of wacky humour – hence the intergalactic zoo.Click here to read more...
Platform: Wii U
Developer: TT Fusion
There must be quite a few of us that were brought up on Lego. In a ruse our parents used to keep us preoccupied, they bought us brightly-coloured blocks that fitted neatly together. The only limits to what you could build were the limits of your own imagination. So naturally the majority of us built cars, houses and rocket ships, y’know cool kid things. So when developers TT Fusion built an entire city and its surroundings out of the stuff, complete with different cars, bikes and helicopters to get around, and you play as a cop looking to kick some ass and take some names by going undercover – that’s surely got to be a good game right? Well let’s see.
TT Fusion’s game in question is Lego City: Undercover, a sandbox-style adventure game for the Wii U that sees you take the role of Chase McCain and his adventures as he goes undercover to stop the villainous Rex Fury from a life of Lego-related crime.
Let’s start by discussing the inevitable comparison to the Grand Theft Auto series. With both these games being crime-related sandbox games across a large city, you can understand why people are calling this a “kiddie” version of the seminal GTA series. These arguments, however, are only partly true. Whilst the game has a large over world for you to explore and create havoc in, Lego City: Undercover is best described as a melting pot of the best bits of GTA, some Mario-style platform elements and the Lego games' dynamic, humour and charm. You’ll find that as well as reckless driving, undercover theft etc, you’ll also be indulging in a fair amount of platforming around Lego City – from wall-jumps and swinging on poles, to over-exaggerated spring pads which send Chase hurtling from one rooftop to the next. It’s a mix that means whilst playing, I rarely sat there and thought “I’m playing a watered-down GTA game”. The parts that feel like GTA are normally just filler sections to the meat and potatoes of the game which stay true to the Lego series – and that is in the official Side Missions of the game.Click here to read more...
Year of Release: 1992
Original Platform(s) of Release: PC (DOS)
Due to the Easter bank holiday – and me contracting this national lurgy that’s going round – you may have noticed last week I was usurped from regular BFTP article by the loveable trio of Matt, Jon and Carl. Given Disney’s decision to close LucasArts, they mused on their favourite LucasArts games of years gone by. Luckily I’m here this week to show them all how wrong they were. In fairness to Jon, he gave this game an honourable mention, but I’m here to give it its very own BFTP, and that game is the hilarious Day of the Tentacle.
DOTT was released in 1993 as a sequel to the 1987 Commodore 64 game Maniac Mansion – which saw you play as Dave Miller in an attempt to rescue your girlfriend from the clutches of an evil scientist with the help of your friends. In that game you could select 2 friends to join you from a group of 6 – Scooby Doo style. In DOTT, you play as one of those friends – Bernard Bernouilli – but this time your 2 companions are fixed for the entire adventure, and comprise of a slightly disturbed medical student called Laverne and wannabe rocker Hoagie.
The game starts with us discovering that chemical waste is spewing from Dr Ed’s laboratory. This waste cause Purple Tentacle (One of the two tentacles created as experiments in the original game) to grow a pair of arms, and have a heightened intelligence. So naturally he now has dreams of world domination – we’ve all been there. His kinder-natured counterpart – Green Tentacle – fears what Purple might do, so enlists the help of Bernard and his friends to stop him. When they arrive, the plan of action is to time travel to the previous day (using Dr Ed’s latest time travelling machine that uses a crystal and three suspect looking porta-loos) and turn off the chemical waste before Purple got infected – hence preventing any possible world domination.Click here to read more...
I heard on the grapevine that a half-decent FPS called Bioshock Infinite was released this week. And with said game being set in a city stuffed full of socio-political commentary, I thought the perfect tonic for this week’s BFTP would be a game that took the premise of serious political issues, and then rammed it full of satire and humour. Plus it seems outrageous that in the archives of BFTP history we have yet to mention one of the most famous early adventure game franchises. So to both those ends, ladies and gentlemen I present to you Zork: Grand Inquisitor.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor joins the franchise very late in its life when it was released in 1997 for PC. Way back in 1980 a quartet of MIT graduates designed and published the first Zork game under the Infocom name. The original Zork game was a text-based adventure game, and was made as a trilogy of games, with each one leading directly onto the next. For those who have not experienced the game, it is possible to play it in Call of Duty: Black Ops – just break out of the chair on the menu screen, and type in “Zork” into the computer screen and you’re all set.
But random information and stray trophies / achievements aside, we’re here to talk about a later game in the series. 17 years after the original Zork, Grand Inquisitor would see you take on the role of “AFGNCAAP” (Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person) as you delve into the depths of the Great Underground Empire, and with the help of Dalboz the Dungeon Master (unfortunately imprisoned inside a lantern) you will collect 3 legendary artifacts that will overthrow Mir “I am the boss of you!” Yannick – AKA The Grand Inquisitor.Click here to read more...
Matt relived some of his favourite FPS multiplayer maps earlier in the week, and his list contained a lot of the normal movers and shakers on the FPS scene that you would expect. But it got me thinking about FPS titles that often don’t get as much attention, which brings me nicely to this week’s BFTP – Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. Introduced to the gaming world via the Nintendo 64, Turok the character (and original protagonist) actually started out in comics as far back as the 1950s, but didn’t grace the console scene until Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in 1997. That game received positive reviews, and quickly resulted in a sequel appearing a year later – Turok 2: Seeds of Evil.
But what became apparent very quickly, was that this wasn’t just a quick reboot to cash in on an emerging successful franchise. - Turok 2 planned on bringing much more to the party.
The premise of the game is you play as the “Turok” – the one charged with maintaining the balance of the Lost Lands – attempting to overcome the threat of The Primagen, a creature which is sealed inside a space craft by numerous Energy Totems. Turok’s task is to clear out the enemies that the Primagen has sent to destroy the Totems, and then slay the Primagen itself to rid the world of evil. He is helped along this path by a woman named Adon who serves as a guide, and provides an introduction and the objectives required for each of the game’s levels. Adon herself does not affect the gameplay directly but exists in the game’s hub area in between each of the levels, leaving Turok as a lone gun against the hordes of enemies.Click here to read more...
Julian Gollop is probably most recognised in recent years for his work on the XCOM series of video games. But when it was announced late last year, that Gollop was working on a new game called “Chaos Reborn”, the industry got it’s heart in a bit of a flutter. Excitement across social media and news articles must have looked odd to those wondering why people cared about a sequel to a game launched on the ZX Spectrum over 25 years ago. That game was Chaos: Battle of the Wizards – or simply Chaos, if you’re down with the kids of the 80s.
Chaos was an early turn-based strategy game, where you took on the role of a wizard, who would compete in a duel to the death with up to 7 opponents, with the aim of being the last one left at the end of the carnage. These duels of 2-8 wizards could consists of any combination of human and AI controlled opponents, and you had the option before each bout of stating how strong you wanted your AI opponents (if any) to be.
Well a wizard wouldn’t be worth his pointy hat if he didn’t have a wealth of powerful spells at his disposal, and the wizards in Chaos were no exception. Each wizard’s selection of spells –different for each duel – provided the games main premise. All wizards involved in the duel started at pre-set places on the “board” and can cast a spell once a turn. The majority of spells are creatures that fight for your wizard – against other wizards and their creatures – and what made this game so fun was that no two creatures were the same.Click here to read more...
With one of the marketable points of Nintendo’s WiiU system being it’s asymmetrical gaming that can include up to 5 players, it got me thinking about the first time console gaming allowed for up to 5 players at a time. It may come as a surprise to some of you younger ragamuffins but back in 1993, console gaming was very much a single or two player experience. It was you and a carefully selected friend (or in some infuriating cases, a family member) against the gaming world.
So when the lovely people at Hudson Soft were developing a console sequel in their Bomberman series (the original Bomberman first released on the ZX Spectrum in 1983 under the pseudonym ‘Eric and the Floaters’), it was a good thing they were thinking outside the box. Their vision for Super Bomberman was to have up to 4 people involved in the multiplayer at one time. So along with the game, came a piece of kit that they also developed, call the Super Multitap – that would plug into Port 2 of your SNES and allow for a further 4 players to play, assuming you had enough controllers and the game supported it.Click here to read more...
Last week’s Valentine’s Day look at gaming’s most romantic moments saw me reminisce about a very poignant moment in a lesser-known Action RPG title on the SNES. That game was Illusion of Time (Illusion of Gaia in Japan and the US). Developed by Quintet, the game sees you take control of a young boy named Will who lives in the small village of South Cape with his friends Lance, Erik and Seth. Will finds out he must save the world from a comet that is due to crash into the ‘Earth’.
The reason for the inverted commas is that the world in which Will traverses is very similar to our own. In fact, the game itself feels like a brief introduction to the ancient wonders of the world. You will be traversing the Nazca Plains, Angkor Wat, Incan Ruins, the Great Wall of China; even the Great Pyramids and the Tower of Babel make an appearance. It’s definitely fair to say that this game played a small part in my passion for ancient history, and there are places on the above list that I will have to visit before I die.Click here to read more...
Developer: Denby Raze
Available From: GOG.com / Desura / IndieCity
“So wait, hang on, I combine this toaster, and this piece of string, and I can make a helicopter? Brilliant!”
There’s something very unique about most point and click adventure games. In amongst the blatant kleptomania, is the almost Macgyver–like ability to create something out of nothing to progress the story forward. It’s what gives the genre its charm, and also provides its biggest frustrations, when tenuous item combinations are the only way forward on a sometimes illogical path towards the game's end. So when Denby Raze (made up of two gaming enthusiasts who've spent much of their time on this critical side of the fence - Lewis Denby and Ashton Raze) developed Richard & Alice - an indie point and click title that promises to provide puzzles and item combinations that make sense - I was tickled-pink with intrigue at how they would balance the obvious solutions but provide enough interest for the player.
The game itself focuses on the two titular protagonists as they find themselves in an underground “prison” trapped in their own individual cells. A gander at the world outside the prison, and 'desolate' doesn’t do it justice. If you think the UK has had a lot of snow so far this year, you ain't seen nothing yet. Snow has ravaged the landscape for years in a manner that has led to widespread starvation, isolation and fear, with gangs forming to control what little supplies are available, and people gathering in safe zones to live together. Bleak? Well in a word, yes, and that sort of sets the tone for this adventure right from the off. This isn’t your usual charming, quirky and comic point and click adventure. The themes here are much darker from the get go, so you’d better be prepared for that as you dive in.Click here to read more...
Developer: Nintendo EAD
When I think of the name “Nintendo Land” my mind rushes off to a far off place, a magical place, full of childhood wonder. It would be a full of children and families, with workers wearing over-sized costumes of Diddy Kong and Link as they mingle with the guests. Everyone smiling from ear to ear as they wander through a theme park bristling with opportunities to be sucked into a world of fun and nostalgia, and all of this is set against the backdrop of the Peach’s Mushroom Kingdom Castle, amazing during the day, but full of awe and mystique when night falls and the fireworks begin. Yet, whilst this image is a blatant rip-off from Anaheim, California, there is a point to it. Although Nintendo Land the game, is nowhere near as grand as the initial image in my head, what it is hoping to achieve is something similar. It is hoping to restore wonder and joy to a fanbase in much need of resurgence. It is hoping to showcase an experience in the WiiU which is new, exciting and something people will want more from. The question is, does it achieve what it set out to do, or does it leave you feeling short-changed and striding for the exit?
For those not in the know, Nintendo Land is serving as the demonstrative launch game for the WiiU, with it being bundled in with Premium versions of the console in a similar way to Wii Sports was with the Wii. The game itself is set in the titular “theme park” where the attractions are 12 different minigames that showcase the different ways in which you can use the new WiiU controller. The 12 minigames are split into 3 different types; single-player games designed just for the WiiU controller, competitive multiplayer games where up to 5 players compete against each other (up to 4 players use Wiimotes with Wii Motion Plus), or co-operative multiplayer games where players work together towards a common goal. All of these minigames are based on Nintendo’s key franchises, with the likes, of Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Metroid all providing settings for your pleasure, with each displaying different features of the WiiU controller.Click here to read more...
Our newest recruit Chris takes a look back over a long year that saw the second year in a row won for him by Bethesda, a surprisingly muted launch for the Wii U, a flawed gem in Capcom's Dragon's Dogma, and a glorious Platinum in Skyrim at last!
For me, Bethesda pulled it out the bag again this year with their stealth, magic, assassin, first-person, action game. The first thing that really works for this game is that its so easy to get absorbed into it. With the first-person perspective, and the “choice” system of how to complete missions that makes a difference, it really does take you in and feel as though your really are Corvo Attano pacing through the streets of Dunwall. It makes you think about how you should continue, and not in a forceful way, like a game like Dark Souls, but in a personal way of how you want to play the game, and how you want it to pan out. And there’s so much fun to be had on further playthroughs to discover where different decisions could have led.
And the way in which you can make those decisions also made this a great game. A combination of weaponry and various powers at Corvo’s disposal provide you with plenty of options to tackle each enemy and situation. I also found the AI to be a step up from most games, where a quick hide in a corner might be enough, but Dishonored is less forgiving of rash movements – in a good and thought-provoking way. To top it off the visual style of the game is also very good and the landscape of Dunwall oozes character, creating an overall gaming experience that for me was the best this year.Click here to read more...
Developers: Monkey Bar Games
Publisher: D3 Publisher
I’m a firm believer that you can make a great game even if it is based around a kid’s TV show. In my head I envisage the best platformer/action game you’ve never experienced based on Thundercats (the proper one not the new-fangled anime style one). It’d have great character development, the large open world of Third Earth, RPG elements and you could even drive the Thundertank. Yet whilst these are clearly the whimsical dreams of a sad reviewer, the reason for their inclusion is because Ben 10: Omniverse sadly does what every other kids TV show game does: It sits nicely in the box labelled ‘Kid’s TV Show-based game’ and thus, by extension, it should also be transferable to the box labelled ‘mediocre’.
And that annoys me.
Not least because I view this particular premise as a good a basis as any to create a decent game. You play Ben Tennyson, a kid who by using his famous watch-style Omnitrix, can transform into various alien creatures to help defeat the evil Malware. You travel through the 3D levels, fighting groups of enemies as you go, being able to progress once each group of monsters is defeated. You are also accompanied by a new sidekick called Rook which allows for 2-player co-op during the adventure. All this sounds like a very good start. It could so easily have been a game that combines the best bits of Streets of Rage, Lost Kingdoms 2 with RPG elements to create a pretty good game. Sadly its missing a fair bit of spark and creativity which becomes apparent when you start playing.Click here to read more...
Developers: Codemasters Birmingham
I’ve got a confession to make; I was quite looking forward to reviewing this game. Firstly because last week I reviewed LittleBigPlanet Karting – a fairly decent game but a missed opportunity to deliver a great karting experience – and was looking for another karting game to fill the void. Secondly I’m personally a fan of F1 anyway, so I was more intrigued how they had linked in the concept and feel of F1 – a very serious and detailed sport – into the fun and quirky world of console kart racing.
First impressions before I’d touched the controller were pleasing. The visual style was going about its business with a sense of bright colours, and cartoony driver models – making it look like all the racers were out of Team America, in a good way. And the intro movie showcasing the game seemed to suggest vibrant wacky locations with lots of character, mayhem on the track with items going every which way and the drivers being as camp as a box of tents. So things were looking good. But if ever the adage of “looks can be deceiving” needed a PS3 game to embody it, then F1 Race Stars is it.
F1 All Stars sets itself up like the majority of other kart racers out there. There are a variety of tracks to race around, with gold, silver and bronze trophies awarded to podium finishes. And as is customary in these games, there are various items you can pick up throughout the courses to help you to victory or hinder your opponent’s chances. The instant attraction to this game though is that you can choose to race as your favourite F1 star from this season’s crop of racers. So if you feel like showing Vettel and the lads that Karthekayan really can win a race, then this is your best bet.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 (Move compatible)
Developers: United Front Games | Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Mario, Sonic, Diddy Kong, Crash Bandicoot, they’ve all done it. They’ve all made the apparently natural step from save-the-day platformer to small-time motorsport enthusiast. In the same way that a hit BBC sitcom will undoubtedly have an unnecessary Xmas special, there seems a sort of inevitability now around any key platformer franchise branching out into the kart racer genre. So it’s no real surprise then to see Sackboy – arguably Sony’s flagship platformer mascot - in his very own karting game. But does LittleBigPlanet Karting do Sackboy or the genre justice, or is it just another ill-thought out cash-in for the Xmas period? Let’s see.
The first thing you notice when starting up LittleBigPlanet Karting is that it is very much a LittleBigPlanet game. Right down to the Pod, the Popit menu system, the spherical world map screens, even right down to the calming narration of Stephen Fry. In fact if it wasn’t for the Kart sitting in the Pod with Sackboy, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this game as LittleBigPlanet 3. And whilst branding is important – it is a LittleBigPlanet game after all – if you think back to good karting games of the past (the names at the top of the review should help) then these games take elements of their own games and apply them in a way that works within the karting genre. Whereas it feels like United Front Games and Media Molecule have tried to force the issue with some of their nods to LittleBigPlanet, to the point where those nods feel like a forceful head-butt to the face.
The first frustrating one of these is the necessity of unlocking each level in turn not only to progress to the next, but also to unlock the option of playing it online with others in a (up to) 8 player VS match. There’s nothing strictly wrong with having a certain amount of content locked at the start of a game, it gives a sense of progression and reward when it becomes available. But when those locked elements become stifling or frustrating to what feels natural, then something has gone wrong. In the same way it is a chore to unlock all characters for Super Smash Bros these days, just to enjoy the game as it was intended; it is also a chore in LittleBigPlanet Karting to expect the single player to be completed for all available VS mode matches to simply be unlocked.Click here to read more...