Sunday, May 29, 2011

Game of the week: Carnival for Colecovision

Remember the old days when you and your favorite girl strolled down to the arcade, you plopped down a dime, picked up an air gun and blasted away at toy ducks, rabbits and bears?

No. Maybe you're not old enough. Heck, maybe none of us are old enough.

But a bunch of us are old enough to remember the arcade video game Carnival, by Sega, that came out in 1980 and featured simple arcade shooting. It was a video game in which you controlled a little gun at the bottom of the screen that shot at rows of toy animals at the top of the screen, and you had limited ammunition.

Sound boring? It wasn't. Even with simple graphics and simple gameplay, Carnival offered lots of enjoyment.

Which is one reason it was ported to the major home video game consoles of the time, the Atari 2600, Intellivision and the Colecovision.

Coleco VisionTo be fair, with a game like this, they all looked and played pretty decently on the home systems. And why not? There weren't any overly fancy graphics and the game itself isn't complicated.

But still, as was common back then, the Colecovision had the best quality graphics and sounds, making Carnival for the Colecovision most like the arcade experience. And this was important to a lot of gamers back in the day when many home ports looked, and sometimes played, nothing like the arcade versions of the games.

Also, the Colecovision had everything the arcade version of Carnival had, including the bonus stages between each main stage. In these bonus stages the shooter got to shoot a bear that kept going back and forth on the screen.

All these years later, Carnival is still fun to play, especially on the Colecovision. Don't let all those new-fangled, modern graphics fool you. Graphics aren't everything. Sometimes solid gameplay is more than enough for hours of entertainment.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Game of the Week: Commando for NES

You are a lone soldier facing off with limitless hordes of enemy soldiers. Your terrain is the jungle and desert. Your weapons are your rifle and grenades. How long can you survive?

That's the basic gameplay for Commando, the 1985 hit arcade game from Capcom.

The game proved so popular that ports were made to just about every home gaming console and computer system of the time, including the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, PC and most importantly, the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Now, there have been so many different ports of Commando, I would be a fool and a liar to say that I've tried them all. I haven't. But I have tried about a half dozen of them, and of them all, I have to say the version for the NES is the best and the one closest to the arcade games in graphics and gameplay.

Commando NESThe game itself is pretty straightforward. You play a soldier who is dropped off by a helicopter, then you scroll vertically up the screen while shooting at enemy combatants who come at you from all sides except directly behind. Your gun has unlimited ammo, which is great, but you also have a limited supply of grenades you can use to take out several enemies at one time.

The game comes in stages, and at the end of each stage you come up against a fort where tons and tons of enemy soldiers come piling out at you. Defeat them all to move on to the next stage of the game.

One of the few problems with the NES version of Commando is trying to shoot diagonally. It can be done, but the control pad for the NES lends itself more to straight right, left, up and down movement.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Game of the Week: Super Dodge Ball for NES

It was never a huge hit in the arcades, but believe it or not there was an arcade video game about dodge ball in 1987. It was originally released in Japan, and titled Super Dodge Ball when it reached the United States.

The game must have had some success, at least in Japan, because Nintendo decided to import a version to its huge mega-hit home video game console of the time, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

Super Dodge Ball is entertaining, but it does take some getting used to how the game plays and the control system.

Like real dodge ball, there are two teams of multiple players that try to smash to smithereens the other team. In Super Dodge Ball each individual member on a team has their own health meter, and once they get hit enough and the health meter reaches zero, that member of the team is trashed.

Nintendo Super Dodge BallThere's a lot of action here, as the player can toss the ball back and forth between players on his or her team, and the player can have team characters jump and duck and even catch a ball that's thrown at them.

One letdown is that the graphics are only fair, which is disappointing because the NES was capable of solid graphics.

The worst part of this game, however, is that a player's control of team members alternates all the time, and this is confusing. Still, a player can get used to it and learn to use it in his or her strategy.

If you want to play a different kind of sports video game, Super Dodge Ball is worth giving a try. And if you're a collector of retro NES games, you should probably check out Super Dodge Ball.

Nintendo NES System - Video Game Console

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Game of the Week: Super Off Road for SNES

If you like the idea of jumping into a pickup truck and racing against some good buddies around a bumpy dirt track while avoiding bales of hay and sharp turns, have I got a video game for you.

It's called Super Off Road. And it is a-w-e-s-o-m-e!!!

Or at least the Super Nintendo version is, and that's the one I'm most familiar with, though I have played the original arcade game some, it titled Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Super Off Road.

This is a fairly basic game. You race around a dirt track in a truck. As long as you keep winning or coming in one of the top three spots, you keep playing. If you lose, you're done.

Super Off Road SNES Super Nintendo by TradewestThough basic, it's not a simple game. It'll take a while, but you have to get used to the odd physics in the game. Your truck won't always do exactly what you expect it to, especially when it's being bounced around by bumps and hills. Extra fun can be had when you use the turbo boost to give your truck that little extra something to win a race.

The graphics here are quite solid, being darn near arcade quality. The sounds, too, are quite superb and appropriate with engines running and background crowd noise.

As a nice little extra bonus, between races you can take your winning earnings and use them to spruce up your truck.

Super Off Road was popular enough that it got ported to other video game consoles of the time, the early 1990s, such as the Sega Genesis.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Game of the Week: Popeye for arcade

By today's standards, the Popeye arcade game is a relatively simple video game. The player controls Popeye, the sailor of cartoon fame, who climbs around the screen while trying to catch falling hearts, musical notes or letters from his girlfriend, Olive Oyl, who is at the top of the screen. Working against Popeye is the evil Brutus and the Sea Hag; while the Sea Hag only appears on the edges of the screen and throws bottles at Popeye, Brutus can roam the screen and try to punch Popeye or jump and long on Popeye or throw bottles at Popeye.

There are three levels to the game, and each level is complete once Popeye catches all those hearts, notes or letters. The first level takes place at some docks. The second level occurs in a city. The third level is aboard a ship. Each level is more difficult than the one before. After the third level, the game starts over at the first level, though gameplay has been sped up.

Despite all the troubles Popeye faces in this arcade game, he does have some help. Most notable, there is one can of spinach per screen, and once Popeye grabs the spinach, he becomes invincible for a short while and can punch out Brutus. But Brutus isn't down for the count, and returns shortly. Popeye also has a few opportunities for extra points.

PopeyeWhile Popeye was popular enough in the arcades, it wasn't quite a huge smash hit. Still, it was popular enough that it was ported to all the major home gaming consoles of the period as well as to many home computers. Some of the most memorable versions of this game were the ports for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System, the Atari 2600, the Atari 5200, the Colecovision, and even for the Odyssey 2. Of all the home versions, the one for the NES is generally considered the best and the one most like the arcade game, but that only makes sense because Nintendo was the original creator of the arcade game as well as, obviously, the NES.

Recently, a version of this game has been released for cell phones, with several additions, including a new level.

Despite the years, the Popeye arcade game has stood the test of time and is still a fun climbing game to play.