Breakout

BreakoutBuy this gameThe Game: There exists, somewhere on a tropical isle, a species of paddle-esque life forms (not unlike the inhabitants of Pong), and their idyllic existence is shattered by the arrival of evil dictator Batnix. Batnix kidnaps fair Daisy and the rest of your friends, sequestering them in perilous dungeons around the world. As Bouncer the Paddle, you must break out of your own prison by smashing through the walls with steel balls, and then travel to various locales to free all of your friends. As you release your comrades, you can also play as them in certain rounds to make use of their special abilities in your quest to free Daisy and defeat Batnix once and for all. As always, keep an eye on your balls, for they are your greatest weapons. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 2000)

Memories: This game is proof positive that I can milk any video ping-pong game for an endless array of lowbrow “balls” jokes. It’s also proof positive that updated versions really do work sometimes. Continue reading

Builder’s Block

Builder's BlockBuy this gameThe Game: Eat my dust, SimCity. Builder’s Block doesn’t ask you to build a city that conforms to any notions of political or environmental correctness. It just asks you to build it fast – damn fast. Match up color-coded blocks to expand the size of your buildings, use other special blocks to eliminate blocks whose colors won’t allow them to integrate them into buildings, and use the “clear level” block to collect your bonus and move to the next level before more blocks pile up than you can do anything with. It’s sort of like Tetris meets SimTower. The game includes puzzle, battle and arcade modes; the latter is the most graphically dazzling, betraying the game’s roots in the mid-1990s Taito arcade game Landmaker. (Taito, 2000)

Memories: Originally released a few years ago, Builder’s Block is now reappearing in bargain game bins once again, so it seemed like a good time to revisit it. I’d never heard of this game before, and it’s surprisingly addictive with a strong old-school puzzle game vibe. If you dig Tetris, you’ll like this one. Continue reading

Frogger 2: Swampy’s Revenge

Frogger 2: Swampy's RevengeBuy this gameThe Game: What a crock! Swampy the crocodile has grown tired of Frogger’s fame and fortune. (The fact that Frogger now has a cute girlfriend named Lillie Frog probably doesn’t help matters much in the jealousy department either.) Swampy kidnaps Lillie’s baby siblings and scatters them in a variety of settings. Now it’s up to Frogger and Lillie to tracks down the tadpoles and show Swampy who’s in charge. (Hasbro Interactive, 2000)

Memories: This game almost needs to be titled Frogger 2: The Apology. As happy as everyone was to see Hasbro’s new version of Frogger a year or two ago, the game suffered from control problems, the common “swooping camera” malaise, and very few connections to the original arcade game. Frogger 2 rectifies many of those problems. Continue reading

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launched – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. (Hasbro Interactive, 2000)

Memories: Oof. As good as Galaga: Destination Earth turned out for the Playstation (and yes, I do realize that not everyone will agree with me on that point), the Game Boy Color port is honestly one of the weakest games I’ve seen for the portable platform. Continue reading

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launch – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. Now, however, you wage war on the bugs from one of three perspectives: Alpha configuration (an exceedingly difficult first-person vantage point), Gamma configuration (a side-scrolling shooter, a la Defender), and Delta configuration (an upward shooter like the original Galaga). You can also capture the aliens’ tractor beam device and use it against them, capturing their own ships and commandeering them. (Hasbro Interactive [under license from Namco], 2000)

Memories: This game has been much pooh-poohed by the modern gaming press, as well as by several classic gaming outlets. I’m here to break ranks with the masses – who are all too ready to declare that a new title sucks anyway – and let you know that Galaga: Destination Earth isn’t that bad. Continue reading

Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness

Ms. Pac-Man Maze MadnessBuy this gameThe Game: The evil witch Mesmerelda kidnaps Professor Pac-Man into her alternate dimension before Ms. Pac-Man’s very eyes. To rescue Professor Pac, Ms. Pac must retrieve the four crystals of virtue (what, is she gonna run into Lord British along the way or somethin’?) and defeat the countless evil minions of Mesmerelda, ranging from the usual pesky ghosts to fast-moving, whirling-dervish-type critters, fire-breathing dragons, a special guest appearance by Centipede, and more. Power pellets, of course, provide the universal solution to all of these problems: if it gets in your way, eat it! But the challenge becomes how to find that all-important next power pellet? (Namco, 2000)

Memories: I really liked the “maze mode” of last year’s Pacs-travaganza, Pac-Man World, and I can safely say this: those of us who enjoyed that aspect of Pac-Man World will get a big kick out of Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness. Unlike her hubby’s retro revival game, which imbued Pac-Man with numerous new powers such as the rev-roll, the butt-bounce, and so forth, Ms. Pac just has herself. She can’t butt-bounce, rev-roll, or any of that strange stuff. She can only jump with the help of strategically-placed springy things, she can push movable blocks and crates of TNT around, and she can fly with the aid of magic carpets. No super-powers for Ms. Pac-Man – just her own resourcefulness…and, of course, yours. Continue reading

Pipe Dreams 3D

Pipe Dreams 3DBuy this gameThe Game: Let’s get one thing straight – flooze is bad. Flooze is green, smelly and toxic, and you don’t want to spill any of it. You’re in charge of building a maze of pipes around various obstacles to carry the flooze from its point of origin to a drain that appears at a predetermined time, or when certain objectives have been met (such as running the flooze under a series of floating stars, or getting it to cross a bridge). As with other great puzzle games like Tetris, you can’t just build a great drainage system for the flooze – you’re stuck with whatever pieces are next in the random rotation. You do get a look at the next four pieces in the pipeline – literally – so you can plan ahead strategically. If you fail to keep a continuous run of pipe going, the flooze spills out, costing you points and eventually a life. (Empire Interactive, 2000 – for Playstation)

Memories: Essentially a bit of a rethink of Loco Motion, Pipe Dreams for the NES dispensed with the sliding-tile-puzzle basis of the game and substituted a very Tetris-esque random assortment in its place. The game was still maddeningly fun, and for its revival on the Playstation, not much was changed – just a somewhat gratuitous 3D view of the playing field. Continue reading

Qix Adventure

Qix AdventureThe Game: A boy named Speedy ventures through a mystical land, taunted by cute animals. Somehow this quest is expressed through a series of challenges in which the player tries to claim as much of the playing field as possible by enclosing areas of it. If the ever-shifting Qix touches Speedy’s marker or an uncompleted boundary, a life is lost and the boundary must be built again. Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of already-enclosed areas of the screen, can also cost Speedy a life. (Taito, 2000)

Memories: In 2000, two trends collided within this one game. Trend #1 was the fading glow of a few years’ worth of retro video gaming nostalgia, a trend that brought of lots of arcade compilations and lots of “remakes” of classic arcade games, especially on the then-ubiquitous Playstation. Trend #2 was simple and obvious: jumping on the Pokemon bandwagon. Continue reading

Crazy Climber 2000

Crazy Climber 2000The Game: You control a daredevil stunt climber on his trip up the side of the Nichubutsu building, using no ropes, no nets, and nothing but his hands and his feet. Obstacles such as a large stork with (apparently flaming) droppings and a large gorilla can cause you to plunge to your death several stories below, and even minor things such as annoyed building tenants dropping potted plants at you from above can have the same disastrous effect. When you reach the top – if you reach the top, that is – a helicopter lifts you away to your next challenge. (Nichibutsu, 2000)

Memories: Go for it in 3-D, baby! It’s a crime that this excessively cool update of Crazy Climber has never been released in the U.S., for it is possibly the best update of a classic game ever. Crazy Climber 2000 is Nichibutsu’s second swipe at dragging Crazy Climber into the modern age of video games, and it is by far the more successful. Continue reading

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairBuy this gameThe Game: As valiant but clumsy knight Dirk the Daring, you’re on a hazardous quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a huge, hungry dragon. There are all kinds of dangers on the way, including Giddy Goons, the Black Knight, the Smithee, the Lizard King, and all kinds of other evil critters and contraptions. (Capcom, 2001)

See the videoMemories: In the pre-Game Boy Advance days, developers were pushing the envelope of what the 10-year-old handheld system could do. 1999’s Star Wars Racer included a brief, soundless black & white video clip in its intro sequence, and Dragon’s Lair – a holy grail of retrogaming that had only recently been done justice as an interactive DVD game – promised to pack the fully-animated arcade game of the same name into a Game Boy Color cartridge, an astounding technical feat. Continue reading

The Invaders (Space Invaders)

The InvadersThe Game: You’re the pilot of a ground-based mobile weapons platform, and there are buttloads of alien meanies headed right for you. Your only defense is a trio of shields which are degraded by any weapons fire – yours or theirs – and a quick trigger finger. Occasionally a mothership zips across the top of the screen. When the screen is cleared of invaders, another wave – faster and more aggressive – appears. When you’re out of “lives,” or when the aliens manage to land on Earth… it’s all over. This edition adds two new modes, a timed game with a slightly updated retro look, and a 3-D mode which puts the player right behind the cannon, now expanded to a giant 3-D representation. (D3 Publisher [under license from Taito], 2001)

Memories: This budget title from 2001, to be fair, was largely a re-release of Taito’s earlier PS1 Space Invaders Collection just four years before this game’s release. But this time, you actually get more for that low, low price. Continue reading

Ultima III: Exodus

Ultima IIIThe Game: Darkness has fallen anew upon Sosaria, and Lord British calls for your service again. You set out with four adventurers on a quest to gain the experience that will be necessary to survive the long voyage to a volcanic island where the source of all the evil plaguing the world is said to be. (Sven Carlberg, 2002)

Memories: Programmed as a homebrew project, this unofficial version of Ultima III ports the massive home computer RPG to the Game Boy Color. If even half of the game survives that translation intact, that’s a stupendous achievement. But how does it play? Continue reading

Pac-Man Vs.

Pac-Man Vs.The Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, one player maneuvers around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading four colorful monsters, up to three of which are controlled by his fellow players, who can eat Pac-Man on contact. In four corners of the screen, large flashing dots enable Pac-Man to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period of time. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and Pac-Man can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to the chase. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster. The game continues until a preset target score is reached, or until Pac-Man is caught by one of the monsters; the player controlling that monster is then handed the Game Boy Advance to take over Pac-Man’s role. (Namco, 2003 – for Nintendo Gamecube)

Memories: Let me just come right out and say that I have a bit of bias toward this game. Pac-Man is an all-time favorite of mine, the very reason I’m still as into video games now as I was 20+ years ago. You just can’t go wrong with Pac-Man – well, then again, maybe you can. In recent years, the character has gotten to star in a series of platform quest games, boldly going where Mario and Luigi have already gone before plenty of times themselves. As much fun as the original Pac-Man World could be, that game’s killer app was still, undoubtedly, that it could play the original arcade Pac-Man, or a slightly 3-D remake of it in “maze mode.” There hasn’t been a really good use of the Pac franchise in years – until now. Continue reading

Qix Neo

Qix NeoBuy this gameThe Game: Players control a ship capable of claiming area of the screen by “drawing” boxed-in enclosed spaces. The catch? Numerous enemies roam around the screen who want to keep this from happening, and naturally they pose the greatest threat when the player’s ship is exposed while it tries to “draw” an area. Anytime the player’s ship is away from a solid area, hanging by a thread, it can be destroyed. The player has shields that offer minor protection, but they can eventually be depleted entirely. The player has to claim enough of the screen that it equals or exceeds a pre-determined percentage of the screen area, and then the long, drawn-out battle begins anew. With each new level comes a new enemy with different offensive capabilities, until the player’s small fleet of ships is exhausted. (Mad Duck / Taito, 2003)

Memories: Marketed in the U.S. as Qix Neo, this game is actually the U.S. localization of a budget PS1 port of a Japanese arcade game vaguely related to Qix, Volfied. (Playing “Qix Neo“‘s “original” mode even shows the intro cutscene from Volfied, unchanged from the arcade edition.) But for fans of Qix, Qix Neo is close enough to the mark to count as a sequel. Continue reading

Tron 2.0

Tron 2.0The Game: By passing up a lucrative programming job within ENCOM, Alan “Jet” Bradley Jr. has earned the disdain of his father, the creator of the Tron security program. But when Jet’s father disappears under mysterious circumstances, Jet See the videogoes to the lab and discovers that his father’s most trusted program, Ma3a, has instructions to digitize Jet into ENCOM’s mainframe – a process not unlike the one Kevin Flynn endured 20 years before. Once inside the computer world, Jet trains for a mission to free the system from the spreading corruption of Thorne, another digitized user whose botched entry into the computer world left him twisted and evil – and along the way, Jet hopes to discover how he can help free his father as well. (Buena Vista Interactive, 2003)

Memories: For anyone who’s ever dreamed of being zapped into the computer by the MCP, this is as close as you’re going to get. I don’t have a problem with that, though: Tron 2.0 is a gorgeous game, capturing the feel of the pioneering 1982 computer-animated movie better than I would’ve thought possible. The look and the sounds of the game go a long way toward immersing you in that world. Normally I’m not big on first-person explore-and-fight games, but this one I’ll make an exception for. Continue reading

K.C. Munchkin

K.C. MunchkinThe Game: As a small blue spherical creature whose sole sensory organs consist of two eyes, two antennae and an enormous mouth, you are on a mission to eat twelve dots which are floating around a small maze. Pursuing you are three multicolored jellyfish-like horrors who will gobble you up on contact. (AtariAge.com, 2015)

Memories: The Atari 7800 was the Rip Van Winkle of the classic console world. Put into deep freeze by the incoming Tramiel administration, the 7800 was awoken by that same management regime when the whole “Atari does computers now, not video games” strategy didn’t work out; when the 7800 – developed and market tested in 1984 – was revived, it was thrust into a late-‘80s world where it had the more powerful Nintendo Entertainment System for competition. Continue reading

  • IP Disclaimer

    All game names, terminology, logos, screen shots, box art, and all related characters and placenames are the property of the games' respective intellectual property holders. The articles herein are not intended to infringe upon their copyright in any way. The author(s) make no attempt - in using the names described herein - to supercede the copyrights of the copyright holders, nor are these articles officially sanctioned, licensed, or endorsed by the games' creators or publishers.