Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Maximum Carnage Review (SNES)

Hey, Super Game Geek here and today I am reviewing a game about my favorite superhero ever, Maximum Carnage! That’s right; Spider-Man! Now, normally I would be ecstatic for anything containing Spider-Man, but then I saw that this game was published by LJN. For those of you who do not know the company of LJN, they are responsible for horrid games such as Back to the Future, Friday the 13th and the Karate Kid. After hearing about, and experiencing firsthand, their awful track record, it certainly put a damper on my enthusiasm. Even so, you really shouldn't judge a game until you've played it and, trust me, I put some serious hours into this one.
You actually never have to beat the game to know the entire story because LJN (for once) actually did something really cool with this game let the developers (Software Creations) base it on the Maximum Carnage series (hence the title) in the Spider-Man universe. It was a great series that featured rivals Spider-Man and Venom teaming up along with some other heroes (Captain America, Black Widow, Nightwatch, etc.) to take down Carnage and his gang of baddies (Shriek, Demogoblin, Doppleganger, etc.) For those of you who don’t know the story I’ll shed some light on it without any major spoilers. Carnage escapes from a mental institution/prison he was confined in for being a psychotic serial killer and begins to wreak havoc and chaos around Manhattan with his crew. Venom believed he had killed Carnage but when he senses that his other half is still alive, he seeks out to destroy him for good. While good ol’ Spidey tries to save Manhattan he realizes he can't do so without his rival’s help. And that's end of my brief synopsis. This series was a big deal because not only did it have a great storyline and great characters it crossed over all the Spider-Man comics such as Amazing Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Man, etc. If you are a comic/sci-fi fan and you ever get the chance to read this series, take it the opportunity because you will enjoy every second. If you are a Spider-Man fan you haven’t read it, you really should stop reading this review and get a copy of those issues... like now.

These hobos have no idea what's coming.

When you start, the game displays its huge cast of characters inspired from the series along with some really good music. Well that should be the case because LJN somehow got Green Jelly to do the music for the game and let me tell you, it suits the mood and sets the tone perfectly. Green Jelly is a Grammy-nominated comedic-rock group for those who don’t know. Throughout the entire game the music does an amazing job of pumping you up full of adrenaline so you can go to work on many a thug and villain. I've found myself humming the title theme years after first playing this game.

The graphics are solid for their time. The character designs look really good except for the fact that Spider-man doesn’t have the black web on his costume (he does in the cutscenes but not during gameplay). The levels look kind of bland but at least LJN was smart (for once) and has different settings for most of the game changing the scenery so you don’t get bored after the first level.
When you start the game, a cool cutscene pops on to the screen in comic book form giving you a really good sense of what this game is (that’s a comic book game if you didn’t know what I was going for). After the cutscene, you are given control of Spider-Man and now go through the game beating up baddies left and right to progress through the level. And that’s what this game is, a beat ‘em up. And my, do I love beat ‘em ups. They were great back in the day and it saddens me that no one really dare makes them anymore. But Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage does the genre justice. It’s fun to walk Spidey down the sidewalk and then spank a bunch of Linkin Park wannabes with your web. And the KA-POW sound when you punch and kick fat asses will please the ear drums. Make sure you pay attention on all fronts though because enemies will sneak up and try to sucker punch you from behind while your focus is on someone else. As you continue through the game with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, you will be able to control Venom as well which was very exciting for its time because this was the first game that allowed you to play as Spidey’s biggest rival! Unfortunately, there isn’t much difference between them except for the way they pull off their moves; but the fact that you can beat someone’s face in with Venom is a welcome change. You are also given the option to call on your other superhero teammates for help, and they’ll dash or flip or cartwheel (whatever floats their boat) and take out everyone in their way.
Classic comic book action.

The game also breaks things up with some climbing and web swinging but this could become really frustrating to some. In one section, while you are climbing up the side of a building, Shriek is constantly firing at you with her plasma blasts as Doppleganger tries to wash the Spider out by attcking from behind. If (and when) you do get hit, you fall until you land on a ledge or hit the street forcing you to start the process all over again. This dragged down even more by the poor swinging controls. While you are trying to avoid Doppleganger's attacks and Shriek’s plasma blasts, you will be need to work out the angle of your swing to land on the adjacent ledge; and since momentum doesn’t apply you’ll most likely get it wrong the first couple of times. Also, if you are not perfectly correct Spidey will hit the ledge and proceed to fall under it instead of climbing on to the damn thing like a spider would (and should) do.
Thankfully, those segments don't happen too often because the rest of the controls are pretty solid. You have your punch and jump button along with your web button. The web swinging could have used some more work (which could have added a great vaiety of options to the ground combat) . Still, this is a 2D beat 'em up so I understand why much focus wasn't put into the web swinging.
There are many ways you can dispose of baddies such as grabbing them and giving the quick one-two, bullrushing them or grabbing to lonely thugs with your web and introducing their skulls to each other. You can string multiple combos together but more often than not, most gamers will probably mash the buttons like wine grapes. You can also pick items up to beat women and hobos with dumpsters, newspapers, trash cans and fire extinguishers. You can only throw the item once but it does walloping damage to those umbrella wielding businessmen. Another cool move that does a lot of damage is your special attack but if you hit any enemies it drains your life bar. I’ve always hated this concept in beat ‘em ups with a passion! I understand that developers don't want players running around using their character's speacial attack to every thing with a pulse, but there are better ways to restrict players than causing damage. I mean, what pain is the character putting his or her self in to do this attack? Is Spidey tearing his groin each time he pulls it off? I don’t know but you will not want to lose your lifebar. It is the one precious thing that you do not want to see decrease (well, besides your... nevermind.)

That's it! No more friendly neighborhood Spider-Man for you, you eight legged freak!
This game is an unrelenting. You are allowed three lives and one continue. If you lose a life you start right back up again as if nothing changed but using your continue will bring you back to the beginning of the level. If you lose both your lives and your continue, well, you probably guessed it! Game over. Be ready to see the game over screen a lot because this game has a really hard difficulty curve. The first couple of levels shouldn’t be too difficult for most gamers to get by but after that the skill level really kicks in. The bosses are ridiculously hard compared to the nobodies you have to fight prowling the streets. You will have to use everything at your disposal to take care of these villains and this is where your ability to call in a teammate for back up really helps out. Another thing that makes this game even tougher is the fact that there is no way to save your game. There isn’t even a password system! That means you have to beat the game in one sitting which most people don’t really have the time for. This doesn't help the fact that you’ll most likely be starting this game over and over again. Because of all this, beating the game should earn you some type of medal.
Nevertheless, once you get past the difficulty (and the frustrating climbing segments), there is a good beat 'em up to be found here. You will enjoy this game especially if you’ve read the Maximum Carnage series or you are just another Spider-Man fan. The music is amazing and graphics (for its time) are easy on the eyes. Even though the web swinging isn’t up to par the combat controls are solid and it’s fun to beat the piss out of hobos. But, this game will give you a run for your money as completing it is a task that will give even the most committed gamer a challenge. Nonetheless, I do recommend Maximum Carnage because I guess even LJN can do something right (for once).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Journey to Silius Review (NES)

Super Game Geek here and today I’m going to go back in time to the 90’s to review Journey to Silius, an action-adventure platformer (better known as run and gun) developed by Sunsoft for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Now if you don’t know, Sunsoft developed a lot of great NES games such as Blaster Master, Batman, and Spy Hunter. I’m reviewing this game because a lot of people have never heard about it and it is a great classic run and gun shooter. I also did some research to give you some more history. This game was actually developed to be based on the first Terminator movie. This can be recognized by the enemies seen in level three and the last boss which happen to look like exact models of the Terminators. And if you listen closely to the intro you can hear a snippet of the Terminator theme. The reason this didn’t go through as a Terminator game was because Sunsoft lost the license and was forced to change the game. But forget what this game was supposed to be, let’s find out what it actually is!

When the game first starts up, you are introduced to the title screen along with the developer’s name under it. The first thing I noticed was an awesome title song. I mean this song was way ahead of it’s time. Most NES games have the same two to eight notes repeated over and over until you want to gouge out your eyes with a spoon but this title theme is a freakin’ tune. I actually timed how long it took for the theme to repeat and it came to two minutes and thirty-five seconds. Throughout the entire game the music will have your blood flowing faster than ecstasy. The techno sounds and themes were my favorite part because each level has its own song to set the tempo. Hell, I found myself doing a shoulder lean and dropping bows to some of them. Now, they definitely did work on that aspect, but will the game follow up?

When you start off, a short intro occurs to let you know what’s going down in the story department. You see a nice city nuked and then the text appears, “After many years of space colony development, Jay’s father has passed away.” Alright… This isn’t the best way to introduce a character because at first glance I was asking myself, “Who the hell is Jay?” Apparently the game automatically assumes you know who Jay is. This is probably because they expected you to read the manual but most likely if you get the game any time soon, you’re going to buy it from the flea market or an antique store with enough dirt in the cartridge to start your own ant farm. As the intro goes on you find out Jay’s father died because of terrorists and then a picture of some little Emo punk pops up on screen (which turns out to be Jay) as he states he wants to make them pay. Another tragic, angry hero wants revenge; we’ve heard it all before. This game is more about the gameplay so let’s talk about that.

Oh yeah. No doubt about it. That’s a terminator.

Finally, you can start playing and you’ll immediately realize the Sprite you’ll be messing around with for the next couple hours looks nothing like the whiny little Emo kid seen in the picture. Oh well, makes it easier on the eyes. You can open the inventory if you press the start button, and it shows the weapons you have in stock. You start off with a pistol but as you go on through the game defeating bosses and sub-bosses you can pick up five more powerful weapons. However, your pistol is the only weapon with unlimited ammo and you’ll have to kill enemies to replenish your supply of ammo as well as health. You’ll immediately notice that this game resembles several other great run and gun games such as Megaman and Contra. You can shoot, run, jump or hump the floor in prone position. Your basic controls are simple, A to jump, B to shoot, and D-pad for movement. Some may find a problem with Jay’s movement. It might be a little stiff at first but when you get the hang of Jay’s movements the platforming can become much easier. I hardly ever died trying to jump from platform to platform. Also, when he falls and hits the ground he still has the momentum of the drop so that may cause some confusion when first starting out but is surprisingly realistic for an NES game. This really ticked me off at first because I landed on enemies accidentally while trying my hardest to avoid them after dropping off a ledge. But again, once you get the hang of his movements, you’ll be fine. Also, when dropping down from a ledge, you can’t change direction in mid-air as well so when taking on a new level, be ready to get sucker punched in the groin by an enemy.

There are five fun and fast paced levels. You run through them blasting away everything in sight. All of the levels are greatly detailed for an NES games. They just look fantastic and add to the tone of the game. Each level has new enemies, most being new robots or gun turrets, to change the tempo. However, one enemy that had me questioning what the developers were thinking was in the second level. There are these little pods on the ground that literally erect into a giant cock to stop Jay from proceeding. I mean check it out! It’s a machine cock that gets hard whenever Jay gets close to it. How’d that get in there? Machines getting erections over humans?! What the hell?! But other than that, the enemies are fun to destroy and the levels are great for platforming.

So wrong. Just so wrong.

Now don’t get me wrong, you’ll have a fun time pumping enemies with your laser and blazer, but this game doesn’t lay itself down and let you walk over it. This game is tough. There are countless enemies that all want a turn at abusing poor Jay. What’s worse about it is that it takes awhile to sweep any enemy off the floor with your pistol. It’s easy when you get stronger weapons but you’ll want to save your ammo for the almost impossible boss at the end of the level. And these bosses are tough especially since they take up almost the entire screen and one wrong move will cause Jay to take damage. If you are not a fan of run and gun games, this game will piss you off to the point where your TV will end up smashed on the floor or your control will reveal its insides after you break it in half.

The biggest compliant I have about this game deals with the shooting mechanic. You can only shoot straight. Yeah, I know Mega Man was like this but it didn't limit you to only three shots at once. You can only release your fury behind or in front of you. But you can not shoot up or down. In any run and gun game that is almost a necessity since enemies barrage you from all angles and that is no exception in Journey to Silius. Maybe Jay was based after John McCain and can’t lift his arms above his shoulders? But this really adds to the difficulty and will frustrate a lot of people when you begin to take damage from enemies that are shitting on you from above like pigeons.

But besides that, this game did almost nothing wrong. The controls are good and work great, learning to move Jay will take some time but shouldn’t be too much of a hassle, the gameplay is fun and action packed, and the graphics look amazingly detailed for their time. The music is outstanding with futuristic tunes (for back then) that’ll get you to even bob your head or tap your foot (unless you’re some testosterone freak who views dancing against the manliness religion). The story makes no sense with the game but this was released with on a system where stories were few and far between so any attempt was appreciated especially after they lost their license. However, it didn’t ever do anything to break from the pack either. It took all the great concepts from great run and gun shooters but Sunsoft couldn’t come up with any great ideas on to truly make this game shine. Sure it will be a classic to many fans of the genre but to others it will be another sharpened pencil to the eye. Especially since the difficulty of the games will cause internal riots. But if you can handle games like this, you’ll be spending a fun couple of hours on Journey to Silius.