Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll Review

*Review based on Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll has to be one of the more unique games in the NES library, and it’s understandably gained a reputation as one of developer Rare’s classic titles. An isometric platformer that put its own spin on the genre, Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll is still a lot of fun today, even if some of its elements can be a little on the frustrating side.

One or two players can join in Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll, with the playable characters being the titular serpents Rattle (a red snake) and Roll (a blue snake). The goal of the game is to extend the snakes’ tails by eating little orbs called Nibbley Pibbleys.

These Nibbley Pibbley’s come in three different colors; red, blue and yellow. Depending on which snake you’re playing as, the red and blue Nibbley Pibbleys will be worth one or two points (two points for eating those that are the same color as your snake, and one point for the opposite color), while the yellow Nibbley Pibbleys grant three points. Every time your snake consumes four points worth of Nibbley Pibbleys, they gain one extension to their tail. When the tail reaches its maximum length for a given stage, the end of the tail begins to glow. When in this state, the snakes are heavy enough to ring a bell on a weighing machine, which opens up the exit to the next stage.

There’s another twist in this scenario, as being hit by enemies will take away the progress on your tail, piece by piece. And you only have so much time to finish a level, so if enemies start chipping away at your tail faster than you can extend it, you’re in trouble. The Nibbley Pibbleys are constantly spawning via Nibbley Dispencors, so you can always potentially regain your tail, provided you’re fast enough.

Before things can become too repetitious, Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll throws another curveball at the player in that the Nibbleys behave differently in each of the game’s eleven stages. On the first level, they are simply rolling balls, but during the second stage, they begin bouncing around. The third stage sees them growing legs and running away, while on the fourth stage they temporarily melt into the ground, which prevents you from gobbling them up for a short time. It may be a small difference, but the fact that the Nibbley Pibbleys act uniquely to each stage adds a nice touch of variety to the core gameplay, and ensuring that it feels fresh the whole way through.

Considering Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll was released in a time when every platformer was simply trying to copy Super Mario Bros. (and never replicating its magic), the game was a really fresh take on the genre in its day, and it still feels unique even today. With its genre-defiant attitude, however, come two unfortunate aspects of the game which haven’t aged so gracefully.

The first of these drawbacks is that the isometric perspective can make certain perspectives really tricky, making the platforming of the game often feeling awkward. The second such drawback is that the jumping mechanics can feel a little floaty, with the snakes often seeming like they can only decide where they’re jumping after they’ve already taken to the air. Combine these two elements together, and Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll can feel infuriatingly intricate with its platforming elements. And considering the stages don’t have outer walls, you can easily overshoot a jump and fall to your death repeatedly due to the floaty jumps and difficult perspectives.

While these elements do hold the game back from being one of the best NES titles, Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll still remains a highlight in the NES’ library, and something of a turning point for Rare, as it marked the beginning of the cartoonish silliness and wacky humor that would go on to define the British developer for years to come (even the enemies are an odd assortment of vinyl records and sentient feet). And the game has a memorable score by David Wise, taking inspiration from popular music of the 1950s (including, of course, the game’s namesake Shake, Rattle and Roll).

Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll may not be perfect, due to some tricky and aged mechanics,. But the uniqueness and fun of its concept, two-player co-op, and undeniable charm shine through, making for one of the more memorable NES outings you and a friend can partake in even by today’s standards.

 

6

R.C. Pro-Am Review

*Review based on R.C. Pro-Am’s release as part of Rare Replay*

R.C. Pro-Am marked a turning point in Rare’s history, as it’s often regarded as the developer’s first big success on a Nintendo platform. Rare was previously known for their titles for the ZX Spectrum back when they were known as Ultimate Play the Game. But R.C. Pro-Am’s success on the NES lead to a nearly unparalleled partnership between Rare and Nintendo; one which would lead to years of success due to the creation of games like Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, Goldeneye 007 and Banjo-Kazooie.

When playing R.C. Pro-Am today, it’s easy to see what made it so appealing way back when, though it may lack the depth to make it a worthy alternative to more contemporary similar titles.

R.C. Pro-Am is a racing game. A racing game in which you can pick up upgrades and weapons to help to achieve victory. If that sounds a bit like Mario Kart, well, that’s because that’s very much what it’s like. Though with its 1988 release on the NES, R.C. Pro-Am predated the original Super Mario Kart by four years.

Of course, being released four years beforehand, and on a less advanced console, means that R.C. Pro-Am is also a simpler game than Mario Kart. While Super Mario Kart used the SNES’ Super FX chip to give the race tracks a sense of three-dimensional space, R.C. instead went with an isometric view.

The race tracks are small, and only consist of a few twists and turns, and the cars control in a way that feels surprisingly similar to a remote-controlled toy cars. You’ll always race against three other cars, and will have to use weapons to hinder your rivals and boosts to help you achieve first place. Weapons come in a small variety, like missiles which you launch forward, and bombs which you drop behind.

There’s really not much more to it than that, but the gameplay is still engaging and strangely addictive even today. Though there are some drawbacks to the experience.

On the downside of things, each race ends as soon as one racer reaches the finish line. This means you could be in first for the majority of the race, but then potentially fall into fourth place in the last lap, and lose the race as soon as one rival clears the finishing line, thus not giving you a chance to better your placement. This can be particularly annoying because there are only ever four racers at a time. Claiming first through third places will nab you a gold, silver and bronze trophy, but coming in fourth means you lose that race. Lose three times, and you have to start all over. The penalty for the losses is reasonable, but the fact that you can easily get a loss because of one small slip-up is a bit less so.

Another big drawback is that R.C. Pro-Am is only a single-player affair. With its chaotic, combat-heavy races, this is a game that was begging for a second player to get in on the action. Sadly, your only options are to try to beat the computer and better your performances. As fun as the gameplay is, adding a second player to the mix would have given it so much more replay value.

As it is, R.C. Pro-Am is still a fun game, being something of a precursor to the combat-racing and cartoony go-karting genres, and it boasts a fun musical score by David Wise (always a good thing). But, as you may have noticed, I’ve brought up Mario Kart a few times in this review. Considering Mario Kart is beloved for its multiplayer, well, you may find R.C. Pro-Am may make you want to play Nintendo’s iconic racing series after a few short sessions.

 

5

Slalom Review

*Review based on Slalom’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Slalom, as its title suggests, is a skiing video game where players partake in a series of downhill slalom runs. One of the first releases under the then-newly rechristened Rare, Slalom was also the first NES game developed outside of Japan. Perhaps both a testament to the NES’ abilities and to Rare’s output after the name-change, Slalom may be a simple experience, but is considerably more fun than most of the ZX Spectrum games Rare made back when they were known as Ultimate Play the Game.

The gameplay of Slalom is simple enough; you choose one of three mountains, each consisting of eight skiing challenges. Snowy Hill is the place to go for beginners, Steep Peak is of the medium difficulty, and the hilariously-named Mount Nasty provides a challenge for experts.

Once your mountain is picked, you must head down the mountain while avoiding hazards, obstacles and other skiers to keep your momentum going. You can pass through flag posts to gain speed, but if you run into a flag, it’s the same as hitting any other obstacle, and you lose speed. You must make it to the goal within a time limit, with extra points being rewarded for reaching the goal faster and for your performance. But, should you fail to make it to the goal within the time limit of even a single challenge, the game is over, and you go back to the beginning.

If that sounds a bit unforgiving, it’s because it is. Though the core gameplay is fun and addicting, Slalom is one of those NES games that will definitely take a lot of patience before you get the hang of it. Expect to throw a few fits of rage when you start failing on the earlier levels of Snowy Hill repeatedly.

It must also be said that a little something is lost in the Xbox One version in Rare Replay, as this is a game tailor-made for the D-pad, but the Xbox One controller’s D-pad is far from ideal. You’re honestly better off with the joystick if playing on Xbox One, but of course that doesn’t feel right either.

Still, if you can muster up the courage for its challenge, then you have a fun NES game on your hands. The re-release’s controls may not be ideal, but they could certainly be much worse. The simple gameplay of going downhill and avoiding obstacles is a lot more fun than it may sound, and the game has a fun sense of humor by peppering the stages with obstacles like snowmen and kids playing in the snow. And, for an NES game, Slalom has surprisingly strong visuals, with the levels moving in such a way as to bring to mind SNES titles like F-Zero and Super Mario Kart.

It may be simple stuff, but Slalom provides some good, challenging, 8-bit fun.

 

5

Gunfright Review

*Review based on Gunfright’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Another one of Ultimate Play the Game’s (now Rare) early ZX Spectrum titles, Gunfright used a similar isometric style to Knight Lore. But instead of werewolves and dungeons, we have gunslingers in the wild west. It also abandons the puzzle and platforming elements in favor of “action.”

In Gunfright, the player takes control of the town sheriff, who is on a mission to track down a band of outlaws and gun them down. The game begins with a quick first-person mini-game, in which the player shoots falling bags of money to claim their initial sum of cash, with which they purchase more ammunition every time they use all six bullets in their gun’s barrel, as well as pay a small fee every time they hitch a ride on a horse for extra speed.

After the mini-game, the primary isometric gameplay takes place. Here, you basically just walk around the town, looking for the outlaws (one at a time). There are two kinds of citizens around town: southern belles who run around the place much faster than our hero can move (which proves to be incredibly problematic, as coming into contact with them results in instant death), and bouncing, sombrero-wearing gentlemen, who point to the direction of the current outlaw.

If you shoot these civilians, you have to pay a hefty penalty out of your cash. It took me a good while to figure out that the sombrero NPCs were pointing in a direction and not pointing again. Suffice to say, I was continuously losing dough before I figured that one out.

As stated, coming into contact with these civilians kills you. And like the previous ZX Spectrum games by Ultimate Play the Game, these characters seem to be everywhere, so you’ll often die just because you couldn’t navigate around the civilians quickly enough.

Should you manage to come across an outlaw, one of you has to initiate a duel (it’s easiest if you shoot first – like Han Solo – since the outlaws often just walk around aimlessly even when you’re right in front of them). Once the duel starts, you go back into a first-person view like in the opening mini-game. You have to pelt the outlaw with as many bullets as possible from the get-go, because if you hesitate for even a second, they’ll riddle you with bullets and you’ll have to find them all over again. As you can imagine, it’s frustrating.

Honestly, there’s not much about Gunfright that’s fun (except maybe the initial money bag mini-game). Many of the same issues that plagued Ultimate Play the Game’s previous ZX Spectrum outings are in full force here (too many characters on-screen that run much faster than you and can kill you with a touch, confusing world design, etc.). The repeated sins even go so far as the sound effects, which once again recycle the irritating, plinky-plonky noises of Atic Atac (Ultimate Play the Game sure got a lot of mileage out of those sounds). And now you have even less visual space for the action, as most of the screen is filled up by your remaining cash and bullets, price tags for items, and wanted posters of the outlaws.

Gunfright more or less serves as a showcase of the dated issues and mechanics of its older ZX Spectrum siblings, all wrapped up in a convenient, wild west adorned package.

 

2

Underwurlde Review

*Review based on Underwurlde’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Underwurlde was the ZX Spectrum sequel to Sabre Wulf, and sees players once again take control of the adventurer Sabreman. Only this time, instead of a top-down perspective in the same vein as Atic Atac, Sabreman is now traversing a decrepit castle in a way similar to a side-scroller. But of course, the world Sabreman traverses is as confusing and labyrinthine as ever.

In the first screen of the game, Sabreman can pick up a slingshot as a weapon against the constantly spawning waves of enemies. The goal of the game is to defeat the three guardians of the castle, with each guardian needing a different weapon to defeat (knife, dagger and torch).

Much like Sabre Wulf, you really have no clue as to where to go or what you’re doing. But here, the situation is even worse. At least in Sabre Wulf you could see where a pathway might continue in a subsequent screen. But here, you’re just going left to right, right to left, up to down and down to up in a side-scrolling view, blindly hoping that you won’t run, jump, or fall into anything as soon as the next screen pops up.

There is a little twist here in that Sabreman can’t be damaged by enemies (only falling from a great height can kill him), but instead of being a novel idea, it comes off as more of a curse. Instead of taking damage from enemies, coming into contact with them will send Sabreman bouncing around the place like a pinball! And as stated, the enemies are constantly spawning. There will be enemies filling the screen, careening every which way, and making it nearly impossible to jump forward without getting knocked back all the further.

“See those itty bitty little hills? You need to jump on top of them in order to ride bubbles upward to get to the next screen. But you can’t control the length of your jump, and all those enemies will send you careening all over the place. Why can’t Sabreman just walk on those tiny mounds?!”

It’s not just enemies that do this, either. If Sabreman even lightly nudges into a wall or other object mid-jump, the same thing happens, and our hero will be knocked silly. Sabreman’s jumping controls aren’t fluid, either. You can’t alter trajectory once in the air, and you can’t change the height or length of your jumps. Considering you need to jump even to get on the tiniest bump protruding from the ground, the platforming is nothing short of infuriating. I am not even exaggerating when I say you’ll spend more time watching Sabreman bounce around the place than you will actually controlling the game.

Some of the other ZX Spectrum games made by Ultimate Play the Game (now Rare) that are included in Rare Replay haven’t aged gracefully. But in the case of Underwurlde, I have to wonder how anyone could have enjoyed it even in its day. It’s so fundamentally flawed to control that it brought back bad memories of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure and Dark Castle. Underwurlde is close to unplayable.

I suppose, at the very least, the Rare Replay version includes the rewind feature, so you can try to rectify your mistakes. The problem is, nothing can rectify the game’s mistakes.

 

1

Sabre Wulf Review

*Review based on Sabre Wulf’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Sabre Wulf is considered one of the classic games from Rare’s early years as Ultimate Play the Game. This 1984  ZX Spectrum title – along with Ultimate Play the Game’s previous title Atic Atac – helped influence many adventure games to come, as well as many of Rare’s own games down the line (Killer Instinct even includes a wolf character who bears the same name as this game). Though when playing Sabre Wulf today, it is obvious that it was a product of its time. While Atic Atic may be outdated in many aspects, it at least had some forward-thinking ideas at play that you can still appreciate today. In contrast, Sabre Wulf shares all the dated elements, without any of the “wow, that was clever” moments.

Sabre Wulf uses the same basic structure as Atic Atac, with players navigating a labyrinthine maze world, and collect pieces of a special artifact to beat the game. In this case, the world is a jungle, and the items are pieces of an ancient amulet, with four pieces needed to bypass the guardian of a cave.

Where Sabre Wulf differs from Atic Atac is in its character. While Atic Atac had three playable characters who could each find their own ways to traverse a haunted castle, here players have to make do with Sabreman, an adventure and treasure hunter. Sabreman doesn’t possess the kind of projectile moves as the characters of Atic Atac, and instead fights wild animals with a trusty sabre. Though this melee weapon is far less reliable than the spells and throwing weapons of Atic Atac, as Sabreman swings his sabre so erratically you have to have pitch-perfect timing in order to hit enemies directly in front of you (and even then, some enemies seem to ignore being struck by it, and good luck guessing which ones).

Sabreman can also collect power-ups in the form of orchids, which can have positive or negative effects depending on their color. Blue orchids will make you zoom past enemies, while a red orchid will make you impervious to their attacks. Then there are purple orchids, which reverse the player’s controls.

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot else to talk about. The maze-like world is incredibly confusing, and provides no hints as to what you need to be doing or where to go, thus leaving things to trial-and-error (trial-and-error which, I might add, you can’t even rely on, since the enemy spawns are random). The combat is unreliable and, frankly, pretty clunky. And in all honesty, the plinky-plonky sound effects (which return from Atic Atac) might drive you nuts after a while.

Essentially, Sabre Wulf is like Atic Atac with a different setting. A different setting, and also the absence of the creative spark that makes Atic Atac worth a look for those curious in gaming’s early history. The different characters and modes of travel, and the survival elements of Atic Atac are gone. But the cryptic level design and objectives remain, and the gameplay’s worse.

Maybe in its day, Sabre Wulf was influential. But there’s very little reason to check it out today other than pure curiosity.

 

2

Atic Atac Review

*Review based on Atic Atac’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Back when Rare was still known as Ultimate Play the Game, they created the oddly-named but highly influential Atic Atac, which served as an epic adventure in a time before Zelda. Playing Atic Atac today, it of course can’t compete with most of the games it helped inspire, though some of its ideas still impress.

In Atic Atac, players must navigate through a haunted castle in search of the three pieces of the “Golden Key of ACG.” You can take control of either a Wizard, a Knight or a Serf. Each character has their own projectile move (the Wizard casts a spell, the Knight throws axes, and the Serf throws swords). Though all three control identically and the difference in projectiles is merely cosmetic, they do each have their own unique ways of finding shortcuts throughout the castle.

The Wizard, for example, can enter one bookcase to end up in another, while the Knight can do something similar with grandfather clocks. Why Wizards and Knights are only able to travel through such objects is anybody’s guess, but it’s actually a pretty creative way to add variety to the game. For being made in 1983, this is a concept that seems pretty ahead of its time.

There are other methods of traversing the castle, however, with most rooms featuring two or more doors, which will open either when a few enemies are defeated, or after a short time. Similarly, there are colored doors which can only be passed if the player is holding the corresponding colored key (so a green key for green doors, and so on). There are also pits you can fall down, which will take you to a different section of the castle.

Atic Atac was also forward thinking by including a survival element in the game. The character’s health is represented by a roast turkey on the side of the screen. Naturally, running into enemies will deplete health, but as you continue your travels, your character will begin to starve, and will need to find something to eat to prevent the all-important roast turkey from gradually depleting. You can find food pretty frequently, and it comes in a humorous variety of edibles ranging from soup cans to candy canes (finding such things in a fantasy setting seems like the kind of humor you’d find in a modern indie title, so that’s another way you could say Atic Atac was looking ahead).

Despite some genuinely great ideas, however, Atic Atac is nonetheless extremely prototypical, with much of its gameplay feeling shallow and unpolished when compared to adventure games released even just a few short years later.

The most obvious (and frustrating) aspect is the lack of a map. The castle is a labyrinthian beast, and given the primitive graphics, much of it looks the same. It quickly becomes confusing, and without any form of map to speak of, you’ll likely end up completely lost in a matter of minutes.

Another downside are the items you can pick up on your journey, whose uses are notably cryptic. It doesn’t help that you can only hold three items at a time (this includes the aforementioned colored keys), and you’ll frequently find yourself abandoning one item in favor of another (while hoping you can actually remember which room you left it in). But the vagueness of the items just makes it all the more aggravating.

There are certain monsters who are impervious to your normal attack, and require a certain item to be defeated, but you’ll never know what to use or how to use it. I ran across some kind of devil enemy (complete with horns and a hooked tail), and tried to find a way to beat him. I eventually came across a crucifix item, which seemed like an ideal weapon against a devil. So I made my way back, and the only thing I could do with the crucifix was drop it on the floor…which did nothing. I can admit I was probably doing something wrong, but the game really doesn’t give you any idea of how to go about these things the right way, so it’s like a guessing game.

I can forgive the game’s simplistic visuals. Given the 1983 release, you don’t exactly expect the timeless graphics of the 16-bit generation. Though perhaps less forgivable – even when considering the limitations – are the sounds. There’s no music to speak of (again, limitations), but all the worse are the two sound effects that are present. Every on-screen character, whether it’s the player or enemies, makes a constant “plinky-plonk” sound with every step, and the only other sound comes from defeating enemies. They may be all the game had back in its day, but for those use to more pleasing sounds of gaming in the years since, Atic Atac’s repetitious sounds may be a bit agitating.

I kind of hate that I have so many gripes with Atic Atac, because when you look at what it did for its time, it was impressively creative. But when the years have given us so many superior alternatives in the same genres, it’s a bit easy to see just how prototypical Atic Atac is by comparison.

I certainly wouldn’t call Atic Atac a bad game, but it is one where all of its praise will come with the words “for its day.” It can be revisited for historical purposes, if maybe not for the gameplay.

 

2

Jetpac Refuelled Review

*Review based on Jetpac Refuelled’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Jetpac Refuelled saw Rare revisiting their very first game in 2007 on the Xbox 360. Though the graphics were updated and the game now featured a catchy soundtrack, Rare really aimed for authenticity when it came to Jetpac Refuelled, going so far as to feature their original moniker of “Ultimate Play the Game” on the game’s opening screen.

The core gameplay remains the same to the 1983 original, with players taking control of the astronaut Jetman as he battles hordes of aliens to rebuild his spaceship. The first level features Jetman trying to claim the different parts of his ship before gathering fuel, with most subsequent stages only featuring the fuel-gathering aspect (though every now and again you’ll have to build a new ship). You still fly using a jetpack (this time by pressing the shoulder buttons), and you still shoot lasers at the bad guys. Just like the original, the stages are single-screens and allow the player, their lasers, and enemies to travel from one side of the screen to the other, Super Mario Bros. 2 style, which will surely come in handy when needing to strategize on the fly when the screen becomes overrun with enemies.

So what’s changed this time around? As stated, the game features HD visuals and a brand new soundtrack, but there are also some tweaks to the gameplay itself. You can now upgrade your laser by picking up power-ups (the starting laser shoots horizontally, the first upgrade shoots both horizontally and vertically, the second upgrade spreads in multiple directions in front of Jetman, and subsequent upgrades provide more powerful versions of those three). You can also pick up bombs that clean the screen of most enemies. There are new enemies that behave differently than the existing ones, there’s a competitive multiplayer mode, and the game now features a whomping 128 stages.

Essentially, this is Jetpac on steroids.

The good news is that the core gameplay of Jetpac was already fun, and the smoother controls and weapon upgrades provided in this remake make it all the more enjoyable. On the downside of things, by extending the game so much, you may find that things become a bit repetitive over time, and perhaps some new modes of play would have been more desirable than the massive number of similar stages.

Another drawback is that that your weapon upgrades are lost not only when you die (which makes sense), but also when you complete a stage. I can appreciate that Rare tried to make sure the player wasn’t overpowered when entering a new stage, but the difficulty stacks up pretty quickly, so you could really use the extra help, instead of being sent back to square one after successfully completing a level. At the very least, they could have simply set the weapon back to the starting point of whatever power level they were when they completed a stage (so you might start back from the beginning of the second versions of the lasers, if you managed to reach that point). Just a suggestion.

Even with these complaints, Jetpac Refuelled does provide a good deal of fun. Though the simplicity of the gameplay may be better suited for fewer levels and a variety of modes that put a new spin on the mechanics, because I feel only the truly dedicated will even bother to see its 128th level. Jetpac Refuelled is a fun remake of a classic game that features a new coat of paint, but perhaps its simplicity was always better suited for small doses, and could have been expanded through less literal means.

 

6

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warship Review

*Review based on Solar Jetman’s release as part of Rare Replay*

Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warship is the third entry in Rare’s original franchise, Jetpac, and was released a notable seven years after its predecessors. By 1990, the video game landscape had changed considerably, with Rare being creative in thinking of ways to bring Jetpac up-to-date for its third entry. Though some of these (then)modernizations were impressive for their time, and the game boasts some fun ideas, some of its elements have succumbed to age.

In Solar Jetman, that ever-persistent astronaut must navigate a series of planets while in search of the pieces of the legendary Golden Warship. This time, the titular “Jetman” pilots spaceships through these planets.

Players travers cavern-like stages, with the spaceships being able to rotate 360 degrees. If the ship gets destroyed, Jetman is back to his old jetpacking ways, and can return to his base to pilot a new ship. Only if Jetman is killed outside of his ship does the player lose a life.

Both Jetman and his ships can shoot at enemies, but only when piloting a ship can the player retrieve the warship parts or extra fuel. In the first stage, you can even pick up an upgrade for the ships to activate shields to reduce damage, but in a clever twist, you cannot retrieve ship parts when the shield is turned on.

Things get tough when trying to take a ship part back to your base, as the extra weight of the object makes it harder to navigate. And, in perhaps the game’s most notable technical achievement, every planet you visit has different levels of gravity.

These are all interesting mechanics, but you may find the basic controls are tough enough to handle, and when combined with pulling ship parts and the gravity effects, things can get a little frustrating.

Pressing left and right will change the direction of the ship, while pressing up and down awkwardly activates the shield. Meanwhile, pressing the A button is what sends your ship forward. That may not sound too difficult, but even the slightest press of the A button will send your ship pretty far, and if you run into walls, you take damage (if your shields aren’t up, said damage is considerable). Again, the levels are cavernous areas, and with the controls being so sensitive, you’ll frequently find yourself crashing into every possible wall, ceiling and floor. And should your ship get destroyed, it will only take a few bumps to a wall (or a single enemy shot) to kill Jetman. As you can imagine, things can get a little irritating.

That’s not to say that Solar Jetman is a bad game, it’s just one that may be difficult for modern gamers to get into. It does have a lot of great ideas going for it – with the fact that the different gravities were pulled off in 1990 being its most impressive feat – and being released seven years after the previous games, the graphics are certainly cleaner and more detailed (as frustrating as turning the ships may be, the animation of the ships rotating is still impressive), and there’s actually music this time. When you throw in things like warp zones, which will send you to bonus areas or other worlds entirely, and Solar Jetman was a pretty impressive achievement in its day.

In the end, one’s appreciation for Solar Jetman will likely depend on their patience for retro games like this. Like the original Jetpac, there definitely is something strangely fun about it, but unlike the original, Solar Jetman lacks the accessibility and instant satisfaction of arcade-style gameplay, thanks largely to the awkward ship controls.

4

Random Statistics From my Game of the Years

A Link to the Past

After reflecting on my gaming life with my (more or less) complete list of Game of the Years from the year I was born up to 2015, I noticed a few things. Random things. Random things that must be statistically categorized.

To be more specific, the following are some random and fun (in my mind, anyway) statistics in regards to the games, series, and platforms involved with my Game of the Years. I originally was going to include these at the end of that aforementioned list, but already spent enough time writing it and wanted to move on.

Anyway, here are some finer details and random factoids regarding my selected games and runners-up. Because why not?

 

Series with the most Game of the Years

Super Mario Bros. 3

The Super Mario series has claimed the most Game of the Years from me with five winners: Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990), Super Mario World (1991), Super Mario RPG (1996), Super Mario Galaxy (2007), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010).

The only other series with multiple winners are The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Super Smash Bros. and Banjo-Kazooie, which have two each.

Platform with the most Game of the Years

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System and PC house more of my personal Game of the Years than any other platform, with five each. Though it should be noted that the Super Nintendo winners were all exclusives in their original release, whereas two of the PC winners were concurrently released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

The platform with the second most winners, somewhat to my surprise, is the Playstation 3, with two exclusives (Uncharted 2 and Ni no Kuni) winning in their respective years, along with the previously mentioned multiplatform games, for a total of four. The Nintendo 64 and Wii tie for third place, with three winners each.

Handheld Games

Another surprise I found out about myself is that, despite my general love of handheld games, I guess I’m not as invested in them as their console counterparts, seeing as no handheld games claimed a Game of the Year, and only nine appeared as runners-up (Pokemon Red & Blue, Pokemon Gold & Silver, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, WarioWare Twisted, Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Mario Kart 7, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Animal Crossing: New Leaf).

Does this mean those are my favorite handheld games? Not necessarily. But it was an interesting tidbit that I couldn’t think of many others I would list. Kind of makes me sad. I should play more handheld games…

Developer with the most Game of the Years

Somewhat unfairly, Nintendo claims the most Game of the Years. I say “somewhat unfairly” simply because “Nintendo” is a rather broad description of the various development teams at Nintendo.

Six winners are labelled as being developed by “Nintendo,” while the two Super Mario Galaxy games by Nintendo’s Tokyo Studios bring that number to eight. Depending on how you view Super Mario RPG and Donkey Kong Country titles (which I listed under Square, Rare and Retro Studios), that number could go up by three more.

Other developers with multiple winners include Square and Valve with two apiece, and Rare, with three winners.

Indie Games

Undertale

Undertale, the most recent winner, is the only indie game I have so far given my Game of the Year honor. Shovel Knight and Rocket League were also included as runners-up. So it seems indie games are sneaking their way into my heart.

Series with the most runners-up (Besides Mario)

Mega Man 2

Not counting the Mario series, whose runners-up can be broken down into different sub-series (Mario Kart, Paper Mario, the platformers, etc.), the series with the most runners-up is Mega Man, with seven: Mega Man 3, Mega Man X, Mega Man 8, Mega Man Legends, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, Mega Man 9, and Mega Man 10.

The Legend of Zelda and, shockingly, Sonic the Hedgehog each have five runners-up to their name.

Series with a Game of the Year and runner-up in the same year

Mario and Sonic are the only series that have both a winner and a runner-up in the same year. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is my retroactive Game of the Year for 1994, while Sonic & Knuckles was a runner-up that same year. 1996 sees Super Mario RPG take the cake, with Super Mario 64 also being in the loop.

Genre with the most Game of the Years

Banjo-Tooie

Platformers claim an easy victory with a whopping eleven Game of the Years. Though if you consider 2D platformers and 3D platformers as separate genres (and let’s face it, they are, along with fighting games, one of the only genres with enough differences in 2D and 3D to qualify the different perspectives as differing genres), then 2D platformers have seven victors (Mega Man 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Donkey Kong Country 2, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze), while 3D platformers have four (Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2).

Second place goes to the action-adventure genre with five games (The Legend of Zelda titles, A Link to the Past and Wind Waker, along with Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, and Uncharted 2). In third place is the RPG genre with four titles (Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, Ni No Kuni, Undertale).

The bridesmaid

Kirby has four games listed under my runners-up (Kirby’s Adventure, Kirby Superstar, Kirby 64, Kirby’s Epic Yarn), but no Game of the Years. Hopefully that will change down the road, since I believe Kirby is the only longstanding video game character who has never been in a bad game.

This has me thinking that perhaps I missed out ranking a few more Kirby games as runners-up in the very least. I mean, Dreamland 3, Canvas Curse, and Return to Dreamland were all games I really enjoyed. I may have underrated the little guy, which means I’ve become everything I ever hated.

So there you go. Some random factoids I deduced from my Game of the Years. Hopefully you enjoyed this admittedly-needless-but-hopefully-fun post.

Why not check out those Game of the Years again?