Solomon's Key for the NES was released in Japan on this day in 1986.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Windows)

Mature
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
78
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Jackson Schwipp (20)
Written on  :  Oct 01, 2010
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars

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Summary

At least a few hours of fun

The Good

I first played this game around the same time it was released as one of the first FPS titles for N64, and it was wild.

There is a fine selection of weapons, and for most weapons, there's a second, better weapon which uses the same ammo but in greater quantity (pistol and assault rifle, shotgun and auto shotgun, pulse rifle and the very thoughtfully named 'alien weapon'), so you don't need to needlessly stockpile your pistol ammo all game - it remains useful even in the last few maps.

The gore was probably the most infamous aspect of this game. I was about nine or ten when I first started playing it, and I swear, every time I'd get the animation of the man grabbing at his jugular, spraying blood all over the clean 90 degree angled walls, I'd look over my shoulder to make sure Mom wasn't around. It was that brutal. GoldenEye had a little blood - mostly just the 'stain' which appears on the body after it's been shot - but there definitely weren't any gore fountains.

I'd have to say that the first four 'Maps' of the game are the most fun. I say this because you're still collecting the first nine or ten weapons, which are the only ones that really matter (for reasons I'll cover later), and so it feels like it's worth exploring every inch of the maps, if just to get the Minigun.

The Bad

I'll do this part backwards: First, the maps are horrible. From the get-go, you will find forks everywhere. Some maps begin with a fork (one path being behind the portal you started from). As a result, you start getting into this 'I'm in a maze' mentality where, no matter what, you work your way right-to-left. And as a result, you usually end up finishing a map without having collected all of the keys needed to access the next map, which means you have to do the map all over again, albeit without most of the enemies or power-ups, which essentially turns the game into a dull exploration platformer. Good luck remembering which path(s) you took the first time around!

Which reminds me: Platforming sucks. This game killed platforming for me. I don't remember how frustrating it was on the N64, but I recently replayed it on PC and the jumping is awful. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the game designers took advantage of what could only be described as a control flaw: Turok can strafe and move forward at the same time for a combined velocity. So if I'm replaying a map, I'm doing so running like a dork at a 45 degree angle to the direction I'm facing. It's completely unnecessary; why not just make running faster?

For some reason the game designers clearly noticed this and increased the distance between some of the jumps such that you HAVE to exploit it to make the distance. I suppose it IS more challenging than simply running to the edge of a cliff and leaping right before you get to the edge, but arbitrarily so - it just means that I can't look where I leap (because I'm looking away at a 45 degree angle like a dork). This made sense to somebody at Acclaim, which is hard to believe, and yet it does explain why they failed to do anything of consequence after Turok 2.

Like I said before, the first four maps are fun because you have an incentive to explore: Find the weapons. The first eight weapons or so are definitely worth using, even though you'll find yourself primarily using the first five or six throughout the game and only using the 'big guns' for bosses or when you get kicked into panic-mode. But the real 'big guns' - these being the Nuke, the Particle Accelerator, and the Chronocepter - are simply impractical for anything BUT a boss. And by the time you can possibly reach them, you come to the realization that you haven't even been using the last three weapons you spent a half hour trying to find - why add another to the list?

Indeed. The Nuke carries two rounds max and does pretty much what it promises, hitting everything (including yourself) in a very wide radius. The Particle Accelerator is sort of a red herring in this game, since it actually 'freezes' the enemy before they explode in a big plasma gorefest. The Pulse Rifle or the Alien Weapon could use the same quantity of ammo to kill several enemies, albeit without the cool kill animation. The Chronocepter has to be collected in multiple pieces, so you can't actually use it until the final boss, assuming you've actually found the previous pieces, and it only carries three shots. Given, it's worth finding, since those three shots alone can drive down the Campaigner to half-strength, but...

...by then you'll be sick of this game.

Once you lose the incentive to find the cool guns, once you get sick of peering off the edge of every cliff to make sure there's no secret platform down below which (you hope) leads to one of the keys you need to get to the next level, once you've played through a level three times and not yet found the Level 8 key, once you just want it to be over with so you can get on with the rest of your life, you won't even care that the Chronocepter makes a big flashy boom.

Did I mention the fog? Well, modern games have done away with this technique because modern platforms/PCs can afford the RAM with which to draw the entire visible range of a map. Turok couldn't. The fog obscures the fact that, just beyond our visible range, the map is merely a series of vectors and event points. The biggest problem with this is that the AI can sometimes see and shoot at you before you can do either to them. There's one particularly frustrating platforming section in which you're on a pillar of rock whose top surface is about the size of my desk chair, and you're being fired upon by enemies beyond the fog. Fortunately, you can shoot them, though you have no way of seeing them, so you more or less have to guess where they're shooting from.

The Bottom Line

A lot of people will disrespect this game in fair comparison to GoldenEye, which was, for the most part, a superior FPS released simultaneously with Turok. And in a lot of ways, it was better; no fog, no pointlessly endless exploration, no looking for secrets everywhere, no impractically large weapons, and yet more weapons. But ironically, Turok was better in a lot of aesthetic ways. Despite its graphical deficiency with the fog, the graphics it could display were superior; gore and fluid effects were almost nonexistent in GoldenEye (no swimming, for example, which is a fairly crucial skill in Turok, and minimal gore); explosions were also far more varied in color, size, and texture, whereas GoldenEye only had two or three 'sizes' of the same generic explosion.

But what Turok lacks in comparison to its more popular FPS peer is functionality. You don't need to swim or jump in GoldenEye because you'll be too busy doing the S part of FPS (which is not Swimming). All of the stunts which Turok pulled to sell well were brilliant at the time, and in hindsight feel boring. But, then again, Turok was a first-generation title for the N64, and that's what such game designers have to do in order to ensure the console's success. I remember the shock and awe I felt playing Halo on the Xbox for the first time, and now it feels somewhat mediocre.

So take it with a grain of salt and think about 1997. Go ahead and compare it to every FPS available at the time (that wasn't GoldenEye). At the time, it was a very ambitious, albeit confused title, which couldn't seem to decide if it was a platformer or a first-person shooter. But if you judged it by the standards which all first-generation titles of new gaming platforms are subject to - the five-minute gameplay demo - you'd find it exhilarating too. And so the best thing I can say about this game is that it did, and frankly, still does its job well. Does it compare to FPS titles available today? No. Does it feel like a chore by the end? Yes. But if you've got twenty minutes, give this game a shot.