Joey Zamingo @crazyjoey
Onesimus: A Quest for Freedom (DOS)
Lazy "Jill" mod that's only interesting to hardcore fans of the trilogy.
I have known about Jill of the Jungle, including the two non-shareware episodes, for quite a while. When I found out Onesimus, a graphical modification of the Jill games existed, I played it and was pleased to see that the essence of Jill was still there...the great gameplay, the music, and the humor streak that pervades throughout the trilogy. It's quite possibly the greatest Christian game ever made, but truthfully, there's not a lot of competition in the genre.
It's a terrible shame that the Christian game market is composed of either boring platform games or graphical modifications of other popular games. So in the tradition of Sunday Funday and Super Noah's Ark 3D, Ark took a grab bag of levels from the three Jill games and threw them together with the occasional graphical modification. The giant green lizard men have been replaced with guards. The flying devils have been replaced by some dude who's able to walk around in the air. The arrow for added jumping power and the throwing star have been replaced by a spring and a rock. How is a spring somehow less primitive than an arrow? That's a mistake right there. They removed the ability for the character to be able to change into animals, so there goes a small but appealing piece of Jill's charm. They changed exactly none of the music or sound effects, so instead of hearing Christian hymns as you play the game, you get the same catchy, synthesizer-infused tunes that the original Jill games used. What's worse is that, since the sound effects have remained unchanged, whenever Onesimus loses a life he squeals in a very high pitched voice. That doesn't add much to the realism of the game, if they were trying to stay true to the fact that Onesimus is male, presumably with a much deeper voice than the sound effects would have you believe. All in all, I was just pissed at how incredibly lazy the designers were in making this game appropriate for the "Christian" gamer. There's so much more they could have done to improve the atmosphere of Onesimus, but unfortunately, they only went halfway with this.
The Bottom Line
Me being a big Jill fan, I was excited when I first found out this game existed because I thought it would be like a "Jill of the Jungle 4", a Jill game with all new levels, but at the small expense of having a different sprite used for the main character. I was unfortunately wrong- almost all 30 of the levels here are copied from the three Jill games. The only original levels I noticed are the very first and very last levels. In short, you don't really want to waste your time with this unless you're a truly devoted Jill fan. If you've completed the trilogy, trust me, you've seen it all before. Unless you really want to laugh at Onesimus screaming like Jill when he drowns or gets impaled or something.
By Joey Zamingo on July 18th, 2006
Yoshi Touch & Go (Nintendo DS)
I didn't pay $30 for a damn one-level tech demo...
It's got some nice graphics, and the sound is well-done. Playing with a friend is fun.
Sometimes, you find short games. Games that take you 6 hours to beat. Sometimes you find really short games, like Katamari Damacy, that take you 3 hours to beat. But with this game, if you play it for 5 minutes, you've experienced just about the whole thing. Nintendo's decision to sell a tech demo is just plain stupid. They've released this inane thing, and stuff like Starfy and Famicom Detective Club stays stranded in Japan? For shame.
The Bottom Line
This should have been the free card included with the DS instead of the Metroid demo. It's fun and somewhat replayable, but it's just nonsense to pay money for what is essentially a glorified tech demo. Don't pay over $10 for this. If you're expecting a full fledged platformer, but can settle for one level, this is your game. If you really want a decent length game that uses the basic idea behind this title, check out Kirby: Canvas Curse.
By Joey Zamingo on August 30th, 2005
The Adventures of Willy Beamish (DOS)
Don't know why everyone keeps calling this a 'kid's game'...
I've always had a soft spot for this game. It's really silly, but not goofy, know what I mean? The graphics are nice, the music is nice, and the storyline is very engaging and fun. Finally, a game where you can piss off the principal and act like a complete brat, all from the comfort of your PC! The music got stuck in my head for long after I finished playing this game, and that's saying something since most of the music in games, even games this old, are pretty forgettable. If you're lucky enough to own the talkie version, the voice acting is great...not as great as some of the LucasArts games, but still better than most stuff made today, even.
It's too damn hard. I guess it follows in the Sierra adventure game tradition in that death is possible and quite easy to attain. It's way too easy to fail in this game, and some parts are so tricky the only way you'll get through them is to save at every screen. This game is full of the reasons the LucasAdventures were so successful- you couldn't die in them. The save button should be used as a tool, not a part of the gameplay (to paraphrase Ron Gilbert), and this game is simply too difficult to be played without a walkthrough by anyone but the most seasoned adventure gamer.
As if it wasn't enough that some parts are maddeningly hard, but some parts are actually buggy too! That's right....get ready to part with the hair on your scalp as well as some of the things sitting on your desk as you crush them in frustration!
Also, the quality of the voices in the talkie version is quite bad. Thankfully, it's not as bad as the Sega CD version, and you can turn on the regular text to use as subtitles (in fact, the talkie uses that setup by default). Also, in the talkie version, there's only one or two "poses" per character, like in the Sega CD and unlike the floppy disk version. But still, it can be forgiven for the great voices.
The Bottom Line
Don't let the big icons and colorful graphics fool you- this ain't a kid's game. The suggestive frog's name, the school nurse, and the occasional cuss word are also helpful clues to support that theory. If you're not a person who knows every Sierra adventure game inside out and probably most of the LucasArts ones too, find a walkthrough, 'cause you'll sure as hell need it. But once you overcome the frustration, the game is actually really, really fun. There aren't too many accurate simulators of a schoolkid's life (though the upcoming game Bully may fill that void nicely) and it's a great play all the way through. Definitely play it if you can; you can find copies on eBay all the time, and it's also on many abandonware sites. Or even better, get the talkie version; it's damn hard to find, but snap it up if you find it.
By Joey Zamingo on August 19th, 2005
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (DOS)
Excellent- in its day.
It's a giant leap from the cozy Maniac Mansion, and therefore gives you a lot of freedom to move around. The graphics are in the same style as MM, though slightly improved. And there's just something magical about being able to control a tabloid reporter.
Sadly, there's a lot. LucasFilm Games (now LucasArts) tried too hard to make a game that was bigger and bolder than Maniac Mansion, and they mostly failed. It must have been fun and groundbreaking to travel the world in a game, but in this modern age, it's the flaws that are more noticeable. The game just gives you to much of a load, and is too unrewarding for all your work. It's too complicated, and that gets in the way of the fun. It's also a shame that there was never a sequel, since I would have been anxious to see what a new Zak title, made by a more seasoned LucasArts, would be like.
The Bottom Line
This is the game where LucasArts started to get the rhythm of adventuring, realizing that you can't be stuck in a house for a whole game, and you need to move around outside. They were a bit overzealous when they went for the complete opposite, and made this game take place in locations all over the Earth. It's an interesting play, but don't expect to get very much enjoyment out of it, as it's just too overwhelming and confusing. Noteworthy today only historically, as it was the prototype for all LucasAdventures to come.
By Joey Zamingo on July 14th, 2005
Disney's 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue (PlayStation)
This game is supposedly based off the GEX 3 engine, and it serves the game well. It's a fun little platformer that spans about 20 levels with a nice plot, decent graphics, and solid music and sound. The voice acting is pretty good too, especially since they got an Eric Idle soundalike to do the parrot. The levels are nice and lengthy, and the bosses are challenging enough. Basically, an above-average Disney platformer.
The graphics are occasionally iffy. For a game that came so late in the PlayStation's life, this looks like it was developed around 1997. The graphics drop out and wobble around, and even though there's no pop-up, there's lots of layering problems (i.e. if Domino is standing behind a wall, the game always puts him in front of everything, so it looks like he's in front of it.) The camera is also annoying. Instead of using the unused right analog stick to control the camera, they made you rotate it with the R1 and L1 buttons. This isn't too bad until you realize that you can't look up or down, and you therefore have to make a lot of jumps blindly.
The Bottom Line
This is a game that you really wouldn't expect to be enjoyable, but give it a try. You could finish it off a rental, but I recommend buying it. That way, if you're in the mood for some light platforming, you're good to go.
By Joey Zamingo on July 6th, 2005
Katamari Damacy (PlayStation 2)
By Joey Zamingo on May 8th, 2005
Snatcher (SEGA CD)
Easily the best game I have ever played.
Snatcher is a game that's been released on a total of six systems over the course of eight years. All but one of those releases were in Japan, and that one was for the Sega CD, in late 1994. American and European gamers were lucky to get the game at all, but when the game came over with almost all of the gore and even some of the nudity intact, the gaming community was ecstatic. No one, at least in America, had ever seen a game like Snatcher, and thanks to the fact that Policenauts, Snatcher's unofficial "prequel", hasn't been and probably never will be released in America, we'll probably never see a game like it again. It's a game that never fails to keep you on your toes. It manages to genuinely scare you, even though it never actively tries to. At one point I would even refuse to play the game at night, because as I would walk from my basement (where my Sega CD was) up to my room to go to bed, I would keep looking over my shoulder to check if a snatcher was sneaking up on me. When a game that's running on a meager 16-bit machine with an onscreen graphics palette of only 112 colors manages to scare you even after you've turned it off, that's the mark of something truly powerful. It could also be the mark of a paranoid coward, but I'd say it's a combination of both. Everything about the game is perfect. The graphics are in the style you'd find if you picked up an issue of Shonen Jump- Japanese comic books, or Manga. They're colorful, detailed, and even though they almost never move, they're too good for you to care. The sound is excellent. The voice acting is truly excellent, and although the actors seem to be overplaying their roles at times, we have to remember that decent voice acting at all in a pre-PlayStation, cinematic, Metal Gear Solid era was pretty rare, and probably nonexistent to begin with. The music is excellently composed, and the right tunes play at the right times to get your heart truly racing. The game structure is a massive menu with a few shooting sequences thrown into the mix. It's the most entertaining menu ever made, in my opinion. All the choices one would want to make are there, and it rarely feels limiting. The shooting sequences are far and few between, and this is a good thing, because once you start getting into the game you'll want no interruption from your investigation. The storyline is top-notch- there are just enough plot twists and character developments to make it truly great. Luckily, there's no way to die in Snatcher. If you get killed during a shooting sequence, you push a button and attempt it again. Clumsy gamers like me appreciated the fact that you have infinite lives. All in all, there is much to love in Snatcher.
There's very little wrong with Snatcher, but no game is perfect. The translation gets a little thick on the cheese at times, and occasionally borders on "Engrish", but it can be forgiven as this game was created in an era where little thought was given to a translation that did more than not be Japanese. Another small problem I have (and this is an extremely minor quip) is that the art direction is relatively inconsistent. Gillian (the main character) may look more round-faced and boyish in one scene, and in another his face will be hard-nosed and jaded. It doesn't seem that they created model sheets for the characters in this game, and it shows. Still, in a game with so much good you can't really dwell on the bad, it can be forgiven.
The Bottom Line
Although Snatcher sounds massively boring- it's a menu with a gun- nothing could be farther from the truth. The voice acting, graphics, music, and excellent storyline make it not only the best game of the Sega CD, but the best game of 1994, the best game of the '90s, and the best game ever made. It's a terrible shame that virtually no one outside of Japan knows about it, because had it gotten the exposure it deserved worldwide, it would have no doubt become ingrained in the hearts of gamers; it would be many people's favorite game, and much more. On the bright side, we're lucky to have the game at all, even though its poor sales (blamed on its limited distribution) eliminated any hope of getting Policenauts released outside Japan. Still, we must thank Hideo Kojima and the entire team at Konami for producing an excellent game, and it can be said without hesitation that this is required playing for any video gamer.
By Joey Zamingo on May 6th, 2005
The Adventures of Willy Beamish (SEGA CD)
A great game that was poorly translated to the Sega CD.
In 1991, Dynamix/Sierra released Willy Beamish for the PC. It was a fresh game that, in spite of its difficulty, became fondly remembered by many adventure game fans. Then, in 1993, Willy Beamish was re-released on the then-new Sega CD. Because of the system's ability to play games off of CDs, which have high data capacities, the Sega CD Willy Beamish could have full in-game voices. There was a talkie version for PCs as well, but many gamers at the time didn't have CD-ROM drives for their computers, so if you owned a Sega CD, you could easily play the talkie version of Willy from the comfort of your couch, without having to spend money on an expensive CD-ROM drive for your PC. The idea sounds fantastic on paper, but the Sega CD version of Willy out and out stunk; partly due to the hardware limitations of the system, and partly because of the methods (or ignorance) of the programmers. The Sega CD version does have some improvements over the PC version, however. You can actually play Willy's Nintari now, instead of just watching him as in the PC version. In the PC version, Willy was playing a platform game called Monster Patrol. Now he's playing a game called Super Space K'Noidtrix. The game is a so-so shooter, but it's useful for letting off some steam built up in the sluggish main game. Also notable is the improved intro; Willy introduces himself and narrates until the first playable scene. The PC version just had a narrator begin the game, and you don't see Willy until the part when Horny jumps out of his backpack and takes the principal's toupee.
Let's start with the little things. The Sega CD/Genesis could only display 64 colors; a quarter of the 256 colors of the PC version. As a result, the close-ups of the characters are missing their value (the variations between black and white), and some other graphical lapses. Surprisingly, the backgrounds look fine; they have no major loss of detail. So basically, the color limitations don't really show that much. Next, some sequences have been cut completely, most noticeably the sequence at the very beginning where Willy daydreams about the Nintari championships in the middle of detention. With the sequence gone, we have to assume Willy was daydreaming when Ms. Glass says, "Willy Beamish! What did I just say?" Another minor cut is that there are not as many "poses" of the character close-ups in the game. In the PC version, the characters' faces change with almost everything they say. In the Sega CD version, the characters have one or two close ups, and that's it. Willy uses his "sarcastic" face when he's being sincere, unlike the PC version where Willy actually looks sincere when he's being sincere. A very big problem in the Sega CD version is the terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE loading times. The 1X drive in the Sega CD never becomes a problem except in the adventure games like Rise of the Dragon, The Secret of Monkey Island, and... Willy Beamish. Anytime you pick up something, select something, or do something, there's at least a 2-second wait. This doesn't sound annoying on paper, but a 2- or more second wait between EVERY SINGLE THING YOU DO can drive you over the edge. And sometimes there's not even any indication that the game is loading, like when you're in your item screen and you click "exit"; the game freezes for three seconds and then the window disappears. Even more infuriating is the terrible two second pause after every line of spoken dialogue. Now we come the absolute biggest flaw in this game: the voices. Although the voice acting is superb, the sound quality is H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E. You can barely understand the characters when they talk, and there are no subtitles. The thing I don't get is, why do games like Popful Mail and Snatcher have excellent quality voices, and in the same quantity as Willy, too. How come the voices in those games sound so fantastic, and the voice here sound absolutely horrendous? I would have strongly preferred a text-only Genesis cartridge version of this game if it were available. There would be no lousy quality voices, and no loading times. The music would be the same; it's generated by the internal Z80 sound chip- not Redbook audio. Of course, such a version would surely be cheaper than a CD version and may even slow down Sega CD sales: not a good business idea. So all in all, the game just has too many glaring flaws to be worth playing. If you want the best version of Willy Beamish, get the PC CD-ROM talkie version. It gives you almost exactly what the Sega CD version gives you, without the long, long loading times, and low-quality voices, and the cut material.
The Bottom Line
Willy Beamish was a great PC game that had to be heavily chopped up technically in order to run on the Sega CD. The long loading times, the removed content, and the disgusting voice quality add up to an game that isn't worth experiencing, but only on the Sega CD. I highly encourage you to play the PC version, and you can get it from the-underdogs.org. So unless you really, really want to play Super Space K'noidtrix, stay far away from this version.
By Joey Zamingo on December 25th, 2004
Popful Mail (SEGA CD)
Easily one of the best games to ever hit the Sega CD.
Popful Mail was one of the last games to come out for the legendary (Night Trap, anyone?) Sega CD. You see this game talked about on RPG websites, but at heart, it's a simple platformer with some RPG sparkles mixed in, like being able to talk to people, buying power-ups and weapons from stores in villages, and meeting and rounding up group members as the game goes on. It's very similar to Zelda 2 for the NES in that you move around in an overworld view, but when you enter an area it becomes a side scrolling game. It's a good game to pick up and play when you're tired of the FMV schlock on the Sega CD, and when you finally finish Snatcher, this is a dandy game to turn to. The anime sequences are extremely well done. They look almost exactly like cartoons- kudos to the artists working on the game. I've heard people gripe about the music played throughout the game, but I had no problems with the BGM. The in-game graphics are colorful, but mostly average, but the voice acting is suprisingly well-done for its time, and almost every bit of dialogue is spoken. One of the game's major selling points was that it claimed to have almost 3 hours of voice-overs, and that figure is probably correct.
The thing that turned me off right off the bat was the game's name. Shakespeare asked, "What's in a name?", but a main character called "Popful Mail" is just plain stupid. I'm sure that translates from something meaningful in Japanese, but in English it sounds silly. The thing I hated even more that was the fact you only have one life. As you may know, whenever you get hit by an enemy in a platform game, you get a short "invincibility period" where your character flickers and nothing can hurt you for a few seconds while you move away from whatever hit you. In Popful Mail, the invincibility period is very short, so you don't have enough time to move away from the enemy before it can inflict damage again. As a result, your health goes quickly, and when you die, that's it- game over. Luckily, you can save at any point in the game, but if you didn't, too bad. You can continue from a saved game, but if you didn't, you start right at the beginning again. So a warning to all who play this game- save often. Other than those two points, I don't have any problems with this game.
The Bottom Line
I think this is the perfect game to introduce non-RPG gamers to the role-playing genre, because it barely is one. A player like me who has always yearned for a light, creamy RPG found much to love here. If you own a Sega CD, definitely pick this one up. It's one of the best games you'll ever play on the system, and maybe even one of the games you'll ever play, period.
By Joey Zamingo on November 23rd, 2004
Jill of the Jungle (DOS)
An all time classic, hands down, no doubt.
When you get into the game, you are surrounded by lush graphics, great gameplay, wonderful sound (in Win95 or lower) and a 4, 16, or 256 color pixelated babe. I got this game off a CD-rom that had about 25 shareware titles on it when I was 6, and I have been stuck to it ever since. Jill has 14 levels, and two bonus levels that are not too hard to get to. It has no bosses, no blood, no excessive violence, just pure platforming. It has interesting ideas (the elevators are very original, and the Pac-Man style ghosts are cool. Oh, and the crabs, alligators, huge floating eyes, birds that look like butterflies, frogs, bees, giant ants, and those little blue things that get in your way on the chains are nice, too). The music is so memorable I still remember it today. It even has a very nice Save feature. I have fond memories of sitting at my family's new 75 mhz Pentium Packard Bell PC with Win95 on it, and playing it for hours. And a year or two later I ordered the full version and discovered the frustration of the heck level with Jill Goes Underground, and the equally fun Jill Saves The Prince. I still play it (and beat it) today, and I never get sick of it. This is my favorite PC action game of all time, and always will be. Period.
The only negatives I can give about this game is that it will not run at all under a WinOS later than 98 SE (based on my personal experience, of course), which is a huge pain in the a for all of us XP users, the Sound Blaster effects and music won't run under anything later than 95 (again, based on personal experience), and it is just a tad too easy, but that's probably just me after playing it for six years, not to mention that I've beat it several times.
The Bottom Line**
If you have Windows 98 SE or lower, GET THIS GAME NOW. I don't care if it's the shareware version (which you can download just about anywhere) or the full version (you should get both), this game is an absolute PC platforming classic, and will live on forever in the history of video and PC games.
By Joey Zamingo on February 2nd, 2002