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Popeye (Odyssey 2)

By chirinea on January 31st, 2023

The Flintstones (SEGA Master System)


The Good
The Flintstones for the SEGA Master System is a port of a previously released computer game. It has nice graphics, better than most of the computer versions. This version has added splash screens before each level with nicely drawn images displaying what is about to happen in game.

It is nice that the gameplay is varied, you have four stages with different styles of gameplay, but that doesn't mean they're always fun to play, unfortunately.

The Bad
I imagine someone looking at the screenshots of this game in some magazine would be thinking "wow, that looks great, this game must be awesome", only to be disappointed by it when getting to actually play the game.

The Flintstones has often been described as a collection of mini-games stitched together without much care. I get what the developers were trying to do here, it was supposed to be something like a playable version of an episode of the TV show. But what makes it look like several mini-games is that the story isn't told really clearly to be cohesive. The first three levels go well together: in the first one, Wilma tells Fred to paint a wall, but he wants to go bowling with Barney, so he must first finish the job, then go play. Something that makes little sense in this version is that they've replaced the ceiling in the living room with the sky, so it seems you're painting a wall outdoors, which seems weird since there's a TV in the scene. The second level has Fred driving on his way to the bowling alley. The third level is his match against Barney at the bowling alley. So far, so good. But the fourth level has Fred trying to rescue Pebbles from a construction site. This comes out of nowhere, there's no explanation for why she's there. In the Amiga version, right after the bowling match ends, there's an image of a newspaper informing that Pebbles has gone missing and Wilma is looking for her, but in this version, there's no such thing. The splash screen before level four reads "Fred must rescue Pebbles and bring her back", but it's just that, no mention of why she got lost in the first place.

The whole game is very short, the second level can be finished in less than 30 seconds! Speaking of the second level, it is really weird that in a racing level there's no side-scrolling! The car is shown moving from left to right and once it reaches the edge of the screen, the screen is flipped. Maybe this had something to do with the limitations on the hardware for the computer versions, but that shouldn't be the case for this port. While the second level is really short, the third one can take quite some time, and a good part of it is spent watching the animation showing the bowling pins being placed and replaced.

The controls are not good either. They won't be much trouble in the first three levels, but controlling Fred in the last one feels really awkward. You will often fall from platforms even though it looks like you're on top of them just fine. The jumps have this strange floaty feel. Fred will also easily fall from the rope he has to climb down to rescue Pebbles. This makes this level a lot harder than it would be if the controls were OK.

The game has only two songs, the main theme from the TV show and a second theme that is played throughout the whole game. You have the option of turning the music off, and it really makes sense to do that, as the song can get a bit annoying. Also, the sound effects are so low the music makes it harder to listen to them. At least they've included a digitized version of Fred's "Yabba-Dabba-Doo" yell.

The Bottom Line
The Flintstones for the SEGA Master System has good graphics, but bad gameplay, continuity issues, poor music, and a short playtime. You won't spend much time with it, which might be good in the end. Such a waste of a good license.

By chirinea on January 2nd, 2023

Dragonfire (Atari 2600)

Great graphics and a great challenge, I just wish it had a little something extra.

The Good
As a kid we had a bunch of Atari 2600 cartridges my brother used to buy and trade with friends, but unfortunately we sold most of them after getting our NES clone. The only one that remained is a dual cartridge with Dragonfire and Video Pinball, and Dragonfire was probably one of my favorites in our collection.

For starters, Dragonfire is one of the best looking games for the Atari 2600 in my opinion. The prince and the dragon are well animated, and the dragon sprite is huge by Atari 2600 standards. The game is really colorful, each new stage has a different palette. The items in the treasure room are well drawn and easily recognizable.

Some little details in the programming show how well made this game is. For instance, the distance of the prince's jump depends on if he's standing or running, so jumping a fireball is a lot easier if you're running in its direction. Just as you have acceleration in your movement, so does the dragon. This leads to interesting strategies when trying to clean the treasure room. The dragon starts moving toward you as soon as you leave your shelter, and from the third stage on, it will run and it will take some time to slow down so it can turn the other way once you've passed it. So you can somewhat time your movement to evade the dragon and its fireballs.

The action is fast and the gameplay is really fluid, the controls are easy to learn and not that hard to master. At first you will get burned a lot, specially when trying to leave the shelter in the treasure room, but as soon as you get the handle on how the prince and the dragon move, things get manageable (but not easy!).

The Bad
I wish there was a bit more variety to the game. The game has only two screens and they are always the same: the drawbridge screen is always the same, with the only difference being the color of the castle. There could be different challenges there. As for the treasure room, a faster and more powerful dragon is challenge enough, but the rooms could be a little different also.

Something I don't enjoy much about most Atari 2600 games is that there is no real ending to the game, the main goal is just to reach a high score. This game is one of those, but you can beat it in a way: each new level leads to a new castle with a new dragon in a different color. There are nine different dragons in total, and as soon you get past the white dragon, all the next dragons will be white. So maybe you can consider the game beaten once you got past the first white dragon. But I wish it did have a more clear ending.

Maybe there is no real ending because, as with many other Atari 2600 games, the replay value is a bit low. Unless you want to keep coming back for a higher score, there's no reason to keep playing for long after reaching the 10th stage. I guess Dragonfire burns out fast. =P

There's a bit of a luck factor I don't enjoy. The treasures are randomly placed in the treasure room. This is good to keep the gameplay variety, but sometimes too many items will be placed too close to the center and near the dragon, where it gets really difficult to get them. This is not bad per se, it's just that I feel some games will be harder than others.

The sound is nothing exceptional. Is not that I don't like it, but it could have something more, maybe some celebratory music once you finish a stage. The sound when the prince dies is a little annoying, actually.

The Bottom Line
A beautiful and fast paced game that is a must have for any Atari 2600 owner. It could be a bit more varied and maybe have a true ending, but nonetheless it is a solid title.

By chirinea on October 11th, 2022

Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (SEGA Master System)

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Dead Angle (SEGA Master System)

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Turma da Mônica em: O Resgate (SEGA Master System)

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Sonic Mania (Windows)

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Valheim (Windows)

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Ghostbusters (SEGA Master System)

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Spider-Man (SEGA Master System)

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Metal Gear (MSX)

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Crystal Catacombs (Windows)

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Grim Fandango: Remastered (Windows)

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Fantasy Zone: The Maze (SEGA Master System)

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Blake Stone: Planet Strike! (DOS)

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Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (Windows)

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Axiom Verge (Windows)

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Disney DuckTales: Remastered (Windows)

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Outland (Linux)

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MDK (Windows)

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Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (Genesis)

By chirinea on January 16th, 2018

ESWAT: City under Siege (Genesis)

SEGA's RoboCop deserves a sequel.

The Good
Being a fan of RoboCop movies, this game had an immediate appeal to me as a kid. A cop using a cybernetic armor? Count me in! The game tells the story of a police officer which becomes member of the Enhanced Special Weapons and Tactics unit to fight a terrorist group called E.Y.E., which is developing their own special weapons to neutralize ESWAT.

One of the first interesting aspects of this game is that you're not given the cyber suit right away: you have to earn it by going up ranks as a police officer. You start as a captain and have to complete two missions to become part of the ESWAT. Before you get your cyber suit there's not much you can do other than shoot a pistol and jump, but the developers took care of ensuring the gameplay would have the right amount of variety. Each level of ESWAT plays different than the other: in the first one you make your way through a building shooting bandits and end up facing a helicopter in the rooftop. In the second level you have to invade a prison and you start moving about using some sort of platform on rails. This level plays differently from the first one, as finding your way out of the prison has a light puzzle-solving element. But the possibilities are really expanded when you get the cyber suit. The main reason is that it has five different weapons and a built-in jet pack, and this changes the player approaches the challenges.

Each weapon has a different use. The regular shot is not different from the pistol used in the first two levels. The Super gun auto-shoots three bullets at once, making life a whole lot easier for dealing with all sorts of enemies. The Rocket Launcher fires rockets diagonally towards the ground, so it allows for different strategies when dealing with enemies behind barriers or in lower platforms. The Plasma Charge shoots large plasma balls when charged, dealing more damage than most weapons, but as the charging takes some time, its usage must be calculated. It is also the only weapon that can destroy some kinds of barriers in some stages. And last there's a Fire weapon, a rotating flame thrower that can be used only once per pick up and that depletes the burner gauge. The burner gauge is depleted also by using the jetpack: hovering will deplete it very slowly, flying in different directions will deplete it faster. Besides the obvious movement advantages, the jetpack allows for better positioning when dealing with different enemies.

From the third level on, the gameplay is all about using the right tools for the right situations. In the third level is pretty linear and is there more to teach you how to use your new weapons. The fourth level challenges you by removing your ability to use the jetpack. In the fifth level, on the other hand, you will rely on the jetpack a lot, so much that during the boss fight you will have unlimited burner at your disposal. The sixth level is a linear walk through the sewers, but you can choose to avoid the water or not, and it holds one of the most challenging boss fights. The seventh still has new elements as laser booby traps and some puzzle elements. The last stage is a little bit shorter and holds the final battle.

The graphics are very good. The sprites are big and the art resembles other early Mega Drive games such as Shinobi, with a more "mature", less cartoony tone. The animation between levels showing the rank progression of the character and a computerized rap-sheet of the next boss is a nice touch. Another SEGA classic, Streets of Rage, is said to share the same fictional universe as the ESWAT games, as the police car shown in Streets of Rage is the same seen in this game.

The sound effects are simple but effective and the music is great. The boss tune will be on your mind for a while after playing the game. The difficulty level feels just right to me. It is one of those games in which you get a little bit further each time you play. The options menu lets you tone down the difficulty and increase the number of lives you start with.

The Bad
Even though the level design is varied and the game offers five different weapons, I feel that they could have been used better. For instance, the Fire weapon is not of much use. Since it is the strongest weapon and you can only use it once per pick up, you would naturally save it to use against bosses. But it turns out this weapon is rather useless against them, doing little or no damage. It becomes that weapon you keep saving for a special occasion that never comes (well, maybe it is useful the last stage, but you may not need it as well). I think you will spend 80% of the time using the Super weapon and the other 20% between the Plasma Charge and the Rocket Launcher.

Another thing that could be better done are the boss fights: they all seem pretty easy once you learn the boss pattern. There are only two fights in which you'll have to move around a bit more, the other ones are all about finding the right position and using the right weapon.

Some levels are also rather short. I'd love to see some bigger levels with even more jetpack use.

The Bottom Line
ESWAT is a great early Mega Drive game, and certainly a SEGA classic. It has nicely drawn graphics, good music, varied gameplay and an interesting setting. It fails only in having easy boss fights and in not exploring the full potential of having five different weapons. It is really a shame that SEGA didn't make any sequels to this game or haven't explored more the relationship between this series and Streets of Rage.

By chirinea on January 15th, 2018

Turma da Mônica na Terra dos Monstros (Genesis)

By chirinea on November 7th, 2017

Terraria (Linux)

By chirinea on October 21st, 2017

Puzzle Agent 2 (Windows)

By chirinea on September 5th, 2017

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