Tag Archives: review

Warlocked (Gameboy Color)

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In a world of elves, orcs, and high magic humanity is on its last legs as they face off against the hordes of th Orc Chief Zog. You play as either Chief Zog’s forces, ready to wipe the humans out or as Queen Azarel, desperately taking the fight to Zog’s fortress — It’s just about as Warcraftian as you can get — or is that Tolkienian. Gather resources, build buildings, train units, summon mighty wizards, and train a dragon or two in Warlocked.

History

Warlocked was created by Bits Studio, a development group I was surprised to find had a pretty big catalog of games. Games including the INFAMOUSLY bad Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the Nintendo, Last Action Hero (SNES), and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The Last Action Hero has level timers so short that unless you played as clean as possible you time out and have to restart the level. That’s how bad it is.. I guess a broken clock is still right twice a day.

Warlocked was released on July 24th, 2000. It’s competition was Diablo II (PC), Strider 2 (PS1), and Chrono Cross (PS1).

Experiences

A handheld RTS game might be the craziest idea that ever popped into a designer’s head. Battery life demands that missions be short and memory limitations must have been a nightmare. Not to mention the Game Boy only had two buttons, A and B. It creates a binary system, you can choose yes or no. And it makes any attempt at finer controls difficult. But on long trips the adventure was actually well appreciated and the before-mission briefings did a good job of presenting an overall story to the game. I can’t believe I’m saying this but when I played through the intro a few days ago I got actual chills.

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And then I started laughing uncontrollably at this frame of cloned knights.

Gameplay

Warlocked is basically the simplest version of Warcraft 2 you’ve ever played. Your stronghold trains peasants who chop trees to get fuel, and mine gold mines to get gold. Then they spend those resources on barracks to train elven archers and knights or Orcish grunts and skeleton archers. You move units around and they explore the map through the fog of war in a series of missions, each of which with unique objectives.

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Complete with idyllic forests and peasants with sacks of gold.

Things begin to differ on the magical side of things. Some wizards are shared between the factions while others are faction exclusive. Each wizard is vulnerable to physical attack but can cast valuable and deadly spells with the proper support to keep them alive. Wizards such as Stealthwiz, who can render any unit invisible until they attack a unit — great for resource gathering peasants who never attack. A player can only have two wizards active at a time so they need to choose them wisely.

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Chief Zog and Queen Azarel can take to the field themselves as well.

The game also has a multiplayer mode which requires a link cable between two Gameboys. It seems like Bit Games put a lot of effort into the maps and multiplayer systems. Which is a shame because I sincerely doubt two human beings ever actually played this game against each other.

The Gush

DRAGONS! If you find a dragon egg in your travels then it will be taken back to your stronghold for safe keeping. In a few minutes it will hatch into a majestic dragon-thing which will utterly destroy your enemies. It can fly over most obstacles and, though vulnerable to arrow fire, can take a lot of punishment.

The music is actually shockingly good, especially for the Gameboy’s limited sound card. Some songs aren’t great but the main theme was pretty striking.

When you’ve finished both campaigns there’s still a lot of game left to play… well sort of. There’s a video poker mode to the game where you can bet your gold and try to win big. You can then use this gold in the multiplayer in some way I never figured out because I never met another human being with this game. Oh yeah, and slider puzzles.

The Kvetch

RTS games were made for the keyboard and mouse. Starcraft 64 taught us that messing with this established control scheme is tricky business. Selecting units, ordering units, and choosing which building to construct becomes this sort of cumbersome mess. Worse yet, melee units become nearly useless because it’s so difficult to maneuver them in combat.

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And sometimes it’s vitally important to attack enemies en masse.

Like most RTS games the units have barks when selected and dispatched but the Gameboy’s hardware can’t really support that. Instead what we get is a bit-crushed mess that’s nearly impossible to understand. It serves more as hindrance and noise rather than interesting flavor.

Like Netstorm’s The Noose, I got totally stuck in the middle of Zog’s campaign — strangely enough, I was able to play through Azarel’s campaign without much issue. The mission is a pitched battle in which you’re given control of the mighty Plaguewiz who can infect enemies with Blobby Pox which causes them to explode and infect nearby units… not enemies, any unit. The clunky controls make it nearly impossible to keep your men out of the blast radius. And because Plaguewiz is quite fragile — he’s wracked with pneumonia and basically everything after all — he needs a constant escort. This all wouldn’t be so bad but the mission stipulations means there’s no base or reinforcements.

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No no no, not Toxicwiz. They’re totally different.

The Verdict

If you ever wanted to play Warcraft II on the go and live in the year 2000 then this game is a great deal. If not then… I don’t really know why someone would play it. This was sort of supposed to be a trip down memory lane for me and the more I played it the more I felt like it was just sort of obsolete. It used to be a gem, but it’s such a product of its time that it’s sort of a relic now. Make no mistake, if you happen to have this game or find it in the five dollar bin of your local game shop it’s definitely worth a purchase. But in terms of Gameboy games it’s almost as fun as Tetris. And as we all know Tetris was the best thing that happened to the Gameboy since… well… Tetris.

Next Week: Unholy Heights

Sonny 1 and 2 (Flash Game)

 

In a modern world where magic is real and the undead are commonplace you assume control of one of the legion of the undead. But you are not a nameless shambling monster. You are Sonny, with a mind all your own. You’ve come to on a ship alongside a blind man bent on mentoring you. His mentorship is cut short by the by the bullets of the Zombie Pest Control Incorporation — or ZPCI for short. With his final moments he gives Sonny a tape that he says is certain to help him. Sonny takes the tape to civilization meeting the acquaintance of a ZPCI medic who is secretly a zombie in full gear, a fellow by the name of Veradux.

History

The Sonny series was created by Flash game veteran Krin. Known best for his Senjid series, his games generally involve ability trees, straight forward quests, unanswered mysteries, and equipment as character advancement. Popular on sites like Kongregate and Armor Games — some content is locked to the Armor Games client which makes sense considering Krin is a business partner with Armor Games. It is believed by fans that Sonny 3, coming out later this October, will reveal a lot of the questions in the Sonny series.

Sonny 1 was released on December 28th, 2007 and Sonny 2 was released on December 19th, 2008. They had competition like Beowulf: The Game (PSP), Knights: Journey of Dreams (Wii), Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP), and Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories.

Experiences

When I was younger I found the story of the Sonny games incredibly engrossing. What was on that tape? Why was a blind man on that ship? Did he revive Sonny? Why do Sonny and Veradux have sentience when most zombies don’t? Great questions but in my recent playthrough it seems more obvious that these questions may never be answered. And if they are I’m not confident that it will be satisfying. Between Sonny’s sudden and murderous mood swings, paradoxical character dialogue, and the sheer number of questions I have at the end of Sonny 2 I have serious doubts. I guess what I’m saying is play this game young and forget this section if you want to enjoy the games fully.

Gameplay

Sonny 1 and 2 are turn based RPGs where Sonny must mow through hordes of enemies and bosses with the accompaniment of AI companions. Sonny can acquire a series of abilities based on his class and how the player distributes his ability points along his skill trees. These skills can then be equipped to one of eight slots on an action ring around the opponent, or around Sonny or his allies for buffs.

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It’s tricky to explain but really slick in execution.

Every area has a shop where Sonny can acquire sub-par gear, fight training fights where Sonny can get that sweet sweet XP and get gear that actually matters, and fight in plot fights where Sonny can continue the story with yet another fight. Sonny 2 also introduces the ability to alter AI companions basic behavior by setting their ‘stance’. This subtly alters their AI and sets them to be more or less offensive or defensive in their ability use.

The Gush

Each of the classses does a good job of being effective in combat in their own way. Figuring out how they work and what ability combinations work together are fun and satisfying. It’s a pity though that The Hydraulic class is locked to the Armor Games version but considering the relationship between Krin and Armor Games it’s not surprising. And just for the record, my preferred class is the Psychological.

I don’t know why but my favorite character in the series is Ed Spencer. Don’t remembe Ed? Haven’t met him yet?

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He’s that guy by the blue glowing thingy.

Motherfucker doesn’t give a shit that he’s talking to a goddam zombie. He just wants to get from A to B on the train. He’s got artifacts for sale and I’m not gonna bother haggling and I’m definitely not going to steal from this guy because he’s the only living thing on this train and that frightens me.

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Even when the train derails and he’s all messed up he’s pretty stoic about the experience

The voice acting, cut-scenes, and visuals are overall far better than I would expect from a flash game. Even though Veradux will often say, “I’m gonna knock you silly” three times in some fights the dialogue is usually well delivered if simple. I’m tickled pink hearing Veradux say, “Agh! There’s a knife in my face… again!”

 

The Kvetch

Now if only the character motivations made any goddam sense. Sonny seems like a decent guy but sometimes it seems he chooses to murder defenseless people simply because RPG combat demands that his opponents die. Even though battles commonly end with some dialogue and a fade to black. I just can’t draw a bead on who Sonny or any of the characters really is and because of that I don’t know who to root for or why.

I have no idea what my allies are capable of. Well, I know what their techniques are but I don’t know how the stats conferred by their equipment alter the effectiveness of these techniques. I keep giving them higher leveled equipment but I have no idea whether its helping anything or not.

As far as I’m concerned the story is total word salad at this point. I don’t know who Louis was. I don’t know why the tape was important. I don’t know why Sonny and a few other undead are sentient. And at this point and I just don’t care. Most of this story telling is really tropey and created with the thought of , “Oh man, wouldn’t it be cool!” Wouldn’t it be cool if the mentor in the first game was a blind man who could smell zombies? Wouldn’t it be cool if there was this mysterious object that holds the key to Sonny’s future? Sonny 3 is going to have to try really hard to tie everything together.

The Verdict

The game is pretty good! I might not like the story any more but the systems are so deep that I’m more than willing to overlook that. I love tinkering around with my kit and build especially in the face of special and unique bosses or interesting enemies. I’m actually pretty excited for Sonny 3 to come out. I hope it’s good and ties everything together but I have serious doubts. Like the others in this series, this game is completely free.

Next Week: Au Sable

Super Mario World

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Introduction

After Mario, our portly italian plumber, defeated the mighty Bowser and rescued the Princess Toadstool (For the second time). Our hero has decided to take a vacation on Dinosaur Island. Bowser has capture the princess and Mario has to save her by finding his castle and defeating the large, armored, turtle, man, thing. Marvel as Mario jumps on enemies and… jumps to avoid other enemies and obstacles. (Jumping is kind of his thing, but when I think of it Mario seems like a man with a hammer to whom all problems are nails.)

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I never really considered how difficult it is to describe what this guy looks like. He’s sort of a turtle… but not.

Development

I was able to find shockingly little amounts of information about the development of Nintendo’s signature charactered launch title for their new system. I can say that it was lead and produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Mario series and The Legend of Zelda games. It took him three years to make the game with a team of only 16 people. (Even with studios having small dev teams, this team feels really small to me.) This was the first game to include Mario’s faithful steed, the dinosaur Yoshi. It was impossible for Yoshi to be rendered satisfyingly or for the mechanics to function on the NES. Miyamoto said, “We were finally able to get Yoshi of the drawing board with the SNES.” Miyamoto’s other words on the work as a whole were, “The game is incomplete, and got rushed a little at the end,” hoping that the system would allow more story and emotional connection with the player, but more on that later.

 

Super Mario World was released on November 21st of 1990 against F-Zero, Mega Man 3 for NES, and Ultima VI: The False Prophet for PC.

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It seems so alone with nothing near it in the great ocean. I now notice that it’s only got 5 colors or so.

Nostalgia

This game was the common denomenator for all of the kids that owned a SNES or knew someone that owned an SNES because it came with the system. I played this game with my father, with my cousin Zack, and any friend that stopped by and wanted to. I could go to school and ask anyone whether they preferred the flying and gliding power of the cape or the fireball shooting powers of the fire flower and they’d know what I was talking about. This sparked a debate with my father that was so strong, he preferred the cape and I prefered the fire flower (It was only because I couldn’t figure out how to glide right, but I wasn’t willing to tell him that.)

My grandmother even played this game! Hell, she’s the one that told me how to find the Top Secret Area, a place with ever spawning mushrooms, capes, flowers, and Yoshi. I never asked her how she found it and I still don’t know. Although, now that I think about it, she may have purchased it to coax the grand children into being more eager to visit her home in the middle of the country. We may not have been the best grand children.

I really like the music in this game. When I figured out that it was all the same melody but performed in different styles it blew my mind! The ghost house music scared me so badly that I had to have a parent in the room when I played those levels.

This was the first game that I 100% completed. I found every single level and beat the secret stages hidden on the star road. (A feat that I can’t accomplish today. Hell, I still can’t find the Green Switch Palace for some reason). And I was able to do it all by the seed of my own wit and with some playground hearsay (Alright, I admit. My father helped me out sometimes. Even if it was just a “check out that part of the map.”). When the color pallette and character sprites changed cemented in my mind that I must have done it all. I think this was the first experience that if I did all the things then I got cool stuff. Which would lead me down a road of trying to do everything in a game to see what cool (Now irrelevant, considering that I had done everything) stuff I would get.

That being said, I don’t really have any moments of supreme triumph besides that. I don’t remember jumping off the couch when I beat Bowser for the first time. I don’t remember being low on lives and super stoked to have taken out a boss. I don’t remember feeling really clever that I had found the hidden area in the middle of the ocean. I don’t have this sort of report with the game and I feel like I should.

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And then when I put all the areas together and see all the enemies I realize, this place is really weird.

The Gush

I can see what Miyamoto meant when he said that the game lacked story and emotion though. It doesn’t really improve on the “Bowser captures the Princess” plot that Super Mario Brothers 1 and 3 had. I still don’t know more about the Princess or Bowser as characters. I don’t know why he keeps kidnapping her and I don’t know why Mario feels obliged to save her. (Wait, I know. He’s doing it all for all those sweet pecks on the cheek!)

When I was five years old I was content to jump around and swim and explore and even though I can’t remember where all the stuff is I’m not compelled to look for it again. I’ve tried playing it through to completion since and I just can’t continue. I beat the second boss and then I’m just done. I can’t find it in me to continue. There’s no spark of childlike joy.

Maybe it’s because I beat the game 100%, I already know that I did it. I know that I’ve done everything in the game, or close enough to it for my liking. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the gameplay, I’m an older player and I’m looking for something new and/or interesting. Jumping just isn’t enough any more. Maybe it’s because the bosses aren’t very memorable, I remember Bowser and the first boss and that’s it. (I remember Reznor as well. But come on, you fight those guys four times or something).

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That’s a really small planet. No wonder Mario can jump so high, less gravity.

The Verdict

Super Mario World is a classic. It’s got tons of secrets and a great variety of gameplay. But I can’t bring myself to play it any more. I’ve got my fuzzy (Both fun and distant) memories and I can’t yearn for more from it. The game is good, but simple. So simple that it’s sort of lost my interest.

 

Next Week: Shadowrun, for the Sega Genesis.