terça-feira, 23 de setembro de 2014

Rock'n'Roll [1989, Commodore Amiga] Review - It's a Pixel THING

Developed and released in 1989 by Rainbow Arts, Rock’n’Roll was available for a bunch of systems, like the ZX Spectrum, the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, PC and Atari ST.

You’re looking at the Amiga version which, besides the fabulous gameplay, 
features music composed by the great Chris Hülsbeck.

In this action arcade puzzle game, there are 32 huge levels (plus 1 secret bonus level) divided across 7 continents where we control a ball with the mouse and the objective is to reach the exit in each one of them. But this apparently simple task can be, sometimes, really hard and stressful. Thankfully, the superb soundtrack keeps us tapping our foot on the floor making every level an awesome and extremely joyful adventure.

There’s numerous objects scattered throughout each level that help or hinder our path to the exit. These take the form of ventilators, which blow the ball away, magnets, which attract the ball, arrows, which roll the ball in a specific direction, etc. Many objects can also drain your energy. If you lose too much energy, your balls.. sorry, your ball will collapse.

You must avoid some occasional gaps on the surface that shows a nice parallax scrolling effect with the background. If you roll into one of these gaps, you will be dead, unless you happen to possess a little parachute. Prepare yourself to open it up before you hit the bottom and your ball will live to roll once again!

Besides the useful parachutes, there are other essential items for you to pick up, that will help you finish the level, like keys to open doors, armor for your ball, spikes to help you on ice, repair kits to fix gaps on the floor and bombs to blow up obtrusive barriers and uncover previously hidden sections of the walkway. But before you can collect any of the useful items, you must have some money to pay for them. Coins are left lying around on each level and, if you search carefully, you’ll also find valuable colored diamonds.

The ball rolls around very realistically and the programmers have got the inertia effect just right. The way the ball slips and slides over patches of ice and the way the view pans as the ball travels through pipes, are nice and extremely well done.

Rock’n’Roll is one of the most brilliantly addictive games I’ve ever come across!
Backed up by impressive graphics and a great soundtrack, Rock’n’Roll is a must for everyone who enjoys arcade puzzle games.

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sábado, 13 de setembro de 2014

Rick Dangerous [1989, Amiga / ZX Spectrum / C64 / DOS] Review - It's a Pixel THING

As the developers themselves admit, this title was heavily based on the Indiana Jones adventures. As the game starts, you’re immediately chased by a giant boulder, just like in the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of The Lost Ark.

Developed by Core Design and published, in 1989, by Firebird Software, it was available for the greatest machines of the time: Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Amstrad CPC and the ZED X Spectrum. This was the first original game created by Core Design who later became famous for the success of their Tomb Raider franchise. Thinking of that, is Rick Dangerous the biological father of Lara Croft?.. Hummmm…

Part time hero and stamp collector, Rick Dangerous is hunger for adventure. Set in 1945, he hears a rumor about a lost tribe somewhere on the Amazon jungle. He plans his trip and, moments before landing, something went wrong with the airplane. A normal thing to happen when you travel air-penguin! Rick’s plane crash lands in the jungle right in the spot where the tribe was supposed to be lost! The Goolu people felt somewhat disturbed by the wreckage and starts hunting the adventurer down. Between all the mayhem, Rick Dangerous manages to get some ammo for his gun and also some dynamite to give the natives a taste of hell!

There are four levels of constant action and peril where Rick must avoid, at all costs, the hostile natives and countless traps. A good feature, kind of unique at the time, is the presence of reset points scattered throughout each level, so, if you lose a life, you won’t have to start the level all over again. Sadly, on the other hand, there’s no save option or a password that you could use later to pick up where you left off.

Level two is set in Egypt. Don’t know how he managed to travel from the Amazon jungle to this pyramid.. maybe there was a portal of some kind, just like in the ancient astronauts theory by Erich Von Daniken and one of its greatest supporter, Giorgio Tsoukalos.

After getting through the pyramid’s traps and foes, Rick sets off to recue some allied soldiers that are being kept in Castle Schwarzendumpf, a dangerous Nazi stronghold. Rick is able to jump and climb and can also carry a limited amount of ammo. Always remember that most of the traps that can kill you can also be used against the enemy! It’s very useful when you’re out of ammo.

After rescuing all soldiers, they tell us that the Nazis are planning a missile attack on London, so Rick has to infiltrate their secret missile base. If he successfully completes this last mission, Rick returns to London finding that the city is under attack by aliens! And this is the premise for its second installment: Rick Dangerous 2, released a year later, in 1990, that I personally didn’t enjoy much.

Back to Rick Dangerous One, and now examining the whole package, there’s a huge discrepancy between the cover art and the game’s cartoonish approach. Even the artwork on the instructions booklet is totally different from the box art. There was also an eight page comic book that introduces Rick and works as an intro to the game. As we can see, the original idea was to make a more serious game with Rick dangerously close to the Indiana Jones character.

To conclude, Rick Dangerous is a brilliant game that combines humorous graphics and devious gameplay. There are plenty of horrible shocks and surprises – when you think the coast is clear, a poisoned dart whizzes out of a hole in the wall or spikes pop up from the ground. There are also moving blocks, traps to puzzle out and pallets of angry enemies to dodge.

Graphical differences apart, Rick Dangerous plays identical on all formats and machines.

Try it! You won’t regret it!

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domingo, 7 de setembro de 2014

Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine [1999, PC/Windows] - It's a Pixel THING

Inside the box, with, by the way, a simple but superb illustration of Indy’s magnificence, we’ve got a jewel case containing the 2 CDs for its massive eight hundred megabytes of data for the full install of the game and, as well, its full color manual with the beautiful art of Drew Struzan, the guy responsible for the Indiana Jones, Stars Wars, Back to the Future, Harry Potter movie posters and also some of Alice Cooper’s cover albums.

Firstly, and in my honest opinion, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine is a huge overlooked gem.

Back in 1999, in a time where point-and-click adventure games have already died out its flame, Lucas Arts released the first 3D action adventure game based in Indy’s adventures. I remember that I was extremely anxious and really looking forward to grab this game at my first opportunity! And so I did!

Ok, you all know that I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan and that this game is kind of a poor Tomb Raider clone. But you have to agree that this in one hell of a good venture into the 3D action adventure game genre! Many people talks about how awkward the controls were, but I remember that this was also a problem in many 3D games of the time, Tomb Raider included.
The real facts are that Infernal Machine has an awesome and interesting story, capable of truly fantastic and memorable scenes and successfully captures the essence of Indiana Jones movies.

Remember Sophia Hapgood?.. Well, probably not like this!!.. You’ll most likely recognize her in this photo!.. Well, she’s back! And she’s with the CIA, now!

Project leader Hal Barwood, also responsible for Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis point-and-click adventure game, originally planned this new Indy title to have a plot based in UFOs and extraterrestrials, but this idea was vetoed by George Lucas because, at that time, he was already thinking of a similar story for a fourth Indiana Jones movie, later subtitled, as everyone knows, The Kindgom of the Crystal Skull and only released nine years later, in 2008.
Infernal Machine’s story is set in 1947, after the end of World War II where Indy was involved. While in his dig site in the CanyonLands, Indy is approached by Sophia who tells him that the Soviets are excavating the ruins of Babylon. They are searching for a weapon more powerful than the atomic bomb that would give ‘em an advantage in the Cold War that had already begun. Then, Indy is hired by Sophia to investigate first hand taking us on a fabulous journey around the world through 16 levels from Kazakhstan to the Philippines, Mexico, Sudan and many others.

Basically, in each level we’re required to kill enemies, jump or climb from platform to platform and search for the exit to advance to the next level. It’s that simple. But its execution is amazing and each area feels unique and true to the Indiana Jones movies.

Graphics for today’s standards can look really poor, but, back in the day they were beautifully designed. The exterior may seem a bit artificial, but, indoors, the level of detail is amazing. Also, in my opinion, Indy actually resembles Harrison Ford and its voice acting is superb and faithful to the man in the hat who has got really smooth movement animations as well.

Level design is also magnificent and really can take us on this great quest. There are plenty of different situations and you won’t be easily bored.
Needless to say that the musical score, by Clint Bajakian, is great and based on the original “Raiders March” from Raiders of the Lost Ark soundtrack, by John Williams. As for the sound effects, it helps to add a lot more atmosphere to this great game. The crisp and clean voice overs of the soviet characters and weapon effects were really impressive at the time!

A Nintendo 64 improved version was available in North America and never released in Europe due to continuous delays. For the record, it was on development for too long, about nineteen months, and was only released a year after the PC version had hit the shelves. It also featured some new sequenced musical pieces by my all-time favorite composer: Chris Hülsbeck.

The game’s variety of puzzles received good reviews by the press and the inclusion of a hint system and the film quality-like cut scenes were even applauded. The controls, on the other hand, were a bit infuriating and stressful for many players. But, what’s the rush? With such a good story and beautiful landscapes to explore, this game is to be taken slow trying to enjoy every bit of it, ‘cause there’s even Easter eggs to find!

After playing this game I felt the urgent need to watch all Indy movies all over again!  See ya, guys! I’ll be back soon!...

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