Ah, the ’90s. The era of attitude. Or, more specifically, the era of everyone spontaneously and inexplicably wishing they were Californian.
Video games certainly weren’t exempt from this trend at all, though various different titles from the era took their attitude towards, uh, “‘tude” more seriously than others.
One noteworthy game from the early ’90s that simultaneously acknowledged the popularity of California-style attitude as well as poking fun at the inherent absurdity of it all — particularly the disconnect between your stereotypical video game nerd and what one would think of as a “cool dude” — was Johnson Voorsanger Productions’ ToeJam & Earl, published by Sega for the Mega Drive in 1991.
Continue reading Mega Drive Essentials: ToeJam and Earl
A lot of games that really stand the test of time are based on a very simple idea.
This is particularly apparent in the puzzle game genre, which typically involves little more than matching shapes and colours in one form or another. And indeed said genre is home to some absolutely timeless classics that are still getting rereleases and reimaginings today.
One puzzler from the early days of gaming that often seems to get forgotten, however, is Sega’s Columns — and that’s a bit of a shame, because it’s an interesting twist on the usual falling block puzzle format.
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Columns
What happened to ninjas? I feel like they were unironically cool in the ’90s, and that they were everywhere.
Perhaps they simply learned that being highly visible is not an especially desirable characteristic for a ninja, and thus deliberately relegated themselves to the world of overly tryhard “wacky!” memes alongside pirates, dinosaurs and zombies. Put them all together and you get LOL SO RANDOM, yo. And these days, everyone wants to ignore that nonsense. The perfect cover.
Anyway, here’s Shadow Dancer for the Mega Drive, a 1990 release from Sega and one of the first games I ever played on the system.
Continue reading Mega Drive Essentials: Shadow Dancer
You know a console generation has truly reached maturity when it gets a compilation of Mega Drive games.
Sega’s library of 16-bit classics must surely, by now, be some of the most frequently officially and legally emulated games of all time — and yet we keep getting these packages. And people keep buying them. People like, yes, me.
So is this latest bundle of games worth picking up? Well, read on and find out — and over the course of the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at the individual games in the compilation in more detail, too, through the Mega Drive Essentials column.
Continue reading Sega Mega Drive Classics: Yes, It’s That Time Again
Once upon a time, there was a funny little fighting game on PlayStation called Ehrgeiz.
Ehrgeiz was noteworthy for a number of reasons: its high-resolution graphics; its beautifully slick framerate; its inclusion of Final Fantasy VII characters in its roster… and the bizarre inclusion of a full-on dungeon-delving action RPG mode.
If you have fond memories of that particular aspect of Ehrgeiz, then you’re most certainly going to want to check out Crimson Tears, since it’s by the same developer (DreamFactory) and expands that concept into its own distinct experience. And, given the apparently enduring popularity of games with roguelike elements, it’s a game that remains impressively relevant even today.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Crimson Tears
One of my favourite things about video games is the possibility to simulate things that have their roots in “reality”, but then extend that simulation to something that would be physically impossible or at least impractical to do.
Flipnic, a 2003 release for PS2 that was originally developed by Sony but, oddly, localised and brought West by Ubi Soft, of all people, takes this approach with pinball. While your average real-world pinball table is… well, roughly table-sized, Flipnic’s “tables”, if it’s even accurate to call them that, are absolutely enormous, frequently gravity-defying and full of contraptions that would make Heath Robinson proud.
It’s a bizarre game and no mistake… but well worth giving a bit of time to, particularly if you reckon yourself as a bit of a pinball wizard.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Flipnic
A common criticism raised by people who have arbitrarily decided for one reason or another that they are “anti-Nintendo” is that the company relies too much on rehashing old ideas, particularly when it comes to its “big” franchises.
This is, of course, nonsense, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the company’s flagship Super Mario series. The portly plumber’s past few adventures have included a simple but enjoyable mobile game that eschews gacha nonsense in favour of accessible mechanics, a full-on construction kit with online functionality, a vast but highly accessible, level-based 3D platform adventure with the option to play in cooperative multiplayer and a challenging 2D platform adventure later expanded with an even more difficult set of levels. And this is to say nothing of how the series has continually reinvented itself over the years.
Super Mario Odyssey for Nintendo Switch continues Mario’s proud tradition of starring in an enormously varied series of games that cater to the tastes of both casual and hardcore gamers alike. And it’s one of his best games to date.
Continue reading Switch Essentials: Super Mario Odyssey