Today’s Atari 8-Bit game shows us that even back in the 1980s, programmers weren’t above churning out something just to make a quick buck.
Enter Henri by one Adam Billyard, a developer who would later go on to produce great things for The English Software Company — specifically the technically stunning (but exceedingly irritating) racer Elektra Glide, and the well-animated one-on-one fighting game Chop Suey.
At the time he put out Henri, however, he was just trying to scrape together enough money for his air fare to get home. The result was a competent, if relatively unremarkable Mr. Do! clone. I hope you like the sound of Bach…
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Every Extend Extra is a game that defies easy description. Is it a shoot ’em up? Is it a puzzle game? Yes. And no. And… uh…
For those familiar with the work of Tetsuya Mizuguchi and Q Entertainment, it is somewhat par for the course in that it is developed around the concept of “synaesthesia” — the subconscious connections that some people make between different sensory inputs, in this case sound, visuals and “touch” of sorts through gameplay.
But for everyone else, it’s an initially baffling experience that, before long, becomes utterly compelling and fiendishly addictive.
I’ve always had a soft spot for block-breakers, ever since Arkanoid on the Atari 8-bit, and Puchi Carat makes me happy in all the right ways.
Combining elements of traditional classic block-breakers with mechanics from puzzle games such as the Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move series, it’s an enormously addictive, highly unusual game that is simultaneously unique and absolutely representative of the time in which it came out.
In short, if you like adorable late ’90s anime style characters, coloured things going “pop” and gameplay that is as much about skill as it is about intelligence, Puchi Carat is definitely a game that you should check out.
Magical Drop III, first released in 1997, is widely regarded as the best installment in Data East’s series of frantic puzzlers.
The series as a whole is noteworthy in that it provides a distinctly more fast-paced take on what is typically regarded as a relatively sedate genre, but Magical Drop III took the core mechanics established in its early incarnations, polished them to a fine sheen and created one of the most addictive puzzle games of all time… not to mention the origin of the “Fairy Bounce” meme.
Magical Drop III got released on all manner of platforms, but today we’re primarily concerned with the European PlayStation release, which includes a port of the Saturn version, itself somewhat rebalanced from the arcade and Neo Geo versions, as well as a port of Magical Drop Plus 1!, an enhanced version of the first game in the series that was originally released in the West as Chain Reaction.
You’ve almost certainly played Zoo Keeper at one point or another over the years.
Originally developed as a Web-based game by Tokyo-based animation studio Robot Communications, Zoo Keeper was subsequently ported by developer-publisher Success to a variety of platforms over the years, including Nintendo DS, 3DS, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Android and PlayStation 2.
The latter of these, inexplicably rebranded to the even more generic-sounding Zoo Puzzle (or, more accurately, the questionably punctuated Zoo “Puzzle”)in Europe by publisher 505 GameStreet, is the one we’re primarily concerned with today.
Demolishing buildings, for example, is a theme that we’ve seen a few times over the years, most notably in Midway’s classic arcade game Rampage, though you might not think this inherently destructive activity is the best fit for the rather cerebral puzzle game genre.
You would, however, be wrong, as Kadokawa Shoten’s PlayStation 2 puzzler Detonator aptly demonstrates.
We’re enjoying a bit of a puzzle game renaissance at the moment.
While we’re not quite at the same level as we were in the 8-, 16- and 32-bit eras, where puzzle games would happily share retail shelf space with 100+ hour RPG epics (Puyo Puyo Tetris aside), we are at least starting to see more and more puzzle games that aren’t free-to-play mobile titles primarily designed to repeatedly part you from your cash rather than providing a well-balanced, fun experience.
One interesting game that may well have passed you by owing to its low price and seemingly low production values is Hell Girls from Taiwanese circle SakuraGame. And you should most definitely give it a look!
Have you heard the tale of FromSoftware, dear reader? Legend has it that long ago, in the dim and distant past, these renowned scribes were more than just “the people who made Souls games”.
Joking aside, the company’s past output is quite a bit more diverse than you might expect if you only became aware of it in the last couple of console generations. In particular, the first two PlayStation eras represented FromSoftware at its most experimental, with its games running the gamut from Souls’ spiritual predecessor King’s Field to mech sim series Armored Core.
Perhaps the most surprising of FromSoftware’s games from this era, though, given their present reputation for “dark and moody”, is a rather peculiar PlayStation 2 game released in Japan and Europe as Kuri Kuri Mix, and The Adventures of Cookie and Cream in the States.
Today’s puzzle game of choice is one that there is, unfortunately, no real easy way to get hold of legally any more, but it holds extremely fond memories for me regardless.
The game in question is Sega’s Baku Baku Animal, which I first came into contact with back in 1997 when I was doing my Year 10 work experience at PC Zone magazine in London. This was an era when Sega was just starting to experiment with PC ports of its popular arcade games, with varying results.
Baku Baku Animal was one of this initial batch and, like the CD-ROM version of Puzzle Bobble (featuring full Redbook audio!),which had also come into the office around the same time, managed to bring much of the office to a standstill for quite a while, even dragging the most hardcore Quake-heads away from their daily deathmatches for a while.
Although the abstract nature of the puzzle game genre makes it theoretically possible to make a game out of pretty much anything, we tend to see a lot of the same sort of thing.
In particular, over the years, we’ve seen a lot of “match dropping things so that their colours match”, “swap things around to make lines of three like-coloured doohickies” and “shoot bubbles at precarious arrangements to make groups of three like-coloured blobs”. As such, it’s always rather pleasing to come across a game that does something a little different from one of these common conventions favoured by the most popular titles in the genre.
Starsweep, a game that originated in Japanese arcades and was subsequently ported to PlayStation and Game Boy, is just the ticket to refresh the jaded puzzle fan.