Sunday, 19 March 2017

Net Yaroze Round Up Vol. 10!

Dot Kuzushi
You can probably figure from this game's title that it's a Breakout clone. I can only assume from playing it that it's also a very unfinished one,as it has almost everything wrong with it, both mechanically and technically, that can be wrong with a game of this type. Firstly, it seems that every brick requires multiple hits to break, and since each brick (in the first stage at least, though I gave up on the game after fifteen minutes of neither progressing or failing) represents a pixel in an old arcade sprite, there are lots of them. To make matters worse, the ball behaves strangely in various ways, all of which are to the game's detriment. It moves very, very slowly  and never speeds up, and rather than travelling in straight lines, it moves in kind of fluttering zigzags. Worst of all, the ball will sometimes just harmlessly pass through the blocks as if they weren't there at all. It is without ambiguity that I strongly recommend never wasting a second of your time on this game.

Come Baa
This is a game that could probably only have been made in the UK, as it adapts a sport/occupation that was once, long long ago, a televised event that drew millions of viewers here: sheep herding with a dog. Come Baa has you controlling a dog in a 3D field, trying to chase sheep into a pen. It's very fiddly though, and after a few minutes of playing, I'd only made the sheep spread out all over the field even more, and had to give up. It's an original idea, and it looks pretty nice as Yaroze games go, but unfortunately, it's near-impossible to actually play.

Hardwire
This is a Tetris-style shape-arranging puzzle game, though it lacks a certain elegance and simplicity that make it hard to figure out at first. The walls and floor of the pit have lots of wire ends, and each block in every tetromino has a piece of wire, either cross- or L-shaped.To make blocks disappear, you have to connect two of the wall/floor pieces and make a circuit. The catch is that the direction of the powerflow can only be changed by the L-shaped wireblocks. It's less compliated than I'm making it sound, honestly. Though Hardwire is a technically sound game that does make sense once you've figured it out, it's not actually very fun to play. Gorby no Pipeline Daisakusen does a similar idea, and it does it much better.

Databugs
Easily one of the nicest-looking Yaroze games I've seen, I'm surprised this one got the tiny bit of extra polish it would have needed to be released on magazine coverdiscs. What it actually is is a slot car-style racing game in which the cars are little technological minibeasts, and the track is the insides of a computer. Like I said, it looks great: it's got cute little low poly models and great use of bold, bright colours on a black background. The only problem with it is that it's too accurate an adaptation of slot car racing, by which I mean that it's almost impossible to keep your car on the track without slowing to an absolute crawl when approaching corners. Worth a quick play for the great graphics, but not much more.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Bermuda Triangle (Arcade)

Some of SNK's pre-NeoGeo games are well-remembered, and much-loved, like Athena, or the Ikari Warriors series. Bermuda Triangle, by contrast, is neither remembered or liked. This is half an injustice, as though it definitely doesn't deserve to be liked, it should at least be remembered for being one of the most bizarrely-designed shooting games there is.

To start with, it uses a rotary joystick, which is only strange from our modern point of view, because no games have really used them since the late 80s, which is when this game was released, and when SNK had a minor fascination with the device, releasing (as far as I'm aware) more rotary joystick-controlled games than anyone else. But as I said, it's only a starting point, and though at first glance, Bermuda Triangle looks like a generic late 80s shooting game, it has a whole bunch of weird gimmicks thrown in.

So, your ship. The first thing you'll notice about it is that it's huge, big enough that avoiding enemies and their shots is a lot more difficult than it is enjoyable. Then, as you play, it'll keep changing form. This is because your health bar and the power of your weapons are linked: when you collect power ups, you gain health, and when you get hit, you lose power. When your ship gains or loses enough health to have its weapon power go up or down, it also changes form. Coupled with the fact that your ship is huge and will be getting hit a lot until you get used it, along with the fact that power ups appear seemingly at random, this all adds up into a baffling experience for the first-time player. With this, I can at least see what they were trying to do here: the idea of a form-changing ship is pretty cool, and the concept of weapon power and health being linked makes sense from a thematic standpoint, if not one of game balance. It's just the execution and a lack of explanation that really let the game down here.

Bermuda Triangle's other big weird mechanic is the way you play through the stages. First, you fly up the stage, like you would do in any other vertically-scrolling shooter. But then, you reach the top, and start going backwards, back down the stage, still fighting off enemies (using the rotary joystick, or whatever substitute you've configured for yourself in MAME to turn your ship's gun around). THEN, when you get back to the start, you fly up the stage a second time, with different enemy layouts than the first time, and at the end of this run, you fight the boss. It does this for every stage, and I really have no idea what the developers could have been thinking with this. Was it a way of trying to force players to change their firing direction? Was it just an attempt at making stages longer without having to draw more background graphics? Whatever the reason was, it falls on its face. It's annoying, it doesn't make any sense, it's a bad move all round.

I really can't recommend playing Bermuda Triangle, and I find it strange that it was released. It feels like some kind of experimental game that might have been made internally to try out a bunch of ideas the devs had, but it was actually released into arcades, though presumably, not many, and not for very long.