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Vote Toejam & Earl August 14, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Retro, XBLA.
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Long story short, go HERE and vote for Toejam & Earl. Sega have set up a poll to decide what game will be the next Sega Genesis Mega Drive released on XBLA. At the time of writing, shit, not-aged-well-at-all platformer Earthworm Jim is currently in the lead with a revolting 43% of the votes, and Toejam & Earl is second with 20%. You can read my thoughts on Earthworm Jim HERE.

Toejam & Earl on XBLA means much-needed quicksaves. The original game offered no ability to save over the twenty five-odd levels, and while quicksaves may make things far too easy of you are overly-cautious, they would be a welcome addition. Of course, online co-op is surely a dead-cert. The two-player co-op in the original was fantastic, a great game to play with a friend and just chill out to one of my favourite game soundtracks ever – funky bass and hip-hop beats.

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Jammin’.

Earthworm Jim, Or Why Nostalgia Can Be A Bad Thing May 14, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Feature, Rant, Retro, Wii.
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What happened here then? Back in the day I used to love this game on the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis, for the Yanks) and it was probably one of my post-played games on the system. I was attracted to it by it’s unique, cartoony visuals which stood out at the time. The character designs were great and I enjoyed the slapstick humour – things like whipping a crow with your body resulting in an explosion of feathers and a beak always raised a smile. Earthworm Jim 1The platforming aspects were decent and overall the gameplay was fun.

Fast-forward fifteen years or so and I have 800 spare Wii points on the Shopping Shopping channel. while browsing through the available Mega Drive games I came across Earthworm Jim and decided to buy it, remembering how much I had enjoyed it previously all those years ago. A few minutes later and I find it to be a very frustrating experience. The movement and controls in general felt clunky and awkward. The enemies annoying and cheap, the first boss in particular was a right pain in the ass and just seemed to soak up the damage I was doing to him. The visuals and sound effects (especially the whipping noise) were still as good as I remembered, but on the whole, it wasn’t the brilliant platformer I loved back in the day.

Of course back when I first played it I was a hell of a lot more forgiving for all the negatives previously mentioned, and very naive. Earthworm Jim 2Looking back on the game, and from what I’ve got after playing it again, it’s just an average platformer living off it’s impressive visuals and quirky characters. I wonder how well received a similar game would be today on  XBLA or WiiWare, for example. Would people be as forgiving now as they were back then? Surely not. I also played the sequel on the Mega Drive but my memory of that is rather hazy, all I remember was a section where you became a blind cave salamander for some reason or other. Incidentally my experience with this game on the Virtual Console has probably put me off of buying the sequel when it is inevitably released. Also, it’s worth adding that the Earthworm Jim cartoon was fantastic. Pokemon aside (that was in a league of its own, obviously) this was probably the most faithful game-to-cartoon adaptation I ever watched, the theme tune was great.

Punch-Out Knocks Your Block Off April 13, 2009

Posted by Matthew in Retro, Review, Wii.
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You see, the “block” in the post title refers to the blocks on the Wii’s memory system. Amazing. I don’t know how much blocks Punch-Out takes up, but it costs 500 points from the Wii’s Virtual Console – that’s around £3.50 in real money. While on the surface it looks like your typical boxing game, it’s anything but. Punch-Out

It’s more about learning the opponents routine, then reacting and dodging their attacks. The controls are simple, one button for your left arm and another for the right, the d-pad controls whether you throw a hook or body bunch, and also controls your dodge and block. Most opponents show a visual clue before they attack e.g. Pistion Honda raises his eyebrows before throwing a special punch. Your character, Little Mac, can block these attacks but at the expense of losing health and stamina. Dodging the attacks and swiftly countering with a punch of your own is the way to play. If you hit an opponent at the right time, you will gain the ability to use a star uppercut – Little Mac’s special move that deals out substantially more damage and can knock out opponents in a single hit if their stamina is low enough.

Your goal is to rise up the ranks and ultimately win the heavyweight championship. Each stage consists of up to three rounds with you either winning by accumulating a certain amount of points, or by causing a TKO. If you lose the match you are kicked back to the previous rank and three losses mean it’s game over. Naturally, your opponent in the title fight is much harder than the standard opponents. They don’t offer as much hints as to when they are going to attack, and they do a hell of a lot more damage when they connect. Each time you win the respective divisStole my bike!ion’s title, you are given a password to save your progress and start where you left off.

Despite how basic it is, this game oozes charm and character – and that’s what I love about it. The big, bold, 8-bit character sprites have survived the test of time and look great blown up on my 32″ LCD TV. The gameplay has that important “one-more-go” factor. Landing punches on your opponent and ultimately knocking them out with a star uppercut is just so satisfying, and the accompanying sound effect, along with the animation, adds to the games comedy factor. Also, the cameo of Mario as the referee is a nice little touch.

This is the first Punch-Out game I have played, and on the basis of this I will definitely be buying Super Punch-Out as well. I’m also a lot more hyped for the upcoming Wii version which looks better every time I see it, and it seems to have the same endearing qualities that make me enjoy the NES version so much. Punch-Out

To finish this off, for only 500 points you are getting a genuine NES classic, and one of the best NES games I’ve played. Despite how basic it initially seems, learning the opponents move patterns and quickly reacting requires a lot of skill. It ads a degree of depth to the game that will keep you coming back for more.

8/10

Super Famicom Wii Classic Controller April 16, 2008

Posted by Matthew in Retro, Wii.
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Want one. Available to Platinum Club Nintendo members in Japan I think but I’ll probably end up paying some ridiculous price for it on Ebay or wherever.