Sunday, 14 January 2018

Death Wish 3 (C64)

In case you aren't aware, this isn't the third in a series of games entitled Death Wish, but is a licensed game based on the third in a series of movies by that name, in which Charles Bronson plays a kind of vengeful war diety named Paul Kersey. The third movie sees him descend upon a version of New York that looks more like Rossington, where he falls in love with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter, then kill like a hundred people with a variety of guns and the assistance of other local pensioners.

Anyway, it's interesting because it's an incredibly early example of a popular 2010s genre: the open-world tidying game. That is, games in which you can freely roam about a huge map, and there are dots on the map representing things like bosses, minigames and so on that you're expected to tidy up. Obviously, the map isn't particularly big, and the dots only represent bosses (or rather, tactically significant enemies, since they're not any more difficult to kill than the regular enemies), but in principle it's the same. You play as Kersey, and you walk around New York, killing bad guys and avoiding the temptation to kill cops and old women (because doing so reduces your score significantly).

In the interests of simple, readable game design, there are actually only five kinds of people in Death Wish 3's portrayal of New York: cops, old women, criminals, large breasted women who occasionally stop to scratch their bums, and the mysterious guys who run in to clean all the corpses away. The last two types can't be killed, either. So you get points for killing criminals and lose them for killing old people and cops. There's also blinking dots on the map, usually inside buildings. These are the riot leaders, and you've got to get to them and kill them, which stops the current riot and gives you a couple of minutes of peace, quiet and boredom until the next one starts. You just do this until you either get killed by the criminals or you stop playing from boredom.

As already mentioned, it's an interesting concept to see in not only a game from over thirty years ago, but one that's also a throwaway movie license too. However, there's really only a few minutes of fun to be had, as once you've put down one riot, they don't get any harder or add new types of enemy or anything. Plus the way you navigate around the streets is really odd and took me a while to figure out: pressing up or down rotates your view by ninety degrees, and you really need to keep an eye on the map to be able to have a clue as to where you're going. I'd say give it a try, just for curiosity's sake, but don't expect to be glued to it, or to ever have the desire to return.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Silver Valley v1.00 (Master System)

I don't know what it is about the Master System, but for some reason, it seems to attract homebrew with really great production values. For example, a few years ago, there was an amazing port of the Bruce Lee game that was originally on various 8-bit microcomputers in the 1980s. Silver Valley continues that tradition, but this time, it's an all-new game! Just as a disclaimer, I'm assuming from the version number that this is probably the final version of the game, but I could be wrong.

It's a platformer that's clearly heavily inspired by the NES Castlevania games, with bits and pieces that suggest other influences too, such as Megaman, Ghouls and Ghosts, Wonderboy, and even the Switchblade games, which were kind of UK-developed attempts at creating Japanese-style console action games, but on the Amiga. It all feels as smooth as it looks, too: the controls are responsive and great, and you can jump, attack, and shuffle around on your knees. Technically and visually, this game can't be faulted: it's one of the best-looking games on the Master System, commercial or otherwise, and it all feels perfectly robust, too. AND there's even a little game-within-a-game in the form of a playable "Crapman" arcade cabinet,

There are a couple of little problems designwise, though. The enemies, for a start, almost all seem to be massive damage sponges, taking several hits to kill. There's also the lives system: you get one life (though you can take four hits before dying) and infinite continues. It might just be me, but it felt like this really cheapens things, with certain challenges like instant death spikes and almost unavoidable enemies appearing pretty close to the start of the game making it seem like the game wants you to use the continues, which I feel is a problem, because I just feel like using continues, especially when there's an infinite supply of them, drains all the joy out of any game. A change as simple as having three lives instead of just one would go a long way towards making this feel like a much more "complete" game.

I don't want to be too harsh on Silver Valley, because it's obviously a passion project for its creator, and it really is an admirable effort, too. But at the same time, I do have to be honest when I'm talking about a game, no matter what its source. I can only hope that if eruiz00 ever finds this review, they take it for the honest, constructive criticism it's intended to be, and that I hope they continue making games after they're done with Silver Valley, as it's clear they have a ton of talent. And everyone else reading this, I of course recommend you give the game a try, because despite its problems, it's still and impressive achievement.