Ten Minute Game Review: RetroBonanza!

Or, not so much one ten minute game review as ten one minute game reviews!

It has been some time since I’ve bothered to pen a ten minute game review. Some of that has been a matter of timing, but if I’m being frankly honest, it’s been because my retro gaming area was a mess. A big, fat, ugly mess, with cables twisting around cables twisting around joypads that were twisting around cables with consoles placed on top of them, randomly sprinkled with (as I discovered), Voodoo Vince (who should probably sue Sackboy), Idéfix (look it up, non-francophiles!), yet more twisted cables and power supplies. Oh, and cables.
Twisted cables suck, and in a burst of efficiency last Sunday (and not, as might be reasonably assumed, because it was too hot to go outside and do anything. Heck, it was too hot to stay inside and do anything, but nobody ever assumed I was sensible. Well, not twice, anyway) I cleaned the retro gaming area, and with a lot of patience and a few extension cables, plugged everything in.
And a great feeling of self-satisfaction was mine for the having. Here’s a shot of what it looks like now.


If I point out that that entire cabinet, prior to this, was a crawling terror of cables and muck, and entirely full, you’d get the start of an idea as to the scope of the job.
Anyway, having plugged everything in, a thought struck me. I’d just spent several hours of detangling and plugging, and possibly for systems that no longer functioned at all.
A moment’s silence, if you would, for my Amiga 500, which is no longer with us. War has, indeed, never been so much fun.
Anyhow, the practical solution was only a shelf away. Test the systems with some games. One game per system. Not quite ten minutes total play time, probably more, but ten systems and basically one minute’s appraisal of each once loaded.
Are you sitting comfortably? Right… start the countdown… NOW!

Game #1: Outlaw
Format: Atari 2600, PAL
My copy is: Surprisingly Boxed
It’s got to be said.. Outlaw’s not that great. But my own personal history means I can’t sell it; just before I got married, my two best men and I sat down, three days prior to the wedding, with a mission. Play through one attempt at each non-RPG game in my collection, starting with the 2600 games. As long as we were quick, it should be possible. Then Outlaw got popped in, and its simple deathmatch-style game (hey, it was the mid 70’s!) ate up several precious gaming hours. Hence, I can’t get rid of it. I’m not allowed to. Also, BANG!
One minute game verdict: A keeper. Surprisingly addictive
That's one bad lookin' Hombre. Now rendered in blockyvision.
Game #2: Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Format: NES, PAL
My copy is: Cartridge Only
Remember that awesome bit right at the start of T2? You know the one… where an incredibly fat Arnie lookalike gets the crap beaten out of him, time and time again by an incredibly flickery bike gang, over and over again until your eyes bled? No? Really? Well, there’s a reason for that — IT DIDN’T HAPPEN EXCEPT IN THIS TERRIBLE EXCUSE FOR A MOVIE-TIE-IN GAME!
One minute game verdict:
I’m pretty sure this came my way as part of a job lot of games. Easy come, easy go — and easily this will go on the eBay sell pile.
Game #3: Bubble Bobble
Format: Master System, PAL
My copy is: Cartridge Only
Let’s see.. possibly the greatest version (if you don’t count the flicker) of one of my all-time-favourite arcade games, with password level saving, a bonus 100 levels for if I get bored (unlikely) and zero loading times. What do you think the odds are that I’d sell it?
One minute game verdict: Can’t give a verdict. Too busy playing Bubble Bobble.
Game #4: WWF In Your House
Playstation, PAL
My Copy Is: Boxed
I have a strange relationship with wrestling games, as some rather nervous PR people found out last week when they offered to show me the upcoming Wrestlemania Legends game. In that I know far too much about them, and have played too many of them. As such, despite having not played IYH for about, ooh, seven years or so, I completed the arcade mode without losing a single match. It’s not challenging — the truth be told, it’s not terribly good overall — but critically, it’s one of very few games of its era to give you the option to beat the tar out of the Ultimate Warrior. Just don’t ask how the tar got in there in the first place.
One minute game verdict: A wrestling game — these are safe in the Alex vaults almost by default, but if it wasn’t, it’d be eBayed for being too easy.
Game #5: X-Men: Children Of The Atom
Sega Saturn, PAL
My copy is:
Capcom’s Marvel deal of the mid 90’s led to a whole host of Street Fighter-alikes, and this was (to the best of my memory) the first one. As such, it does feel a little slow and clunky, and the game’s roster is a touch on the small side. I must be getting worse at one on one fighters, too, as the game whipped me from pillar to post each and every time I tried to play it. It’s still remarkably good fun, though, and it’s a great argument for why emulation just doesn’t cut it. There’s no way at all that this is likely to pop up on XBLA or Wii or PSN, partly due to file sizes, but mostly because the number of interested parties with rights (or partial rights) to the licence would make it impossible. What I like to think of as the “GoldenEye” principle.
One minute game verdict: A solid keeper; we won’t see its like again.
Game #6: UFC
Dreamcast, PAL
My copy is: Boxed.
Speaking of games which were (to the best of my knowledge) the first of a series, we have the Dreamcast’s most brutal fighter. Possibly not the toughest, and clearly not the flashiest. Certainly not the one that’s most fondly remembered, but even after ten years, I like UFC. It’s got a good balance of fighting styles, a limb-based fighting mechanic that doesn’t just rip off Tekken, and matches that can switch up very quickly if players are good and understand the basic gameplay. Oddly enough, at the same event where I was worrying people with my wrestling game knowledge, the latest UFC game was shown. Naturally enough, it looks a whole lot better than this (you’d expect that), and it’d be unfair to give it a final judgement based off the single game I played of it — but it does have its work cut out to beat its own ancestor in my eyes.
One minute game verdict: Are you ready? Are YOU ready? Then let’s get it on! A knockout keeper.
Game #7: Final Fight
Format: Mega CD, PAL
My Copy is:
It occurs to me that anyone reading this might just think that I’m obsessed with hitting people. I’m really not that violent, but if you’re going to have a version of a classic arcade brawler, you may as well have the best version of a classic arcade brawler. And this is it. Next!
One Minute Verdict:
Possibly the best Mega-CD game I own. The competition isn’t that fierce, though.
Game #8: The Punisher
Megadrive, PAL
My Copy Is:
OK, maybe I do have a violence problem. I did just pick games at random from the shelf, however. Although the odd thing with this particular game is that it’s one of very few games I can’t honestly recall picking up. Maybe an eBay job lot when I was after something else? In any case, this is once again Capcom dusting off a game engine and slapping a licence on it. The game engine is more or less Final Fight, by way of Captain Commando, with Marvel’s gun-toting Frank Castle (and for pretty poorly explained reasons, Nick Fury as the second player) in a very arcade style game that doesn’t do much to show off the Megadrive’s strengths — but doesn’t really shame it either. The comic book references are cute, and while the AI is of its time (i.e it’s moronic), it’s enough fun to be worth keeping:
One minute verdict: Better than the Dolph Lundgren Punisher film of the same era. Then again, most things are.
Game #9: Zombies
My Copy is:
Boxed. It should be. I bought it new.
Zombies was inexplicably renamed from its much better US title (“Zombies Ate My Neighbours!”) for PAL release. I still don’t know why, as the full title gives a much better impression of how silly this is. Take one part Smash TV, one part Gauntlet, one part Robotron 2084 and wrap it all up in every monster movie cliche you can name, and then some. Anyone who knows me will know how much I’m going to love that idea.
The one minute game verdict: You saved ten cheerleaders!
Game #10: WWF No Mercy
Format:N64, PAL
My Copy Is: Boxed
The weird thing? This game is nine years old, and since that time, at least a dozen wrestling games have been released — but this is still better. Yes, it’s blocky. Yes, due to a slight lack of practice and the fact it was still on Hard, I did lose a ladder match to the Road Dogg when I was playing as the Rock, which fundamentally indicates I’d slipped into some kind of alternate reality. But no wrestling game since has managed to combine fun with technical wrestling quite so well. Submissions work — and wear down real body parts. High flying works — it’s dangerous, but pull it off and the rewards are great. Weapons work, and can quickly finish matches. Heading backstage is fun, not tedious. I could go on and on and on.
One minute verdict: Go away. I’m busy.

Two final observations:

  1. All my consoles work. Hurrah!
  2. It took a LOT longer to type this up than it did to playtest them. I really should get some sleep.

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