Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

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I defy anyone to play BombJack and not like it, once they've gotten reasonably good at it. It's a game that nails core gameplay mechanics, truly rewarding those who persevere past the "this is too frustrating" stage. And the great thing is, with Franxis' latest (1.4) release of MameGP32 it now runs sweetly with sound.
Controls are simple: an 8-way joystick and a flap button. That button can be used 2 ways: hold it down and you'll leap to the top of the screen (or until you hit an obstacle). While leaping you can direct your flight, including up for more altitude. But here's the cool part, release the button and start hitting it like Joust and you will indeed flap around just like Joust. Unlike Joust you won't increase your altitude (you'll need to leap from another platform), instead simply arresting your fall and enabling a gliding motion if you're quick enough. So you can leap to any height, then flap your way to any point below that apex.
To complete the level you'll need to collect all the bombs that are scattered about. But here's the real trick: the very first bomb you collect will cause another bomb (usually very nearby) to have a lit fuse. Don't worry, it won't explode, but if you collect that bomb next (and continue to collect them in their 'lit' order) you can score a huge bonus at the end of the stage, as long as you collect 20 or more lit bombs. Once you get good at this you'll be collecting 50,000 bonus points (for 23 bombs, the maximum possible) in every level, and that really adds up quickly.
Also, when you collect 9 lit bombs you'll spawn a 'powercoin', which will bounce around the screen slowly. Grab this (trying to avoid unlit bombs!) and all monsters will freeze and be collectible for points. I'd recommend you don't concentrate too much on collecting monsters. Instead, get them if they're close but use the time to get to the next lit bomb so you can continue to collect them in sequence. You should be able to spawn 2 powercoins on each level, and keep in mind that the game remembers the number of lit bombs you've accumulated over levels, so if you only have a couple left to collect at the end of a level in order to spawn a powercoin, be ready because you'll spawn it as soon as you collect those bombs on the next level. Because of the game keeping count of lit bombs you'll sometimes be able to spawn 3 powercoins.
You'll also see the occasional 'B' coin spawn and drop to the bottom of the level, this is a bonus multiplier which will accrue and multiply the points you collect for each monster you kill. Very occasionally a 'Special' will spawn, collect this for an extra credit (not particularly valuable in Mame, but still fun).
The monsters each follow a set pattern of movement. The bird is always following you, but can only move horizontally and vertically. The UFO is a real problem, very fast moving and difficult to avoid.
BombJack is a real favourite among old-school gamers and with good reason. It's hugely rewarding to get good at. Once you really nail all the tricky little jumps and flights that the controls are capable of providing the sky becomes the limit and you'll settle for nothing less than a 'perfect' level. At least until it gets really hard....
You'll find BombJack in the Tecmo folder of MameGP32, and I find it runs great at 156mhz, frameskip <=2 with sound on.
Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

Dig Dug
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It seems appropriate to follow up on Mr Do! with Dig Dug, a similar game that was very popular back in the day. First time I saw this game was at an arcade across from my intermediate (junior high) school, and I believe that for the first few plays I thought you were supposed to clear all the dirt from each level to progress! Far from it, you just have to kill all the monsters. There are two types: Pookas and Fygars. Pookas are not too dangerous, but fygars spit flame, so demand a healthy respect for their position when close to the player. Especially so when on the other side of a thin wall, as they can still burn you up right through it! Pookas are a little quicker than the player, fygars are a little slower. Both monsters can change into 'ghosts' when held up in one spot for too long. These ghosts can move through solid dirt, changing back to solid form when they hit an open area. It's quite difficult to predict when they will change into ghosts, but that's part of the game's charm. The player is armed with a pump, hold down the button while pointing at a monster (assuming it's within range) and you'll pump him up until he explodes. The only other way to kill them is to drop a rock on them. Note that the pump can also be used to slow monsters down: if you pump one up for just a second or so he'll be inflated and unable to move for a few seconds. This stalling tactic can be very useful if you're faced with two monsters at once: try to pump one up just enough to stop him, then do the same to the other, then get the hell out of there! It's a difficult trick to pull off, but once you've got the timing figured out you'll find yourself using it regularly. Dropping rocks is a bit of an art form in Dig Dug. They take a second or two to fall when you've dug under them, so it's very easy to get the timing wrong when you're trying to flatten a monster. Unlike Mr Do! they can't be pushed, and they split apart as soon as they fall, no matter how short the distance. When digging up to a rock you have to remain pointed at it to keep it from falling. As soon as you turn to the side it'll fall on you. Once you've dropped your second rock a prize will appear in the centre of the screen, this earns quite decent points when collected. It should be your goal to collect as many of these as possible. When there's only one monster left he'll try to escape to the top left corner, though he's still dangerous while escaping. Tactics are pretty simple in Dig Dug: try to get the pookas to bunch up and follow you, dig a long vertical tunnel up to a rock and drop it on all of them. And remember to drop that second rock for the prize!
It's not hard to get quite good at Dig Dug, it's a charming little title that'll keep you coming back for more.
You'll find Dig Dug in the Namco folder of MameGP32.

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Recommended Gaming: Theme Park (DrMD & SNES9xGP)

Theme park was originally made for the PC in the early 1990's and later ported to the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. You are a potential theme park tycoon first looking to buy land to build your empire on, then constructing the ultimate theme park. Theme park is a pretty basic simulator most people should be able to pick up and play very easily, without much learning curve.

You have many different items to buy for your park, including rides, shows, shops, restraunts, trees, bushes, and other miscellaneous objects. You also have to hire and maintain your employees, and deal with cost increases for restraunts. If you let too much time go by without giving your employees a raise, or negotiating with food distributors, they'll go on strike in front of your park! Go-Karts, Floom rides, haunted houses, observatories, and teacups are just a few of the rides you can build.

Graphics are decent, although nothing to blow you away. The rides look detailed enough to distinguish them, but still a little bland compared to some other games like Sim City. Sound is very good for the Sega Genesis, different tunes play for each ride, and sound effects are adequate.

This game is a little dated now with Roller Coaster Tycoon and it's 900 sequels & addons, but it's nice to see the inspiration of such a popular, best selling current game series. And it's also a damn good sim in it's own right. It's a really long game if you're trying to buy & sell all the land in the world, but savestates are a wonderful feature! The game may be long, but it's great for short bursts, five minutes here or there. It's fun to just maintain the park for a few mins.

Theme Park plays excellent in DrMD with full sound
Theme Park also plays in SNES9XGP without sound