Monday, May 23, 2005

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

Qix
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I still remember (admittedly vaguely) first seeing Qix at a local fish and chip shop, around 1981 when it was first introduced by Taito. What a futuristic looking and sounding game. Gameplay appeared to be quite simple, and sure enough it is. But as for difficulty, well that's another story. Qix must rate as one of the most difficult games out there. I never spent a huge amount of time on it, but I was a regular player, and can't remember ever getting beyond about the 5th screen. Control is simple: a four-way joystick and 2 draw buttons; one fast, one slow. Naturally the slow button scores more points. The aim is equally simple: fill in 75% of the playfield by drawing boxes. You're pursued by 3 kinds of nasties: the qix which you see drift around the open part of the playfield, sparx which zoom around the perimeter of the open part of the playfield, and fuses, which are lit and come after you when you dawdle too long while drawing. The qix will kill you by touching your line mid-draw, that is to say if you are drawing a line to form a closed box, but have not yet closed that box, and the qix touches any part of that unclosed box, you die. You may think the qix is moving in a set pattern, but he's not. He can dart to any point in the open playfield at any time. The sparx are a little easier to deal with, if only because they move in a predictible way (usually). They'll just hoon around the outside of the open playfield. This can cause problems though, if you have them coming at you from either side. In this case drawing a quick small box to get out of their way will give you some breathing space, at least until they come around again, as sparx cannot travel on a box that you've not yet completed drawing. Fuses are there to kill off the novice. If you pause for even a moment while drawing a box, they'll light from where you first started drawing and chase you down. So finish off that box as quickly as possible or you're toast! There are a lot of different strategies out there to fill the 75% needed to go to the next level. One I use sometimes is to try to start drawing long thin boxes, from the middle bottom of the screen toward the top. This way you can keep the qix on one side, eventually finishing off the draw to claim an easy 50%. Of course if you finish it off with the slow buttton you score huge points. You can do this again, this time horizontally, again coralling the qix and finishing off with the slow button. Keep in mind, every percent filled over the 75% threshold scores a large bonus. So filling to 74% and then attempting to get another 10 or so can really help your score. Of course, as soon as you hit that 75% threshold you'll move on to the next level. When you draw with the slow button the filled box will be brown, using the fast button it'll be blue.
At the 5th level you'll be facing 2 qix. Splitting them into seperate compartments will apparently give you a large bonus score, but I never managed it, though I've seen it done by Qix-addicts.
Qix really deserves your time, the sound is great, really worth turning the volume up on, and it's one of those games that'll put you on edge several times each time you play it. It can get really tense when you've got a qix hurtling at you, a fuse lighting up to run you down and no-where left to run. It deserved much more praise than it got back in the day. I think it got relegated to the back of arcades becuase it was intimidating. But we've all had 25 years to get better at videogames, so why don't you fire it up and see just how good you are.
You'll find Qix in the Taito filder of GPMame32, and it likes a little frameskip which doesn't detract from gameplay. When booting it up it'll ask you what language you want, do the same trick as the Williams games by hitting Start and Select to get through this.

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

Congo Bongo
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Congo Bongo is a quirky platformer that was released by Sega in 1983. It utilised an isometric viewpoint which was almost unique in the arcades, though frequently seen around this time in home computer games. It's pretty simple to get through the first couple of levels but things tighten up quickly. Control can be a little tricky, as diagonals are used, like Q-Bert. Once you've got the hang of it it's a lot easier.
First off you're treated to a neat cut-scene where Bongo the gorilla creeps up on you while you're sleeping and gives you a 'hot foot' with a burning log. Ouch! You vow revenge and enter the first level. Hang on, doesn't this sound kind of familiar? Yes, I'm sure the Sega developers got a lot of 'inspiration' from the arcade favourite Donkey Kong. But it's really quite a different game to play so we can forgive them.
All you have to do on the first level is climb your way up to the gorilla (I really could be writing this about Donkey Kong couldn't I?), avoiding coconuts he throws at you and monkeys that roam around. The monkeys are not lethal! They'll climb onto your back but can be dislodged by jumping repeatedly. If 3 monkeys hop on you they take you out, but it's not until later levels that that becomes really possible. Also keep in mind that they can be avoided by hopping over them, or using the full width of the platforms. Just as well we have that isometric view now isn't it? Once you get to Bongo's level he'll take off to level 2.
The lake level can be tricky as you have to take a circuitous route to get to the end, and the islands are inhabited by snakes that are deadly to touch. But you'll see lily pads, so do a Frogger and hop on one for a short cut. Hippos appear for a while before submerging and can be used to bridge gaps too. Not too hard so far.
The third level is where it starts to get tough. You'll start in a mole hole which offers great protection from charging rhinos. You'll need to scoot to another hole quickly or a native will appear and fill it in on top of you. Don't jump in the puddles, you'll drown. And watch out for those rampaging rhinos, you can jump over them but it requires some good control. Climb the rock at the end to get to Bongo and it's on to level 4.
The lagoon here is similar to level 2. You can hop onto rocks, lily pads, swimming fish and hippos to get through this level, but watch out for the charging rhinos at the end, after coming this far you'll be annoyed if you blow it. Once past them you'll creep up on Bongo as he sleeps and take revenge, giving him a hot foot of his own. Take that!
Naturally neither of you learn a lesson after all that, so it's back to level 1 with increased difficulty.
Congo Bongo is a game you'll probably play a few times, get ok at and put aside. But I bet you'll be like me and want come back for a session now and then, as the mechanics of this charming little game really stick in the back of your mind.
You'll find Congo Bongo in the Sega folder on Mame GP32. It runs great with frameskip 1.

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran

Recommended Gaming: GPEngine

GPEngine emulates the classic PC Engine, or TurboGrafix 16 if you're in the states. The emulator works great on most games, although there's no save states. Here's a list of a few games that I found to be extremely fun and very playable with sound.

After Burner
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The classic arcade fighter jet simulator that needs no explanation. Roll your jet from side to side avoiding enemy fire & collisions. Take down as many as you can without being taken down. After Burner is a classic everyone should try at least once & it works very well in GPEngine!

Batman
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This game is different than any other Batman games you've played before. This is more like pac-man than batman. Your goal in each level is to collect all the power-ups before the enemies get you. Of course, you can play offense, too with weapons like the batarang. Batman is a very fun arcade like game that you don't want to miss. Why are the Batman games so much better than the Superman ones?

Bomberman '93
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This is one of the better Bomberman games, in my opinion. Bomberman '93 is like most other Bomberman games but with bright, cartoony graphics, and a few new gadgets like Remote Bombs, and walking through bricks. Overall, this game is very fun & deffinately worth your time!

Crater Maze
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Crater Maze is another Pac-Man type of maze game. Your goal is to pick up the treasure chests while avoiding the enemies. The fun part about this game is your offense, you have to dig a hole for them to fall into, then bury them alive! It gets pretty hellacious further in the game, too.
This one gets a lot of play from me!

Galaga '90
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Galaga 90 is an excellent rendition of the Namco classic, Galaga with a lot of updates. You can start with a single or a dual ship, but starting with a dual ship will take one of your lives. The graphics in this game have been significantly improved over the original arcade hit. The sound has also gotten the overhaul.
Hint: try to kill most of the enemies before they come to the bottom of the screen, and DON'T stay in the corners!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

Bosconian
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Bosconian was a pretty cool game, fist released by Midway and Namco in 1981. Not hugely common in arcades but everyone would have seen it at some point, usually in the back with the other also-rans. It had colourful graphics and excellent synthesized speech. "Alert! Alert!", "Condition Red" and "Battle Stations" would eminate at regular intervals.
Control is simple, an 8-way joystick and fire button, although a new twist is that you fire both ahead and behind your ship. So evading enemy ships can sometimes be a highly effective offensive tactic once you get good. Scattered through each level are a series of enemy base stations. These are made up of 6 cannon pods attached to a central core that fires missiles.
The whole game moves fairly slowly, and just as well because there's a lot going on in later levels. There's so much junk, mines and enemy fighters filling up the screen that just getting close to the base stations to get a good shot in can be really difficult. Once you've destroyed all the base stations you move to the next level. But there's 2 ways to attack the base stations: you can either pick off the cannons one by one, which yields the most points but can get pretty hairy, or you can aim a well-placed shot straight up the gullet to hit the core.
First thing you need to do on any level is scan the radar on the right to see where the base stations are. Figure out the quickest way to string them together, and get stuck in.
Keep an eye on the warning condition at the top right. Under condition green you'll have few fighters to deal with, yellow they're around and looking for you, and if you take too long to clear the level you'll get condition red, when the enemy fighters will swarm at high speed and try to ram you! Keep an eye on the radar as often as you can, and when you hear "Battle Stations" look for a formation of enemy missiles. If you're having trouble evading them, use any space junk, mines etc to wipe them out. Remember too, the screen wraps in both directions so you can get from one spot to another pretty quickly if you're near an edge or corner.
Bosconian is a lot of fun once you get the feel of it, and pretty unique. You'll find it in the "Namco" folder of your GP32. It likes a little frameskip and can be unstable with sound, so if you're having problems try it with sound off.

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran

Monday, May 09, 2005

Recommended Gaming: Park-o-Rama

Sega SC3000
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The Sega SC3000 is considered a rare beast indeed in most countries, but if you lived in New Zealand or Australia (or Japan) in the mid-80's you'd have routinely come across them. Some were also available in South Africa, Italy and Spain. I got one after selling my well-used Sinclair ZX81, and to this day consider it my favourite little micro' of the time. Hardware-wise they featured a rubber keyboard, Z80A processor, 32k ram (another less common model, the SC3000H came with 48k and a 'proper' keyboard), 256x192 graphics, 16 colours and 3 sound channels. They had two big things going for them: a truly excellent version of BASIC, and Sega's quality software titles. BASIC came on a cartridge (in fact, 3 different versions were offered, one which also expanded system ram) and was quite close to MSX BASIC. Close enough that it usually didn't take too much twiddling to convert listings over. Sprite support was the real plus of the SC3000, with multiple layers of sprites of multiple colours being easily moveble, and collision detection too was well supported. A broad range of drawing tools were also available, from point plotting, through lines, polygons etc and all able to be filled. This micro could make anyone look like a coding wizard. In New Zealand we had a magazine for a while that would include tips and listings. A plotter (!) was available which utilised 4 different coloured pens simultaneously and did a nice job. Standard joysticks were terrible, real blister-inducers, but I persisted. Programs could be saved to audio tape, but a SF7000 'control station' was also available which used micro floppies.
The cartridge library was not huge, but did feature excellent ports. I had Border Line, Congo Bongo, Yamato, Champion Tennis, Champion Baseball, Flipper, Sinbad Mystery, Monaco GP, Pop Flamer and Exerion. I think my favourite to this day is Border Line, a really addictive title that most would never have heard of. There was enough support domestically in New Zealand for the distributor to publish home-brewed software too.
And the really neat thing about them is... the GP32 can run the games! Park-o-Rama is a nice emulator that also supports the SG1000 (a console that ran SC3000 carts). Games are out there (I suggest searching with 'SC3000' or 'SG1000' filters) and I'd recommend Border Line, Monaco GP and Champion Tennis to get started.
You can find more information on the SC3000 at http://www.retrogames.co.nz/ and http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/atari/segahard.html

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

Moon Cresta
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Moon Cresta... this was a great game that rates as one of my top 5 of all time. It was one of the first games to introduce 'docking' of ships, which in this case increases your firepower. This was well before Galaga did the same thing. One almost unique feature of the game is that the enemies don't shoot, instead simply try to ram your ship.
The first 2 attack waves ("cold-eyes") are fairly simple, the best thing is to wait in the centre for a fraction of a second after the player's ship appears, then start shooting. As the cold-eyes appear you'll hit a few before they become dangerous. If you can concentrate on splitting just a couple of them, then finishing those ones off, you'll be in good shape to deal with the remaining enemies. If you split all of them it can get pretty hairy, as they have very random flight patterns and nowhere is safe.
Once you're dealt with the cold eyes you'll face 2 waves of ""super-flies". I like to start this wave slightly left of centre, as they loop around here in a tight bunch for a while, offering easy targets. When they start drifting down towards you, keep your focus tight on your ship, as you'll need to do some defensive manoevering when things get tight. Remember too, they can loop right back around from below your ship and take you out!
Once you've gotten through the super-flies it's time to dock. Hopefully you'll have not lost your first ship, as the combination of first and second ships is highly effective. The third ship is very wide so gives the enemies a large target area.
Docking is easy, the fire button serves as a thruster in case you get in trouble, and you don't need to be pixel-perfect. It helps to finish up the final super-fly attack in the centre, then you'll not need to use thrust at all. Docking quickly gives good points too. so try to not use that thrust button.
Next up are 2 waves of "four-d" attacks. These little buggers are tough. They disappear at random points, then re-appear somewhere else. Usually very near your ship and on a collision course! Start these waves slighly right of centre. If you have a 1+2 ship combination you should be fine, as you'll take out the majority of enemies before they get near your ship. If you've already lost ship 1 (or, god forbid, 1 and 2!) you're in trouble and will have to move very defensively, keeping your eyes close to your ship. Once you've almost cleared the final four-d move to the right, because next you've got meteors hurtling at you! Time it so you move out, shoot a meteor then move back to the corner to hide. It's really easy once you've done it a few times.
Now it's time to dock again, same as before. With luck you've not lost a ship yet, so you'll have some awesome firepower by combining all 3 ships.
Once that's through, it's on to 2 "atomic pile" levels. These guys are easily dealt with, as they only fly vertically so avoidance is no problem.
Moon Cresta is a really great little game with colourful graphics and infectious sound effects. You'll find it in the "classics" folder of GPMame32, and it plays nicely with sound and frameskip 1.

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

excuses, excuses!

I would just like to formally apologize for the lack of updates recently on GameProbe32, I've been in the process of transferring schools, so I've had to go back and forth to 2 different schools trying to sort everything out. Everything should be back to normal this week.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

GameProbe of the Week: Streets of Rage

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Streets of Rage is a beat-em-up game made by Sega for their 16-bit console, the Sega Genesis back in 1991. This is deffinately one of the best games in the genre, and even spawned two of it's own sequels! The game consists of 8 kick-your-ass levels with many great additions like weapons, throws, special attacks, and team-up attacks. You have 3 characters to choose from: Adam, Axel, or Blaze, each has their strengths & weaknesses. For example, Adam is slower, Axel doesn't jump as high, and Blaze isn't as powerful. Beautiful multi-layered graphics really helped to show off the quality that the Sega Genesis could produce, even in it's launch titles!

Music in this game is made by Yuzo Koshiro, composer of the Streets of Rage series, Sonic the Hedgehog, Act Raiser, Act Raiser 2, & Shenmue 2, just to name a few. The upbeat techno-dance inspired soundtrack really adds to the intensity of beating the snot out of 5 guys at once! Sound effects are also great, many of them voice clips.

Overall, this game's deffinately worthy of our GameProbe Game of the Week. It works excellent in Dr.MD 2.0, but don't forget to turn the sound quality up!