Thursday, March 29, 2007

Superior Interactive Blog

Superior Interactive of Repton fame have just started a new blog.

The blog will feature news and information about all their current and future games, so it should make for an excellent read.

Superior have been going since 1982 which makes me feel very old as I remember all their games. It's their 25th Anniversary this summer which makes them one of the longest running games businesses in the world - wow!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Review: Charlie II

Cute. That’s is the first word that occurred to me as I sat down to have a stab at Charlie II. Everything about this little platformer oozes innocent forest charm, harking back to the child-like glory years of the original Sonic the Hedgehog or Mr Nutz (if anyone remembers that one!) – all primary colours, grass, cloudless skylines and log bridges.

Charlie II is Dutch developer Wiering Software’s sequel to popular platforming title Charlie the Duck. The titular hero is an off-yellow, happy looking little bird (complete with occasional heart melting –quack- as he stands at rest), who must navigate each of a series of levels in order to collect coins, diamonds and a group of letters to spell out his own name. Charlie must investigate thoroughly each environment in order to pick up a certain percentage of collectables in order to move onto the next area. That’s the gist of the gameplay – simple in theory, and not a lot more complicated in practice either.

Make no mistake though – beyond the cutesy appearance and simplistic gameplay lies a fiendishly difficult game. Even by the second level, I was having quite an amount of trouble not accidentally impaling the plucky young mallard on wooden stakes time after time, or simply being dive-bombed by the cunningly programmed crow things that will indirectly home in on Charlie as they fly by. Injury seems extremely difficult to avoid, but this free and easy loss of health and, ultimately, lives is offset by the inclusion of Zelda-esque “extra hearts” littered around that will extend Charlie’s health bar beyond its original three hits to any amount of extra protection. According to the manual, an extra heart is included in nearly every level of the game – further enforcing the need for heavy exploration in the adventure, with extra hearts almost a requirement in order to realistically progress.

So apart from a tough challenge, what else sets Charlie II apart from any number of platform clones? For a start, rather than the common tactic of picking a random cute creature that bears no relation to the gaming world, Wiering have taken the duck motif and used Charlie’s unique skills (as a duck!) within the gameplay somewhat. Yes, Charlie can swim! This removes the familiar platform game frustration of “death by water” and also adds to Charlie II’s exploratory focus by actually allowing him to dive below the surface - effectively a shortcut to another part of the level, and a tidy reworking of Super Mario’s famous green “warp pipes”.

The game’s presentation and general atmosphere also set it well apart from more amateur offerings. A defined, sumptuous art style exists throughout each backdrop, enemy sprite and collectable. Charlie himself is an endearing character to play as he waddles along with this little quacking, and special mention should go to the music which never fails to perfectly emulate the happy synthesised backing tunes of a more simple age (except here done with more instruments!).

Simply put: Charlie II is a perfectly pitched slice of retro gaming for a new generation. The game-making philosophy of old is followed to a tee, and the result is an authentic, enjoyable and (due to being very, very hard!) ultimately lastable title that is well worth its $15 registration price to any true platform game fan.


Copyright © 2006 Peter Michael Gothard

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Arsecast - March Edition

The latest edition of The Arsecast is now available for your listening pleasure.

As always it's an excellent listen covering a massive amount of news and reviews from the Indie and Retro gaming world. A full breakdown of what's included this month can be found on the main page.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Retro Revisited: Chaotix Review

Sega’s Megadrive 32X. Hands up if you remember it. Now hands up if you ever owned one. My condolences to the two of you.

The 32X came about at a time when Sega, after living upon a tower of extreme complacency for the past few years, found the Megadrive’s 16 bit rule was coming to an end with frightening announcements of Playstations, Jaguars and other 32 bit powered hardware.

A department of Sega Japan, in conjunction with Sega of America, were ordered to design a 32 bit add-on for the Megadrive, and this would become the 32X. Bizarrely, however, another section of Sega Japan were also working on what would eventually become the Saturn – a superior 32-bit CD format. Interestingly, this was done in secret, completely unbeknownst to Sega of America while they beavered away on the 32X. This famously weird manoeuvre was completed in style by Sega’s somewhat suicidal decision to release both consoles at roughly the very same time.

The result? The 32X, with its old-fashioned cartridge format, rather laughable operating procedure (two power supplies, an extra video cable, and even some wacky anti-magnetic clips to keep it held snugly in the Megadrive cartridge slot) and poor software support from the get go, was dead before it started - losing to the Saturn, which in turn was obliterated by the Playstation and Nintendo 64. A sad tale at the time, but an excellent proposition for retro collectors with failing cash supplies; fairly cheap to pick up, and only about six good games before you can call your collection “complete”!

Chaotix, then. The only existing 32 bit, two-dimensional Sonic game. But a Sonic game without Sonic. And a Sonic game sold on a gimmick. Initially panned at release – generally because Sonic fans wanted more Sonic, and less Knuckles – the game fell into quick obscurity helped in no small part by the short shelf life of the 32X. This is a shame because, once you look beyond its flaws, a tricky and intelligent platform adventure with a unique twist lies within.

Imagine a world in which you’re permanently attached to a companion by a mysterious elastic-like band of energy. When you move, they have to follow, when you jump, they jump. A nightmarish proposition and, indeed, the very core of Chaotix’s gameplay. So does it work? Hmm…sort of. When you get the hang of it, Chaotix is actually quite a wild ride.

Controlling the two characters simultaneously, bound together by one of Dr. Robotnik’s evil experiments, the player must learn to use this disaster to their advantage, namely by creating tension in the link to supply momentum to run faster, clear obstacles, and progress up platforms.

The physics engine that supplies this unique style of movement was a brave endeavour by Sega, and admittedly isn’t always one that pays off. The structure of the game’s levels is rather different to standard Sonic fare, with everything having to be far more spaced out to allow the bouncing, spinning (often out of control) twosome to rebound around the levels. Frustration will often come by becoming stuck either above or below where you want to be, mashing the buttons desperately to make the characters gain the movement necessary to progress.

Then there’s the constant risk of smashing clumsily into enemies (of which there are, wisely, also a lot less than usual) and losing a large amount of rings unfairly. Careening around randomly is something you’ll be spending a lot of time doing, and it’s fun at first, until you actually become bent on getting somewhere and trying to collect all the Chaos Rings (this instalment’s replacement for the classic Chaos Emeralds). Progress can become slow and frustrating, but after a while, when perhaps no longer judged simply as a “Sonic game”, Chaotix starts to get under your skin, and makes its subtleties known. I’d never promise you that true mastery of the crazy system is possible, but you’ll certainly begin to smile the first time you send your mammals speeding off in the right direction, clear a loop, kill an enemy, spin hectically through space and then make a neat, balletic landing at the level exit sign. That’s Sonic to the power of two, and then some!

And then, gameplay considerations put aside, as a 32X showcase title, Chaotix is a must for any collector. The 32X’s new range of colours is shown off fully, with every new level - chosen at random - taking place at a different time of day, resulting effectively in around four different colour palettes per stage (and there are about 30 of them!). This gives the game a real feeling of uniqueness on every play through. Sprite scaling is also used to hilarious effect - new powerups allow characters to shrink to a tiny size or grow into an enormous pixellated monstrosity. Then there’s the bonus stage…

Placed inside a fully 3D world, your character must collect blue spheres (a la Sonic 3), but this time, running up the walls causes the tunnel to rotate with the player, creating an immensely challenging, gravity-defying experience that often ends in falling - swearing and throwing your controller across the room - out of the bottom of the tunnel. Never has a Sonic special stage required such a devilish combination of planning and reflexes.

At the end of the day, Chaotix was a brave new idea, almost well executed but just missing that extra round of playtesting (probably due to being rushed out for the console’s ironically untimely release!) needed to make it a bona fide masterpiece. In addition to this failing, there were never enough people in possession of the hardware to play it, anyway.

Sega – release Chaotix on the next Sonic Compilation so the whole world can enjoy the elasticated eccentricities of this flawed, forgotten classic!

Originally posted on Retro 247 Games at
Copyright © 2006 Peter Michael Gothard

About the Reviewer:
Peter Gothard is a lifelong gamer, collector of rare and unusual Sega stuff, and eagerly anticipating the Nintendo Wii! He is just graduating in English Literature and Linguistics at the University of Manchester if you’d like to give him a job so as he can buy DarXside.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Alien Abduction is now Freeware

Pumpkin Games have announced that their excellent shooter, Alien Abduction, is now Freeware!

More information about the game plus screenshots and the full version for both Windows and the Mac can be found HERE.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Review of Gibbage

This review was originally posted last year on Retro 247 Games

Dan Marshall’s long awaited and much-hyped Gibbage has finally hit the streets, but was it worth the wait?

Around two years in development, Gibbage is a relatively simple concept with clearly high aspirations – playability over technological complexity, and thus a true “indie” experience in every way.

A two-dimensional platformer in the style of the 16-bit glory days, Gibbage takes frenetic platform-based item collection and adds a somewhat more modern one-on-one deathmatch feel to the proceedings, resulting in all the multiplayer madness of a game of Counterstrike but all the yesteryear charm of Bonanza Brothers or Chuckie Egg. Gibbage has no support for networks, so look forward to the added retro-styled bonus of being within poking distance of your friend who, just like in the good old days, is being forced to share your keyboard as well as your screen!

Each player is represented by a pod-like chamber on their respective side of the screen, from which, one at a time, emerge an unlimited supply of controllable gun-toting “clones” whose mission is to gather randomly dropped power crystals from around the level. These crystals are then carried back to the pod, and added to the amount of power the player has at their disposal. A tug of war ensues as each player increases their power by securing crystals, but at the same time risking power loss by being killed (and using power to spawn another clone) or losing crystals to the opposition. All the while, each player’s power level is steadily counting down, and the first player to reach zero is declared the loser.

Weaponry can be improved beyond the supplied popgun by the occasional presence of power-up bonus crystals, and these are generally typical upgrades such as homing rockets, land mines or lasers. However, the bonus crystals are also capable of enacting “negative” status changes upon the enemy, often with hilarious consequences. These include such gems as an “armless” state in which your luckless chum will spend several minutes running around unable to fire, with blood pumping from their limbless upper torso, or “cryo” in which the opposing player will be frozen on the spot for a length of time.

The gore, in fact, is another “feature” worthy of discussion, as this game is absolutely loaded with the red stuff. Death will generally result in a shower of gibs (hence the titular choice) and a comically rolling skull, and, as battle ensues, these scattered remains will pile up until stages begin to resemble warzones of the highest order – not for children (or, presumably, Daily Mail readers), this one.

With over 24 maps available, there is plenty here to keep both the casual or more serious gamer occupied, and the developer has sensibly integrated an unlocking system to control the availability of each stage, adding further to the “just one more go” feeling that Gibbage seems designed around.

But for how long will you actually want to play Gibbage? For a start, as a single player game, Gibbage is bordering on useless. The AI opponent begins to become unstuck the moment levels with any form of dangerous obstacle are introduced – cheerfully hurling itself into lava pits in an attempt to recover power crystals randomly dropped onto the deadly surface. If you have no friends, stay away from Gibbage! Multiplayer (clearly the real aim of this game), however, is an experience that, once one acclimatises to the tiny sprites and often rather unpredictable physics, can become a real time waster. A full round, either of long or short duration, will generally play out in a fairly balanced fashion, with a generally steady array of power and bonus crystals coming in regular supply. Perhaps the only criticism here is the tendency for something of a rush of crystals earlier in a game (often three or four falling in quick succession), with rather a dearth later on as players will find nothing left to do but turn their attentions to each other, often causing the rich to become richer in terms of power levels.

Attention too should also be drawn to the cryo bonus, which freezes the opponent for an almost unbearably long time; providing a real table-turner in game fortune and a massive frustration if a large lead was in hand before being crushed by this one swift move.

In conclusion, Gibbage is a bold, humorous and immensely playable title which, at only a £6 price tag, can be forgiven for its niggling playability issues by offering a lasting, entertaining and surprisingly deep (multiplayer!) gaming experience which should out live its asking price by quite a while. Roll on the next Dan Marshall release!

Score: 7/10.

More information at

Copyright © 2006 Peter Michael Gothard

About the Reviewer:

Peter Gothard is a lifelong gamer, collector of rare and unusual Sega stuff, and eagerly anticipating the Nintendo Wii! He is just graduating in English Literature and Linguistics at the University of Manchester if you’d like to give him a job so as he can buy DarXside.

Old Reviews

We used to have a Reviews section on the main site of Retro 247 but we've now decided to place all reviews here on the blog. Over the next few days/weeks we'll add all of the old reviews here for your reading pleasure.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Retro Style Header Graphics

Adding to the new design of Retro 247 we've just included new header graphics on the top of each page. They all show some kind of retro gaming scene which really adds a nice bit of colour to the site.

A few more games have been added and I'm also looking at including maybe an Adventure game section. Adventure games seem to be making a bit of a comeback with some excellent work out there. I've played a few recently and they did take me back to the good old days of gaming :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

DROD, Streets of Rage and Zelda

DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold. Click to Enlarge
Some new updates to the Retro 247 Games website today.

DROD: Journey to Rooted Hold
Excellent game for the Mac featuring 25 levels and over 350 rooms.
Click for More Info

Streets of Rage Remake
Pays homage to the classic Sega Mega Drive game. For Windows.
Click for More Info

Flash Zelda
Everybody's favourite playable in your browser window.
Click for More Info

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