Dynamite Headdy (Switch): COMPLETED!

Even though I own three copies of this, or perhaps even more, and it had great reviews at the time, AND I like Treasure’s games, it surprises me that I’ve never played it past the first level or two. It wasn’t because it was hard (it wasn’t, but… see later), or I didn’t enjoy it, so who knows.

Only this time, while flicking through the Mega Drive Collection on my Switch for something to play, it caught my eye and before you know it (about three hours) I’d completed it. But oh my was I wrong about it being easy. That was only for the first half of the game – after that, it really ramped up the difficulty.

Shoot the baby! (Don’t shoot the baby). No really, shoot the baby.

Particular Highlights of Hell include the side scrolling shooter sections, especially the one where you have to weave up and down a fast moving corridor, the boss that chases you and definitely a cat not a bear Trouble Bruin, and the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper in particular, as there’s a split second when he’s vulnerable and if you’re a pixel too close or far away and don’t attack exactly correctly and run away in that tiny window of opportunity, you get hit.

So yes, I used save states. Which was justified when I found out later that the Western version (which I played) is at least twice as hard as the Japanese one.

Hardest boss ever.

But, I did really enjoy it. It looks and plays great, and has a wide variety of levels and bosses and loads of clever hardware-pushing effects that even the SNES’s Mode 7 would be impressed by.

Bio Menace (Mac): COMPLETED!

I have no idea why I decided to play this. I have very little interest in the Apogee same-game-slightly-different-graphics PC games of the early 90s (see also Commander Keen and Duke Nukem) and I know from experience they’ve aged badly. And yet here we are.

It’s pretty boring. There’s a lot of backtracking as you often have to get to the other side of the level to get the key to open the exit which is right near the start. There are a number of sections where avoiding baddies is nearly impossible. The bosses are a walkover. It has terrible sound and jerky scrolling. It’s not a very good game.

But I completed it (all of it – there are three chapters that come as separate games) so maybe I did like it a bit? Nah.

Decap Attack (Switch): COMPLETED!

One of my favourite platformers and a game I’ve probably mentioned on here before. We all know how this is the western version of Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure, but both games are excellent if different.

Didn’t have any problems on my play through. I didn’t remember all the level layouts, but did remember the route to skip one of the bosses!

Flashback (Switch): COMPLETED!

Flashback is a great game. It always was a great game and I was slightly worried playing it might reveal it to be all rose-tinting. Luckily, once I’d turned off all the graphic-ruining “modern” filters (which are on by default), it turned out it was still excellent.

I remembered the plot, and most of the first half of the game (the bit in the jungle and the bit in the city), but I thought that completing the Death Tower gameshow section was right near the end. I’d totally forgotten there was a bit set on Earth after that, and then had no recollection at all of the alien planet part at the end. Which is odd, as I’ve completed the game several times in the past.

Obviously this is Earth.

Controls are as fiddly as they ever were, but you get used to them. I don’t know if it’s a bug or by design, but I found Conrad kept putting his gun away even when I didn’t press the “put gun away” button, which made some of the fights unnecessarily difficult. One bug from the original which is now missing is the one which lets you run through walls, which I found a bit disappointing!

So, I’m glad Flashback still stands up, and it was well worth the 89p it was on the eShop. Not that I paid even that much as I had gold coins so it was essentially free.

Action Biker (Spectrum): COMPLETED!

Another game I really enjoyed, but rarely completed, back in the day. Some people suggest that the C64 version of Action Biker is superior, but they’re wrong. It’s a totally different sort of game, for a start!

This version involves you riding around a town, searching houses for parts for you bike to enable you to travel underwater and in an area which is pitch black for some reason. You need to find your friend Marty (for some reason you don’t know where he lives) and take him to the airport, and frequently the houses you enter have your friends’ mums in and you have to stay for some tea, wasting time.

“Your friend’s mum is in. Stay for some tea.”. Yeah, “tea”, eh?

OK, it sounds terrible and it has no end of problems. Firstly, there’s no way of avoiding most of the traffic (which drains your “sleep” energy bar). Worse, though, is that the items you need, and Marty himself, are in random houses each game. This means that sometimes the snorkle that lets you enter the water, is on the island in the middle of the water. Or the headlamp that lets you see in the dark area, is already in the dark area. It requires a bit of luck.

It seems luck was on my side today as Marty was found without me needing any special items, and I got the water upgrades almost immediately.

As I said, it’s a flawed game, but there’s something about it that I’ve always found a lot of fun.

Big Ben Strikes Again (Spectrum): COMPLETED!

Way back when, this was one of my favourite games. The main reason being that it had a built in level editor, but the catchy music has remained in my head for decades. My copy was one of four games in a compilation, the other four being Panzerdrome (which was impossible), Tidy Tony (which was a bit like Atic Atac only rubbish), and Steelyard Blues (which I liked until many years later when I found out it was a hacked version of another game).

Anyway. The plot of Big Ben Strikes Again is that you’re a reporter named Monty and you have to bribe various celebrities (mostly politicians, it seems) for a scoop. It plays out as a platformer, with baddies to avoid and 6 items – the bribes – to collect and then give to the celebs. It’s also a lot easier than I remember.

Oh, I wonder which 80s politician that’s supposed to be on the left there.

The collision detection is terrible, but once I’d compensated for that it was pretty straightforward – just take your time and watch your step!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Another of the SEGA Ages releases, and so it’s pretty much perfect. Except, of course, Tails is in it. But I suppose they couldn’t take him out so I had to manage with him there, getting in the way. Nicking rings on the Special Stages only to lose them because he’s stupid. Getting a hit in on a boss just before Sonic does so Sonic falls through him and dies.

Tails is a bloody liability.

Thankfully, the game is great as it always was. Finished it with all the Chaos Emeralds (obtained before the end of Chemical Plant).

Rolling Thunder 2 (MD): COMPLETED!

I’m not sure I’ve ever played this before, but I was always a big fan of the original game in the arcades. I was a little worried it wouldn’t be any good, because of both being a sequel and the passage of time, but I needn’t have worried – it was excellent.

It is, of course, more of the two-layer, door-entering, duck-and-shooting that the original was, and it played well despite being pretty difficult. You see, as well as having to contend with all the baddies, and the holes in the floor, you’ve only got a limited amount of ammo for your gun and there’s a pretty tight time limit on each level.

Then there’s the final boss, which was especially tricky as it’s a one-hit death for you, and a million-hit death for him, and you’re pretty much forced to use all your ammo on the frantic lift ride on the way to reach him. No bullets means your gun can only fire one shot at a time, making him especially difficult to take down. But, eventually, I did.

Mega-lo-Mania (MD): COMPLETED!

Time passed, and so I decided to play Mega-lo-Mania again. This time, I completed it on my new RetroFlag GPi – the thing that looks like a Game Boy but houses a Raspberry Pi.

I played as Madcap, and once again (see previous posts) I reached the final level with nobody else having put anyone in suspended animation to get there with me, so I instantly won.

It’s the best game, despite that.

Adventure (VCS): COMPLETED!

I got a Retroflag GPi case today. It means I now have a Retropie emulation device in a Game Boy style handheld. It’s very nice.

And I played and completed the Atari VCS classic game Adventure. On Mode 3, if you know what that means (basically everything is in a random place), and completed it.

It’s not a hard game, or a long game, but it is a fun game and it’s one of my favourite games of all times.

Vice: Project Doom (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d never heard of this game before, and I only gave it a go as I noticed it on the NES Online service thing on the Switch today. Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good.

I say surprisingly, because it very much reminded me of two terrible games I’ve played recently: ESWAT and Ninja Gaiden. Somehow, though, it’s much, much better than either of those. It has the same sort of platforming, bosses, and even a plot not too dissimilar to Ninja Gaiden, as well as interstitial dialogue like both other games. It plays much better, though, with tighter collision detection and baddies that don’t constantly respawn if you move one pixel back and forth.

As well as the platforming, there are a couple of Spy Hunter-like driving sections. These aren’t great, and actually play out more like a vertical shooter than a driving game, but they’re easy and quickly over. There are also a few Operation Wolf style shooting levels, which are OK but obviously suffer a bit as you can’t use a lightgun.

So yeah, it was surprising. Not the best NES game by any means, but above average and I’m amazed I’d never seen it until today.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Switch): COMPLETED!

I thought I’d completed the Master System version of this a few months ago, but it turns out it was actually May last year. How time flies! This version is the Sega Ages remaster of the original arcade version, which I’d expected to be virtually the same as the Master System on (albeit with better graphics), and although it was very similar the differences still threw me.

For a start, it’s a lot harder. Like, several difficulty levels harder. This is for a number of reasons, not least that the timer runs down much more quickly and unless you’re legging it through the levels at full pelt (which you can’t do) you will definitely lose a lot of health – you lose a heart every time the egg timer runs out. The bosses also seem to require many, many more hits. Even with the best sword in the game, they’re just sponges. Then there seem to be more, and trickier, levels too.

This is probably the hardest boss in the game. He chucks out smaller clones who then chuck ice at you.

But it has some features the Master System didn’t. You can continue when you die, which is more than useful (until the final level where they don’t let you any more), and if you decide to restart the game from scratch, this Sega Ages version allows you to start with the equipment you had previously. This means you can get hold of the best armour, boots, shield and sword much more easily. As I said though, the bosses are so hard that doesn’t help with them so much.

When I finally reached the final level I had the choice of getting the bell (to find my way through the maze) and the ruby (to make the final boss a lot easier). I went with the ruby and hoped I could remember the route. Thankfully, I could! The dragon wasn’t too hard (way easier than bouncing mushroom guy or Snow Cong & Chums, for sure), and then the game was over.

He does that thing where when he’s dead he just changes form and you have to fight him again. Sigh.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World (Switch): COMPLETED!

As I got closer to the end of this game, I realised that I’d almost certainly never completed it. I recognised every level up until the 7th one (in the cave), and then have vague memories of a castle, but I think the castle memory may even have come from the Mega Drive Alex Kidd game.

Hardest. Screen. Ever.

I also realised why I don’t think I’ve completed it. There are a few tricky sections (the one near the end with the spikes in the water can do one, for example), but the main reason was that winning relies entirely on luck! The janken matches are seemingly random, and you’ve no way of telling what your opponent is going to choose. At least in Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle there’s a power up that lets you see what they’re thinking, but in the Master System version? It’s all guesswork.

Helicycle levels are so easy – as long as you don’t crash.

Other than that, it’s a pretty decent game. Alex slides all over the place as he has weird physics and friction, and the collision detection is a bit rubbish (the octopus and the samurai bosses in particular). The question mark blocks are also almost always worth ignoring too, meaning they’re pointless – most of the time they have that baddie that just homes in on you, so it’s not worth the risk.

Not the best Sega Ages re-release on the Switch, but I got it in a sale so I’m not disappointed.

Sly Spy (Arcade): COMPLETED!

This week I’ve been playing games on the retro game streaming service Antstream. I have a lot to say about the platform, but not here. One of the games I played was Sly Spy, and it’s the first one on there I’ve completed.

It’s not a great game. Much of it plays a bit like Rolling Thunder, but without the hiding and dodging abilities that make that game so much fun. Getting through each level without being shot constantly is difficult, and so isn’t really that enjoyable. The way it’s so much of a rip-off of James Bond doesn’t work as a parody as it’s too close to the source material and not humourous with it either.

It is what it is, though – a coin chewing arcade game that hasn’t translated well to playing at home, and isn’t as good as similar titles from the same era anyway.

Yes, the sound really did break half way through. Something to do with Antstream probably.

Golden Axe III (Switch): COMPLETED!

Is Golden Axe III going to be a good game, given the previous two were not? Go on, have a guess.

At least it tried. Instead of being almost exactly the same as the other games, the graphics are all new, the animation is new, and most of the baddies are new. Reminiscent of those before, but new. There’s a different art style too, but actually, it’s worse. And there are two new characters but they’ve relegated the best one – Gillius Thunderhead – to a little less than a narrator role. You can’t play as him. I chose Tyris Flare instead, who now has ridiculous beefcake muscles.

They’ve improved the “AI” so the enemies no longer blindly walk off ledges, and for the most part the old running attack left and right “trick” isn’t possible any more. But sadly, this doesn’t really improve things. Golden Axe III is actually worse, somehow, than its predecessors.