Tag Archives: Apogee

RAD RODGERS Review

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It’s a constant theme in the realm of lower-budget games. Games that re-create the things we love about the old games we grew up with during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Many of these games take the approach of even looking retro. Eschewing modern visuals for the classic sprite work reminiscent of games on the Nintendo Entertainment System or Sega Master System. Or even the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or Sega Genesis. But every so often something comes around that celebrates the other pillar of classic gaming: Home computers.

PROS: Genuinely funny jokes, and performances. Level design. Character design.

CONS: Some serious bugs. One gameplay loop can be monotonous.

REFERENCES: The humor is very much going to appeal to Family Guy fans everywhere.

RAD RODGERS comes to us from Slipgate Studios, which (as Interceptor) brought us the reboot of Rise Of The Triad. As in that game, things are very much tied to the early days of Apogee/3D Realms as the game has a slew of nods to those classic DOS games of yesteryear. But instead of simply cribbing the art style of old the game instead takes a slightly more modern approach. Giving us a game that hearkens back to the old days of Halloween Harry while looking more like something that would have released near the end of the PS3/360 run of indie games.

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The game starts off with the scenario we all loved seeing back in the days of Captain N Game Master. A child, Rad Rodgers is seen playing his Super NES when his Mother tells him he has school the next day and needs to go to bed. Reluctantly, he listens only to have the console mysteriously come back on to a screen of white noise. When our hero gets up to check out the problematic game system he is transported to the world of the game he was just playing moments ago.

Here you meet Dusty, voiced by Duke Nukem himself, Jon St. John. Dusty becomes your sidekick and helps you on your way by allowing you to climb certain surfaces as well as allowing you to do a super move at the cost of a bit of a meter. Dusty also serves another important purpose that I’ll get to a little bit later. Obviously, Rad Rodgers is excited to be in a fictional world. But not all is well in this video game land. The cartridge the world takes place in is filled with glitches and bugs that impede anybody’s progress.

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So Rad Rodgers must not only save the world from a terrifying villain, he also has to rid the world of bugs in order to proceed. This is where Dusty’s other major contribution comes in. Throughout each of the mainline stages are some segments where Rad Rodgers simply cannot pass. Sometimes it might be a jump he won’t be able to make. Other times it might be a door that needs to be unlocked.

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This forces you to find areas that will transport Dusty into this top-down perspective world where he must play one of several minigames. Some of them involve navigating a maze looking for the missing geometry you need. Others involve you connecting electrons in a specific manner in a certain number of turns. All before you run out of a pixel meter. Which you can refill by killing enemies in the mode. The thing is while these sections do break up some of the action, they can become monotonous as there isn’t a whole lot to figure out in them. In later levels they throw more enemies in there to make it harder, but that only makes them feel a bit more dragged out.

Once you clear these areas and continue though it’s back to business. The game will continue on. Each of the maps also has a plethora of secrets to find in them. Sometimes they may be a weapon, other times collectible gems or even 1-Ups. Stages are very reminiscent of classic Apogee games. Especially the first two Duke Nukem games, Halloween Harry/Alien Carnage, and even a splash of Monster Bash for good measure. Imagine the labyrinthine layouts of the former games with the familiar floaty computer jumping of the latter. Things can be quite the challenge too. Some areas require a mastery of timing, as you’ll have to shoot a switch to open a door within the next few seconds and get past death beams, five bad guys, and maybe a tough climb on the way.

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Throughout each of the areas are a number of homes you can enter for items. It’s here that the game really pours on the reference humor with characters that mock not only the old Apogee games, but take a few stabs at modern games and classics from Nintendo. But it does this in a tongue in cheek way. Of course you can turn on a setting at the beginning of the game where the sound samples are going to go for crass, R-Rated fare. You can turn this off if you’re playing it with or around small kids. But this is the reason why the game has an M rating. Some of the jokes can be pretty raunchy too. Obviously, humor is subjective.

But if you love shows like Family Guy, or South Park you’ll probably like a number of the gags as it again, excels at making jokes referencing itself, and things of yesteryear. If that sort of humor isn’t your cup of tea then you may want to turn off the R-Rated setting. Generally though, it feels like a “What If?” scenario where Apogee had beaten Rare to the punch in a crass platformer. You can expect comparisons to Conker’s Bad Fur Day. If I had any complaints about the humor it’s just that they didn’t record enough jokes. Because after a while you will start hearing the lines repeat enough that they can be beaten into submission.

 

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Some of the aforementioned homes are worth exploring though, because the game does feature a number of secret characters and collectible hats. And in most cases, these are where you will find them. One of them is a playable inhabitant, but most of the other characters are Apogee/3DRealms characters. Duke Nukem is here, so is Bombshell (Ion Fury), Lo Wang (Shadow Warrior Reboot), as well as a couple of classic characters. And in order to clear any given stage you’ll need to find four different pieces of a medallion. These can be hidden anywhere so secret hunting actually helps you proceed a lot. Finding the secret characters is also going to be of value because every character has a secret move they can do and each of these works to make certain areas more manageable. Bombshell for instance rolls homing grenades. Lo Wang on the other hand has his trusty sword for melee kills.

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After clearing a stage you’ll go to a Super Mario World style overworld map that follows your exploits. Between stage spaces on the map you’ll land on minigame spaces. Most of these are pretty good, though others might be a bit bland or confusing. The standout of these are the pogo jump stages that are a complete reference to id Software’s early Commander Keen as that character often pogo jumped his way through stages. These are designed similarly to the Squid Jump game from the original Splatoon as you have to pogo jump as far up as possible before water fills the chasm below you. Touching the water kills you and the mini game ends. The other standout for me were the pinball tables. These were a complete throwback to Epic’s Epic Pinball. Here, you’ll try to not only get the High Score on any given machine, but you’ll also try to collect items like gems that you ordinarily find throughout the game’s stages.

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Things do ultimately culminate in one heck of a boss fight that even manages to utilize the glitch world mechanic I spoke about earlier pretty well. It’s not the most challenging final showdown in an action platformer, but it is one you likely won’t clear on an initial attempt. Especially if you play the game at one of the higher difficulty settings. The finale does feel pretty satisfying though, and does open up the possibility that another Rad Rodgers title may see the light of day.

Personally, I hope it does. I definitely enjoyed much of my time with the game. The platforming feels tight most of the time. It has fun gunplay, and it has some really interesting level design. On paper everything should lead to a really high score. The potential is certainly there. But unfortunately there are a number of problems that bring it down.

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While the audio is terrific as I mentioned earlier, there should have been more lines of dialogue or the lines they did record should have played less often. You’ll hear the same quips a bit too much at times. I do love the quality of the audio. Sound clips from Shadow Warrior, and Ion Fury in particular come in very clean and crisp. I also love the art style of the game. It has a Saturday Morning cartoon look had Dream Works made 3D computer animation in 1990 the way it does today. Unfortunately, though that mainly applies to the characters. Backgrounds on the other hand can sometimes feel drab. It isn’t that things look bad. They don’t. But there does seem to be an unevenness to it all. On one stage when you’re going through a forest it looks absolutely brilliant. But on another stage where you’re in a volcano, some areas can just feel bland. It’s a shame because again, the platforming and action is really fun. There is also a two player simultaneous option, something you don’t see as often anymore. In addition to this, the game also has a Battle mode where you and a friend can play a single screen death match mini game.

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What really hurts the game however are the technical bugs. Upon completing the game, I found that if I loaded my save to go back and replay levels I might have missed something in, I would run into hangs or even soft locks. Not having played every version of the game (I played through on the Nintendo Switch) I can’t say if some are better than others, but this can be really annoying. Especially for those who want to go to previous areas off of a completed save rather than starting the whole game over. Thankfully, throughout my initial run I didn’t really see a complete lock up, I did have a moment where the collision detection was off during a teleportation section and I was placed on spikes rather than the door next to the spikes. I also had one moment where Bombshell clipped into some world geometry and got stuck. I had to start the entire stage over again when I couldn’t get her loose. There are tiny bugs like that. They never make the game unplayable but they are enough to sour one on the experience.

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Be that as it may, I think the good outweighs the bad, and the underlying game is very entertaining. It has great gun play, great platforming, and I found myself loving the reference humor. If you can live with some technical problems and one mechanic that can feel a little boring at times, you’ll find a very fun and competent platformer. Rad Rodgers is quite enjoyable. It’s far from perfect, but not everything needs to be perfect to be fun. It isn’t going to be a Super Mario Odyssey, but it isn’t going to be an Awesome Possum either. It’s not a horrible game by any means, but it is a bit rough around the edges. Reading through the end credits you’re also going to see a lot of familiar names. Even some legendary ones. So it feels bad having to point out some of the game’s technical problems knowing the level of talent involved. Still, I enjoyed my time with Rad Rodgers in spite of the issues and I hope there will be another one. Clearing the game hints that there will be. Hopefully it will be more refined.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

ION FURY Review

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In recent years we’ve had a few high-profile games that hearken back to the early days of the PC FPS. There was a pretty great Rise Of The Triad reboot, a few years ago. Bethesda brought back DOOM, and New Blood Interactive has hit it out of the park by publishing DUSK, and AMID EVIL. But where all of these games bring back the elements of old using modern technology, Voidpoint went for the new game in the 1990s mold a different way. They actually went with technology that was released in the 1990s.

PROS: An excellent use of the 1996 3DRealms Build Engine in an all-new game!

CONS: There isn’t much for you beyond a terrific single-player campaign.

JON ST. JOHN IS BACK: But not as the gun-toting action hero he made famous.

Ion Fury had a few swerves on the lead up to release. When I bought it in Early Access eons ago it was called Ion Maiden. And it was one bug-ridden demo level. Once the issues were hashed out, it was one excellent demo level. But it hit other speedbumps like a potential lawsuit from a major record label and Iron Maiden because of the letter “R”.

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But a lot has changed since then and now that the game is officially out we have a new name, full-fledged campaign, and some other bonus content for good measure. Voidpoint also built this entire game on the very same technology 3DRealms used itself for Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior.  The game runs in a modified version of Build Engine that works under the modern Windows 10 environment. No need to fire up DOSBox, or write a batch file. It runs natively.

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But they didn’t just reskin a bunch of Duke 3D content. Everything here is all new. A cast of wild and inventive new enemies. A bunch of fun and interesting new weapons. A plethora of crazy new enemies to turn into gibs. A slew of stages that will have you really thinking about how things work in between volleys of enemy waves and hellfire.  They did a lot to push 23-year-old video game engine technology beyond what was thought possible. It even simulates some room over room scenarios with some clever tricks as Build technically was never designed to do so. We wouldn’t see that until iD Software created Quake.

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So the game is technically impressive, but how is the gameplay? Honestly, it’s quite good. If not for a few things I’ll get to later on, this could be the game people wanted Duke Nukem Forever to have been. You play as Shelly Harrison, the protagonist of the little-known twin-stick shooter Bombshell. Ion Fury is technically a prequel to that game. In any case, Shelly is after a mad scientist Dr. Jadus Heskel. Like many fictional insane villains with a Ph.D. Heskel has an army of twisted designs and is bent on taking over the world. He also has many acolytes in his group. So you can expect to go up against every sci-fi, and Saturday Morning Cartoon enemy trope you can think of.

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There are the cultists, zombies, cyborg ninjas, terminators, demons, death bots you would expect to face in a game like this. But there are a lot of other hidden surprises. But the game also gets points for being a bit more original with the designs of most of its rogues’ gallery. You’ve seen these kinds of enemies in many games over the last four decades. But they do have terrific, original costumes most of the time. Though there are a number of them that do not differentiate themselves from the henchmen in the late-night B-movies that inspired them. Though the ankle-biting enemies in this game will likely infuriate you as it can be impossible to see these heads with spider legs when they’re clipping behind 2D scenery sprites like trash cans or trees.

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Regardless of that annoyance, the stages in this game are very well thought out. As you get further in the game they become pretty intricate, rivaling some of the biggest maps from DOOM, Duke Nukem 3D, and Shadow Warrior. In late-game stages, you’ll often find the familiar color-coded keys bring you back to earlier areas or open up previously inaccessible paths. Simply trying to complete some of these can take you close to an hour. Possibly more. Then there are the secret areas. Some of them are obvious. If you’re going down a hallway, and see an air vent you may as well shoot the cover off and climb into the air duct. But others can be rather obtuse.

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If you’re just looking to blow through the game without worrying about finding every last secret and Easter egg, it will still take you a considerable amount of time to do so. As I’ve mentioned before, these levels are quite large with intricate paths. Then there are the set-piece moments peppered in. These are the times where you’ll hear Dr. Heskel taunt Shelly while the game introduces a major puzzle, new enemy group, or a boss encounter. These are done exceptionally well by the actor who brought Duke Nukem to life in Duke3D; Jon St. John. Here, he does a fantastic job of portraying a stereotypical supervillain. Even if the rest of the game doesn’t do much to flesh out the character, Jon St. John makes up for it a bit with some great delivery.

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And while Jon St. John isn’t reprising his most famous video game role, there is someone bringing you the snarky one-liners. That’s Valerie Arem. She’s the voice behind Shelly Harrison and Harrison brings the B movie quips as well as Duke Nukem did. Whether she’s blowing up cyborgs with bowling bombs, discovering new weapons or interacting with things in the environment you’re going to hear some great line delivery. Sometimes the game may replay them a bit too much. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t good. It really does feel like you’re playing a Duke Nukem 3D spinoff.

Of course, the modern standards that have been added here also make the game much easier to play than the old Build Engine games in their vanilla forms.  But it won’t be an easy game. When you’re not facing hordes from recently opened monster closets, you’ll rack your brain trying to figure out which path to take in the maze you’re currently in. And again, the visuals are all new in spite of running on modified old tech. The gritty textures and sprites will feel both new and familiar. For younger players who never experienced Duke Nukem 3D or Blood or Shadow Warrior back in the day, it might just give you enough understanding of why those games are considered classics while giving you a fantastic new experience.

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All told you’ll spend anywhere between 7 to 20 hours clearing the campaign, and for the completionists out there you’ll spend even further trying to get every last secret. All while jamming to some pretty great Electronica by Jarkko Rotsten that hearkens back to those 90s DTV films that used to adorn the video rental store walls.

When you clear the campaign there is a horde mode to play, but honestly, it feels pretty weak compared to the main game. Even if it can’t compete with the massive player bases of things like Overwatch I think a Deathmatch or Capture The Flag mode would have been much more fun. Barring that, an actual Co-operative campaign option would have been even better, giving players more replay value as they could play with friends on a second or third playthrough.

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Still, for what it is, it is a fun ride that gives you what it advertises; a fun, modern shooter built to appeal to the classics on a classic engine. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in playing, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy your time with Ion Fury. It’s a very well-made game that does what it does well. It pushes old tech to the limit while providing FPS fans with a new game. You’ve seen a lot of what it does before, yes. But it somehow doesn’t feel derivative. It’s a fun game with a cool protagonist.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Jumpman Review

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You wouldn’t know it at face value, but you’re on a mission to defuse bombs on another world. A world of bombs, killer robots, and a lethal pixel. In addition to a host of other horrific adversaries. It all sounds like a side scrolling action platformer or run ‘n gun. But you’d be wrong. Jumpman is one of the strangest, yet greatest puzzle games ever made. Debuting on the Atari 8-bit family of computers, it appeared on the Commodore 64 soon after, along with the IBM PC, and Apple II.

PROS: Excellent gameplay. Fun animation. Great musical numbers.

CONS: Bland graphics.

APOGEE: The Duke Nukem publisher felt the ire of Epyx.

Jumpman may seem a bit esoteric today, but there was a time when he was almost as popular as Bomberman. That’s because he starred in two of the most fun arcade puzzle games to ever grace a computer screen. As I mentioned at the start, the storyline of the game doesn’t accurately describe what is going on at face value. You really have to start playing the game before you realize that it does.

The goal of Jumpman is easy to grasp. Defuse all of the bombs in the level before losing all of your lives for big points. If you manage to do this, you’ll move onto the next level. You’ll also get bonus points for having more Jumpmen in reserve. So a high performance level is key. Created by Randy Glover, and released by Epyx, there is a wonderful use of the easy to learn, lifetime to master principles behind many great games.

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The game eases you in, with a couple of pretty simple to understand levels. You’ll go about your goal of defusing bombs, and slowly notice changes to a given stage. Pieces of scenery disappear, creating new gaps to jump over. A floating pixel will chase you down, and kill you if you get in its line of sight. But the obstacles only increase as you complete levels. It isn’t long before you see killer robots that change position every time you defuse a bomb. Or a plethora of bombs falling from the sky. Or flying saucers. Or rabid bats. Sometimes the challenges aren’t adversaries. Sometimes they’re things like moving ladders or other scenery.

Every one of these attempts to impede you can be overcome with enough practice. Over time, you begin to recognize patterns, and figure out what you’re supposed to do. But it doesn’t become a cakewalk, because actually doing what you’re supposed to still requires dexterity. When you clear a level, you’ll hear one of a multitude of cheery carnival tunes. These go along with the circus-like feel of the game’s introduction animation.

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Jumpman gives you nine lives to get through the stages. You can choose from several difficulty settings which will start at a stage where the appropriate difficulty jump occurs. You can also select Grand Loop which does all 30 levels in a row. Or you can choose the Randomizer, which plays the levels in a random order. Beyond that, you can also choose a game speed. The center value of 4 will run the game at the standard speed. The max speed of 8 is probably too fast for all but the most devoted player, and the minimum speed of 1 makes the game exceptionally slow. The speed setting is a nice option though because it can make the game a bit more interesting. The game can also be played by up to four players alternating turns.

Visually, Jumpman isn’t much to look at.  stages are made of simple shapes, and a handful of colors. Jumpman himself, is little more than a stick figure. But the gameplay in Jumpman is amazing. Moving about the levels is very smooth, and the controls are tight. One interesting thing the game does is allow Jumpman to climb anything he touches. If you go for a jump, and your hand nabs part of the scenery, you’ll climb it! There are also some cool navigational variables thrown in, in the form of ropes. Green ropes can only be climbed up, while blue ropes can only be climbed down. Between this, and the other mechanics introduced through enemy character types Jumpman becomes surprisingly deep for such a simple game.

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There are a few minor differences between the different versions of Jumpman. The original Atari 400/800 version features some really slick transition animations between levels as you clear them. It also has a pretty cool stage destruction sequence when you run out of lives, and get a Game Over.  The Commodore 64 version has a little bit more detail in the graphics department. It gives our hero a shirt, and pants through some simple colors. The music sounds a tiny bit better too. It is missing the stage transitions, and if you lose you don’t see the level explode. Instead, you get a harmonious musical number as the backgrounds, and characters slowly become the same color.

Over on the Apple II, you won’t see the transitions. Visually, it’s somewhere between the Atari, and Commodore computers. It has the Commodore’s background colors, but the Atari’s blank Jumpman. The IBM PC port was outsourced to another developer. It pretty much plays the same as the other versions although the terrible PC speaker sound, and CGA color scheme make it the worst in terms of visuals, and sound.

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Jumpman was also followed up by Jumpman Junior, which is really a companion version of the game. It was made for Commodore 64, and Atari 8-bit users who didn’t have a 5.25″ Floppy drive. Being a cartridge game makes it one of the more sought after games for collectors. It’s pretty much exactly the same game as Jumpman, except it has only 12 stages. At the time cartridges didn’t have as much storage capacity as the floppies, and cassettes did. Still, for many retro fans,  it isn’t the full Jumpman experience unless you have both games. It was never available for other computer formats, although it was ported to the Colecovision.

Long after Randy Glover left the game industry, A programmer named Dave Sharpless ported the game, and it’s expandalone to MS-DOS under the title Jumpman Lives! The game was published by Apogee in 1991. The thing is, that while Epyx had long been a shell of its former self, it was still around. The remake caught the ire of Epyx, and Apogee would cease selling it immediately. Epyx wouldn’t be around much longer though, after getting out of bankruptcy, and focusing on Atari Lynx development the company was sold off, and dissolved.  Jumpman Lives! Is a fairly rare computer game as a result.

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In the end, Jumpman, and Jumpman Jr. are games that really deserve more recognition than they get. At least when compared with other retro games. Things may look more like a carnival than a space station, and the bombs may look more like flowers. But once you get past the rudimentary look of everything you’ll be engrossed in one of the most addictive puzzlers of all time. If you can find the original floppy disk, the cartridge based companion edition, or even the unlicensed, unofficial, Apogee remake, give it a go. Jumpman Junior was also included in the C64 DTV, as well as the recent Colecovision Flashback by AtGames. So if you don’t have one of these old computers or consoles, there are other legitimate ways to add this masterful game to your collection in some capacity.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Rise Of The Triad Review

The reboot of the late 90’s many shooter fans have prayed for is out now. It delivers the fast paced carnage, and exploration of the original game. But along the way are a few caveats.

PROS: Wonderful retelling of the original 1995 2.5D First Person Shooter.

CONS: Bugs, micro stuttering, and a lack of optimization.

WOW! THEY PULLED A DOOM II:  Four super secret retro stages!

To say there is a new Rise Of The Triad is nothing short of a miracle. Only a handful of people thought there could ever be another one. Especially seeing how Apogee/3DRealms was barely on life support after losing millions on Duke Nukem Forever, and then selling the rights to Gearbox who merely got it functional enough to sell to the unsuspecting public.  Many of us, if not all of us, figured Apogee was all but gone, and their backlog lost to history.

Enter Interceptor Entertainment, who managed to get Apogee’s blessing to reboot one of their more obscure releases. I’ve reviewed the original game so I won’t go gravely into it again here. But Rise Of The Triad was a really good game that did a lot with dated technology. So much so, that for awhile it actually hung with the big boys of the time.

Born of an abandoned sequel to Wolfenstein 3D, it brought jump pads, destructable environments,  and multiplayer staples like CTF to the table. It did a lot of amazing things with a then five year old engine. Things some newer releases hadn’t done. In short it was awesome. It grew a devoted cult following over the years. Ironic, seeing how ROTT’s villians are helmed by a murderous cult.

Interceptor is a small team spread out over the globe. The creation of the reboot is an interesting one because it is such an unorthodox one. Developers created the game through nearly two years of internet conferencing, uploading, assets, and involving community feedback. It’s something you rarely see in the creation of any sort of ambitious project by such a small team.

Overall, this did work to their advantage. Rise Of The Triad is crafted with love for the IP, and it shows. Stages are built with the spirit of the original in mind at every turn. But entirely on an Unreal 3 engine. No longer restricted to 90 degree tile set design, the developers built stages with more of a building block approach. The stages are almost entirely open to you. With the exception of searching for keys for certain areas, and stage outskirts you can pretty much go anywhere.

With the advent of the popularity of Half-Life, Call Of Duty, and other contemporary big games, campaigns became more of a linear, cinematic experience. One of going on rail like segments where you can see things happening, but can’t explore them. ROTT throws this out the window,  embracing it’s 1995 era fully.

Exploration is one of the best things about the game too, because it will lead to a lot of power ups, secrets, and in four cases, retro levels themed on the 1995 original’s graphics. You will want these power ups too because ROTT is challenging. Even on lower difficulty settings, you will find yourself realizing the odds are against you. Gone are the regenerating health bars of modern design, and returning are the bowls of priest porridge  from the old game.

Managing health, and ammo is a staple of arcade shooters. There is little difference here. Although the bullet weapons like the handgun or MP40 supply unlimited ammuntion, going up against tougher enemies proves that they’re not ideal. ROTT’s meatier weapons are all variants on the rocket launcher. On top of the stock one, classic favorites return like the Flame Wall, Split Missile, Drunk Missile,and Firebomb. Each has a secondary function now to put another spin on the classic gameplay.

These weapons are a must against bosses, or heavy enemies. Also returning to help you out, are the powerups. There’s the wings to allow you to fly for a short time, dog mode which helps you find certain secrets, bite bad guys, and barkblast an entire room of badguys into paste. Also returning is the classic  god powerup giving you the familiar yawning sound, invulnerability, and force lightning balls of the original.

Interceptor also brought back the joke powerups. Shroom mode impedes your movement, and Ball mode makes you ricochet off walls. Finally, the excalibat, an enchanted baseball bat that shoots baseballs, and the magic wand that shoots force lighning.

ROTT’s story is told through comic book panels at the beginning of the game, and through radio chatter between levels. The game is broken up into 5 levels across 4 episodes. At the end of each episode you’ll face a reimagined version of a boss from ROTT 1995. Most of these will be multipart affairs with multiple forms. It’s another way the game attempts to bridge the gap between old, and new conventions.

Multiplayer is also a very fun return to form for the arena shooter. Not since Unreal Tournament 3 has there been a deathmatch focused arcade style game where twitch skills are key. Of course there is some luck involved as the stock pistols don’t get you far, and starting near a pickup is ideal. But at the end of the match it’s those with the best hand, and eye cooirdination who can claim success. That is if they can stave off anyone who picked up god or wing powerups. This is Rise Of The Triad after all.

ROTT also includes an editor which is great news for those who wistfully remember making their own stages to share with friends, and other fans in this era of paid DLC maps, and micro transactions.

The original game was also heralded for it’s over the top, goofy violence. ROTT also doles this out in spades. Enemies spin around in flames. Enemies lose limbs or heads. In many cases they’ll explode. When this happens you’ll find the developers were so devoted to recreating gibs that they modelled individual organs. It never gets to the clown shoes level of Mortal Kombat 3’s fatalities. But it will certainly wow anybody who has fond memories of the original game.

Fond memories of the original’s soundtrack can be found with most of the fandom. This was another thing that was celebrated in the reboot. All of Lee Jackson’s classic chiptunes have been painstakingly covered in heavy metal. But the game also gives players the option to hear the original Jackson soundtrack instead. To their credit, the covers are awesome. Any hard rock fan who plays the game will find themselves jamming to the tunes inbetween waves of Triad soldiers. But those who aren’t big on loud guitar work will love turning on the original tunes.

ROTT isn’t a visual powerhouse, but it does have a lot of special effects, and graphics options for players to tweak. It goes out of it’s way to allow you to setup all of the various settings you’re accustomed to, and then some. Unfortunately it’s here where some of the game’s problems begin to come through.

As fun, exciting, and all around awesome as Rise Of The Triad is, the lack of optimization is disheartening. If you are on anything other than mid tier or higher intel, or nVidia hardware, expect to run into some micro stuttering. Setting the graphics options lower, honestly doesn’t help much unless your computer is honestly that old or running onboard video rather than a discrete card.

To it’s credit, Interceptor has been much better about fixing these issues than even many AAA developers. Since launch they have been working with community feedback on patching the game starting with it’s editor for mod makers. They’ve committed to releasing a stream of small patches, and updates to get the game working right for their customers.

But with that said, ROTT is still a product, and as such customers expect a game to work when they get it home, or get it installed on their computer.  Even if it is only $15.  If you are a die hard ROTT fan who still doesn’t have this game, you will probably be able to grin while bearing the periodic performance hitches. For those curious or on the fence, while the game is nowhere near as glitch filled or broken as something like Brink was in it’s launch you still may want to wait for a patch or two.

One can only hope the hitches are hashed out soon because the multiplayer has the potential to bring back UT or Quake style arena shooting to a new generation. The campaign is a fun, engaging affair that is one part Quake II, and two parts Return To Castle Wolfenstein.

Final Score: 7 out of 10 (When the problems are solved make it a 9)

Reposted Review: Rise Of The Triad

Rise Of The Triad

August 15th, 2012 TheDeviot

 

(Originally posted on Blistered Thumbs forums, then Retro Retreat)

Released as I was escaping High school through graduation, Rise Of The Triad (Or ROTT as it would be referenced for short) was one of the coolest under the radar releases of all time.

PROS: Wildly inventive weapons, cool environments, fast multiplayer, awesome chiptunes.

CONS: Dated engine, came out a little too late, buggy at times.

WTF?: The disembodied head of Apogee bigwig Scott Miller

Rise Of The Triad was one of the last First Person Shooters to be released before fully polygonal 3D engines would take shape. It ran on a heavily tweaked, and modified Wolfenstein 3D engine. In fact it’s legend is that it was born out of a rejected Wolfenstein 3D sequel. The engine tweaks allowed for things not seen until Duke Nukem 3D, and Shadow Warrior would come into being. Even years later, Quake III Arena would borrow one of it’s greatest elements.

The additions allowed ROTT to have shattering glass, destructible sprites, skyboxes, and sector tag switches allowing for new ways for the push wall concept to work. Back when Wolf 3D was king of the shooters, players would jam on the spacebar across entire segments of wall hoping to find new areas, secret ammo, secret jewels, or secret exits. ROTT continued this trend, but with sector tagging, players needed to shoot a certain object, step on a certain tile, or reach another benchmark to make certain walls move.

 

ROTT continued the tradition of keycards too, as it forced exploration of the stages to find the keys to get to other inaccessible areas. It also featured secret levels much like Wolfenstein 3D had. On the subject of levels ROTT featured 32 levels. Some of which can take over an hour for the average player to get through. The game had a handy overhead feature similar to DOOM where pressing TAB would show where the player was standing, and he or she could plot their course. Players also had the option of choosing through four characters, each with their own minor tweaks to health, speed, recovery, and so on.

 

The game also featured some really over the top, and fun powerups. Some of them necessary to be able to progress further. One of them was a pair of wings. Running over these allowed players to temporarily use the look up, and look down keys to float over obstacles in the map. (More on those in a minute). Other power ups included the bouncing ball mode, (Which forced players to ricochet off of walls), and ‘shrooms mode, (Which made players movement go awry, while echoing any sounds in the environment.). This mode did however highlight any threats or movable objects in the field by making them flash all sorts of colors. There was also a GOD powerup. This was the game’s wisecrack at other games’ invincibility cheat codes of the time. Not only did this power up cause one to be invulnerable to almost any threat in the game until it wore off, it also added a lot of humor.

 

Your guns were replaced with a giant hand, while an ominous voice yawned loudly into a microphone, and subsequently through your speakers. Running into a room full of enemies, players could press fire, and the hand would cast an electrical orb that would mow through all of them, and vaporize them in the process. Finally, there was DOG mode (A play on GOD as it’s the spelling of DOG backwards). This mode turned players into a small dog, who could bite people to death, and increased movement speed.

ROTT featured a fun arsenal that mimicked the endlessly grand weapons of other games, but also implemented the idea of only carrying so much at once. The first player slot featured the standard pistol implemented in every shooter of the genres earliest days. Players could pick up a second one to dual wield, and they could find the MP40 upon killing the right guard or through exploring secret areas. These ballistic weapons had limitless ammo. This meant you would never have to worry about running off to find more bullets when outnumbered. But the real meat, and potatoes of the game were the rocket launchers. Players could only hold one of these at a time, but there were a lot of fun ones. There was the classic launcher seen in countless games, but from there it expanded to heat seeking rockets, to the drunk rockets that fired them in a haphazard fashion. Probably the most amazing of these was the flamewall. Firing one of these created an unavoidable wall of fire that turned any unfortunate enough to be in it’s path into a skeleton which would fall apart into dust shortly thereafter.

 

In addition to that gory scenario, many launchers caused enemies to gib (From the word giblets). Gibbing left piles of gory guts strewn throughout the field. Not too many games outside of Quake kept that feature going, but it was very popular in the 90′s, and something ROTT did really well. Late in the game some mystical weapons showed up including the hilarious excalibat (An enchanted Louisville Slugger baseball bat), and a wand that fired GOD bolts.

Enemies not only included hordes of Nazi soldiers, crazed cult members, and cult clergy but stage hazards as well. Whereas DOOM would feature acid pits, and lava floors, ROTT included fire walls that moved, spikes coming up from floors, and down from ceilings. It featured flamethrowers protruding from floors. There were fire cannons on walls. There were moving columns of blades. ROTT also had floating discs players could use to get to inaccessible areas, or bounce pads to nab floating coins. Collecting enough of these would net extra lives. It also brought along the ability to fall out of a map and die, as some parts of some levels had ledges that ended near areas without walls.
Texture work, and features aside, one of the greatest things about ROTT has to be the music. Most of the chiptunes in Rise Of The Triad are catchy, capturing the action movie feel of the game. The best of these is easily Going Down The Fast Way.

 

ROTT also added a pretty comprehensive multiplayer package into the mix. Called Comm-Bat (A play on the fact most games of the time had over the phone multiplayer) ROTT supported the typical deathmatch. But it also had a tag mode, where the tagged player was “It”. A coin collection mode, and even supported a Capture The Flag mode. Players could go in using any of the four main characters, and between the supplied maps, and community maps made by countless fans ROTT was a multiplayer winner. It never reached the numbers of DOOM or Duke 3D or Quake but it did have a small dedicated following.

 

“So if Rise Of The Triad is the awesome game you’ve been gushing over, why have I never heard of it?” you may be asking yourself. There are several reasons. The first reason is if you’re under the age of 25 you likely wouldn’t have been around during it’s heyday. Rise Of The Triad came out in 1995. But to be fair even older folks didn’t catch on, and again it has to do almost entirely with it’s time of release. DOOM, which had a fresher, more advanced engine had been out for three years. DOOM was also being shopped around for console porting, and it’s sequel was about to hit stores if it hadn’t already. On top of that, Duke Nukem 3D was going to follow in just under a year. Compounding that was that iD had licensed out the DOOM engine. A lot of other great games built on it were coming out. ROTT was simply lost in the shuffle. Even if it hadn’t been, DOOM was rereleased several times over since it launched way back when.

 

ROTT isn’t a perfect game, and it certainly hasn’t aged as well as other shooters of the 90′s. While map design is pretty extensive, and well made some levels do begin to drag somewhat. People who are new to this antiquated style of 2.5D first person shooter may find themselves tiresome after being used to games made during this, and last decade. Because everything was on a tile based layout, pushing on walls to find hidden keys, shortcuts, and exits may grate for some players.

But don’t let that turn you off from wanting to play it. The fact that ROTT did so much with a dated engine, and managed to be better than some of the Doom clones coming out back then is a testament to just how great it truly was. In fact, there are too few modern first person shooters that still implore players to search out every nook, and cranny of a stage for secrets, items, shortcuts, or even Easter eggs. It’s almost strange how in an age of graphically advanced game engines, and increasing photorealism Rise Of The Triad for all of it’s faults can still manage to feel fresh to anyone tired of today’s hall, and cutscene design.
For anyone curious about the beginnings of a modern genre, looking for goofy fun, or preparing for the recently announced reboot, ROTT is worth a look.

Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 (Try it out!)