Tag Archives: Retrogaming

Keystone Kapers Review

Activision. There was a time when that wasn’t a name met with the same ire of Electronic Arts. These days, Activision is known as “Those guys who publish Call Of Duty, and sometimes Guitar Hero or Tony Hawk.” to many people. But there was a time when the company was very different in its business. Back in its infancy, Activision was helmed by a lot of people who created games in-house, and took chances. Oddly enough, a lot like Electronic Arts’ early days they wanted to make sure game creators were credited like authors or musicians. Formed by many people who used to work for Atari, Activision was one of the earliest third-party developers, and made games that really pushed what the Atari VCS could do.

Some of these games like Pitfall!, Kaboom!, and River Raid were so huge, that even today people hold them in high regard. Many an Atari, Colecovision, Intellivision, or home computer game collector are sure to have them in their collections with good reason. But Activision also took chances on some ideas that weren’t typical of the time period. One of those games is Keystone Kapers.

PROS: Fast, addictive gameplay.

CONS: High Score gaming may not appease some players.

KILL SCREEN: One of the 2600 cartridges that you can become too good with.

Programmed by Gary Kitchen (who did a lot of great work in Activision, and Absolute) Keystone Kapers is certainly a game that while adored when it came out, somehow isn’t mentioned much when talking about Activision’s glorious run in the golden age of consoles. But Keystone Kapers is worthy of all of the love it received in 1983, and it’s a cartridge anybody who collects old games should try to track down.

Keystone Kapers puts you in the role of a police officer named Keystone Kelly. A criminal named Harry Hooligan has broken out of prison, and run into a shopping mall where he plans to do more larceny, and escape the long arm of the law. Unfortunately Harry Hooligan isn’t all that bright. Because he doesn’t even stop off to change his clothes, or appearance. He just decides to go for a heist the second he breaks out of prison. Anyway Keystone Kelly arrives at the mall, and has to arrest Harry Hooligan before he can get away.

You start the game as Harry runs away. As stated before, your job is to arrest him as quickly, and efficiently as possible. At first, you’ll find he’s a really easy criminal to apprehend. But once you bust him, the game gives you the same task only each time Harry starts throwing more, and more obstacles to hinder you. Each time he gets away, or you fall victim to one of his traps you lose a life. You start the game with three lives, and you can earn bonus lives by scoring big points. Every 10,000 points nets you another life. How do you get points? By having time left on the clock when you catch Harry. The more time you have left, the bigger the point bonus. You can also pick up suitcases of money, and bags of money for around 50 points. In earlier stages you’ll get around 100 points multiplied by time left over, and later stages it can jump to 200 points, and then 300 points.

With every arrest you make, the game becomes more, and more difficult throwing all kinds of obstacles at you. Some items like shopping carts will cost you time if you hit them. Most other ones will take your life. Bouncing balls, model airplanes, and carts are the main traps you’ll run into, though there are others. To ensure that you run out of lives, each round not only adds more to impede your progress, but speeds them up as well. So while jumping over a cart the first time you see one may seem fairly easy, later levels will send them at you 100 miles an hour. Keystone Kapers can become really difficult, really quickly.

The game does throw one major bone your way though. That is a radar screen at the bottom of the TV screen. As you hunt down Harry by using escalators, an elevator, and your platform jumping skills it will tell you what floor he is presently on. Just remember Harry has a few cheap things he can do to you. First, if you chase him on the roof, he leaves you no way to go back to the lower floors. So you had better catch him if you follow him to the roof. In many cases the game leaves you no choice but to go to the roof. But note that if you miss him, he can get to lower floors. Second, Harry also has the strange ability to go down floors without using the escalator or elevators. Third he is also immune to his own booby traps of merchandise.

The game has no soundtrack, or many audio effects for that matter. Getting hit makes noise. Scoring points makes noise, and jumping makes noise. That’s about it. But the game has the same visual hallmarks Activision was known for on the 2600. Graphically, it is one of the better looking games on the console, utilizing some great tricks to simulate the elevator, and escalators. It also runs at a pretty great clip with no slowdown, even when the game throws a ton of stuff at you. The only issue I ever had is the precision entering an elevator takes. It requires pixel perfect placement, and timing. The 5200, Colecovision, and computer versions look even better. Adding more details to the shops you chase Harry Hooligan through. All of the versions run fairly well, though the 2600 version, and computer versions tend to have the best controls.

While the game isn’t very long given it’s a game centered around a high score, it is really engaging. Like Donkey Kong before it (Which Gary Kitchen also ported to the 2600 for Coleco), it may be simple to pick up, but the challenge can keep you playing for hours if you’re willing to let it. If you find yourself looking for a really fun classic game with staying power, track down a copy for yourself.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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Spiritual Warfare Review

You probably know all about Wisdom Tree by now. An unlicensed publisher called Color Dreams changed its focus from making typical games into religious edutainment. In some cases, under its new badge, Wisdom Tree simply reskinned its Color Dreams games. Many of them panned as being badly made, while a lot of others were merely competent.  In other cases they were original titles ranging from bad to passable. But there was one game that was a stand out.

PROS: A Zelda clone with Christian overtones that actually fit its premise.

CONS: Biblical trivia interrupts the flow.

OKELY DOKELY: This game could be a Ned Flanders sight gag at times.

Spiritual Warfare is a stand out in the Wisdom Tree roster of games. It’s the lone attempt at an action RPG, and it borrows liberally from Nintendo’s flagship Zelda series. From the starting position, it’s patently obvious that it is going to. In Zelda walking into a cave introduces you to an old man who gives you a sword. In this game, you’ll find an angel in a building who gives you a pear. Shortly thereafter you’ll find canisters that work the way the bombs in Zelda do. Just like Zelda, you’ll scroll through an overhead perspective taking on enemies, and pushing objects to find secrets. There is a pretty key difference in the overall goal though. In Spiritual Warfare you’re going on a quest to find physical representations of allegorical pieces of armor. Why? Because you’re also going on a quest to save souls, and kill the Devil in the process.

The game starts you out in a park filled with criminals, and bullies. After getting your pear you’ll be able to defend yourself by throwing fruit at them. Throughout the game you’ll find other fruits of the spirit. Tossing them at enemies doesn’t kill them. Instead, it causes them to repent from their ways, and pray to God. Some of these people are actually possessed, and so this process will cast out a demon. You have to then kill the demon with the fruit of the spirit. Throughout the game the areas become more diverse. You’ll go through a metropolis, a section of suburbs, the slums, an airport, a forest, a beach, a prison, and Hell itself. All the while saving souls, and trying to survive.

Along that process you’re going to find extra heart containers to expand your life, and other items. There are also storefronts run by angels who sell you other fruits, or power ups with a currency called spirit points. How do you get spirit points? The enemies whose hearts you’ve changed will drop them. You’ll need to have them on hand for many of the game’s power ups, and even some of the pieces of spiritual armor. You can also use them to restore health by going under the inventory screen, and selecting the praying hands. You can also gain spirit points by answering biblical trivia questions. Every so often you’ll see an angel fly around the area you’re in. If they touch you you’re taken into a game show setting where you’ll be asked random questions about the bible. This is where the game is a little bit flawed. Because instead of working this information into the actual game world, it takes you out of the game to take these quizzes.

The problem isn’t that there is bible trivia. The game is a Christian focused game. One would expect any edutainment title to have some sort of educational aspect of the subject matter to be there. In this case Christianity. The thing is, it would have been much more effective to have these moments come out in the gameplay somehow. Meeting an important character, who quotes a line of scripture that can be applied to that moment in the game whenever running into them would be more effective. Instead, this just takes you out of the game, and feels like homework given to you by a religious educator. Plus if you ignore the angel, you won’t have to take the quiz. So it defeats the purpose of having them there. The only time you might want to take the quiz is if you are low on health or spirit points. Because if you ace it with a perfect score your health will replenish, and you’ll get a decent number of points.Toward the end of the game, you may find yourself taking quizzes more as enemies begin getting quite difficult, and your energy tank equivalents running low. But instead of feeling invited to learn more about the bible you end up feeling forced. Which can make a player feel more resentment than welcome.

Thankfully the core gameplay is good enough here you may want to try it out anyway. The game controls well enough, and there are a lot of surprisingly well thought out puzzles. Boss fights are surprisingly good too. Many of them are more than a simple act of shooting fruit. Many require pattern memorization, dexterity, or puzzle solving skills. Many of the pieces of armor are guarded by bosses too. The boss rooms also require keys you can find throughout the game. The keys also open up secret areas locked away in buildings or other areas that have highly needed items inside.

When you finally do find your way to Hell, you’ll find one of the most challenging dungeons you’ll likely ever play. Newer, monstrous enemies appear, and take a lot more damage to go down. Other times the game will throw waves of low-level grunts at you in these areas relentlessly. The dungeon also has a door maze element to it, as you continually end up going back, and forth through floors. This culminates with a showdown against the Devil himself.

Spiritual Warfare also has a password system like the one found in Metroid. The game has one major flaw in it though, some of the passwords will easily be written down wrong due to the fact that some of the characters are so similar. You can get through large chunks of the game, only to jot down a single character wrong, and have to restart the entire game. So be especially careful when writing these down. Spiritual Warfare isn’t an exhaustively long game, but it does have a duration that most won’t complete in a single sitting. Though there are speed runners of the game who have managed to blast through it in 20 minutes or less.

The game was initially an NES game, but it did make its way over to the Game Boy, Genesis, and computers as well. It isn’t as rare as some of Wisdom Tree’s other bible games. But it is still uncommon, and fetches a bit more than typical NES Game Paks these days. Still, if you’re a collector, or a Zelda fan you might want to check it out. If you’re not terribly religious you can skip the quiz portions, and if you are you can probably ace them to your benefit. Either way, you’ll probably get a laugh out of seeing the Devil go down from a pear to the face. Not bad for something that could pass for a Ned Flanders sight gag on The Simpsons.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Abadox Review

Shoot ’em ups these days seem to focus a lot on the bullet hell approach. A subset of the shmup involving hundreds of projectiles, and enemies on the screen at any moment. Where touching anything at all killed you instantly. There is certainly merit in that approach, where completing the challenge is a badge of pride.  But in the days  where the genre was exiting its single screen infancy there were many other takes on the genre. Some games like Gradius, and R-Type would slowly veer into that direction. Others like Cybernoid would add a touch of trial, and error puzzling to the mix. As time went on, even the stories would take action sci-fi elements in addition to visual styles.

PROS: Inventive. Challenging. Beautiful visuals.

CONS: Short.

SALAMANDER: Abadox is often compared with Life Force due to the similarities.

One such game was crafted by Natsume. These days they’re primarily known as the house of Harvest Moon. But throughout the 1980’s, and 1990’s they would put out many, many well crafted action games. Action platformers, and of course shmups. Abadox at first glance is often mistaken for a Salamander (Life Force in the U.S.A.) clone. It has some similarities. You fight in an alien beast. You have power ups that beef up your attack power. It also had horizontal, and vertical perspective stages. But to its credit, Abadox has a lot more going for it. The gameplay while still a shooter, has its own feel. Things feel heavier in Abadox. Not so much slower, but heavier. This is partly due to the large characters throughout the game.  Even the smallest, grunt enemies are almost as large as your character. Because of this the game also doesn’t get into bullet hell territory. The game doesn’t need to. One hit from any given weapon can take you down unless you have some sort of power up. Suddenly, dodging 8 lasers, and three pellets goes from not being a big deal, to a pretty big challenge.

The story of Abadox isn’t a very complicated one, and doesn’t need to be. You play one of the few survivors of a planet that was eaten by an interstellar creature that is one part Galactus, and one part Death Star. You learn that your world’s Princess (Now a Queen) has survived, and is trapped in the bowels of the monster. So you take a page from Man-At-Arms, and go into the belly of the beast to free the monarch, and destroy the creature so it can’t digest another world.

The game starts with you skimming along the surface of the monster, and gets you acclimated to its formula. Each stage is a two-part affair, with each half pitting you against a mini boss. As you plow through enemies, in an attempt to survive there are symbols that join the enemy ranks. Destroying them allows you to collect a power up. Among them are better guns like spread guns, lasers that take down grunts in one hit, and shields that orbit you. There are also temporary invincibility moments if you play your cards right.

Abadox has some of the best visuals of any game on the NES. Every character in the game has intricate details, and many of the stage backgrounds are even animated. Years later, seeing the backgrounds of flesh contracting, and expanding as muscle spasms will impress you. Not only that but everything is memorable. Especially the boss encounters, some of which can even take up most of the screen. Also memorable is most of the game’s soundtrack. Composed by Kiyohiro Sada, many of these songs are catchy, and fit the action perfectly.

Abadox isn’t a particularly long game. It’s only seven stages long, but is still in line with most shmups of the time. It is also notoriously difficult, but in a good way. When you die you’ll often chalk it up to your own ineptitude. But if you have the patience to learn from your mistakes you’ll find a very good game that is both cruel, and fair. The game also has cheat codes for those who can’t seem to persevere. Though it’s recommended you do persevere because winning legitimately here feels very rewarding. Just know that even after you win it isn’t over. Because the game has a challenge that might just require you to break out the bullet hell skills if you manage to rescue your fearless leader.

Even if the genre isn’t your cup of tea, Abadox is highly recommended. It’s easily one of the best Game Paks available for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The game controls responsively, dishes out a lot of pattern memorization, as well as require the hand & eye coordination needed for the genre. It is certainly a challenge, but not impossible. That isn’t to say it’s all roses. The large sprites lead to slowdown in a number of places in the campaign. Playing for long periods as you try, and fail, can feel understandably repetitive.  Still, despite being mentioned by some of the more prominent bloggers, and internet video producers over the last few years, as of this writing it hasn’t skyrocketed in price yet. The game can be had for a few dollars loose. Not a bad proposition considering what the aftermarket values are with a lot of other shmups.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

SiN Retrospective Part 3: SiN Episodes: Emergence

2006. Valve had been talking up the idea of episodic gaming. The company had decided that a series of games could be released in chunks at a time at a discount. Then, much like a TV show, each episode could end with a cliffhanger getting the player hyped to see what happens next. They eventually tried this with Half-Life 2. But Valve wasn’t the only company sold on the idea. Ritual Entertainment thought that SiN would be a great franchise to use the idea on.

PROS: Level design. Voice acting. Innovative A.I.. Soundtrack.

CONS: Short. Will likely never see a conclusion.

BIANCA BEAUCHAMP: Portrayed Elexis Sinclaire at E3 in 2006.

SiN Episodes was supposed to be the heavy hitter for the episodic model. The game takes a bit of a departure from the original game’s wide open maps. Instead, the game follows the Half-Life model of intricate maps, with linear routes. So much so, that it was one of the first games that licensed the Source engine from Valve. Everything is built on the foundation of Half-Life 2’s tech. While at first glance that may seem like a step backwards, it does help move the series toward the TV feel the developers were going for. The game opens up with Blade waking up on an operating table. Elexis Sinclaire, and her latest henchman, Viktor Radek.

Before they can finish whatever they were doing to blade, HardCORPS shows up, and starts taking down the cartel’s minions. Elexis, and Viktor escape as a new character, Jessica Cannon (Played by Halo’s Jen Taylor) emerges to rescue Blade. She gets him out of the building, and into her car. As she drives we learn that Viktor’s cartel has gotten control of large sections of Freeport. He’s suspected of leading a U4 operation (SinTek’s mutant creating drug).

Blade has a weird dream about a scantily clad Elexis in a pond, before coming to. Jessica, contacts JC about an informant, and takes Blade to go meet him. Despite JC’s objections, and pleas to get Blade examined. Blade ends up going through a development sector. Things seem on the surface like a housing revitalization project. But the large number of SinTek security officers, and mercenaries suggest otherwise. The trail then leads to the Freeport shipping docks. Blade meets the informant who leads Blade to a tanker where the U4 is being made. Before he can finish telling Blade everything he needs to know, one of the informant’s men betrays him. SinTek forces show up in droves, and Blade has to escape. After going through a gauntlet of forces he meets back up with Jessica briefly. After getting armed she forges ahead to get in contact with JC, while Blade makes his way to Viktor’s base.But it is here that Blade finds out that U4 is only part of the secret operation. Viktor is also dealing in a number of military grade technologies. SinTek is shown to have continued its mutant research. After making his way to Viktor he learns that Viktor has the antidote to whatever Elexis injected him with. But that Viktor has no idea what the concoction is, other than it has powerful results. The tanker base begins to self-destruct, as Viktor escapes. Elexis appears as a hologram to taunt Blade, before he has to start fighting his way out of the secret factory.

After getting through some secret sewer tunnels the trail leads back to the development sector. Blade discovers that SinTek’s largest building in the area, Supremacy Tower is a potential stronghold.  He meets up with Jessica after he defeats a giant mutant. Jessica picks up Blade in her nearly totaled car. With the supremacy tower being heavily fortified, Jessica sees no stealth option. She drives the car through the front of the building. The two of them make their way to the top. They also discover SinTek’s data servers on the way. Jessica patches JC into the network while Blade continues to track down Viktor. Jessica gets the data to JC, but not without being captured by Viktor. Viktor meets Blade near the top of the tower in his helicopter. He rambles on to our heroes about how he has 5 data servers across the globe, and that losing one to the police is of little consequence. After some sarcastic dialogue from Elexis Sinclaire, he tosses Jessica out of his helicopter onto the roof after injecting her with some sort of poison. He then gets away after calling in an attack chopper.

Blade climbs to the top of the tower to try to shoot it down, but is confronted by another giant mutant. After barely defeating the mutant, he manages to take down the vehicle by the skin of his teeth. Then we get a trailer for the next episode. Jessica is put in an infirmary at HardCORPS, and JC explains that thousands of the monsters Blade barely defeated on the top of the Supremacy Tower have run amok. We get a montage of them killing civilians, police, and even SinTek’s own private army soldiers. Elexis can be seen laughing victoriously, as the end credits start to roll.

SiN Episodes Emergence does what it sets out to do. It delivers a short game in the vein of a television serial. As a game, it uses a lot of design ideas, and play we’ve seen in countless shooters since. The thing is, there are a lot of things under the hood here that were actually pretty revolutionary at the time. The interactive objects that were novel in the first game, are back with a few improvements. You’ll still be typing on computers, and using keypads. The game borrows Half-Life 2’s companion idea too. Jessica Cannon is this game’s Alyx Vance. She shows up similarly, finding alternate routes, and expounding  story information to you. She also fights with you in the last stage. But the biggest innovation the game added is an A.I. scale. The better you do, the harder the enemies will become. They’ll stop standing in the open if they see a comrade go down. They’ll change their attack patterns if a certain technique doesn’t work out for them. Similarly, they’ll become easier to defeat if you’re consistently failing, and continuing. It eliminates the need for the typical Easy, Medium, Hard layout traditionally seen in gaming. (There is also a HardCORPS mode that you unlock upon beating the campaign. This tasks you with beating the  game with no save states, on one proverbial quarter.).

The A.I. isn’t perfect mind you. Jessica doesn’t always go where she’s supposed to. Sometimes even an otherwise difficult enemy will bug out, and do something dumb. But it still reaches a level few games have in recent years. The game also has a pretty wide range of enemy types considering the short length. There are a number of variants on the mercenaries, and SinTek security forces. The mutants from the original game also return, alongside the different NPC’s like construction workers, guards, and so forth. The game can be completed within four to six hours depending on how good you are, and how you’ve set the Artificial Intelligence sliders. But it’s an insanely fun four to six hours. Most of your favorite weapons return from the first game, each with their own feel mostly intact. All of the weapons also have new secondary functions you can use provided you have the proper kind of ammunition. While the game has gone more toward the linear cinematic route instead of the original’s focus on exploration, there are plenty of secrets. The game has a number of Easter eggs, hidden weapons, and more if you’re the type to try to go off of the beaten path. It feels different, but also keeps the spirit of the cult first game alive.

The game also retains the brutality of SiN’s gun fights. Headshots often result in decapitation. Explosions will many times turn enemies into giblets. Fires will burn enemies alive. Some of the scripted animations will still amaze you today if you’re seeing them for the first time. Malfunctioning jetpacks sending guys off into the distance. Bad guys failing to stop, drop, and roll. Bad guys calling in for back up, or regrouping. It all makes for the B action movie feel the franchise is known for.

The game doesn’t have a multiplayer mode. Where the original SiN had a run of death match maps, and variants this game gives you something called Arena Mode instead. Arena is basically a single player horde mode. You are put into a map, and have to keep fighting bad guys until you die. You can compete for a high score on the leaderboard, but this really feels like an afterthought, and isn’t worth playing more than a few times. Supposedly there was going to be some form of multiplayer added later, but it never was. Another positive thing about the game is its music. The soundtrack is one of the best scores in video games. The title track What’s the world come to? features some wonderful vocals by Sarah Ravenscroft. The soundtrack has a very James Bond feel. It was even popular enough to see an actual album release.

The storyline isn’t a big upgrade over the one in the first game. But once again, it’s voice acted very well, and nails its B movie target. Even though it gets a bit campy, you’ll still want to see what happens. Unfortunately, we probably never will. Episodic gaming ended up going the way of the dodo pretty quickly. Mainly because the few studios doing it found they couldn’t finish the episodes fast enough. The development time for these budget games ended up being almost as long as a full priced game. Moreover, Ritual was purchased by Mumbo Jumbo not long after SiN Episodes, released. Upon the buy out, the company was told they couldn’t work on the second episode. Instead they had to focus on budget priced casual puzzle games. Most of the staff at Ritual left Mumbo Jumbo after the buyout, and so much like Half-Life 2 Episode 3, remains in limbo.

It’s a short ride, and it’s a sad note to go out on. But SiN Episodes: Emergence is still a historical gaming footnote you should look into. It’s a lot of fun to play through, and delivers the Popcorn movie action in spades. At release the game even included the original game, albeit with some content edits. Still, for anyone looking for an entertaining cult series should pick this up if they missed it way back when. With that, is the end of the SiN retrospective. It’s unlikely the series will ever see another entry, but on the other hand other games have taught us to never say “Never.” Here’s hoping if that day ever comes it continues the fun B movie camp of two excellent action games.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Pigs In Space Review

The Muppets. What children of the 80’s didn’t love them? Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and of course the theatrical films. Even when they weren’t all that great, they weren’t completely lamented. Except for maybe the time they tried to remake The Wizard of Oz. Anyway, Muppets have been plastered on everything for decades. T-shirts, flat ware, a rather excellent toy line from Palisades Toys, the list goes on. Muppets even made their way into video games. Most of them have been simple, edutainment fare. Things for toddlers to learn shapes or colors or numbers from. After all, Sesame Street has been a pre school staple. But now, and again they’ve ventured out into traditional video games. This week I stumbled onto one of the more interesting, and yet disastrous ones.

PROS: Based on one of the best parts of The Muppet Show.

CONS: Inconsistent visuals. Poor controls.

PSYCHIC GAME: Predicted Gonzo was an alien 16 years before Muppets From Space.

Pigs In Space is loosely based off of one of the Muppet Show’s greatest skits. In it Miss Piggy, Captain Hogthrob, and Dr. Strangepork go on adventures in space that parody popular science fiction. One of their most notable skits, featured Mark Hamill reprising his role as Luke Skywalker, even bringing C-3P0, and R2D2 along. It was pretty funny, and something a lot of kids looked forward to back then. The game however shouldn’t really elicit that sort of nostalgia. Because it isn’t very good.

This is probably going to be a fairly short review because there isn’t very much to Pigs In Space. It’s a compilation of three games, two of which are fairly shallow. The game starts out with a title screen with none of the design of the skits’ popular moniker. Upon starting the game, you will see three heads appear underneath, and a scoreboard on the top of the screen. Just below the scoreboard are some X’s. These represent the number of lives you have left. Choosing each of the heads will bring you to a corresponding game. The first of these is Captain Hogthrob’s game. It’s the best game on the cartridge, and the only one that could possibly pass for an actual skit. It’s a parody of Space Invaders. The alien ships have all been replaced by Camila the chicken, and the space station that flies across the top has been replaced by a spinning Gonzo head. The Gonzo head is interesting, because not a lot of Atari 2600 games were doing the rotation effect this does. In any event, you move the Captain along the bottom eliminating chickens for points. Instead of landing on the ground for victory, they just push you below a certain barrier. The other thing they do is shoot at you the way you would expect. If you get shot, you turn into a chicken, and fly away. The game is the only one that doesn’t end until you lose all of your lives.

As a parody of Space Invaders it works, but the clunky movement, and single joke will have you wishing you had just played Space Invaders instead. Next up is Miss Piggy’s game. It’s a really bad Frogger clone. If you can even call it a clone. Floating across the screen are spaghetti, and meatballs. Because “Spaghetti Western” I can only guess. The object is to get Miss Piggy across the fast flying food, and into the ship. Once you do that successfully it’s back to the title screen. The faster you do it the bigger the point bonus. Of course if the ship makes it all the way across without you, you’ll lose a life, and have to try again until you’re out of lives. It’s short, you’ll probably play it once, and forget about it.

Finally there’s the Dr. Strangepork level. Strange doesn’t really begin to describe it. It’s a vertical shooter. You pilot the Swinetrek through what one can only guess is a cave. Gonzo appears on ledges firing laser guns. If one connects or you touch a wall, you have to start over again. You can shoot at the Gonzos but the game has you do so in the most asinine way possible. It shoots in the direction you last steered. Even more baffling is the arc of the shot is odd. It will go left or right, but also fall back. So landing shots requires pixel perfect timing. With enough practice you can clear the stage. There are no bosses, or tougher enemies on replay. It’s the same thing every time. Clearing the cave again, takes you back to the title screen. There isn’t much else to go over here aside from one crucial point. Points aren’t tied to any one game. Your score carries over between them until you run out of lives.

One interesting note about the game is that it is one of the few 2600 games to come out just before the industry crash of 1983. Which makes it one of the rarer games in the library. Although not so rare that you’ll pay a mint for it. It doesn’t have the status of scarcity of other noteworthy 2600 games. Pigs In Space is a morbid curiosity. Something that you may pick up to say you’ve experienced, or to boast it’s in your collection. Outside of those uses though it isn’t a recommended game. You’ll get a competent Space Invaders knock off, a bad Frogger clone, and a really strange vertical shmup. There are far better 2600 games to play. Really, really good 2600 games to play. Get this only if you’re into rarities, and collecting pieces of obscure video game history.

Final Score: 4 out of 10

Double Dragon Trilogy Review

DotEmu brings the three arcade classics to PC after a quick run on mobile devices.  But before you let the nostalgia take over your senses, and pick it up without question read along. There are a few caveats you need be aware of.

PROS: Emulations of Double Dragon 1,2, and even 3!

CONS: Limited credits. Glitches. Barebones options. Stretch o’ vision.

SAD: Super Double Dragon was never an arcade machine.

Ah, Double Dragon. What child of the 80’s didn’t play it? It was ported to nearly every possible platform of the time. Some versions like the beloved NES trilogy making wild changes to the stages. While other versions like the Commodore 64 port staying closer to the arcade game. (At least in layout. As you’ll see later.) None of the versions came close to the arcade machines though. The NES, and Sega Master System were probably the closest in terms of gameplay. You had access to all kinds of moves, even if you did have to level up in the NES port to use them. The other versions either didn’t get the controls right, or had to make other sacrifices for memory constraints.

The C64 port made you fight bad guys one at a time, and characters had no waistline. Torsos honestly floated over legs. The Atari 7800 port wasn’t as bad as some of the others, giving players play control that came closer to the Sega Master System’s version. But in this case, Activision (who had porting duties for Atari consoles) couldn’t quite pull off the same smooth animation. Atari’s decision to cut corners by using the 2600’s sound tech also meant the 2600 version’s soundtrack would play. The fact the first game even made it to the 2600 in a barely playable state is something of a miracle. Seriously, look it up sometime.

Anyway, many of us enjoyed the NES versions, or found some fun in one of the other versions. Even the bad ones, begrudgingly so. But it was a rare treat to go to the arcade, and play the arcade version. Double Dragon II was an even bigger hit. Double Dragon 3… not so much. The point is, in those days the arcade versions weren’t entirely possible at home. So many will feel an instant sense of joy when they see these games are available to purchase legally on their computer. Unfortunately, there are a few problems here that might just deflate the excitement. Let’s get the good in here first though. All three games are by most standards emulated pretty well. They’re essentially the arcade ROMs, packaged in a nice bootable emulator.

All of the games are the same quick romps, and they bring along all of the good, and bad things they had back in the day. The games also can be played with easy enemies that go down in a punch or two. Harder enemies that fight with more health. Then the impossible enemies arcades likely enabled to suck out more of our quarters. Double Dragon II also lets you play with either the consistently reversing, punch, and kick button layout or the straight forward punch, and kick button layout. For those too young to remember DDII, or those who have forgotten the game had reversed buttons. To explain it better, when facing right, the punch button was a punch button. The kick button was a kick button. But when facing left, the kick button became the punch button, and the punch button became the kick button. It was set up so that kicks would always be back kicks. For whatever reason someone thought that it would be a great idea. The reality is, that for most people it was just confusing. This also carried over to the NES port. So if you’ve played that version, expect the same thing here.  But again it is nice that you can disable it here. Some players simply won’t wrap their heads around it, and so this makes things clearer.

Double Dragon II also added a couple of new moves, most notably a hurricane kick. If you press attack at just the right moment after jumping, you’ll spin in the air. If you hit an enemy with it you’ll deal a lot of damage. Which you’ll need to do when you get to the end of the game to fight the final boss. Double Dragon II was one of the series’ highlights. Double Dragon III was its biggest downfall. The game tried to go for a more digitized look, which to be fair, did look nice. But the machine had two major problems. First, it had some severe slowdown at seemingly random times. This made an already difficult game that much harder. Second, the game required you to go into shops to buy items to make the game more manageable. Shops that took actual quarters. So if you wanted to add a larger life bar, access to additional playable characters the game touted, or weapons you had to put in more money. The game was a huge cash grab, and resulted in a lot of resentment from fans. Outside of these problems the game could be enjoyable, but without a lot of tokens on hand you probably weren’t going to finish it.

Which leads me to something that is going to bother a lot of people when they try this collection out. The games have all been retooled to allow for just three continues. This was probably done to make these games challenging, like the reworked NES versions. But in the process they’ve removed the immediacy of the arcade experience. A lot of players back in the day wanted to win. Of course many tried to complete these games on a quarter. But a lot of players spent a couple of dollars doing so. That feeling of instant gratification is gone now. And while the case could be made that Double Dragon 1&2 feel a little bit closer in challenge to their NES counterparts, Double Dragon 3 is the worst affected. Because it was a game designed around the concept of paying to win. Without spending money in shops it becomes nearly impossible for many people.  The continue limit effectively means that even visiting a shop one time, can lead to playing with no continues. Basically you’ll only want to buy extra lives, and that’s once per level. Even on the easiest setting, some won’t be able to clear the game because of it.

The bundle also doesn’t seem to properly set the aspect ratio of these games. If you go into the settings, and set the resolution to 1920×1080 menus seem sharp. However the actual games will have a muted look to them. It appears the games are “stretched” to fill the screen, rather than being rendered in full screen resolution. Or displayed in the center of the screen under the proper aspect ratio. Control options fare better.Thankfully you can re-bind all of the keys on either a keyboard or a gamepad. Outside of the barebones video, audio, and control options there isn’t much to speak of. It would have been nice to have options for filters to mimic an arcade monitor. Or the option to turn on free play, or at least the option to simulate putting in quarters by pressing a button.

The last major problem here is that the collection appears to have a glitch that doesn’t show the game endings should you beat the games. It also skips the intermissions of the third game! It’s true that arcade versions of these games didn’t have particularly deep endings. Double Dragon, saw you save Marion. The sequel saw you looking at a photo, reminded she was killed, and that your revenge didn’t bring her back. The third showed you donating Cleopatra’s treasure to charity. (Yes. Really.) But if you spend any time enjoying these titles, and succeed in winning, you’ll still want to see them. To its credit, DotEmu has said on the Steam forums it is looking into that issue. On the plus side, all of the games again, play as you remember. Animations are the same, the responsiveness of the controls, and chip tunes you remember are all here. You can also play the games in their entirety, or choose to level skip. Level skipping gives you a set number of lives with no continues however. So you’ll probably only do it if you get stuck on a certain stage or boss character.

I know it sounds like I’m really ripping into this collection here. I really wish I didn’t have to. Trust me, the first two Double Dragon titles were great. Especially for those who loved playing them in arcades, bars, and laundromats back in the day. The third one, while not as fun is still part of an important franchise in the world of brawlers. It’s just too bad that these changes bring along so many inconveniences along for the ride. If the games came with a free play option for those who wanted it, scaled properly, and had the endings intact this would be a must buy collection for any retro gamer. As it stands, it’s a decent collection for die-hard Double Dragon fans who don’t have hundreds of dollars for the actual arcade machines. If you can deal with the limited continues, and bugs you’ll have a fun time. For those who need absolute flawlessness, you might want to wait, and see if improvements arrive.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

Retromini X review

For this entry I decided to do a little something different. Something that has become more common over the last few years is the creation of clones. Consoles that can run the software of older, defunct consoles. There are Sega clones, Nintendo clones, among others. The Nintendo clones are often called Famiclones, as many of them can even run Famicom cartridges. Of all of the vendors making these things, a handful stand out. The Retromini X is a pretty good one. I nabbed one a while ago, and while I took a number of decent photos back then, I never got around to reviewing the thing.  So I’m rectifying that.

PROS: Runs the majority  of the NES library. Can also be connected to a TV.

CONS: Wireless pads aren’t so hot. Light guns won’t work on modern HDTV’s.

WHAT?!?!?: The reaction you will hear playing it in public.

The Retromini X is one of the better portable NES clones you can find. The unit is lightweight without feeling too cheap. It has pretty responsive buttons, in a great layout. As far as handhelds go, it’s very comfortable, and you can easily spend several hours playing it. At first glance, one might complain about the size of the screen. It measures around 2.5 inches. Consider that’s about the size of the original Game Boy’s screen. But the quality of the screen is honestly, quite good. Colors pop, and the detail of the sprites show up without a hitch. it is also positioned nicely in relation to all of the face buttons, and the viewing angle is pretty wide. You don’t have to look at it dead on, just to  see it.

The Retromini X also has a very nice audio chipset. The speaker itself can be set very loudly, without distorting the sound, or becoming muffled. It does have a headphone jack as well. So you can play it out, and about without distracting everyone around you. The Retromini X  runs on 4 AA batteries. I would recommend using rechargeable batteries in lieu of the standard alkaline batteries. Because the regular batteries will drain fairly quickly. You can expect to get around 3 hours or so out of regular batteries, whereas the rechargeable ones can go a lot longer. That said, I do like that the unit works on standard batteries as, many other portable NES clones go with a proprietary battery. Especially a lot of the more recent releases.  While these do give you much longer play sessions there is a problem. When the units go out of production you have no way to run it as a handheld any longer. Because this in turn means you cannot find a replacement battery, as they were only ever made for that specific handheld. Which makes replacements very scarce.

With the Retromini X you won’t run into that trouble as it isn’t likely we’ll stop seeing AA batteries any time soon. The system does include an AC adapter as well, so you can still play your games off of an outlet. The AC adapter (at least the one included with the North American release)also appears to be a fairly common style that many devices use. So if you lose it, or it wears out you can probably find a suitable replacement for it. So long as you’re willing to put a bit of effort into scouring the internet for one. If not?  Then common, every day AA batteries will have to do.

Where the unit begins to fall short however, is as a home console. It does come with AV cables, and you can hook it up to a TV.  But this is not going to replace an NES in your gaming setup for a number of reasons. The biggest of these is that the handheld has no ports for game controllers on it. To alleviate that concern, the manufacturer included two wireless gamepads. But these pads cannot be replaced if they become lost or broken. They run on two AAA batteries each. Unlike the plastics used in the Retromini X itself, the pads are made of flimsy, and brittle plastics. The pads also don’t retain the same shape as classic NES pads or the NES Max. Instead, they take the shape of the Super NES controllers. But they won’t give you the same comfort, or feel as the handheld or classic controllers will. They also aren’t as responsive as a wired controller. So in some games where timing is key, you’ll really wish you could use something else.

Mysteriously, the system also includes a Zapper clone. The Nintendo Zapper was a light gun used for games like Duck Hunt, and ports of light gun shooters like Operation Wolf. Surprisingly, the Zapper clone works really well. Almost as well as the original gun. It isn’t as comfortable to hold as it is made from the same questionable plastics as the wired pads. But it does work as advertised. The biggest problem with it is the same one affecting the original Zapper, and other light guns. Modern televisions. Back in the 80’s, and 90’s light guns worked on a combination of light patterns off of a TV screen, and coordinates on a grid. It could read a pattern, send the data to the software, which would tell if you were close enough to your target’s hit box to count as a hit or not. But modern HD TV technology doesn’t display the image you see the same way. The Zapper was built with a CRT’s line by line refresh rate, where HD TVs mostly draw all of the image lines at the same time. I’m sure someone even more technically inclined might comment with a better explanation. But the bottom line is unless you are hooking up the Retromini X to an old CRT you won’t be able to play the NES light gun games on it whatsoever.

The unit works with the overwhelming majority of the NES library. Even most of the unlicensed third-party game paks in your collection will run well. The system’s emulation is pretty spot on, as the music, effects, and visuals are on display as you remember them. In the time I’ve had with mine over a few years, I’ve put a lot of games through the paces on it. The only game I ever ran on it that didn’t work was a copy of Paperboy. The cartridge fired up fine enough, but none of the buttons would work. I switched the game out with Mario Bros., to find that game played pretty flawlessly. So again, most of your collection should run on this swimmingly. With that said there are a number of game paks that will not run on this. There are no definitive lists of incompatible games that I’m aware of. So for the most part, it’s going to be hit, and miss. At least until either the vendor or a group of collectors get together to make a definitive list.

One last note about this system is how well it holds games in place. The Retromini X is a few years old now. A number of other handheld NES clones have come about, and yet many of them have wobbly cartridge slots. That is, the cartridge can shift forward or backward while it is in the system, and cause the pins to briefly disconnect. In the Retromini X, Game Paks fit in pretty snuggly. You don’t have to worry about the game falling out of the unit completely. Despite that fact, the Retromini X does has a hint of this issue, as you can get games to wiggle slightly. Yet it is not as bad a problem as on some of the other retro themed handhelds you might find in the wild. So if you find yourself looking at them, it is something you might think about when trying to decide on one. With my time on the Retromini X, I’ve found you almost have to go out of your way to tap the cartridge, and knock it loose. Although I suppose there are some titles you’ll pop in that will make you want to do exactly that. Isn’t that right Deathbots?

As a handheld NES, the Retromini X is actually a pretty cool product. It’s standard battery use, comfortable layout, and spot on emulation are wonderful. Bringing a handful of NES games on a long trip, or killing an hour in a coffee shop will be nice experiences. Provided of course you use rechargeable AA batteries. As a console replacement you’d be better served trying to find a used NES or a dedicated Famiclone. The Retromini X doesn’t give you controller ports, and the wireless pads really don’t lead to a good experience. I should also note that the system was also released as the FC Mobile II. So if you do hunt one down you may see that version. For all intents, and purposes they’re the same handheld. The only differences are some minor paint decorations around buttons.

As far as I can tell Hyperkin is still producing these for independent game stores, and E-tailers. So it shouldn’t be too hard to find if you want to give one a go. Do note that according to their website these are for PAL territories. So if you live in another region you’ll need a power converter, and an outlet adapter if you plan on plugging it into an outlet. It isn’t confirmation that the NTSC versions are discontinued. But if you see one, verify the version so you’ll know if you need those additions or not.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

The Conduit Retrospective Part One: The Conduit Review

Conspiracy theories can always make for a good story. Sometimes they are simply a fun romp held together by contrivances, and speculation. Other times they are deep stories, that bring up philosophical questions. Some are so good in fact, they will make the possible seem plausible because they are told so well.

The Conduit is between these two ends of the spectrum.

PROS: PC level controller customization, campy story, voice acting, satisfying gun play.

CONS: Multiplayer is no longer playable. Unique ASE mechanic far too underutilized.

ODD: Head shots that decapitate aliens but not humans. Strange.

Made for the Wii as an exclusive labor of love, The Conduit tells a narrative of a centuries old plot by a secret society to allow extraterrestrial beings to take over the world. The protagonist of the story, Michael Ford, is a secret service agent who saves the president from an assassination attempt.

In doing this Ford, unwittingly throws a wrench into the works of this plan. This causes a man named John Adams (Who shares a name with our second president) to contact him, and recruit him to do work for a shadow government entity called the Trust. The Trust is over 200 years old, and has access to many top secret technologies at its disposal.

The Trust sends Ford on a counter terrorist mission to find a man named Prometheus (Named after the character in Greek mythology). Prometheus is said to be behind the invasion of Earth by aliens known as the Drudge. But just when Ford thinks he’s caught him, Adams double crosses him, and it is here where The game really begins to take off. Ford will traverse throughout Washington DC fighting off alien threats in his quest to track down Adams, uncovering all sorts of vast conspiracies along the way.

The Conduit was novel in its release because at the time, very few first person shooters were being released on the Nintendo Wii. Developers decried the underpowered graphics hardware, praised the infrastructure of Microsoft’s Live service, and Sony’s horsepower, and went for those. Developer High Voltage Software, (who had mostly made licensed tie ins throughout its history) looked at the console’s pointer controller, and decided it could be used to play shooters.

HVS really surpassed expectations with its in-house engine. Called the Quantum 3 engine, it allows the Wii to produce some lighting effects previously not thought possible on the system. While the environments are not littered with detailed textures, or high polygon counts, The Conduit does feature some impressive effects. Explosions, lens flares, reflections all make for a few “Wow!” moments. Sadly, this does make for a little bit of unevenness, as some drab areas will lead to some really impressive ones only to go back to some drab ones.

The Conduit’s biggest victory however, has to be its emphasis on tweaking its control scheme.

You can change everything from what button, or gesture does what function to how sensitive the pointer is, to how big or small you want the bounding box to be. You can even change the colors, opacity, and layout of your Heads Up Display. Do you want your health bar in the dead center of the screen for some reason? You can certainly do that. Do you want to make the D-pad your pause button, and melee attack? Absolutely. For the truly insane, you can remove the HUD altogether. Of course most players will try to set the layout as close to a familiar setup as possible. Once you have it configured properly it definitely controls very nicely. While it doesn’t give you quite the precision a good mouse on your computer does, it is more responsive than most analog pads. It even beats out a lot of other Wii shooters in terms of tweaking controls, and user interfaces.

You can even map melee or grenades to motion sensors adding a little bit of interactivity to the experience.

As for the game itself, it is admittedly a bit of a mixed bag. The main campaign takes a lot of cues from other more successful games on other platforms. The most notable one being Half-Life 2. The game takes a very linear point A to point B approach to level design. This is far from the only game over the past decade that uses this blueprint. But few are able to mask it with an environment full of supplemental subtext the way HL2 does. To its credit though, The Conduit will keep you involved enough to finish the campaign. This is in large part because of TV show caliber performances by Kevin Sorbo, Mark Sheppard, and William Morgan Sheppard. While they can be campy at times, they all do give the game a TV movie feel. Other bit players are peppered throughout the background for those who wish to look for things. Notably some Military radios players can eavesdrop on, as well as AM radios playing parodies of popular, and fringe talk shows as well as news media.

The game borrows Halo’s weapon limit system, as well as the regenerating health system popularized in so many shooters. It does work in the game as it makes players have to think about which few toys to carry into which areas. One final thing the game borrows is the spawn point system from the old arcade game Gauntlet. There are portals that allow aliens to come through until they’re destroyed, as are egg sacks that allow smaller ground level enemies to keep spawning until they are destroyed. It works fine enough initially, but it does become formulaic. Eventually they’ll be the first thing you look to destroy in a shootout section. A.I. is nothing revolutionary, but it’s really no worse than what you’d find in the typical Call of Duty title. Enemies will try to find cover, or try to cover another enemy. But sometimes you will see a bad guy just stand out in the open like a sore thumb.

Character designs are honestly pretty cool. The insect look of the alien enemies is quite nice, with some real life inspiration. Human enemies also are also well designed, and varied. You’ll see men in black, mercenaries, research lab guards, and more as you play throughout the campaign. Even the weapons are inspired by the enemy designs. There are a host of weapons based on real world military armaments. But there are just as many alien themed ones. Some of them are your expected laser guns, and plasma rifles. But the look of these weapons also has a very organic, insect theme to them. This correlates with the insect designs of the Drudge.

The audio is also really good. The soundtrack is a blend of electronica, and orchestrated music that marries with the B action movie feel the game goes for. Weapons, explosions, and even small details like footsteps are presented well. In between stages there are animated cinema screens with Michael Ford talking to Prometheus or John Adams. Again these sections are well acted, but It really would have been nice to see these done in engine. Be that as it may, the cinema screens are utilized about as well as they could be.

One element of the game that feels underutilized is the highly touted All Seeing Eye. When you first start playing The Conduit you will find it rather cool, as it lets you decode hidden alien, and masonic texts hidden in the game. Finding enough of these will help you gain achievements, and unlock concept art.  The ASE  also lets you unlock secret doors that lead to experimental, and alien weapons.  Many of these weapons are exclusive to the secret rooms, and do higher damage to enemies than many of the other weapons.

Also, in some areas there are invisible bombs it can detect. Once detected, the bombs become more, and more visible. Concentrating the ASE on them long enough, can destroy them from a safe distance.  It can also find cloaked switches that correspond to certain locked doors. All of this sounds great, and it is. The first two or three times. Unfortunately, you’ll begin to see it become formulaic. There simply isn’t enough variety with the ASE. It becomes little more than a key before long. You will enter a level, have a shoot out before getting some more exposition, and then the ASE will start to go off.  You’ll immediately realize you need to find a hidden lock for a secret room, a locked door,  or a bomb.

 

It’s really too bad that it becomes so limited here. Because it could have been much better. Part of the fun in this game are the National Treasure, X-Files, Alien Nation, V, styled tropes, and influences. Seeing the ASE implemented even further as a way to find clues, or translate a lot more than graffiti would have elevated the experience a great deal.  Some more use as an interactive narrative would have certainly been welcome.Nevertheless, the game does keep everything together throughout the campaign hitting all of the notes you’d expect. There are even some awesome boss fights along the way.

The Conduit also featured multiplayer.  I say featured because the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection servers are no longer running. But I felt like I should talk about the game’s multiplayer because of its significance.  It was pretty decent initially, bringing competitive gameplay to an underserved audience. But there were a number of problems with it.  In terms of online modes  it was relatively sparse. The game had the prerequisite death match mode. Aside from that, It had one called Bounty Hunter (a variant of death match where each player has to kill a specific player), and ASE football where one player holds an ASE for as long as possible without being shot to death.

There was  also Team Reaper (Team Death match like mode), Team Objective (Which is a Capture the flag like mode), and Marathon which was timed. Multiplayer maps were mostly pretty good, the best probably being Streets, and Pentagon. The Conduit was also one of the few games that took advantage of the Wii Speak accessory. This allowed players to use voice chat in multiplayer game modes.

Multiplayer wasn’t all it was cracked up to be however. When playing against only your friends it could be a lot of fun (Even if you did have to exchange Friend Codes). But publicly the game eventually became rife with cheaters, and griefers. Far too many to recommend it over other multiplayer shooters that would come out soon after. People clipping through walls to unreachable areas. People using a glitch to gain access to unlimited missiles. Even loading into a test level that was never intended to be seen were all things you would have run into again, and again. There were sometimes bad lag issues when far away players connected, resulting into shots that didn’t register as hits. Or rubberbanding, and other hated things. Also, take into account its better levels are also in the much improved sequel. At this point, there would be little incentive to play this mode even if you still could.

Aside from the multiplayer mode the game does have its own set of achievements you can go for if you are so inclined. Some of them are your garden variety rewards for simply getting further in the campaign. Others are rewards for pulling off certain challenges, such as killing a certain number of an enemy type with a specific weapon. The game also had a number of unlockable extras through a promotional code system. The codes were given away with the special collector’s edition of the game. The codes grant players a couple of skins that can be used in lieu of the stock ones. They also unlock a few special buffs one can use in the campaign if one finds the campaign too difficult.

The unlockable content also includes a lot of concept art. Much of it is nice, but the average player isn’t going to pay much mind to it. This is almost always the case with concept art. The most dedicated fans may go through several replays to see all of it, but most players won’t bother. The game is certainly worth revisiting from time to time. But like most single player campaigns, concept sketches won’t be the reason for replaying it.

The special edition does also have two other differences. The first is that the package art is much, much nicer. It has a slicker style in the vein of a DVD or Blu-Ray movie cover. The other difference is that the collector’s edition included an art book. Much like the one Nintendo bundled in its Metroid Prime Trilogy collection. The art book is actually pretty nice. It isn’t just artwork featured here. It also has some behind-the-scenes commentary for good measure.  The other interesting fact is that the promotional codes aren’t only compatible with the collector’s edition. They work with every version of the game.

 

The Conduit is one of those games that is by no means terrible, but fails to hit its lofty goals. It may not have the best single player campaign, or the best storyline. But it is a fun campaign to play through. The story does have its share of cheese, but it’s delicious cheese. Cheese that compliments the rest of the meat in the proverbial sandwich rather than distract you from it. It has some interesting characters. It has some wonderful voice acting. If only the multiplayer were a bit more refined, and the ASE mechanic were allowed to blossom. The Conduit could have been a bigger deal. But there is also something to be said for being a cult classic.

It’s also notable in that it’s one of those  games where the developers, not the publisher, paid out-of-pocket for most of its production. Even notable still in that such a small, humble team caught the attention of much larger, developers, and publishers. After The Conduit came out, Wii owners saw proper ports of Call Of Duty games like 4, Black Ops, and Modern Warfare 3. They also saw Goldeneye, a Wii shooter that was actually converted to its competing console brethren. It also got UbiSoft to try again with a second Red Steel.

Even if The Conduit failed to set the world on fire it did succeed in what it intended to do. Proving that FPS titles could indeed work, and play well on Nintendo’s white box. It also proved that High Voltage Software is capable of making a blockbuster action game if given the time, and resources. The Conduit would be a solid first effort, spawning a sequel before seeing a port to Android mobile devices.

Final Score: 7 out of 10