Spread 'em?

Source // Arcade Museum

The drug war in America can be absolutely fascinating to find out about. That's not to say I welcome it, just that the wealth of stories that come out of it can fill all kinds of media, and who doesn't love a good bit of media?

I'm not concerned about all media in this blog, though, just video games, and in the late 1980s, the war on drugs was tackled by the arcade game NARC. I don't think I've ever heard of it, so it'll be an eye-opener.



The horrifying theme of this review may be inappropriate for young children... and cowards.

I'm generally not one for horror games, but Splatterhouse is about as horrific as... blimey... it's so not horrific that I can't even come up with a good analogy. Ah, there we go - it's as scary as not being able to come up with a decent introductory paragraph.

Oohohohoooohoh, spoooohohookey...

Splatterhouse is a sidescrolling beat 'em up that chose to go down the 'have fun' route, in terms of design, rather than the 'scare the player shitless' one, and I'm looking forward to finally playing it - I'd heard about it here and there, but don't really know why.

Will we be able to navigate the hideously scary hallways and corridors inside the Splatterhouse? Let's jump scare our way into the rest of the article.


Super Mario Bros. 2

It's-a me! Doki-o!

It feels like everyone and their dog knows about the history of Super Mario Bros. 2 and Doki Doki Panic, but I know that's not the case. I don't remember where I first heard of that tale, but my first game of Super Mario Bros. 2 would have been the SNES remake in Super Mario All-Stars - I don't think I've ever played it in its NES form, so we must rectify that at once.


Power Drift

A sprint racer or a sprite racer?

Source // Hardcore Gaming 101

While I'm a fan of racing games, the whole drifting mechanic just doesn't gel with me. Maybe it's because I can't drive outside of video games and haven't got a clue of the physics or something. Whatever the reason, I was hoping that Power Drift wasn't focused on drifting, despite its name, and would allow all players to just put their foot down and gun it around the track.

Created to show off sprite scaling as much as to make a great racer, Power Drift is said to be notoriously difficult to emulate. Sounds like a challenge...


Impossible Mission II

Can I opt for Mission Difficult, or...?

Source // Atarimania

Spies. Espionage. Impossible Mission II probably involves spies and espionage. I can't go wrong there. I know absolutely nothing of Impossible Mission II. It continues on from Impossible Mission, which I also know nothing about, so I am doubly ignorant of where we are in the story.

You play as Agent 4125, and Elvin Atombender needs to be stopped. Scattered throughout eight massive towers are elements to a code, and a musical something or other, and the game is filled with robots of all kinds who serve mainly to screw you over and drain not your life, but your time, because finding the codes and this musical thingy all takes place against the clock, and you've got to get through eight towers before the final one unlocks or something.

I have no idea what I'm reading, frankly. Time to just get stuck in.


Laser Squad

Morale: Afraid

Laser Squad has such a generic title that, once again, I wasn't too sure of what I'd be in for at first glance. The image in its entry in the 1001 book looks a little familiar, though, and by the time the first paragraph was wrapped up, I was going through a range of emotions.

Laser Squad is a refined Rebelstar, and I really wanted to be able to play Rebelstar but still haven't managed to. That means that, once again, the ZX Spectrum is home to another detailed X-Com game where you can tool up your squad and send them on a short journey to their graves. I mean put them through a turn-based tactical action strategy game, across a number of mission scenarios that will test their mettle against hostile opposition forces. Or something.

How many squad members will survive their first mission?


Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Great Demon World Village.

Source // Arcade Museum

If you thought Ghosts 'n Goblins was a worthwhile exercise in testing your patience and determination to complete a game, then  Ghouls 'n Ghosts gives you a lot of the same and then some. Arriving a few years after the first game, Ghouls 'n Ghosts fine tunes the formula to deliver the action you know with a couple of new additions you don't.

I liked Ghosts 'n Goblins, despite getting absolutely nowhere in it, so it pleases me to learn that this sequel didn't skimp on the difficult in any way, shape or form. It's still hectic, enemies will still pop out of places you don't expect them to, and you've still got to go through the game twice to complete it.

So let's see how far through it I get.


Forgotten Worlds

I'll finish you today for sure!

Source // Arcade Museum

I didn't have a clue what Forgotten Worlds would turn out to be when I first heard the title, so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be some kind of futuristic not-quite-space shoot 'em up.

To be fair, I have been slowly warming up to these kinds of shooters. It does help that each one I play is generally 'better' in some way than the last, I guess, so here's hoping Forgotten Worlds builds on the successes of the past and includes lots of fancy power-ups for my shi- where's my ship?


Carrier Command

Carry on Commanding?

Somewhere, in an old magazine long since recycled, I read about  Carrier Command. I think. If I recall, there was a little bit of a retrospective of it, or an interview with a developer, that kind of thing. What any of the words said I have no idea, I just remember the screenshots. Well, no, not even the screenshots really, but the style of the screenshots - the look of the game... Something about aircraft carriers...

What I'm working towards here is that I know of Carrier Command, but I know very little of it, and so it's handy that the 1001 book is actually a bit more than a long list of titles. The description mentions the plot, where, in the distant future, a robotic aircraft carrier has been stolen by a terrorist group, and it'll take another robotic carrier, equipped with land and air drones all commanded by you the player, to see safety brought back to the region.

It sounds pretty darn good, with the potential to be a real cat-and-mouse-like game of strategy and action as you work your way towards your target, claiming islands as your own for use in gathering resources and providing defensive measures against your enemy.


The 151/1001 Milestone Awards

Returning from the distant past to ensure that the stupid are culled from society in a number of phone-distracted jaywalking incidents, it's The Milestone Awards, a hastily cobbled together mishmash of whatever was available, shoved out of the door far before it's ready.

The latest batch of games from the 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die list has thrown up quite a few worthy contenders for the awards, and picking the winners has been as agonising as choosing the right starter Pokémon.

Eligible titles include everything from Tetris to Wizball, and the lists were decided by how often I needed to press B to ensure they were caught in their Pokéballs. Which of your favourites were really tricky bastards to catch?

We begin as ever with the awards for The Indifferent 5, five games that give me the same reaction as catching a Pidgey - "Yeah, it's a bird, I guess. It'll peck if it needs to". In no particular order they are:

Leaderboard, Bruce Carver, Roger Carver
Blasteroids, Atari Games
Galaga '88, Namco
Oids, FTL
Spindizzy, Electric Dreams Software

May they all have a safe transfer to the Professor.

Sometimes you have to wonder just why something was included on a particular list, and the What Was That 1 Even Put On The List For? award tries to highlight the games which, if they were original Pokémon, would be Staryu. It was much tougher than it has been this time around, but I have to come away from my deliberation with the following question:

What Was Trinity Even Put On The List For?

I'm not saying it's bad, just that it's a Staryu.

Knocking it out of the 1001 list means having a list of only 1000 though, and that simply isn't good enough. We must find a replacement in the form of a You Forgot What?! winner. If it's not a challenge to find games, then it's a challenge to pick games. Some titles never made it to the list because their sequels and spin-offs did it better, for example. Some titles are so wacky to have perhaps not been known by anybody in the first place.

I was casually browsing a list of games of the era and one very strange title jumped out at me. Psyduck and I are wondering why on earth Fat Worm Blows a Sparky didn't make it to the list, even if on name alone.

It's a thing of beauty, but it sadly has no home on the 1001 list.

We're now getting into the meat of The MileStone Awards. Cutting 50 titles down to 10 isn't easy, but seeing as I've already discarded 6 of them as Pidgey's and Staryu's, I shouldn't have that much of a problem. I know I've been relating games to Pokémon this time out but there's no way I'm working out my top ten first generation Pokémon for the sake of a throwaway awards season joke. You'll just have to go with a bare list that begins with:

10: Alter Ego, Activision
Is it a game? It's enough of one to sneak onto the list, yes.

9: OutRun, Sega AM2
Just having a relaxing drive.

8: Arkanoid, Taito Corporation
It's a better Breakout, easy for picking up and playing on the go.

7: Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Nintendo R&D4
Yeah, I'm no good, but I admire not holding back the difficulty for the sake of the players.

6: Bubble Bobble, Taito
Caught me off guard I think, and now it's caught you off guard skimming this top ten.

5: R-Type, Irem
Lack of skill hasn't put me off it yet.

4: International Karate +, System 3
Those animations, though... Why can't Street Fighter feel this brutal?

3: Sid Meier's Pirates!, MicroProse
Careful to not rank this one based on the updated version, but the idea alone should ensure it ranks high.

2: The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo R&D4
I am almost embarrassingly poor at it, but it's lasted this long for a reason.

and finally, the best game of the latest 1001 batch, number 1 can be nothing other than Tetris. Sing it with me now, doo, doodo doo, doodo do...

That, ladies and gentlemen, Cloisters and Onyxs, was The 151/1001 Milestone Awards, but we have one final list to work out. Which of our latest batch of games have made it through the final ten to be crowned Pokémaster? What does The Topper Than That Ten list now look like?

Eligible for this award are all the games from the list so far, which reaches from Wizball all the way back to The Oregon Trail. Have the late 1980s knocked everything out of the arcade, or are there still some titles that you just can't remove from any best of the best lists? Let's find out:

10: Qix, Taito
Clinging on for dear life is this little puzzler from days gone by.

9: Donkey Kong, Nintendo R&D1
A childhood favourite but it's slipping down the ranks.

8: Rogue, Michael Toy, Glenn Wichman, Ken Arnold
NetHack didn't do as well as Rogue, and Rogue now finds some tough competition to deal with.

7: R-Type, Irem
We can consider R-Type to have merged with Gradius here. Maybe Gradius is a power-up or something.

6: International Karate +, System 3
Well now it just shows my sense of humour, doesn't it? Getting kicked in the face earns you a top six spot apparently.

5: Sid Meier's Pirates!, Microprose
Grabbing as much booty as it can lands Pirates! a top five place.

4: The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo R&D4
You knew it would be up here, and I dare say I'm not even a fan of it.

3: The Oregon Trail, MECC
Yes, remarkably, this is still highly ranked.

2: Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov
Always worth playing.

1: Super Mario Bros., Nintendo R&D4
It could be here for quite some time.

That, my friends and fellow gamers, is that. Have I lost my grip on reality? Do I know a good game when I see one? Just what is the reason for Staryu to exist? Ponder upon those questions as you pass the time waiting for The 201/1001 Milestone Awards, which will happen in 50 reviews' time. What great titles will we see? What difficult decisions will we need to make? Follow this blog to find out.



Wot a wizace!

Source // Wikipedia

Reading the entry for Wizball in the 1001 book just doesn't prepare you for seeing Wizball in action. Described as a frustratingly tough game where you control an anthropomorphized cabbage to paint monochromatic worlds, Wizball is going to make a lot of players say 'Whaaaaaaaat...?' upon their first viewing.

I was no exception, and I've seen some things on this here Internet...


Sid Meier's Pirates!

It's a pirates life for me (56.6k warning!)

The absolute height of video game piracy is Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - at least in my eyes it is. I thought, seeing as I didn't particularly like the sailing sections of Assassin's Creed III, that an entire game centered on ships would be my breaking point, but no, I played an awful lot of ACIV because of the freedom the open seas offered.

Now, I can say that it is the height of piracy with certainty not because I can count the number of pirate games I've played on one hand, but because I'm struggling to list many pirate games full stop. Here, though, way back in 1987, is the ACIV of the old days: Sid Meier's Pirates!

It doesn't have any of the assassins versus templars mumbo jumbo to worry about, existing purely as an action adventure simulation of life from the 16th and 17th century, and not a fleeting glance at it from afar, but a researched and complex living world.



I assume thats 'Zaibots' and not 'Exiebots'...

Source // Retro Game of the Day

Upon first seeing Xybots in the 1001 list, I was intrigued. I had never seen it in any form before, and it looked both engaging and off-putting. That's a busy screen. Does that mean there's a lot of depth to dive into or a lot of complexity to have to overcome?

There's only one way to find out.



Destroy anyone that gets in your way!

Source // Wikipedia

I knew Shinobi would be some kind of ninja-themed game but didn't know what form it would take. In my ignorant little mind, ninja games are all about dressing a little bit foolish, conjuring throwing stars from thin air, probably slashing someone down with a katana... or did only Samurai bother with those swords?

Anyway, the point is I don't think ninja titles have a whole lot of legs, but seeing as there's a fair few of them on the 1001 list, I should just get on with it and see what Shinobi has to offer.

We're a modern day ninja rescuing kidnapped children. Alrighty then. Let's see how that works out...


Rainbow Islands

Triple rainbow all the way across!

Source // Wikipedia

Rainbow Islands. Rainbow. Islands. Right.

Ok, so, if this isn't bright and colourful then there's no hope for this video gaming industry, is there?

The sequel to Bubble Bobble (as alluded to in its full title, Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2) is indeed brightly coloured from the beginning, and is about as child-friendly looking a game as I can ever recall seeing on this list. But is it a game for kids?

Let's play as the now human Bubby and Bobby as they make more rainbows than you'd ever think you'd see.


Operation Wolf

OK cleared this scene !

Source // Vizzed

Not gonna lie, the more I read about Operation Wolf the more I wanted to play it. A light-gun game that doesn't use light-gun technology (or does it!)? Six stages linked by a coherent story? Voice acting (of sorts)? Have I fallen into some kind of time warp where arcade games suddenly exploded into action, portraying people and things that you might actually care about?

There's going to be a lot of talking about Operation Wolf, I can tell. The problem is that before we talk, we've got to actually play it to find out what to say.