EVO: Search for Eden (SNES, 1993)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

If there is one thing I did not like about the 1990s, it was that Enix-produced games on the Super Nintendo were always insanely difficult to track down in North America. Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen is a great example of this, but this little gem of a game is another… EVO: Search for Eden. In my opinion, this is one of the Super Nintendo’s absolute best games. This is a shame because it is vastly underrated and, shockingly, still a somewhat unknown game!

My first experience with EVO came around 1998 or 1999 when Super Nintendo emulators were the biggest deal on the internet for gamers. Remember all of those shady rom sites that would lead you to free porn (my, how times have changed) or infest your computer with trojans? A lot of them just had dead links. Ah yes, 1999 was certainly the golden age of Super Nintendo emulation. I had a blast playing through all of my favourite classics that my brother and I had owned on cartridges several years before. It was insanely fun to be playing Final Fantasy VI again. However, my main ambition was to try new games. I played quite a few obscure games at the time just to see what was out there. While skimming the rom list of a random website, I saw a name that seemed vaguely familiar. EVO: Seach for Eden. Very slowly, I had a flashback of reading about the game in an issue of Nintendo Power back in 1993 or 1994. I recall the magazine noting that it was a game by Enix (a developer you could always trust prior to their buyout of Squaresoft) and had a very strong emphasis on evolution. I looked at the few screenshots present in the magazine and I was pumped for the game. However, I never saw the game in any stores and it completely dropped off of my radar for several years until I saw the name appear again on that list of SNES roms. I promptly downloaded it, anxious to experience the game that I had been stoked to play as a little boy. The wait paid off and EVO was a bittersweet experience.

Like Nintendo Power said, EVO is all about evolution. You begin the game as a humble little fish with little means of defending yourself, but you will soon end up becoming quite a formidable predator of the sea thanks to the fantastic evolution system of the game which was, in my opinion, well ahead of its time. You see, you can evolve various parts of your body by spending evolution points. You will amass evolution points by killing enemies and eating the meat that they leave behind. You will be able to spend these points in several categories such as jaws, body size and type, tail, hands and feet, and more. It isn’t entirely impossible to end up with different looking creatures each time you play and, in a way, EVO is a lot like an early version of Spore… But different.

How and why does Spore compare to EVO? Well, as I said, you have freedom over what parts of your body you evolve and when. The whole point is to continue evolving to a point where you are strong and skilled enough to take down the local boss and progress to a new stage of evolution. The main difference is that, while Spore was a pretty bland sandbox simulation game, EVO happens to be a very linear platformer/RPG hybrid that focuses on action and character progression rather than… well, whatever the nonsensical focus of Spore was! As I said, EVO is like an early version of Spore, but it definitely hass less casual appeal. Those who are turned off by the idea of having to level up (via upgrading your body) may be turned off a little, though the steep difficulty in some areas will deter a lot of non-serious gamers.

EVO can be a very ruthless game, as boss fights are anything but cakewalks. I was playing EVO on my TV last night (via emulator, I hooked my laptop up to the TV) and handed the gamepad to my brother and roommate who seemed absolutely enthralled by the game, because he had never seen or heard of it before. I watched him play, and it was clear that he was really enjoying it. As a 28 year old someone who doesn’t play too many games anymore, it was really cool to watch him become briefly absorbed in a classic SNES title. It seems that folks in my age range (about 23-30) really dig playing old SNES games, and when they are presented on a television screen with a wireless gamepad? Even better! Anyway, he managed to reach the boss of the first area in the game. Up until that point, he was doing a really good job of evolving the fish creature that we were jointly playing as. He wasn’t having many difficulties playing through the underwater area, but that all changed one the shark boss made his grand appearance. The confrontation with the boss lasted a whole ten seconds, if even that! Our fish had forty five hit points, and the boss would hit for fifteen damage with every single bite. To make matters worse, he would sometimes get two consecutive hits in! We’re talking the first boss here folks. While EVO is a blast to play and might be a fun little game for casual players to get their feet wet with, they’ll definitely struggle against the tough as nails boss fights. They only get harder and harder as the game goes, and I distinctly remember getting stuck on the queen bee (?) boss many years ago and almost rage quitting!

The most enjoyable aspect of the game? Reaching new periods of time and becoming a new creature. For instance, after you beat the shark boss you evolve into an amphibian and get to crawl onto land. After a short time passes, you then become a reptilian creature that you can even turn into a dinosaur! This is easily my favourite part of the game without a doubt. The dinosaur era of EVO is simply a joy to play, and I suspect that anyone who has played the game will agree with me on that point.

Sadly, I have never beaten EVO. I recall getting stuck years ago at a floating maze-like temple in the sky inhabited by bird people or something of the sort. I don’t know exactly how far in this was, but I certainly hope to surpass it on my new playthrough, especially since I am not experiencing EVO as it was meant to be played – on a television screen. I’m glad to have my wireless Logitech gamepad and a laptop that can conveniently be plugged into my 32 inch Dynex television. I am now experiencing EVO for the first time all over again, and I couldn’t be happier.

If you have never played EVO: Search for Eden, then you are certainly missing out.

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Mega Manvania: Symphony of the Blue Bomber

Confused by the title of the article? You shouldn’t be. There is rhyme and reason to be found here, and I’m going to explain myself. Obviously the title hints towards a connection between Mega Man and Castlevania, but why? It’s simple, I feel that I’ve thought of how Capcom could make Mega Man marketable and hugely successful once again.

First, before I get into the specifics of my idea, why has Mega Man become boring and/or stale to the public? Why are his games not selling as well as they used to? There are a few reasons for this.

1. Oversaturation
Capcom made a huge mistake between 2000 and 2006. They simply made too many Mega Man games! Here are all of the Mega Man games released between 2000 and 2006, at least as far as I am aware.

Mega Man Anniversary Collection
Mega Man Battle Chip Challenge
Mega Man Battle Network
Mega Man Battle Network 2
Mega Man Battle Network 3
Mega Man Battle Network 4
Mega Man Battle Network 5
Mega Man Battle Network 6
Mega Man Legends 2
Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
Mega Man Network Transmission
Mega Man Powered Up
Mega Man Star Force
Mega Man X5
Mega Man X6
Mega Man X7
Mega Man X8
Mega Man X Collection
Mega Man X Command Mission
Mega Man Xtreme
Mega Man Xtreme 2
Mega Man Zero
Mega Man Zero 2
Mega Man Zero 3
Mega Man Zero 4

Remember these games? Yeah, there were eight of them in six years. Can you say overkill?

Wow, right? That’s twenty five Mega Man games. That’s almost five Mega Man gamer per year. It’s honestly no surprise that the general public grew a little tired of Mega Man, especially considering how Capcom tried to balance three different Mega Man series at once (Battle Network, X, and Zero) while also tossing around a bunch of minor remakes and spin-offs. A quick look at the above list makes it easy to understand how Capcom seemed to have lost sense of what Mega Man was, and how the Blue Bomber seemed to have no identity anymore. Gamers didn’t know what the heck to do with all of these Mega Man games and, thanks to the relentless onslaught of Battle Network and Zero games over a few years, pretty much everyone reached a point where they would say, whenever a new Mega Man game was released, “Oh boy, another Mega Man game?”

Too many games in too little time, Capcom. It’s no wonder the Blue Bomber has been struggling to garner attention and sales throughout the past five years. It’s simply because the market became oversaturated with Mega Man games and pretty much all of us lost interest, or…

2. Fan Abandonment
… Capcom betrayed their loyal fans. I know, that sounds a little crazy but hear me out. I’m not a disgruntled fan who is calling Capcom out or anything, it just doesn’t take much thought to realize that Capcom lost focus of Mega Man’s identity and who/what he was. The rehashing of different formulas was evidence of this. How many fans of classic Mega Man or the X series felt alienated by the non-stop Battle Network games? They didn’t feel right at all, at least not to me. They just weren’t Mega Man. The Zero series seemed alright, but I had trouble getting into them. There seemed to be clashing art styles and the overall presentation didn’t satisfy me very much. I guess portable Mega Man titles just couldn’t meet my expectations. Capcom perhaps demonstrated fan abandonment the most when they decided to make a Mega Man X RPG called Command Mission. This was a VERY peculiar game to say the least. Command Mission came out during a period when the RPG genre was incredibly profitable, and Capcom wanted a piece of the pie. I don’t think Command Mission sold well, and reviews were pretty mixed all across the board. IGN was one of the very few professional gaming websites that scored the game highly. As an RPG nut, I actually really enjoyed Command Mission although it did indeed have a lot of boring or dull moments. It was an interesting experiment to thrust Axl, X, and Zero into a Final Fantasy style RPG. It may not have been the best thing for the Mega Man franchise since most fans of the franchise are primarily fans of platformers rather than RPGs. It was an extremely bold and risky move and, despite being enjoyed by some, Command Mission wasn’t much of a success. It was simply far too different. Capcom didn’t know how to market Mega Man effectively anymore and it was definitely showing.

Mega Man X Command Mission was a very risky move by Capcom which, ultimately, didn't work out.

3. Been There, Done That
Eight stages, eight bosses, eight powerups. How many times have we done this? For over twenty years, this was Capcom’s design plan for Mega Man games. Heck, it still is to this day. While it is hard to say anything bad about the older Mega Man games that use this generic design, I have trouble forgiving the newer games that still use the 8-8-8 formula. In 2011, Capcom should be able to do a lot more than this. Eight linear levels and then three or four following levels that lead up to the final boss were a lot of fun until around Mega Man X2 or X3. After that point, the 8-8-8 just grew really stagnant. It was still fun to experience the different locales of each level since there were always the mandatory fire, ice, and water levels along with a few unexpected level themes such as the futuristic junkyard stage in X6. Still, level themes weren’t enough to carry the games anymore, nor were the stage boss designs. Mega Man game design was simply becoming archaic and stagnant.

Fond memories, but times have changed since the 1980s.

And that all brings us to my idea.

What Mega Man needs is a bold new reinvention, similar to the jump from Classic Mega Man to Mega Man X. The Blue Bomber needs a new look, a new armor. It needs to be “cool” in the year 2011 or 2012. It needs to grab gamers’ attention and appeal to them. There has not been a terribly interesting look for the Blue Bomber since his first two versions, Classic and X. Both are designs from the late 1980s and early 1990s. So, Mega Man has not had a bold new look in nearly twenty years. Wow.

What is the game plan? I say take the original Mega Man look and simply give him “edgier” looking armor. Don’t cute him up like the Battle Network or Star Force designs. A new Mega Man needs to look “hip” to have mass appeal across the entire age spectrum. Classic and X are beloved designs by young and old, but I don’t know a single person over the age of twenty who thinks that the Star Force design looks cool. Capcom’s habit of making Mega Man games look cute has to go NOW for the series to have any kind of significant future again. The safe method of doing this would be to stick with the Classic or X look (no other iterations have mass appeal) or go with an entirely new Mega Man design.

These are not appealing designs for the Blue Bomber.

So we’ve got appearance out of the way. Mega Man needs a cool look for mass appeal. Where do we go from there? It’s pretty simple – design. As I said, the fundamental flaw that ruins Mega Man these days is the fact that Capcom has been using the 8-8-8 formula since 1987. This needs to change entirely, and this is where the title of the article really comes into play. Mega Man needs a huge change, and I think it is such a huge change that I’m going to put it on its very own line.

Mega Man needs to become Castlevania.

After reading that line, it doesn’t sound too crazy, does it? Think about it for a moment. Imagine a huge, sprawling 2D world with tons of different landscapes and environments. Take Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and simply replace the gigantic castle with tons of connected outdoor areas, as well as a few indoor locations as well. Would this not be a good idea or what? A free roaming 2D Mega Man platformer that takes a page out of Castlevania’s book would be an exciting idea while not seeming too “scary” for the long time and devoted fans of the franchise. It would also get rid of the 8-8-8 formula. No longer would players have to select from the same ol’ eight stages on a select screen. They would now have an open world to explore, and they would have to discover the location of bosses rather than follow a linear path to them. There would be tons of seemingly dead ends or unreachable areas, at least until players would find necessary armor upgrades to reach new locations. Mega Man could be upgraded to have long jumps, double jumps, increased run speed, temporary flight/hovering, magnetism (sticking to ceilings in areas), as well as buster upgrades to break through various walls and such throughout the game world.

Capcom needs to rip off Konami if the Blue Bomber is to have any further success.

Essentially what is brewing in my head is Mega Man Legends, only 2D and playing like classic Mega Man or Mega Man X with a huge helping of Castlevania influence on the side. This would also allow Capcom to throw in a lot more than just eight robot masters. Since the game would probably be considered an RPG, Mega Man could easily amass between ten and twenty powers from various maverick/robot master bosses. Would that not be awesome?

Due to the game likely being considered an RPG, this would also mean Mega Man would be able to level up. Rather than gaining life bar extensions from beating bosses, the Blue Bomber could accomplish this by leveling up instead. He could also gain power bar extensions as well, allowing him more frequent use of his powers as he levels up. The higher levels could also grant him cool passive abilities, like being able to restore lost energy over time. This could result in some really fun cat and mouse encounters with bosses where, after depleting your energy for a weapon, you could hop around for a bit and let the bar regenerate enough to dish out more attacks while avoiding the opponent’s onslaught.

An example of how Capcom could incorporate leveling up.

Non-linear games have become the norm over the past years, and Capcom has embraced it with many of their other series… so where’s non-linear Mega Man at? It seems like the only logical step to take with the Blue Bomber. With all of the gameplay elements that would come with making Mega Man into something resembling modern Castlevania games, there would be enough familiarity mixed with new ideas to please old fans and probably attract new gamers to the franchise.

And what would make the game even more interesting? Make it into something that bridges the gap between Mega Man and Mega Man X. Perhaps it could showcase the rise of mavericks and reploids while still retaining Dr. Light, Dr. Wily, Mega Man, Roll, and Rush. Heck, it could even lead to the downfall of the original Mega Man after suffering a temporary defeat at the hands of an early Zero prototype, which prompts Dr. Light to start working on Mega Man X in secrecy.

Come on Capcom, there’s a gold mine here. I just threw two great ideas out there! A Castlevania style Mega Man title that bridges the storyline gap between Classic and X (which a lot of fans have been curious about) would be really interesting. It sounds like a bold and exciting move while not being at all risky. Going freeroaming and RPG-esque has helped out a lot of series thus far, so why can’t Mega Man join the fun?

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (Review)

I’m very late to the party having just played and finished Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune while most people have completed Uncharted 2 and are anxiously awaiting Uncharted 3. Even though I’m a bit behind with Uncharted, I’m still going to review Drake’s Fortune because there may be others out there who, like me, never bothered to play the Uncharted games for whatever reason and would like to know what the games are all about. Well, to my fellow PS3 owners who are late to the Uncharted party, I can safely say that it is indeed a party very much worth attending!

In Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, you play as an adventurer and treasure hunter named Nathan (Nate) Drake who claims to be the descendant of famous English explorer and navigator Sir Francis Drake. The story involves Nate tracking the foot steps of his famed ancestor in an attempt to find the legendary treasure of El Dorado. Joining Nate on his adventure is long time friend and fellow adventurer Victor “Sully” Sullivan who is never short of cigars and wise cracks, and the spunky television reporter Elena Fisher who is looking for the story of a lifetime. Unfortunately for Nate and his motley crew, rivals of both Nate and Sully find out about the plan to locate the treasure of El Dorado and decide to beat the heroes to it. If 1980s action flicks have taught us anything, it is that treasure seeking bad guys are always pricks and have an unrealistically vast amount of gun tootin’ henchmen working for them. Drake’s Fortune does not stray from this as primary antagonist Gabriel Roman employs a huge army of pirates to deter Nate and company from reaching the treasure of El Dorado.

Platforming sequences will often lead Nate up and over walls.

Undoubtedly the best part of Drake’s Fortune is the fact that the game feels like an interactive movie. The cutscenes are truly among the very best out there thanks in part to the incredible script and voice acting in this game. Nate is voiced by the never-out-of-work voicing superstar Nolan North and he certainly gets the job done here very well. Emily Rose also brings the character of Elena to life, making her easily one of the most believable and realistic video game girls out there. Sully is voiced by the awesome Richard McGonagle, who has one of the best voices in the industry by far. The three main characters are so well written and so believable that, during cutscenes, it’s not unusual to view them as actual people rather than as video game characters. This is especially the case with Emily Rose, who happens to look pretty much exactly like the character she voices. Hollywood, you’d better cast her as Elena in the Uncharted movie if you have any sense!

The supporting cast is also fantastic. While there are three protagonists, there are also three antagonists. Eddy Raja is an apparent ex-friend turned rival of Nate, Gabriel Roman is a treasure loving crimelord who loaned Sully a great deal of money (which was never paid back, hence the hostilities), and Atoq Navarro is a smug archaeologist hired by Gabriel Roman to assist him who really comes into his own later in the game. Each of the antagonists are well voiced, with many fans still loving the cocky and energetic Eddy Raja to this day. “Don’t mess with Eddy Raja!” Indeed, Eddy. Beyond the three antagonists, the only other voices players will really hear are of the pirates who under the command of Eddy and Gabriel. Most of Nate’s encounters in Drake’s Fortune will be with these pirates and, for the most part, they are well voiced. I could not help but notice that they sound a lot like the terrorist NPCs in Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the same guy did the voice work for both Uncharted’s pirates and Vegas 2’s terrorists.

The supporting cast are not only memorable, but they're also handy as AI partners.

It is 2011 now and Drake’s Fortune is probably still one of the very best looking games on the Playstation 3. While the game does show a bit of age in some areas, it is still very pretty to look at and is certainly more pleasing to the eye than even many games released this year. This is a pretty wild accomplishment for a game that is four years old! The weakest point of Uncharted’s presentation is probably in the character models themselves. Facial animations look a little unnatural at times, and there are very obvious clipping issues with hair. Elena’s blonde hairdo in particular is prone to clipping quite a bit, and it’s painfully obvious whenever you see the back of her head in a cutscene. I’m also a little displeased at exploding objects in Drake’s Fortune. At one point in the game players must navigate a jet ski up a raging river that is, for some unknown reason, littered with exploding barrels. Ignoring how odd it is that there is a neverending stream of these barrels floating down the river, when you shoot one of these barrels to make them explode, the barrel will simply vanish and be replaced by an explosion. Even for a 2007 game, this is a really tacky looking effect which I thought we started to phase out during the last generation of consoles. Aside from these minor issues, the graphics are still very good for the most part. Jungle areas in particular are incredibly detailed and beautiful to look at. A few textures here and there look a little blurry or dated, but they are incredibly easy to miss unless you play this game with the intention of nitpicking and looking for graphical flaws.

In terms of gameplay, I can pretty much say that if you’ve ever played a Tomb Raider game then you will know exactly what to expect with Drake’s Fortune. Simply replace Lara Croft with Nathan Drake and bang, you’ve got Uncharted! For better or for worse, the gameplay in Uncharted really doesn’t do anything new that we haven’t seen before. However, for everything gameplay related that Uncharted does, it does well. The gameplay can be divided up into three categories: gun fights, platforming, and puzzle solving. Since this is a third person game, the gun fights are a little tougher to get used to than they are in first person shooters and the aiming can be horrifically difficult to get used to. Making Nate point and aim his gun can be a slow process. This isn’t Resident Evil 4 or 5 where the character can whip out their gun and point it anywhere in a fraction of a second, no. Aiming Nate’s gun is a pretty slow process as he moves his arms around at a snail’s pace, if you are the kind of player who blindly charges into battle, you’re going to die because of this. Due to the aiming being fairly slow, pretty much all of your firing will be done behind cover. Pressing the circle button will make Nate leap behind any piece of cover nearby, protecting him from the endless onslaught of ammo being flung his way by Eddy’s pirate goons. The key is to find cover, wait for the pirates to stop firing, and then pop your head out and get off a few good shots. I would advise most players to go into the options and put the aiming sensitivity slider around the middle of the bar. I found that if you have the aiming sensitivity too low then aiming is pretty much as slow as molasses which doesn’t help when you have to pop out of cover to take down a sniper before he gets a headshot on you. In contrast, putting the sensitivity all the way up makes it too hard to aim well. Lining up a headshot is extremely difficult with maximum sensitivity, as even just the slightest tap of the analog stick will cause your crosshair to whip around further than you want it to.

Four years later and this game is still gorgeous. A remarkable feat by Naughty Dog.

The only other issue I have with the fire fights is that it is not uncommon to kill all enemies in the room only for half a dozen more to spill in from another entranceway. It isn’t so bad in games where reinforcements come once every five or six fights, but in Drake’s Fortune you had better expect a constant stream of reinforcements in any room that is larger than the typical school or work cafeteria. When almost every large opening or room becomes a five to ten minute long shoot out, things can become a bit tiring. Unfortunately for Drake’s Fortune, there are a lot of these rooms. Around the middle of the game when Nate is working through a series of ruins with Elena, there are several very long fire fights that really just drag on for too long. Gamers who decide to check out Drake’s Fortune primarily for the platforming and puzzle solving aspects will probably be a bit turned off with the repetitive gun fights. Thankfully, for most of the game Nate will have either Elena or Sully alongside him providing support in shoot outs. On less stressful difficulty settings, players who aren’t too exceptional at shooting games will surely love their AI partners who don’t just stand around or behave erratically like in most games of this game. Elena and Sully take appropriate cover and are pretty decent at taking down enemies on their own. It is entirely possible for the AI partners to clear out areas for less skilled players, though this would probably take a bit of time and I wouldn’t advise doing this at all unless you are a player who REALLY despises shooting games. Unfortunately for players of this kind, towards the end of the game everything is turned upside down as enemy encounters change drastically (I won’t go into details for the sake of spoilers) and you’ll be without a partner for the last few chapters. The change of pace in terms of how encounters work is actually very well done and will force pretty much everyone who plays the game to change their strategies. Everything the game teaches you essentially becomes irrelevant as the fights become completely different and it is a lot of fun adapting to the changes.

There is also melee combat which involves running up to an enemy and mashing the square and triangle buttons to perform what the game refers to as brutal combos. These are pretty unfulfilling overall and just feel really out of place for some reason that I can’t really pinpoint. I would advise avoiding melee combat if your gun skills are more than up to snuff. I’m not even close to being a good shot, but I only ran out of ammo a few times later in the game and had to backtrack for more, so the melee combat isn’t an essential aspect of the game and it can be beaten very easily without going all Rocky Balboa on every pirate you meet.

The platforming sequences are pretty much ripped straight out of Tomb Raider. Nate will scale tons of cliffs, fortress walls, and vines throughout his travels. Most of the platforming moments just involve climbing up walls, shimmying around a little bit, and jumping to adjacent walls and such to find a way past obstacles. These sequences rarely last long and are, in my opinion, very under-utilized. Drake’s Fortune could have potentially a very incredible platformer but instead we’re only treated to Assassin’s Creed or Tomb Raider-esque climbing moments once every twenty or thirty minutes and they rarely last longer than a minute or two. This is a shame because they’re often quite fun and I enjoyed having to stop and look around for things to climb and jump to.

Melee combat is woefully unfulfilling and most players will probably opt to use firearms.

The puzzles of Drake’s Fortune are pretty straight forward and usually just involve flicking switches. The most advanced puzzle is one around the middle of the game when you have to point four statues in different directions to open a hidden passageway. Another puzzle indicates that you have to make two large church bells ring simultaneously to proceed. Well, that would be pretty hard in any other game, but in Drake’s Fortune Nate has guns. Yeah I just ruined the bell puzzle, but even a five year old would be able to figure that one out in approximately five seconds. Drake’s Fortune has very basic puzzles that will rarely, if ever, make you stop and wonder how you are supposed to even proceed. This isn’t all that bad since it keeps up with the steady pace of the rest of the game. It goes hand in hand with the quick platforming sequences, though the overly long gun fights usually bring the steady pace to a screeching halt for a few minutes.

Overall, there is no shortage of awesome things to say about Drake’s Fortune. It isn’t without problems, but the issues this game has are extremely minor and can be overcome, if not completely forgotten, by devoted players. The game only takes about eight hours to play through, but there are dozens of hidden goodies that will be missed on the first play through the game. By finding hidden treasures littered throughout the world and performing various tasks that award trophies, players will amass medals ingame which will unlock various bonus features such as playing with fun screen effects filters, using any gun in the game whenever you want, to even playing as Elena, Sully, or any of the game’s antagonists. There’s quite a bit to do in this game besides enjoy the fantastic story. The gameplay is blast, the characters are extremely likeable and memorable, and there’s tons of hidden goodies. Fans of adventure games will find lots to love in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Pros:
+ An unforgettable cast of characters who you’ll fall in love with.
+ Script and voice work are both among the best ever in a video game.
+ The game is still beautiful four years after release.

Cons:
– Aiming controls can be fairly sluggish.
– Melee combat feels out of place and depressingly bare-bones.
– Some shooting sequences can drag on for too long.

Final Score

9.5/10

Hunter Hunted (PC, 1996)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

About twelve or thirteen years ago (or perhaps more), I remember having a Sierra game that came bundled with a few demos. One of the demos was for a game called Hunter Hunted. Ever hear of it? Back then, neither had I. Today, I look back on the game with very fond memories.

Hunter Hunted was a 2D platformer that contained a whopping 65 levels, a number that we never see in the current generation of gaming.

The missions were all pretty straight forward, and just involved completing miniscule objectives so that the player could reach the exit. Levels were full of all sorts of dangerous obstacles such as mechs and turrets.

The two playable characters, Jake the human and Garathe Den the alien-minotaur-thing, handled very differently. Jake, being a weak little man with guns, required a more conservative approach to clearing levels, while Garathe Den was all about just beating the hell out of everything in sight.

The singleplayer campaign was not the best part of this game and I won’t deny that I never finished the missions. Instead, I was drawn to the multiplayer aspect of the game.

Hunter Hunted was one of those rare PC games that had a split-screen two player mode of play, and along with a friend, I played the hell out of the multiplayer.

In multiplayer, you can either play co-op with a friend which, admittedly, kind of sucked… Or you could play, you guessed it, DEATHMATCH!

More 2D platformers need deathmatch, I say! In Hunter Hunted, one player played as Jake while the other was privileged enough to use Garathe Den. Now, I know what it sounds like, a little tiny man with guns versus a huge minotaur-alien that pulvervizes everything with frightening efficiency. Sounds uneven, yeah? Well, it surpisingly wasn’t.

Jake had a whole arsenal of guns at his disposal. His default guns were pretty crappy against Garathe Den, but there were some pretty awesome weapons littered throughout the levels such (like the rocket launcher) that could really punish Garathe Den. Garathe, on the other hand, didn’t get any power-ups that I can recall. He had everything he needed without having to get powered up, so as soon as a match began, Garathe would have a huge advantage over Jake. The player who would control Jake would then have to find sufficient tools to deal with the Garathe player, which was a lot of fun and really helped give this game it’s name – Hunter Hunted. Deathmatch was a huge cat and mouse game, where the roles of cat and mouse quickly alternated between Garathe and Jack. Lots of fun.

I can’t recall how many hours my friend and I sank into deathmatch, which really was awesome in it’s day. I don’t know how well this game would run today since it was released in 1996, so it might require a DOS emulator to even work properly. However, if this game sounds at all appealing to you, then definitely try to find a copy or a download, especially if you have a friend who wouldn’t mind checking out the deathmatch feature with you.

Hunter Hunted was, without a doubt, one of the coolest obscure games I have ever played on the PC. I have some very fond memories with this game, so thanks for giving them to me Sierra!

Click here to listen to a fantastic stage theme from Hunter Hunted!

AVGN: The Angry Video Game

“A game that is probably just as frustrating as the ones that James plays.”

The header, of course, is only fitting. This is indeed a frustrating game, but that does not mean that it is a bad one!

The AVGN Angry Video Game is made by Eric Ruth, a guy who is awesome at making platformers and video game demakes of many varieties. Most of his games are indeed fangames and he seems to be able to replicate various characteristics of the games that his are based off of very well. This applies to the AVGN Angry Video Game as well, and I’ll explain how.

In the Angry Video Game, you play as James as he just… I don’t even know. In traditional 8-bit fashion, the protagonist (in this case, James Rolfe) is thrust into a series of levels that don’t seem to make a lot of sense or have any meaning – just like the games featured in the AVGN episodes!

Another similarity between the Angry Video Game and the games featured in AVGN episodes is a distinct lack of good controls. James moves just fine with the controls he has been assigned, but they are in very awkward and unconventional locations on the keyboard. Those who cannot adjust to strange control layouts or do not have any tools to use their own gamepads (Hint: Joy2Key) will definitely have problems adjusting to the controls in Angry Video Game. If James were to make an AVGN episode about this game, he’d probably call the controls ass.

The graphics are actually very good. Graphically, the game sits somewhere between NES and SNES visuals. Eric Ruth has shown that he is no slouch when it comes to spriting. Everything looks pretty good in this game, except for perhaps one or two animations. James looks amusing and the enemies are all easily identifiable.

The game likes to thrust a lot of tough enemies at you, however. They aren’t necessarily difficult to defeat, but so many enemies shoot projectiles and move erratically that it just makes it a little frustrating if you’re not doing well. Bosses in particular are pretty annoying, as there are usually several projectiles moving across the screen all the time.

The game’s biggest redeeming factor is, coincidentally, James Rolfe. You see, as soon as you begin the game you hear his voice, and he doesn’t go away – ever. To diehard AVGN fans, this is pretty great. It’s a lot of fun hearing him curse at the game when you die, and he comments on various things in the levels as you experience them. It sort of makes it feel like James is playing the game with you, which is pretty cool. I know that it was done to emulate an AVGN episode, but the feature accomplishes so much more. Definitely the best part of this game.

There’s little else to say, so I’ll wrap up the review! If you’re a fan of the Angry Video Game Nerd or like tough platformers, give this one a try. It’s up in my downloads section.

Final Score

7.6/10


Dead Rising 2/Sonic 4 First Impressions

So I’m playing two games at once right now, and they are Dead Rising 2 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. These two games couldn’t be any more unlike one another, and this is reflected in my feelings towards them so far after clocking about two hours in Dead Rising 2, and about an hour and a half in Sonic 4.


I never played the original Dead Rising since I do not have a 360, so I wasn’t able to experience the exploits of Frank West. That did not stop me from wanting to check out the sequel, though.

Dead Rising 2 uses the Games for Windows or Windows Live sign-in crap, which plagues so many other PC games these days. I was a little upset to see that in here, but what really irked me was the lack of any sort of key configuration options, and apparently the only gamepads that this game has support for are 360 ones for the PC. I had to go into an ini file and remap the keys manually, which was fairly annoying. It took me about an hour before I was truly happy with the controls.

The gameplay so far has me hooked, and I can’t really fault it much. My only gripe is having to find Zombrex for Chuck’s daughter. I don’t even know where to start looking since I always have, literally, dozens of zombies lumbering after me at once. Taking the zombies down is a lot of fun, and is even downright gruesome in a few instances. If you have a fire axe, you can slice a zombie in half – and I mean VERTICALLY, so from the head and down. Ouch.

The characters are pretty good. Katey (Chuck’s daughter) isn’t too interesting, but the rest of the supporting cast is great so far. Rebecca is pretty much the most blatant use of sex appeal I’ve ever seen in a video game of this kind, but she’s also a well developed character personality-wise, so she has the looks and the character. Sullivan is cool too, I definitely like his no nonsense approach to things as he manages the safehouse/shelter. I’ve only talked to him a few times and he’s already changed his feelings towards Chuck twice. I like this guy.

I haven’t played the game enough to write a review, that’s for sure. Still coming to grips with a lot of things in Dead Rising 2, but I predict a pretty good score for it.


A new Sonic game in the original series, what’s not to like? Unfortunately, a lot. The game isn’t that bad, don’t be misled by what I just said. The problem with Sonic 4 is that it feels like the developers don’t know how to design Sonic levels anymore.

The Splash Hill levels were pretty decent, but they felt far too large and I never really knew how far into the stages I was. There are too many routes and secret passages, and it’s just far too overwhelming. Big levels are good in a lot of instances, but these levels are just too big.

I actually felt like the casino stages were really frustrating. Far too many stupid gimmicky props and such, and a few things, such as the cannons that shoot you around, really annoyed me. I felt that, in the casino stages, I was mostly just being pushed through the levels by the huge abundance of springs and other devices that would propel Sonic forward. Honestly, it’s a little questionable when you barely even have to press any buttons to progress through a level. In the casino levels, the game progressed Sonic for you.

The ruin levels seem promising so far, but I’ve only played the first one. It was a little Indiana Jones-esque, which I actually enjoyed. In a few instances, I had to flee from rolling boulders and then ride smaller boulders over bottomless pits. With the slower pace and the game not relying on springs and such to shoot me forward ALL THE DAMN TIME, the first ruin level was actually pretty enjoyable.

Aside from the weird level design and the game’s reliance on devices that constantly shoot you around the level, the other thing I did not like is the placement of enemies. A lot of them are positioned in places where, unless you’ve already played the level and know what’s coming, you’re going to get hit and lose all of your rings. A few enemies come out of absolutely nowhere and are positioned in spots where you are destined to hit them unless you are a remarkably fast thinker and can take them out in half a second. Unlikely.

It’s still early days for Sonic 4, so my feelings may change. At the moment, I’m going to say that this game is just fairly average overall. Despite it’s flaws, it is still fun. It’s just not memorable.


And that’s about it for these two games so far. I’ll be writing more detailed reviews on each later in the week. Sonic 4’s review should be Friday, and Dead Rising 2’s review will be over the weekend sometime.

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