[EXPRESSO] Congo’s Caper/Joe & Mac 2 SNES | Sun Wukong Upon A Star

Ah, yes, the three inescapable truths of life: death, taxes and SNES caveman platformers that somehow you didn’t play or knew existed, like todays’s Congo’s Caper, just recently rereleased on the NSW Online subscription/retro apps.

This one it’s a bit more recognizable than stuff like Prehistorik Man, as it’s basically a spin-off of the Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja series by Data East, but also the second game in the series, since it was actually sold as Joe & Mac 2 in Japan and PAL regions.

And i kinda get why, as Data East also recycled some characters from the mainline Joe & Mac series, like the devil or the first stage t-rex boss , and the controls are similar, as it retains the high jump, but not the weapons, as you use only a small club to attack.

The more distinctive feature is the player character turning back into a monkey if hit, and regaining your human form with a red crystal (Mario style), with the ability to enter a “super saiyan” invincibility state too, you’re a half-monkey man after all.

Controls are actually pretty smooth, arguably better than the original Joe & Mac, the new protagonist has some new abilities like hanging from vines, so it should be better…. and it arguably is, it’s definitely more polished, has a lot more levels, BUT it’s too easy for its own good, it’s fun, but it lacks challenge, and the level themselves are very short, while also not providing anything you haven’t seen (or heard, as some of the sound effects are pretty much “ripped off” of Super Mario World…. or its sound libraries) done better in terms of level design.

So it’s not a bad game, but a decent one that could have been potentially quite good.

Shame, really.

[EXPRESSO] Rival Turf SNES | Dashing Beat

So, Nintendo opened its maw again to spit out another meager assortment of old titles for the NES and SNES Online services, but this time it did add Rival Turf, as in the localized version of the first Rushing Beat, so i guess it’s time to complete my trifecta of reviews for the Rushing Beat trilogy, with the others being localized as Brawl Brothers and The Peacekeepers respectively.

Like The Peacekeepers the throwing and suplex moves are so overpowered that you’ll rely too much on those, especially since the enemies knows this as well, and can deal way too much damage even without using throws, made worse by the fact this is the only beat ‘em up i know that has “recovery damage”, as in you lose life even by getting up from getting knocked down.

At least it works for both you and the enemies, but still, weird.

Everything else is crappy bootleg Final Fight, from the bootleg enemies with smaller sprites, the iffy collision detection, the punches and moves lacking much “oomph”. The only difference being the “run” button which allows to also execute dash moves, despite the hilarity of the character not so much running (there’s no running animation per se) but “walking-gliding” at a faster pace.

It’s also such a blatant rip-off of Final Fight you really have to compare it to that game, and its own only reason of being was the 2 player co-op mode that the SNES release of Final Fight lacked, but nowadays means squat.

It’s aged crap from Jaleco, and while the sequels – mostly – improved gameplay…. there’s very little reason to bother with the original Rival Turf/Rushing Beat, unless you’re a beat em up buff on a mission to play them all for fun, education and/or profit. There’s worse.

Nintendo Direct 9/02/2022 | Rites Of N

That time again, time to put on your robe and attend the ceremony with expectations so far out to make worshippers of the Old Gods looks like wannabe zealots!

Especially since all fair criticism of the company is dropped by most people (and publications) when a Direct happens. But again, this is sadly “business as usual”, let’s move on.

Continua a leggere “Nintendo Direct 9/02/2022 | Rites Of N”

[EXPRESSO] Jelly Boy SNES | Europlatforming Of Old

Figured i’d check in with the SNES and NES online measly offering and see if some obscure back catalogue title dropped while Nintendo forgot to say it or did but we didn’t care.

And Jelly Boy is indeed one of those titles you might have gone your entire life without knowing about as it blends perfectly into the humungous pile of platformers of the 90s, and only came out in Europe, to boot.

So, it’s one of those 16 bit platformers that wanted to jump on the bandwagon, so it has a Sonic style health system, and often very tight time limits for the levels…. which i guess were made to make it feel more like Sonic when it’s otherwise a more linear “europlatformer” of british descent starring a humanoid shaped jelly in baby pink that can morph in various shapes, including a duck… when you duck, so the game has a sense of humour.

The main issue is that you have to find jigsaw pieces hidden in the level to unlock the zone’s boss, bu beating bosses only nets you item needed to finish the game, but to actually enter the next zone/world you have to find out first that there’s a hub area to access each world’s map, and you need to find a key in each zone to access the next one.

The game doesn’t tell you about any of these, most likely on purpose to sell guides and avoid people from easily beating it while renting it in the day, even more because just the first world it’s so obtuse. Once you know what the hell you’re supposed to, the game is actually decent, looks good , has a lot of levels, i’d say it’s worth a play by platformers buffs…. with a walkthrough on hand.

Putty Squad PS4 [REVIEW] | Blob In Time

Ah, yes, the lost Amiga platformer that wasn’t really lost at all, and even released on Super Nintendo in 1994 (not be confused with the SNES port of the first game, Putty, retitled “Super Putty” because Super Nintendo naming conventions), but was tauted as “reborn” for the PS4.

Yeah, this was a launch title, not that surprising, this is System 3 we’re talking about, i remember distincly them putting Super Fruit Fall on the Wii at launch, at full price, because why not?

Does it merit full MSRP? No. Doesn’t matter, since we’re putting it out when there’s bugger all to even play for the console. System 3 have been one of the cheapest UK publisher around for decades, and they’re still around, even if they mostly put out videogame pinball collections, some “HD” port for modern consoles of their old internal-developed MS DOS titles like Constructor.

And yes, they tried selling this one again on Switch, with the “Super” monicker slapped on, though, if you want a retail copy you might have to import it from the EU region.

Continua a leggere “Putty Squad PS4 [REVIEW] | Blob In Time”

[EXPRESSO] Spanky’s Quest SNES | Darling please

As Nintendo’s own Nintendo Switch Online retrogaming offering continues to baffle and disappoint everyone, i decided to pick from this pathetically tiny new serving of small, back catalogues titles most people don’t really care about… well, Spanky’s Quest, from Natsume.

Don’t be fooled by the cheeky title, because a very Kirby-esque (albeit shitty, as it doesn’t actually explain even the basic premise) cutscene will introduce the titular simian, Spanky, trapped in a tower by a witch and now in a quest has to escape while watching out for enemy fruit homunculi.

It’s the kind of game that if i played back when i was a kid, i would have most likely dropped after the first few levels, not in frustration more as not being that interested. Doesn’t help that there’s no tutorial of sorts, since the way you attack isn’t obvious, nor the game tells you can bounce the bubble you launch to power it up multiple times, and then use the bubble button again to pop it for a bigger, more powerful projectile attack.

Once you figure this out, you realize this is a fairly straighforward puzzle platformer, where in each level you need all the keys (hold by the enemies) to open the door leading to the next stage, albeit made a bit more challenging by the fairly unique method of indirect attack by throwing – and juggling – bubbles like actual spherical objects, and NOT the way Bubble Bobble does it.

To my surprise, it’s actually a decent little title, and while it’s not too long (just 50 short stages, even without the save states and rewind features it’s not that hard or time consuming), it has some charm and depth to it. Just a decent, but cute little puzzle platformer from the era. Nice music, too.

[EXPRESSO] Psycho Dream SNES | VR Movie Divers

Played via Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES service.

The other title from the February 2021 poultry batch of titles for the NSO that mildly had my attention. More than Doomsday Warriors (also developed by RIOT), anyway.

Not that i even heard of this one before, i guess because it was released for the Super Famicom only, so it never left Japan in any official manner before now. That means i had to look up the plot on Wikipedia, and thanks to that i know you play as either Ryo or Maria, two special agents called “Debuggers”, as they rescue disaffected young people that lose themselves in virtual worlds known as “D Movies”.

In this case, they have to rescue a 17 yo girl of weak constitution, expected to die in a D Movie in the matter of 24 hours..

Interesting plot, but gameplay wise it’s just your typical action sidescroller from the era: advance from left to right fighting off weird ass enemies, collecting power-ups that change or upgrade your weapon, occasionally doing some platforming, and then fighting a boss at the end of each chapter. Nothing really special by any means, and on the technical side you can tell it’s definitely an early game for the SNES/Super Famicom.

There are no major issues with the controls, no limited continues or unfair bullshit of the time (you have unlimited continues, for once), but while it gets some bonus points for the bizarre enemies and visuals that make the game live up to its title, it loses them due to sketchy performance and level designs that at times makes the stages feel either very stretched out or made a bit more confusing than needed just to pad out the overall longevity. So it ends up just being mediocre, playable but mostly forgettable.

[EXPRESSO] Prehistorik Man SNES | Accept Humanity

Played via Nintendo Switch Online’s SNES service.

So, i guess i was one of the few people mildly interested in some of the February 2012 NSO updates. Which is somehow managing to make me miss the original Virtual Console, somehow.

But i have a thing for caveman platformers, i do, so here we are.

To be fair, i didn’t expect much, especially since it comes from Titus (and if you know something about retrogaming, their name wasn’t exactly one welcomed with cheers), i wasn’t familiar with it and just figured it was gonna be a Joe & Mac clone, but this isn’t really the case. And while it’s easy to understand its existence being relegated to niche retrogaming obscurity, as the 90’s were obsessed with cavemen and dinosaurs and this one didn’t do much to stand out in the avalanche of cavemen themed movies or videogames… you might want to give this one a chance.

It’s not an unsung SNES classic by any means, no, it’s kinda generic and unremarkable, but it’s surprisingly nifty, pretty entertaining, and the while the plot see a caveman named Sam on a quest to feed his starving village, while searching for a bone graveyard so to make his tribe rich… it’s very cartoonish and fond of the usual caveman anachronism. It’s also not short, with a good variety to the levels, often putting you in control of a vehicle like a glider; and while the level design starts off fairly straighforward, more often than not it requires you to explore the levels and collect the required items, as it is still an “euro platformer”, and a pretty challenging one too.

I just wish your character’s standard attack was less crap, and the controls were a bit less slippery, but it’s a good retro platformer.

[EXPRESSO] Brawl Brothers SNES | OH, Maize!

Played via the SNES – Nintendo Switch Online’s service.

Since i reviewed the last game in the Rushing Beat trilogy (as in, what became of it when Jaleco brought it over as The Peace Keepers), might as well do the second one, or – more appropriately – the western release of Rushing Beat Ran. But since it’s an emulated game, the old code for playing the japanese version works here as well.

And if you go to The Peace Keepers back to Brawl Brothers, you’ll find it hard to believe this one came before, because it’s noticeably the better game, right away it’s obvious, as absurd as it is.

That said, while the gameplay is decent, it apes Final Fight , yes, it also has 4 stages, each being twice as long than usual, long for the sake of it, without the enemy variety to fully sustain it (even for the era)… AND if the pacing wasn’t hampered by the maze-like sections. On paper they should spice things up, make the game less mindless, but they are just obtuse and stupid, as the level design doesn’t comunicate or hints at the “right way”, but its quite happy to still tell you to “GO=>” even when it will lead you into looping into the same ¾ nearly identical corridors.

So 15 minutes in and you will have to either keep trying to access the sewer’s doors in random order or go look up a guide if you wanna save some time. More baffling, this “maze crap”, while it bogs down an other decent – if flawed – game for the time, isn’t even a complete deal breaker, as it applies to just 2 specific sections of the whole game … and it wasn’t even in the Japanese version to begin with.

[EXPRESSO] The Peace Keepers SNES | The Suplexing Complex

Played via the SNES- Nintendo Switch Online’s service.

And i gotta say, despite Nintendo handling this service.. in a totally Nintendo way, sometimes there are surprises, like this forgotten SNES beat em up by Jaleco, actually the third of the Rushing Beat trilogy (which also includes Rival Turf and Brawl Brothers, the latter already released on the service), at least it was originally. I’d say this is a fairly obscure release, as i never even heard of its existence, even by name.

Playing it, i realized why it slipped into obscurity so easily. Just plain ol’ crap in a market – at the time – saturated with tons of titles like that, often better.

It’s hard to say The Peace Keepers is “bad”, as it pretty much plays like Final Fight (aside from a plot that throws movie clichès AND literary references into the pot, with mutants, villains named Iago and places called Ozymandias Island), but it’s not a fast paced affair. Also, the combination of slightly stiff controls and the screen never scrolling properly to the right leads to you dashing into enemies’ fists, not that the game really ever throws tons of foes at you. Which is “good” because each takes more hits than it should to go down in a game like this, making the throws (already a bit too efficient than punches, in a brawler) pretty much mandatory to get anywhere.

Branching paths leading to different bosses and endings are nice but aren’t enough to make the story seems more than a jumbled sequence of scenes. And for some stupid reason the game by default just has the sound effects and ambient noises, i almost went the whole game wondering if the game had no actual music. It does, but you have to change a setting in the options.