Tag Archives: arcade

Donkey Kong Jr. — 3Q2015

DK Jr-01Like father, like son

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

I don’t believe there is anyone who reads GI who doesn’t know that I don’t care for Donkey Kong. By now, it should be painfully obvious that I don’t care for the simian’s retro exploits or his more recent outings, either. It’s not that I don’t respect what the great ape has done for gaming; it’s more that I feel he gets credit for mediocre-to-horrible games. Donkey Kong Jr. falls on the lower end of the spectrum.
Much the same tripe as the original, you’re tasked with saving someone by moving across hell and high water. But wait, this time it’s different! No, you aren’t saving Pauline this time around; no, you’re Donkey Kong Jr., the scion of Kongdom saving your incorrigible father from the clutches of evil human Mario. The fact that another ape has to save his parental figure from Mario in a complete role reversal begs several questions: Where was Junior when his father was kidnapping innocent maidens and running rampant? Why would Mario even bother to kidnap the great ape in the first place? Sure, there’s the motive of revenge, but you’re never going to get your question answered, try as you might. You just have to accept that DK needs saving and it’s up to you, his reliable offspring, to do the job.
Hoping that your adventure in saving your father is worth it, the DK Jr-12game tasks you in utilizing a jumping and climbing mechanic that may or may not work, depending on where you are height wise. Any fall more than a few pixels high will kill you, which makes about as much sense as the kidnapping caper you seem to be embroiled in. Whoever had the bright idea to make jumping a chore and maneuvering your ape around impossible obviously didn’t get that this was a bad design decision immediately. Seeing as though they are the only skills your ape has, it would have been a little bit wiser to make those work well.
Score-1-retrogradeInstead, you’ll watch Junior repeatedly get eaten alive by crocodiles (we’re not sure why a plumber would employ these dangerous live creatures to kill an ape), nailed by random falling objects and fall to his obvious and horrific death, all because he’s underdeveloped at jumping and climbing.
And while you’re witnessing this obvious act of poaching, it’d be wise to use some headphones. The music, much like the original game, isn’t the greatest and it will get monotonous immediately. Donkey Kong Country this isn’t.
Your best bet is to try the game just for the nostalgic factor in seeing a pretty rare character; Junior was last seen, by my count, in Super Mario Kart for the SNES. He isn’t putting in too many other appearances and maybe, just maybe, it was this trip out of the jungle that convinced him to let his father do all of the adventuring in the family. This barrel isn’t full of laughs or a blast.

Midway Arcade Treasures 2 — 1Q2015

A mostly forgettable treasure trove

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

We’re going to use the term treasure trove loosely when I refer to Midway Arcade Treasures 2. Sure, there are some diamonds in the mine that was once Midway and its arcade hits. But sometimes, as demonstrated ably in this package, Midway dug just a little too deep to find things that I wouldn’t trade for a seashell and some glass beads.

Midway Arcade Treasures 2 follows in the vein of the previous title, mining for hits out of the veritable Taj Mahal that is Midway’s catalog of arcade favorites. The second go-round immediately catches the eye — and wallet — for versions of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3, arguably the centerpiece in the entire show. Following up those pieces are lesser hits such as Primal Rage, APB and Rampage World Tour. The entire compilation is made up of 20 titles, which is a bargain for the amount of games you’re getting. Whether you want to play all 20 titles or not is the question and it’s easily answered quickly: No.

A few of the titles included immediately dredge up horrible memories. These drecks of modern gaming society have been resurrected, and I’m not exactly sure for whose benefit. Hard Drivin’, mentioned and dissected in GI’s horrible games podcast of yesteryear, is the worst offender of the bunch. I have no earthly idea who thought this was an arcade classic and why it needed to be thrust upon the masses again. It was a horrible game to begin with and deserves no further discussion or inclusion to reanimate it from the depths of hell where it belongs (Editor’s Note: Fun factoid — Hard Drivin’ provided the basis for GI’s Torture of the Quarter column). N.A.R.C. also warrants a mention as a title to avoid, as well as Primal Rage. Let’s face it, Primal Rage was touted as competition for the likes of Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Killer Instinct back in the day, but no one with any sense ever took it seriously. The game doesn’t inspire any new feelings of doing so after 20 years.

With the inclusion of hideous titles, there will be some control Midway Arcade Treasures 2-46issues. The good news is that most titles play like they did when first released. The bad news is that some “improvements” have done just the opposite of their intention. Let’s take, for example, Mortal Kombat II. Because of “new-and-improved” control mapping, it is impossible to fight hidden character Smoke in all versions except the PC version, and it takes a patch to fix that. That drags the overall experience down considerably. Continuing with the Mortal Kombat example, Mortal Kombat 3 runs just like the arcade. Except, the arcade version of MK 3 was terrible, with a lot of bugs and glitches that necessitated the much-better Ultimate MK3. It’s a mixed bag: On the one hand you’re getting improved controls and modern advancements, but on the other hand, these changes aren’t exactly welcome.
Score-2-5-retrogradeWhat is welcome, however, is the inclusion of the behind-the-scenes material. Documentaries and making-of materials are included as bonus features for a few games, most notably Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3. If you were an MK fanatic, these are interesting looks at the franchise at the height of its initial popularity. If you’re wondering what the hype was about, it’s a great look at the origin of the series and where ideas and mythology were created. The bonus materials for all games included are worth buying if you’re into the arcade scene and its history.

Whether you deem this collection worth your time depends on how dedicated you are to the preservation of the U.S. arcade scene. If you’re a purist and you care about obscure games such as Wizard of Wor and Xybots, by all means go out and search for the treasure. Otherwise, let this booby-trapped box stay hidden.

NBA Jam — 3Q2014

NBA Jam-02The old king of the court

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

NBA Jam was — and still is — an experience. No, that’s not some preposterous fluff dreamed up by an National Basketball Association maven like yours truly. It was truly an experience because if you were around at the time that Jam hit the streets, you’d remember the sheer amount of hype that surrounded the arcade release. You’d also remember the hype that came home with it. Was it justified hype? Yes and no.

You see, Jam represented the start of the exaggerated sports game era, the type of game where the player animations were over the top and the action just as extreme. Throw in a plethora of secrets — like playing as President Bill Clinton — and the hype went into overdrive. The game isn’t bad and it mostly lived up to its billing. The simple setup of two-on-two basketball and fast-break basketball helped certainly, and the animation isn’t bad at all. The player interaction is where it mostly succeeds, actually. At the time, there was no other place to get the kind of play that Jam offers: Crazy dunks, the ability to be on fire from great shooting and street ball-type rules. It’s that offering that made it a phenomenal success.

Jam doesn’t stumble in its race to be an in-your-face baller NBA Jam-17experience. That street ball player interaction means you don’t have to learn much about the game to succeed and play well. The control is simple yet has a layer of depth that means anyone can do well at any skill level. The atmosphere could be a little better with a better soundtrack, but what will make you take notice is the announcer. If there’s anything you will remember about the game, it’s Tim Kitzrow shouting to the top of his lungs that a man is “on fire” or “BOOMSHAKALAKA.”

Score-4-retrogradeThe graphics, like the soundtrack, are nothing to get excited about. There’s a static crowd except for the courtside folk, and then there’s the players. Jam popularized the over-exaggerated look for players, and it certainly had its uses. It’s not out of place for Jam, and it brings a certain atmosphere to the action that Jam benefits from.

If there’s ever a reason to play NBA Jam, find it in the cartoonish action, sound and look. That’s where the fun is, and the main reasons why the game succeeded in living up to the hype (mostly) that broke backboards in the olden days of 1993.