quarta-feira, 26 de novembro de 2014

domingo, 23 de novembro de 2014

The First Samurai [1991, Amiga / SNES] Review - It's a Pixel THING



Late eighties and early nineties were packed with martial arts movies. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Michael Dudikoff and the most fearsome mustache of all time (Chuck Norris), just to name a few, were my favorite martial artists. Obviously, the video game industry followed this trend with the awesome Last Ninja and Shadow Dancer.

The First Samurai successfully brought, to home consoles and computers of the time, those flesh cutting swordfights and mystique that oriental culture always transpired.

Originally developed, in 1991, by Vivid Image for the Amiga, The First Samurai was so successful that the developers soon started working on other versions. Soon after they ported the game for the Atari ST, in 1992 was available the Commodore 64 and DOS and, in 1993, the Super Nintendo version also saw the light of day.

The game was programmed by Raffaelle Cecco, the creator of extraordinary 8 bit titles for the C64 and the ZED X Spectrum, such as Stormlord and Cybernoid, and his work is noticed right away, as the first images and sounds starts to strike the player.

So, what’s the fuzz all about? Revenge! As I’ve mentioned in the beginning of the episode, our master has been killed by the so called Demon King who flees to the future. Our task is to hunt him down and avenge the death of our mentor. This won’t be easy. On our quest, we’ll be visiting different worlds, from mystical places to futuristic ones.

Besides kicking and punching, there are a bunch of weapons that you can use against the enemy, like axes and daggers, but your sword is your best friend in this game. It has some magical powers and is part of a clever energy system. It is displayed by the sword icon in the bottom right of the screen and, when you slay an enemy, it releases a glowing star which is absorbed by the main character raising his own magical energy. When this energy is in its maximum, the sword will immediately be available for you to use. It is kind of an extension to the player’s own energy; so, instead of only one energy bar, you have two. This small detail, levels the difficulty pretty damn well!

Through these awesomely complex and nicely structured levels, you will encounter various types of creatures that are ready to slow you down. Those creatures can jump, run, fly and roll and won’t stop until your dead! Besides those and some annoying traps, you will also face a large variety of monsters that are hard as hell to put down to sleep.

The arm icon in the bottom left of the screen displays your energy. When you suffer from attacks or traps, the energy icon slowly disappears. Keep an eye on it and, through each level, pick up the items that can restore your energy, like potions and food baskets.
  
Scattered throughout the levels are also regeneration pots that work as checkpoints. A very important feature, so that, when you fall in battle, you won’t return to the beginning of the level. To use it, you need to crouch over the pot and the mystical energy accumulated during the level will then flow into that particular regeneration pot. Only one pot can be active at any one time, but you can reactivate a previously charged pot and so determine a new restart position. You even keep all the items you were carrying after you’ve been resurrected! How cool is that?

When you have enough magical energy, you will be able to pick up other magical items. These items can be used to overcome certain unpassable obstacles. Your master, just like Yoda in Star Wars, will appear from time to time to give you some hints on how to do it.

This is a game that needs your constant attention. The enemies are constantly respawning so you have to move your ass quickly and avoid stopping to smell the roses! Use and abuse the regeneration pots! These will be your best trick to advance in the game!

To conclude, the Amiga and Super Nintendo versions of this awesome game, are the ones you should try. The DOS version is also very good, but lacks that superb and cool parallax scrolling effect.


The First Samurai is a fantastic side scrolling action platformer with an amazing exotic atmosphere, graphics and sound. You really need to check it out! Believe me, you won’t regret it!


If you're into retro stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING


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sábado, 15 de novembro de 2014

The Great Escape [1986, ZX Spectrum] Review - It's a Pixel THING



One freaking cool scene that remains in my conscience is the one of Steve McQueen riding his motorcycle and jumping over a fence. That was something that every small boy would dream on doing!.. And later, receive visits on an hospital bedroom..

The Great Escape was developed by Denton Designs and published by Ocean Software in 1986 for DOS, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and the ZED X Spectrum.

This arcade adventure game, with a slight stealth flavor, takes place in 1942 and puts us in control of a POW somewhere in northern Germany.
In this quite unique single stage game, you need to follow a certain strict routine, along with all the other prisoners. You could just watch your character go off to his daily business. Let go of the controls, sit back and enjoy.
But, this is a computer game and it asks for human interaction! So, let’s jump right in!

About the daily routine, we must attend the morning roll call in front of the German officers, report to the canteen for breakfast, lunch, do some exercise on the yard, dinner and, at the end of the day, attend the evening roll call and return to the hut for another night under the sheets.

It’s here where you need to start to explore your surroundings if you really want to escape from that dreadful routine. Look carefully around you and you’ll find a stove in the corner, which, when pushed aside reveals a secret tunnel. But it’s too dark to explore though. You’re gonna need a source of light. And this is just the beginning of our quest.

The flying flag from the pole to the left of the main play area serves a number of functions. The higher the flag flies, the higher the morale of the central character. Getting red cross parcels or picking up or using an item of escape equipment, the morale improves. Morale is lowered with searches and arrests and gradually diminishes as time elapses. When the flag reaches the bottom, you’re forced to start a new game.

While the flag is green you have limited control and you can only be searched by the Camp Commander. When you break the routine, the flag turns red and you’re able to pick up and drop objects.

Once you’ve learned all the moves and routines of the camp, it’s time to get your hands dirty. The Great Escape is all about finding objects: keys, torches, tools, etc. Remember to have safe hiding places to drop all the objects you need for the escape. If the guards find any object, they will confiscate and return them to their original location.

Avoiding the guards is rather simple. Just keep out of their line of sight and they won’t notice you.

During the night, powerful searchlights scout the camp and prisoners outside the huts get arrested on sight. Hummm…. Maybe wearing a German uniform might help in this situation, don’t you think?

Points are awarded for escape attempts and for collecting and using objects. There are various routes to choose, each needing its own type of equipment, and once you’ve got everything, you just wait for night to fall and away you go! Once outside, you’ll need a compass and some papers or you won’t get very far..

The whole game generates a very real atmosphere of actually being there, and, sometimes, you do get very nervous if you’re stuck somewhere when the roll-call bell sounds!

In 2003 a new game based on The Great Escape movie from 1963 was released for Windows, Playstation 2 and the original Xbox. Sadly it felt somewhat unfinished and received poor reviews from critics all around the world.

This version of The Great Escape was considered one of the best games ever made for the ZED X Spectrum. The DOS version was also extremely playable, but the simple sound effects, from the PC speaker, and the lack of color made it boring after a bit.


The Great Escape is a brilliant game in both concept and design, and the non-linear gameplay and its isometric perspective was, in 1986, something totally new. 


If you're into retro stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING


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segunda-feira, 10 de novembro de 2014

It's a Pixel THING @ Lisboa Games Week 2014



A small taste of what the first Lisboa Games Week was all about.
I'll be back next year, that's for sure!

If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING
Also visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING
If your feeling generous, please support the show on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/PixelTHING

sexta-feira, 7 de novembro de 2014

Trials Fusion [2014, PC] Review - It's a Pixel THING



This week's episode is about a "not so retro" title that has some good old school references. I'm talking about Trials Fusion and this game is the first Pixel THING's "Not so Retro Review" series.
Hope you enjoy watching these videos as much as I enjoy making them!

If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING
Also visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING
If your feeling generous, please support the show on Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/PixelTHING

sábado, 1 de novembro de 2014

ALIEN [1984, ZX Spectrum] Review



In 1986 I was just 11 years old when I saw, for the first time, the movie ALIEN, from 1979, and played the Spectrum game soon after.

Developed by Concept Software and originally published by Mind Games in 1984 for Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and the ZED X Spectrum, it wasn’t the first game based on the Alien franchise. The Atari 2600 was the first system to get a Pac Man game.. Huuuu, I mean, an Alien game!...

In 1982 Pac Man was one of the most popular games out there, so the Atari people thought that it would be a nice touch to adapt the maze style gameplay to this first Alien title. Well, it’s totally a piece of crap.

So, for me, the first title that can really put us in that creepy environment is this one.

Alien provides an authentic recreation of the film’s plot.

You control the crew of the Nostromo spaceship by manipulating all the characters through a series of menus. A plan of the three decks displays the current position of the character you are controlling and, beneath, their status or damage to the ship. On the 3 decks there are 35 different rooms that are connected by ducting which the alien uses freely.

To win in this game you have two options: herd the alien into an airlock and blow it into space, or destroy the Nostromo while escaping in a shuttle.
All characters have minds of their own and sometimes disobey orders if they are too scared. Jones, the cat, is an important guide to the nearness of the alien, but, unfortunately, he only likes certain members of the crew. Remember to take him with you when you’re preparing your escape in the shuttle and, to catch him, you need a cat box!

Another very important item that you need to find is the electronic tracker that beeps if anything is moving in an adjacent room.

The sound effects helped to create suspense; the fact that you cannot see where the alien is, but keep coming across evidence of its passage, and hearing it move around, adds to the atmosphere of groping around in the dark.

Until the release of this faithful movie conversion, games licensed from films or TV have been marriages more of convenience than anything else. Games like The Fall Guy or Ghostbusters just concentrated on only one or two subject ideas from the movie and even this last one was hailed as a masterpiece of thematic conversion.

Thankfully this is not the case with Alien. Alien the game was written by fans and it shows. There’s even a quick summary of the film in the excellent booklet that came with the original release of the game. Even today, tension and suspense are very difficult properties to convey on a computer game. And, back in 1984, the creators of this title succeeded in fully recreating this tense environment.


Although the graphics are simple and the looks of the alien less than frightening, there is a tremendous tension in playing this game, and needs extremely complex tactical decisions. When all you can hear are the sounds of the alien approaching, panic can easily set it.


If you're into retro stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING

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