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Guardians of the 'Hood - Arcade (1992)

by Nick Zverloff

Flyer

Guardians of the 'Hood

Guardians of the 'Hood

Guardians of the 'Hood is the spiritual successor to the infamous Pit Fighter. It builds off of its formula and ever-so-slightly improves on it, while still managing to be terrible in almost every way. Like Pit Fighter, it uses actors in terrible looking costumes for sprites. There are one-on-one segments in the gym that play almost exactly like its spiritual predecessor, making the connections even more clear. Guardians of the 'Hood is a lot less known than Pit Fighter and was never ported anywhere.

The story involves Mr. Big (no relation to similarly named characters from SNK's Art of Fighting or Midway's NARC) taking over "this crummy town". It's up to four gym rats to take justice into their own hands and stop him. Mr. Big commands three gangs: The Dreads, Shavers, and Dragons. The Dreads are all Jamaican stereotypes with dreadlocks. Their leader is the ridiculously named Jay-Jay, who becomes playable once you beat him. The Shavers are bikers/skinheads that look utterly ridiculous. Their leader is Boris, a disappointingly generic guy who joins once you defeat him. The Dragons are the last gang. They're Asian stereotypes and, as expected, their gang leader Kwan becomes playable after defeat. After conquering the three gangs it's off to fight Mr. Big, who recycles previously fought enemies from other stages.

The digitized sprites of the actors is rather grainy. The scaling is pretty good though, as sprites grow and shrink when at appropriate places on the screen. Things get a lot less grainy when characters are in the center row. Every so often you also come across some interactive sight gags that are amusing and may distract you from the awful controls and sound. Some of the more interesting ones are the ability to pick up and throw a homeless man as though he were an inanimate object, punching a granny only to have her punch you back, and a creepy man in a trench coat flashing a subway.

Levels are divided into three parts. The first is a standard belt scrolling segment where you move forward and beat up anything in your way. There are no crowd control moves or combos to speak of, though technically they aren't needed. The most enemies on screen at a time is usually two. These segments tend to have the most sight gags. The second segment has your character going into a gang's base of operations, which is usually a seedy building like an adult movie theater or a strip club. This is where you fight and recruit a boss. The third and final segment turns the game into a very basic and very bad fighting game. It takes place in the gym where a playable character (usually Chief, the big guy) challenges you. The AI in this segment is incompetent, being bested by simply spamming kick while dodging the occasional tossed piece of exercise equipment.

Guardians of the 'Hood is pretty short, beatable in less than half an hour save for the terribly cheap final boss. Just about everything is very poorly implemented and adds to the air of silliness. The characters all look silly, the sound is terrible, the controls are unresponsive, and while it is a step up from Pit Fighter, the old saying about polishing a turd rings true - the best thing that can now be said about it, is the humour. It's hard to take Guardians of the 'Hood seriously. It's sometimes fun, just not in the way that a good game should be.

Guardians of the 'Hood

Guardians of the 'Hood

Guardians of the 'Hood

Guardians of the 'Hood


The Rocky Horror Show - ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, C64, C128 (1985)

by Sam Derboo

Original cover

Re-release cover

The Rocky Horror Show is one of the most amusingly insane musicals ever conceived (at least for the first ten or so times you watch it. Eventually, even it gets old). Astonishingly, whenever someone makes a video game out of the franchise, things somehow manage to make even less sense. Well, not initially. When the CRL Group first released their adaptation for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC, it was rather boring, so let's focus entirely on the Commodore 64 version. Either Brad or Janet, depending on the player's choice, sets out to save their petrified fiancee before the mansion takes off into outer space. Whoever is helplessly confused right now: reading this review without having watched the show or the movie is just as enlightening as playing the game without having watched the show or the movie.

All the known Transexual Transylvanians - and Eddie - run around the mansion like crazy, and as soon as Brad bumps into them, they suggest to do the time warp again (whose music plays constantly through the whole game) and strip him stark naked, so he's just barely able to cover his crotch with his hands. That makes it seem oh so much more inviting to play as Janet...

NOT FAIR!

After that, the clothes are dropped somewhere around the house randomly, and the distressed couple has to find them before going on. After all, how are they supposed to pick up the necessary parts of the Medusa Transducer when they have to shield their private parts with their hands? Those are also dispersed randomly, and the difficulty experienced in solving the quest in time almost solely relies on finding their location. If fortune laughs upon the player, the game can be completed within a few minutes; in less favourable cases, it's neigh impossible. It's also a really dull and bothersome task, because both heroes can only ever carry one part at any one time, which they have to drag to its socket, leaving any other pieces along the way for later backtracking.

Not all of the inhabitants desire to do the time warp again, though. Riff Raff is awfully trigger happy with his ray gun, and Eddie just runs people over with his motorcycles - standing in the way of either results in an untimely death. And in the unlikely event one happens to encounter Frank-N-Furter in his room, wild animal off-screen sex ensues, and one wakes up locked in a dark room full of free-floating drug symbols.

Nothing more from the original plot is left, but the mansion is actually drawn astonishingly faithfully, which is extra surreal on the C64 where the platform-typical blocky colored characters are mixed with the detailed monochrome backgrounds from the Speccy.

Just for the record, the major differences in the Spectrum and Amstrad versions: the characters are as monochrome as the backgrounds, items are not randomized, and all the Transexual Transylvanians wait quietly in their rooms until the player enters, making the mansion feel deserted and boring instead of frantic and insane. The Rocky Horror Show is also one of the few C64 games that have a dedicated C128 counterpart, with completely redrawn graphics (including the backgrounds) and individual lines for all inhibitants of the mansion, but it runs extremely slow.

The Rocky Horror Show (C64)

The Rocky Horror Show (C64)

The Rocky Horror Show (C64)

The Rocky Horror Show (C64)

The Rocky Horror Show (ZX Spectrum)


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Genocide - X68000 (1989), PCE-CD (1992, version covered), FM Towns (1993)

by Apachacha, additions by John Szczepaniak

PC Engine CD Cover

Genocide (PC Engine CD)

Genocide (PC Engine CD)

Genocide is certainly a good looking game, the original X68000 release as well as the PC Engine CD port and later FM Towns port. The sprites are large, distinct and well drawn. Your robot meanwhile looks totally badass and like something out of an anime movie, especially since his main weapon is a lightsaber. The stage backgrounds are also all varied and well drawn, with some decent parallax scrolling in places, and there's a reasonable number of unique enemies and bosses. The music is also awesome, with that noticeable 1980s kind of feel.

And yet it's still absolutely horrible. There are many reasons for this, but these two flaws catalyse to form something extraordinarily terrible:

(1) Your attacks never stop or slow down an enemy from advancing. Ever.
(2) You have no window of invincibility after getting hit, and you only get knocked back slightly.

You can see where this leads, can't you? Any enemy which requires more than a single strike of your weapon, which is pretty much all of them, is going to touch and therefore damage you. Oh, and your sword's range is extremely limited, so limited in fact that you're forced to take damage when attacking some large bosses. Since there's no window of invincibility (or perhaps it's just ludicrously short), if you get knocked backwards into another enemy you continue to take damage and are then knocked in the opposite direction. This sometimes leads to a pinball-like animation-lockout where you lose almost your entire health bar. It's especially bad since several stages feature tiny, horribly-fast little bouncing jetpack things, which drop from above based on your position, and none of which die easily. This makes three sections of the game almost impossible, because these guys will hit you, and you won't have a chance to hit back without five bumping into you at once. There are health upgrades, but they are as rare as the Holy Grail.

To those who argue that one should just dodge enemies, every level has a gate at the end which only opens after every single enemy in the level is dead. Even though the gate isn't technically an enemy it will also damage you if touched, which is pretty hilarious if you're trapped between it and an enemy. Actually, even calling them levels is a misnomer, since there's no actual structure to them. Every level, except one, is nothing more than a slow walk from left to right; simply an enemy corridor where the enemies are bullet sponges and you don't have a gun. The one exception is a stage which tries to mimic the mothership level from R-Type, except as you can imagine: you're walking instead of flying and flailing a tiny sword instead of shooting. It's representative of the entire game really, one long string of bad ideas.

To compensate for your short attack range, unstoppable enemies and lack of damage recovery window, there is a somersault move - which is mandatory if you have any desire of completing the game. Apart from that all you can do is attack, jump, and jump attack. Later on you receive an Option weapon similar to R-Type, which you can charge up, but taking damage resets it, making it mostly useless. You'll be constantly keeping an eye on your dwindling life, hoping that you can just somehow make it to the next level, since you can then die and restart with full health. There's unlimited continues, though it doesn't actually make the game even remotely more manageable.

Some things in Genocide are also just ridiculous. For example the tiny blonde kung-fu man who grunts as he performs a flying kick, and who can damage a towering mecha yet takes around 100 hits with a sword to topple. The fact he's one-quarter the size of your robot also makes him nearly impossible to hit. Even while crouching your sword simply doesn't reach, so the best option is to jump around attacking and hope he jumps into your weapon. If you actually manage later on to beat the final boss, consider yourself blessed with patience and stoicism - it took me over two hours to beat him, in a single attempt without cheating! Ironically, if you exploit the Option weapon there's another boss you can defeat without ever getting touched, highlighting how unbalanced Genocide is.

So much about Genocide implies a lack of ability, from concept and design through to programming and play-testing, with only graphics and music being noteworthy. Which is a shame, especially since the sequel (and its many ports) managed to improve on everything to the point where it was genuinely quite excellent. In fairness, the PCE-CD release is also probably the worst of the three.

Genocide (PC Engine CD)

Genocide (PC Engine CD)

Genocide (PC Engine CD)

Genocide (PC Engine CD)

Genocide (PC Engine CD)


Savage Warriors - IBM PC (1995)

by Nick Zverloff

Cover

Savage Warriors

Savage Warriors

Savage Warriors proclaimed itself as "The Bad Boy of Beat 'em Ups" on its box when it was released in 1995, a title that looks pretty silly now. To be fair, it was a technically impressive game for its time. It had 3D graphics (with 2D gameplay), a cast of 10 characters, and interactive environments. Back when it first came out, Savage Warriors received generally positive reviews praising its graphics and cheat mode. Unfortunately, Savage Warriors' graphics have not aged well, the cheat mode means nothing, and all that's left is an anemic fighting system with tacked on "interactive" environments.

The visuals are quite strange. Just looking at it, you can see low resolution, blocky, and sometimes ugly character models amongst beautiful hand painted backgrounds. There is something to be said when a game looks both stunning and awful at the same time. The sound features a handful of voice clips per character, most of them being grunts, but there are a few words here and there. The announcer has a distinct French accent, adding a bit of character to him.

The story involves characters from many different time periods from all around the world fighting each other for a character known as The Master. Other games use a similar premise, notably Time Killers, Eternal Champions, and World Heroes. The characters are all goofy in their own way. Some of the more interesting ones include a soldier from the Vietnam War that looks suspiciously like Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator, an anarchist with a club hilariously named Meatball, and a dinosaur-like monster that seems very out of place next to the rest of the cast. The moves themselves would be pretty easy to execute, except the keyboard was never meant to be used with fighting games. The keypad is terrible for rolling motions, and even if you use a gamepad, it's still pretty unresponsive. You can also disarm characters that use weapons by hitting them hard and fast enough, which can be useful when fighting the computer and frustrating when the computer decides to cheat.

The AI is inconsistent. Sometimes enemies will just sit there and let you beat them senseless and other times they will effortlessly dodge all of your attacks, perform combos, and even button read. This applies to all difficulty levels, as the higher ones have substantially more cheating in them than the lower ones.

Speaking of cheating, Savage Warriors has an extensive cheat menu. Most of the cheats are kind of boring, but one of them turns the game from a 2D fighting game into a 3D fighting game. The 3D cheat may seem kind of cool at first, but it's basically using the same clunky controls and the same silly, but sadly shallow characters, but with an extra dimension. A CD version was produced that includes a new soundtrack and some new characters. Sadly, the new characters are all clones and are not very interesting.

Savage Warriors was developed by Atried Concepts, which was later bought by Mindscape and turned into Kalisto Entertainment. The lead programmer, Sebastien Wloch, continued work at Kalisto Entertainment and went on to make Nightmare Creatures, an action horror game that is actually pretty good.

Savage Warriors

Savage Warriors

Savage Warriors


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