Thursday, 21 March 2013

Hurricanes (Genesis/Mega Drive)

Hurricanes Sega Genesis Mega Drive Game Over screen
After playing Soccer Kid, Hurricanes, Marko's Magic Football and Go! Go! Beckham! I had a feeling I'd seen all the football platformers. But just when I was resigned to the fact I'd have to move on to basketball platformers or whatever, I learned that there was actually still at least one of them out that I'd missed.

You see, I played the SNES version of Hurricanes, but there's actually a Genesis/Mega Drive game that apparently follows the same storyline (ie. the generic platformer level themes appear in roughly the same order), but seems to have different content and gameplay. So really it's another game entirely.

Whoa, this guy's called Winston Honeychurch? That's awesome. I imagine these two are regulars on the cartoon, but I've never seen it so I wouldn't know. And despite this being my third post about a Hurricanes game I'm still too lazy to hit wikipedia and look it up.

It seems that GSTV is a news station dedicated to following footballers around as they travel between games and today they've chosen to stalk the Hurricanes as they journey to Garkos Island for a soccer match against the Gorgons. I can't imagine it'd be that interesting to watch though, unless the players do something incredibly weird like, I dunno, decide to split up and walk there on foot or something...

Hurricanes Sega Genesis Mega Drive character select screen
Hey, I get to pick from four players this time around. Which a step up from the SNES version, which only let me choose from two of them: Cal and a guy with brown hair who isn't here.

But do I go with Cal, Stats, Amanda or Rude? Huh, Amanda's a weird name for a guy. Well I mean they're all weird names for guys, but... hang on, is this a mixed gender football team?

Oh wow, it starts on a forest level, how delightfully unusual. The team must have been on vacation in the woods. Plus the developers even added some spikes that spring out of the ground at regular intervals just to add an extra touch of originality to the setting! Sarcasm, it's the fun alternative to wit. Still, I'll try to enjoy the fresh air while it lasts as the next level's probably in a sewer knowing my luck.

Those spikes on the right are actually in the background though weirdly enough. It seems they're been installed all over the forest and not just on the exact path I wanted to travel for once in a game. Though even though they're well out of my way I keep mistaking the bloody things for a threat, which is annoying.

Hurricanes (SNES)
The SNES version of the game on the other hand started with my footballer kicking his ball at fish and scorpions on a beautiful tropical beach. I think it's fair to say the SNES version has the edge in graphics and music so far, but when I kick a ball at a squirrel in the Mega Drive game it explodes.

Plus the SNES version has pretty mediocre gameplay, and a yoyo football that immediately returns to your foot the second you release the kick button (or a kick button; there's a few of them.) The Mega Drive game has only the one kick button but the ball actually acts like a football and the character is much more responsive as I move around the level.

No tricks in either of them though sadly. Soccer Kid and Marko's Magic Football remain the undisputed champions of overhead kicks. Though I suppose being able to jump with the ball and kick it in mid-air is kind of a trick.

Crap, I barely managed to get anywhere before this ape took me down with a barrage of banana fire. I can take a fair number of hits though and the enemies seem pretty fair, so really I've got nothing to blame for this but my own ineptitude.

And then on top of that, a floating referee materialised in a puff of smoke to show me a yellow card, just to add absurdity to injury. What a bastard.


LATER.


I eventually made it to the second level with a couple of lives left, which actually does take place on a tropical beach like the SNES game. Well to be honest it's more about jumping between ledges on a cliff, hoping that the exit's up near the top somewhere.

I'm sure I'll be back down at the beach soon enough though, as this bloody bird's just swooped down at me and screwed up my jump. Hopefully I'll find something soft to land on. Like a delicious health-restoring hamburger!

Well that's a less than ideal place to land. You can't even see the beach down here, or even a single palm tree! Fortunately the croc ate the ball instead of my feet, giving me a chance to escape.


LATER.


There you go, some sand. Though this doesn't look like the level exit. Looks more like a pissed off buccaneer who didn't get the memo that his era of piracy ended 300 years ago.

He keeps firing cannon balls at me, I keep kicking a football at his head, and neither of us seem to be happy about the way this is going. I'm a lot more resistant to cannon balls than squirrels are to footballs, but none of my hits seem to be hurting him at all. I guess we'll see who gets bored of this first and goes home.

Damn, I guess the pirate was just a midboss, as level two's still going. Man, I'm getting sick of these birds now. Not because they're unfair, but because I'm too dumb to remember that when they're flying my way they like to swoop down at the last second. I need to stop trying to duck under them and start jumping more.


SOON.


Like in the other Hurricanes game, there's an airport right next to the beach so just have to catch my flight and I'll be able to rest my aching legs for a bit. They're sore because these inconsiderate RC drivers keep ramming cars into my ankles and I'm always slow to dodge them. The game really demands lightning fast reactions. Plus jumping. Lots of jumping.

Actually I think these guys in suits are awesome. They look like incredibly inept hitmen or bored secret service agents, trying to kill me off in a way that doesn't get them shot by airport security

Skateboarders: the footballer's natural enemy. Seriously, these guys were harassing me all over the world in Soccer Kid for absolutely no reason. Fortunately two or three kicks with a football is enough to put them down permanently, if I actually manage to react in time to dodge them and kick the ball their way.

Well that explains why security hadn't intervened to stop my senseless football massacre. Ain't nothing's going to get this guy's attention.

Oh by the way, I love how they've implemented the 'ball teleport' feature in this. Instead of making my lost football reappear at my foot with a little swirly effect, they've got it being thrown back into play by someone standing off screen. Genius.

Agh fucking conveyor belt! Who thought it'd be a good idea to make luggage an actual threat in a platformer? I got hit and the conveyor belt carried me over the edge into a bottomless pit before I could recover at get to my feet. And then the ref magically appeared to show a yellow card to the hole.

The funny thing is, the character's not doing anything crazy here. All she's doing here is trying to board her flight! This is the standard obstacle course all passengers must face.

And then just as I finally manage to reach the runway, a helicopter swoops in and knocks Amanda out. That was her final life, I'm shown a red card and it's all over.

Fortunately I have one single continue to use and it restarted me at the beginning of the airport with a full set of lives, eager to re-engage in a little ground to air combat.


ONE BOSS FIGHT LATER.


But of course even when I manage to catch my flight, things don't work out. The funny thing is, this presenter knew about the fuel tank sabotage somehow and mentioned it on the news, on TV. Yet no one tried to stop the flight and no arrests have been made.

Damn, it looks like I crash landed in the Wild West, in a literal ghost town. That is to say, it's a town full of (awesome) ghost cowboys, not that the town itself has been reanimated in a spectral form. In fact it looks in pretty good condition consider it's been abandoned for over a hundred years. But there's a train near by and if we can reach it before it leaves we can still make it to the match! And maybe get help for the other passengers if we have time.

I wish I could figure out how to get to those upper floors, but I can't jump on the window ledges, despite them being the same colour as the floor. The game doesn't always do a good job of marking its platforms.

Well this doesn't make a lot of sense. I can't jump on the obvious window ledges, I can't jump on the conveniently placed barrel, but I can jump on the drainpipe brackets? Well at least I can start exploring now that I've figured that out.

First though, I'll have to get one of my balls to connect with that scorpion up there. Jumping, running, and how long I hold the kick button down all seem to have an effect on the football's arc, and I can aim my shots higher by pressing up on the d-pad, so it can take a bit of practice to get my attacks on target.

Fuck! Okay that's just bullshit. There's a stretch of quicksand here (in the middle of town) that I have to apparently mash jump to get over without sinking, and while I'm doing that some asshole off screen is throwing over dynamite at me! If I'm hit I get knocked down and I can't recover in time to escape the quicksand. One life lost, back to the checkpoint (and all the enemies come back).

The funny thing is, this makes me realise just how much I was liking this game. I'm annoyed when stuff like this happens because I really want this one to be good. Fortunately when I refill my health bar past the maximum I get an extra life, so I've earned a few more tries at this before game over.


LATER, IN A HAUNTED MANSION.


Crap! Why would they make the curtain rail stand out from the background so much if I can't jump on it? It looks more like a platform than the actual moving platforms next to it!

I carried on a bit further in the game after this, then realised that whoops I'd managed to end up without screenshots for the next few levels I played. So I went and replayed the game just to get some shots for you (and not because I enjoy playing it or anything...) I didn't use up my continue this time around though, so that's why my lives count is so low and my score is much higher in the next shot.

Huh, isn't this the first level again? It's all grass spikes and tree walkways. Oh, and guys with blowpipes shooting darts, that's new.

I wonder where this actually is, because it has to be within walking distance of the ghost town. Oh oh, maybe it's a magical tree village that only appears in our plane of reality every 100 years. Or maybe that Wild West town was actually just a fake tourist attraction and I'm not even in the US.

Yeah, I'm definitely starting to get the feeling this isn't in the US.

Well it didn't take me long to find the annoying flaw on this level: big pillars in the foreground blocking my view. Some games get away with this by putting them in places where they're not obscuring anything important, this one sticks a bloody enemy behind the very first one!

Huh, I've finally managed to climb up to the top of the room, but all my platforming got me was a dead end and a bloody gem. If it had been a health-restoring hamburger or something useful I wouldn't be so bothered, but now I feel like I just wasted my time. Plus if this isn't the right way, I have no idea where the game actually wants me to go.

Huh, there's a secret wall that opens up down here back where I started? Well that's bloody annoying. I think if the solution to a puzzle is 'walk into every wall until one of them opens' then something's gone a bit wrong with the game design.

Whoa, I've reached a giant foreground object obscuring ledges that look like part of the background: the game's started to combine its design flaws to create even more annoying problems!

Oh, plus I figured out why I couldn't open that secret door earlier until I took a trip up into the dead end. Yep, the big useless gem was the key and there's more hidden doors in this place left to open (not that you can tell, considering they're hidden). I'm not sure this is actually such a terrible idea, but maybe they could have made it more obvious where the doors are and that collecting a gem activates something. How about a message on screen saying "Hunt for a gem to open this door!"

These levels are full of enemies floating around by the way, I just seem to keep failing to catch them in my pictures because I'm terrible at taking screenshots they're camera shy.

And then after a detour through the forest and an ancient Incan temple, I finally make it to the train! Which is a steam train of course, as we're back in the Wild West. Man, I really wish this game had a world map just to see how they try to explain this route.

Also, FOOTBALL BATTLE! Finally two footballers get to go head to head to see which of them has the most balls. Actually we both have infinite and I'm doing a really crap job of dodging his shots. Fortunately he doesn't bother to move at all so it's more a challenge to see which of us started off with the most health. I think I might be winning!

So... I guess we finally arrived at Garkos Island airport via train then, somehow? This place looks like a real post apocalyptic nightmare. Even the security guards are only here to unleash the hounds after me. Man, I'm kinda regretting coming here now. Even if I manage to get to the match in time for the kick-off and go on to win the game, I'll never make it off this shithole island again afterwards.

Hurricanes Sega Genesis Mega Drive Game Over screen
To be honest I didn't actually run out of lives here, I got bored of the game and turned it off, but have a shot of the villains laughing on the game over screen anyway because it's awesome.


I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the actual gameplay of Hurricanes, despite the issues I had with the game. The character definitely gets around the level far better than in the SNES game, and it's nice to be able to kick a ball at something without it bouncing right back like a yo-yo with an elastic string. I mean what's the point of adding a football gimmick if it's not going to act like a football?

It's pretty average for a platformer though, with passable graphics and bland music. Plus every time I found myself liking it, it'd immediately do something to sabotage itself; like throwing in a quicksand pit, or a path that only opens up when you collect a magic pickaxe, or giant pillars that enemies can hide behind etc. Also I'm counting having no saves or passwords and only a single continue as a major flaw. If they really wanted players to replay the early levels over and over again they could've put in some secrets and a level select or something instead.

But there's no tedious item hunting like in Soccer Kid and Marko, and I found it more interesting as a game than Go! Go! Beckham! You know, this is actually a contender for being the best of the football platformers (with the SNES Hurricanes being the worst in my humble estimation). I guess that means it isn't total crap, so I'll give it a shiny gold star.

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Semi-Random Game Box