Thursday 11 April 2024

The Lion King (Genesis/Mega Drive)

Developer: Westwood Studios
| Release Date: 1994 | Systems: Genesis/Mega Drive, SNES, MS-DOS, Amiga

This week on Super Adventures, I'm voluntarily playing a movie tie-in game from the 16-bit era! Maybe this is one of the good ones though. I mean, there have to be some good ones, right?

I've actually played The Lion King before, so I already know what I'm getting into here... and I know I won't be getting very far in it. Games were generally more challenging in the 80s and 90s, so when you load up one that was notorious even back in its day for its extreme difficulty, you know that you're in for a bad time.

The game was re-released for modern platforms a few years back by Digital Eclipse, so I'm sure it has all kinds of new quality-of-life features now (or at least a gallery to look through when you're stuck). I'm not going to be playing that one though. I'm going back to the original games with all the original frustrations.

Disney's Aladdin
famously got two different platformers, a Sega version by Virgin Games and a Nintendo version by Capcom, though it also had a third version for 8-bit systems. For The Lion King, all the 16-bit systems got the same game, by Command & Conquer devs Westwood Studios, and that's what I'll be playing. Though I'll also take a look at the 8-bit games as well, because I'm curious.

Alright, I'm going to see if I can finally get past the graveyard stage for the first time in my life.

Monday 11 March 2024

TimeSplitters (PS2)

TimeSplitters title logo
Developer:Free Radical
|Release Date:2000|Systems:PS2

This week on Super Adventures, I'm checking out a game I haven't really played before: the original TimeSplitters for the PlayStation 2! Not Time Stalkers for the Dreamcast, that's something very different. (Just to make it more confusing, in the EU the two games came out less than two weeks apart.)

TimeSplitters was created by Free Radical Design, a company that has had a bit of a rough time of things over the years, as it's been killed off at least twice. The first time was in 2014, after they'd spent some time in disguise as Crytek UK, the second was last year after the Embracer group decided it would be better for their shareholders if we didn't get a fourth TimeSplitters game made by the original founders.

Free Radical was originally formed in early 1999 by staff that left Rare during the production of N64 FPS Perfect Dark. So it's pretty impressive that they got this out in late 2000, just a few months after Perfect Dark came out, especially as it was for a brand-new system. Rare had been focused on N64 and Game Boy games during the latter half of the 90s, but this was a launch title for the PlayStation 2. So I guess I'm going to see what Dr Doak and the GoldenEye team could do in 16 months on unfamiliar hardware.

I won't be seeing it on any other machines though, as to this day the game remains a PlayStation 2 exclusive. It's a product of that horrifying period of history where first-person shooters sometimes never got a version with mouse controls, and unlike its sequels it never made it to a system supported by backwards compatibility like the Xbox.

Alright, I'm going to check out the single-player for a bit and see if it's still fun in 2024. Assuming it was ever fun. And assuming it even has a single-player mode. It's going to really screw up my plans if it doesn't!

Saturday 24 February 2024

Sonic 3 & Knuckles (Genesis/Mega Drive)

Developer: Sega Technical Institute | Release Date: 1994 | Systems: Mega Drive/Genesis, Saturn, PC

This week on Super Adventures, I'm wondering why Sonic 3 & Knuckles has you selecting menu options with a shoe. That's not normal.

You might be wondering why this beautiful looping GIF is missing the horrifying slowdown when the 3D Sonic swoops in. The answer is: it bothered me and I wanted it gone. I did my best to make it true to what the designers intended it to look like though. The game's later releases on more powerful consoles tend to come with authentic emulated slowdown, but the Saturn version included with with Sonic Jam is a proper port, so I used that as a reference to fix the timing. Now the only thing wrong with my GIF is that it's not a video, so I can't hear it say "SEGA!"

Anyway, I'm playing Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the fourth (and fifth) of the 16-bit Mega Drive/Genesis Sonic platformers! I already covered the first Sonic the Hedgehog back in 2011, but I decided to skip Sonic 2 because it's too similar, and Sonic CD frightens and confuses me. Also, it's Sonic 3's 30th birthday today... in the EU (it came out a few weeks earlier in the US).

Sonic 3 & Knuckles came in two parts released 8 months apart, with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 featuring the first set of levels and the save RAM, and Sonic & Knuckles featuring the second half of the levels and a connector to (optionally) join the two cartridges together. It's like plugging in a Game Genie, except instead of getting cheats you get an expansion pack. It's not the first time two standalone games could be combined like this, DOS game Might and Magic: World of Xeen got there first, but this did it with hardware. And then basically nothing copied it. It remains pretty much unique as far as I'm aware.

The reason it was released in such a weird way is because they had a Happy Meal promotion and TV ad campaign deadline and they were only going to get half the game finished in time. They still charged full price for it though! Personally, I think the lock-on feature was a genius move, as it gave the game some novelty, especially when people learned that it could be combined with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as well! Plus it turned out to be a crucial part of any serious collector's Tower of Power, along with the 32X... another piece of add-on hardware that didn't catch on.

Right, I'm going to give the game an hour or so and write about it. I have played it before, but honestly I think an hour is going to take me well further than anything I've seen before.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine (MS-DOS)

Developer: Rocket Science Games | Release Date: 1995 (Sega CD 1994) | Systems: DOS, Sega Mega CD

Today on Super Adventures, I'm checking out Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine, by the infamous Rocket Science Games.

Rocket Science was founded in 1993 with the goal to bring together some of the most talented people in the fields of video games and films to make some video games that are also films. With actors and everything. They were all-in on the idea of making FMV-based games and they thought that theirs could be the most visually impressive on the market. Not just because of the content, but because of the codec; their compression was among the best in the business, meaning more production value survived the process.

People took notice of how many high-profile designers and engineers were being hired, and investors began lining up to throw money at them. Interactive movies were sure to be the next big thing and Rocket Science had the talent and the funding to bring digital entertainment to the next level. But then all six of their games bombed, leading to them going out of business after just four years. And I mean really bombed, not just 'failed to meet sales expectations'. Loadstar released around the same time as their second game, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs: The Second Cataclysm, and it seems like by 1996 the two games still hadn't reached 8000 copies. With their sales combined. On all systems.

How is even possible that they made a dinosaur game in 1994 and failed to get anyone to buy it? That was the peak of Jurassic Park hype! Even Trespasser shifted 50,000 copies and that was straight-up broken!

Anyway, I'm playing the spaceship game, not the dinosaur game, and I'm curious now about why it didn't appeal to people at the time. Is it really that bad or were people just not into FMV? Am I going to be into the FMV? Will I be able to endure the amount of cheese I'm about to be exposed to?

WARNING: There will be a surprisingly graphic death sequence at some point. Also, I'm going to spoil the game's entire story.

Friday 9 February 2024

Super Adventures 'Next Game' Challenge

This week on Super Adventures, no one was able to identify what game's coming up next from the tiny cropped clue at the bottom of the last article, and that almost never happens. Someone always seems to figure out what it is and I don't know how you do it.

I mean look at this microscopic image. How did anyone identify the game from this? I mean I know what it is, it's from Mortal Kombat, but I have a massive unfair advantage seeing as I'm the one who played the games, took the screenshots and made the clues. Then again, there are about 1300 games on the site right now and it's been ten years since I played some of them, so maybe it won't be quite so easy for me to go back to the older clues and work out what game they're hinting at.

You know what? I'm going to put the next game on hold for a bit, seeing as no one even knows what it is, and I'm going to see how many of these tiny pictures I can get myself. Just to make it trickier I'm replacing the filenames with random numbers so there will be no clues for me there. In fact, it's probably going to take me a bit of work to look up what the games are after I'm done guessing. But I once I find the correct answers I'll go back through and hide them underneath each clue, to be revealed with a click. I'll also hide my guesses in spoiler text, so you can play along yourself and see how well you do.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

Donkey Kong Country (SNES)

Hello, welcome back! It's Super Adventures' 13th birthday today and I've got some good news for you. Four years ago I replaced around 14,000 screenshots across 1000 articles to improve their quality, and everything was great... until I started getting complaints that images weren't loading. It didn't happen to everyone, just some people some of the time. Eventually all the images stopped working for me entirely, which was a good thing because it meant I could see what needed fixing and sort it out.

Long story short, I've replaced all those screenshots across all those articles again, so everything should be fine now and you can go browse the archives. Even the really old posts where you'd be lucky to get one sentence under each picture. In fact, if you're nostalgic for the classic Super Adventures style, I've retconned in a mysterious never-before-seen authentic guest post from 2013 that originally didn't get published for whatever reason. Go look for frogs, that's your clue.

Developer: Rare | Release Date: 1994 | Systems: SNES, GBC, GBA

This week on Super Adventures, I'm writing about something else that's celebrating an anniversary this year: the legendary Donkey Kong Country!

It's known as Super Donkey Kong in Japan, because putting the word 'Super' in front of names is awesome, especially if the name of a game for the Super Nintendo... a console I have really neglected these past few years. I don't even know how that happened, it's not like I want to avoid showing off 16-bit game art.

I'm really trying to make up for it here, as Donkey Kong Country was one of the biggest releases of the 16-bit era. In fact, it was the best-selling game of 1994, almost doubling the sales of its nearest rival Street Fighter II and selling over seven times as well as Super Metroid. Though in Japan it got utterly thrashed by Final Fantasy VI and Americans spent more money on NBA Jam. Actually, I'm not sure that second fact is true. Sure NBA Jam sold more copies in the US in '94, but DKC was an unusually pricey game if I recall. Around £60 in the UK (£120 today, or $150 USD).

The game was able to get away with its exorbitant price tag due to the sheer force of hype around it. Not because it was the first Donkey Kong game in like a decade (aside from the Game Boy game that came out a few months earlier), but because of its incredible visuals. It featured fully ray-traced graphics that players could enjoy without buying a CD drive, or a 32X add-on, or a shiny new 3DO console. The cartridge didn't even include a Super FX chip!

Alright, my plan is to play the game for about an hour and hope that I can think of something to write. I mean, it's been like 3 years since I've covered a SNES platformer, so I've probably forgotten all the things I used to whine about.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Model Builder (PC)

|Release Date:2022|Systems:Win

This week on Super Adventures, I'm playing Model Builder! Well I'll be building stuff in it at least, I don't know if it really counts as gameplay. This is another simulator along the lines of Car Mechanic Simulator or PC Building Simulator, except with a bit more room for creativity... with any luck.

Most of the games I cover on Super Adventures are about shooting things or punching things or crushing creatures underneath the hero's mighty boots, so this is unfamiliar territory for me. Wait a second, no it's not. I've never actually raced a Lotus Esprit, or travelled across the universe to defeat an alien despot, but I have put a model kit or two together, so I can compare this to my actual real-life experience! I hope I get to build a Spitfire, I liked making them.

I'm going to be spoiling a lot of the models you can make in the game, so if you want to be surprised when you play it yourself I suggest not reading too much. I mean, it's possible that you could play this right now and don't realise it. The game was given away on Epic a while back, so if you've gotten into the habit of claiming the free gift each week it may be sitting in your game library, forgotten.

Semi-Random Game Box