Video Game Review: Rush’n Attack (NES)

I have fond memories of this game. As a kid, a friend at school let me borrow it for the whole summer. I played the shit out of it because I knew that eventually I’d have to give it back.

Revisiting it all these years later, it doesn’t hold up to my memories of it but I still liked giving it a playthrough.

The game is a simple side scroller where you just mostly have a combat knife that you use to go all stabby on the enemy soldiers running at you. There isn’t a lot of strategy in this game, just stab, stab, stab and jump over those landmines.

It is actually more difficult than it needs to be though, as it’s one of those games where one hit kills you. You can get through it all with enough practice though and it’s even easier if you’re playing it on an emulator that allows you to save your progress.

For the time though, the game has a cool visual style and I like the music.

It plays off of the Cold War fears in the ’80s and I’ve often wondered if Rush’n Attack‘s title was a tongue and cheek way of saying “Russian Attack”.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: Mad Max (PlayStation 4)

This fills the void in my heart of Fallout 4 being a broken trainwreck. Sure, it’s not really the same type of game, as this plays more like a post-apocalyptic Grand Theft Auto with mechanics that are very, very similar to Batman: Arkham City but it is a superb post-apocalyptic action adventure that hits its mark damn well.

From the start, I was captivated by the game. The opening scene that sets the stage for the main plot was fantastic and balls to the wall badass. This immediately felt like Mad Max with an extra level of gravitas thrown into it. I was pumped to play this while the credits were rolling after that intro scene.

The gameplay also starts with a bang, as you aren’t hindered by tutorials that take too long.

I love that the game also has a territory system similar to the board game Risk but with much more complex and layered ways at taking territory away from the enemy. The bulk of the game is wrapped up in these tasks, as you try to wrestle territory away and free the wasteland from tyranny. All the while, you work at building up your allies’ camps, which benefits you greatly in the game.

Surprisingly, even with a lot to do, you can blow through this game rather rapidly if that’s your gaming style. But you can also take your time, explore, pick up scrap (basically in-game currency) and get lost in vehicular combat, which is a hell of a lot of fun.

Additionally, the graphics are solid, the weather system is intense and the controls are really fluid. There isn’t much to pick apart.

All in all, this game is a literal blast and a fuck ton of fun. I hope a sequel gets made at some point but that’s probably unlikely, as this didn’t even get any DLC content.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: any of the Grand Theft AutoSaint’s Row or Batman: Arkham games.

Video Game Review: Blaster Master (NES)

Blaster Master is one of those games that I play, time and time again, wishing that it would be better than it actually is because there is just something really cool about it.

The game was really damn unique for the time in that there are different gameplay modes.

First, you get to drive around in this sweet vehicle that shoots and jumps. The jumping feature is simply badass and you can actually change direction mid-jump.

Second, you get to leave the vehicle and run around as a little dude with a blaster. This is so that you can reach areas that your little battle buggy can’t.

Third, as the little dude, you can enter dungeons. Once there, you play in a bird’s-eye-view mode, as you walk around and blast shit, going through mazes and looking for a boss to fight.

The game is creative and the extra layers of gameplay are what makes this a memorable experience when compared to other games from this generation.

However, the novelty and coolness start to wear off due to the controls. The controls in this game are shit and it makes an already difficult game, more difficult than it needs to be. You do adapt to the controls with more gameplay but they never really feel like they’re fluid.

And yes, the game is already pretty hard. Granted, lots of NES games are hard by modern standards where just about every game gives you difficulty options and can be beaten if you just keep playing. But this seems hard even for regular NES standards.

But I still like firing this up every now and again because it’s such a great concept. It just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling action games for the classic Nintendo, which narrows it down to about 8 dozen games.

Video Game Review: WWF WrestleMania (NES)

I was so excited for this game when it was coming out. I remember my cousin and I playing this game all night before Wrestlemania V. While we were waiting to see the Mega Powers due battle on the “grandest stage of them all” we simulated the upcoming match, over and over, taking turns as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.

But I also remember how frustrated we were playing the game. The mechanics stunk, even for a wrestling game from 1989. We tried other characters but none of them seemed to work too well.

For those wondering, this features a massive roster of six WWF superstars: Hulk Hogan, the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Andre the Giant, the Honky Tonk Man and Bam Bam Bigelow, who made us laugh our asses off because his special move was a friggin’ cartwheel.

Playing this game now is even worse than it was in 1989. Sure, Pro Wrestling had bad controls but one can still play it and figure things out. This game is just a mess though and it’s damn boring to look at. At least Pro Wrestling and Tag Team Wrestling had a bit of visual flair to them.

WWF WrestleMania is just mindnumbingly bad. But WWF games would get better in time. The follow up to this at least looked better. But really, WWF games didn’t start to flourish and improve until the next generation on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other NES wrestling games: Pro Wrestling, Tag Team Wrestling, WCW Wrestling and WWF WrestleMania Challenge.

Video Game Review: Bad Dudes (NES)

If you don’t like 8-bit, 2D, side scrolling, beat’em up video games, you’re probably lame.

Bad Dudes was one of the best. I preferred the arcade version, as it was graphically superior but the home console version for the Nintendo Entertainment System was still a hell of a lot of fun. Especially, with that 64 lives code. It’s pretty damn hard without that.

While I would consider the original Double Dragon a superior game, this one had the benefit of ninjas and the title character of the video game Karnov as one of its bosses.

All the boss battles in this were pretty unique and fun though. The only weak one was probably the second level boss, which was just a tiny midget dude that has claws like Vega from Street Fighter II.

This game has solid levels for the genre. None of them are designed great but you go from the city streets, to fighting on the top of moving semi trucks and trains, into the sewers, out into the country and finally into a big warehouse full of ninjas and all the bosses you already beat.

Some games can be simple and work and that’s exactly what Bad Dudes is. You walk, you punch, you kick and you steal weapons from ninjas you kick the crap out of. What’s not to love?

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s beat’em up games like Double Dragon and its sequels, RenegadeCrime Fighters, Final Fight, River City Ransom, Streets of Rage and its sequels, etc.

Video Game Review: Gyromite (NES)

Gyromite was the first game that I ever played for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Back in the day, it was originally packaged with the console before the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge was the norm.

The game was also unique in that if you played it solo, you had to use R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), a peripheral that came with the earliest versions of the system. R.O.B. sort of failed as a concept and with it, Gyromite faded into obscurity but the experience of playing the game and using a friggin’ robot pretty much blew my seven year-old mind in 1986.

R.O.B.’s long-term failure probably had to do with the fact that you could only use the peripheral with just two games. But, at least R.O.B. proved to be a marketing success, as many kids wanted the console that came with a robot and without R.O.B. and Gyromite, Nintendo might not have become the powerhouse that they did.

Playing this game now is kind of difficult. You have to have a second player or if you are playing it on an emulator, you need to set up the Player 2 controls in a way that it makes it easy for a single player to control the hero in the game, as well as the moving pipes.

This is an action puzzle game, which was something that Nintendo (and many of its regular third party developers) were superb at developing.

It starts out pretty tame and easy but the game gets seriously difficult as you progress. It’s damn hard playing it on an emulator where you have to basically work with two different controller sets via keyboard.

Still, revisiting this was entertaining and it definitely filled my mind up with some strong nostalgia. It truly is a product of the ’80s and it still works well for what it is, even if the dual controller situation makes it a bit awkward to play.

But in the game’s defense, it was made to be played with your friends or siblings. It’s a tandem, multiplayer game that requires solid teamwork and communication to make it work. That’s not a bad concept.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other action puzzle games for NES: Solomon’s Key, Marble Madness, Clu Clu Land, Lode Runner and Burger Time.

Video Game Review: Ghosts ‘n Goblins (NES)

This would have been one of the greatest NES games ever if it wasn’t so f’n hard! No, seriously. This game makes me want to headbutt an axe.

It doesn’t help things that if you get hit twice, you’re dead. It also doesn’t help things that the majority of the enemies swarm you, move quickly and follow your movements. And you can’t really run most of them off of the screen if you dodge them and keep going.

Another issue with this game is that the mechanics are brutally difficult. Your jumps are short and quick and you can’t go very high. Also, good luck having the controllers respond in any sort of consistent way when you have to jump from moving platforms. Going up and down ladders? Also a mechanical clusterfuck.

Yet, for decades, I haven’t been able to stop playing this game. Because with all the frustration and madness that this pushes up from the darkest parts of my soul, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is just so cool.

I love the music in this game, I love the look and tone of it and at least it came out in an era where we still got games with codes and the level select option made this a lot more fun, even if after level 2, I’m basically dead f’n meat.

The boss fights are really tough but none of the bosses are unbeatable. Working your way through levels full of little flying demons, shitty ladders and moving platforms seems to be more difficult for me than the actual boss fights. Although the big winged demons in the last few levels are a real bitch. And that dragon takes so damn long to kill.

Strangely, defeating Lucifer, the final boss, is one of the easiest tasks in the game. But when you kill his blue demon ass, it’s still really damn satisfying.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins has some strange magical hold over its fans. For something that makes you angry as hell, it still brings you a lot of joy. It’s hard to explain but at the same time, maybe that only works for people that have a lot of nostalgia for the game.

But I’ve never played something so frustrating that still calls me back to it, fairly often, over thirty years later.

This isn’t as frustrating as Silver Surfer for the NES, though. And I never have the urge to go back and play that one other than to remind myself why I hate the shit out of it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other games in this series, especially the original arcade version. Also, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest for similar themes and bouts of madness trying to play through it.