Shining in the Darkness Review

If it’s not immediately apparent, I chose the header image above mostly because the row of phallus-shaped enemies summarized my feelings on Shining in the Darkness pretty succinctly. That’s not to say that the game is completely devoid of entertainment value, of course, because it has the same kind of inexplicable charm many games of the time possessed, but that’s not enough to make up for its painfully repetitive gameplay and poor communication about how things actually work. There are a large number of games from around the same time period that still hold up—including developer Climax Entertainment’s Landstalker, which tormented me when I was a child—but this can’t hold a candle to those timeless titles. Read more →

Simon the Sorcerer Review

I hate this game with every fiber of my being. Sure, it looks good and has some top-tier sprite work. Sure, it has lots and lots of voice acting. Sure, there are dozens of items you have to combine in various ways to progress. It manages to screw all of these up in some way or another though. The good graphics seem to have put a focus on visuals that necessitates walking through many same-y areas, most of which have nothing you can interact with and that exist only to showcase more art and slow down the middle parts of the game to a painful crawl. The voice acting is grating, takes forever to get to the point, and tries so hard to be funny that it manages to instead come across as irritating to the point of becoming genuinely infuriating. The large number of items only exacerbates the puzzles’ tendency to rely on huge leaps of logic, sometimes veering so far away from anything approaching observable reality or even cartoon logic that the game more or less necessitates a walkthrough just to complete. I enjoy old games and adventure games and went in to this thing expecting the best, only to be faced with one of the least entertaining adventure games I’ve ever played, and anyone speaking positively about Simon the Sorcerer is drawing from nostalgia or brain damage. Read more →

Donkey Kong Land Review

Before I rip into this game, some back story: when I was young and the only type of Game Boy that existed was the gray brick variety that took 4 AA batteries and colored everything in a greenish hue, I owned a copy of Donkey Kong Land and cherished it. Once, I spent so much time playing it that the batteries in my Game Boy literally exploded. That’s not hyperbole, either—there was a loud pop and then battery acid leaked everywhere. I still own the very same banana yellow cartridge, but sadly, the game itself isn’t anywhere near as entertaining as its bold coloring would suggest. Sometimes I’ll go back and play a game I used to love and find that it still holds up, but Donkey Kong Land can’t hold a candle to Donkey Kong Country, and despite its best attempts to replicate it, the whole experience ends up being more frustrating than anything. This is a game best left forgotten. Read more →

Fatal Labyrinth Review

Right off the bat, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have little to no experience with roguelikes. Fatal Labyrinth is basically an RPG crammed into a roguelike, so it’s entirely possible that someone who lives and breathes such games could find something to love here. As for me, I found it impressive just how quickly the game’s annoying luck-based gimmicks made playing feel like a chore. It’s a simple game, and I can definitely appreciate that, but there’s no payoff here. You struggle up 30 floors of annoying trap doors and identical items to finally reach the boss on the 31st, and then random stuff happens and the game ends. The story is practically nonexistent despite the very beginning and end of the game trying to capture some kind of epic fantasy vibe that ends up being little more than random gibberish. The gameplay is arguably even worse. I don’t know what I was expecting from a 1991 game in a genre I’m unfamiliar with, but this was definitely not an enjoyable game to play. But hey, it has floor sharks, so I guess that’s one thing in its favor. Read more →

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine Review

I can’t quite remember how or when I first played Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, but my memories of it were fond enough that I went out of my way to flesh out my collection of (legally) emulated Genesis/Mega Drive games in order to play through it again. Not all happy gaming memories mesh with the expectations of a modern gamer, however, and that was the case with this game; where I was expecting the entertaining, fair puzzle game I remembered, I instead found myself suffering through one of the weirdest difficulty curves I can recall seeing in a game. That’s not to say that Mean Bean Machine can’t be fun, of course. There are just too many longer, better puzzle games available out there to possibly recommend this to anyone outside of the very curious or very nostalgic. Read more →

Gunstar Heroes Review

Part of me wanted to explore one of those older Sega Genesis/Mega Drive games that I’d never finished, so my first thought was to go back and try Light Crusader. While looking up details about it online, however, I started reading up on other games made by developer Treasure and veered toward Gunstar Heroes instead. I had a Genesis growing up, but had never played this game before I picked it up in the same pack of games I got Landstalker in, and it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea when I first tried it; my first experience with this game was trying the third stage—one that scrolls upward in the very beginning—with no idea about the game’s weapon combination system. As a result, I quickly got frustrated and decided that it wasn’t for me. When I started actually reading about it, though, I thought that having a bunch of different weapon combinations was an interesting idea, so I read up on which ones would be the best for someone not very good at this run-and-gun type of game and jumped right in. Read more →

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