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 →

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 →

Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole Review

Landstalker and I have a storied history; if you’re read this site’s “about” section, you’re probably already aware of the fact that I used to rent this game on a regular basis when I was but a wee young’un, only to be beaten down every time by its relentless cruelty despite having help in the form of a neighbor who would come over to try and conquer it with me. We never managed to make it very far despite her and I taking turns at the controls, and having finally beaten the game, it’s no wonder—this game is intentionally designed to be as sadistic and unfriendly as possible. This is a game where the perspective is used to hide platforms necessary to progression. This is a game where late-game enemies teleport in front of you, making running away more or less impossible. This is a game where your reward for finishing one particularly annoying dungeon is another, even more lengthy and annoying dungeon. However, between its bouts of soul-crushing malice, Landstalker manages to be surprisingly charming, and save states make the game much more palatable than it would be playing on the original hardware. That doesn’t make this a must-play by any means, of course, but at least it evens the odds so that those masochistic enough to indulge the depths of its villainy stand a fighting chance. Read more →

Comix Zone Review

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can’t beat Comix Zone, and liars. I suppose there’s a third category of those who have learned the game’s ins and outs well enough to make it to the end without cheating, but let’s be realistic—most of us aren’t that kind of person. This is a brutal, unforgiving game that just so happens to be wonderful despite some wonky design decisions that render it virtually impossible for the average person to beat despite its short length, but fortunately for us mere mortals, the game can be legally obtained on Amazon and Steam in an emulated form. This allows you to play through the game with save states, turning a game that would otherwise be maddeningly frustrating for most players into a feasible experience. Read more →

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