Of the three versions of Kokotoni Wilf released by Elite Systems, the Commodore 64 version is arguably the worst.
Compared to the Spectrum original, Amstrad Kokotoni Wilf is pretty ugly. The developers have chosen a dark blue background with green caves, and the odd splash of colour in the (very flickery) sprites and landscape decorations. The graphics are very poor in my opinion.
A leading contender for the game with the silliest name of all-time, Kokotoni Wilf is an early platform action game with you in the role of the titular Mr. Wilf.
The fifth and final Wally Week game, Three Weeks in Paradise was published by Mikro-Gen in 1986, for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.
Rolling Thunder is a side-scrolling arcade action game, developed and manufactured by Namco in 1986.
You take control of Codename “Albatross” – a highly-agile secret agent and a member of the “Rolling Thunder” espionage unit. Your mission is to rescue your partner, Leila Blitz, from a secret society called “Geldra”, and who are holding her against her will somewhere in New York City.
Rolling Thunder is split into two ‘stories’, each one comprising of five different stages, making ten stages in total. The stages in “Story 2” are essentially harder versions of those seen in “Story 1”, with different enemy placement and more traps, which is a little disappointing. At the end of the game there’s a battle with the Geldra boss, Maboo, to free Leila. Getting there is quite a task, though, because if you lose a life during any stage you have to start at the beginning again. There are no ‘waypoints’ or ‘save points’, and there’s also a time limit on each stage, so you can’t dawdle.
Codename Albatross starts out with a bog standard pistol and can upgrade weapons as he goes. All the way up to a fully-automatic machine gun that fires continuously if you hold down the fire button. Ammo is strictly limited though, so you can’t just go blasting away willy-nilly. You can however replenish your ammo in special doorways that say “bullet” on them. Simply stand in front of one and push up.
The most memorable thing about Rolling Thunder is the animation of the main character. It’s very Japanese, very distinctive, and very dynamic. With his pointy shoes and flares – rockin’ that mid-Eighties look… Kind of a cross between Sonny Chiba and James Bond. That animation style has been noticeably influential on other games over the decades though.
Like a lot of old arcade games, Rolling Thunder is extremely challenging. There are a variety of enemies – all colour-coded in different outfits and each behaving differently. Some fire guns, others throw grenades; the lowest common denominator henchmen simply have their fists to rely on. There are also weird ape-like monsters that leap around like crazy, and some surprisingly laughable bats. In later stages the obstacles start getting trickier (like the tyres, for example) and you then have to be more careful with your moves. Thankfully you have a ‘Life Bar’ so at least you don’t die with one hit, but even so: Rolling Thunder is not easy.
Rolling Thunder is still playable enough to be enjoyable today. It might be hard, but at least it’s fair. And still looks reasonably stylish. A sequel followed four years later, and a third game three years after that.
Released in 1991, Konami‘s Super Castlevania IV was one of the earliest releases for the Super Nintendo console – and one of the best.
And it remains one of the best – to this day – with spectacular, horror-themed platforming action, full of deadly ghosts and monsters, and demanding boss battles.
The Super Nintendo‘s famous Mode 7 graphics rotation and scaling is used to great effect too, with drawbridges raising and falling smoothly, and entire levels rotating around effortlessly at certain points.
Super Castlevania IV gave the series the boost it needed to go on to become legendary, and Simon Belmont’s quest to defeat Dracula is still enjoyed by gamers to this day.
The ColecoVision version of the classic rescue game, H.E.R.O., looks quite similar to the Commodore 64 version, in that: the graphics are a little rough around the edges.
This being a game from 1984 (and originating on the Atari 2600), the graphic artists can be forgiven for wanting to use every colour on-screen at once. Often, home video game consoles back then had limited palettes and resolutions, and the ColecoVision was something of a leap forward in terms of graphical capabilities, so the guys at The Softworks (who converted this for Activision) tried to “sex-up” the graphics with more ‘textures’ and colours. And the result is a bit of a mess… At least by modern standards.
But don’t let that put you off, because H.E.R.O. on the ColecoVision is arguably the best version of the game around. It feels good, in terms of controls, and is relatively absorbing – even though any appeal will be limited.
More: H.E.R.O. on Wikipedia
Back in the early 1990s Ocean Software had a reputation for producing mostly movie-licensed action games, and The Addams Family on the Super Nintendo is arguably the pinnacle of that niche.
Because of the strict approval process for Super Nintendo games (basically having to demonstrate to Nintendo, well in advance, that the game was free of bugs or unplayable sequences), The Addams Family was obviously highly polished by Ocean before release. Which makes it an enjoyable game to play overall.
Based on the 1991 film of the same name, in The Addams Family you play Gomez, and you must explore the platform-based mansion – and surrounding areas – in order to rescue your family members. Each one has been kidnapped and is being held by a boss that you have to find and beat, and they can be tackled in any order.
The Addams Family owes a huge debt of gratitude to Nintendo‘s Mario games. To kill enemies you either bounce on their heads, or use any of the available weapons (which of course must be found and picked-up first), which is pure Mario. It has to be said, though, that The Addams Family is nowhere near as good as any Mario game I’ve ever played. It’s far too simple to be even in the same league.
That said: The Addams Family is still a decent game and is especially good for kids to play. Like many SNES games: it’s aged quite well.
A direct follow-up to the classic Megadrive game, Shining in the Darkness, and arguably the best level-grinder on the Sega Saturn, the awkwardly-titled Shining the Holy Ark is a superb first-person, party-based RPG with turn-based combat.
Developed by Sega‘s own Sonic! Software Planning team, Shining the Holy Ark was published in 1997 and is a mix of 3D and 2D graphics. The environments are made of simple 3D polygons, and all the characters are animated using 2D graphics (by the looks of it: possibly rendered on a high-end 3D workstation). Like most “Dungeon Master clones”, you explore tunnels patrolled by belligerent monsters and can step from tile to tile on the map using the joypad. Unlike Dungeon Master: you don’t really get to see the monsters in the distance before they attack you. Just like in Shining in the Darkness: when you step on certain tiles, scripted battles will take place – usually with the combatants sidling-in from the side of the screen, as if to surprise you. The direction the enemies arrive on-screen to fight you is crucial to the gameplay because you can use ‘pixies’ to counter your opponents before the battle starts – that is: if you get the direction right when you counter. Random battles also happen from time to time and the direction thing also applies. Combat is icon-driven, but very easy to understand. You can fight, run, and do all the usual stuff, and you choose your commands from a series of pulsating icons (which are very similar to those seen in a later game: Golden Sun, developed by Camelot Software Planning).
The story in Shining the Holy Ark isn’t anything to write home about. Like most games of this type: dialogue and situations are simple and a bit dumb, but that doesn’t really matter because the game is both extremely playable and very challenging. Like the original Shining in the Darkness, Shining the Lost Ark is tough. You can forget trying to complete any of the dungeons in one visit. The tactic that saves you is in using an Angel Wing, or a Return Spell, to warp back to town to heal-up. Then go back in. Thankfully there’s a very nice automap feature (brought up by pressing Start) when you’re actually in the dungeons, which helps make exploring fun and not confusing.
I hadn’t played Shining the Holy Ark until recently, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m a big fan of the original Shining in the Darkness, and this is a perfect continuation in many respects. Graphically, it’s a little dated (it’s those pre-rendered character graphics that date it), but gameplay-wise it has survived the rigours of time extremely well and is very much worth playing now; if you can find a copy. If you like JRPGs this is a must-play game.
This 1983 release from Imagic is somewhat revered among Intellivision fans, because it is an original title, and because in it you play Dracula and must drink the blood of victims in order to survive for as long as possible.
The idea behind the game is interesting – getting to play the monster, rather than the monster-hunter. You’re a vampire, obviously, and start out at night. The aim is to patrol the streets, looking for victims. When you find one you must lunge at them with your teeth bared and a successful bite will net you a massive 50 points… If you can’t find any people on the streets the alternative is to flush someone out of their house and bite them. You have to bite a certain number of victims before you can return to the graveyard, which you must do before the sun comes up.
Dangers include patrolling policemen, and a chasing white wolf, both of which can be avoided by turning into a bat and flying away, but in doing so will trigger a ‘purple vulture’ to swoop down and try to take the bat. If the vulture succeeds: it’s game over, so it’s vitally important you outmanoeuvre it.
To keep the policemen away you can also bite victims and turn them into zombies. Using the second Intellivision controller you can move the zombie to chase the police away, which is funny. Unfortunately zombification only lasts for ten seconds though.
As a game, Dracula sounds more interesting to play than it actually is, but it does have its moments. Surviving into a second day is quite an achievement.