Developed by Sega and released for the Megadrive/Genesis in 1990, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a masterpiece platform game that has stood the test of time extremely well.
Bubsy (in Fractured Fairy Tales, to give the game its full title) is another okay-to-middling platform game that stands out like a sore thumb on the Atari Jaguar.
It stands out on the system because most of the competition is so bad, and this 1994 game just happens to be actually quite good. A bit like Rayman on the Jaguar – Bubsy is a classic by accident…
As a character, Bubsy never really did anything for me, and the games: I could take them or leave them. But playing Bubsy on the Jaguar filled me with joy, because it was at least a half-decent game on the system.
A decent 2D platform game, with smooth scrolling backgrounds, lovely sprites and precise climbing and jumping. What more could you ask for?
Gargoyle Games‘ isometric adventure Hydrofool (1987) is different because the whole game is set underwater.
Rather than walking and jumping, the main character – a robot called Sweevo – must swim around and explore the environment (a giant aquarium called The Deathbowl), looking for plugs, which he must then pull to drain the water away. The plugs, however, must be pulled in the right order. There are also other creatures swimming around that are a danger to Sweevo, which you must avoid.
And – if that wasn’t difficult enough – Sweevo begins to slowly rust as soon as the game starts, so you’re up against a time limit as well.
Hydrofool is still an enjoyable ZX Spectrum game to play now. It is also the sequel to Sweevo’s World. So is something of a curve ball.
Konami‘s Antarctic Adventure was first released on the MSX in 1983 in Japan – coming to Europe and North America later, in 1984.
Antarctic Adventure is a jolly kind of race game where you take control of a cute penguin who must run from stage to stage, avoiding pits and obstacles and making it to the finish line before the timer runs out.
The movement of the penguin takes some getting used to. You have to gain speed by missing obstacles, and re-gain your lost momentum if you hit anything. Once you do get the hang of it, though, you’ll probably have no problem completing the first batch of stages – Antarctic Adventure isn’t particularly challenging. You can catch fish for bonus points, but other than dodging seals and cracks in the ice there’s not much else to do.
Antarctic Adventure is fondly remembered by older gamers, but doesn’t have much in terms of substance. And the game never ends: when you complete a stage you continue on and on at an increasing difficulty. I wonder what the furthest anyone has ever got in the game…
A sequel – called Penguin Adventure followed in 1986.
The penguin in Antarctic Adventure later featured in other Konami games (Parodius springs to mind) and was given the name “Penta”, although was un-named in this game. Penta became a mascot for Konami during the 1980s.
Fish! is the fifth and final Magnetic Scrolls text adventure, of their successful Rainbird period at least.
Please note: I do know that they did make a sixth, called Myth, although this was not made available commercially and was distributed only to fan club members on personalised floppy disks. It was also a ‘mini’ adventure, rather than a full game.
Fish! is… to put it mildly: more insane, surreal and involving than any of the previous Magnetic Scrolls adventures, and arguably the best and most interesting of them all.
I still don’t quite get it, but you play a fish which can warp through portals and ride trains and solve puzzles. It’s kind of like a surreal anthology, with short episodes joined together by a main story.
As in all the other Magnetic Scrolls games, certain things happen in real time. Like certain characters having a schedule and mind of their own. Doing certain things will activate a time limit on solutions to particular problems. In Fish! you’re constantly having to enter ‘warps’ to different scenarios, and if you fail one of these time-limited ‘tests’ you get thrown out and have to try again. At times this can be very frustrating. Emulator quick saves do help. I play these games now and think: “what kind of masochist used to buy them back in the day?!” 🙂
Scuba Dive on the Commodore 64 must rate as one of the worst conversions of all time.
The ZX Spectrum original is an enjoyable and playable classic.
This version is a joke… The first area is just a single screen (unlike the original, where the surface was explorable over a number of screens). The sea creatures are blocky and look ridiculous. The graphics overall are pathetic (especially the scrolling, which makes the side panel judder when exploring the undersea caves), and the gameplay is a pale imitation of the imperious Spectrum version.
Whoever made this version of Scuba Dive for Durrell Software did a terrible job, quite frankly. It should have been much, much better.
Scuba Dive (Durell Software, 1983) features such a simple game idea, but one that works exceptionally well on the ZX Spectrum.
Diving deep down, past guardian octopus, and into a complex series of underwater caves looking for treasure… It’s tense stuff, as you swim as quickly as possible on the lookout for pearls, treasure chests, and air refill stations.
Bang your head on a rock and you lose what you’re carrying. And to score points you have to return your plunder to the boat floating on the surface. It’s a tall order, but Scuba Dive is very playable, so it’s fun at least trying.
Level 1 is the easiest level, with fewer sharks and predatory fish (touch one and you’re dead), and Level 4 is so insanely jam packed with deadly creatures that there’s a question over whether it’s possible to progress at all.
Scuba Dive is a must-play Speccy classic. Forget the Commodore 64 version – it’s absolutely terrible. ZX Spectrum Scuba Dive is the one to play.