Konami‘s Sparkster is a side-scrolling platform action game released for the Super Nintendo in 1994.
Published by Microdeal in 1987, Airball is a weird and challenging isometric puzzle game where you play a bubble exploring a trap-ridden castle, looking for gems (which convert to a low number of points), and also looking for ‘Inflation Stations’ because the bloody stupid ball has a slow leak and needs to be constantly topped-up with air…
Goof Troop is an attempt at a Disney-based Zelda-style game, by famed Japanese developer Capcom. It’s based on a ’90s television series of the same name and was first released in 1993.
The emphasis in Goof Troop is more on solving puzzles than gaining experience or collecting money, and (of course) you play the famous Disney character Goofy, who is the lead character in the TV series. A second player can play simultaneously as Max – Goofy’s sidekick. Max moves more quickly than Goofy, but Goofy can deal more damage to enemies.
Graphically, Goof Troop is wonderful. The characters are all beautifully-drawn and animated, and the backdrops are also clean and colourful. Nothing gets in the way of the gameplay, which consists mostly of finding your way through a maze of screens by locating keys; opening doors; disposing of enemies; and defeating the boss at the end of each level. There are five levels in total: Spoonerville Island beach, a village, a haunted castle, an underground cavern, and a pirate ship (where you must finally defeat the Disney arch villain, Pete).
One interesting thing about Goof Troop is that it was designed by Shinji Mikami – the director of Resident Evil (and its sequels) – and it was one of the first games that he worked on.
Goof Troop is still a great game to play now – particularly two-player. It’s an oft-forgotten SNES and Capcom classic!
More: Goof Troop on Wikipedia
This 1985 release from Spanish company Dinamic Software is an obscure ZX Spectrum platform game about Egyptian tomb-raiding.
Abu Simbel Profanation is actually the third game in the “Johnny Jones” series – the other two games being Babaliba and Saimazoom – both released in Spain in 1984, then later re-released in the UK by Silversoft. Abu Simbel was published in the UK by Gremlin Graphics. Dinamic were obviously trying to cash-in on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the name Indiana Jones.
As Spectrum platform games go, Abu Simbel Profanation is pretty good. The aim of the game is to “collect the correct diamonds according to their colour” (says the manual), and to “open the doors with them” (it goes on); then a final piece of advice from the manual: “avoid everything but the flashing Egyptian symbols on squares”.
Abu Simbel Profanation is cute, colourful and challenging. I wouldn’t call it a ‘classic’, but it has stood the test of time quite well and is still able to deliver some fun now.
Known as Inside Outing on 8-bit home computers, and Raffles on 16-bit computers, this excellent isometric platform game translates very well to the Atari ST.
The name change was because someone at publisher The Edge obviously thought that it would be a good idea to name the central character (he didn’t have a name in the original game), so they called him “Raffles” and the rest is history. Except it isn’t. US publisher Epyx later changed the name again, to the ludicrous “Debon Aire in the Hidden Diamond Caper“, when releasing in North America.
The name confusion is a pity because Inside Outing/Raffles – whatever you want to call it – is a brilliant little self-contained adventure game. The aim is find 16 jewels hidden inside a big house, and return them one at a time to a woman who resides in a particular room in the mansion.
A lot of the puzzles in Raffles are physics-based, or involve stacking items to reach higher places, but the extra ‘pull’ mechanic really brings the game to life, allowing you to completely rearrange the furniture in most rooms.
It has to be said, though, that Raffles has some of the most annoying enemies of all time… Usually either innocent-looking mice or birds. But both can move furniture and items and deplete you of your energy if they touch you. So you have to avoid them. But that’s easier said than done when you’re trying to move a load of furniture away from a blocked doorway. You can lose a couple of lives easily by being harassed by a single bird. Thankfully some rooms don’t have any enemies in them so you can grab a breather and think.
The Atari ST version of Raffles has extra rooms, and extra diamonds to collect, compared to the original 8-bit versions. The pool table room, for example, now has a door in the top right hand corner, leading to a series of new rooms. And – thank God – this time you get three (count ’em!) whole lives to play around with, instead of the single one you got in the original. How generous.
Note: One thing I didn’t like about this (and the Amiga) version: candlesticks now hurt you when you stand on them. Whichever ‘genius’ decided that was a good idea deserves their qualification for video game development revoking! 🙂
More: Raffles on Wikipedia
The ZX Spectrum conversion of Michael St. Aubyn‘s Inside Outing was programmed by Pamela Roberts with graphics by Mike Smith.
It has to be said that this version lacks the visual appeal of the Amstrad original. In fact: it’s quite ugly. The lack of colour doesn’t help. Also: the main character is drawn quite strangely, and the perspective on some of the furniture looks wrong.
Gameplay is relatively intact – you’re still a thief, searching a big mansion for 12 gems while avoiding all the mice and birds that sap your strength. You only get one life, so keeping that life bar topped-up is imperative.
Given the choice, I would play the Amstrad or C64 versions of Inside Outing, over this one. It’s just not as appealing as the other 8-bit versions.
The Commodore 64 version of Inside Outing features graphics by the game’s original designer – Michael St. Aubyn – although the coding itself was done by Timedata/Pamela Roberts.
Gameplay is identical to the Amstrad original. You play a thief exploring a big mansion, looking for 12 hidden jewels. Finding them is not entirely straightforward as some of them are hidden in nefarious ways. For example: in the pool table room you must ‘pot’ (ie. kick) the balls into the pockets in the right order to make the jewel appear, and even then it materialises under the table so is hard to spot.
Isometric action/adventures are not particularly fashionable on the Commodore 64, but Inside Outing is an example of one that works. Granted: the enemies are extremely annoying, but otherwise the game is very good.
Inside Outing is an interesting isometric action/adventure game initially published by The Edge in 1988. It was designed by Michael St. Aubyn and converted to a number of different platforms, with this Amstrad version being the original.
The story is: an eccentric millionaire has died without leaving a will and has hidden 12 gems in strange places around his large house. The millionaire’s widow has hired a professional thief (you), to explore the house and find the fortune. Unfortunately the millionaire’s pets have now overrun the mansion and are waiting to attack any intruders, so it won’t be straightforward.
The gameplay in Inside Outing is fairly simple exploration, object manipulation, jumping, puzzles, and the game of ‘fetch’. Of course it owes a debt of gratitude to Knight Lore (as every other isometric action game does), but in general it’s reasonably original, and – in places – quite surprising. For example: in this game you can pull objects, as well as push them. Which might seem quite minor, but Inside Outing was one of the first games of its type to actually allow that. It actually makes it seem more natural to play than something like Knight Lore or Batman.
I love the colouring and design of the Amstrad graphics in this game. They’re chunky, but beautifully-drawn. And the rudimentary physics in the game give Ultimate a run for their money. Overall: the presentation is top class, and the gameplay isn’t bad either, in spite of the annoying enemies. Inside Outing is a classic Amstrad game and still deserves to be played now.
Note: in the USA the game was published by Epyx under the frankly horrendous title of “Devon Aire in the Hidden Diamond Caper“.
Paul Shirley‘s superb isometric puzzle/action game, Spindizzy Worlds, translates well to the Super Nintendo, even though this conversion did not have his blessing.
The SNES conversion was programmed by Japanese developer ASCII Corporation in 1992, (after acquiring the rights from Activision in a controversial deal), and it has to be said: they did a pretty good job. From the nicely presented opening sequence (complete with Mode 7 scaling planets), to the silky-smooth, full-screen scrolling – everything seems polished to the max.
Controlling the ‘spinning top’ GERALD (yes, that’s its name) is very easy, but negotiating the tortuous landscapes is not. Spindizzy Worlds contains a lot of levels to play through, all represented via a rotating cluster of planets. There are two clusters of planets to play through: “Easydizzy” and “Spindizzy” and each can be played at Beginner or Advanced levels. The final, inner planet in each cluster can only be accessed once the easier outer planets have been completed. A password system is used to record progress.
The puzzles you’re solving generally require you to collect ‘jewels’, which open gates and warps and other obstacles, but there are also various coloured button to press that change things. There are enemies, of course, but these only tend to impede you, rather than kill you. There are some killer tiles, though, that will ‘insta-kill’ you if you touch them. Falling off the edge of the course will also deduct some energy/time from you.
There’s no doubting that Spindizzy Worlds is a SNES classic. It’s original, non-violent, challenging, and great fun. Definitely one to look out for if you want a good old game to play for a few hours.
I’m not sure if it’s the game or the emulator – or something else – but controlling the spinning top-like device, GERALD, in the Apple II version of Spindizzy is like trying to navigate Cape Horn in a rowing boat in the depths of winter. It’s suicidal…
The gyroscope-like central character wobbles around like a drunk skunk, with the controls giving only cursory directional motion. I’m sure it shouldn’t be like that. It’s almost impossible to negotiate the trickier parts of the landscape without precise control – you’re constantly falling off the edge, losing time. I must have a duff copy or a control mis-configuration somewhere… Bah!
Apple II Spindizzy certainly looks like the original Spindizzy (in spite of the lack of colour), and Paul Shirley‘s clever isometric world translates reasonably well to the system.
One interesting thing about the Apple II version of Spindizzy is that it was created and published without rights-holder Shirley‘s knowledge (according to sources), which contributed to an acrimonious split with publisher Activision. If true: that is very naughty of them.
More: Spindizzy on Wikipedia