No Kick to This Routine – Super Nintendo – 3 Ninjas Kick Back – 1994

3 Ninjas Kick Back0013 Ninjas Kick Back
Super Nintendo
Malibu Interactive/Sony Imagesoft
Genre: Action Platformer
1994

Movies aimed at kids can do a multitude of things.  When you’re young, they can inspire you to try out new hobbies or interests you might not have before.  I can still remember when Rookie of the Year came out and I immediately wanted to join a T-ball league.  That’s a positive, right?

When you’re older, you tend to look back on them with fondness- even if it’s a cringe-inducing fondness that makes you realize that maybe you shouldn’t have quoted everything those kids said at recess, and now you understand why you were kept inside that one time you quoted Mouth from The Goonies.

They can also spawn a wide range of merchandise, the most important of which in the 1990s was the video game.  Films have been the basis for video games for as long as most can remember. If there’s an opportunity to turn a few extra bucks by using interactive electronic media- well, why not?  I still vividly remember the feeling that the 3 Ninjas movies left me with.  I wanted to get out there and try karate.  I wanted to fight off thugs and save the day with some friends; I’m an only child so I didn’t have two brothers to team up with.  Honestly, though, I can’t say I remember too much about the actual movies.

While I never played 3 Ninjas Kick Back growing up, I figured I could give it a swing now.  Of course with it being a licensed game, my reservations were high.  In the back of my mind, I just kept thinking that there had to be some design ideas in there that could be interesting.  At no point did I try to convince myself that it would be a good game, though.

Allow me to share my experience with you, o fellow game fan.


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The Challenge From Beyond – MS-DOS – Alone in the Dark – 1992

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Alone in the Dark
PC
Infogrames
Genre: Survival Horror
1992

Back in the 1990s, horror aficionado and computer programmer Frederick Reynal was given the privilege of sitting at the helm of a horror project for Infogrames.  As a fan of George Romero and Dario Argento, he and his team wanted to create a game that placed a character into a foreign environment and required them to puzzle out a way to survive.  At the time, it was a concept that hadn’t been done in this particular manner. It would use 3D graphics and strive to create the fear that even a small gesture like opening a door or reading a book could end up with your character’s untimely demise.

Alone in the Dark was the product of that effort.  Billed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first 3D survival horror game, its influence can be found throughout the genre to this day in games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and various other games that has since leaned into action-horror; a move that this series would take itself much later in its lifespan.  To say that Alone in the Dark is responsible for the majority of the mechanics and efforts in the horror genre as we know it would be an apt, if not understated, conclusion to make.

Time has done a number of a variety of the trailblazers in video game history, however, and given how Alone in the Dark looks based on screenshots alone, it might be worth it to wonder how it holds up now and which influences- innovative or not- are just as novel now or may have needed some improvement from the get-go.
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Bringing Up the Average – PC – Final Exam – 2013

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Final Exam
PC
Mighty Rocket Studios/Focus Home Entertainment
2013
Genre: Action Platformer

Much like the most prolific horror series’ have, some games need reboots.  Castlevania saw one with Lords of Shadow in 2010, as did Silent Hill when 2009 brought us Shattered Memories.  On a less established scale, under-the-radar horror franchise, ObsCure, found itself requiring a reboot after Hydravision, the original developer of the series, had announced that it had closed its doors in 2012.  Shortly after, they corrected that they were rebranding as Mighty Rocket Studios.

Having marginal success with the ObsCure series and a few other games as Hydravision, the company decided to go in a different direction with the series by establishing Final Exam.  While there had been rumor that a third ObsCure game was in the pipeline, the game that was talked about and the game that Final Exam turned out to be were pretty different and initial reviews of Final Exam didn’t play well as the third game in the series (hence the unrelated title).

Given my mixed feelings between the first and second games in the ObsCure series, starting up Final Exam brought up some concerns: would I enjoy the game universe?  Would I just be mildly offended? Would I even finish if it followed in the second game’s footsteps?

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Turn Away from The Darkness – Playstation Portable – ObsCure: The Aftermath – 2009

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ObsCure: The Aftermath
Playstation Portable
Hydravision Entertainment/Ignition Entertainment
2009
Genre: Survival Horror

There are certain things that a horror movie needs to be effective, especially in the slasher genre.  First, there needs to be a discernible villain or danger; something that will strike fear into the viewer when it appears or is referenced by the characters.  Having a group of characters who are, for the most part, relatable and likable helps you want to root for the ‘heroes’ to survive and triumph over their circumstances.  Atmosphere is another element that cannot be underestimated, whether it is terrifying because of a lack of familiarity or because it is a familiar setting that has been invaded.

Cobbling together a survival horror game is the same way.  In 2005, Hydravision Entertainment released a game by the name of ObsCure, which was heavily influenced by 1990s horror films like The Faculty.  It introduced co-op horror in an effective way and made for a fun experience (which you can read my review of here, if you like).  Like any decent horror movie, it left the door open for the potential sequel, even if just a crack.  In 2008, ObsCure: The Aftermath hit the shelves for the Playstation 2, Wii, and Windows.  The next year, it hit the Playstation Portable, and in just the past few years, it arrived on Steam.

While ObsCure was a delightful horror romp with a few flaws here and there, did ObsCure: The Aftermath manage to capture the same magic that it’s progenitor created?  Let me save you the trouble:

No.  No it did not.

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A Paler Shade of Blue – Playstation 4 – Blue Reflection – 2017

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Blue Reflection

Playstation 4
Gust, Co Inc. / Koei Tecmo
Genre: Role-Playing
2017

As a fan of a few magical girl series- Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Yuki Yuna is a Hero, and of course, Sailor Moon, come to mind- I’ve come to appreciate a number of tropes that they rely on to propel themselves forward.  Frequently, you’ll see themes of friendship, self-empowerment, and drawing upon personal wellsprings of strength both physical and emotional to succeed. This has been a draw to them for me for some time and finding games that also rely on those themes usually means that they will be automatic successes for me.

Happening on Blue Reflection in a magazine review, it seemed to have all of the trappings that would bring me running: magical girls, modern day settings, and Gust (developers of the Atelier series, among others) at the helm.  After receiving the game in my latest Christmas haul, I finally got to sit down and play it.

Did it live up the hype I created for it?  Did the power of friendship win the day?

Find out on this episode of 3PStart!
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