Every week Cyril Lachel comes down from his giant castle in the hills to provide the final word on all of the classic downloadable games and retro compilations. This is the Retro Round-Up, your official guide to the best (and worst) in classic gaming for the Nintendo Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. Join us as we shed some light on what games are worth your five or ten dollars, and what games you should avoid at all costs. For more information about these games (and retro gaming in general) we invite you to check out Defunct Games
. This week we take a look at two of the worst Virtual Console games of all time. One of them is completely broken; the other is completely useless (you'll have to read the article to figure out which is which). And if that wasn't enough, GameTap drops a half dozen terrible Commodore 64 games in our laps. This week sucks ... and now you can read all about it when you scroll down and check out Retro Round-Up!
Columns III: Revenge of Columns
What Is It?
Surprise, it's the third installment of the Sega puzzler, Columns. Curious why we skipped from the original Columns to this bizarre third installment? Well, Columns II: The Voyage Through Time (yes, that was the subtitle) was an arcade game that never quite made it home. Yet Columns III did, which makes almost no sense to me. Either way, you really aren't missing much by skipping the second game ... and in truth; you won't miss a thing if you skip this useless third installment. Oddly enough, this Columns sequel wasn't published by Sega; it was released by Vic Tokai. Columns III isn't just another retread of the original 1989 puzzle game, instead it takes the basic gameplay and includes a bunch of new single and multiplayer modes. It also adds a story, which seems a little weird for what amounts to a Puyo Puyo clone. The game play is basically the same in this game, it's your job to match colored gems together to make them disappear, which will allow you to attack your opponent and ultimately win the game. If you found the original Columns fun then you'll probably get some enjoyment out of this sequel, but to everybody else this will just feel like an unnecessary sequel. On the plus side it looks good and has a number of options.
Does It Still Hold Up?
While most puzzle games are timeless, I find that as I get older I have less interest in Columns. Now don't get me wrong, back in the 16-bit Genesis era I was into the series, but looking back at it now it's hard to see Columns as anything but a poor-man's Puyo Puyo. That would be fine if games like Kirby's Avalanche and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine weren't already on the Virtual Console, but they are and they feel a lot fresher than this stale Columns sequel.
Is It Worth the Money?
Perhaps the more pressing question is: can columns exact revenge? It's actually kind of funny; you don't see a lot of puzzle games with subtitles. Then again, perhaps we should. I wouldn't mind buying a game called Tetris 2: Electric Boogaloo or Lumines III: This Time It's Personal. All joking aside, there are better puzzle games on the Virtual Console, so forget about this second-rate sequel and go pick up one of those other titles. Columns 1 wasn't all that hot to start with, so you can't expect too much from this lame sequel.
What Is It?
When you think about all of the old school arcade games that would be a perfect fit on the Nintendo Wii, chances are Operation Wolf is close to the top of that list. After all, this is a game that demands you use a light gun and the Wii's motion sensing remote is perfect for light gun games (Nintendo even released that $20 plastic doohickey that turns it into a gun). But he joke is on you, because Operation Wolf does not use the Wii's remote as a gun. Instead you have to use the D-Pad to move your cursor around and shoot people that way. That's right, this is a gimped version of an arcade game that is made even more useless with the lack of light gun support. Who the heck green lights this stuff? Even the NES version of Operation Wolf had light gun support (the game starts up telling you to fire at the screen), so what's the excuse? Sadly we already know what the excuse is, so far Nintendo (and its third parties) have been reluctant to actually go in and change any of the code. There have been a few examples of companies doing this (Pokemon Snap, for example), but apparently nobody thought it was worth it to tinker with Operation Wolf. That's a shame, because this game is unplayable without the light gun support. If you're the type of person who loves on-rail light gun shooters, then just pick up Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles, Ghost Squad or the upcoming House of the Dead collection.
Does It Still Hold Up?
It's an on-rail light gun shooter, it's one of the few genres that feels archaic even when it's a brand new game (see: Time Crisis 4 for the PlayStation 3). This 8-bit NES game feels even more outdated because you really only scroll from left to right, which tends to get extremely boring. What is even more troubling, though, is that this isn't even the best version of the game that Nintendo could have uploaded. While not arcade perfect, the TurboGrafx-16 version of Operation Wolf is definitely a lot closer than this NES game gets. Either way, this game does not hold up well ... and the lack of the light gun doesn't help anything.
Is It Worth the Money?
No. It's that simple. No gun support, no purchase. Using the D-Pad essentially breaks the game, the reaction speed isn't fast enough and all of the excitement of shooting fools is gone without a light gun. While I commend Nintendo for trying to get as many old school titles on the Virtual Console as possible, they probably shouldn't be spending time uploading titles that require accessories. That means that I don't want to see World Class Track Meet or any other Power Pad games, and if Nintendo decides to upload the Super Scope 6 collection I can guarantee that I'm going to throw my Wii through my TV! Don't buy Operation Wolf, because if you do you will regret it for the rest of your life!
This Week in GameTap
Every week I plan on taking a look at the classic games being uploaded on the GameTap
service. Regardless of whether it's part of their free or premium service, GameTap
offers a wide variety of old school games that is worth checking out. Here are the most recent games uploaded to their server, keep in mind that all of these games are free to play unless otherwise stated:
If you great up in the 1980s (or have played a lot of games from the 1980s) then you should already know that most old school 2D platformers are extremely difficult. They force you to deal with reappearing bad guys, make invisible jumps and generally make you start the whole level over if you die at the very end. These games are the very epitome of frustration. Within the first thirty seconds of the game Captain Dynamo (who appears to be a caped superhero that can jump extremely high and do nothing else) you're forced to jump across two deadly pits. The only problem is that above the pits are huge spikes, so you can't jump. Instead you have to time your move just right or it's back to the beginning of the level. Sure it's doable, but why is this the first thing we have to do in the game? This is an annoying platformer with frustrating level designs and a control scheme that just doesn't work for this type of game. Pass.
CJ's Elephant Antics
Like Captain Dynamo, CJ Elephant Antics is another 2D platformer for the Commodore 64. Unlike Captain Dynamo, this game isn't nearly as brutal (and looks a whole lot better). But that doesn't mean that this game doesn't hate you, because it does. In this platformer you play an elephant who is tasked with killing a bunch of other animals and picking up floating objects. He's like the elephant version of Hitman (which is also on GameTap). The only problem is that in order to jump you have to push up on the D-Pad, which means that you'll be accidentally all the time. This would be fine if the levels were laid out to accommodate accidental jumping, but they aren't and you will die dozens of times before getting the hang of it. While it's better than Captain Dynamo, you should still avoid CJ Elephant Antics.
Grell & Falla
After two terrible 2D platformers I was kind of hoping that this one would be better, but Grell & Falla is just as bad as CJ Elephant and Captain Dynamo. The good news is that this game isn't nearly as frustrating as the other two, but that doesn't mean that you should play it. Grell & Falla is a weird beast; it's a fantasy-based platformer that tries to be more than it actually is. But the real problem (the problem that makes this game unbearable to play) is that you don't even have to touch the D-Pad to move your dinky little character. Once you get the guy going in one direction he just keeps walking, no matter what you do. On the plus side when you fall into the water you don't die, you just kind of stand there motionless. Does that make any sense? Of course not, but neither does the rest of the is game. This is just another example of early game developers testing the waters to see what works and what doesn't. Unfortunately there are a lot of questionable decisions in this game.
Robotron 2084 (Arcade)
Robotron 2084 is the only non-Commodore 64 retro game released on GameTap this week, which is probably why it's the only game this week worth playing (both on GameTap and the Virtual Console). This 26 year old arcade classic is the precursor to Smash TV, which in turn was the precursor to games like Geometry Wars and Everyday Shooter. I did run into a few control problems when testing out this game, but once you get the hang of this action game it's easy to have a good time. While a lot of people picked up this phenomenal game for $5 on the Xbox Live Arcade, now is your chance to check it out for free on GameTap. Personally I'm more of a Smash TV kind of guy, but make no mistakes about it, Robotron 2084 is a worthwhile game (and easily the best game of the week).
Finally, a Commodore 64 platformer worth playing ... or at least trying out. Unlike all of the other C64 games reviewed in this episode, Slightly Magic is actually an inspired combination of platformer action and a classic computer adventure game. In this game you pick up items to solve puzzles (extinguishing dragons, fighting ghosts, etc.). There are still a few problems (like how you jump and how sluggish the rest of the controls are), but overall this is a solid effort and a surprisingly good adventure game. If you're going to check out one Commodore 64 game this week, make sure it's Slightly Magic.
Up until now it's been a bumpy ride, but we've decided to end our look at This Week in GameTap with a bang. This is Super Seymour who looks kind of like a mole person who needs to pick up barrels of oil. Regardless of what it looks like you're supposed to be doing, the fact of the matter is that this is a solid action game that is plays fast and has solid controls. You heard me; this game has controls that actually make a lot of sense. Yes this game is difficult, but it's not because of bad game design decisions. In a lot of ways this game looks and feels like a classic arcade game, which is a real compliment when compared to the slow-paced platformers found on the system. While Slightly Magic is an interesting concept, Super Seymour is a worthwhile game that is still fun today. This is not a guilty pleasure game; this is a solid action game worth playing.