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
. Talk about a disappointing week. This week was almost saved by the appearance of an R-Type game, but it's the wrong R-Type game. And then there's Spelunker, one of the worst games ever made on any platform. What's worse, the usually reliable GameTap only gave us one game to review. I guess you're just going to have to put up with three disappointing reviews. But don't let that keep you from reading this week's episode of the Retro Round-Up!
What Is It?
Spelunker is Satan's love letter to NES owners. It's as if Broderbund (the company best known for Lode Runner and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) reached down into the pits of hellfire and pulled up the most frustrating 2D platformer of all time. It's less an action game than an exercise in aggravation. Just when you think you've seen the hardest part of the game, here comes yet another level that doesn't seem adequately designed for this type of character. But let me back up a little bit, in case you've never had a chance to experience Spelunker, you play a small dude who is off to investigate scary underground caverns. While it's a promising concept (hey, the Eidos execs got rich off of recycling that theme over and over again in those Tomb Raider titles), Spelunker is the very definition of a train wreck video game. The problems start immediately. Even a simple task like jumping from the elevator to the next platform is hampered by what has to be the worst fall damage ever seen in a video game. It's normal in games to have fall damage (even to the point where you lose your life), but Spelunker takes this to the extreme. You will die from falling a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean that you're probably going to fall to your death four or five times before even advancing to the second screen. And that's not even taking into consideration the cheap bad guys, all of the timed jumps you have to make and all do the other dangerous stuff that has a tendency of just jumping out and killing you right on the spot. Even if this game was only three levels long, it would still take you weeks to beat ... the game is that hard. What is Spelunker? It's the most frustrating piece of crap game currently available on the Virtual Console!
Does It Still Hold Up?
No. No, no, no, no, no. NO! I can't say it enough, this game is the epitome of outdated. I cannot stress this enough, the only fun somebody could have with Spelunker is if they wanted to see a collection of all of the most outdated gameplay mechanics all in one place. The graphics, controls and level designs all look like they are straight out of a terrible Commodore 64 game. But this isn't some lame-ass C64 title, this is a full-fledged Nintendo Entertainment System game (though, for what it's worth, there was a C64 version of the game). It baffles the mind to know that Nintendo is actually expecting people to pay $5 for what has to be one of the worst games I have ever played.
Is It Worth the Money?
Can you tell that I'm not going to recommend it? Spelunker could have been awesome; the idea of playing a cavern explorer has a lot of potential ... even for an 8-bit NES game. But this is not an awesome game. Heck, this is pretty much the exact opposite of an awesome game. It's a shame that Nintendo doesn't allow Wii owners to sample these Virtual Console games for free, because Spelunker is almost worth playing once to see just how unforgiving the title is. This is the perfect game for everybody that loathes fun and enjoyment.
What Is It?
Well, it's about time somebody decided to add R-Type to the Virtual Console. Oh wait, never mind, I guess I'm forgetting about R-Type, R-Type II and, of course, R-Type III. This Super NES launch title marks the fourth time Irem's 2D shooter has been available to purchase with Nintendo Points. Not that I'm complaining, R-Type is a fantastic franchise that is well known for being some of the best and most difficult shoot-em-ups ever conceived. But four seems like it's a bit much, especially when so many other shooters have been uploaded recently. In case you aren't familiar with the R-Type brand, basically the game plays like every other 2D shooter (like Gradius, not Contra). The big gimmick with R-Type is that you have control over a helper pod that can attach to the various sides of you and fire extra bullets, deflect enemy fire and all sorts of other useful things. R-Type is probably best known for being insanely difficult, and this Super NES game is no exception. Seeing as this was a Super NES launch title, gamers should expect some unwelcome slow-downs which mar the overall experience. The other big problem is that we've already been here, and the other R-Type games on the Virtual Console are better than this 1991 effort. I appreciate Nintendo trying to complete the R-Type collection, but I would much rather they focus on some other franchises (and genres) that haven't been uploaded to the Virtual Console as of yet.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Although the gameplay is a bit outdated (let's face it, the pod gimmick isn't the freshest aspect of this traditional 2D shooter), R-Type still manages to be fun thanks in large part to its extreme difficulty. Unfortunately this version of the game doesn't exactly hold up well, especially when it comes to the constant slow-downs you'll have to put up with when powering through this Super NES game. This is the kind of game that really showed the lack of power in the Super NES, which is a real shame since the rest of the game holds up remarkably well.
Is It Worth the Money?
The problem with releasing Super R-Type now is that it has to compete with three other games in the franchise. Worse yet, a lot of those games are significantly better than this Super NES game. That's not to say that this is a bad game, but the slowdowns aren't helping anybody. Eight dollars is a bit steep for this game, especially when they probably could have found a better version to port. R-Type is a great series, but this port should not be the first version you turn to.
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:
There are a lot of crazy puzzle games out there, I doubt I'll hear any argument about that sentiment. However, there really aren't that many truly original puzzlers. Most puzzle games seem like they are either based on Tetris, Lemmings, Bejeweled or a combination of all three. Qix is something completely different; it's a puzzle game that doesn't rely on falling blocks, steering characters in various directions or moving colored boxes around. Instead Qix is a game where you try and draw shapes so that you can fill in a certain percentage of each level. But it's not as easy as it sounds, Qix is an incredibly tough game that will have you playing for hours to beat your best score. Qix is a must play, even if the graphics and sound are decidedly antiquated.