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Old 09-30-2011, 11:25 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: Life in Four Shades

What's black and white and likely to make you squint for the next five days? Why, the very first GameBoy, of course! Here's a random selection of obscurities for Nintendo's first handheld game system, arranged in order from awesome to not quite as awesome.


Taito and A-Wave took an ordinary game of Super Mario Bros. and sent it bam, zoom, right to the moon! The underlying gameplay is largely the time' you scroll through each stage, blasting enemies and scooping up items to boost your strength. However, the science-fiction setting gives the familiar action a twist. Instead of doubling your size with a mushroom, you climb into a mech bristling with laser cannons, and instead of landscapes littered with happy hills and smiling clouds, you're deep in space, fighting droids, aliens, and oh yeah, the occasional berserk puppy. There are a few other tweaks to the gameplay, like a chain that pulls you toward distant platforms and out of bottomless pits, but they don't make a profound impact on this action game that's as solid as it is unsurprising.


You'd have to be pretty hard up for a conversion of Dig Dug to be satisfied with this cramped, off-key port, especially in the wake of Namco Museum for the GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS, and PSP. Fortunately, the main draw of this cartridge is a brand new adventure you won't find anywhere else. Instead of the simple layers of dirt from the original, each stage is more distinct and maze-like, with dead ends and lethal traps. Your only hope of escape from each level is to find the three keys and make a mad break for the door before you're overwhelmed by Pookas and Fygars. The subterranean weapons, including bombs, bowling balls, and that slapstick comedy staple, the sixteen ton weight, add a welcome layer of depth to the gameplay. (It's just a shame Namco took things too far in a later Dig Dug sequel, Digging Strike. Just how many power-ups does a game NEED, anyway?)


This release by enigmatic Japanese developer Electrobrain just begs to be loved. As a cute ‘n cuddly airplane, it's your mission to guide a bulbous tank through enemy territory, building stairs for your ground-bound friend while bombing cannons and other threats. Marry Lemmings to a really laid back shooter and you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect. It's a clever idea that doesn't quite blossom into a classic thanks to touchy control that demands way too much precision from the player. You'll have to snatch each block from the ground with a towhook hanging from the back of your plane, a huge challenge when you consider that the hook is only a couple of pixels wide and you'll have to thread it through an equally tiny opening on the top of the block. Did I mention that enemies will be firing at you while you're doing this? It's like performing open heart surgery in a minefield.
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