Games in this update
Haunting Starring Polterguy
Instruments of Chaos starring Young Indiana Jones
Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings
James Pond: Underwater Agent
James Pond II: Codename RoboCod
James Pond 3: Operation Starfish
Jungle Book, The
King of the Monsters 2
HardBall! – 1-2 player simultaneous, password save. Hardball! was Accolade’s first attempt at a console baseball game, and their inexperience sadly shows. If you compare this game to its incredible followup Hardball III, it’s kind of amazing how much they improved things from this game to that one. As great as Hardball III is, I really cannot recommend Hardball!; it’s just not good. I don’t think there is much of an audience for this game, really. It’s a massive downgrade from the computer Hardball games of the ’90s, so fans of the PC games won’t love this one, but it also isn’t quite RBI Baseball or something, so console fans of those games won’t be happy either. So, where did this game go wrong? The PC Hardball games are amazing, after all! But first, I should say the few good things abiout the game. Hardball! plays okay, and looks reasonably nice. That’s about it. As for the problems, though, first, the feature set is minimal. This is the only one of the four Genesis Hardball games that doesn’t have battery save, but it gets worse — the game doesn’t even have a season mode! All you can do here is play single games, play a World Series between teams of your choice, or… well, that’s about it. There is a password option to save a world series in progress, but that’s about it for modes. The game also has only one stadium, a generic made-up arena, and doesn’t have real players either. And of course, since this game doesn’t have a battery, there is no way to change the players names, stats, etc. as you can do in Hardball III. All of the other Genesis Hardball games have all of the real stadiums, and the latter two have the real players as well. All have battery save, full season modes with multiple season length options, logos for the teams, and more. This game has none of that. And don’t expect much vocal speech, either; there isn’t much.
But it gets worse — the gameplay itself isn’t as good as it is in other Hardball games. This is still a mostly-one-button game, but it’s compromised in the shift to consoles in ways that damage the game. Thankfully they undid these changes in the sequel. They made two major changes here which do not work well. First, the game has only one pitcher/batter view, a behind-the-pitcher viewpoint. The other Hardball games all have both behind-the-pitcher and behind-the-batter views. I have always thought that it’s nearly impossible to bat well from the behind-the-pitcher view, so it’s awful that that is the only view available here. I always play the other Hardball games only ever using the behind-the-batter view, and it’s hard to get used to this games’ opposite viewpoint. I know that Hardball 1 for computers is like this, but I’ve never played it, and this game released a year after Hardball II released for PCs, but this game has none of its improvements. Controls are also simplified. In this game, the pitcher gets a pitch-selection indicator, similar to the one in Hardball III. Pitchers all seem to have the same five pitches, massively dumbing down a major element of strategy from the other, better Hardball games where different pitchers have different pitches. If you press a direction while throwing you’ll throw to that part of the plate, so the pitching is classic Hardball. The batter, however, does not get an indicator; instead you hit one button for a regular swing, or another for a bunt, and if you press the button with a direction you’ll swing to that part of the strikezone. There is no Power swing option, and no indicator showing where you are swinging; you’ll just have to try to guess where the ball is going from that awkward viewpoint that makes determining that overly difficult. As you might guess, batting is very hard in this game, and the AI has a huge advantage.
And once a ball goes into play, you see the other change versus other Hardball games — you can’t see a full field view at once. Instead, the game has a more zoomed-in look, and will scroll as the ball moves. It’s not quite as zoomed in as some console baseball games, but it’s too close for me. There is no ball indicator or fielder markers in the minimap; instead it only shows baserunner locations. So, you have to catch balls by tracking the ball and shadow, as usual in the series. This is easier to do when you can actually see the whole field, so catching balls requires running towards the location before your fielder is even on screen. It’s not great. So, overall, Hardball! is a below-average baseball game, and a big disappointment for me considering how much I love the Hardball series. By changing this game to make it less Hardball they messed it up, and by cheaping out on the featureset they make the game somewhat irrelevant. There is no reason to buy this game; get Hardball III or ’95 instead. This is basically a Genesis remake of the original Hardball game which was released on a lot of computer platforms.
HardBall ’94 – 1-2 player simultaneous, battery save. Hardball ’94 is a console-exclusive followup to the incredible Hardball III. This game has the same basic gameplay as Hardball III, so just read that summary for how this game plays because it’s the same. On the positive side, Hardball ’94 has slightly improved graphics with redrawn sprites, the real MLB players with full rosters from the 1993 season, and the Marlins and Rockies expansion teams and their stadiums. On the negative side, though, most of the voiced announcing is gone. This game has almost as little speech as Hardball! above, sadly. I miss Al Michaels’ choppy speech bytes here. I also miss the Hardball III visuals, actually; yes, this game has better visuals, but I love the look of Hardball III, so this ‘better’ look isn’t really a positive for me. I do like that the game has the real players, though. Hardball III on PC has an addon that I have to give you the real players, but you can’t get that on Genesis. And the gameplay itself is more of the great same as Hardball III. You’ve still got single game, full season, and home run derby modes; the classic one-button-with-menus gameplay which works so well; those great zoomed-out field views that let you see all the way from home plate to the outfield in the direction the ball is going; pitchers each with their own specific set of pitches; you can save a game in progress at any time if you don’t have the time to finish a whole game in one sitting; and everything else. It’s a great game. However, is there much reason to get Hardball ’94 in specific? The problem is, while I don’t own it for some stupid reason, there is also a final Genesis Hardball game: Hardball ’95. That game also has the real players, but it’s also got graphics which have been improved yet again, and full voice announcing from Al Michaels returns! Really, just get Hardball III and Hardball ’95, those are the console Hardball games to buy. On PC, Hardballs III (with the MLB Players Disk), 4, and 5 are the best ones.
Haunting Starring Polterguy – 1 player. Haunting starring Polterguy is a weird game from EA. This is a … uh, action-adventure? game where you play as a ghost boy and have to scare a family out of a series of houses. You were a cool guy you see, but died because of this uncaring jerk, so it’s time to get revenge! You don’t hurt anyone, just scare them, but still, taking out your unhappiness on people who didn’t directly cause anything doesn’t seem right. So, you are a ghost, though you’re green so you sort of look like a zombie. You move around the house, trying to scare the four family members by possessing objects in the rooms and making creepy things happen. Lots of things can be posessed, but eventually they will start to repeat, and scaring people is most all you do in this game. Once you enter something you can possess you’ve set your trap; this uses a bit of ghost energy. You can possess a cabinet and make the drawers move, possess vacuum cleaners and turn them on, and more. Once scared enough the victim will run to another room, and your goal is to keep scaring them until they flee the house. When they flee a room they drop some ghost energy powerups. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though, because peoples’ scare level will slowly decrease over time, and you never know exactly what they are going to do; you can’t control the family members, after all. You never know which way people will flee so there’s no guarantee of getting them to run into locations you have trapped or can get to in time, and there’s that always-depleting ghost-energy meter to worry about as well. If you take too long without getting scares and it empties, you will be dropped into the underworld. Here you have to run around collecting items while avoiding or fighting off some enemies. This is the only place in the game where you actually fight. You can only lose for good if you fail to get out of the underworld, so you don’t have limited chances, but it is an additional challenge and I think it gets harder if you get sent there more. On the whole, Haunting starring Polderguy has an interesting and original premise, but the gameplay gets repetitive. The game is funny, and fun, at first, and watching the familys’ reactions to your scares can be pretty amusing. However, the game doesn’t have much variety. There are four houses to get through, but by the time you finish the first one, you’ve seen most everything there is to see in this game. The core gameplay is a simple repeat of scare-scare-scare, and while the game is original and I like that this is a (mostly) non-violent game, it does get old. The game also won’t be easy, as the people get harder to scare out of the house as you progress. Still, despite the repetition, Haunting is a unique game that can be fun. It’s definitely worth a try.
Instruments of Chaos starring Young Indiana Jones – 1 player, 6-button controller supported (and recommended). Instruments of Chaos might seem promising. This is an Indiana Jones platformer published by Sega for the Genesis, after all! It’s got to be good, right? Wrong. This game is by Brian A. Rice, Inc., with art from Waterman Designs. The former studio didn’t release a game after the year this game was published and shut down some time shortly afterwards, and the latter only ever worked on this one game. Yeah, that’s not promising, but the game is worse. In fact, this is one of the worst games I have played for the Genesis. Everything that can go wrong with a Western platformer does, here. The game has okay graphics, but the controls and gameplay go so horribly wrong that it doesn’t matter. You are Indiana Jones, so you have a whip, of course. Unfortunately, it’s seriously underpowered and is hard to control. You have separate buttons for jumping and each of your three weapons. You press and hold the whip button to take it out, then use teh d-pad to wave it around. You cannot move while using the whip; the pad now swings it. You have to swing the whip back then forth to hit, so first hit left then right in order to attack with it to the right. It’s a decent system which tries to simulate actually swinging around a whip, sort of like the whip controls in Super Castlevania IV for the SNES but more complex and much worse. In that game whip controls are good and accurate, but here they are frustrating, both because it takes too many hits to kill things with the whip, and because the back-and-forth motions required take quite a while; actually hitting things isn’t as easy as it should be. And of course, you’re standing there unmoving while doing this, while enemies surely attack you. And the game has lots of enemies swarming you constantly. Your jumping controls are not great either; Indy does not control well, movement is far too stiff and imprecise. He’ll often go randomly bouncing around in directions you didn’t mean.
Your other two weapons are a gun and grenades. These both have very limited ammo, and aren’t always useful — lots of enemies are small and you can’t aim down to shoot them with your gun, for example. And that’s all you’ve got. Good luck; defeating the enemies in this game won’t be easy, or worth your time. Levels are large and open, and as in a lot of Western platforms you’ll be wandering all over looking for stuff. The game has five huge levels to complete, and you can do the first four in any order. You have objectives in each, so you don’t just go to the right. This isn’t great because the levels are far too large and annoying to traverse to make that exploration any fun at all. There are some puzzles to figure out here and there, but there are a lot more unfair traps, irritating jumps, difficult whip-jumps over things which can hurt you, and more, always while being swarmed by baddies. And all that while dealing with your seriously underpowered arsenal and weak, slow-to-control whip! It’s a bad combination. I like the concept of a whip in an Indy game with more realistic controls, but this game perhaps shows why that hasn’t happened — it doesn’t work well. And that’s only the start of the problems. The game does have decently-drawn graphics and okay music, but the awful controls and bad level designs ruin the game. Instruments of Chaos seems to have been designed to annoy. I got this game hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as its reputation suggests, but sadly, it is. Skip this one! It’s one of the worst games Sega published for the Genesis.
Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings – 1 player. Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings is an average, or slightly below average, licensed platformer from US Gold. Here you play as the mascot for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Izzy. He’s a blue rectangle, or something like that, with eyes and feet. US Gold was, despite the name, a British company, so this is a euro-platformer. The game looks nice and makes a decent first impression, but the gameplay doesn’t match up to the visuals. Your goal is to reach the end of each stage, but along the way you’ve got to collect lots and lots of medals, gems, torches, checkpoints, limited-use powerups, and more as you explore some good-sized, and sometimes boring, levels. As usual there are three levels in each environment followed by a boss fight. You only get two continues and there is no saving, so beating the game will be a challenge that requires a lot of repeat play and memorization; this isn’t a really hard game, but it is fairly easy to die sometimes and you do have those limited continues. Izzy defeats enemies by jumping on them. You have two different jump buttons, one for a slightly shorter-range jump which will kill enemies without damaging you, and the other for a longer-range jump which will hurt you if you touch an enemy while using it. It’s a bit odd, but you do get used to it. The game also has a momentum system, and those medals work sort of like Sonic rings in that if you get three you will lose them instead of dying the next time you get hit, so the game clearly took some inspiration from Sonic. At specific points in levels, you will get a variety of different powerups, each based on some real sport. Izzy can get a hang-glider, baseball bat, bow and arrows, and more. Unfortunately, you cannot use these freely, but only within a small, confined area marked out by red flags. Leave the specified area, or reach the end of the hang-glider route, and you lose the ability and are back to normal. With weapons like the bat or bow you cannot jump while using them, either; all of your jump buttons are replaced with weapon-use buttons. I like the concept of powers, and it’s great how Izzy looks and animates differently for each one, but it is a bit frustrating that you can only use them in these very confined areas.
Gameplay in Izzy’s Quest is simple. Just walk along, searching the level for secrets and platforms while you grab all the stuff you can. Getting three medals so that you can take a hit is essential, but many of the rest are just there for points, or to give you access to the between-levels bonus stages you can get if you get enough medals. The game has few to no bottomless pits and no blind jumps, which is great. The controls are average, with some control issues thanks to the not-great momentum system. In the levels, secret stuff is absolutely everywhere, It is a bit satisfying to find things at first, but after a while constantly getting random stuff from every corner of the stage can get repetitive. The only real variety here are in those power-up sections, and they are usually short. There is one long hang-gliding section in the second stage, but otherwise the first world is all standard platforming, and the formula continues after that. Overall, this is an okay but unexciting game. The game does have nice and nicely animated graphics, though they’re not among the best on the system, but the gameplay is extremely generic exploration-focused platforming of a kind you can find in a lot of games on this system, often done better than it is here. Still, you can do worse than Izzy’s Quest for the Olympic Rings; the game does look and play okay. I don’t particularly like this game, and it probably is a bit below average, but it’s not that bad either. Playing it for this summary I did have some fun. Perhaps try the game if you like this kind of platformer. Also on SNES.
James Pond: Underwater Agent – 1 player. James Pond: Underwater Agent is the first game in what would become a popular platformer series, at least in its home region of Europe. The game, and its sequels, was developed by Millenium and published by EA. In America James Pond never was as popular, though we did get the three Genesis games and some of the SNES ones. This first game is visually simple compared to its sequels, but might be the most fun of the three, for me; it’s a bit more original than the sequels, and the core gameplay is fun. You are James Pond, comedy fish James Bond knockoff. Yes, this series is full of comic James Bond references. I haven’t watched enough Bond to get most of them, but still, they can be amusing sometimes. While its two sequels are more standard platformers, this game isn’t; instead, you swim around in this game. You can shoot, though, so it’s not just like playing only water levels in a 3d platformer. You shoot bubbles, specifically. Shot enemies get captured in the bubbles, then if you touch them they will die and drop an item. You shoot and pick up items each with a separate button, and the game controls fine. You can swim around freely, though this doesn’t have awesome swimming controls like Ecco; instead it’s just average move-as-you-press stuff. If you go up out of the water you will bounce endlessly, and die if you stay out of the water for too long, though sometimes you have to go up there anyway, for a while. Enemies aren’t too hard to deal with generally and you do have a health bar, but it’s hard to avoid hits sometimes, as often was true in Western games then, so this game is harder than it may initially seem. If you die you start the level over, and you get only two continues once you run out of lives. That ensures that you’ll need to replay this game a lot to get through it, and I rarely enjoy that kind of design.
The game is fun to play, though. As this is a European game, exploration and collecting stuff are your main tasks. The game is loaded with stuff to collect, that’s for sure. Some is optional stuff for points, but some is required. Levels are large and fairly open, and your goal is not to reach the end but instead is to complete the stated objective. In the first level you have to pick up keys and then use them to rescue some captured ally fish. Then in level two, you have to pick up bags of stuff scattered around the level and drop them off above the waters’ surface for this ‘beach bum’ guy to pick up. I like that there is some variety. Levels are full of not only walls but also switches and teleporters from early on. Each level is made up of several multi-screen scrolling areas, connected with passages. Level designs are not great, but they are somewhat interesting and varied, though the game could use more environments. Visually the game looks like the average-looking Amiga port that it is. Audio is also okay but not amazing. Overall James Pond 1 is a decent side-view platformer-ish action-adventure game. You swim around, shooting bubbles at baddies, while finding the items you need for the current stage, then bringing them where they need to go. It’s moderately fun stuff. Amiga port, also on Atari ST and Acorn Archimedes. All of the computer versions are Europe-only releases.
James Pond II: Codename RoboCod – 1 player. James Pond II: Robocod is the most popular game in this series by far. While the other James Pond games were mostly forgotten, this one has multiple ports to newer platforms, and I think it’s thought of positively in the UK, where it’s from. I think that the game is good, but not great. With the second game, James Pond shifts over to being a more traditional platformer, and the graphics get a lot better. This is an average to above average platformer with some decently nice cartoony graphics, okay controls with a unique mechanic, large levels with huge amounts of stuff to collect, and a kind of long game for something without saving. You can walk and jump around, but there is also one unique mechanic here: James can do a weird upwards-stretching move which allows you to move to platforms at any height directly above you. If you attach to a ceiling you can move around on the ceiling if you want, as well, and drop down anywhere you like. Otherwise this is a standard item-collection-focused Euro-platformer. James Pond is in Antarctica now and has to stop some penguins which, for some reason, are evil. I presume it’s a reference to some James Bond movie, but I don’t know which. The game is set in a giant castle which serves as a hub level. Only that is in the snow, while the levels you enter from there have a variety of settings, first a candy-themed world.
In each level your goal is to find the end goalpost. So, you don’t have mission objectives, unlike the first game, but instead just need to find the exit. You don’t just go to the right, though; instead exits can be anywhere, and you will need to explore to find them. Levels always scroll in all four directions, and yes, there are a lot of pickups to collect, if you care about points. The infinite-upward-stretch move is interesting and allows for some different level designs, but you do need to watch out — if enemies run into you while stretching up you will be forced back down. Fortunately you don’t seem to take damage from that, at least, which is nice. Also you can drop through some platforms, but not others. Being able to stretch up and walk on ceilings allows a lot of mobility, but the game still has plenty of tricky platform jumping, and, of course, blind jumps. You don’t move too fast in this game, just average speed, but still you will need to make blind jumps, unfortunately. And just like the first game, you still have a two-continue limit in this game, which is a real problem. With a save system this game definitely would be better. Still, James Pond II is a fun game, and I can see why it was popular. Yes, the near-unavoidable hits can be annoying and the continue limit isn’t great, but the game is more good than bad. James Pond II has nice graphics, some interesting game mechanics, and plenty of levels to work through. Amiga port. James Pond II has been released on many platforms over the years — Atari ST, SNES, Game Boy, Amiga CD32, Acorn Archimedes, Commodore 64, PC, Game Gear, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Playstation, Playstation 2, and Sega Master System. Most of those are Europe-only, but the US did get the SNES, GBA, and DS versions. On SNES and GB the game is called “Super James Pond”, and the GBA and DS remakes are titled “James Pond: Codename Robocod”. If the GBA or DS versions add save systems, they’d probably be the best ones, but I only have this version.
James Pond 3: Operation Starfish – 1 player, password save (~30 characters long). James Pond 3 takes a more sci-fi approach to the series. This is another platformer, but it’s different from the previous game. This time you move MUCH faster, with Sonic-esque speed. Your infinite-upward-stretch move is gone as well. Instead you’ve got various items scattered around the levels to pick up and use. You can only have one item at a time, though, so experimentation and puzzle-solving will be important here, more like in the first James Pond game. That’s fine, and I like the nice cartoony space-themed graphics, but the game is a barely playable mess thanks to the very high speeds you move at. I want to like this game, but just can’t. But yes, our fish hero is now an astro-fish and is on a weird alien world, or something like that. This is a bigger game than its predecessors — there are apparently over 100 levels! The graphics are better than either previous game by a good margin this time, and the game finally adds a save system as well, with passwords. It’s really too bad that the game is so frustrating and unfun. You just move too fast in this game; it’s impossible to know what’s coming as you zoom around, and you will inevitably run into deathtraps over and over again. And you can’t always move at a crawl to see what’s coming, either — there are many angled slopes that you must be running at to clear… followed by pits. Argh! Also, while the game has passwords, and long ones too, you need to beat multiple levels before you get far enough to get one, and that’s kind of hard in a game this fast and full of instant-death pits. James Pond 3 has a momentum system, fast movement, slippery controls, somewhat long levels, and instant death pits; it’s not a great combination.
The game initially seems fun to play, though, as you look at the nice graphics, explore the first level or two, look for stuff to collect, and figure out the challenges and puzzles. There is a lot of stuff to collect, of course, for points as well as those items you can pick up and use as weapons or to solve puzzles, and again I do like this element of the game. Levels are large and full of secrets, and when you’re not dying constantly it can be fun to explore them. This is an impressively large game in scope, and even if the passwords are irritatingly long, it’s great that it has them because they allow for a bigger game than you’ll find in the first two. However, overall the game is just too hard. The speed and level designs in this game do not mix well. It’s bad design to have so many spike-filled pits and random enemies in the way that will hurt you in a game where you’re often moving at almost uncontrollable speeds! That makes this a very memorization-heavy game, and that’s not very fun. And that’s really the issue here. Some people don’t mind this kind of design, and this is surely a great game for them, but fast-moving games full of blind jumps are not something I find fun. The Sonic games on the Genesis balance this brilliantly, with high speeds but good level designs and not very many unfair traps. This game has far, far more of them, and it’s not as good because of it. With lots of content, good graphics, plenty of variety, saving, and some interesting challenges James Pond 3: Operation Starfish is a good game if you can memorize what to do, I have no doubt of that, but the barrier to entry is high. This game was only released on the Genesis in the US, but in Europe it is also on Amiga, Atari ST, and SNES.
Jewel Master – 1 player. Jewel Master is a good platform-action game by Sega. From 1991 this is an earlier release for the system, and you can tell; the graphics, while I do like some of the sprite art, aren’t the best. Backgrounds are average at best, and the enemies and your character are a mixed bag. For the other negatives, the game only has one life per continue, no checkpoints in levels so die and you start the stage over, and you only get three continues per game. You do have a health bar, but you can only die a couple of times before you’re starting the game over. However, this game is much more good than bad. I like the concept here quite a bit, first. You are a mage guy, and are off on a quest to save the realm, or something. You use magic rings to cast spells, and can equip up to two rings on each hand. You fight only with magic; you don’t have a weapon attack. That’s great. The best control option isn’t the default; switch to the one where B is jump and A and C use the ring(s) on each hand. At the start you have only two rings, one fire and one water, but you will get 12 rings in total as you progress through the game. Each different combination of rings will give you a different spell, or none at all. There are a lot of spells to find and use, which is pretty cool. In addition to rings, there are also health items and healthbar-expanding items to find in the levels. These are critical, as your healthbar will not refill between levels, and you start out with only two health jewels. Make sure to look for refill and health-expanding items, you need them! They are easy to find at first, fortunately. There aren’t nearly enough sidescrollers where you play as a mage, so it’s cool that you do in this game.
The rings system is a good idea as well. The strategy of dealing with the rings, choosing spells, trying out each new ring you get with the others to see what they will do, and such is fun. There is a cost, though: you will constantly be pausing the game to switch rings. Two buttons use the two equipped pairs of rings, and the other jumps, so you have to pause to switch equipment. Your spells include a variety of melee and ranged attacks, a shield, high jump, faster movement, and more. The better rings you get later on allow for more powerful versions of spells. The spells here aren’t amazingly original, it’s mostly a fairly conventional array of fireballs, waves, and such, but still there are some nice options. Different spells will be better in different stages, so experimentation really is key. Levels are reasonable-length, and each one has a boss at the end. I like the level designs here; you don’t just walk to the right all the time. While you do do some of that, other levels have some larger and more open designs. Sometimes you will need to use specific spells to proceed, which keeps things interesting. Some enemies are also more vulnerable against specific spells than others, so there experiment with your attacks instead of just always sticking with one. The game has quite a few different enemies to fight, with new enemies in each stage, and they have different attack patterns as well. Bosses are also unique and interesting, and some levels have minibosses as well. The skeleton miniboss a few levels in which flies apart as you shoot him is a fun one. Your hero isn’t too mobile, so it can sometimes be hard to avoid taking hits, but you do have that health bar. Overall Jewel Master is a fun little game. It’s nothing amazing and there certainly are better platform-action games on the Genesis, and the constant pausing to switch rings and limited continues can be annoying, but I like the concept, spells, and gameplay. Exploring the levels blasting baddies and looking for secrets is quite fun, as is trying out the spells and deciding which two to use at each point in your adventure. Keep an eye out for Jewel Master, and do pick it up if you find it affordably.
Junction – 1-2 player simultaneous. Junction is a puzzle game inspired by Pipe Dream. Pipe Dream is something of a classic, but it’s a classic I have always found maybe more frustrating than fun. As in Pipe Dream, each stage is a single-screen top-view challenge. The screen is full of blocks with various lines on them. Unlike Pipe Dream, though, here you aren’t trying to connect two points with a connected pipeline; instead, here you need to make a red ball, which follows along the track-line, go around all of the curving paths which are around the edges of the rectangular main field. These curving paths around the edges of the field cannot be moved. Instead, you shift around blocks inside the field. So, you aren’t placing lines here; instead, you move them around as in a block-puzzle game, trying to line them up so as to make the ball go around the stage until it has gone around each of those outside paths once. Once the ball has gone around one it will disappear, and once all are gone, you win. That will be a serious challenge, but it can be a fun one. The game has 50 puzzles, and while you can’t save your progress, instead the game simply allows you to start from any level in the options menu. So yeah, you can skip straight to level 50 if you want. It’s a bit odd, but I’ll take it! You can also set your lives per game, but this only matters if you’re writing down scores or something. Junction has decent graphics with some nice backgrounds which shift every so often as you progress, or skip through levels in the menu. The music is fine as well. This is a simple game in scope and clearly didn’t have a big budget, but they did a solid job creating a very tough, and somewhat original, puzzle game. I’ve rarely managed to get more than a few puzzles in before I quit in frustration — block-swapping block puzzle games have never been something I’ve care for — but this is a good game for the genre, and the Pipe Dream / block puzzle cross is an interesting idea. There is also a Game Gear version I haven’t played.
Jungle Book, The – 1 player. The Jungle Book is a platformer from Virgin. Released the year after Aladdin this game is very much in the Dave Perry style, but Perry himself left Virgin partway through development of this game, and honestly it shows; The Jungle Book is no Aladdin, not even close. This game is a collection-heavy platformer with very nice graphics, but average gameplay. I’m sure that fans of the movie, particularly, will like it, but I think it’s only okay. For some reason I don’t think I ever saw The Jungle Book though, or at least i don’t remember seeing it, unlike most of Disney’s other major animated films, so the theme doesn’t do much for me. You play as Mowgli, a boy living in the jungles of India. As always from Virgin the game has great graphics and animation. In each level you must find gems. There are 15 hidden in each level, and the number you need varies based on the difficulty you choose — in easy you need 5, in normal 10, and in hard all 15. I don’t think I’d want to play the game in hard; finding 10 is more than enough. There are also lots of other things to collect, including a variety of items which give you points, some which refill your health, and various projectiles. Mowgli will hurt enemies by jumping on them, or at least he usually will — bosses often require projectiles only — so collecting projectile ammo is important. Once you have found ten of the gems, you need to go to the end of the level, generally on the right side somewhere, either high or low. Until you get enough even if you reach the end you’ll have to go backtrack. Fortunately enemies you’ve killed do stay dead, so there is at least that. Still, the constant backtracking and collecting is a bit tedious sometimes. The controls are also only okay. You will definitely take a lot of unavoidable hits in this game. You do have health, but losing lives is inevitable, particularly in boss levels which seem to happen about at the usual place, every three stages. The game is loaded with bottomless pits as well, and with the blind-jump-encouraging level designs and camera this game has, every missed jump or leap into the unknown is a possible death. Blind-jump deaths are a huge problem in this game, and you have limited lives and continues in this game, and no saving of course. Bah. You can often see where you are going, but not always. Still, wandering around levels jumping on or shooting enemies while collecting stuff is sometimes fun. The Jungle Book is an average game on the whole, but platformer fans might want to give it a look anyway. It does look nice, and the gameplay is okay.
Jurassic Park – 1 player, password save. Jurassic Park is an average platform-action game from Blue Sky Software and published by Sega. Blue Sky would later go on to make one of the Genesis’s best action games in Vectorman, but before that their games were nowhere near that level, and you see that here. This is an okay game with some nice visuals, but the gameplay has some issues. Based on the hit dinosaurs-come-to-life movie of the same name, Jurassic Park allows you to play as two characters, main character Alan Grant or a Velociraptor. Yes, you can play as a raptor, which is pretty cool. Each character has their own set of levels to play through. Each quest isn’t all that long, but it’ll be reasonably challenging along the way. Thankfully the game does have a password system, unlike most Genesis platformers, so you don’t need to play the whole thing in one sitting. That’s awesome. The game has okay but not great controls. The game feels slightly Prince of Persia-inspired, so you move somewhat stiffly and cannot control yourself in the air while jumping very much, particularly as Grant. The Raptor can jump more than a screen into the air so you can move around in the air a bit more there, but still it’s largely determined by the direction you hit before you leave the ground. I don;t like the somewhat restrictive controls; freer movement controls would be great. Even though this game isn’t full PoP, it’s a hybrid, I’ve never cared for Prince of Persia’s control style in general and don’t love how this game controls either. Blind jumps are also a huge problem, particularly with that raptor and its multi-screens-high jumps. The game doesn’t throw lots of blind pits at your right from the start, but there are some here and there from early on and it is far too easy to accidentally jump into one. At least you have those passwords to help out, so you don’t need to restart the game after doing so as you would in most other Genesis platformers; that’s nice.
As Grant, you have a bunch of guns to use to take down the dinosaurs with, but move at only a moderate speed. You will collect a bunch of different weapons, and finding ammo is important. You’ve got a stun-gun, grenades, taser, and more. It’s a nice arsenal, though sometimes you can feel underpowered, and ammo is limited. Grant has one fire button and one switch-weapons button. As the Raptor you only have your fangs and claws, but you move pretty fast. The Raptor has separate buttons for claws and biting. It’s probably more fun to play as the Raptor — any regular enemy will die instantly if you jump on them, and running around tearing apart humans and dinosaurs is fun stuff. Get revenge on those humans! Heh. I like the two different routes through the game; sort of like in Desert Demolition the two really are different. Both routes go through mostly the same environments, but they aren’t all in the same order and the actual levels are different. The background graphics are very good in this game. The green jungle in the first stage is particularly impressive. Sprites are very dithered, but I don’t mind; I think the game looks pretty good. Still, actually playing the game isn’t quite as fun as I’d like, thanks in part to the not-great controls and also the level designs. This is not a straightforward action game; instead, levels often require you to jump from specific places in order to progress, and you’ll have to find those places. It can be annoying from early on. Those blind jumps don’t help either. It also can be hard to avoid taking damage sometimes, and health powerups aren’t as common as perhaps they should be.
Still, Jurassic Park is an okay game which can be fun. I came into the game with somewhat low expectations because it’s not a game I have lots of nostalgia for or often hear is really great. The game didn’t disappoint, but isn’t amazing either. The graphics are probably a bit better than I was expecting and that’s nice, but the gameplay is about as flawed as I expected, unfortunately. Still, this is a decent game and it is at average, anyway. It’s pretty cool that you can play as a Raptor as well as a human, though it is so fast that staying out of danger is difficult. Still, it really is fun to play as the raptor. The level designs in this game can be an issue, though, thanks to the unclear paths and blind jumps. Still, the game’s alright. Don’t spend much for this one unless you are a big series fan, though. For the $3 I paid for a complete copy it was absolutely worth getting; there is enough of interest here that platformer fans might want to consider the game if you find it cheap. Blue Sky made a sequel to this game, Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition. That game has a much stronger focus on shooting and action and less on frustrating exploration, and is supposed to be much better as a result. I haven’t played it, though.
Kid Chameleon – 1 player. Kid Chameleon is a platformer from Sega from 1992, developed by some people in Sega of America who soon would be called Sega Technical Institute. This game predates the name, but it is considered a STI game. You are Kid Chameleon, a cool ’90s guy who has been sucked in to a VR arcade game gone wrong! You’re ’90s cool though, so the boss won’t beat you, unlike those other kids… well, hopefully; that will be difficult. This game is a huge, expansive platformer. With over a hundred levels, good controls, plenty of settings to explore, various costumes to find and wear to get added powers, secret exits that lead to multiple routes through the game, and more, this game is impressive on many levels. The graphics aren’t one of them, though. While STI’s later games often impress visually, this game has average-at-best graphics. Backgrounds are decently drawn but not amazing, and sprites are smaller than usual for a Genesis game and are artistically average. Kid Chameleon and his enemies are kind of small in this game. This allows for larger levels and good visibility, so you won’t have as many blind-jump problems in this game as in many other Genesis platformers, but it doesn’t look as nice. The game also has a lot of blocks to break, Mario-style. Some are just generic blocks, others have items in them. You’ll be doing a lot of jumping at blocks in this game. Between that and the smaller characters, this game is a bit more Mario-like than most of Sega’s Genesis games. Kid Chameleon has different outfits too, which drop from blocks, a bit like Mario. The Samurai outfit gets you a sword, the helmet-knight a hard helmet, and many more. Each one slightly changes the way the game plays.
This is a Western platformer, though, so it’s not Mario. You have a health bar in this game, levels are a bit less straightforward than they usually would be in a Mario game, and the controls, while good, aren’t quite Mario or Sonic-great. Kid Chameleon feels a little loose to control, though it’s fine as it is. Levels are intricately designed and always interesting. I like the levels here, though the game does get difficulty in a hurry. Thanks to the zoomed-out view you can see a good way, but there is the occasional blind jump. Thankfully the game doesn’t have many death pits, but still taking damage can be bad; you only have a few hit points per costume. I like the varied level designs though, they are a strength of the game. There are always secrets to look for and lots of stuff to find as you explore. Yes, most are blocks to break with gems in them that only give you points, but sometimes they drop nice new costumes, so that’s fine. One part had me stuck for a while before I figured out how to climb up vertical walls, but once I got the hang of it it added to the game. Really, in a lot of ways the game plays more like an early ’90s PC shareware game than most of Sega’s platformers for the Genesis do, and that’s great; PC shareware games were the games I grew up on. So the game is mostly good, but it has one problem. Unfortunately, it’s a big one. The main problem with the game is its length and difficulty. While most paths through Kid Chameleon go through a lot less than 100 levels, but still this is a long game, far too long for something with no saving and, as usual on the Genesis, irritatingly limited continues. Seriously, the Genesis is one of my favorite systems, but it’d be even better if more of the games had saving. Even passwords would be great in a game like this. Though Kid Chameleon is a good game for sure, I’ve never gotten deep in to it thanks to the save/continue system. This is a difficult game that will take quite some time to get through, if you ever do, but the quality shows through regardless. The exploration element is fun as you look for the many routes through the game, the level designs are good to great, and the core gameplay is solid. Kid Chameleon isn’t one of the best Genesis platformers, but it is a good B-grade title well worth playing. This game is available in collections and digital re-releases of Sega’s Genesis games.
King of the Monsters 2 – 1-2 player simultaneous, 6 button controller supported. King of the Monsters 2 is a 1-on-1 isometric fighting/wrestling game from Takara. While not one of SNK’s better-known franchises, King of the Monsters is a fun Godzilla-inspired series. While this game has the same name as SNK’s Neo-Geo and SNES game of the same name, this is a simpler game than those. While that game is a beat ’em up slash monster fighting/wrestling game, this one ditches the long scrolling levels and beat ’em up elements in favor of straight 1-on-1 fights only. This game has a conventional fighting game framework, so matches are best-of-three-rounds, and arenas are limited in size. This is still a good game, but I like the original game more. Takara published both this and the SNES game, so I don’t know why they decided to make that one a good port of the arcade original, while this one is a scaled-back fighter only. It’s unfortunate that they did. Still, the fights play just like they should, which is good. The game also does have one interesting feature, you can play as the enemy bosses! There are nine playable characters in this game, including the three protagonists from the Neo-Geo/SNES game, or six of the bosses from that game. You can only play as the three ‘good’ monsters in the original game, so it is kind of cool to be able to play as the bosses. It’s just a 1-on-1 game so it makes sense to let you play as the whole roster, but it is fun to play as the various bosses from that game. This is a cut-rate game presentation-wise, though. There isn’t a final boss, for instance; you just fight a harder version of your current character in the last stage of the game. That’s disappointing. No depth was added to make up for the lost beat ’em up sections, either; this is still a very basic button-masher. And the ten arenas, while nice looking, are only a fraction of the amount of content from the original game. The graphics are good and are translated over well from the Neo-Geo, but the music’s not great, unfortunately. At least the nine monsters do look good though. The game does have eight difficulty options, and you can choose how many continues you get as well, though just choosing Infinite makes the most sense; it is an option.
Even if it has no depth though, the game is fun to play. This is an isometric game, so you move around in all four directions. You are a giant monster, so while fighting your rivals, you can also destroy the scenery. Levels usually have a bunch of small buildings to destroy. Stomping the smaller buildings and crushing the larger ones is fun stuff. This game is no Rampage, it’s mostly focused on the monster fighting, but the city-destroying bits are amusing. Despite the small-ish arenas there thankfully are still a good amount of things to destroy here. You have three actions, jump and two attacks. Characters do have a few special moves, but they’re only very basic motions and aren’t necessary. The game is, for the most part, a button masher. In addition to the normal attacks, when the two monsters get close, they grapple. This is the wrestling component, though it really is just a pure button masher. Wiggle that stick and hit the main button repeatedly and you’ll probably win; that’s all there is to it. Whoever wins will throw the other for a bit of damage. It gets repetitive, but it works. The game also has powerups that spawn from some destroyed buildings, and also from certain little vehicles and such that move around each stage. These can power you up, refill some health, and more, so collecting them is important. This is hardly a complex or deep fighting game, as there isn’t much depth and button-mashing is central to the game, but it is fun and entertaining, On the default difficulty this game isn’t very difficult, though a few monsters may give you trouble. In multiplayer or the harder settings it will last a bit longer, but still this is a short game. Overall, King of the Monsters 2 is okay. Visually the game looks good and is a solid conversion of the arcade game, and the gameplay is just like the arcade and SNES game. However, the limited design of this version really holds it back. It’s an okay game, but the original arcade/SNES KotM2 game, with the beat ’em up side of the game intact, is better. This game might be worth getting if you are a series fan and want to play as the bosses from Kind of the Monsters 2, and the game is the best versus mode in the series, but otherwise just stick to regular King of the Monsters 2 for Neo-Geo or SNES. The Neo-Geo version is available in various Neo-Geo collections and digital re-releases. This one may have the same name, but it’s a lower-budget, smaller affair. It’s an entertaining game that is brainless fun, but the lacking depth means that you probably won’t be playing this long-term. Still, this is a fun little game to play once in a while. I like SNK so I had to get this game, and I do like it enough to make it probably be worth getting, but non-fans probably should pass on this one.