Ten this week. Christmastime is busy… and I’ll be away for a few days around Christmas, so the next update may be shorter than this.
Games in this update
Mallet Legend’s Whac-A-Critter
Magical Taruruuto-kun (J)
Mario Andretti Racing
Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter
Mick & Mack: Global Gladiators
Mallet Legend’s Whac-A-Critter – 1 player, supports the very rare Smash Controller made just for this game. Note that this game is NOT compatible with the 32X, so you’ll need to remove it to play the game. I recommend keeping the 32X attached and not playing this. Mallet Legend’s Whac-A-Critter, or Mallet Legend as it says on the title screen, is an unlicensed Genesis game from Realtec. This absolutely horrendously terrible game is probably the worst, least fun to play game I own for the Genesis; it’s easy to see why they didn’t bother trying to get a license, considering how bad this game is. Whac-A-Critter is a Whack-a-mole game. As usual for whackamole, you hit things coming out of holes in a nine-hole grid. Here hitting the hit button hits the center space, and hitting a d-pad direction plus the pad hits that space. Various creatures will pop out of these holes in the ground, and you hit them with a mallet. The idea is an arcade classic, but it’s not something which works well at all at home; it’s far too simple to make a good videogame. To mix things up a bit, this game has more animals than just the usual moles to whack and multiple levels, but the game really is just whac-a-mole, the videogame. You just whack creatures, and that’s about it. Unfortunately, they did a terrible job of it here. This game has a lot of problems. First the concept is really simplistic and has zero depth, but worse the difficulty is completely out of balance — this game is impossible! There is progression in this game, with multiple levels and a world map showing which stage you are on, but the game very quickly gets impossibly difficult. You’ve got to hit a target percentage of the creatures in each stage, but by level two or three, you won’t; the game doesn’t give you enough time to have a chance in a videogame where you can only hit one space at a time while half of the board is covered in enemies popping out of holes, most of which you’ll never be able to get to. There IS that super-rare special controller for this game which I do not have. It looks like a set of nine buttons, pretty much, emulating a whack-a-mole game board. It may make the game a little bit more playable, but I don’t have it so I can’t say for sure. People who have used it who do have it say that the game is still insanely difficult even with it. This game just wasn’t very well made, unfortunately. There are not many unlicensed Genesis games which got released in the US during its life from companies that never released a licensed game, so it is interesting to have this, but overall Mallet Legend’s Whac-A-Critter is utterly abysmal. The broken difficulty level is the worst problem and kept me, and most other people going by what I hear about this game online, from getting past something like the second level of the game, but even without that the overly simplistic gameplay does not hold up at all as a home console game. Whack-a-mole is okay for a minute in an arcade, but at home, on a console? It feels like a one-minigame minigame not-collection, with no other content. And that minigame is so broken it’s barely playable. Don’t buy this!
Magical Taruruuto-kun (J) – 1 player. Magical Taruruuto-kun is a platformer made by Game Freak and published by Sega. Yes, this is a platformer from the team that would go on to make Pokemon. This is a licensed platformer based on the early ’90s childrens’ anime series of the same name. Because of the soon-to-be-successful developer this is easily the best-known Taruruuto-kun game, but I got several others first, namely the first NES game, the SNES game, and the Game Gear game. The NES and SNES games, which were published by __ and I think were actually made by TOSE, are good but extremely difficult platformers with an interesting block-licking mechanic, battery save, a fair amount of story text between levels, and more. I like them, but they are kind of crazy-hard for something supposedly for kids. The Game Gear game, also published by Sega but not made by a team anywhere near as good as Game Freak, is a shmup. You fly to the right as Taruruuto-kun, shooting baddies as they approach. It’s a short and very easy game and isn’t worth much of your time. It is interesting how different the games based on Taruruuto-kun are. This one has a magic staff which you possess blocks with to throw them around, entirely unlike the Nintendo games. The Nintendo ones are harder than this game, too, even though they have saving while this one doesn’t. The NES game particularly is really hard. I’m not sure which one I like more; the NES, SNES, and Genesis games are all interesting and worth a try.
So how does this game compare to those others? Well, the Genesis game here is fun but simple. This is a straightforward platformer. You walk to the right at Taruruuto-kun, run and jump on platforms, and have a magic staff as a weapon. You can’t jump on enemies to hurt them; instead you have to hit them with your stick, or throw things at them. You see, if you hit various objects in the world, you will grab them and carry them around. Then you can throw those objects forward, taking out enemies in front of you. It’s fun stuff, particularly because of the cute cartoon eyes that appear on objects as you carry them around. YOu also have a somewhat Sonic-like momentum system, so you’ll run slower up hills, jump farther when you are running, and such. You can also glide after jumping, though gliding is floaty and somewhat hard to control; while this game is good, the controls could be a bit better. It controls okay, but not quite as well as a Mario or Sonic game. While there is definite challenge here thanks to the usual Genesis design of limited continues and no saving, compared to the NES and SNES games this feels much more like what you’d expect from a kids’ game. This is a fun, fairly simple game and the idea is easy to understand. Level designs are simple, and the game has a nice difficulty curve which makes you want to keep coming back for more, to see the next part of the game next time. Levels do get more complex as you progress, so while the first level has no instant-death pits, they do start appearing in level two. Bosses often require skilled use of your throwing-stuff mechanic, which is nice.
This game starts out with a setting based on the school from the show. I like that this game tries to follow the series’ settings better than the entirely videogame-level-themed NES and SNES games. The graphics here are pretty good. It’s interesting how much this game looks like Game Freak’s later work on the Pokemon series; you can tell that this is a game Freak game, particularly thanks to the look of the sprites and enemies. They have that distinctive Pokemon style and must have been drawn by the same artist who would later go on to design the Pokemon. I’m sure a lot of people will like that, and they do look nice. The backgrounds and main character art is mostly inspired by the series, but it’s all done with a Game Freak style. Even though I’m a Nintendo fan I’ve never cared for Pokemon at all, so this isn’t a big plus for me, but the art is pretty good; the graphics here look nice. Each level has a new setting, and all look good. This is definitely an above-average-looking game for the Genesis, visually. The music is good enough too, though the graphics are probably better.
On the whole, Magical Taruruuto-kun is a good but not great platformer. It’s fun to play, but isn’t anything special or overly original. It is a simpler and shorter game than the NES/SNES games, and I do wish it had battery save like those do, or passwords either. Still, with good graphics, good level designs, and some nice challenges as you progress. Those graphics are pretty good, and Pokemon fans particularly will like them. This is an above-average game overall, but it could be better. While this is a good game, I don’t love it; the game has little depth. It’s just a decently fun licensed game, but it is good for a licensed game. As for the other games based on this license, Bandai’s NES (Famicom) games are the most interesting; they’re hard, but fun and well made. But more important than the license is the developer. Game Freak has mostly made RPGs of course in their ultra-popular Pokemon series, but the have made a few platformers. I know of three — this, Pulseman (Genesis), and Drill Dozer (Game Boy Advance). I haven’t played much of Pulseman though it looks pretty good, but Drill Dozer is fun, though I don’t like the game nearly as much as some; the shoulder-button-based drill controls are quite annoying, and not as responsive as face buttons would be. Anyway, Taruruuto-kun for the Genesis, or Megadrive rather, is a decent, fun game well worth a look, if you can find a copy. It is import-only, but isn’t region-locked so it will play on a US system, if you have a way of plugging in the carts — Japanese carts are a different shape from Western ones. I can fit Japanese carts into my 32X, so I use that, but for a regular Genesis you may need to cut the corners off of the cart port on top of the case.
Mario Andretti Racing – 1-2 player simultaneous, password save. Mario Andretti Racing is a linescroll racing game from EA. You can race three different cars, and they are different. This game is far from their arcadey Road Rash games on the Genesis, though; Mario Andretti Racing tries to be slightly more simmish, though as a 4th-gen console game the actual sim elements are limited — these consoles aren’t powerful enough to do a real car sim, that wouldn’t be seen on consoles until at least the Sega CD; F1 Beyond the Limit for SCD is very impressive! Instead this game has fairly arcadey driving, except with a bit skiddier driving model than you’d see in a better Genesis racing game. Mario Andretti Racing isn’t awful, it’s just really boring. I don’t find this game at all interesting to play. I’m sure there is an audience for this game, but I am definitely not it; “boring” is the first word I think of when I think of this game. The game has some good points, though. There is decent presentation in the menus, the ingame graphics are solid for the system and I like the pseudo-3d trackside wall, you have a career mode to try to complete and can save your progress there with passwords, the three types of cars each handle differently, and the game has 15 tracks, a reasonable number. The splitscreen multiplayer is nice too; not all racing games of the era have it. However, the game has more problems than strengths. While technically the game is kind of good, artistically the game is very bland and average. The cars aren’t great looking. The game is designed for split-screen play, too.l While you can switch to a full-screen view, the top half of the screen is just empty sky so there’s no point. Instead, I’d recommend playing with the track map on the top half of the screen, in one player mode; it is useful. Fullscreen-optimized visuals would be better, though, with a small minimap added preferably. The game has absolutely no ingame music, either, just engine sound. The menu music’s nice, but you get into a race and it’s just a droning silence. This really makes teh game feel dull and uninteresting; yes, many 4th-gen F1 games are similar, but it’s bad there also.
The core racing is flawed, too. Of the three car types, only one, the open-wheel car (F1/IndyCar-style), controls well. The first, the Sprint Car, controls terribly, with horribly skiddy controls; it’s very hard to avoid constantly hitting the walls in Sprint Car races. The Stock Car is in between the other two, so it doesn’t control well, but isn’t as bad as the Sprint car. And those 15 tracks? It’s broken up into five tracks for each car, and you cannot race on the other vehicles’ tracks with the wrong car type. Come on, that’s not a nice restriction! The sprint cars have five ovals, the stock car three ovals and two road courses, and the F1/Indycar car five road courses. The bad controls make the main game mode very hard to play, too. In the campaign, you start in sprint cars, and have to work your way up… but you probably won’t want to, not after seeing how annoying they are to drive! Single races in the open-wheel car are better, but I want more than just single races. The thick manual does try to help you learn how to play the game, and there is an ingame mode where Mario Andretti himself (supposedly) gives you hints for each track, but overall I’d much rather play a better game instead. Mario Andretti Racing is a boring, below-average game I can’t recommend to anyone except diehard car-racing game fans who absolutely must play a Genesis game of that kind of racing. Really though, stick with arcade racing games on 4th-gen consoles, and don’t bother with this.
Marsupilami – 1 player, password save, 6 button controller supported. Marsupilami is an okay puzzle-platformer from Sega. This 1996 game is a late release, and it does have good graphics, but the gameplay is frustrating. This game is based on a not-too-popular Disney cartoon of the same name. I do remember the character, but didn’t watch the show much, though I did read a few comics starring Marsupilami. You are the eponymous Marsupilami, a furry creature with a very long tail. That long tail is Marsupilami’s main unique feature and a lot of the comedy in the series centered around Marsupilami doing silly things with his tail, but here it’s your tool to solve the puzzles in each level, and beat the enemies as well. This game is fairly nicely animated and has good graphics, though it doesn’t look great, as the backgrounds are somewhat average and sprites aren’t up to the level of the best Genesis games. The visuals and sound are fine, though, and I like the way the tail animates, which is important when you’ve got a half-screen-long tail on screen all the time. The issues lie in the gameplay.
So, this game is as much about puzzles as it is platforming. Your goal in each level is not to reach the end yourself, but to help your elephant friend escape each stage. So yeah, the entire game is an escort mission… that’s not good. Fortunately the elephant can’t take damage, but still, the game gets frustrating fast. You’ve got a tight time limit to deal with, lots of enemies, and some obtuse puzzles to figure out — and if you die a few times it’s back to the beginning of the world. Yes, there are passwords thankfully, but only between multi-level worlds, not after each stage. With passwords after each stage this would be a much more fun game, but as it is it’s frustrating. Anyway, without your help the poor elephant will just walk back and forth, so you’ve got to use your tail to make stairs, to scare the elephant into going the direction you want, to fight off the enemies, and more. You can hold up to four different tail actions at a time, and switch between them with X and Z or on the pause screen (for 3-button controllers). Yes, the game is a lot more fun with a 6-button pad, much less pausing. A attacks, B jumps, and C uses your current tail action. The most common one is using the tail as stairs, to help the elephant get over boxes. You’ve got to stand right at the edge of the TOP of the box then hit C; you can’t make stairs from the ground, or from too far from the edge. It’s context-sensitive and there are no indicators of where you can use it, so it can be frustrating at times.
Also frustrating is the elephant itself. He walks slowly, and will just walk back and forth endlessly, so you often have to wait for him to catch up… but oops, you didn’t make those tail-stairs in time, he turned around and is going the other way! Do you want to wait for him to walk over and come back, or go over, hit him to turn him around, then hope you have the time to jump back on the box and create the stairs in time? Either way, you just lost some precious time. I like puzzle games plenty well enough, but making an entire game a long escort mission was a mistake, I think. Hit detection is a bit iffy at times too — landing on the elephant’s back requires more precision than I would like. Still, it is rewarding when you figure out what to do in a stage and go on to the next one. I only wish I wasn’t being sent back to the first one so often because of harder stages three or four levels in, before I’ve gotten to the next password. Overall, Marsupilami is an average puzzle-platform game. It might be worth a try if you like this kind of game, but isn’t something to look too hard for.
Marvel Land – 1 player, password save. Marvel Land is a platformer from Namco. The first Klonoa (PS1/Wii) aside Namco has never been known for great platformers, but this game can be good. Unfortunately, it also has its bad side as well, but overall it is above average at least. Despite its issues, the terrible framerate most importantly, this game is probably under-rated, since it’s usually totally ignored but it is interesting. The game has a very basic, cliche story — you are an part-dragon boy who has to save the kidnapped princess in this fantasy land. Original. The setting is a bit better, though, as Marvel Land has a theme-park aesthetic. The “Marvel Land” of the title is a theme park in this fantasy kingdom, and you’ve got to travel through all of it on your quest. This isn’t a fast-paced game like Sonic, it’s a more NES-like platformer. You run, jump, collect powerups for points, high jumping, an actual attack beyond “jump on heads”, and more, navigate tricky platform-jumping-heavy levels, and try to stay alive. That may be difficult, but it can be fun. The actual levels are your usual assortment of themed areas, so there’s the theme-park area, the water area, the fire area, etc., but still, I like the concept. The main character has that short-tunic-and-no-pants look that was common in ’80s to early ’90s male fantasy characters, but you are a guy, though it is kind of hard to tell what gender he is in the ingame sprite. This game has small sprites, you see. Marvel Land looks okay, but the graphics are all on the small size, and distinguishing details can be difficult. Environments are only okay looking at best. Sprite size here is much closer to Kid Chameleon than Sonic the Hedgehog, as a comparison, though both are better games than this. The smaller size does give you decent visibility around you, though, and the graphics are at least somewhat varied. The music is similarly okay but not great.
That’s fine, but it has some issues, game speed and controls most importantly. Yes, this game has TERRIBLE slowdown, maybe the worst I have seen in a Genesis game. This game will jump back and forth between average speed and terrible slowdown in a hurry. Namco tries to pull off some sprite-rotation effects, but they make the framerate go so low the game almost stops sometimes. Just having a couple of moving platforms and two enemies will also cause the framerate to drop through the floor. This game is on the same console as Sonic the Hedgehog, really? You can’t tell, sadly, that’s for sure! Namco seriously needed to work on the programming in this game, the awful slowdown really hurts it. Almost as bad are the controls. Most of the time, you attack by jumping on your enemies. You can get a limited-used powerup that lets you attack in a circle around you, but you’ll do a lot of jumping on heads here, and you need pixel-perfect accuracy to not die, which is difficult thanks to this games’ slippery controls. This game is all about jumping puzzles over death pits while enemies you may or may not be able to kill either stand in your way or attack you, and the skiddy controls make your task more difficult. This game is fun at first, but by the later levels it’s a frustrating pain. The game has lots of secrets to find if you stick with it, though, including warps that send you either forward or backward in the game. Every level does have a password, thankfully; just get game over to see it. This really helps take the sting off of falling for a “warp back to level 1-1” trap, and some warps will send you forwards so doors are worth checking out. In conclusion, Marvel Land is an above-average game. The awful framerate dips and slippery controls are annoying, and the game gets hard later on in ways that wouldn’t be quite as bad if you had a more reliable attack and more precise jumping controls, but it’s an interesting game despite its problems. The Genesis doesn’t have too many of these more 3rd-gen styled platformers, so this one is nice to see and it does mostly play well. The bright and colorful graphics, variety, varied level designs full of enemies, traps, and obstacles to figure out how to get past, numerous secrets to look for, and the games’ challenge will keep you coming back, if the flaws don’t drive you away. Overall Marvel Land isn’t perfect, but definitely is worth playing if you’re a platformer fan. Arcade port.
Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter – 1 player. Mazin Saga is a mediocre licensed beat em up with fighting game elements by Almanic, and published by Sega in Japan and Europe and Vic Tokai in the US. Yes, this is one of those games Sega outsourced to an external publisher in the US. And after playing it, it’s not too hard to see why: this game isn’t that great. Mazin Saga is an average beat ’em up with terrible 1-on-1 boss fights at the end of each stage that ruin the game. The game has no multiplayer, average-at-best graphics, only five levels, and not much fun to be had thanks to those awful, and absurdly difficult, 1-on-1 fights. In the levels though, this is an okay beat ’em up. You play as a Mazinger Z, popular anime franchise of the same name. This is one of Sega’s few Japanese licensed games that actually released here in the US, perhaps because they thought the robots-and-monsters theme would work well enough whether or not people knew the license. While that is true, I wish the game was better. At first the game seems decent, maybe even good. The beat ’em up levels are entertaining. They have the usual isometric perspective with depth, which is good; I like this style better than side-scrolling beat ’em ups. The visuals are okay, you have some moves to use, there is a moderate amount of level-design variety, and beating the baddies is decent fun. Sure, the music isn’t too good, but the visuals are better. But then you reach the first boss, and the game completely falls apart. While the idea here is sound — you fight the boss 1-on-1, just like the fights in the TV shows like this or Power Rangers — the execution is awful, with bad controls, absurdly difficult AI, and very limited movement. These fights are side-scrolling and are very zoomed in, and you awkwardly swing your guy’s weapons around as you try to do more damage than you take. It’s not good. I wish the game had just had regular beat ’em up bosses, then it would probably be an average beat ’em up worth a look, but that wasn’t to be. As it is, probably pass on this one unless you’re a big fan of the anime. It’s not fun to play and will only frustrate. The absence of multiplayer, a staple feature in this genre, is also disappointing. Of course you couldn’t have those 1-on-1 fights with two goodguys on screen, but that’s another reason to not have them. Ah well. Overall Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter is a quite bad game not worth getting.
Mega Turrican – 1 player, 6 button controller supported. Mega Turrican is an amazing platform-action game from Factor 5. This is the third or fourth game in the Turrican series, depending on how you count; Super Turrican and Mega Turrican were developed at about the same time. Super Turrican released first, but I think this game started development earlier. Super and Mega Turrican are both really fantastic games, among my favorite run & gun-ish platformers ever. This series is amazing and incredibly under-rated! Yes, with great graphics, great music, fantastic action, a reasonable-length game to play through, good controls and weapons, good level designs, and more, Mega Turrican is fantastic. Turrican was originally concieved by Rainbow Arts’ Manfred Trenz as a cross between a European platformer, Contra, and Metroid. Your character, Turrican, moves around in large Euro-platformer-like levels, but you have a gun, a large arsenal, and a lot of stuff to shoot like Contra, and a Metroid-like rolling-ball form as well. All games in the series control very well. Factor 5 ported the first two Turrican games to the Amiga, but were not the original developers. Their Amiga versions are the basis for the Genesis ports of both games (to be covered below). After that, Factor 5 took on the series themselves and made three Turrican games, the aforementioned two plus Super Turrican 2 for the SNES. Factor 5’s Turrican games are different from the first two in important ways, so most people prefer one style or the other. This game and the Super Turrican games are much more linear, less open, better-looking, games with better controls and much more consistently paced action than the first two. The Fa ctor 5 games also have much better health systems with hit-flash and invincibility after being hit, instead of the very quickly-draining health meters of the first two games. The improved health systems are one of the best things about these games versus those ones. However, some people prefer the large, sprawling levels and exploration component of the first two games, and there is a lot less of that here than in either previous game, that is true. Mega Turrican has some bigger levels with larger areas to explore and lots of secrets to find, but it also has many very linear stages. Super Turrican is probably even less open, and Super Turrican 2 has almost no exploration and is mostly just a linear path through a constant assault of tough action scenes.
Personally, I like the balance Super and Mega Turrican make. They have enough exploration to be interesting, but have focused, well-designed action encounters in a way the first two games aren’t quite as good at. The level designs here are some of the best in the genre. In some levels you move along a liner path making tricky jumps while trying to stay alive. Other times you go through boss-heavy stages with frequent bossfights between short platforming segments. And other times you will explore large open levels, searching for secrets and the exit before time runs out as you face the opposition. The enemies are varied too, and are different in each area. There are small jumping foes, larger walking or running ones, and others which fly around homing in on you. You’re always seeing something new in this game, and it’s great. Some things do also appear in Super Turrican, but I don’t mind this; the games are quite different, despite their shared mechanics. Super and Mega Turrican aren’t as hard as a Contra or Metal Slug game, either; this is a very beatable game for even average players, if you stick wit hit and replay the game a few times. You do have limited continues and no saving here, but I’ve beaten it, and I think anyone can with a bit of practice. Enemies stay dead once you kill them so you don’t need to worry about respawning enemies, thankfully, unlike some games in this genre. This is no Contra: Hard Corps, difficulty-wise, and it’s better for it. The game has a good difficulty curve from the easy first few levels to the larger and tougher later ones. This game has lots of intense, well-designed action throughout. I like how the game mixes things up versus Super Turrican; while the games share some settings, they aren’t all the same, in interesting ways later on. The first time I got far into this game, I expected it to end at a certain point based on where Super Turrican ended, but this game has several more levels after that, for example. This game is a little longer than Super Turrican and probably is a little tougher than that game, but neither one is really hard. The other three Turrican games are harder, though they aren’t better.
The game mechanics are slightly different, too. All Turrican games only allow you to shoot left or right, but you have some kind of beam as well. In the first two games, you had a beam attack that would activate if you held down fire for long enough while standing still. In Super Turrican, you have a freeze ray, which is quite helpful. Here, however, you have a grappling rope. This will not damage enemies, and instead helps you move around, as you can attach it to almost any wall or ceiling, and then swing around on the rope once attached. Getting used to the rope controls take a bit of practice, but it is very useful at many points in the game. The rope will be essential for finding all of the many hidden items, powerups, and shortcuts in the game. I like it, but I do miss a beam attack. The only thing you have here that can attack up or down are your limited-use bomb attacks (hit X, Y, or Z) and weak homing missiles, if you have picked them up and then not died and lost them. Still, the mobility is interesting. Super Turrican 2 would cover both bases — it has both a grappling hook and a freeze ray. The rope here is more versatile than the very limited angles that the Super Turrican 2 grapple works at, but that’s both good and bad as it means that it will take a bit longer to get used to. Once you figure it out the rope does allow for some interesting maneuvers, though, and I like having it. The game has nice level variety, too. There are several levels in each environment in the game, but each stage is unique and feels different from the others.
So, with fantastic graphics that get a lot out of the system, a really good soundtrack, great levels with a lot of variety in visuals, enemies, and level design concepts, a fair but surmountable challenge, some cool weapons, lots of secrets to find in many stages, and more, Mega Turrican is an amazing game that well deserves its high place in my Genesis top 10! Excepting perhaps the first game, the other four Turrican games really are all definite must-have titles. Factor 5’s Turrican and Star Wars (Rogue Squadron and Battle for Naboo, N64/GC) games are among the best action games of their respective generations, and you see that here. Don’t miss out on this fantastic classic! Amazing stuff. Buy it. Also available on the Amiga as Turrican III, and the Genesis version is available on Wii Virtual Console.
MERCS – 1 player. Mercs is a top-down run & gun shooting game from Capcom, though this Genesis port is by Sega. In this ’80s action movie-style blastfest, you run around as one of several commandos who totally aren’t based on popular action movie heroes and shoot lots of baddies. This game is actually the sequel to Capcom’s mid ’80s arcade game Commando. No relation to the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that released shortly beforehand though, of course! I’m sure they came up with that name and concept all on their own… yeah. This time the graphics are better, but the gameplay is similar to before. Visually this game looks only okay, and it’sclearly an early Genesis release; Genesis graphics get much better than this. Still, everything is reasonably nicely drawn and looks fine. Gameplay-wise, the game scrolls in multiple directions instead of only upwards as it was in the first game or Ikari Warriors 1, and you have more weapons and multiple commandos to play as, but the basic gameplay is the same: shoot everything that moves. I remember Ikari Warriors well from the late ’80s but not Commando or MERCS, but this game is pretty good and one of the better top-down run & gun shooting games of the generation. It is unfortunate that it is one player only, but otherwise it’s good stuff. You do have a health bar in this game, which is a nice change versus Ikari Warriors or Commando, but it’s still quite tough. Make sure to collect the special weapons, you’ll need them! Bosses are hard too, and each one is quite different. The controls here are fine, but you can only shoot in the direction you are moving; you do not have a firing-lock button, unfortunately, unlike some games in this genre. That is missed, but the game is playable as it is.
The game has two gameplay modes. Arcade mode is a one-player-only recreation of the arcade game, though with limited continues, of course. It’s pretty good, and is short but hard as expected from an arcade game. Levels are all very well laid out, and the action is constant. The other mode is Original mode, and it’s interesting. In original mode you have one starting commando, and only one life; if you die, it’s Game Over, start again from the beginning. Harsh! Yes, this mode is quite hard. As you play, however, you will find other commandos and can switch to them during play. You will also find shops where you can buy health refills from, which is quite important considering you have no continues here. Original mode is a little slower paced than the arcade game, for a different feel. The levels here visually use the same tilesets as the arcade levels, but the actual level layouts are entirely new, so it really is a different game. This mode will take a lot of practice to get good at, but it’s fantastic to have such a deep and lengthy mode added to what otherwise would be a very short game. A lot of arcade ports add little to the arcade game, but Sega made sure that Mercs would not be one of those games. Arcade mode is a fun blast, and Original mode an interesting challenge to keep playing as you try to get better and learn how to stay alive. Overall, Mercs is a good game any action game fan should definitely get. The only real flaws are the early-gen graphics, potentially the difficulty, and the absence of a firing-lock button, but otherwise this game is quite good. With great level designs, lots of enemies to shoot, and more, it’s great fun to walk around, blow everyone away, and try to save the day! The Genesis version is also available on Wii Virtual Console. The game is partially an arcade port; the arcade version is in some collections of Capcom games, and ports of the arcade version were also released in Europe only on the Sega Master System, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, and Atari ST, and in Europe and maybe also the US on Commodore 64 and Amiga.
Mick & Mack: Global Gladiators – 1 player. Global Gladiators is an okay platformer from Virgin. This is a McDonald’s licensed game, but doesn’t have too strong of a fast-food theme, thankfully; for that play McDonald’s Treasureland Adventure for the Genesis, though I don’t have that one. The story here is that Mick and Mack are two boys who like McDonald’s, and after saying that they want adventure Ronald McDonald sends them into a book to undertake a dangerous quest. What a jerk… but you’ve got to take it on now. Mick and Mack were also playable in at least one game before this one, so they weren’t created just for this game, but I don’t think much has been seen of them since. You can play as either one but can’t switch ingame, though the only difference is their color, they don’t play differently. Ingame, the game is a fairly conventional Virgin/Shiny-style platformer, except here your main weapon is a goo-gun instead of jumping on enemies’ heads. Your shots have a curving arc, since you’re not shooting bullets, and this can help hit enemies if you shoot from the right places. The levels are the usual very large, open levels you should expect from this kind of game. Your goal is to reach the end, but paths are not always obvious so you will need to explore around. Secrets can be anywhere. There are of course lots of things to collect in each level, with McDonald’s “M”s being the basic pickup, though there are also rarer extra lives and such as well. Different colors of Ms are worth different point values.
The game is simple but fun, and the game is mostly enjoyable to play. It’s tough, though; those lives won’t last long, and I haven’t been dedicated to the game enough to get past world two yet. The level designs are okay, but can be frustrating. Unfortunately blind jumps are a real problem in this game; you will not always know if there is a pit or not below you, so be careful and just accept that sometimes you will unfairly die. Of course, as usual on the Genesis you can’t save and have limited continues, a pretty bad combination to have in games with blind jumps. Ah well. At least usually you know where you’re going, so this isn’t as bad as Taz-Mania or something. The game looks nice, but not amazing; later Virgin and Shiny games look better than this early-ish one. It doesn’t help that the first world is set in a somewhat dreary swamp, with lots of slime monsters for enemies. The second world is a fantasy forest, and looks better than the first one, but there are at least three big levels in each setting so getting to the second one will take a while. All levels in each setting look similar, and the enemies in each area repeat constantly, so this game is lacking variety. Still, it is reasonably fun to play, and overall Global Gladiators is an average to slightly above-average game with decent graphics with some nice animation, okay controls, solid traditional shooting-and-platforming gameplay, and plenty of challenge. The game does have issues, including blind jumps, sometimes annoying level designs, and repetition, but it’s worth a try for platformer fans overall.
Micro Machines – 1-2 player simultaneous. Micro Machines is a fantastic top-down racing game from Codemasters. You play as a small car based on the toy line of the same name, driving in real-world-inspired settings but in miniature. It’s a fantastic idea, and the game executes it really well. I got the Game Boy version of this game in the ’90s and really loved it, and this Genesis version is pretty much the same thing but in color! Micro Machines is a real classic, and it’s one of the best top-down racing games ever made. Yes, the game has many sequels, both in the Micro Machines series and spiritual sequels with other names (most recently Toybox Turbos), but the original is probably my favorite. Nostalgia is surely part of this, but still, the first game is a really great game for sure, and as much as I love some of the sequels, they are more frustrating than this perfectly-balanced original. Micro Machines is a top-down racing game, but it is different from other games in this genre. Unlike, say, RC Pro-Am, Micro Machines does not take place on a walled-in course. Instead levels are more open, and your challenge is to learn each track well enough to stay on the road. The road is marked with some kind of markers along the sides of the path, and if you stay off of the road for too long, when you go back on it you will explode and respawn back where you last were on the path. There are also many, many pitfalls, such as table edges and such, which you can fall off, and there are also traps, ramps, narrow ‘bridges’ made of pencils or rulers, and more, so memorization is absolutely key! If you mess up you will suffer for it and winning will be difficult. This first game is a bit more forgiving than its sequels, though, because it’s not quite as fast-moving as the later games; in the first Micro Machines at least you can sort of see the turns coming at you. Micro Machines 2 is a faster-moving game where only memorization will see you through it, IF you can get through that game at all. I like the first games’ pace better, personally. The second game is amazing, but it’s just a bit too fast for its own good. This is a hard game and you will need to learn every track in order to beat it, but the slightly lower speeds make that task easier and more fun than in its sequel. I really love the tracks in this game, they are so inventive and well designed! I have beaten this game back in the ’90s on the GB, but never did beat Micro Machines 2 for PC or GBC, the two platforms I got it for.
This game is available on a lot of systems, but this is a very good version of the game. The graphics are good, though they don’t push the hardware, understandably for a game originally released on the NES. All versions of the game are almost the same exact game, platform differences such as resolution or colors aside. The controls are great, and each car handles differently just like they should. Versus the GB version you do have a slightly better viewing distance thanks to the higher resolution screen, though; that’s nice. On the other hand, there is one fewer multiplayer mode, though the one it has is a great one. Micro Machines’ classic multiplayer mode, pioneered by this game, is here. This is a single-screen mode where both racers try to stay on the track. Once one person touches the front end of the screen they get a point on a meter on the side. This meter will go up and down as the two players win points, until one person fills up the meter with only their color. This is a pretty great multiplayer mode, and it returns in every Micro Machines game since. The GB version also has a handheld-exclusive split-screen mode where each player plays on their own screen in normal races where the players don’t need to be on the same screen, but I can understand why that does not appear in any of the computer or TV console versions of the game. MM1 is more limited in multiplayer than its sequels, though. Only eight or nine of the dozens of tracks in this game can be played in multiplayer for some stupid reason, first. This limitation is the same in every version of the game I have seen, and I have no idea why it is but it’s a pain. And second, the game has a two player limit on the Genesis, while many other Micro Machines games support four or eight players. The GB version of this game actually has four player support, if you’ve got a GB multitap and all the systems and copies of the game you’d need, but this doesn’t on either SNES or Genesis. MM2 for Genesis does add a 4-player mode, but sadly that game only released on consoles in Europe; we only got the PC and GBC versions of MM2 here in the US.
Overall, Micro Machines is one of my favorite racing games ever. This is an awesome game on any platform, so if you see this Genesis version for cheap, absolutely get it! The game looks nice, plays really well, and is a great challenge. The game does have limited lives and continues and no saving, but with practice you’ll eventually get through if you stick with it. This is a fast game with some cars, but it’s not as over-the-top as the speeds in the sequels. I think they got the speed balance just right this first time. The tracks here are among my favorites in the whole genre, too. I only wish you could play all of them in multiplayer. Multiplayer always has been a big focus in the Micro Machines series, and that’s as true here as anywhere. The 3 or 4 player mode is missed here, but two player play is great. Definitely pick this one up. There are many more similar games to this on this and newer consoles by the developers Codemasters and Supersonic. In addition to this game, also check out Toybox Turbos for the PC, Circuit Breakers for Playstation, Micro Machines 1 and V3 for the Game Boy and GB Color, and Micro Machines 2 for the PC or European Genesis (Megadrive). Micro Machines was released on a lot of platforms; this game is also available on the NES, PC, and Game Boy, and in Europe only on the CD-i, Game Gear, and Super Nintendo. The game has three sequels on the Genesis as well, all Europe-exclusive releases — Micro Machines 2, Micro Machines ’96, and Micro Machines Military. I’d love to get them and definitely plan to have all three eventually.