WWF WrestleMania DOS review

Any wrestling fan out there (even filthy casuals like me) knows that the upcoming weekend is WrestleMania, definitely the most famous wrestling event in the world. And to celebrate such occasion, let’s look at one of the first wrestling games ever made for the PC, WWF WrestleMania (not to be confused with all the other games with the same title though).

WWF WrestleMania is a wrestling (duh!) game developed by Twilight and published by Ocean. It was originally released in 1991 for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. It was re-released the following year for DOS.

This game is very similar, graphic-wise, to the arcade game WWF Superstars by Technos, but it doesn’t seem to be a port of it (well, at least officially it doesn’t).

But as always, let’s first look at the cover:

181928-wwf-wrestlemania-commodore-64-front-cover

Well, now this is an interesting cover. Of course, you’d have to include Hulk Hogan (on the centre) and the US flag in there, but it’s the inclusion of the British Bulldog (on the right) and the UK flag that makes it interesting. It’s probably due to the fact that Ocean is a British company. And the mean-looking soldier on the left is none other than Sgt. Slaughter, another famous WWF wrestler. Just by looking at the cover, one might think these are the 3 wrestlers we can control in the game, but actually, Sgt. Slaughter is the final wrestler we face in the single-player mode.

But it’s time to boot this sucker, brother!

The intro actually looks good with an equally nice theme. It also shows the 3 wrestlers you can choose: the aforementioned Hulk Hogan and the British Bulldog along with the Ultimate Warrior. Then we go the the main menu where you can choose between two options: the simple-player mode, where you compete for the WWF Championship belt and the Practice mode, where you can practise your moves and attacks against Mr. Perfect.

I recommend the Practice mode if you’re not used to this type of game, although the control scheme is quite easy to learn for it’s simply the directional keys and one attack button. The practice mode also doubles as the two player mode, but the second player will always play as Mr. Perfect, unfortunately. And all the matches are one-on-one. There are no tag-team matches.

If you choose to compete for the belt and after choosing your wrestler, you’re then taken to a TV screen where your 1st opponent, Mr. Perfect, is cutting a promo. You can then choose between 3 possible answers to your opponent’s taunt, to which then your opponent will respond to. The answers you choose are different to each wrestler and to each opponent, but your opponent will always answer back the same reply regardless. All this promo segments, while faithful to pro-wrestling, doesn’t affect the matches whatsoever.

209021-wwf-wrestlemania-dos-screenshot-it-s-kind-of-like-combat-in

“… BROTHER!”

We’re then taken to the match, which is shown in a side 2D view, with a bottom panel with two health bars, a 5-minute timer counting down and the number of credits left (you start with 2 credits).

If you’re used to fighting games, then wrestling games aren’t much different. In this game though, you can move in 4 directions and you can punch and kick the other wrestler. But you also have the ability to grapple your opponent when close to him. But the moment you grapple an opponent, two joystick icons appear in each lower corner of the screen. In that moment, you have to wiggle your joystick/gamepad left and right in order to build up a red bar. Whoever fills the bar first, performs a special grappling move unique to each wrestler (although said move doesn’t seem take a lot of health compared with the other attacks).

When a wrestler (either you or the opponent) is on the ground, another icon appears, of a finger pressing a button. This icon informs you to press your attack button as fast as possible for your wrestler to get up. While an opponent is on the ground, you can kick him or pin him, although the latter is only recommended with a low health bar. The less health a wrestler has, the longer it takes for him to get up and the easier it is to pin him. Any match ends when a 3-count pin is performed, the timer reaches zero or any wrestler reaches a 20 second time limit when outside the ring. But you’re only declared the winner if you successfully pin your opponent.

209014-wwf-wrestlemania-dos-screenshot-here-we-are-on-the-mat

FIGHT!

Yes, you can also go outside the ring, but each wrestler can only stay there for a maximum of 20 seconds. And outside the ring, you can find and grab chairs to use against your opponent (in fact, it’s the best attack due to its fast rate). Any wrestler can also climb a turnbuckle to jump on the opponent (or against the ropes) or even run towards him for more attacks (although again, they don’t seem to deal more damage compared to a normal punch or kick). But careful though, because running attacks can be countered.

After winning a match, your opponent returns to the TV screen for one last taunt and it then moves to the next opponent. To win the WWE Championship, you need to defeat a total of 5 wrestlers: Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, The Warlord, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, The Mountie and finally Sgt. Slaughter, presented here during his controversial Iraqi sympathizer heel phase. It would be great if you could also face the other two wrestlers you didn’t choose.

Now to the technical aspects. The graphics are okay and although the sprites are big, they’re also ugly and the animation is awful. The sound effects are also bad, but the music theme is good (although there’s no music during the matches). The controls, either keyboard or joystick/gamepad, aren’t very responsive and you’re going to lose the grapple wiggle a lot of times.

209023-wwf-wrestlemania-dos-screenshot-this-action-is-a-bit-more

In conclusion, WWF WrestleMania isn’t a good game. It has a hard difficulty setting and the controls, while intuitive, aren’t very responsive which makes the game unnecessarily harder. And there should also be more wrestlers available, not only to choose from but also to face and more variety of moves and attacks (you can’t even do irish whips). In other words, I can’t recommend it, not even to wrestling fans. But if you want to try it, then go here to play it in your own browser.

The Amiga version, although having better music (but worse sound effects), is equally bad in all other aspects. The other console and arcade titles with the same name are different games made by different companies, so I won’t even mention them in this review (although the ones I played are definitely better).

Well, what’s your favourite wrestling game? Tell me below in the comments or on our social media. Till then, enjoy WrestleMania 35 and keep on playing, brother!

Xenon review

Yes, I know that in my last review I promised to get away from the stars, but I spent the last weekend playing some old arcade titles and thus decided to write a small review that just happen to be of a classic shoot ’em up. Sorry. Anyway, today’s subject is Xenon (the DOS version, obviously).

Xenon is a shoot ’em up developed by The Bitmap Brothers and published by Melbourne House. It was originally released in 1988 for the Commodore Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Atari ST, DOS, MSX and ZX Spectrum. It was re-released the following year for the Commodore 64 and in 2013, the Amiga version was ported to the Blackberry.

Xenon is also one of the first games developed by The Bitmap Brothers along with Speedball, which I’ve already reviewed.

But as always, let’s first look at the cover:

129033-xenon-amiga-front-coverI have to say, this is not a bad cover. It features a spaceship shooting a turret atop a pyramid amidst a clearly sci-fi landscape. I particularly like the title. In general, it’s a somewhat average cover, but quite faithful to the game, as you’ll see when I boot it:

As you can see, the intro is nothing to write home about and the only way to learn the backstory is by reading the manual. Actually, the manual goes a long way in describing the game’s background, but the basic gist of it is that you play as Darren (or Darrian, depending on which version of the game you’re playing), a young Federation space pilot, who’s responding a stress call sent by his superior officer, Captain Xod. To save him, Darren has to go through 4 sectors of space occupied by the Xenites, the game’s baddies. And this is all you need to know, although the manual expands upon it.

The game starts with a futuristic-looking tank morphing into a spaceship and travelling from the end of the level to the beginning of it (then what’s the point of crossing said level, I wonder, but I digress) and morphing back to the tank. Then an animation of a man appears on the small right screen saying “Sector 1”. This man is none other than one of the founders of The Bitmap Brothers, Eric Matthews.

6951-xenon-dos-screenshot-game-shot

Grab the “P” powerup to increase your weapons’ power.

The main screen is quite big with a small status panel on the right. In this status panel is where you can find all the information needed about your ship. At the top, above the small screen, there’s the score and below it, the number of lives on the left and the number of the sector or level on the right and below it, the altitude bar. Then, below the small screen, there’s the fuel bar, which is basically your ship’s health. Below it, the rate and power bars, which are related to the ship’s weapons and below, all the bonus and weapons you can get in each level.

Now your ship is not just a normal spaceship because it can transform into a tank. The spaceship plays like in every other vertical shoot ’em up: you can move your ship in any direction, while it shoots up and the screen scrolls from bottom to up. But when it transforms into a tank, it also changes its movement: now you can turn and shoot in any direction and the screen stops scrolling. This feature is what makes Xenon stand out among all the other shoot ’em ups of the time.

6952-xenon-dos-screenshot-power-up

And grab this powerup to get 2 wingtips that’ll increase your firepower.

However you can only use the tank in the 1st and 3rd levels and while it’s slower than the ship, the fact that you can shoot in 8 different directions makes it more versatile in combat. But there are some enemies and turrets in higher places that can only be destroyed by the ship, so it’s recommended that you switch between both when needed to destroy all the enemies (and get more points and powerups). Also, when an enemy formation or a turret is destroyed, they leave behind a powerup, which can be a new weapon, attack or an upgrade for your ship, your tank or both. I recommend to grab these in order to upgrade your attacks, even if there isn’t a lot of variety in the powerups available.

But you’ll revert back to your default weapon if you lose a life and/or start a new level, which increases the difficulty. And speaking about the difficulty, Xenon might just be one of the hardest shoot ’em ups I’ve ever played on the PC. It’s one of those games that to counter the fact of having only 4 levels, the developers ramped up the difficulty in order to increase the gameplay length. Quite common in arcade-style games like this one.

Also the level design isn’t bad, although there actually only 2 different designs (the 1st and 3rd levels are very similar, as are the 2nd and 4th levels). The only big difference between the levels are the bosses, which are basically bullet-sponges until they reveal their weak spot. And you face each boss twice, once at the middle of a level and later on at the end.

Now let’s move to the technical aspects. The 16-colour EGA graphics are quite good for the time, with a nice palette and average animation. The sound effects are okay, although using digitised speech samples in the PC speaker is impressive. Too bad that there’s no music whatsoever, which is surely missed in a game like this. The controls are also average, both the keyboard and the gamepad/joystick. In fact, controlling the ship is somewhat easier than controlling the tank due to it being faster.

6953-xenon-dos-screenshot-more-typical-shot

Another turret destroyed.

In conclusion, Xenon is not a great shoot ’em up compared with other games of the same genre, but since there weren’t many shoot ’em ups on home computers at the time, it became an instant success. However, it was quickly surpassed by other classic shoot ’em ups, including its vast superior sequel. I can’t really recommend this game, but if you’re a fan of the genre, you own to yourself to give it a shot.

The Amiga version is vastly superior with better graphics, sound (and music!), animation and controls. The original Atari ST version also looks great, although the sound doesn’t compare with the Amiga version. But since I haven’t tried the Atari ST version, I can’t really compare it with the other versions.

So, what do you think of the review? And what’s your favourite shoot ’em up? Let me know below in the comments or on our social media. And next time, I promise to finally move away from the stars and into something more grounded, but not to reality. Until then, keep on flying through the stars and playing. See ya!

Space Quest II review

So, the new MCU movie, Captain Marvel, is on cinemas right now and as far as I remember, Carol Danvers isn’t in any video game whatsoever, so I decided to just review a classic sci-fi game set in space. And why not Space Quest II?

Space Quest II: Chapter II – Vohaul’s Revenge is a graphic adventure made by Sierra and originally released in 1987 for the Apple II, Atari ST and DOS. It was re-released the following year for Amiga, Apple IIgs and Macintosh.

But as always, let’s first look at the cover:

242965-space-quest-ii-chapter-ii-vohaul-s-revenge-dos-front-coverAs you can see, the cover is reminiscent of the previous game’s cover, but now featuring an asteroid and some guys in suits inside tubes floating in space (it makes sense when playing the game). And again it features the cool title from the previous game’s cover. It’s not a great cover, but at least the guys in suits do stand out.

But it’s time to boot this space sludge:

The game starts with the now familiar Space Quest theme and a text depicting what happened to our protagonist since the events of the first game, namely, he reaped all the fame he could until he was forgotten by the public and forced to work again as a janitor, but this time, in a space station orbiting his home planet, Xenon. When starting a new game, you can name the main character just like in the previous game. And again, if you leave it blank, the protagonist will be named Roger Wilco (which as we all know, became the protagonist’s canon name).

If you’re played any Sierra AGI graphic adventure, then you know how to play this one. You can use the directional buttons to move Roger and write any commands in the prompt below the main screen. It’s quite simple to use as long you don’t misspell any command. And also don’t forget to write GET OBJECT to grab the several objects you’ll find stashed in certain places or people (an easy mistake to make if you’re not used to this type of graphic adventures).

27396-space-quest-ii-chapter-ii-vohaul-s-revenge-dos-screenshot-start

At the beginning of the game.

The difficulty, however, was rammed all the way up. What do I mean by this? Well, to solve most of the puzzles (some of which are traps BTW), you need to die first in order to figure out what to do, load a previous save state and then use a specific object before encountering said puzzle. For example, you can enter a screen and meet an enemy or a trap that’ll kill you, but you use a determined object before entering that screen, then you can avoid that enemy or trap, but there aren’t any hints before that. But even with this trial-and-error method, the puzzles aren’t too hard to figure out the solution (but you still need to die to figure it out, though). Well, there are two sections, however, that’ll really test your patience.

The reason for this increased difficulty might have been the fact that the game isn’t actually very long with just two major acts. And the story is quite simple but still effective with the trademark humour common to this series with several references and winks to popular sci-fi classics, and even some parodies here and there (although I think the game missed some great opportunities for it near the end).

743085-space-quest-ii-chapter-ii-vohaul-s-revenge-dos-screenshot

Man, five minutes in and your boss is already calling you.

The graphics are okay for an AGI title, nothing special but more or less colourful. The animation is also pretty average although the sprites do look a bit more detailed than in the previous game. The music is spectacular, especially if you’re playing the game on a Tandy computer (or emulating its sound system), although there aren’t many tracks throughout the game. The sound effects, however, are also average. The control system is okay and the directional buttons are responsive.

In conclusion, Space Quest II not might be the worst game in the series but it isn’t the best one either, due to its increased difficulty, trial-and-error puzzles and small length but it also has the same solid gameplay and humour that made the series a classic. So I recommend it, especially for fans of the series or the genre. You can get it here on Steam along with the rest of series, or here on GOG.com along with the first and third titles of the series.

743087-space-quest-ii-chapter-ii-vohaul-s-revenge-dos-screenshot

Better not to ask…

As far as other versions go, the Amiga version is just like the DOS version but the Apple IIgs version has superior sound effects (as in all AGI Sierra titles). And there’s even a VGA fan-made remake, made by Infamous Studios, that features a point-and-click mouse interface, voice over and extra content. You can download it for free here.

Well, I’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed the review. And I know it’s not related to the Captain Marvel movie in anyway (or any other movie for that matter), but I just wanted an excuse to replay this game. Also, I would like to apologize for not making any references to the International Women’s Day. I promise next year to write a special article or review dedicated to it. And for the next review, let’s keep it a bit down to Earth, shall we? Until then, keep on shooting the stars and playing.