Star Wars DOS review

Two years ago, a new tradition began around Christmas, but it doesn’t have anything to do with it. I’m talking about the new Star Wars movies, which are now released around this time. And I decided to review a Star Wars game along with them (I tried to review one last May 4th, but I didn’t had the time and my laptop was broken). Last year, I reviewed the first title in the Jedi Knight series, Dark Forces; but this year, we’re going to take a look at the first Star Wars game ever released for PC: the DOS port of 1983’s Star Wars (AKA Star Wars: The Arcade Game)

Star Wars is a rail-shooter made by Atari and originally released in 1983 at the arcades and ported for the Atari 2600 (by Imagic) and 5200 (by Parker Brothers) and the Commodore 64 (also by Parker Brothers). It was ported the next year for the ColecoVision (by Imagic) and the Atari 8-bit (by Parker Brothers). In 1987, it was ported for the Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron and ZX Spectrum, all by Vector Grafix (who would handle all the new ports from this moment on). In 1988, it was ported for the Macintosh and again for the Commodore 64. In 1989, it was ported for the Commodore Amiga and DOS. And in 2003, it was included as an unlockable feature in the Gamecube version of Star Wars: Rebel Assault III.

I know what you’re thinking: according to my own review guidelines, I shouldn’t review arcade ports, BUT, if you read them carefully, any game that was released originally in the arcades or consoles, had a computer port released right after (to a maximum of three months afterwards), is eligible for reviewing. And since the Arcade version of Star Wars was originally released in May 1983 and the Commodore 64 version was released in August 1983, that makes it just BARELY eligible for such. Why? Because it means that both the original version and the port were made roughly around the same time, not directly ported.

But before taking a look at the game, let’s look at some of the covers, shall we?

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I haven’t seen Episode IV in a while, but did it had blue lines in space?

This is the original arcade marquee and it looks cool for the time, with the blue lines as a remainder of the vector graphics found on the game (I blame Tron for that association).

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“Umm, Sir? It appears some giant words are approaching the Death Star.”

This the 1983 cover and while it doesn’t show much, it’s still very well designed and it looks like the Star Wars’ logo is flying towards the Death Star and the TIE-fighter in the distance.

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We still miss you, Princess Leia.

This is the 1987 cover and it’s simply a recreation of one of the original movie posters. It isn’t bad, but all these characters don’t even appear in the game (well, you’re playing as Luke Skywalker, but in a first person perspective).

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A top contender for the best sci-fi cover ever.

This is the 1988/1989 cover and it’s probably the best cover, with the X-wing and TIE-fighters in front of an explosion, and a picture of Luke on the side (implying you’re playing as him). This cover would inspire later covers featuring X-wings, be it books, comics or other games.

But before we get into the game itself, let’s just take a small look at this TV ad for the console ports:

(Video courtesy of Darth LeBeau’s Star Wars Game Chamber).

This has to be the most enthusiastic gamer I’ve ever seen. If he ever plays with a VR set, his mind might explode!

Now finally, we can actually get to the game:

First, I hate the title screen. It’s as unoriginal and uninspired as it gets. And second, there isn’t any scrolling text nor the Star Wars theme in it (in fact, there isn’t any music whatsoever). How can there be a Star Wars game without these two things?! And I hope you’re familiar with Star Wars (at this point, who isn’t?!) because the game just throws you into the action without any introduction or explanation. But then again, it’s just the Death Star battle from A New Hope.

First, you select your difficulty level (easy, medium or hard). The higher the level, the higher the points bonus you get. The game is divided in three parts (two in the first wave): the space battle with Tie-fighters, where you need to shoot them and the fireballs they shoot at you, the Death Star’s surface, which first appears at the second wave, where you need to shoot the turrets and the towers (that appear from the third wave forward) and the famous trench sequence, where you need to shoot the fireballs, avoid the obstacles (that start to appear at the second wave) and shoot at the exhaust port to finish the wave. However, if you miss the port, you need do to the trench all over again.

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I didn’t know that the Empire made more than two Death Stars!

You start the game with nine shields, meaning you can only get hit ten times. However, every time you finish a level (or wave, as the game calls it), you’re awarded an extra shield (but never beyond nine) and the next wave gets harder and more complex (with more enemy ships and obstacles). Yes, the game is rather small and hard (since there aren’t any continues), but then again this type of arcade games were made specifically to munch quarters, but the difficulty could have been reduced while porting it to home platforms.

The graphics and animation are superb, even with the reduced number of colors. In fact, if it wasn’t for the lack of colors (and music), it could be mistaken for the arcade version. And the animation is very fast and fluid when playing on Dosbox. Reducing the number of cycles might be recommended for beginners, but in my opinion, this game plays better with an number of cycles from 1500 and above. However, in the surface section, if there are too many towers on the screen simultaneously, it tends to slow down the game a bit. But it still remains playable and enjoyable.

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Shoot the snowflakes!

The control schemes available are by keyboard, joystick or mouse. The keyboard controls are okay and there are better options. The joystick and gamepad controls are better, although I recommend a joystick over a gamepad, because of the reverse up/down controls (the up arrow actually throws the crosshair down, like in a flying simulator), although you can always reverse them. The mouse controls are very fluid and tight, making it the best control scheme (and without any reverse controls). The biggest sins, as I have mentioned before, is the total lack of music and the remaining sound effects are mediocre at best.

But this is a very faithful conversion (except in the sound and music departments) and if you’re a Star Wars fan, then I recommend it. Although it was quickly eclipsed by other games, Star Wars is still considered one the best licensed arcade games of all times and would later inspire the X-wing and Rebel Assault series, among others. It not only left a mark in Star Wars history, but in videogame history itself. And you can enjoy it here, in your own browser.

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“Use the Force, Luke”

So, did you ever played Star Wars or any other game of this franchise? If so, tell me below in the comments, in our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed.

I know that this was a very small review, especially with this thematic. But I promise you all that I’ll make an effort to review more Star Wars games from now on. Until then keep on playing and may the Force be with you!

Body Blows review

I would like to start this review with a letter I wrote to Team17 some years ago (not really, but let’s imagine I did):

“Dear Team17,

My name is DarkwyndPT (not my real name, obviously) and I’m a big fan of your work, especially the Worms series. Me and my friends have spent countless hours playing these games, killing each other’s virtual worms. I also enjoy the Alien Breed series, despite not being my cup of tea.

So when I’ve heard you decided to release an original fighting game just for computers, I was ecstatic. Buying a console is too expensive where I live and I’m tired to beg my rich friends to let me win every now and then at Street Fighter II. It’s not my fault I always get the shitty controller or that Miguel’s mom likes me best! Where was I? Oh yes! The Amiga version looked awesome and couldn’t wait to buy the DOS version. Last night, I played it for the first time and my experience with it prompted me to write this letter just to ask you a simple question: WTF?!

Love,

DarkwyndPT.”

And years later, that question remains unanswered. So, which game made me swear worst than a drunken sailor suffering from Coprolalia? One of the few original fighting games released exclusively for computers, Body Blows.

Body Blows is a fighting game made by Team17 and originally released in 1993 for the Commodore Amiga and DOS. A year later, an enhanced AGA edition was re-released for the Amiga.

But before looking at the game, let’s look at the cover, shall we?

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“Everybody, strike a pose!”

As you can see, the cover features the four main characters posing. Both the lettering and the art style are okay, but I wish it had more of a background instead of just black.

Well, it’s time to boot this sucker:

As you can see, the game starts by showing small profiles of all the characters involved, including Max, the first boss of the game, and then you get to the main menu. I wish I could tell you more about the game’s story, but there is none. The only thing that the manual and the profiles tell you is that Max is an evil underground boss with some dark secret and the rest of the characters are trying to topple him. It doesn’t even tell us if it’s a tournament or if they’re just kicking each other’s asses. Although if it’s the latter, it’s an original concept for a fighting game at the time, because back then it was always a fighting tournament.

In the main menu, you have several options available. If you’re playing on your own, you can either choose the 1-player mode or the arcade mode. In 1-player mode, you can choose any of the ten characters to play (except for Max) and face down the others, but you won’t get any ending whatsoever, not even a congratulatory screen. However, you can also play in arcade mode, which is the game’s story mode, but you can only choose between the four main characters featured in the cover: Nik, his brother Dan, Junior the boxer and Loray the monk.

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Not the best place for a street fight.

However, if you are playing with friends, you can either choose the 2-player mode where you can face another friend in a simple duel or the tournament mode, where four to eight players can duke it out in duels and eliminate each other until there’s only one winner at the end. But it’s bad enough that I had to suffer through this on my own. I wasn’t going to put another human being through this, so I never played the 2-player or the tournament modes.

All the characters correspond to the typical fighting stereotypes, for example, Nik and Dan are the “Ryu” and “Ken” of this game (although Nik’s cap and winning pose is very reminiscent of a character from another fighting franchise). But you also get some interesting character designs: like Mike, a businessman and Kossak (very original name, but not as original as Ninja!), a character that mixes speed and strength. But the rest of the designs are very uninspired and some of the names are weird and silly (like a ninja named Ninja).

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“You hit me, I hit you back.”

But it’s the control scheme that sets this game apart from the rest, meaning it’s crap! Like other fighting games, you have your eight directional arrows (in both the keyboard and joystick) but just one button to attack. That’s right, just one button to both punch and kick the opponent! How do you use different attacks then? By combining your attack button with any of the directions, for example, to block, you press the attack button and back (either left or right), instead of just the direction like other fighting games. But it makes it a lot easier to pull off some of the special moves (any diagonal + attack). Even with the stiff controls on the keyboard (I couldn’t configure the joystick).

The moves’ list is more or less identical between all the characters (Nik and Dan seem to get an extra special move, though) which consists of the typical punches and kicks and at least two special moves that do a little more damage and a charge move in which you need to press and hold the attack button until it fills the charge meter and then your character will perform that attack. The charge attack is usually a projectile but it can also be another type of attack (for example, Dug causes a small earthquake that damages any other character on the ground and Ninja turns invisible). And although the charge attack is the most powerful one in any character’s arsenal, it’s also the hardest to pull off. First, the AI always charges the meter faster than you, which means that it can use it more often than you and second, the character always does a short animation before attacking and during that animation, they’re wide open for any attack and any damage suffered during this animation, cancels the charge attack. So, I recommend sticking to the other special attacks and only use the charge attack when you’re absolutely sure you can pull it off.

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MIGHTY PUSH!

But the controls aren’t the only problem with this game. Oh no, we have a lot more to discuss. The sprites are big but they’re ugly and the animation is awful. There are even some animation frames missing. The hit detection is hit and miss, with some attacks not connecting at all. The majority of the backgrounds are well detailed but static. The sound effects are also awful, with inaudible characters’ sound bytes. The techno soundtrack is actually cool, but it starts to get a bit grating after an hour or so. But for me, the game’s biggest problem is the balance.

This game is incredibly unbalanced. First, the AI is very unfair, even with the arcade skill off (easy mode), with the AI filling the charge meter a lot faster than we can. And second, the stronger characters; like Dug, Kossak and the bosses can’t be knocked back by the special attacks, which makes Dug automatically the strongest character because of this along with the fact that his charge attack has a wide range (as long the opponent isn’t airborne). For players with little to no experience in fighting games, I recommend choosing Dug (with mirror march off, so you can’t face him) because of this same reason. And Max, the first boss, suffers from SNK boss syndrome, being equally as unbalanced as Dug. The final boss has a rather pathetic weakness, if you can find it, though.

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Brother vs. brother.

The vast majority of these problems were solved in the enhanced edition, but unfortunately it was only released for the Amiga. And us, the DOS players, got stuck with the messy original release. But however, this game had an enormous success, but only due to the lack of quality fighting games for the PC at the time. As bad as Body Blows is, it was better than the trash we had back in the day, like the original DOS ports of Street Fighter and Street Fighter II. We had to wait a bit more for a good PC fighting game.

Body Blows is just one of the several games that try to copy Street Fighter II’s formula and believe it or not, it stood out among several PC fighting games released at the time (mainly because the others were worse!). But I don’t recommend it, because it aged horribly and it was quickly surpassed by better fighting games, including the sequels, but those are reviews for another day. Also, if you’re interested in trying out this horror for yourself, then click here to play it in your browser.

So, what’s your favorite fighting game on the PC? Tell me by commenting below, in our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed. Next time, we’re going to follow what I hope it’s a new tradition here in Retro Freak Reviews. Until then, keep on playing and fighting.

California Games II review

Does anyone here knows what day is today? Yes, I know it’s Thursday, November 16th and also Tolerance Day in the US, but it’s also Retro Freak Reviews’ one-year anniversary! Cue the balloons and the confetti! Well, this is a written article in a blog, but imagine me writing this surrounded by balloons and confetti, wearing a party hat. Perhaps. Likely.

Anyway, to celebrate the occasion, I decided to honor my first review, but then I couldn’t find any game similar to Alley Cat, so then I decided to honor my second review, California Games by reviewing its sequel, California Games II.

California Games II is a sports games made by Epyx and originally released in 1990 for DOS. It was ported in 1992 to the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST and the Super Nintendo/SNES. In 1993, it was ported to the Sega Master System.

After the enormous success of California Games, Epyx decided to capitalize on that success by making a sequel. But does it manage to live up to it? Let’s find out. But first let’s take a look at the covers, shall we?

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This is the original cover and it’s in the same vein as the previous game’s cover, with a photo of some beach-goers standing in front of a beach, representing some of the events featured in the game. And just like the previous game’s cover, it also features a bikini-clad blond girl. But, this time it makes sense, because you can find a bikini-clad girl on the main menu screen.

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This is the Master System cover and for some reason it features (or at least, it looks like) a realistic drawing of the previous photo cover. Why a drawing (if it’s really a drawing) instead of the actual photo, I have no idea.

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This is the Super Nintendo/SNES cover and again, I have no idea why it features a similar photo with different models, but at least it looks better than the original cover, albeit with the same poses and clothes. If you’re going to do something remotely different, why not go all the way and make it totally different?

Anyway, time to boot this gromet (whatever that is):

As you can see, the intro is very similar to the original with the return of the car license plate but the title theme isn’t as memorable. However, I have to give Epyx props for the main menu, which is entirely original and different from the traditional menu screens. How different it is, you ask? Why, instead of a row of options, it features our beach-goers on the beach surrounded by extreme sport equipment and a convertible VW Beetle (which isn’t featured in any event because this isn’t a driving game). You then control a seagull which hops around each person or equipment (to access the event it represents in practice mode), the Beetle’s license plate (to access the technical options, like sound and graphics) or two signs in each side of the lower screen (left to access the competition mode and right to exit back to DOS).

So, you use the seagull to choose which event you want to practice and right here, you see the first problem this game has in comparison with the previous one: it only features five events, while the previous featured six! And none of the previous events return. In this sequel, you compete in all new events, which I’ll proceed to analyze one by one:

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Hang-gliding: here you control a girl using a hang-glider and you have to launch it, try to stay on the air as much as possible while performing stunts and try to hit the targets available with water balloons, within the two minutes limit. The more stunts you make and the more targets you hit, the more points you get. This is the hardest event for me, because the hang-glider is very hard to control and you have to find the thermal currents to stay in the air (which you can’t see, obviously).

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Jet ski: This is perhaps the easiest event. You control another girl riding a jet ski through several courses. First, you choose which jet ski to ride, then your time limit and finally which course to compete. The objective is to ride your jet ski as fast as possible, while staying inside the course, until you reach the time limit. The faster you go, the more points you get, but only if you stay within the courses’ limits (the red and yellow buoys). The final course even has some ramps to jump and floating bottles to grab for extra points. I haven’t found any difference between the several jet skis available, except aesthetically. After trying all courses (and the ramp jumps), this event becomes quickly boring. It should have been made into a race instead of a time trial event (but then again, we would have ended with a game all on it’s own).

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Snowboarding: This is perhaps the most complete event in the game. First you control an helicopter and have to get to the mountain (and even land on top of it) and drop our snowboarder on the slope, who then proceeds to slide down the mountain slope avoiding obstacles and doing stunts. The mountain slope is divided in three sections: the snowy top, called the Black Diamond, is full of obstacles and cliffs to jump and avoid; a U-shaped rink called the Snowbowl, where you can perform all types of stunts (similar to the skateboard event from the previous game) and a grassy slope (snowboarding on grass? REALLY?!) called the Obstacle Course, where there’s even more obstacles then the Black Diamond. After finishing the last section, you arrive at the starting beach and all the points will be added. That is, if you don’t fall more than four times in the first and last sections (there’s no penalty in the Snowbowl). The most interesting part, is that you can launch the snowboarder at whatever section you want to start, but you won’t get as many points if you skip any section.

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Bodyboarding: Another fun event, somewhat similar to the Surfing event from the first game. In this, you start on top of a pier and then fall to the water. Then you have to catch a wave and do all sort of stunts without wiping out. But the event continues after the wave breaks because then you have to ride the wave all the way to the beach by avoiding swimmers and other obstacles. And you can’t fail one single time because if you do, only your board arrives at the beach.

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Skateboarding: Unlike in the previous game, this time you skateboard inside an empty aqueduct which you have to complete by going inside the pipes and do all types of stunts. You can only fall on your face four times but if you hit face-first into a pipe wall or fall out of the aqueduct, it’s an automatic game-over (and quite a dramatic one, since you end up pushing up daisies).

The problem with reviewing a sequel is that, as much as you try, it’s almost impossible to avoid comparisons with the previous titles, but a sequel is suppose to, at least, have the same level of quality as the first game, especially if said first game was very popular. And California Games II pales in comparison with the first game, which was great. The first mistake was, as I said before, having one less event than the first game. And the second mistake was not bring back popular events from the previous game and improve them. Instead Epyx decided to use all-new events. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the snowboarding, the bodyboarding and the new skateboarding events, but the other two felt incomplete and boring.

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Aren’t these people cold?

The competition mode is just like in the previous game, which features a tournament up to eight players in hot-seat (one player at a time), in which you can choose to compete from one to all the events. But this time there aren’t any teams or sponsors. Each player competes on his/her own. And there is also a top score table in which only the best players’ names are shown.

The graphics and animation were definitely improved and I do like some of the screens (especially the menu screen). The music and the sound-effects were also good, but not as memorable. But the controls, this time around, weren’t as tight, either it was playing with a gamepad or with the keyboard. The humor is still present, including the “radical” speech, but not as often. There is, however, more dark humor moments (especially in the death scenes) that some sensitive players might not enjoy (and since I have a twisted sense of humor, I did enjoy them).

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Major bummer, dude.

In general, California Games II’s gameplay and appeal isn’t as good as the first game and even on it’s own, it’s a pretty mediocre game. If you enjoyed the first California Games, you’ll be quite disappointed by this sequel. This game had so little success that it killed any prospects of continuing the series. However, if you enjoy extreme sports in general, you might want to give it a shot by clicking here and enjoy it in your own browser.

So, do you like videogames depicting extreme sports? If so, what are your favorites (apart from the Tony Hawk series)? Tell me below in the comments, in our Facebook page or in our Twitter feed. Next time, we’ll take a look at a genre most common on consoles and arcade and how only recently has fared well on the PC. Until then, keep on shredding, dudes and dudettes!

Castle Wolfenstein review

One of the longest and most successful franchises in videogame history is without a doubt the Wolfenstein series, whose latest title, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has already met a lot of success, despite its recent “controversy” (since when killing Nazis is considered bad?!). But today, we’re going to take a look at the first game of the series which, believe it or not, ISN’T Wolfenstein 3D, but actually Castle Wolfenstein.

Castle Wolfenstein (also known as Wolfenstein 2D by the fans) is an action game made by Muse Software and it was originally released in 1981 for the Apple II computer. It was ported in 1983 for the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit computers and in 1984 for DOS.

But before we take a look at the game, let’s look at the covers first, shall we?

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This is the original Apple II cover and it’s quite average, to say the least. Just some soldier running towards the screen with a castle in the back. Nothing special and quite monochromatic except for the background. The manual has an orange background with gives the impression of a sunset. It looks more like a paperback cover than a videogame cover.

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This cover is a bit more colorful and while I enjoy the title and the art in the upper part, the soldier has an awkward pose. A bit better than the previous cover but not by much. At least it looks like a proper videogame cover.

Well, it’s time to boot this kraut:

As you can see, the title screen is a pixelated reproduction of the second cover and actually, I think it looks better than the cover itself. Then you get to the main menu where it shows your rank in the corner and some options available.

According to the manual, you’re an unnamed Allied soldier that was captured by the Nazis during WWII and taken to Castle Wolfenstein’s dungeons to be interrogated. There, a dying prisoner gives you a pistol with ten bullets in it and you’re able to escape your cell. The game starts just outside the cell, near some stairs to the next floor. You have two objectives: the first is obviously to escape the castle and the second, is to recover the Nazi war plans somewhere inside the castle.

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The better to blow you up!

You start with the rank of Private and have 7 more ranks, which corresponds to the difficulty levels. To advance in the first couple of ranks, you only need to escape the castle, but for the rest, you need to find the war plans before escaping or you won’t be promoted to the next rank. And if you die throughout the game, you’ll be back to rank of Private.

Every time you start a new game, the castle will be randomly generated, with 5 floors and a total of 60 rooms/screens. You start in one such screen, with usually two guards nearby and probably some chests. You also carry a pistol with ten bullets. If the guards aren’t in direct line of sight of you, they won’t see you, so you’ll need to move fast before they do. There two types of guards: the grunts, who have a swastika insignia and the SS Stormtroopers, who carry a green bulletproof vest with a SS insignia in them. The grunts usually take just one bullet to kill them and don’t follow you from screen to screen, while the Stormtroopers take a lot more bullets to kill (or in more difficult ranks, a grenade) and they’ll follow you from screen to screen.

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Surrounded

You can either avoid the soldiers, shoot them or run towards them with your gun pointed to them, to which they’ll surrender (by holding their hands up). If a soldier surrenders or is killed, you can search them for ammo, vests or keys. You automatically take the vests and keys, but you can only take the bullets if you happen to have less bullets than him. Afterwards, you can shoot him, which is recommended because the moment you stop pointing your gun at him, he’ll try to capture you. If any soldier touches you, you’ll be captured but you can also be killed if obviously shot by them. Whether you’re captured or killed, you’ll return to first screen, however any soldiers you’ll killed and every chest you’ve opened so far, will remain so.

There are several chests available and I highly recommend you open every one of them, because not only one of them contains the war plans, but they’ll also contain ammo, vests and uniforms, which will be invaluable to continue playing. But they can also be empty or contain alcoholic drinks (which if drunk, can mess with your aim), German sausages (which eaten, can counter the alcohol), medals, cannonballs and other red herrings that have no real purpose to the game. But what you can’t find in the chests are keys, which only the guards carry. And you do need the keys to open the several doors you’ll find in order to get access to other parts of the castle. Or you can always use grenades to blow up doors and walls, but those tend to do a lot of noise and draw unnecessary attention.

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Don’t be saur, kraut!

To open the chests, you only need to point your gun at them and press the space-bar (you force the chests open at gunpoint?!). The chests can take a few seconds up to three minutes to open, which can be boring after a while in an action game (hint: if you keep your space-bar pressed while waiting, the timer moves faster). You can always shoot the chests’ lock to open them instantly, but that can attract the attention of any guards around, or if the chest contains explosives (grenades or cannonballs), you’ll end up blowing up the castle, somehow. The most useful items you can find inside the chests are the bulletproof vests (which will make you harder to kill) and the uniforms, that can almost break the game.

Every time you put on a Nazi soldier uniform, the game gets a lot easier because every grunt you encounter afterwards, won’t bat an eye when you pass by them. You can walk around with any worries, opening every chest and even walk out the castle without any trouble. However, there’s a catch: your disguise can be blown if you point or fire your gun at a guard, throw a grenade or if a Stormtrooper sees you. It breaks the game at the lower ranks but in the higher ranks (where Stormtroopers are more common), it becomes essential to finish the game.

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“I hate Illinois Nazis”

But what really shines throughout is the proto-stealth elements. The guards aren’t aware of you unless you’re in their direct line-of-sight or if you shoot your gun near them or throw a grenade, making noise and drawing their attention. So you can sneak behind them and point your gun (or shoot) at them. It isn’t real stealth mechanics, but Castle Wolfenstein (among others) helped develop and popularize these mechanics in later games.

The graphics and animation are on par with any other early-80s computer game (the original Apple II version has better graphics and more color). But the sound effects are superb. It even has digitized voices. On a PC-speaker! Although the voice samples aren’t the best (and in German), the fact that they exist in a game this old, is remarkable! But alas, this game lacks any music whatsoever. There’s not even a title theme! I suggest listening to the Inglorious Basterds‘ or Captain America: The First Avenger‘s soundtrack while playing.

But for me, the only bad part of the game is the control scheme. I couldn’t play with my gamepad, so I was forced to play with the keyboard and although the controls themselves are responsive, the control scheme is quite awkward, using several keys, including two sets of directional keys: one to control the character in eight different directions and another to point your gun also in eight different directions, plus other keys for more miscellaneous actions. And you can’t remap them or use the arrow keys.

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Hands up!

Castle Wolfenstein isn’t your typical action game because it requires a slower progression. You won’t win it by shooting at anything that moves (like in Wolfenstein 3D). You have to move slowly and pick your fights carefully, especially since you can only carry a maximum of ten bullets and three grenades. It has a surprisingly amount of depth for an early-80s action game, which might not be recommended for gamers who prefer heavy action. But I recommend it for gamers who like slow, methodical action.

Castle Wolfenstein had the necessary success for Muse Software to make a sequel, and for Id Software to remake the series into the first FPS title, effectively creating the genre and making the series popular. If you want to give it a shot, then you can go here to play it in your own browser.

So, do you like WWII themed games? If so, what are your favorites? Also, what do you think of Wolfenstein II? Does it resemble more the Muse titles or the FPS games? Let me know by commenting below, in our Facebook page or in our Twitter feed. Next time, it’s our first anniversary! And we’ll celebrate it by looking at a sequel of one of the first games I reviewed here. Until then, go kill some more Nazis and keep on playing!

God of Thunder review

With the Thor: Ragnarok movie in theaters now around the world, I decided to review a game with Norse gods in it. And although there several games featuring Norse mythology and vikings, we’re going to take a look at one of the very few where you can actually play as Thor himself: God of Thunder.

God of Thunder is an action game (with several puzzle elements) developed by Adept Software and published by Software Creations. It was originally released for DOS (as shareware) in 1993 and re-released a year later in CD-ROM format. Ron Davis, its main designer, has since released it as freeware.

And no, this isn’t the same Software Creations who developed Silver Surfer for the NES.

But before we take a look at the game itself, let’s look at the CD-ROM cover, shall we?

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It needs a “THWAAK” sound effect.

As we can see, this cover features Thor himself throwing his famed hammer, Mjölnir, at a giant serpent wearing a crown. And before you say anything, Thor here is a redhead because that’s how he is originally depicted in the old Norse myths. He’s only blonde in Marvel media. The cover also has a comedy element to it, foreshadowing the game’s humor. It’s not a bad cover, as it conveys everything you need to know about the game.

And now it’s time to boot this sucker:

As you can see, the main title screen is just a reproduction of the CD-ROM cover and then we get to the main menu. The story is that Loki, the god of mischief, has conquered part of Midgard (Earth) with the help of Jorganmund, the Midgard serpent and Nognir, the prince of the Underworld. Odin, who is under the Odinsleep, telepathically recruits his son Thor to fight these menaces along with his famous hammer Mjölnir.

The game is divided in three parts, with the first part distributed freely with the option of buying the other 2 parts (as per traditional shareware practices). In the first part, you have to look for and defeat Jorganmund; in the second, Nognir and in the third, Loki himself.

As one can see in the video above, the graphics and the gameplay look very reminiscing of Legend of Zelda, with an overworld map with several locations and caves to explore, but unlike Legend of Zelda, God of Thunder is more linear and has several environmental puzzles to solve in order to progress.

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Receiving instructions from Odin.

Your main weapon, as I said before, is Mjölnir, Thor’s famous hammer and just like in the comics and myths, it can be thrown and it immediately comes back to you. It can be used to defeat enemies and to solve puzzles. But you also can use other magical objects and spells that can be found in the overworld maps, certain caves or bought from vendors, but these empty your magic meter, which can only be replenished by finding potions. You can also find golden apples to replenish your health meter or more rarely, angels that can fully replenish your health and magic meters.

You can also find jewels that serve not only as points, but also as currency in the shops and vendors, enabling you to buy several items. In some of the screens with puzzles, you can also collect keys to open doors.

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Visiting a village.

The enemies are varied and depending on the difficulty level selected, they can be easy or hard to defeat (including the bosses). But regardless of the difficulty levels, the puzzles have always the same difficulty, meaning they’re always hard. And I mean it! The hardest ones are when there one or more worms on screen (that can insta-kill you the moment you’re in a straight line with them) and you need to push logs and rocks to block them. But it’s easier said than done. You’ll spend a lot of time figuring these ones out. But in all the worlds, you’ll find villages that have shops and vendors to buy items and its inhabitants will offer you hints to surpass some of the puzzles.

The graphics are simple and colorful, with all the characters portrayed using small pixels that serve their purpose well. The music is okay with some nice themes, but they tend to be a bit repetitive (I won’t blame you if you prefer to play it while listening Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song) . The sound effects are a bit weird in some cases, like when collecting items, it sounds like Thor is eating them. The animation is also quite simple and I recommend turning off the turbo mode in main menu in case you’re playing in an fast computer (or on Dosbox).

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Inside one of the houses where you can talk to its inhabitants and grab every treasure not nailed to the floor.

The controls are responsive, although I recommend the use of a gamepad or joystick over the keyboard.

God of Thunder is a simple game without any upstanding features that’s good for quick playthrough (as long you don’t get frustrated with the harder puzzles). The humor is quite refreshing and tongue-in-cheek without being obnoxious with lot of references to the comics. If you enjoy fast action games with hard puzzles, then you might want to give it a shot.

You can play directly in your browser here, or you can go to the Adept Software page here and download it for free along with the manual and hintbook (which I highly recommend). I also recommend you go to a theater near you and check out Thor Ragnarok. It’s probably the best Thor movie ever made.

So, did you enjoy the review? Comment below or on Facebook or Twitter and let me know. Next time, we’re going to take a look at the first title of a series that still exists to nowadays, but whose latest recent release has met some incomprehensible controversy. Till then, keep on gaming.