Who Framed Roger Rabbit DOS review

Well, it’s Easter again and to celebrate this holiday, we’re going to take a look at an adaptation of perhaps the best live-action and cartoon crossover movie ever made (that also features a rabbit BTW). We’re talking about Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is an action game developed by Silent Software and published by Buena Vista. It was originally released in 1988 for the Commodore Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and DOS.

There are also other adaptations for consoles, but those are different games made by different companies, not ports of this one, so they’re not mentioned in this review.

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

61790-who-framed-roger-rabbit-commodore-64-front-coverI have to give props to whoever was responsible for the cover art for not recycling the movie poster and although this cover is reminiscent of one of the movie posters, it features most of the main cartoon characters in the movie. Not a bad cover, truth be told.

But it’s time to boot this hare:

The intro isn’t anything to write home about and the title theme is just atrocious, although the title screen by itself isn’t that bad. Then there’s a small sequence (with much better music) featuring Baby Herman doing some exposition and telling Roger to go to the Ink & Paint Club before Judge Doom’s weasels and look for Marvin Acme’s will. You take control of Roger the entire game throughout its 4 levels: the 1st level is a driving section where you control Benny the Cab while you race against the weasels, avoiding other vehicles and dip puddles. You can jump over anything and even the buildings but if you fall in a puddle, you’ll lose a life.

If you manage to finish the level before the weasels, then we move to the 2nd level, where Roger has to run around all the tables, collecting all the pieces of paper he can find. But there are 2 penguins waiters replenishing the pieces of paper and a gorilla bouncer in the lower part of the screen. If the gorilla bouncer catches you, he’ll kick you out of the club and you’ll lose a life. There’s also some whiskey glasses on the tables and if Roger catches one of them, well if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens (and you’ll also lose a life).

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Those dip puddles (on the right corner) are hard to avoid.

There’s no way to tell where’s the correct piece of paper (remember that Marvin used invisible ink), so the level just ends, presumably when Roger grabs the correct paper or some time limit runs out. The 3rd level is just like the 1st level but with more dip puddles on the road and finally the 4th level is on Judge Doom’s warehouse where you need to travel from left to right to save Jessica from the dip truck. Unfortunately the weasels are on the way, so Roger needs to use all the gags he’s carrying on himself in order to kill the weasels with laughter (just like in the movie) before the dip truck reaches Jessica.

If you’ve seen the movie, the game follows its plot more or less faithfully but as you can see, there’s no Eddie Vaillant in this game. In fact, the game focus exclusively in the main cartoon characters (not the WB or Disney characters). Perhaps the developers didn’t have the rights to use the actors’ likeness or the licensed characters, who knows.

The EGA graphics are okay although the animation is mediocre. It has nice, colourful still images between the levels, though. The PC Speaker music is horrible with just one or two tunes being somewhat good and the sound effects are almost non-existent. The control scheme is not very responsive, both the keyboard and the gamepad.

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“Why don’t you do right, like some other men do?”

In conclusion, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of those licensed games where minimal effort was put into it. With just 4 levels and a ramped-up difficulty in order to stretch the gameplay, I can’t recommend it, not even to fans of the movie. If you want to try it in your own browser though, click here.

The Amiga version might have better graphics, more colours and way better music and sound (including digitised samples from the movie) but the controls remain unresponsive and it has some long loading times between the levels. I haven’t played any other ports or adaptations, so I can’t compare. There’s however a sort of a sequel, which we’ll review on a later date.

So, are you also a fan of the movie? If so, tell me below in the comments. And I know this was a short review but I promise a longer review of a much better game next time. Until then, have a happy Easter and keep on playing.

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:

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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.

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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!