Friday, January 11, 2013

Action 52 Owns: Jigsaw Remake

This is part 3 of my Action 52 Owns review. You can find other parts of the series at my Action 52 Owns post tag, here.

Jigsaw is one of the games in this remake which I must say I was quite curious about. In the original Action 52 it was meant to be a jigsaw puzzle game, but when the inexperienced developers couldn't figure out how to do that they made it into a Mario-style platformer instead. Would the update be the same, or would it be the puzzle game it was originally intended to be?

It turns out it's the first one. While it's not my favorite (sorry, that title still goes to Illuminator) Jigsaw is easily the best platformer in the bunch. The whole game just looks and feels completely polished. Take a look at this screenshot and tell me you couldn't imagine this being a real game on the Super Nintendo, or the Gameboy Advance:

Speaking of Nintendo, have you ever wondered what the point is of Mario's backstory saying he used to be a plumber? It's not relevant to his games at all, it doesn't grant him any special abilities. In Jigsaw your main character's status as a carpenter actually does matter. See those nails in the wall in that screenshot? I fired those. Jigsaw Guy's nail gun can be used as a weapon, you can fire nails into the wall to jump on to reach high places, or you can even use them to activate switches.

All in all, Jigsaw is a very fun game with an interesting gameplay mechanic and a lot of really cool puzzle solving. My only real problem with this game is the same problem I have with most of these games: it's way too short. I know that Illuminator was short too, but it wasn't nearly as short as this; Jigsaw is extremely short, even for being part of a compilation. On my first playthrough I beat the game in about an hour. On my next playthrough, knowing how to solve all of the puzzles, it took me about ten minutes. I would love to see this stretched out into something a little longer, or even into a full game. As it stands, however, it's still worth taking a look at.

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

You can go ahead and download Jigsaw from this link here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Action 52 Owns: Illuminator Remake

This is part 2 of my Action 52 Owns review. You can find other parts of the series at my Action 52 OWNS post tag, here.

On a dark, yet peaceful night a young boy sleeps soundly. Suddenly, he's awakened by a terrible inhuman sound. All the lights in the house are out and his family is gone. He grabs his flashlight and goes to find out just what's happening here.

The original Illuminator from Action 52 can be best described as an arena platformer. The playing area is a series of floors and ladders, with zombie-like enemies wandering back and forth, which you vaporize with your light-projecting gun until they're all gone and you can move on to the next level. An interesting gimmick added to the game was the blackouts, where the level would periodically go dark, rendering the play area in silhouette and making it hard to tell where enemies were. In all, it was an interesting premise executed very poorly.

The updated Illuminator takes that premise to the next level, creating a platformer survival horror game, like Castlevania meets Resident Evil. Each level takes place in a new house, or on occasion group of houses, which you must navigate, defeating monsters as you go until you find the portal to the next region. Your only weapon is your flashlight which, when fully charged, can release a blinding flash of light when turned on, instantly vaporizing the zombies, vampires, ghosts, and assorted other monsters you'll encounter.

Strategy plays a part in the game as well. Since you can't easily see what's out there, you'll have to take it slow, clear rooms and shut yourself in while your flashlight recharges, then ambush the monsters and destroy them before moving on. Along the way you can find various objects to help you out, like nightlights which illuminate small areas of the house to help you see what's out there, or strings of Christmas lights which don't provide any real illumination, but will let you know when a monster is walking over them.

Illuminator isn't perfect, of course. It's a bit on the short side, though that's to be expected of a game that's intended to be part of a compilation. Still, it's longer than some of the other games here - it probably took me about 3-4 hours to complete all 9 levels on my first playthrough. What I can tell you is that of the handful of A52 Owns games I've looked at so far, this is my favorite. It's got a solid gameplay system and a fairly challenging difficulty level. In all I can't really think of any problems I have with the game; I would recommend it for anyone who isn't afraid of a few scares.

KR Rating: [5] GREAT

Go ahead and download a copy of the game from this link right here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Video Game Review: Action 52

Those of you who are up on your video game lore may have heard of a little game from the NES days called Action 52. For those of you who haven't, or for those of you who have but may not know everything there is to know about it, a little backstory. According to the game's creator, Vince Perri, he was inspired when his son brought home an illegal NES cartridge from Taiwan, which contained bootleg copies of 40 different games. Seeing how popular that cartridge became with the children of his neighborhood Vince decided that he could do the same thing legally and ten times better at that. With his friend, Raul Gomila, he founded Active Enterprises, a development company created for the sole purpose of developing and publishing Action 52, which Vince believed would be the ultimate video game.

Action 52 was nothing if not ambitious. Vince envisioned an ensemble of amazing platformers, action-packed shooting games, and diabolical puzzles. The feature game of the collection would be The Cheetahmen, a game that was half Battletoads and half Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Cheetahmen would become the crowning jewel of Vince's multimedia empire, with plans for comic books, action figures, and even a Saturday morning cartoon show which would be, in Vince's own words, "Disney quality." When all was said and done, Action 52 debuted in stores for $199 USD, an unprecedented price for a video game. Still, if the games on the collection lived up to Vince's vision, 200 dollars would be a bargain, right?

Unfortunately for Action 52, Vince Perri had far more ambition than interest. He put the absolute least amount of effort and resources into the project that he could. Instead of proven game designers he hired on college students, some still in their first year, and paid them next to nothing for their work. Most of the games ended up as carbon copies of other games on the collection, especially the puzzle games, Jigsaw and Bits And Pieces, which went from a jigsaw puzzle game and a Tetris clone, respectively, to generic platformer games before finally being dummied out entirely, crashing the game if the player tried to select them. All of the games ended up riddled with glitches and gameplay problems, both beause of the inexperience of the coders and because Vince Perri refused to allow beta testing, since he wanted the game released as soon as possible.

Just how bad were the glitches? One of the games on the collection was a platformer called Ooze. Intended to be the hardest game ever made, Vince Perri made the challenge that anyone who made it past Ooze's fifth and final level could send in a special code to be entered for a drawing to win $104,000 USD (or 52 x 2000). It turned out Vince was right about the game being impossible to beat, but only because of a glitch that caused the player's NES console to crash at the end of level 2. Every game on the anthology is about the same, or worse. In some games enemies flicker, or even become invisible altogether. In others, the enemy AI will get stuck in areas where you have no choice but to get hit by them and die, or an enemy will spawn and then despawn in less than a second. More than a few of the games are impossible to finish, not that it matters anyway since none of them actually has an ending, instead just sending you back to level 1 when you're done. Even the "star game," The Cheetahmen was this bad, only featuring a handful of the planned levels and crashing your console if you used the game's shortcut system to progress further.

Needless to say, Vince Perri's get rich quick scheme detonated in his face. Word of mouth spread about the shitty quality of A52 and that, combined with the nearly $200 price tag, ensured that the game crashed and burned. Vince got enough money from his investors to create a sequel to Action 52 on the Sega Genesis, and he had plans for another on the Super Nintendo, as well as a sequel to The Cheetahmen which would turn it into a full game, but he ran out of money before either game could be completed.

KR Rating: [0] SHOVEL

While that's the end of the story of Vince Perri, it's actually not the end of the story of Action 52. Someone on the internet just couldn't let Action 52 rest in peace, which leads us to my actual reason for doing this review. There is, on the internet, a fan-based remake in the works, called Action 52 OWNS, or just The Action 52 Remake Project. So far, 23 of the 52 games have been remade, and while working versions of the originals would have been fine, they're even more than that, with each being a completely reimagined and remastered version of the original game.

For the next few weeks I'm going to be playing and reviewing the remade games of Action 52 OWNS, explaining how they differ from the originals, and whether they're any good. I intend to continue this until either I've reviewed them all or I get bored, whichever comes first.

Until then, you can find Action 52 OWNS yourself, here.