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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Retro Review Tuesday: Mickey's Safari in Letterland

You may be asking yourself what grown people are doing playing and reviewing an educational game intended for 3 to 6 year olds. To you people I say, you clearly aren't having enough fun in life.


Back in the early days of gaming some poor unfortunate souls had parents who thought that the age old justification for playing video games all day, "improves hand eye coordination" was not enough of a reason to let us sit in front of them all day. So these parents with the help of some misguided game companies foisted upon us a slew of "edugames". Some of these games were fantastic like Carmen Sandiego. Some were not so awesome like Mario's Fun With Numbers. Some were somewhere in between, that's where Mickey's Safari in Letterland falls.

Mickey's Safari in Letterland Title


Your storyline is simple, Mickey and Goofy have become archaeologists, apparently in Letterland to become an archaeologist one simply need wear the appropriate outfit, no bothering with a degree or any of that pesky education. The impeccably dressed Mickey and Goofy are in the employ of the Letterland museum curated by Ludwig Von Drake. For reasons that aren't completely clear Mr.Von Drake sends them out looking for the ancient letters of the alphabet which have been hidden in 6 different locations across the world.

This is a very basic platformer for the NES so as one would probably guess, the controls are quite simple. Mickey moves side to side with the D-pad, Jumps with and swings his net with B and A. The controls are fairly responsive not hair trigger, but not any sort of significant delay.

I think this is supposed to be a muscle but he should probably have a doctor checkout that arm.
Graphically it's lacking a bit. There's a limited color palette a lot of repeating graphics and choppy animations, nothing too terrible, but it was 1993 and there was a Disney budget for this, it could have and should have looked better. The graphics do have a few high points,using the term high point very liberally. The still shots of the of the words you spell feature some hilariously absurd looking depictions of every day animals and objects. Mickey himself has quite a few funny expressions and animations for example, what I like to refer to as sneaky pimp walking Mickey. Send him over an icy pond and you'll see what I mean.

Musically it seems fine at first, just your standard cartoony sounding platformer music. As the game progresses and it endlessly repeats it begins to morph into the sort of obnoxious cacaphony of 8-bit horror that drives men mad. If the music doesn't get you,  Mickey speaks a bit and his laughs and shouts of "oh boy!" can easily send you over the edge and into insanity. However his pronunciation of the individual letters can prove pretty amusing of your the easily amused sort (like me),so you might want to refrain from turning off the sound immediately.


 You start off by selecting your difficulty, Normal, Advanced or Super Advanced. On Normal you only collect a small part of the alphabet and Mickey does a lot of things automatically. On Advanced you collect more of the alphabet(though still not all of it) and have to in control all of your own movements. On Super advanced you have to make all your movements and find the entire alphabet.

This cloud is kind of freaking me out to be honest.

After making the tough decision about difficulty you're brought to a map screeen where you choose which area you want to head to. You can go to the Yukon, The Swamp, the Pyramids,  The Caribbean , the Forest and the Jungle. Seems a bit odd that this "letterland" has regions with similar climates, topography and the same names as our earth regions. Though I suppose the  3 continents easily conveys that this is an entirely new and different fantasy land, created by someone just bursting with creativity!

How Mickey fits a tablet that's nearly as big as he is in that net certainly stretches the laws of physics

  One you've chosen your destination, you wander looking for the ancient hidden letters the museum is after.  Hidden really being quite subjective as many of the lost letters as sitting in plain sight, though it is covered in some sort of ancient gravy preventing you from seeing what it is before you bring it back to the museum. So you just sidle on up to the sprite which looks like a giant frosted rice crispy treat pull out your net and grab it. I do feel compelled to point out that the letter is stationary so I'm not quite sure why you have to net it. But well I guess it's one of the ancient mysteries of Letterland.

He wants the V

 On your way to the ancient letter you can also net three random letter balloons in each level which will spell a randomly determined three letter word. Strangely you don't have to grab these in order to get your letter relic and continue with the game. Though if you do, Mickey will spell out the word, though not say it, and you'll see a completely ridiculous illustration of whatever animal or object you found. Additional if you're a "make your own" fun sort of person, you take bets on what the word will be before you collect all three (which is totally a real thing people would do with an NES educational game). Interesting to note that the game designers apparently thought small children could only spell simple 3 letter words, but thought reading words like museum and Caribbean would pose no issues.

Balancing balls is so 19th century, 20th century seals balanced anthropomorphic mice

Getting these letter can't be all easy of course. So, depending on the region you've chosen you're faced with different adversaries including, but not limited to: penguins, anthropomorphic mushrooms, snakes and porcupines. Of course none of these things can actually hurt you or kill you. They just get in the way and push Mickey around like a school yard bully, they'd probably take his lunch money if he  had any. Additionally you can  fall from a significant distance which will slow you down for a bit while you brush yourself off. But more importantly it will cause you to see the Mickey falling on his ass animation, which quite frankly is 80% of the reason I ever play this game.

Whether you bet on your word, or even bother collecting the extra letters for it once you've collected the ancient letter you're taken to a screen where you'll see Goofy operating some sort of letter cleaning machine. You pop the letter in and in a few seconds it pops out clean and readable. This is also a good time to take bets on which letter is would be. After the letter is revealed you have to put it  in the right spot in the alphabet. Then you start the process over again.

Seems like putting them in order would be of more educational value/less busy work if the outline wasn't there...

So basically you go through each level 4 or 5 times collecting the ancient letter and making words if you feel like it. That's the whole game right there.Once you've made the entire alphabet you take your carefully organized letters and throw them into a pile in front of the museum and Ludwig. Meanwhile the alphabet song plays and the balloon letters cross the screen. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.


Mickey's Safari in Letterland honestly fails in a lot of areas. Educationally it teaches you the alphabet, and then just barely. There's the added spelling words component, but it's optional and even if you choose to do them, Mickey says the letters but never the word, certainly a missed education opportunity, especially given how poorly rendered many of the illustrative representations of the words are. As a game it's boring and tedious. However, if you're willing to look at with the right sort of eye, you can have a lot of fun with this one. My siblings and I had endless fun slamming Mickey on to his bottom and making fun of his less than standard pronunciation and diction. As we've aged we enjoy taking bets on what the net word or letter will be, getting fairly intense about it. The fun is there, you've just got to uncover it.


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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hmm..just a blog

My title is a reference to Metal gear solid on the PS1. Kudos to you if you recognize what phrase/portion I'm parodying.

I thought it was high time I made just a general blog as I haven't done one of those in a long time. I've mostly been posting  reviews lately and didn't even do one for this week.

Here in the land of Avane, there's a lot of stuff going on right now, most of it not so fun and geeky.  Jennifer is graduating with her accounting degree in May, we're planning a vacation shortly after, we're both working normally and are doing a temp night job for extra cash. So needless to say we've got our hands full we real life action and adventure.

Not helping the stresses of real life adventures situation are the massive changes our store host went through at the end of last month. I still haven't recovered from all the "improvements" so my listing output has been greatly diminished. (On that note I do NOT recommend Highwire Commerce as a provider) Though not to worry store fans, I'm learning to work with the new framework and have updated over 50 items in the last month with more to add soon. :)  If you're a fan of our store go take a look, we've been going through our collections pretty heavy handedly lately. Our toy room/geek room is reaching critical mass and we need clear some of this stuff out soon before our house explodes sending books, video games, dolls and action figures flying. So you might find something fun. If you're looking for something specific be sure to use to talents of Cornelius, our search octopus, he's conveniently located at the top of every page.

In the face of adversity, adversity of course being responsible adulthood, our geeky spirits endure! To keep our geek cred up we've still been working in some time for gaming I've been spending my nights playing Mario 64 DS when I should be sleeping (I'm up to 112 stars, woot!) and  my days, work/life schedule permiting, working my way through Castlevania:Symphony of the Night for the Nth time. Meanwhile Jen's been  finding flags in Assassins Creed in between work and homework. I've also been working in some old episodes of Tom Baker era Dr Who while I work, because as everyone knows vintage ScFi increases productivity. If that geekery weren't enough to keep us on the top of our game,we had planned on attending the geek prom once again this year, but found it was canceled. Luckily the following weekend we're headed to the Video Games Live concert. So all in all I think we're managing to stay true to the geek life, it's kind of like a thug life only much safer and involving more math and electronics.

So to bring it all together we're still around, we're still geeky and we still want you to buy our geeky stuff so we can buy other geeky stuff and talk about it. We're just busy right now. Though we're trying our hand at social networking so you can always try to connect with us via Facebook and Twitter. We're currently addicted to Gaia Online's Ocean party game so we're over there at least once a day. Come say hi if you're so inclined.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Retro Review Tuesday: Pilotwings

It's been awhile since anyone else has worked on a review, but this is one neither Jen nor I were good enough to do. We had to call in our third contributor to work on this title as he's the only one of us who can beat it. This week we salute one of gaming's odd little classics, Pilotwings.


Nintendo is a truly legendary company. They can take a plumber and a mushroom and make arguably the greatest video game of all time. They also do a pretty damn good job with two elves and a pig-shaped thief. And the most magnificent video game company of all time can take a game about earning your Pilot's Wings and make it a super fun, classic, aerial experience. Here you will find the quaint wonders and oddities of this SNES gem, Pilotwings.

I can hear this image


The basic idea of this game is that you are an aspiring air wizard who's joined the instructual institution of the Flight Club in your quest towards your goal of earning, you guessed it, your Pilot's Wings. You will meet four different instructors (twice) and attempt to complete their unique courses. You will do this by passing fun and challenging lessons which include the Light Plane, Skydiving, Hang gliding, and the Rocket Belt. These lessons involve flying through floating, colored rings, touching erect bars, climbing to certain heights, and other various obstacles. And of course, easily the most challenging part of all this - Landing.

He's not the man they think he is at home.

Graphics -The graphics of this game are quite crisp and good for their time.Your instructors look like reasonable illustrations of people and everything is clear as far as what it is. Probably the most notable thing about this game's graphics would be the 3-D mobility the game offers, allowing you to travel in every direction in each of the lessons. The different items on the ground are actually all flat, which is made slightly less notable with simple lighting and shading on their surfaces. The sprites are smooth and easy on the eyes. Over all, it's a nice game to look at.

Sound - Sounds are good, you've got the sound of air passing by, the unmistakable sound of the Light Plane's motor, the rough expulsion of the rocket belt's flames, and the sound of the air whipping past you as you fall to the ground, before you open your parachute. Nice little chimes are heard when obstacles are cleared. No real complaints on the sound. The music is memorable if not a bit repetitive. Each lesson has its own music, and when you check back with your instructors after a lesson, the music is a good indication of how they feel you did. Upbeat if you did well...not so much if you didn't.


The gameplay of Pilotwings is very dependent on the lesson you are doing, as well as the instructor that's offering it. Two things thing they all have in common would be that they all offer a certain amount of points depending on how you performed, and they're all successfully completed once you've found yourself safely back on the ground.

I've always wanted more information on the suspended ring technology used in the Pilotwings universe
Light Plane: Probably the most basic lesson in the game, and one of the hardest. This is the only lesson with no bonus game available. Basically, you will have to fly the plane through the air and pass through obstacles of multiple types then successfully land the plane on the runway. This is quite difficult, as your wings cannot be dipped in the slightest way, your speed must be right, and you must not be coming at the ground too hard. Additionally, you MUST land on the runway. One centimeter on anything but runway will cause you to loose a wheel and skid your plane until it stops, meaning a failed landing. However, All Light Plane lessons will still offer some points for the obstacles you passed before the crash. Early Light Plane lessons have you start already in the air, and later ones require you to take off on your own. Be sure to watch your fuel meter as running out of fuel is an automatic failure and will earn you zero points.

Hitting the ground too hard results in lost wheels and bent wings. Harder yet and the plane's engine blows up, a crash you're lucky to be able to walk away from.

Controls: Controls are as easy as they can be, but the only thing that can really help you here is genuine skill.

"I'm directly under the earth's"

Skydiving: You will be lifted up to a nose-bleeding 3,800 feet into the air by helicopter (If you don't want to wait the entire time it takes to climb to this height, you can push the A button to be taken straight up to near the max height.) Once you reach the target height you will let go of the rope ladder and begin your plunge to the ground below. As you fall, you can change your angle and how your body falls. Useful, as now you must maneuver yourself through 3, 5, or even 8 rings, turning your body in the air to get yourself in the correct position. Falling feet/head first will cause you to fall straight down, whereas falling belly/back down will do the same but slower. Feet/head a little forward makes you fall forward. Backwards, well you get the idea. After all the rings fly by, passed or not, open your parachute when prompted, and try to land on the multi-scoring target below.

Landing too hard with this will cause you to land on your back, although this doesn't seem to effect score. If you just neglect to open the parachute entirely you'll hit the ground so hard that you fall right through, leaving a humorous man-shaped hole.

Controls: A little restricted as far as what you can do but let's agree that that's bound to be true while parachuting. Still, smooth and simple.

It's NOT gonna be a long, long, time'Til touchdown brings me 'round again

Rocket-Belt: Possibly the most fun lesson in the game, the Rocket-Belt is essentially a jetpack and offers the most control of all of the lessons. That said, it can still prove rather difficult to control the flight of this gadget. It is first available with your second instructor, Shirly. Generally what you do is use two different speeds (B button = slow, orange fire; A button = fast, blue fire) to navigate your way around the 3-D course and pass through the green rings or what have you, and then land as accurately on the target as you can. If you touch the ground prematurely you will loose 2 points off of your final score. Also mind your fuel meter, If you run out fuel, you will fail your lesson earning 0 point.

Landing too hard with this will cause you to fall onto your back. Harder yet (and this is pretty hard to do on accident) will cause the Rocket-Belt to explode, leaving your character grounded and charred.

Controls: Simple and responsive, but this thing can get away from you.

Gamers who aren't entirely comfortable in their masculinity may want to avoid this discipline as the Hang Glider only comes in hot pink.

Hang Glider: One of the most difficult lessons in the game, the Hang Glider is likely to make you not too picky about whatever score you get, as long as you get one. You will start off attached by a cable to a Light Plane (don't worry, you don't have to pilot this plane) and then you will be released, required to fly yourself around. The Hang Glider controls much like the plane, pushing up causes you to nose dive, back causes you to swing back up, and you can move side to side on the 3-D map. Unlike the plane, however, your speed and height is not so much in your control. As your Hang Glider flies through the air, it will loose steam, and begin to fall to the ground. The only way to regain your momentum is to fly over a "Thermal Current" to gain a substantial amount of height again. Completing these lessons involve either climbing to a certain height, or passing through a ring twice, landing on the Hang Glider's special target afterwords. Landing prematurely will disqualify you, entirely. To land, you "flare" with the A button to tip your Hang Glider straight up and put your feet underneath you when you're just feet off the ground. Beware, however, as you will not come to a dead stop, and will take a few steps forward, or even "hop" and step before coming to a complete stop. Also keep in mind that failing to land on your feet will result in no points.

Landing too hard with this (with your feet out) will cause you to land on your backside. This does not count as a failed landing, however

Controls: Smooth? Yes. Simple? Yeah. Easy? ...

Rings: A big part of this game would be the Rings, the main obstacle to overcome throughout all of the lessons. Rings usually take the form of many small, [generally] green  balls that spin in a circle, creating the actual ring. Clearing them requires you to fly through their center. Some lessons give you a score for each ring passed, others do not but still require that all rings are cleared before landing. For difficulty reasons, at times rings may be smaller in size, move in strange ways, or take alternate forms such as Bars (several green balls stacked vertically) Arches, and more. When cleared, you will hear a chime, be given a message, and the Rings will change color (usually to red) to indicate that they have been cleared.

Water: A big part of this game would be the water. Landing in the water will effectively end your lesson right then and there. It comes as no surprise that the moving Bonus Targets are located in the water. Even for normal targets, as you progress, you'll notice that the Target-to-Water ratio is getting to be less and less in your favor.

Scoring: Depending on the game, you will be scored on the following factors - Speed, Time, Angle, Accuracy, and Rings. All lessons offer an opportunity at a perfect score of 100. Needless to say, this is not an easy task to acheive. You must accumulate a certain amount of points in each Flight Area to be certified for your next license, moving one step closer to the coveted Golden Pilot's wings.

Shot from the little Known Match of the Penguins follow-up  Awkward fall of the Penguins

Bonus: All Lessons apart from the Light Plane offer an instant 100-point target that is not effected by time, accuracy, etc. as long as you hit it. The obvious catch is that these targets are very hard to hit and missing often means no points at all. Generally the Bonus target is indicated as the floating yellow square in the water and will get smaller in the later Flight Areas. This excludes the Hang Glider, in which case the Bonus Target would be the Rocket-Belt/Skydiving targets, as they are almost too small too land on with the Hang Glider. Upon landing on one of these targets, you will then be granted a "Bonus Chance," a very fun mini game that can award you anywhere from 5 to even 70 bonus points on top of the 100 you received for landing on the Bonus Target (Interestingly, your instructors seem more impressed with normal 100-point scores than the Bonus ones).

Instructors/Flight Areas:
Before jumping into training at each new Flight Area, you will be given a small introduction by your new instructor, basically telling you what you can expect to learn with them. Your instructors offer different personalities and expressions. Doing poorly influences unhappy expressions whereas doing well makes them happy. Doing VERY well will prompt an overjoyed or shocked expression on the face of your instructor and a perfect score of 100 will be met with a face that can only be described as absolutely hysterical. Before each lesson, they will tell you what you need to do. Once you've scored high enough to see the next Flight Area/meet the next instructor, you will be given a password to use at the titlescreen if you'd like to return, later.

Tony: A young looking, dark-haired,  mild mannered man. May seem impatient with you if you do poorly but encourages you to "never give up." Offers Light Plane and Skydiving. 120 points are required for certification. Passing his course grants you a Class A license.

Shirly: Nice brunette woman who offers a wide-eyed encouraging smile when things aren't looking so good. She'll never get mean with you. Offers the Light Plane, Skydiving, and Rocket-Belt. 220 points are required for certification. Passing her course grants you a Class B license.

Lance: A blonde-haired, hard-nosed man, who is quite difficult to please. Asks you if you want to give up when you're doing badly. Offers Light Plane, Rocket Belt, and Hang Glider. 220 points are required for certification Passing his course grants you a Silver Class license.

Big Al: As the name implies, a large looking tough-guy kind of man with shiny sunglasses and a waste-no time kind of attitude. Also a bit hard to please, but seems to have a slightly better attitude than the previous instructor. He reviews all of your past lessons. A big, bad 300 points are required for certification. Passing his course grants you a Gold Class license.

Helicopter Rescue Mission:
Once you've earned your Gold Class license, Big Al will accost you with a request that is "above and beyond the call of duty." Tony, Shirly, and Lance have been captured by the EVIL syndicate, and need you to rescue via Attack Chopper. You are the only one in the Flight Club whos qualifications are near what is required to pilot the chopper. Take off from the carrier and ready your missles, as the anti-aircraft guns will be blaring. Find the heliport and successfully land on it to complete the mission. If you can do this, you've not only proves how skilled a Pilot you truly are, but you've proven something to the video game universe itself, as this mission is one of intense difficulty. After surviving the quest, destroying the artilery (some of it being invisible to the eye), and rescuing your instructors, you will have truly earned your Silver Pilot's Wings.

And it's not over, yet. For you've set out to earn your Golden Pilot's wings, right? Well as it turns out, this game is only half over. Now you must revisit all of your past instructors in Pilotwings: Expert Mode. Now, their lessons are much more difficult. After enjoying an altered title screen, use the password presented with your Silver Pilot's Wings and get started on your road to the Golden Wings.

Expert Tony: Snowy, winter conditions. Runway is slick, and targets are smaller. 140 points to earn your Class A Expert license.

Expert Shirly: Rainy conditions. Once again, a slick runway and windier conditions. 240 points to earn your Class B Expert license.

Expert Lance: Very windy conditions, and a sunset time of day. Control is harder, here, be careful. 240 points to earn your Silver Class Expert license.

Expert Big Al: Nighttime's the name of the game, keep your eyes open wide and use the illuminated lines as your guide. A staggering 320 points stands between you and your Gold Class Expert license.

...And once you've finished with these four again, you will find Big Al once again waiting to request your help in another rescue mission. This time the Evil Syndicate as captured a government figure who opposes them. Not on-ly that, but he is Big Al's brother. Fire up the chopper and get ready for a nocturnal mission, your for difficult task yet. Succeed and you've done it. You have earned your Golden Pilot's Wings and are now not only a true pilot, but a true hero as well.

♪Practicing our night moves in the summertime...♫


Pilotwings is one of those titles that seems so random, and maybe not even the best idea. But when executed with the genius mind at Nintendo, it proves to be another classic in the company's big vault of gold. With its quixotic themes and unforgettable gameplay, we would highly recommend this to anybody who has not played it. It is almost guaranteed that you will find it fun and addictive if not sometimes infuriating. We love it, and we certainly think that you should, too.

Richard M.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Retro Review Tuesday: American Gladiators Genesis

After last weeks wicked winter sports extravaganza, I was in the mood for something just as EXTREME! So I choose the genesis port of the American Gladiators game. What's more extreme than a bunch of oiled up muscular athletes competing in absolutely ridiculous events that have little/no true sports value?

If you were born in the eighties there was a good chance you wasted a portion of your childhood watching the ridiculous testosterone fest that was American gladiators. The good folks at Gametek figured this would lead to lots of cartridge sales for them. Little Johnny and Suzy surely would love to take on the role of an athletic underdog working to topple the tyrannical oppression of athletes so powerful only one word names like Nitro, Lace and Malibu could truly convey their power!

This is American Gladiators! If you can't tell by the main logo the tiled background is there to really bring the point home.

Controls vary from event to event. They are however similar in that they almost always involve button mashing and they're quite annoying. That being said they're fairly quick to respond in most events, it just that they aren't good, or convenient. The only exception being Atlasphere (you know the one you always wanted to play as a kid because you got to be in what amounted to a giant hamster ball?), because it only uses the Dpad.

Look at that excited crowd  entirely composed of pieces of cut rock candy

Graphically it's lacking. In most places the sprites are too small and when they aren't there's an attempt at detail, but it remains firmly in the realm of attempt rather than a reality. The do however move pretty smoothly in most games. The animations aren't great but most have good frame rates. Additionally while these aren't good graphics especially for the genesis, they aren't so terrible they distract you either. Perhaps the real positive about the graphics is that the limits on detail and color palette keep you from being subject to a digital version of this.

Soundwise...well it's not the most awful thing I've heard. It is however still awful. You get one track for every event and it NEVER STOPS. Seriously, once you hit the start button the music starts up and you're locked into it until you win, lose or hit pause. It doesn't stop when you start an event, or when you win an event, or when you lose an event, or even when you're in that screen between events. It just keeps going and going and going. By the end of the game you're pretty much ready to murder whomever composed it.

 You get two options when you start off, head to head and tournament. In head to head you compete against a friend in one series of events to determine which of you  is the tannest, most muscular hair gel abuser of all time!

 In tournament mode you compete against the computer and/or a friends in a series of matches until the field is whittled down to the greatest, oiliest most muscular competitors! If you win the tournament you may get a special screen or some sort of reward, but no one really knows for sure. I certainly didn't make it that far and nor did anyone else as far as I could find.

So once you determine whether it's best to go after your friends or after the computer or both, you can choose your gender and enter your name. Choosing your gender will determine what you look like and which gladiators you'll go against.  It really doesn't matter much as except for in joust, the sprites aren't very different, in fact in most cases they're exactly the same.

Regardless of which you choose you'll always get the same events in the same order. These may or may not be listed in the correct order here as quite honestly, I'm too lazy to go through the game again to check.

This event should have made a great game but it doesn't work out that well
First up: Assault. This event may as well be called, the tennis ball gun, because that's what we all remember it as. It's actually not a bad interpretation of how it works on the show. You run around trying not get hit while trying to hit whichever gladiator is shooting at you. (The game tells you which gladiators are going after you at the beginning screen for each event, but honestly it doesn't seem to matter because the sprites look and react the same). Here you get your first taste of awkward controls, you have to be right on top of the gun to pick it up. Once you've got it you try to shoot the target above the gladiators head, aiming is done via a small box in the upper right hand corner and is almost impossible to do with any sort of accuracy. Your best bet is to fire the gun blindly, hit the button to put it down and run to the next station. Trying to aim will just get you hit in the face with a tennis ball, which is going to happen anyway so you might as well get some points before then.

They shouldn't call it Joust if they aren't on birds and there's no pterodactyl

Next up: Joust. Unlike in the show the object here is to beat the crap out of the gladiator rather than just knocking them off the pedestal. The controls for this one are better than most but ultimately boil down to a lot of button mashing. If you're the victorious masher your opponent will fall down exhausted on to the top of the pedestal in what can only be described as the world's most ridiculously contrived death pose. If you lose you end up in the same pose, in either case it's pretty absurd looking.

Followed by, The Wall. Your competitor shimmies up the wall with a couple of second head start on the gladiator. If they don't catch you, you reach the top of the wall and win some points. If they catch you you both fall off in a stunning display of poorly rendered graphics and you get nothing. Simple enough  in theory but like the others, annoying controls make it borderline unplayable. You have to button mash and move with the d pad, but you often get hung up on the air for no clear reason. I personally never made it to the top even though I played the event at least 5 times.

Human Marble Madness seems like it would also be an apt title for Atlasphere

On to fan favorite: Atlasphere! Like I said back up in the control section this was the game you wanted to play as a child. What's not to love about rolling around in a big hamster ball? Sure there are other guys trying to hit you , but that's just more fun! Well it's not more fun when you're trying to roll your ball into to the goal to get points(as is the aim of the game) and you keep getting thwarted. But I still think it would be fun in person. This game has the smoothest controls and is the most fun to play, most likely because you only use the Dpad and because, I can not stress this enough, HUMAN HAMSTER BALL! My only complaint about this game is it would have been cooler if it were first person instead of top down.

Next up: Powerball. This is a really stupid concept for a game you alternate from one bin of balls to the other while trying to stuff them into things that look like trash cans and not getting tackled by gladiators. It's harder than it sounds and controls for crap. The controls are reasonable enough in theory, but in reality they're very sluggish and very finicky about where you're standing. It's a losing combination.

Finally: The Eliminator. In a stunning display of your athletic prowess you run a gauntlet style sports course. You start by  running up a treadmill, take a hand bike across a line, carefully walk a balance beam without being hit by punching bags, take zip line to the ground where you sprint towards the finish jumping hurdles and pushing aside the gladiator who may or may not be in your way (depending on door choice).

This portion of the game could basically be ported into a modern Ninja Warrior game and no one would notice

This is probably the simplest to control of all the events. You button mash alternating A and C the entire time. If you're a decent masher and your wrists don't kill you, it's usually a fairly easy victory. Sadly it won't mean much after all those previous losses due to shoddy game controls.

Once you've had a chance to test yourself against all these top athletes in games of pure skill you'll sit back and think to yourself: "Dear god those crappy controls made everything needlessly hard.Why would anyone want to play this game?"

I didn't lose, I'm just stretching with some pre-match yoga

Overall American Gladiators is an OK title for a TV game show port. It bears passing resemblance to what it's based on and is playable. However, I still think it's a disappointment. American Gladiators really could have been a lot of fun of done correctly. The campiness of the gladiators coupled with the silliness of the events themselves really was a recipe for fun. Sadly it didn't come out that way. A combination of poor controls and most of the AI rivals being just about perfect at everything made this game too difficult to really be enjoyable for most people. I never made it to the end of a tournament and if my travels around the internet are any indication, neither did anyone else. If you want to attempt to enjoy the game I suggest you find a friend and play in head to head mode, you can have some surprisingly fun, intense matches if you can keep the gladiators themselves from driving you crazy.


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