As a gamer, I've seen a lot of crap. And by a lot, I mean tons. There are literally hundreds of craptacular games out there. Sure, the Playstation and PS2 have tons and tons of titles, but over 90% of those games are utter bullhock. Not to say that Nintendo systems are without their stinkers. Just looking back on the SNES and thinking of bad games for it makes me cringe. Heck, even the GameBoy Advance is a victim of this virulent affliction. Anyone can see they suck, but people must be buying them, cause they keep getting made.
On the other hand, we've got some real gems too. Speaking as a fanboy, almost every one of Nintendo's games have been of excellent quality. Sure, production values are sometimes sold short, but they're almost always fun. And it's not only Nintendo, of course. A lot of other companies have very nice track records, like Namco, Squaresoft and Enix (which are now conveniently rolled up into one), and Rare. It's companies like this that make people keep coming back for more. If it were only crappy whored-out movie/TV licenses (Matrix and Simpsons, lookin' at you), video games would have been dead long ago.
So if I'm talking about both sides of the spectrum in one article, what the Hell is going on? Well, simply put, I'm reviewing one crappy game and one excellent game. Why do both at once? Well not only am I trying to make some kind of deeper meaning or something only an English professor could figure out, but neither game that I chose to review could possibly fill an entire properly-sized article. So now that you know what's going on, I'll start with the bad news.
Yes, that's right. I'm going to subject you to something so bad that you're bound to appreciate the better of the two. Now that's a clever little idea right there, isn't it? Glad I thought of it while typing that last sentence. Yes. Yes... But anywho, you remember Waldo, right? That guy who everyone was consistently trying to find? Ha, I can see that look on your face right now. I love that "Oh God no! They made a game out of that!?" look. It's so... je ne sais quoi. But yeah, they made a game out of Waldo.
Actually, they made at least two games out of him! I remember renting the NES game, and damned if that wasn't the worst 5 bucks ever spent. Actually, buying the game would constitute as worse, so I guess second worst 5 bucks ever spent will have to do. But it was entirely impossible. As far as I can remember the "maps" were huge and you got very little time and only a small sphere of vision. And if my memory is right, they stupid-fied the SNES version like rap music does to anyone who listens to it.
After the title screen, we get treated to the difficulty select right away. And let me tell you, you'll be blown away by this. The difficulty levels in this game are Normal, Expert, and Waldo. Yes, instead of an "easy" level, they put Waldo. And no, it doesn't just say "Waldo" where "easy" should be, there's just a big graphic of his head and upper torso. I let curiosity get to me, and dammit, the Waldo level was just the exact same map five times in a row. Who'd have known? And why would they put something so ridiculous in a game? It beats me, but since Waldo was so easy, I'll try Expert next.
After I picked the difficulty, I got a choice of four different graphics. A dangerously obese man-thing (anything that fat cannot be classified properly as a man), two guys who looked to be getting drunk [whilst sitting] on magic carpets, a strange pig-like thing with spikes and a hugeass nose, and some guy throwing what looked to be liquid Play-Doh on a robe-sporting man. It decisions like this that make life so difficult. I figured eventually I'd have to see them all, so I took the drunk carpet guys.
And this is what I got. I don't know, but I feel as it there's something wrong with this picture. Oh, maybe it's that it's following the exact same stereotypes as the Where's Waldo books. I'm not exactly sure, but I think they might be in Arabia somewhere. If that's even a place. I did really bad in geography class. But anywho, you'll notice that everyone here is coloured. Not only that, but they're all wearing turbans and sashes, and riding on carpets. And when in the Hell did they invent a country where anyone and everyone was required to be on the rooftops? And why didn't they ask me to be a part of that country?
Next I chose the pig face thing, and we move from somewhere in Africa to the medieval times, where everyone has changed from black to white. Where is the equality? I'm already sick of this game and its racist stereotypes. Didn't the creators of this game ever see that movie Black Knight? But now I'll direct your attention to some on-screen stuff. Near the bottom, we can see a gray brick. Clicking it gives you 150 points. Somewheres near the middle right side of the pic is a clock, which increases the time you have to find Waldo. And speak of the devil, there he is right beside the magnifying glass! That level sure was a breeze.
The other two levels are pretty much the exact same things. I should note a couple things about the gameplay here, I guess. Now obviously there's a time limit, and you can extend it by picking up those clocks. But honestly, you don't even need the whole first clock to complete a level. The only thing that takes any time at all is finding the other objective, a scroll. They, unlike Waldo, can be hidden quite well, as they're small and can be fit behind things quite easily. But of course, they rarely are, so each level will take you about 30 seconds, and that's if you stop to pick everything up.
One other thing I forgot to mention that influences the game in a big way is the size of the maps. For one, they're very, very small. Bite-sized, even. And to top it all off, they only scroll horizontally. This may not sound like such a big deal, but considering how big everything is, you've got an extremely small zone of probability of where Waldo can be hiding. A zone of probability comparable to that of an electron. And that's pretty much all there is to it. You scroll around until you see the scroll and Waldo, and you're done.
But what would a game be without its bonus levels? I'd be a game without bonus levels. But Waldo's game has one. Yeah, one... If you manage to find the strange Waldo-dog in a level, you get to fly around on a magic carpet collecting bones. Now you don't have to be in the magic carpet level to get this bonus, it's the exact same on every level. Yeah. They went through all the trouble of making four levels, so why not four bonus levels? Maybe then I wouldn't feel so cheated. Maybe if there were more than 8 people on the staff, they would have put in individual bonus levels. We'll never know now.
So if you just so happen to beat all four levels, you get taken to the super-secret fifth level! Woah! Never saw that coming! It's just the same thing, but with no extra pickups and one tiny little twist. There's a lot of Waldos here, see, and only one is the right one. That right Waldo just happens to have lost one of his shoes. It's a long shot, but at least they tried. I'm still not satisfied. And what do you get for finding shoeless Waldo?
Even Super Mario freaking Brothers had more of an ending than that. The question remains, though, why did I want to get the scrolls back? He's obviously not going to do anything for me. Hell, he could be evil incarnate for all we know. Maybe the instruction booklet had some kind of story in its pages, but I really doubt that possibility. I bet this game didn't even have an instruction booklet. You can only use two buttons the entire game, so there's really nothing anyone needs help to figure out. Even Jessica Simpson could figure this one out. (Okay, the joke was a bit stale, but I couldn't think of anything else.)
I think I can sum up the entire review portion into one paragraph here. Graphics were so-so. The animation was at a max two frames switching back and forth. The sound and music wasn't much better. The music was forgettable and might have been annoying too. The sound may have consisted of a couple beeps and one really bad voice sample that says "Where's Waldo?" every damn time something happens. Gameplay was boring and simplistic. I finished all three difficulty levels in less that 10 minutes total. If that doesn't tell you that this game needs a little tuning, what will?
As a final note, I'd like to just plainly say that The Great Waldo Search sucked. It doesn't even deserve to be italicized. I'm being kind enough just capitalizing the letters there. It sucked hard. Don't even download the ROM. You'd be better off doing something productive like taking a dump or making a macaroni statue of Jerry Seinfeld. I guess the only good thing you could possibly say about the game is that the maps are fairly faithful to the books. Other than that, total crap. At this halfway point, I'm at about 1600 words, and the next game will probably yield a shorter review, because lo and behold, it's a puzzle game. If you want, this would be a great time to go get a snack or something. It's okay, I'll wait for you.
I hope you're done whatever you chose to do at our little intermission, cause I'm getting back to business now. Waldo was a horrible stain on the tapestry that is the history of video games, but the next game is one of my all-time favorite puzzle games ever: Bust-A-Move! Now the tricky part is going to be making it to the 2500 word mark, because there just isn't a whole lot you can say about puzzle games. Fortunately, since I love this game so much, I could probably drone on and on about it for quite a while.
Hooray! Look at the happy little dragons. Incase you didn't know or are having trouble placing it, they're the same characters from Bubble Bobble, one of my old NES favorites. Bub and Bob make their grand puzzle debut here, and they do a marvelous job of it too. And as an added little trivia note, the game also comes packaged on every system from arcade machines to the Nintendo 64, and sometimes it's known as Puzzle Bobble. But I'll refer to it as Bust-A-Move, because it's such a catchy phrase. The more you know!
Because there isn't a whole lot of screenshot variety in a game like this, I got this great idea that taking a pic of the "modes" screen would be a good idea. Only what am I supposed to say about it? Let's see what we have here. I'm obviously going to choose the 1P Play, because I've got nobody to play against and I'll be damned if I'm gonna challenge anybody's record. As for options, I need no options! Though a sound test would be fun...
Like most people, I don't know any passwords, so I have to start all the way from Round 1. it's not so bad, because these easy rounds are great for racking up huge points! It's a pretty simple game at heart. You start with a bunch of bubbles hanging from the ceiling (Bubble Bobble fans will recognize the little guys trapped in the bubbles). Your job is to shoot bubbles up to pop the one on the roof. You get one randomly coloured bubble at a time, and you have to "line up" three or more bubbles of the same colour to pop them.
But of course it sounds easy! It is, for the most part. The only thing that gets in your way is the fact that you can get a lot of rubbish bubbles when you need particular colours, building a huge ball of garbage off to a side. And on top of that, you're racing the clock, as the roof keeps getting lower, and if a bubble ever goes below that line near the bottom, you're done. If you do manage to clear all the bubbles from the screen, it's happiness and dancing dragons for you! In conclusion, yes, it is an easy game.
Now after a couple learning levels, the game spices it up a bit with some different types of special bubbles. In the pic above, you can see a fiery bubble among all of the regular bubbles. If you hit this guy with a bubble, it'll explode into a big ball of flame and vaporize any bubbles within a small radius of where it once was. This is very useful for clearing out patches of trash bubbles, and lets you complete the round shown above in only three shots.
There are a couple other types of special bubbles, like the electric bubble pictured above. Shooting this one will send a lightning bolt blazing across the screen, destroying any bubbles that get in its way. It can be even handier than the fiery bubble, especially if it's at the top of the screen and there's a clear path towards it. The last special bubble I've seen is a watery bubble that lets a flow of water downward, changing the colour of all the bubbles below it to a single colour, making them easy pickin's.
Like I said earlier, if you aren't swift enough in your bubble-busting ways, you'll get smoked by the torrent of bubbles. The poor little dragon fell over... If that's not incentive enough to lose, let's put it this way; when you do lose, all your points go with you. So continuing would put your score back at a measly zero. Unlike some games though, Taito thought ahead and doles out plenty of continues so you can keep going. They aren't infinite though, so don't slack off too much.
I might add that there is one finer point to losing. When you do lose, if you choose to come back, you get an aiming tool that helps a lot. You can't see it in the pic above because it flashes and I pressed the button at the wrong second. It's not my fault though, the little dragon was yelling at me to hurry up. But it does take all the guesswork out of the game, so you only get it for one level. After that, you'll have to rely on your knowledge of simple physics. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me take the course because I'm no good at math, so all I can do is hope my aim is true.
I'm not sure why I love this game, but anyone who's ever gone to a movie with me can surely back that claim up. If there's an absence of Metal Slug, you just know I'm gonna be at a Bust-A-Move machine until my quarters run dry or they manage to pry me off the machine because we've already missed the previews. I think one of the biggest factors that keeps me coming back is the music. It's always the same tune over and over, but I love it so. If you need a little idea of how it goes, here's a link to a remix of the main tune. It's not quite the same as the original, but I can still put it on loop for hours and not get annoyed.
To wrap this one up in a single paragraph doesn't do it justice, but I will anyway. The graphics are colourful and fun, almost giving off a Yoshi's Island vibe. The music, as I already stated, is very cute and loveable. Sound effects include happy "yay!"s and such from the dragons, and the always fun bubble popping sound. The gameplay is that of a puzzle game: simple, but at the same time complex. Controls are nice and precise, and give you the accuracy you need for tricky shots.
Overall, I still love this game, and when it gets ported to the Nintendo 20075, I'll still love it. When I go see whatever movie I deem worthy of seeing 30 years in the future, I'll still love it, and my accomplices will still have to convince me that the movie is what we came to see. I suggest finding a GBA version, or if (God forbid) that doesn't actually exist, go for one of the older GB games. If you can't find one of those, look for the PS2 version. As a last resort, download one of the many ROM versions. Usually I wouldn't condone such a thing, but some games are just worth breaking copyright law for.
And that's the end of this week's article. I probably shouldn't say that, because these don't exactly come weekly, but it's too late to go back and type in something different. Maybe I should try to do an article a week, or at least bi-monthly. Lately I've been doing pretty good, with nine submissions so far this year. If you total what I did last year, that a whole lot of crap in two months. I think that this is one of my best articles in a while, because for at least the first half, I concentrated on not actually reviewing, but picking out little things and making big deals out of them, much like one of my many web-heroes would do.
So I hope you've enjoyed this article. I know the electron thing made all the difference for me. I think it would be a whole lot funnier if I'd actually made that page, but as it stands, very few people will know what I'm talking about or take the time to read the whole thing and try to understand. I also had fun taking the screenshots for Bust-A-Move, and almost forgot that I was trying to write an article and not trying to finish the game. As a final remark, I'd like to say that after writing this, I'm certainly convinced that I should go out and buy Bust-A-Move. I guess it worked. Ooh! And I even managed to finish with a sweet word count of over 3100!
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