Friday, October 07, 2011

Three PC Engine games I want to like, but can't

Although all of the games detailed in this post were developed by the folks at Namco/Namcot, don't take that to mean that I dislike Namcot products. On the contrary, I consider some of the company's games--such as Dig Dug, Galaga, Mappy and Pac-Man--to be all-time favorites.

That said, the following trio of PC Engine releases are games that I'd love to call all-time favorites but can't for a number of reasons.

1. Barunba (1990)

Why I want to like it: The game's logo is pretty spiffy (it even has stars where the letters' holes should be!), as is its overall cover art, which showcases what seems to be Barunba's raison d'etre--its globe-shaped ship with its rotatable weapons.


Why I can't: Unfortunately, said cover art is, by far, the best thing about this forced-scrolling shmup. Its graphics can only be described as ugly, and its sound effects are just this side of ear-splitting. The worst part of this pixelated package, though, is that it's flat-out boring thanks in large part to overly long and uninspired levels.

2. Pac-Land (1989)

Why I want to like it: I distinctly remember seeing this game for the first time in a local arcade. "It's like Pac-Man mixed with Super Mario Bros!" I thought with amazement and wonder. (Superficially, that thought was spot-on, by the way, as Pac-Land looks exactly as you'd expect a Pac-Man-based platformer from the 8-bit era to look.)


Why I can't: Then I played it. To say I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be would be a massive understatement. The graphics are dull, but I'd happily embrace them if the gameplay weren't even duller--not to mention overly difficult. That rather brutal combination keeps me from playing it more than once or twice a year--and even then I only do so for a few minutes (which is how long it takes me to remember what an absolute turd this game is).

3. Wonder Momo (1989)

Why I want to like it: I hate to sound like a broken record, but Wonder Momo shares a number of traits with Barunba. Specifically, it has cute cover art ... and that's about it. OK, so it also has a cute protagonist.


Why I can't: A cute protagonist doesn't mean much, though, when the game she stars in is a complete and utter bore. It means even less when said game features iffy controls (Wonder Momo's jump kick is the worst offender here) and yawn-inducing enemy designs and backdrops.

I can't publish this post without mentioning that I originally intended to include The Tower of Druaga, too, but after picking up and playing it for the first time in a number of months (if not years) I discovered that the game isn't as bad as I thought it was. In fact, I now quite like it--although I can understand why many feel otherwise.

Note: This post originally appeared on my other gaming blog, iwasateenagepcenginefan.wordpress.com.

16 comments:

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Hm. That Pac-Man game sounds like something I might need to track down. Anything platformer-inspired that features Pac Man seems to have been a ridiculous venture...

daphaknee said...

you should play pac man 2 or whatever it was called for the super nintendo instead

ALSO GOD IF GAMES WERE LIKE THEIR COVERS WE WOULDNT HAVE MADE ANYTHING PAST ATARI

Bryan Ochalla said...

Yes, track it down and play it, Justin, but may I suggest doing so via emulation? You really shouldn't buy it unless you're an absolute Pac-Man nut or a PC Engine collector, IMO.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Daphaknee! I've heard of this game -- Pac-Man 2 for the SNES -- but I've never played it. I'll have to do that soon. Thanks for the reminder!

In regards to your second comment: Wouldn't it be awesome if some designer and programmer paired up and recreated classic games to make them resemble more closely their cover art??

Retronick said...

The only game I've played out of these 3 was Pac-Land, and you're absolutely right. Too difficult, and too ugly to appeal to most tastes. Every now and again I throw my copy in. Then it's everything I can do to keep from throwing it out.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Nick! Yeah, that sounds about right RE: Pac-Land. Like you, I go back to it every once in a while, mainly because I *really* want to like it. I think it also has something to do with the fact that I actually kind of like the game's cheap-o graphics. What I don't like is its cheap-o gameplay. Ugh. Really, this *could* have been a good game with a few tweaks...

kevspace said...

Aw, give poor Pac-Land a break. When put in historical context, it's not that bad. True, it isn't much fun to play today, but it's a faithful port of the arcade game... which just so happens to be one of the first side-scrolling platform games ever made! Released in 1984, the arcade version actually pre-dates Super Mario Bros.

The graphics (parallax scrolling!) were above average for the time and the difficulty was about on par with other '84 arcade games. I'm not disagreeing with your post as there's no real reason to play the PC Engine port, but the trailblazing original game itself deserves some credit.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, kevspace! Oh, I hear what you're saying. In context, Pac-Land looks much better than I suggested here. That said, I'm sure the game was looked at as a bit of a turd (gameplay-wise, especially) even in 1984. The controls are just ... odd.

You know what's funny? Even though the arcade version predated SMB, I didn't come across it until after SMB was released on the NES. As such, when I saw it, I thought it was a SMB clone. That likely informed my opinion of it, too.

All this said, I actually have a soft spot in my heart for the game. Like I said in an earlier comment, I kind of like the odd graphics, and the main theme is appealing enough. Unfortunately, I can't quite get over the gameplay...

kevspace said...

If you think the controls are odd on PCE, you should try playing it on the original arcade cabinet... which has no joystick! Still, despite its quirks, it WAS a fairly popular game, earning well enough to stick around in arcades for years and be ported to many home systems. I guess that's the eternal charm of Pac-Man for ya. But I'm sure I wouldn't have played it so much if it wasn't just one of the only TG-16 games I had, heh.

Oh and yeah, you should really try Pac-Man 2-- in which you don't even directly control Pac-Man, you just sort of point things out to him and hope he doesn't die randomly-- just to see how bizarre and bungled a Pac-Man game can be!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Actually, kevspace, I left a few words out of my last comment -- the version I came across after SMB had already hit the market wasn't the PCE or TG-16 version of Pac-Land, it was the arcade version. Not sure how the game survived that long in that particular arcade (in the middle of Wisconsin, no less), but there you go. So, my first experiences with this game were through the oddly controlled arcade original.

As for Pac-Man 2, I've actually come across a few people who love the game. I've never played it myself, though. Given its origins and the mixed reactions it seems to produce, I guess I'll have to give it a try at some point :)

Sean said...

How are the controls for Pac Land on the PC Engine anyway?

On the Famicom they are extremely illogical, you have to use the A and B buttons to move him left or right, which is quite confusing. I often wonder if it would have been a good game if they had simply made the controls make sense.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Sean! The arcade original was like the Famicom version in that you had to use the A and B buttons to move Pac-Man back and forth. In the PC Engine version, you can either use the d-pad or the A and B buttons for movement. Unfortunately, although the d-pad option is less confusing, it doesn't actually improve the game's feel much, IMO, as jumps are a bit iffy regardless of which control scheme you use.

Retr0gamer said...

I actually really like Pac Land but just can't make the long jumps that require you to mash the buttons like crazy :(

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Retr0gamer! Oh, those long jumps are horrible, aren't they? I can't make them either. Really, if a few things had been tweaked, this game could have been great.

Retr0gamer said...

Well I suppose it was made in a time when games were designed to eat your chage but being able to make the jumps consistently instead of not at all would have made me like the game a whole lot more! :)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Me, too, Retr)gamer. Honestly, those long jumps have always been a killer for me...