Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - F is for...

First up, an apology:

I was reading back a few of these blog entries last night and was appalled by the number of typos I make - I think there are at least 5 in every post.
I will endeavour to do better in the future!

I'm also a little disappointed in the games listed under E. The pickings were slim and, while I stand by the choices and think they are all games everyone should play, I'm not sure they were all keepers.

Anyway, onwards.

I'm starting to see themes in the games I like on this format, Finest Hour falls into the "non-stop-balls-out-noisy-action" theme.

It's a 'Contra' style effort in which you pilot a mech-suit and travel left to right wielding an auto-targeting gun and a set of booster jets for massive jumps.
It has a couple of neat tricks up it's sleeve, both of are things that modern games consumers have learnt to hate.
First up, there's the time limits.
Each level has a timer tied to a bonus, so speed  is of the essence.
You can double tap to run and it's quite a blast to surge into the unknown, hammering the fire button whilst ready to hit the brakes, or the boost, at the first sight of a bigger than normal baddie.
As well instilling the game with this extra urgency the timer also prevents abuse of the second game mechanic, the very mention of which has classic FPS fans exploding into fits of nerd rage...
The game is the earliest example I've seen (note: I've seen) of regenerating health.
Well, technically it's not your health.
As you take fire from the swarms of other mechs that assail you, your own suit starts to overheat, take too much continuous fire and you start to fry the circuits and eventually 'die'.
Even the continue screen keeps up this design, asking if you want to engage the emergency cooling system (bpay up to continue) or bug out and go home (Quit).
This one may be a little simplistic for some tastes, but if simplicity has a place in video games then the arcade is surely that place.

I'm pretty sure that there's been a shmup in every one of these 'Hidden Gem' blog entries. Representing F we have Fever S.O.S. from the lovely chaps at Cave.

You do have to wonder what would have become of the the shooter genre without these guys in the market to continually offer up fresh takes on the standard format.
Fever SOS is not one of the companies better known IPs, it never saw action outside the arcades and there are no sequels.
Nevertheless, this one's that's an absolute belter to crank the volume on for the full arcade experience - because what they've done this time is create the first, last, and only Disco V.shmup.
How could I not list that here?!
To be honest the Disco theme is mostly cosmetic, the soundtrack, enthusiastic announcer, and end of level score counter are all in a gloriously cheesy seventies style but the game itself is a fairly straightforward, albeit very high quality, v.shmup.
It offers a choice of craft, a choice of bullet pattern, and a choice of speed.
The idiosyncracy in gameplay comes from a score multiplier system based on collecting the little dudes that float down and back up the screen after you have destroyed the enemy ships. If you let just one guy float off the top of the screen then your score booster is reset.
The rest of the gameplay is the usual classy Cave stuff; Fantastic bosses, challenging difficultly level, screens full of laser fire. Tie this to the hugely infectious Disco motif and you have a winner on your hands.

Last up is Fast Lane from Konami.

You will have seen something like Fast Lane before. Games where two icons travel in different directions around the same basic maze style track, one collecting dots, the other trying to prevent them doing so, exist in their dozens on Mame alone.
I don't know how old this style of game is, I'm fairly sure I remember playing a variant of it on a Game & Watch style device, but what Konami have done with it here is take that old idea and turned it into a fantastically addictive arcade puzzle game.
The first thing they've done is to imbue the game with simple, detailed, effective graphics.
You travel the map in a close approximation of a Ferrari GTO, your enemy(s) come at you in a blue 'Bigfoot' style monster truck, and all about the course are girls in bikinis on roller skates who hold the game's power-ups. The sprites are tiny but each is remarkably characterful.
The powerups work in the tried and true Pac Man style - variations on the theme of the hunter becoming the hunted - albeit very briefly.
A favourite touch for me is the design of the power up menu at the top of screen. It lists "Normal - Jump - Shoot - Attack - ? - Flash" in the classic Konami style that will be familiar to anyone who has played Gradius or any of its many sequels or spin offs.
Fast Lane isn't a game that will show of your Mame cabinet in all it's glory. Nor is it the most original game ever made.
But it has hidden depths, is incredibly addictive, and most importantly of all - it's a hell of a lot of fun.

#Retrogaming #Gaming #Mame #Arcade