Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mame Hidden Gems - H is for...

After the glut of quality in G you'd think I'd be glad of the limited unknown qualities of H...
But rather than be overjoyed at only having six games to choose from I'm finding it very hard to choose which to leave out!

So I'll start with Hyper Duel, because it's a stone cold banker for a spot.

Yup, we're back in H.Shmup territory - my preferred orientation for shooters in truth.
The H variety tends to be more about shooting bad guys than avoiding their (admittedly very pretty) bullet patterns.

Hyper Duel is kind enough to offer you two different ways to shoot said bad guys, each of them with distinct pros and cons, and each selected in a way so blinding simple you'll wonder why it isn't in every game!

Well, maybe not every game, I can't see it working in Tetris...

Anyway, basically you have two fire buttons. Hold the first and your space ship (one of three you can choose from) will fire continuously.
Hold the second and your space ship quickly and smoothly transforms into a flying mech which then also fires continuously.

It's a simple kind of genius that gives the game a real fluidity. Switching between the forms works so well that after a while you'll speeding through narrow gaps with the ship one second and instantly blasting at bigger enemies with the more powerful mech the next.

The game has a decent array of power-up and super bombs that act differently depending on the form at any given time and on top of that you can pick up little helpers that join the fray alongside you.
Intermittently a collectable appears that alternates between T and G. Grab it when it's G and another spaceship joins in, when it's collected showing T it's another mech that shows up.
They're no mugs either, taking down bosses is noticeably easier when these comrades fight with you.

All of the above is brought to screen with real flair - The enemies come in all shapes and sizes and are all beautifully drawn. There's cool use of sprite scaling and other effects too, as well as a high level of detail that includes - a personal favourite - showers of shell casings falling from enemy guns.
All in all it's as good as just about any H.shmup out there and it would be a crime to ignore it if you have any love for the genre,

Future Sports games are a difficult beast to get right - Fortunately Heavy Smash is one that get's it spot on.

It's a fairly simple effort really.
Select your nation (Why is England always depicted by a British flag?) either through patriotism, careful analysis of their strengths and weakness, or by choosing Australia because it's the only team with girls - Then it's straight to the action in the arena of a super-charged handball court.

With the ball you have jump, shoot, and pass buttons that can be combined for extra moves.
Lose the ball and the latter two have their actions swapped for long and short range tackle respectively - the animation for these varies depending on your choice of country.

The game has a nice balance to it that is tied, when you're playing the surprisingly effective AI, to a well considered difficulty curve.
There's a really satisfying mechanic for 'centring' that adds a huge amount of show boating fun for the more experienced player. This alone moves Heavy Smash towards the sweet spot of easy to play, hard to master that all games should aim for, and that alone should earn it a chunk of your time.

Aside from the dubious decision to include Alien vs Predator way back in the A's, Hot Chase is the first game I've listed in this blog that I'd played before I started this project.

Back when I used to bunk off Friday afternoons and go to one of the three arcades in the town where I lived Hot Chase was a personal favourite.

There were two reasons for this.
Firstly, no-one else was ever playing it. Secondly, it was 20p a pop in the days when 50p was the standard exchange rate for Game Credits.

It's one of those games that realised Outrun had perfected the pure arcade racing experience and rather than try to compete decided to add gimmicks in an attempt to get a chunk of the market.
The gimmick here being that there's a bomb in your car that will go off if you don't reach the check point in time. Clearly a badly drawn explosion instead of the usual grinding to a halt mere feet from the line isn't really a revolution in gameplay terms - so gladly there are other elements added to the mix.

As you race to your goal you will be assaulted by enemy soldiers and attack helicopters, boulders will litter parts of the road and will launch you, Buggy Boy style, into a massive jump.
Occasionally you have to cross an intersection and there's even trains that cross the road - albeit always accompanied by a conveniently placed ramp-truck to help you out.

The game is tough as nails and the animations are occasionally a bit wonky but it was genuinely unique at the time and always fun to play.

Okay, okay... this is a nostalgia choice. Sue me.

In an addition that I might make a habit of, here's a quick summary of the games that didn't quite make the cut:

Hotdog Storm is a really good V.shmup that you should give a shot - it's only failing is that it doesn't really excel at anything, despite being rather good at almost everything - check it out.
Also worth a look is Data Easts Hoops. Give the original a go, not the '96 version or any of the others, it may have ridden the coat tails of NBA Jam but it's very much it's own game and a really fun one at that. Lastly, Horizon is a Moon Patrol style shooter that draws a direct line from the arcade of 1985 to endless runners of smartphones in 2013, give it a shot.

#Gaming #Retrogaming #Hidden Gems #MAME #Arcade