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Middle aged gamer's collection #25 Caravan Shooting Collection (SNES)

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#25 Caravan Shooting Collection (SNES)

Caravanning - this is a pastime in the UK that gets a lot of flak. People towing mobile homes behind their cars means they have a reduced max speed limit and given the slow speed and lack of visibility to the driver behind, is a source of some ire on UK roads. Perhaps some UK readers think this is a game produced to relieve the stress of encountering a caravan on the roads by allowing players to blast them off the road - sadly that is not the case.

Let me take you to Japan in the mid-80s when the Famicom/NES ruled the video-game world. At this time, Hudsonsoft were releasing some 2D shmups for the NES and part of the marketing effort was some sort of road show where temporary game-fests were set up around the country and video game competitions were ran with the highest score on the latest Hudson shmup for the NES being the aim. This seemed to be quite a phenomenon in Japan and ran for several years. It gave birth to the idea of caravan modes in some shmups - which is a quick 2 or 5 minute score attack mode which is a featured mode of lots of shmups released in later years.

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Middle-Aged gamer's collection - R-Type "Box Set"

R-Type Delta (PS1)
R-Type Final (PS2)

The shmup genre has many landmark titles scattered across its early history; but there are influential shmups and then there is R-Type. Its main innovation, the force orb which can be attached to either end of the ship or left to wander free may open up all sorts of possibilities - but R-Type's levels are pretty strict - it is a trial and error memory based shooter which probably wouldn't be successful today - so the creativity hinted at by the force orbs isn't entirely realised. Still, these games deliver lots of entertainment despite this and their high difficulty level, and are still well loved by shmup fans.

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Middle-aged gamer's collection #20

Body Special 264 (Sega Saturn)#20 Body Special 264 (Saturn)

I've been a bit middle-of-the-road in my last few posts. Mario Party, Bust-a-Move and Williams Arcade Hits may well have sold loads and given pleasure to millions - but there isn't much to say about them that hasn't already been said by better scribes than I. So I've decided to dip into my obscure games pile for this post and this one is certainly off the beaten track.

Every so often, people talk about games "growing" up and the creation of "mature games". Sometimes folk even mention adult games. But what are adult/mature themed games? To be honest the games industry seems to think that the "adult" gamer wants to play WWII first person shooters or open sandbox style roam-arounds such as Grand Theft Auto. Well for me this couldn't be further from the truth. Responsible adults don't have the time that such games require and to be honest while I'll happily play a bit of Call of Duty from time to time (I have the Wii version which is quite splendid and features some nice online options too) I don't tend to stick at them. Life gets in the way and any mission mode ultimately gets dropped - witness other games I have abandoned - Shenmue (Ryo is still in the first arcade I found!) or GTA Vice City where the novelty of driving around to 80s music running people over lost its sheen quite quickly. I lost interest at the bit where I'm attacked by a bunch of waiters and cooks from a restaurant - quite early on in the game. I keep telling myself I'll go back to these - maybe in my retirement if the hardware lasts.

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Middle aged gamer's collection #16-18

#16-#18. Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits (SNES) / Midway's Arcade's Greatest Hits (Dreamcast)/ Midway presents Arcade's Greatest Hits (Saturn)

Here's another example of me doing a double-dip (or triple-dip in this case) - paying for the same title on a different platform. I can't resist retro compilations for consoles. I have amassed quite a few over the years and the number of retro compilations available for a console has actually been a factor in the purchasing decision for console - certainly for the PS1 and PS2.

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Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #9

#9-#15 Bust-a-Move games
Bust-a-Move 2 : Arcade Edition (N64)
Bust-a-Move 3DX (N64)
Bust-a-Move 4 (Dreamcast)
Super Bust-a-Move 2 (PS2)
Super Bust-a-Move All Stars (Gamecube)
Bust-a-Move (Wii)
Bust-a-Move Plus (WiiWare)

I’m big into puzzle games. Like millions of others I was bitten by the Tetris bug around 1990 when the genre was born and I have always picked puzzle games up ever since. I find it hard not to enjoy these – even those games that have garnered criticism such as Tetrisphere.

If I find a particular game enjoyable I will keep on buying different versions across platforms and will follow a series. The Puzzle Bobble or Bust-a-move series is a case in point – it being one of the most addictive. It has that great balance of luck and skill that makes the puzzle video game so great. I'm not going to insult readers with the description of the basic play features but I will cover how these versions differ.

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Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #8

#8 Addams Family (SNES)

Addams Family was an early release for the SNES and being a licenced game I avoided it at the time. That was my loss as this is a really solid game that would have really impressed me back then. This is a straight-up platform game but it has been blessed with a fair bit of attention to detail and overall effort by the developers which is refreshing to see. Even at the time of launch (the early 90s) loads of identikit licenced games were around - mostly poor Mario ripoffs. While this game does steal some ideas from the Mario series it is different enough to deserve some attention.

This isn't a linear platform game - you can tackle each of the game's goals in any order you like. You control Gomez Addams who must rescue 5 family members secreted around the house. Gomez is wonderfully responsive and "slidey" and has had some graphical attention paid to him. The character artwork mostly resembles the cast of the early 90s film, not the original film series and a pretty good job has been done here.

Gomez has a health bar represented on-screen by a heart meter. Initially you have 2 hearts meaning you can be hit twice before losing a life but there are 3 meter extensions to be found in the house too. In all then you have 8 goals to achieve each guarded by a boss - and I recommend you go for the extra hearts first as this game is tough.

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Kindle Upgrade

While charging my Kindle up last week I left the 3G on and lo and behold I got a free upgrade to the firmware. The first thing I noticed is the font change (though this does tend to vary from book to book) and the fact that page turns are now a bit quicker.

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Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #7

#7 Parodius Deluxe Pack (Sega Saturn)

I started blogging on this topic with a shmup and here's 2 more. The 1st two games in this great and criminally ceased series are on this disk. This landed on my doormat this week - however I'm still gaining ground on covering my collection as this is a bit of an indulgence. I already have a PAL copy of this for my PAL Saturn but this Japanese copy is for my white Japanese Saturn. With an Action Replay 5-in-1 I can play the PAL version on my white Saturn but its nice to have the true 60Hz version - the intro sequence is slightly different but the main reason is the rumours that extended use of an AR 5in1 damages the Saturn expansion port as the PCB is too thick.

These are 2 great games - the first one is showing its age now but the second game is still an auditory and visual overload. Parodius is a spoof or parody of the Gradius games - the gameplay is the same but the graphics look drug inspired and the music is made up of weird remixes of classical and other well known tunes. I posted a fairly hefty review of this series on the original AA site which can still be found there as the staff here have kept that up. Here's the link : http://www.armchairarcade.com/aamain/forum_viewtopic.php?7.8391

Being shmups they suit the middle-aged gamer on a time budget and the kids like this series too due to the visuals but also the large array of characters you can choose to play with. I'm still chasing the 1 credit kill on these though - I find these games just as tough as the Gradius originals but somehow they aren't as annoying due to the overall oddness of these titles and the obscure Japanese cultural references they are stuffed with.

These games are also available on lots of other platforms including the SNES, PSP, PC Engine and PS1 (there's even a GameBoy port) - but I stick with the Saturn versions as it has a better reputation for handling 2D.

Looking at these games and considering my age I sometimes wonder if I'll ever really grow up.

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Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #6

#6 Mario Party 7 (GameCube).

My Wii was out of commission this week. I had to send it back to Nintendo's UK repair shop - it was starting to reject discs - even new games. Its over 3 years old so I had to pay £28 to get it fixed. Nintendo send you a posting label but I guess the repair cost covers the postage. You can follow the progress of the job on a website using a supplied repair number and password. Its all quite slick and it took just over a week which isn't bad considering the Irish Sea and May Day bank holiday had to be negotiated.

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Middle Aged Gamer's Collection #5

#5 Outrun 2006 Coast to Coast (PS2)

I love a good driving game. The first one that really grabbed me was Pole Position in the arcade - particularly the sit down version. The immediacy of the control scheme with 2 pedals, 2 gears and a wheel meant anyone could sit down and play and for its time the sights and sounds were pretty immersive. Pole Position seemed to hang around in arcades for years and its more modern day counterparts such as Sega Rally and Daytona seem to have lasted even longer. You will still see Sega Rally in arcades and airports to this day despite its age - it seems I'm not the only one who loves a good driving game. The key word here though is arcade. I find arcade style racers far more enjoyable than so-called simulators such as Gran Turismo. I know that the likes of Gran Turismo are designed for the home in order to provide a deep and longer lasting gameplay experience but the seriousness and absence of that fun factor means I'll reach for an arcade style racer every time.

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