Virtual Console Roundup

Jump! Jump! Bail!

Version tested Wii

Ooh! A new N64 game! While it's demonstrably daft to get more excited about a game because of the format it was on, Nintendo's ruthless rationing of N64 titles has made them the forbidden fruit of the Virtual Console. You know deep down that the SNES had the greater ratio of classics to crap, but their relative rare appearances make the N64 offerings so damned alluring. They sit there, taunting us. Tempting you. So special. So big. So chunky. So expensive.

And there's another generic scrolling beat-'em-up as well. That's like a tradition or something.

1080: TenEighty Snowboarding

  • Platform: N64
  • Wii Points: 1000
  • In Real Money: GBP 7.00 / EUR 10.00 (approx)

TenEighty, or 1080: TenEighty Snowboarding to give it its full punctuation-breaking title, arrived at just the right time. In 1998 the hot, hip world of snowboarding was still a crisp white field of powdery snow, unsullied by the clodding great footprints of the games industry.

Well, apart from Cool Boarders.

Put together by the British team behind Wave Race 64, TenEighty offers six mountain courses, five laughably trendy characters clad in licensed Hilfiger outfits and a whole freezer full of gameplay modes. Okay, six. As with Cool Boarders, challenges can be either speed- or point-based, tasking you with beating opponents to the finish line or topping their stunt score.

And, right from the start, it's still an impressive rush. The speed is tangible, the courses packed with just enough fiendish chicanes and unfortunately placed foliage, while the physics model is undeniably amazing for the period. There's a genuine sense of weight and velocity to your rider, while tumbles and collisions are poised on the glorious cusp of what we would now call ragdoll physics. Back then we just called it woah awesome crash.

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It's not all rosy though. The game is undeniably best when played with a real life friend. The single-player modes are hampered by some noticeably clunky AI, which skews the game dangerously close to unfair territory. Other racers will zoom off at speeds you seem incapable of matching, in direct violation of the laws of physics, forcing you to slowly catch up to them rather than racing neck and neck. If you do get in front of them, they'll rubber band back into the race with alarming ease. And they also follow some pretty predictable predetermined routes, so victory often comes more from learning their path than pure skill.

The controls are also surprisingly fussy, sending you into a spill for the slightest misjudgement in your landing. This will no doubt please those who value realism but will equally frustrate anyone hoping to simply sail over a ramp, twizzle around like a giddy kestrel, and land like a pro first time out. These are not major problems though. The wonky AI is unfortunate, but hard to criticise too much given that some blockbuster racing games still use the same cheap tricks. The controls...well, that's why there's a practice mode, dummy.

TenEighty is a welcome addition to the VC. It's one of the N64 games that lots of people have been hoping to see on the system, and it holds up well in 2008 without the benefit of rose-tinted glasses. Huzzah.

8/10

Riot Zone

  • Platform: TurboDuo
  • Wii Points: 800
  • In Real Money: GBP 5.60 / EUR 8.00

Contrary to popular belief, giraffes do actually have vocal chords. However, they rarely use them and so the myth that they are incapable of making any sound whatsoever has endured. Despite their enormous height these majestic herbivores only have seven bones in their elongated necks - the same number as found in all mammals, be they human, rodent or blue whale.

Now as for the mandrill...sorry? What? Riot Zone? Oh right. That thing.

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Look, it's yet another in the seemingly endless procession of uninspired horizontal brawlers making up the numbers on the VC. This one, more than most, is particularly pointless since it's an even more blatant copy of Streets of Rage than usual, only nowhere near as good. And since Streets of Rage is already on the VC, along with its sequels and close competitors like Final Fight, I'd much rather share some fascinating animal facts than think up something interesting to say about Riot Zone.

One of the heroes is called Hawk. There, how's that? And there's no two-player mode. That's another thing. See that screenshot? That's more entertaining than the game. And even that's not real - I deliberately took the screenshot before he'd finished speaking just so it looked rude for the sake of a cheap gag.

It's marginally better than last week's Alien Storm, but only because it doesn't feel like you're wading through treacle. Feel free to insert your own "with so many amazing NES, SNES, N64, Megadrive, Master System, TurboGrafx and NeoGeo games out there why does Nintendo keep uploading generic tripe like this?" complaint here.

2/10

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