Version tested: Wii
Blimey. It's all gone a bit sparse around here, innit? After six weeks of gorging our hamster cheeks on the 100+ games loitering with intent inside the glowing cocoon of the Virtual Console, we're back to just covering the new stuff. Which is just as it should be, of course, but I can't quite shake a feeling not unlike that which accompanied those high school parties where it's all going mental, and someone is playing Voodoo Ray again, but suddenly it's "My parents are back!" and everyone just vanishes and it all goes eerily quiet. That's the sort of desolate hush I'm experiencing right now. Although that may be the two litres of supermarket-brand cider I just necked before passing out on a pile of coats.
So...a duo of newbies have elbowed their way onto the VC this week. One is rather good, the other is...a bit strange. Which is which? Let's find out.
Kirby's Dream Course
- Platform: SNES
- Wii Points: 800
Or "the strange one" for those of you who simply can't wait to find out the answer. Kirby has graced many Nintendo titles, without ever really earning a place next to Mario, Link and company at the top table. His platform games are inventive and cute and always worth a try. His other games - in which Nintendo squished his undulating pink form into all manner of ill-fitting spin-off genres - are less of a sure thing. This is one of those. Kirby does golf is the easy soundbite, but it's not quite that simple. There's a dash of Marble Madness involved as well, and it actually plays more like a puzzle game than a sport.
The aim is to whack Kirby around self-contained courses using the traditional golf game direction and power controls, hitting all the enemies on the way. Once you're down to one enemy, it transforms into the exit - or "hole" to use a technical golfing term. Each shot you take knocks a bit off Kirby's health, each enemy you hit replaces it - this game's way of keeping you under par. There are panels on the floor that can alter Kirby's trajectory, or warp him to another part of the course, and you can also collect various abilities (borrowed from the platform games) to help you out. It is, frankly, rather a lot to take in - and your initial confusion won't be helped by the VC's lack of pre-download information.
It's not an unpleasant game and, if you have the patience to master it, can be a lot of fun - especially with two players - but there's no getting away from the fact that the title was originally developed as a standalone golf game, with Kirby added later to help it sell. As cute as it is, it's often a slightly awkward combination and at 800 points it's one of those downloads that cries out for a "try before you buy" option.
- Platform: TurboGrafx16
- Wii Points: 600
If the title doesn't tip you off, the two scowling and heavily muscled military types on the start screen surely will. Smothered in camouflage and gurning like eggbound chimps, they brandish their weaponry in a way that simply screams GRRRRR LATE EIGHTIES SHOOT-'EM-UP RAAAARGH.
For it is, indeed, a late 1980s shoot-'em up. Drawing heavily from the likes of Commando, with just a dash of Rolling Thunder, it's the sort of game where a man in a green hat barks, "Your mission is to rescue the president, who has been kidnapped by the enemy. GO!" thus delivering both instructions and plot in just one screen.
So you march across the level, shooting the bad guys (or shooting the exploding barrels they insist on hiding behind) and occasionally exploring buildings or climbing up trucks to rescue hostages. New weapons can be found in crates (of course) and you can even hop on motorbikes and run people over.
While the action is puddle-shallow, it's these little touches that lift it above its peers. Although they don't change the gameplay drastically, the fact that you can wander in and out of structures, or jump over fences on a bike, make it feel less repetitive than most side-scrollers of this vintage. It's also a lot more forgiving than the usual retro blasters, with a generous health bar and a nicely balanced difficulty curve. Fans of daft macho military shooters should definitely give this a go.