Game Review: 6 Souls

There’s something about a pixel-art game that really draws me in. It’s most probably a tinge of nostalgia for ‘the good old days’ that appeals to me. When 6 Souls, from developer BUG-Studio and publisher Ratalaika Games, came up for review, I watched about thirty seconds of the trailer and knew this was a game I wanted to get my hands on.

“Uncover the Clifford family disappearance!

Embark on an exciting journey to find the abandoned Clifford Castle and uncover its secrets!

Our heroes, adventure enthusiasts Jack and his faithful dog companion Butch, go on an exciting quest to find an abandoned castle where the entire Clifford family vanished years ago. The whole castle is surrounded by mystery, from its dark dungeons to its highest towers.

While discovering new rooms, our heroes will learn fascinating details about the Clifford family, meet the castle’s peculiar residents and uncover its secrets.”

6 Souls is an all action-platformer that sees you playing as Jack and his dog Butch. Exploring a strange and mysterious castle (in search of treasure) that has more than a few secrets. Taking place over eighty levels in eight unique locations, with each locale ending in a classic boss fight. I’m not going to get into the story here as there are some really interesting things that could be spoiled, but I will just say that the plot has more than a few twists and turns that certainly make it worth paying attention to.

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Playing through 6 Souls really did take me back to that mid to late-eighties era of console gaming. It looks and feels like a Master System/NES title but with a few modern tweaks and ideas. There is a bit of a Metroidvania angle to the game too, as you’ll unlock new skills that will allow you to access previously inaccessible areas. Plus, there are a few puzzles thrown into the mix which are hardly taxing, basic pushing blocks kind of thing. Also, some sections will have you switching from playing as Jack and controlling Butch the dog to get into hard to reach places.

The two characters are diametrically opposed in how they play. Jack is the all-action, jumping and attacking type character. The one who smacks enemies in the face with his sword (and later a bow and arrow). Whereas Butch is more stealthy, he sneaks past enemies and uses his doggy speed to reach places that Jack can not. This dual character play certainly adds a layer to the game and helps to keep things fresh by mixing up the gameplay.

Then there are the skills that you learn. Like an air dash that allows you to jump higher/longe or gaining a bow, which you can use to shoot arrows into the walls and make platforms. The skills are awarded to you every time you beat an end of level boss. As previously mentioned, the skills will grant you access to previously inaccessible areas. You can go back and replay through any of the previously completed levels to explore any areas you may have missed, if you so wish.

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I did find a few niggles as I played through. The controls are simple and yet just a little bit annoying. I think the best way to describe this is with the wall climbing. Yes you can wall climb but you have to hold down a button to do so whereas, I feel that should’ve been automatic when you jump at a wall. It just feels like unnecessary busy work and when the action heats up, it proves to bit a bit on the fiddly side. The fiddly controls only become more apparent when you unlock new skills too, as the button mapping begins to make less and less sense. Button mapping that can’t be changed either.

I did mention how the game takes place over eighty levels and in eight locations, which sounds like a lot… but it really isn’t. See, most levels are bite-size and can be finished in seconds, seriously. And an entire location can be gotten through in just a few minutes or so. According to the times on my game, the most I’ve spent on any one location was a little over thirty-seven minutes and the shortest was just over four minutes. So while the eighty levels and eight locations sounds like a lot of game, realistically you can see the end credits in about three to four hours or so, depending on how sharp your platforming skills are.

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The short game length doesn’t help the fact that 6 Souls can be a bit easy. I mean, I wouldn’t call, it an ‘easy game’ per se, it’s more a fact that it seems more difficult because is easy to die, if that makes sense. Outside of the numerous deaths, the challenge here is relatively mid to slightly tricky. If you are a fairly competent platform player, you’ll find little here to test your skills and probably make your way through the game without breaking a sweat. Even the boss fights are a breeze and more often than not, just require you to bash the attack button once they have finished their attack. In fact, thinking back, only one boss had me having to try more than twice.

If 6 Souls was really trying to capture that old school platforming feel, it really falls short when it comes to the difficulty. Now, there are two difficulty settings but the harder setting is locked until you finish it on easy. For me, this is a huge negative as I’m the kind of person who wants to play a game on hard from the off. Even more so, the basic enemies in the game that you will come across, you don’t even need to fight them for the most part. You can just jump over pretty much every single enemy in the game and keep going. I only really tackled enemies if they were in the way of a particularly tricky jump. There’s no point in taking out the enemies either, you don’t gain experience points to build your skills, you don’t get coins to spend in shops on better equipment, etc. There is zero rewards or reason to risk your life, so just jump over them.

6 SOULS SCREEN 1

Your biggest enemy in the game won’t be spiders, slimes, bats or even any of the bosses. Where you will meet your death in the game will be the spikes. Oh yeah, this is one of those types of platformers. The many spikey deaths kind of put me in mind of titles like Super Meat Boy, perhaps a shade less difficult, if I’m being honest. You do have a three-hit health bar and that really only comes into play when facing enemies or bosses, cos when it comes to the spikes, it is one hit deaths. Pretty much every jump you’ll face in the game will involve spikes. Spike pits, spiked walls, spikey ceilings, etc. The spikes are everywhere and you’ll need to use pixel perfect and split-second skills to make your way through the levels in the game.

This is where the shortness of the levels actually works out well, as death will just send you back to the start of the level you are on, so you don’t really lose much in the way of progress. There is a binocular mode too, this allows you to scout out the level and see what troubles are up ahead. Quite honestly, as there is no time limit, as long as you do take your time, you can make steady progress. Just going back to those fiddly controls, as most of the platforming in 6 Souls does require some tight jumping, wall climbing and (multiple) air dashing, this is where the true pain of the game lies. You’ll often be having to press so many buttons just to make one jump that you’ll feel like you are trying to input a fatality move from Mortal Kombat over playing a platforming game.

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If this review is coming across a bit negative, don’t get me wrong. I actually really enjoyed my time with 6 Souls. I just feel that it could’ve been so much better with a few tweaks. I’d have loved to have seen some kind of experience/levelling system, a reason for taking on enemies instead of just jumping over them. What is here is good, it’s just rather frustrating at times and the controls really could’ve done with a bit of refinement. This brings me to the game’s price, it is only £8 and to be honest, that’s a price which won’t make you bankrupt anytime soon.

The platforming action is good (save a few niggles with the controls), the exploring of the castle was fun and the story was, in all honesty, pretty damn great. The puzzle-solving is basic but it works. 6 Souls is far from being a bad game, but it does fall short of being a really good one. While it did take me back to the ‘good old days’ of gaming, that Master System/NES age of platformers, 6 Souls really could’ve done with a bit more depth and difficulty. I may go back and play through on the harder difficulty setting sometime in the future, just so I can say that I did it really and because I feel the game needs a harder playthrough too.

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6 Souls is well worth a play. It may be short-ish, it may lack any real difficulty in terms of emeries and boss fights and it may be a bit on the shallow side. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself. The pixel-art aesthetic is wonderful and it has some great throwbacks to classic platforming (like the little teetering animation when you stand too close to a platform edge). I loved how the story evolved from a simple man and his dog looking for treasure one, into the (avoiding spoilers) crazy and brilliant story it did become. The cutscenes that unfold the story are sublime. 6 Souls is basic, it is simple but it is also pretty damn addictive, charming and fun to play too. If you do enjoy slightly frustrating, insta-death platformers like Super Meat Boy, then you might just think that £8 is a very decent price point for this.

Game Review: Epic Chef

I like cooking, I like funny things, I like video games. From developer Infinigon Games and publisher Team 17 comes Epic Chef, a story-driven adventure/life-sim game that combines a lot of what I like… but does it make for a good game?

“Epic Chef is a story-driven adventure game flavoured with life-sim farming, and crafting elements, blended together into one delicious dish via an interactive cooking experience – all served with a side of humour and elaborate cast of characters inspired by classics such as Mister Ajikko, or the writing of Sir Terry Pratchett. Grab your spatula and start on your journey to become… Epic Chef!”

Playing as Zest, you find yourself (literally) thrown onto the island of Ambrosia. Having recently come into possession of the deeds to a house and some land… which is said to be haunted. With the help of a guide-golem, you begin to plant seeds and grow some basic crops. Use those crops to grow and produce ingredients that you then use to make food. Build your home and land, grow more impressive crops, get better ingredients and make better food, open a restaurant. Become an Epic Chef. That is the basics of the game but there is a bit more going on here.

EPIC CHEF SCREEN 1

Epic Chef takes place on the aforementioned island of Ambrosia, which at first, is pretty small as most of the areas are locked away. As you progress, more and more of the island opens up. Ambrosia is full of NPCs that can and will offer you odd jobs to do that run alongside the main story. While cooking is a big part of the game, there’s much more to do. You can build new equipment for your home as an example. There’s a lot of exploration around the island and a lot of NPCs to meet and more.

Still, the cooking here is one of the biggest gameplay mechanics and it’s rather involved too. The basics are that you throw three ingredients into a pan and cook. Flip the pan to prevent the food from burning and give it a stir to release the flavour and pick up bonus points. The more points your food gets, the better it is… obviously. Still, there is more. Each ingredient has its own properties and flavour synergies. So mixing the right ingredients together soon becomes something you really need to learn. Make the best quality food, take part in cook-offs, upgrade your house and farm and be the best chef on Ambrosia.

EPIC CHEF SCREEN 2

While there is a lot to see and do around the island of Ambrosia, you do spend most of your time at home and tending to your farm. Planting seeds, growing crops, picking the fruit and veg, etc. This all does become a bit of a chore and really slows the pace of the game down. Still, Epic Chef isn’t a game that you blister through anyway. It’s a gentle jog in the park, not a sprint. There are a lot of various gameplay mechanics here and they are all pretty deep really.

The humour here is brilliant. Lines of dialogue and conversations really had me laughing a lot. When you meet the resident carpenter, you can’t help but find him hilarious for so many reasons, the main one being that he is, in fact, Jesus. Ambrosia is teeming with life and there is always something to do, someone to talk to, something to make you laugh. A funny and very interesting discussion on what makes a southern gate a southern gate (is it because it’s the most southern gate or because it faces south? If it is because it faces south, does it not also face north? So couldn’t a southern gate also be a northern gate?) really had me questioning my own sanity, in a good way. There really is a lot of fun to be had with Epic Chef but there are issues…

EPIC CHEF SCREEN 3

One thing that got on my nerves is that your character ‘runs’ but he is very slow at it. Perhaps that should read that there is a run animation, yet the character still moves slowly regardless. There is a long path you have to walk to and from your house to the heart of Ambrosia, and you’ll be walking this long path a hell of a lot too. This simple journey just takes too damn long and feels very unnecessary. If only you could actually run and didn’t have a run animation that really is just walking speed. There is no in-game map and finding your way around can be confusing, especially early on in the game. Pretty much all of the secondary tasks handed out by NPCs fall into the old fetch quest category. There really isn’t much variety in terms of side quests. The tutorials in the game are really very light and hardly explain a lot of the more complex elements of the game.

Overall, Epic Chef is a fun little life-sim. It is certainly funny and the game had a lot of personality. The cooking mechanics are far deeper than they first seem. Building and upgrading your house and equipment is familiar, if you have ever played one of these types of games before. Epic Chef is a very easy game to get into but also one that really needs your full attention to get the most out of it. Priced at around £20, this is a mild recommendation from me.

EPIC CHEF SCREEN 4

I did enjoy the game but elements of it felt a bit too ‘clunky’. NPCs are used for nothing much more than fetch quest givers. The long journey from your home to the main town is just simply annoying because you can’t actually run. Okay, you do get access to a mountable creature to help you get around, but it’s not really that much faster. Epic Chef really ‘borrows’ from other similar games and doesn’t do much new with the ideas either. There’s also no dedicated save feature. The game only saves when you go to bed and you can only do that after 10pm. So effectively, you have to play through an entire in-game day if you want to save your game… which can be really annoying. But, if you do like a life-sim, you may just enjoy Epic Chef.

(Guest) Double Game Review: Cotton 100% and Panorama Cotton

I have roped my shoot ’em up expert, Dave Corn, to delve back into the world of Cotton once more. Following on from his review of Cotton Reboot from a few weeks back, Dave now has gone and done played both Cotton 100% and Panorama Cotton from ININ Games and is ready to tell you just how good or bad they are.

In 2021 we’ve now seen the release of five Cotton games, this review is looking at two of these titles, both originally released in 1994. Coming up the first is Cotton 100%.

Cotton 100% is the 2nd game in the Cotton franchise. Originally released in back in 94 for the Super Famicom (SNES) in Japan. It sticks to the cute ’em up formula of the previous game, a side-scrolling shooter where you play as the young witch, Cotton. Tagging along for the adventure, you also have your fairy friend Silk. Together, they battle baddies and bosses (two per level) in promise of sweets as rewards. The cutesy cutscenes however are all In Japanese with Japanese subtitles and no option to change them either, which seems a bit of a bizarre choice for this Western release. As I’ll get into a bit later, this just seems lazy and quickly thrown out as a release.

Still, the gameplay is fun, the levels and bosses increase in difficulty with each stage. It’s not the most taxing shoot ’em up by any means but it’ll still keep you hooked. With nice 16-bit, bright and colourful levels and graphics. That however at a £12.99 price point, it honestly doesn’t feel like value There’s very little added or improved here and it’s starting to feel like someone is milking the Cotton fan-base as far as they can. Again save states and rewind gameplay options are available, as well cheat downloads. But this isn’t a pretty package, which leads me onto the next game.

COTTON 100% SCREEN

Unlike the other Cotton games, also released in 1994 for Arcade and the Sega Megadrive (Genesis) is Panorama Cotton. Taking the side-scrolling shooter and turning it into a 3rd person-3D rail shooter, a response (possibly clone) to Sega’s Space Harrier and Afterburner games.

This re-release has barely been touched. There’s no option to change screen size, so you have to play the game in the original, small screen box. As the screen size can’t be changed, this makes the handheld Switch version barely playable. Once again it feels lazy, not touched up before release and the frame problems that cursed these style games early in their day are still here, complete and irritatingly in your face, as the game just slowly chugs along.

This isn’t a good port at all. The enemies don’t appear in the distance and move towards you, they just appear with little to no warning. Panorama Cotton is less about shooting and more about quick reactions forcing you to dodge suddenly appearing objects. The ‘rewind gameplay’ option added to these releases is the only way you’ll get through this for a while at least. Out of all these five Cotton game re-releases, this is the worst.

PANORAMA COTTON SCREEN

After a brief hint of warm nostalgia for the 16-bit graphics and gameplay, you’ll more than likely be turning this off after five minutes or so and just wanting to play Outrun or Afterburner instead. This, as a stand-alone purchase (£12.99), should be avoided.

So I have reviewed four of these recent Cotton games as they have been re-released. I can’t comment on Cotton Rock ‘n’ Roll, the fifth release. Still, I imagine that if these had been put out in one full collection, then fans would have been very happy with it. However, this feels like a money grab and it isn’t a justified price point individually.

Until they release a decent complete collection, I suggest that you stay clear of the little witch cotton and fairy Silk for now. I think that the people lapping these up now will be the ones shortchanged later.

Game Review: Formula Retro Racing

I’ve been on a bit of an arcade racer kick recently, I do have a soft spot for a good arcade racer. As much as I do enjoy a simulation, there’s just something about a good arcade racer that revs my engine. From developer and publisher Repixel8 (as far as I can tell, this is a one-man micro studio too) comes Formula Retro Racing, a title that looks and sounds like it just fell out of 1992.

From that trailer, you are most probably getting some big Sega Virtua Racing vibes, I know I did. It was that trailer that made me put a review request in, to be honest. Formula Retro Racing isn’t exactly a new game, it was released in May of 2020. And yet, it only came to my attention last week. I’ve looked at a few reviews from its original release and all of them called out several issues with the game. However, it has had a few updates since its release, so let’s see how it fares now.

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Graphically, and as you can tell from the trailer and screenshots, this is low detail, low polygon and very nineties. It’s an art style that I really like… for a game that is a homage to nineties racers that is. What you have with Formula Retro Racing is simplicity. Just like being in the arcade, this is pick a car, pick a track and away you go… only you don’t have to keep popping coins in to play. The races are simple, checkpoint things that arcade racers back then were. You have so much time to finish the race, pass checkpoints for extra time. This is as basic a racer as you can get with fast-paced, frantic action.

What you get here is a handful of different modes. Of course, there is your standard arcade racing and if you have ever played any nineties arcade racer back in the day, then you know exactly what you are getting. Arcade mode does exactly what it says on the tin. Then there is elimination mode and here, you start at the back of the grid and have to make your way to the front. Each successive lap of the race and the AI cars get faster. You get eliminated if you drop below 10th place.

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You also get a Grand Prix mode and here, you race on any of the unlocked tracks for points and select the number of laps too. Whoever has the most points at the end of the Grand Prix wins. There’s a multiplayer option with this mode, including a four-player split-screen. Finally, there is a free practice mode, where it is just you on the track, no AI opponents, no clock. A good way to get used to the car handling and circuits.

That’s it for the game modes, as for the tracks? Well, there are eight in total. You have to score a set amount of points in previous races to unlock the next one and you’ll get points by finishing in better positions in the races. With races not lasting longer than a few laps, you can unlock every track relatively quickly. A couple of hours or so of playing and you’ll have all eight tracks to play on. Plus there are three difficulty levels for each of the races to test your skills. The tracks vary from basic ovals to circuits with a bit more of a challenge to them, one being a pretty accurate recreation of the famed Monaco circuit. There is a car selection too. But this really is nothing more than a colour choice, of which there are plenty, but it is just one car with a different colour scheme.

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There’s also a damage meter that fills with each bump and scrape you endure. When it gets full, the meter begins to flash, which means one more hit and you go boom. Your car will fall apart in a shower of chunky polygons. A few seconds later and you’ll respawn and are thrown back into the race though. Formula Retro Racing does have an issue where you can’t drive faster than the AI opponents. You can only really catch them on the corners, as in straight-line speed, they always go faster than you, especially further up the grid. This is particularly problematic on the oval races as they have really long straights and very few corners. Though I do have to point out that there is a slipstreaming system. So if you can get close enough to the back of an opponent, you’ll get a nice speed boot… IF you can get close enough.

The AI here also has that kamikaze programming where they will purposely drive into you. I don’t mind being blocked when trying to pass, that’s fine. But when you are wheel to wheel racing or even ahead of another car and the AI just drives into the side of you, slowing you down but the not AI, that’s just bollocks. There are even times when the AI will drive into you and your car bounces off into a barrier while they don’t move an inch. Still, this kind of ruthless AI was in arcade racers of the day too, these games were designed to eat your coins after all. So as annoying as the AI is, it is also pretty damn accurate.

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So now, is this worth the coin it costs? Look, Formula Retro Racing is basic, a point I really do need to make clear. There’s no real depth of gameplay and no variety of cars. This is a very simple, arcade racer as they were back then. In terms of value for money, if this was a £15 title, I’d be telling you to stay well clear… but it’s not £15. Formula Retro Racing is being sold for (as of writing) £5 on PC and Xbox and that is cheap. I poured a lot more than £5 into Virtua Racing in the arcades. So while Formula Retro Racing is basic, it’s also incredibly cheap and if you do enjoy arcade racers, then you’ll more than get your money’s worth here. Plus, from reading earlier reviews when this was first released in 2020, it was originally being sold for £10 and had fewer features. So really, this is a pretty damn good bargain. Half the price it was and with several updates and improvements. 

Still, I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more variety, especially with the cars. Having a choice of car that makes no difference to anything other than the colour seems rather pointless to me. I’d rather have three or four cars that had different stats over the twenty different colour schemes of the same car you do get. Different cars with different stats would’ve made some of the races far more interesting too and added a little bit of strategy.

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But yeah, Formula Retro Racing is great for a quick blast of racing action. This is not a game you’re going to pour hours upon hours of long gaming sessions into. But it is a game that you load up now and again to have a quick race or two on and for only £5, I say give it a go.

Blatant Video Game Rip-Offs

Pablo Picasso once (apparently) said that:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

To pay homage, be influenced by, respectfully reference… or just blatant stealing and plagiarism. Call it what you will. I’m here to look at some very obvious instances of games that outright ripped-off other games. Now, I’m not talking about games that are very similar and in the same genre per se. I mean I read an article recently that claimed Streets of Rage was a Final Fight rip-off. Errrr, no. They are just both scrolling beat ’em ups. If you are going to go that route, then Double Dragon came before Final Fight and Renegade (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun) was before Double Dragon. Even then, Renegade wasn’t the first game of its kind either. But I digress.

RENEGADE ARCADE

I’m not going to nitpick a game because it has similar game mechanics or is part of the same genre. This article is going to look at games that are very clearly blatant rip-offs of other more ‘original’ titles. ‘Clones’ if you will, that certainly can’t be called original ideas, characters or even slight coincidences over the staggering similarities. These titles are just outright copying, legal or otherwise. In no particular order, just as they come to mind really, here’s my look at blatant video game rip-offs.

Simpsons: Road Rage

Probably the most famous rip-off on my list. Just looking at this game for 2 seconds will tell you that this is a blatant rip-off of Sega’s Crazy Taxi. It’s not even trying to be coy about it either, this is just Crazy Taxi wearing a Simpsons hat. The Simpsons has had a bit of a run ‘borrowing’ gameplay mechanics and ideas from other games to make their titles. But this instance was more than just ‘borrowing’ gameplay mechanics, this was just outright stealing.

SIMPSONS ROAD RAGE

It even got to a point where Sega sued Fox Entertainment, who owned The Simpsons IP, the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, along with the developer of Simpsons: Road Rage, Radical Games. See, Sega had patented the concept of Crazy Taxi (Sega’s 138 patent) and long story short, Simpsons: Road Rage was infringing on that patent. Sega requested that all copies of the game be removed from shelves and they be compensated for the loss of sales. 

The case, Sega of America, Inc. v. Fox Interactive, et al, was eventually settled out of court. Here’s a more in-depth look at the case and Sega’s 138 patent right here. I have to say, that article does end on a very interesting question though.

Angry Birds

This smash-hit mobile game that became a worldwide phenomenon and a very bankable IP was actually stolen borrowed. Seriously, Angry Birds (at one time) was gargantuan. I believe it is still the most downloaded mobile game IP and is a multi-billion dollar maker across all of its games. That is just the games too, not the movies and the endless merchandise. The whole IP is massive in terms of popularity and revenue. Just to think that the creators of Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment, were actually on the verge of bankruptcy before they released the first game back in 2009.

Anyway, that very first game where you shoot little angry birds at a structure to knock it down, while taking out its inhabitants, was not exactly very original. See, Armor Games released a title before Angry Birds called Crush the Castle and well, Crush the Castle’s gameplay and mechanics were stolen borrowed for Angry Birds. Aesthetically, they look different as Crush the Castle went for a more ‘realistic’ and medieval graphical style. Whereas Angry Birds is much more cartoony and comical. 

ANGRY BIRDS

However, in terms of gameplay and the mechanics used, they are identical. Everybody knows the objective in Angry Birds is to use a slingshot to fire a cute bird at a structure filled with bad guys (pigs) to knock it down. Well, in Crush the Castle, you use a trebuchet to fling rocks at a structure filled with bad guys to knock it down. Everything in terms of gameplay in Angry Birds was very clearly stolen borrowed from Crush the Castle… even the physics used in the game is exactly the same. With Angry Birds’ cuter and more universal appeal, it became the one that is most remembered and turned into a multi-billion dollar franchise. While Crush the Castle is mostly forgotten about. There have been a few other games in the Crush the Castle series over the years (2018’s Crush the Castle: Siege Master being the most recent) but it certainly never got as massively popular as the game that stole borrowed from the original title.

The Great Giana Sisters

As far as I can remember, this was the first gaming rip-off that I became aware of at the time. Sure, I had played games before it that were ‘inspired’ by others. But they didn’t really hit me as rip-offs (even if they were) when I was younger. This game, however, this one caused such a massive shitstorm that you couldn’t really miss it. A little background info first though. Growing up in the eighties (after having an Atari 2600) we had a Commodore 64. At the time, the big gaming consoles were beginning to emerge. The likes of Sega’s Master System and the Nintendo Entertainment System were gaining popularity. Here in the UK, the NES never really caught on as much as the Master System did. However, that little Italian plumber with a moustache that was Mario was still pretty damn famous, even if the NES wasn’t. Everybody and his dog wanted to play Super Mario Bros. and you could only play it if you had a NES. 

SUPER MARIO BROS

So yeah, there was a bit of an issue in the UK and Europe as a whole really where you really couldn’t play one of the biggest games at the time as the NES just wasn’t very popular. So what can you do? You just outright rip Super Mario Bros. off of course. The Great Giana Sisters was developed by Time Warp Productions and published by Rainbow Arts and well… it is Super Mario Bros. just with a different graphic set. Instead of brothers, the heroes are sisters, even the box are proudly proclaimed that: ‘the brothers are history’.

GREAT GIANA SISTERS BOX

I mean, they didn’t even try to hide the blatant ripping-off at all, in fact, the devs were proud of it. The first level of The Great Giana Sisters is almost an exact replica of the first level in Super Mario Bros. Plus many of the staples in Mario’s game made it into the rip-off. Interesting enough, Nintendo didn’t sue. There has been a bit of an urban myth for years that Nintendo went after the developers and publisher for copyright infringement but they actually didn’t. I know, Nintendo NOT suing someone, what a shock. However, Nintendo did step in and request that The Great Giana Sisters be removed from sale due to the very obvious copyright infringement. Of course, the publisher very quickly responded and the game’s production was ceased while it soon disappeared from shop shelves. Today, a good, undamaged box version of The Great Giana Sisters has become a bit of a collector’s item and can sell for some decent coin if genuine as they are so incredibly rare.

GREAT GIANA SISTERS SCREEN

Even more so, the developer, Time Warp Productions, had some serious nards as they even began to develop a sequel to their rip-off called Giana 2: Arthur and Martha in Future World. Even after Nintendo had already put the pressure on them to stop making the first game. In the end, it was deemed ‘too risky’ (no shit!) to try and piss Nintendo off for a second time. The game was given an overhaul, the characters were changed from the sisters to robots and the title was changed to Hard’n’Heavy. Oh yeah, they still released it… just not with the copyright infringing Giana Sisters.

A little twist in the tale though is that, later down the line, the rip-off became a somewhat popular franchise thanks to the Nintendo DS with Giana Sisters DS. There have been several other Giana Sisters titles released over the years too. Just to finish, The Great Giana Sisters was actually a pretty damn great game too. It gained high critical praise when it was released (before disappearing from shop shelves) and is one of the best platform games of the time. Still very playable today too, partially the Amiga version, it’s awesome.

Frank Bruno’s Boxing

I remember playing the crap out of this on my Commodore 64 back in the eighties. For me then, it was just a fun boxing game with the likeness of a true British sporting icon. Seeing as I played this so much and before I even knew the game it stole from existed, I thought Frank Bruno’s Boxing was the original and the original was the rip-off. I remember going round a friend’s house who had a NES (oh yeah, this is another Nintendo rip-off) and playing the ‘real’ game at his house, I said then that it was a rip-off of Frank Bruno’s Boxing, when in reality, it was the other way around. I know I’ve not mentioned what the original game was yet and that is because I wanted to just post a screen from Frank Bruno’s Boxing so you can see for yourself just how much theft was going on with this game. So, here we go…

FRANK BRUNO CANADIAN

Yup, it’s not even a slight copy of Super Punch-Out!! (Arcade), it is Super Punch-Out!! just with Frank Bruno in it… and very chunky C64 graphics. Other rip-offs can be quite subtle with just how they steal from other games. Some, at the very least, change the graphics… even The Great Giana Sisters had the self-respect to do that. But here, aside from the main character being Frank Bruno instead of Little Mac from the Nintendo game(s), the characters are just directly ripped from the Nintendo original. Okay, so the developers, Elite Systems, had the common sense to change their names, but they are still the exact same characters for the most part. Oh, and Frank Bruno’s Boxing’s characters were borderline racial stereotypes too. Such as the kung-fu boxer, Dragon Chan, being renamed Fling Long Chop or an African boxer called Tribal Trouble with a bone through his nose and let’s not forget the very questionable Antipodean Andy character.

FRANK BRUNO ANDY

Aside from the lazy racism in the game, Frank Bruno’s Boxing plays exactly like the arcade version of Super Punch-Out!! right down to the attacks and patterns of the boxers and the same animations. There’s the KO meter too This was why when I played the NES version years later that I thought it ripped-off this game when it was the other way around. Oh and before I forget, Frank Bruno’s Boxing even stole the Rocky theme, Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti and no, Elite didn’t get the rights to use that either.

Super Noah’s Ark 3D

This one is, admittedly, a bit of an oddity as it is officially an unofficial rip-off… so to speak. But before I get to that, let me just cover what this game is all about. You play as Noah and use a slingshot to shoot food at animals so you can take them onto your ark. Oh yeah, we’re in religious territory here and it is glorious as it originally started out as a game based on the horror flick Hellraiser. So just how do you go from hell to heaven? Well via a Nazi based FPS game of course. This is just getting weirder and weirder isn’t it? Look, I could go into all the details now, but I already covered all of that right here

SUPER NOAHS ARK 3D

So I can just get to the meat of this one, cutting a long story short, this is a rip-off of id Software’s classic, Wolfenstein 3D… if rip-off is the right word to use. There has been a long-standing story attached to this game that id Software were very unhappy with the censorship applied to the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D. So much so that id ‘leaked’ the source code for Wolfenstein to the developers of Super Noah’s Ark 3D (that being Wisdom Tree) so they could make this game. See, Super Noah’s Ark 3D is the only SNES game not officially licensed by Nintendo and id allowed Wisdom Tree to make this game just to piss Nintendo off. However, that’s not true at all. First, Wisdom Tree paid to use the source code and second, id Software never had any issues with Nintendo over the SNES version of Wolfenstein 3D. John Romero himself has even talked about this openly when asked if id Software had a problem with Nintendo:

“No, we just thought it would be funny to use the Wolf3D SNES engine in a religious game.”

Yeah, Super Noah’s Ark 3D is basically a more kid-friendly and religious take on Wolfenstein 3D. While it was never officially licensed by Nintendo, it was still an official game with 100% backing from id Software too. So Super Noah’s Ark 3D is officially an unofficial rip-off… officially. 

Golden Axe Warrior

Golden Axe was Sega’s answer to the side-scrolling beat ’em up trend that was gaining a lot of traction in the eighties. Golden Axe Warrior was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s massively popular Zelda franchise. Seriously, watch 5 minutes of this long play and tell me it’s not ripping-off Zelda.

Golden Axe Warrior was released in 1991 for the Master System… following Nintendo’s success with The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. It is not just Golden Axe Warrior’s top-down viewpoint, nor its action-adventure style gameplay. It’s more a case of that when you watch gameplay footage of Golden Axe Warrior… it is a very blatant Zelda rip-off. Map/dungeon design, game structure, characters, in-game music and even direct assets look pretty much stolen from Nintendo’s Zelda franchise. Graphically the Master System looked ‘better’ thanks to a richer colour palette over the NES, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this looks any less Zelda-like. Just try to imagine Golden Axe Warrior on the NES and you would have another Zelda title. 

Mr. Wimpy

Being British and a fan of British gaming history, I really feel that I should end this with a very British rip-off. The arcade classic BurgerTime had a simple and very enjoyable gameplay style. An early platform game where you play as a chef who has to walk over the various ingredients of a burger to make them. Highly unsanitary yes, but still really good fun to play. Ocean Software decided to just outright steal BurgerTime and make their own version as to not have to pay for the licence. The result of which was Mr. Wimpy.

Mr WIMPY

Mr. Wimpy wasn’t just a stolen game, it was also a licensed game… just not licensed from Data East, the developers behind BurgerTime. Nope, Mr. Wimpy was a tie in with a then very popular burger chain restaurant here in the UK in the eighties, Wimpy. Originating in the US, Wimpy came to the UK in the 1950s, but the restaurant chain became massively popular throughout the late seventies and eighties… before becoming less and less popular in the nineties.

Mr WIMPY LOADING

Anyway, Mr. Wimpy was a full-on tie-in with the burger chain and featured the then restaurant’s mascot and branding. Gameplay-wise, Mr. Wimpy is a direct clone of BurgerTime, you could put the two games next to each other and think that Mr. Wimpy was an official home port… it wasn’t. The only main difference was (outside of the visuals) that Mr. Wimpy had a little bonus stage where you had to collect food ingredients that BurgerTime didn’t. But in regards to gameplay and concept, Mr. Wimpy is an outright clone.


Well, that’s my pick of blatant video game rip-offs. I purposely avoided some of the more obvious ones. The endless Pac-Man clones, Doom rip-offs, GTA-a-likes, etc. I wanted to go for games that were either lesser known or ones with interesting backstories/resolves. Honestly, I could’ve crammed this article with so many more video game clones that you all already know about. But as I say, I wanted to go a lesser-known, more interesting route.  

By the way, I ripped off the ending to this article from another site (I didn’t really, it’s just a crap joke).