Game Review: Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions

I love the Rocky films and I mean a deep-rooted love. For me, Rocky Balboa is one of the most endearing characters in cinematic history, by far Sylvester Stallone’s greatest role. There have been a few Rocky based games over the years… with varying degrees of success. But overall the Rocky films have not been represented all that well in terms of video games. Can developer and publisher, Survios give us a worthy title? Let’s find out.

Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is a sequel/spin-off from Survios’ other boxing game, Creed Rise to Glory where you played as Adonis Creed from the films. Oh, it was VR too. Of course, VR is limiting as not everyone (or every console) has it. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is basically a non-VR version of the previous game, now available for everything and with a few bells and whistles thrown in to ring.

Okay, right off the bat, this game has the official Rocky and Creed licenses. As you can tell from the main pic (or trailer) for this article, they’re all there (pretty much). Both Apollo and Adonis Creed, Ivan Drago, Clubber Lang and yes Rocky Balboa too. All using the likenesses of their respective actors too. But the license doesn’t just end there, there’s the music. Gonna Fly Now, Eye Of The Tiger and more. Big Rumble Boxing certainly looks and sounds the part. Even the locales used in the game are authentic, from huge boxing stadiums to Mighty Mick’s gym. Honestly, just from being on the main menu for this game, I had a huge smile on my face because… well it was authentic Rocky.

BIG RUMBLE BOXING ROCKY VS APOLLO

Speaking of the menu, there’s not a lot here to get your teeth into. Aside from what you’d expect in terms of options, etc there’s not much in terms of actual gameplay options. There’s a training mode where you can practise your fighting, combos and so on. A versus mode for some local one-on-one fisticuffs (no online play). Then there’s the main meat of the game, the arcade mode.

The arcade mode plays pretty much like any arcade beat ’em up. One fighter vs another, first to KO wins. Oh yeah, this is a pure arcade fighter here. You won’t find realistic boxing mechanics, no fighters tiring due to a lack of stamina, zero World Boxing Association rules and regulations. This is exaggerated, pure arcade beat ’em up action from start to finish. You have a light, a hard and a grapple attack (one button for each). You can block and dodge. Then there’s the special meter, it fills up the more you land hits then, at the press of a button, you can unleash a haymaker of an attack.

BIG RUMBLE BOXING ADONIS HAYMAKER

You can counter an attack if you time the block just right. Stagger/stun your opponent with a well timed-combo. You can even bounce them off the ropes or slump them against the turnbuckle with a well-placed powerful hit. Really, there can be a few layers to the boxing and while button mashers will do okay, you will need to learn the various moves to get the most out of a fight. Even so, those layers to the fighting never do feel quite deep enough. How the arcade mode works is that you pick a fighter and you get to play through their own mini-story. As an example, play as Rocky Balboa and you’ll relieve moments from his career shown in the films. The second fight against Apollo from Rocky II. The battle against Clubber Lang from Rocky III. The awesome slice of the eighties that was the Ivan Drago brawl from Rocky IV… no Rocky V or Rocky Balboa fights though.

There are also fantasy fights. You can play as Rocky in his prime vs Adonis Creed or even have Apollo actually beat Drago instead of getting killed in the ring, etc. Anyway, you pick your fighter and take them through their own mini-story. Finish that fighter’s story and you’ll unlock a new fighter. Play as Rocky and unlock Apollo. Play through Viktor Drago’s story and unlock his father, Ivan. You’ll also unlock alternate costumes for the fighters when you complete their story’s too. To break up the fights, there’s a training mini-game. The training doesn’t actually affect your fighter in any way. Plus the training is nothing more than just simple QTEs. Quickly tap the trigger buttons when running on a treadmill, press the correct button in time on the heavy bag, etc. They are a mild distraction that I really don’t think wouldn’t have been missed if they weren’t here.

BIG RUMBLE BOXING ADONIS FIGHT

Time for some niggles, these really are very personal niggles too. You can’t KO an opponent in the way you may think. Every single fight really is a battle to knock down your opponent four times before they do the same to you. This plays very much like any arcade beat ’em up where it’s a best of three (sometimes five) rounds. But because this is boxing based, for me, it just felt ‘off’ that you can’t KO anyone, no matter how well you fight. It’s four knockdowns (the fourth leads to a KO no matter what) to win. Once you get your head around the fact that this is how the game works and ‘proper’ KOs are just not possible, it works.

Next niggle. As I said, I’m a massive Rocky film fan and there are inconsistencies here when you relive events from the films. A few examples for you. You can live out the never seen fight between Rocky and Apollo from the end of Rocky III. In the film, it takes place in Mick’s gym and the two are alone, nobody witnessed the fight. But in this game, while it still takes place in Mick’s gym… there are dozens of people watching and cheering. It really takes away from the legendary fight that the film set up and the whole intimacy of it when you’re surrounded by cheering fans. Also, I was doing a fight playing as Apollo in the 1970s and at one of the venues was a banner for Adonis Creed. You know, Apollo’s son who wouldn’t have been alive at the time that the fight took place. There’s also a fight when playing as Rocky when you go back to his days as a debt collector for a local small-time gangster. The fight rightfully takes place in a dirty back alley… but both Rocky and his opponent are dressed in full boxing gear. So Rocky collected debts in his boxing shorts and gloves did he and from fellow boxers too? Little things like that just took me out of the game slightly. As I said, they were personal niggles.

BIG RUMBLE BOXING MICKS GYM

On to more gameplay focused issues. Though there are a total of twenty characters to play as (ten unlocked from the start, ten you have to unlock by playing), they are all pretty much the same. Yes, boxers have various styles, Rocky is a brute and hits hard whereas Apollo’s punches are weaker, but he is faster. All the boxers still feel very much the same. I guess the best way to explain this is that it would be like playing Street Fighter II and all of the characters in the game were either Ryu or Ken. Aside from the special move, which varies depending on the style of the fighter, the boxers are all the same. Oh, and there is only one special move per fighter too and that really gets repetitive seeing the same animation over and over and over.

There are just not enough modes to keep you interested. Remove the training where you can practise and all you have is the versus and arcade modes… that’s it. No story mode or career, no online fights or anything. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is really bare minimal for a fighting game. This was a wonderful opportunity to really let the players live out the Rocky saga but you can’t. A fantastic chance to include a create a boxer and career mode, where you take a hungry fighter from the bottom to the top. The game is just a very bare basic arcade fighter and with all the boxers pretty much playing the same, the fights being so ‘structured’ and all, there’s not a great deal to drag you back into it once you have seen one or two of the character’s story’s play out.

Oh, and before I forget, Big Rumble Boxing also does that dirty, cheating final boss fight that all arcade beat ’em ups do. If you have ever played any one-on-one fighter in the past, then you’ll know what I mean. It doesn’t matter how well you fight to get to the boss, if you have managed to not lose a single round because you’re actually pretty damn good… the boss will flatten you. There’s a major difficulty spike when you reach the final opponent, no matter what fighter you play as. The boss will doge 90% of your attacks, while his blows will connect 100% of the time. He will successfully counter your moves nine out of ten times. His special meter fills quicker and he’ll never miss with a special attack either. Remember when you first got to M. Bison and Street Fighter II or Heihachi in Tekken… or worse, Seth in Street Fighter IV and they completely demolished you no matter what? Yup, that happens here too. I hate this faux difficulty shit. Like rubberbanding in racing games, if I’m winning via my own skill but the opponents need to cheat to claim victory.

BIG RUMBLE BOXING ROCKY VS IVAN

I always end my reviews by asking myself if the game is worth buying. For that, I need to look a the price tag. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is available on all formats for around £31 – £35 (depending on the format) and for me, that is a very difficult price tag to swallow for the very limited game you do get. This is a £12 – £15 game at the most and seeing it go for double that really is disappointing. Yeah I know this is fully licensed and all… but that is still way too much to pay for what you are getting here. For £30-odd, I’d expect Sylvester Stallone himself to turn up at my door, sit there as I play and offer me training tips. Nope, this game is way too overpriced for what it is.

Hey, if there was a deeper story mode, a career that you could really get your teeth into, then just maybe a £30 price would be justified. But I honestly can’t sit here and pretend that you get a worthy game for your money… you don’t. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is fun in short bursts. The actual fighting is limited as the fighters themselves are just too similar to each other. There aren’t enough gameplay modes to keep you interested and everything is just too short-lived. If you can get it in a sale down the road, it might be worth a purchase.

OutRun, The Teenager And The Commodore 64 Port

Sega’s classic OutRun is easily one of my all-time favourite games and it turns 35-years-old this very day. Its sense of speed and thrills as you tear around Europe in a blood-red Ferrari Testarossa, sunglasses-wearing dude with his blonde girlfriend by his side. That awesome soundtrack that you can still hear in your head thirty-five years later… even without playing the game itself. OutRun was the eighties encapsulated in an arcade game. As I said, it is one of my all-time favourite games. I couldn’t tell you how much pocket money I spent on the arcade cabinet while on family holidays, where I would always make a beeline for the nearest arcade.

OUTRUN ARCADE

When it was revealed that OutRun would be coming to the home computers of the day, I was beyond excited. It was going to be released for the Commodore 64, we had a C64… I had to have OutRun on it. I would’ve been about 10-years-old at the time when OutRun came to the microcomputers of the day. I never really understood how gaming and ports worked back then, I was expecting OutRun from the arcade on our Commodore 64. Of course, the C64 was way too underpowered to handle an arcade-perfect conversion (which I never grasped as a kid) and when I did finally play Sega’s mighty racer on our computer… I was mildly disappointed. It didn’t really look like the arcade version, it wasn’t as fast (depending on the version) and it most definitely didn’t play as well either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the home ports of OutRun were bad… okay, some were yes. Just more of a case that 10-year-old me didn’t understand why my C64 version didn’t look like the arcade game that I loved so much. If you look at reviews for the home ports back then, you’ll find a lot of average to slightly above average scores. I’ve been playing the C64 version of OutRun recently now as an adult, it’s really not that bad at all. Pretty damn good in fact. Of course, it is limited given the hardware but it is a fairly competent racer all told.

It was while I was researching my book MicroBrtis and the Ocean/U.S. Gold chapters in particular when I began to uncover the story behind just how that Commodore 64 port of OutRun came about. Pretty much the work of one man… well one boy actually. The-then 17-year-old Martin Webb. A story that I feel could do with being covered as it is a wonderful insight into those early days of British gaming. Oh yeah, Martin Webb was a Brit.

Anyway, Martin had already programmed a few titles before he got the OutRun gig. These games were made for the Texas Instruments TI-99 home computer and they were sold mail-order via Martin’s home in Shropshire. It was his father, Dennis Webb who managed the home-based business as well as managing Martin too. While Martin would take care of the programming of the games, it was Dennis who’d handle the graphics. The father and son team really worked out well, they called their company, Intrigue Software and sold quite a few units. However, game sales on the TI-99 began to dry up when home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 hit the market.

C64 BOX

Martin Webb favoured the C64 and taught himself how to code on it. As the market grew, it soon became clear that father and son could no longer fund the publication of their own games, they needed a big player in the industry to sell their games. It was an idea that Dennis Webb was not too keen on, he had always handled the business up to this point and he really didn’t relish the idea of a big-name company taking over. The relationship between father and son soon became taut and arguments between the two would often break out. Dennis, more than often, would push his teenage son much further than he ever really should have. It all really came to a head when Martin ran away from home. His father went driving around to find him and eventually brought Martin back.

Still, Dennis finally began to see Martin’s point. They were running out of money fast and perhaps getting a more experienced company to sell their games would be a good idea. Martin created a game called Snap Dragon (AKA Karate Chop) for the C64. It was a beat ’em up thing… and it wasn’t very good, very average. Still, it did show that Martin could program on the C64. Ocean Software were a pretty big publisher in the C64 days and Martin set his sights on selling his game to them. A meeting was set up and Martin showed off his new game. Ocean turned it down because they were working on the C64 port of the arcade hit, Yie Ar Kung-Fu (released under the Imagine label that Ocean owned at that point… read my book!). Ocean didn’t feel like putting money behind another beat ’em up, so they turned Martin away. However, the publisher, Bubble Bus Software, bought the game from Martin for £5,000. Not a bad payday in 1987.

SNAP DRAGON

Martin developed another game for Bubble Bus Software, Max Torque. This was a blatant rip-off of Sega’s classic bike game, Hang-On. After that, he started work on a clone of Sega’s OutRun. using assets from his Max Torque game and basically swapping out the bikes for cars. To try and avoid any legal issues, Martin used a Porsche for the star of his car game over the famed Ferrari used in OutRun. When his OutRun clone was finished, he needed to find a publisher. Bubble Bus Software wasn’t exactly one of the big names and while they were paying, they weren’t paying all that much. The money began to dry up again and Dennis once more became abusive towards his son. Arguments often evolved into physical fights as Dennis continually pushed his teenage son to code more games. Their relationship was hanging by a thread.

The Webbs sought out a bigger, better and more established publisher for future games. They went to U.S. Gold. Martin showed off his OutRun clone to U.S. Gold boss, Geoff Brown and a handful of programmers. Martin had added a dashboard and steering wheel HUD to his rip-off as he wanted it to look the like OutRun arcade cabinet. As his hand-drawn Porsche sprite raced over the roads on the game, Geoff Brown and the programmers were very impressed that a 17-year-old kid had programmed a rather speedy looking racing game all on his own. Still, as impressed as U.S. Gold were, they couldn’t buy Martin’s racing game from him to publish.

Geoff took Martin into a separate room to talk to him alone, away from his overbearing father. In that room was a sit-down OutRun arcade cabinet and that was when Geoff Brown hit Martin with the big news. U.S. Gold had very recently signed a deal with Sega to produce the homeports of the arcade version of OutRun and here was this teenager with a prototype of a game that had pretty much exactly what U.S. Gold needed. Effectively, the OutRun port that U.S. Gold had signed up to do partly existed. An hour later and Dennis Webb was signing a contract for Martin to convert OutRun to the Commodore 64. The Webbs were given a £20,000 advance and Martin returned back home and set about turning his OutRun rip-off into an actual, fully licensed OutRun conversion.

OUTRUN ARCADE CAB

The first things Martin programmed were the high-score table and the radio where you select the music. These had to be in the game as U.S. Gold requested them. Also, once he had those in place, Martin knew how much memory he had left to squeeze the massive OutRun arcade game onto a C64 tape. Martin’s clone didn’t have and hills in it, but OutRun did. That was a bit of an issue and programming in hills would take up much-needed memory. Martin got around this by simply moving the horizon in the background up and down. The next big issue was the roadside graphics. The arcade version of OutRun was famed for its very impressive sprite/texture scaling capabilities. This made the game buttery smooth, fast and highly detailed. There was no way that the C64 could replicate what the arcade could do with ease.

Martin had to decide to go for either detailed graphics that looked like the arcade version (or at least as close as he could get them on a C64) or speed. Speed was what made OutRun such a popular game in the first place. Yeah, it looked nice and all, but if the arcade game had been a sluggish racer, it wouldn’t have been as impressive as it was. Martin knew he had to compromise on the graphics to make the game as fast as possible. A lot of the smaller details were dropped and the roadside objects were big, chunky graphics that, truth be told, were not all that pleasing to the eye. Still, Martin’s OutRun conversion may not have been a graphical powerhouse, but it was fast for a racing game on the C64.

OUTRUN 64 SCREEN 1

Martin didn’t have OutRun’s source code, no design documents to work from either. He was given access to one of the arcade cabinets (U.S. Gold sent him one which he had in his garage at home) and played it for hours on end. He’d record footage of the game on a camcorder and made copious amounts of notes. He strived to make the roads/tracks in his game look and feel just like the arcade version. Put the turns in the right place, hills where they were, etc. But due to the limitations of the hardware, Martin did have to use a few ‘cheats’ as some stages are the same as others, just with different colours, etc. But there was one feature from the arcade that was missing, the forking road/choice of route. Martin did try to implement it into the game, but it was just too problematic. The Commodore 64 just could not handle a multi-loading/branching system that could be played on the fly as in the arcade. He could’ve made the game stop and then have to load each selectable route. But as most games were on cassette tapes at the time (there were disk versions), that would’ve broken up the flow and speed of the game. Plus, being on a tape would mean having to fast forward and rewind the tape to the correct loading spot each time… and that would just be a pain in the arse.

So, as there was no branching system, you just loaded which of the routes you wanted to play (load route A or route B as an example) and then it played out like a single race. Wanted to try a different route? You’ve had to restart and load up one of the other pre-set routes. Still, all stages from the arcade version were included in the C64 port (with some limitations), which was pretty damn impressive for the time. However, having to program every possible stage really was difficult for Martin, who had turned 18-years-old by the time the game had been finished, and was still very much a youngster under immense pressure, mainly from his father.

Speaking of which, Dennis Webb handled the graphics for OutRun and added little Easter eggs onto the licence plates of the cars by including the initials of himself, Martin and friends. The Porsche from Martin’s OutRun clone/prototype even makes an appearance too.

OUTRUN 64 SCREEN 3

The awesome arcade music was pretty well re-created for the C64 byJason Brooke. Though the game only had two of the three tunes from the arcade. However, the game came with an audiotape of the original arcade music, so you could just pop that bad boy into your hi-fi (look them up kids) and enjoy arcade-perfect music. The Commodore 64 version of OutRun got fair to middling reviews when released. A lot of mid to high-60% scores. Still, the above-average reviews didn’t really matter as, despite the game being released on the 10th of December 1987, it actually became the biggest selling game of the year. That’s pretty impressive for a game that was only on the shelves for a few weeks of that year. Around 250,000 copies were shifted across all formats over Christmas (one was mine). Martin and his dad made plenty of money too. Their first royalty payment was for £17,000 and it had been said that they made about £80,000 total, that’s in 1980 money too. It was the most amount of money the father and son had made from a game.

U.S. Gold were so happy with Martin’s conversion that he was flown out to Chicago to work on the NTSC version of the port, to be published by Mindscape. The US version is arguably better, the graphics are more refined, it runs faster and it has an actual route selector, so no more having to reload a new game if you wanted to play a different route. Quite amazingly, the US version only took around two weeks to program too. The Euro version took closer to six months. While in the US, Martin was headhunted by Nintendo, but his father was too protective of his ‘asset’ and soon put a stop to Martin working for anyone else. When he got back to the UK, U.S. Gold gave Martin another arcade conversion to do, Atari’s RoadBlasters. As this was another arcade racer, Martin just reused and tweaked assets from his OutRun conversion and did the job with relative ease.

ROADBALSTERS 64

Though they were doing well and being offered more jobs, the relationship between father and son was breaking down. While in public, Dennis would always praise and show respect to his son. But behind closed doors, it was a very different story. More arguments, more fights as Dennis pushed his son further and harder to keep programming games. Martin was old enough to move out by then, so he did. He packed his bags, left the family home and the games industry allogether.

Martin now lives in Brazil and has his own cloud software company. He still likes to talk about the ‘good old days’ as he did right here in 2020. He also comments on some of the YouTube videos covering the home ports of OutRun too (he replied to me and gave info for this very article). Still, as upsetting as his past may have been for him in regards to his relationship with his father (that he doesn’t like to talk about these days), Martin did bring one of the biggest arcade games home for so many gamers back in 1987, me being one of them. I still remember that cold Friday Christmas morning, opening my presents. Mom had got me (and my bothers) a copy of OutRun on the Commodore 64, bliss. A game that brought me so many hours of enjoyment and for that, I deeply thank Martin Webb.

OUTRUN 64 SCREEN 2

The Saints Row Fallout

I love the Saints Row franchise, so much so that I did a retrospective on the whole thing a while back. I know it’s stupid, but sometimes you just need a bit of stupid in your life. The last full game was Saints Row IV from 2013. A spin-off or two aside, there hasn’t been a ‘proper Saints Row game for almost a decade.

Rumours of a new SR game have been circulating for a while now. A couple of years ago and the developer, Deep Silver Volition, confirmed that a new game was already in development. We SR fans rejoiced… and then it went rather quiet. No news, no updates and some even suggested that the game had been canned. Of course, after the announcement of the game, the world turned to shit with the whole covid pandemic shutting everything down for a while. It affected everything from toilet roll purchasing to game development.

Things began to get back to ‘normal’ and Volition assured fans that Saints Row V was still on the way. We rejoiced once more. Then, just a few days ago and after a few teasers about a reboot, the first trailer for the game was released… and feedback has not been kind.

It just looks very generic, very safe, very… not very Saints Row at all. I’ve watched the trailer several times over the last few days and to say I’m disappointed is a vast understatement. Honestly, I was hoping that, at the end of that trailer, the real Saints would show up and kill the fake Saints. Look, I know it’s just a trailer and there’s still a ways to go until the new game is released next year. Even so, I just can’t get excited about this game at all. Just as a quick comparison, here’s the reveal trailer for Saints Row III.

You can really see a major difference between those two trailers. One is crammed full of fun, character and personality. The other is the trailer for the reboot. I still remember the first time I saw that trailer for SR III, it excited me, it made me want to play the game without seeing any gameplay. I’ve watched the trailer for the new game several times now and all I have is a question… why? I’ve been trying to put into words why I’m feeling disappointed with how the new Saints Row looks and that’s exactly what this article is all about. My complaints aren’t going the ‘woke’ route. I’m not going to blame the devs for selling out and pandering to a more ‘sensitive’ world. But I am going to blame them for being too safe and uncreative.

Let’s just take a quick look at the reason why Saints Row existed, to begin with. Grand Theft Auto was hardly realistic… ever, I feel that perhaps ‘grounded’ is a better word to use. GTA could still be a little OTT at times and definitely had some audacious characters… but you never felt that any of them would become the POTUS after trying to disarm a nuclear missile, to then get kidnapped by attacking aliens and trapped in a 1950s sit-com/simulation of the world… and so on, did you? SR may have started out as a ‘GTA clone’, but it fast evolved into its own thing. That wackiness of Saints Row is what made Saints Row what it was and helped it stand out from all the other GTA clones that were sprouting up at the time. Even going back to the first game where (SPOILERS) my character was dressed in a bright purple pimp suit, armed with a pimp-cane/shotgun was blown up on a yacht owned by the mayor played by The Kurgan from Highlander. These games stood out.

SAINTS ROW CANE

Saints Row has always been… different. The franchise always strived and pushed just what you could do with the open-world genre, they were always creative. Yes, as the games continued, they got more and more… ‘different’. Let’s be honest, they got downright ‘effing insane. Saints Row II has always been my favourite of the franchise. But Saints Row III’s pushing of the crazy made it immense fun to play.

I’ll happily admit that the lunacy of Saints Row IV needed to be dialled back a tad and of all the main games, it was my least favourite. In fact, I’ve always seen the game as a double-edged sword. I think Saints Row IV had some of the best and most clever writing of not just any SR game, but any game ever. It became not just a parody of Saint Row but the open-world genre as a whole. The game was chock-full of really clever in-jokes and references. Shit that a gaming and film nerd could really get excited about. I mean, having Roddy Piper and Keith David in the game as themselves and heavily referencing a certain film was genius.

SAINTS ROW IV RODDY KEITH

However, the ending of SR IV really blew open the doors to creativity. For those that don’t remember the short version is that the world had been destroyed and you became ruler of the universe…. oh and also discovered time travel. Seriously, time travel and Saints Row was one of the best pairings since Cheech Marin met Tommy Chong. Time travel man, that’s a door that could give the Saints pretty much unlimited stories and scope. I mean, a friend said how the Saints could be riding dinosaurs while trying to kill Hitler. They could go even crazier than in Saints Row IV and turn up the dial from eleven to twelve.

Still, even if they wanted to reboot, they could’ve done so using the time travel angle. I mean, why not have the Saints go back to the ending of Saints Row II and create an alternate timeline? It could’ve avoided just how insane the game became but still kept its style and tone (and the characters) that the fans love so much. Now, there will be those that will point out a plot hole with changing the course of events, as the Saints don’t become world-famous, Zinyak doesn’t invade and the Saints can’t discover time travel to go back in the first place. Yeah, that is if you use the grandfather paradox theory of time travel. Time travel doesn’t exist, so you can make up your own rules.

Going back in time could (as I suggested) create an alternate timeline. The original timeline still happens in that reality, but now there’s a new timeline where the Saints have changed the past. See time travel, it has endless possibilities. Instead, it looks like we’re getting generic open-world shooter number 478 with insipid, bland characters instead of a new Saints Row game.

SAINTS ROW CHARACTERS

Saints Row added a layer of silliness to gaming that few developers dare to push… and we need that because AAA gaming is just becoming way too serious and straight-laced. This new Saints Row game just looks like every other open-world game on the market now, it doesn’t have its own distinct personality. You could’ve given that new trailer a few edits and told me it was the new map/season for Fortnite and I would’ve believed you.

Game Review: Jydge

The sci-fi classic film Robocop is one of my all-time favourites. It was massively inspired by the Judge Dredd comics. Another thing inspired by Judge Dredd is the top-down, twin-stick shooter Jydge from developer and publisher 10tons. In it, you play as a cybernetic law enforcer known as JYDGE.

Jydge is set in a dystopian city of crime called Edenbyrg and when the crime rate is out of hand, they call in JYDGE to clean things up in his own unique way. Armed with a gun called gavel… cos he’s a judge, it’s your mission to shoot criminals in the face and rescue hostages. As mentioned this is a top-down, twin-stick shooter so if you have ever played a game like this before, you should feel right at home. The controls are simple and familiar, within a minute or two, you’ll be darting around the levels serving your own brand of justice to the scum of the city.

The missions in the game are short but sweet. There’s destructible scenery and walls that add a layer of strategy to the game. I mean, you could go in through the front door and try to take on the bad guys face to face… or you could just shoot a wall down and take them by surprise. There are only twenty levels in Jydge, which admittedly doesn’t sound like a lot. However, you are pretty much pushed into playing them several times. This may sound like a chore, but the levels are so short (in a good way) that replaying them over and over really isn’t as much of a drudge as it sounds. But why replay them I hear you inquire? Well, each level has three challenges for you to complete as well as just finishing it. Each challenge earns you a medal and you need these medals to unlock more levels.

JYDGE SCREEN 1

These challenges vary from level to level. Maybe you’ll need to finish without taking any damage or you’ll need to loot all crates. Some challenges require you to finish a level in a set time limit (usually a very short 20-30 second time limit) or perhaps you’ll have to kill every bad guy. At first, you’ll find that it is pretty much impossible to finish some of these challenges until you upgrade not just JYDGE but also his gun too. Yup, there’s an upgrade mechanic here and there’s a lot to it too. Unlock and use cybernetic implants, new types of ammo for your gun, special weapons and more. In order to upgrade, you’ll need money. You earn money for every successful mission as well as for looting crates. This is why you’ll find yourself replaying missions a lot, to earn the coin to upgrade, to complete challenges, to unlock more levels.

GAVEL

Then, you can also unlock higher difficulties for each of the twenty levels. Even though you will be playing the same level, just on a higher difficulty, these throw up new challenges. Aside from having new challenges to try and complete, the levels will also alter slightly. The hostages you need to save will move, as will the enemies and more. So even replaying the same level throws up a few surprises to keep you playing. Plus, as each level can be finished relatively quickly, they never get stale. You can spend anywhere from a few minutes to just a few seconds on a level. Play can be fast and frantic and unlocking new upgrades (like a hacking tool) can even open new paths through the levels too. So there really is quite a lot of variety here, even if you do replay the same levels over and over.

Now, going back to the same levels over and over can usually feel a bit grindy and I’m not a fan of grindy games at all. Yet with Jydge, it never honestly felt like a grind. The missions you are sent on are very enjoyable and varied and when I did have to replay a mission, I always found myself trying some new tactics or using a new upgrade to improve my performance.

To the final question I always ask, is the game worth buying? First up, the price. Depending on your platform of choice (Steam being the cheapest), Jydge is being sold for £11 to £13. It’s a good price point for the game you get, despite there only being twenty levels and those levels being short, there is still a lot of gameplay crammed into them. I loved going back and trying to better my previous attempts, trying to beat the challenges and unlock all of the medals. There’s a lot to play around with in terms of upgrades too. Mixing and matching various cyberwares and ammo types. Playing around with various setups for each mission to get the best performance that I could.

JYDGE SCREEN 2

I was recommended this game by the admin of a Facebook group that I’m in, Lockdown Gaming. And Dave, when you read this, I’m bloody glad you enticed me to try it out. I had so much fun with Jydge and I’ve still not unlocked all twenty missions yet either. The destructible scenery isn’t just there to look nice, it can actually be used to add a layer of strategy. There are so many upgrades that you can really have a lot of fun trying out different setups. And the challenges on each level kept me coming back again and again without ever getting bored. Yes, this is a big recommendation. from me. Jydge is a cracking shooter and one with a lot of content under its surface. Shooting street scum in the face has never been so satisfying.

Game Review: Zool Redimensioned

Back in the early nineties, there was a bit of a battle to create an iconic gaming mascot… especially within the platforming genre. Nintendo already had their moustachioed Italian plumber from New York with Mario. Sega had hit the ground running with the Blue-blur that was Sonic. The consoles were well catered for and housed some of the most endearing platform gaming characters ever. However, the home computers of the day were lagging behind in that regard. A few developers tried to introduce a new gaming mascot, there was Team 17 with SuperfrogA couple of years before that though (but slightly after Sonic had been unleashed), Gremlin Interactive introduced their new character, Zool.

Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was an attempt to bring console-style platforming action to the Amiga 1200. In fact, Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was bundled with the then newly released Amiga 1200 computer. The game saw ports to other home computers and even some of the consoles later too. Long story short and twenty-nine years after the game’s original 1992 release, it has been remade. From developer Sumo Digital Academy (a wonderful academy giving young coders the chance to make games) and publisher Secret Mode comes Zool Redimensioned

But is it any good? Well, that is why I’m writing this review. But before I do get into it, I just want to very quickly cover how I felt about the original game back in 1992. It was a distinctly average platformer game with some really annoying flaws. Of course, we Amiga owners lapped it up back then, because it was the closest thing we could get to playing Sonic the Hedgehog without having to buy a Mega Drive. As a game, Zool just lacked the polish and style that the far superior console platformers were doing at the time. The main selling point of Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension was that it was fast, that was why it was often considered the Amiga’s answer to Sonic the Hedgehog. As someone who wasn’t much of a fan of Sega’s then-new mascot and the Sonic game… it was still far better than Zool.

So anyway, how is this remake? It plays pretty much how I remember the original playing almost three decades ago. It still has those bright and colourful graphics. The levels are still based on things like sweets and music. You control Zool with ease, a button to jump, one to attack and one for your special spinning move. This really is basic stuff and I don’t mean that in a negative way. This is all that is really needed from a game like this, it’s not overly complex so it doesn’t need a complex control scheme. If you have ever played any 16-bit (or even 8-bit) platformer, then you already know what you are getting into with Zool Redimensioned. Run around the levels, pick up stuff for points, jump on or shoot enemies, get to the end of the level, kill boss, move onto the next area. Zool Redimensioned doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it has just put some nice sparkly additions on the spokes.

ZOOL SCREEN 1

One of the main gripes over the original Amiga version was that the screen always felt too small. Because it was in the 4:3 aspect ratio and Zool was a speedy little character, you would often get caught out by things just off the screen as you couldn’t see more than two inches in front of the character. Thankfully this remake fixes that by having a widescreen format, so you can actually see what is happening on the screen all the time. The graphics are (obviously) nicer too, high def and all that. Yet they still retain that original look. Zool also has a double jump now, very hand for any platforming game. Also, another niggle with the original was that to finish a level, you had to collect all (or most) of the items on each level to progress. This was a massive pain in the arse as it really slowed you down and broke up the momentum, ruining the speed of the game that was supposed to rival Sonic at the time. This remake does away with that and the collectables are just there for score. Go and collect them all if you really want but you don’t have to.

However, Zool Redimensioned does come with two difficulty settings. There is the normal mode, which plays just as I described up there. Or you can opt for Ultimate Ninja mode. Here, you lose the double jump and have to collect everything on the level to progress. It’s a nice little addition as you get the best of both worlds. You can play the better and more enjoyable normal mode, or you can go old school and be taken back to the more annoying, 16-bit, original mode.

ZOOL SCREEN 2

There is something to be said about a game with a bright and colourful graphical art style like Zool Redimensioned and that thing is… it all looks a bit too ‘messy’. It can be hard to tell what is an enemy and what’s just background detail. Things blend into other things and nothing is ever truly defined. Spikes in one area look like spikes, so you know to avoid them. But move on to a new area (the toy one springs to mind right now) and the spikes don’t look like spikes at all. So you think you can jump on them, only to be dealt some damage. Some worlds have enemies that look like platforms and platforms that look like enemies… the music-themed one is a right bitch for this. As I say, it’s all a bit ‘messy’ and while that kind of worked back in 1992, it really doesn’t now.

But the main issue with Zool Redimensioned is that the gameplay itself has just has not evolved. Yeah I know, the devs are trying to recapture that 16-bit platforming and they have, perfectly. But as I said earlier in this review, I was never a big fan of the original game. This remake doesn’t move things on at all. There are a few new additions sure, but under all of that, this is still a very ‘meh’ game, just like the original.

For me, I think the best way to sum this one up is that it’s a pretty good remake of a distinctly okay-ish game. The team at Sumo Digital Academy have done the best they could with the material given. The changes and additions to this remake over the original are an improvement… just. The widescreen is far better, the fact you now don’t have to collect everything on a level to advance, etc. It’s all good, great in fact and I doff my cap in respect to everyone at Sumo Digital Academy for their efforts. But… it’s still just Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension, which I never much liked back then. 

ZOOL SCREEN 3

So, is this worth buying? For me on a personal level? No, not at all. There are better and more creative indie platformers out there right now. If I wanted to bring some Amiga classics back, Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension would be very low on the list. But if you were a huge fan of the original game(s)? Yes, I recommend it to those people, very much so. This really is a perfect slice of Zool action and I think fans will really enjoy playing this superior version. The additions and tweaks work well and they do make the game more playable than it was back in 1992.