Man Of Steel, Part II

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, its just part II of my retrospective look at Superman in games.
The Man Of Steel next appears in his very own arcade game.

Superman arcade

Superman: Developed and published by Taito Corporation and released into arcades in 1988. A classic arcade style scrolling beat em’ up with a bit of shooting thrown in for good measure.

With you playing as Superman having to battle his way through five differing levels which include Metropolis, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and finally the main boss’ spaceship.
There is no real plot to speak of, just Superman punching, kicking and shooting his way through the various levels until he comes face to face with Emperor Zaas.
Superman can use his flying ability to get around the stages all while beating the crap out of the many, many henchmen sent by Emperor Zaas. You can also use a projectile attack called “sonic blast” by holding and releasing the attack button. There are various objects you can throw and even break open to find bonus crystals. These crystals offer various power ups depending on their colour; blue restore any lost health, yellow allow the use of the sonic blast without having to charge and red crystals destroy all enemies on screen during the shooting stages.

The first four stages are split into three sections with horizontal scrolling then vertical scrolling and finally a side scrolling shooter section with a boss fight at the end. The final stage is a little different as it adds an extra scrolling shooting section at the start and another boss fight at the end.

The game featured a 2 player co-op option so two Supermen can fight side by side…yes two Supermen. The first player controls the original Superman in his classic blue and red outfit while the second player controls an alternate Superman in a red and grey outfit (see screen below). It is never revealed who this other Superman is or how he even exists.
Also of note, some unused sprites in the game’s code show a female character not seen in the final game who is dressed in a similar costume and even colours to Superman. Many think she was possibly going to be the original second controllable player and was intended to be Supergirl, which would have made more sense than two Supermen.

Superman arcade screen

Superman arcade was simple enough stuff and standard arcade fare. Designed to eat your spare change as fast as it could. The game was okay at best and while it didn’t really offer anything amazing in terms of game play, it didn’t really do much wrong either. Just a very substandard game. It did feature pretty good renditions of the main Superman theme and even the; Can You Read My Mind tune from the original Superman film.

After his pretty average jaunt in the arcades, Superman returns to the home market next.

Superman MoS cover

Superman: The Man of Steel: This one was relased in 1989 on the Acorn Electron, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, MSX, PC and ZX Spectrum. Developed and published by software company Tynesoft.

This one offered several different game play styles including 3D flying, overhead vertical scrolling and classic side scrolling sections.
Playing as Superman you have to battle Lex Luthor as well as Darkseid through a total of eight different sections, though some of the sections are similar to others in all but some graphical changes.
With you partaking in some pseudo-3D flying and shooting, side scrolling fighting and even a bit of overhead shooting too. The main objective of the game is to destroy a geo-disruptor you find at the end of the eighth and final level.

Superman MoS screen

This game received some above average reviews when it was released…depending on which version you had. The 8-bit versions met with pretty poor reviews overall as the game was a bit too advanced for the then ageing technology of the day. However, the 16-bit versions for the Amiga and Atari ST had much better reception as the advanced hardware could handle the game as was originally intended.
It was a pretty decent game with some variety to the game play with the Amiga version being the best of the lot.

Superman still has not really had a game worthy of the word “super”. Maybe the 16-bit consoles could do better on a “super” console?

Superman death cover

The Death and Return of Superman: Developed by Blizzard Entertainment and Sunsoft, published by Sunsoft in 1994 for the Super Nintendo. A port for the Sega Mega Drive was relased in 1995.
Based on the 1992 comic book story; The Death of Superman.

The game was the classic and standard beat em’ up style game play you have seen countless times before. Enemies appear on screen and you beat the crap out of them and move onto the next area where more enemies appear and you beat the crap out of them, rinse and repeat for the entire game.
Of note, Superman is not the only playable character in the game as Superboy, Steel, Cyborg and The Eradicator are all playable through the game too. All of the characters play pretty much the same way and have the same abilities with standard punches and kicks, grapple attacks, throws and even the ability to fly. You can’t choose which of the characters to play as, the game just follows a set story and each of the characters become playable as the story follows its set script.

The game’s plot follows on from the previously mentioned comic book; The Death of Superman as a kind of pseudo sequel to that story featuring Doomsday.

Superman death screen

This one was another bare basic beat em’ up of which there were dozens of around this time that offering nothing really of any merit. The dynamic of the different playable characters was bare bones as each of the characters were pretty much all the same anyway besides the cosmetics. The fighting itself was rather dull and didn’t really utilize any of Superman’s powers and the levels all felt the same aside from a handful of shooting sections.
The Death and Return of Superman received pretty mediocre reviews at the time and for good reason.

Well that just about wraps up part II, but in part III will Superman finally get a great game to star in? Well no as the next one is often regarded as one of the worst games ever made…


UFO: Enemy Unknown – Amiga

Seeing as XCOM 2 has recently been announced as the sequel to the remake of the original. I thought I’d look at the original game that started it all.


Little Bit of History: UFO: Enemy Unknown (called X-COM: UFO Defense in North America) was released in 1994 for DOS and Amiga. Originally planned as a sequel to Mythos Games 1988 Laser Squad.The game received very strong reviews upon initial release and acquired a loyal following among strategy fans. Even several publications have listed UFO: Enemy Unknown as one of the best video games ever made. Developed by Mythos Games & MicroProse Software and published by MicroProse.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: Set in a near-future of the year 1998 (the game was released in 1994 after all) representatives from the world’s most powerful nations meet to discuss the issue of possible alien invasion. From this meeting is born the defense and research organization “Extraterrestrial Combat” (X-COM).

Little Bit of Character: The main playable characters were randomly named, but the player could rename them to whatever they wished. You would cross paths with several types of alien like; Sectoid, Cyberdisc, Floater, Reaper, Snakeman, Chryssalid, Zombie, Muton, Celatid, Silacoid, Ethereal and Sectopod.

Little Bit of Influence: The game went on to spawn it’s own successful franchise with games like; X-COM: Terror From the Deep, X-COM: Apocalypse, X-COM: Interceptor along with several others. There have also been fanmade remakes and even a full official remake called: XCOM: Enemy Unknown and a spin-off called; The Bureau: XCOM Declassified.

Little Bit of Memories: The first time I saw this game was when my brother Graham brought it home. I have to admit, I found it rather dull at first. But spending more time with the game caused me to slowly learn how deep and interesting it all was. One of the most imaginative and deep strategy games ever made.

Little Bit of Playability: I most definitely find this very playable today as well as the first official sequel; X-COM: Terror From the Deep. If you can get a hold of either the original or the sequel do it now.


Also check out my quick “Good and bad” of the remake from 2012.


Prince of Persia – Amiga


Little Bit of History: Designed by Jordan Mechner and published by Brøderbund. Prince of Persia was released in 1989 and started a sub genre of gaming known as the cinematic platformer. Jordan Mechner has said he got the idea for the game from watching his younger brother running and jumping while playing. In fact the rotoscoping used for the animation of the main character is that of Jordan Mechner’s younger brother.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: You play as a nameless protagonist, you are locked in the dungeons of a place to be kept away from the Princess. The Princess is being held against her will by the evil Jaffar who forces the Princess to marry him or be executed. You have to fight your way out of the dungeons and get to the Princess before she is executed all in 60 minutes.

Little Bit of Character: Along with the nameless protagonist and even nameless Princess. There is the antagonist, Jaffar and various nameless guards and even a doppelgänger of the protagonist to contend with.

Little Bit of Influence: While Jordan Mechner has said he was influenced by Arabian Nights stories and the Indiana Jones films, Prince of Persia has gone on to become it’s own successful franchise spawning sequels, reboots and remakes. An interesting note being that the Assassin’s Creed game series was in fact originally going to be developed as a Prince of Persia spin-off called; Prince of Persia: Assassins. Prince of Persia also inspired other similar games such as the Tomb Raider and the Oddworld series among others.

Little Bit of Memories: I still remember the first time seeing this game and thoroughly being impressed by the animation. The game was a joy to play back then with action a plenty as well as offering a fair but tough challenge. Trying to work out how to defeat that darn doppelgänger had me stuck for ages until the obvious answer came to me.

Little Bit of Playability: The game is still a great little title to play now and again but some may find it a little “ropey” by today’s standards. But I urge gaming fans to try the game out or even it’s remake Prince of Persia Classic.



Cinemaware Part III.

Welcome to my final part of looking back at Cinemaware, one of the best game developers of the 80’s and early 90’s.
As I have covered the main and most important games in part I and part II, I thought I would cover the Cinemaware sports titles here as well as an adventure game they published, but did not develop.

Cinemaware also had a small series of sports titles using the: TV Sports prefix.

TV football cover TV baseball cover TV basketball cover TV boxing cover

Not really too much to talk about here, they are sports games. They played well enough and had nice Cinemaware touches as they were presented in a TV style allowing for that cinematic (but now small screen) feel that Cinemaware were famous for.
With TV Sports Boxing being the final game released by classic Cinemaware in 1991 before they closed their doors.

Cinemaware also published an action/adventure style game.

The Kristal Cover

The Kristal: Released in 1989 only published by Cinemaware and developed by Fissionchip Software. The Kristal was a mix of point n’ click adventure, flight/combat and fighting.
The game is based on a previously unreleased play called: The Kristal of Konos, written in 1976. The authors of the play even worked alongside the game developers.

With you playing as a pirate named Dancis Frake (get it?), on a mission to recover the “Kristal” on behalf of the King of Meltoca.

Not too much to say about this one as it was not really a Cinemaware game…and it shows. It was a below average adventure game at best with some pretty poor combat thrown in. But as it was released during the classic Cinemaware era, I thought I’d include it anyway.

That wraps up all the games released by Cinemaware 1985 – 1991.

Personally, I really miss the original Cinemaware and think gaming needs them back. They really were the pioneers of cinematic gaming melding great gameplay with cinema style stories, visuals and audio.
We have similar games today with titles like Mass Effect and even choices in games like Telltale Games: The Walking Dead…but they are still not what Cinemaware were offering us. I’d love to see what they could do now with modern technology if they made such amazing and diverse games back then. Plus I REALLY want an; It Came From The Desert remake.

Gaming keeps getting more and more cinematic as they age and I think they all owe something to Cinemaware and the standards they set in the mid 80’s.

Thanks for joining me on this memory trip to one of my all time favourite developers.

Now I’m of to download Wings Remastered for my iPad…


Cinemaware Part II.

Here we are at part II of my retrospective look at Cinemaware and we are off to a flying start.

RR cover

Rocket Ranger: This time around, Cinemaware took inspiration from 1950’s Sci-Fi serials with Rocket Ranger released in 1988. Playing on many of the clichés of that 1950’s era including a dashing, courageous hero with a beautiful, voluptuous damsel in distress. Even using the stylised futuristic predictions and visions of the time frame.

The plot is set in a future where the Nazis had won World War II and were able to enslave the entire world. From that future, artifacts are teleported to you the player in the role of a US Army scientist. The future artifacts being a rocket pack and a radium pistol were sent back to you in a hope that you could reverse the outcome of the war so the Nazi army lose.
The Nazis winning World War II is based on their use of a mineral named lunarium. Lunarium has the ability to lower the IQ of human males drastically, and effectively preventing military resistance when the Nazis invade. What is even more puzzling is that lunarium is only mineable on the Moon and mankind so far does not yet have the technology to reach it…so how did the Nazis get a hold of it?

Like in previous Cinemaware games, this title mixes up various gameplay elements from action and strategy all with that Cinemaware, cinematic style.
Using the aforementioned rocket pack and a radium pistol to become The Rocket Ranger, you would have to shoot down enemy fighters and intercept enemy shipments. Some sequences were bareknuckle fistfights with enemy Nazi guards in order to gain rocket parts, you’d even be tasked with having to disable the defenses of two available lunarium depots to get fuel for both your own rocket pack and the rocket ship you’ll need to build.
Another scene had our hero catch up with a kidnapped scientist and his voluptuous daughter in a Nazi Zeppelin. In these encounters the player must engage in dialogue with them to earn their trust.
The strategy part of the game comes from a world map display where you direct five US agents to search for hidden Nazi bases. These agents can also “organise resistance” to slow the Nazi’s advance towards the USA.

The main goal of the game is to collect five parts to a rocket ship along with 500 units of the lunarium to get to the Moon and close down the lunarium mines to stop the Nazis winning World War II.

Rocket Ranger was highly praised for it’s clever mix of action and strategy and of course for that real cinematic style and tone Cinemaware had become famous for. Rocket Ranger was a sublime return to form after the rather unimpressive The Three Stooges previously.

Next Cinemaware would take us East…far East.

LotrS cover

Lords of the Rising Sun: Released in 1989 Lords of the Rising Sun was very similar to Cinemaware’s earlier title: Defender of the Crown. With it’s mix of map based strategy and arcade style mini games. Drawing their inspiration from Japanese Samurai movies and even dipping into actual history.

Giving you the option of playing as one of the famous real life Japanese generals of the time, Yoshitsune or Yoritomo. As you fight to pacify Japan by force set against and early feudalism in Japan backdrop. The game shared a lot with Defender of the Crown with similar sequences like fortress attacks or even defending against a Ninja assassins. If the two rival troops collided on the map, a battle would ensue in which you’ll have to use all your strategical wits to guide your men to victory. You could even negotiate alliances. All while having to build your army to slowly taking over and bring peace to Japan.

Lords of the Rising Sun met with positive reviews with many admiring the game’s cinematic qualities along with the mix of action and strategy elements. But many would also highlight the fact the game was basically a re-hash of Defender of the Crown from 1986, which was not a bad thing at all.

Leaving feudal Japan behind, Cinemaware would take us to a monster/B-movie world and my own personal favourite of their games.

IcftD cover

It Came from the Desert: From 1989 with giant ants aplenty in this 1950’s, Them! inspired, B-movie extravaganza. Offering a massive open and non linear world to play in and explore at will.

With you playing as Dr. Greg Bradley who finds himself in the remote town of Lizard Breath, Nevada on June 1st, 1951. Dr. Greg Bradley is a geologist, who wants to study a recent site of a meteor crash somewhere south-west of Lizard Breath. Where you learn that the radiation from the meteor has enlarged a local ant population to an enormous, gigantic size. yet the townsfolk do not take your findings seriously. Realising that the ants will soon mate and spread, you must work against a ticking clock and devise a plan to stop the ants from terrorizing Lizard Breath and eventually the world.
In order to succeed you must visit many and varying locations in and around Lizard Breath ranging from an airfield, the local radio station, mines, farms, a newspaper publisher, the Mayor’s office and many more to find evidence of the ants and in turn convince townsfolk and authorities of impending giant ant infestation and attack.
Only by finding, understanding and using every resource available, from simple workers to the army with their tanks and fighter jets, will the player be able to take the fight to and win over the giant ants.

It Came From the Desert can be considered “real-time”. Waiting, sleeping and driving around consumes time. As you only a fixed amount of 15 in-game days to succeed find the source of the ants and destroy the queen and nest, time is of the essence.
If you fail to do so by this date the ants will mate and spread, which results in bad ending ending. To reach a good ending, the player must locate the ant colony and kill the queen ant.

The game is really split into two varying game modes. The first being more adventure based finding and collecting clues as to the giant and problem and then trying to convince as many people as possible of your findings. You’ll also find subplots including; a romantic plot and even a mysterious murder case connected to a secret society known as “Neptune”.
The second part is more action oriented with you fighting off the ants using the resources and help you have amassed over the course of the first part.

It Came From the Desert was specifically designed for multiple playthroughs with your actions and reactions changing the outcome of the game in varying ways even leading to multiple endings. The nonlinear narrative comes about as it depends which location you visit and at what time, also whether you meet certain characters at locations and whether they advance their own individual stories within the main plot.
Playing as Dr. Bradley you can defend yourself against the giant ants with grenades and a pistol. Later in the game, you’ll use other weapons (as long as you have convinced certain people), such as dynamite and even a flame thrower. Depending on the location, you can also drive vehicles like tanks, fly a planes and spray pesticides over the ants. You’ll even get to fly a jet if you can conceive the army of the giant ants.

True to the Cinemaware style not only does the game feature that 1950’s B-movie aesthetic. It also uses Cinemaware’s mini game concept to hold everything together. The mini games on offer were:
Chicken: At random times when you drive from one location to another. A local gang of greasers would challenge you to a game of chicken where your objective is to drive your car head-on into the approaching car of the gang members and hope they chicken out first. You can maneuver your own vehicle off the road if you wish, which results in a crash but then your car needs repairs and counts as a time penalty. If the greasers don’t evade, you will also crash and in addition are penalized with waking up in hospital.
Shooting: This mini game switches to a first person perspective and Dr. Bradley can shoot his sidearm at an approaching giant ant. The ant is killed by shooting off both its antennae, but failure to do so will result in you being attacked by the giant and and waking up in hospital.
Fire Extinguishing: There are scenes in which the player must wield an extinguisher to quench a fire at a building. The mechanics are fairly similar to the shooting minigame. If you fail to put out all the fire, you’ll fail, and wake up in the hospital.
Knife Fight: In some encounters, when questioning an interviewee during the adventuring part, if you hit a nerve with your questions they will pull out a switchblade. Dr. Bradley and his opponent are shown from above. Where you have to evade the strikes of your opponent’s stabs and counterattack when they are exposed. As you may have guessed…losing the knife fight will put you into the hospital.
So, about that darn hospital you keep ending up in…
Hospital: When you fail in any action sequence or mini game, you will wake up in a hospital bed (you’ll do this a lot) and you’ll have to stay there for at least a night, losing valuable and much needed time. However you can choose to escape, this is when the game switches into a top down perspective within the hospital. You are chased around the hospital by nurses and doctors. But the game allows you to hide in empty beds, under counters and others as well as commandeer a wheelchair to try to make your escape. If you successfully escape the hospital this will reduce the time penalty.

It Came from the Desert met with rave reviews and rightly so. The game was pure genius. With so much game content and replay value, It Came from the Desert was Cinemaware’s opus all wrapped up in that classic and authentic cinematic style.

It Came from the Desert was so good, it was the only Cinemaware game I really wanted a sequel for…

Antheads cover

Antheads: It Came from the Desert II: Released in 1990 came this pseudo-sequel. Though labeled: It Came from the Desert II, this was not technically a sequel but an expansion that required the original game in order to play.

The plot of this game takes place again in Lizard Breath but now set 5 years after the previous title and expands on the possible second ant queen mentioned in the first game’s ending (if you got that ending).
This time around you play as an Army officer named Brick, who has stolen a detonator for an atomic bomb as his kid brother is a tester for the weapon and fears that the Army’s ignorance of radiation will cause his brother and other testers to die. So Brick tries to find Dr. Wells from the first game who has since died but is ambushed by surviving soldier ants who steal the detonator to rouse their dormant second queen. Brick must find Dr. Wells’ notes that prove radiation is fatal as well as help the town fend off the new ant army.

As an expansion, this is really a retread of the last game with no real new features, just a slightly different story and a handful of new characters. The basics remain the same as do the mini games.
So no need to cover this one in detail, just re-read the: It Came from the Desert overview up there ^^^.

Antheads: It Came from the Desert II was just an expansion but still met with positive reviews. A smaller game than It Came from the Desert, but again it was just an expansion…and a bloody good one too.

As we leave silliness of B-movies and giant ants behind, we hit the harshness of World War I and sadly the penultimate game from classic Cinemaware.

Wings cover

Wings: If It Came from the Desert is my favorite Cinemaware game, then Wings is a very, very close second. Released in 1990 and drawing its inspiration from World War I movies, Wings was a masterful mix great action and an atmospheric story narrative.

Playing as your own named fighter pilot, or various fighter pilots if you die in game. Wings was a very narrative driven game delivering the harshness and reality of World War I. Gameplay consisted of a mixture of strafing missions, bombing missions and even 3D dogfights. While you take the war to the Hun and even go up against some of Germany’s deadly aces pilots in heart pumping dogfights. The game was much more action oriented than previous Cinemaware titles but features a much stronger and emotional story than before. Most definitely a much more serious tone and style than previous Cinemaware games but also lighter on overall gameplay elements which really gives very little to talk about. But don’t let that put you off as Wings is an amazing game, it’s just a lot more story based and playing the game delivers the emotional punch via simple journal entries of your pilot far better than I could do here…so go and play Wings.

Upon release, Wings was hailed and even today remembered as one of the very best games on the Amiga for good reason.

This ends the run of classic era Cinemaware (1985–1991) games and the end of one of my all time favorite game developers. But wait, didn’t I mention that Cinemaware also made a few sports titles and of course there is a certain adventure game published (but not developed) by Cinemaware too…

I guess I need a part III where I will do a quick overview of the Cinemaware sports games and also that Cinemaware published adventure title.