Asteroids (Activision Remake)
Fans of the classic game will be thrilled by this outstanding remake. Asteroids remains true to the 2D gameplay of the original while updating the graphics to today’s standards. The gameplay is addictive and simple as ever with the added twist of power-ups and gravity fields. The best part of the new features is that they enhance the game instead of feeling tacked on. The graphics are really good with plenty of special effects and bright colors making the game a visual joy. Its music mimics the original’s ominous minimalist soundtrack and expands on it. Asteroids is one of the best retro remakes to date, it brings the game into the 90s without sacrificing what made it a classic in the first place.
Imagine this: You go back into time. It’s 1981. You find yourself inside an arcade. You walk up to a familiar machine. There’s nothing out of the ordinary. The machine has the same cabinet artwork, the same controller. You take out a quarter and begin playing the game. The familiar blue vectors appear on the screen and you start blasting away at the red Snappers. Suddenly, the old familiar game explodes into psychedelic color and you hear relentless futuristic music pumping the game with a new sense of urgency. At the same time, underneath the striking visuals and furious techno beats, familiar rhythm of the game has quickened. The addition of strange new elements makes your heart quicken. It’s just like the past, only better. As the game tightens it’s grip on you and you become addicted to its’ hyper play mechanics, you tell yourself that you must be crazy, this must be some kind of strange dream. This isn’t a dream. It’s “Tempest X3.”
In the early 1980’s, a seminal game called Tempest appeared. Tempest’s main attraction was its beautiful full-color Quadrascan vector graphics and a timeless play mechanic. The game quickly became a cult classic. No home version existed until 1994, when Atari resurrected the game brilliantly on its’ doomed Jaguar system with the aid of genius programmer Jeff Minter. Tempest 2000 was one of the few bright spots in the bleak Jaguar library. Unfortunately, too few players got to experience Mr. Minter’s work of genius due to the Jaguar’s limited success at attaining market share. Thanks to Interplay, mainstream players have the chance to play the classic arcade title and a newly upgraded version of the game on their PlayStation.
The game is simple to play.
Players spin their yellow electric ‘claw’ around deceptively simple
geometric webs. The object is to shoot the various enemies as the come at you
from the center of the webs. Each web divides into segmented lanes. Zapping
certain enemies causes powerups to appear onscreen.
When you zap an entire level of enemies, you warp to the next web where
you start at ground zero.
There are three modes of play included on the CD: Classic Tempest, Tempest Duel and Tempest X. Classic Tempest is a faithful version of the original 1981 arcade game. There have been no enhancements made to the game. This mode is perfect for those who never experienced Tempest and wish to get a feel for the game. There are no power-ups, jumps and limited special effects in classic mode. Tempest Duel is a head to head contest where each player is on the opposite side of the web. Players have to zap their opponent while simultaneously avoiding enemies coming from the center of the web. Tempest Duel features all of the psychedelic special effects found in Tempest X mode. Tempest X mode is a spectacular remake. This mode of play is obviously why the game exists on the platform as a standalone product instead of as part of a compilation.
The graphics have gone in
for a second major overhaul since the Jag edition. “Tempest X3” overlays
swirling psychedelic bitmaps over the web. It's a stunning effect that adds to
the visual appeal of the title. This and the light sourcing abilities make
“Tempest X3” a game that looks cutting edge. “Tempest X3” resembles the
original only at first glance. Taken together these add a new level of visual
sophistication to the game. “Tempest X3's” shots and explosions dramatically
light up the bitmapped web as they explode.
Some of the differences are more subtle than that. There are new shapes
to the webs and multicolored psychedelic gas clouds in the background add to the
techno-psychedelic feel of the title. Does all this sound impressive? It’s
only the beginning.
You cause power-ups to
appear by shooting enemies. You
maneuver the claw to catch them as they roar up the sections of the web. When
you catch them, the entire screen explodes in color. The text naming the power-up
fills up the entire screen. You can
capture multiple power-ups within seconds of each other. When this happens it
creates a temporary explosion of color, sound and fury that fills the entire
screen. An incredible effect shows off the on-the-fly rendering
capabilities of the PlayStation. Numbers and letters suddenly explode and live
on screen. In the blink of an eye, they’re gone.
There are other power-ups
which you can collect which enable special levels. These warp levels have a
completely different style of play. These levels take place in a first-person
perspective. Players suddenly finds themselves floating above or below a
beautiful, fiery background. Mellow, ambient music replaces the harsh techno in
the rest of the game. The object of
these levels is to fly through spinning rings. It sounds easy enough, but the
rings speed up as you collect boost rings. Getting to the end of the levels is
tough because they are trickier than they appear. The ambient music cleverly
deceives players into false
relaxation. These bonus levels showed up first in the Jaguar edition. Their
inclusion makes “Tempest X3” more a sequel to Jeff Minter’s sequel than to
the original game. Disappointingly, these dream levels
haven’t been upgraded as much as the rest of the game. They're
essentially unchanged from the Jaguar edition with slightly different music.
They're still admirable the
breathing room they give the player. Not to mention
“Tempest X3” features a
newly remixed version of the techno music from the Jaguar edition. The techno
soundtrack is more elaborate. This is fitting for the transition from cartridge
to CD audio. The games’ frenetic, thrill a nano-second matches the hard edged
techno score perfectly. No one will mistake the soundtrack for a group like
Orbital or FSOL (Future Sound of London.) The remixed songs add a sense of
apocalyptic urgency to the action. The music ranks with the best ever heard in a
console video game. It adds a layer of audio intensity to the trance effect the
game’s visuals and physical rhythms create. The voices have changed from the
Jaguar edition. They’re now cleaner and easier to understand.
What beyond the eye-melting graphics, the ear popping music and the
smooth as silk control makes “Tempest X3” a classic? The best way to
describe it is zen : a feeling of total and complete gaming bliss that's
achieved rarely. This is one of the rare titles that has the ability to do this
to a player. It’s a sign of a great game when you become so hypnotized by
playing it that you are completely oblivious
to the outside world. The
combination of the brilliant psychedelic graphics, the hypnotic, heavy beats of
the soundtrack and not least, the timeless addiction of the actual game makes it
more than a mere shooter. The Zen-like bonus levels add another layer of
intensity to the game. It sucks you in and doesn’t let go.
“Tempest X3” is the best neo-classic title to appear on any system. It takes the timeless gaming formula of Tempest and further adds many new elements to the title. Even players who are familiar with the Jaguar edition will love the many superb graphic enhancements. It was great on the Jaguar and has aged well, even in its’ original format. The expanded abilities and effects made possible by the PlayStation make it absolutely incredible. The transformation that the classic game has undergone will amaze those who remember and revere the original game. It turns from a simple vector graphics shooter into a technodelic dreamscape of light and fury at the mere touch of a button. It’s one that you have to buy.
owners looking for the next great 3D fighting game can cease their journey
because it has arrived. It’s called Soul Blade and it comes from Namco, makers
of the Tekken series. It’s quite
an accomplishment for Namco to be have the ability to produce such mind blowing
software with short time frames of each other. Only a few months ago, Tekken 2
was hailed as the greatest 3D fighting game ever to grace the Playstation, and
now, scant months later Namco blows themselves away with Soul Edge. Taking
elements of Toshinden and Tekken and combining them creates a unique fighting
experience that most players will not be able to put down.
Soul Blade is something special and shows it immediately upon load when
the opening cinema begins. It’s easily the most most spectacular cinema ever
seen in a home video game.
cinematic opening sets up the plot
which concerns 8 fighters vying for a mystical sword known as Soul Edge in the
15th century. The
graphics are nothing short of amazing. The
realistic movement of the fighters is unmatched by any home game, the characters
move with a fluidity that even outdoes Virtua Fighter 2.
The backgrounds are simply beautiful, all use the Playstations light
sourcing abilities and Texture mapping to the limit.
The graphics are amazing
enough that Soul Edge has single handedly raised the visual standard that all
future 3D fighters will have to live up to.
scene is the most incredible seen so far in any fighting game. It’s production
and execution are among the most effective ever seen. careful viewers can see a
tower collapse in the background as marauding invaders overtake the castle. As
night falls and the castle is overrun, you see the flames shooting up from
behind the castle walls in the distance, as the castle falls to the enemy
forces. It’s no exaggeration to say that Soul Blade by far the most visually
stunning 3D that has ever been attempted on the PlayStation.
The amazing graphics give the game a truly cinematic feel, even during
play. The effort put into these effects, and the affect on the player is nothing
short of spectacular. The light sourcing in this stage is nothing short of
jaw-dropping as the flames illuminate your fighters. You can see the
unbelievably realistic flames dance created shadows on the ground. These effects
are nothing short of spectacular. It’s completely mind blowing when you
consider that Siegfried’s castle represents
just one stage. All of the other stages at least one or two effects that
will completely blow you away. The fighters themselves look incredible as well,
each moves with an incredible fluidity and naturalness that is simply amazing to
behold. Special moves also light up the screen with vivid streaks of color. The
total visual effect of the game is outstanding. It would be a shock if Namco
didn’t sweep the year end awards for achieving
a kind of graphical magnificence that is rare outside a Disney movie. Remember
how your breath was taken away by the opening
scene of The Lion King? Soul Blade is to electronic gaming what that
breakthrough was to animation. Taking this in combination with the orchestral
scores for each stage (there are no fewer than 3 to select from, believe it or
not!) Each soundtrack is a slightly different variation, but they each lend a
sense of epic grandeur to the game some of the music is so inspiring, and fits
the stage so well, you literally have to pinch yourself and try not forget to
interact with the game in between drooling. T gives Soul Blade an aesthetic
impact that has yet to be matched.
hasn’t compromised the gameplay in the interest of incredible graphics.
Instead of using their fists as in Tekken, the fighters in Soul Edge all
use weapons much like Toshinden. The control of the fighters uses a modified
version of the highly responsive
and easy to master Tekken formula.
The makes performing special moves, timing your attacks, and dodging
opponents’ parries a true joy. The game’s difficulty is adjustable, but many players will
not find it too terrifically difficult to beat. The actual fighting is very
entertaining and challenging. The
wide variety of styles of each fighter definitely adds to challenge.
The variety of characters will keep players interested. While there are
only 8 selectable characters (and a few hidden) their diversity and relative
originality is what keeps the game fresh. Unfortunately, the one minor flaw with
playing the game is one shared by almost every other 3D fighter: ring-outs. They
occur with far too much frequency and can really be detrimental to the game at
times. This is especially troubling in that so much effort and time has been
brought to the rest of the game that you’d think Namco would have thought of a
better solution to this frustrating problem. Aside from this, Soul Blade shines
in the gameplay department. The characters’
well balanced attributes means that you’ll find Soul Blade spinning in
your console months later. Special moves can be preset to be automatically
performed with a single touch of one of the shift keys. This feature takes
it’s cues from most other 3D fighters.
There are literally dozens of different options from which the player can
choose. Soul Blade’s variety of options includes no fewer than FOUR completely
different modes of play. Arcade
mode is self-explanatory, while time attack mode modifies the standard mode into
a race to see if you can beat all the fighters in the quickest time. Versus mode
allows two players to duke it out. The most innovative way to fight in Soul Edge is the Edge Master mode, which adds a new dimension of
role-playing. At the beginning of each round, players look through the story of
their fighter in a book. After each round of play, the book continues on with
the story depending on the outcome of the fight. This makes Soul Edge more like
an RPG than a fighting game. It accentuates the player-fighter identification,
while not detracting from the game’s action. Several “guest fighters”
appear in this mode that are in none of the other modes. There’s also
something else that’s been added to make
the “Edge Master” mode more interesting. After you defeat an enemy, you can
use their weapon, for added fun and excitement.
Namco has done an outstanding job with this game, it showcases the polish and depth of play that has become the company’s trademark while adding enough new features and ratcheting up the graphics intensity to an entirely new plain. Soul Edge’s excellence in all areas should take to the very top of your PlayStation shopping list.
Ridge Racer Revolution
Namco has done it again.
Last year Ridge Racer defined the standards of arcade to home translations, but
with the new version, Namco makes a great game even better. The gameplay is
basically unchanged, with nearly the exact same cars included this time ‘round
the track save for the white angel car. The control is as tight as ever and
those powerslides seem to be easier to accomplish. Namco has added more
sophisticated AI to the opposing cars which makes the game a lot harder to beat.
The graphics are much better, here’s even less pop up than the last time
around, plus a much better variety in the scenery. The courses are more
complicated than they were in the first title but the game still takes place on
one large course with different paths. The main difference between
RRR and the original is the rear view mirror which makes blocking cars
behind yours possible and adds a whole new level of realism to the game. The
soundtrack is basically unchanged with some slightly changed versions of the
original music included. RRR isn’t quite
revolutionary, but it is evolutionary. This translates into the best traditional
32-bit racing game yet.
do you get when you take Doom and change the setting to ancient Egypt? Basically
a game that leaves the player with a strong sense of deja vu. It’s no
exaggeration to say that Powerslave is nothing but another in the endless string of
those derivative “It’s just like Doom - WITH A TWIST” software
titles. Why the software industry
still feels the need to open the tomb and unwrap this mummified game again and
again is a mystery. Perhaps, it’s
a pharaoh’s curse on gamers. The object of the game? Simple: collect keys,
unlock doors and shoot enemies. That’s the whole game. The “You’re trapped
in a pyramid!” plot is only an excuse by the designers to change the demons
from Doom into mummies. The usual switches and ‘secret’ panels are here as
well. The graphics are pretty fair
for his genre, nothing more or less than you’d expect from this type of game.
While there are some good examples of light-sourcing here and there, the
game’s textures are bland, and pixelate much like Doom. The enemies themselves
look pixellated and drab, with poor animation, this is especially apparent when
players switch to the third person mode. The music is nice, but nothing beyond
what you’d expect, it kind of sounds like ancient Egyptian drones mixed with
generic heavy guitar noodling. Powerslave’s sound effects are
pretty generic. The control is about as good as you’d expect from this
type of game, it doesn’t break much new ground here either. Despite a few
interesting twists, most notably the ability to the view the action from a third
person perspective like Tomb Raider. Players can also swim underwater, which
isn’t very exciting to be honest. These options are the sole bits of real
originality or imagination present in the title. It doesn’t add much to
Powerslave however, it’s mostly used to do tricky maneuvers such as jumping.
The most important aspect of any game is how it plays. As described above, it plays much like Doom. Which means,. This is where Powerslave really falls down. The plot lacks the originality and urgency of classics like Doom or Quake. The less-than-thrilling plot leaves the player with a monotony of play. The game consists of shoot mummy, find the key, open door and, do it again. Running down the endless hieroglyphic covered corridors of Powerslave gets older faster than a mummy left in the sun. The enemies while putting up a decent fight don’t really make much effort to beat, not from an experienced Doom player, at least. The level designs reveal a distinct LACK of creativity and imagination. The weapons are uninteresting giving the player a rather dull arsenal to use. The puzzles are boring and predictable as are the locations of the secret areas and panels. This game will excite the eyes or the hands of very few players. Most of this PIE release’s elements have been seen before in countless games before it. When all is said and done, Powerslave is sad and has been done.
first glance, this product seems to be an excellent choice for the PlayStation
racing fanatic. The Per4mer wheel is solidly built, attractively styled in sleek
all black with gray buttons that
add subtle accents to the product’s design. The pedal set that comes with the
Per4mer is a solid piece of
hardware. The pedals plug into a Y-cord that it shares with the controller
itself. The foot pedals are responsive and comfortable to use. Games can be
played with or without the foot pedals, but playing with the pedals is preferred
as they are more reliable than the buttons on the Steering wheel and add a layer
of realism to play. Since adding realism to the experience of the games is the
point, most will find the pedals necessary. Anything that frees a few fingers
to deal with the wheel’s unavoidably clunky design is a definite
improvement. The solid construction of the wheel and it’s standard shape would
lead most players to think that this controller is about equal to the Mad Catz
controller. The design of the controller is straightforward. There are two
buttons on the steering wheel itself, two on the face of the wheel towards the
player and two shift buttons directly behind these for intuitive reach by the
player. these buttons are
comfortable to use. However, it
quickly became apparent after even a few cursory rounds of play that this
product has some very serious flaws. Firstly, there are no labels on the 5
buttons of the controller’s face. 5 buttons are also awkwardly positioned on
the face of the console. This
configuration is difficult to become accustomed to.
It quickly becomes frustrating having to configure each game to use the
controller properly. There just
aren’t enough buttons to accurately represent all the commands on the
Playstation. This lack of design foresight becomes even more pronounced during
play when this button arrangement
becomes extremely difficult to use. The
buttons all have the same basic shape making for some frustrating play. The
wheel itself seems over-responsive at first, but gets better as the player
becomes accustomed to it’s level of sensitivity.
major problem with the wheel is it’s rather bulky physical dimensions, which
make the wheel unwieldy to keep on your lap. Why would you want to Keep the
Per4mer on your lap? Well, there are no rubber grips, or feet, on the bottom of
the console. This means that the wheel is hard to stabilize on a table and this
is another reason why the wheel wasn’t as good as it promises upon first
titles did not go with the controller that well. In fact, just about the only
titles that truly shone using the Per4mer
were Namco’s war-horse Ridge Racer series and Psygnosis’ Formula One.
Several titles would not work at all. Sony’s Jet Moto was completely
incompatible. To be fair, Jet Moto did not work with the Mad Catz driving wheel
either. The title that benefited the most from this product’s use was
Namco’s Ridge Racer, performing tight maneuvers,
and pulling off more accurate power-slides became much easier with this
product’s use than it would have been using a standard issue Sony joypad.
Pysgnoisis’ Destruction Derby 2 worked fairly well enough , but players will
have to switch controllers for the menu screen since the Per4mer doesn’t quite
jab with the keys used to select items. The controller frequently locked the
player into an inescapable reverse when the pedals were not plugged in. Both the
Per4mer and the Mad Catz shared this flaw with this game. You figure it out.
The Wipeout games did not perform well with this controller, it was a bit
too over-responsive for these games. To add more frustration, moving
up and down is not possible with this controller, rendering a whole layer
of strategy completely useless and moot. Formula One was another game which did
quite well using this controller. Formula One played well with this controller,
it’s excellent sensitivity definitely enhanced the game’s play. The
Per4mer’s no-frills features make it
seem more suited to standard driving games.
I also tried the driving wheel using Pole Position on Namco’s Museum
Volume One. It was a very frustrating experience using this controller caused
more frequent crashes than a standard joypad, the difficulty in shifting (you
have to use the shift keys on the back of the Per4mer) made playing this classic
game a frustrating experience.
There was one game that used the Per4mer that was not compatible with the Mad
Catz, and that was Tunnel B1 from Acclaim. The stunningly beautiful Doom-driving
hybrid worked like a charm with this product, after some tricky controller
switching. The Per4mer seems like a
good choice on the surface, it’s flaws detract more from the product’s
performance than it’s positive aspects do. If you can’t find a better
controller, this may be a barely acceptable substitute. While it’s a solidly
constructed device that can be fun to use once you get past its’ quirks, it
just is not compatible enough games to fully justify its’ price. The
controller starts out with it’s engines roaring, but quickly stalls after the
Catz Analog True Wheel
This driving wheel is a superior product from the people at Mad Catz. What makes the Analog True such a superior product? It’s in the design. This wheel is the epitome of a fully functional, smartly conceived piece of Playstation hardware. Starting with the wheel itself, which feels very smooth and is highly responsive, though not overly so. Add 3 smartly positioned buttons on the left and right side of the controller with a single shift key in the back for ease of use. Then you combine some very nice foot pedals, which are easy to use and connect to the main unit. Adding even more ease of use to the product, position an easy to find oval start button on the face of the controller and a mini control-pad on the wheel itself for easy selection. The kicker comes in the addition of a small shift stick on the right of the controller which makes the Mad Catz perform like a dream in even manual gear mode. The shift stick adds new dimensions to games such as Ridge Racer, while making a game such as Wipeout, which uses up and down movements to control the angle of the racer, shine in ways they never could with a standard controller. The Analog True has obviously been designed with enough features to please even the pickiest driving game aficionado. Not a single feature of this controller seems unnecessary, useless or unintuitive to the player. This is a fantastic product, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, it isn’t perfect. The two main flaws in the design are comparitively minor. First, the buttons on the face of the wheel have a habit of staying stuck in the down position when pressed too hard or too often, making for some frustrating play at first. Players can compensate for this by using a light touch on them, however. The other flaw is a bit more serious. The cord linking the foot pedals to the main console has a tendency to pop out in the middle of gameplay, whether this is due to poor design or caused by overly aggressive play is no excuse. This could easily have been fixed if Mad Catz had used a more reliable connector. Overall, the wheel performance is excellent and it’s flaws do not cause serious detriment to the wheel’s value to the player. Of course, once you get past the physical characteristics, what really counts is how the wheel performs with actual software. This is where the Mad Catz really shines above its’ competition. Unlike the Per4Mer from ST&T, this controller is compatible with a large variety of titles. What’s more, It’s forward looking design really enhances most of the titles it works with. For Starters, we can use Ridge Racer Revolution to see what the wheel does for these types of game. While it’s probable that any driving wheel would probably enhance this game due to it’s sophisticated design unlocks some features of the game that were previously either hard to use or impossible to perform with a standard Sony joypad. The smooth action that the wheel provides makes performing tricky blocking and passing maneuvers much easier than it would be with a regular pad. Playing the game with the manual transmission selected is actually an enjoyable experience thanks to the shifting gear which is intuitive and extremely responsive. This allows the player to use slightly more powerful cars without the aggravations caused by the joypad. Other games also benefit nicely from this controllers features. Wipeout and Wipeout XL are highly compatible with the features used in the stick. The smooth action of the pedals and easy to use wheel/gear stick combo make gliding over the futuristic terrains a breeze. The wheel does seem a tad overresponsive for this game, but it doesn’t take long for players to compensate for this. Formula One from Psygnosis was also enhanced, it’s realistic stock car racing action is amplified by the realistic touch of the Mad Catz. Unfortunately, using manual transmission isn’t as smooth as it could be, the way that Formula One is configured means that players must use the shift keys in the back of the wheel and not the gearstick. This is a highly unfortunate configuration, given the gearstick’s usefulness in other racers. Those of you who like ultra-violence mixed in with your racing will be happy to know that another of Psygnosis’ flagship titles, Destructon Derby 2 works perfectly, though with a caveat: It only works truly well with the pedals, using the regular buttons on the wheel face with DD2 causes the car to inexplicably become locked into reverse from time to time. This same problem affects the ST&T wheel as well, so it’s probably due to lack of support on the part of Psygnosiss than it does with the wheel. Finally, for all you classic game fans this wheel was tested with the classic driving game Pole Position on the Namco Museum Volume One. It should make the nostalgic SILICON reader happy to know that in addition to the arcade perfect translation on the screen you now have the option of purchasing this controller for the closest thing to the real arcade machine you can own short of owning an actual standup. Since shifting from high to low gear was and is such an integral part of the game, it comes as no surprise that using the Mad Catz is a must-own product if you want to recreate the classic arcade experience at home. While keeping the lead throughout the race, the Mad Catz still managed to extend it’s lead down the stretch and win the race by a mile. This product is excellent in design and function, and it’s a very highly recommended addition to any Playstation owners’ peripheral arsenal.
- Michael Palisano