Saturday, 23 December 2017

Grandad and the Quest for the Holey Vest - Atari ST - 1992

Grandad and the Quest for the Holey Vest is a graphical adventure game release exclusively for the Atari ST in 1992.  I thought this quite unusual as by this time the Commodore Amiga was the more popular home computer, but as it's shareware instead of a commercial release I guess it's not so strange.  I just don't have the mindset for adventure games and unless they are relatively easy I quickly lose interest.  Most of the puzzles in Grandad are pretty straightforward so it's just my cup of tea.

As you can tell from the title Grandad is a game that doesn't take itself too seriously....

The controls are simple - Grandad can be moved around in his electric wheelchair with a joystick or the cursor keys.  Fire button or the space bar brings up the command menu.  There are few commands but enough to solve the puzzles.  LOOK describes nearby objects or the room if no objects are close by.  GET puts objects in your inventory and INVENTORY lists them.  USE allows you to use any object you are carrying.  You can also SAVE and LOAD the game.

For the most part the puzzles are logical and not particularly difficult which is fine by me.  Unwinnable 'dead man walking' situations can mostly be avoided.  At the beginning of the game it is possible to give away an item that is needed to solve a puzzle.  If you take the option to keep the item you are rewarded with a 'ping' and some points.  If you give the item away points are deducted so you know where you went wrong.  The only place you can really get stuck is if your wheelchair runs out of power.  There is a spare battery that can be found.
I remember seeing this one on some film.
Grandad contains the obligatory maze.  All rooms look similar but it is mappable if rather large.  This was where I used the SAVE and LOAD commands most so the wheelchair didn't run out of juice.
The Basement

What really appeals to me is the mundane setting and the humour.  There can't be many adventures set in a fairly ordinary house with a grumpy old codger as the 'hero'.  The game really is laugh out loud funny in places although some of the humour can be near the knuckle.
Now, tell me who wouldn't have chosen that option first?

The graphics are good considering the 16-colour display of the Atari ST.  Sound is limited to a few pings and bleeps. The only real annoyance is the pause of a couple of seconds between screens - but that is very minor.

Grandad and the Quest for the Holey Vest may not appeal to die-hard fans of Sierra games, but for someone like me who doesn't like obscure puzzles, it's a pleasant way to while away a few hours.  I did have to look at hints twice which is good for my non-adventure gaming mind (if I have to look up clues more than four or five times I junk a game).
Thank you Google
As I said, the game is a shareware title and Ian Scott would send the code to access the whole game to those who registered.  I'm pretty sure he would have moved on from the address on the title screen but if he is still around I would gladly send him a fiver.

The End

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou - NEC PC Engine Super CD-ROM - 1992

Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou is a conversion of the second title in the Gradius series of arcade games.  It was released on the CD-ROM format some four years after the arcade game.  I have already featured the NES version of Gradius II on my blog.  Where the NES conversion thematically follows the arcade original in terms of graphics, the level layout is completely different.  The PC Engine is a much more faithful conversion with the exception that it contains an exclusive bonus level.

From the options screen you can choose the Game Level from Easy, Normal, Hard and Professional.  Normal is fine for me.  Easy is possibly too easy, but is okay for training (it is the level I did my gameplay video on).  Professional has bullets flying everywhere.  There is a different ending for each difficulty level.

As before, it's just you and your Vic Viper starfighter pitted against the evil Bacterion Empire and it's leader, Gofer.  When you start a game you can choose what weapons your ship is capable of carrying.

Each selection contains Speedup and Option.  Personally I prefer the fourth choice with 2-way missiles and a Ripple laser, which gives a better spread of firepower than the normal laser.  You also have a choice of defensive upgrades.  The Shield from the original Gradius can absorb the most damage but only protects the front of the Vic Viper.  The Force Field takes less hits before it disappears but covers the whole ship.

Gameplay is the same as the first game in the series.  The screen mostly scrolls right to left although there are some areas where it wraps around in the vertical plane.  Certain enemy formations and individual enemies drop capsules (for want of a better word) when they are destroyed.  Blue capsules act a smart bomb when touched and clear any enemies and bullets on the screen.  Orange capsules add to your power meter.  When the the power meter highlights an item you wish to equip, you can select it and the meter resets.
The green bacterion is a new enemy.  It has just stolen three of my options.  Bastard.

Music and sound are excellent with the soundtrack streaming direct from the CD.  Where the CD format can't help is with the graphics.  There are flickering sprites in places and massive slowdown when the screen gets busy.  Ironically, the slowdown actually makes avoiding damage that much easier.  
This stage really slowed down with the Moai head spewing out hundreds of colour changing bullets.
The games stages are also varied with some of the enemies and certain areas looking familiar.  
It's obvious which film this part is based on.  I have just lost all my power ups so will soon die.
My only real criticism is one of the stages features a high speed run which I couldn't get past.  It will take a lot of time and and a lot of practice (or a quick look on YouTube) to work out the optimal route and even then it is all too easy to lose a life.  Which brings up another issue - Gradius II (like Gradius) is a one life game - lose a life and you lose all your power-ups after which it is very difficult to get going again.  Nevertheless, it is a great game and a welcome addition to the ever growing list of Gradius games on my blog.

Example gameplay....