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Spectrum Analyzer: Last Call

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From the Atari 2600 to the NES to the Sega Genesis, you thought you've experienced everything there is to know about retro. Don't get too cocky though, Americans! There's a whole other chapter of classic gaming you've likely missed. Pack your bags... 1UP is taking an extended trip to England to discover:


In this special installment of Spectrum Analyzer, we'll review all the games requested by readers, which include... uh, where are the requests? Oh crap, nobody left me any in last week's blog entry! Think, Jess, think! All right, let's try this. In this special installment of Spectrum Analyzer, we'll review games that were mentioned by readers over the last three months. There, now nobody will be the wiser. Unless they read this. D'oh!


media?id=3832371&type=lgWho the heck is Daley Thompson? I don’t know either, but thankfully Wikipedia is there to fill in the gaps. According to the world’s preferred source for arcane facts and four page exposes on flash-in-the-pan Jersey Shore cast members, Thompson is a professional athlete, racking up two gold medals at the Olympics and a handful of local prizes in his native Great Britain. He’s part Scottish, part Nigerian, and all stud… even if his real first name is “Francis.”

That’s not important, though! You want to know about his video game, so here goes. Have you ever played Track ‘n Field? This is Track ‘n Field. Sure, the music is a little different, sounding as if it’s being played on an alien pipe organ (Chariots of Fire has never been creepier…), but practically everything else is the same. You just waggle the joystick left and right until you cause enough friction to burn down the house, then tap the fire button if you need your onscreen athlete to leap over hurdles or knock the stick down in the high jump. How I hate the high jump! One advantage Decathlon has over Track ‘n Field is that the game is split into two parts, giving you some control over which events you’ll play. Also, losing an event won’t throw you back to the start of the game, so feel free to screw up on the pole vault as much as you like! (I know I will.)


media?id=3832372&type=lgIf Daley Thompson’s Decathlon was the Spectrum’s answer to Track ‘n Field, its sequel Super Test is best described as Track & Field 2, with more realistic visuals and a diverse selection of events. No longer will you be endlessly running on Astroturf for the duration of the game… this time you’ll participate in everything from a Kayak race to a Tug of War contest. Ah yes, who could forget Tug of War, a staple in every Summer Games competition from 1900 to 1920!

This time out, Daley Thompson is a bit more articulated (although still oddly cartoony… between events he looks like he’s running from the Keystone Cops!) and the backgrounds are noticeably improved, benefitting from the Spectrum 128’s higher RAM. The gameplay still boils down to jiggling your joystick until it’s a pool of molten plastic bubbling in your lap, but the events don’t come as easily to newcomers as they did in Decathlon. When the event “Penalties” came up after a dismal performance in the Kayak race, I thought I was being punished for my crappy gameplay. In actuality, it was a soccer shoot-out that’s just as confusing as the title… you won’t even see your character until he’s inches away from the ball he’s supposed to kick! Yeah, maybe someone should have thought this through before sending the game out the door.


media?id=3832370&type=lgThis really deserves more than just a capsule review, not only because it’s a strong conversion of the Data East arcade game but because it brings back such fond memories. Midnight Resistance was one of those early Genesis games that made it a little easier to suffer through 1992, when the Super NES had found its footing after a rough start and the Genesis software library had experienced a temporary drought. Back in those dark ages before the Gunstar Heroes renaissance, Midnight Resistance was the closest thing Genesis owners had to the run ‘n gun action of Contra 3: The Alien Wars, and I spent more money on renting it than any other game I can remember. The late fees were astronomical, but the game made it oh so worth it.

Midnight Resistance on the Spectrum isn’t up to the standards of its 16-bit cousin, but considering the hardware, it was as good as anyone could have expected. The graphics are packed with detail and rich with color, yet your muscle-bound hero and the masked foes leaping out at him from the screen’s edges remain sharply in focus from the first stage to the last. The music also makes an impact… it’s instantly recognizable from the arcade game but with just a touch of that British charm you’ve come to expect from the system. The only sticking point is the gameplay. The arcade version of Midnight Resistance used a knob on the top of the controller to direct the hero’s aim, with a button for firing and another for jumping. The Spectrum just has one button, forcing the player to press up to jump and use the button and the joystick together to rotate the gun. The new control scheme works… at least, until you need to jump and fire at once (you can’t), or pick off enemies sneaking up behind you (you won’t). The clumsy scrolling further tilts the odds in the computer’s favor, so don’t feel too guilty if you give yourself infinite lives and keys (either in the game’s hidden menu or with strategic POKE commands) to level the playing field.


media?id=3832373&type=lgWhen I reviewed International Karate Plus in a previous installment of Spectrum Analyzer, a reader told me that Way of the Exploding Fist, a similar game, was much better. I suppose it’s all a matter of taste, but I’m just not seeing it. Compared to IK+, Fist doesn’t have much personality, with just one onscreen opponent, a shrill opening theme followed by almost total silence in each match, and graphics that hover somewhere between functional and competent. The gameplay is more rigid as well... blows tend to be difficult to perform and even tougher to land, and there are never any palate-cleansing bonus rounds like in IK+ or Karate Champ, the two games’ mutual inspiration.

While I’m griping about this game, I might as well bring up the scoring system, which doesn’t make a damned bit of sense. Instead of a best of three round format like in the Street Fighter series, Way of the Exploding Fist uses two points, split into yings and yangs. Some strikes will award you with just a ying, or a ying and a yang together, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how the computer determines how many points you’ll get for an attack. Sometimes you’ll get a half point for sinking a front kick into your opponent’s stomach, and sometimes you’ll get a full point for the same blow, with no explanation as to why the first strike was worth less than the other. Hey, maybe that guy in the background knows! "

," you say? Oh, haw haw.

That’s it folks! Next week is the Spectacular Spectrum Retrospective, along with a brief wrap up here in the blog. We’ll see you then!

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