The Game Gear Directory (Cl-Cu)

Hangin' with Mr... Stallone.

Cliffhanger (1994)

Apparently this is a game that's considered notoriously bad, but I didn't mind it much. It's a very simple little platformer, one which harks back to the microcomputer era in some ways - I could very much imagine playing this game on the Spectrum, which may go some way towards explaining why I thought it was okay when the rest of the world seems to hate it. The only real problem I ran into was that I simply couldn't figure out how to use the overhead hanging ropes; in the manual they're detailed as climbable, but no combination of buttons I tried would let me do so. This is nothing amazing by any means, but its crappiness is very much overstated. A perfectly serviceable little platformer with some fun touches, such as burning your collected money at campfires to heal. I had fun! ***

Clutch Hitter (1994)

Another baseball game, this felt a little more enjoyable to me than Batter Up - while it has (well, had) the official MLB license, it still manages to offer an amusingly arcadey take on the sport while seeming to offer enough teams and stats to impress. I don't know a damn thing about baseball but I know when a game is fun to play and to control, and Clutch Hitter delivers. Fielding is trickier than the breezy batting system - it can be rather unclear which of your fielders you're controlling at any one time - but it gets the job done and makes for an effective handheld take on baseball. It sometimes feels as though runners are forced out when they were clearly safe, but I put this down to the necessary abstraction in the graphics rather than any kind of cheating AI. A solid little ball game. ***

Coca-Cola Kid (1994)

There's an incredible little bit of digitised sound at the start of Coca-Cola Kid, presenting the beautiful audio of a bottle of Coke being popped and its delicious fizzy contents poured out. Mmm-mm! Look, never mind that. This is a very strange, surprisingly polished little game on top of its advertising intentions, one that immediately gave me the same vibe as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, due to many reused sound effects from that game. Aspect vibes, you know? Like Batman Returns? That's how you know it's a quality game, with great presentation, fun level design and a nicely atheletic little (Coca-Cola) kid to control. You can run, jump, hop on a skateboard and kick the hell out of a host of unusual enemies. Sprites are large - maybe a touch too large? - and as expressive as you could want. Honestly, it might be one of the best-looking Game Gear titles I've seen. A recipe for five stars, perhaps, but I'm knocking one off because advertising is poison, kids. ****

Columns (1990)

This is a perfectly fine version of Sega's omnipresent gem-stacking puzzle game, though I find myself wondering why the play field is so narrow. A huge amount of the screen real estate seems to just be cruft, with the entire game taking place in a little mid-display trench. It's perfectly playable, but it's just a strange decision. Also, it's Columns, so it isn't all that much fun to play in the first place. Sorry! It's a decidely mid puzzle game presented here with two decidedly mid modes of play, though it can adequately fill time, which a quick read of the game's manual seems to suggest is sort of the point. It's no Baku Baku Animal, which I'd strongly advise you to pick up in its stead. **

Cool Spot (1994)

Nobody drinks 7-Up. Sorry, but outside of the historic documentary series of the same name, the product does not elicit any kind of emotion from me. Actually, that's not entirely true - it does elicit some nostalgia when I recall the Master System version of Cool Spot, the monstrous fizzy-drink-whoring game from Virgin, upon which this Game Gear cartridge is largely based. It's a fitfully enjoyable collect-'em-up, with "Cool" points littered all over the expansive, hazard-packed levels. It's the sort of game that has enough decent ideas to engage the player without ever crossing the line into being genuinely good. It's fine. It passes the time. This Game Gear version seems just about playable enough on the small screen, but the blind jumps in some of the later levels are all the more taxing on the tiny screen. ***

Cosmic Spacehead (1993)

If you're familiar with Codemasters' 8-bit titles, you'll know that they have a particular sound to them, and Cosmic Spacehead is easily the most aggressive implementation of it to date - honestly, it has the worst, most aggressively ear-bleeding score I think I've heard come out of the Game Gear to date. Reach for your volume slider, folks, and turn that shit off. It's a shame, because I really like this game; it's a really enjoyable mixture of simple SCUMM-esque point-and-click and even simpler platform game, to rather chilled-out effect. The puzzles are simple and reasonably logical; usually you have so few variables available that brute force is a reasonable option, but you shouldn't need to make use of it. This is no Dizzy, it's very much within the realms of "completeable" and I'd strongly advise you to get hold of it. The throwback space-age visuals are brilliantly comic-esque though the use of colour is a little beneath the Game Gear, more closely resembling a NES game than anything else. Though that's a pleasant aesthetic anyway! Great stuff, but seriously, turn the sound off. Yeesh. ****

Crystal Warriors (1991)

Why does this game open with an ersatz version of "Joy to the World"? Oh, never mind. This was one heck of a pleasant surprise - a massive rip-off, yes, but a pleasant surprise. See, Crystal Warriors is essentially Fire Emblem, right down to its rock-paper-scissors system. You've got your units from warriors to magic users to healers, and you've got to go out there and defeat all the enemies, capturing their castle. The visuals are cute in a chibi sort of way, and it's a clean, responsive tactics experience. I'd call it ahead of its time, but it of course dropped just a year after the original Fire Emblem, and the similar Famicom Wars dates back to 1988. The game could perhaps be viewed as a spiritual predecessor of Shining Force, given its similar gameplay and Sega association, but regardless of what it does or doesn't imitate/inspire, Crystal Warriors is a good time for fans of the genre. There's a two-player link-up mode, too, so you can battle your friends. ****

Cutthroat Island (1995)

It's weird that this apparently horrible movie even got a Game Gear cart, but here we are. Typically of me, I don't really hate this. It's not good, but I've played much worse, less interesting stuff in the process of this project. It's not really like anything else I've played, taking the form of a side-scrolling slash-'em-up with some light platforming elements. There are some cool gimmick stages, such as a battle on top of a speeding carriage, and an auto-scrolling stage with Geena Davs in the back of a barrel. Visually it's pretty astonishing in places, though your main character has absolutely no face which is a bit upsetting to say the least. Your moveset is surprisingly broad, though you won't really need most of them. It's much better than its source material's reputation would suggest, but it's far from a masterpiece. ***

(Next time: Da-De)