The Game Gear Directory: (Da-De)

Daffy Duck in Hollywood (1994)

Yet another Probe joint, this may be their classiest of all. A truly superb Looney Tunes adventure, Daffy Duck in Hollywood delivers on every front. It's graphically outstanding, with an impressive and varied use of colour and levels that shift in style as you play through them. The music, too, is a bit brilliant, some of the best I've heard from the Game Gear to date. Structure could be a sticking point for some; it's the kind of game where you need to really rinse it even to progress, as you need to defeat every enemy in each part of a map to unlock the next part. To add to this pressure, getting the good ending is locked behind Hard mode and collecting several very well-hidden items. This could frustrate some players, but I'm a fan of combing through stages for secrets, especially when they're as fun as this. It's challenging, because without a power-up Daffy will die in a single hit, but the game eschews unfairness with its skilled and enjoyable level design. Your mileage will vary, but for me this is a strong advancement on the already-good Bram Stoker's Dracula. *****

Deep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck (1993)

A somewhat belated follow-up to the classic Lucky Dime Caper, Deep Duck Trouble is a well-designed and animated production that suggests decent production values and something of a confidence in the Game Gear hardware. Levels are well-suited to the screen, if a little lacking in challenge. It's rather surprising (and quite likeable) how it borrows from the Mega Drive Castle of Illusion and the NES DuckTales, opting to imitate the latter's means of attack with Donald's powerful kick, which has the exact same effect as Scrooge's walking stick, causing heavy items to slide across the ground and lighter ones to be launched into the air. Sadly it doesn't have nearly as strong level design as Capcom's effort, but it's still plenty of fun. I prefer the higher challenge of Lucky Dime Caper, but I recognise that Deep Duck Trouble is the more refined and probably overall superior game. ****

Defenders of Oasis (1992)

JRPGs aren't too common on Game Gear, so Defenders of Oasis is a welcome break from the norm. That said, it's far from flawless. The most pressing issue is the incredibly slow walking speed of your player character, "Prince" - no, not that one, but wouldn't that be cool? At least he'd probably get a bloody move on! Besides this slowness issue, Defenders of Oasis is a surprisingly good effort, and brilliantly user-friendly. This may sound silly, but it has a brilliantly readable font, which is quite rare in text-heavy 8-bit games, and the interface is generally pretty slick, matching the colourful and appealing visuals. The battle system feels a touch basic, but hey, it worked for Phantasy Star - enemy sprites are static but well-drawn, and the adventure is decently lengthy without being overbearing. 'Course, it'd be a lot shorter if you didn't walk like you're wading though molasses! Some cracking music and a useful auto-save feature complete an excellent little cart. ****

Desert Speedtrap - Starring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote (1994)

Handling is the single most important aspect of any platform game - level design is one thing, sure, but if your character doesn't feel right to move, it's all for naught. Sadly, Desert Speedtrap falls into this trap, with the Road Runner (whom you play as) sliding all over the screen, failing to avoid obstacles that are placed somewhat awkwardly to catch you out. As if to make up for this sloppiness, there are plates of health-restoring "seed" absolutely everywhere, though some are booby traps that will cost you health. Occasionally, Wile E. Coyote will come into play, attacking with various different Acme products but always coming a cropper at the end of the level. This isn't a horrible platformer by any means, but its controls feel like they're at war with its stage layouts, so I cannot in good conscience recommend it. A shame, because the sound and visuals are very, very good indeed. Something of a lesser Probe joint. **

Desert Strike - Return to the Gulf (1994)

Time to tee off with some sporting action! Oh, sorry, Gulf. Okay. Well, this is the Mega Drive isometric classic crammed into a handheld, and it, sadly, doesn't really survive the process. The constant rotor noise is irritating, and the chopper moves slowly and somewhat awkwardly. It's possible to strafe by holding Button 1, but even this is sluggish. Making any kind of progress feels like a bit of a crapshoot, and I mean that completely literally - the shooting is crap. You hold Button 2 to fire your chaingun, but tap it to launch missiles. Yes, in the heat of the moment, it is both possible and quite easy to waste said missiles. There's plenty of content here, but good luck reaching later campaigns. It looks the part, but sadly fails to live up to its Mega Drive counterpart. **

Devilish (1991)

Breakout has a lot to answer for. This is a fantastic take on the bat and ball classic, though unfortunately only in terms of its subgenre, not its execution. Devilish sees you travelling upward through a Satan-adjacent fantasy world, breaking bricks and taking out monsters with a magical transforming set of bats. You've got two here, stacked one above the other, which can be adjusted with the buttons to make it easier to catch the ball at certain angles, or keep it in the air longer, faster. Sometimes you'll even need to travel sideways, or battle a boss, or take part in a setpiece. And it'd be a pretty cool game if it wasn't all so weirdly fiddly. The movement of the ball feels completely unnatural to me, and the way it just sails through your bat is... a bizarre handling decision. It's a shame, because I want to like Devilish. If it controlled even a little bit tighter, I think it'd be an easy recommendation. As it is, however, no chance. **

(Next time : Di-Do)