The Game Gear Directory: (E)

Wow, there aren't many games that start with an E.

Earthworm Jim (1995)

This isn't dissimilar to Dynamite Headdy in its attempt to squeeze a huge console game onto the Gear, but it's not a bad little effort. The graphics are the low point; tiny sprites and garish flat colour backgrounds, but at least hat means the clarity is A-OK. Levels are cut down but retain most of the Mega Drive version's secrts and alternate paths. It's an impressive sort of effort, and the control feels about as close as it can to its bigger brother, but overall projects like this tend to do little more than ultimately highlight their own inadequacy, especially in a world where almost any game from this era is just a Google search away. If you'd had this as kid with no Mega Drive or whatever, it'd be fine. As it is? I'm really not sure. It's not bad, but it's not quite there. ***

Ecco the Dolphin (1993)

You get into the vibe before the title screen has even made an appearance, as crisp, clear samples of dolphin calls and cries put you into a chilled out sort of fugue state. Then it sort of ruins it by being Ecco the Dolphin, a game that I personally find unbelievably stressful. It's not that it's bad! It's that it controls so differently to anything else, with such bizarre momentum and physics, that I find it extremely tough to get my head around. It's all very well adapted for Game Gear, with the Ecco sprite being beautifully animated and enjoyable to play with, but in the end I just find Ecco the Dolphin too difficult to really get into. Somewhat strangely, this game utilises the Start button as your echolocation, which is a rather unintuitive thing that I haven't seen before. While the game isn't for me, I can recognise its polish and quality. Add a star as you see fit. ***

Ecco: The Tides of Time (1994)

Now this is impressive. It's not hugely different from the original in terms of gameplay, but the controls and physics have all been tightened up, making it something of a joy to play. It's as obtuse as it needs to be, teaching you how to think laterally by presenting situations that absolutely require you to join the mental dots, a sort of "well, if that worked then, maybe this is..." approach to solutions that feels completely rewarding. Yeah, I had a blast with this, much to my surprise. It looks and sounds fantastic, and the gameplay is so much stronger that it almost makes the original Ecco feel like a dry run. It's not perfect thanks to the sonar still being on what's normally the pause button, but this is really bleedin' good if you have a penchant for piscine puzzling. ****

Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing (1992)

Oh for goodness' sake. Well, it's boxing, isn't it? You play as a pair of floating gloves and randomly mash the buttons hoping you will manage to punch your opponent. Blocking seems to be confined to the diagonals, which feels okay on the Game Gear D-Pad but is remarkably unintuitive. There are three distinct control schemes, which seem nicely complex, but also alienate me completely. It's a full-featured and impressive package, with the capacity to create your own boxer and take them to the top of the heap, but will you actually want to? I found the gameplay frustratingly opaque, and visually it's a little underwhelming, especially the background - the crowded sports hall or whatever it is looks like a Lovecraftian soup of melting bodies, for some reason. So yes! It's probably a good game? But it's a probably-good boxing game, so... (makes fart noise with mouth). **

The Excellent Dizzy Collection 1994()

I know, I know. Here we go, you're thinking. Stu and his bloody Dizzy. And yes, guilty. I do enjoy the little eggy-weggy's fun little item-swapping adventures of yore. The genre that almost no indie developer has bothered to touch (save for Mystik Belle and fangames) is here in full force on the Game Gear, with a port of Dizzy the Adventurer, itself a port of Dizzy: Prince of the Yolkfolk. It's a smaller-scale Dizzy, but its more limited scope actively improves the experience for me. It's a Dizzy that anyone can finish! Tailored nicely for consoles! And it's not just Yolkfolk; you also get the rather good maze game Go! Dizzy Go! and the rather unfortunate puzzler Panic Dizzy, a game which sustains my attention in no meaningful way. Honestly, though? It's worth it just for the first two. Go! is a shocking varied and entertaining example of fairly archaic Pac-Man-ish gameplay, and Yolkfolk is pretty much the best Dizzy to actually have a good time with the series, raher than banging your head against nonsensical item-trading puzzles. A good time! ****

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