The Game Gear Directory: (G-GG)

Garfield hates Mondays, but I love Tuesdays because it's new GGD day!

G-LOC: Air Battle (1991)

I was actually warned about this one going in, so I braced for the worst, and... it's... alright? I was charmed at first by the use of assets that would later show up in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, then the fact that the shop menu uses similar music to that of Fantasy Zone. I guess I'm an easy mark. The gameplay is very simple, essentially seeing you move a crosshair around the screen while firing bullets and missiles at your targets. You'll need to be resourceful and use your earned score between missions to upgrade your fighter, refueling it and restocking missiles. Fail to do this and you'll find yourself coming unstuck, and you only have one life. Yeah, I'm afraid I rather liked this. It presents a better sort of flight model than F-15 Strike Eagle, and I think I would play it again. ***

Galaga 2 (1991)

Oh, this is a lot of fun! Galaga 2 is traditional in all the ways that matter, and subtly innovates with small changes that hugely enhance the experience. While Galaga 2 begins as you'd expect with relatively static screens of flying space bugs to annihilate with your little Space Invaders style horizontal-only ship, but after the traditional bonus you enter a vertically scrolling segment with unique enemy patterns, then things change up again... it's the variety in both attack formations and visuals that makes Galaga 2 so enjoyable, and it doesn't stop delivering until the very end... less than fifteen minutes later. Yes, it's a pretty short game, but it's a good one that's worth your time. Its simple (and I mean simple) charms won't land with everybody, but if you have a taste for its type it comes highly recommended. ****

Garfield: Caught in the Act (1995)

Hmm. I somewhat appreciate the Mega Drive version of this game, but its translation to Game Gear is more than a little bit dodgy. The graphics are colourful, but squashed, appearing to be crude facsimiles of the console art rather than bespoke stuff for the handheld. This feeling of a lack of care or attention persists throughout the rather dull level design. The interstitial screens are OK but they're not really what you play a game for. The only really interesting thing about Game Gear Garfield is that it incorporates levels that were cut out of the Mega Drive game, along with some lost Sega Channel stuff. Though that's, obviously, not a matter for the Game Gear Directory. Giving it a two out of five though, is. **

Gear Works (1993)

Gear Works? I flippin' wish! Nah, this one is resolutely in the "not for me" pile, and I have to confess that I gave up on it rather early. It's a puzzle game about fitting gears together so they rotate properly, and it's rather fiddly to say the least. You've got to use a sort of peg board space to ensure your contraption ultimately works, and in doing so you're beset by weird little monsters that you can smack down with a gear or by switching over to a fucking gun, which is jarring as heck in a cart like this. I don't know, you might enjoy it more! I found it a very slow experience, all the way down to the utterly interminable start screens before you get into it. This is a good fit for the Game Gear in terms of being a single-screen, WYSIWYG sort of business, but I just found it boring. I still don't know what the bombs or oil do, but I can't imagine that their gameplay applications are so interesting that they'd realistically elevate the experience. Again, though, you may get more out of this than I did, as it seems to do what it's doing rather well. It's just... I don't care about cogs, mate. **

George Foreman's KO Boxing (1992)

So, we meet again, Mr Foreman. Again I must complement you on your fine grills, but your Game Gear efforts leave quite a bit to be desired. This pugilism sim from Flying Edge is extremely light on options - stripped back, you could say, and this simplicity had me thinking this could be a fun, arcadey experience. Initially things are promising, with a Street Fighter II style side-on view, but as soon as you throw a punch it all goes a bit wrong. Your reach is horrible, and the controls are utterly awful - movements involving diagonals must be hit in time with the buttons in a way that fels stiff and inorganic; that said, the uppercuts and body blows don't feel like they do much anyway. There's versus play, thankfully, but you'll probably lose friends if you make them play this. One thing I did like was the graphic of George munching away on a hamburger between rounds, like he's European Alex Kidd or something. Deep cut joke there for the lifers. *

The GG Shinobi (1991)

Proper feelings of joy flooded through me when I played this game. I knew it was good, because I've played it through before, mouth agape at its sheer quality. But this time around I liked it even better, figuring out some more of the game's little nuanced and how you can apply them to utilise superior tactics depending on the situation. Thing is, I think this might be the best Shinobi game, and that's a weird thing to say considering how important Master System Shinobi was to me as a kid, how much I adore Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, and how bloomin' brilliant Shinobi 3: Return of the Ninja Master obviously is. What marks this handheld title out is the way you can choose which stage to tackle, in order to rescue one of your colour-coded ninja friends from each location. Once you've saved them they're added to your playable roster, and each ninja has a different weapon and ability to take advantage of. The graphics are clean and crisp, the level design is varied and wonderful. Is it absolutely perfect? No, as there are a few occasions where enemies will fire at you from both off-screen and above, which is not especially fair. But it's not a game about fairness, and the player agency in picking a level to tackle means that it gets away with this by virtue of incorporating that frustrating experience into a cartridge far more than the sum of its parts. Everyone with a Game Gear should own this. *****

(Next: Gl-Gu)