The Game Gear Directory: (L)

L is for "Let's go"!

Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (1993)

Here's one that I find it very difficult to talk about with any degree of objectivity, and I'll tell you why (of course). 8-bit Castle of Illusion is, basically, my favourite game of all time. If not tip-top, then it's one of them, you know? So while its follow-up Land of Illusion betters it in many ways, I still don't quite like it as much. Yes, this is much to do with nostalgia, but also I find it generally a bit less breezy, and one of the bosses (giant enemy crab, yes I did that reference in 2023) is a massive pain the hole. Still; all the playability of Castle, with loads more levels, a world map that lets you revisit stages when you have more tools with which to explore them, more secrets, better animation and fantastic music? This is an easy masterpiece and no mistake, on of the greatest games on the Game Gear and it would be incredibly difficult to argue otherwise. It's a consumnate expansion of everything that made Castle of Illusion awesome, with only a couple of very minor sticking points which many players probably won't even have a problem with. It's very hard for me to admit this, but... it is better than Castle. I just don't like it as much. *****

Last Action Hero (1993)

Oh, dear. This was initially promising, because Sony Imagesoft have put out some surprisingly fun games in their time, but this? Now, there's a fundamental issue here, which is that the combat seems to lack any kind of ablity to block or counter, despite throwing you into one-on-one fights in which enemies will knock you on your arse with a single punch. So I ended up punching or roundhouse kicking then running away, doubling back to kick again. It seems like a total crapshoot whether or not you're going to end up taking a hit. I read the manual and it didn't offer me any ideas, and the sole longplay on Youtube seemed to depict the player completely brute-forcing the game anyway, taking hit after hit. Maybe you're supposed to, but that seems very counter-productive to the creation of a satisfying game. If anyone knows what I'm doing wrong - if anything - please get in touch. Until then, I can't give this anything more than lowest marks, because it seems to be borderline unplayable. *

Legend of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (1995)

This third 8-bit instalment in the Illusion series is the only one developed by Aspect, and while it's perfectly enjoyable at times it utterly fails to reach the heights of any of its predecessors. The level design is that much more pedestrian, the inspiration just isn't there. Maybe it was one too many, being such a significant step back from Land, and two years hence there's a sense that they're trying to recapture an excellence that's just a step or two beyond them. It's fine, you know? But that's just not good enough, not for the Illusion series. The bosses are so bland and staid, and there's a weird issue where jumping too high makes the screen flick upwards so it's often constantly yo-yo-ing up and down in a bizarre manner that really doesn't make sense when the more vertical stages don't seem to have the same problem. Generally everything feels like it's just not as good as it ought to be, with the exception of the visuals which are, at times, fantastic. Other times though, no, not so much. So god knows what happened here. It's okay. ***

Lemmings (1992)

This is a compromised port, but it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise. It plays remarkably well, considering the restrictions imposed by the hardware; selecting your ability is a little finicky, with a status bar that only appears when you move your cursor to the bottom of the screen. Thankfully, you can change attributes while the game is paused, which makes up for the ever-so-slightly unusual play control. Once you get used to it, though, you've got 120 levels of Lemmings here, with a password after each one. The most significant drawback is the lack of Lemmings themselves - the game only renders 20 in total, which is fine for most stages but makes some of them much, much easier than they should be. I suppose that's fair enough in a way, as you're wrestling with a Game Gear here, not simply clicking with a mouse, but it's still a little bit of a downer if you're familiar with "real" Lemmings. It would be unfair to rate the game based on that, though, as this is a fine conversion of a very, very good game indeed. ****

The Lion King (1994)

Ehh, this Mega Drive conversion wasn't a great game in the first place, and it's lost a lot of what little charm it possessed in the process of moving to the Game Gear. It's not a bad port of the Master System version, using the limited screen space well, but as a game it's really lacking in fun. The levels are big and sprawling and feel empty at times, as well as haphazardly designed - you'll collect 1-Ups in places that give you the vague notion that they were supposed to be some kind of secret, but they're just there, you know what I mean? There's nothing here to draw me in, besides some decent renditions of the movie's admittedly excellent tunes. Honestly, it's at times like this I have to ask myself; would I rather play this, or throw the king of the lions into a stampede of wilderbeest, causing its death by trampling and ensuring my position as monarch as said lion's evil brother? And, on balance, I'd have to say I'd rather play the game. I mean, I'm not a psycho. **

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

While they do pack a ton of dinosaurs into this game, ultimately it just isn't quite as good as the original Jurassic Park title back in 1993. As soon as I booted this up I immediately heard that telltale Aspect soundfont and knew exactly what I was in for - a decent game. And it is, it's fine. It's very clean-looking - as it should be, given this was the last North American release for the Game Gear - but it doesn't manage to impress in any particular way. In fact, I'd argue it's a little worse-looking than the original JP, which there really isn't any excuse for. Level design is pretty pedestrian and it's sometimes tough to know what constitutes a platform and what doesn't, which would be an egregious sin if it wasn't really hard to die anyway. The bosses are pretty uninteresting, the sound effects are very familiar, and it's pretty much the definition of a three-star game. Nothing exciting here, but as a meat-and-potatoes platform shooter you could do a hell of a lot worse. ***

The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck (1991)

A cracking (quacking!) little Duck-'em-up, this games sees Disney's much-more-likeable-than-Mickey mallard go off on a jaunt all over the world to save his kidnapped nephews and retrieve Scrooge McDuck's lucky dime. If it were me I'd tell the billionaire to shove his stupid dime up his feathered arse, but I'm glad Donald doesn't because this is a marvellous platformer, nice and challenging without outstaying its welcome. The power-up system is a bit unusual, seeing you level up either a hammer or a throwable frisbee, but reaching max level with either grants you temporary invincibility while resetting the weapon's power - so you're kind of incentivised to not do it. It doesn't quite have the level of polish that Castle and Land of Illusion enjoy, but it's still very creative and a lot of fun to play. Graphics are nice, though the sound is a touch dated. Regardless, it's pretty much impossible not to recommend - easily as good as the NES Ducktales games. ****

(Next: Mad-Man)