The Game Gear Directory: (Spa-Spo)

Smashing Pumpkins Into Small Piles Of... oh no, no, that's something else.

Space Harrier (1991)

I was apprehensive going into this one as the Master System version of Space Harrier - on which I had expected this to be based - is not really up to much. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by it being, in fact, a bespoke version designed for the Game Gear. Less fortunately, however, this too isn't very good. It's reasonably playable if you are able to overlook the absolutely atrocious sprite flicker as well as the general fact that it looks pretty terrible even aside from that issue. The iconic dragon boss, here, is so badly drawn that it's next to impossible to divine any actual features from it. I only really knew it was the dragon because of its segmented body. But graphics aren't everything, just most things, and there's no denying that while it obviously can't match the speed and spectacle of the arcade game, this is a reasonable experience. Just be aware that you'll need to pretty forgiving of its very poor visuals in order to wring the fun out of it. **

Spider-Man Vs. The Kingpin (1992)

A noble, but failed experiment. This is an interesting take on the wall-crawling webbed wonder (apologies to Stan Lee) that sees you scouring New York to find and defuse a bomb that the Kingpin has framed you, Spider-Man, as having hidden yourself. Yeah, because Spider-Man is very much well known for his use of bombs. Look, it doesn't matter. The point is that the proceedings here are much more story-based than most Game Gear platformers. And it's in that narrative focus that the game sort of elevates itself over how crap it is. Sorry, but this game feels like unwashed arse to play. I hate saying this because I know it's not actually the case, but it does feel like it was barely tested with how little balancing there is in the combat. Maybe it's just because I played on the default "Easy" setting, but it felt like you could pretty much cheat by just spamming the attack button at everything; henchmen, bosses, forklift operators. All fell immediately to my rapid punching. Anyway, despite the fact that it's not very good I must admit that I did like how unconventional this game was. Hardly a recommendation but you'll probably enjoy a playthrough on the lowest difficulty. I forgot to mention the time limit! There's a time limit, and you can waste it by having Peter Parker rest in his apartmen to regain health. I'm the weirdo who enjoys time pressure in games, so this is a plus as far as I'm concerned, giving the otherwise quite sleepy proceedings a bit of urgency. **

Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six (1993)

First of all, look at the Spider-Man sprite and laugh. Look at his little legs! To quote James Rolfe, what were they thinking? This is a bit dire, with awful, stupid controls. Jumping around doing flips is quite fun, but to defeat enemies you've got to stand just so and hold Button 2 to do rubbish little kicks and punches, which frankly feel like shit. The level design is reasonably acceptable and once you have a handle on things it's fairly painless, but at no point would I consider this game fun or worth a serious recommendation. Spider-Man seems like such a home run for gaming and it's astonishing just how many pathetic web-slinger attempts at games there actually are. This in particular is just so... piddling. No, I've nothing else to say about it. A fiddly, piddly waste of time which is only fleetingly enjoyable. **

Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade's Revenge (1993)

Terrible. This game opens with one of the most wretched first levels I've ever played, taking control of a very sticky Spider-Man who has to collect a number of objects in and around a large building. The catch is that you need to collect them in the right order, and that's not immediately made clear to you. Find the flashing object, then look for the next one which could be clear across the other side of the map. There are a few enemies, but they're easily destroyed and essentially no threat, so the whole level becomes a truly tiresome scavenger hunt with no opposition but the boredom you're being assailed by. When you eventually finish this appalling challenge, you're presented with a clutch of lovely X-Men (Cyclops, Storm, etc) to choose from in order to take on their stage. Without exception, these all handle horribly. It's a shame because this is a really fun concept that could have played well. But it isn't, and doesn't. I'll say this; it probaby has the best-handling Spider-Man on Game Gear. He's dreadful, but at least he'll reliably stick to walls. Don't play this. *

Sports Illustrated: Championship Football & Baseball (1995)

Bloody hell, they're spoiling us with both football and baseball in the same cart. And it's replete with lovely little touches that genuinely impressed me. Examples? The remarkably well animated "heads or tails" coin flip, or - best of all - the way the view zooms out when your little batsman smacks the ball into orbit. Astonishing stuff for the Game Gear, but unfortunately it just doesn't play a great game of baseball. It's quite slow and dull and quite frankly the controls don't seem to make any sense. Don't even get me going on the football side of things, I confess fully to having no idea what's going on. As with the baseball bit, the players are just way too small to really engage with. There's effort here and I appreciate it, but overall it just doesn't satisfy with either featured sport. **

Sports Trivia (1995)

Sports Trivia: Championship Edition (1995)

Two near-identical sports trivia games. What on earth can I say? They show you questions about sport, which you then answer. Incorrectly, if you're me. I don't really have anything to fault this, it seems like a perfectly servicable way of funneling trivia into your eyes, with great clarity to the presentation. It is drab, but there's no need for any embellishment in a game like this. The Championship Edition adds a tiny bit more flair, but nothing to write home about. It's fine. I don't know what else I can focus on that would be useful to anyone reading. If you want to play a sports-based trivia game on your Game Gear, either of these cartridges will serve that noble purpose. Cheers. ***

(Next: St-Str)