The Game Gear Directory: (Super) cont.

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Super Off Road (1992)

We're thundering out of the gate here with an absolute banger, an arcade conversion for the ages. While it doesn't manage to fit its isometric courses on a single screen anymore, it doesn't matter; this off-road racer handles beautifully while looking and sounding absolutely fantastic. Between races you can spend your earnings on upgrades to your car, which is deftly satisfying and offers a pleasing risk-reward system in allowing you to sell your "Credits" (your Continues, basically) in order to gain an early advantage with the consequence of a single lost race meaning Game Over. The only real downside is that there didn't seem to be many tracks on offer - I played around eight races and saw the same four or so repeat - but it really doesn't matter as the difficulty escalates as you'll be having too much fun to care. There's even a link-up feature for head-to-head racing. A wonderful cart and one I recommend without hesitation. *****

Super Smash TV (1992)

Probe again, this time making their level best effort to port an arcade classic to a system that just isn't suitable for it, gawd bless the little bugger. It's a desperate shame but this is dreadful, a hideous waste of time that's ugly to look at and actively disgusting to play. The controls are along the right lines for converting a twin-stick shooter to a two-button handheld, with Button 2 locking your shot direction and Button 1 being customisable in sensible ways - for example, it's possible to make it so your player will fire in the opposite direction they are walking. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter because playing Super Smash TV on Game Gear is a miserable experience, with utterly abysmal performance and sprite flicker that sees enemies essentially spawning on top of you and killing you immediately. For that matter, collision detection is so flawed that bullets which have clearly missed you will cost you valuable lives. It's something of a valiant effort, to some extent - there's plenty of the arcade original's flavour in the interstitial screens and such - but it's just an abject failure and not at all enjoyable. A shame! *

Super Space Invaders (1992)

I don't particularly care for Space Invaders. Yes, it's an iconic classic that pretty much kickstarted the whole "gaming" thing, sure, but I don't want to play it. So as you can imagine I came to this one with low expectations - which were instantly shattered by its excellence. This is my second-favourite Space Invaders after Lunar Loonies, a joyously extravagant expansion that retains the original feel while amping up the challenge, the visuals and the enemy formations. It seems to take some inspiration from early 90's UFO paraphenalia, with a "cattle mutilation" bonus round in which you protect cows from flying saucers. The waves of Invaders you'll face elsewhere swoop and swerve all over the screen like something out of Galaga, but the speed and challenge is absolutely on point. Visibility is an issue on the Game Gear, of course, but I found it essentially fine - everything that needs to pop, pops. Excellent stuff! *****

Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1995)

Wow, this game has some enormous stages. Early on I plummeted to my certain death, only to find there's just more level down there. Initially, this is pretty enjoyable; choosing between Luke, Chewie and Leia, you'll find swinging your weapon around and double-jumping in a big lightsaber twirl is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the level design is weak and often cheap - even on the first stage you'll need to make a series of precision jumps to platforms already occupied by enemies. In the game's defence I did set the difficulty from Easy to Brave, the middle setting, and I think I'd had preferred it on Easy. It's not that the game is especially hard, it's just a time consuming slog with bosses that have way too much health and simply aren't fair in their relentless attacking. In that respect, it's much like the SNES games. But it really isn't for me, despite the fact I can recognise that this game was cared about while it was being developed. That's worth something, but not my time. **

Superman: The Man of Steel (1995)

Graftgold, the developers of this one, are microcomputer legends, though their brilliance never really took off on console - thanks, Ottifants. Regardless, this game is dreadful shit, not even worth picking up. It's so slapdash that it barely feels like it's holding together, with Superman flying basically whenever he feels like it, and being easily defeated by bad collision detection. I know that making a Superman game work is essentially an impossible task, but it plays like a game the developers didn't want to make. The second level is an autoscroller where housewives are coming out of the windows of an apartment complex to drop crockery on Superman, which of course kills him. I turned the game off at that point. *

(Next: Sur-Tal)