The Game Gear Directory: (Str-Tal)

Let's get meta with a high-scoring crop of GG carts

Striker (1995)

Another attempt to clone Sensible Soccer, but completely lacking its flair and breeziness, Striker is just another faceless footy game in the seemingly neverending torrent of them on Game Gear. Some nice crowd noise can't mask the utterly moronic AI of your teammates, who will congregate by the opposition's goal and never once do anything even remotely threatening to be somewhat useful. Meanwhile, the "enemy" AI will simply steamroll you, never missing a shot or losing possession once they have it. Am I whinging? Yes, a bit, but it's an unbelievably irritating game to play and I would rather throw on almost any other footy title. That said, it does have a surplus of teams, cups and such. There's some love poured into it for sure. But it's not enough, and it's not worth any more words. **

Surf Ninjas (1993)

Synergy! Yes, Surf Ninjas somewhat elevates itself on its brand loyalty. That is to say, the Surf Ninjas video game - and the Game Gear itself - form a fairly significant part of the movie, with a character playing this game in order to get clues as to what's coming up next for the movie's heroes. At least, that's what Wikipedia would have you believe. But I watched the damn movie and I played the damn game (never accuse me of not doing my due diligence for this vitally important project) and the game shown in the film is resolutely dissimilar to the actual Surf Ninjas Game Gear game. Confused? Me too, so let's forget all of that and just talk about the game like usual. It's alright! It's vastly superior to the absolute shonk I was expecting, though it's nothing absolutely amazing. The visuals fluctuate between impressive and oddly bland, with the opening stage having a frankly brilliant attention to detail in its backgrounds, then the following stage set on a dock is mostly just a blue gradient and some crates. As you'd expect it's a scrolling beat-'em-up, but there's a surprising amount of extra stuff to consider. Pausing the game brings up a whole host of options including - amazingly - "getting a hint" which will then show the kid from the movie playing on his Game Gear... inside your Game Gear. Ouroborous! It's quite fun, with plenty of moves, but things are hamstrung by the unbelievably slow character movement. Seriously, lads, get a wiggle on. You trudge from encounter to encounter like you've just done ten rounds with a ninja. Which, to be fair, you have. All in all, Surf Ninjas is far more interesting than it is actually good, but you won't be wasting your time if you check it out. ***

T2: The Arcade Game (1993)

In the arcade, this was an enormous light-gun blaster. The polar opposite of what you'd expect or, indeed, particularly want from the Game Gear. And yet, Probe has got their best heads together and produced a stonking conversion here. Visually it's marvellous; the T-800s are well animated and incessantly numerous, and the parallax backgrounds look excellent. Enemy variety is impressive too, with the Hunter-Killers showing up in various forms, as well as tanks, copters and the like. Of course all it amounts to is you holding Button 1 and moving a crosshair around, so there is necessarily some repetition there. But holy crap, they really went as hard as they could here, and it's genuinely fun and challenging. Maybe a little too challenging - through sheer attrition, I always ended up losing a continue on the first stage, and there never seemed to be any way to regain health. I'm also not keen on the parade of slow-ass splash screens that open this game; reminds me of modern unskippable logos! Overall though, this is great fun and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Peak Probe! ****

Tails Adventure (1995)

Arrgh! They've only gone and given that shabby little prick Miles "Tails" Prower his own game! And, even more annoyingly, it's really good! It's much closer to something like Wonder Boy in Monster Land than to any Sonic game. Taking Tails' fuzzy features out into the world sees you hucking cartoon bombs at the enemies, which you also use to break through certain walls. Areas will pass by with clear alternate routes you can't yet access, a teasing Metroidvania sort of business. It's all very friendly, with gentle puzzle solving and fun secrets to dig up. Graphically it's as outstanding as you'd expect, and the music is great. Every aspect of this cartridge simply represents the best the Game Gear can do, and I put it up there with any of the other five-star titles. There's even a password system so you don't have to complete it all in one go. Outstanding software, though it pains me to score a game starring Tails so highly. I hate him. I wish him death. *****

Tails' Skypatrol (1995)

Hooray! This one's a bit rubbish! Shame, because it looks absolutely gorgeous and it's a pretty good idea. Tails flies, so make a weird quasi-shmup where he throws a ring at badniks, which pleasingly re-use designs from the Mega Drive Sonic classics. Unfortunately it's far too difficult for what I assume is an intended audience of children, with the game's "Training Area" being a feast of one-hit-kills that fails to train you in anything. Of course, once it "clicks" it's not too bad, but for me the level design never managed to live up to the genuinely enjoyable premise. It's far from horrible, but I feel as though a Tails game shouldn't come out of the gate so aggressive. In fact, I'd like to go back in time and make a simple suggestion; either add a health bar or make it so flying into terrain doesn't instantly kill you. You have to keep collecting sweets to maintain Tails' energy too, otherwise he crashes to the ground in a scene that admittedly is enjoyable to witness because he's such a little wank. Nonetheless, Tails' Skypatrol is hard work but can be rewarding if you really get your head down. Play Adventures instead, if you only have time for one. **

TaleSpin (1993)

Wow, finally, something genuinely bad. Tiny, ugly sprites and a ton of blind jumps mar this downgrade of the already pretty weak Mega Drive game, though of course this version lacks the simultaneous multiplayer that gave the console game a bit of a boost. You've got to collect a certain amount of cargo before you can progress, requiring exploring the large levels and travelling through a lot of hidden walls just to achieve basic goals. Normally I wouldn't mind this, but the game is so empty and unattractive that I had no real drive to get into its groove and learn it. I got to the first boss, which I found obstructive and unclear about how you were supposed to deal damage, so I simply turned the game off. It did not ignite any kind of joy or enthusiasm and I saw no reason to continue. Maybe it becomes amazing after that boss, but somehow I doubt it. Let me know if I'm wrong. *

(Next: Tar-Tem)