The Game Gear Directory: (Ti-Ur)

Tintin in Tibet (1995)

There was a bit in level one of this game where I found myself thinking "hey, this reminds me of Crash Bandicoot", then something in level two reminded me of Crash Bandicoot 2, so that was nice. I was already predisposed to like this, because it quickly became clear (as in, on the title screen) that I was about to play a Game Boy game that had been ported over to the Gear, most likely sharing some staff with my beloved Smurfs. And initially, things were promising; the opening stage is an enjoyable and challenging bit of platforming, mixed with some light box-carrying, then the next level is a river rapids sort of business that's also a pretty good time. Nothing earth-shaking, but it looks and sounds ace, controls smoothly, and feels correctly designed for the screen. Unfortunately it almost immediately goes to pieces, throwing you into Marlinspike Hall and having you traipse up and down and all around its six empty floors, following a fetch quest trail of "where's Captain Haddock", "I think he's on the fourth floor", "oh wait he's on the second floor". It's boring as hell, but I persevered through it, enjoying a series of well-drawn story sequences, only to find myself in Katmandu enduring the same exact gameplay. Upstairs, downstairs, chasing my own tail. What happened to the jumping? With sheer brute force I got through this tedium and, yes, the platforming came back. And it was alright. But these bursts of boredom really scuppered the initial promise of Tintin in Tibet, not to mention some frustratingly ingenerous collision detection. Finally - and I guess I can't really say I'm surprised - it's pretty racist, in much the same "product of its time" way as the comic, so be ready for that if you give this a try. Which I suppose I can't really wholeheartedly recommend you do. There's a lot to like here, but it's kind of a shit sandwich. **

Tom and Jerry: The Movie (1993)

I had the Master System version of this game as a child. I loved it. Was it a good game by most reasonable standards? Not particularly. But I liked the way you could "trick" the game and catch Jerry early in some of the stages. So I was looking forward to trying this on Game Gear, but unfortunately it just doesn't have the same appeal. The aim is - as Tom - to catch that little prick Jerry, and this is facilitated by having you chase him across traditional right-to-left side-scrolling levels, the little mousey scrote remaining juuuuust ahead of you, occasionally throwing cherry bombs or dropping land mines (!) to obstruct your path. Eventually you'll reach a dead end of sorts and be able to capture Jerry, but there's always some kind of final obstacle in your way that you'll have to contend with. It's not unenjoyable, but the level design here feels so sloppy - every stage is just a mish-mash of floating platforms over a new background and it's all very uninspiring. There are mini-games between each stage that are... fine, a take on Activision's Kaboom and a weak Pac-Man thing, but they don't do much to spice things up. Nice presentation and all, they definitely made an effort, but stick with the Master System game and its much greater scope for creativity. **

True Lies (1995)

Ugh. This top-down shooter is a valiant effort to recapture the genuine fun of the console game, but it just can't manage it. The difficulty is far too high and unforgiving considering how finicky it all is and how aggressive the enemies are. It's nice that the controls smoothly allow you to move in one direction while shooting in another, but you have to be so precise to hit anything and the enemies have a lot of health, not to mention quick aim and generally solid AI for the time. It's all rather muddy and ugly, and not at all fun. It's a genuinely decent attempt at console parity, but maybe Beam Software had eyes bigger than their stomachs and should have scaled down a little. Sheesh, it's all the twos this week! **

Ultimate Soccer (1993)

Arrrrgh. This was so close to being a banger! Presentation is off the hook, with gorgeous menus - which, bafflingly, feature Sonic the Hedgehog. There are plenty of game modes and teams to choose from, not to mention a nice little soundtrack along with the expected crowd noises and ball-booting (not that kind) sound effects. A recipe for success, then, but there's one crucial problem; this thing feels like it runs at about five frames per second. It's choppy as hell, which makes playing it about ten times less fun that it could have been. No exaggeration; if this game had smoother performance, it would be the best footy game on the system and beat out Sensible Soccer, thanks to its link-up feature. You can play a decent game of football with this cart, but you're going to have a headache afterwards, and that's a crying damn shame. Shout-out to the absolutely hilarious celebration your striker performs when you score a goal, which needs to be see to be believed. **

Urban Strike (1995)

Graphics aren't everything, but they are a lot, and Urban Strike is far from a looker. Play is choppy - after all, you're in a chopper! Eh? Really, nothing? You people are impossible. But yes! This is not a nice looking game, with a title screen that reminded me of old NES Ocean games with their limited palate. It's reasonably accomplished to play, but it's also rather boring at times, what with its requiring you to pause the game repeatedly to check your map, ammunition, et cetera. The polish of Jungle Strike isn't here, but it's not a write-off; the action is perfectly playable, if you're willing to overlook its ugly visuals and a generally rather dated take on difficulty; running out of resources, you see, means you may as well just reset the Game Gear. Thankfully, we are here for old games being old games, right? So suck it up and get shooting, soldier. ***

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