Friday, January 7

Level up – Platform Gaming

This week marked the return to work for many, including myself, and boy was I easily distracted. Unmotivated first-day-backers with nothing to do but delete emails were all over me, sharing details of our brief time off and discussing the finer points of the Family Guy Star Wars trilogy.

Soon the conversation turned towards gaming and the games of yesteryear that we played.

I mostly spoke of side scrolling platformers such as Commander Keen and the Apogee classics like Halloween Harry and Monster Bash; games that were essentially the same but with different characters.

By this I mean there was the protagonist (sometimes an established hero, other times unwillingly thrust into the position) who had to fight monsters/aliens/vegetables and save the planet. All this was done with what seemed like the simple combination of walk-walk-walk-jump-shoot-repeat.

Along the way, the hero had to collect something to help their journey and get home. In most cases it was hostages taken by the enemy, other times it was a name/word, jewels or other items of value.

Not only was the story simple to grasp, so were the controls. You could only move left or right with two additional buttons, generally jump and shoot. Quite basic in comparison to today’s games, which are often complete, free roaming 3D environments with multiple action buttons.

Take for example Crash Bandicoot. This 90’s classic was developed in a time when side scrolling platform games were evolving from 2D to 3D environments. I remember playing this with my wife. While she thoroughly enjoyed it, she became frustrated at the view and multiple buttons - a frustration which, at times, we all share. In contrast, when I gave her the controls to Sonic the Hedgehog, she left me for dead.

Even Disney/DreamWorks releases have changed significantly over the years. One of the more enjoyable movie adaptations was Disney’s Aladdin on the Sega Mega Drive; a far cry from the high res 3D worlds of Toy Story 3 and Kung Fu Panda.

Now, major release 2D side scrolling platformers i.e. sold in a box in a shop are pretty much limited to the Wii console and PC. While Xbox Live (and presumably PlayStation Network?) offers arcade games and demos, these titles are hardly major releases.

Despite continuing the side scrolling platform games with titles such as Donkey Kong Country Returns and New Super Mario Bros., I think what I find most impressive about the Wii is DLC from the Virtual Console which includes hundreds of vintage games from the Nintendo/Sega back catalogue.

Earthworm Jim, Boogerman, Super Mario Bros., Alex Kidd and so many more are just sitting there, ripe for reminiscing and reliving the virtual adventures of your childhood.

I noticed on Steam recently (I’m new to Steam and this will be evident in about two seconds) that you can pick up original Sega games like Altered Beast and Alex Kidd, and even more modern platformers like Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey.

As you can probably tell, I think this is a great concept, which ensures original arcade platform games are available for a new generation of gamers and are cheap enough (less than US$5) for account holders not to be too bothered.

While I’m not going to trade the 360 for a SNES any time soon, the 2D side scrolling genre of yesteryear seem to have a refreshing simplicity that I just don’t see anymore.

Have you played anything recently so old that is now feels new again? Have you discovered a 2D platform game worth the effort of downloading via the Virtual Console/buying?


  1. Bionic Commando Re-armed? I think that is what it is called. I haven't played it, but I have watched a few videos, and man, it looks like fun. Plain and simple fun. I miss when the game was simplistic in controls and design, yet provided mammoth challenges.

    I remember when Trent and I got our Sega Master System. We would play Alex the Kidd in Miracle World and Wonder Boy all day. The challenge was in if you wanted to beat the game, then you had to do it in one sitting. Some massive sessions were had, and frustrations ran high when we would continually die on the last stage of Miracle World.

    But one of the most gratifying days in my life as a gamer was the day when we beat it. I actually think I openly wept. It was months worth of effort and pain, but that just made the victory that much more rewarding.

  2. BC: Rearmed is awesome. Highly recommended even if it is one of the harder games released in recent memory. The sequel should be out next month BTW.

    Best SMS platformer is Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's Trap. If you have a Wii you must (MUST) download that game.

  3. I never had the Master System (PS1 was my first console) but I've heard countless stories from the Mrs about when they got theirs for Christmas and it was broken within a couple of days because her Dad and uncle tried to play Sonic and Alex Kidd all night.

    Wonder Boy 3 huh? I'll give it a crack for sure.

  4. It's so good dude. You transform into different creatures depending on the area. In no other game is it so much fun to be a mouse.

  5. YES! I remember that game! Man Wonder Boy was so awesome. I remember the first time I saw hime throw a hatchet. Ah the memories.

    But yeah, the only reason to buy a Wii is for the classics.