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Donkey Kong was released in 1994 for the Game Boy and packs quite a punch. At first glance, it appears to be another port of the Donkey Kong arcade game, but no, Nintendo delivers a brand new Donkey Kong experience in this puzzling platformer.
The game starts by throwing you back into the four levels from the Donkey Kong arcade game. Here, the goal remains the same as you jump over barrels, climb ladders, and dodge bouncing springs to rescue Pauline. However, when you complete the final stage, Donkey Kong grabs Pauline and flees the scene, forcing Mario to chase him; this is where the game truly begins.
This brilliant twist sets up the next 97 levels – over nine worlds – that follow a new set of mechanics. Instead of reaching the goal platform, in the majority of these levels, you must find and carry a key to the locked door to complete the level. Every fourth level will feature Donkey Kong, and sometimes DK Jr., throwing barrels, flipping switches, and a variety of tactics to keep Mario from reaching Pauline; essentially, similar to the format of the arcade game. The very last level in every stage will be a battle against Donkey Kong in which you need to grab and hit him with a barrel three times.
Over the course of the game’s 97 levels, you must use all of Mario’s abilities to grab the key and reach the exit. Mario can pick up and throw objects, back flips, handstand jumping, and lastly, swing on ropes; in fact, you could probably mistake Mario for a gymnast. There are other mechanics at play as well, and include the ability to flip switches (to open doors and bridges), and of course, the ability to create ladders and platforms. To create an object, you must grab their respective icon in the levels that feature this mechanic. This particular gameplay mechanic is pretty cool and adds an extra dimension to some of the more puzzling levels.
One really neat aspect of Donkey Kong can be found in the cut-scenes that play each time you manage to overcome Donkey Kong. These brief – and often comical – cut-scenes often showcase new gameplay mechanics that you haven’t used at that point in the game. These clever clues are an awesome touch to the game’s overall presentation.
Most of the game’s levels are extremely easy and don’t require the use of any additional techniques, but quite a few are built to test your ability to manipulate Mario. Some of these levels can be excruciatingly frustrating because you have to be 100% perfect in everything you do, but thankfully, these levels are few in number. Also, each stage has three items for you to recover, and these can be quite challenging to reach. If you do recover all three items, you will be sent to one of two bonus stages to try to win some 1-UPs.
Donkey Kong is a hard game to put down once you start playing, simply because the game is a lot of fun. I love the level design in each level and never grew bored of the game’s mechanics. I also enjoyed practicing and mastering Mario’s abilities to see if I could finish levels faster.
For a Game Boy game, Donkey Kong is impressive in every area, and that stands for its visuals and soundtrack, as well. This game surprised me with its detailed visuals, especially with its many different backgrounds. Donkey Kong also has a great soundtrack, with different themes for each world, including some classic sounds and themes from the arcade game.
5/5 D-Pads: If you own a Game Boy or Nintendo 3DS (only $3.99 on the Virtual Console), Donkey Kong is a must own game. It has 101 levels –including the four intro stages – which have plenty of variety, and lots of cool abilities to master. It can be challenging at times, but never becomes too frustrating. The game takes around five hours to complete, but it’s also the kind of game that welcomes a second play.
I never owned a Game Boy of my own until 1999, and even then it was a Lime Green Game Boy Color, not the brick-like Game Boy. However, Metroid II is a game that I remember fondly. You might find that quite odd at first glance, but picture waking up every Saturday during the nostalgic year of 1991 to watch cartoons, and this Metroid II: Return of Samus TV commercial plays during every commercial break. I always wanted Metroid II because of that TV spot, but never took the time to seek out a cartridge. Well, fast forward 22 years – I do feel my age – and I’ve finally wiped out every Metroid on Planet SR388.
As alluded to above, Metroid II: Return of Samus takes place on Planet SR388 and the objective is to find and defeat every Metroid within its devious caverns. This is the plot of Metroid II, a simple seek and destroy mission that ends with a confrontation with the Metroid Queen. Don’t let the simplicity of Metroid II’s plot fool you; this is the kind of Metroid game you’ve come to love.
Like every other Metroid game, you play as Samus Aran, a galactic bounty hunter who kicks a whole lot of Metroid ass. Samus has received a lot of upgrades which make controlling her much more enjoyable than in the debut Metroid game. Samus can now shoot in all eight directions, plus she can duck, both of which are brilliant additions to the overall gameplay experience. Also, Samus feels much lighter when she jumps, giving you more control of its direction.
Familiar power-ups, such as the Ice Beam and Screw Attack, make their return from Metroid, but a few notable ones make their first appearance. These new power-ups give the player more options when exploring SR388. The most innovative of these new power-ups is the Spider Ball. The Spider Ball lets Samus climb any surface while the Morph Ball is activated, and believe me, you’ll be using this to uncover a lot of new areas on the Planet SR388.
Exploration still plays a major role in Metroid II: Return of Samus, and for the most part, the gameplay is largely the same. Certain areas can only be travelled after retrieving the power-up needed to access said area, and energy tanks and missile tanks are hidden in nooks and crannies throughout the game. While there are also plenty of non-threatening enemies to defeat as you travel between areas, the Metroids you must find and extinguish can be considered boss battles, and there are a total of 39 (plus a few regular Metroids) to defeat.
Lava can be found around nearly every turn on Planet SR388 and it acts as a barrier to other areas of the planet. Defeating a specific number of Metroids in an area will cause an earthquake to occur, which will drain some lava and open a new path. You will encounter a variety of Metroid evolutions (Metroids, Alpha Metroids, Gamma Metroids, Zeta Metroids, and Omega Metroids) that vary in behaviour and strength. While Metroid II: Return of Samus feels like other Metroid games, this particular mechanic gives Metroid II a unique feeling.
Metroid II: Return of Samus is an enjoyable game, but it isn’t without faults, all of which drag the overall gameplay down. The lack of a map makes Metroid II frustrating to navigate. I often found myself travelling back and forth between areas – mostly during the beginning portions of the game – until finally finding a way forward. I’m not asking for a map that gives me the locations of every Metroid, instead, I would have liked it to show me areas I previously visited. Another small element that could have been tweaked is something that was brought forward from Metroid. Upon obtaining a new beam, Samus will lose the previous beam she held to use the new beam. I would have preferred the option to select the beam I wanted to use.
Graphically, I feel Metroid II: Return of Samus is superior to Metroid. The sprites are impressive in size and detail, which is surprising given the Game Boy’s limitations. Atmosphere is achieved especially well in Metroid II using a combination of dark backgrounds and ambient music. There are only a handful of theme songs in Metroid II, but the ambient music that is used is better for creating frightening and isolated environments.
3.5/5 D-Pads: I don’t often experience that unexplainable feeling of mystery I used to feel when I gamed as a kid, but Metroid II: Return of Samus hammered me with that feeling. Metroid II is a fun entry in the Metroid series with only a few slight flaws bringing it down. It’s slightly better than the original Metroid, but not nearly as epic as Super Metroid. Metroid II: Return of Samus is an above average Game Boy title, and one worthy of sitting in any collection.
Mole Mania Review
Muddy Mole is a name that doesn’t come up in many gaming conversations. Sure, everyone knows Monty Mole from the Super Mario games, but my personal favourite mole was buried under the popularity of Link’s Awakening, Metroid II: Return of Samus, and the Super Mario Land games. To my delight, Muddy Mole has recently emerged from his hole on the Nintendo eShop’s Virtual Console service in one of the Game Boy’s most underappreciated gems, Mole Mania.
Mole Mania is a unique puzzle game with a hint of action-adventure that stars none other than our previously mentioned hero, Muddy Mole. Gamers take on the role of Muddy Mole, an adorable, cabbage loving mole that sets out to rescue his family from the hands of evil farmer, Jinbe. To do this, Muddy must navigate puzzling layouts one room at a time by using his ability to push around heavy objects, and of course, going underground.
There are eight levels in Mole Mania, each consisting of a number of rooms containing puzzles. Rooms must be cleared one at a time while a boss waits for you in the final room. The goal for clearing each room is to push (or throw) a giant ball into the door blocking the next room. While this may sound simplistic, each room also contains a number of obstacles that will hinder Muddy’s progress. Some of these obstacles include enemies, spikes that can’t be walked on, holes, and blockers. Mole Mania starts off easy, but solving rooms proves to be quite challenging as you progress through the game; surprisingly, most levels take about an hour to complete and maybe longer if you get stuck.
Using Muddy’s ability to dig underground will become a huge part of your repertoire. Muddy can only dig in soft ground, something that will no doubt cause some head scratching at times. Digging in the ground will also leave holes behind, and unnecessary holes can be troublesome. Balls will fall in holes and return to their spawn point, barrels will fill in said holes – which can also block your path underground – and other objects just can’t cross over the holes. Figuring out how to use each object and in which manner is what you’ll be doing throughout the majority of Mole Mania; the puzzles themselves are really clever and being able to dig underground makes navigating them a lot of fun.
Muddy is easily controlled with the D-Pad and handles like most top-down characters, think of Link from The Legend of Zelda, he digs with A, and the B button allows you to grab objects. Grabbing and maneuvering objects play a huge role in Mole Mania, especially when you need to cross holes. When you grab an object you can push it forward, or throw it behind you by pressing the opposite direction on the D-Pad. This tactic is extremely useful when you need Muddy to throw balls across holes. Another useful tactic is the technique that lets Muddy peek above ground when he is underground, this can help you avoid encounters with enemies, or to peacefully plan your assault without fear of danger.
Mole Mania also has some interesting puzzle-like boss battles. These battles occur in a single room, much like the rest of the game, but players will have to cleverly lead bosses into danger, or even think outside the box to best these critters. Even after defeating bosses and clearing each level, there is still more to Mole Mania.
Each level in Mole Mania can be perfect by obtaining a 100% score. This score is calculated by given values for completing certain tasks in each level. Discovering each room will give you points; whereas completing bonus levels will give you even more points. Players must also make sure they dunk all 20 cabbages scattered about each level into a hole. Getting 100% on each level means that players can unlock and tackle the final level, where a showdown with Jinbe awaits.
There is also an interesting two-player mode in Mole Mania, but I have no way of playing it for evaluation. Luckily, with a little research, I was able to discover that this two-player mode plays a lot like the game’s bonus levels. One player controls Muddy and tries to steal cabbages while the other controls Jinbe who must stop Muddy at all costs. There is a second round in the two-player mode that sees players switching roles; the winner is the person that steals the most cabbages. This is an interesting multiplayer effort that has probably been played less than the game itself.
Aside from its clever gameplay, Mole Mania also impresses with detailed, cartoon-like sprites that could rival any Game Boy game, not to mention a catchy soundtrack that could arguably be amongst the top 10 Game Boy soundtracks.
5/5 D-Pads: Mole Mania’s release in 1996 – a time when everyone started to get excited about the future of gaming – may have hampered its notoriety, but that now makes it one of the Game Boy’s best hidden gems. There isn’t really anything negative I could say about Mole Mania because I believe it achieved everything it set out to do. Some may be put off by its surprising difficulty and lengthy levels, but others will enjoy diving into its puzzling atmosphere. In my opinion, Mole Mania is one of the greatest Game Boy games to ever grace the monochromatic handheld.
Mario’s Picross has been a reward at Club Nintendo, but it’s available once again. This Game Boy title is available for 100 coins until November 18, 2012. If you need some picross action in your life you will find it here.
MYSTICAL NINJA starring GOEMON was originally released in 1998 for the Game Boy. Mystical Ninja is an action adventure game that follows Goemon, Ebisumaru, and Sasuke as they fight against a band of pirates known as The Black Ship Gang. This mysterious band of pirates travels between towns to steal and terrorize the people of ancient Japan. Their leader, the Skull Baron, has also kidnapped Yae, whom normally fights alongside the trio of ninjas. After learning of Yae’s fate, Goemon and friends set out to rescue her and defeat The Black Ship Gang. Read more
Another week means another portion of my collection is unveiled. This week I’ll be looking at my Game Boy stuff. As you can see above, I own the Kiwi Green Game Boy Color, and it’s awesome. Out of all the colors, I really think the Kiwi Green is among the best of them. I’ve also been teasing the game that made me buy a Super Game Boy, so let’s get right to the games. Read more
Another Club Nintendo Featured Game reward expires and it’s replacement is now online. Those looking for a classic tennis experience can now trade 150 coins for Tennis. This classic Game Boy game will be available until September 9, 2012.
Wario Land may not mark the first appearance of the lovable villain (how’s it going Super Mario Land 2?), but it sure is Wario’s first full-fledged adventure. Despite having ties to Super Mario Land 2 (this is actually Super Mario Land 3 after all), Wario Land is noticeably different. While some elements remain the same, Wario Land changes the formula up enough to create an entirely unique experience. Read more
Hankering for a game of Golf? How about Gold for the Game Boy? Club Nintendo has updated their featured games offering with Golf (Game Boy). If you’re willing to part with 150 Coins you could download Golf today! This game will be offered until August 12.
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins was released in North America during 1992 and is the follow-up to Super Mario Land. It is a very important game in the Mario franchise as it not only introduces new concepts to the series, but also marks the debut of Wario. Wario plays the antagonist role for his debut by stealing Mario’s castle and seals it shut with six golden coins. He then scatters these coins across six zones, and as you may have guessed, it is up to Mario to find each coin and break the seal. Read more
Super Mario Land is the first portable Mario adventure to be released for the Game Boy and a launch title in North America. Gamers were amazed that a full scale Super Mario experience could be had on a handheld system. Nintendo really nailed the core Mario formula and even added some unique elements to keep fans guessing. Read more
Kirby’s Dream Land marks the first appearance of the lovable little guy. Developed by Hal Laboratory and originally released in 1992, Kirby’s Dream Land is designed with the beginner audience in mind. However, there is a lot here that will appeal to other gamers as well. This is especially true for those curious about the origins of the Kirby series. Read more