Written by Gav Russell. Twitter is here.
Welcome back to Romdom Number Generator, a monthly feature where I pick ROMS using a number generator, force myself to play them for 20 minutes whatever they may be and then write about them! Because …well, I don’t actually know. You can read the full rules and a longer introduction by checking out month 1 right here. So, without further delay…
The magical numbers one, seven and ninety-five mean that our first shot in the dark of February is … erm … everyone’s favourite NES game Gorby No Pipeline Daisakusen.
I know what you’re thinking and, yes, that is Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991.
I’d like to claim that I’m super cool and that I’d heard of a Japanese puzzle game released in 1991 for a console that I never owned but, dear reader, I couldn’t lie to you. This one was a mystery to me. Turns out, it’s pretty simple; essentially you need to create a series of pipes to allow the water that’s flowing from one side of the screen to get to the other side of the screen. Bits of pipe are thrown down from the top of the screen, Tetris-style, allowing you to rotate them as they descend so that when they lock into place the water can flow through. Here’s an observsation though : I’m shit at it. In 20 earth minutes I didn’t achieve it once. Instead I created a plumbers nightmare of tangled pipework that usually had the water flowing back on itself and into the pipe is started from. Here’s as close as I got –
Rubbish. And if you’re wondering why you’re trying to get water to a girl wearing Russian national dress then it’s because the point of the game is to try to strengthen Japan–Soviet Union relations. Keep your politics out of our videogames! Eh? EH?! NEXT!
What could possibly top a politically themed water pipe puzzle game? Well, Capcom’s 1994 side-scrolling punch-fest X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse on the SNES has a good go. Cards on the table, this is hardly a thrilling game, even by the standards of the year it was released, but it’s nevertheless a solid orgy of violence. There’s a strong Street Fighter 2 feel to the combat and the fact that each X-Men’s (Man’s?) super-ability can be performed whenever and however many times you like is a nice bonus; lending a certain element of chaos to the whole thing. It’s got a nice open structure too – you can pick from 5 different characters at the start ( Wolverine, Cyclops, Psylocke, Gambit and Beast) and each one has their own mini-campaign to work through. Which was nice. I of course didn’t get very far in my 20 minutes (though, I actually played for half an hour) as the difficulty level here is insane. Still, it’s pretty good. And the sprites. Oh God the sprites. So good.
Sticking with the SNES and the theme of punching the shit out of things as you walk from left to right, the next dice roll leads me to Iron Commando, a game developed by Arcade Zone and released in Japan in 1995. Its release in Europe was cancelled for reasons unknown, but after playing it for a while I can safely assume that the reason is because it was shite. It shouldn’t be shite, as there’s a lot going for Iron Commando. The art style and graphics are excellent, the violence is excessive (you pick up a very steady stream of weapons from baseball bats to knives to shotguns and grenades) and the set up (a toxic meteorite has crashed to earth! Quick, seize it before the terrorists do!) is absurd. But ultimately it’s about as fun to play as a xylophone. More often than not you’re surrounded by enemies on both sides of the screen, all shooting guns at you, stun locking you to death. Even just the regular street thugs have ENORMOUS health bars, which means that each scrap goes on for about a million years. One highlight though was when a truck appeared out of nowhere and ran me over, and then remained on-screen with its own health bar and only reversed off-screen after I had punched the bonnet enough times. Take that, vehicle! Still, the pump-action shotgun gets 7 DOOMS out of 10.
And as for our fourth? Finally, the generator spat out a healthy number 4 leading us, at last, to our first Sega Mega Drive game! I was a Mega Drive kid growing up and so by default this particular console holds a lot of memories for me. You know what doesn’t hold any memories for me? Fucking James Pond II – Codename Robocod. Firstly, Millenium Interactive, don’t let me ever, ever, see you combining two franchises to create two equally shitty puns in one game title ever again. Secondly, this –
Look at our hero. Those wide vacant eyes that just scream “I’ve had a lobotomy, please end my life”. Shite. But Mean Machines say that it’s “the best Mega Drive platform game yet…”, so it can’t be that bad, surely? Well, no, it is that bad. It’s as utterly insipid as I remember it being, only somehow worse. The music makes anal surgery seem like a real good laugh. The whole thing is lacking in anything that comes close to invention or wit. But there is one saving grace. Peculiarly, for someone who is ostensibly a fish, James can extend his body skywards when you press the A button. There is no limit to how high up into the sky James’ upper-body and head can go, it seems. I held my finger down on the button for a full 120 seconds and he never stopped extending. Even as he slowed at the point where he presumably entered orbit, his head among a black sky littered with stars, he carried on. That same vacant expression on his stupid shitty face. I was hoping that we’d get so far into space that his head would explode. Sadly not. But what did happen is that after a full 2 minutes of heading upwards, with his feet still on the ground, it only took 4 seconds for his body to compress back into its original shape. Re-entering earth’s orbit at those speeds will surely leave severe and lasting damage to the head and body. And, in this case, we can be thankful for that.