Long before Nintendo had the idea of having its characters jump around platform deathtraps shooting each other in the face and hitting each other with bats, Namco had the same plan. The difference is that their implementation of it was way, way more awesome.
The Outfoxies is a simple tale: a group of assassins is pitted against one another, and only one can survive. Players must navigate levels based on real-world environments and use their wits and an arsenal of weapons to kill each other deader than cow pies. Its how this is achieved that makes Outfoxies remarkable. Players not only shoot, stab, and grenade one another, they can use everything in their environment as well. For instance, as you fight your opponent on top of a building, the roof gives way. You fall into a restaurant and fling scalding soup and champagne bottles at one another. Meanwhile, the building is flooding, and electrified water is rising toward you. In the circus level, you can machine-gun clowns and circus elephants, knock you enemy into the tiger pen, or sucker-punch the ringmaster and take his bullwhip. If your adversary counters you, you can escape via trampoline, and of course, the clown-launching cannon is fully functional. Perhaps the most amazing level is an airplane, with mannable gun turrets and a pilot’s chair from which you can actually control the pitch of the level- sending your enemy hurtling to an early death if you’re lucky. As you battle, bits of the plane give way, creating deadly pitfalls. The cargo hold is even full of sliding crates that can crush the unwary.
As awesome as having bloody gunfights while destroying vast maps full of destroyable environment and helpless animals is, Outfoxies has some problems. Hit detection with level elements, especially in the rotating airplane level, can be dodgy. The game also pans out to show more of the level as the players get further apart, and its scaling engine scrambles the screen pretty bad. That said, this game contains possibly more mayhem and undirected carnage than any game ever made and is totally worth your (and a friend’s) time.
Let’s Go Jungle! is a fixed-lightgun rail shooter. Aliens was a fixed-lightgun rail shooter. Because of this you may assume that Let’s Go Jungle! is totally awesome like Aliens. It’s not.
Players take on the role of a young couple who are left stranded on a jungle island when giant spiders kill their (grotesque racist caricature) guides. With no way to defend themselves but two AK-47s and the power of love, players must set out to kill pretty much every living thing between them and the nearest Ramada.
Power of love, you say? What’s that about? Apparently, this game was designed with actual couples in mind (which is dumb, no woman has willingly gone in an arcade since 1983) because in between acts the protagonists get all lovey-dovey and you get rated on how good you are as a couple. Seriously. If you both shoot the same creature? You understand each other as true friends. Protect your significant other from that lunging monster-leech, and you’re clearly a loving partner. This can get a little uncomfortable if you aren’t playing with your real SO, especially since the sit-down cabinet has privacy drapes.
Gameplay is pretty lackluster. The guns are ridiculously hard to aim accurately and don’t want to aim at the far sides of the screen. There seems to be some smoothing that distorts how your aim tracks as well. There are a few fun quick-time events where players must move the guns around to do stuff in-game, but they’re way too easy and don’t add much to the whole affair. The graphics are pretty, but look oddly like those of the Sims games.
Overall Let’s Go Jungle! is a pretty forgettable game. Not as fun as its premise would imply, or as exciting as it’s genre demands, it’s like a real trek through dense forest: frustrating and tedious.
4/10 (It’d be lower but player 2 is kind of hot)
Did you like the combat in the second Legend of Zelda? If the answer is yes, you’re sick. But the good news is, there’s a game for you anyhow, Sword Master.
The epic of Sword Master is pretty familiar: knight meets girl, knight loses girl to evil magician, knight follows girl while transforming into a wizard. The game has a nice low-fantasy Golden Axe vibe to it, but suffers in the gameplay department. The hero (let’s just call him the Sword Master) can only walk right, Mario 1 style, and moves like a real knight in shining armor- kind of awkwardly. Fortunately, you can hack in all different directions with your sword, which is important since evil comes from everywhere to kill you. Spiders drop from trees, bats fly right at your head, and wolves go for your junk almost constantly. The game gets truly frustrating when ranged enemies show up, who can blast you to atoms before you get close enough to put them down, and on a few occasions when you have to make tough jumps (the Sword Master has no momentum or air control).
Combat can be pretty fun. You juke in and out, performing different sword swings and trying to line your shield up with enemy attacks. Some attacks are too heavy to block, and a few should be eaten for the sake of sticking in the fight. Fights with other sword-and-shield enemies play a lot like a fighting game, until the projectile enemies come out.
Worth noting: your dude can turn into a wizard. You should only do this in select boss fights, because the wizard form can dish out good ranged damage, but is weak on the offense.
Sword Master looks and sounds fantastic for an NES game. There’s parallax backgrounds, decent music, and many characters have sampled grunts and yells when they attack (the hero sounds like he’s swearing). But the pretty veneer can’t disguise a brutal game. Everything is faster than you, most enemies have more health than you can ever manage, and any environments other than flat paths are nearly impossible to navigate without memorization. The first time you play this, you’ll probably die harder than Marley the comically misbehaving dog before you even get through the first level. That said, I have beaten the game, so I know it can be done, and you feel pretty awesome once you do. A lot of it is luck- getting a random health potion drop mid-level can make all the difference.
To game dorks: I know there’s an experience point mechanic that relates to the Wizard form and your HP and stuff, but it never seemed to help or hinder me much. So I didn’t talk about it.
6/10 (7/10 if you are really patient)