Welcome back delicious friends, once again it is time to delve into the devilish depths of the 3D platformer genre… I ran out of D’s.
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg is a weird game, if that title didn’t give it away all ready. It’s a Sega published game, exclusively for the GameCube, and you control a boy in a chicken suit who must push a giant egg to squash his enemies…makes sense.
Despite the almost insane sounding premise, Billy Hatcher turns out to be a really quite excellent game. Thanks to the GameCube controller’s good analogue sticks the game controls really well, especially for sections were you control giant oddly shaped objects. At first it feels like pushing around such cumbersome objects while trying to platform should be annoying, but after a while it feels natural to speed along actually using the egg to jump higher and run faster.
The eggs also have the power to hatch into different objects, adding an almost Pokémon-like element to the gameplay. When you roll an egg onto fruit and other food the egg gets bigger until it hatches with a cry from your magical chicken suit (because of course you do) and can either become an elemental shroud for your giant egg or can hatch into one of several animals who all use different elemental attacks.
As well as collecting and using the different eggs, one of which includes a cameo from Sonic, the game includes a bunch of bosses, mini-games and secret challenges that increase the amount to do and it makes for quite a big feeling game for the GameCube era.
The game is split into areas in a similar way to Super Mario 64 in that you have large open areas with several different challenges that slightly change the way that each area functions. This does serve to extend the game life further, but manages to do so without feeling like it’s forced. Each level has certain areas that you only see or interact with by playing the later iterations of the stages, which manages to feel like the Super Mario 64 formula but pumped up to 1000% the size.
Visual wise the game looks amazing, everything has overly rounded edges and looks like a cartoon, with bright vibrant colours. Everything has the theme of chickens and sunlight, especially in the earlier levels, and in some ways looks similar to certain levels from Sonic Heroes (not that odd, considering it’s by the same developer and was released 3 months after this game). The music also fits quite well with the theme, being very active and upbeat for the most part, with occasional more epic sounding music for boss fights and tense moments.
Overall: A great title with a bit of an odd concept that is worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for more games to add to your GameCube collections.
The bad games are starting to come a little more frequently now…did that give away what I thought of this one too early? Bionic Commando is a reboot of an NES and arcade title with the same name from 1987, and was made during the early years of the reboot craze that we still find ourselves in to this day. It was developed by Grin and published by Capcom off the back of their remake of the original game in 2008, and was released for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC in 2009.
The game is pretty atrocious, and this is immediately noticeable from the outset, thanks partially to the completely terrible voice acting of the main character and partially thanks to a story so clichéd that it might as well have been imagined by the player. You are a robot armed bionic commando in prison for being too dangerous, and are released because you agree to take a new mission from your hard-bitten commander, basically it’s Rambo 2 with a robot arm. As I mentioned earlier, the voice of the main character completely ruins any chance the story had of being taken seriously, he sounds like a Nu-Metal band front man trying to take a shit.
Now on to the gameplay, what I’m actually here for, and I am upset to report that it is terrible. The gameplay is based around the fact that you have a robot arm that you can use as a grappling hook to swing around the city, something that was amazing in games like Spider-Man 2 and Just Cause 2. However, the swinging is like the worst thing in the universe, there is no connection between the momentum you have when you start a swing and how fast you go during or after a swing. Although it might sound like a slight niggle, it’s a real problem because it makes the swinging impossible to control, sometimes it feels like you should swing gently through the air and softly land on a nearby ledge, but instead you shoot off the end of the grapple hook at the speed of sound and straight into a wall.
The level design is completely linear, but for some reason there’s an overworld that looks and acts like a sandbox. It seems like you can go anywhere in the city that you’re put straight into, but actually you only have a single linear corridor to travel down that is sectioned off with areas of deadly radiation. I do hasten to point out that these radiation sections do not appear on the map at all and the first time you’ll know about them is when you swing into them at full speed and instantly die. Other than these open overworld style sections, you do occasionally enter buildings like flat blocks or warehouses, but these are no different really, they’re just a linear selection of rooms that you punch and shoot your way through until you get out the other side again.
Another major issue, on the PC version at least, is the enormous waiting times for the loading screens. They appear every time you die or move between sections, and considering how annoying some areas are to get past, they’re liable to make you want to punch something. Fortunately, the combat system isn’t too bad, so there’s at least something to the game that isn’t the worst thing since E.T. on the Atari. You have a variety of different guns which all work basically the same, but the real fun in combat comes from the robot arm. You have heavy attacks, light attacks, attacks that launch
your enemies into the air, you can throw objects and people around to send them smashing into each other, and you can also grapple something and send yourself flying at them so you can repeatedly kick them in the teeth, which is very satisfying.
Unfortunately, as most of the game is spent outside in the linear city, enemies tend to require you to use the guns over the punches and kicks because you’ll get shot the second you get into an enemy’s range, and in large groups they can reduce you to a bloody pulp in seconds. This does mean that you spend more time shooting than using the robo-arm, and that’s a massive shame considering how many games there are that you can already shoot people in.
Musically and graphically the game is nothing to write home about, it feels very much designed by a committee in that it is similar to 100s of other games that came out around the same time and really has nothing special to set it apart.
Overall: Even as a fan of the original, there’s nothing much for you here. It’s not bad enough to laugh at and not good enough to enjoy, truly the worst of both worlds.
Blinx the Time Sweeper 1&2
Okay, so this game is another one with a bit of a weird concept, admittedly not as weird as Billy Hatcher or as Ape Escape, but still pretty damn weird. You play a cat with a vacuum cleaner who has to traverse time and space to sweep up all the junk left there. You also have the power to effect time on a smaller scale, things like rewinding, fast forwarding, and pausing, as well as the standard time slow down/bullet time thing that lots of games have had before. So basically, if Prince of Persia starred a cat and was shit, then you’d basically have this game.
Blinx was developed by Artoon exclusively for the original Xbox and was supposed to launch the titular character Blinx as the official mascot for the console, something that thankfully never took off. The game sold too poorly and these days people rarely seem to know anything about this game, let alone the strange character that inhabits it.
The main point of the game is to visit different places and times to destroy all the monsters that are there before they run away again through another portal in time. Basically, you act as a cleaner for time, but that subtitle didn’t sound as good. To activate your different powers there are crystals scattered throughout the levels that you must collect in groups of 4 to activate your powers or get more health. The problem with this crystal system is that you have to collect at least 3 of 1 type of crystal to unlock a power or health bonus, however since the crystals are almost always scattered at random you have to be really careful to make sure that you collect just the crystals for the power you want or need to use.
Since combat is the main focus, it’s honestly usually better to just ignore the crystals and the powers. Excluding the few moments where you need them to solve a puzzle or to keep progressing, the powers give you no bonuses towards finishing the levels so you might as well not bother, at least that’s how I felt while I played the game. For combat, you have to suck up pieces of garbage randomly placed in the level and fire them at enemies until they explode into a shower of pointless crystals.
The biggest downfall of the game is just how slow and cumbersome it feels. Firstly, the game’s tutorial works by freezing the game each time you come across a new element and then drawing a big red circle around the new thing while the game explains it to you via a text box. Frankly, this is one of the worst tutorials I have ever played. Secondly, the game feels the need to pause every time you use a time power, I suppose this is to get you ready to continue playing the game, but 3 seconds of freeze frame just feels unnecessary. The final and worst symptom of the slow speed of the game is the hit system. When you take damage, you permanently lose the health token you had and the game pauses and rewinds painstakingly slowly while playing a ridiculously grating rewind sound effect, and this happens every single time you take damage. You also don’t get any of your health back after a game over, fortunately like many games of the time there was no ‘lives’ system, but it doesn’t do much to make the game feel better.
The levels are at first short and simple, practically a god send with this game, but once you get past the first boss and into the second world, the levels become much longer and the requirements for killing some of the enemies too difficult to feel like it’s worth doing. By the time you finish the second boss and move on to the next world, you will probably want to give up playing, and honestly I cannot blame you. If I hadn’t been obligated to play the game for this series, I would have quit before I ever finished the first level.
The second game’s primary difference is that it has 2 separate campaigns, one for the cats which plays just like the first game, and a more stealth based campaign for the pigs where you have to sneak your way around most of the levels. The controls are still stiff and unusable, and the game is animated about as well as Sonic ’06. Nothing could possibly have made the game worth producing a sequel.
Overall: A series that belongs in the bottom of the bargain bucket at a 2nd hand game store, and there it should stay forever. Seriously, don’t play it.