Well bugger me. I went into the O'Neill shop in Portsmouth earlier today to see if they had any cheap clobber (they did'nt) and what do I spot on display? In the middle of the store? Only fecking Dreamcast games:
Yes, I got a few funny looks taking this photo with my phone
Granted, it was only 3 (sealed) copies of Championship Surfer and they were probably only there to make up some kind of retro chic display...but c'mon people - DC games in public view...in 2009! Amazing.
Anyway, seeing as it's been an aeon since I last added anything new to my Dreamcast collection, I went on eBay last week and made a few bids for games. Yep, games. Not laser pens or DC branded personal enema machines - games. And you know what? I actually won a few auctions! I was just as shocked, dear reader.
Whilst the games I got are hardly amazing, they're ones I've been after for a while but rarely surface:
The Next Tetris
OK, it's Tetris. On the Dreamcast. There's not much more to it than that - you have to make lines of blocks and they disappear (that description is solely for the 2.5 people on Earth who haven't played the thing in one guise or another). The 'Next' bit in the title refers to the slightly new mode they've tacked on that changes the behaviour of the blocks somewhat. In 'normal' Tetris, the blocks fall down, you make them vanish and the blocks above just hang there in place creating annoying gaps below them. In 'Next' Tetris, the fallen blocks will attach themselves to ones of a similar colour and become a whole unit. If a cluster falls that is made of two different colours, only the colour that doesn't attach itself to blocks already there will fall further down into any gaps. That sounds massively complicated, I know - but it really isn't.
Apart from the two main games ('Next' and normal old Tetris), there isn't much to write home about. There's a Marathon mode where you have to get rid of blocks that are already at the bottom of the screen and a self-explanatory Practice mode too. Annoyingly, The Next Tetris doesn't support VGA (even trying the old cable swap trick won't get you past the intro screens) so if you're using a HD TV expect to play in N64-style blur-o-vision, but the sound track is quite good (especially the techno remix of the classic Tetris tune). To be fair, there's not really a lot wrong with The Next Tetris - it is exactly what it sets out to be and nothing more - a perfectly acceptable port of a classic puzzler. It also appears that the NTSC version featured some sort of online functionality, whereas the option was left out of the PAL incarnation. Not that it makes much difference these days.
There was something slightly more interesting in the box, however:
It's one of those 'future releases' things that you occasionally find in the back section of the jewel case. Fairly standard stuff, except for the inclusion of an intriguing title that I've never heard of before:
Peacemakers? From looking at the tiny screenshot, it could have become what we now know as Conflict Zone, but still quite interesting. Sort of. Oh, and there's Arcatera and Heroes of Might and Magic 3, too:
Alas, it's all in French and I'm an ignorant English pig, so fuck knows what it actually says.
Another puzzle game, Namco's Mr Driller is something of a diversion from Soul Calibur - and then some. Basically, you play a super-deformed miner who has to dig down a shaft full of garishly coloured blocks. Dig under other blocks and they'll collapse on top of you and smash your pathetic body to a pulp. You also have to collect air tanks in order to stay alive the deeper you go into the crust. Again, my description leaves a lot to be desired, but it's really simple once you get the hang of it, and knowing which blocks to 'drill' becomes a test of strategy...dig in the wrong place and you'll get crushed by the subsequently falling ceiling. As the box-guff says, it takes a few minutes to learn how to play, but it'll take you bastarding ages to master, old chum (sic).
Took this myself. Can you tell?
Graphically, it's pretty basic - in fact at one point my Dreamcast went out for a fag whilst I was playing, but the charm here is in the simplistic nature of the visuals. It's highly stylised and borderline camp, but you can't help but love the overly twee characters and simplistic game play. One thing that slightly puzzled me was the bizarre soundtrack - it morphs from banging bass lines to Tokyo subway jingles in the space of a few seconds and then back again. Like I said - fucking weird. Thankfully, Mr Driller is fully VGA compatible so there's no need to mess about swapping cables over and it features several game-modes, although to be honest there's not much difference between them as they all boil down to drilling holes down the same identical shaft time and time again. Ultimately though, it's a solid puzzler and like Tetris, never promises anything it can't deliver. Good stuff all round.
Not a game we've ever mentioned here at the Junkyard, Nightmare Creatures 2 is a title Konami brought to our favourite box of wonder in favour of International Superstar Soccer or Castlevania*. Should be mind-blowingly good then, eh? Erm...not quite. Nightmare Creatures 2 is basically a 3D roaming beat 'em up that casts you in the role of a nutter trying to escape a mental asylum. Oh, and you've got an axe to chop other nutters' heads off with. There's some shitty back story attached to it (which probably also explains why the main protagonist is possibly the least likeable character ever to appear in a game), but in all fairness if you ever play this rotting sack of crap you'll be too stunned by the downright hideousness of the thing to care. That's right folks, Nightmare Creatures 2 is putrid.
"One skinny latte, sir. That'll be £2.30 please..."
Where to start? The graphics can only be described as PS One-like in their quality (above), and I'm not exaggerating: the character models are like Lego men, the floors and ceilings morph and tear as you shamble around and the thing is cursed with pixellation that wouldn't look out of place in DOOM running on a 386. Quite simply horrid. There is an option to turn on a graphical filter, but all that does is turn a PSX game into an N64 game. Elsewhere, the sound effects and music are non-existent and the controls are baffling: you run around with the analogue stick - fair enough - but for some reason the trigger buttons only become active when an enemy is in the immediate vicinity meaning you can't scroll through your collected items unless some badly animated box-man is trying to eat your face. Urgh. I could only play this turgid mess for about 20 minutes before I had to throw up, so you probably won't be surprised to read that I now have a new 'worst game on the Dreamcast.' Move over Army Men: Sarges Heroes, there's a new kid in town...
* Granted, Konami only published this dross, but you get the idea.