Arch Rivals: The Arcade Game Review (1989)

Arch Rivals’ game play focuses on two-on-two, no rules basketball. On offense, you just have to dribble the ball to the opposing team’s hoop and make the shot. The physics of shooting are a little quirky – shots have a tendency of scoring or missing with about the same probability no matter where you take the shot. A shot from midway between half court and the three-point line has about the same chance as a shot taken from the free throw line. In fact, dunks go down with about the same frequency as a three pointer, even if no one is anywhere near you. This gives the game a more Arcade-like feel, but it also has the effect of completely castrating the game in terms of strategic game play. All you have to do is get to the opposing team’s side and get open; it doesn’t really matter where you take the shot.


If that was Arch Rivals’ only problem, it would still be somewhat playable. But in a terrible design decision, the developers programmed in short animated cut-scenes after each score. If the opposing team scores on you, you might see their coach cheering, or when your team scores you might see him yelling. Every so often you’ll see cheerleaders or the referee instead. These cut-scenes are fairly well done in a cartoony and slightly humorous sort of way, but they completely disrupt the flow of the game. Instead of being able to smoothly transition into offense or defense, you have to watch a meaningless animation clip. It’s very rare that a game is crippled by a severe design flaw that isn’t even in the game play, but Arch Rivals shows that it’s possible.

Both the graphics and music are of average quality. Aside from the four ugly and slightly deformed players running around fighting for the ball, there’s no animation in the game. The crowd doesn’t do the wave, cheer, or anything. There’s actually no crowd at all, just ten or so bored looking guys (which portends how you’ll probably feel about the game). The player animations are adequate, and the screen does manage to scroll back and forth smoothly to keep up with the action. Arch Rivals has no sound effects at all, and uses a bland little tune to cover up that deficiency. That tune happens to be four seconds long, so it gets played over and over. Needless to say, it gets annoying almost immediately.

Graphics

Unimpressive graphics of average quality.

Sound

The game has no sound effects and repeats its music too often.

Enjoyment

The game play’s flow is harshly disrupted by the cut-scenes that play after each score.

Replay Value

There are several teams to choose from, but they don’t have much in the way of noticeable differences.

Documentation

Average documentation.

The Humans PC Review (puzzle game)

One of the immediate things you notice about The Humans when you first start to play is an inescapable comparison to the highly successful title by Psygnosis, namely Lemmings. Although somewhat similar in style as far as looks go, comparison of the on-screen critters reveals a vast difference. In The Humans you’ve got a much greater vested interest in having your tribe survive; forget those cute rodents. After all, you’re responsible for the mere evolution of mankind and must pave the way to dominance over all other creatures, large and small. There are, however, remarkable similarities between the two games. First, you progress through The Humans screen by screen by solving coordination and logic problems. Second, your actions are timed. Third, you’re given “level” codes upon completion of each level that allow you to continue from that point. There are no save games per se in the game during the action. Eighty successively difficult levels await you in any one of three skill levels.

In order to lead your tribes down the primrose path of successful evolution, you’ll periodically pick up new and better tools of “civilization”. Beginning with the discovery of the spear (for offensive/defensive use and as a fulcrum to leap with), your arsenal continues to expand with the advent of fire (the torch), the rope, the wheel and lastly the witch doctor. The introduction of the wise (and sometimes not too friendly shaman) is a delightful addition to the game, as he can be as destructive as he is helpful. An important aspect of the game that requires almost immediate mastering is the “stacking” technique that allows your humans to gain access to areas otherwise unattainable. The graphics in The Humans are not the prettiest in computerdom but they are humorously rendered even though the level of detail isn’t quite as precise as you might want. The game contains a “forget-it-let-me-try-again” feature which comes in very handy when you realize your progress in any given level is beyond hope. Running out of time on the level causes you to lose a human from your tribe but for each second you finish early, you receive ten points. Final score of each level is a simple matter of multiplying the surviving number of humans by the level number with the result multiplied by ten. Although an artificial scoring system at best, it does give you something to shoot for in replays.

A cleverly written, informative and amusing manual is worthy of mention, as is the unobtrusive yet strangely hypnotic music score. One definite flaw in the game is the nearly total lack of any significant sound effects. In a game that features strenuous activities like those found in The Humans, whether it be dinosaur bashing or war cries, the oversight is obvious and detracts in a small way from the game’s otherwise healthy enjoyment quotient. The Humans is not a quick walk in the park as some of the logic puzzles and coordination schemes are definitely diabolical in design. But then no one ever said evolution was easy.

Graphics

Not as detailed and sharp as they might have been but adequate.

Sound

The music is non-invasive and complements the gameplay wonderfully. However, low marks are awarded for the singular lack of sound effects.

Enjoyment

Fans of Lemmings will feel a sense of déjà vu but The Humans rates high on it’s own merit. It’s one of those games where the night fades away as you yell at the screen: “Just one more try!”

Replay Value

With 80 levels and 3 skill options, replay won’t be necessary for quite a time. When it is, there’s enough fun packaged here to make it a repeatable experience.

Documentation

Clever, informative, humorous, short and to the point.

Alone in the Dark Review [DOS]

Based on the writings of the popular H. P. Lovecraft, I-Motion’s Alone in the Dark stands as a classic horror title that is certain to please PC fans.

Alone in the Dark presents players with a choice of two characters to select, namely, the respected Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood, niece of the deceased Jeremy Hartwood. The game takes place in the Hartwood mansion, Derceto, a large and grand mansion that houses the many tales of horror that have taken place within. As one of the characters, players are given the task of investigating the mansion to uncover what really happened to Hartwood and to uncover the secrets that lie deep within Derceto.

The cinematic camera angles provide an intense sense of suspense in the game. There are up to nine different camera angles in each room which switch at random. However, as in most action/adventure titles, the “fixed” camera can more times than not lead to some incredibly irritating angles that hinder you from being able to fully enjoy the game. Players will be blinded by an object that will block an oncoming monster and so forth. This is easily the biggest problem with Alone in the Dark.

Graphically, the game is a gem. Full polygonal players and environments provide a sense of realism that adds to the serious theme of the game. The player models are a bit chunky and seem mis-proportioned but this is a minor complaint.

As to sound, the game is very moody. The music changes as the situation does and adds that slight feel of suspense that adds a great deal to the title. The creepy sound effects will have you looking over your own shoulder at times to see what’s behind you. The main thing that detracts from the sound is the voices. They seem to lack emotion and when the game needs emotion the most, the characters seem to let us down.

All in all, this title is a classic. With a deep plot and gameplay to boot, I-Motion’s Alone in the Dark is one title every PC gamer should have.

Rating: 70/100