art, games

Sub-Terrania Bits

sub terrania header Sub Terrania Bits

Sub-Terrania is a physics based, side-view shooter in vein of such titles as Thurst and Gravity Force. It was developed by Zyrinx, a studio composed of demo scene veterans, and was a difficult but enjoyable Genesis title.

Bullets:

  • Sub-Terrania has something of a photo-realistic aesthetic that’s also reflected in its gameplay. The physics require pin-point thrusts due to limited fuel supplies, gravity drags down projectiles, momentum dictates collision damage, attachable items add extra weight and inertia, etc.

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    Sub-Terrania doesn't wait too long before throwing large bosses at the player.

  • Although there are only 3 tile-sets for all the maps, each level contains unique puzzles and visuals. These can vary anywhere from a laser-reflecting mirror to a giant hopping robot. Although the functionality of these elements is reused, none of the assets ever appear twice, and even the enemies and environmental objects are changed up pretty frequently.

    All these concepts make for a very nice, non-repetitive experience where the player knows something new is lurking around every turn.

  • All the destructible elements are man/alien made, and are composed of dozens of tiny tiles. Each one of these tiles has its own collision box and health value, adding granularity and creating a very gradual and satisfying sense to the destruction.
  • The overall game can be quite unforgiving. The ship’s shields are drained whenever it comes in contact with anything on the map (except when landing on flat surfaces which provide a much needed respite), the player’s shots can destroy precious powerups, and — unfortunately — the level maps only are only shown in between stages.

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    This installation will go down one tiny brick at a time.

  • Whenever the player’s ship explodes, it releases a shower of particles. Each one of these obeys collision checks and plays a sound effect whenever it comes in contact with the environment, putting a cacophonous exclamation point on the player’s death.
  • If the player runs out of fuel, his ship begins to billow out smoke and proceeds to plummet to its demise (all the while accounting for its previous trajectory). In this state, the ship blows up as soon as it touches anything, which can happen mercifully quick or last quite a few seconds.

    The small touch creates a dreadful but aesthetically pleasing game death effect.

  • Some of the enemies’ physical attacks carry a tremendous force that can send the player rocketing across the map (often to an almost-instant death). These moments can be quite surprising considering the somewhat plodding pace of the game, and add a menacing touch to the numerous adversaries.
  • As the player journeys further and further underground, satellite data becomes increasingly sparse. At first, key locations on the map stop being pinpointed, but soon the mission-goals themselves become garbled up, and eventually the briefings disappear altogether. Rather organically, this creates a feeling of foreboding and also reinforces a sense of progression.

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    Although pretty, the increased gravity and the underwater sections make the last few levels the most difficult in the game.

  • The last levels of the game increase the pull of gravity, but also introduce underwater areas that constantly drag the player’s buoyant ship to the surface. Although the player can obtain an item that — when manually used — pressurizes the ship and temporarily inverts its underwater handling, it’s only of small aid (especially when the water is eventually replaced by hazardous pools of acid).
  • Early on in the 9th and final stage, the player can obtain an item that grants him unlimited fuel. This is an extremely helpful and empowering upgrade, especially considering the game-wide scarcity of the resource.
  • In something of a twist on punishing the player, the end-game boss battle is not restarted if the player dies. Instead, if there are any lives left, the ship simply respawns right in the middle of the fight.

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games

Ecco the Dolphin Bits

Ecco the Dolphin ended up becoming a mini-franchise for Sega, but the titular catacean’s first appearance — and probably the most memorable one — was originally on the Genesis.

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Ecco and his playful pod.

EtD is a side-scrolling adventure game that’s quite difficult and possesses some clunky mechanics, but it’s still a very interesting and enjoyable experience. The notable bits:

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games

Monster World IV Bits

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Arsha and her sidekick.

Monster World IV is something of a semi-official sequel to Wonder Boy 5: Monster World 3. It’s a cutesy, large-sprited side-scroller in which the player takes on the role of a young girl named Arsha.

The game is mostly a linear platformer with some rudimentary puzzles and RPG elements, but its highlight is the cute little sidekick Pepe. It’s easy to initially assume that Pepe will help you fight the various enemies you encounter, but he never actually attacks anyone. Instead, he can be used to help Arsha traverse the game’s environments. This might not sound like a big deal, but the there’s lots of variety here:

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