Mini Review: “Dullahan” (Freeware Computer Game)

2016 Artwork Dullahan review sketch

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a rather interesting little freeware game called “Dullahan” which was made in just ten days by someone called “Like A Hundred Bears”.

Dullahan title screen

One of the first things that I will say about “Dullahan” is that it’s very reminiscent of the old “Castlevania” games (the “Game Boy” version especially) – if you have fond memories of these games, then you’ll feel right at home when playing “Dullahan”.

In this game, you play as a headless warrior (armed with a whip) who must solve puzzles and fight monsters in order to find his head again.

 Insert Iron Maiden "Eddie The Head" joke here,

Insert Iron Maiden “Eddie The Head” joke here,

In terms of the gameplay, one innovative feature in this game is that you can carry items on top of your neck. This forms the basis for several simple puzzles throughout the game and there are a variety of different items that you can carry, such as keys (which have to be thrown into locked doors), rocks (for activating switches) and bombs (which need to be activated by jumping into one of the torches in the background).

You're holding a candle and there's a bomb below those crumbling blocks. The challenge in this puzzle is working out where to throw the candle from.

You’re holding a candle and there’s a bomb below those crumbling blocks. The challenge in this puzzle is working out where to throw the candle from.

As for the monsters and the combat, it’s fairly similar to “Castlevania”. It takes you a second or two to swing your whip, so good timing is essential.

However, most of the monsters have fairly predictable movement and attack patterns that you’ll learn fairly quickly. So, with the exception of flying skulls that you have to dodge sometimes, the combat is – for the most part at least- not too challenging:

Well, except for THESE bloody things!

Well, except for THESE bloody things!

In truly epic “Castlevania” fashion, you find health power-ups by whipping gravestones and picking up the skull that falls out of them. However, there are only a couple of health power-ups in the game, so try not to rely on them too much.

I guess you could say that I was DEAD lucky to find this power-up. Haw haw haw!

I guess you could say that I was DEAD lucky to find this power-up. Haw haw haw!

Like old platform games, “Dullahan” doesn’t really feature a proper saving system. Instead, it uses a fairly basic form of checkpoint saving. But, since the whole game can be completed in under an hour, this isn’t really a huge issue.

Interestingly, this game is also compatible with the XBox and the PS3, but not having one of these modern consoles, I played it on the PC. Like all good 2D platform games, the PC controls are strictly keyboard-only 🙂

Yay! There's none of that "aiming with the mouse" rubbish here!

Yay! There’s none of that “aiming with the mouse” rubbish here!

For the most part, the controls are fairly simple, although the mechanic of pressing “up” and “c” to throw objects can be a tiny bit clunky and imprecise occasionally.

Musically, the game is fairly good and a lot of the background music is suitably reminiscent of the old “Castlevania” games.

All in all, this is a fun little game that’s worth checking out if you’re in a nostalgic mood or if you just want to enjoy playing an old-school platformer for half an hour or so.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Advertisements

Review: “Treasure Adventure Game” (Freeware Computer Game)

2015 Artwork Treasure Adventure Game review sketch

The old saying that you should “never judge a book by it’s cover” doesn’t just apply to books, it also applies to computer games too.

After I signed up to GoG a few months ago, I noticed that one of the freeware games on offer was a game from 2011 called “Treasure Adventure Game” ( this game is also available from several other sites that are linked to on the developer’s website).

Anyway, since “Treasure Adventure Game” had a rather generic title and some rather simplistic cover art, I passed it by and looked at other games. But, after reading that it was actually a 1990s-style 2D platform game, I just had to check it out and write a review.

Before I go any further, I should point out that – at the time of writing this review – I’ve only completed about 53% of the game. Since the game is both fairly long and quite non-linear, I’ve seen a fair amount of what it has to offer. Even so, this review only reflects my impressions of the game so far. This review may also contain some mild SPOILERS too.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Treasure Adventure Game”:

treasure adventure title screen

In “Treasure Adventure Game”, you play as the son of an explorer who disappeared ten years ago after going on an expedition with both you and his friend Baggus to recover twelve ancient treasures.

After the treasures were collected, there was an explosion which scattered them around the world (and also injured your character badly enough that his right hand had to be replaced with a grappling hook). Since Baggus didn’t know how to care for a young child, he left you on the doorstep of an elderly couple who raised you as their own.

Anyway, ten years later – you are given a treasure map by your adoptive mother and it soon becomes clear that you need to explore the world and recover the twelve treasures once again…..

I really haven’t done the story of this game justice in this summary. Although the story starts off fairly simply, there’s a pretty large backstory to this game that you will uncover as you play more of it.

Seriously, “Treasure Adventure Game” has got the most well-developed backstory that I’ve seen since I played “The Longest Journey” back in 2011. But, I don’t want to spoil too much more of the plot….

Plus, it also breaks the fourth wall at least once...

Plus, it also breaks the fourth wall at least once…

One of the first things I will say about “Treasure Adventure Game” is that it isn’t your typical platform game.

Yes, if you played a lot of 2D platform games back in the 90s, then quite a lot of this game will be fairly familiar. But, although platforming is a large part of the game – there’s also quite a lot of emphasis on exploration and, well, adventure.

In many ways, “Treasure Adventure Game” is more like a RPG than a platformer, since you’ll be spending a lot of time exploring the game’s gigantic world (which consists of a collection of islands that you can sail between).

Early in the game, you’ll find a compass which you can use in conjunction with maps in order to find the different treasures. This is a really cool system since, although the game tells you where you probably should go – it doesn’t really push you in any one direction:

The compass is in the top right corner of the screen and each map you find will give you a new set of X and Y co-ordinates.

The compass is in the top right corner of the screen and each map you find will give you a new set of X and Y co-ordinates.

Although some parts of this world are inaccessible early in the game ( until you find certain items- like a sail that will allow you to cross more turbulent parts of the sea ), you’ll soon be able to explore the whole world and this means that you can find the treasures in pretty much any order that you want to. You can also just wander around and explore if you want to.

So, “Treasure Adventure Game” is a lot less linear than you might expect. Seriously, it reminded me a lot of the old “Zelda” games on the SNES and the Gameboy – hell, even the items screen is very “Zelda”-like:

Now, where did I put that boomerang?

Now, where did I put that boomerang?

As for the platforming parts of the game, they’re really good. I’ve seen this game described as being fiendishly difficult on the internet, but it really isn’t. It’s about as difficult as platform games typically were back in the 1990s. Yes, it’s much more challenging than most other modern games probably are, but it’s no worse than most actual 1990s platformers were.

So, yes, there will be times when you’ll end up shouting four-letter words at your computer screen in frustration – but, if you played a lot of platform games back in the 90s, then this game will also be refreshingly nostalgic and refreshingly challenging.

Plus, this level reminded me a lot of Paganitzu. Does anyone else remember that game?

Plus, this level reminded me a lot of Paganitzu. Does anyone else remember that game?

Plus, like many great 1990s platform games – “Treasure Adventure Game” also contains a variety of interesting level bosses that often have to be defeated in very specific ways. Most of the time, it’s fairly easy to work out what you’re supposed to do to defeat the bosses, but don’t expect to defeat most of the bosses on your first try…

This is an optional boss that you can find near the beginning of the game. He's frustratingly difficult to defeat... and he isn't even the most challenging boss in the game.

This is an optional boss that you can find near the beginning of the game. He’s frustratingly difficult to defeat… and he isn’t even the most challenging boss in the game.

One other cool thing about the platforming parts of this game is that the gameplay is fairly varied. Yes, you’ll have to fight monsters and make lots of split-second jumps – but these parts of the game also contain a lot of innovative puzzles and gameplay mechanics that stop the game from being too repetitive.

To give you an example, in one part of the game, you’ll enter a cave that is filled with living mushrooms. Some of these mushrooms try to jump into you. When they do, this happens…

They're magic mushrooms alright, but NOT the "Super Mario" kind...

They’re magic mushrooms alright, but NOT the “Super Mario” kind…

At first, this is more of an amusing annoyance than anything else. However, a bit later in the level, you’ll start to notice that extra platforms appear when you’re hallucinating.

These platforms also disappear when you stop hallucinating (after about ten or fifteen seconds). So, not only do you have to jump across these platforms quickly, but you also have to do it when your character is tripping the light fantastic. Needless to say, this adds a lot of challenge and variety to the gameplay in this level.

However, although the gameplay in “Treasure Adventure Game” is enjoyably challenging, it can also be annoyingly confusing at times. Seriously, this is pretty much the only platform game I’ve played where I’ve actually had to consult walkthrough guides on the internet. So, it was obviously at least slightly inspired by old “point and click” games…

One other great thing about “Treasure Adventure Game” is the soundtrack. Seriously, this game contains some of the best music that I’ve ever heard in a 2D platform game. Seriously, it’s the only game I’ve played where I’ve actually looked forward to the boss fights because of the epic music that plays in the background.

All in all, “Treasure Adventure Game” is amazing! Don’t be put off by the generic title, this game is one of the most unique (and yet familiar) games that you’ll ever play. It’s got a compelling story, a vast explorable world, amazing music and great gameplay that could have been taken directly from the 1990s.

Seriously, I wish that more modern games were like this one. It’s also completely free and will run on pretty much any computer, so there’s no excuse not to play it…

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a six.

Review: “Bio Menace” (Freeware Retro Computer Game)

2014 Artwork Bio Menace Review sketch

Despite being both a massive fan of action platform games and of classic Apogee/3D Realms games ever since I was a kid, I didn’t actually play “Bio Menace” for the first time until I was about eighteen. Yes, I know, I should have been playing this game when I was eight – but I unfortunately hadn’t heard of it back then.

Anyway, I was trying to clear some space on my hard disk when I rediscovered my old copy of “Bio Menace” and decided to review it. You can get the full version of the game as freeware from the 3D Realms website – although you’ll probably need to use DOSBox to play it. Although 3D Realms now seems to be hosting a revamped version of the game on their site, this review is of the original version from the early-mid 90s.

Although I played “Bio Menace” quite a bit a few years ago, I only really had a chance to re-play it (using my old saved games) for about an hour before writing this review – so this review reflects both of these facts.

Anyway, let’s get started:

Yes, this game is gloriously retro AND badass!

Yes, this game is gloriously retro AND badass!

In “Bio Menace”, you play as a CIA operative called Snake Logan, who is ordered to fly a plane into Metro City (*cough* Escape From New York *Cough*) in order to stop an evil scheme by the fiendish Dr. Mangle .

Dr. Mangle formerly worked with the US government on an secret project called Operation Bug Glow, which was a series of experiments aimed at enlarging various insects for unknown reasons. However, Dr. Mangle “spliced some very violent genes into the mix” and has used his newly-created army of evil mutants to take over Metro city.

But, as Snake flies his plane into Metro city, it is shot down by one of Dr. Mangle’s robots and he must fight his way through the city and rescue as many survivors as possible.

Ah, remember the days when the story was an add-on to the gameplay rather than the other way round....

Ah, remember the days when the story was an add-on to the gameplay rather than the other way round….

Like most of Apogee’s games, “Bio Menace” is split up into three individual episodes – so you basically get “three games for the price of one” when you download this game.

Another cool feature is that you can “practice” any level in the game- this is basically a level select feature which allows you to select a level and play it for exactly 15 seconds. The time limit is kind of annoying, but I guess that they didn’t want people to feel that they’re cheating.

Yes, you can select ANY level... for only fifteen seconds.

Yes, you can select ANY level… for only fifteen seconds.

It also seems like “Bio Menace” uses the same game engine that Apogee used for “Commander Keen 4 -6“. How do I know this? Well, in case you haven’t noticed yet, just take a look at the game menu. It’s a heavily modified version of the one from “Commander Keen 4”:

But WHERE is "Paddle War"?

But WHERE is “Paddle War”?

The gameplay is, as you would expect, classic action platformer gameplay. You have to explore non-linear levels, fight monsters and find keys in order to progress.

One interesting feature of this game is that you also have to rescue a survivor in every level too.

Like this one.

Like this one.

And, before certain well-known critics on the internet start complaining that this is a “damsel in distress” game mechanic – there are a fairly equal mixture of male and female survivors that have to be rescued. Yes, the company that created “Duke Nukem” can actually be more progressive than some critics give them credit for.

See!

See!

The level design in “Bio Menace” is reasonably good and there are a moderately interesting variety of settings on offer here – such as cities, forests and robot bases.

But, whilst this game features the kind of non-linear level design that makes 90s games better than most modern ones, the levels are all relatively small when compared to some other Apogee games (eg: the old 2D “Duke Nukem” games). So, by 90s standards, “Bio Menace” is a fairly easy game – even if it’s still a fairly challenging game by modern standards.

But, the small levels are made up for by the many fiendishly difficult adversaries that you will have to fight. Many of these are fairly tough and require a decent amount of firepower to destroy, some can only be killed by grenades and some are best dodged rather than fought.

...And if you've seen the movie "Critters", you'll recognise the creature at the bottom of the screen.

…And if you’ve seen the movie “Critters”, you’ll recognise the creature at the bottom of the screen.

Another interesting feature of “Bio Menace” is the sheer array of weaponry that you can find throughout the game. Your default machine gun can only fire in short bursts, but you can find a powerup that will give you 100 rounds of fully automatic fire.

This can be combined with another power-up that quintuples the damage that your bullets do (although this power-up can be used on it’s own too). Plus, you can also find a power-up that converts your machine gun into a laser gun.

There’s also a secret weapon too – if you hold the “up” arrow for long enough, you will hear a strange sound – if you then hit the “fire” button, Snake will fire a large green energy pulse out of his gun. This is cool, but it comes at the cost of several health points every time you use it:

It's SO awesome, that you will actually disappear for a second when you use it!

It’s SO awesome, that you will actually disappear for a second when you use it!

But that isn’t the coolest thing about the weapons in this game. No, you get grenades too. This is literally the only 90s platformer (for the PC, at least) that I can think of where you can actually throw grenades at things.

Yes, you can throw grenades here. (And.. wow... Cosmo the alien has really let himself go in this game)

Yes, you can throw grenades here. (And.. wow… Cosmo the alien has really let himself go in this game)

As well as “ordinary” grenades, you can also find incindiary grenades which will set fire to anything within a certain radius and land mines that you can place on the ground too.

Although the text that appears when you pick up the land mines for the first time is probably, well, slightly ill-advised from a modern perspective:

"Cool! Land Mines!" ... Yeah, this game probably would be made these days....

“Cool! Land Mines!” … Yeah, this game probably would be made these days….

Still, “Bio Menace” absolutely littered with cool easter eggs. Although I didn’t get round to rediscovering most of them when I briefly re-played it for this review, you can find references to most of Apogee’s other games hidden in each episode. And, for a 90s geek like myself, this is absolutely heavenly!

Awww... It's a yorp! :)

Awww… It’s a yorp! 🙂

Even though, like most Apogee/3D Realms games, “Bio Menace” thankfully doesn’t take itself very seriously – it’s slightly more “gritty” than most early-mid 90s action platformers are.

In fact, this game was one of the earliest games to include FPS-style ludicrous gibs whenever you kill a monster. Every creature that you destroy will explode into a satisfying pile of bones and body parts – seriously, not even the old 2D Duke Nukem games included this!

Splatterific!

Splatterific!

In addition to this, the very first level of the game is literally littered with the corpses of everyone who didn’t survive the initial assault by Dr. Mangle’s mutants. Seriously, for a kids’ game from the early 90s, this is refreshingly dark and it just makes me wish that I’d actually played this when I was a kid in the 90s even more.

Yes, kids. Alien mutant invasions aren't all fun and games...

Yes, kids. Alien mutant invasions aren’t all fun and games…

All in all, “Bio Menace” is a game which sums up why games from the 90s are still much cooler than most modern games are.

Yes, in terms of level design, graphics and/or gameplay, it isn’t quite as good as other games from the time (like “Duke Nukem II”), but it’s still an incredibly fun and cheesy game which is worth checking out if you love platform games.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.