Welcome to the twelfth installment of a semi-regular feature here at GameCritics.com—the Bargain Basement. It's as sure as death or taxes that anyone who takes up videogaming will find themselves rooting through a bargain bin at one point or another. For those that do, few things feel as satisfying as saving hard-earned cash and getting a gem of a game at the same time.
The titles covered below can usually be found online or in any shop with a selection of used or discount games, most often for $20 or less! Please keep in mind that because the selections in this feature may be older and not available on the latest hardware; and it's assumed that the graphics aren't bleeding-edge. The final scores for each title are based on a modified scale that takes this into account, and does not compare them to today's visual and technological standards. Gameplay is ultimately what we're talking about here.
Happy hunting, and more importantly, happy gaming!
Shooter: Space Shot
Developer: Cyber Dreams
Buy Used $7.99!
Leading off the Basement this month—and with a nod to the good folks at Shmups.com—is the budget-priced Space Shot. Agetec was evidently able to save a bundle on advertising and marketing with such a plain-sounding title, but they sure do pass the savings on down to us, the consumers, by delivering a very enjoyable title for mere pennies.
A horizontal shooter in the classic style, the player is put in control of a spaceship blasting hordes of airborne enemies, with large boss battles at the end of each area. This in itself is not surprising, but it does have some noteworthy features in addition to its timeless formula.
Personally, I liked the fact that the ship comes loaded for bear from square one, with no worrying about collecting powerups and such. Equipped with a better-than-average arsenal, you've got a Vulcan cannon, a flexible missile system, a super-powerful laser, and a defensive boost maneuver. By removing the weapon collection/loss mechanic common to most shooters, the focus is put on the technique of your capable machine. There are even a series of optional puzzle-like challenges available for honing your skills outside the main game.
The other thing worth noting is that Space Shot interlaces gameplay with an interesting dose of cutscenes. The CG features some of the ugliest character models I've ever seen in a game, but I still appreciated the effort. The attempt to add a bit of depth was nice, even though the plot made no sense whatsoever, and it made my eyes hurt to watch.
Short and sweet, Space Shot is a great way to get your trigger finger warmed up, and finding another shooter on the shelves is always a good thing.
For something with a similar fast-action vibe, yet a little further off the beaten path, Space Raiders from Taito is a great afternoon's diversion.
The new-age update to the seminal arcade classic Space Invaders (you have heard of it, right?), it does a great job of retooling the core persona while jazzing up everything else for today's audience.
Instead of a ship, you have three humans to pick from. Replace the old space background with alleys and warehouses, and tilt the entire thing so that you're looking at it from behind-the-back instead of top-down. Throw in some minor power-ups and a dodge maneuver and voila, you've got Space Raiders.
Besides the drastic facelift and new mechanics, the gameplay is extremely faithful to the source material. The enemies come in waves, just like they did years ago, and the action is just as intense. It may look different, but my hands instantly recognized it for what it really is, and it was a good feeling. Be warned that it's a simple, straightforward affair, but you can't really expect anything else when it announces its heritage so proudly on the box cover.
My only real complaint about the game is that there aren't any bonuses or historical materials giving props to the original game. I would have loved to see the arcade version of Space Invaders tucked away somewhere, or even some sort of homage, like playing the new game with 3D representations of the original graphics. Still, it does have 2P co-op (in a really tough no-continue mode) and it's decently priced. In my opinion, this is a pretty good imitation of one of the oldest shoot-'em-ups without the ship, but its heart is clearly in the right spot.
Slowing things down a bit (though still fast-paced, as far as RPGs go) is Squaresoft's Parasite Eve. With the advent of polygons, many pundits have commented that the 32-bit era is the first in history where the games are simply too ugly and crude to go back to. In my opinion, this is largely true, but Parasite Eve is one of the exceptions to that sad, sad rule.
Hyped as Square's "next big thing" back in '98, it met with moderate success, yet failed to make a lasting impression. Its sequel had even less impact. To be perfectly honest, it didn't strike a chord with me, but after revisiting it at the advice of a friend, I have a newfound appreciation for the ideas behind it. Looking back, I think the game may have been a little too far ahead of its time.
A strange, yet pleasant mix of RPG and action elements, Parasite Eve stars svelte blonde detective Aya Brea. Assigned to investigate the circumstances behind a mass spontaneous combustion, she delves into the mysterious world of cellular organisms and the game's titular villainess, Eve.
A fan of games set in real-world locales (or at least, semi-real), I was drawn in by Square's version of New York City, Central Park and all. The plot itself ended up being typically overcomplicated , with some amnesia tossed in, but the combat mechanics more than made up for it. Aya has biological powers that function like magic spells, and she uses guns and ammo for her standard mode of attack. She moves around the screen in real time after entering battle, with positioning and distance being factors in her combat effectiveness. At the same time, the system retains a menu-based structure, and the fights can be paused at any time to fiddle with items and such. It's a real half-breed, but it works marvelously well.
The game feels very early and rough in some places, produced before developers had fully grasped all the new intricacies of creating games in 3D. The little things like the lack of a map and some confusing level design are telltale signs. Regardless, it remains a well-paced, compact, and highly unconventional adventure game, well worth the time and effort, even when compared with today's crop of technological marvels.