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Review: Strider for nes

Well, after I got excited and started work, I haven't actually done much recently.  I've been reworking the level loading code from Anguna, but there's still a good bit to do.  I'd really like to get some sample graphics into the engine so I can visualize things better, but that will still be awhile before any graphics are ready.

So until then, I'm still playing old nes games.  The most recent was Strider.  Strider is an interesting game:  it has a great concept, cool story and mechanics, a fun almost detective-style "find the next file of information to see where you can go next" thing.  Unfortunately, the game is riddled with problems.  The play control is glitchy and awful -- if you jump near a wall, often your jump immediately ends and you fall to the ground.  The hit detection is completely wacky.  In most cases, it doesn't really pay off to fight carefully, because you never know when the game will think you've made contact with the enemy, or if it's made contact with you and damaged you.  So you basically run around swinging your little sword thing (the game calls it a "cipher") and hoping you don't die.  This REALLY puts a damper on the fun's neat exploring new areas and figuring out where to go next, but it's no fun when you actually get there.

Overall, I enjoyed the game somewhat, but it was also moderately painful, fighting bosses that I had no idea if I was hitting, not being able to make jumps that should be easily jumped, etc.  The game was also a little bit too short for my liking, but that's ok.

So, things I've learned:
  • The whole "multiple completely separate areas with a hub screen to determine where you go" concept can be pretty fun.  (Assuming the game doesn't hold your hand TOO much, which Strider balances quite well)
  • The actual action gameplay has to be fun, or the game isn't fun.  Any single killer mistake (too high difficulty (see super pitfall), bad play control, bad hit detection)...any of these can ruin the game. 
  • It's good to limit how many times a player has to run through a particular area over and over again.  In Strider, most of the areas are visited once or twice, but you keep returning to Kazakh.  And each time, you have to play through a pretty boring couple of hallways to get where you are going.  I like the general idea of returning to areas once you've got something new, but I got really sick of Kazakh.


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