Friday Flashback Five: Week of August 03, 2003

It’s the end of the week, and as usual, as we prepare for our weekend we’ll git it started right—with our Friday Flashback Five!  Each week, we take a look at five random games that debuted that week in history.  Some games were loved, some shunned, and some barely even registered on many gamers’ minds in the first place.  All, however, are part of our hobby’s history.  This week, we’re turning the dial back to the week of the Third of August, ‘Oh-Three.

A rather large number of games debuted this week, the vast majority of which were for mobile phones.  Most of those likely wouldn’t be remembered by gamers of today, though most weren’t too bad.

As usual, there’s no real order to the list; it’s just a random look at five games that came out in history, and an attempt to see what effect, if any, they had on gamers.

With that expected disclaimer out of the way, let’s rock and roll!

Freaky Flyers
When Super Mario Kart debuted, it made popular a new concept for gaming—taking established characters in a franchise and tossing them together in a fun racing competition.  Freaky Flyers did for the skies what Super Mario Kart did for the ground, though tweaked the basic formula.

The GameCube version is what came out this week, though the title also came out on the PlayStation 2 and the X-Box.  In addition to the basic concept of picking a character and zipping around, trying to beat your opponents to the finish line, there were optional objectives to complete in each level.  Further, you could unlock mini-games, such as having your avatar shrunk down to microscopic size and put into a human body, meaning you have to avoid white blood cells as you try to find a way out.

The characters were as distinct as one could reasonably expect in a game revolving around racing, and there were the expected random pick-ups; a shield, a machine gun, and so on.  That said, the pick-ups were as much for the optional objectives as much as to use in relation to your opponents.  All of that off-set one potential problem—the game was straightforward.  There weren’t really any “surprises”, nothing to really explore—the secondary objectives weren’t all that complex, either.  It was a game that most would enjoy on some level, though few but kart-racing-like game enthusiasts would play more than once.

Dinotopia: The Sunstone Odyssey
Based on the Dinotopia novels (and the series itself was also turned into a mini-series, an insanely short-lived television series, and a Game Boy Advance game), the game follows one twin after he loses his father and brother turns on brother.  The premise of the novels may be interesting—a hidden island where humanity lives with dinosaurs but in a more Renaissance-era lifestyle than Stone Age like one might expect.  However interesting that premise might be, though, the game fails to live up to it.

The game was mostly a series of fetch quests with boring combat threaded throughout.  The artificial intelligence behind the enemies, well, wasn’t very intelligent at all.  The attacks were basic and simplistic, though on the other hand there’s not really much you can do when the only real weapon one has access to is a giant hammer.  Then you have the long, boring cut-scenes that didn’t really make most players interested in much more than trying to hurry through them.

Games based on less-than-well-known sources should, if nothing else, be interesting enough that the gamer might become curious about the source.  There just was nothing interesting or curiosity-inducing about Sunstone Odyssey.

Chaos Legion
Chaos Legion can perhaps best be described as “Devil May Cry-Light”.  On its own, that’s not the worst thing that could be said, but the problem with the title is that the various elements weren’t really woven together very well.

To go down the list, the backgrounds were bland and boring, the story wasn’t any better (the protagonist’s best friend seems to have become evil, and he must find the man and destroy him—you can basically see the conclusion coming a mile away), anyone who’s played Devil May Cry would find more analogs between that title and this one than may be enjoyable, the game play itself was boringly repetitive—one could continue this list for a few hours, which is actually fitting since that’s about the time it takes to complete the game.

That said, it had potential—the story, while boring itself, was presented really nicely through interesting cut-scenes, and an interesting mechanic were the eponymous “legions”, things like archers, swordsmen, and so on, that the protagonist could summon.  It was an interesting mechanic partly in that the more they were used, the more experience points they received, which could then be used for upgrades.  It wasn’t the most fleshed-out game mechanic in the world, but it had potential.

That can really be said about the game in general—it’s not that great of a game over all, but it had so much potential that it’s almost sad to see that potential go unrealized.

Puzzle Bobble
Also known as Bust-A-Move, Puzzle Bobble was a faithful mobile phone version of the popular set-up.  The player shot bubbles upward to create “chains”, and those chains would disappear, earning the player points.

It’s a somewhat simple set-up, but that was most definitely not a strike against it.  It was simple to get into, which is still one of the main aspects of the “bubble-puzzle” genre.  Whether the mobile version that debuted this week or the hand-held versions that also came out, it was a worthy addition to any gamer’s library.

In a sense, Qix is almost analogous to some of the more popular Flash games found nowadays.  Easy to learn, hard to master, and it refused to let the player go.  The set-up is also one that’s not exactly rare—you control a ship that emits a line from its back end, with the aim of connecting the lines to the walls and thus sectioning off portions of the play area.

There were only three actual enemies, though if one has played this kind of game before they can already likely figure out what the enemies do.  One crawls along the perimeter of the game area, one moves along the lines the player creates, and one appears whenever the player stops moving.  It was a simple, almost shallow concept, much like its predecessor, but it was definitely fun.

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That’s all for this week.  See you on Monday, and have a good weekend!


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