Tempo [Sega 32X] – Review

Tempo

Regarded as one of the better or more desirable games for the Sega 32X, Tempo is a solid 2D platformer with great audio/visual qualities. It was developed by Red Entertainment and published by Sega in 1995 and having completed it myself, I’d put it on top of the list of 32X games. That wasn’t the case when I first started it as I was off put by the animation priority the player character had. But, with time to acclimate to the gameplay I wound up having an enjoyable time.

Tempo was visually interesting. I'd often spend a minute admiring the background before moving on.
Tempo was visually interesting. I’d often spend a minute admiring the background before moving on.

Almost immediately, the stellar audio/visual qualities of Tempo are on display. The game opens with a period, Saturday morning cartoon-style hip-hop song about the eponymous Tempo and it ushered in a wave of nostalgia for that time in my life – childhood. The game has strong musical overtones and accordingly each stage features, at the very least, a rocking accompaniment. One stage in particular appears to take place in a boom box and features many of the mechanisms one would suspect to see; only now they operate as platforming obstacles.

Visually, the stages are a wonder to behold. The level design isn’t particularly noteworthy other than the fact that the stages aren’t simply “scroll to the right” affairs. The paths are generally linear, but they’re winding. For me, this was something fresh and sometimes confusing. To someone who’s played the likes of The Lion King or other period Disney platformers, this might be old hat. Again though, visually, the stages are a wonder to behold. The foregrounds are detailed and well rendered but the backgrounds are something else. Featuring pseudo 3D objects and oscillating sprites, many are right on the edge of being a music visualizer!

Tempo had a dance partner in Katy. Her moves were lethal.
Tempo had a dance partner in Katy. Her moves were lethal.

Like the stage design, the game design isn’t too astounding either. The overall objective of each stage is to navigate the numerous obstacles and enemies that make up the two or three sub-stages, confront a boss, and hopefully, succeed. Tempo’s main offensive maneuver is to jump on his enemies. He can throw musical notes at his foes to stun them, making that attack a little easier. Easier more so if the player stumbles upon one of the myriad power ups which could summon his dance partner or increase the projectile count of his musical notes. If Katy, his dance partner, is tagging along, she’ll attack stunned enemies for him.

Katy and the musical note power ups come in handy when it’s boss time. Although I was a little perplexed by the level design, it was the first boss that really dampened my opinion of Tempo. I thought it to be very hard with little time to learn my opponent’s formula. After a few attempts, I figured it out though and really began enjoying the game. The stages themselves were often quaint to get through with the bosses almost always providing the brunt of the challenge. This mostly resulted in spending lives to learn their formula, but towards the end, I also had to be very strategic and play defensively as the bosses were more likely to be aggressive.

One last comment regarding the gameplay: Tempo himself is given animation priority. What I mean by this (and I’m probably not attributing this concept perfectly to this game) is Tempo animates very, very well but moves very, very methodically; quite slowly in fact. This game is more Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine than Vanquish, if you know what I mean. I generally always prefer a faster, more responsive game but can appreciate what the developers were going for regardless of personal taste. In fact, it’s something I quickly got over and it wasn’t an issue beyond the first stage or two.

Some of the bosses appeared rendered in Donkey Kong Country fashion.
Some of the bosses appeared rendered in Donkey Kong Country fashion.

Tempo saw a turnaround of opinion from me. I was a little down on it after the first stage. The tough boss and animation priority weren’t selling me on the game. However, I was able to clearly tell that this game was a labor of love for the developers and they put a lot of effort into it. There were many redeeming qualities that helped me persevere and continue coming back to it stage after stage. At this point, I definitely put it at the top of the list of Sega 32X games. Not the hardest list to ascend, especially considering I’ve played half-dozen titles, but the word-of-mouth praise I’ve always heard for Tempo holds true; it’s definitely worth seeking out for 32X collectors.

Also, here’s one final plug for the let’s play I recorded of Tempo:

Advertisements

Tempo [Sega 32X] – Let’s Play

Tempo - JapanAfter completing my let’s play for Rise of the Dragon on the Sega CD, I still wanted to toy around with the Sega Genesis/CD/32X behemoth while I still had it plugged in. Conveniently, I had just won a lot containing a plethora of Sega 32X games on eBay, one of them being the hidden gem Tempo. Or at least, that’s what I’d always heard. I didn’t immediately feel that way but by the end, I was a believer. It’s a solid 2D platformer with great audio/visual qualities. Expect a review soon…

Portal [PC] – Review

Portal

I’m a little late to the party on this one but I finally beat Portal. It’s an ingenious puzzle game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. In fact, I was befuddled that it was over as quickly as it was. Since I’d heard so much revelry and acclaim for it and witnessed the cultural impact it’d had in the gaming space I just figured there’d be more of it. What was there engrossed me though. The increasingly complex puzzles were mentally stimulating and the enigmatic GlaDOS’ darkly humorous speech had me chuckling well into the few hour experience.

Portal was a puzzle game with an ingenious mechanic.
Portal was a puzzle game with an ingenious mechanic.

The game is built around the portal gun which allows users to shoot portals on flat surfaces. The portals are connected and can be easily referenced as an entry and exit. At its most basic use, I could place a portal on ground level, shoot the other portal on a wall above a higher level and use the portal to reach higher ground without using a ladder. Through the game’s nineteen test chambers, the quandaries were rarely this simplistic. The way I had to manipulate the portals was fascinating and thought-provoking. Dropping into one and utilizing the momentum to fling myself across the room was always amazing.

As I mentioned the game has nineteen test chambers that lock progression behind increasingly difficult puzzles. There are no other lifeforms present although observation windows and empty chairs indicate there were at some point. Guiding the player through these chambers is GlaDOS, a disembodied mechanical female voice. Her statements are delivered with a sense of dry, deadpan seriousness that are made clear when her motivations are discovered. Things are not what they seem and while there is no narrative, there’s an abundance of environmental storytelling that allows the player to fill in the gaps themselves. It all culminates in an appropriate ending sequence that was riddled with GlaDOS’ hilarious interruptions.

Infinite portal loops were easy to do and fun to witness.
Infinite portal loops were easy to do and fun to witness.

For most I’ve probably revealed nothing new about this game. Portal sent shockwaves through the gaming culture when it arrived in 2007 as a part of The Orange Box and is still highly regarded and oft-discussed. I’m glad to have finally experienced it and would recommend it to those who have yet to do so. The game was brief but left me both fulfilled and wanting, in a good way. I can only imagine the impact the modding community had on this title and I’m excited to see the crazy stuff they came up with.

Her Story [PC] – Review

Her Story

It’s no surprise that my playthrough of Her Story was unique. After all, it’s the type of game that walks the tightrope between video games and more generally, an interactive experience. In my case, it was a cooperative playthrough with a friend. We had returned from a local independent theatre after watching Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, a riotous Japanese language film. (Wowzidukes! This article is going to earn me so much hipster cred!) I rarely play PC games so this was somewhat unusual but I’d heard much of it through social media word of mouth and gaming sites last week, plus it was only five bucks. It was a good plunge to take too, as the game provided a fun cooperative experience.

The presentation of the game was top-notch. Notice the light glare on the CRT monitor!
The presentation of the game was top-notch. Notice the light glare on the CRT monitor!

Her Story revolves around a series of interviews that the police conducted with a British woman whose husband was found dead in 1994. These were filmed at the time but for whatever reason, are no longer able to view in their entirety. Instead the player can interact with a police computer and search a database that retrieves clips based on search terms or phrases. The corresponding video clips seemed to average about thirty seconds in length. It’s unclear what ever became of the woman and the police’s investigation, but it’s implied that’s what the player’s character is after and serves as motivation for the player.

The way the game is presented is nostalgic. The police computer that the player interacts with appears to be running a dated version of Windows on an equally ancient CRT monitor. When a search is conducted, it takes a second for the computer to produce the results and the work it performs is audible. The player isn’t locked to a single program however as there are a few .txt documents and a “rubbish bin” with a minigame on the desktop. Crucially, all of the video footage is rendered as full-motion video. FMV tends to be a divisive issue in terms of video games, but the execution of it here is perhaps the best example I’ve seen, even beating out the Mad Dog McCree trilogy!

The police computer in question, with the woman in question.
The police computer in question, with the woman in question.

I’ll save any sort of plot spoilers or ruminations for another article. The way everything played out led to a lot of discussion between my friend and I. After our initial playthrough, there were two obvious ways everything could’ve happened, but I think we’re still undecided on the truth. I’m looking forward to replaying it with him so we can take detailed notes and reach a verdict. That in itself is hardy praise for Her Story. I feel confident enough with my theory on what happened that I’d be satisfied enough to move on, but I want to fire it up again, and definitely will this weekend. It’s well worth a look.