Pinball Fantasies

The Jaguar doesn't have an extensive library of official titles. Since the console's demise, the homebrew community has been working overtime to put out new and interesting software for the system, but as far as officially released stuff goes...there's not a great deal of it. With that in mind, I find it odd that the Jaguar played host to two pinball games...but didn't have any tennis or boxing games, for example. To be fair, that probably had something to do with the relatively short lifespan of the Jag, but it's still a point worth making. One of those pinball games I have previously looked at. It's called Ruiner Pinball and is a pretty good virtual recreation of a metal ball being flicked around a table, even if it does try to ram a moral story sideways down your throat (it's a metaphor about the Cold War and everyone going to Hell or some such crap).

The other Jag pinball 'em up is this one - Pinball Fantasies, a port of a highly regarded Amiga game of the same name, and the sequel to Pinball Dreams. Not being an Amiga owner, I was fairly ignorant to the series' reputation; but after buying Fantasies and doing a bit of research I have discovered that the series really is critically acclaimed, and after playing for a while I cannot dispute the high regard the game is held in. That's because it really is a great game of pinball.

Everything works as you'd expect - the ball zips around nicely, the tables all have great variation and lots of features and the difficulty is just about spot on. Furthermore, I found myself playing Pinball Fantasies for quite a while - and I'm not really a fan of pinball games at all. As a pinball simulation, I can't really fault it - there are four distinctive tables to play, all with a different theme (Party Land, Speed Devils, Billion Dollar Gameshow and Stones 'N Bones), and up to 8 players can participate in a game, each taking it in turn to rack up the points before passing the controller on to the next player. The music is good, the gameplay smooth and the controls are good and responsive. Granted, there aren't that many - the D-pad operates the left flipper, the B button operates the right, C pulls the ball spring and A allows you to nudge the table - but it's all really responsive. Unlike Ruiner, Fantasies doesn't try to offer the player a background narrative - it is simply pinball. Choose a table, start the game, and try to get as high a score as possible. That's all there is to it, and it completes that task very well. As far as comparisons to other versions go, the Jaguar port is meant to be the best looking (it has more colours than the Amiga version), but it apparently has slower ball movement...but as far as I could tell the ball isn't especially slow so there are no complaints in that department.

The question is - is it better than Ruiner? That's a tough one as both of these games play a mean game of pinball, just like that deaf, dumb and blind kid from that song I've forgotten the name of. My honest advice would be to get them both. Ruiner looks nicer and has some really interesting details in the tables, whereas Fantasies is more of a traditional pinball sim. If you can only have one though, I'd go for Fantasies as it has more variety in tables and some great music. If I can take anything away from the experience of owning both Ruiner and Fantasies, it's this - the Jaguar has two really great Pinball games. Put that in your pipe, Jag haters!

Jaguar on the Prowl at London Anime Con 2014

London Anime & Gaming Con is but a few weeks away and I will be there as part of the RetroCollect contingent, spreading some retrogaming love and harmony around the place. Oh, and trying not to spend every last penny I have on cool Anime and gaming stuff. Of course, I jest - the real reason I'll be there, is that I shall be promoting and invigilating the various gaming challenges that gamers young (well, 18 and above) and old can try their hands at:

  • Trigger Heart Exelica on Dreamcast
  • Mario Kart 64 on Nintendo 64
  • Ikaruga on Gamecube

As well as these, there'll be the RetroCollect King Of Fighters tournament, the fabled Master System Challenge and also a Super Monkey Ball Monkey Target challenge.

All of those pale in significance though. The real showcase event is thus:

Yep - Tomleecee's Toilet Bowl Time Attack! Please bear in mind that I didn't come up with that catchy appears that not everyone appreciates the sleek lines of a Jaguar CD unit! So, what is this challenge? Well, it's a 3-lap time attack on the Germany track in Super Burnout!

I'm particularly excited to have this challenge on the RetroCollect stand as Super Burnout is definitely a game a lot of people have never played, and I'm interested to see the reaction people will have to the super-smooth scaling and cheek-flapping speed once the game gets up to full pace. Whenever I go to events and see a Jaguar on display, it's always got either Tempest 2000 or Iron Soldier slapped in it. I wanted to do my bit for the Jag community by showing off a slightly less well-known (yet mightily impressive) title for the 64-bit beast, and Super Burnout is an ideal game to do that.

London Anime & Gaming Con is being held at The Rocket Complex, London Metropolitan University on the 5th & 6th July 2014 and will be a corking event full of exhibitions and stalls, cosplayers and gaming events. For more information head to

AVGN Vs Atari Jaguar

I'm sure anyone with a passing interest in the Jag and Jag CD has already seen this video, but I thought I'd post it anyway. I'm a huge fan of James Rolfe's Angry Video Game Nerd series and Mike Matei's review videos, so I don't harbour any nonsensical hatred towards these guys...but I really didn't appreciate the general bashing they gave the Jag CD in this particular production. Fair play to them for giving the Jag CD it's own showcase...but why do they pick on such insignificant aspects of each game? For instance, Battlemorph is one of the best games on the Jag CD, yet rather than focus on the great controls and varied missions, all they do is bitch about the draw distance and the AI face that pops up whenever you crash into a mountain. Then, in Blue Lightning they simply bemoan the fact that you can blow trees up. No mention of the brilliant sprite scaling or high-quality FMV sequences. It's as if they had their minds set on destroying the system before they even turned the fucker on. Enough from me though - here's the vid.

As a footnote, James Rolfe did a previous two-part AVGN video on the Jaguar base system which was equally damning. I've posted it below, and it's quite funny - but again for a Jaguar fan it isn't really a nice experience. The video completely ignores some of the best games on the Jag, and instead opts to jump on the bandwagon of 'the Jag is shit' that most of the gaming media seems happy to promote. I wonder how many Jag naysayers have actually ever even played on one. Pfft.

Care in the Community!

Last week I was browsing Twitter like any other normal user does of a morning. As I was scrolling through the genuinely interesting comments, retweets and adverts, I noticed a picture of what was clearly an Atari Jaguar atop a Sega Mega CD, along with a bouquet of flowers and the text "RIP. Going in the bin." Understandably intrigued, I sent a message to the poster and asked what it was about. They explained that the system didn't work and that it was going in the bin (because, y'know, the Tweet wasn't clear enough for my brain to interpret). After a few exchanges, I managed to speak to the owner of the deceased hardware via email and arranged to purchase the dead system for a grand total of nothing plus postage & packing costs. From the image uploaded to Twitter, the console's case looked in good condition and I figured that I could get it sprayed some exotic colour and then replace my other Jag's case with it.

A few days passed and eventually I received a rather large package in the post. Odd, I thought...I gathered my benefactor was just sending the broken Jaguar in a plastic bag or something. Imagine my shock and delight when I opened the package to find a fully-boxed Jaguar complete with cables and joypad! The system was very dusty and looked like it hadn't been used for a while, but that was nothing a quick dust off couldn't rectify. I was about to open the console's case and discard the dead circuit board inside when I had a thought - maybe I should try the console first to see if the owner had simply been unable to test the system with a cartridge plugged in. I slapped Super Burnout into the slot and pressed the button...the Jag roared to life immediately and I spent a good 20 minutes playing on it. I tried it with a few other carts and also the Jag CD...all of which worked perfectly. I contacted the sender of the console to explain that it worked fine, but he seemed happy just to have sent the system to someone who would appreciate and use it. I have since decided not the have the system sprayed white or any other colour as I think it actually looks just great as it was intended. The Twitter user who sent me the Jag goes by the handle @iamnormal0 - and to him I extend my utmost gratitude - please be sure to give him a follow if you're ever in that neck of the internet!

In a somewhat similar turn of events, I also acquired an imacculate box (complete with foam inserts and instruction booklet) for my Jaguar CD unit after a listener of the podcast recognised that I was a bit of a Jaguar fan and contacted the administrator of the site. Again, after several emails, the owner of the unwanted box posted it to me all the way from the USA at his own expense. All I can say is: massive, massive thanks to Bobby in CA!

These acts of kindness and charity have left me slightly exasperated - especially when we are constantly told that the internet has made people less caring and unable to exhibit acts of generosity. As this post shows, it's not all about trolling, bullying and being most un-excellent to each other. Let this show anyone who thinks otherwise - the internet is just as likely a place to find decent folk who I - for one - would be happy to shake hands with.

Zool 2

Product placement is something we see quite a lot in movies and TV shows these days, and to some degree it is becoming increasingly noticeable in games too - I vividly remember seeing Mountain Dew adverts everywhere in Rush 2 on the N64...even though, at the time, I had no idea that Mountain Dew was a real drink. Why do I remember that? I have no idea...but  maybe it had something to do with having to repeatedly drive my car off a ramp into a huge rotating can of Mountain Dew. More recently there were Samsung logos plastered all over every menu in Perfect Dark Zero and I'm sure there have been other games with real-world brands festooned all over every surface - although special mention must go the Duke Nukem: Zero Hour for it's wry, comically-named false brands making a mockery of the whole sordid practice. 

With this in mind, Zool 2 is a game which unashamedly displays it's particular brand of choice (or should that be the other way round?) at every opportunity: Chupa Chups lollipop logos are pretty much everywhere in the game, from the menu screen wallpapers to the levels themselves as either floating pick-ups or background details. It kind of makes sense, seeing as Zool himself is an ant...and ants like sugar - or some shit - but there is no subtlety here, folks. Chupa Chups were involved in the funding of this game, and they'll be damned if every kid playing Zool 2 doesn't know it. 

In Zool 2, you take control of the titular Zool or his missus - Zooz. Ten out of ten for coming up with a suitable name for the female character there, Gremlin. In typical Amiga-platformer fashion, you then embark on a rather odd trip through various themed stages, killing enemies, picking up ridiculous volumes of collectibles (in this case, what appear to be floating sweets) and avoiding everything that looks like it will kill you. Note: everything that moves will kill you...or at the very least deplete your health bar. I picked up a real Bubsy-esque vibe from Zool 2 in that there doesn't seem to be any real aim to the game other than 'collect everything, kill everything and get to the end of the level before the time runs out.' And that's pretty much all there is to the game. As the name suggests, Zool 2 is a sequel and the first game appeared on most of the major platforms. This game though, was only ported from the Amiga onto the Jaguar so it's a pseudo-exclusive as far as console versions go. I did liken the game to Bubsy several sentences ago, but that's a little unfair with hindsight - Zool 2 is more similar to something like James Pond: Robocod, what with the surreal level designs and in-your-face product placement...and the Amiga roots, but that's not to say I dislike Zool 2. 

I'll admit that I'm not a massive fan of this kind of platformer, and the Zool character does nothing for me, but once you realise that you're meant to use Zool (or Zooz's) special abilities to get through the stages, it becomes an entirely different prospect than just running left and right and shooting stuff. That's because with careful use of the jump and attack buttons, Zool becomes a bouncy spinning whirlwind of death, as he spins through the air brandishing his sword and slicing enemies to bits. You can literally hold the jump and attack buttons down and just bounce around like a ninja (which is what I guess Zool is meant to be anyway...), attaching to walls and timing jumps to avoid invincible enemies and traps. It does become a lot of fun once it clicks that this is how you're meant to play - a bit like when you eventually realise that in Daytona 2001 on Dreamcast, you are meant to go around corners sideways

Zool 2 isn't the best looking game on the Jaguar (or even it's native Amiga), but it is colourful and runs very smoothly. The music is a bit crap as it is generally made up of background beats with random 'comedy' sound effects played in a loop over the top...but you can always hit the magic '0' on the keypad and mute the horrendous dirge. Also - Zool 2 is the first Jaguar cartridge game I've played that has an animated cut scene intro. It's only about 5 seconds long and is just a rendered Zool showing some 'tude, but it was a nice surprise when I loaded the game up. I don't really know what else to say about Zool 2 - it's a playable and pleasant platformer with some interesting gameplay mechanics and some functional yet colourful (if heavily branded) graphics. There are two different characters that have the ability to open up different paths through the stages and there are some interesting bonus stages which basically play like Break Out.

If you enjoy Bubsy or Robocod, you're sure to enjoy Zool 2 (and most likely the prequel too). A tidy and enjoyable platformer with some cool ideas. 

The Angel of Jag

I've noticed a lot of negative press about the Jaguar and it's games online in the last few weeks. With the explosion of so-called 'retrogaming,' retrospective games sites, commentaries and even articles in the mainstream press, I have decided to fight back. Like an Atari Jaguar-branded Dark Knight, stalking the shadows and forums and taking naysayers down with silent and deadly prowess. I have become the Angel of Jag. Fear the name, forum dwellers...I am born.


Poking around on the internet is a bit of a hobby for me. Apart from running, collecting retrogaming items and writing guff like this, I tend to spend quite a bit of my free time looking for interesting websites and articles. Imagine my delight then, when I discovered this - The Museum of Obsolete Media. This may sound like the most boring website ever created, but to someone like me who loves to read up on the more unusual and forgotten technological endeavours of the past, it is like hitting the jackpot on the lottery. Well, maybe not that good...but it's a great site and full of interesting pages detailing pretty much every defunct media format you can think of.

I looked for Nintendo 64DD disks...they're listed. I looked for Dreamcast GD-Roms and they're listed too. Hell - I looked for Tefifon, an obscure German sound recording format, and yep - it's on there! Naturally, I also looked for anything documenting the Atari Jaguar's two formats, and while the Jaguar CD unit's proprietary CD format doesn't have an entry per se, it is mentioned in the Jaguar Cartridge page. I highly recommend paying this site a visit and filling your brain with tonnes of useless information on the forgotten, odd and strange media formats of yesteryear!

Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands

Hover Strike: Unconquered Lands is a pretty good example of what was wrong with Atari's whole strategy when it came to marketing the Jaguar CD as a piece of hardware that every Jag owner shouldn't be without. That statement shouldn't be used as a reflection of the quality of the title itself though, as it's quite an enjoyable vehicular shooter. No, what I mean is that Unconquered Lands is essentially the exact same game as the cartridge version, albeit with a handful of extra missions and graphical upgrades. So, imagine that it's 1995 and you've just bought a Jag CD unit and you're after a few new games. You've already played Hover Strike and thought it was fairly decent, so you unwittingly purchase Unconquered Lands expecting more of the same with a few upgrades...and end up playing the exact same missions, with the exact same story screens, objectives, pick-ups and environments.

To be fair, you'd probably only have yourself to blame if you'd taken the time to read the blurb on the back of the box and noticed some similarities to the description on the back of the cart version's box (hint: it's exactly the same paragraph), but that's besides the point. Unconquered Lands is, in a nutshell, pretty much the exact same game as the cartridge game. And what I'm trying to say here (and I know I'm failing miserably), is that if you'd bought it thinking you were buying a sequel - which for all intents and purposes is what it is purporting to be - you'd be cheesed off to say the least. But let's pretend you hadn't played the cart-based Hover Strike.

What can you expect from Unconquered Lands? Well, it's a first person shooter which lets the player pilot a heavily armed hovercraft across all manner of alien worlds, blowing shit up. To be fair, you could just click this link and read my previous comments on the cart game. How does this CD incarnation measure up to the previous/other game? Quite well actually. The frame rate issues have all but been eliminated and the pixelation that covered the environments has been replaced with a pseudo anti-aliased texture set. The dynamic lighting is much more noticeable; indeed one of the new levels is virtually pitch black and you must use your weapons' muzzle flash to light up your surroundings...but that just leads me to ask why the developers didn't just add in real-time headlights for your craft. Strange. Further improvements include animated environments (pulsating floors and lava pits) and slightly improved enemy models. A welcome non-aesthetic addition is the inclusion of a new difficulty menu which radically alters the behaviour of the hovercraft, and playing in easy mode virtually eradicates the highly annoying inertia effects that the medium and hard modes pile on in heaps. This is significant because the controls were one of the worst parts of the cart version, as your hovercraft would careen all over the shop bouncing off walls in the worst way imaginable. There are the usual upgrades you'd expect when moving from the cartridge format to a CD - FMV clips and CD-quality sound...but the cutscenes are minimal and the music and effects were pretty decent the first time round anyway.

Unconquered Lands then. It's more of an upgrade than a sequel to Hover Strike and does offer a better experience all round...but there aren't really enough changes to fully warrant it's existence on a system that had so few officially released titles. Quite why Atari didn't put the development team to work on a more worthwhile project is a bit of a mystery to me...but it's a decent shooter in its own right, and one of the cheaper titles available for the peripheral so worth picking up if you see it going for a reasonable price. Don't buy it expecting a massively different game from the original cart version, instead buy it expecting more of the same with a better frame rate. Video comparing the two versions coming soon...

In the meantime, here's a fairly reasonable comment on my views on Unconquered Lands from The Laird of Retro Video Gamer:

"I think you were a bit harsh. Back in the day this was marketed as an upgraded version of the game, not a sequel, so Atari didn't mislead anyone. Remember that this is something that had worked really well for the Mega CD, upgraded versions of cart games. Atari had a load more planned including a CD version of Defender 2000. The most important thing about Hover Strike CD is that is uses the second version of Atari's texture mapping engine that proved it could more than hold it's own against the Saturn and PlayStation, compare this game to Krazy Ivan for example. Such a crying shame that they were never able to exploit it more, Space War 2000 (using the same engine) shows amazing promise."

Cart box guff

CD box guff