|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||SALAMANDER: Deluxe Pack Plus|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Shoot-em-up||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||May 1998||Standard Joypad|
Setting the Scene
Riding on the coattails of the current Retro-gaming craze, Konami has decided to throw their hat into the ring and offers us a "blast from the past" shooting "3-fer". The Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus comes complete with three (mostly enjoyable) scrolling shooters crammed into a package that is sure to please both hard-core and novice "fire em up" fans alike. As you may or may not know, sitting down to review a shooter for me is akin to a root canal...well, maybe not that severe, but minor dentistry to be sure. The scary thing is that I am actually starting to enjoy these blasted games and can see how people can become easily addicted to his genre. The action is fast and furious and it's the kinda game that you just want to keep playing to try and get a little further along each time you enter the fray. So with that said, let's jump into our little sprite rocket and start blasting some protoplasm...it's time for Salamander!
Salamander Deluxe Pack is a scrolling, beat-the-boss at the end of each level "twitch" type shooting game. Salamander's roots are obviously firmly embedded in the soil of shooting game legends like Space Invaders, Galaxian and R-Type.
There is an interesting progression on the games in this package. It's eye opening to watch the small improvements from Salamander 1 to Lifeforce (the second game on the disc) and then the quantum leap to Salamander 2. All of the games are sprite based and very colorful. I will explain a bit about each one separately just to compare the differences. Salamander 1 was created back in 1986. It features nice multi-colored sprite design and some innovative scrolling techniques. Explosions, laserbeams, scaling and other special effects are obviously just multi-layered, variable sized sprites flashing on and off, but the effects are great and enjoyable to watch. What you won't find here are polygons, light-sourcing or transparencies... that kind of stuff was surely still on the old drawing board when this game was created. Still and all, the game manages to be engaging and vibrant...the old fashioned way. Lifeforce was brought out in 1987 and is basically a supplement to Salamander 1. There is a larger palate of colors to dazzle your eyes and subtle improvements in the overall graphical presentation of the game. Guess technology didn't progress as rapidly in the "old'en" days in comparison to today...sigh. Salamander 2 is a different story entirely. It was released in 1996 and clearly shows what a difference a decade can make in videogame technology. The leap in graphical brilliance is astounding...smooth parallax scrolling, transparencies, sprites mixed with polygons...you name it, it's in there. While the game plays basically the same, the amount of on-screen objects has virtually doubled. Background animation's are riveting (and distracting...errrr) and the level of detail is on par with some of the finer shooters that have been released recently. Don't get me wrong here...the graphics can't touch Einhander, but they are engaging just the same. Oh, there is also a nice, fast-paced CG opening video for the game pack when you load up the disc and a separate one for Salamander 2 when that game is selected. Nothing earth shattering, but worth a watch or two. If nothing else, it's just plain interesting to watch the gains that have been made with the eye-candy portion of these games.
Sounds and Effects
Salamander 1 and Lifeforce have virtually identical sounds and game music. Both are heavily synthesized oriented and feature some top-notch melodies that do the job in getting the player primed and into the action. I especially liked the catchy little tune that plays at the end of the game when you are putting in your high-score initials. Lots of neat synth sounds. There is also an attempt made to utilize a computer voice to identify your power-ups and describe the bosses, levels, etc. For the most part it is unrecognizable, but heck it's a nice touch. Special effects sounds are primitive but functional. Lots of bleeps, pops and sizzles all used to simulate gun fire, missiles, explosions and laser weaponry. None of that redbook audio or wave based Midi samples here friends. Salamander 2 is also synth based, but the melodies and song arrangements are much more complex and enticing. The music is similar to the earlier titles to retain cohesiveness, but show just how far sound sampling and music composition on silicon have come. Of course the special effects sounds have benefited from the years as well. You can hear the multiple channels and blending of various sounds now and the overall effect is much more genuine. Here's the funny part though...the voice still sounds exactly the same! This had to be intentional...
While each game is similar in style and execution, there are subtle differences to warrant a small write-up on each of them separately. Salamander 1 pops up and gives you the choice or 1 or 2 players and the options menu. Jump into the options screen and you have the following configuration choices: - Adjust your lives from 2 to 7 - Five difficulty settings - Screen adjustment - Mono / Stereo - Button configuration. After you bump the lives to max and set the difficulty to extremely hard your ready for action! The first level has your trusty little ship side-scrolling through what appears to be a living organism complete with blood vessels and of course defense mechanisms. Cruising left to right you can maneuver your ship up or down, forward / backwards as long as you continue moving ahead. Lag too far back and the screen will just carry you along on your journey. There are of course plenty of objects to dodge and shoot at as you traverse the internals of this living being. Cells walls regenerate and try to close in on you so you must stay in constant motion just to survive. There are loads of other ships flying in strategic formations that you must try to destroy so that you can pick up the various power-ups that they leave behind. You can obtain multi-directional lasers, missiles, bombs and other assorted goodies to help you along the way. Of course you also have your big boss at the end of each level battle that you must win in order to advance. The Bosses are creative and quite large each with their own patterns that need to be discovered to ensure a victory. Complete the first horizontal scrolling level and you are thrown into a vertical-scrolling match. Now all of the object are coming at your from top to bottom as you travel up the screen. Same basic premise, just a different perspective. Lifeforce is essentially the same game as Salamander 1 with a few notable tweaks. You now only have a maximum of 6 lives and the game is much harder. You travel through what is basically the exact same environment, but the enemy AI has been improved and bit more obstacles are thrown in your path. Even the end bosses are the same except they are harder to beat and they are graphically represented a bit better. I found the ship control in both of these games to be a bit too sluggish for my tastes. The ship certainly moves when you command it to, but it always seemed just a tad too slow. Also, when trying to back off from a particularly crowded screen of nasties the ship seemed to be moving through molasses. Once you get used to it though and adjust your strategy appropriately I found both game to be highly enjoyable. Salamander 2 uses the same formula as the two previous games but brings things into the `90's. First up, you get up to nine lives, with continues once you have exhausted those lives. The nice thing is that the continues leave you off exactly where you died last...not back at the beginning of the level. The objects that you face are much more detailed and challenging to fight. There is also a whole hell of a lot more going on in the screen at one time than in the two previous games. I often found myself losing sight of my ship because the action got so busy. While you still travel horizontally or vertically from level to level, the game has a more three-dimensional feel to it, due largely to the enhanced graphics and overall level design. You now have to dodge flames, huge space faring battle cruisers and other intricately detailed obstructions. It's a darn good thing that the ship control has been tightened up and feels more responsive than the prior games so everything seems to fall into place better. The end bosses are absolutely enormous and really give you a go for your money. It's pretty easy to suck up a good deal of lives until you get their pattern down and implement your attack strategy. I really like one of the levels in which you are chasing after one of the bosses and all of a sudden a bigger boss enters the screen from the right and gobbles up the smaller boss. Very nice and unexpected...a good touch. The two-player game is basically the same, except you can team up with a buddy and cause mass destruction instead of by yourself. A second player is able to jump into the action at any time during the game by just picking up a controller in port two and pressing start. Easy... Overall the Deluxe Pack Plus is a great shooting package that combines the best of the old and new shooting genres onto one disc. It's straight ahead, no nonsense approach is both refreshing and challenging and entices the player to forge ever ahead.
Value for Money
While I would tend to believe that the showcase title on this disc is certainly Salamander 2, the other two games that are thrown in are like icing on the retro-cake. All three games play very similar to each other, but offer up just enough differences to each warrant a separate play. The only downside is that the games are a bit short, and once you have completed them you may not wish to play them over and over again.
Salamander Deluxe Pack Plus will surely offer up a nice enough diversion
in your daily game-playing schedule.
The level design is top-notch and the difficulty factor walks the fine line of frustration and enjoyment perfectly.
While the graphics on the first two games are a bit dated, the games themselves are still just as challenging now as they were then.
The real star of the package though has got to be Salamander 2 with it's above average graphics, great sound effects and appealing level designs. Getting the other two games thrown in just rounds out the retro package perfectly.
If you like twitch based shooters, you will in all likelihood enjoy this package, otherwise I would recommend a rental just for the novelty of the games. My overall scores will reflect the package as a whole and have been reflected as such.