Friday, October 26, 2012

Livebloggin': The WinFun Joypad 65

I thought I'd try something different with the 'ol blogaroo today.  A few days ago, I went to a garage sale and happened upon a grocery bag full of random, mostly game-related items.  Since I couldn't find a price tag anywhere on the bag, I asked the holder of the sale how much she wanted for the whole package.  I didn't have much on me at the time, but she didn't expect much either, so I walked away with the whole shebang for a quite reasonable $3.50.  It was a pretty slammin' deal when you consider what was inside the bag...

(from left to right, then down)

Joypad 65 TV Games System
GameBoy Player disc case (minus disc... d'oh!)
Third party GameCube controller (likely the Family Dollar brand)
GameCube Platinum, with GameBoy Player and Digimon Rumble Arena 2
Xbox 360 controller, designed for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Playstation A/V cable
(barely visible) Frayed NES RF cable
GameCube AC adapter
another third party GameCube controller
Five GameBoy games (Donkey Kong Land 2, Donald Duck Goin' Quackers, Tetris, Penguin Wars, and Amazing Penguin)
One GameBoy Advance game (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
16 megabyte GameCube memory card
Xbox DVD dongle/remote receiver

That's quite an eclectic selection, ain't it?  I suspect that the previous owner just took all the video game crap they had lying around the house and threw it into a bag, to either sell or drop off at Goodwill later.  I'm not complaining, though... in fact, I'm quite eager to fold all this stuff into my collection.  However, the one item that really caught my eye was this hot little number...

What the hell is this thing, and what's with all the buttons, sticks, and knobs?  A Google search led me to a page on Amazon, which revealed that this controller was actually a Chinese TV Games unit called the WinFun Joypad 65.  Still, there were a lot of questions left to answer.  What kind of games would I find on this device?  Would I really need three controllers to play them all?  Most importantly, was there any fun to be had from the WinFun?

After thinking about it for a while, I figured I'd have more fun with this device if I brought my readers (both of you) along for the ride.  So I'll be blogging about the WinFun Joypad 65 in real time, playing each of its games and posting about them immediately afterward.  Stay tuned!

12:21 AM: Okay, I'm about to turn it on, and... oh yeah, there's some cheap Chinese 8-bit action going on here.  You've got the cheerfully inane music in the background, along with a 16-color rendering of what appears to be a badly drawn jet on a collision course with a Ferrari set on the world's thinnest highway.  Okay, enough of that... let's get to the games.

12:24 AM: All right, to start we've got a bunch of car-themed video games with names like Build Up Road, Big Racing, and Runner Car.  Moving through the list of options gives you a horrible "sproink!" noise, similar to the pause sound you'd hear in Super Pitfall or another Micronics game.  That's like starting a novel with the phrase "It was a dark and stormy night..."

12:26 AM: Okay, enough with the music!  I'll play Build Up Road.  Seems to be a knock-off of Pipe Dreams with a construction theme.  You build a road from pieces at the bottom of the screen to send a mini-van to a small house at the bottom of the screen.  The pieces regenerate over time, so there's really no challenge if you take your time.  Oh GOD the music is really getting to me.  Next game, next game!

12:31 AM: Matching Tiles is next. The title screen seems to be a flaming yet surprisingly cheerful lad crashing into a bunch of living blocks.  Breakout game?  Probably.  Oh wait, no, it's one of those Shanghai-style games where you have to match mahjong pieces set in the middle of the playfield.  You first work along the edges, then take out the pieces in the center.  Taking your sweet time results in an annoying warning alarm that actually sounds worse than the background music.  Uh, next game please.

12:36 AM: Super Surfing, anyone?  (No.)  Well, you're getting it anyway.  In this one, you're a surfer who weaves through oncoming swimmers and kayakers, and grabs the bags of money that float his way.  I don't know what ocean has bags of money floating in it, but I want to go there on my next vacation.  The music is surprisingly somber compared to what I've heard in the last two games, but that's not a BAD thing in this case.

12:41 AM: Big Racing is up next.  The glitchy tiles near the top left corner are not an encouraging sign of things to come.  It's a top-down racing game where you're regularly thrown into spin-outs by the opposition. Also, there are curves on the track shown at the bottom of the screen, but you never actually see them while you're racing.  It reminds me a little of Spin-Out! for the Odyssey2, and if you've ever played that train wreck you know that's not a compliment.

12:46 AM: Motor Rally, here we come!  This looks like an NES version of Head-On, with a really grungy heads up display on the bottom of the screen.  When you crash, your cyclist just sits there flashing.  Also, the music tries to inject a sense of urgency to the so-so action, but ends up sounding confused, like a cat stepping on a Casio keyboard.

12:48 AM: Runner Car's next.  It plays like an even more boring version of Konami's dud Road Fighter.  There are coins strewn throughout the track, which make the dreaded "sproink!" noise when you collect them.  That actually gives me an aversion to fund-raising.  "Finished?"  Thank god for that!

12:51 AM: Road Bumper is a slightly more polished, slightly less repellent version of the previous game.  You're on a motorcycle, and can ram other bikers off the road, which perish in a tiny yellow explosion.  By the way, that stick that looks like an analog controller seems to work for all the games, but has no analog properties whatsoever and moves grudgingly when you tilt it.

12:56 AM: Gear Race is next on the agenda.  (Oh lord, how many more of these are there?  57?  Augh!)  This is just like Road Bumper, but with fire trucks and set in Smurf Village.  Also, it seems to function with the steering wheel in the center of the controller, but alas, that too is strictly digital.  Damn you for giving me false hope, WinFun!

12:59 AM: Bump Car?  Gee, whatever could THIS be?  They make you think it'll be like Super Mario Kart from the character select screen, but don't be fooled... it's another top-down driving game, this time with a lot of nonsensical power ups and a broken-up road that looks like it had a front row seat to the apocalypse.

1:01 AM: Dump Lorry Race.  You mean like what Fox did when it cancelled House?  I kid, I kid.  Still, they really pulled that ending out of their asses, didn't they?  Oh, FINE, I'll review the blasted game.  You know it's going to be just like all the others.  Anyway, this appears to be Pole Position with monster cars.  That's a pretty exciting idea in theory, but what you get is a clone of Motor Rally with swapped graphics.

1:05 AM: Truck Race is up next.  Sounds fun already!  It's just like Road Bumper, etc. but with semi trailers and prettier backgrounds.

1:06 AM: Motorway, eh?  The title screen suggests a Head-On style video game but it's more like Road Fighter with the added bonus of a cyclist who skids all over the road and crashes into rocks whenever he collides with rivals.  Dark graphics, but still better than most of these sad-sack racing games.

1:09 AM: Towers is next, and it stars what appear to be Sanrio cast-offs.  The guy in the middle looks like a cross between Jerry Mouse and Keroppi.  It's a "how high can you climb" kind of game with little direct control of your character... he wanders around aimlessly, and you charge up his jumps by holding down the fire button.  Feh.

1:11 AM: Last Cabra?  Either they meant "Cobra" or it's something Rhonda Shear would sell on a late night infomercial.  It's a marginally diverting top-down shooter with lots of spastic explosions and a soundtrack that would probably be a better fit for Dueling Banjos Hero.  I just found out one of the buttons on the controller is used for rapid fire.  My aching thumbs thank you, WinFun.

1:16 AM: Aero Engine is next, and I'm expecting the same experience I got from Last Cabra.  My mistake... this one's a generic side-scrolling shooter, borrowing many of its ideas (but not its variety or quality) from Gradius.  Feels a bit twitchy, and the bosses are as dumb as toast, bouncing up and down before locking in place and firing a stream of bullets.

1:19 AM: Ooh, Space Castle!  Any chance it's like Star Castle, one of my old Vectrex favorites?  (Fat chance, Jess.)  Okay, the title screen has a weird blue blob riding a World War II aircraft.  Oh hey, it's Space Invaders!  But in color!  And... also kind of crappy.  The blobs you shoot at seem kind of cranky, but I would be too if I were in a game like this.

1:22 AM: Golden Arrow.  It's an archery contest that looks suspiciously similar to the event from Track and Field.  It even uses the same font, the same sound effects, and even that little mustachioed athlete who looks like the lesser half of Hall and Oates.  Hooray for copyright infringement!

1:27 AM: Disc Target.  How much you wanna bet this is another event from Track and Field?  And it sure is, a pretty obvious lift of the confusing skeet event with a more cheerful background and music that sounds kind of like what you'd hear in Duck Hunt.  Bleh, pass.

1:29 AM: Racing Boat!  It's another generic top-down racing game, but this time in a river, with aquatic obstacles.  Watch out for that hippopotamus!  Also, why are there blue foxes on the shoreline?

1:31 AM: Catch the Egg!  Why yes I will!  Pink birds fly overhead, and you catch their unhatched offspring in a frying pan.  It's quite a bit like Kaboom!, except more forgiving.  They tried to fake analog control here by having your frying pan pick up speed the longer you hold the joypad.  The background seems like it was lifted from the NES version of Joe and Mac.

1:33 AM: Paint Master is next.  I suspect we'll get Crush Roller out of this one.  Oh damn, I was totally right!  Am I good or what?  Anyway, you know Crush Roller/Make Trax by now.  You paint the playfield while dodging entirely too wily fish and swearing at the critters who leave footprints in your work.  The "irksters" have been replaced with a rabbit, a purple dinosaur (not THAT one), an anatomically correct bear, and a spider.  Because nothing ruins a freshly painted floor quite like spider tracks.

1:39 AM: Fish Catcher!  I have no idea what this copies, but Imma 'bout to find out.  It's kind of like Kaboom!, except you catch leaping fish with a Go Go Gadget Arm.  Occasionally grinning missiles will leap out of the water as well... catching those has predictably messy results.

1:41 AM: Sea War.  You're dropping depth charges at undersea targets in a game that's very much like Midway's Sea Wolf, with a faster pace and an admittedly impressive background.  Then again, any background would be an improvement over the black and white Sea Wolf.

1:43 AM: Dragon Fire!  Oh please please PLEASE be a clone of the old Imagic game!  Annnnd... disappointment.  It's just like Nibbler or Snake, where you're an ever-lengthening reptile gobbling up targets on the playfield.  I've played games like this a million times before, and am willing to bet you have as well.

1:45 AM: Ocean Quest.  Oh for pity's sake, ANOTHER racing game?!  Bah!  It's just like Road Bumper, except turned on its side and set in a river.  Man, that boat really screams across the water!  And yet in spite of the speed, it's still kind of boring.  Next!

1:48 AM: Pinball Track.  It's a lot like those old labyrinth games, where you have to guide the marble through the maze and keep it away from holes.  Except here, it's really hard to see where the holes are, and just brushing up against them spells doom for your ball.  And the graphics are ugly too!

1:51 AM: Rolling Ball.  As expected, it's similar to the previous game, except much easier, and set on railroad tracks in space.  I don't get it either.  Moving on!

1:52 AM: Insect Chase.  That's a good way to get stung, by the way.  You're a wavy net that catches butterflies as they flit past you.  Catch a bee instead and you lose a life.  Or just the will to live, which is entirely understandable after you've played twenty-eight of these games.

1:55 AM: Birdie Nest.  A disembodied hand balances a flightless pelican on a pole, and it's your mission to catch the eggs it drops while keeping the pelican aloft.  Catch one of its turds instead and you lose a life.  Let the pelican fall and the game instantly ends.  By the way, why do Asian countries always draw turds like they came out of a soft-serve ice cream machine rather than someone's backside?

1:58 AM: Bingo Zap.  No idea what this one will be.  Okay, I just played it and I still have no idea.  You roll a ball into a marked cup on a flat wooden board.  Roll the ball into any of the other cups and you lose a life.  It's exactly as fun as it sounds, even with music that sounds like it was taken from the climax of a Dudley Do-Right cartoon.

2:03 AM: Pet Shop.  Nothin' says lovin' like a drawing ripped off from a Preston Blair animation book!  Okay, what do we have here?  A cat and a bulldog separated by a picket fence take turns pitching baseballs at each other in a knock-off of Artillery Duel (or Worms, if you're not as old as I am.  Or Angry Birds, if you're willing to stretch the definition of the genre).

2:08 AM: Loop Tennis.  A tennis racket floats on the bottom of the screen, and it's up to you to serve your ball to the rackets floating overhead.  You can either play conservatively and serve the ball to the racket in the center of the screen, or risk it all and send the ball to the very top for more points.  Or you could play something else.  (I recommend playing something else.)

2:11 AM: Elfland. Well if that isn't the strangest take on Bubble Bobble I've ever seen!  You're a ghost who can soak up paint from the three cans set on the screen.  Any enemy who happens to share your color can be killed just by touching them, but each collision costs you some paint, and if you happen to run out when you touch another foe, you're dead... again.  An interesting concept, but not what I'd call, you know, fun.

2:16 AM: Push the Box.  Yep, it's Sokoban... just choppier.  Moving on!

2:17 AM: Challenge 100.  It's Keroppi again, this time racing DOWN the screen while bouncing on springboards and dodging spikes.  I'm not sure what this genre of game is called, but I'm fairly certain you've played something like it at least once.

2:19 AM: Grass Cutter.  A lawn mowing simulation?  Be still my beating heart!  Anyway, this is a lot like the previously mentioned Paint Master, except with wide open spaces, no apparent onscreen threats, and an annoying cloud that regrows some of the grass you've cut.  A sedate soundtrack only adds to the boredom.

2:21 AM: Move Fun.  Move, sure.  Fun?  Doubtful.  It's just Bejeweled, which you've probably played a zillion times already.  In case you were eager for a second helping, I'd recommend you skip this and play the cell phone game Pac-Chomp instead.  It's much flashier, and much more fun.

2:24 AM: The music is getting to me!  Augh!  Anyway, Ultra Doggy is next on the docket.  You're a robot wiener dog in this one, and you've got to cross a maze-like road to reach the goal on the other side.  Movement is dog slow until you collect the shoes, and you'll have to grab multiple keys to unlock the goal.

2:27 AM: Gemstone Master.  Uh oh, sounds like another Bejeweled clone!  Oh wait, this is actually a COLUMNS clone.  My bad!  Also, this not so great either.  However, the inclusion of Moai heads makes it go down a little more smoothly.  Everybody loves Moai heads!

2:29 AM: Ball Clash.  Sounds painful, and not just because it's on an el cheapo TV games unit.  Oh lord, it's just like Penguin Wars!  You toss medicine balls across a playfield to your opponent and hope he doesn't return your serves, because man, getting hit with one of those things really stings.  I played this already on the GameBoy and had more than my fill there... next!

2:33 AM: Balloon Man.  Shouldn't that be Balloon Frog?  Anyway, balloons drift through the night sky, and you've got to catch them while steering clear of the sparks floating in their midst.  I know what you're thinking... it's a total rip-off of the Balloon Trip mini-game in Balloon Fight, right?  Well it totally isn't... it sucks!  It takes forever to gain altitude and the screen doesn't scroll, either.

2:37 AM: Basketball.  When will the hurting stop?  This is a free-throw contest, so you already know Shaq will hate it.  Actually, you will too, despite the somewhat attractive court artwork.

2:38 AM: Worm Catch.  Forget the title... you're actually catching gnats and bringing them back to your nest as a tiny yellow canary.  Catch enough and your offspring will gain enough strength to fly away to start families of their own (aww!).  Run into a vulture and it's curtains for you.

2:41 AM: Bubble Blaster.  It's Zuma!  Except choppy.  And you direct your aim with an onscreen cursor, instead of tilting your cannon with the wheel in the middle of the joypad.  I mean come on, it's right there!  Yeesh!

2:43 AM: Fancy Match.  Augh, it's a clown!  And he's trapped in a game of memory!  There are cards scattered throughout the playfield, and flipping them over reveals a fruit stolen from Pac-Man underneath.  Match the fruits and cards vanish.  You will too after a few minutes of this.

2:46 AM: Power Jump.  You'll adjust your speed, then launch a car over a ramp in the hopes of landing on a small strip of highway in this tough, but not especially rewarding, challenge.

2:49 AM: Sky Mission.  I'm absolutely certain I've played a game like this for the Famicom.  You're a tiny soldier armed with a gun, and your primary means of locomotion is the recoil from the gun.  Fire down and your hero is propelled upward, and so forth.  It's an interesting play mechanic, but probably done more justice in the original game.

2:52 AM: Tricky Brick.  A Breakout clone, right?  That's a big 10-4, good buddy!  It's even more like Breakout than most of the souped up remakes released years later, although there are still power ups to catch.  The wheel that should have lent itself really well to a game like this doesn't work any better than the standard D-pad or stick.  Missed opportunity there, I think.

2:55 AM: Wall Ball.  Bounce a ball against two sets of paddles on the edges of the screen in this game where the sprites are entirely too large and failure comes entirely too easily.  Barf.

2:56 AM: Delta Fighter.  Battle your way through fleets of airplanes in this vertically scrolling shooter with an energy meter that slowly counts down as you play.

3:00 AM: Undersea Travel.  Carefully adjust your altitude with the fire button while racing through an underwater tunnel, trying your damnedest not to touch the edges or any of the sea life inside.  Like most sumo matches, your games are likely to only last twenty seconds.

3:04 AM: The Night.  Ooh, spooky!  Let's see what this one has in store.  You're a badly drawn devil, firing arrows at the balloons an angel rains down on you.  Occasionally you'll collect power ups, but they're hard to distinguish from the instantly fatal items that also fall from the sky.  Ooh, crappy!

3:08 AM: Fish Quiz.  Wow, this already sounds like a whole lot of fun.  Heh.  Anyway, this is a puzzle game where fish that look vaguely like Jay Sherman have to be rotated into place, to match a diagram displayed on the right side of the screen.  Yeah, that is totally not my bag.

3:11 AM: Hard Win.  Oh God, just run out of games already!  Ugh.  Anyway.  Balls roll down from the top of the screen, and you've got to twist a pipe to divert them into the like-colored jars on the bottom.  Easy to learn, hard to master, impossible to stay awake through.

3:13 AM: Lonely Island.  A mini-game challenge that's more ambitious than pretty much anything else in this package, Lonely Island nevertheless gets a wag of the finger for shamelessly ripping off 80% of its graphics from the Konami sleeper Yume Penguin Monogatari.  Its greatest sin, however, is stripping away the storyline about a penguin trying to win over his girlfriend by getting in shape.

3:21 AM: Fast Race.  With a name that original, how could you lose?  Anyway, this is a lousy knock-off of Vic Tokai's NES remake of Bump 'n Jump.  That was an unappreciated gem in the system's library and I strongly recommend you give it a spin.  Go ahead!  You'll know where I'll be when you're finished.

3:23 AM: Dangerous Zone.  Or is it "Zone Danger?"  Whatever.  You're trapped inside an arcade crane game, and have to arrange the blocks the cranes drop into lines, a'la Tetris.  The only problem is, every block is the same shape, so there really isn't any challenge to speak of beyond just trying to stay interested.  To its credit, the graphics aren't too bad, with the lead character scurrying around and lifting the blocks dropped into the bin.

3:27 AM: Hero Spud.  Hero... Spud.  Okay!  This reminds me of an oversimplified Rodland, with your way-too-close-to-Kirby-for-comfort protagonist grabbing keys, climbing ladders, and spitting pellets at roving enemies to rescue his girlfriend from a cage.  It's pretty meh, but "meh" is as good as the games on the Joypad 65 are likely to get.

3:30 AM: Stone Mover.  Evidently a clone of Banana, a game released for the Famicom a couple of years after its launch.  You dig tunnels through patches of dirt to drop red stones on a treasure, occasionally dropping blue stones on enemies to get rid of them.

3:34 AM: Right Spot.  Who names their game "Right Spot?"  The same guy who's forced to make sixty five of them in the span of a week, I suppose.  The title screen shows a Snork dropping a handful of Pez candies, which gives me no idea what the game is supposed to be about.  Evidently it's a puzzler, with the player swapping the positions of squares set on a hexagonal board, trying to match the colors of the squares with the stars underneath.  This is so not my kind of game...

3:38 AM: Pool Pro.  I've been doing this for three hours now, making me realize why nobody has ever attempted this before.  These games just don't deserve to be reviewed!  Anyway, Pool Pro is a straight up copy of Data East's Side Pocket.  That game was pretty good, but this is passable at best, with grungy graphics and a less than convincing physics engine.  While we're on the subject, Lunar Pool for the NES wasn't bad either, if you don't demand your billiards game to be strictly according to Hoyle.

3:42 AM: Happy Diamond.  What the heck does Santa Claus have to do with a happy diamond?  One of the programmers at WinFun made the connection, but I'm still straining to understand it.  At any rate, this is a holiday themed puzzle game, not too far removed from Taito's Puzznic.  I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if WinFun took that game and reskinned it.

3:46 AM:  Ball Mania.  Come on Jess, you're almost done!  Ball Mania is yet another puzzle game, where balls are tossed at a nucleus in the center of the screen.  You have to rotate the nucleus in place to make stacks of like-colored balls.  It reminds me a little of Zoo Cube, released by Acclaim when the company was on its deathbed.

3:49 AM: Block Flying.  Pretty obviously Quarth, the Konami puzzle game that's equal parts Tetris and Space Invaders.  You shoot blocks at shapes looming overhead... turning the shapes into solid rectangles removes them from the playfield and keeps your ship from colliding with them.  It's not a fun game, and the generic soundtrack doesn't do it any favors.

3:52 AM: Crazy Hit.  TGIAF... Thank God It's Almost Finished!  Let's hope Crazy Hit ends the selection of games on a positive note.  (I'm not counting on it, though.)  Oh for Pete's sake!  It's Whack a Mole!  All that build up for Whack a Mole?!  Sure it looks fine, but the way the holes are staggered makes it almost impossible to hit the moles as they emerge from their holes.  On the plus side... I can bury this in the garage and forget this ever existed!

And the moral of the story is this... you can find a better use of three hours than to spend it liveblogging the crappy games on a cheap all-in-one joystick.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to talk to my therapist.

1 comment:

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