Retro Mini Review: AD&D Pool of Radiance (part 1)

“You arrive at the city of Phlan by boat. A man approaches…” The title does not lie; this game is D&D complete with DM-like naration. The first thing I noticed is that making characters takes a really long time. It’s not the choices that prolongs the process. You only make 3 choices: class/race, alignment and then whether the randomly rolls stats are acceptable. The race/class options come in pairs, it was surprisingly thorough but didn’t have all the choices(couldn’t be a female Halfing D:).

When you get around to rolling stats you really need patience. Every stat is randomized, which makes sense because it’s D&D, but this makes you end up with the perfect stats for a mage, on your fighter, so you have to keep re-rolling until you get good stats. It takes so much time that I made my characters and then saved and took a break.


The game itself is played in the first person but you can only move a step at a time similar to Dungeon Master or any game like it but combat is completely different than what I expected. I assumed it would be first-person turn based combat but the game switches to third person for turn based strategy style combat almost like having miniatures on a grid for actual D&D.

Your first quest is to clear out the slums of monsters and it is not an easy task. Even though my characters were pretty decent for starting characters and I geared them up as well as I could, I was unable to win more than a couple fights before having to return to town to heal. It took me a couple trips before I realized my characters didn’t start with spells memorized so I had to do that. It can be very tedious running back and forth like that.

The game really starts to take off once you get some gear, which doesn’t take long. It seems like every time I found weapons or armor it was at least a +1. Although, you have to identify it to tell the difference between it and normal gear. Once you start surviving a few more fights it is not long before your characters start to level up. That first level can be a major game changer. Your HP can double and you get new spells on casters.

I really started to have fun around when I had my first character reach 20 HP (2nd level fighter) and my Cleric got a -1 AC. Killing things without dying so easily is pretty satisfying. After that the game is more about exploring instead of grinding. You’re fighting for your city now, instead of fighting for your life. The game becomes good old fashioned AD&D dungeon crawling, with some other neat stuff thrown in there.

Despite some tedious moments, this game is a solid, and massive D&D game. I didn’t have time to finish it during my week, even with a few long play sessions I didn’t even come close. This is both good and means that I will be spending more time on it and possibly discussing it some more as I finish it.


Next week I will be playing:

Psycho Fox (Sega Master System, 1989)

Retro Mini Reviews: Paperboy and Burger Time

I picked 2 arcade games because I wanted an easy week where I didn’t have to worry about finishing a game. At the time I didn’t think I would even beat Ninja Gaiden 2, but I did and then some. I also didn’t realize this week would be the week after school, and the week that most of my friends are offline. So, bored, lonely and with a cold, I wish I had a long adventure game to trudge through to make the time go faster.


I was disappointed by how much skill I lost over the years. I used to boast about once beating a friend at Paperboy using my feet while eating an Arby’s roast beef sandwich. I’s been a decade and a half since those days and I haven’t even touched paper boy and it shows.

I had to relearn everything about the game. It is difficult to judge where you will hit stuff and where you will not. This becomes easier after you’ve hit, and evaded things a few dozen times but after 15 years, it’s not easy. I guess this is a flaw in the game’s design but it’s one I always overlook because the game is fun.

The goal of Paperboy is to deliver papers to your subscribers while avoiding obstacles in order to try to get a high score. You can get bonus points by destroying certain objects, like windows of non-subscribers and etc. but you then might run out of papers to throw and miss houses. If you miss a subscribers house or accidentally hit their window you will lose that subscriber. The only way to get them back is by getting a perfect run which becomes easier the less houses you have.

I cannot really explain why Paperboy is so enjoyable. It’s just an arcade game with whimsy, fun, and some challenge, and a skater who looks an awful lot like my old skating buddy James who seems to crash into you way too frequently. The game has a bit of nostalgia for me but I still think it’s worth a play if you’re looking for a simple, enjoyable arcade game.

Burger Time:

If I remember correctly, my mom picked up Burger Time several years back, probably a few years after I used to play Paperboy, and I ended up having tons of fun with the game.

Burger Time has one of the weirdest concepts ever. You are a chef who makes burgers by running across them and making them fall down platforms until they reach the bottom all the while trying to outrun an egg and some hot dogs wearing Chucks.

Once you realize how the enemies move it’s easy to manipulate their paths to your advantage and get past the first couple levels without many deaths but it still gets really hard after that.

I can’t really explain how this game can be so good but it managed to become one of my favorite NES titles in my collection. It’s just a fun, quirky arcade game that I think everyone ought to try out for themselves. I still enjoy it after all these years even if I can’t really play well anymore.

Retro Review: Fester’s Quest

Here is TransGamerSociologist’s first ever Guest Post.  This review is by my good friend Hjort.

Uncle Fester: Explosives aficionado, human electric generator, general weirdo and quite the untraditional choice for a video-game protagonist, even by Addams Family standards; The man is old, pasty, fat, and dressed as if he’s on his way to expose himself to women outside the public library. The exposing part might not even be necessary since the getup itself in combination with Fester’s bald head kind of makes him look enough like a penis as it is. So, the dear uncle might not exactly be a Bill Rizer or Simon Belmont, but as we all know, being a hero has nothing to do with appearance, and everything to do with rising to the occasion. Yes, I’m aware that there is another penis joke in there, but one will have to be enough.

According to the game’s story, aliens have come to town for some good ol’ human abducting and, one can only assume, anal probing shenanigans. Thanks to a spell cast on the Addams’ mansion by Grandma, the aliens are unable to spot the life signs coming from the family, and it’s now up to the quirky clan, spearheaded by Fester, to save the kidnapped townsfolk.

Upon first inspection, the game-play seems to be a cousin of The Legend of Zelda, with an open-ended, top-down perspective world to explore and plenty of collectible items to help you on your way, but after a couple of minutes it becomes apparent that things aren’t quite what they seem. Most of the suburban roads you stroll down will lead you into dead ends, and as you progress the subsequent maps will leave you with increasingly less potential routes to take. The streamlining is also evident in that any important items will be hidden – and I use that term loosely – in houses on, or in close proximity to the correct path, making them hard to miss.

The different street areas are connected through the local sewer system, which, while sometimes featuring new enemy variations, mainly serves as a change of scenery and an excuse for the programmers to squeeze in another kick-ass tune by 8-bit legend Naoki Kodaka. A more interesting part of the game-play would be the buildings hiding the bosses. In an ambitious move for an 8-bit action game based on a 1960’s sitcom, your perspective changes from third- to first-person as soon as you walk in the door. There are no enemies to fight in the corridors and no puzzles to solve, basically reducing these sections to a rudimentary maze game, but the change of pace and perspective makes for a welcome break in between longer periods of relentless running (read: waddling) and gunning.

Speaking of the gunning, when a game’s manual gives you the advice to get a turbo joystick, you know your B-button is in for some punishment. If you’re not used to blasting the crap out of stuff with an NES controller, Fester’s Quest’s endlessly re-spawning monsters will tire you quite quickly, but if you’ve got a few hours of Mega Man and Contra under your belt, the game won’t be half as mean as some may have you believe. Any given enemy – including bosses – can quickly be convinced to pursue a career of daisy pushing as long as you never stop firing.

However, your gun can sometimes make hitting your mark a tad harder than it should be. Most of the eight different gun variations will shoot their projectiles in a wave formation, which means that there will be potential blind spots in-between the bullets, leaving openings for aliens to swoop in and smack Fester over his shiny dome. While this contributes to the hectic nature of the shooting, it’s always disappointing to find new weapon upgrades, hoping for some sort of assault rifle equivalent, only to get stuck with something that feels more like walking an unruly snake with a poor sense of direction.

Fester’s Quest isn’t one of the NES’s all-time greats, and not even one of Sunsoft’s better titles on the system, but it is nevertheless a somewhat enjoyable if mindless little blastathon for those of us who want to practice our button pressing endurance, or merely embrace our inner weirdo.

You can listen to some music from Fester’s Quest here:

Retro Mini Review: Journey to Silius

   Jumping in Journey to Silius isn’t as precise as you may want from a game that involves jumping—this makes negotiating the more sadistically placed enemies and a later auto-scrolling level more a chore than a challenge.  Add to that a mechanic which precludes you from turning and jumping too quickly—you will turn and your jump will simply not happen—and you have a run ‘n’ gun that is more rewarding to deliberation and sweet-spot-finding than quick fingers.  This can be fine, but once you figure out all the tricks and sweet spots to each level and boss and complete the game there’s not much reward to coming back and polishing up on your dexterity.

The game contains several moments where taking damage is unavoidable.  Particularly notable are elevator sections where you cannot move and enemies may freely shoot you if the wicked game mechanisms operating behind-the-scenes don’t favor you.

Visually and design-wise, the levels and enemies therein become quite varied. Though, boss battles are very similar—jump and shoot the weak point—and aren’t very interesting. I found the best ways to approach certain obstacles were completely different than others, and the game provides a decent challenge even if the challenge doesn’t last that long, which is fine, too. Supplementing the possibilities when overcoming obstacles, you have access to a cumulative collection of weaponry, though you’ll find yourself coming back to your handgun and probably staying there.  It seems like the option for different weapons is only there because Mega Man has it, and the additional weapons don’t add any meaningful nuance to the game. Despite these and other flaws, there is fun to be had with Journey to Silius. It’s not the best game in my library, but it is an enjoyable one.

And yes, the music is wonderful.

You can enjoy a bit of Silius‘ music here:

And watch me beat the first level here:

Next game I will be playing is:

Ninja Gaiden II (NES, 1990)

Retro Month For TransGamerSociologist


Starting today, for one month, I will play and write about a handful of retro games. I will play each game for a week and then every Friday, I will put up a Mini Retro Review. I really hope you all like old games.

To balance things out and because I haven’t done one in a while, I am also going to be having Monday night personal rants. That makes sense in my head.

I hope at least a couple of you will read and enjoy my reviews.

The first game I will be playing is:

Journey to Silius (NES, 1990)

I Just Beat Zelda II

I was never able to beat Zelda II as a kid. I wasn’t good enough. I’ve known the first half of the game pretty well for a long time. The furthest I had ever gotten before today was the second to the last palace. I never knew that fairies went through locked Doors so I never tried it. After learning that the temple wasn’t so hard.

So finally I was able to make the difficult and infuriating trek to the final dungeon. Which ended up being surprisingly easy. Once you get the hang of killing ghosts, the rest is not falling in the holes. When I saw the final dungeon I got so excited I stopped and took a picture of it. I had never seen it before, and it was quite a site.

Getting past the palace on the other hand is not a simple task. It is sadistically designed and is a maze. You travel a long way just to find a dead end with almost no hope of making it back to the right path. Luckily I’m patient and I mapped out the way as I went so that I could find all the dead ends. After that it was just a matter of checking every way. Which was easy enough albeit a bit tedious. I was exhausted by the time I got to the bird. That’s how they get you. After fighting your way to the boss, your mind and fingers are defeated. After getting to the boss 3 or 4 times, I killed him(or her, etc).


But Link’s Shadow took me, I had so little life that I couldn’t fight on. My fingers ached and I wanted to stop but I had waited 20 years for this fight, I needed to hit him at least once before I went to bed. I persevered. And it turns out, I beat him. with half my life left and enough magic to use life if I needed to, he died. I took him down when I thought I had only a small hope of even hitting him, based on my first attempt.

I couldn’t believe it. I had beaten the game. My favorite game. It’s complete. I’m going to replay it today to see if I can finish the game in a single sitting. I’m so excited!