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The Moonlight War novel by S.K.S. Perry

Quattro Arcade (NES) artwork

Quattro Arcade (NES) review

"Quattro Arcade, being a compilation, was one of those games nobody wanted to finish for the NES FAQ Completion Project. In attempting to give something of everything, compilation carts invariably serve up one game that just stinks. Too many NES multi-game carts feature games with too few levels or too little attention to graphics or, in Action 52's case, both. I'm not aware of any perfect cross-genre compilation, but QA is clearly above average. "

Quattro Arcade, being a compilation, was one of those games nobody wanted to finish for the NES FAQ Completion Project. In attempting to give something of everything, compilation carts invariably serve up one game that just stinks. Too many NES multi-game carts feature games with too few levels or too little attention to graphics or, in Action 52's case, both. I'm not aware of any perfect cross-genre compilation, but QA is clearly above average.

CJ's Elephant Antics is a platformer where you guide an elephant in a red undershirt through Paris, the Arctic, Egypt and the jungle--nothing special in the graphics, but good variance in the cliches--to find his mother. Enemies are what you'd expect: penguins, lions, and monkeys, with Gendarmes and mummies in the city-like levels. They don't shoot often, but touching them kills CJ--nasty when they just guard the platform above or jump from below. To counter this, CJ's jump-and-fire requires mastery, as do his bouncing bombs, which act like superballs til they hit enemies. These have limited supply, and often you need to throw them before the next enemy appears.

Still the more lethal obstacles are spike pits, and it's important to learn which CJ needs to step halfway over before jumping and which he can't. These appear throughout, but the last two levels offer something more with branching paths and secret doors in unmarked walls. While the game gives no overt clues, eventually you'll realize the jumps that just miss the next ledge are meant to, and the intricate parts you see as CJ winds around probably have a different way to get there. It's only exasperating the first time, as enemies don't generate or reappear, and there's no time limit. The only really unfair parts are the spiked-pit dead ends late on. Bosses are afterthoughts--jump or run under and shoot--until the final bit, a pair of volcanoes firing lava for a hundred seconds. Then, if there was any doubt this game overplayed the cute angle, a huge purple elephant greets CJ.

Stunt Buggies is more interesting: a driving maze where your car picks up bombs, which it can't use, until it goes back to the trap door at the start. That saves the certain area, somehow. There's sixteen levels of this. Four are bonuses and rigged so enemies randomly trap you pretty quickly. Your car needs to use its smokescreen, which burns fuel, judiciously. Bombs appear more in dead ends. Ice patches create impromptu overpasses. It's important to keep an eye on the radar, with flashing enemies, and the screen. Unfortunately, the radar only shows one bomb at a time, so the later levels require too much trial and error before you need to start over from the beginning. Worse, napping on many later levels means you fall into the sand and water bordering the main course. Covered bridges also hide enemies nicely in overhead view. You may have to time smoke-and-retreat moves.

Still, with discipline, it's possible to find the best order to get the bombs, and how to get around enemy cars. You just learn which ones start chasing you first. Even when cars mix up their speeds, with some outpacing you on later levels, the system should work, unless you manage to forget a single bomb and lose several cars finding it in the process. Levels feature a variety of weird obstacles, like psychedelic leaves or skulls, and even the monorails with fast vehicles look neat. It's just horrendously impossible without save states.

F-16 Renegade switches wretchedly between first-person and overhead view as your plane ducks bullets--actually SHOOTING distracts you from seeing the camouflaged bullets--until boss battles. The bosses and enemies repeat except for the hits they take each round. This green-and-brown fest stinks. Maybe it satisfied a violence quota.

Thankfully, Go! Dizzy Go! makes up for F-16 and then some. It's the best game on the cart, unsurprising given the Dizzy franchise's respect among old school gamers. Dizzy, an irrepressibly smiling egg with red limbs, collects fruits in each level through a maze of blocks, which he can push to trap or kill enemies, and walls. Blocks dissolve every few seconds, and question-mark blocks provide hints for hidden treasure. Power-ups can make a level easy or harder: knife and fork mean Dizzy can eat the enemies a bit, a shield protects him, and he can also gain strength so pushing blocks doesn't slow him down, or even be able to wrap across the screen. A bomb wipes out all enemies. Dizzy can also collect flashing fruits in order for a bigger bonus. Some levels let you gamble by changing walls to fruits--collect them all in time and jump forward.

Bonus rounds following regular levels let you bounce Dizzy in one direction until he stops at a wall. He's got limited time to collect all fruits, often finishing just in time with best play. It's optically tricky since Dizzy must often wrap off edges and hit dead ends in the right order. This, along with the hints about that warp you missed two levels back, means GDG is good for more than one play through.

The five worlds, with their five levels each, provide a straightforward variety of cheery graphics that don't seem spectacular until you realize you're more upset missing the designs for the next level than losing the game. Each world's been done before--sea, forest, pyramids, mountain and castle--but the blocks, walls and enemies change with each level, along with an inscription above the playfield. While the other three games rely on occasional nasty tricks to keep someone playing longer (e.g. until they solve it,) Dizzy offers a lot of fun and possibilities on replay, and it's a generous game.

So overall QA is a satisfying fun-over-depth success. It introduces an entertaining franchise (Dizzy) and two other genres with pleasing color. While unfair traps increase playing time the wrong way, emulation cuts down the "inane repetition or die" nuisance. Three of four good games is above average for combo carts.

Rating: 8/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (December 27, 2009)

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