* Prices may differ from that shown
Sega Smash Pack is a Gameboy Advance pack of smash hit games by Sega. Self-explanatory, really. Following on from the Smash Pack series preceding it on PC and Dreamcast which offered between eight and twelve classic Mega Drive games, the GBA version only manages to bundle together three of Sega's greatest hits - quite a ridiculously small number, but that appears to be all that the GBA can manage!
It's quite pointless reviewing the package as a whole when it's essentially just three games on one cartridge, so I'm going to break this review down into three sections. All of these games were previously available on the Sega Mega Drive console and were quite successful at the time. It's quite a varied mixture, including an action/pinball sim, a swimming game and a medieval beat 'em up. Odd.
As the game will probably appeal to retro gamers more than new gamers, I have given each game two ratings (out of tive) - one rating is a prediction of how well the game will be liked by people who used to play the game and are considering trying it out again, and the second is for people who are playing these old school titles with fresh, wide eyes.
Back when Sonic the Hedgehog was at the height of his popularity, Sega would release any old dross with his name on it. Oh wait, they still do. Anyway, this was quite an intriguing idea for a game - not quite a platformer, not quite a pinball sim, this is a development from the casino-styled levels that featured in the original Sonic games (Spring Yard Zone and Casino Night Zone) that places Sonic in the the shoes of a pinball.
Spread over four tables (with bonus tables inbetween that play like traditional pinball games), Sonic must make his way through Dr. Robotnik's Veg-O-Fortress, eventually triggering an eruption of the volcano it is built on. To do this, he must collect the chaos emeralds that are protected by Robotnik's mean machines and deadly traps. You can control the blue hedgehog which allows for some exploration and adventure in the elaborate pinball tables.
While this is by no means the best Sonic game ever made - it's probably not even top ten - it's still quite fun. It's certainly very different. For a couple of hours of unique gameplay, and if you think your reaction times are fast enough, this is worth taking for a spin.
Old School Gamer Score: 4 out of 5.
New School Gamer Score: 3 out of 5.
ECCO THE DOLPHIN
I found Ecco painfully boring when I was younger, so I apologise if this review is biased at all. I will try to focus on the positives, and I've got to say one of my favourite things about this game is its ludicrous plot. Ecco, unsurprisingly, is a dolphin. He's quite an unlucky dolphin actually, as all of his family, as well as all the other fish where he lives, have been sucked up by a tornado. He is told by some other dolphins that he must find a blue whale called, hilariously, the Big Blue. From here, he begins a series of adventures - he must travel to the Arctic, find the oldest creature on Earth, unearth Atlantis and, ultimately, travel back in time. Brilliant..
Ecco, and by extension you, has unlimited movement in his underwater world. Despite being populated by threats (sharks, for example), the ocean is calmingly peaceful and makes for a relaxing play experience. Ecco can use his song to communicate with others, or if they are particularly hostile, he can ram them. The player must also remember to manage Ecco's needs as a dolphin - he needs air to stop himself from drowning and food to keep his energy up.
There are practically no bells and whistles here, but while that put me off when I was a kid, it appeals more to me now. A thinking man's game, Ecco is peaceful and intelligent. It is, however, still a little boring, and might not be exciting enough to keep you swimming up its steep difficulty curve.
Old School Gamer Score: 3 out of 5.
New School Gamer Score: 2 out of 5.
This is my favourite. What's not to like? Barbarians, animated skeletons, dragons, swords, magic, kicking midgets - everything that's good about fantasy fiction is present here. Choosing one of three characters (Ax Battler, the Conan-style barbarian, Tyris Flare, the Amazon woman who is skilled at magic, or Gilius Thunderhead, the angry dwarf with an axe), you must battle through a handful of side-scrolling beat 'em up levels in order to reach the scary dark knight Death Adder and retrieve the stolen Golden Axe weapon.
The levels are beautifully designed, as are all of the sprites. Best of all are the dragon steeds that you can steal from your enemy. Riding a beast on Golden Axe is one of my favourite gaming memories of all-time. There are plenty of opportunities for insane, rabid fun here - kicking an elf to steal his potions or food, drop-kicking an enemy off the back of a giant turtle, hurling an annoying dominatrix across the screen. Such great memories!
The gameplay is simple - beat people up until you get to a boss, then use the magic you have collected to take them down - but it's such a good-looking, enjoyable experience that you can't fail to enjoy it. Sadly, there is no multiplayer option here, which is a flaw of the GBA version alone and really stops it from being a definitive port. It's very annoying, as playing with a friend was one of the highlights of the original game, and there are no excuses for it being "left out" here. However, the main game is otherwise emulated perfectly and it is classy enough to stand up as a one-player experience.
Old School Gamer Score: 4 out of 5.
New School Gamer Score: 4 out of 5.
Sadly, this collection is let down by how few games there are here. I'm sure something else could have been squeezed in - at best, something with a bit more longevity. A skilled player could probably take on all three of this games in one or two sittings. Sad, really, as the games are great - not all-time classics, but still fantastic and playable remnants from the past - and you could have a lot of fun with them. Just make sure that you don't pay full price for this cartridge. It's not worth it, especially as all of these titles can be picked up on better compilations elsewhere. Having said that, if you can find it second-hand for pocket money prices, I'd love to invite you to enjoy this slice of under-appreciated retro goodness.
The Sega Smash Pack features three classic Megadrive games on one cartridge: Ecco the Dolphin, Golden Axe, Sonic Spinball