Retro Review: Folding Saga

Folding Saga NES Cartridge

We finally sat down to review the classic NES game Folding Saga. The game remembered by millions as the reason they got jobs in retail. An inspiration to a generation that would grow up to fold the clothes you buy and pick up the garbage you leave in the dressing room. This game is a business simulator that is occasionally interrupted by arcade mini-games. Oh, and the cartridge art is a clear rip-off of Burger Time.

Folding Saga Summary Report Screenshot

Folding Saga charges you with managing the operations of a retail clothing store. You’ll learn the importance of product placement, store layouts, and budgeting. Use detailed reports to monitor the store’s performance and react accordingly. Schedule the right number of employees to have good coverage, but not go over payroll budget.

Folding Saga Store Layout Menu Screeshot

Even if you can wrap your head around the complexity of store operations, you’ll have to complete mini-games to progress forward. These range from the tedious Meet-n-Greet to the exhausting and dreaded Changing Room Shift. Here, clothes are thrown from the dressing room and it’s your job to catch and fold them. All while dodging hazards such as dirty diaper, spilled drink, and vomit.

Folding Saga Changing Room Shift Minigame Screenshot

This title is truly a work of business art. Folding Saga holds up well due to its level of detail and accuracy in representing the challenges of managing retail stores. We give it 4.5 out of 5 on-call shifts!

Dr. B. Ball

SNES cartridge artwork

Dr. B. Ball is an action-adventure game that tells the tragic and true story of Dr. Brittany Ball. Born with a basketball for a head, everyone in Anytown, USA knew Brittany was destined to be a basketball player, everyone except Brittany that is.

Dr B Ball prepares to operate

Despite her obvious short comings, Brittany was determined to become a world-class surgeon. She played dangerous, no-rules street basketball to put herself through medical school and now needs to prove she’s the world’s greatest surgeon by competing in a series of operations. She has only one weakness: Brittany can only operate on a basketball court and has an irresistible urge to shoot three-pointers with medical waste.

Dr B Ball shoots for 3

Some say the lack of traditional basketball gameplay and excess gore made this game a flop, but maybe the world just wasn’t ready for a female surgeon with a basketball for a head. The storytelling helps to compensate for the tedious gameplay and mediocre graphics. We give this game 2.5 layups!

Hook and Blade

Long before Shingeki no Kyojin was translated into Attack on Titan for English-speaking audiences, a Nintendo DS game was made titled Hook and Blade that focused on the tactical elements of commanding a group of flesh-slicing titan killers. Strangely, the game was only released in North America, and never received a Japanese translation. Cleary influenced by Intelligent Systems’ Advance Wars and Fire Emblem games, Hook and Blade introduces a few new mechanics.

Hook and Blade Nintendo DS Cartridge

Hook and Blade puts you in command of a Survey Corps expedition sometime before the breach of Wall Maria. The soldiers assigned to your team are entirely random down to the appearance, name, and stats. You’ll start with mostly new recruits and at least one experienced soldier who will do much of the work until the others can raise their stats. That is, if they can survive long enough.

First turn of the first level

The game is endless with procedurally generated rounds continuing until your team is destroyed. As losing is inevitable, this game is all about the journey. Survival depends on more than just maneuvering your team to kill titans, you must manage each units supplies of propellant and blades as well as their morale. The loss of any one of these can be fatal for a character. To kill a titan, a unit must get to a space directly behind it, have at least 1 blade, and successfully hit. The chance to hit of each character ranges from 1 to 99% and increases with each kill or after several assists.

Character using hook movement

Getting into place for a kill and staying out of range of titans requires the use of horses or hook movement. Certain objects on the map, including titans, can be hooked, allowing soldiers to move well beyond their normal movement range. Soldiers must have propellant to use this technique. Once out of propellant, soldiers movement range is limited to less than that of titans. You can’t run.

One way of conserving propellant is stay on horseback as much as possible. When mounted, soldiers can outrun titans without expending any gas. If you dismount to kill a titan, the horse will stay where you left it, but unfortunately for the horse, if a titan moves through this space, the horse is lost. A wagon unit provides both resupply and alternate transport. The wagon can resupply one unit each turn with propellant and blades, as well as serve as a transport for up to 2 units.

Even if you balance the use of propellant and blades, you’ll need to carefully manage the morale of your units. Being near titans, especially when they kill a Survey Corp member, reduces morale. Killing titans is the only way to raise it back up. When morale reaches zero, a soldier will no longer respond to commands. You’ll need to protect this unresponsive soldier until you can kill another titan or the round ends.

Only a few remaining units surrounded by titans

You’ll have to face off against titans of all sizes and capabilities. Rarely, an abnormal titan will appear with various abilities or changes in behavior. Some will simply have greater movement range, others will mix things up by being unhookable or able to attack twice in one turn.

This game never became popular due to the poor timing of a release before the popularity of AoT/SnK in North America, and an obscure name that wouldn’t be used again in the franchise. The tactical RPG format is fitting for an AoT game, and what it lacks in story, it makes up for in the addictive gameplay of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. We wish Hook and Blade would be remade (and renamed) for the 3DS!

Retro-Review: Digger of Graves

Digger of Graves, also known as Gropar Gropar, captures the magic of Zelda (by borrowing some assets) and combines this with the rewarding labor of Harvest Moon.

A Dark Fortress

Funded by the mysterious Gravediggers Guild, Apuseni Games developed Digger of Graves for a global audience at the peak of the GBA’s popularity. Sadly, after legal threats from the National Monster Truck League in North America, and discovering the strong cultural bias against those who tend to the dead in Japan, the game was never released outside of Europe.

 

A Sorcerer curses a failure

Digger of Graves puts the player in the role of a gravedigger. More accurately, the player is a former adventurer whose failed expedition into the Dark Fortress results in a sorcerer’s curse that forces a career change. A permanent change as the terms of the curse mean the player must tend to the remains of those who perish in the Dark Fortress for all eternity. You’re a failure, your friends are all dead, you have to bury them, and keep burying others for the rest of your life. A grim outlook, but don’t let that hold you back, this game is damned fun.

The player starts off with some advice

Gameplay starts you next to a waterfall, and the corpses of your former party members. This Dark Fortress has an efficient waste disposal system!  A tutorial message instructs you to use your only item, a bag, to collect the remains, and then to bury them before the end of the day. There isn’t anything else to do around this pool. A path leads south.

Burying your friends

 

Here you find a clearing that features only an abandoned shovel, a second item. You’re instructed to dig graves for your former companions. The graves must be one space each. A little bit of button mashing and you’ve buried your old friends. At least they have nice headstones. Now you’re told to head to you house and rest until nightfall.

Learning to use lamp

Enter the tiny house south of the clearing to save and skip time ahead to sunrise or sunset. You’ll need to have all remains buried to enter. At nightfall, you’re awoken for your final instruction: protect those who are buried! To do this, a final item is bestowed, the magic lamp. While there are no genies, the lamp produces light to see by and shoots fireballs. At night, your trusty body bag is put away, leaving you with your shovel and your fancy new lamp. The shovel provides short range attacks, but these only stun enemies. The lamp’s fireballs destroy enemies in one hit, but once used, it must recharge before firing again. This also leaves you in the dark until the lamp is fully recharged.

Scaring foxes

Thankfully, the danger to your friends’ remains was only a pair of foxes. They’re easily scared off. No need to battle woodland creatures this night. Now that the dead can rest easy, you may return to the home to skip the remaining time until day.

Seeing doomed souls

When you awake, you see a passing group of adventurers on the road to the Dark Fortress. Will you be burying them soon? You certainly will! But not until tomorrow. Today you must collect the remains of some monsters.

Collecting monster remains

Looks like there was a scuffle between goblins, orcs, and a manticore. The goblins and orcs didn’t fair so well, but they did take down the manticore. Monster remains come in several shapes, and like a morbid Tetris, you must dig graves to fit these shapes to bury the remains. This is easy in the beginning, when you have few remains buried, but as you continue to fill up your graveyard, it can become a big challenge to fit the larger monster remains. Monsters are buried in unmarked graves. While a bit disrespectful, this is to your benefit: monster remains decay over time at rate of 1 block every 2 days. The remains of your former party, and of other dead adventurers that turn up do not decay, and have permanent tombstones. This means you should be very careful about where you place them.

Protecting the dead

Every night you’ll need to defend the graveyard from enemies looking to scavenge from or rob the graves. If an enemy successfully digs up remains, a ghost appears, and has to be destroyed with a lamp fireball. Things can get very frantic as you battle several enemies at once. Everything from wolves to grave robbers to wizards wants to get at those corpses. If you fail to defeat all enemies and ghosts before morning, or are killed in combat, the curse resets the events to the beginning of the night.

A proud gravedigger

Just as Mario Bros. inspired a generation to seek careers in plumbing, Digger of Graves intends to inspire you to work at a cemetery. At it works. If you play this game, you’ll want to tend to the dead. Get out there and start shoveling!

Retro-Review: Saddam’s Escape

Title Screen

Welcome! We’re going to kick things off with a retro review of one of the 90s most controversial games: Saddam’s Escape. We all remember the game that would go on to inspire real life events. The game that gave children everywhere Gulf War syndrome. The game that was so ahead of it’s time that it predicted the future!

Dropping a Body Double

It looks like a Dig Dug clone, but lacks the enemies, rocks, or existing tunnels. Player’s pressing the action button won’t find the familiar air pump from Dig Dug either, this only drops a stationary body double. I guess it’s time to get digging.

Tunneling

In the 30 seconds of round one, I’m able to tunnel to the bottom layer and drop my remaining two body doubles. As Saddam tunnels deeper, he loses his hat, his hair goes gray, and finally he sports a beard. All this work has really aged him. Now we’re ready for round two.

Soldiers take the double

On the surface, soldiers march in from either side. When they encounter my body double, they carry him off. I keep digging.

More soldiers, more tunnels

There goes my second double.

Digging deeper, on the run

They’ve got me on the run and have taken my last body double. Three soldiers remain to comb the tunnels for Saddam.

sceneEight

And they got me. There are urban legends of players escaping the soldiers, but no evidence has ever been provided. So we can only assume these are false. There is no escape.

endScene

What does Saddam’s Escape offer a player? There’s no winning and no points earned for the time you spent evading the soldiers. Was this game meant to demonstrate the futility of hiding underground when you’re a mad dictator on the run? Or was it simply a half-baked idea that was produced to capitalize on contemporary events and present a dental health message? We’ll likely never know. PrognostSoft closed it’s doors not long after the release of Saddam’s Escape. There’s almost no record of them even existing. We’ll keep looking for answers, but in the meantime, we can only be as disappointed as the children who spent Christmas day failing to escape.