As a full moon rises in the autumn sky, a chill wind blows about you. A jack o' lantern flickers dimly on a darkened porch. Skeletons appear and start making bad jokes about how they've got no body to hang out with. It can mean only one thing - it's the beginning of October, and thus it's time for the Sixth Annual VGJunk Halloween Spooktacular! Yes, it's my favourite time of year again, a time when it's all horror-tinged games all the time. There'll be monsters, blood, haunted castles, ghosts, goblins and sometimes ghosts and goblins. Maniacal laughter, lightning crashes, the sound of a large metal door creaking open, etc, etc. To start the sinister season, I present to you Microdeal's 1988 Amiga suck-em-up Fright Night!

Man oh man, just look at this artwork. It's beautiful. I feel like I've come home, and not just because my home also has terrifying spectral monster floating over it at all times.
As the horror movie aficionados amongst you will have realised, Fright Night is an adaptation of the 1985 movie of the same name. Fright Night tells the story of Charley Brewster, a young man with a problem: a vampire has moved in to the house next door, and said vampire wants to kill Charley and his friends. It's a movie of two halves: the first is essentially The Boy Who Cried Vampire, as Charley attempts to convince those around him that his neighbour really is undead and not just a captivatingly charming chap who likes to sleep in late. Charley enlists of a washed-up horror movie actor famous for playing vampire killers to help him, and then the second half of the movie becomes a battle against the vampire and his minions. Good prevails, the vampire is defeated and Charley's girlfriend becomes un-vampired. It is a fun movie and one I personally enjoy immensely, so if you haven't seen it then now's a good time to check it out. So how did the developers translate the movie into a computer game?

Unexpectedly, that's how, by having you play as the vampire. I know, I would have expected a shallow Castlevania knock-off too but Microdeal went the extra mile on the concept and here we are controlling Jerry Dandrige, the master vampire. Yes, the vampire's name is Jerry. Yes, I know it's probably quite low down on your mental list of cool names for a vampire. Maybe it's an Alucard thing and Jerry is merely the alias of Yrrej, the hideous bloodsucking menace that brought terror to Eastern Europe for generations before crossing the Atlantic and buying some comfortable slacks.
To reiterate, in Fright Night you have the rare experience of playing as a character that is one hundred percent unambiguously evil. Not an anti-hero, not misunderstood, just a monster who eats people. Neat. A good start to the Halloween festivities, then, but what does Jerry actually do?

"Hey, you're going to come into my house and imply that I don't do anything? That's just rude."
As an extra Halloween bonus, Jerry is played by Chris Sarandon in the movie so Fright Night is also giving you the opportunity to play as Jack Skellington. Well, Jack Skellington's voice. His talking voice, I mean. Danny Elfman does Jack's singing. What I'm saying is you're getting to play as at least 20% of Jack Skellington.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the gameplay. You wander around for a bit, that's what you do.

While wandering, be sure to take in the sights of Jerry's mansion, including his well-appointed Mad Science lab, complete with a workbench that has coiled snakes for legs. In the movie Jerry seems like a very vampire-y vampire, mostly focusing on the blood-drinking and "swishing about in long coats" aspects of undeath, but everyone has to have hobbies and I wouldn't be surprised if Jerry's involved glowing beakers full of unidentified chemicals.

The second floor landing is where Jerry stores his knick-knacks, including a heart pinned to the table with a knife, a decomposing skull and a cross. A cross. Jerry, you dumb son of a bitch. A cross? Have you got a garlic-scented air freshener plugged in down there, too? C'mon, man, you're giving vampires a bad name here. This is only going to backfire on you, it's like if I made all my home furnishings out of cat hair and pollen.

Ah yes, the family portrait room. Grandpappy Satan, Puffy Uncle Varolek the Despoiler and little cousin Jimmy, all present and accounted for. There will now be a short break in the article while I go and see whether I can find somewhere online that will sell me a green leather sofa decorated with bats.

Aww nuts, there's no time to shop for home d├ęcor because Jerry has found an intruder in his home! It's Charley. I think. I mean, I assume it's Charley and not just some random kid standing in Jerry's house and throwing bibles at him. Anyway, yes, Charley throws bibles that will drain your health if they hit you - you can see one near the knees of the suit of armour on the right - but the bibles, and every other projectile that's thrown at you in this game, follow a strange bouncing pattern of movement. Therefore, Jerry has to close the distance to his would-be slayer by predicting when the object will be at its lowest point and jumping over it. And when Jerry reaches his prey?

He drains their blood, of course. The Misterioso Pizzicato plays, blood squirts from the neck region, Charley fades into nothingness and Jerry burps, because he is a real class act.

"Ain't I a stinker?"
So, I ate an innocent person. That was fun. Sadly it's really all there is to Fright Night's gameplay: there are a certain number of intruders in Jerry's house, and he has to eat them all and get back into his coffin before the sun rises and destroys him. You can see the moon-o-meter at the bottom-left of the screen, and it ticks by slowly enough that once you've learned the layout of the house you should have plenty of time to complete your feastings. Also on the status bar is Jerry's face, which serves as a health gauge. Touching anything hostile will drain your health very quickly, changing the face icon from "full of vampiric vitality" to "what's under Jason Voorhees' mask" to "nothin' but bone" in the blink of an eye, but fortunately you can restore it by killing people or hanging around near your coffin. Speaking of coffins, now that the house is free of people who want to jam a stake into his heart while he sleeps, I guess it's time for Jerry to hit the satin-lined hay.

When you approach your coffin, the music changes to "Home, Sweet Home," which I thought was a nice touch. After a hard day's slaughter there nothing as pleasurable as sinking into your own casket and letting your cares drift away, secure in the knowledge that even if someone else does dare to interrupt your rest they'll probably go for the decoy vampire over on the right and wake you up before they manage to get to makin' with the stakin'.

Kinda feels like you're channelling Garfield here, Fright Night.
Unsurprisingly, the next stage takes place on Tuesday. After that, Wednesday, then the 6th of June 1944 - D-Day, and Jerry risks exposure to help the war effort on the beaches of Normandy. No, not really, it's Thursday, and so on until you reach Sunday, at which point the game loops around into a never-ending vampire buffet simulator. Some things do change between days, though.

For starters, there must have been some major construction work during the day because Jerry's house now has an additional two floors, both fully decorated, as though Fright Night takes place in an alternate (and frankly far superior) universe where the Addams Family are the hosts of 60 Minute Makeover.

There are also a lot more things trying to kill Jerry, in the form of grasping hands that reach up through the floorboards and a variety of floating, legless ghosts that drift around the screen getting in the way. In a display of the shocking double standards involved in depictions of male and female nudity, I've had to censor this lady ghost's exposed breasts because I didn't want to risk being tarred as a provider of not safe for work content by the search engines. The last article proves I can show you all the male nipples you'd ever care to see and many, many more besides, but I just couldn't take the chance with these boo-bs. Because she's a ghost, you see. Was this whole paragraph just a lead-up to that terrible pun? Friend, this whole article was a lead-up to that pun.

The number of people you need to exsanguinate before you can go back to bed is greatly increased, too, so let's meet some of them, starting with Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent, the horror-actor-turned-horror-TV-host who gets roped into the terrifying world of the undead... for real! He's trying to kill Jerry by throwing stakes at him, but unless Jerry's heart is located in his thigh I don't think he has much to worry about. Mind you, Peter Vincent doesn't have to worry about dying either - and neither does anyone else in this game who isn't an immortal creature of the night, ironically enough - because the characters you kill reappear, well and unharmed, on the next day.

The next victim is "Evil" Ed, Charley's awkward, twitchy friend who he doesn't seem to even like all that much. Here come some Fright Night spoilers, by the way - young Edward's nickname of "Evil" becomes appropriate when he's turned into a vampire during the course of the film. I presume that's why his sprite looks like it's been carved from a block of lard, it's supposed to represent Ed's necrotic flesh. I felt a little guilty about eating Ed, because he gave the world one of my favourite horror movie lines of all time when he reveals where Charley's dinner is. Not guilty enough to spare him, though. Hey, he's a soulless monster, technically I'm doing the world a favour.

I think this is supposed to be Charley's girlfriend Amy. She wears a white dress during part of the film, but I'm still not totally convinced. I mostly think she's Amy because the other candidates for the position look even less like the movie version of Amy, such as...

This woman, who looks far too motherly to be the teenage Amy. She's even doing a "Wilma about to scold Fred Flintstone" pose, so I'm going to assume she's meant to be Charley's mum, popping over to harangue Jerry for breaking her bedroom door and trying to kill her son.

This victim is a real deep cut, and it was only after flicking through the movie again that I realised she must be the prostitute that Jerry kills early on in the film, a character who only appears very briefly and says a mere six words. At that point you might as well just start inventing completely new characters to fill Jerry's house with, really. It could have been an extremely unlucky week for any gas meter inspectors / newspaper delivery boys / girl scouts selling cookies in the area. Oh well, at least they didn't just fill the house with palette swaps.
As I've said, the gameplay in Fright Night is very basic and the whole experience is more shallow than a Smurf's bathwater, but one thing that was almost an interesting gameplay mechanic is represented by the combination cross/ Star of David on the status bar. This shows the victim's faith - an oft-repeated idea in the movie is that things like holy water and crucifixes will only harm a vampire if the wielder believes in them. This lady is totally convinced that crosses she's throwing are going to work, so her faith indicator glows brightly and her attacks do more damage. It could be an engaging idea with a bit of work, but all it means in practise is that some victims are randomly much more powerful than the rest. Maybe if you could scare them into losing faith, or their faith increased if they saw Jerry taking damage from a similar attack to theirs, you'd have the foundations of a fun little gimmick, but that's not the case in this game.

What else can I say about Fright Night? Not a whole lot, actually. If you manage to survive Tuesday then you've seen the entire game, as far as I'm aware. What little gameplay there is all handled well enough: the collision detection is solid and the controls are responsive - having to hold down and the fire button to duck takes a bit of getting used to, but I suppose the compromise was unavoidable when you use up and on the stick to climb the staircases.
The main thing I took away from playing Fright Night is that it paints a terribly unappealing portrait of life as a vampire. You wake up, you need to drink blood almost constantly or you'll melt away, your mansion is full of people trying to kill you in your sleep and even the ghosts - displaying a heartbreaking lack of supernatural solidarity - are trying to stab you in the back. If you somehow survive the night, it's back into your coffin to do it all again, and again, and again. Sleeping all day, mooching around and eating all night, never going outside: what I'm saying is that Fright Night hits a little too close to home.

Fright Night looks really nice and it's fun to play as an unmitigated bastard for once, but what little gameplay there is becomes incredibly repetitive very quickly. There's just nothing much to do - for instance, you don't even have to press the fire button to eat people, you just walk into them and bam, the game takes over. You get to walk and jump, that's it. I would say try it for a little while, but stop the second you start getting bored because it's not like there are any spooky twists or thrilling surprises waiting around the corner. A more solid recommendation would be to watch the movie, or if you don't have time for that then at least check out the soundtrack - it features some classic 80's horror movie soundtrack cheese from Autograph, the J. Geils Band band performing an eponymous track that'll slot nicely into any Halloween party playlist and best of all an obscure and rather good track by Devo that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie.
That's Fright Night, then: as a game it's admittedly poor, but as an introduction to the Halloween season it couldn't be much better, which leads me nicely to the return of...

The VGJunk Halloween-O-Meter! As always, this is a measure of how Halloween-y a game is and not how good it is, which explains why Fright Night gets a big nine out of ten. It's got vampires, a haunted mansion and occasional tables decorated with body parts so it was never going to be a low scorer, although it misses out on a full ten out of ten for not including any pumpkins. I'm not saying pumpkins are mandatory for a perfect score, it's just that it feels like that's what Fright Night is really missing, you know?
And there we go, the 2015 Halloween Spooktacular is underway. I'm excited, and I hope you're excited too. I'll be back soon with more spooky videogames, always remember to double-bolt your coffin from the inside because vampire killers lurk in every shadow. Goodnight!



The title of this article says it all, really. The Amiga is home to some of the finest pixel artwork ever seen in gaming. A lot of Amiga title screens feature large, shirtless men, often grimacing through exertion, rage or being too cold. Do these two facts ever overlap? Are there a great many extremely well-drawn depictions of glistening pectorals to be found in the Amiga library? I don't know, but by God I intend to find out. File this one under "investigative journalism," folks. I'll be sure to thank you all when I collect my Pulitzer.

Dogs of War, Elite, 1989

Beginning with a fairly average representation of the genre, the hero of Dogs of War is most definitely large and shirtless. The "oversized weapon as phallic symbolism" is an easy angle to take on this, especially when he's holding it at groin height, but he doesn't seem very happy with his, ahem, tool of carnage. That's the face of a man suffering from buyer's remorse, I reckon. He's wishing he hadn't traded his body armour and helmet for this wildly impractical minigun - a minigun which, if you take a closer look, appears to have either a smaller gun or a scope attached to the top. Neither of those things seem like they've be very useful. He'll be out of ammo in seconds, and then what has he got? A very large paperweight and acres of bare flesh that might as well have "mosquito buffet" painted across it.

Bloodfest, Mellow Chips, 1995

This Sunday at the Recreation Grounds, it's Bloodfest! Try the blood sausages! Donate some O negative for an AB positive cause! Ride the inflatable corpuscles down the Blood Flume! Fun for the whole family, six pounds for adults, three pounds for children and free if you pay in blood, sweet, life-giving blood!
This fellow will sadly be unable to donate blood, as he has already lost too much for the technicians to extract any without him becoming dangerously woozy. I don't think a sugary biscuit will be enough to help him recover. Could some of these wounds have been prevented had Mr. Bloodfest - not to be confused with Captain Bloodfest, the loveable syringe-shaped mascot of the Bloodfest carnival - deigned to wear a shirt? Quite probably. They mostly look like scratches, I doubt he'd have felt a thing if he'd been wearing a thick coat. On the other hand, he would have been uncomfortably warm wearing much else, seeing as he's managed to convert his Uzis into flamethrowers.

Leatherneck, Microdeal, 1988

I think "No-Neck" would have been a more accurate title. Apparently "leatherneck" is a colloquial term for a marine, supposedly originating from the practise of wearing a leather collar to help maintain correct posture. This marine could probably just about get a leather strap under his chin, a shark's-tooth necklane or something, but there's no room there for a collar so it's a miracle that is posture isn't completely terrible.

Vaxine, The Assembly Line, 1990

A really crappy dreamcatcher? No, it's Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, only with four fewer limbs and his genitalia airbrushed into obscurity to protect the moral cleanliness of you, the viewer. He's also even more ripped than in the original drawing. Jumping-jacks are good for muscle definition, it seems. As for why this title screen shows him being dropped for a great height onto a mound of lime jelly, I have no explanation. Maybe that's just his thing.

TNT Wrestling, TNT, 1991

This wrestler is so buff he even has abs on the palm of his hand. A friendly pat on the back will make your ribcage shoot out of your chest, and a handshake from this guy? It's like grabbing Godzilla's vibrator. Probably just as oily, too - this slab of man-meat is practically glistening, as though one of the vampires from Twilight rejected a life of relentless brooding and learned how to perform the perfect suplex instead.

Top Wrestling, Genias, 1992

Sticking with wrestling, and here's a face not even a mother could love. That's because the owner of this face has eaten his mother alive in the hopes that doing so would grant him the trust and protection of the tortured spirits of the dead whose infernal shrieking blights his every moment. "If only they'd be quiet", he thinks, "all I need is one moment of silence, then I could think, find a way to escape this nightmare. I did everything they asked! I ate my poor, sweet mother alive, I dress in nothing but agonisingly tight striped underwear, I've even managed to create the most unflattering haircut since the French stopped using the guillotine and still they torment me!"

Conan the Cimmerian, Virgin, 1991

I think Conan gets a pass on the whole "bare-chested" thing, right? I mean, he's Conan. You will notice that "a nice cotton button-down from Marks and Spencer" is not included in his list of things that are best in life. He only wears those furry pants to muffle the sound of his giant steel balls clanking together, lest the noise betray his presence to his foes.

Rubicon, 21st Century Entertainment, 1992

Giant head or tiny torso? You decide! Aww, someone's a grumpy widdle sausage! Cheer up, Mr. Rubicon, I'm only teasing. I tell you what, to show you I'm sorry I'll buy you some of that bronzer you like. What's the shade called again? Grandad's Leather Armchair? I'll pick you up some more Hair Concrete while I'm out, too.

Jungle Boy, Byte Back, 1991

Jungle Boy? Are you sure? He's built like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1989, I think we can bump him up to Jungle Man. Maybe it's his expression of childlike innocence as he swings from tree to tree that gives him a boyish air, but I'm sure he's old enough to be legally tried as an adult  That's important, because there's no combination of that home-made knife and that psychotic rictus grin that doesn't end with Jungle Boy trying to carve his name into an innocent person's lungs.

Gladiators, Smash 16, 1989

"We did the exact same move at the exact same time, how come I have a lacerated kidney and you're fine?"
"I dunno, I guess I just wanted it more?"
"I bet it's your beard. I knew I should have grown a beard! The gods will never grant their favour to a man who merely sports a Burt Reynolds."
"Maybe there's still time, you know, after..."
"After what, Steve? After our fight to the death, which I am already losing, just like I'm losing quite a lot of blood?
"Oh good, well as long as you're sorry, that's alright."
"Hey, there's no need to be a dick about it, No-Beard."

Cyber Cop, Impressions, 1991

Even the machines are, and I'm putting my full confidence in this pun, muscling in on the semi-naked action. Good work, pun, we nailed it. The Cyber Cop revels in his chiselled physique, posing in an overly-dramatic and frankly pretentious way. I think he's annoying me so much because he didn't have to work for it: he rolled off the production line with a body that would cause even the gods of Olympus to do an appreciative half-whistle. Cyber Cop will never know struggle of not pretending to be hosting a party so you have an excuse to order three large pizzas, nor will he ever have to lie to his doctor about how much exercise he does due to shame over his slothful nature. On the other hand, he can never experience love or happiness, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.

Carver, G&T Game Systems, 1991

I'm pretty sure Carver used to open for Motley Crue. Well, maybe not quite that high up the 80's rock food chain. They probably did some warm-up stuff for Ratt, at the very least. It's the bandanna that gives it away, and that logo - tell me it doesn't look like it was was designed - nay, destined - to be stencilled onto a bass drum?
Carver himself looks oddly slick, and for once I don't think it's down to baby oil or the combined sweat of all those he has wrestled with. He's very... plasticky. Then you look at his face, and it all becomes clear: Carver is wearing a fake inflatable muscle suit, and as he tries to make himself look big in order to intimidate his rivals, his expression shows he's very nervous that someone is going to see through his ruse and stab him. Then he'd never get the deposit back on his muscle suit, and also he'll be dead, which I'd describe as a lose-lose situation.

Torvak the Warrior, Core Design, 1990

Hey, Torvak, Tobias Funke called and he wants his cut-offs back. Torvak has gone for a Batman-esque "looming in the shadows" look, although his menace is rather undercut by my inability to see his torso as anything but a grumpy face.

See? Not so much a mighty Viking warrior as a dangerously 'roided-out Horace.

Pinkie, Millennium, 1995

He might not built like the result of a romantic encounter between a gorilla and Mount Everest, but Pinkie is one hundred percent shirtless. And bottomless. A weird, naked little gremlin with a head that peaks in a tightly-coiled turd. "Look at me," his leaping pose seems to cry, "I'm smooth all over!"
Let's get one thing straight, Pinkie: I don't like you. You look like you were created in some whimsical fairytale manner - a pencil eraser that wished super-hard to be a real boy, maybe - but you have a navel so you must be the offspring of a placental mammal. So what is it, Pinkie? Are you a man or a beast, and if the answer is man, won't you please develop a sense of shame about your rubbery body and cover yourself up?

Friday Night Pool, The One Amiga, 1995

Friday Night Pocket Pool, more like. I see you over there, sunglasses. Knock it off, this respectable gaming establishment and we're as opposed to that kind of behaviour as we are to following the rules of perspective.
You might be thinking "hey, VGJunk, you promised me shirtless men and that guy in the sunglasses is not completely barechested! You shall be hearing from my lawyers!" but c'mon, no jury in the land is going to agree that his tattered leather waistcoat functions as a shirt. It's some kind of negashirt, made of fabric and worn on the torso but somehow serving only to highlight the wearer's lack of decency and fashion sense, a kind of garment equivalent of the Streisand Effect.
Also, as someone who spent a fair amount of time in pool halls during his youth, I feel I should point out that they generally do not look like this. For one thing, these people are smiling. There is also no middle-aged man who has been hunched over the fruit machine for the last seven hours, and pool hall patrons do not tend to dress like they just watched The Terminator and decided it'd make a good basis for their future sartorial choices.

Over the Net, Genias, 1990

The fun of this one is imagining how you'd interpret those silhouettes in the background if you didn't know this was a beach volleyball game. Personally I'd go with "amateur one-man ballet adaptation of Schindler's List."

Axe of Rage, Palace Software, 1989

Axe of Rage, Expression of Mild Contempt. When you're out for lunch with a friend and they start taking things from your plate after they said they weren't hungry enough to order anything, this is the look you give them as you say "Really? You're going to just take my potato wedges?"

Brain Artifice, Sceptic Design, 1991

All these action games about barbarians and super-soldiers are logical candidates for the inclusion of a large, shirtless man, but I wasn't expecting to find any in the more cerebral puzzle genre so Brain Artifice's title screen came as something of a surprise. A welcome surprise, I have to say, because nothing excites the old synapses like trying to unravel the tangled web of circumstance that leads to grey-haired man and a vaguely "Arabian" warrior in a posing pouch playing a board game in a darkened room. If this is a game of strip draughts, then the warrior is clearly not doing very well.
I can only assume that what happened here is that the warrior challenged the old man to a battle to the death but neglected to specify the form this battle would take, leaving him red-faced when he arrived at the designated battleground in his y-fronts. That's why he looks so disgruntled about the whole affair.
As an added extra, the record lying on the floor is titled "Dirty Cash," so presumably the two combatants are listening to this as they play. Knowing this only enhances the vignette before us, and it was pretty bloody great to start with.

Ball Raider, Diamond Software, 1987

"And you're sure you want to call yourself 'Ball Raider'? It's just, with the muscles and the pink underwear, you know... No, no, it's fine. Yes, I'm sure your father and his father before him were proud Ball Raiders. It'll be fine, we'll just run the name up to corporate to make sure there aren't any, I dunno, websites or anything already using the Ball Raider name before we get the t-shirts made."

Street Hassle, World Software, 1994

Finally, I'll leave you with this masterpiece. There is little I can say about it, other than Andy Warhol and his grandparents are entering a world of hurt.



Today, a game of cat and mouse. More accurately: a game of cat, mouse, a bunch of other animals, many familiar videogame mechanics rolled together like so many differently-coloured lumps of Play-Doh, and balls. Lots of balls. It's Metro's 1995 match-and-pop-em-up Mouse Shooter GoGo!

That is, a mouse who shoots, you don't spend the game shooting at mice like a Depression-era ratcatcher. For that experience you'll need to play Hobo Joe: Ratslayer, coming to Steam in 2016. No, this is the game for you if you're into shiny, rubbery cat heads such as you might find on the S&M gear of a sexual deviant who's really into the Pink Panther.

Here are the mice that star in Mouse Shooter GoGo. The unnerving, a-little-too-close-to human mice, the mice that are surely the mascots of a family pizza restaurant franchise in some other universe. They're having a fun time visiting the Bizarro-Cinema, where the screen is behind you and all the seats are leather sofas. What movie are they watching? The Story of These Two Mice, starring these two mice, a moving tale of these two mice trying to impress two classy mouse ladies despite their romantic intentions being severely handicapped by the wrestling singlets they appear to be wearing.

Not to worry, the mice have a plan, and the plan is... hell if I know, they're examining the blueprints for something - something roughly shaped like a cat's head, now I look at it again - and they like what they see. Those mouse girls are going to love whatever this thing is!
Side note: if you have to rip holes in your hats so they fit over your enormous ears, maybe don't bother with hats. Wear a bandanna or something instead, or get a pair of smaller hats, one for each ear. Also, I thought that mouse was winking, but he isn't. His eye is still open, he's just contorting his pupil. I'm starting to dislike these creepy mouse-men.

There are some fairly detailed instructions included in the attract mode, which is always helpful although Mouse Shooter GoGo is simple enough that you'd pick most of it up just by playing the game for a couple of minutes. The basic aim is to throw the ball / severed animal head that your mouse is holding into the balls of the same type that are freely bouncing around the screen. In this case, you can see that the mouse is holding a panda head, so throwing it into that group of four panda heads will cause all the panda heads to disappear. If it hits a non-matching ball, like the pink cat, the blue dog or the golden pig, it will stick to them and make the clump bigger.

I'm not going to lie, I'm immature enough that I laughed when I first read this because it sounds like something you'd overhear on the set of a particularly unpleasant pornographic movie. Why will the balls stick together? There are so many wonderful possibilities! You should discuss these possibilities with your friends and neighbours. Call up your father-in-law and ask him, I'm sure he'll have a few exciting opinions on the subject.

Here's stage one, and you'll see that Mouse Shooter GoGo is a more action-heavy version of Puzzle Bobble with the target-splitting mechanic of Pang thrown in too - if you, for instance, popped the cats and pigs in the middle of this arrangement first then it would split in two and that'd give you twice as many things to avoid. Fortunately your mouse can run wherever you like on the screen and can throw his balls in any of the eight joystick directions: press the second button to switch to "free" aiming" and press it again to lock your firing angle in. This freedom of movement is something that takes a little getting used to - or it did for me, anyway. I was so hidebound by the familiar mechanics of Puzzle Bobble that moving away from the bottom of the screen or firing at an angle that wasn't "straight upwards" felt wrong somehow, which is a bit worrying. Do I really lack the imagination and creative thinking required to play an arcade game from 1995? Christ, I was hoping for a reasonably playable action-puzzle game, not a searing indictment of my own flawed psychological make-up.

Other than exposing my psyche as lacking a certain amount of mental fortitude, Mouse Shooter GoGo works quite well as an action/puzzle hybrid, although as I say the emphasis is definitely on the "action" part of that equation - the only puzzling that needs doing is figuring out which balls you should burst to keep the clump in as few separate pieces as possible. It's a lot easier to dodge two large, slow-moving pieces than it is to avoid a cavalcade of balls flying at you from every angle, as the actress said to the bishop. The colour of the ball in your mouse's hand is randomly generated each time you throw the previous one, summoned from the Decapitated Animal Dimension by the same dark force that twisted these mice's forms into the crude mockery of humanity you see before you, so sometimes you'll find yourself unable to do much with the ball you're given. It's ironic, like ten thousand cat heads when all you need is a snake or a frog or a very unwell Pac-Man, whatever the green things are supposed to be. On the other hand, you're only ever given balls that match the colours still active on the play field, which is a nice concession.

For such a simple concept, Mouse Shooter GoGo has plenty of smaller gameplay elements bolted on to it. There are non-animal-head balls that act as power-ups, giving you extra time or changing large numbers of balls into the same colour. Your mouse dies if a ball touches him, but to defend himself he can use the ball he's holding to bounce away any balls that come at him from the front and blimey, I sure am typing the word "balls" a lot in this article. I'm up to my neck in balls, like a tiny person at poorly-planned orgy. Oh, and if you can create a straight line of ba... bubbles and put a bubble of the same colour at either end, all the bubbles in between will switch to that colour. It doesn't come up very often unless you're shooting for a high score, which is something I've never been all that interested in.

The mouse ladies appear every time you clear a stage. Do their breasts jiggle when they jump? I think you already know the answer to that. I'm not sure which is the more depressing scenario: the artist sitting down and thinking "finally, my chance to share my sexy rodent fantasies with the world!" or a project manager type - in my mental fiction, a fat man wearing suspenders and smoking a cigar - leaning over the artist and saying "no, make them sexier. Sex sells! What do you mean, 'sexier how?' I don't know, give 'em some cleavage, have one of them flash their knickers at the player. You're the artist, you figure it out!"

This stage's background is based on French artist Georges Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which I mention for two reasons. One, it's a striking counterpoint to sexy cartoon mice and two, I'm pleased with myself for remembering the artist's name well enough to Google it properly. Sure, I misspelled it as "Serat" but that's close enough for me, and it's nice to know I possess some cultural knowledge beyond videogames and slasher movies.

Not content with cribbing their gameplay from Puzzle Bobble and Pang, Metro decided to squeeze some "inspiration" from one more classic game by including the brick-smashing action of Breakout. It works okay, I suppose, especially in later stages when some balls are precariously contained within a prison of fragile bricks and you're trying to be careful not to release them too early. In fact, Metro deserve some credit for taking so many (possibly over) familiar elements and building a decent game out of them that never feels too overburdened.

A boss battle heaves into view, between our mousey hero and fat cat wearing mittens. Maybe he's called Mittens. Maybe he's the reason Mittens is a common name for cats, although now I'm writing this sentence I just realised that it rhymes with "kittens" so that could have something to do with it. I'm rambling about cat names because there's not really anything to say about this fight - the cat curls up into a ball and rolls towards you, which might be adorable if the cat in question wasn't built like King Hippo. The cat is very slow. You are in almost no danger at any point unless your fingers suddenly drop off and the boss kills you while you're adjusting to controlling the joystick with your teeth. Throw balls at the cat until it's health bar is empty, move on to the next stage. It's basically the worst Tom and Jerry cartoon ever.

If you do manage to lose all your lives at some point, you're treated to a continue screen showing the mice about to be eaten alive by said cat. The mouse on the right is struggling against this grim fate, but the mouse on the left seems resigned to the fact that reincarnation exists but he can only come back as a hairball.

Not to worry, if you don't insert any more credits the mice drift away to Mouse Heaven, where cheese is plentiful, Rentokil employees are forced into subservience and cats are most definitely not admitted. They go to Cat Heaven instead, which is almost indistinguishable from the normal life of a pet cat with an attentive owner.

And so Mouse Shooter GoGo continues as before, with thirty stages of bubble-bursting antics. The backgrounds change and the bubbles are arranged in different configurations, but that's about it. In this instance they originally spelled out "OK!" but they've drifted around the screen a little. They're not threatening to knock me out or anything.

There's another boss battle half-way through the game, this time against two cats, and they that look much more like cats than the first boss did. That thing looked like the Rancor from Star Wars in a fursuit. The Double Cats are more of a challenge, because there are two of them but mostly because they can throw their own supply of balls at our hero. They're still not particularly difficult to defeat, but they're like a goddamn Dark Souls boss compared to the fat cat, and they provide a welcome break from the usual ball-matching gameplay.

I'll be honest, having this snaggletoothed samurai gunman staring up from beneath me was a bit distracting. I wanted to know what his story is. Whatever it is, there's no way it's less interesting than Mouse Shooter GoGo - like, who gave him that gun? He doesn't look like he could be trusted with a bunch of daffodils, never mind a firearm... although if you look closely, it appears to be one of those "BANG" flag joke guns. This is why you have to be careful about including compelling details that are more interesting than the game they appear in, because I've now lost all interest in popping bubbles and instead have become fixated on who this samurai is and what member of the daimyo's court he's pulling pranks on.

The difficulty level is all over the place, too, with stages wildly varying in challenge from one stage to the next. This is the penultimate stage, which appears simple at first until you realise that removing the black bear heads from play means the big lump will immediately split into ten smaller, independent lumps, and even with the mouse's nimble footwork and ability to push balls away from him it's going to be a real struggle to avoid being pinned down. In the end I spent so long dithering about that I ran out of time, at which point the walls of the stage began to close in. I always enjoy it when games handle their time limit in this manner as opposed to just having you spontaneously drop dead when the clock hits zero as though you're fitted with a combination pacemaker / alarm clock, because it always feels that little bit more special when you manage to win despite the increasingly hazardous conditions.

Then there's the final stage, which is surprisingly easy. It's also Space Invaders: you stand at the bottom and fire upwards at the solitary bubbles that move left-and-right across the screen. Let in never be said that Metro didn't try to learn from the classics. Or steal, steal works fine in that sentence too.

Mouse Shooter GoGo then unceremoniously and abruptly ends, with not even a final boss battle to contend with. It could have been against, get this, three cats! I can't believe anyone would pass up an opportunity like that.
As for the ending, the mice take a celebratory road trip across Mouse Land while the mouse girls pose seductively at the bottom of the screen, Metro being fully committed to the challenge of getting the player to be into that kind of thing. The trouble is, if you ignore their giant satellite dish ears, the mouse girls look more like the results of a DeviantArt search for "sexy Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man" than anything else. Who ya gonna call? Someone who can extract these nightmare visions from my mind, hopefully.

The game closes with the bizarre image of our rodent heroes relaxing on the beach, completely unperturbed by the conga line of crustaceans that is scuttling along their bodies. That's why the mouse girls are nowhere to be seen, they don't want to catch crabs.
Mouse Shooter GoGo may not be an amazing game or a life-changing experience, but it did break this month's streak of me only playing truly awful games, and I ended up enjoying it rather more than I expected to. It's a simple concept executed well, somehow managing to remain simple even as new gameplay elements are added, and I don't have any complains about how the gameplay feels. Presentation-wise it's a mixed bag, with some charmingly-drawn graphics but a soundtrack so forgettable that I only remembered to mention it because I made a note reading "did this game even have a soundtrack?" It's also unusually easy for an arcade game - the first time I played it I made it about two-thirds of the way through on a single credit, and as long-time VGJunk readers will know I am not good at videogames. So, if you're looking for some simple, undemanding arcade puzzle-action gameplay, or if you want to play Puzzle Bobble, Pang, Arkanoid and Space Invaders but are on a tight schedule, then give Mouse Shooter GoGo, ahem, a gogo.

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