Yeah, I know, it's been pretty sickening for all you readers to plough through our hopelessly sycophantic dribblings as we waited for this new release from Hudson Soft, and we're sorry. It must have been like reading - no, no, I can't. We don't do those tedious jibes here at AMIGA POWER, it'd be terribly poor form.
Anyway, deepest apologies. It's just that Hudson Soft have been responsible for so many of my personal favourite computer and video games of all time, it's hard not to get excited when there's something new in the pipeline, and I'm glad to report that Yo! Joe! hasn't let me down.
Let's see if I can convince you. Let's tell you all a secret. Details. That's the secret. Do you know how to write a brilliant video game? Well, first you have to be a phenomenally talented programmer, right? Wrong. Anyone with a basic grasp of programming can write a game. Programming isn't difficult, it's a simple skill which can be learned, like speaking French. I don't want any angry letters from programmers at this point, either - I'm not trying to belittle your talents, just pointing out that it's not some magical gift from the gods, okay?
But back to the point. Some of the best games ever have been written with a very elementary level of programming expertise. Perhaps, then, the secret of writing a brilliant game is to pack it with groundbreaking trickery, bigger sprites than anyone else has ever done, sixteen billion shades of orange moving a nine-zillion-frames-a-second (Bit of a stupid idea, that, since TV's can only display 50-frames-a-second images - Technical Ed) and all that stuff. Rubbish.
If one more person comes up to me and says that, say, D/Generation is no good because the graphics "Don't push the Amiga to its limits", I'm going to take them outside and twat them. Sensible Soccer, with its vast expanses of green and miniscule graphics, hardly pushes the envelope, does it? Yet it's your favourite game of all time, and ours too.
Maybe, then, you need some kind of revolutionary idea, a game design that's never been seen before, a second Lemmings or some such? Nah. Originality is a very good thing, for sure, but it isn't necessary. F1GP, original? Body Blows? The Chaos Engine? Driving game, beat-'em-up, Gauntlet clone, but all great games. It's details. Trust me.
It got me shouting and squealing in the office
LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT
Attention to detail is the common characteristic of almost every truly great game there's ever been (and conversely, the thing missing from so many crap ones - when you look at International Rugby Challenge and notice that they can't even be bothered to spell 'tries' correctly, for God's sake, you know you're not in for a treat).
Anyway, Yo! Joe! - bog-standard platform formula, 1991 visuals, programming that lets the game down when the screen's busy - is the most painstakingly and lovingly detailed game I've seen in years. You want examples? Well, you're getting 'em. How about the way that a tiny little Joe runs along the bottom of the score bar throughout the game mimicking everything you do? How about how when you pick up a bonus item the game goes 'bing!', but when you pick up two at once, it goes 'BING!', twice as loudly?
Or there's the menu screen where every option selection (music on/off, sound on/off - anything you'd expect in any self-respecting game really, but which, of course, you don't get in so many of them) is accompanied by a little bit of dialogue between Joe and Nat, or even the high-score table, which is displayed as graffiti on the train which chugs along underneath the title screen.
I've deliberately picked some examples that don't affect the gameplay in even the tiniest insignificant way, because they're the ones that really show the programmers have been giving it their all - anyone can do clever little touches that jump up and punch you in the fact and demand you notice how smart they are, but finding stuff like this really makes the player feel like they're in on the joke as it were.
But anyway, Let's talk about Yo! Joe! as a game, rather than an excuse for an essay on another one of my pet theories. You don't want to know about the plot, so instead I'll give you short, relevant facts with numbers in them, because that's what people want in these information-culture days. And because Knowledge is Power obviously. (Get your fabulous new AMIGA POWER T-Shirts on page 97, bargain lovers! - Colin The Publisher)
Yo! Joe! has six levels. They're all really big, except the fifth one which is a little train-ride interlude. You can play on your own, or with another player taking the part of your mate, Nat The Rat, who surprisingly isn't actually a rat. The scrolling in two-player mode follows whoever's leading, and stops when one player would fall off the edge of the screen. You can punch or kick your way through the bad dudes inhabiting the levels, or collect any of five extra weapons which you'll find lying around.
The weapons all have different properties and advantages - for example, the nunchuks are less powerful than the length of pipe, but you can jump up and grab onto ledges while you're carrying them, which the pipe won't let you do. The chainsaw is extremely hard, but needs petrol to run on which you have to collect separately (and which runs out alarmingly quickly). You can hold all the weapons at once and switch between them at will, so you should be able to pick and choose the best for each situation.
I lobbed a petrol bomb right under the trousers
JUST THE FACTS, MA'AM
There's a bonus shoot-'em-up stage between levels where you can earn extra lives, but you get infinite continues anyway (back to the start of the level current level), so they're not that important. Scenes covered include an Egyptian pyramid, a jungle temple with underground caverns, and the interior of an Oriental pagoda-type building, all rendered in beautifully-drawn and lushly-coloured graphics, with nary a wasted pixel - almost every bit of landscape does something to you or conceals bonus weapons or objects.
Joe himself is an athletic dude, able to leap around impressively, crawl through very narrow passageways, and grab ledges and pull himself up onto them in a Prince Of Persia manner, all with the simplest and most instinctive joystick movements you could wish for. Bored of facts yet?
I love this game. It got me shouting and squealing in the office (much to my embarrassment) as I plunged towards spiky pits only to save myself by clutching on to something with my (or rather Joe's) fingernails, cackling manically when I lobbed a petrol bomb right under the trousers of a particularly troublesome bad guy, shrieking with surprise when a load of zombies came out on the walls on level one, and swearing abusively at the smouldering corpses of defeated bosses (of which there are several in each level).
The noise was so bad, the rest of the team actually asked me to put some of my 'special' music on the office stereo to drown out the racket, but I countered by simply turning up the game's rather fab music, which is something I haven't done in a while, I can tell you (Thank heavens. - Rest of AP Team).
If everyone took this much care before they unleashed their games on the unsuspecting public, the world would be a finer place. Yo! Joe! is one of the finest games of the year to date.