I don't like to make snap judgements about the games I write about here at VGJunk, but c'mon, this is a Commodore 64 game based on an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. There's about as much chance of it being good as there is of me taking gold in the 100 meters at the next Olympics. It's Grandslam's 1989 not-much-of-anything-really-em-up The Running Man!

There's Arnie now, wearing an expression that seems to say "going to play The Running Man, huh? Well, good luck to you, you big dope."
If you've never seen The Running Man, it's a typical Schwarzenegger action romp, packed with muscles, brutal murders and one-liners that use wit like Jason Voorhees uses a machete - messily, but with a strange charm. It is, I must confess, a personal favourite. Arnold plays Ben Richards, a hulking slab of a man whose sheer muscle weight must surely render any helicopter he climbs aboard unable to take off yet is somehow employed as a police pilot. Richards refuses to gun down unarmed civilians during a riot, and as a result is framed for the eventual massacre. He escapes from a prison labour camp, gets caught again and is forced to participate in The Running Man - a deadly television show where criminals are hunted and killed live on air by "stalkers" - American Gladiators-style psychopaths with names like Buzzsaw and Fireball.

Of course, this being an Arnie movie he ends up killing all the stalkers, exposing the totalitarian powers that be and generally saving the day. The film also features Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac, so there's that.
Like I say, it's one of my favourite movies, because like all good action movies it's packed with terrible puns, an excellent musical theme and even a tiny bit of social commentary mixed in there too. Sadly, if I've learned anything from writing this website it's that the quality of a tie-in game is inversely proportional to how much I like the source material, so it looks like I'm in for a real rough time with this one.

Contestants on The Running Man are launched into the game zone via a rocket-propelled toboggan, which is what you are looking at here. It's not a steering wheel falling through a series of pineapple rings.

Right then, the game itself - it's a side-scrolling action adventure! And here I was expecting a Mario Kart­-esque racing game.
There's Ben Richards in the middle of the screen, posing like a classical sculpture. You might think he looks a bit odd, but Arnie spends a lot of the movie wearing a quilted silver and yellow jumpsuit, so I'll cut the developers some slack. It'd be difficult to make that not look odd. As for that brown and blue lump on the right of the screen, I have no idea. It's moving, which is a bit worrying.

Oh I see, the brown lump was a dog. A dog that our hero promptly kicks in the face. I know, I know, Ben is trapped in a desperate struggle to survive, and you'd think years of playing violent videogames would have hardened me to this kind of thing, but my first action in the game was to kick a dog in the face and I felt kinda bad about it. Still, it was me or the dog, I suppose. Okay then, what else is going on in the wacky world of The Running Man?

Well, there's some wonky jumping to be done and as soon as you encounter an obstacle that must be leapt over you'll realise that The Running Man's controls are your true opponent. They're simple enough, limited as they are by the single fire button of the Commodore 64. Left and right on the joystick make you move horizontally, up makes you jump and the fire button lets you kick a dog in the head. That's all very straightforward, but it seems that even this level of simplicity was too much for Grandstand to implement correctly and thus controlling Ben becomes a Sisyphean task as you attempt to wrangle him into doing what you want. Kicking works okay, it comes out fairly fast, but Ben turns around with whippet-like speed of an oil tanker being hauled into port and jumping? You saw that GIF, right? When you jump, Ben launches himself upwards at a forty-five degree angle before reaching what you might laughingly call the "apex" of his ascent, at which point he plunges straight downwards, hits the edge of the platform you were trying to land on and slowly slides back to the ground. It's not particularly conducive to getting where you want to go.

I eventually made it onto the platform after an embarrassing number of failed attempts. Somewhere along the way I realised I could make Ben run by double-tapping the joystick. This unfortunately means I can't use the joke that this is less The Running Man and more The Sauntering Man, but Ben's running speed is slow glacially slow that I think I can just about get away with calling it The Power-Walking / Occasionally Jogging Man.
Also, let's take a moment to look at the background and speculate on exactly where this game is supposed to be taking place. Current leading theories include "a leftover set from a 1930's sci-fi serial" or "a child's drawing of a planetarium."

Shortly - very shortly, as I'll discuss later - you'll find yourself face-to-hockey-mask with the first stalker. His name's Sub Zero, and he's an ice-hockey player with a razor-sharp stick and exploding pucks. That's in the film, at least. In this game he gently glides back and forth, pausing occasionally to smack a puck at you that you can easily jump over. Then you can kick him in the back when he skates past. You both have the same amount of traction despite being on an ice rink, so just chase Sub Zero down, don't give him time to fire his pucks and keep kicking him.

There are a couple of complications to this (literal) ass-kicking, however. One is that if you let the boss get too far away, he'll summon a dog to come and fight you. I'm going to imagine that the dog is wearing four tiny ice skates. Look, I've got to get some enjoyment out of this game.
The second thing is that both Ben and the stalker gradually get their health back during the boss fight. Why? I'm not sure, but if I was to hazard a guess I'd say it was a cynical attempt on the developer's part to stretch the fights out and thus pad the length of an extremely short game.

With enough kicks, Sub Zero will be defeated. Not quite as impressive as in the movie, where he's strangled with barbed wire, but given how slowly Arnie moves in this game I'm just happy for it to be over before I start collecting my pension. Now, it wouldn't be a Schwarzenegger movie without a cheery quip to cap off the carnage, and in the movie Arnie does indeed utter the immortal line "here is Sub Zero... now plain zero!" and we can all agree it's a travesty that there's not an Oscar for Best Post-Murder Witticism. That line is far too good for this game, though, so I suggest we replace it with something that fits the creaking, lumbering mood of the game. I'm going with "he wouldn't puck off so I iced him." Yeah, I think that's at about this game's level.

Between stages you can play a minigame in order to restore your health, which takes the form of a match-the-shapes puzzle. You swap pairs of symbols over until the picture on the left matches the one on the right. It somehow manages to be thunderingly dull and a bit frustrating at the same time, but happily you can just ignore it and the next stage loads anyway. Plus, the reward for successfully solving the puzzle is full health restoration, but you remember when I said you slowly get your health during a boss battle? Yeah, it keeps refilling after the battle, too, so if you just wait around for a while after dispatching the stalker then you can get your health back without having to waste your precious brain cells on the inter-stage sideshow.

Stage two, and I think I might have gotten my ass to Mars. No, wait, that's a different Arnie film. Wherever I am, it's red, built from bricks and functionally identical to stage one.

A dog attacks, and gets kicked in the head. There are a few platforms to jump on to, which proves much more difficult than it should thanks to Ben Richards' refusal to obey the laws of physics and travel in a goddamn arc when he's jumping. The entire stage is roughly six or seven screens long, and that's another of The Running Man's major failings - the sheer pointlessness of half the game. Fighting the stalkers is obviously the main focus of the game, but Grandslam tried to have their cake and eat it by including pre-stalker areas for the player to navigate... except these areas are almost negligible in terms of content and are utterly devoid of fun. Move a few screens forward, kick a dog, jump on a box, congratulations, you've reached the stalker. Rather than taking one of the two sensible paths - either focussing solely on the stalker battles or, you know, actually building some levels - the developers have ended up with the worst of both worlds, the stages limply clinging onto the stalker battles like the deformed conjoined twin that I definitely didn't have removed when I was a kid and whose screams can still be heard in the cold night air.

Oh look, this is new! I found a weapon. It's a stick! I think? Possibly a hammer, or a blind man's cane. It took me a while to figure out how the bloody thing works, but eventually it clicked that you have to hold down the fire button and then press up on the joystick to poke at things with your newly-acquired stick / hammer / meticulously carved ivory backscratcher.

A few steps further and stage two's stalker appears: it's Buzzsaw, who despite being called "Buzzsaw" actually uses a chainsaw and not a buzzsaw. Maybe his real name's Buzz and his choice of weapon was a happy coincidence.
Now, Buzzsaw might look fearsome, what with his whirring blades of death and all, but don't forget that Ben recently found a stick, so on balance I'd probably say I've got the upper hand. How do you use the weapon again? Up and fire?

You see, this is the problem with having the "attack with weapon" command share joystick space with the "jump" command. Having pressed up at just the wrong time, rather than whacking Buzzsaw with my stick I have jumped groin-first into his chainsaw in a misguided attempt to stop the lethal blades by jamming my genitals into the mechanism. It worked out about as well as you'd expect, so I went back to using the kick. That worked much better, and Buzzsaw was quickly defeated / kicked to death.
In the movie, Arnie slices Buzzsaw in half with his own chainsaw - he's a fan of ironic punishment, you see - and informs those around him of Buzzsaw's demise by saying that "he had to split." Again, far too good for this game so I'm going to go ahead and swap that line for "I bet he'll be saw in the morning!"

Three stages in, and already The Running Man has become completely locked into the same formula - a ridiculously short stage only given any length at all by your character's terrible, lethargic controls, followed by a fight with someone who is easily dealt with by walking up to them and giving them a swift kick in the arse. In stage three's case, the new background is vaguely industrial in theme and lemon-lime in flavour. I know, I'm struggling to contain my excitement too.

This stage's stalker is Dynamo. The movie version of Dynamo is an overweight opera singer who is covered in blinking fairy lights and who drives a golf cart / dune buggy thing, and his gimmick is electricity. Also being an opera singer covered in LEDs, that's a gimmick too I suppose. In the game, his bendy legs give him the appearance of a hovering genie wearing a motorcycle helmet.
I found a new weapon along the way. This one appears to be a barbeque fork. It turned out to be just as useless as the stick, so I went back to the trusty kick.

This worked well, because Dynamo has all the tactical acumen of a lobotomised cocker spaniel and he spent the entire fight wandering back and forth near me, allowing my kicks to find their target with minimal effort. Thanks, Dynamo.
Dynamo doesn't get a chirpy one-liner to mark his death in the movie - he's killed by someone who's not Arnie, someone who maybe places slightly more store in the value of human life and can't make jokes about a guy they just electrocuted to death even if he was a sadistic rapist. Luckily for you I have no such qualms, and my suggestion for Dynamo's death-pun is "Dynamo? More like Die-namo!"

By the time stage four rolls around, the game has become so divorced from it's source material as to be unrecognisable. What the hell are those things in the background? It's like M. C. Escher did the interior design at the 1939 World's Fair and he was dead into grey pipes at the time.

Even the stalker gets a rough ride. This is Fireball, and in the movie he was lithe and limber, not like in the game where he's considerably more... lumpy. This is probably because he's got a jetpack. I know I'd start piling on the pounds if I could just fly around the place.
As his name suggests, Fireball can shoot fire as well as being able to fly around the arena, well out of your reach, so you'd expect this to be a tough fight, and indeed it is at least more challenging than the showdown with Dynamo.

Thankfully I found this beach ball, that really turned the tide of battle in my favour. Looks like "beach" comes above "fire" in the Great Hierarchy of Balls (at the top is "Ambassador's," the bottom is "blitz").
Once again, in the movie Fireball is hoisted by his own flammable petard and dies is a fiery explosion, prompting Arnie to say "what a hot head." Honestly, I think that's a bad enough line to fit into this game as-is, but if I had to suggest a replacement it'd be "a sinister, grating chuckle followed by an extended period of heavy breathing."

Hooray, it's the final stage and for once it's a recognisable location from the movie - it's the Running Man studio, where Ben Richards plans to find Killian, the slimy host of the show. It's nice to know what's going on for once, although as usual it's mostly murder. There are no stalkers in this stage, just a few dogs and security guards patrolling the otherwise flat and empty stage. Why, there's a security guard now, and he seems to have left a gun on the floor for me. How considerate!
Yes, it is actually a gun that Ben can use to fire projectiles. I say "use", he doesn't seem to quite have the hang of firearms.

That's not how you use a gun, Ben. Weren't you in the police before you became the nation's favourite televised murder machine? I thought you'd have a handle on basic firearm techniques.
The gunplay and the lack of stalkers does at least mean this stage feels different to the others. Not good, but different, and in a game that has otherwise stuck so rigidly to the template laid out in the first stage "good" and "different" almost mean the same thing. These factors also make the final stage by far the easiest of them all, which is an unusual choice but hey, I'll take it.

This lack of challenge carries through right to the end of the game. Ben Richards has finally reached Killian, the man who put him through all this, and you don't even have to fight him. Grandstand clearly realised that any fight between Arnold and Killian - who was played by the then-in-his-late-fifties Richard Dawson - would have been a touch one-sided. Instead, Richards walks over to the immobile Killian, kicks him into the rocket sled and launches him into the game zone.

That's it, game over. If it seems like an anticlimax, I'll let you in on a little secret - The Running Man's real final boss was those bloody steps just to the left of Killian's podium. I spent fifteen extremely frustrating minutes trying to jump up them, only to not quite make it every single time. Then I went back and killed a couple more security guards and a dog, after which the game would let me jump up onto the ledge. There was no indication that I needed to kill more guys before I could advance, no "you must have taken this many lives during your bloody rampage" counter, no nothing. Those two bloodthirsty steps were the most challenging part of the game. Amazing.

The Running Man is a bad game, but that's hardly surprising because I don't ever think there's been a videogame directly based on an Arnold Schwarzenegger film that's ever been better than "okay". Terminator 2: The Arcade Game is the best I can come up with, the 16-bit versions of True Lies aren't bad, but genuinely good games? I can't think of any, which seems bizarre given just how many Arnie movies fall in to the guns-and-action category that so many videogames are born out of and take their inspiration from.

But what makes The Running Man specifically a bad game? Sadly, pretty much everything. The graphics and music are lacking even considering the time they were made, but it's the (absence of) gameplay that drags this one down. Richards controls like his blood has been replaced with window caulk and the levels are so short that there's no room for enjoyable platforming and combat larks even if those were things that could happen. The fights with the stalkers are rendered laughably straightforward by the computer's non-existent AI, and the weapons you're given aren't just useless, they're actually inferior to your kick because your leg can move faster than any pipe / barebeque fork / beach ball. If you want a far superior Running Man videogame experience, play Smash TV instead.
Once again the Love the Film - Hate the Game theorem is tested and comes out stronger than ever. Sadly, it doesn't work both ways. I should know, I've played Transformers: Dark of the Moon.



Previously: Parts 1, 2, 3.
Has it really been well over a year since the last time I delved into the world of fake NES games based on movies and TV shows? Maybe I've been subconsciously avoiding licensed games after playing Wayne's World. That kind of experience leaves a mark, you know? In the interests of healing and catharsis, then - here are some more NES games that don't exist, based on franchises that were (for the most part) never shoddily converted into a half-arsed side-scrolling action game by a company like Tose.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Here's one I actually made a while ago, based on everyone's favourite giant robot / deep questions about the nature of humanity / overpriced merchandise geyser anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. There have been plenty of Evangelion videogames, although surprisingly few focus on the very videogame-y concept of giant robots punching space monsters. Instead you get lots of pachinko games, and a dating sim set in an alternate universe because sure, why not? Maybe that's what this NES Evangelion game could be. Except I've put a robot on the title screen. Hmm... no, I've decided, it's definitely a dating sim. A dating sim about giant robots. The biomechanical guardians of mankind infused with the souls of their pilot's dead mothers need love too.


Teen angst-haver and role model to many of the MTV generation's less sociable members, Daria strikes me as having even less material suitable to being shaped into a videogame than most of the franchise featured in these articles. Can a videogame teach you valuable life lessons, like that sticking to a strict moral code will often make others dislike you or that pizza is a balm for all human ills? Maybe, if you built it around a choose-your-own-adventure style of gameplay. This being Daria, however, all responses would just be sarcastic put-downs. "Turn to page 61 to insinuate that a schoolmate is an idiot," but, you know, a NES cart instead of a book.

The Silence of the Lambs

Of course, the real question here is would a Silence of the Lambs game have you playing as Clarice Starling or Hannibal Lecter? If only there had been a NES game based on the movie - I'd have loved to have seen someone attempt to justify a game where you play as a cannibalistic serial killer against Nintendo's content guidelines. No, Clarice would have been the more likely playable character, and I can imagine a games developer completely missing the point and turning The Silence of the Lambs into an action game. Clarice jumps from platform to platform, collecting lambs for points and avoiding the deadly moths and falling bottles of lotion until you reach the final confrontation with giant Jame Gumb who fires sewing needles out of his eyes.

Twin Peaks

You might be thinking "that fake Twin Peaks title screen sure does remind me of Super Mario Bros. 3," and that's hardly surprising considering I "borrowed" the curtains from Nintendo's platforming masterpiece. It's more than that, though, and if you look at the SMB3 title screen you might notice that it does actually bear some resemblance to Twin Peaks' Red Room - the black-and-white patterned floor, the red drapes, the two Italian men kicking a turtle shell about. Go on, admit it, you had to think for a second about whether or not that was actually in Twin Peaks, didn't you?
What kind of game would a NES adaptation of Twin Peaks be? Well, I have to imagine it'd be some kind of graphic adventure, probably in the vein of ICOM's Deja Vu but with more coffee, and I think there's a chance that it could have made for a surprisingly good NES title.

The X-Files

From one mysterious tale of FBI agents and spooky goings-on to another, and a chance to admit just how much I love The X-Files. A lot, that's how much. One of the most significant formative influences of my youth, frankly. A slightly depressing thought, that, so I'll just stick to saying that I really love The X-Files.
Like Twin Peaks, this would surely have to be another graphic adventure, with the point-and-click interface allowing Mulder and Scully to solve all manner of bizarre incidents while an on-screen meter records the level of sexual tension in the air. You could have two playable characters, with each agent having their own unique abilities - Mulder can get away with breaching FBI protocol simply by shouting at his superiors, while Scully has a button solely dedicated to rolling her eyes. I really want this one to be a real game, but for the sake of my fragile heart it's probably for the best that it's not. Again, I can still remember that Wayne's World game.

I knocked up some screenshots for a NES X-Files point-and-click adventure, because I keep thinking about what one would look like. Probably not exactly like this - I think it might be a little too colourful for actual NES hardware to output - but probably not too far away.


Alien is my favourite movie ever made, and as such I was bound to get to it eventually if I kept making these fake NES title screen. The problem was, how could I make it interesting? What could I do to capture it's essence in 8-bit form? Then it occurred to me I could just recreate the fading letters of the movie's titles, and honestly I think it came out looking the best of the lot. It certainly looks the most like a real game, possibly a proto-Survival-Horror in the manner of Capcom's Sweet Home, or even a claustrophobic stealth game where your goal is to sneak around collecting provisions for the escape shuttle. There's a mission towards the end where you have to find the ship's cat, and if you enter the escape shuttle without finding the cat you get a bad ending. Not as bad as being eaten / impregnated by a space monster, but one that leaves you with a subtle feeling of guilt and the gnawing sense that in your rush to survive you have cast aside your humanity. That's Alien: The Videogame, definitely not coming soon to a NES near you.



So, this game is called Magical Error wo Sagase, and to be honest I only played it in the hope that it'd be about an accident-prone wizard. You know, always leaving his wizard's staff on the bus, accidentally summoning a basket of summer berries instead of the underworld's most hideous and bloodthirsty demons. Sadly, Technosoft's 1994 arcade offering is not about wizards, clumsy or otherwise. If I tell you that Magical Error wo Sagase translates as Find the Magical Error, that should give you a clue about what the player is expected to do in this game. I hope you've got the eyesight of a hawk - unless hawks are colourblind, in which case even they might struggle.

No matter what the title screen says, you should never, ever insert corn into an arcade cabinet or any electrical device. Not only will you void your warranty, you'll attract electro-rats. I don't care if grains are used as currency wherever you're from, don't insert them anywhere besides the ground or your mouth.

Some Japanese that I can't read appeared. It might have been important, but I was too distracted by the player characters at the bottom of the screen to pay attention. Even for something born from the world of anime, where the eyes are enormous and the noses have receded into nothingness, these kids seem especially anime-ish. I think it's because you can see the whole of their irises, giving them the wide-eyed expressions of someone who has just stepped, barefoot, into something squishy but unidentified. Also, check out that blue-haired kid's eyebrows, he could give Kenshiro a run for his money.

Once the game begins, it immediately becomes clear what's going on - Magical Error wo Sagase is actually Spot the Difference: The Videogame. Two almost-identical pictures are displayed, and it's up to you to move the cursor around the left-hand picture, clicking on any variations between the two images. Find three differences, move on to the next image.
As it's right at the start of the game, the differences in the picture above are all pretty obvious: the dog and bird are different colours, Spherehead-san the Samurai Mannequin has a peach on his headband and best of all that sweet old couple in the background of the left image are transformed into cast members from a geriatric recreation of Reservoir Dogs.

Naturally, the transition from "activity found in children's colouring books" to "arcade game" means that Magical Error can put its own spin on the subtle art of comparing two pictures. For one thing, they're animated. Not too much of a problem with the early, much easier puzzles, but later on all that movement can make things tough. The pictures are also mirrored for some reason, which has the effect of making differences close to the middle much easier to spot than those at opposite ends.

It's the "game" element that's the big change, of course, because you can't release an arcade game that allows the player to carry on indefinitely without pumping in more credits. You have a life bar, and as you can imagine time is your greatest foe - your health gradually ticks down, forcing you to hurry. If you make a mistake and click the picture in a place with no differences, you lose a chunk of your health bar, which raises all sorts of questions. Are those kids wired up to a generator that electrocutes them after each mistake or something? It'd certainly explain their facial expressions. Look at the blue-haired kid in the screenshot above, I've seen people passing kidney stones that didn't look so pained.

Finding errors, magical or otherwise, is what you do in this game, and as such I've already shown you pretty much all there is to it. It gets more difficult as you progress, obviously, with denser images to scan and the required number of differences to spot rising from three to four to five. Some images pan around, showing you only a portion of the whole at time. The early puzzles in each stage work on a grid system, with the joystick moving a box around the screen that highlights one square on the grid, but later on this is replaced by a simple pointer that requires much more accuracy for a successful hit.

Magical Error is all you'd expect it to be and very little else, so why did I decide to dedicate a whole article to it? Well, for one thing I'm fascinated by games that take a simple, quiet pastime and turn it into a flashing, blinking, bells-and-whistles videogame with a competitive edge and the strange dichotomy that brings up. Aryol and Pieces did it for jigsaws, Quiz and Dragons gave pub quizzes the Dungeons and Dragons treatment, and now Magical Error has done it for spot-the-difference. Any day now I'm expecting to play a zombie-apocalypse-themed wordsearch game, where each discovered word causes another undead skull to explode gorily across the screen. Smartphone app developers - there's a free one for you.
The other reason is that I really like the pixel artwork in this game, and a lot of the puzzles are pleasantly daft, so I'm going to talk about a few of them.

Here, a girl is baffled by some extremely small bunting. Maybe she's organising a street party and now she's mortified that the neighbours are going to laugh at her sub-standard decorations.

Don't go down to the beach - a horrifying creature formed from human limbs and leftover bikinis has dragged itself ashore and thirsts for the blood of man! Raw terror lurks amongst the dunes! Nerve-shredding evil hunts along the coastline, although it's always careful to pay attention to the local tide times and plan its attacks accordingly! It's Octobeast, wetly dragging its way onto a cinema screen near you! Rated 12, contains mild peril and comic cryptozoology.

Ah yes, a pervy favourite of Japanese comedy - the old "men try to sneak into the women's side of the hot springs" bit. Except that's a dog climbing over the fence on the right. Why would a dog be so desperate to get over to the other side of that fence? What was going on back there? I think the expression of the man peering over the top clues us in that it was something unpleasant.

What looks at first glance like a simple scene of healthy young men playing basketball falls apart on closer inspection. For one thing, that's a medicine ball, not a basketball. Playing basketball with a medicine ball is going to make throwing three-pointers rather difficult, but it would definitely strengthen the upper body. More confusingly, Number 7 here doesn't seem to be jumping. He's just, like, ten feet tall. Kid's got a bright future ahead of him in the sport, assuming his legs don't collapse under the burden of belonging to an actual giant.

"Yes, Cinderella, you shall go to the ball. Did I mention that the ball is being held at the Playboy Mansion? Also, I amputated one of your legs below the knee. No need to thank me, it's all in a night's work for Fairy Satanmother!"

At one point, you have to spot the errors in a picture of duck-headed biomechanical death-bot. Alright, so maybe not a duck, but definitely some form of aquatic robo-life. It's a jolly little stage which illustrates how mean the game can get towards the end - you see that little blue octopus thing near the main creature's tail? It's an ever-so-slightly different shade of blue in the other image. This is what I mean about the colourblind not exactly being catered for in Magical Error.
That's not the interesting bit, though. Depending on your definition of interesting, a definition that I fully accept this tidbit may fall well outside, you might be interested to learn that this is actually Gargoyle Diver, one of the bosses from Technosoft's Megadrive shooter Thunder Force IV.

He doesn't look quite as cheerful in his original incarnation.
I'll be honest, I was expecting a cameo of this sort at some point in the game, simply because Magical Error is so far outside Technosoft's usual wheelhouse. Technosoft made shoot-em-ups, for the most part. The Thunder Force series is probably their most famous work, and the two Technosoft games I've previously written about, Hyper Duel and Elemental Master, were both about shooting things. Magical Error represents something of a departure for them and I would have been shocked had they made a game that's ninety-nine percent looking at pictures with slipping in some reference to their lasers-and-spaceships foundations.

I say "ninety-nine percent" because after every five puzzles, you get to play a bonus minigame for the chance to fill up your life bar and they require skills separate from those used by the average proofreader.

Skills such as button mashing, which is all the first bonus round consists of. Actually, that might be a little unfair because there's definitely an optimum rhythm to it beyond simply pressing the button as fast as you can. Tap the button to punch down the tower, either rhythmically or as though each time you pressed it another zero was added to your bank balance. That's it.
The girl on the right looks very familiar, but I can't quite place where I think I've seen her before, if indeed I have seen her before. Another cameo, perhaps? If you know, tell me in the comments. There is no prize beyond the warm satisfaction of helping your fellow man.

The second bonus round is a simple memory test, where random items are thrown between what look like two large and intricate slices of Battenburg cake and you have to select the corresponding items from your bingo card of object. The only real difficulty you're likely to face here is that the bunch of bananas and the rubber gloves look very similar, which is probably why all the major supermarkets keep the cleaning products so far away from the fresh fruit. Frustrating when all I came to buy was bleach and ingredients for a fruit salad (which I will later poison with bleach) but if stops just one kiddy from choking to death on a pair of Marigolds then I suppose it makes sense.

Hey look, it's Pop-Up Pirate! Except, you know, with a pig instead of a pirate. Maybe he's illegally uploaded hundreds of shaky camrips of the latest blockbuster movies and that was enough to condemn him to the torture of the barrel-o'-knives. Someone's written "KILL YOU" on that barrel, so they obviously mean business.

Next up, a maze to navigate. You're briefly shown a top-down view of the whole maze before being switched to this tight-focus view, and the idea is that you're supposed to memorize the top-down plan and then translate it to this isometric viewpoint as you make your way to the goal. In practise, you'll just remember roughly what corner of the maze the exit is located in and blindly stumble your way in the general direction. It seemed to work for me.

Lastly, there's a sliding block puzzle. Slide the blocks around to create a path for Mr. Penguin. I hate sliding block puzzles and thus refused to participate, leaving Mr. Penguin stranded on the starting block. Good. I would rather a million boggle-eyed penguins be kept from their goals than have to endure a sliding block puzzle.

Back to the actual game, and now that we're nearing the end Magical Error has redoubled its efforts to give me permanent eye strain by making me peer into a dark and writhing mass of insects. I'm sorry, Technosoft, but if your videogame experience can be replicated by sticking my head into my neighbour's compost bin then you can't be surprised when I lose interest. I don't need to put 100 Yen into the compost bin, now do I? Although funnily enough it would be a perfectly suitable place to Insert Corn.

I did lose interest towards the end, to be frank. If you've spotted one difference you've spotted them all, and as Magical Error reaches its climax the puzzles just about cross the line between "challenging" and "headachey and frustrating." A few items or special events might have livened proceedings up a little, but there's none of that included here: just the same gameplay as the first stage, copied for every other stage. It's to Technosoft's credit that they managed to keep such a slim premise entertaining for more than two or three minutes you'd expect it to bore you in, mostly thanks for the fun animations and charming pixel work.

I mean, who wouldn't be charmed by the Cavalcade of Edible Delights, starring a delirious, cartwheeling onigiri and a chicken whose dark eyes and angry demeanour suggest it might snap at any moment and shoot up the nearest branch of KFC? I'm charmed. Only a little, but just enough.

This Formula One scene was the last puzzle that Magical Error threw at me. It's a good job it was the last one, because after spending so long scouring these pictures for minute differences my eyes were about ready to stage a revolution and exit my skull via my ears. In the end, I resorted to wildly tapping the screen in search of differences - that's what the blue crosses represent. My failed attempts, each mistake costing that poor boy a portion of his very life essence. Then I ran out of time and cleared the scene anyway. Yup, if you run out of time - as opposed to running out of health - you just move on to the next scene or, in this case, the ending.

Magical Error wo Sagase is a game that takes a concept that didn't need to be turned into a videogame and does a decent job of turning it into a videogame. Why? Who the hell knows. Technosoft ran out of ideas for shoot-em-ups, maybe. Perhaps they were on a tight deadline and they figured a spot-the-difference game would be be quick and easy to knock out. Whatever the reasons, we're left with a competent if low-effort title that you could probably have fun with for fifteen minutes / until the inevitable eyeball rebellion.

It's a shame Technosoft didn't try to mix up the gameplay even a little, and some items or special skills might have been a good idea - something to give you the occasional clue, at least, because blindly clicking all over the screen will only rarely work out in your favour. But, hey, spot the difference. I spotted some differences. There were colourful moving shapes to reward my error detection skills. My primitive cave-ape brain was momentarily satisfied. It's over now. Back to the cave. See you next time.

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