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Stargate (Game Gear)

Genre: Puzzle Developer: Probe Entertainment Ltd. Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1 Released: 1994

Stargate was a great sci-fi movie that never got the respect it deserves. I remember renting it as a kid and watching it several times, and each time I put the movie in I got really curious about the game based off of it, since there was a commercial for it before the movie started. It seemed like a really well done game that I never got the chance to play. Over the years, I’ve watched the TV show and read a few of the books but always wanted to try out the game. I recently went through my Game Gear collection and realized that I own so many games that I haven’t played yet. I found a copy of Stargate in my collection and thought it would be a “light” version of the game released on the consoles. To my dismay, it turned out to be a really difficult to play puzzle game that I had a heck of a time figuring out due to the lack of coverage on any online game sites.

The evidence of this game’s poorness became known to me early on as I figured out the mechanics so slowly and struggled through the confusing gameplay. Even now, I can’t seem to get good at it. Imagine, if you will, a top-down cylindrical version of Sega’s popular Columns series, and you will have a general idea of how this game looks and plays. The object is to take double-sided tiles with symbols on them and stack them in groups of three of the same symbol along the edge of the cylinder. There are about a dozen symbols in all, and there is a row of random symbols at the top that you have to get three in a row of each of to clear the stage. The levels progress continuously like Columns or Tetris, and once a round is cleared new symbols appear on top for that skill level. You have to strategize accordingly in order to keep all of the different tiles organized. On the left and right sides of the screen, the game always shows you the next two tiles that you will receive, but they only show you one side of the tile. If you don’t like what you have, you can flip the tile and possibly use the other side. To help you out there are wild blank tiles, as well as a tile with a triangle symbol that will destroy a row of three tiles but won’t give you credit if destroys tiles represented at the top of the screen. For this reason, it’s better to use it on erroneous stuff you don’t need.

There is a versus mode in this game against the computer, but it’s almost impossible to play accurately and is almost dumb luck if you win. This mode gives you a map with quadrants on it, and each one represents a battle against a CPU opponent. I don’t know how many you have to win in order to finish the game, as I can’t stand this game long enough to complete it. What makes this mode so hard is that you can’t see your opponent’s well. It is represented by a height meter on the side of the screen, and you win by either pushing its meter to the top or clearing all of the tiles at the top of your screen, similar to the regular mode. Every row you clear goes to your opponent’s side and vice versa, but since you can’t see the other’s well you can never strategize properly or tell where rows will appear in your own well, so again it’s just luck as to whether you win or not.

The thing that really kills this game for me is the audio or better said the lack thereof.  There are no sound effects whatsoever – none at all, as it seems like the programmers just skipped this part altogether. On top of that, there are no accolades for advancing levels or clearing rows. The couple of tunes in the game are actually pretty decent to listen to and even have a very mystical space sound to them, but they get really old when they endlessly drone on for an entire game with the missing sound effects. They don’t change as levels progress, either.

The visuals look about as decent as they can for a top-down, well-style puzzle game. The symbols are easy to differentiate even at the bottom of the well, so I can’t complain there. The one other thing that this game does rather decently is the cut scenes with the character dialogue before the fights against Ra’s henchmen. They look really nice and are really crisp, but you just don’t get to see enough them to break up the monotony of the boring gameplay.

I have yet to find a 3D “well-based” puzzle game that works properly and is actually fun to play on any console yet (Blockout anyone?) and this game is no different at all. The concept is interesting but poorly implemented at best, and I can’t help but feeling like Stargate is moving in slow motion due to how boring and tedious the gameplay is. The Game Gear’s screen was way too small to handle this game properly, especially in the versus mode. Couple that with the omission of the sound effects, and we are left with one broken game. I still don’t understand how they thought that turning a game based off of an action movie into a puzzle game would be a good idea. For those reasons, this game is nothing more than forgettable.

SCORE: 3 out of 10

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