Review Information
Reviewer Name: hotdiggerdydamn
Reviewer Email: Private
Game Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Options: False
Game Information
Full Title: 4 Pak All Action
Year Released: 1995
Game Type: Misc/Other
Max Players: 2
Introduction


4 Pak All Action is arguably one of the rarest games on the Master system, after much scraping through the scant information available online I discovered that only around 5000 where ever made! But more important than all of these facts and figures, to me at least, was the news that 4 Pak All Action contains no less than three platform games! Joy! I am, as youíll probably see from my other reviews on here, a bit of a 2D platforming junky. All those hours of my childhood spent playing platform games to the soundtrack of midi bleeps and epileptic, screeching, tape sounds has obviously mutated my skull meat. So naturally I snatched this bad boy right up and took, what I supposed was a simple Arkanoid clone, Power Block as a scant bonus to round numbers up to an even four. So is this little rarity worth the effort to track down, or is it better left on the lovely shores of itís homeland in sunny old Australia, along with Neighbours and Prisoner Cell Block H?
Gameplay
Obviously there has to be some structure here so Iím going to treat each game as itís own separate entity and review them in order starting with (drum roll please!):

ADVENTURE KID:
Itís another Wonder Boy clone and itís as jerky as a crack-head coming down, but is it all bad? Well, that all depends: if the Master System was your first outing into gamesville then this is probably like seeing your Mum and Dad at it in a position you never thought humanly possible, but if your where introduced to games, as I was, through the means of the ZX Spectrum or the Amstrad CPC 464 then youíre going to be in familiar graphical territory. So maybe Iím a bit biased on this front, as I had/have both of these systems and loved them equally, but I donít find this little freak in the collection that bad to look at or have a crack at every now and again, and if it wasnít for itís obvious visual deficiencies (which I'll expand on later) this actually has more to it than Wonder Boy. In fact it has more in common with later Adventure Island titles (although some people may see this as splitting hairs) in so much as you can get a good few different weapons and can ride saurian, bird and turtle like steeds depending on which playing card you pick up. There are also many different collectables that pump your life bar up to different degrees - now this is actually something that chafes my spuds, what is that life bar about? It has nothing to do with your one-hit-dead energy, which doesnít help with the massive difficulty level of this game, itís just a timer that counts down to death? Do these characters in games like this have some sort of flesh eating virus or a time-bomb implanted in their skulls? I donít know but Iím glad this didnít become a trend in platformers as, to me, itís just a little bitÖstupidÖyes stupidÖas feck.

In addition to this stupidity there is also what I would consider a complete glitch, but what Iím sure they considered a Ďchallengeí back in the day, this problem comes in the form of a jump on world 1-4 (Fern Island) where you donít actually seem to be able to make it without having kept your dinosaur ride from the previous level. This is just plain annoying and just kills the game dead if you loose it on or before that level. The game is a toughy to say the least and most of this is due to glitches, but one nasty point is that there are infinite continues but you can only continue from the first stage of the level you have reached, not any given stage of said level. This happens in all the platform games in this Pak and isnít a game killer but with this one it only adds to the annoyance.

So for those of you whoíve never played Wonder Boy and are looking for a little more of a comparison, firstly: shame on you and Secondly: I canít give you any real story behind the game because you only get a flimsy piece of paper with the game that you could pretty much print out and nobody would know the difference, or care, and on this single sheet you get no story and very little extra information other than what the buttons do - and even that is a little sketchy. However as far as gameplay goes you run, top speed, trail and error style, through various Islands and environments collecting items and firing numerous weapons at the enemies that get in your way. Amongst these weapons are hammers (your starting weapon), arrows, boomerangs and the aforementioned monstrous steeds. These come in different colours and varieties that either fire sparkly looking stuff that sets enemies heads on fire and brings about their suffering - which is the desired effect - fly over their heads or swim around them. Also like the skateboard they essentially add an extra point of energy to your usual one hit, but unlike the skateboard they donít really massively speed up your forward progress, plus by making your sprite bigger they basically raise the risk of you being hit.

At the end of every stage you get to pick an egg from a rotating selection and these can include anything from a few hundred points to a lovely extra life. So thatís pretty much the low down on Adventure Kid as far as Gameplay goes. A pretty run of the mill affair that has a few touches that bring it up a point or two.

POWER BLOCK:
I hate Arakanoid/Breakout bat and ball type games, to say I despise them is to underplay the pure rage and boredom the fill me with. I spit on them *pah, pah!* then I do a spinning, fiery, roundhouse kick of doom into the crowd of people who came up with the concept, hopefully decapitating them or at very least detaching their stupid retinas. The only one that has ever held my attention in any way shape or form is Devilish on MD and this is because of the kill stuff and progress element, and the dark and creepy, ghost train, atmosphere, both of which are things I dig, but Iíd rather play on Splatterhouse, or Ghouls and Ghosts, or Zombies Ate my Neighbours any day of the week. So, much to my surprise, I turned on the old 4 Pak and sighed as I chose Power Blocks from the list and suddenly I was presented with a snappy, sharp and interesting title. The urge to get to the central block of each world and destroy it and then further to see all this has to offer is as ever present as it is in any platform game, and this is down to a few simple facts: Firstly the simple bat and ball gameplay is there, sure, but the power ups (including a shooting ability, a stage skip ability, a stage retry ability - which youĎll be wanting to dodge - and all kinds of other cool jiggery-pokery ) are interesting and cohesive to the gameplay, plus every level, of the 20 on offer, is completely different to the next and every single one has its own inventive boss and theme. There is something unbelievably addictive about seeing what the game will throw up next and I am truly shocked, and a little ashamed, to say that I enjoy playing this more than most games I own. That is no mean feat considering I still avoid this type of game like generic sports titles or the plague.

TWIN MOUSE:
This for me is unfortunately the weak link in the Pak, itís not that itís bad it just all seems a little redundant. Firstly itís a simple jump-on-things-heads style platformer which is fair enough and I actually donít mind that, but every level is filled with the same repeated enemies and bland level design. So whatís the catch? Whatís makes this different? Well there is one element that makes this one a little different - and when I say Ďa little different,í I do mean Ďa little.í The slant this game has to offer is that when you pick up a certain power-up you turn into your twin, but this just looks like you go through some quick fire sex change op and end up with a bow in your hair, also you look like a cat not a mouseÖa strange, hermaphrodite, cat/mouseÖanyhoo...when you become transvestite mouse you can press jump a second time and float to the ground like Princess Peach in Mario 2. Sounds under whelming? You got it. There is very little else to this game other than this slight change in character physics and the fact that you have to jump on a dog three times to get a key at the end of the level and move through the door to the next. By the by you fight this same dog over and over and over till the game is done and youíve forgot it existed. Pretty bog standard fair.

CAVE DUDE:
if you have ever played the awesome Bonkís Adventure games for Turbo Grafx and SNES amongst other systems then youíll understand the concept and general feel of Cave Dude. Perhaps the closest thing to this on the SMS is Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck. You play a little, bald ĎCave Dudeí called Toto as he mooches through prehistoric lands smacking various period creatures in skull till theyíre fossils. There are three stages to each world and each of those is punctuated by bosses such as an evil, bespectacled, version of Dumbo and much to my surprise Gojira! Another unlicensed little addition which I enjoyed immensely; being a massive Godzilla fan. Some of these bosses have weak spots and can be a little difficult to kill off on your first run through the game due to the close range weaponry (you start with a club and can pick up a more powerful stone hammer), but as they say, whoever ĎtheyĎ are, practice makes perfect.

Now there are a few other mechanics to the game that set it apart from itís bedfellow ĎTwin Mouseí and make it very slightly more than a bog standard platform romp. This may sound like a good thing, and essentially it is, except for the fact that all of these elements are basically ripped wholesale from other, often much better titles. This doesnít make the game a bad game it just makes it apparent that if the developers had tried that bit harder, and had a bit more nad about the whole project, they could have easily achieved what so many other far more renowned titles have achieved and moved on from a little unlicensed title like this and become a well known developer in their own right, unfortunately I havenít heard of Open Corp, the developer in question, since this title. So what are these elements I hear you cry? Well youíve got the killer down hill bum slide, youíve got levels that consist of path following platforms and spring boards that fire you to unreachable ledges that all look like they where lifted directly from Mario. These might not seem like much but they all work perfectly and make this a much more playable title than the bare bones feel of Twin Mouse.

As for the rest youíve got hearts that can be picked up to fill your health and the afore mentioned hammer power ups. Other than that youíve got silver and gold star pick upís that feel suitably satisfying to collect, and will provide you with 1ups once the points you get from them reach over 10,000. Thatís about it really. WaitÖnope, thatís it!
Graphics
ADVENTURE KID:
Uh-oh! Here comes what may well be the stake in the coffin for this game in many peopleís eyes, and with good reason - if people wanted graphics that look like theyíve been spewed up by the mutated love child of a C64 and an Amstrad CPC 464 then surely the would buy one of those beautiful systems. So here in lies one of Adventure Kidís major stumbling points, the graphics are old and blocky looking and although the backgrounds have some nice touches and there are a lot of cool little islands to see the sprites are mostly one garish colour and often these colours are lost in the noise of the often equally bright backgrounds, so if youíre playing this game with even a bit of glare on the screen you ainít gonna last very long. On top of these blocky, colour clashing, issues comes another stinker to wreck the party, like a turd in a swimming pool, this problem comes in the form of the jerkiest scrolling Iíve seen for a long, long time and even the older machines where capable of smooth scrolling, just look at Mayhem in Monsterland on C64. This juddering viewpoint means that the break-neck pace of Wonder Boy cannot be achieved without a massive margin of error in Adventure Kid, which is a shame because the as I mentioned in the game play section itís not a bad title, and filled with some interesting and pleasing facets.

POWER BLOCK:
A lovely looking and hugely varied game this one. As Iíve said before, every level has itís own outlandish theme from an underwater world where the blocks that must be destroyed are different fish that you smash to skeletons before completely destroying them (this is one of my faves), to a world of weird floating faces in the nights sky, and even a pyramid world where you must get to the centre of a pyramid of hieroglyphic characters to kill a mummy in itís sarcophagus. These characters often have a few frames of animation leading to a bustle of life amongst the blocks, and each block has a few frames of cool destruction animation to boot. Then as soon as youíve finished off the central, big, block you get equally inventive bosses that are often really strange and very well drawn and range from an odd mascot type guy with a bowling ball head and a weird female nebula creature. Bouncing your ball (he he) into these bosses is really satisfying, and, again, the urge to see what comes next is mostly down to these colourful graphics and the atmosphere they create. A true visual joy.

TWIN MOUSE:
Twin mouse comes as a huge let down after the majesty of Power Blocks and lacks nearly any semblance of charm. From Itís black backgrounds and repeated facets, blocks and enemies with very little to break them up itís bad news from the start. The sprite animation is turgid and scant and the character design uninspired. Dull colours only add to the mix of mediocrity and have the exact polar opposite of Power Blocks in making you not really care what lies around the next corner, probably because itíll all look very similar to the rest of what youíre seeing. All in all this is a very vapid experience.

CAVE DUDE:
There are more than a few issues I wish to raise with Cave Dudeís graphics - and Iím sure a few other people would like similar questions answered too, namely the creators of the numerous games it rips off. Not only are the mechanics of this game fairly similar to a lot of other titles on various consoles of the time but the graphics are also a hodgepodge of pilfered characters. Straight off the bat Toto, the main character, has a badly drawn resemblance to Bonk (or B.C. Kid or whatever you want to call him), then the first enemy youíll fight is just Tiki from New Zealand Story only a bit bigger! Next up youíll fight something that looks and attacks in the exact same way as Toki from the game of the same name! I could go on forever. The animators and artists involved in Cave Dude didnít seem to have an original idea between them let alone the talent to pull them off. Fair play itís all bright, and itís all colourful, and itís all bold, but itís all come from elsewhere. Even the bosses arenít original - the first boss looks like a grown up, disturbed by pink elephants no doubt, Dumbo, then the next level boss is actually just Godzilla - heís even called Gojira, the Japanese name for Godzilla. itís all a little surreal but itís all nice enough and it sort of becomes fun looking for nods, nay copies, of your favourite pop culture icons. Madness.

Lastly I want to make a point about the cover, cart and instructions that come with the 4 Pak, and what better place to do that than in the graphics section. Obviously all of these things a lot different that other master system titles, in the fact even the actual plastic box itself is a little different looking, but above and beyond this the cover is gold and completely lacking the usual graph paper look, and the sticker on the cart is bright yellow with bold blue writing on it. Itís an interesting look that sticks out in your collection like an infected toenail but I personally like the overall look (not four bits of bad artwork though) and it adds to that feeling of ĎIíve got a lovely rare gameí which is always nice. However the Instructions that come with it are on a pathetic low quality bit of paper with the controls printed on it (which are actually wrong in parts). People have said that itís a worry that the booklet can be forged and this may be so but itís not really the end of the world and none would know the difference between your copy and the cack youíre given with the game - itís hardly an in depth and wonderfully illustrated tome.
Sound & Music
ADVENTURE KID:
Crackly old tunes with bleepy sounds to back it up - nothing impressive and all pretty reptative, but also nothing too offensive.

POWER BLOCK:
Fine enough tunes that you'll be ignoring as you get lost in the religious experience that is this game. The sound effects are pingy affairs that fit well with the ball bouncing of the bat and walls, but the explosions you get when you hit the blocks and bosses are nice and satisfying.

TWIN MOUSE:
Meh sounds, meh tunes, meh, meh meh. Sigh, this game bores me more than people talking about thier theories about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

CAVE DUDE:
There tunes are so hideous they blur the line between game music and extreme noise metal. The first tune is like a completely unfitting dirge and the second level makes no musical sense and trying to whistle it could quite possibly summon the devil. The sound effects are alright but that music had to go in favour of a bit of W.A.S.P. Just thinking about it makes me want to shave my ear drums.
Controls
ADVENTURE KID:
The controls are tight but only based on the kids movement which itself is jerky and a two step process. Nothing too hideous though.

POWER BLOCK:
Perfect, perfect stuff. Precise rebound physics and tight paddle movement - a joy to behold in this section also then! Weeee!

TWIN MOUSE:
Tight enough apart from this weird tendency your character has to run a few steps after youíve jumped sometimes. This can send you hurtling into an enemy and Iím having a hard time pinpointing why this happens, but other than this it works in itís own dull manner.

CAVE DUDE:
Very tight controls and collision detection make this another good game to control, along with power blocks itís one of the tightest games youíll find.
Replay Value
Scores
Gameplay
Graphics
Music & Sound
Controls
Replay Value
ADVENTURE KID:
Iíve had a good few cracks at this title and often come back to it when I have those Ďoh itís not that bad,í moods, and itís not that bad it - if you have the patience of an oak. I canít tell you how many times Iíve called this game a whore.

POWER BLOCK:
Completed and I still keep coming back to this absolutely magnificent creature. The levels are so great and the whole package works so very, very well that youíll soon realise that this game surely must have been made by angels by extracting what makes oiled up ladies with big honkers make men feel so neat. If you donít enjoy this game and come back to it over and over again you must be so hard to please that life must come as a horrible disappointment to you.

TWIN MOUSE:
MehÖyouíll play through it once, it will bore you to the point that you wish you hadnít started playing it, it will end, youíll feel relieved then youíll go do something more productive like pull your bum hair out.

CAVE DUDE:
Itís basic but itís tight and enjoyable with some great bosses and stages that may well drag you in for more. The fact that this is such an obscure but decent little title has brought me back to it almost as much Power Blocks and thatís saying something. Iím assuming youíll feel the same way if you can track down this illusive beast.
Conclusion
Obviously I can only give it one score for each section and so this is the only point that Iíve mixed my opinion of all the games to get a grand total. Hopefully my points of view will tell you which games excel and bring up the scores, as they will hopefully tell you which get in the way of the Pakís overall greatness. This is tough to track down and then you may have to pay a stupid price for it, I was just lucky and I hope that at least a few of you have the same luck as I did. Itís well worth picking up becuase A.) Itís oddity factor is irresistable as a collector and B.) The fact that Power Blocks will make you realise why you love games in the first place, and Cave Dude will take you on an interesting ride of rip off-ism the likes of which you will probably not see again. So if you look at the other two games as interesting bonus features on a great little cart youíll be vastly more than happy with your purchase. A great addition to anyones collection.
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