Chris Covell's

original games


Okay, so this is at least 5 years late, but recently I started thinking about the many little gadgets I had bought over the years, played for a little bit, then moved on to the next shiny little thing. I felt guilty about this one aspect of my retro collecting habits: spending (admittedly only a small amount of) money on some old game, then forgetting about it the next week. I had had a little bit of fun with the OneStation and its Famicom multicart, but the stupidly swapped A and B button placement sapped some of my interest in it. The Mega Drive games pack was really cool too, but the sound was a bit of a turnoff. And finally, there are these two carts: A totally(?) original 16-bit system with cool capabilities, sampled sound, and games that were not altogether shitty like 8-bit Chinese originals tend to be. The more advanced games tended to have only 1 or 2 levels in them, making their gamelife a bit of a joke. So I moved on...

But then like that child one abandons in one's irresponsible youth, the poor console began to wear on my conscience. What is the OneStation doing right now? (sitting in a box in the back of my closet) Does it forgive me? (even if it didn't, its 3 AAA batteries are dead.) Are the games any good? (well, we'll see...)


The OneStation, its 16-bit cartridges, and close-ups of its "digital crystal" (what does that mean?) screen.


It's interesting to discover something out of the ordinary. Ordinary in this case meaning the same old Famiclone hardware, running early generation Famicom games, level hacks, and woefully-programmed pirate originals. Instead, what we get here is like a brand-new 16-bit console. Well, since there is hardly any technical information about these cartridges, and no(?) reviews or decently-sized screenshots of these games, I decided to put this page together, perhaps to act as a reference of some kind.

Apparently, this hardware is a platform called Sunplus 260, is most likely 16-bit, and judging from the games, has graphical capabilities somewhere between the Sega Genesis and Nintendo SNES. Here are my guesses from simple observation (and a bit of hacking): The screen resolution is 320x240 (236 active lines). Sprites are 16x16 in size, and shadow (perhaps transparency?) effects are possible. The background hardware supports at least 2 playfields, with raster scrolling effects. The colour palette is likely somewhere in the thousands. Dunno what the maximum colour count is, but it's possible there is a 16- and 256-colour tile mode. As can be seen above, the LCD screen is very clear, since it has a 960x240 resolution (from the OneStation promotional materials). Of course, that's 320 pixels counted three times (one for each Red, Green, and Blue phosphor, the cheating gits.) Video output is not very clear at all, and I imagine it just barely fits within NTSC spec it's so cheaply generated. The video has an "underdriven" feel to it, the same way all those plug 'n play Jakks systems do, and the same way a mainstream game system looks when you plug in composite + S-video or RGB at the same time. There's lots of smearing and dithering in highly saturated colours, and the overal video is a bit dark. I had to brighten them up in these screengrabs.

Audio hardware is, I imagine, completely PCM-based, probably DMA driven. All the games use sampled sounds stolen from various sources (Lemmings, Mega Man III, and others...) and games that do have music have no PSG or FM sound; just sampled instruments. Makes sense; Chinese pirates could never, ever make good music on the old Famicom, so it's for the best that they just cobble together songs MOD-like using clear (and at least sonorant) instrument samples.

If you turn on the system while holding down A+B, this screen will come up, letting you check the buttons. The "select" and top-right buttons seem not to exist on this OneStation.

Pressing Up+B calculates the checksum for you, and pressing Down+A blanks the screen and every press of A thereafter cycles the screen colour between red, green, blue, white, and black.

That's it for my simple hardware analysis. From this point I'll take a look at the various games on each of the two cartridges that I have. The first set is the "Jet" cartridge, and later we'll look at the "Helicopter" cart. (That's the only way to identify these carts; no serial #s, names, or anything. They're both otherwise just "Vs POWER Plus 10 in 1.") Enjoy my reviews!


A pretty polished Sonic Wings ripoff, and a ripoff it certainly is, from the selectable jets to the power-up and bomb icons stolen from Video System shooters. It has some barely melodic MOD-style music (the same tune through all 4 stages) and sampled explosion effects, but as a shooting game it's overall not a bad effort. I guess Chinese pirates can make some rather playable games when they can't rely on stolen Famicom game and music engines.

Sadly, like most of the games here, it is completely lacking a title screen and other frills. There's no pause feature and the shitty OneStation d-pad makes it even harder to dodge all the enemies' and bosses' shots. After 4 stages (one of them is just a power-up round) of intense unpauseable action over the ocean, land, cities, and in the clouds, you face a 4-stage rocket as the final boss. The ending is just a silent scene of the 4 jets flying upwards, with an unceremonious reset after entering your initials. The game similarly dumps you back to the multicart menu when your game's over.

Varied terrain and a cool boss, too!


Okay, it's a ripoff of Side Pocket this time, but how original can one make an overhead-view pool game anyway? The graphics of the table are smooth and really nice, so full points there. The "Game Over" screen even has some really nice arcade-quality art, but as soon as the dude and the text appear on-screen, the whole thing fades out in 1/10th of a second! This rush to get past interstitial screens definitely screams 'unfinished game' to me.

(I wonder if the in-game player ever hears any 'cueball' wisecracks...)

Jesse Ventura reflects on his flagging career arc.


Ummm... Okay. Folks, look at the title and screenshots of this game, then go down and look at those for Final Escape. Looks like the names of the games got switched, doesn't it? I guess that's what happens when the underpaid menu programmer collates games that don't have any TITLE SCREENS!

The graphics look like a colourful, but 8-bit, mix of Metal Slug and Metal Gear, but it's just a lame-o updated version of Frogger. Collect the gems, collect the keys, collect my paycheque.


Here's the first game on this cartridge that undeniably looks and feels like some 1-day Flash game. It's a simple "match 3 tiles" game the likes of which have flooded shareware (ahem, casual games to you youngsters) packages since 1992. The three image choices in the first menu are just window dressing over the same game, so I've spared you the tedium of having to gaze at the circular eyesores of the "flocky" game variation.


This is a graphical and gameplay ripoff of Capcom's Don't Pull, which itself was a carbon-copy of Sega's old Pengo. It looks fine and plays well enough, but since the board doesn't really change much, and messages appear just as sprite text floating over the board (see "level 02" and "game over" screens) there's not enough variety to keep it interesting. Check out the Game Gear game Ninku Gaiden for an example of a Pengo-clone that actually went somewhere with the concept and added plenty of visual appeal and variety -- in 1995!


I don't understand this game and I don't want to know, really. Throw some balls on a stack, match colours, get a quick GAME OVER and make the Chinese cheerleader cry. It was boring 20 years ago when it was called Flipull.

And why is it called "Caddie" if you're playing with tennis balls?


Here is a waste of good cel animation shoved into a shitty Flash creation. Manoeuvre the heroic mutt around obstacles such as logs, rocks, covered pits, and leg hold traps! Obviously this is a primitive game concept, something that was sold in LCD watches at Radio Shack circa 1985.

What kept me awake at night was the game's disturbing back story. Whose dog are you? Whose baby is that? Why are you carrying it on your back? Did you kidnap it? Why does the baby sprout angel wings when the dog gets caught in a trap? Is it already dead or something? Why are you carrying a dead baby on your back through a wolf-filled forest? Is it a metaphor for Valhalla or crossing the River Styx or what?

Is a game like this suitable for children?

Now we are called heroes. But the hell continues...


I don't get the premise of this game at all, so I'm sticking my review into this tiny space just to spite it.

Swap identical pieces of shrubbery to 'make way' for the rabbit, or something, but no matter what I did, my rabbit would never move. Bleh.

The graphics of this game are rather pretty, if a bit too dinky, but the gameplay is seriously lacking. Pick up fruit to meet your quota while making your way tediously through the lettered door maze and avoiding enemies. It fails as a game, becoming simply an ABC tutor for bored Chinese children.


"Wow!" I exclaim, "It's a proper title screen!"
"Cool!" I croon, as the jolly upbeat piano music caresses my ears.
"Shit!" I curse, "It's another cruddy Flash programming exercise," as I gaze in horror at a Tangram game best left in the actual physical world.

Oh, dear. 2 or maybe 3 games actually worth playing on this cartridge isn't such a great score, is it? The graphics in 6 1/2 of the games are quite good, though, so I'll give credit to whoever is toiling away in Guangzhou or wherever making pixel art. Keep it up, guys! Most of these games fall totally flat in the design and execution department, however, which is the most crucial thing for a game. These pirate original multicart makers seem to fail to grasp that concept.

Maybe a miracle will happen in the next cartridge:


Again, they have an aversion to title screens, but this is a surprise! It's a full-on clone of (a single level of) GBA Iridion 3-D. Your 1950s-era spaceship flies over an animated ocean while swarms of popcorn enemies fly around in formation and shoot at you. Nearly always on-screen is a boss ship of some sort that gets larger and more aggressive the more of them you defeat. Avoiding the constant barrage of shots is quite a challenge (thanks to the shitty D-pad on the OneStation) so it's hard to take pictures and play the game at the same time. Here are all the "bosses" of the 1st stage: a UFO, a scary skull thing with no nasal cavities, and an elephantine robot head. The 2nd stage presents us with a trio of round smily bosses, and a demonic crash-cymbal-wielding monkey straight out of your worst nightmares!

So, this game's surprisingly cool. The cloudy sky warps in perspective and lightning strikes in the background, making for good visual effects. The music is exactly the same MOD-like tune as Tiger Rescue, so points off for that. Still, I'm impressed what can be done given a bit more time and production values. Limited lives, no pause feature and no respawning on continue means my nerves are constantly on edge when playing this... if that can be called a good thing.


This game is a bit of everything: Q*Bert, with your constantly hopping protagonist and squares that need their colours changed, Bomberman, considering the bombs you lay to stun enemies and change the colours of said squares, uhhh... and Trampoline Terror, just going by the constant pogoing mechanics and square elimination concept.

The music sucks, and the sound effects are your limited set of cute splats and chimes. The graphics, however, are really pleasing to the eye thanks to the jellylike sheen on everything. The gameplay gets very repetitive very fast, but if you fall into the rhythm of the game and start to like it, then it may be the type of game for you.

That's what porn actresses ask their plastic surgeons for, I hear.


Asian pirates sure have a funny way of naming their games. It's usually some obscure adjective followed by an animal of some type, like "Hectic Penguin", or "Consumptive Panda". This one is just as strange while still being halfway descriptive. Yes, yes, the game has a lot of fish in it. It is totally unlike pinball, though. Pinball games are driven by gravity and bumpers, for one, whereas Arkanoid-type games have no gravity to speak of.

The graphics are nice, if a little bit too blue in hue. The audio is just the same bubbling sound over and over, which merely adds to the tedium. It may be a simple diversion for a couple stages, but it'll eventually dawn on you (I hope!) that it's a painfully dull game. At least other more competent Arkanoid clones let you vary the speed of your paddle by pressing the A or B buttons!

JungleTac's next marine-themed game: Rock Lobster!



(the entire game mapped for you!)

Now here, surprisingly, is a jolly good game with some jolly beautiful artwork to boot! It reminds me of countless late-era Amiga platform games in its graphic design and its squat, bug-eyed character. Well, with a name like "Plumber" it's setting itself up to be called a Mario rip-off, but it's more akin to Rick Dangerous, Monty on the Run and Mega Man in gameplay. Make your way through the flick screens, picking up junk food for points and collecting all the keys to open the door at the end. You have enemies in your way, but you can't touch them at all, so either avoid them or kill them with the toss of your wrench (you have a rather scant 5 of them in your toolbag.)

As you head deeper underground, enemies make way for falling spikes, lasers, and moving platforms which you have to hop on for a ride to higher screens or to avoid hitting spiked floors. In the final quarter of the level, water suddenly rises from below so you have to dash upwards to avoid drowning. In all, it's a great variety of platforming action and memorization; however, that's all there is to this game: a single 18-screen stage. When you think even 8-bit games had levels twice as long and any Mario game had several dozen of them in a single cartridge, you can see just how far away Chinese game companies are from true legitimacy.






Arrrgh!!! Won't these puzzle games ever go away!?? Jewel Fever 2 (no relation to the Spike Lee movie...) is another horribly dull upside-down jewel matching contest just like Magical Drop (or perhaps Tsunagete Pon.) Pull a few jewels off the stack and then shoot them back onto the stack in a different place. If 3 or more jewels of the same colour are joined up, they disappear. The piratey graphics aren't bad, but the sound is the same repetitive bubbling effect as Pinball Fish over and over. I lost interest in this game long before any fever symptoms ever developed.



It looks like these guys are finally learning platform gaming 101 as they've produced an appealing single-screen platformer for us. The "8-bit game pack" for the One Station has an identical version of this, named Mr. Onion, of course, but with contrasty 8-bittish graphics and poorer presentation, less polish, and frustrating play control. So, like I said above, it's a blessing they've moved on from making shitty Famicom games from stolen game engines and have actually tried programming a good 16-bit game (from scratch? The jury's still out...)

Sure, the hero and heroine are copied from New Zealand Story, and the platforms look a bit familiar too, but the backdrop in each level is colourful and gorgeous to look at, and everything just works well together. The gameplay is incredibly simple, like something out of Chuckie Egg or Miner 2049er: collect the keys, get to the exit. Shoot the enemies (some take 2, 3, or more hits) and watch out for the slightly tight time limit and respawning enemies. A drop from a height of more than 2 blocks will kill the hero (I'll call him Tiki...) It starts off easy but builds up enough of the "good" frustration to make it addictive.



Thank god there's a Tetris clone somewhere on these carts! But!! Some of the pieces are weirdly shaped, like the spiteful "U" shape seen in the 1st ingame pic, or the 3-segment "L" shape. Basically, they've taken Tetris and made 3 lines the maximum that you can clear at a time. Well, it's a variation, but I don't know if it was a good one. One other thing you can do if you have too many gaps in your stack is lay one of three bombs to clear 2 lines at a time. This bomb option actually destroys the difficulty of the game because when you press the "B" button (to select a bomb and move a cursor around the screen to choose where you might use it) the game completely pauses but gives you a clear view of all the pieces on your stack. You can press "B" again to choose not to lay down a bomb, which means the game gives you all the time in the world to look at your pieces and plan a strategy. Talk about a game killer!

Anyway, that's the NORMAL mode critiqued. Dream Bubble also has a SPECIAL mode which... wait for it... simply flips the gameplay upside down so that the pieces float upwards and the stack is on top of the screen. That's the only change!!! Are these guys brilliant or what?

I really like the Art Deco / Steampunk mixture of styles in this game...

This game definitely feels unfinished in several areas. That "GRADE" display doesn't show your grade or anything.



When I was very young (6 or 7), our family had a great board game named Sidewinder, a game of dexterity where you had to use the large twin dials to "steer" your snake around corners and into nooks and crannies to pick up food (metal balls) and take them back to your lair. It was a great timewaster (before videogames took over my life) and this game replicates a little bit of that fun and frustration. I guess its closest (and original) videogame adaptation was Anteater in the arcades and on home consoles/computers.

This game is a simplified version of that game concept. You move your snake around the outer reaches of the board and then pop your head into the grassy maze to pick up the jewels. You can't turn the snake around, so if an enemy comes near any segment of your body, you need to press the B button to retract your body as fast as possible. It's a pretty fun diversion, even if the enemy's movement is simplistic and frustrating, and I swear there are a few corners on some boards where it's impossible to reach a jewel without taking a hit by one of the enemies. Ah, well, it's not bad, and the graphics are cute to boot.

If you gotta go...
go, go, go with a smile!


No, it's not a description of a Seattle dorm room's most popular item, it's the strange title given to this conversion of the most ported game on earth, Sokoban. This version has nice, large graphics, if a bit samey, sparse but cute sound effects, and no music. It also has only 20 stages, when even early Sokoban titles had between 50-200. Anyway, I still had a good time playing it, even if I cheated a little bit (the "give up" menu keeps the stage shown but stops the timer) to reach the end. The selection screen looks familiar... like it was stolen from a game but I don't know which one... Cameltry?



Jeez, what an exciting title! What's next, "Requisition Form #10"?

This is just a throwaway title, Pac-Man or Fantasy Zone: The Maze-like, where you pick up all the dots and move to the next stage. The only complications are the roving tanks on the track that shoot horizontally and vertically at you, and insta-death obstacles like skulls. Not very exciting. But would you check out the Cool World-style background? Ker-ray-zee!!

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