The Snake Becomes The Key

Retro Gaming Humour

BMX NINJA:”The Ultimate BMX Contest” – Apparently….

Words:Stuart Hunt

After the surprisingly enjoyable experience Chris and I had playing Ninja Scooter Simulator, I almost felt excited rummaging through our huge box of old tapes, looking for the next game to review. It wasn’t long before I discovered another title whose use of the term ‘NINJA’, rested debatably on its box. Oddly, it was another racing game – what’s the deal with that?

Now imagine if the kid from Paperboy still got his BMX for Christmas. Imagine he fell in with a crowd of two bit, 8-bit ninjas (who looked suspiciously 2-bit). Imagine, tragically, he looked and moved like he had been repeatedly run over by a truck and this whole scenario was crammed onto a cassette tape.

I’m beginning to realise that there’s a significant correllation between bad loading screens and bad games. In BMX NINJA, we’re treated to a picture of a guy on a bike, who looks like every jerk BMX owner that takes riding the thing a little too seriously. He’s sporting a paintball mask and a pair of red overalls – hardly the clothing a reputable ninja would be seen causing death in; but then again, assuming you bought this game believing ninjas actually ride around on BMX’s, I figure the games creators felt they could push against the boundaries of ninja preconceptions a little.

bmx_ninja-load.png
Santa decided to ditch the sleigh this year

The menu screen is equally confusing, for reasons I can’t even begin to understand or would want to for that matter, the creators decided it would look cool to show a picture of a 1940s gangster holding a Tommy Gun. His presence in a game about peddle pushing ninjas makes no sense whatsoever. It’s so random that my brain is unable to generate a fictional occasion that would find two such characters crossing paths.

To accompany the ganster, whizzing across the top of the menu screen (intentionally fast so you can’t read it, probably) is some weird message outlining what to expect from the BMX NINJA experience. I have taken the liberty of repeating this wise ninja proverb to you:

BMX NINJA, THE ULTIMATE BMX CONTEST.USE YOUR CYCLE ‘NINJA’ STYLE TO FIGHT SKATEBOARDERS, BMX RIDERS AND SCOOTERS. A TEST OF ENDURANCE AND SKILL USING BUNNY HOPS, WHEELIES AND BACK FLIPS TO BEAT YOUR OPPONENTS.

They get four words right in that whole passage: “A test of endurance”. It took only one minute of this game for my endurance and I to fallout. After my first full peddle rotation he had packed his bags and was threatening to take custody of my confidence. Jerk.

So it’s at this point, feeling ill-equipped for the challenge that lay ahead, I made up with my endurance and we left our home, setting off on a spiritual journey to help prepare for our next encounter with skateboarders, BMX riders and scooters. We spent two weeks meditating on the top of mount Snowdon, four days uppercutting a waterfall and finished our training outside Halfords, sleeping as close as possible to the bike section. Enlightened, cold and wet, we then returned home for a test of might that would make snapping diamond slabs with bare fists look as hard as playing Deal or No Deal with a pair of X-Ray specs.

So the game starts and in pedals your ninja. Confusingly, he isn’t wearing red getup, or even a paintball mask for that matter, so instantly, I’m left questioning who the militant looking dude on the loading screen was. Your guy is one colour: yellow, with some black detail used for his shading, spokes and tyre grips, all lazily burrowed from the darkness of the road. He also looks identical to the evil ‘Ninja’ BMX riders that you’re trying to fight, which turns out to be really helpful during a fight.

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We obviously find our ninja in the early stages of his training because so far he’s only manage to master one move – a ridiculous looking handle bar spin, which seems to randomly decide whether it wants to detect collision by rolling an invisible dice. If you actually succeed in hitting someone, they react by realistically vaporising into a cloud of dust; the only (and I use the term very loosely here) ninja stereotype this whole game displays. Ironic I think, as dust is something this game collects plenty of, I’m sure.

To put the experience into context; imagine if Capcom made Street Fighter 2, decided to base it around one character, clone him, have you fight him continually, then stingily give you one move to kill each other with, and not even a good move like the fireball or dragon punch; a shitty one like the light jab or the block. Welcome to BMX Ninja, welcome and goodbye.

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February 9, 2007 Posted by | Racing, Stuart Hunt | Leave a comment

Ninja Scooter Simulator: 0% Ninja, 100% Scooter

Words:Chris Keeley and Stuart Hunt

Imagine if the kid from Paperboy didn’t get a bike for Christmas, he got a Scooter instead. Imagine that he was so disillusioned at his lack of bi-pedal, self propulsion system that he fell in with a gang of two bit, eight bit ninjas who thought that by wearing bandannas and jumping over Toblerone boxes they were somehow akin to Japan’s finest. Quite. Well evidently these ideas WERE Imagined and are alive (and not kicking) in Ninja Scooter Simulator.

As true today as it was in the 80s. Adding the word ‘Ninja’ to something makes it cool, even if the subject matter has less to do with Ninjas than almost anything else in the world. Just tack the word on somewhere for instant street cred, to the power of awesome.

“Ninjas? Cool!”
Purchase.
Rush Home.
Load.
“What the hell? This has nothing to do with ninjas. MUUUUUMMM!!!”

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                   MSMJA SCOOTER SIMULATOR?? UHH?

I can’t imagine any self respecting ninja parking his neon-ed up scooter in the shadows, before weightlessly hopping between roof-tops to silently assassinate a rival gang member or passing Japanese dignitary. Also, I think that your typical Shinobi’s attire is usually a bit more low key than shades, a brightly coloured bandanna and Bermuda shorts. Unless that is, he was attempting to assassinate the eyes of his enemies or infiltrate the 1987 World Surf Championship. Maybe his sense of style had its throat slit by a rival dojo. To sum up, this game has nothing to do whatsoever with ninjas and everything to do with being an enjoyable, side scrolling, jump and weave racer.

For those of you that remember playing California games; mix the BMX level with the roller-skate level and add the wardrobe of a Floridian beach tramp with aspirations to ninja-dom. On this weird, garish, pixelated plane exists Ninja Scooter Simulator. The game itself involves negotiating run down neighbourhoods, where, oddly, every corner sports a shiny new Ferrari. Perhaps the residents all sleep in their cars and don’t own houses. Your foot pushing friend must negotiate the blatant no scooter policy enforced by the homeless, luxury car loving locals and reach the finish line of each level. This must be done within a strict time limit, which can be increased by picking up the numerous watches carelessly strewn throughout the streets. Perhaps they were gifted to the scooter hating, cash-rich, common-sense poor fools who inhabit the neighbourhood, given to them by unscrupulous Ferrari salesmen.

All manor of randomness is called upon to prevent you from reaching your goal; aliens on skateboards, hovering skulls and even competitive policemen who seem to want to race you to the finish line. C’mon would it have been that difficult to add skateboarding ninjas, hovering shurikens and competitive dragons who seem to want to race you to the finish line. At least try and introduce some kind of Ninja element to the proceedings.

Despite these oriental deficiencies, the game itself is actually quite enjoyable. It’s always fun going over ramps, regardless of context. Even ‘Tax Return Scooter Simulator’ would probably prove quite entertaining, as long as it had its fair share of sweet jumps. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Amstrad game without a ridiculous difficulty gradient. The first few levels can easily be completed, even when ensuring you collide with every obstacle possible. However, from level six onwards, ninja like concentration and reflexes are required……. ahhhhhh…..I get it now.

February 5, 2007 Posted by | Chris Keeley, Racing, Stuart Hunt | Leave a comment