Jump To Gamer Retro Rag Review – Official UK PlayStation Magazine: Issue #39

 

Jump To Gamer is a way for me to get away from just looking solely at individual games and look more at wider themes and issues. Back before the true rise of the internet, a lot of people still got most of their news from actual paper publications. The amount of magazines devoted to gaming was much larger back in the 90’s than it is now. We’re living in a digital age and the paper press is slowly wilting. This isn’t something I relish. Though I’m very happy that the internet gives writers like me a chance to publish our opinions, I must admit that getting to write for an actual print magazine was always my dream.

It wasn’t until I was finishing up primary school that I really got in to reading gaming magazines. Prior to that, I might flick through screen shots while out shopping, but after a certain point I would actually start reading the articles themselves. It was a gradual evolution, but by the time the PS2 was out I was gobbling these magazines up. PlayStation World (Or PSW as it was known) was my magazine of choice for most of the sixth generation, mainly because I didn’t get an Original X-Box until much later in the generation, thusly I didn’t really need to buy cross platform magazines. Another magazine I really enjoyed was P2, which took a novel approach to reviewing by having three reviewers give a score, along with their comments.

The official PlayStation 2 magazine was one I rarely picked up. I think I bought it when it released a Metal Gear Solid 2 review and that was pretty much it. I was drawn more to PSW firstly because it was cheaper but also because I felt it didn’t take itself as seriously as OPSM did. Writers like Mikey Foley and Lee Nutter were self deprecating and a bit more relaxed than their counterparts in other magazines. Going back and reading some of the OPM magazines from the 90’s really hit home how up themselves some of the writers truly were. That combined with the in your face “Lad” mentality makes some of these mags a total cringe fest to modern eyes. I say this as someone who could never pull off a Laddy image, due to being less cool than a mug of Bovril, but I’d forgive it if it at least had the courtesy to be funny.

The first ever issue of OPSM I read was Issue #38, which I got with my PlayStation. It featured a big review on F1 98’ and went with a comparatively low score of 7 out of 10.

Issue #39 was an issue that I skipped at the time, I can’t remember why but the next one I bought was Issue #40, so I obviously missed 39 for some reason. This is from November/December 1998. The Demo Disc included with the magazine featured such games as Tomb Raider III, Spyro The Dragon and Wreckin’ Crew.

The way I’m going to structure this is very much in an experimental stage. I’ve never had to review a whole magazine before, so this is me just throwing ideas at the wall to see what fits and what doesn’t. If there’s aspects of this you like or aspects you think need changing, let me know and I’ll try and tighten it up for future articles.

The Regular Features

This is where I’ll take a look at the regular material always housed in the magazine which could be seen every month. Your standard stuff is here such as the section containing cheats and other game tips. There’s also OPM’s cavernous games directory which has every game they’ve reviewed logged with the score they gave it. This is by far still the best thing in these old magazines and kudos to them for having it. Many a purchasing decision was made a lot easier thanks to having a quick butchers at this section of the mag.

Editor Rob Pegley welcomes us to the biggest issue of the magazine yet, quite literally seeing as it weighs in at an epic 200 pages! He runs through what we’ve got lined up for in reviews as well as pimping the upcoming Christmas issue.

We then go into a section of the mag entitled “Loading” which is where all the recent news and running articles are kept. Loading opens up with a look at Ridge Racer Type 4, which strangely was only the third game in the series despite what the name would suggest. A full pre-play is promised following the games December 98 release in Japan. It’s a decent enough feature with some nice screen shots and takes up a couple of pages.

Page 8 of the mag debunks theories of the PS2 being released in upcoming January. The magazine is quick to point out that this isn’t happening and even goes to the trouble of asking then Sony UK CEO Chris Deering to clarify the rumours. He duly states “I’m not sure what this is about. I am 100% positive that nothing will be coming from Japan to elaborate on this subject for months to come”. Stuart Disney, head of computer trade journal MCV, gives a slightly less PC answer to the rumours by stating “If PlayStation 2 is released in April, I’ll grow another dick!”. All in all, this is a good news feature and clarifies the situation well. It also shows pictures of faked PS2 prototypes which are laughably bad.

Moving to page 10, the magazine compares Ninja: Shadows of Darkness to Tenchu. OPM states that Tenchu might be worth buying at 7/10 but that Ninja’s 6/10 arcadeyness “equates to rapid tedium” so a narrow and relatively unsatisfying win for Tenchu then. Page 11 has an excitable feature on the original Silent Hill game with promises of more coverage in the coming months.

Page 13 contains “Devil’s Advocate” feature which comes with a subtitle of “A red pen, a black pen, one serious hangover and a typewriter with a bile-encrusted ribbon. PlayStation industry, beware…” This is all packaged with an equally stupid picture of a devil next to it. The article is basically a fluff piece where the magazine congratulates itself on giving F1 98’ a slightly lower rating than everyone else did. However, because it’s the “devil” saying it, it’s thusly okay and not just some arrogant self fellatio. It’s essentially laying into other magazines of the time and comes across as self satisfied guff. Blergh

An interview with Shannon Lee (Daughter of Bruce) where she talks about Tekken is then followed with the all so originally titled “Orient Express” section of the magazine, which looks at Japanese gaming. Currently the number one game in Japan at this time is Metal Gear Solid, while most Japanese gamers are anxiously awaiting the release of Final Fantasy VIII. A few pages onwards, the magazine looks at Jackie Chan’s Stuntmaster a game which screen shots make it look like the absolute drizzling. “The post-modernly ironic aim of the game is to retrieve all the reels of a stolen film so that your premiere can take place” beams OPSM before going on to say “What we’ve seen is impressive enough to make us think that this should be a title worthy of baiting your breath for”. The game went on to score a 6/10 in a later issue

Following a beginners guide to Codemasters, described as being “set for a busy season” due to imminent releases of Prince Nasseem Boxing and TOCA 2, and a Brian Lara interview, we leave the news section this week and move to the next part of most magazines.

Previews

Not hefty enough for a review, but a bit more detail than a news piece, previews are always an important section of every magazine. OPSM dives separates these into two areas. The first is “Primal Screen” where developers are quizzed over games they have in the works. The second is “Preplay” where OPSM actually manage to get their hands on a game and play test it a little.

The big interview in Primal Screen this week is for Quake II Lead Programmer Chris Stanforth. The discussion covers that there may be some PlayStation exclusive content for the game and that some levels and abilities will have to be removed to suit the console. For example, crouching is to be fully removed. The game will have split screen multiplayer and may also possibly have system link up. Overall this is a good piece and one that I enjoyed. It’s followed up with an equally good feature on FIFA 99’, which was at the time up against it after Konami’s excellent ISS Pro 98’ had just come out. Not only do OPSM have the guts to mention the threat of ISS, they also ask questions about the game modes we’re likely to see. FIFA 99’ ended up being a cracking game, but it came up just short if ISS 98’s excellence in my opinion.

Preplay starts out with Crash Bandicoot 3 which OPSM describes as being “undeniably the strongest in the series” and how the “new additions far exceeded our expectations”. It’s true that Crash 3 was the most expansive game in the series yet and an excellent slice of platforming fun. OPSM even goes as far to say that the game rivals Super Mario 64, though they do concede that the 3D design does still have some control issues. I personally think the Mario comment was more a veiled knock at the N64 rather than a legitimate thought. Crash 3 is definitely good, but Mario 64 is revolutionary.

Skateboarding abomination Psybadek is also given a look and described as being “a whole load of fun” a sentiment that would soon be challenged when the magazine actually had to review it in a later issue. Akuji The Heartless is praised for it’s lighting effects but criticised for it’s linearity (Yes, that was being discussed as a negative even way back in the 90’s) while scuba diving game Deep Blue is  described as “unlikely to capture the media’s imagination”.

Preplay comes to a close with a big feature on Tomb Raider III. OPSM laments that the game shipped just a tad too late for a full review, and then has the gall to hype next months issue for the review itself! This doesn’t stop them devoting 4 pages to what is, essentially, a striptease that finishes without the money shot. If this were The Full Monty, the amassed builders wouldn’t fling their hats into the crowd but rather trudge to the backstage as “Leave your hat on” came to a screeching halt.

It’s a shame as the FIFA and Quake features are excellent but OPSM has to spoil it all with the TR feature at the end.

Reviews

What magazine is worth its weight without some game reviews? OPSM usually shone in this regard, at least as far as game scores went. It’s why I stuck with it as long as I did before finally moving to PSW with the advent of the PS2.

We start out with a very detailed and well written review of Spyro The Dragon. Assigning the game an 8/10, OPSM states that “it is charming and superbly polished” and even goes as far to call it “the best 3D platform game to date”

Spyro is a very popular game and I feel 8/10 was a perfectly fair rating. I would balk at calling it the best 3D platformer of it’s time though. On the PSX itself? Possibly. But I wouldn’t say it was better than some of the platformers on other consoles, especially Mario 64. Still, we were in the middle of a console war I guess and hyperbole was the language of the day.

Review by Pete Wilton

 

Also reviewed are

Lemmings: 7/10 and described as “One of the very few hoary old classics to retain its charm” even though the graphics are described as “flat and messy”

I would question why they felt the need to attack the graphics when this was a re-release of a game from the 80’s, but this was the late 90’s when Retro wasn’t quite as respected as it is now. The late 90’s were about sneering at what came before you rather than appreciating it. The rating is fair though in my opinion.

Review by Pete Wilton

 

NHL 99’: 8/10 and described as “King of the sticks” and also “more clever and more violent”

Again, I wouldn’t really fight over the rating

Review by Tim Weaver

 

Abe’s Exodus: 8/10 and described as “a beautifully put together game that will enchant mainstream gamers, but may remain a little too close to its predecessor for some”

Can’t really argue with that. Another well written review

Review by Keith Stuart

 

Atlantis: 5/10 and described as “Yet another good idea from Cryo that was last in line when both looks and personality were being dished out”

Point and click adventures were the exact opposite of what your stereotypical Lad Gamer of the late 90’s wanted. He wanted tits and explosions, with liberal helpings of guns. There’s no guns in the game, which causes reviewer Stephen Pierce to openly lament. He also complains about the pace of the game, kind of ignoring that a point and click fan might actually not be bothered by that sort of stuff. This was the wrong time to release this sort of game and expect a lager swilling oaf to give even two thirds of a fuck. The game is hardly a classic, but the write up is of a man who couldn’t be arsed and it shows.

Review by Stephen Pierce

 

NFL Xtreme: 6/10 and described as “Fun for both one and two-players, but this brave attempt to make an action-packed arcade sport sum isn’t quite Xtreme enough for our liking”

I’ve not played this, so I’ll take their word for it. The write up is good enough for just one page.

Review by Andy Butcher

 

Brian Lara Cricket: 8/10 and described as “well executed and enjoyable to play”

I don’t disagree with that assessment. I’d probably go 7/10, but that’s pretty much the only place we differ. Steve Faragher appears to have actually researched the source material to boot. Good stuff, I enjoyed it!

Review by Steve Faragher

 

Moto Racer 2: 7/10 and described as “Let down by too many little niggles and annoyances. Moto Racer 2 is a good motorbike racer, but unfortunately it’s not a great one”

Andy gets a chance to write a little bit more here and does well with it. It’s a detailed and interesting review that I enjoyed reading. I’ve not played this one, but the review seems fair.

Review by Andy Butcher

 

Colony Wars – Vengeance: 9/10 and described as “The best space combat game available on the PlayStation, bar none”

Another strong piece by Andy. He gets a full three pages this time and makes the most of it with a detailed review that still entertains. I got a really good idea of what the game offered and enjoyed Andy’s enthusiasm. An excellent read!

Review by Andy Butcher

 

NASCAR 99’: 5/10 and described as “just plain dull”

Decent piece here. I felt like the game could have done with a more detailed write up and that this was very much a “shove it at the back out of the way” game that no one in the OPSM offices could be arsed with. Still, it was an enjoyable, though brief, read and the game was hardly a classic either.

Review by Tim Weaver

 

Zero Divide 2: 5/10 and described as “A genuinely average, underwhelming fighting game. Professional enough, but we’ve come to expect just a tad more from our beat ‘em ups”

Reviews like this really get my goat. I’ve always been of the opinion that a game should be reviewed on its own merits and this review isn’t doing that. You can still give a game a 6 or 7 out of 10 while also stating that better games are on the market. Even reading the review it sounds like Zero Divide 2 is just fine, certainly more than 5. I don’t agree with James criteria at the end of the day. A lazy review that seems like it was written after playing the game for just 20 minutes. I expect more, even if you’ve only been allocated a measly page. Make that page count!

Review by James Price

 

Rogue Trip: 6/10 and described as “The original ideas aren’t strong enough to overcome gameplay that’s far too predictable.”

We close out with a whimper, which is par for the course with OPSM and other magazines. I’ve always wondered why they stick less important games or the ones with less hype at the back of the magazine. Surely better to mix it up to keep the reader guessing? I always knew the last couple of games were going to get small write ups and hardly a page of content and it instinctively made me not care as much about them. Anyway, the review is fine for the one page it’s allotted.

Review by Pete Wilton

 

Wrap up

This is always the bit at the end of the magazine with letters from readers along with the game charts. ISS Pro 98’ saunters to first place as the previous months Number 1, WWF Warzone, drops to number 14. Tekken 3 enters the charts at number 2, which only highlights how much of a smash hit ISS was. Command and Conquer Retaliation enters at 3, showing that even in 1998 that particular genre could still sell well. Colin McRae hangs firm at number 4 while Gran Turismo drops from 2nd to close out the top 5.

The Star Letter in the letters section goes to Robert Dearlove from Leeds, who laments that games are getting too realistic and that he prefers arcade thrills.

The final page of the magazine is an interview with A Guy Called Gerald. He’s currently playing Tekken 3, as everyone else including me was doing in late 1998. I don’t know who he is, but good luck to him!

 

Final Thoughts

An interesting read this one. The usual OPSM arrogance is in full swing, but there’s some very well written articles and I enjoyed reading the magazine overall

I’ll go with a rating of 80% for Issue #39