For the arcade game fan who plays arcade games at home, "MAMExpose" presents you with the many joys - and pitfalls - of emulation, specifically those found while using our favorite program in the universe: MAME.

by Rob "Flack" O'Hara

Man it's hot this summer. It's so hot here in Oklahoma, farmers are selling BBQ straight from the pasture. It's so hot this summer, the cows are giving evaporated milk and chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs. It's so hot here that people have been taking turns sitting in each other's shadows. That's hot! So how does the Flack man recommend you make it through this heatwave? Crank up the air conditioning, drink lots of Kool-Aid, and play as much MAME as you can since it's too hot to go outside! And just to remind you how hot it really is down here in the south this summer, I've picked five of my favorite arcade games with the word FIRE in the title.

Fire Hawk
ESD (2001)

While I've never been particularly good at vertical SHMUPs, I've always enjoyed playing them. As far as vertical shooters go, Fire Hawk is a fun one that doesn't mess with the established formula. Shoot incoming enemies, dodge firey patterns and collect power ups. Wait, doesn't that describe pretty much every SHMUP? Maybe so, but regardless, Fire Hawk is a good one. Don't let the early levels fool you -- this game gets frantic, quick. You'll definitely need a friend as your wingman if you plan to get very far in this game. Fire Hawk offers five different jets to choose from, each with different abilities (you'll see more of these as you obtain more power ups). If you like SHMUPs like Aero Fighters and the 19xx games, give Fire Hawk a test flight.

Toaplan/Taito (1989)

From the authors of Zero Wing and Twin Cobra comes Hellfire, a neat side-scrolling shoot-em-up with a really interesting twist. Played using a standard 8-way joystick and two buttons, one button fires while the other one cycles through different gun configurations. The default configuration is two shots straight ahead. Tap the second button and your guns will rotate, now firing two shots directly behind you. Tap a third time and your guns will shift so one fires straight up while the other fires straight down (useful for tunnels). A fourth tap changes to a cross-firing pattern, sending laser beams off in four diagonal directions. A fifth tap will return you to your normal, forward-firing position. It can get a bit frantic in the heat of an attack, but you'll quickly learn how many taps it is to get from one configuration to the next. Like Fire Hawk, Hellfire supports co-op play, and as we all know, the more bullets the better. Although Toaplan is more well known for their awesome vertical shooters, Hellfire has enough enemies and complex levels to keep gamers in the hot seat.

Nintendo (1980)

Before making games about big monkeys throwing barrels at Italian plumbers, they made games like this. HeliFire is a fun old school game that resembles an advanced version of the old Atari 2600 game, Air-Sea Battle. In HeliFire, you fire at heli's. See, that's how they got the name. Oh, nevermind. The first 30 seconds of the game are deceptively simple -- you'll spend that time moving your sub around and shooting missiles at helicopters. It's when things start attacking you from both sides of the ocean that the madness sets in. Other subs shooting torpedos and bullets will continue to flank you from both sides as the helicopters grow in number and continue to drop bombs and fire bullets at you until you are no more. Sure, the graphics are crude, but for a simple time killer, HeliFire is hot on my list.

Wizard Fire
Data East (1992)

Wizard Fire is a cross between Gauntlet, Golden Axe, and Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, you might even consider it to be a predecessor of games like Diablo. In Wizard Fire, one or two players can choose between a knight, a bard, an elf, a dwarf, or a wizard. Like Gauntlet, your mission is to stroll across the land, killing enemies and collecting treasure. The playing field is presented in an isometric view, giving a pseudo 3D feel to the game. As you advance through the game, you can find additional magic items to help you on your way. Fans of hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers will enjoy this game. To be honest I hadn't heard of it before researching this article, but I've spent quite a bit of time playing it since then. The fighters get some pretty cool weapons, like the huge ball and chain you start out with, and the magic spells you can cast in the game look pretty awesome as well. The only thing keeping Wizard Fire from being a true classic is the lack of four player support. Other than that, this game is smoking!

Fire Truck
Atari (1978)

Closing on an old-school note, Fire Truck is a game which was really meant to be played by two people. Player one (who sat up front) controlled the front half of the truck, while the second player (who stood behind the other player and had his own steering wheel) controlled the rear. You can play with one player only, but it's a lot like running on only one leg. Unlike games these days where players expect to win, there's no end to Fire Truck. The roads are randomly generated, and will continue forever until the player crashes into enough curbs or parked cars and eventually runs out of fuel. I have no idea if real fire trucks are this difficult to drive, but if they are it's a wonder any of them arrive on any accident scene in less than four hours. Fire Truck is fun in a frustrating sort of way. I can't imagine playing it for very long, but I can see trading a few quick rounds off with a friend, seeing who can get the high score.

You've played plenty of bad games on game consoles, but what about bad arcade games? In the next MAMExpose, we'll look at a few titles that aren't worth a second look, let alone a second quarter.

A new "MAMExpose" can be found here bi-monthly!

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Last updated: Sunday, December 04, 2005 08:34 AM