12bit Blog

Sunnyflyer 30 in 1 (Part 3)

Posted by taizou at 2014-03-17 00:02:25 Hummer Software, Plug & play

Well it's finally time for the final part of this strangest of plug & play consoles; what mysteries will it hold? what will be revealed? (spoiler: there are some games)

But first - I mentioned previously that I didn't think Sunnyflyer was really the manufacturer of this thing; back when I got it I did a little bit more digging into its origins and I found another Taiwanese company called "Jempire" with basically the same console in black, among other things (including a cute Famicom-style plug & play controller). I also came across a Hong Kong company called Wattly International, sometimes also known as Wingtech, which may have been the original source of it judging from the model number (WI16-JP020). but all these companies seem to be defunct which makes it quite hard to get to the bottom of all this! For now I'm going to assume it's a Wattly/Wingtech product though, possibly separately distributed in Taiwan by Jempire and Sunnyflyer (or maybe Sunnyflyer was working with Jempire), and one that I guess was not very successful for anyone.

Now to the second half of the games:

  1. Hit Brick - Like Arkanoid, but... the paddle is a sandwich, and the power-ups are drink cans. Of course.

  1. Math - As you might expect from the name, this one has you doing simple math(s) against a time limit. Which makes this console educational. You know, for the kids.

  1. Maze Car - Rally-X clone! (What with this and Bosconian I did wonder if the developers have any connection to one of the Namco plug & play systems, but the most likely candidate was actually developed by the UK-based HotGen, so I guess not)

  1. Moon Tank - A Pang clone set on the moon (or a moon, I guess) featuring some kind of robot tank thing and an interesting arrangement of the Charlie's Angels theme tune, because why not

  1. Motorboat - Pretty standard racing game, but quite a well-done one; the water seems to be rendered with a SNES Mode 7-style effect which no other game here makes use of. [update: of course you probably noticed it features jetskis, not motorboats, but I'll forgive them for that mistake since it gave them the opportunity to animate a jetskier's arse in some detail]

  1. Poker - Not poker. Just a high/low card game. Western-style playing cards are often just referred to as "poker" in Chinese though, which is probably where the misleading name comes from.

  1. Span - A sort of endless runner type thing, only not endless, because there are defined levels and such. Still, it's fun, and it came at least a year before before Canabalt and various mobile games kicked off the current craze for these things; it's probably one of my favourite games on here.

  1. Shooting Ball - Just a bland Puzzle Bobble clone. The most interesting thing that happens is sometimes some butterflies fly across the screen. Which I didn't even capture in the screenshot.

  1. Shoot Birds - The sort of game which obviously would be a million times better with a lightgun, but came out after LCD TVs became widespread so it couldn't really use one. Also you're shooting at these cute little tweeting sparrows, which seems a bit harsh :(

  1. Spin - Slots. With, it must be said, an unusual and realistically-rendered selection of fruit.

  1. Tank - Battle Ci.. oh no wait that's not this one. This is a game where you have to shoot at approaching tanks, and it's also a little bit reminiscent of possible Hummer Software creation Iraq War 2003 (albeit simplified).

  1. Tank War - Oh THIS is the Battle City clone. It's decent enough at being a Battle City clone, which is lucky, because that's exactly what it is.

  1. Top Ball - you're this fortunately helmet-clad person, and you have to bounce balls on your head to get them into a bucket. Because, you know. Those balls need to be in that bucket. Don't even question it. (This is also the only game without the ability to exit from the pause menu, which is irritating)

  1. Treasure Brick - A Columns clone which very blatantly uses a stock sound effect of a door closing when you drop a column.

  1. Triangle Plane - A very literal name for a decent clone of Asteroids, complete with pseudo-vector graphics.

A couple of people requested this, so I've recorded some music from this console; I didn't spend much time editing or anything, and there are sound effects where it was unavoidable (step forward Tank War) but if you just want an idea of what some of the games sound like, you can download that here. I probably was overdoing it a bit saying some of the games sounded Mega Drive-like; it really doesn't sound much like any other console I've ever heard, but maybe someone out there can identify if it's based on some other sound chip or not.

[update: it's come to my attention that the music in Elevator is Money for Nothing by Dire Straits; what with that and Charlie's Angels it's looking very possible that more of the music on here was ripped off from somewhere. Hummer Software did actually make a MIDI converter for the EMG, based on Tomsoft's previous one for the Mega Drive, so maybe they just found MIDIs online and converted them for use in the games]

Before I wrap this up, one interesting thing I was able to salvage from Jempire's website before it went down was this list of what I can only assume to be all the Hummer Software EMG games available up to that point, complete with screenshots. There are a bunch there not available on this or any other console I've seen; I'm naturally intrigued by "Driller Man" as a potential Mr. Driller clone (North Salvation, you have competition!) and there are a few other interesting things to be found, like how Labyrinth looks pretty much like Nice Code's Burrow Explorer (credit to codeman38 for spotting that one waayy back in 2011) which would almost make sense given that Nice Code was founded by ex-Dragon people too.

Some of the screenshots even seem to be of earlier or alternate versions of the games to the ones found on this console; for example, the 3D Bean guy has his original colouring from Harry Potter, Elevator has the cavemen asking for "(number) floor" instead of just "number", and Bosconian still has the original arcade graphics.

Anyway - this brings the saga of the Sunnyflyer 30 in 1 to an end, for now, so I should probably draw some conclusions: while I'm not overly fond of the design of the console itself, the games are mostly quite fun, and while the production values are sometimes shaky they (with a couple of exceptions) aren't reliant on stolen material; my official supermulti.org plug & play rating is "better than some of the crap out there, and probably deserved to do better than it did". Out of ten.


Sunnyflyer 30 in 1 (Part 2)

Posted by taizou at 2014-03-02 02:46:16 Hummer Software, Plug & play

So, back to the Sunnyflyer 30 in 1 16-bit plug & play controller thing - turn it on and you'll see this lovely menu:

It's certainly a menu. And it omits all spaces in the game names for some reason. There's also a volume option, which is rendered slightly useless by the fact that some sounds are distorted at any level above 1, and it defaults to 4. (At least the games allow you to exit back to the main menu from the pause screen, which is a nice touch as it preserves the volume setting)

Before I show you the games, wouldn't you like to know who developed them? yes? maybe? well! It's not entirely straightforward; no one is actually credited anywhere, but I've done a bit of research and I'm fairly sure they were made by the Xi'an-based developer Hummer Software (蜂鸟软件; no relation to Hummer Team, mind you), founded by ex-members of Dragon Co after that company closed. (Dragon itself actually has quite an interesting history which I'd like to get into sometime!) Their archived website can be found here, and although the screenshots, videos and demos once hosted there are sadly long gone, it does mention them having developed games for the EMG series; there are also a few other game-specific connections which I'll get to later.

In 2007 they were bought by the Taiwanese company Prescope and renamed Promexus Software, and under that guise made some games for the "iGo", "eGo" and "P-eye"/"PI" consoles, which were released under the Sharky brand in Russia as the Sharky 3D, Sharky Touch and Sharky Move respectively - on the Sharky site you can see that a few of the games on the former two consoles were recycled from this thing (albeit ported I guess, as the hardware is different). However Promexus's own website seems to have vanished, along with the official download site for those consoles, and all that remains are some odd listings for "Promexus Trading" seemingly moving into the export of hair straighteners (btw bonus points for "Main Customers: Gorgeous", flattery will get you everywhere) so I guess in the end it didn't work out.

So now you have a vague idea who made them; on to some games! The first five games on here are the only ones with title screens, plus (more or less) the only ones out of alphabetical order, so presumably these are supposed to be either newer or better ones, and the rest are generally more simple/generic (but not always).

  1. Lion Roar - Hey remember how the first game on that one handheld was a Puzzloop/Zuma clone? Well! Here's another. Does the job. The lion of the title is actually a Chinese guardian lion statue, by the way.

  1. Battle Front - Like Cabal, or possibly Space Invaders from a different perspective (or even more like its obscure PS2 sequel Space Invaders: Invasion Day). you control a guy who can move along the bottom of the screen and shoot the various robots and such that are attacking you. It's not bad - there are a variety of powerups and even bosses and stuff.

  1. Bubble Man - A hybrid of Bomberman and Bubble Bobble; the basic gameplay is Bomberman-ish, but instead of bombs you drop bubbles which trap your opponents, and then you defeat them by bursting them Bubble Bobble-style. There's even a hint of Sokoban in there in that you can push the crates around. And frankly any game that lets you ride a giant snail (which slows you down but offers protection from attacks, naturally) is OK with me.

  1. Goal - Slightly more in-depth take on the sort of penalty kick game you often see on Wii knockoffs and other sportier inhabitants of the plug & play genre. You have three players to choose from, "Barlack", "Ziden" and "Ronaldnio", and with the help of a few powerups you have to score a goal past increasingly tricky walls of opposing players. and repeat.

  1. Shooting King - Some of you may remember a PS1 game called Gekioh: Shooting King. This has absolutely nothing to do with that and in fact there was no reason whatsoever for me to bring it up just now (except that it's pretty cool). Actually the shooting is of the basketball variety, and that guy is the king of nothing.

  1. 1945 - Hummer Software picking up where Capcom left off! This is a vertical shootemup, as you can probably tell, and it's pretty decent. It also bears a resemblance to some of the games on the 16-bit variant of the "Air Blaster" plug & play by ABL, so maybe there's a connection there... Also it has a short loop of (likely stolen) sampled music, in contrast to the mostly original(?) and/or public-domain music found in the other games.

  1. 3D Bean - Well this is... this is just... it's the Mega Drive Harry Potter game, isn't it? The player character is now a random enemy from that game, and there are fewer enemies and less variety in general (and original music), but basically it's the same thing. The Mega Drive version was also listed on Hummer Software's website at some point, in case anyone was doubting their involvement here.

  1. Sonic X - Sonic? Well, not really. Going back to Hummer Software's website, though, it does mention a Sonic game for the EMG series, so I suppose... this is it? I mean, I guess the environments sort of look like Sonic if Sonic were a mid-90s shareware PC game, and it has those springy things and enemies you can jump on... but the character isn't Sonic and it's not in any way fast. Also the background music being a sedate rendition of "The Entertainer" doesn't exactly do anything for the sense of speed.

  1. Apaqi - The 1945 engine strikes again. With a different sampled music loop this time. And I think they were going for "apache".

  1. Blackjack - Exactly what it says it is. are you surprised?

  1. Bomber - Another variation on Bomberman, this one sticks to more or less straightforward Bomberman gameplay only with more mazelike level layouts instead of the original's grids.

  1. Bosconian - Literally just a surprisingly faithful port of Namco's Bosconian. The sprites are updated a bit and the "condition" thing is gone (although it still has the "alert! alert!" voice clips) but otherwise it's the same. A strange one, considering the other games on here are more or less original.

  1. China Brick - Tetris! Chinese Tetris. Why should Russia get all the Tetris action... just because they invented it or something?

  1. Elevator - oh you know, just your standard caveman elevator operator simulation game. You operate an elevator, cavemen get on and tell you which floor they want to go to, and you have to take them there, where they'll be replaced by other cavemen who want to go to new and exciting floors. If you take them to the wrong floor they swear at you and it's game over. Just like real life.

  1. Golf - fairly self-explanatory. Some of the graphics here are ripped from Neo Turf Masters, because apparently it's obligatory for every single golf game on a 16-bit plug & play console ever to use Neo Turf Masters graphics.

I'll cover the next 15 games in the next post; but before I end things, just a note on sound (as someone asked about it in the comments of a previous post, and it's a major aspect of the games that, uhm, quite obviously doesn't come across in screenshots) I can't say any of the music is too interesting composition-wise, but the sound hardware really seems quite unique compared to the usual fare on these consoles - sometimes it comes across quite generically MIDI-ish but other games have a bit of a Mega Drive-esque FM sound to them. (I'd say it might have something to do with Hummer Software's experience as a Mega Drive developer, but all their MD games I can find just use sampled sound exclusively, so maybe not)

Anyway, that's it for now - look out for the thrilling conclusion... some other time!


Sunnyflyer 30 in 1 (Part 1)

Posted by taizou at 2014-02-27 01:18:03 Hummer Software, Plug & play

So I've covered a cart-based handheld, an all-in-one handheld, a multicart and a clone; you may be wondering at this point, is there an area of obscure low-budget Chinese console gaming I haven't yet poked my nose into? why yes of course there are several of them. but today I'll be taking a look into the magical world of the plug & play controller, a class of devices that predated (and have now been mostly displaced by) those aforementioned all-in-one handhelds.

These began as straightforward Famicom clones which took advantage of smaller NES-on-a-chip hardware to dispense with the console and squeeze the whole package into a controller which plugged directly into your TV; possibly one of the first was the early/mid-90s IQ-901 from famiclone pioneers Micro Genius but the form was later popularised in the late 90s by the interminable N64 controller lookalikes like the Mega Joy and Super Joy and Power Joy (and probably some other types of joy), all of which came bundled with collections of very much unauthorised copies of old NES games.

It was only around the early 2000s that plug & plays transcended the bootleg nature of the early stuff and went legit; in China the likes of Jungletac would start developing their own original games for Famicom-based systems, later branching out into more capable hardware from Sunplus and others, while in the US and Japan various companies got in on the act with a string of licensed releases.

The one I've got here is a later example, running a rarely seen type of 16-bit hardware. I've decided to split it into a few posts, as it has quite a lot of games and I'm going to screenshot the whole lot (not least because it's much easier to take screenshots from something with TV-out than the handheld I covered previously) - in this post I'll just cover the packaging and console.

So it's the Sunnyflyer 30 in 1 16-bit... thing! It also has a name in Japanese, ゲーム悍な将; ゲーム quite straightforwardly means "game" but as far as I can tell 悍な将 makes no sense, so there's that.

Sunnyflyer was based in Taiwan and spent most of its life as a maker of model planes - I have no idea why they decided to get into game consoles, but they did (albeit probably only rebranding from other manufacturers), and then seemingly went out of business shortly after. A lot of their old stock ended up on Taobao; there's a Sunnyflyer Famiclone that crops up there sometimes, and I've also seen a lone dance mat on a Taiwanese auction site.

The back has a game list in traditional Chinese - this important information being in Chinese does kind of betray that the Japanese text all over the front is just for show (if that wasn't already apparent from it making no sense), and the console was probably intended for the Taiwanese market all along.

The top of the box identifies it as a "plus & play" system and illustrates a flipped version of the system plugged into a clipart CRT TV, and there's even more (probably nonsensical or stolen) Japanese text.

And the bottom, with manufacturer/distributor details and such.

The other two sides just have some screenshots of the games on here, which I'll be showing you later anyway, but have these as a ...preview, I guess.

There's also the repeated text "EMG 2008 30 in 1 user gnide" which, aside from being misspelt and entirely out of place, handily reveals the year this thing was made and the hardware it runs; "EMG" is the series of game systems-on-chips made by Elan Microelectronics, the latest of which is EMG2000a, but this might use an older one.

So that's about it for the box - let's take a look at the console:

it is... a fairly ugly thing, to be honest. Control layout is quite standard - there's a little faux-analogue stick and a D-pad, plus A, B, X and Y buttons (though I have no idea if the X and Y buttons are mapped separately internally or they're just wired to A and B as is common on similar consoles - certainly no games on here do anything unique with them).

4 AA batteries go in the back, in that bulge which also helpfully makes it quite uncomfortable to hold. The battery life seems decent enough - it would be nice if you could use an AC adapter instead, but that's not the way of these things.

Anyway! That's the externals covered (there was also an instruction sheet in the box that I forgot to take a photo of, but it is both uninteresting, brief and in Chinese so you aren't missing much), next up I'll get onto the games - stay tuned!


GB Boy Colour

Posted by taizou at 2014-02-13 01:01:10 Clones, Game Boy

Some consoles get cloned a lot. Others don't get cloned at all. A rare few occupy the strange middle ground where they were cloned maybe once or twice, but the clones never really caught on; one of those is the Game Boy Color. Strange, given how popular it was, and how much pirated software exists for it - the original Game Boy saw a few clones (though still not many) but the Game Boy Color had... two, that I know of. Both of these were from the same company, which is either called Gangfeng or Kongfeng Industries depending on how they feel like romanising it, and both saw a brief production run in China but were never really exported. Today I'll cover the first, and I'll come back to the second some other time.

It's... the GB Boy Colour! Nice to see the British spelling there, although they lose a few points for picking a name that would expand to "Game Boy Boy Colour". This is actually the successor to a previous Kongfeng console called the GB Boy, which was (as you may have guessed) a clone of the mono Game Boy, in the style of the later Pocket revision; that hardware was reused by a number of manufacturers but the GBBC seems to be a Kongfeng exclusive. So let's take a look at the console:

Aside from the name and the slightly redesigned buttons, it does look an awful lot like a Game Boy Color, and in fact it feels a lot like one too; the plastic is really high quality and it doesn't feel cheap at all. The link cable port is present and correct too, and there seems to be an infrared port although I'm not entirely sure if it works or not. And you'd probably never notice anyway since only about three games used it.

It takes 2 AA batteries just like the original, and the battery life seems decent enough, although sometimes it seems to drain one of them for no particular reason when the console is switched off, so maybe don't leave them in. It also takes the same AC adapter as the original - they really have gone all-out with the cloning here.

Switch it on and you see the GBBC's major improvement over the original... the screen is backlit! (Despite the box claiming frontlit, which must be a first - a clone manufacturer understating the capabilities of their clone?) The screen does have a slightly stretched aspect ratio (probably to be expected, I doubt anyone makes GBC-standard screens anymore) but it's generally lovely.

The boot screen here is much like the original, even with the familiar Game Boy boot sound; instead of "GAME BOY" it says "GB BOY", but they've also (perhaps inevitably) hidden the Nintendo logo (while still checking for it internally), which is a shame because it means you also don't see any of the fancy custom logos used by unlicensed game makers. If you run a mono Game Boy game it supports all the same colour palettes as the real thing; it does seem like they've cloned the boot ROM exactly.

Here it is next to a real GBC; the camera flash makes both screens look pretty much the same, which really really doesn't do the GBBC justice, so here's a flashless shot (blurry, but you get the idea):

Game compatibility is excellent; licensed games all seem to run perfectly, and all my weird unlicensed stuff works exactly the same as on the original, like Digimon 3 here:

It even runs an Action Replay with no problems. The one exception I've found is a single multicart that won't boot on the GBBC but does on a real GBC, but it's probably some odd mapper trickery on the cart to blame. Running the same game side by side with the real thing, the GBBC does seem to be very very slightly slower, but nothing noticeable in normal play.

Sadly, no clone is without its flaws, and the GBBC has one or two. The biggest, for me, is that the internal speaker only seems to be wired up to one of the stereo audio channels (either left or right, not sure which); this means for games that make use of stereo you'll lose out on anything that only comes through in the other channel. Some games are quite badly affected, others aren't affected at all. It works fine with headphones though. The screen covering is unfortunately very susceptible to scratches, as well; mine sits in a drawer most of the time with nothing on top of it but it has still somehow accumulated more scratches every time I take it out - you may want to invest in a screen protector (a generic mobile one cut down to size should do the trick) if you get one of these.

Despite all this, though, it's still a very impressive clone, and if you're willing to use headphones to sidestep the audio issue it's a great way to play GBC games on a much nicer screen.


12 in 1 Colour Games Console

Posted by taizou at 2014-02-11 02:40:23 Misc handhelds, Jungletac

So I've covered the Game King previously as an example of a Chinese handheld with its own proprietary cartridge format - a bona fide almost-Gameboy in the tradition of the mighty Gamate and various others littering the pages of gaming history - but much (much) more common these days are the all-in-one type affairs, those which usually take the sort of hardware previously found in plug and play TV systems and forgo any kind of cartridge slot in favour of bundling a selection of pre-loaded games. One of the more successful in this field has been Jungletac, the company behind:

the 12 in 1 Colour Games Console! Yep, a games console in colour. Exciting. If it was 1997. Or if you've just been playing on a Game King, I suppose. This particular version was distributed by Premier Portfolio International, a UK based company seemingly engaged in the supply of overpriced crap for in-flight shopping catalogues and the like (although I got this one on eBay). The side of the box describes it as "fun for all ages" and claims "twelve arcade games in one", by the way, although that's the usage of the word "arcade" meaning "games that have never been anywhere near an arcade but they look like they sort of could have in a weird alternate version of the 90s".

Out of the box, the console now refers to itself as a "Classic Max Pocket", which is Jungletac's usual name for this line. As for the hardware, it's quite an unremarkable little design, sadly lacking in frills like a headphone port or TV out (other Jungletac handhelds do have them but it seems to be the distributor's choice whether to include them or not) but the d-pad is fine (if shiny; apologies for the fingerprints), the buttons are fine, and the screen is nice, as I will attempt to illustrate by taking a picture without the flash:

That's Jungle Soft's logo, by the way, Jungletac's name for their internal game development division; all the games here have a 2007 Jungle Soft copyright, although they have been known to outsource (particularly to Nice Code) so the games here may or may not be 100% their work - but I think they probably are. And those games are:

  1. Bubble Blaster - Just a Puzzloop clone. Or possibly a Zuma clone, which would make it a clone of a clone. Maybe you could even call it a Luxor clone if you like - there are just infinite onion layers of unoriginality where this game is concerned. Either way it's a fairly well-done implementation of the concept - the controls work nicely and it never feels like your balls are sticking in the wrong place like some of the lowlier clones, so no complaints here.
  2. Jewel Master - Columns clone! Actually judging from a few telltale elements (like the use of the word "Jewelry") it's probably a clone of Hwang Shinwei's unlicensed NES Columns clone Magic Jewelry (a common multicart staple back in the day). what is it with this thing and clones of clones? if it was still 2010 I might be inclined to use the word "cloneception" (but it isn't, so I won't (except just then))

  1. Night Wings - a horizontally scrolling shooter, pretty much like Scramble. Or exactly like Scramble, with better graphics and some irritating farty music.
  2. Space Castle - A Space Invaders clone. except there are some powerups and for some reason it's set in front of a rollercoaster.
  3. Move Fun - A Bejeweled-type game with a mouse, and some fruit, and the most generic name ever given to anything ever.
  4. Push the Box - Oh go on, guess. (it's a Sokoban clone)

  1. Hero Legend - Clone of Don Doko Don featuring someone who looks vaguely like Link. in red. This one suffers from some severe slowdown though, which is a shame.
  2. Win or Lose - Some kind of mad bastard Breakout where infinite balls just rain down at you from the top of the screen and you have to bat them away for points. Possibly an odd choice of name in that this is the only game in the system in which you can't win or lose, you always play for a fixed amount of time and just attempt to beat your high score.

  1. North Salvation - A Mr. Driller clone! Mr. Driller doesn't get cloned enough, honestly. This version is reframed as, I guess, someone digging in the Arctic for some reason, and instead of air capsules you have to collect heat capsules. Also all their efforts at disguising the game are kinda thwarted by the fact that they just went and put "Driller" at the top of the screen. Unfortunately it's waaayy too slow which kinda kills the fun of the original :(
  2. Mini Golf - pretty self-explanatory I think. mini golf game. it works.
  3. Hard Win - Another one of those names that tells you absolutely nothing about the game. Basically a stream of coloured balls come from a thing at the top, flow down a series of pipes and you have to move some pipes or flippers so they're sorted into the correct coloured jars. It's not as boring as I just made it sound.
  4. Gear Race - An overhead-view vertical racing game, sort of like Road Fighter except you can (and indeed should) just ram all the other drivers into the side of the road.

As per usual this also comes with a manual in a few different languages; the English version seems like it was written by at least two different people with wildly different levels of English proficiency, so Bubble Blaster has a nice coherent description in reasonable English and then Night Wings comes along with something like "This is continue to use the core game rule of the plane fire"

Anyway, I said I'd come back to the box, and here's why:

The back of the box has a selection of screenshots of the games' title screens, but some of the screenshots here actually contain considerably more detail than the versions displayed by the console. An easy one to compare is Space Castle since it's right there on the front; here's the box screenshot vs what it actually looks like:

This, coupled with the slowdown in a couple of the games, would seem to suggest they originally ran on more powerful hardware and have been ported down to whatever this thing runs; there are maybe five or more different variations of 16(ish) bit hardware used in Jungletac consoles, so presumably these screenshots show the original versions.

Also, like pretty much every Jungletac console, this thing holds a secret - hold down A and B when you turn the power on and you get this little self-test screen:

... So that's it! Not a bad little console really, although its selection of 12 games seems positively minimalist in comparison to later Chinese handhelds that come in closer to (and sometimes even above) the 100 mark. Which I'll have to cover at some point. And it'll take me ages. ;_;