Note: This review was done using actual Turbografx 16 hardware with no emulation. This game is also a Japanese import.
Now here is an interesting one. It is Gomola Speed. It is… almost completely unknown to the gaming world. There are barely even any text reviews of this game. You go to Gamefaqs and, aside from password keys, there is nothing written on this game. The question we must ask ourselves, “Is this a lost, hidden classic from the past?” “Is this game fun, addictive, and interesting to play today?” And most important of all: “Will it win the Malstrom Award: the most coveted award in all of gaming?”
Above: Gomola Speed is a most interesting and unique game!
Gomola Speed is an extremely slick programmed game (Nintendo was so impressed that they hired this game’s developers) that seems to be the ultimate evolution of the game of Snake. In Snake, you started off small, would eat something, and then you grew longer and longer. But Gomola Speed also has Gauntlet gameplay and giant boss battles. It is absurd. It is also classic late 80, early 90 Japanese genius.
You play as the head, represented by the ‘eye’ on it. If anything hits your head, it is game over. You move around with the D-Pad. You will use the D-Pad extensively to go diagonal and perform many, many circles. One of the action buttons allows you to drop a bomb (the bomb appears from your last segment). If the bomb blast hits your head, it is game over. The bomb blast stuns enemies and can break open blocks.
Each stage has the same goal. You start off as the solitary head. You explore the level to find your missing segments (you touch them to combine with them). You must ‘consume’ all the bouncing pellets. This is done by you wrapping your body around them. Then, an exit appears like in Gauntlet once all the pellets are eaten. You go into the exit to finish the level though you must have all your segments on you. You cannot leave the level if you are missing a segment.
The simplicity of the game is refreshing. However, your long body will get hit. If it is the head, you die. But you can use your body to shield you. When the body gets hit, the segments fly apart and start bouncing around like they used to. You just touch them again to re-absorb them.
Enemies can be stunned by bombs. Stunned enemies can be wrapped around by your body to be ‘eaten’ and taken out of the game.
Above: Gomola Speed doesn’t have much music, but what it does have packs a techno punch.
Very little is written on Gomola Speed because no one knows what to think of it. The game doesn’t match any genre of gaming we know. Is it a puzzle game? An action game? The game is programmed great, controls great, sounds awesome, yet people feel funny taking it seriously because the basic gameplay is Snake, the most primitive PC video game.
I kept coming back to Gomola Speed again and again. It has a terrific password system. It also has a great pick up and play. The game is extremely unique, and there is nothing else remotely like it on any other system. The level design is smart, and the game is consistently challenging.
However, the game has serious problems. While the controls are excellent, they require too much work from the player. This game will make your hand hurt because no game has made you use the D-pad so vigorously as this one. Another big problem is that you are constantly pulling your body back together which always pauses the game as you hear the ‘glum glum’ sound effects as each segment is re-attached. The sound and pausing gets annoying and old fast. The game levels ask you to do things which seem unfair because there is very little direction. Bosses are thrown at you with little to no direction on how you are to defeat them. Most of the time, you are supposed to find a power-up, but this is hard to do when you did not realize that before the boss, the game had never given you such a power-up before.
When it comes to this game, I fall more on the ‘love’ side. The game is expertly produced with tight level design. The game moves and sounds so crisp and realized. The game’s art is cool and doesn’t feel ‘Japanese’. This game could have been made in the United States and no one could tell. Most important of all, this game is extraordinarily unique. There are many platformers, shmups, RPGs, but there is only one Gomola Speed. It is in a genre of itself.
Above: To those who think this is a small game, think again! This long play, with zero deaths, is nearly an hour.
Usually when I try to rate these games, there are only three true rankings. There is the ‘ignore’ of 1-5 because there is absolutely nothing interesting in this game to warrant your attention. There is the ‘honorable mention’ of 6-9 because there is something very interesting about this game that is worth examining. And the Malstrom Award of ’10’ games are for those games you will always be playing because they are interesting and because of great gameplay.
Gomola Speed does not get the Malstrom Award. While the game’s ‘interesting meter’ is off the charts, the gameplay is downright annoying at times combined with making your hand hurt and the constant ‘segment re-attachment’ sound. This is a special snowflake game that should be observed by everyone, but a great classic it is not.
Disclaimer: The ‘quality’ is gauged only by how often I return to the game. TG16 games are not isolated; they are compared to every other game out there. A game can be ‘bad’ and keep me coming back. A game can be ‘good’ that I never want to touch again. Irrational addictive-ness, which defies quantification, is the only element examined here.
-TG 16 Games Reviewed So Far-
Malstrom Awards: (Addictive and Awesome even today, they refuse to age. Score of 10)
Devil’s Crush [$68] Imaginative sound and gothic theme. You’ll keep coming back to this one.)
Galaga ’90 [$34] (Purest shmup I have ever seen. This will still be played 50 years from now.)
Gradius [$30] (Four options can cause slowdown, but this arcade port remains difficult and legendary.)
Final Soldier [$30] (Good music and polish, easier difficulty, multiple powerup options. laser bubbles! Consistently fun.)
Parasol Stars [$85] (Better than Bubble Bobble. No one realizes how legendary this game is… yet.)
R-type [$40] (Never gets old because it can never be beaten. Fun to try here and there.)
Salamander [$40] (Challenging and addictive. If you like NES Life Force, you will love this.)
Honorable Mentions: (Good games that are flawed or gameplay has suffered aging. Score of 6-9)
(9) Gomola Speed [$15] (Snake meets Gauntlet. Genre defying. Gameplay hurts hand.)
(8) World Court Tennis [$16] (Most interesting RPG on the TG 16. Seriously.)
(7) Alien Crush [$22] (Interesting, addictive, but flawed. Good to play as a break to Devil’s Crush)
(6) Bonk’s Adventure [$33] (Meh platformer oozes incredible charm)
(6) Boxy Boy [$27] (Solid puzzle game, but it gets stale fast. Contains level editor.)
(6) Dragon Spirit [$30] (Jurassic atmosphere is charming. Sluggish controls, hard-to-come-back after dying)
Don’t bother: (Not fun to play today. Score of 5 and below.)
(5) Military Madness [$44] (Overrated, dated gameplay, repetitious, dull colorless setting of the moon)
(5) Neutopia [$76] (boring, bad game design, can’t hold a candle to Zelda, fire wand is only thing going for this game)
(5) Raiden [$72] (Overrated, more frustrating than challenging, no 2 player mode that was in arcade)
(4) Bomberman [$40] (dull and boring, totally surpassed by its sequels on this system)
(4) Ninja Gaiden [$80] (Compared to NES: worse sound and controls, terrible parallax scrolling. Nothing to see here.)
(4) Shockman [$110] (Cool graphics and vibe, no polish, and frustrating gameplay. Play Mega Man instead.)
(3) Moto Roader [$17] (5 player party game, great upgrade system, terrible core gameplay. USE HANDLE B!)
(3) Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition [$20] (2 button controller is terrible for 6 button game. Good luck getting a 6 button controller.)
(1) Keith Courage in Alpha Zones [$10] (The 16 bit version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)