Before almost exclusively shifting their focus to racing games, Codemasters put out a variety of titles so let's explore part of their library.
First up, we have the obscure Big Nose games. Big Nose the Caveman is a standard 2D platformer that feels like a low-rent version of Adventure Island but its power-ups are pretty satisfying. The sequel, Big Nose Freaks Out, is much sillier as you roll around on a stone board which makes the controls more unwieldy yet challenging. I'd say for its uniqueness alone, it's a welcome inclusion.
Next, CJ's Elephant Antics has you run about while shooting peanuts and launching bouncing bombs at your enemies. Its sensitive mechanics make nearly everything end your life so it can be an annoying game to play. An interesting fact is that it released for NES via an unlicensed cartridge in the Quattro lineup. Now that I mention it, many of the games featured in Codemasters Collection 1 were so you know that they're not of the highest quality. Anyway, last we have Boomerang Kid where you try to collect boomerangs to open the level exit but you can't fall too far or you'll bite the dust. I kind of like it as a simple and challenging puzzle-like platformer.
List of games in Codemasters Collection 1
- Bee 52
- Big Nose Freaks Out
- Big Nose the Caveman
- Boomerang Kid
- CJ's Elephant Antics
- Cannon Fodder *
- Cosmic Spacehead *
- F-16 Renegade
- Linus Spacehead
- Mega-Lo-Mania *
- MiG-29: Soviet Fighter
- Psycho Pinball *
- Sensible Soccer *
- Stunt Buggies
- Super Skidmarks *
- Tennis All-Stars *
- The Ultimate Stuntman
* Genesis game; the others are NES games
Let's start with the best one; Super Skidmarks is a fun take on the classic Super Sprint franchise and although it takes a while to get used to the controls, it's a cool little racing game. Moving on; the name Sensible Soccer speaks for itself as it's a simple and cute soccer game with little character sprites. It could be worse for sure. Lastly, Tennis All-Stars (which I think is actually Pete Sampras Tennis) has you line up and time every hit perfectly. However, once you get in the groove and learn how to hit the ball properly, it can be a fun game.
In this next category, I'll look at the arcade-inspired games. Bee 52 is an interesting 2D action game where you shoot and sting enemies in the hopes of returning honey to your home base. I enjoyed working through the stages but it's not all that challenging. Speaking of unchallenging, F-16 Renegade is a generic vertical shoot 'em up with a wide playfield and rewarding power-ups. Meanwhile, MiG-29: Soviet Fighter is a Space Harrier style game that features some interesting variety as the perspective shifts in different phases. Anyway, Psycho Pinball is a cool pinball simulator with 4 tables while Stunt Buggies is a take on Namco's classic Rally-X but not nearly as fun.
Finally, here are some odds and ends. My favourite game on this compilation is Cannon Fodder where you lead armies of soldiers in an overhead perspective. It's an archaic real-time strategy action game hybrid that's silly yet remains thoroughly enjoyable. Another real-time strategy game is Mega-Lo-Mania but its lack of instructions really made me confused. I don't like having to research how to play games but it is interesting to see an early example of a sim where you play as a god. Linus Spacehead is a 2D platformer with annoying jump controls and you also get its sequel Cosmic Spacehead which combines point-and-click adventure elements with platforming although it doesn't do either particularly well. Finally, The Ultimate Stuntman is a variety action game that blends shoot 'em up, run 'n' gun, and even puzzle segments. It's an ambitious game for its time and quite a hidden gem to boot. I wish more modern games had that much variety!
Codemasters Collection 1 contains a few delightful hidden gems as well as subpar interpretations of superior classic games. As a package, there are better Evercade compilations out there but this is still worthwhile, especially if you're nostalgic for any of the included titles.
- + Includes a few pretty fun buried treasures, especially Cannon Fodder
- + The 2D platformers are quite challenging
- + Has some nifty takes on arcade formulas
- - Most of the games aren't all that enjoyable
- - A few games have frustrating controls
- - Mega-Lo-Mania could use better instructions