3/2 The Little Game Company That Could Kinda

Color Dreams: Those Who Dared to Dream (in COLOR)

     In some respects, the Color Dreams crew deserve respect for their place in the annals of gaming. They were one of the first companies to make unlicensed NES cartridges (in robin's-egg blue plastic no less.) They also made the last NES cartridge that saw US release, and are also the only company that continues to sell horrible 8-bit games with a $40 tag. You might call them the bad boys of unlicensed third/fourth party game publishing, if not for their metamorphosis into the Christian children's game making company Color Dreams shortly into their career. I've also seen them collaborate with Joy Van (a subsidiary or another unlicensed company?) on the execrable Metal Fighter (nu?).

     On the old version of Third Half, I made fun of a handful of their old games. They were all pretty short and sweet, since CD/WT games are not only incredibly annoying and badly-made, but because they're for the most part badly emulated. (disclaimer: I erased the hell out of these roms within 24 hours of grabbing them. It was really fun.) So, kick back and relax, and join me on the Color Dreams Pain Train, as I've gathered all of the old reviews into one feature, as well as a couple of new ones.

Master Chu stands in midair. A sign of a quality game.Master Chu and the Drunkard Hu

     A rollicking adventure set in the Far East, of martial arts master Chu and his lovably alcoholic assistant Hu. Is not a good description for this horrible Legend of Kage clone squeezed out of Color Dreams' code chute. Master Chu dresses like a conservative Mai Shiranui and uses a fan and a miscellaneous projectile weapon to combat a forest full of bugs that hate him. When his health meter reaches zero, he curls up in the fetal position and cries. I haven't seen that sort of action since cub scouts. The soundtrack consists of an endlessly looping synth lick that's supposed to sound Oriental but is more evocative of a mosquito in the ear; and the screen flashes every so often thanks to faulty scrolling (emulation error?). I haven't found Drunkard Hu yet, but I have my suspicions that he was involved in this game's programming and production.


     In all fairness, this isn't as bad as some of their offal. It's got characters who aren't transparent knockoffs, and stair-climbing that works better than Castlevania. Unfortunately the hunt x-number of bugs down in a house theme gets tiresome halfway through the first level, as do the bizarre quirks of physics at work here- hitting a bug that takes more than one swat to kill makes them ricochet wildly off the walls and ceiling then resume crawling/flying as if nothing happened. There's also a spot in Level One under the beehive where you can't jump as high as normal.

     Of all the characters I've seen in Color Dreams games the Pesterminator is far the most interesting to look at. He's drawn like he's out of an old black and white cartoon and that makes him stick out from the garishly colorful backgrounds. He's constantly hunched over with one finger up in either a 'come here' or 'up yours' gesture; and behind his back is a giant toon mallet.

     As mentioned before the 'story' blurb at the start has copyright information a paragraph below the monologue, in the exact same font and size. For a minute I though the game was about Rocky the Super Rat trying to bootleg Pesterminator cartridges.


     It's hard to believe a company that produced such great Christian-themed video games as Bible Adventures and Sunday Funday was producing demonic-themed games of the same high caliber. Oh, Color Dreams- how we mourn your unique interpretation of what a video game should be.

     This game isn't screwing around when it comes to the insanity department. The title screen itself consists of enemy sprites wandering around, looking too confused to be threatening. We're also introduced to the Robodemons Bold Condensed font, which, when placed on a gray slab, renders text unreadable. It's also worth noting that 99 percent of the game's graphics are black and white, which is kind of weird for a company called Color Dreams.

      In case you can't make out the monologue onscreen, allow me to transcribe for the sake of eyestrain.


     It may be a simple grammatical error, but Kull apparently only had one robot body for all the souls. That's why all your enemies are skeletons and crap. You will be playing as some guy in a white and red jumpsuit who fights with a boomerang.

     Your first mission is simple enough: Kill Death. Why, you have a jumpsuit and a microscopic boomerang! It should be a piece of cake.

     Death is actually that bird-looking thing in the middle of the title screen. He shows up halfway through the intro level which has you inexplicably flying around. Kind of like Gradius or Parodius, except you can't dodge things, you can't hit things, and you have to wait for your ammo to return between shots. The most common enemy of all, sadly, is a skull-and-crossbones that shoots little red balls out of its mouth. Your best bet is to go kamikaze on Death and just hammer him at point blank.

     The next level becomes a side-scrolling platformer deal. There is only one genre of game that has produced more failures than side-scrolling action: Helicopter simulation. You want Hell, try your hand at Infiltrator. I got killed by that first skeleton. At this point I gave up on Robodemons.

The P'Radikus Conflict

     The year was 1990. Asteroids was sweeping the nation. Well, so Asteroids crashed into pizza parlors and arcades a few years before that. But, striking while the iron was relatively hot, a team of fresh youngish face stepped into the gaming arena to do battle against the galarphamous (note: made up but important sounding word) companies like Nintendo. And Atari, I guess. They had big dreams. Color Dreams.

Fly too far and you hit the deadly gibberish belt.     Of course, that all fell through and they wound up producing third/fourth/umpteenth-rate knock offs of popular arcade games and Z-grade monstrosities. And after that fell through to the sub-basement, they renamed themselves Wisdom Tree and began producing Bible-themed knock offs of their original third/fourth/umpteenth-rate knock offs of popular arcade games and Z-grade monstrosities. And, much as the tree they named themselves after was implicated in one of biblical Man's greatest bloopers, their company is now only a fuzzy memory whose existence is all but forgotten, if not for ROM dumps and the odd garage sale.

     The P'Radikus Conflict was a shooter based on the Asteroids engine. In retrospect, that's like creating a Tetris game around the Quake III engine. I'm not entirely sure what the point of the game is, presumably to seek and destroy numerous spacey targets. You start out in a totally black space, where you spin and fire until you realize it's not a graphical error but simply a very lazily rendered space. Pressing Up on the control pad moves your ship forward. Not that I encourage anyone to actually try and play this game.

      The basic flow of the game goes as follows: Fly, see saucer, chase saucer, shoot saucer, watch arrow at bottom of screen point in the opposite direction of wherever the enemy is. Shoot saucer, chase, watch arrow. Arrow chase shoot saucer arrow watch shoot ram crash shoot drink. Shoot spin chase arrow kill drink shoot drink die. After about five minutes of... whatever, the ship explodes and the game treats you to a very chic all-text game over screen that teases you with notions of 'bases' and 'missions.' Unlike their magnum opus, Robodemons, P'radikus deprives you of a much needed opening monologue sequence. I guess the lack of exposition was half the fun of the old games though. To this day I'm still not sure what Billy and Jimmy Contra were doing on Contra Island. And Ghosts and Goblins (Ghouls and Ghosts, whatever) just showed you a sequence of a man picnicking in his skivvies and you were able to deduce, by the suit of armor he hops into, that he's a knight about to save the princess from the random devil. And in P'Radikus, we join the action in media res, which helps add the element of confusion to an already piss poor game.

Wisdom Tree: Makers of Holy Shit

      Color Dreams' games didn't sell so well. So when the execs were praying for a fire to envelop their offices so they could collect the insurance money and maybe break even, it came to them what they needed to sell their games.


     Fortunately, those Bad Boys of the 8-bit World kept their impeccable level of quality in spite of their new marketing angle enlightenment. In fact, many Wisdom Tree games were just old Color Dreams titles re-released with new graphics and random text displays. For instance, Menace Beach; the story of a skateboarding street punk saving his rapidly-denuding girlfriend from Satan became Sunday Funday; which was about a little boy skateboarding his way to Sunday School to get chided by his decidedly less hot teacher. Satan was oddly removed from this game and replaced with a dancing bear.

Bible Buffet

     Bible Buffet isn't too bad at first. In fact I was even a little impressed by the quality of the voice samples they used, considering it was NES. But that quickly gave way to despair, annoyance, and finally tedium. You spin the spinner, you move a random number of spaces until you reach the end of the board. With graphics so crude they make A Boy and His Blob look like Final Fantasy X, the action levels on every non-free/quiz square are the real pain the game brings.

     For example; in Fast Food Land, there's a stage where you're confined to a twisting sidewalk surrounded by grass and DO NOT WALK ON THE GRASS signs. I mean, crap! Don't walk on the grass signs are keeping the little Mr. Bill guy from jumping off the path to dodge the incredibly speedy whatchimacallits? Does this guy have a brain stem?

     This wannabe puzzler also has a handful of gimmicks to spice things up, ranging from the effectively worthless TNT drums you pick up by the dozen but can't use to destroy anything that needs killing to the Fast Food levels where you shove giant coins into the cashier's hand to make food come out to fight you. But by far the most entertaining concept of the game is its wholehearted endorsement of the sin of gluttony, compounded by the fact there's no bible-sanctioned foods like communion wafers or fish (besides anchovies.)

     Did I mention the trivia questions are printed in the manual, and if you don't have that there's no way past the pop quizzes without blind guessing? It's nifty, isn't it? Super keen.


     Exodus is a hack of Crystal Caves (or Mines or whatever), another CD game. In this, Moses ambles about a pitch black room full of squares that look like varying degrees of television snow, but actually represent everything from "The Murmurings of the Israelites" to burning bushes. He's pursued by Huns/ pirates/ biker superheroes but fortunately can shoot little W's to kill anything that bothers him. The W-ray is either the Word of God or possibly him declaring his allegiance to Dr. Wily.

     This is another example of bizarre Wisdom Tree physics. You can walk freely about the level, but shooting rocks out from under items or other rocks can create a landslide. It also works to an extent horizontally, as deadly rocks like to fall when a gap opens on their side regardless of how firm the ground they're on is. To clear a level, Moses has to collect all the milk jars/ manna and find the time warp out of there to the next dungeon or stretch of desert or whatever. Failure to do so makes Moses cover his eyes like a total puss.

     There are also trivia breaks and half-assed cinema scenes between levels depicting Moses' life and exploits.

Super 3-D Noah's Ark

     A rare treat indeed- the only unliscensed SNES cart released in the states, as well as Wisdom Tree's only 16-bit venture. It's basically a hack of Wolfenstein 3-D, only with farm animals instead of Nazis, and Noah's Moses-lookalike face plastered over BJ Blazkowicz. In fact, this game even uses the same level maps as Wolf3D for the SNES.

     Basically, the idea is that the animals aboard Noah's ark are getting cranky and hungry and burst from their pens. So, Noah takes up a slingshot and some apples to force-feed the creatures into hibernation. It's odd that instead of 2 of every animal, you mostly face goats and the like.

     According to TSR, there's a rumor that id software gave the game engine to Wisdom Tree as payback for all the edits they had to make to make a game about messily shooting Nazis SNES-friendly.



Baltron is only here as a sidebar since it was originally comboed with Robodemons as a crappy game 1-2 punch.

I was expecting the game to be a poorly-translated 'Voltron,' but no, they actually meant Baltron. It's a different kind of shooter. I really have no clue what was going on as I ended up warping out of the galaxy about twenty times when I meant to shoot something. I also managed to turn the plane around backwards for a while, which, while novel, doesn't actually help you. Sure, enemies are coming at you from behind. But there are still three times as many coming from dead ahead. The enemy fighters are a strange bunch who fire their guns randomly into the floor and ceiling while ramming you.

Your goal, as the only person in the world with an airplane, is to single handedly defeat the evil Bismark Empire and bring peace between North and South Dakota. This will be hard as they have an incredibly "destractive" superweapon called "BALTRON." Your attention span will be stretched to the breaking point against this terrible adversary, but remember, their next target is "The Earth."

With the threat of impending distraction, the defenders of "The Earth," placed their last hope on you. Fight! Gistorias!! For the peace of space! Gistorias is friend to children!

You weapons are a gun and a missile that just kind of falls off your ship's nose whenever the gun goes off. The fact I probably hit more enemies with the Cartoon Anvil Bomb says a lot about the hit detection in this game. Either that or the Bismark Empire's ships don't know anything about physics. Sometimes they die when they hit a wall, other times they merrily glide on through, shoot themselves in the foot, and fall on you.

Metal Fighter

Color Dreams' attempt at a shooter.

It's always a wild ride when the game's title screen is an unintelligible blot. Metal Fighter is by a company called Joy Van, which I take it roughly means Scooby-Doo programmed it with his tail in the back of the Mystery Machine. With noxious exhaust fumes piping in.

It turns out that it wasn't made by asphexiated hippy dogs. The truth is far worse than anyone could possibly imagine. It was actually made by Color Dreams. That's right, the company that later went on to change its name and make a series of awful Christian-themed Nintendo games, each of which was just a messed-up version of an existing game (Sunday Funday, etc.)

This game is a sort of freaked-out shooter in which you control a walking egg that has to jump over things that get in your way. All the while, wave after wave of indistinct colored blots (the manual calls them enemies) fly at you, shooting and stuff. So yeah, its a ... shooter.

What kind of shooter sticks you in something that's not a goofy looking spaceship? That's the way it's been since Gradius, and it's been like that in almost every game since (excluding the winged fairies and flying penguins of Parodius.) So what makes the Joy Van team think they're better than the rest? Simple.

Foil hats.

It had to be foil hats, why else would they have the stones to go up against giants like Konami (Contra, Gradius, Ninja Turtles) and uhh... Wisdom Tree (numerous crappy Bible themed games)? I know when I shape some tin foil into a cone shape and place it on my head, I feel like I'm king of the world. Plus, the governement satellites can't read my mind. Thusly sheltered, I bet even the Paxil Poster Child could takes his junk firmly in hand and program a game where headless cooked chickens attack a super-deformed chef. (Stay tuned for the next review when just that happens.)

When you take this and a few other NES 'novel' shooters (like MagMax for one) it's no wonder the U.S. gaming market alienated robot games for the longest time. It's gotten better, and it's not like in the mid 80's when Robot-Americans were being held in detainment camps outside the Silicon Valley, awaiting assimilation into pewter BattleTech figuirine molds. From this time, however came a book of epic, tragic poetry by the machines of Macross.

Uh, yeah, anyway, the stupid egg fighter game...