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Blue Stinger Member Review for the DreamCast

GAME-QUEST-EX By:
GAME-QUEST-EX
01/07/13
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE  
PLAYERS 00 
PUBLISHER  
DEVELOPER  
RELEASE DATE  
M Contains Animated Blood, Animated Violence

What do these ratings mean?

BLUE STINGER

Console: Sega DreamCast

Genre: 3rd Person Action Survival Sci-Fi/Horror

Year: 1999

Number of Players: 1

Developer: Climax Graphics

Publisher: Sega (Japan); Activision (Europe & North America)

Jump Pack Compatible: Yes (for Rumble Features)

VMU Memory Blocks: 4 

File Data Image: The “Nephilim” character

Media Format: GD-ROM

ESRB: Rated M for Mature (Animated Blood & Animated Violence) Author’s Note: Game also contains Animated Gore & Mild Profanity

Instruction Manual: 24 Pages in Black & White


STORY

65 Million years ago, a giant meteor crashes into the Yucatan Peninsula, causing a tremendous explosion, which hurls all kinds of debris into the atmosphere. The resulting effect in the long-term was radical transformation of the eco-system on a planetary wide scale, after sun light is prevented from reaching the earth’s surface. The dinosaurs, which roamed the earth at the time, eventually died out.

In the year 2000, an earthquake off the coast of Mexico sends shockwaves throughout the region. This catastrophic event up-heaves a mysterious island that the U.S & Mexican government named “Dinosaur Island,” before they set up an investigative task force to uncover the island’s secrets.

As the years go by, a large bio-tech corporation called “Kimra” has built an entire city on Dinosaur Island to research all of its pre-historic mysteries.

But more trouble dive-bombs from the sky in the form of another meteor which strikes Dinosaur Island and the resulting explosion expands a mysterious blue energy dome around the entire land mass. This is where our hero, “Elliot Ballade” an elite member of the Emergency Sea Evacuation & Rescue (ESER), comes in. It is around Christmas-time in 2018 & his vacation in a boat off the Coast of Dinosaur Island is interrupted by the resulting meteorite explosion. His boat is attacked by hideous mutated flying monsters which suddenly emerged from the land mass. Knocked unconscious by the attack, Elliot awakens hours later, right on the Coast of Dinosaur Island. It’s time for him to uncover the truth behind the horrors that lie in the city on the island, which is where our adventure begins!

The plot in “Blue Stinger” is interesting and it works for the most part. The distance past of pre-historic earth is brought into 21st Century science fiction, which results in a unique combination of “Survival Action” in a video game. Blue Stinger is not really a survival horror game, even though it is often labeled as such. Your enemies are not all slow-moving zombies. They are a hybrid of reptile & insect mutations, which have somehow infected human beings, to make them into this new predatory species that attacks first and never bothers to ask any questions later.

The plot is revealed slowly, in little bits and pieces, sometimes during the short cut-scenes dispersed at different points throughout the game, while other times you see parts of the story in the infrastructure of the island. For example, you see in the laboratory mysterious medical equipment which you can guess have been used to experiment on animal and plants samples, but for what purposes exactly? What has Kimra been up to on Dinosaur Islands for 18 years? In other more gruesome cases, there are dead bodies of human beings lying around on the ground. They were the unfortunate victims of the mutated monsters who violently attacked them during the sudden “outbreak” on Dinosaur Island.

The story isn’t 100% original (and which story ever is?), but it works well for this game. Granted, you will spend most of the time killing monsters, picking up money they drop and unlocking sealed doors; but it is all leading you towards uncovering the dark secret of Dinosaur Island and why there are such hideous mutations running wild all over the place. There are a few unanswered questions or at least unclear resolutions at the end of this title, which might leave you wondering why the game’s writers didn’t make it clear enough, especially considering that there has never been a prequel or sequel to the original Blue Stinger.

There are few characters left alive after you arrive at the Kimra research facility. Most are afraid and bewildered about their current situation. Some will become your allies and join Elliot in your adventure (like the gruff weapons expert Dogs Bower), while others will be your source of information & your guide from afar, like the computer savvy Janine King. Other characters are hiding from the monsters or need your help with simple side-missions. All the characters work okay within the context of the story. They fit their roles well, though some of the voice-overs could have been executed better. In the end, don’t expect any out-standing award winning performances from the extra cast of characters in Blue Stinger.
 

ANIMATION & GRAPHICS

Blue Stinger came out at a period in the video games industry when human bodies where not always portrayed accurately and convincing. For example, in this title, human joints at the knuckles, wrists and elbows are not the best looking, when compared to games which came afterwards. Visually, the human beings in this title don’t look as realistic as they could have at the time. Then again, Blue Stinger came out in the late 1990s and probably did as well as it could with the console technology available.

Human Skin Color in this title is also an odd mix of yellow and orange, which makes the characters look much more cartoon-like as opposed to more life-like. Facial expressions like those of Dogs Bower are clearly shown: he is typically frowning or gruff looking, as if something is always irritating him. Other characters have facial expressions to match their current emotional states, but those are not executed so well. Typically, if the characters you meet are happy, they maintain that look from that point on. If they are in pain, worried or upset, their facial expression is stuck in that mode, with little or no change. For example, you tend to notice Elliot’s face change slightly to become more “positive” or “happy” when he is talking to Janine King, a character he has a very open crush on. Other times, when Elliot has an argument with Dogs, his face reflects his confrontational nature a bit more, but not as convincing as it should be.

As part of the storyline, which unfolds much later on, some of the characters are able to actually change their clothing and wear other, different-looking outfits. This also breaks up the visual monotony of looking at the same characters wearing the same clothing, which is cool.

The true winner in the graphics department in Blue Stinger has to be the Surrounding Environment. The Kimra City is deliberately designed to be compact, especially the interior. The game designers seemed to have taken into mind that if such a city existed on a small island, then the living quarters on the land mass have to be designed to fit within certain compact spaces.

The backgrounds, especially in the civilian areas of Dinosaur Island, are very bright & colorful. You can make out chairs, tables, doors, windows, all types of furniture that give the civilian living quarters a more personal, human touch. Since the Blue Stinger adventure occurs around Christmas-time, there are many very colorful & festive Christmas-themed decorations hanging around the Supermarket, Movie Theatre & Hotels Areas of the city. You see advertising billboards, movie posters, product flyers and so on, plastered all over the walls in the many different civilian parts of the Kimra town. There are even some painted graffiti on the walls of the public bathrooms! From these visuals, you can tell that the normal, routine life of the people living and working here, were brutally interrupted by wicked monsters attacking them mercilessly.

In many areas of the city, you will see blood smeared and splattered on the floor & across the walls, all the results of the human victims falling prey to the new predators stalking them. As you control Elliot or Dogs, you have to walk or run past these gruesome scenes of death & carnage, leaving you to imagine what chaos unfolded here. These kinds of scenes are a very nice touch to the overall look and feel to Blue Stinger. The bloody environmental graphics show you that like the corpses lying before you, your own fate is also certain death at the hands of these monsters, unless you fight back and survive.

Walk into the Kimra Laboratories and you will see a more tech-driven side of Dinosaur Island. The scientists under the employ of Kimra were working on secretive biological & botanical experiments on living tissue and possibly living beings. Is the purpose of all their work for good or greed? You will see complex computers with colorful displays, lab tables, medical chambers, chemical-showers, armored doors, large hi-tech screens with all types of data read-outs, and so on. All of this imagery fits very well into the particular parts of the Kimra research facility where you find them. Floating robotic guard sentries that shoot at you for trespassing, round out the whole “high-technology-feel” of some of Blue Stinger’s environments.

Fire a gun and witness the sparks as ammunition is discharged. Guns that fire bullets have different animations and muzzle flashes, as opposed to firearms which blast out energy rays & beams. A handgun firing will look very different from a plasma gun’s discharge, which is a good thing. For one thing, Gatling Guns, Hand Guns & Shot Guns drop shells casings on the ground as you fire. On the other hand, the Rail Guns, Plasma Guns, Laser Guns & Acid Guns don’t disperse shell casings when you fire at your enemy. You get a nice diverse set of weapon-firing animations, so you never really get bored with using them. Reloading Animation involves your character (Elliot or Dogs) briefly pausing to remove the empty clip from their gun, before they fit in a new full clip. The empty ammo-clip even drops down to the ground once your character has finished using it, which is a nice touch of realism overall.

Attack Animations almost resemble a beat-em up game like “Streets of Rage.” You swing your arms and legs to punch & kick at your enemies, with the intention of knocking them down or killing them. Further Attack Animations also involve using Short-Ranged, Hand-to-Hand Weapons as your tools of destruction. Stun Sticks, Robotic Boxing Gloves, Baseball Bats & Giant Clubs are among some of the hand-held weapons you can weld in Blue Stinger. Most of them have their own sets of cool-looking attack animations, including swings, stabs, slashes & forward thrusts, which all look different enough from one another so that they don’t look too repetitious or boring. However, the Baseball Bat, Axe and Stun Rod all do share the same animations, which the developers could have really made to look very different from each other.

Explosions, fire, water and other fluids all have their own very distinct-looking animations, which make sense within the context that they appear in. The Blue Stinger game engine used on the Sega DreamCast at the time makes these kinds of environmental & situational animations look convincing enough that they don’t pull you out of the gameplay experience.

The monsters were once human and you can tell because they have human-looking heads, arms, legs, and so on. However, they are no longer human, but are more like creatures with extra arms and legs growing out of their torsos. Their heads and faces are also mutating, so they no longer look like the neighbors you may have once known. The first set of creatures look more human than the monsters you encounter later on in the game. The further into Kimra City you get, the creatures look more “alien,” and far-less human, which can add to the overall tension of Blue Stinger. The ugly nature of these monsters actually makes it much easier for you to hit & kill these pre-historic reptilian-insect hybrids, before they attack & kill you!

With each shot fired and with each hand-held weapon swung, you gradually dismember the creatures you are targeting. With each successive strike that connects, the monster loses its head, arms, legs and so on. The violent animations which depict these dismemberments are not as gory & gruesome as the visuals of video games today, but they are still executed very well in Blue Stinger and they look convincing enough during the course of gameplay.

Enemy types are diverse in Blue Stinger, so expect to run into everything from Human-Hybrid Monsters, to Giant Insects, Mutant Dinosaurs, Pre-Historic Fish, to much more “alien’ looking freaks, which defy any real description. Visually, the cast of creatures are very diverse indeed, so you have a lot to look at. Unfortunately, throughout the course of Blue Stinger, you tend to fight mostly the human-monster hybrids, more than any other creature, so you just may get bored with looking at the same enemy type over and over again.

 

AUDIO, MUSIC & SOUND

Hands down, the music in Blue Stinger is the absolute best feature in the game. From the main theme song, to the music which pops-up in the different areas of Dinosaur Island, all of the tunes in this title are very memorable.

Most of the soundtracks in Blue Stinger have very high production values, with sweeping symphonic & orchestral tunes, mixed in with a deep sense of urgency. The music plays as if you are running out of time, and it never lets you forgot that. It’s all upbeat, urgent, loud, demanding and above all, it’s never boring.

Since the misadventures on Dinosaur Island are taking place during Christmas of 2018, there are sections of the city where you are treated to “modified” versions of Christmas tunes, which appropriately reflect the holidays. It’s a bit ironic that such a horrible tragedy would occur around Christmas-time, and you are aware of this as you run through parts of the Kimra City, battling beasts, looking at the bloody stains of the human victims, as well as the torn heads & limbs of the alien mutants. Consider that in the meantime, nice, positive, festive, happy Christmas music is playing in the background as you fighting for your very life against mutant freaks.

Encounter a Boss Monster and the soundtrack changes as well. The sense of urgency remains in the tune, but now you are fully aware of the source of danger: it’s the larger-than-life creature in your presence which is trying to kill you.

Overall, the music in Blue Stinger is awesome. It always adds to your experience playing the game and never gets boring to listen to and it never pulls you out of that experience.

Swinging an Emergency Axe versus using a Laser Sword produce different sound effects, which makes sense. The electrical effects from the Stun Rod crackle as the weapon connects on your foe and the sound effects works very well in tandem with the on-screen action. Gun-fire sounds cool, since all of the weapons sound very different from one another. This is particularly true for bullet-shooting guns versus energy blasting weapons. When empty ammunition clips drop onto the ground, you hear a loud clanking sound, which is realistic. When bullet casings are ejected from the Gatling gun, Hand gun & Shot gun, they also make loud clanking sounds as the metal shells spread onto the ground, which is also a cool realistic sound effect. Even Dogs Bower’s Crossbow makes very distinct sound effects when you fire arrows off & have them stick into enemies or into solid objects like walls or boxes.

Monsters growl and grunt as you hit them with short-ranged weapons (like axes & baseball bats), and they also cry out in pain as you shoot them with your projectile-firing weapons.

And speaking of sound, Blue Stinger handles audio in an interesting way. Since you don’t have any radar to detect the monsters, you have to rely on the footstep sounds that they make to know they are near. In other words, once you enter into a new room or new area, if you don’t visually see an enemy in front of you, you have to use your ears to listen for the footstep the mutants make walking or running around the place. This audio feature gives Blue Stinger a bit more of a “Survival Horror” feel in the sense that you being stalked by an unseen foe which is intent on killing you, and you can only hear it, until you either see it or until it attacks you.

Also, as you approach certain types of mutants (like the giant flying insects for example) they won’t move or make any sound, until you get close enough to them. Then, they start moving, running or flying and you hear the buzzing, snarling or humming sounds that they make as they attack you.

 

GAME PLAY

Blue Stinger honestly does NOT play like any Traditional “Survival Horror” game that came out at the time this title was released (the late 1990s). It plays a bit like an Action-Adventure, with ability to fight with both Melee Weapons, as well as a variety of Guns.

LEFT ANALOG STICK: Move Elliot or Dogs around during gameplay by making them walk or run (also use to Navigate Menus)

DIRECTIONAL CONTROL PAD: Navigate Menus (also move characters during active gameplay)

START Button: Displays the Portable Access Terminal (Information Menu Screens)

X-Button: Punch, Kick, Swing Melee Weapons (Elliot only); Block (Dogs only)

Y-Button: Shoot the currently selected gun; Karate, Sumo & Wrestling Attacks (Dogs only)

RIGHT TRIGGER: Shoot the currently selected gun; Zoom-in on the map within the map menu

LEFT TRIGGER: Zoom into Close-Up/ First Person Perspective View; Zoom-out from the map within the map menu

A-Button: Inspect an item or object; Pick up an item or object; Make or accept a prompted choice during active gameplay or within game menus; Cause Elliot or Dogs to climb up a large object, or to climb up or down a ladder/stairs, etc

B-Button: Cancel any selected choice during active gameplay or within the game menus

B-Button plus LEFT ANALOG STICK: Make Elliot to swim upwards or forward in water

Blue Stinger gives you action-adventure style controls to work with, which is cool. Using Elliot, you can punch, kick, swing melee weapons to decimate your enemies. Unarmed, without any hand-held weapons, Elliot can perform basic punches and roundhouse kicks, which aren’t very powerful, but are useful to have until you can pick-up & use melee weapons. Different weapons like the Axe, Ray Sword, Baseball Bat & the Stun Rod all sort of have very similar attack animations, though they each do different amounts of damage & have slightly different striking ranges to them. The Iron Fist are metal, mechanized boxing gloves, which share similar attack animations with Elliot’s regular punching combos, except you can’t kick when using the Iron Fits.

Now, all this definitely reads like a fun list of weapons and things to do with them, until you start to use them for an extended period of time: that’s when you begin to notice the flaws with not so much the weapons, but actually with the gameplay system. You see, the developers give you a cool, almost beat-em-up like gameplay system to work with, but then they hold back the best parts from you.

The melee gameplay really should have been full-on brawler controls & response. If you are given the ability to physically beat up & beat down monsters, then your character should have been given more abilities such as the abilities to grab & throw the enemy. Your character should have also been given the ability to perform continuous & specific pursuit attacks on foes which have been knocked down. Elliot could have also been given some sort of dodge-roll evasive maneuver and Dogs could have also been given a push-back or parry move to improve his defensive stances. The melee combat in Blue Stinger is okay, but the developers really should have given the player much more tools & gameplay features to spice up the hand-to-hand fighting.

When Elliot bare-knuckle brawls with or weapon-attacks the mutants, sometimes the attacks don’t fully connect. Even when you are attacking with very fast combos, there still seems to be a delay with the strikes hitting & stunning the creatures. The monsters exploit this delay window and often find a way to hit Elliot back & hurt him. If you used Dogs wrestling, sumo or karate fighting styles, you wouldn’t fare any better, as the monsters can also exploit delays in his much slower attack animations so as to hit him back.

Dogs plays differently from Elliot: by default, he only can block incoming melee attacks the monsters strike at him with. Normally, he can’t punch or kick (no melee attacks); he can only shoot his firearm. In order to make Dogs fight back physically, you actually have to buy and wear a Karate, Sumo or Wrestling T-Shirt. The idea is that once Dogs has worn any one of these T-Shirts, these clothing items make him feel like a warrior or martial artist. For example, if you make Dogs wear his Sumo Shirt, he then feels like he is a Sumo Wrestler and he will now automatically gain Sumo-style hand slaps and push attacks. The same goes for the other two T-Shirts; the Karate apparel turns Dogs into a martial arts fighter, while his Wrestling top makes him use wrestling attacks.

Just remember that if you equip Dogs with any one of these T-Shirts, you CAN’T fire or use any guns at the same time, which kinda sucks. To make Dogs shoot his firearms, you have to first "Pause" the game, enter the menu and equip him with any one of the guns which he can use. This limits Dogs’ attack arsenal and fighting style. With him, you can either ONLY melee during combat or you can ONLY shoot your gun during active combat. It’s one or the other, not both. Elliot can both brawl & shoot, but Dogs simply can’t. It is ultimately a curious decision on the part of the developers. Why did they choose to limit Dogs active combat gameplay style much more than Elliot’s? It really isn’t fair to Dogs and makes no sense, considering the story claims that Dogs is some sort of ex-military weapons expert.

Of interest to note here is that throughout most of Blue Stinger, you will control the two main characters (Elliot & Dogs). You don’t play with both of them on-screen at once and thankfully, you don’t share the same life bar; each man gets his own separate health meter. Typically, you can switch between them by pausing the game entering into the main menu & making your selection. Now, you’re going to want to do this because each character has his in-gameplay advantages over the other.

For example, Elliot can swim & shoot underwater while Dogs can’t; Elliot moves & runs faster than Dogs; Elliot can brawl & shoot while Dogs can’t. But Dogs can block knock-down attacks by the enemy & he can handle more powerful weapons which Elliot can’t use. Still, Dogs will take some damage even if he successfully blocks, which makes some sense from the story’s point-of-view, considering he is defending against powerful, inhuman monsters. In Dogs’ favor, he takes less damage to his health meter than Elliot. The downside is that you will need more food items to heal the damage done to Dogs’ life bar even if it is the same amount of damage happens to Elliot’s health meter. Food & Drink heals more of Elliot’s life bar than it ever would for Dogs.

Despite these & other gameplay differences between Elliot & Dogs, you can pretty much play & finish the entire game using just Elliot, if you wanted to, without ever really been forced to use Dogs. To make the game more interesting though, the developers should have emphasized their gameplay differences even more than just having a couple of different moves. Maybe they should have required you to switch between both characters, at different points in the story, to complete the whole game from start to finish.

One very interesting gameplay feature is the ability of one of the characters to play as an infected mutant! Much later on in Blue Stinger, one of the main characters becomes “infected” and he begins to turn into a monster. You are still allowed to play with him, and in fact you gain a few new abilities. As a result of your mutation, you can use your character to climb up steam pipes & steel gratings, up & down the walls, as well as even upside down along the ceilings! This gameplay feature is actually pretty awesome, because your new climbing & crawling abilities allow you to access new, hidden & difficult to reach areas of the Kimra Facility. In addition, this new mode of “transportation” of yours keeps you out of the reach of evil creatures lurking below you as you move around on the ceiling. This becomes essential in advancing the game’s plot as well as bringing you closer to finishing the game. The only downside to this gameplay feature is that, for some reason, you can’t “pause” the game or access any of menus while you are crawling & climbing. This may have been done because it is just unrealistic for you to eat, drink, swing a weapon, shoot or reload all while hanging on the wall or upside down on the ceiling. Still, it would have been helpful if you could pause the game while climbing & crawling, just in case you had to take a sudden/needed break from playing.

Just remember that long before other games like “Left 4 Dead” & “Resident Evil” ever allowed you to play as enemy monsters like zombies during multi-player modes, “Blue Stinger” had already enabled one of your main characters to play as a partly infected mutant for a section of the main story mode. In a lot of ways, this particular gameplay feature included in this title back in the 1990s was way ahead of its time.

Guns work pretty well in Blue Stinger, so there are fewer complaints to make about them. With the awesome Auto-Aim feature during active gameplay, all you have to do is equip your firearm of choice, turn towards your intended target & squeeze the trigger. The result is a satisfying barrage or discharge of bullets, chemical pellets or energy beams, which work towards slowing down, stopping, knocking down & ultimately killing the malevolent mutants harassing you. When all else fails, turn to your trustee firearms to blast the alien-infected freaks into oblivion.

Admittedly, some guns work better than others. For example, the Hand Gun is a very basic firearm, but is also very useful throughout the entire game. It’s a weaker gun that requires multiple shots to drop a monster, but it has a fast firing rate and can even be shot underwater to kill mutant fish, all while Elliot is swimming! The Hand Gun does not knock down foes until it kills them, but other guns like the Shot Gun, has awesome knocking down power. The Rail Gun, Gatling gun & Plasma Gun are near the top of the list of the most powerful firearms in Blue Stinger. The absolute be-all and end-all projectiles you will need to destroy Boss Monsters will have to be the uber-powerful Bazookas & Napalm Launchers.

Note also that some guns work better on some enemies than others. For example, some flying monsters can easily evade bullets fired at them. However, you can use the Plasma Gun to take down the flying fiends. Other guns are required to destroy more powerful or faster moving, or underwater creatures. The cool thing is carefully figuring out which gun works best against which type of enemy.

There are some slight inconsistencies with the power of the guns. Sometimes, one gun will kill a monster with 4 shots, while other times it will take just 3 or 5. There seems to be no good reason behind this discrepancy & it’s important to note this problem, because there will come the time when you have to conserve your ammunition (which costs money to buy), rather than waste it with even one unnecessary bullet fired.

Even more “Gun Discrepancies” also occur in different ways. Another example is with the Laser Gun: it looks extremely intimidating & powerful as you are firing the beam at enemies. However, the gun is actually a lot weaker than it looks or sounds. You will require a very long & focused energy discharge just to kill the monsters you encounter, even some of the weaker ones.

Killing the human-hybrid monsters will make them drop money in the form of gold coins. Using Elliot or Dogs, you then pick up the spilled money, which you can later on use to buy food, weapons and ammo from Kimra Vending Machines, scattered throughout the entire island. This makes sense in a way: the hybrid creatures were once human beings that were infected with some sort of alien liquid goo (or maybe they were infected by the attacks of other invading creatures) which mutated them into the monsters that they have now become. Once you encounter these new hybrid mutants, you have to kill them to survive (obviously): you also have to kill them to get the money that they used to own when they were once human beings. That money comes in handy to make a number of item purchases from the expensive Kimra Vending Machines.

The down-side to all of this is “Grinding.” Yes, even in a seemingly action, sci-fi oriented adventure title like Blue Stinger, you are forced to “grind.” Essentially, you need food to heal your loss of health & you need to buy newer, better guns and ammo for EACH gun. Don’t forget to purchase better melee weapons as well. So, expect to kill a room full of monsters, exit the room, re-enter the same room, and kill all of the mutants that have once again re-spawned back to “life.” These beasties always drop a fresh set of gold coins for you to pick up. Picture your character entering into a familiar room or area, wiping out the human-hybrid creatures, picking up their left-over money, exiting the area/room, re-entering that same area/room to just repeat this same pattern over and over again. Why? To collect more money: that is the form of “grinding” you will be forced to engage in order to earn enough money you WILL need to make essential Health & Weapons Purchases. This Monotonous Grinding can start to get very annoying and frustrating for you as time goes by. You basically have to find a suitable section in Blue Stinger where you can stay for several minutes to even over an hour, essentially grinding for cash.

But, “Grinding” for cash is not the biggest offender in Blue Stinger. It’s the camera you have to work with during Active GamePlay. Basically, it is designed to re-position itself automatically behind your character (Elliot or Dogs) in order to give you the best view of the stage & of the on-screen action. The end results are frustrating however, because the camera almost always has a mind of it’s own and it occasionally flies around erratically, all while trying to swing back into position behind you. To put it bluntly, the camera’s extreme movements will make you dizzy & may even force you to take a break from playing Blue Stinger because of the negative effects it will have on you eyes.

While fighting off a monster, especially when you are engaging in physical combat with your bare hands or melee weapons, the camera tries to get behind you. If you move to avoid an enemy, to dodge an attack or if you move to get into a better position to finish off your current foe or to get ready to fight off other attacking enemies, the camera keeps on “automatically” trying to swing back into position behind you, while you are moving! The resulting effects are dizzying, frustrating and annoying. It’s almost like witnessing “visual chaos” in a sense. When your character is moving while fighting enemies that are also in motion with a gameplay camera that is trying to automatically move back behind your character, the results of these combined motions are bad. The dizzying effects will end up discouraging your from wanting to play further.

To make matters worse, the chaotic camera WILL behave even worse when your melee combat has to occur with very small & narrow spaces like at near walls, between corners or within doorways. Sometimes, the camera’s motion gets so bad that you lose track of enemies attacking you, even when you are shooting at them. In smaller, more enclosed areas, moving enemies can become almost impossible to kill due to mostly the way the chaotic camera keeps on trying to swing around behind you in an effort to keep up with the action. Bear in mind that your gun has auto aim, so if a fast moving or flying enemy attacks you, Elliot or Dogs will tend to turn as quickly as possible to try to get an auto aim lock on the nearest foe. This means that the chaotic camera will once again try to re-position itself every time your character turns to aim at the fast-moving monster. The bad camera’s erratic movements alone can cost you to lose health, waste ammunition, or even dying at the hands of creatures that are attacking you. If you can’t face an enemy to destroy it, you place yourself in harm’s way and the camera does a very poor job in assisting you with connecting your gun-shooting or melee attack moves on their intended targets.

Elliot & Dogs non-playable companion, “Nephilim” can also cause some annoying gameplay related problems, just by her simple on-screen presence. This alien entity in form of a woman floats around your character as he goes about his adventure. The problem is that she emits a very bright blue light from her entire body, and this “glow” is a bit too bright for your eyes.

Since Nephilim is literally flying around either Elliot or Dogs (regardless of who you are using), it is almost impossible to avoid looking at her annoying bright light. This “glow” can get even more intense when your character is navigating through smaller & narrower spaces near walls and doors. Nephilim is an integral part of the Blue Stinger plot so her presence is expected during the game, but she really does NOT have to be featured so prominently around your character during active gameplay because she becomes an unwanted distraction. Thankfully, she does not accompany Elliot or Dogs throughout the entire gameplay sections of the Blue Stinger. Her role shifts back to her involvement in the main storyline.

 

GAME CONTENT

Start-up “Blue Stinger,” and after the manufacturers title screens, you get the follow display after the main title screen:

PRESS START BUTTON

New Game: Start a brand new game from the beginning

Load Game: Load an existing SAVED FILE of a game already in progress (From 6 available VMU Slots)

OPTIONS

Difficulty: Change between EASY, NORMAL & HARD

Audio: Switch between MONO & STEREO Settings

There is only one main Game Play Mode, so do not expect any other extra modes by default. Start a New Game or continue playing from an already existing Save File. There are no additional modes or menus in this game. Its very bare-bones at best & it looks like the developers kind of missed out on opportunities to add-in fun extra modes for the gamer to play with.

Extra modes for Blue Stinger could have been given to the player in the forms a Boss Mode where you fight against only the Boss Monsters; Time Attack & Survival Modes that test your best time in defeating set number of enemies & how well you can survive waves of attacking enemies with limited guns & ammo, or with only certain types of melee weapons or guns. If these extra modes had been added into Blue Stinger, they may have actually gone a long way to extending the replayability & fun-factor of this title, outside of the Main Story Mode.

Blue Stinger is not divided into stages, but rather into rooms, areas, floors & sections. Initially, you don’t have full access to different areas, which are sealed away behind closed doors. Using Elliot or Dogs, you are guided by Janine or instructed by other human survivors, on where to go, what items to get & which doors to open. You WILL need Key Cards to open gates & door in order to advance further in Kimra City & deeper into other parts of the research facility. Even with powerful weapons, you can’t blast down any entrances, so you will have to go on scavenger hunts, trying to find electronic Key Cards, which look like Credit Cards. They will open doors, gates and other entrances for you to enter, so that you can pick up necessary items like food, ammo clips, computer discs, hand-cranks, guns, etc. Opening doors can also lead you rescue people or to retrieve life-saving items for them. In the end, successfully completing all of these activities eventually advanced the overall storyline, bringing you closer to the end.

Download Data Maps to see the entire area of where you currently are in. You don’t always need to refer to the maps to complete the game; but in case you do need them, they are typically available in the same area that you “Save” your Game File.

Now, if you like figuring out environmental puzzles, you will get a number of those in Blue Stinger. For example, you will need to use Dogs & Elliot to move heavy objects within an area in order to climb up on top on them, so that you reach hidden items that will aid you in advancing forward. Those puzzles are simple, but there are other puzzles that require you to guess the correct numbers to input into computers; those puzzles can be more complex or trickier to figure out. Depending on your patience level, some of the more complicated puzzles in Blue Stinger may frustrate you enough to perhaps make you refer to an online FAQ, an Official Strategy Guide, or even to turn the game off. If you want to finish the game very quickly, you will need FAQ or Strategy Guide assistance, because if you don’t, there are frustrating choke points which will slow you down considerably. Even if you are a creative-minded gamer who enjoys figuring out every facet of a game in order to win, there are some confusing puzzles & sections in Blue Stinger that are almost impossible to figure out on your own. You will essentially be forced to seek help from some sort of Game Guide so as to progress.

The cut-scenes are all done during the course of playing through Blue Stinger. You cannot collect or save any of the in-game cut-scenes or the CG cut-scenes for later viewing in a separate mode. To watch any of the cut-scenes, you pretty much have to play through the entire game and then watch them as the show up during the course of the game.

And speaking of the story in Blue Stinger, it works well for a sci-fi action adventure game. Little by little, the mystery of Dinosaur Island is revealed through people you encounter, events that occur and information from computers that you access about the activities of the Kimra Research Scientists. The story is not ground-breaking, even though it kinda does have a couple of twists; one you almost immediately figure out for yourself regarding two of the characters, while another one is a deeper, much more sinister secret that is literally about to cause even more chaos on Dinosaur Island & possibly the entire world!

For example, very early in “Blue Stinger,” you meet a very strange looking alien creature, which takes on the form of a human female. She is called “Nephilim” and she sometimes flies around Elliot & Dogs as they journey to various parts of the island on their many adventures. She can even fly through solid walls & physical objects. But, who or what is she exactly, and why is she even here on the Dino Isle? Where did she come from & what are her intentions? These are questions that are slowly uncovered through a variety of cut-scenes that are spread out evenly over the course of playing Blue Stinger.

There are few human beings left alive on Dinosaur Island and Elliot & Dogs encounter them in various scenarios. For example, there are actual short “Side-Missions” which you can choose to under-take. The goals of these side missions are to typically help a surviving human being to get medicine to heal them, to help them find something they lost, or to save their lives from malfunctioning equipment. A clock-timer automatically pops-up when you choose to help one of the citizens of the Kimra City. Finish the side-mission in time and your success is rewarded with a weapon, a key card, gun ammo, food, ammo clips, or valuable information. These side missions all occur during active gameplay & not as part of any separate mode. Failing the side missions typically won’t end your game, but you could lose obtaining valuable resources or vital information, not to mention you may end up letting an innocent human being die horribly.

Almost as soon as you walk into the Kimra City area, you will see dead bodies of the human beings who were attacked and killed by the first wave of mutants. In almost every single indoor and outdoor area, you will see the corpse of a person who tried to run away, defend themselves, defend others, or maybe they were caught completely unawares and were just brutally killed. These gruesome scenes of death lend heavily to the Blue Stinger’s M-Rating.

The M-Rating is also earned by the very violent ways you kill the monsters in the game. Any attack of yours that full connects draws large amounts of blood from the bodies of the freaks. If you use melee attack combos, you can literally start knocking off body parts of the monsters! The same thing occurs when you start shooting the creatures (the human hybrid ones in particular). Each fired projectile that strikes its mark begins to dismember the monster in question. With each successive bullet or beam strike, the mutant will lose an arm, a leg, its head, another arm, another leg, etc, until it drops dead for good. 

The prehistoric mutants come at you in all varieties: you have the main hybrid humans; giant dragonflies; hybrids of dinosaur & centipedes; a giant prehistoric bull; insect-bat mutant hybrids; larvae-like worms; large crawling bugs & mutant fish. And, that does not even include huge boss monsters, which either look like massive dinosaurs or like a combination of arachnid & aquatic creatures. Basically, all of the monsters are big and they are all variations of some sort of prehistoric mutation (mostly a hybrid of insect and reptile creatures). Their designs are creepy to look at, which is the point really: the developers want you to hate them enough to have that urge to kill them. They are well designed and ugly as they are, you can tell looking at them what animal they mutated from or what animals they are combination of.

The further into Blue Stinger you play, you will encounter larger & more powerful enemies. Some of them even become powerful enough to be considered as “Sub-Bosses,” which will require you to play more carefully to defeat them. Remember that a few weapon swings or a few shots fired will not take down the sub bosses. You will need bigger & better weapons in addition to have a bit more skill & patience to get the kill.

The CPU AI is decent: if monsters don’t see you because you are not in their direct line-of-sight, you can actually sneak up behind them & attack for the kill. If the creatures see you first, they make a beeline towards you & attack. Boss fights essentially boil down to shooting a rocket launcher & strafing around the monsters from right-to-left in a circular pattern. Just be sure to avoid their powerful attack which can kill in just a few hits.

 

SUMMARY & CONCLUSION

Considering that “Blue Stinger” was a First Generation Sega DreamCast title, it is technologically very impressive. The environments and the backgrounds are very well done, with loads of details to the how the walls, floors, doors, windows and the computer panel surfaces all look. Worn down equipment will have very rusted looks to them, with duller brown colors. The science labs have a polished & clinical look to them to reflect that they are for intellectual, scientific experimentations. There are some areas that look like prehistoric gardens that link certain interior corridors & rooms together, which is a cool type of stage design.

Character designs are okay for its time back in the late 1990s, but they are not the best. Characters hands & arms, especially their joints, look blocky & unrealistic. Odd skin tone colors and the somewhat cartoon-manga look of the character designs make the game look less of a survival horror title and more of a Saturday morning cartoon (until you see all of the very M-Rated blood & gore, that is).

The melee combat is a cool addition to Blue Stinger, but this is one gameplay feature that should have been amped up even further than it currently is. If you are going to be able to physically beat up monsters, then your character should be given more ways to fight the mutants, along with being able to pick up & throw the monsters as well as other objects in the environment.

A smart way to get most enjoyment out of the combat in this title is to combine both your Gun Play with your Melee Attacks. Shoot the monster to knock the down. Run up to them as they are getting up & use your best favorite melee weapon to finish them off for good. This method will have the additional benefit of helping you save on your ammunition count, in addition to making your fighting style look cool.

The music in Blue Stinger is easily its best feature, hands down. Every song on the soundtrack is worth listening to and they rarely ever get old or boring, even after hearing them over & over again. The mix of movie-style orchestra & symphonic tunes, all played to sound very urgent & upbeat, fit the actual serious & desperate tone of the game.

Sadly, the chaotic camera really, really hurts Blue Stinger, because its erratic movements very negatively impact your direct enjoyment of the gameplay. There will come a time when you actually start to wonder when you will be finishing the game for good, just so you don’t have to put up with the headache-inducing motions of the chaotic camera. Elliot & Dogs have to moving during combat, to match the movements of attack monsters. The camera tries to keep up with all the on-screen action, but it can’t seem to do that effectively, producing frustration instead. Add to the chaotic camera the annoying blue light of Nephilim & the constant need for monotonous “grinding” to obtain much needed funds for vital purchases, and you have a bad recipe for even more personal irritation at the combination of problematic gameplay features in this title.

The ironic thing is that the camera was modified for the U.S version of “Blue Stinger” so as to give the gamer more control over the angles & views during active gameplay. Unfortunately, the switch from the Japanese fixed camera system (which is a staple of the established Survival Horror genre) to the auto-resetting camera in the U.S release of Blue Stinger has not worked out very well for this game. Please bear in mind that the newer moving camera does have its advantages over the old fixed camera. The problem is that the way the camera constantly tries to move around your character so as to auto-reset behind them can get chaotic to watch, especially when they are attempting to navigate tight, narrow spaces and also especially during active combat.

Since no prequel, sequel or even ports were ever made for this Sega DreamCast exclusive title, Blue Stinger is literally one of a kind & will most likely attract collectors of older video game console titles.

It is worth noting here that Blue Stinger did have some gameplay & weapon concepts that borrowed from some prior entertainment sources, as well as it having its own original ideas done before those concepts appeared in later video games.

Some violent gameplay concepts like the “Strategic Dismemberment” of the various body parts of the attacking monsters, which show up in much later survival horror titles like “Dead Space” actually already existed as far back as the 1990s in Blue Stinger.

In Blue Stinger, weapons like the Stun Rod (and its shocking impact effects) preceded the “Beam Katana” from “No More Heroes.” Also, the Ray Sword in Blue Stinger pays a direct homage to the “Light Saber” from the “Star Wars” series. Later on in the game, there is even a gradual transformation sequence which resembles the changing mutation of “Brundle-fly” in the 1986 movie re-make of “The Fly.”

Blue Stinger may not be perfect or 100% innovative, but some of its action-oriented gameplay concepts took the survival horror genre in much more fast-paced directions, long before “Resident Evil 4, 5 & 6” every did so.

It may be considered by some diehard fans to be a true Sega favorite, but it is the persistent in-gameplay flaws that ultimately prevent “Blue Stinger” from becoming the highly rated DreamCast Classic title that it really deserves to be.


Grade: C-

Reviewed by Game-Quest-Ex


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