Junction

 

… I understand.

 

Grade-A bull plop.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Micronet (JP), Konami (US?)

DEVELOPER: Micronet

GENRE: Puzzle

DIFFICULTY: Excruciating

RELEASE DATE: 11/25/90 – (JP)

                                             04/91 – (US)

 

Let me see if I understand this correctly. A charming Mega Drive title like Rainbow Islands Extra is never ported outside of Japan, presumably because American gamers only want “mature” arcade titles on the Genesis. But weird crap like Junction, with its emphasis on stoned armadillos and stunningly hard ball puzzles, makes it to our shores just fine? An injustice of minimal proportions.

 

Fun’s not here, man…

 

In Junction, each level contains an isometric field of tracked sliding tiles and a ball that moves automatically among them. In order to keep the ball on the tracked tiles, you slide the tiles around to provide a continuous path. When the ball has eliminated the bridged tracks that run along the border of the puzzle field, the level is complete. While most of the tiles have some sort of tracking that allows the ball to roll on them, some tiles are completely smooth. If the ball hits one of these smooth tiles, it disappears and you have to start over. For added flavor, there are also gold tiles which can’t be moved.

 

I’d rather be doing anything else.

 

Junction starts off difficult before working its way up to impossible. Guiding the ball to the bridged tracks along the border of the puzzle field isn’t even about trial-and-error. You only have seconds to figure out where you need to slide the tiles before the ball makes its way to them. Basically, if you don’t know which tiles need sliding right as the level starts, you’re screwed. The ball moves slowly across the tiles, but it seems fast when you’re trying to figure out which tile to slide next. There’s also an unforgiving time limit, enemies you can’t avoid, and when you pause the game, the puzzle field blacks out so you can’t figure out a path and “cheat.” I’ve played thousands of games in my life, and I have never played a more unforgiving puzzle game than Junction.

 

The game is onto our cheating ways.

 

Junction has fifty levels, and there’s only three ways to get through them all: be a Mensa-level superstar, practice really hard for years on end, or be lucky and hope that the game’s items get you through. Look out for a large ‘P’ which will slow your ball down, a pause button that slows enemy movements, and a clock which increases your remaining time. Jeers to the fast-forward item, which makes your ball move faster.

 

Pyramids, ooze, and a new age soundtrack? Junction‘s an Illuminati product, for sure.

 

In addition to items, you’re able to speed up your ball by pressing ‘B,’ and slow it down by pressing ‘A.’ Unfortunately, your slowdown ability has a limited number of uses. Once it’s gone, it never returns. Not in the next level, not in ten levels down the line. Never.

To Micronet’s credit, the options menu does allow you to make Junction easier, however slightly. You can switch the difficulty to Easy, which extends the time limit and eliminates any enemies. You can also increase your lives from three to eight, and pick any of the fifty levels to start from. In lieu of a password feature, which Junction doesn’t have, the latter is a necessity.  You don’t actually have to beat all fifty levels to see Junction‘s ending, but you do have to acquire a certain amount of points before you beat the fiftieth level. Only the dankest of armadillos will survive.

 

Not even Easy mode can tame this stage.

 

You can always tell when a company doesn’t know how to make a game sound appealing. Other than that rated ‘H’ nonsense, Junction‘s American box art doesn’t provide any glimpse into the game, and the following ad straight up lies to us.

 

 

Yes, I understand ads are designed to make something appear more alluring than it actually is, and in that sense, they lie all the time. Still, “action game masterpiece?” I forgive the incorrect use of the word “masterpiece,” but unless you consider strenuous brain exercise the equivalent of Steven Seagal kicking a dude off a building, there’s no way Junction could be considered action. For shame, Micronet.

 

And now, for no reason, a picture of the Wright Brothers plane.

 

Maybe Taito was being fiscally responsible in their decision to not port Rainbow Islands Extra to the Genesis. That said, there’s no way Micronet and Konami sold more than five copies of Junction. Overly difficult puzzles and obscure marketing that make the game sound more exciting than it really is, all but destined it for FuncoLand bargain bins everywhere.

 

D

 

Another riveting episode of “Nova.”

 

Which came first, the armadillo or the cherry Gobstopper?

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Micronet

DEVELOPER: Micronet

GENRE: Puzzle

DIFFICULTY: Hard

RELEASE DATE: 02/24/91 – (JP)

                                              12/91 – (US)

 

Junction is a better fit on the Game Gear. The isometric view featured on the Genesis version has been replaced with a top-down view that makes the game slightly easier. And, as we all know, puzzle games are just a nicer fit on portable systems. You didn’t purchase a Genesis for $149.99 to play a puzzle game at home, unless you’re a rich grandma with nothing but time.

 

That top-down good good.

 

Even with a top-down view, Junction is still stinkin’ hard. Again, the options menu is a Godsend, as it allows you to change the difficulty to Easy and raise the amount of lives from 3 to 8. A must! One feature not present in the Genesis version is a bonus game that appears after every tenth stage. In the game, you stop three armadillos that spin continuously around. If they face you when they stop, you win a free life!

 

I let you down… I let you all down.

 

Junction with toned down difficulty and added portability is a definite improvement over the Genesis version. I’m still not a fan of the game, but at least the Game Gear version is playable, and perhaps for the right person, enjoyable.

 

C-

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25 thoughts on “Junction

  1. I never had the patience for most console puzzle games, unless they had some kind of extra mechanic or other series tie-in to give it some pizazz (like the Puzzle Fighter series). The sole exception was Wildsnake for the SNES, because I like both snakes and Tetris, and I inherited the cartridge from a friend and became weirdly addicted to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Though in typical “old games are really hard” fashion, you won’t be able to see the ending unless you beat all fifty levels in a row.

    That’s not accurate — you don’t have to beat all 50 in a row, you just have to have a certain minimum score when you beat Level 50 to see the ending. I’ve beaten Junction (on Normal difficulty, not Hard), and didn’t have too much trouble reaching that minimum score.

    Beating Level 50 then unlocks some additional levels, BTW, which are fiendishly tough but can be beaten (and I did). I personally find MegaPanel a tougher customer than Junction, but that’s me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think there’s a good reason Micronet no longer makes games (they apparently still exist). Although it probably has more to do with the fact that all of their games were pretty consistently awful rather than this one weird niche game. I mean, just wait until you get to Heavy Nova.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I never played those, I did a quick Google search before I posted and saw that people don’t like the first one, although the sequel actually seems pretty well liked.

        Like

      • The first Warrior of Rome game is pretty wretched, but I liked the second one, Warrior of Rome II, a lot. It’s slow and requires a lot of micromanagement, but if you tune into its wavelength it’s pretty hypnotic. That said, the Twitch streamer Sharpieplays recently played through WOR2 and HATED it, so I think it’s one of those games most people won’t like or have much patience/sympathy for.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not a fan of puzzle games in general only the evergreen Tetris and Lemmings have ever held my attention. After playing this and Megapanel my opinion hasn’t changed.

    This game is far to tough to be fun, why the hell can’t you pause it to try and figure out a strategy- fascists !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember getting the Game Gear version of this in a lot of used games.

    I played it for about 5 minutes before tossing it aside and getting rid of it a week later.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeesh.

    Picross games tend to be good console/portable puzzlers. Blurring the genre lines a little, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is beyond brilliant. I can’t think of another 20 hour game I restarted straight away upon completion, and my wife and I must have spent several hundred hours playing it head to head. Puzzle Quest does ok too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: What’s Next! – November 1990 | Sega Does

  8. Good review, Dylan. I’m glad you slog through some of these clunkers so we don’t necessarily have to, unless we have an itch for self-flagellation and punishment. In any event, I was always curious about Junction, but never enough to buy a copy. I don’t think the local video store had a copy for rent, either. No one I know had a copy, and I’m sure I only knew about it because I saw ads in VG&CE at the time. Also, weird side note, the Junction armadillo character always oddly reminded me of the Mission 3 end boss in Shinobi, probably because of the whole ’round character with hard shell on the back’ motif.

    Liked by 1 person

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