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Baldies – Atari Jaguar CD

Baldies – Atari Jaguar CD

BaldiesPlatform: Atari Jaguar CD

Developer: Creative Edge Software

Publisher: Atari

Release Date: 1995

Genre: RTS

Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Reviewed by The Cubist

 

Baldies is the closest thing to a “good game” that was ever released for the Jaguar CD. It can be a little confusing to really get into, and the gameplay would be better suited to a computer mouse, but it is the one game that’s worth owning on this console. Except that it’s not. While intended to be an Atari Jaguar CD exclusive, it was subsequently ported to the PC, Mac, PlayStation, and Sega Saturn following the unit’s monumental commercial failure. For a brief period however, it might’ve been the only saving grace for this flaky chunk of borderline useless hardware.

BaldiesBaldies is a real-time strategy game, similar to titles such as Age of Empires and the Stronghold franchise on a smaller scale. The player controls a civilization of apparent humans known as “Baldies,” each indistinguishable from the next except for their colored shirts. In each map (level) the player must build up a sufficient society of Baldies to combat other inhabitants on the map, generally taking of the form of “Hairies.” This is accomplished through a relatively complex system of breeding, housing, and training other Baldies. Four main types of Baldies are available: workers (who breed), builders (who build and maintain buildings), soldiers (duh), and scientists, who invent crazy ways to blow up the Hairies. Any Baldie (or is it Baldy?) can be changed to any other type of Baldy (I like this one better) with the click of a button.

Ostensibly, the goal is to breed a few Baldies, build a barracks, make some bullets, and send your soldiers off to annihilate the Hairies. As the levels increase in difficulty, it becomes necessary to adjust and augment this strategy by using scientists. The scientists invent stuff like “electro,” pits, springboards, and the popper (straight from the manual: “When someone walks over the popper they will be filled full of air until they explode.”) In more advanced levels, these inventions must be used carefully to give Baldies the advantage over Hairies and their mounting defenses. All in all it’s pretty fun when you get the hang of it, but getting the hang of it is a challenge in and of itself.

BaldiesIf you’re like me, you probably thought you could get away with slapping this thing in the Jag and playing it by ear until you figured out what was going on. It’s actually not too hard to stumble through a few levels doing this, but at some point you will disdainfully glance over at the inordinately thick manual. Half of the thing is written in French. Correction, a third of it is written in French, and another third in German, so you can relax.  A little. It’s still a bit of a complicated read, but the payoff is 80% worth it as you should have a decent time playing your way through the easy and intermediate maps. At some point the levels get too hard for me to care about figuring out, but that’s just me. Avid RTS fans should be well entertained.

I won’t fault Baldies too much for forcing me to read the instruction manual; it was the norm once upon a time. I wouldn’t expect the kind of in-game information that constantly nags at the player in today’s video games, but it would be nice if the developers would’ve included a tutorial level or a help button to explain certain features in detail.

Baldies OverlayNavigating around the screen and using all the little sub menus can be a bit of a pain in the ass, especially when the Baldies are walking around all over the place and it seems impossible to click on one or herd it where you want it to go. Of course the 12 “extra buttons” on the Jaguar controller act as shortcuts to various actions, but who really wants to deal with that? I do have the official overlay for Baldies, but I’m more interested in keeping it tucked way in the game case in pristine condition. Just think of the first time you ever played Sim City and had to deal with 14 menus at once with roughly 81 options or sub menus every time you clicked on anything. Eventually it becomes second nature.

BaldiesThe graphics are pretty lousy on this one, but it’s still better than the majority of what you’ll see on the Jaguar CD. Instead of the bright, cartoon-ish visuals on the package, most of the game is murky and indistinct, with the screen often dominated by blues, greens, grays, and browns stemming from the geography. Oh and the buildings are brown, the Baldies’ pants are brown, and the menus are sort of brown. Then there’re the tiny specs wandering around that don’t look much like people at all; our buffoon-ish, goofy-looking Baldies. It could look better, and it does get kind of boring, but ultimately it doesn’t interfere with gameplay.

There’s a catchy little musical number included as well. It had my 6 year old and I both humming it for hours afterwards, unfortunately it’s only about 40 seconds of music looped over and over and over and over and over and over throughout the course of the several hours it will take to complete Baldies. C’est la vie.

Jaguar CD Memory TrackIf you have the Memory Track cart for the Jaguar CD (I don’t (yet)), you can save your game with a few clicks. If you don’t, you can use a password, but you’ll have to wait until you’ve finished or failed a level to get one. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to generate a password in the middle of a current game, but truthfully I probably haven’t poked around enough to know for sure.

Creative Edge Software made a Windows sequel called Skull Caps in 1998, but nobody cared. There’s not even a Wikipedia article about it!FACT

So, is Baldies worth your time? I’d say so. It’s from a time when games were limited in complexity due to the amount of data a CD could hold and overall it’s an engaging example of an RTS with its own unique enough spin to keep it from feeling like something that’s already been done before. I will go so far as to say that you’re probably better off playing one of the other available ports. I don’t have a clue what the differences and similarities are between versions of Baldies, but I’ll venture to guess that any release was an upgrade to the Jaguar CD original, especially the PlayStation version released 8 years afterwards. PCs, Macs, and the other consoles boasting Baldies in their libraries surely had superior hardware to the Atari add-on, but perhaps the game may have increased its longevity amongst gamers had it remained “the only sortta cool game exclusive to the Jag CD.”

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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