For whatever reason game companies think the consoles need to have a slate of ‘game room’ games, simulations of contest often enjoyed in bars or family lounges such as pool, darts and so on. The NES has plenty of these types of games in their catalog, usually on stand-alone carts, but Sega tries to do them one better with this Compile-developed title (known in Japan as Family Games) which boasts three such games on one cartridge. The question now is whether this trio of games makes it worth your time to enter this parlor.
When you boot up the game you can choose from the three games, each of which can have up to four players. Up first is Billiards which is what you’d expect, a pool simulator. After you select the game type and number of players (or whether you want to play the computer for solo mode) you step up to the table and use your cue stick to hit the billiard balls into the pockets, only here you get just 10 solid-colored balls instead of the standard 15. The control method is rather simple to understand; you use an aiming cursor (that might remind gamers of the NES game Lunar Pool, which was also developed by Compile) to direct your shot then set the power meter and watch your avatar shoot the cue ball into action. In the standard game you set how many points you want to play to and every ball you sink in a pocket counts for one point. You can also play Rotation, which is just like the basic game only you score points based on the number of the ball. Then you have Nine Ball (hit balls 1-9 in the correct order to win) and the two-player only Five Ball (one player knocks balls 1-4, then 5 to win, the other player knocks balls 6-9, then 5 to win).
Next we have Darts, and again it’s just like the real-life game where you’re throwing darts at a dart board trying to hit certain spots to score points. A few options are present here as well, including the game type, skill level of the CPU opponent, and even the weight of the dart. The control method seems convoluted at first; after positioning your character you hold down Button 2 to charge your power meter then release it before hitting 2 again to pick the release point (the moving red cursor) and watch your dart fly, but after a bit of practice you won’t have too much trouble hitting the dartboard. The standard modes have you trying to score a certain amount of points (either 301 or 501) and the regular scoring is in effect, including the multiplier rings and the bulls eye. However you have to accumulate the exact amount of points and can’t go over or you bust. You also have Round the Clock where you try to hit areas 1-10 in sequence and Double Down which has you hitting spots in a certain order, including the multipliers.
Finally there’s World Bingo which is just what it says, a bingo simulator, though one that adds in a little gambling for whatever reason. When you begin you place a bet which activates a “feature block” on your bingo card, and the more money you bet the more feature blocks you activate. Then you pull the arm on a slot machine that draws your number. After each turn you can rotate the numbers on your card and the goal is to get as many numbers of one line on the bingo card as possible in order to get more money and tries. Not surprisingly this is the worst of the three games as it’s just plain boring and depends entirely on luck instead of actual skill. You also don’t get a CPU opponent here, meaning you can play the game entirely by yourself.
Altogether this compilation is fairly competent for the most part. The billiard and dart games are both pretty well made with decent graphics and smooth animation, plus you get some nicely drawn scenes at the conclusion of each game. The music is nothing memorable but isn’t really offensive either and the sound effects do their job. Also the computer opponents in each game provide a good and fair challenge for solo players. The only real issue is that your enjoyment will mainly depend of how much you like these games in real life; if you aren’t a fan of either sport this cart won’t do anything to convert you. Plus it won’t be long before some repetition sets in, even with all the options available. World Bingo, on the other hand, feels too much like a waste of cartridge space with its minimal visuals and snooze-inducing gameplay and you’ll be wishing Compile scrubbed it in favor of a more entertaining game room contest, like an air hockey sim or something.
So Parlour Games doesn’t score a bullseye but is a solid cart for the most part and two of the three games will entertain you for a while, especially with two or more players involved. But again it’ll be fans of these type of games who’ll appreciate this collection the most, and having a better collection of contests would have definitely made this cart more enticing. At the very least it’s better than half the games we’ve seen on the Master System thus far.