Thursday, 21 June 2018

Flicky Flicks Round 4

Oh hey, how's it going? Yes, amazingly we are back again! Not only that but it only took us three months this time (as opposed to a year with the last round), although it looks as though we've lost Dave (Grumpy McUnt) in that time who, despite keenly nominating a film for this round, completely failed to even watch any of them never mind write any reviews! Never mind good sir, we understand. Even Chip, the de facto leader of Flicky Flicks didn't manage to get half of his reviews written either.

Nevertheless, puffing along like an asthmatic bulldog though we may be, we have now (for the most part) finished the latest round which was, as chosen by Pinbot who was once again victorious, based on the films of Sigourney Weaver. These covered a wide range of genres as well as decades and were also of varying quality, but here are the films we plumped for. As always, the winner will be ceremoniously revealed (by way of tootles) at the end of the exhaustive post!

Alien (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Nominated By: Neptune King of the Sea Running Time: 117 Minutes


When the crew of the cargo ship Nostromo are woken from stasis by 'Mother', their huge ship's computer, they are forced to investigate the planet the caught its attention. It appears rocky and barren but is transmitting a signal. The subsequent investigation ends when a crab-like creatures attaches itself to a crew member and, unknown to the crew, implants a larval alien creature which is soon hunting the rest of the crew as it grows ever larger and more lethal...

Friday, 15 June 2018

How Much? Turning Racing Games Into Reality

Well, kind of. Racing games have pretty much always been among the most popular of all games, and examples over the years have featured vehicles of all sorts of different shapes and types. Many of the most iconic of these are of course mental track cars like the F1 and LMP types (Continental Circus, WEC Le Mans, Winning Run, etc) which few of us will even have the chance to get run over by never mind drive for ourselves. Many others are not even real (Road Blasters, Daytona USA, Ridge Racer, Burnout, etc) so it doesn't matter how much we might want them.

Some, though, are real, so if you really wanted to, the potential is there to live out your fantasies and recreate your favourite game in real life! In a more realistic and responsible manner, naturally, but still, it's not beyond reason that some of us could be able to drive or even own one of our favourite cars from our favourite game of yesteryear. I decided, therefore, to see just how realistic this might be by looking at a handful of examples along with the price potential buyers might expect to pay.

Ferrari F40
As seen in... Turbo OutRun & Crazy Cars III (amongst others)


A jaw-dropping revelation when it first appeared and still widely regarded as one of the best supercars ever made, Ferrari's celebration of itself (it was designed to celebrate their 40th anniversary) was immediately iconic. It was therefore not an enormous surprise to see it represented in the world of gaming soon after its real unveiling. The first game I remember seeing it in was Sega's splendid Turbo OutRun but it was also featured prominently in Titus's home computer release, Crazy Cars 2, although in this case most gamers quickly realised its inclusion was the only good thing about the frankly rather awful game.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Steam / GOG Downloads #5

Venture Kid (2018)
By: FDG Entertainment Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Android, iOS


Almost three years ago now I had a look at a spiffing new retro-style platformer from those splendid folk at FDG. I can't quite believe it has been that long actually but happily the game has not disappeared into oblivion in that time as one might have feared and is now complete and available to buy! As mentioned all those long years ago, it's a platform-shooter inspired by some of the finest 80's examples of the type such as Mega Man. Perhaps unsurprisingly it is also therefore based, from a technical point of view, on the system on which many of these games appeared - the NES. That should already give you a good idea of what it's like, even if you haven't looked into it previously, and it also gives it a lot to live up to. The NES games were among the most beloved of the era after all!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Wifey's Watches #1

Once Upon a Time (2011 - Present)

I must admit to having misgivings about this show prior to seeing it, simply due to its premise. All the fairy tale stuff just seemed a bit too childish for my liking, even with the interesting twist they've put on it - namely, that the characters taken from the various fairy tales and folk stories have been robbed of their memories, transported to our real life present-day world, and left to live new, unchanging lives in a fictional town in Maine called Storybrooke. All this is of course part of a dastardly plot by the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) who used a powerful curse obtained from Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). About the only person in the town unaffected by all this magical tomfoolery is Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a newly arrived bail-bonds person who, along with her son, must break the evil queen's spell, return everyone's memories, and generally save the day.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Arcade Shmups #25

Plus Alpha (1989)
By: Jaleco Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 254,500 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing


It's unusual for me to find a shoot 'em up I've never heard of, what with them being one of my favourite genres and all, but here's one from Jaleco which popped onto my radar only recently thanks to the RGF Shmup League. It wasn't very popular with those guys as I recall, but I quite liked the look of it so... let's take a look! Lord only knows if it has a back-story - I assume so judging by the title screen film reel which shows a few stills of stuff happening - but it was released in Japan only as I understand it, and converted to no home systems, so it's likely I'm far from the only one who has never heard of it, and detailed info on the game and/or its background appears to be rather on the scarce side!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Retro News - Psyvariar Returns!

Psyvariar Delta by Dispatch Games (2018) - PS4, Switch

Well, kind of. Most shooter fans will no doubt recall the year 2000 excitedly, for it was the hallowed year Success Corporation unleashed the mighty Psyvariar on Japan's arcades (who remembers those places?). A few years later it was ported to the PS2 and also received a sequel, but that was all we saw of the series. Now, however, it's set to return to thrill and/or vex another generation of gamers! Sadly it's not a brand new sequel/reboot as I'd hoped and is instead a port of Psyvariar Revision, an updated version of the original, but it's better than nothing. Switch and PS4 owners will be the lucky recipients from this summer when it's scheduled to arrive, all guns blazing, and this time is seems gamers in the oft-neglected Western Hemisphere will have the chance to buy it without resorting to a 'grey' import too (chortle). There's no word yet on any possible new features, which will hopefully include new game modes and/or even some new stages, but I'm sure fans will be lining up to buy this regardless. Well, the digital download equivalent anyway. Unless it gets a physical release. Which would be nice. Anyway, just a quick shout out to you bullet-hell aficionados - start counting the days if you haven't already! (unless you're an Xbox owner - tee hee!)

Thursday, 3 May 2018

TV Shows #16 - Part 2

Wayward Pines Season Two (2016)
Developed By: Chad Hodge Starring: Jason Patric, Nimrat Kaur, Josh Helman, Tom Stevens, Kacey Rohl, Hope Davis, Djimon Hounsou, Charlie Tahan, Shannyn Sossamon, Tim Griffin, Melissa Leo, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42-44 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

Tagline: "Who shall inherit the earth?"


Even though the first season was expected to be the only season, and despite it ending with what could be considered a (fairly) satisfactory conclusion, a second season of Wayward Pines did nonetheless stagger into view eventually. As we discovered around the middle of the first season, the shocking truth mentioned by Sheriff Pope was indeed 'worse than anything we could imagine', or worse than the poor old residents of the town could imagine at least - namely, that it's now the year 4028 and the human race is all but extinct, having evolved (or devolved?) into snarling carnivores with sharp claws and fangs known as 'abbies' (short for aberrations) who now run rampant over, presumably, the entire planet.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Sonic the Hedgehog Series - Part 1

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
By: Sonic Team / Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy
Featured Version: Sega Mega Drive / Genesis First Day Score: 194,390
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy Advance (ports)
PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC (on compilations)

Download For: Android, iOS, Wii Virtual Console


There have been a lot of 'landmark' games over the years. I remember the release of many of them - the excitement as their release neared as well as the furore that usually followed - but as a console gamer of the mid-to-late 80's and early 90's (predominantly), one of the examples I remember the best was the original Sonic game. Most who played it agreed it was a fantastic release - groundbreaking from a technical point of view and great fun to play. Some even claimed it saved Sega from certain defeat by Nintendo. How close that is to being true I'm not certain but one thing is for sure: it helped shift a crapload of Mega Drives (and Master Systems) and firmly cemented its turbo-charged star in videogaming folklore. From the opening 'SAY-GAA!' to the iconic title screen with its punchy theme tune, it was an instant hit with players before they'd even... well, played it.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Space Stuff - Messier Objects Part 3

Charles Messier (1730 - 1817) was a French astronomer who spent much of his life identifying various star clusters, galaxies, nebulae, and other notable occupants of our glorious heavens. Ironically, it wasn't even his aim to create a comprehensive list or catalogue of interesting sights - he actually did it purely as part of his efforts to hunt down comets which was his primary goal - but make a list he did, and such was the importance of it and the many discoveries on it, the list of 'Messier Objects' has remained in regular use to this day by amateurs and professionals alike.

This could be down to the fact that the list contains many of the biggest, brightest, and best-known (and therefore most popular) objects to be found. Indeed, many of us will have grown up seeing or hearing about a lot of them, myself included, without ever knowing what they are or even what they're called. There are 110 objects in Messier's catalogue too, which means simpletons like me often forget about some or get others mixed up, so I figured it might be worth listing them here. The third such post is therefore thus. The pics should all be 1200x900, hope you like them :)

Part One can be found here; Part Two can be found here

M81 / Spiral Galaxy
"Bode's Galaxy"
M82 / Starburst Galaxy
"Cigar Galaxy"

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Splendid Arcade Music #2

Space Harrier (1985)

So there I was, sitting at my desk at work, back aching as I tipped and tapped away on my keyboard doing my largely inconsequential work while also thinking about all the blog stuff I want to do but don't have time for, when I realised something. I was listening to a variety of music as I worked and when I got to Space Harrier it made me think: it's a pretty old game now, from an innovative era where tech and ideas evolved quickly; could it be the earliest game to actually have great music?

Now, before you all start reeling off lists of examples, I'm very well aware of lots of earlier games that featured appealing, catchy tunes and jingles, but while I was listening to the awesomeness that is Space Harrier's main theme, I was struggling to think of any games that featured what you might actually call a high quality musical composition that predate the 1985 release of Yu Suzuki's classic shooter. You know, the kind of music that's so good you might play the game just to hear it...

I'm probably wrong of course, as is frequently the case, but it certainly doesn't hurt to shine the retro spotlight on this stonking game once again, and particularly its (underappreciated?) music which, like the more celebrated Out Run and After Burner, is the work of the supremely talented Hiroshi Kawaguchi who is now one of the few staffers of that era still at Sega. It might not have a fancy name like Magical Sound Shower but this must surely be one of first truly great pieces of game music?

(full Space Harrier review here)



Special Note: I didn't record this great tune myself, I'm just an admirer, so all credit to, firstly the original composer, and secondly the YouTube user who uploaded it!
 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

TV Shows #16 - Part 1

Wayward Pines Season One (2015)
Developed By: Chad Hodge Starring: Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Shannyn Sossamon, Reed Diamond, Tim Griffin, Charlie Tahan, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Hope Davis

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42-44 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

Tagline: "A place to die for."


With some TV shows it can take a lot to secure your interest but with others it's incredibly simple. This was the case, for me at least, with Wayward Pines. It's based on a trilogy of novels by Blake Crouch and also bears the name of M. Night Shyamalan heavily on promotional material who was indeed involved in the project to bring the novels to our screens, acting as executive producer and also directing the first episode. That already made it sound promising and I wouldn't have blamed myself for being pulled in by that superb cast either, but it was actually just a brief 10 second synopsis that did the trick. I can't remember exactly what it was now, oddly enough, but it was something along the lines of "Guy wakes up in some weird town and is unable to leave again" and that does kind of sum up the show, or the first half of the first season anyway.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Star Control - Part 8

It has been a while since I took a look at the wonder that is Star Control 2 - still my favourite of all time - but news that my good friend Luke had finally started playing it after 20-odd years of periodic urging by me had brought it back into my spotlight, and that means I felt inclined to burble on about it again. But what else is there to write about? I've already taken detailed looks at the various spacecraft, the story, and of course reviewed the actual game and its prequel, so what else is there?

Why yes that's right, I could take a look at the many alien races themselves! Okay, maybe it's just an excuse to post about my favourite game yet again but I think it's a pretty good one - seldom have I played a game with such a varied, eclectic roster of species. Many are perhaps not terribly realistic or even a bit gimmicky (a bit like pro wrestling around the same time, in fact), but they are appealing and memorable all the same. There are quite a few as well though, so I'll split this into several parts, the first two of which will feature the friendlier half of the roster...

Spoiler Warning! - It's probably not really worth mentioning for a 25-year-old game but just in case - the following post will likely contain some small spoilers relating to Star Control 2 and the story found in its main game, so proceed with caution if you've yet to play through it! (assuming you plan to) :)

Ariloulaleelay

These excitable fellows, known as Arilou for short, are the Star Control universe's equivalent of 'little green men', having dropped by our humble home on many occasions over the years. Although they are likely responsible for the spate of abductions during the 20th and early 21st centuries, they only revealed themselves to us when we joined the Alliance of Free Stars, disappearing just as suddenly at the end the first Ur-Quan war when we were slave-shielded on Earth.

Quite why they've taken such an interest in our race they haven't revealed, but they seem keen to ensure no harm comes to us. You get to visit their homeworld in the game too, which takes some finding - it isn't even in 'normal' space! The quicker you find them though, the faster you can progress through the game (the first time at least), for they have lots of helpful info and tips to offer including some vital locations. They even give you a few of their zippy little Skiff ships.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Top Five Cars I Remember From My Top Trumps

They might not be videogames but I bet I'm far from the only one who spent a lot of time playing Top Trumps during my formative years. Perhaps their appeal came from their simplicity, with players simply comparing stats on cards featuring all manner of different themes. I had a good few packs, most of which featured motor vehicles of some sort - I had a Formula 1 pack, a rally pack; even trucks and superbikes. One pack was my definite favourite though, although I can't actually remember the name of it now. Sports cars, maybe?

Hmm, anyway, whatever it was called it featured some cracking cars through the deck - mostly sports and supercars from the late 70's up to about the mid 80's, and there were also some crazy customised 'normal' cars included - I particularly recall some insane VW Golfs - but there were a certain few cars that have become iconic for me, simply because of the game and how often I used to play it, usually with my good friend Luke who I suspect will also remember it well. Out of all the wonders included, these are the five that have stuck in my mind most firmly:

5 - Lamborghini Countach

This sleek black speedster looked more like a spaceship from some far-fetched sci-fi film back in the 80's and it moved about as quickly as one too! It was just as notable for us Top Trump players - whomever had this card held a big advantage for the rest of the game thanks to its amazing stats. As I recall, it was the fastest car in the whole deck at a mind-blowing 188mph. I don't think it was quite that fast in reality but it's still a highly memorable car for all kinds of reasons...

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Adult Games #8

Imouto Paradise! (2011)
By: Moonstone Cherry Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Android, DVD


The first title screen I've ever had to censor here - eeek!
Despite the best of intentions, my experience of visual novels has remained fairly limited since I first discovered them a few years back. The few I have tried all seem to have some sort of pervy content too, and few more than this one. I think it aroused my interest (no pun intended) when I saw a few screenshots somewhere and liked its visual style. Upon playing it, however, I quickly found that it's premise was one of a highly questionable nature. You play as high school student Soichiro Nanase who lives with his parents and five younger sisters. The game takes place during the summer holidays at a time when their parents have gone on an overseas trip leaving the six siblings alone. This leaves you, as Soichiro, to pursue inappropriate relations with whichever of his sister takes his fancy.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Flicky Flicks Round 3

Oops! I think after a strong and enthusiastic start from the six of us who collectively comprise Team Flicky, our film-watching exploits known as Flicky Flicks kind of went off the rails a bit. We were supposed to be doing a round per month, which might in retrospect have been a bit ambitious since we all have families and full-time jobs and all that, but it has been over a year since we started this round. Oh dear :(

Nonetheless, we are still kind of puffing along and this third round - the theme for which was sequels - was pretty much concluded just before Christmas for most of us (although it looks as though Dave (Grumpy McUnt) has now bowed out), but it has taken me this long to write my mini-reviews for each film. Oops again! Anyway, here are the films we chose - the winner will as always be revealed at the end!

The Godfather Part II (1974)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, Morgana King, John Cazale, Marianna Hill, Lee Strasberg

Nominated By: Liam Running Time: 200 Minutes


Following the violent conclusion to the acclaimed original film, this sequel picks up soon afterwards with Michael Corleone (Pacino) now firmly in place as head of the crime family bearing his name, but his life is becoming complicated, with an attempt made on his life and problems with new business arrangements in Cuba, while back home he is facing a government investigation into his family and related business dealings. As this is going on, a series of flashbacks shows how his father (De Niro) rose to power upon his arrival in the U.S. around 40 years earlier...