Friday, 27 May 2016

Retro News - Classic Game, New Conversion!

The Spectrum was my main source of gaming for so long that it's really hard to pick one single favourite game for it, but one title that has always been up there is Head Over Heels. It was originally made for the Speccy and remains associated with the system more than any other despite being converted to many other formats of the day. There was a fancy remake for the PC a good few years ago now (available here if you're interested) but it's the conversions for the older systems that I've been looking at. One was for the MSX and that version, like many others, looks very much like the original, but now there's a version for the mighty MSX2 as well.

It arrives courtesy of FX Software, a Spanish homebrew developer I believe (I haven't really been able to find much info on him/them) who have already remade Batman, the spiritual predecessor of this game. This latest project has been followed with much interest by the MSX community and recently came to my attention as well, simply because it's Head Over Heels. And Head Over Heels is well awesome. But it also looks like a really nice version of Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond's wonderful game. The latter's lovely monochrome graphics were positively brimming with creativity and character and suited the Speccy perfectly but, as alluded to earlier, most of the other versions were not really adapted to utilise that system's strengths and were instead very close to the Speccy version. Some had the odd splash of colour here and there while others were seemingly direct ports, and consequently, despite being universally adored, it's not really a game that's been regarded as much of a looker.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Steam / GOG Downloads #1

Pang Adventures (2016)
By: DotEmu / Pastagames Genre: Shooting / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS

As you may recall from the preview here a few months back, one of the numerous retro-flavoured indie projects I've been looking forward to is the latest game to feature the Pang name. Some of you may be more familiar with the series by its rather annoying American name, Buster Bros, but whatever you knew it as (and I'd like to applaud the use of the correct name here), it sure is great to see it back. Unsurprisingly it's more of a reboot than a sequel and follows a similar format to the original game: aliens have invaded and unleashed their devastating 'attack balls' on the world's major cities. It's your job (and an optional friend's) to take them all out by bursting them with your harpoon gun.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Film Round-Up #14

Well, I think it's safe to say that if any time is 'Leo Time', it's right now. Fresh off his remarkable performance in The Revenant and having been the talk of the town (and subject of countless Facebook memes) in the subsequent few weeks, the profile of Leonardo DiCaprio has surely never been higher than it is right now? Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has finally (belatedly?) received the Oscar for Best Actor thanks to his turn as the determined (to put it mildly) Hugh Glass.

Is it his best performance? Probably. But is it his most entertaining film to date? I guess that's down to personal taste, but perhaps not. Either way, I figured this was an appropriate time to find that out so I've been looking back at some of his previous films. Here are the first few I've watched with more probably to be seen soon!

The Beach (2000)

One of the first of Leo's films since a Titanic-fuelled career boost was this Danny Boyle-directed effort, adapted from Alex Garland's novel of the same name, and stars him as an American back-packer who, in Thailand, is given directions to a beautiful-but-forbidden island. Of course, he goes there and finds a small community of fellow back-packers living self-sufficiently. He is allowed to stay and join their community, but only if he keeps it secret. All goes well for a while but naturally their perfect little paradise is eventually disrupted by first a tragic incident, then an innocent (at the time) indiscretion. This makes it very much a film of two halves and I enjoyed the first a lot. Leo's character, while as charming as always, is also a bit of an arrogant twonk, but it's still one of those films that makes you want to be there for real. The community's lifestyle is made to look very appealing and the scenery is stunning, but then the tone of the film changes completely in the second half which pretty much destroys what it had built up. I suppose the point is to abruptly take you out of your comfort zone, and it works, but it's done very clumsily and nearly ruins the film for me... 6/10

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Indie News / Previews #2 (Part 2)

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom by FDG Entertainment (2015) - PC

Some of you might recall a short news/preview item I posted here a while ago regarding what could end up being one of the most awesome indie games ever - Monster Boy, a kind of remake/sequel to the great Wonder Boy games of the past. And now, a tad more a year since the previous post, I found myself wondering where it had gotten to. It was due for release sometime during 2015 after all, but alas. Fearing the worst, I looked into it and found that it's merely delayed rather than cancelled. It has undergone a name change, with 'Cursed Kingdom' replacing 'Wizard of Booze' in the title, but it's very much still underway. In fact, it's looking very much like it's nearly ready...

Monday, 18 April 2016

Bomberman Series - Part 13

Bomberman '94 a.k.a. Mega Bomberman (1993)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Maze  Players: 1-5  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 71,100
Also Available For: MegaDrive
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

This amazingly awesome series had taken a detour to SNES-ville since its last PCE instalment but it was probably still its last entry on NEC's wonderful box of tricks that was considered the best. It retained the same basic gameplay as the rest of the series but the visuals, audio, and stage design were all better than ever. So much so, in fact, that it was hard to see how the format could be improved any further. That didn't stop Hudson from making a swift return to their favourite system to try though. Expectations would be higher than ever but initial impressions were very positive. Having said that, the link-up mode present in '93 seems to be missing from the title screen here but the more important 'Normal' and 'Battle' games are present and correct, and it's also hard not to notice a green kangaroo-like creature present here as well, being ridden by an excited-looking White Bomberman. What in the blue blazes could that be? I shall henceforth find out.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Real Life Getting In The Way Again...

Oh, hello there, how's stuff n junk? :) As some of you have seemingly noticed, Red Parsley has been somewhat bereft of new posts lately. There are several reasons for this - the loss of my job, a couple of personal problems, and an ongoing health issue have naturally meant my now-abundant spare time has been taken up dealing with those matters, and I've also recently been on another holiday with my lovely wife.

As I'm sure won't be a surprise to those who know me, the latest trip was once again to Brazil where we took in Brasilia (for the 5th time), Rio de Janeiro (for the 2nd time), and Buzios (for the 1st time). The latter is a small, jagged peninsula located within Rio de Janeiro state about 2-3 hours from the city after which it was named. Here we had rented a villa/cottage-type thing along with some of the wife's family and a couple of her friends and, while offering a wonderful distraction from life's... complications, what with the swimming pool and barbecue and game room and glorious beaches just a few minutes away, I still found I couldn't truly relax. Other matters were weighing on my mind I suppose, and sadly this feeling of disconcertment continued upon our return home and endures right up to the present day, to my not inconsiderable anguish.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Star Trek #13

Voyager Favourite Episodes - Season Six

As I mentioned in the last Voyager-related post, the fifth season was definitely the best so far. Having now gone through the sixth season as well, I'd say my previous assessment remains true. That isn't to say this season is bereft of greatness though, for there are lots of great moments and more than just five good episodes too.

Other episodes included as varied stories as usual: some of the other drones from Seven's unimatrix turn up seeking the same independence she now enjoys, B'Elanna dies and goes to Klingon hell (temporarily of course), Tom becomes obsessed with an alien shuttle he buys to fix up, Tuvok becomes friends with Neelix after suffering brain damage, the Delta Flyer gets stuck inside a weird orange 'graviton ellipse' thing which previously swallowed a 21st century NASA command module, Seven goes crazy and turns into a conspiracy theorist, the crew bumble around in their stupid Irish holodeck town, the Doctor becomes a revered opera singer, and in one interesting episode, Chakotay, Tom, Harry, and Neelix all begin suffering from horrifying flashbacks of being engaged in a bloody battle when they return from an away mission, and before long, everyone else starts having flashbacks too!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Even More Speccy Loading Screens!

Jeepers, just when I thought I'd finished posting selections of my favourite Speccy loading screens (see the last of the five parts here), I discover yet more evidence of the awesomeness of the retro community. This latest selection of images, you see, were all created by talented Speccy fans and posted over at the 'ZX Art' page.

I've only just discovered this superb site but it's chock-full of fantastic examples of Speccy artwork. The ones I've posted here are just a random selection of ones that caught my eye and as you can probably tell, most of them are made in the style of loading screens. Some are even 'remakes' of existing loading screens.

If you've perused these gorgeous images and like what you see, I strongly urge you to visit the ZX Art site and take a look at some of the other great work there. And just for the record, I didn't make any of these myself - the name of each artist is in brackets in the filename of each image - full credit goes to them...

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Maze Games #14

Cloud Kingdoms (1991)
By: Millennium Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga
Also Available For: Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64

Having somehow never previously heard of Cloud Kingdoms, it was some appealing box-art that first drew me to it. It features a rather odd but amusing green creature, largely spherical but for a sizable conk, holding a bottle or lemonade whilst surrounded by several similar but more hostile-looking creatures of differing colours, as well as a terrifying spider and bemused snail. As appealing as I found its cover, however, it didn't actually tell me much about the game itself. I resolved to find out and soon discovered that it's a floaty maze game set high above ground amongst the titular kingdoms which are both many and highly varied, and it's a game whose altitude plays a key part in proceedings too. More on that later though.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Film Round-Up #13

Oh hey, what's going down? There have been many and varied pursuits here in RKS-Land and that includes films. I've seen quite a few lately and, of course, time is always found for good old Jean Claude Van Damme and his zany exploits. This latest selection is from either end of his filmography - a few of his earlier efforts as well as a couple of very recent releases. Are any of them good? Read on and find out!

AWOL / Lionheart (1990)

This film is one of many names and was probably the most popular of JCVD's early films after Bloodsport and Kickboxer. He stars as Lyon, a French Foreign Legion paratrooper who's denied leave to see his dying brother. So he goes AWOL. En route to the U.S. his brother dies, leaving behind a wife and young son. Soon afterwards he stumbles into the world of underground bare knuckle fighting and, with the help of his self-appointed manager Joshua (Harrison Page), he starts competing to provide his sister-in-law with some much-needed cash while avoiding the legionnaires attempting to haul him back to the desert. Basically then, it's kind of like Bloodsport, only with hoodlums fighting for the amusement of a bunch of elitist fat-cats. It's not as good as Bloodsport, obviously (nothing is), but it's quite an entertaining take on the same sort of premise. Van Damme's kicky action isn't his greatest but it's decent enough, and just as memorable are motormouth Joshua's constant babbling and Deborah Rennard as the organiser of the fights who keeps trying to seduce our man (why wouldn't he just slip her one?)... 7/10

Saturday, 20 February 2016

First Look PSN #6

Bang Bang Racing by Playbox / Digital Reality (2012) - PlayStation Network (PSN)

I'm not really sure why I'm so keen on top-down racers as I'm not too good at them, but new ones still always catch my eye all the same. Just like this one of course, which despite being released a few years ago now, is at least new to me. It features those stupid melted cars with giant wheels - some twenty of them, no less, spread over four classes, and which can be raced over fifty-four track variants. Most of them are very tight and compact and will have your chosen car sliding around their many, many hairpins and chicanes more or less permanently, and most likely regularly slamming into the barriers and other racers as well. I guess that's the point with games like this - fun, not realism!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Film Review #87

Joy (2015)
Director: David O. Russell Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Bradley Cooper

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 124 Minutes

Despite her undeniable talents, I think it's fair to say that at least some movie-goers are beginning to tire of Jennifer Lawrence. I don't think even her harshest critics could try to claim she's not a good actress, nor that she's appeared in some great films, but she has been in quite a few high-profile releases of late, and some would argue that the films in question would not be quite so high-profile were it not for Ms. Lawrence's presence in them. A great example of this is Joy, released this past Christmas season, which is a biopic of an American entrepreneur called, perhaps unsurprisingly, Joy. Or Joy Mangano to use her full name who, having grown up in New York an inventive child, had underachieved quite considerably by the late 80's and was dissatisfied with her life. Although a smart, creative, and resourceful woman and spurred on by a supportive grandmother, she had become stuck in a dead-end job as an airline booking clerk and bogged down by various familial responsibilities.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Nintendo 64 - Retro Gaming's Weak Link?

Over on Facebook myself and a handful of like-minded friends often get together in a chat group and spend an unwise portion of our working day blabbering on about all manner of nonsense*, retro game-related and beyond, when we should probably be doing more important grown-up things. Of all the subjects that are often discussed, however, one continues to vex me so - the Nintendo 64, or more accurately, how it is regarded by this gathering of esteemed retro gamers and beyond.

Friday, 12 February 2016

PC Round-Up #1 - Part 1

Anyone who considered themselves a gamer in the late 80's and 90's had heard of John Carmack. He, along with Jon Romero, was head programmer at id Software who became rather famous for their first-person shooters (just a couple of little games called Doom and Quake). Like all coders, however, he had to start somewhere. I've already taken a look at one of Mr. Romero's first games so now it's his fellow founder's turn, and while these aren't the very first games ever to be completed by Mr. Carmack, they were released in his early years as a coder and would go on to have much significance, for id Software and gaming generally.

Catacomb (1990)

First developed for the Apple II at the end of the 80's, the first game in the Catacomb series is a simple maze shooter. You're a magician called Petton Everhail who has been asked to rescue the Kieralon Empire by freeing their catacombs of the terrifying monsters that now dwell therein. There are ten mazey stages populated by numerous enemies. Petton can run at quite a pace and shoot fireballs without limit (including more powerful charge shots), but the enemies can run just as quickly so fast reactions are needed, especially since his energy meter is depleted rapidly and he only has one life. It's a short game, though pretty tough due to the fast and numerous enemies, but it shouldn't take long to get through it. It was still a pretty cool little game in its day, but early DOS games were never really the pinnacle of gaming and it hasn't aged well. It's certainly worth a quick play for its historical significance, specially for id Software fans, but nothing more than that... 4/10

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Adult Games #7

Amorous Professor Cherry (2004)
By: ZyX Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

All of the so-called adult games I have covered so far here at Red Parsley could really be categorised in the same way: they're all arcade or arcade-style games and they would all be perfectly playable with the modest adult content removed (which usually consists of a few boobies here and there). Games such as the one featured here are a whole different deal, however. It's a visual novel - a type of game very popular in Japan but which I have limited experience of so far; I've only played one in fact, namely Kanon, which itself has a very small number of pervy scenes, although there is also an 'all ages' version. Amorous Professor Cherry, on the other hand, definitely does not have an all ages version. As I discovered within seconds of starting it, we're in full-on 'erotic' game territory here. In other words, porn (or specifically, hentai). But is there a decent game beneath it all?