Thursday, 16 May 2019

TV Show First Look #4

The Act (2019)

As I'm sure many would agree, the films/shows based on true events are quite often among the most compelling, and the latest one to come to prominence is The Act, a Hulu original consisting of eight episodes. It concerns the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a teenage girl raised by her mother Dee Dee to believe she was wheelchair-bound and suffering from all manner of debilitating illnesses and syndromes. As this show explores, however, she gradually discovers that her overbearing mother may not have been entirely truthful about her many conditions. This inevitably leads to considerable tension between them as well as suspicion from their few neighbours in the secluded suburb they live in.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Computer Shmups #7

Agony (1992)
By: Art & Magic / Psygnosis Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 93,136
Also Available For: Nothing

Shmups have come in all manner of shapes and sizes over the long years of their existence, which is as many years as videogames have been around themselves, in fact. Most of them put you in command of an aircraft or spaceship, some cast you as a lone wizard or warrior of some sort, taking on the evildoers on foot, but there have been very few animal-based shooters. The Amiga is home to two notable examples however, both of which were released in the same year. Almost certainly the most memorable of the two, all things considered, was Agony. Even on a system not particularly associated with arcade-style shooters, it earned attention from all quarters, at least here in the UK during what was probably the genre's heyday. Most marvelled at the impressive artwork, both promotional and in-game, but how does it stand up today?

Friday, 3 May 2019

Indie Games News/Previews #13

Panzer Paladin by Tribute Games (2020) - PC, PS4, Xbox One

Tribute Games have been one of my favourite indie developers since they first arrived about 8 years ago so I'm always looking forward to new releases by them. Their latest is the intriguingly-named Panzer Paladin which is, to quote Tribute themselves, "an engaging action-platformer with fun and intuitive swordplay". There isn't any actual gameplay footage yet but, judging by the screenshots, it looks like it could have a bit of a Castlevania feel to it. It also looks pretty awesome, with Tribute's trademark lovely pixel art visual style very evident once again, even at this early stage. The game will undoubtedly have a bit of an adventurey tang to it as well. It's at least a year away yet but it seems like Tribute could have another corker on their hands here. More to follow...

No trailer or game footage yet but keep track of developments at the official site here.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

TV Shows #19

Hanna Season One (2019)
Developed By: David Farr Starring: Esme Creed-Miles, Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Rhianne Barreto, Justin Salinger, Benno Fürmann, Katharina Heyer, Andy Nyman, Joanna Kulig
Certificate: 15? Running Time: 47-55 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

There haven't been a huge number of films in the last 10-or-so years that I've loved enough to add to my long list of all-time favourites, but one that I did enjoy immensely and have rewatched many times since is Hanna. For those who don't know it (why not?), it's a high-octane chase thriller centred around the unique and highly-skilled 15 year girl of the title. It features a superb central performance from Saoirse Ronan, strong support from the rest of the fine cast including Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, fantastic cinematography, and a great soundtrack, all of which results in a tense and captivating thriller. Suffice to say, anyone producing a TV show based on it would have their work cut out for them. Reassuringly, the man behind it is David Farr who also co-wrote the film so there is certainly some authenticity there, but film-to-TV transitions can still be tricky so I was keen to see how he got on.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Retro Gaming Zoo #3

Humans are stupid. Animals are always better than stupid humans, everyone knows that, and it's something that's also true in the world of video games. A tremendous variety of weird and wonderful animals have starred in games over the years and here I'll be taking a closer look at some of them. Next up is:

Creature #3 - Rolo of Rolo to the Rescue
Type of Creature? Elephant  Realistic Portrayal? Yes

Much of my MegaDrive years was taken up by platformers and most of my favourites featured animals of some sort. This one was a challenge, not least because of its size and lack of save or password facility, but it was enormous fun anyway. One of the many reasons for this was the amusing animals contained therein, several of which you could control. Chief among them was Rolo, a brave trumpeter seeking to escape the oppression of circus life. He faced many dangers across the many, many stages that make up the game, but he mostly approached them as only an elephant could. He's not particularly athletic but he can use his trunk to suck stuff up or squirt it out, he can squash enemies beneath his substantial grey mass, and he is highly adaptable to a variety of potentially hostile surroundings. I'm not sure his perpetually-cheerful demeanour (or fondness for hats) is especially elephant-like but I think we can overlook that since he's such a kind-hearted tramper. It's just a shame this was the only time we saw him. Time for a Steam-based reboot?

Is His Game Any Good? Yes, it's spiffing! It was exclusive to the MegaDrive so those idiotic Nintendo and Amiga owners never got to sample its delights, despite the fact it was by the guys behind the James Pond series which appeared on many formats. It made owning an MD that bit sweeter though. You might even call it a hidden gem! Impressive considering how many rivals it had. Check the full review here.


Saturday, 20 April 2019

TV Shows #18

The Night Of (2016)
Developed By: Richard Price & Steven Zaillian Starring: John Turturro, Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Maadi, Poorna Jagannathan, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Afton Williamson, Ben Shenkman, Jeannie Berlin, Paul Sparks, Ned Eisenberg, Nabil Elouahabi, Michael Kenneth Williams, Glenne Headly, Amara Karan, Kirk 'Sticky Fingaz' Jones, Mohammad Bakri, Ashley Thomas, Paulo Costanzo, Chip Zien, Glenn Fleshler

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 56-96 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

Tagline: "What happened"

There have been several films and TV shows over the years that have dealt with the aftermath of an eventful night out (The Hangover being a fairly prominent recent example), but I can't imagine too many are as messed up, from the protagonist's perspective at least, as The Night Of. It's based on the first season of British drama, Criminal Justice, and is actually a miniseries rather than a new show proper, so this 'first season' is all there will be, but it's likely to be one that will stays with you long after the last of the eight one hour (on average) episodes has finished.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Retro News - New R-Type!

R-Type Final 2 by Granzella (2019?) - PS4

Despite the popularity of their ace series and its legendary status over the years, Irem have often seemed keen to put R-Type to the sword. The last proper new shmup to bear the name was R-Type Final, a PS2 exclusive back in 2003. Given its name you would expect that to be the last. Then, about 5 years later came a couple of turn-based strategy spin-offs for the PSP known as R-Type Tactics (or Command to US players), and I'm pretty sure I remember Irem actually saying at the time that they would be the last games in the series, and so it was for many moons. But then, just a couple of weeks past, on April Fool's Day no less, stories began to surface of something called R-Type Final 2. Given the timing, everyone just assumed it was an amusing-yet-cruel jape on the part of the developer, especially given their track-record of similar pranks, but egads - it has now been confirmed as a real game by the team themselves!

Monday, 15 April 2019

Top Five Red Birds

Birds are pretty awesome, even someone as unenvironmentally friendly as Jeremy Clarkson knows that, but here in Europe most of them are a bit dull in terms of colour. Plenty of blacks, whites, browns, etc, but not many bright colours. They appear to be nearly exclusive to the tropics. There it's rare to see a bird that isn't brightly coloured. Here is a look at five of the finest bright red examples :)

5... Red Munia

Also known as the red avadavat, this little finch is found in tropical Asian regions where it lives in fields and grasslands. Only the male is red like this, and even then only during breeding season, but that doesn't make it any less eye-catching.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

NES Platform Games #7

Kid Kool a.k.a. Kakefu Kimi no Jump Tengoku (1991)
By: Vic Tokai Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing

The mighty and wonderful Psycho Fox has been among my favourite platformers (and therefore my favourite games) since the Elder Days, and has spent many moons in my Master System's 'slot' (tee hee!). Back then I always thought it was an actual Sega game - it wasn't until several years later that I discovered the marvellously named (and also very excellent) MegaDrive platformer, Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure was made by the same team at Vic Tokai, a Japanese developer who made games for many formats of their day. One of them has only just come to my attention, owing mainly to the Nintendo allergy that ailed me in the NES era, and it has turned out to be what basically amounts to a semi-prequel or practice run for Psycho Fox itself. This means - hooray! It was released only a year earlier and, as other fans of the stonking Master System game will quickly see, there are many similarities.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Top Five Princess Leias

Those of you around my age will very likely have had at least some Star Wars figures lying around your bedrooms when you were growing up, specifically those from the range of 90-ish figures released by Kenner. I certainly have fond memories of them, even if I never quite managed to collect them all, and one character whose figures I seem to remember better than most is the lovely Princess Leia Organa.

This could be because she was one of my first crushes (especially after seeing Return of the Jedi - snigger!), even if none of her numerous figures really looked like her. Not that any plastic figure would be capable of capturing her beauty anyway (simper)! So here's a largely-pointless look at my five favourite Leia-guises and comparisons with the equivalent Kenner figures. Long may her illustrious hotness live on :)

5. Bespin Leia

The first chance Leia had to get out of her skanky Hoth outfit, have a shower, and enjoy a change of clothes, resulted in this arrangement, possibly chosen by the charming/slimy (delete as appropriate) Lando. I was never the biggest fan of this look, worn during her stay in Cloud City, but hey - it's still Leia!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

New Arrival - Glowy Laptop!

Okay, this particular new arrival may not be remotely retro-related but it does have at least some gaming relevance! Before we look into that, however, let us first pause for a moment to remember my trusty red HP Pavilion which has been retired after about five years of faithful service. Not many of you knew it in person but if you've visited my humble page before, there's a good chance anything you saw or read therein was played, captured, written, and edited on my glorious red laptop.

It was a bit of a pain now and then - it was even running Windows 8 - but overall, it was a mighty fine machine and served me very well. The decision to replace it was made for a few reasons. Getting new stuff is always cool anyway, but it was mainly because of performance issues - it had been getting slower and slower (most likely due to its age, I suspect) and I've been growing impatient for an SSD-based OS, so I just figured it was time for an upgrade. And if you're going to buy something like a computer, you might as well make it a stonking great one!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

PS4 Purchases #5

No Man's Sky by Hello Games (2016)

Despite having posted about most of my recent PS4 acquisitions, I'm still rather behind on posting about the earlier ones, so I thought I'd go right back to the beginning with this one. As long time readers may know, I was ultra-excited about No Man's Sky - the promo blurb and screenshots made it seem like a game that would appeal to me enormously, but as it turned out, it failed completely to live up to its promises. I still wanted to try it anyway but at the time of its release I didn't have a PS4 and my PC apparently wasn't capable of running that version, so I missed out. Upon unexpectedly getting a PS4, however, it was one of the first titles to pop into my head. Supposedly it was superior to the PC version anway, and after buying Driveclub with my new console, the next purchase I made was this one.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Film Round-Up #25

Some say (notably my wife) that I have an unhealthy obsession with Heather Graham but that's not true at all, I just find her a naturally appealing actress. Sadly, it seems not too many of her films are particularly great, but I have been continuing to watch more of them in the hopes of finding a few hidden gems. Here is the latest selection, randomly chosen from her Wikipedia page (chuckle!)...

Committed (2000)

As we learn in the film's very first scene, Jo (Graham) is a committed person - a revelation she hits us with immediately prior to her white wedding. Flash forward a couple of years and she's doing pretty well. She has lots of friends, she runs a club, etc - only to find hubby has cleaned out his stuff and left her. Yes, you heard that right - a guy who was married to someone who looks exactly the same as Heather Graham... left her! ... *bewilderment* ... She would have to give me a judo-chop to the gentleman's region to get rid of me! Anyway, against most people's advice, Jo tracks down her errant spouse Carl (Luke Wilson) to try and win him back despite clear indications that he's not interested! ... *more bewilderment* ... She gets a bit of help along the way from her brother (Casey Affleck) and a few other interesting characters she meets, including Carl's new girlfriend (Patricia Velásquez), and thanks to this great cast, Committed is actually pretty enjoyable, perhaps aside from some questionable decisions made by Heather's character. She's still as appealing as ever though, and this is one of her better non-big-name films... 7/10

Friday, 22 February 2019

Isometric Games #4

Batman (1986)
By: Jon Ritman & Bernie Drummond / Ocean Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 824
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, MSX

Pretty much ever since I first got (or was given - thanks mum and dad!) a Spectrum, one of my top five favourite games for it has been Head Over Heels. Not only was it a wonderful adventure in its own right but it also made me a fan of isometric games generally, so it's strange that it has taken me such an extraordinary amount of time to get around to playing this example. I've never really been a fan of the Caped Crusader in general but this, possibly the first Speccy title to bear his name, is one that has long been considered the spiritual predecessor of Head Over Heels. Both were products of the same ace two-man team of Jon Ritman (programming) and Bernie Drummond (graphics), so it's not too much of a surprise that they have a lot in common, and there are similarities in both the visuals and game design as well.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

First Look TV Show #3

Wreck Trek (2013)

Not more than a few days past was I watching something-or-other via my Amazon Fire Stick thingy when I saw Wreck Trek in the 'you may also like' section afterwards. I am usually cautious of the unknown but its premise was fairly enticing so I thought I would give it a go. It features a bunch of people - six as I recall - who have been charged with finding the three cheapest cars they can in Berlin (the 'wrecks' of the title), getting them into a roadworthy state, then pairing up and driving them from Berlin all the way down to South Africa. A not-inconsiderable distance I'm sure you'll agree! This sounded like it might be rather splendid - kind of like one of the Top Gear/Grand Tour 'specials' where they drive their own themed cheapo cars across vast stretches of the world (though not nearly as far as proposed here) while engaging in all manner of tomfooleries and showcasing the country/culture they are in too.