Sunday, 13 September 2020

Single Screen Platform Games #17

Lode Runner (1984)
By: Broderbund / Irem Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: NES, Game Boy, SG-1000, PC Engine, PC, Apple Mac, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, Vic 20, Amstrad CPC, MSX, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, Pravetz 82/82M
Download For: Wii Vitual Console, Xbox Lives Arcade, PlayStation Network, Android, iOS

I've been reviewing games here for a long time now, and a good few of them have been platform games as they're one of my favourite genres, perhaps my very favourite, but I don't think I've ever come across a game that was ported to more systems than this one. Just look at that list - I haven't even heard of one of them! Despite this, however, I never really encountered it in its day (I was still largely-dependent on my parents for new games back then, or even magazines to let me know about the games), but I still keep hearing its name after all this time so I figured it was finally time to give it a proper once-over. I had assumed the arcade version would've been the first, as it usually is, so I got stuck in to that version only to find out the game actually debuted on several American home micros first. Oops! Oh well, too late now!

Friday, 21 August 2020

PS4 Purchases #9

Redout by 34BigThings (2016)

Racing games have long been one of my favourite genres, particularly ones of the futuristic type since I discovered F-Zero, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones. I only heard about Redout a couple of years ago and it had been on my Steam wishlist ever since. But then I happened to see it for a bargain price (£15, I think) on Amazon for the PS4, and a physical copy of the 'Lightspeed Edition' no less, which I assumed meant it included DLC or some other modern-gaming mumbo jumbo, but it doesn't look like it does. Oh well, suffice to say, I needed little persuading to buy it anyway and was excited to try it out. Sadly, I was quickly disappointed. The graphics, presentation, music, and game modes/options are all excellent but... it's just so damn hard! I'm usually pretty good at games like this but I haven't even finished anywhere but last yet (and some way back too). I'll give it some more time and post about it again here later but... geez, I hadn't expected this type of issue.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Film Round-Up #28

Amy Adams is considered by many one of the highest-profile actresses working today but when I actually stopped to think about it, as great as she is, I couldn't really think of too many big-name films of hers. I supposed therefore she also made her name with various smaller roles in lesser-known films, so I decided to use this as an excuse to gaze upon her loveliness while investigating. Here are the titles I went for:

Standing Still (2005)

Probably one of Ms. Adams' lesser known films is this rom-com in which she heads an ensemble cast also including Adam Garcia, her soon-to-be husband, Lauren German, her lesbian (and secret) ex-lover, as well as Aaron Stanford, Melissa Sagemiller, Jon Abrahams, Mena Suvari, James Van Der Beek, and Colin Hanks as various friends of the couple. The film follows the ladies and gents' respective parties the night before the wedding, and then the big day itself. There is of course the odd bit of strife here in there in the shape of an amorous ex-lover, a secret pregnancy, an unwelcome guest, and various other things to keep things interesting. Films like this, though, succeed or fail on the strength of their characters, and not many of the ones here are too appealing, unfortunately. They have their moments, sure, but few of their woes have the making of an emotionally-engaging film, and the laughs are few and far between too. Amy Adams is solid (if unspectacular) though... 5/10

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Steam / GOG Downloads #7

Retrowave (2020)
By: RewindApp Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

Many of us retro gamers have been accused of living in the past. This may or may not be true, but if it is, it might not just be the games of the past in which we seek refuge but perhaps other things too, such as music. As we already know, the music of the 80's was/is awesome but it was only a few years ago that I discovered the wonder that is synthwave - music made in recent times but in the style of 80's synth and electro music. It truly is the greatest thing ever, I listen to it all the time, and it is becoming more and more popular. Synthwave songs have already appeared in some mainstream films (the splendid 2011 release, Drive, being a good example) and the gaming world seems like an even more suitable home. One example that recently caught my eye was Retrowave and I was keen to give it a try.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Awesome Nature #22

Double-Collared Sunbird
Type: Bird  Lives In: South Africa  Conservation Status: Least Concern

Remarkably, there are 56 species of these colourful flappers, but the one pictured is known as the southern double-collared sunbird. It lives almost exclusively in South Africa (a small number can also be found in Swaziland) and mainly eats nectar such as that found in these lovely rocket pincushion flowers which are nearly as eye-catching as the birds themselves! I guess there's nothing particularly special about them though - they are common throughout most of their range and can be found in scrubland, forests, and even gardens in residential areas. In fact, I'm probably only posting about them here in order to share/preserve this wonderful picture I found, but that certainly shouldn't detract from their splendour. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere that these dazzling fellows (it's just the males with the colour) hang out, I'm sure your days are brighter than those of the rest of us!

Why It Is Awesome: Colourful garden friend!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Game News - Most Expensive Game Ever!

As any of us who try to collect retro games these days must already know very well, prices have been steadily increasing for years to the point where now it's just not realistic to covet certain titles, with more joining that number daily. I always wanted to collect all the decent PC Engine games, for example (or at least the ones that can be played by non-Japanese-speakers), but many of those now go for three-figures. Bah! Things are obviously much worse for anyone that collects factory-sealed games too, as this news that found its way to me today proves.

Indeed, for during a public auction of vintage comics and original comic art held by Heritage Auctions in Texas on July 10th, a copy of the original Super Mario Bros for the American NES went under the hammer. This was not, however, a normal version of what is, let's face it, one of the most common games in the world. This copy was in fact complete with its original factory seal and hangtab - something which made it the highest graded (9.4) copy ever sold and which also, unsurprisingly, increased its value significantly. The result was a final sale price of..... $114,000!! This eye-watering figure quite comfortably makes it the most expensive video game ever sold at public auction!

Quite what the buyer (who wishes to remain anonymous) plans to do with the game is therefore anybody's guess but I suppose its most likely fate is to sit on a shelf or in a drawer (or safe!) gathering dust, but let's hope it at least has an interesting view. I suppose this huge price shouldn't be all that surprising though - as they get older it's inevitable that some copies of games will earn higher and higher prices, so we can probably expect this new record to be broken again in the not-too-distant future.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Must Learn Japanese #2

Zig Zag Cat (1994)
By: Suntory / Den'Z Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nothing

While it's true there's only so much you can do with the bat 'n' ball (or 'brickbreaker' if you prefer) genre, there have certainly been some interesting attempts to breathe a bit of life and originality into them over these long years. This one is a rather obscure example, to Western gamers at least, not least because was it a Super Famicom exclusive, but it was also a late release meaning many players, even in Japan, may have missed it. It's also one of those really weird games that probably wouldn't have received an overseas release anyway! Lord only knows what the backstory is about (for there is indeed one) but you play as a young boy who has a pet cat - a cat that apparently has shape-shifting abilities! As most of us would probably do if we found ourselves with the companionship of a shape-shifting pet, this boy makes use of his unique cat (who we'll call Rex and Freep respectively for the purposes of this review) by having him turn into a ball who he then hits with his green bat into an apparently-invading octopuses horde. Obviously.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Indie Games News/Previews #15

Battle Axe by Henk Nieborg (2021) - PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

A lot of indie games originate from Kickstarter these days, and while many of them look fantastic and have ended up in my collection, I've never actually pledged to one before - until now! I first saw Battle Axe when someone was spamming it on Facebook. I was initially drawn in by the art style but it didn't take long for other aspects of the game to look appealing to me as well. It struck me as looking like a cross between Golden Axe and Gauntlet, for example, and since they are two of my favourite games, you can probably imagine my enthusiasm! The action is set, appropriately enough, in a mystical land too. This one is known as Mercia (presumably not the one in the UK's Midlands) which has grown dark since an evil sorceress called Etheldred came to subject all inhabitants to her dominion.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

TV Show First Look #5

Sally4Ever (2018)

I was recently pootling around on the Rotten Tomatoes site and saw a list they had made of the best HBO shows. Despite being a British show, it was the first time I'd even heard of Sally4Ever, but I have generally liked the HBO shows I've seen before so that was enough for me to try it out. It's the brainchild of Julia Davis, apparently a well-known and regarded comedian here in the UK, and features Sally (Catherine Shepherd) who has lived a dull suburban life for ten years with her nebbish boyfriend David (Alex Macqueen). Clearly bored and unhappy in life, she finds herself drawn into a relationship with Emma (Davis), a charismatic women she first meets on the train. Before long they are living together, with David having been given the boot, and Emma is running riot over pretty much all aspects of Sally's life.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Overrated! #8

Destruction Derby (1995)
By: Reflections / Psygnosis Genre: Racing Players: 1-2 (via link-up) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation First Day Score: 108
Also Available For: Saturn, PC

Unlike the poor old Saturn, the PS1 had a good few decent titles available at launch, including some that did a great job of showing off what the system could do. One of the more popular was Destruction Derby, a vehicular combat game developed right here in spiffing Blighty! Sadly, this was not enough to win my favour, and it wasn't even to do with my strong Sega allegiance as the Saturn got a version too! Indeed, as boring as it might be, I didn't like the game at the time, simply because I didn't enjoy playing it much. I was clearly in the minority though, for it was enthusiastically received by gamers of the time, many of them eager to impress all-comers with their fancy new consoles, and the series is fondly remembered today as well, so I thought it was high time I went back for another, perhaps less scornful look.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Top Five PC Engine Racing Games

Although it certainly didn't start as such, this has almost turned into one of the old 'comedy' Top Fives I used to do. The main reason for this was down to how difficult it turned out to be to even find five half-decent racing games for this usually-excellent system. I know the mighty PC Engine is hardly known for this genre - its legendary status is more to do with its outstanding shmups and platformers - but I still didn't think I've have as much trouble as I did. So, I guess you should probably instead consider this the Top Five Least Crap PC Engine Racing Games instead!

Special Note: This list does not include overheard/top-down racing games as they are different enough and numerous enough to have their own list.

5. Power Drift (1990)

If I'm honest, I've never been the biggest fan of Power Drift, at least compared to other Super Scaler games, and porting it to the Engine was ambitious, but it's actually not too bad. It does deviate from the arcade version a little in that it basically gives you a championship mode in place of the arcade mode, meaning you have to work your way through the courses rather than just choose any you like. It works quite well though, and it's technically quite impressive, all things considered. It does suffer from the same faults as the arcade version (or what I always perceived to be faults anyway) - namely, the undulating log sections of track often making it hard to see where you're going, and the large cars making it hard to overtake (or be overtaken). But that does at least mean it's a good conversion I guess, and it's pretty good fun to play now and then too. The graphics are probably about as good as you could expect too, although the music isn't so great, but this could easily have been a lot worse, as some of the other versions were.

Friday, 26 June 2020

New Arrival - C64 Mini!

Okay, this one isn't really an ultra-new arrival. In fact, if any evidence was needed of my apparently-unavoidable procrastinistic (is that a word?) tendencies, it's that this 'new' arrival was received from my lovely wife as a birthday gift - eleven months ago! Fear not, I have used it quite a bit; it's just the posting about it here part that I'm somewhat behind on, but better late than never?!

She actually bought if for me due to a mix-up. She thought she had heard me talking about the C64 a lot and bought if for me based on that. All I can think of is that she heard me talking about the N64 (she wouldn't know the difference), but whatever the reason, I am actually glad she made the mistake because, even if there was an N64 Mini, I've played most of the top games on that console extensively, whereas my Speccy allegiance in the 80's means I've played very few of the C64's most renowned titles. I had of course originally intended to rectify that issue here, but while I have played some well-known as well as some less-well-known games on Commodore's brown breadbin since then, I have not really done so to anywhere near the extent I had intended. Perhaps this mighty gift will be the catalyst?

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Film Review #115

Becky (2020)
Director: Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion Starring: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Amanda Brugel

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 100 Minutes

Tagline: "There once was a little girl..."

New film releases have been somewhat thin on the ground this year for obvious reasons, so you would think any that do somehow make it out would be heralded far and wide. However, this one came out a few weeks ago (according to Wikipedia at least) and I haven't heard a single peep about it! Oh well, luckily I happened upon it anyway, and I quickly found a premise that appealed to me. It stars Joel McHale and Lulu Wilson as Jeff and Becky, a father and daughter attempting to reconnect after the death about one year earlier of their wife/mother, although this desire seems to be more Jeff's than Becky's who is upset, angry and still grieving. Jeff takes Becky to the family's lakeside cabin where he has also invited Kayla (Brugel), his new girlfriend, and her young son, for he has apparently decided a good way to reconnect with his daughter and help her get over her mother's death is to tell her he's planning to marry Kayla. This goes down about as well as you might expect and Becky legs it into the woodland surrounding the cabin.

Monday, 8 June 2020

First Look Arcade #2

Gee Bee by Namco (1978) - Arcade

My hunt for so-called 'brick-breaker' games has revealed many examples to me. I've not even heard of some, like this one which was released way back in 1978 - only two years after the progenitor itself, Breakout. Sadly for me, it's an arcade exclusive (not that there would've been much to convert it to anyway), and like many such games it uses a paddle to move the bat so I can't play/review it properly, but it seems pretty innovative for its day. It looks and plays a little more like a pinball game than a Breakout clone too. There are bumpers, channels at the side for the ball to fall down, a twirly thing and lights to turn on, etc, but there are also numerous bricks and not one but two paddles (one at the bottom of the screen, the other about halfway up), and the object at least appears to be to take out all the bricks. It's hard to say for sure as, 1) it's extremely hard to play the game with a control pad (even one with an analogue stick), and 2) the bricks seem to replenish themselves every now and then. It must be bloody hard though, even with the correct controller, as the ball gets really fast quite quickly, but it's definitely an interesting title, especially considering its age.

RKS Score: 3/5

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Sabbatical or Retirement?

It seems like forever ago but I started this blog almost exactly ten years ago now. As I've probably mentioned here at some point during that time, it was my wife's idea. She doesn't like videogames much, you see, and was fed up with me burbling on about them. I don't remember doing it that much but she suggested I start this blog anyway, and get my gaming fix that way instead of bothering her.

So that's exactly what I did, and it has occupied a sizeable slice of my free time ever since. In all that time, I have posted something at least once every calendar month, usually many times, but that's until now. As the few regular visitors here may have noticed, it has now been over three months since I've posted anything. That doesn't mean I have fallen victim to a certain virus pandemic that's doing the rounds, I'm happy to say, but it has been a cause of concern for me nonetheless.