Monday, 5 December 2016

Indie Games News/Previews #9

Xydonia by Breaking Bytes (2017) - PC

If there is one type of doujin game that's always guaranteed to grab my attention it's a side-scrolling shooter so you can imagine how pleased I was to stumble upon this one a while ago on Facebook. It's the work of three self-proclaimed arcade junkies from Italy known as Breaking Bytes and has recently been the subject of a Kickstarter campaign which I'm pleased to say was successful. The game is still under development but the alpha has been made freely available and does a great job of showcasing what they've included so far. In fact, it looks more or less finished to my eyes - the presentation is superb, featuring an intro sequence, lots of options, the choice of three pilots, three weapon set-ups, and even assist characters, and the whole thing is really polished already. It isn't quite finished yet though of course - only the first two stages are included here, and they are quite brief, but they're sufficiently splendid to make the game look very promising.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Arcade Classics #9

Mappy (1980)
By: Namco Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 33,150 (one credit)
Also Available For: NES, MSX, Game Gear (ports), PC, Xbox, GameCube, PlayStation 2, PSP, Nintendo DS, Game Boy (on compilations)
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, iOS

When you think of gaming mouses you might well think of Mickey's mighty fine adventures before any others, but coming long before he started lighting up the 8 and 16-bit consoles was a plucky fellow that went by the name of Mappy. Unlike his more famous Disney relative who just goes around doing as he pleases, Mappy is much more responsible and actually works as a police mouse, or 'micro police' as the game calls him! His job is to retrieve stolen property from a series of mansions, but there's a problem - the thieves are still there! They come in the form of pink cats called Meowkies (or 'naughty folks') and their boss, a larger red cat called Goro (or 'boss the big bit', whatever that means) and they are keen to keep hold of their loot, so Mappy's job will not be a very easy one.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Flicky Flicks Round 2

Having enjoyed the first round of Flicky Flicks, the guys and I soon turned our keen gaze to round two which, as chosen by Chip as the first round's victor, would consist of the films of Stanley Kubrick. This was not initially met with huge excitement by me as I've never really been that keen on his films. I know he's one of the greatest directors of all time and all that stuff, and his films are technically brilliant, but I just haven't really enjoyed watching them that much in the past. I guess some film snobs would therefore say I'm not a 'true film fan' but that's fine, I don't mind. As it turned out I've quite enjoyed this round anyway though, which consisted of a couple of classics I hadn't seen before. As before, the winner will be revealed at the end!

Paths of Glory (1957)
Director: Stanley Kubrick Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson

Nominated By: Hipster Ben Running Time: 88 Minutes

It's two years into the First World War and the French and German forces have reached an impasse, both stuck in their respective trenches and unable to make any headway. The ambitious General Mireau, however, decides to send his division to take a strategically important position known as 'the Anthill'. Commanding the mission is Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) who knows it's next to impossible but tries anyway. The general is furious when it inevitably fails and demands that some of the soldiers are court martialed and executed for cowardice...

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Splendid MegaDrive Music #4

James Pond: Underwater Agent (1990)

I've long felt alone in having a soft-spot for the first James Pond game. Many love its sequel, Robocod, and justifiably so, but the original? There are many things I like about it - the jolly graphics, the environmental theme, the fact that it takes place underwater (well, James is a fish and all) - but one of its less appreciated features as far as I can tell is its music, composed by Richard Joseph. Much of it is somewhat more befitting the character's secret agent status but my favourite is this, one of two level themes that get alternated. It's might be a little strange but it suits the game well and also makes me smile every time I hear it. What more can you ask for?

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!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Steam / GOG Downloads #2

Instant Dungeon! (2013)
By: Simple Interactive Genre: Maze / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Android, iOS

Like many of you I'm sure, I have amassed quite a large collection of games on Steam, Good Old Games, and similar services over the past few years, and also like many of you I suspect, I have yet to play most of them. It's about time I did though, and I figured that good old Red Parley gave me the perfect excuse as always. The first I have chosen is this, a cheapie purchase I saw on Steam which looked like one I might enjoy. This is mainly on account of it being an overhead-viewed maze game, a genre I generally find very appealing, and one that I was glad to find indie developers haven't forgotten about either.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Film Review #93

Central Intelligence (2016)
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet, Alrahim Wright, Jason Bateman

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 116 Minutes

Tagline: "Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson"

You know, I don't think there is any actor I have heard more about in the last couple of years than Kevin Hart. Some people seem to love him, some seem to hate him, but however you feel about him he certainly seems to be cropping up rather a lot lately. Personally, until very recently I had never (knowingly) seen one of his films so my judgement was reserved for the time being. I am, however, something of a fan of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson so I figured this recent release would be the perfect film with which to break my Hart duck. It starts off with their final high school senior assembly - Calvin 'Golden Jet' Joyner (Hart) is the star pupil - super popular, winner of just about everything, and voted 'most likely to succeed' by his classmates; Robbie Wheirdicht (Johnson) is... well, the opposite - an awkward, overweight, lonely loser.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

San Francisco's Gaming Gem - Part 3

Okay, just a quickie (giggity) for this somewhat belated third and final part of my look at the wonderful Musée Mécanique in San Francisco. I've already written about the museum generally and also taken a closer look at some of the games I played, so to wrap things up, here is a selection of some of the photos I took while there. It certainly doesn't show everything they have, and it looks like they've already made some additions since my visit, but it still gives you a good idea of the wonders housed within. If you get the chance, you really need to check this place out...

Monday, 7 November 2016

Computer Shmups #4

N.O.M.A.D. (1985)
By: Ocean Genre: Shooting / Maze Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 10,355
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64

It seems like a loong time ago now that I spent most of my evenings in front of my trusty Spectrum. In retrospect, they probably would've been better spent doing homework but never mind! One of the first of its games to ensnare me, and one of the very first video games to ever do so therefore, was this one which was actually a freebie that came bundled with the computer. It's a flick-screen multi-directional shooter set within TALOS, a man-made asteroid which is apparently 'spreading evil through the universe' thanks to its chief occupant, the 'unspeakably vile' Cyrus T.Gross. To combat this terror, the 'rulers of the Free Worlds' have sent in N.O.M.A.D. (Nemesis Organisation Mobile Attack Droid), a floaty shooty robot to blow everything up and kill him. I guess we're ignoring whatever judicial system is used in this part of space for now then, so let's get killing!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Film Round-Up #18

After making his acting debut in Guy Ritchie's first two films, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Jason Statham quickly made a name for himself as the latest arse-kicking action star. I think he surprised quite a few moviegoers with that move - he had just seemed like a fairly normal cockney bloke beforehand - but he proved very convincing in the many action scenes his subsequent films featured, showing off some superb martial arts skills as well as some fantastic stunt work. The first of these that I saw was The Transporter but many similar roles soon followed and in nearly all of them he seems to be an ex-something-awesome like a SAS soldier or Special Forces operative or MMA fighter or something. He could easily be playing the same character in a vast majority of them, in fact, but they are still often highly entertaining if you ask me. Here is a look at the five I've seen most recently:

War (2007)

The first time we saw Statham and the great Jet Li on screen together it was in 2001 for The One, an interdimensional adventure but this time things are rather less floopy. Statham is John Crawford, an FBI agent who becomes obsessed with catching a ruthless, highly skilled assassin known as Rogue (Li), a former CIA operative now working for the Yakuza, who brutally killed Crawford's old partner and best friend three years earlier. Like most obsessions, this adversely affects near enough every other aspect of his life but he's determined to bring the ultra-elusive villain down. For us that unsurprisingly means a shooty kicky action-filled 100 minutes or so. Statham's take on an FBI agent is as aggressive and rule-bending as you might expect and, similarly, Jet Li's Rogue is a man of very few words, instead showing up now and then looking all sinister and doing sinister things as well as effortlessly kicking a few arses when the fancy takes him. It's a good pairing and there are some really enjoyable scenes, like Rogue playing the Yakuza and Triads against each other, but we never really seem to get the fireworks that you feel is inevitable. Still worth a watch though... 6/10

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Retro News - Daytona Returns to Arcades!

Well, there have been whispers for a little while and now it's been confirmed by Sega themselves - the mighty Daytona is coming back to our arcades! Whether you love or hate the original Daytona USA it's impossible to deny how much of an impact it had back in 1993/94 and the years immediately following its release. It was the first title to use Sega's awesome Model 2 board and it was a smash hit, soon ranking among the the highest-grossing arcade games of all time.

In fact, it was so successful that it's surprising it took Sega so long to return to the franchise, with Daytona USA 2 arriving in the arcades in 1998 and then Daytona USA 2001 for the Dreamcast in... well, 2001 I guess! Both were pretty much just more of the same but with new licks of paint so they weren't quite so successful, but the Daytona name is one that has continued to shine brightly, for Sega fans in particular, right up to the present day. It's been a long time since then though.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

PC Engine Platform Games #5

Chan & Chan a.k.a. J.J. & Jeff (1987)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 54,100
Also Available For: Nothing

Or Kato-chan & Ken-chan to give the game its full name, but us oldie gamers here in the UK have always known it by its abbreviated name. Whatever name you know it by though, it was one of the Engine's very first releases, and for that reason it garnered a great deal of attention in its day. Was it worthy of it? I've always thought not but I hadn't spent a great deal of time playing it until this review to be honest, despite owning it for many years. Time to find out for sure, I guess! My first stop is finding out just what in the hell it's about. The answer to that, it seems, can be found in the TV show on which the game is apparently based, which was a Japanese variety show starring the two oafs of the title. Here, it seems they are on some sort of quest, but quite what it entails I couldn't say. The US version of the game (known as JJ & Jeff) casts the two characters as detectives investigating a kidnapping, so I suppose we should assume a similar kind of objective here.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Film Review #92

The To Do List (2013)
Director: Maggie Carey Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Scott Porter, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 104 Minutes

Tagline: "She's going from straight A's to her first F."

As you may or may not have gathered by way of the subtle innuendo of the tagline, The To Do List is the yet another one of those high-school sex comedies. I'm not normally a big fan of them to be honest, but I was enticed by this one due to the presence of Aubrey Plaza of whom I've become a bit of a fan in recent times. Here she plays Brandy Klark, a teenager just finishing high school. She's a smart, straight A student and valedictorian of her school, but also somewhat lacking in social graces and seen as a nerdy loser by the 'cool' kids who include her older sister Amber (Bilson). Nonetheless, she does have a few friends, chiefly Fiona (Shawkat) and Wendy (Steele), who along with her sister convince her that she needs to gain some sexual experience before starting college. And so is born the list of the title which features a great many sex acts that Brandy intends to try out over the summer, many of which she hasn't even heard of.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Retro News - New 3D Sonic Speeds Our Way!

Sonic Utopia by Murasaki & Mr Lange (2016) - PC

Crikey! No sooner do I get excited about a new Sonic game in the old 2D style of the classic MegaDrive games but now along comes a new fan-made 3D game as well! If you are anything like me this might initially be a prospect that strikes fear into your heart. I still haven't played too many of Sonic's three-dimensional adventures admittedly, but the ones I have played have not been tremendously appealing to me, right from the very first one no less (I can't remember being much more disappointed in a game than I was in Sonic Adventure). Many of them have been competent 3D platformers but most haven't really felt like Sonic games. This new title, however, looks a bit different. It is the work of a small team who have just released it for 2016's Sonic Amateur Games Expo (SAGE), an event for fans to show off their Sonic-related projects, and it is... wonderful!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Retro Gaming Zoo #2

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 #2 - Flicky of Flicky
Type of Creature? Bird  Realistic Portrayal? Yes

After the recent tomfoolery with a certain chat/film group to which he lends his name, I figured it was a good time to take a closer look at Flicky, the plucky blue avian star of Sega's 1984 arcade game and subsequent conversions. He is very bird-like too, which is surprising for the day. He can run around and has a decent flappy-assisted jump, both are which are invaluable for collecting the helpless little 'Chirps' around the short looping stages and avoiding the hungry cats that also scamper about the place, and that is about the extent of his ambitions too. He's just doing what any responsible squawker would do. I'm not sure how realistic the actual stages are since later ones seem to take place in space, and I'm not sure how adept any bird would be at holding a net to catch catapulted Chirps either, but as a character Flicky is definitely very realistic for video game standards. Happily we got to see his likeness again along with many of his colourful brethren, and on their apparent home turf too, in Sonic 3D: Flickies Island, but nothing since then. Come back Flicky/Flickies! :)

Is His Game Any Good? Yes, it's mighty good! The most celebrated version is that found on Sega's own MegaDrive which was actually slightly superior to the arcade original (although in fairness, it was released some seven years later!) but I have yet to play a version of Flicky that isn't tremendous fun. Check the full review here.


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Arcade Racing Games #5

Continental Circus (1987)
By: Taito Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 2,101,460
Also Available For: Amiga, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, MSX, ZX Spectrum

There were quite a few racing and driving games in the arcades of the mid-to-late 80's so developers often had to do something to make their game stand out, but Taito managed to do that by accident with this release. It's clearly an F1-style game so what's with the 'circus' in the title, so many of us thought back in the day. It soon transpired that this was actually a translation error with the intended title being Continental Circuit. A few cabs made it to the US with the corrected name on them but for most of us it was a game that was often met by a childish smirk. Was it actually a good game though, or would attempts to play it be met with even more mirth? Well, the Spectrum version wasn't too bad as I recall but I never had the chance to play the arcade original back then. Upon recently being reminded of the game, I decided it was time to find out.