Friday, 21 October 2016

Nintendo Unveil... the Switch

Nintendo have found themselves in a strange position in the market in recent years. Back in NES and SNES days their systems were flooded with third-party titles. Some were exclusive, others not, but there was always plenty of choice. Starting with the Wii and continuing with the Wii U, though, they seemed to have branched off from their competitors, leaving the bulk of the third-party releases for Sony and Microsoft while their own systems, under-powered in comparison to the others, were left with some fantastic first-party titles, some gimmicky releases to take advantage of the unorthodox controls the machines employed, but little else.

That brings me to the new system, known until today as the 'NX', and one to which I had devoted more than a passing thought over the last few months. Foremost in these thoughts were wonderings about whether Nintendo would continue their trend of recent years or go back to their old ways, and all was revealed yesterday at the system's grand unveiling. It will be known as the Nintendo Switch and, at first glance, it appears my fears have been realised, for their new home console will actually be more akin to a dockable portable system. As you may well have seen in the video already, the 'console' itself seems more like a tablet which can either be docked, with games played on TV, or undocked and used wherever you like with parts of the detachable controller clipped to the sides so as to not rely on pesky touch-screen controls. This does seem pretty cool in the video, admittedly, but my first reaction was one of disappointment. Would Nintendo once again be using a hardware gimmick to sell their new system?

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Retro News - Star Control Returns!

Star Control Origins by Stardock (2017) - PC, PS4, Xbox One

So there I was aimlessly wandering around the world wide web when I happened upon some news I had long hoped for but almost given up on - Star Control is back! This may not mean a lot to many of you but, as any regular readers here will know, I have had a great deal of affection for this series for many years, going back to the original game, and its sequel has been my favourite game of all time since its release. So this long-awaited news has been met with much excitement by me and the series' other loyal fans as you might imagine! It's not a fan project and it's not a conversion of a previous game like the splendid Ur-Quan Masters. No, this is an all-new, full retail release... at last!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

TV Shows #10

iZombie (2015-16)
Developed By: Rob Thomas / Diane Ruggiero-Wright Starring: Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley, David Anders

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 42 Minutes (per episode)

Okay, I'll just come out and say it - I really don't like zombies. I don't like zombie films, I don't like zombie shows. I think zombies are stupid. First they were stupid mumbling stumbling oafs but more recently the trend has been for zombieness to be the result of a virus/pathogen of some sort, usually also bestowing super speed, strength, athleticism, endurance, etc on the infected party. Either way, they're stupid and their films/shows are stupid too. This new show, however, takes yet another approach. Well, kind of. It's loosely based on the comic books by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred of which there were 28 issues between 2010 and 2012, but definitely only 'loosely' as about the only similarity between them from what I can see is the general appearance (though not name) of the main character. Here she is called Olivia (Liv) Moore and was until recently just a normal medical resident from Seattle. That was, until she attended a boat party and got herself infected.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Retro News - Hewson Are Back!

Hyper Sentinel by Hewson Consultants (2016) - iOS, Android, PC, PS4, Xbox One

I'm sure pretty much everyone into gaming in the 80's was well aware of Hewson Consultants. Their many releases, mainly for the 8-bit home micros, were of a consistently high quality and they made quite a name for themselves as purveyors of the utmost splendour, but sadly they shut down only a couple of years into the following decade. But now they are back! Well, kind of, for announced earlier this year was a Kickstarter for a brand new game bearing the Hewson name. I had planned to cover it here at Red Parsley back then but, of course, it's taken me ages to get around to it as usual. In the intervening months the project sadly failed to reach its target and seemed to be over before I'd even posted about it. Happily, though, that's not the case and it's looking pretty good!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Currently Playing...

Hang-On by Sega AM2 (1985) - Master System

If you are visiting this blog intentionally there's a pretty good chance your days of console gaming go back as far the 80's, perhaps even late 70's. My first was Sega's magnificent Master System which remains one of my favourite systems. The version I was fortunate enough to have featured two built-in games - Safari Hunt, to make use of the bundled Light Phaser, and the mighty Hang-On for those times you don't fancy shooting poor rabbits, bears, and armadillos!

I have already taken a look at the decent arcade version here at Red Parsley but this MS version was the first one I encountered and it remains my favourite. Obviously it's taken a bit of a hit with regards to its visuals. The biker sprites are smaller and less detailed here, there are far fewer on-screen colours, the roadsides are more spartan, and it's not as fast, but it's not a bad effort all things considered. That nighttime stage still looks super cool too! The audio is more or less the same as the original, although that's mainly because the arcade version had very little - there's no in game music and few spot effects as you race. The aesthetic differences were irrelevant for me at the time anyway though, as I'd never played or even seen the arcade game.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Wes Anderson Presents: The X-Men

Okay, I don't usually post funny videos from YouTube here - I don't even watch them very often if I'm honest - but I can't resist posting this one here. If nothing else it will keep reminding me that it exists! But what is it? Well, I'm sure you all know the X-Men films, or at least know of them. What you may not know is that my favourite film director for many years now has been the great Wes Anderson. I could probably make a whole post here about why that is but for now let's just say it's because he and his films are awesome. He also has a very distinctive style, and this short video is a fan-made 'trailer' of what an X-Men film might be like if Wes directed one! It's likely to appeal only to fans of Mr. Anderson's work, and those people will love it, but it's still pretty cool even if you don't know him. Check check check it out!


Sunday, 9 October 2016

Mobile Games #10

I Am Level (2014)
By: Smiling Bag Genre: Platform / Pinball Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Android
Also Available For: iOS

It was long ago now that I initially discovered this game - more than two years has passed, in fact. It was soon installed onto my Android phone; I played it for a while, and enjoyed it, but then my phone went and broke. It didn't take too long to replace it - how could it these days? - but my progress was obviously lost in this and all other games I had installed (which was only a few, luckily). I had originally intended to review it back then but gadzooks if it hasn't taken me all this time to finally get around to reinstalling the game (I had to buy it again, too!) and playing it through. It didn't take me long to make up my previous progress and only a little more to surpass it, so I guess it's time to resurrect that review as well. If I can remember where I put it, that is. Oh, wait a minute...

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Flicky Flicks Round 1

I believe I've briefly mentioned in passing the chat group over on Facebook known as Team Flicky. It consists of six members - Chris (Chip), Dave (Grumpy McUnt), Mark (Pinbot), Geoff (Neptune King of the Sea), Ben (Hipster Ben), and Me (Randar) - and amongst our many mutual interests are movies. It was therefore recently decided that we would form our own film club known as Flicky Flicks for which we would all choose one film based on a particular theme, then each watch all six films and name our favourite. Whoever nominated the most popular film would get to choose the next theme. I can't remember how Michael Douglas was chosen as our first theme but anyway, here are the six films we chose and mini-reviews from us all for each film. The winner will be revealed at the end!

Romancing the Stone (1984)
Director: Robert Zemeckis Starring: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Alfonso Arau, Manuel Ojeda

Nominated By: Pinbot Running Time: 106 Minutes

Joan Wilder (Turner) is a very successful but lonely romance novelist moping around New York feeling sorry for herself when her she receives a phone call from her sister who's gone and gotten herself kidnapped by some dastardly antiquities dealers who are now blackmailing her (Joan) into travelling to Colombia to trade a map she had surreptitiously been sent in the mail for her squawking sibling. Of course, it’s not long before she ends up in trouble. Until, that is, the splendidly-named Jack T. Colton (Douglas) arrives just in time to save her. And so begins their epic adventure through the Amazon in pursuit of the lush green gem of the title.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Retro News - Yet More Wonder Boy?

Wonder Boy Returns by CFK (2017?) - PC

Holy smokes, it's a glorious time to be a Wonder Boy fan, for not only do we have the two Wonder Boy III games on their way (one new adventure apparently inspired by it as well as a remake) which I have covered here already with much enthusiasm, but now news reaches me of yet another game to feature the infantile whippersnapper. This time it is seemingly based on the original Wonder Boy, a game I recently reviewed here at Red Parsley and enjoyed a great deal, and is being handled by CFK, a Korean publisher responsible for releasing tons of titles in their native territory, mainly for consoles and handhelds.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Single Screen Platform Games #14

Mario Bros (1983)
By: Nintendo Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 58,740 (one credit)
Also Available For: NES, Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Despite being among the most well known video game characters of all time, some people are still unaware of Mario's earlier exploits. His first appearance was of course as the heroic Jumpman in Donkey Kong, I don't think there are many gamers who forget about that, but one game that does often seem to get overlooked is this one, the original Mario Bros. I first played it many years ago on my Spectrum and I seem to remember a fairly strong feeling of indifference at the time. Coming back to it now though, and the arcade original no less, might well elicit a different reaction. One thing I didn't know before is that the game is apparently set in New York's sewers. I suppose it makes sense now that I think about it but it's still unlike any sewer I've ever seen. Not that I've actually seen too many but you know what I mean. This sewer is apparently infested with many strange creatures and it's down to the heroic plumbing duo of Mario and Luigi to exterminate them.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Splendid Amiga Music #2

Okay, time for another embarrassing confession - I have never played the Secret of Monkey Island games... (silence, occasional tumbleweed)... Yes yes, I know, it's a shameful state of affairs. In my defence, I've never been a big PC gamer, I got into the Amiga really late, and I was never the biggest fan of point 'n' click games to begin with, but it's still unacceptable. Another chance for the mighty Red Parsley to avail me of my oversight for sure. I do, however, have the game's theme tune in my vast game music collection and, having just heard it again while writing a review, I felt compelled to post it here. So behold, for the nostalgic pleasure of the game's many fans, and to treat the ears of other ignorant oafs like me, it is thus:

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!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Film Review #91

Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)
Director: John Stockwell Starring: Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dave Bautista, Sara Malakul Lane, Gina Carano, Georges St-Pierre, Darren Shahlavi

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 90 Minutes

Tagline: "Without rules, without referees... the fight is to the death"

I've long been a fan of Kickboxer in all its cheesy 80's glory, and even a couple of its straight-to-video sequels (though definitely not all of them!), but even I wasn't sure what to make of the news that the series was getting a remake/reboot. Its story of a brother seeking revenge against an evil Muay Thai master for the crippling of his sibling was a reasonably engaging one but is it really a story that needs retelling? Most of its fans like the film for its action, as well as the scary Tong Po, not for its story, so it was a slightly odd decision to be sure. It would most likely need new actors too, so why not just put them in an all-new film? Perhaps a whole new series could be born. Oh well, the reasoning behind it doesn't really matter now I guess, it's here and who knows - it could be frickin' awesome so let's give it a chance.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

San Francisco's Gaming Gem - Part 2

Oops, it's now been almost exactly a year since I went to California which means I am long overdue with this post (no surprise there I guess!). Anyway, having already revealed the wonders of Musée Mécanique generally, I thought I'd also take a quick look at the five games I spent the most time playing there (besides skee ball of course, which is the greatest thing ever). Here they are:

Sprint 2 (1976)

I've long been a fan of the splendid Super Sprint so it was a real thrill to find this, the original Sprint (the '2' denotes a two-player version) lurking amongst the more modern machines. Naturally I gave it a go and quickly found it... rather tough going. As you can see, the cars are teeny things but steering them around the circuits isn't too tough. The black and white graphics are tidy and the controls are smooth enough. What makes it tough is its mandatory 4-speed transmission. It's not always easy to constantly shift up and down in any normal racing game but it's even tougher here with ultra-concentration needed to get around within sight of the other cars. I guess I'd get used to it after a while but... jeez, I made a mess of it on this occasion (my ranking was 'granny' - boo hoo)! It was still wonderful to even have the chance to play it at all though - there can't be too many of these machines left at all, never mind ones working this flawlessly, and it does still play really well considering how old it is.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Crap Games #10

The Spirit of Speed 1937 (2000)
By: Broadsword Interactive / Acclaim Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega Dreamcast
Also Available For: PC

One of my favourite genres on the Dreamcast was that of driving games. There were many superb examples with several available early on, and I bought all but one of them. The one I didn't get, and indeed had never even played until recently, was Spirit of Speed. This was mainly due to the rather harsh reception it was met by upon its release. Actually, that's putting it mildly - I don't think I've ever seen a racing game get so consistently, mercilessly savaged by magazines, websites, and players the world over! Despite this, it's still a title that has always rather intrigued me. Not too many games give you the opportunity to race in classic old 1930's speedsters like the ones found here after all. Whilst possibly somewhat restrictive, it's also a unique premise. Besides, it can't be that bad, surely?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Top Five Elements

I'm sure most of us at least remember the periodic table - no school chemistry class would be complete with it - but how much do you know about the many elements featured on it? Probably about the same as me, but I've been belatedly reading up recently and have learned lots of interesting stuff about them, not least that there are now some 118 of them! Here are five I found the most impressive :)

5 - Iridium

As well as sounding like something from Star Trek, Iridium is also among the rarest of all elements on earth. It's a shiny and very dense metal (the second densest of all elements, in fact), is resistant to nearly all corrosion, and is found most commonly in meteorites, which means the tiny amounts in Earth's crust likely arrived from the depths of the cosmos. Time to launch a mining expedition?