Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Arcade Adventures #4

Treasure Adventure Game (2011)
By: Robit Studios Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

The prospect of free video games is certainly an enticing one (as long as they don't suck arse) but, without sinking to the thoroughly reprehensible depths of piracy, it's not one that ever reared its head too often back in the 'golden age'. In my Speccy days we used to get an occasional freebie, usually by way of a magazine cover-mounted cassette, but that was about it. These days it's somewhat more common, what with so many indie developers trying to make a name for themselves, but even so - free stuff of any kind usually carries with it some conditions (intrusive adverts, mandatory downloads of crappy toolbars and stuff) as well as a certain level of expectation... or lack thereof. It was therefore with much apprehension that I installed and started Treasure Adventure Game which, as you may have guessed by now, is one such freebie.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Exploring the Xbox

The days leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox were among the darkest in my gaming life. My beloved Sega had gone down in flames, as a hardware developer at least, and I was still in mourning by the time Sony's imaginatively-named successor to the PlayStation and Microsoft's debut console arrived. I had a vague knowledge of them and their early titles though, and had always expected that, if I ever did recover from my gaming depression, the one I would go for would be the Xbox, and there were two reasons for this.

Firstly, I had come to hate Sony, especially the PS2 which had received a lot of the blame for the Dreamcast's demise. Secondly, it seemed, from what I had seen, that the Xbox was much closer to the Dreamcast in terms of the titles it had available. Indeed, it almost seemed like a continuation of Sega's mighty machine what with Sega GT 2002, Jet Set Radio Future, Project Gotham Racing, Panzer Dragoon Orta, etc. Despite all this, I never did get around to buying one, even years later when the 360 arrived and the original system received the customary price drop. I did come close about 8-10 years ago - I even bought OutRun 2 (which, amusingly, I still have at my parents house somewhere!) when I saw it for a good price - but I kept holding off on buying the actual console until I found a limited edition green version for a similarly irresistible price, for it was this model that I had decided I must have. And eventually I had it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Awesome Nature #15

Whale Shark
Type: Fish  Lives In: Temperate/Tropical Ocean  Conversation Status: Vulnerable

It is in honour of my delightful wife that I thought I'd take a look at this mighty marine creature for the latest (belated) post in this series of features, for she is currently in Mexico visiting a friend who has, I'm jealous to say, taken her on a long boat trip out to the open sea where they will spend some time swimming with them! Mighty they are too, being the largest species of fish in the world - some can reach up 13 metres in length which is twice the size of the rather more famous (or should that be infamous?) great white shark. Luckily for us it's not quite as ravenous as its smaller cousin, feeding instead on krill, plankton, and other small creatures which it filters through its enormous, gaping mouth. I guess that means my wife is in little danger of being eaten (not that it stopped her from worrying) leaving her and her friend free to frolic amidst the majesty of these slow-but-graceful animals accordingly. Maybe a little scary but what an experience that must be...

Why It Is Awesome: Because it's the biggest fish in the world of course!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Hack 'n' Slash Games #2

Rastan (1987)
By: Taito Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 119,600 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, PC, MSX, Apple IIGS, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

For most gamers the first hack 'n' slash title that comes to mind is Golden Axe but, splendid as Sega's classic is, the sub-genre arguably started even earlier with Rastan. Granted, it may be more of a platformer than a scrolling fighting game but is still contains a hell of a lot of slashing. A great deal of it is done by the muscular Conan-like barbarian warrior of the title who's on a financially-motivated quest to battle through the harsh, monster-infested land of Semia and rescue the king's daughter, perhaps even earning her gratitude into the bargain! Such grand a reward can only mean the job at hand must be a rather tough one though, and that is indeed the case. There are six side-scrolling stages in total, each with two parts. The first of each generally takes place through an open exterior location and/or dangerous rocky caverns while the second is set within a castle or fortress of some kind, at the end of which lies a terrible boss from the netherworld!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Top Five Movie Moments #7

#7 - American Beauty (1999)

As a film fan I owe an awful lot to Alan Ball and Sam Mendes (amongst many others). Their writer/director collaboration that resulted in the wonderful American Beauty not only gave me one of the finest films I've ever seen, but it also changed my whole attitude to films in general, inspiring me to seek out and watch many examples I would most likely have previously steered clear of.

I never used to be too bothered by Oscar-winning films, for example, stupidly dismissing them as overly artsy and/or melodramatic. American Beauty came highly recommended by my good friend Luke though, with whom I mostly share a taste in films, so I figured it must be worth watching at least. And without getting into a detailed critique of the film, it was worth watching, to say the very least.

It had such an impact on me, in fact, that as soon as the credits rolled and I sat there in stunned silence, staring at the names scrolling down the screen as I contemplated what I had just seen, it was immediately my favourite film ever. Accordingly, near enough ever scene and every line of dialogue is important to me so choosing just five moments for this list was a tough job, but here they are:

Spoiler Alert: the Top Five Movie Moments featured here obviously assume that you've seen the film in question or don't mind knowing about its most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5... The Plastic Bag

Having grown up with an overbearing, ex-military father and a meek, browbeaten mother, Ricky has ended up a very interesting character. Angela dismisses him as a 'freak' and Jane finds him creepy as well, partly on account of him filming almost everything with his handheld camera (including her), but she soon changes her tune when he actually pays attention to her rather than Angela as is usually the case (Ricky: "I didn't mean to scare you, I just think you're interesting.")

After walking home from school one day (Angela, incredulously: "Jane, that's, like, almost a mile!"), Ricky shows Jane a few things he finds interesting... including his favourite recording: a plastic bag fluttering around in the wind. Yes, it's a scene that's been mocked many times since, and I suppose with reason in some ways. However, it's not so much what it shows but more about what it means to Ricky and how he speaks about it with such poignancy and emotion which, when combined with Thomas Newman's haunting score, makes it a tremendously memorable scene.

Ricky: "You want to see the most beautiful thing I've ever filmed?"

(cut to a TV showing a plastic bag fluttering around in the wind as they watch)

Ricky: "It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing. And there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just... dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever."

"Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... I need to remember..."

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it..."

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Shinobi Series - Part 6

The Cyber Shinobi (1990)
By: Sega Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: Nothing

Pretty much all the Shinobi games have been big news at the times they were released but almost certainly the least well-known and least appreciated of them all must be Cyber Shinobi. It was released only for the Master System which didn't really open it to the biggest audience, but it was intended as a direct sequel to the superb (if not entirely accurate) MS conversion of the original Shinobi which meant it could also be superb. In theory at least, but it didn't meet with a huge amount of praise from the press of its day so I've always been a bit wary of it to be honest. Now, however, I am forced by this sometimes-splendid blog to dip into these seldom-tested waters with the hope that time has been kind. The story sounds interesting enough - nothing too original or ground-breaking I'll grant you, but more of the same if fine by me if the 'same' is Shinobi!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

So Much To Do, So Little Time...

Oh hello there, how's stuff 'n' junk? Things have been rather busy here in RKS Land, as some of the regular visitors among you may have noticed from the notably less-frequent posts here at Red Parsley. The main reason for this for the last couple of months or so has been my work. As much as I'd love to do this blog or something similar for a living, it is still sadly very much a part-time venture, undertaken purely for the nostalgic love of and continuing passion for video games, specifically those of older origins or created in a similarly splendid spirit.

The World Cup rules but it takes up a lot of time!
But yes, unfortunately I do have a need for a 'day job' and it's always ultra-busy at this time of the year which rarely leaves me in the best frame of mind for blogging when I get home, and I often haven't had time to take lunch breaks either, which is time usually spent playing games for reviews here. It's been this rather than a lack of interest or inspiration that has caused the reduction in new posts here and it's likely to continue for at least another month or so. My work is gradually easing up but now I have two new problems of sorts: firstly, the FIFA World Cup is here which is awesome, but it also means many of my evenings for the next few weeks will be spent on the sofa (or in the pub) with a few beers, watching some fine football; and secondly, my wife and I have some family visiting from Brazil for the next two-and-a-half weeks or so which inevitably means lots of taking them around to see places, meals out, and even five days in the ever-impressive Paris!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #10

Bakuryu a.k.a. Wild Rapids (2000)
By: Fujimic Inc. Genre: Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation
Also Available For: Nothing

One of the great things about the really successful consoles such as the PlayStation is that amongst its millions of releases are lots of obscure, niche titles that cover all sorts of ground left untouched by releases on other systems. One great example is this game which I discovered just this past week, having never previously even heard of it. It must've received a release somewhere in the West judging by its alternate title but it was the Japanese version I happened upon and was surprised but pleased to find a racing game, albeit one featuring kayaks in place of cars! Aside from the rowing event in Daley Thompson's Decathlon on the Speccy I don't think I've ever been in command of an engine-less boat in a video game before so I was immediately intrigued by this largely unknown game.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Film Review #65

Django Unchained (2012)
Director: Quentin Tarantino Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, Walter Goggins

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 165 Minutes

Tagline: "The "D" is Silent. Payback Won't Be."

As most movie fans know, Tarantino is a bit of a nerd. Ever since he's been making his own films they've been filled with various tributes to his many favourite films, characters, and other bits and pieces, and pretty much all of the films themselves have been homages to his preferred genres too. This latest example from his infrequently-enlarged filmography is no different, having been inspired and heavily influenced by the many Spaghetti Westerns he watched in his earlier years. Unsurprisingly then, it's set the Old West and Deep South just a couple of years before the start of the American Civil War and as such contains many depictions of slavery - a delicate subject at the best of times, so I was very interested to see how the hugely-unsubtle QT approached the subject.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Arcade Shmups #21

Dr. Toppel's Adventure a.k.a. Dr. Toppel Tankentai (1987)
By: Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 55,750
Also Available For: Nothing

In my experience you can quite often tell something about a game just from its name, or at least what genre it probably falls into, so accordingly, when this title first caught my eye I thought I was in store for some sort of amusing, leapy platformer. To my surprise, however, it soon became apparent that Dr. Toppel's Adventure is actually a shoot 'em up, and a rather peculiar one at that, too! It's unclear what kind of doctorate the titular character possesses but he takes the form of a strange green quadrupedal creature with rocket boosters for legs, and it's by making use of these that he flies through seven vertically scrolling rounds with the aim of preserving the beautiful nature of the Kerol River.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Single Screen Platform Games #12

Chuckie Egg (198?)
By: Nigel Alderton / A&F Software Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: BBC Micro First Day Score: 173,320
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, Dragon 32/64, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Acorn Electron, MSX, Tatung Einstein, Atari 8-bit, PC, Amiga

There have never really been too many single-screen platform games around but a good number of them were not only arcade games, but Japanese arcade games. One of the most notable exceptions is a game that's legendary here in the UK but less well known elsewhere. If you grew up in the 80's here it wasn't a question of if you had played Chuckie Egg but rather which version you'd had access to. Despite owning a Speccy, most of my time spent with the game was courtesy of my good friend Luke and his Dragon 32. Many pleasant weekends were spent charging around the luminous green stages (a trademark of many Dragon titles) and we loved the game, but all these years I've been hearing about how the BBC version is supposedly the best of the many available. Having recently 'explored' this classic system, finding proof of this claim seemed like an ideal way to start my reviews for the system.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Sega: To Be How Good Takes Ages? - Part 1

I suppose it's inevitable that companies come and go over time, much like people, cultures, and everything else really I suppose. Even behemoths like Microsoft and (shudder) Apple will be distant memories one day. Most of the time it doesn't really matter too much when a company goes down. I mean, it's sad that people might've lost their jobs and all that stuff, but it rarely makes much actual difference to our everyday lives - there's almost always another waiting to rise in its place after all.

On some odd occasions, however, a loss is more keenly felt. Take, for example, the downfall of arcade and console giant, Sega. They're still in business, I know, but what a shadow of their former selves they now are. Their fall from grace was one felt profoundly by me as well as many other Sega fanboys and it's one that has had a not-insignificant impact on our gaming lives and the industry at large as well. My recent acquisition of an Xbox brought back memories of my happy Dreamcast days, the sadness that followed when news of its apparent failure broke, and my short-lived hope that Microsoft's bulky machine would carry on where Sega's had left off. It was while musing over these events that I decided it might be interesting, for me at least (chuckle), to take a (hopefully fairly brief) look back at Sega's history as well ponder what the future could hold for them.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

PSN Downloads #3

PixelJunk Shooter: The Depths of Disaster (2009)
By: Q-Games Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: PlayStation 3
Also Available For: PlayStation 4, Vita, PC, Apple Mac

My knowledge of the modern game scene is slowly improving but back when I first got my PS3 I knew about as much as a blind octopus. The whole PSN, downloadable indie games thing was new to me then, but upon my first browse through the ominous PlayStation Store, I kept seeing games with 'PixelJunk' in their name. As primarily a retro gamer I like pixels so I decided to take a look at one of them and, as a shmup fan, the choice of which one to plump for was easy - PixelJunk Shooter. Despite featuring a name as generic as most other PixelJunk games, it still had to be a shoot 'em up, surely? And that meant it was already awesome, potentially at least! I still had no idea what to expect though...

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Adult Games #4

Celery (1989)
By: Parsley Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC-98 First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nothing

Many of the few 'adult' games I've looked at so far have been obscure arcade titles but most of them have also been Japanese. I guess our Far-Eastern friends are a little keener on mixing gaming and nude girlies than us Western prudes - so much so, in fact, that a few of the systems native to that region are positively heaving under the vast weight of games featuring saucy minxes of all descriptions. One of these is NEC's Windows-based micro, the PC-98, so when I decided to start covering more of its games I suppose it was inevitable I'd encounter a nudey example at some point. It was actually the rather amusing name of this one that caught my eye but it didn't come as too much of a surprise to find... that's right, naughty girlies!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Film Review #64

The Straight Story (1999)
Director: David Lynch Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton, James Cada, Wiley Harker

Certificate: U Running Time: 112 Minutes

Tagline: "A true story that proves a little determination goes a very, very long way"

David Lynch's name may be synonymous with the likes of Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive amongst others, but my favourite film of his has always been The Straight Story. Unlike most of his output thus far it's fairly straightforward and it's also based on a true story - that of Alvin Straight, a pensioner from America's Midwest who embarks upon a remarkable journey. Alvin (Farnsworth), you see, grew up very close to his brother, Lyle (Stanton), and they remained close for much of their lives until an unspecified bust-up sent them their separate ways. Ten years later and the two are still not talking. However, news reaches Alvin that Lyle has had a stroke. Motivated to salvage their relationship, Alvin decides to visit his brother, but this is not nearly as easy a proposition as it might seem.