Thursday, 8 October 2015

Arcade Shmup #23

P-47 Aces (1995)
By: Jaleco Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 139,489
Also Available For: Nothing

There's nothing particularly ground breaking about P-47 but for some reason it's still a shmup I greatly enjoy, so imagine my delight at hearing about this less-well known sequel. Like the first game, it's a horizontal-scroller and appears to be set during the same sort of time period (1940's). The story plunges you (and a friend, for it supports two players) smack in the middle of whichever war is currently raging (probably WWII) with little explanation other than orders to neutralise specific 'enemy' targets. There are eight stages in total, standing between you and whatever your ultimate objective is (the total destruction of the enemy and their devastating machine of war, presumably?) and, as seems to be customary with shmups from the mid-90's onwards, instead of merely having one lone hero with an 'advanced prototype' aircraft to do this with, you get the choice of four pilots, each with their own unique bucket of bolts to steer through the carnage.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Memorable Adverts / Flyers #2

Driller by Major Developments / Incentive Software (1987) - Various Formats

Released to universally dropped jaws in 1987 by Incentive Software, Driller was the first game to make use of the much-heralded 'Freescape' 3D game engine which was able to produce filled polygonal landscapes, even on the lesser-powered machines such as the Speccy and Amstrad CPC. According to Incentive it was "like being there" - a slight exaggeration perhaps, but it was definitely very impressive and led to a direct sequel as well as numerous other games, and I played and enjoyed most of them, mainly on my Speccy +3, but later on my Amiga as well.

Why is it memorable?
I've been into science fiction for most of my life so when I first saw Driller's advert it captured my attention immediately. It looked like it was straight out of one of the many 70's sci-fi books my dad had passed on to me, which all included some wonderfully imaginative illustrations on their covers and often inside as well. The artwork was fantastic - a futuristic green landscape dominated by a huge tower of some sort, a cool pointy red spacecraft zipping past it, a gorgeous planet looming behind - and it set the mood for the game superbly. Happily we weren't then let down either...

But is the game actually any good?
Yes! As a proper 3D adventure, it was a kind of game I'd never played before, but I was drawn into its atmospheric world straight away. The object was just as original as everything else about the game - you had to place drilling rigs on each sector of a moon to vent off gas, thereby preventing a catastrophic explosion, but it wasn't easy with all sorts of security systems trying to take you out. It has dated quite a bit now of course, but the impact it had in its day cannnot be understated, and in my view that was helped a lot by this superb advert.

Friday, 2 October 2015

TV Shows #7 - Part 1

Arrow Season One (2012)
Developed By: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, Emily Bett Rickards, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Donnell, Willa Holland, Susanna Thompson, Manu Bennett, Colton Haynes, John Barrowman, Sebastian Dunn, Byron Mann, Celina Jade, Colin Salmon, Kelly Hu, Audrey Marie Anderson, Michael Rowe

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 43 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "His death was just the beginning."

His name, as you have no doubt been told many, many times if you've ever watched the show in question, is Oliver Queen. It's also a name that will already be familiar to comic book fans the world over. However, as I've mentioned once or twice in my Marvel film reviews, as much as I appreciate the characters, artwork, stories, etc, of many comic-books, I've never gotten around to properly immersing myself in that world. Consequently, the name of Oliver Queen was a new one to me. Thankfully, this show, based on the DC Comics character, Green Arrow, is very accommodating for newbies like me.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Budget Games #7

Zub (1986)
By: Binary Design / Mastertronic Genre: Platform Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 1,044
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64

If I recall correctly, one of the first budget games I ever bought (or was given, as was more likely the case in those days) was Zub. It was an immediately eye-catching game, mainly due to its splendid comic-book style cover, but it was memorable for a few other reasons as well. It puts you in the shoes of Private Zub who is summoned by Sergeant Zub and briefed on a mission he is to undertake on the orders of King... umm, Zub. The task at hand is to recover one of the king's crown jewels, the Green Eyeball of Zub, and return it. This dazzling jewel won't be easy to grab though - your quest begins on the planet Zub One while your quarry is all the way over on Zub Ten. Getting there isn't as straightforward as you might think either, as the planets don't simply lead from one to the next.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Retro Gaming Zoo #1

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. First up is:

Creature #1 - Leon of Circus Lido
Type of Creature? Chameleon  Realistic Portrayal? Yes

An unusual choice for the first post of this feature? Yes, I guess Leon isn't the best known character around but for some reason he was the first one I thought of. He only featured in one game that I know of which is a platform/puzzle game. His abilities are few (he can't even jump, for example) but those he does have are very faithful to his lizardy origins. They include a curly prehensile tail that allows him to climb up certain types of platforms and a long sticky tongue he uses to capture (though not eat) all the pesky insects that inhabit the game's many single-screen stages. He doesn't talk and nor is he on some human-like quest for revenge or justice as far as I can tell. He seems to simply be struggling to survive in the hazardous environment he calls home. In other words, Circus Lido is a rare case of an animal-based game which is actually reasonably realistic! Well, for video game standards at least...

Is His Game Any Good? Undecided. The premise is good, it's enjoyable to play, and addictive, but it gets too hard too quickly for my tastes. Definitely unique and worth checking out though. For more details of Circus Lido, check the full review here.


Friday, 25 September 2015

San Francisco's Gaming Gem - Part 1

Oh, hello there, how's stuff 'n' junk? As mentioned in my 'why I haven't posted much lately' post, I have recently enjoyed a spectacular holiday driving around California visiting various cities and National Parks alike. There were of course many highlights but few relevant to the usual content of this blog. One, however, was very relevant, and I didn't discover its existence until mid-way through my second-to-last day of the trip when a friend I had met up with who lives in (or near) San Francisco.

The magical place in question was the Musée Mécanique, located at Fisherman’s Wharf in the north of San Francisco, and it's a museum of coin-operated arcade games. While the machines on display do include classic video games like Galaxians, Robotron, Phoenix, etc, the museum is perhaps even more noteworthy for its collection of antique electro-mechanical arcade games, and the best part is that all the machines have been lovingly restored and are fully playable too! Some of these date back as far as the 1920's, amazingly, and range right up to the 70's where of course the electronic games we know today were born (yes, okay, I know Spacewar was earlier), and they were absolutely fascinating to behold.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Neo Geo Games #1

Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy (1994)
By: SNK Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: Don't know, doesn't record scores :(
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

The names 'Roddy' and 'Cathy' may not conjure very heroic images in one's mind - they sound more like the hosts of a kiddies TV show to me - but they are the names of the two heroes found in this here leapy slap-fest which SNK graced us with mid-way through the Neo Geo's life. It's not an easy game to categorise either - it takes the form of a platformy run 'n' gunner, but with much fightyness instead of guns. Well, kind of. Anyway, our 'heroes' (chortle) are apparently bounty hunters who are sent "to put a stop to a colony of Galactic Pirates called the Klaptons who threaten and plunder the cosmos". These cretinous pirates have seized four elemental planets and it's your job as Roddy (player one), and possibly Cathy (player two) as well, to reach and defeat each planet's newly-installed leader, all of whom are of course working for the heinous main man, Captain Klapton.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Film Review #81

Ex Machina (2015)
Director: Alex Garland Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "There is nothing more human than the will to survive."

As far as many imaginative people are concerned, the great doom of our time will come not from a cataclysmic asteroid impact, nuclear war, or alien invasion, but as a result of artificial intelligence. It's unquestionably something with many potential implications - problems that we will no doubt be faced with in the coming years - and there have been many films that have tried to tackle some of them. The latest is this British effort which is the directorial début of Alex Garland, previously best known as a screenwriter, notably for some of Danny Boyle's films such as 28 Days Later and Sunshine. For his first film, Garland based the story on an idea he's had since he was a child, the essence of which was simple - could a machine ever be truly sentient? The answer seems clear but is it really that straightforward?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Norris Fighter!

I've never really been the biggest fan of fighting games but one series I have always liked is that of Capcom's mighty Street Fighter. Something else I like is Chuck Norris, or more accurately, his hugely exaggerated powers and the resultant feats that are attributed to him (such as those detailed on the highly amusing Chuck Norris Facts website), so the prospect of a video showing the latter as a playable character in Street Fighter II was an intriguing one to say the least. I don't normally post things like this but it really tickled me, so for your viewing pleasure:


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Currently Playing...

Elemental Master by Techno Soft (1990) - MegaDrive

Much like the recent Raiden Fighters post, this is another one I'm a tad late with (not that it takes me ages to get around to everything of course), and was in fact the very next game I played as part of the Shmup League. Unlike that previous toughie, however, I had actually played this one before (I've even reviewed it - check here!) so I had hopes of putting in a better performance. Sadly this was only marginally realised (I finished 9th out of 12 - chortle) but it did also give me the opportunity to play it properly again for the first time in a rather startling five years.

The first thing I noticed when playing it this time is that it's harder than I remember. I guess that's often the case though, when you're long out of practise, but I found that Laden (the character you play as) seemed larger and slightly clumsier to control that he used to, and unsurprisingly I didn't get particularly far! To start with at least, but practise pays dividends as they say, and I gradually gained a degree or respectability (without ever threatening the upper half of the league of course, which consisted pretty much exclusively of 1CC scores). I soon polished off the first four stages, any of which can be selected from the start of the game, but it here that I again ran into problems.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Holiday Time Again!

Yes, it's that time of year again! The few regular visitors I have here at Red Parsley may have noticed fewer new posts lately and that's because I have been on holiday for the last two-and-a-half weeks. This trip was the most ambitious yet undertaken by my wife and I and represented the fourth continent to have been visited by my good self (although my wife had already been there).

Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on a boat trip...
This continent, following on from a few trips around Europe and South America, as well as a recent visit to Asia, was North America; more specifically California where we had decided to attempt a road trip. After arriving in San Francisco, we intended to drive east to Yosemite National Park, then down to Fresno where we would be staying for a few nights while we explored the mighty Yosemite along with Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks which are right next to each other. Sadly, Kings Canyon was closed due to a raging wildfire whose smoke partially obscured Sequoia Park as well. It seems these fires are much more common than I had realised too. Indeed, there was much evidence of previous fires in the other parks, particularly Yosemite, and all the fire hazard signs we passed were set at the 'very high' risk level. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Memorable Gaming Moments #2

Wiz 'n' Liz by Raising Hell Software / Psygnosis (1993) - MegaDrive

Ooo, ooo, what could it be?!
More often than not it's the silliest, weirdest things I remember about the times I have spent gaming all these years. Sure enough, when I think about Wiz 'n' Liz - one of my favourite games and in my opinion a tremendously enjoyable and underrated 16-bit platformer - the thing that usually stands out the most is all the peculiar little mini-games and bonuses that can be accessed by way of its fruit-based magic spells. On each fast, looping landscape that make up the stages of the game, you see, are a great many rabbits. Running into these first releases letters which should be collected to spell out the magic word at the top of the screen. Once that's done, any remaining rabbits release fruits instead. Collecting enough of these will allow you to use the fruit in question on your 'home' screen where your magic cauldron is found.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bat 'n' Ball Games #11

Thunder and Lightning (1990)
By: Visco / Romstar Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: Missed It (not displayed while playing)
Also Available For: Arcade

You would think after the immense success of Arkanoid that many of the clones that followed would also meet with some degree of fame and fortune too, especially if they were any good, but this release by Visco went largely unnoticed. This is even stranger when you realise it first appeared in arcades - the birthplace of most popular games of the day, and was also ported to the NES - the most popular console of the time. Perhaps it stank of poop? Many clones were tremendously generic and highly uninspiring to play after all. After just a few minutes playing Thunder and Lightning, though, that definitely didn't seem to be the case here. Impressions of Romstar's NES conversion were initially very positive - it's bright and colourful, the presentation is nice, and my time spent with it was enjoyable, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was going to suddenly start sucking hard and I would then come to understand the reason for its apparent anonymity.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Film Review #80

Oblivion (2013)
Director: Joseph Kosinski Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: "Earth is a memory worth fighting for."

Earth is dying. That's the bleak message we are given by Commander Jack Harper (Cruise) at the opening of this adaptation of Joseph Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel. It's set in 2077, around 50 years after a devastating war with the invading Scavengers (or Scavs), an alien race forced to leave their own world and who are now keen to exploit the resources of our precious home. It wasn't a direct invasion at first though. The Scavs first blew up our moon which threw the world into chaos. Enormous earthquakes struck within hours and huge tsunamis took care of much that remained. Then came the invasion. We fought back. We used the nukes, and eventually defeated the Scavs, but earth was left a poisoned ruin and most of her population gone. The survivors relocated to Titan with just a handful remaining behind to oversee the massive fusion generators which are slowly draining the oceans to produce energy for the colonists.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Indie Games News/Previews #5

No Man's Sky by Hello Games (2015) - PC and PlayStation 4

Given my apparent natural lethargy and general lack of urgency, the E3 fair isn't something I usually pay a massive amount of attention to. Sure, the more popular news items usually end up finding me anyway, some of which I find interesting, others I do not, but there is one game that's been featured in the last two events that I'm desperate to play, and that, as you might've guessed, is No Man's Sky. It's an indie title by a small British studio based in Guildford (which isn't far from me actually!), but the fact that it's been featured in two annual shows (and counting) should tell you that it's a little more ambitious than most indie releases. In fact, it's so ambitious, many believed it couldn't even be realised.