Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hack 'n' Slash Games #1

Golden Axe (1989)
By: Sega Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 205 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Master System, PC Engine CD, WonderSwan Color, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Wii Virtual Console, iOS

Video games may have started off in the world of science fiction but it wasn't long before they entered the realms of fantasy as well. One of the many type of resulting sub-genres quickly became known as the hack 'n' slash game and still one of the most successful and enduring examples must surely be Sega's mighty Golden Axe. It tells the story of an enchanted, magical land called Yuria in which warriors, amazons, knights, dragons, sprites, dwarves, and ordinary townsfolk all live together peacefully... until a demonic oaf called Death Adder steals the Golden Axe, the magical emblem of Yuria, kidnaps the King and his daughter, and starts killing people until they accept him as their new ruler. The cowering peasants of Yuria don't have to live in fear for long though - three brave souls step forward and pledge to send him back to the darkness from whence he came.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Ultimate: The Collected Works - Part 4

Cookie (1983)
By: Ultimate Play the Game  Genre: Action  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 4,630
Also Available For: Nothing

Ultimate might be legends in the Speccy world but they weren't perfect. Their last effort - Tranz Am - for example, was rather poor compared to the first two games, but with Cookie they've made a swift return to the simpler, single-screen action/shooty formula that worked so well before. As with those it has a unique and slightly strange concept - this time you're cast as Charlie the Chef who is trying to make cookies. However, his apparently sentient ingredients keep escaping from the pantry and running amok! Once they're out, Charlie must stun them with flour bombs and direct them into his mixing bowl at the bottom of the screen which is marked with a number indicating the required number of ingredients before the level is completed. It's not quite that simple though!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Top Five Capital Cities I Want To Visit

I've been pretty lucky over the last few years to have had the opportunity to visit a number of interesting countries, and in most cases their capital cities too, and as some of you may remember I posted a list of my favourite such examples (so far) a few months ago. Since then I've also visited Bangkok which was... very crowded, but also home to many impressive temples and other stuff of cultural interest. There are, however, still many places I'd like to visit one day. I doubt I'll manage to fit them all in (especially since the wife isn't interested in three of them) but these are the ones I'd most like to see. Maybe one day...

5. Nuuk

Which is, for anyone who doesn't know, the capital of... Greenland! Yes that's right, though apparently unknown to many, not only does Greenland have people living on it but it even has a capital city. It's located on the south-west part of the enormous (and curiously un-green) island and is home to over 16,000 people who all speak Danish (Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark). As you can probably see though, most of them live in colourful wooden houses dotted around the rocky landscape rather than the giant concrete blocks and glass/steel towers that are usually found in capital cities. I think it would be quite interesting to live and work here for a while but for holiday purposes I think one week would probably be sufficient. Shame it costs so damn much to go there - as far as I can tell there's one flight a month and the cheapest price I found was a few coins shy of £1,000!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Run 'n' Gun Games #7

Mercenary Kings (2013)
By: Tribute Games Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: PlayStation 4

It was over three years ago now that I first heard about Canadian indie developer, Tribute Games, which was founded by a trio of ex-Ubisoft developers. The game that caught my eye was actually their debut release - Wizorb - a slightly RPG-ish take on the bat 'n' ball genre. As unlikely a combination as that might sound, the result was undoubtedly the finest such game I've played to date, surpassing even the great Arkanoid for sheer awesomeness. As you might therefore imagine, I've been awaiting their next game with a great deal of interest, and now... it's here! Yes that's right, after these long years of waiting and hoping, Tribute's second game has finally arrived and, rather than being a Wizorb sequel or spin-off, it's an entirely new game too!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Cover Art Face Off #1

Wetrix by Zed Two / Ocean (1998) - Nintendo 64

Hello and welcome to another new feature here at Red Parsley! Well, kind of. As some of you may know I've taken a look at the contrasting quality of video game cover art here before, just for the Master System and PC Engine so far (at time of writing), but some games warrant some attention all on their own. One such title that's always stuck in my mind is Wetrix, the addictive isometric puzzler by John and Ste Pickford, known then as Zed Two. It was released initially just for the Nintendo 64 and received unique cover art in each of the three main territories, so it's this version I've taken a look at.

If you're not familiar with the game, there's a full review here, but in brief: it takes place on a single static screen featuring a square piece of land. Falling down onto this are various shaped pieces of land with which you need to build up walls on your cramped plot. This is because the falling items soon start including gloops of water which your land has to contain - if too much water leaks over the edge of the land, it's game over. It's an interesting idea and makes for a tricky game, and it also resulted in some memorable covers too...

North America
Most of my pageviews here come from the US so this will be the cover most of you are familiar with, and it's... pretty good I suppose, at least in terms of its accuracy. In fact, if you've ever played the game you might have noticed that this cover could almost be a screenshot from it. It's not, however, a particularly interesting or eye-catching piece of artwork, especially compared to the other two examples...

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Bomberman Series - Part 11

Bomberman '93 (1992)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Maze  Players: 1-5  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 76,500
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

It may have only been a couple of years but after numerous sequels and spin-offs the Bomberman series has finally returned to the place many gamers feel it belongs. That's right, the mighty PC Engine! This triumphant return brings with it the renewal of the epic battle between White Bomberman and the despicable Black Bomberman who this time, as relayed in the amusing intro sequence, has now attacked a city and stolen the seven circuit boards that power it, scattering them across several nearby planets. That fiend! Thanks to this heinous plot, Bomberman unsurprisingly has to battle across the seven unique worlds - Planet Quarry, Blossom Planet, Planet Inferno, Planet Wither, Planet Surf, Icicle Planet, and Planet Techo. Each hosts eight stages - seven normal ones followed by a boss stage, and to begin with they're mostly a single screen in size but quickly get bigger, scrolling either horizontally or vertically up to about three screen lengths (or widths).

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Arcade Classics #6

Frogger (1981)
By: Konami Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 12,310 (one credit)
Also Available For: PlayStation, Vita, SNES, MegaDrive, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit,, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Philips G7000 (blimey, I think that's it!)
Download For: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, Android, Apple iOS, Mobile

I've always rightfully regarded Frogger as a classic but I've never actually spent too much time playing it. With that exhaustive list of available conversions above I guess I don't really have much of an excuse for that but, as always, in order to take a proper look at the game, I decided to start with this delightful original version which first appeared way back in '81 courtesy of Konami. It has long been considered a slightly odd game though. It consists of a series of single-screen overhead-viewed stages on each which the object is to guide a frog (or in fact, five frogs, one at a time) from the bottom of the screen across a busy section of road, then across a river, to one of five 'homes' at the top.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

TV Shows #5

Breakout Kings (2011 - 2012)
Created By: Nick Santora, Matt Olmstead Starring: Laz Alonso, Domenick Lombardozzi, Brooke Nevin, Malcolm Goodwin, Serinda Swan, Jimmi Simpson

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

Tagline: "It Takes a Con To Catch a Con"

As far as most TV fans are concerned, Prison Break started out as the greatest new show of all-time but gradually decreased in quality season by season until it reached its dramatic conclusion at the end of its fourth season. It still had a lot of fans throughout its run though, so how do you appease them once the show is over? Create a spin-off of course! Yes that's right, for as well as sharing the central theme of 'prison breakouts', Breakout Kings is also by the same production team and is even set in the same 'universe'. In other words, there's the potential for crossover stories - potential that doesn't go wasted, incidentally. The premise of the show is rather different to Michael Scofield's adventure though. Breakout Kings is the name given (unofficially) to a group who are charged with tracking down escaped prisoners or 'runners' and returning them to captivity. The trick is, the team is partially composed of convicts currently serving time themselves. After all, to quote the show's tagline, it takes a con to catch a con... in theory at least!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Top Five Prehistoric Platformers

Throughout the 80's and the first half of the 90's, platform game were surely one of, if not the most popular of game genres. Such popularity brought with it many, many examples to choose from and, while their main characters differed, many of which were anthropomorphic animals, and usually included the odd gimmick or two, most fell into the same pattern of being set in themed fantasy worlds.

One setting that most developers failed to take advantage of, however, was that of our own world's prehistoric years. Given the genre's obsession with grassy, tree-lined stages, our planet's formative years would've made a perfect setting for all sorts of platformy adventures, surely? All those bizarre creatures, rugged landscapes, and geologic instability offered some wonderful opportunities which few took advantage of. There were a few though, most of which appeared within a couple of years of each other, curiously, and here are my favourites:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I've traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven't played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Prehistorik (1991)

Perhaps the least well-known title on the list is this one which was released on a handful of home computers (Amiga version shown) by French developer, Titus, who were notorious in their early years for their consistently poor titles. Luckily, Prehistorik is not one of them! Like all but one of the games in this list it casts you as a hairy caveman and, also like the other games, it inaccurately thrusts Homo erectus (snigger) and dinosaurs together. One way that this game is unusual, however, is that it's a flick-screen game which is something I like about it. Aside from that it's pretty standard stuff - simply whack the various creatures (dinosaurs, bears, monkeys, gonks, etc) with your club to fill your food-meter. Touch any of them without whacking them (or some stuff that looks like parts of the scenery) and you lose energy. It's a simple one but it has appealing graphics, decent music, and is also rather addictive. There are a fair few sequels too - must try those soon!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Star Control - Part 7

Star Control II a.k.a. The Ur-Quan Masters (1994)
By: Toys For Bob / Accolade Genre: RPG / Strategy Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: 3DO
Also Available For: PC, Apple Mac

I have now been posting my highly inane burblings here for almost four years, believe it or not. In all that time I've written about a great many games and related subjects but the ones that I've talked about the most are probably the spiffing Star Control and it's even more stonking sequel. The latter was in fact the very first game I ever talked about here and I've done so several times since as well. Rather bizarrely, however, despite being my favourite video game of all time since its release, and despite all the stuff I've posted about it, it's a game that still hasn't actually been reviewed here. As I'm sure many who know me may would agree, I'm a pretty weird guy sometimes, but this is still an entirely unacceptable state of affairs. Luckily it's also one that can be easily rectified. Behold:

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bat 'n' Ball Games #8

Devilish a.k.a. Bad Omen (1992)
By: Opera House / Sage's Creation Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 12,260
Also Available For: Game Gear

I must say, as I discover and play more and more bat 'n' ball games for this series of features, I am continually impressed by creative developers' attempts to come up with stories for them. I mean let's face it - how could there logically be one for a game of this type? That doesn't seem to stop them trying though, and that remains the case with Devilish (released as Bad Omen in Japan). Accordingly, it's set in the days of yore and features a nameless prince and princess who were happy and in love until a jealous demon turned them into... umm, stone paddles, obviously. Then, 'suddenly, a mysterious blue sphere fell from the sky' which allowed the price and princess to do battle with the demon and, presumably, regain their biological forms and continue 'loving' each other (giggity). It all sounds pretty ridiculous, of course, but it does mean we have another Breakout-inspired adventure to battle through which is great news! In theory at least...

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Film Review #63

Born 2 Race (2011)
Director: Alex Ranarivelo Starring: Joseph Cross, Nicole Badaan, John Pyper-Ferguson, Brando Eaton, Sherry Stringfield, Spencer Breslin, Whitmer Thomas, Erik King

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 95 Minutes

Tagline: "Only One Can Win It All"

It was an alarming amount of time ago now that I took a look at one aspect of the legacy left by the Fast and Furious films, namely the simple and/or cheap methods of modifying otherwise-normal cars to turn them into tarmac-shredding monsters. However, one more obvious way they've left their mark comes in the form of the glut of car films that have been turning up in the intervening years. Already one of the more well known of these is the forthcoming (at time of writing) film based on the Need For Speed game series but a less well known example I recently discovered is Born 2 Race (or Born To Race - I don't think the producers could make up their minds). Despite not being deemed worthy of a cinematic release I nonetheless kept an open mind and remained hopeful that it might actually be that rarest of beasts - a street racing film that was actually about street racing rather than being another 'tough guy(s) take down evil crime boss while occasionally driving fancy cars' film. Let's see if my hopes were fulfilled...

Friday, 14 March 2014

Arcade Shmups #20

R-Type (1987)
By: Irem Corp Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 159,200
Also Available For: PC Engine, PC Engine CD, X68000, Game Boy, Master System, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade, Android, iOS

It may not seem like it but this is a rather special shmup review today. For those readers who haven't been keeping track (probably all of you), this is not only the 100th arcade review here at Red Parsley but it's also the 100th shmup review too. At the same time! Amazing, huh? And what better game to mark such a momentous occasion than arguably the most celebrated example of all time?! However, a legend it may be, but it's also a game I haven't played nearly enough. I had it for my Speccy and Master System (probably still have, actually) and both were superb conversions, but by far most of my R-Type gaming has come courtesy of Super R-Type on the SNES which, as you may know, features more of R-Type 2 than the first game. So, the motivation behind this review, other than featuring a game worthy of such a landmark, is to finally, belatedly dissect the original arcade version that so wowed gamers back in the mid-80's. Bydo Empire, prepare to be smacked upside the head!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mobile Games #6

Flappy Bird (2013)
By: .GEARS Studios  Genre: Action  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android First Day Score: 30
Also Available For: Apple iOS

Aside from the odd flirtation, I've never really been too bothered about playing games on my smartphone. Consequently, many of the most popular titles drift by me largely unnoticed. One that I definitely did notice, however, was Flappy Bird. It was seemingly a rather popular game already, receiving millions of downloads during the short time it was available, but its developer, a Vietnamese gentleman called Dong Nguyen, thrust it immeasurably further into the limelight by abruptly announcing its removal from Android and Apple stores due to apparent guilt over its addictive nature. This is the point I first heard of the game - on the 'proper' BBC News website of all places! Soon afterwards I witnessed desperate pleas from fans for it to be reinstated, stories of how Mr. Nguyen had been raking in tens of thousands of dollars each day just in advertising revenue, and there was even news of people selling phones with the game pre-installed for hugely inflated prices. What on earth was going on? Could the game really be so amazing as to garner this much attention, even hysteria? I had no idea - I still didn't even know what kind of game it was at this point, but I decided to find this 'next Angry Birds' to see what all the fuss was about.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Film Review #62

John Carter (2012)
Director: Andrew Stanton Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Willem Dafoe, Daryl Sabara

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 132 Minutes

Tagline: "Lost In Our World, Found In Another"

So, John Carter huh? Prior to this movie's release who had heard of him? I sure hadn't and, although I may be in the minority in that regard, it meant I had absolutely no idea what kind of film this is. Therefore, for the benefit of those as ignorant as I apparently am, allow me to explain. Mr. Carter is the star of the 'Barsoom' series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of which - A Princess of Mars - was published all the way back in 1917 and upon which this film is based. They are primarily set on 'Barsoom' which is the name given to Mars by the native populace. That's right, for the book was written in a time when it was believed that not only might Mars harbour life but whole civilisations, perhaps even more advanced than our own! Barsoom may well have once been home to such glorious societies but during the time of the story it's a ruined and dying planet.