Monday, 27 March 2017

Film Review #98

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (2016)
Director: Zack Snyder Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 181 Minutes

Tagline: "Who will win?"


Despite my undeniable appreciation of the masses of superhero films we've had in recent years (or most of them), I've put off watching this one for a while now. This is mainly on account of the DC fanboys who I've learned are among the whiniest, most immature group of fans I've encountered. Okay, I guess not all of them, but many of them are apparently unable to tolerate the consistently poor reviews and feedback received by this highly-anticipated meeting of their two most treasured characters. Many blamed Rotten Tomatoes for their supposed 'Marvel bias' (despite the fact that they're merely a review aggregator and don't actually review films themselves), and these and their many other tantrums on social media soon became so overwhelming that they overshadowed the film itself for me.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Too Old For Retro?

So, I was walking along the other day, as I often am, when I went past a retirement home. Peering momentarily through the window revealed a sight familiar at many such establishments - a variety of old people sitting in big comfy chairs watching whatever nonsensical bullcrap happens to be on the television at the time which may or may not be numbing them to all of life's ills and easing their passage out of our world, or possibly even compelling them to hasten their departures.

An old person...
Nothing unusual there I agree but it did remind me of a discussion I once had with my best buddy Luke. He postulated, and I agreed, that the world of video games, even just the ones we would call 'retro' nowadays, contains so many titles that, short of winning the lottery or something else equally improbable, we simply won't have time to play most of them, perhaps ever. There might be one golden opportunity to do so, however, and that is when we retire. At the time we had the conversation, Luke and I were confident that we would still be very much into retro gaming by the time we reach our retirement age, which is likely to be around the 70 mark by then, and that we would relish the opportunity to spend our days catching up on old classics, but my recent epiphany while out walking made me question that. I mean, will we really still care about playing old games then? We will be getting on for the year 2045 by then and who knows what wonders may be around?

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Puzzle Games #22

Quarth a.k.a. Block Hole (1990)
By: Konami Genre: Shooting / Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: MSX2 First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Boy, NES, X68000, NEC PC-9801, Master System (unofficial)
Download For: Wii Virtual Console


Near enough every game over the years has been fairly recognisable as belonging to one particular genre or another but there have also been quite a few hybrids too. That is, games that result from the fusion of two or more often very different genres. Some of these have been pretty weird but I can't think of many stranger unions than a block falling puzzler and a shoot 'em up, but that's exactly what we have here courtesy of Konami! No doubt there is some peculiar back-story intended to explain the weird set-up but since most versions of the game were Japanese exclusives (all but arcade and Game Boy I believe), it's hard to say. All I can tell you is, it places you in control of a somewhat bulky blue spacecraft located at the bottom of the screen (you actually get to choose between four craft but it makes no difference) which apparently achieves flight by way of an angel attached to either side!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Film Review #97

Jack Reacher (2012)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Jai Courtney, Werner Herzog, David Oyelowo, Robert Duvall, Joseph Sikora

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 130 Minutes

Tagline: "The law has limits. He does not.


I'd never heard of the Jack Reacher books I must confess but there is apparently a whole series of them (some 21 so far). They are centred around the titular character who was a Major in the US Army Military Police Corp until he suddenly quit, instead choosing to live on the road as a drifter, taking odd jobs when and where necessary, and occasionally helping out in suspicious or dangerous situations. This is the first such film to be based on those books and stars Tom Cruise as the hero in question who is called upon by James Barr (Sikora), a former US Army sniper who has supposedly just shot and killed five people on a peaceful riverside in Pittsburgh. However, although he knows of Barr from his time in the army, Reacher isn't friends with him, isn't sure why he has been requested, and has no interest in clearing him.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Splendid MegaDrive Music #5

Thunder Force 2 (1989)

My new job sadly doesn't leave me as much spare time as my last one did, and that in turn means I have less time to do blog stuff, but one of the perks is that I can listen to music all day. Naturally I've therefore spent much of this time listening to stonking game soundtracks, and one that I find myself returning to often is Thunder Force 2, probably the most neglected installment of the celebrated Thunder Force series. Tomomi Ohtani's synth-rock soundtrack contains lots of great choons but I think my favourite is the one that accompanies the first side-scrolling stage. It's called 'A Ray of Hope' (in the X68000 version at least - the MD's tracks don't have names) and is quite awesome. Check it check it! :)

(full Thunder Force 2 review here)



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!
 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Single Screen Platform Games #15

Baluba-Louk No Densetsu (1986)
By: Able Corp Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: ???,??? (one credit)
Also Available For: NES


Since starting this feature, all the way back near the time I started the blog itself no less, I've been surprised by just how many candidates are out there. There are still at least ten more I intend to cover eventually, so it's perhaps a bit odd that I've opted to take a look at this little-known mid-80's example next. The reason it's odd is because it's not strictly speaking a single-screen platformer at all! That is to say, its many stages are not confined only to the size of a single screen - each one is actually nearly two screens wide and scrolls accordingly - but they play very much like the typical single-screen plaformers I, and perhaps you, know and love, so it's still well worth covering here if you ask me.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

TV Shows #14

The Grand Tour Season One (2016)
Developed By: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, Andy Wilman Starring: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, Mike Skinner

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 44-71 Minutes per Episode, 13 Episodes


I can't imagine there are too many TV shows that have been as divisive as Top Gear. To many, the show was infantile nonsense at best, and hosted by three ageing cretins who should know better. Controversy has never been far away from the immature antics of James May, Richard Hammond, and particularly Jeremy Clarkson, with some even throwing labels such as 'racist', 'homophobic', and 'sexist' in their direction. Conversely, however, the show also had a great many fans who adored the troublesome trio responsible for it, and I was one of them. I almost feel like I should apologise for that, what with the misdemeanours (alleged) of its stars. I don't actually like them that much outside the confines of the Top Gear format, and I don't even like some of the things they say/do on the show either, but I can't pretend I don't find them amusing much of the time.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Memorable Bosses #1

Dobkeratops
Games: R-Type Series

The first appearance of the fearsome creature...

I don't usually place the greatest emphasis on bosses in my reviews but, while they may only be small parts of much larger games, many stay with us much longer than the stages they block exit from, so I thought it might make a spiffing new series of posts to take a look at some of them in more detail. Many horrifying abominations were considered but what better place to start than with arguably the most famous and memorable boss of them all, certainly from the vast world of shoot 'em ups - the ghastly Dobkeratops. Some won't know his name but pretty much everyone who played video games in the mid-to-late 80's will know him by appearance. His likeness did after all adorn pretty much all adverts, flyers, and cover art for the ultra-popular shooter, so it would've been hard not to!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Speccy Homebrew Games #1

Gloop Troops (2010)
By: Little Shop of Pixels Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 22,500
Also Available For: iOS


When I gave the wonderful mobile game I Am Level a good going over last year its Speccy-style graphics and presentation made me realise something. For most of the time I have been running Red Parsley, I've covered a few doujin games here and there as well as a number of indie/download titles for PC and PSN, but I don't think I've played a single homebrew game for the Spectrum in that time, much less reviewed one. This is odd since the continuing passion shown by these talented, dedicated gamers never fails to impress, and the Speccy is of course one of my favourite systems too. So it's about time I started taking a look of some of them, and the first one I've chosen is Gloop Troops which was released back in 2010 by Little Shop of Pixels (also known as Andrew Oakley and Simon Franco). I can't recall where I first saw it now but it clearly did something to catch my eye.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Film Review #96

Captain Fantastic (2016)
Director: Matt Ross Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Ann Dowd

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 118 Minutes

Tagline: "Family values. Power to the people. Stick it to the man."


Shunning modern Western civilisation and living off the land in seclusion is a very appealing prospect for some, and one that's likely to become more and more appealing as the years of one's life wear on and the banality of it all sinks in, I'd wager. This kind of life and the people that favour it have been the subject of several films over the years and Captain Fantastic is the latest example. It is written and directed by Matt Ross and stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash who for ten years has lived with his wife Leslie and six children in a log cabin in the forested Washington wilderness. Their children are taught survival skills, educated in science, history, philosophy, and undergo regular 'training' to keep them physically fit.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Cover-Art: PC Engine - Part 4

Oops, it looks as though chastising myself last time I did one of these posts ended up doing little good, it's been nearly as long between posts as it was that time! Oh well, never mind. This will (probably) be my final look at the often-amusingly differing standard of PC Engine/TurboGrafx cover art anyway, partly because four posts offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the subject, but also because it seems there just isn't that many TG16 games (and resultant covers) for me to mock! So behold, here is (probably) my last selection of fine(?) PC Engine covers:

Neutopia (1990)

The Engine might not have been home to quite as many RPG's as its contemporaries but it did have Neutopia, and it was pretty cool too! Both of its regional covers are successful in indicating its genre but, unusually, I think I actually prefer the US version featuring a brave knight shielding himself from a ferocious dragon's fiery belch. It may not be 100% game-accurate but it would certainly be more likely to catch my eye in a game store than the rather dreary Japanese effort. It has a cool logo, I can't argue that point, and the hero is probably quite accurate (although he has brown hair in the game), but it's dark and murky image of a generic knight does little to capture my imagination... (full review here)


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Atari 2600 Games #4

Spider Fighter (1982)
By: Activision Genre: Shooting Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium First Day Score: 5,840
Featured Version: Atari 2600 Also Available For: Nothing


I would like to think I research my Top Five lists reasonably thoroughly considering I'm just an amateur doing this in my spare time, but when I posted my Top Five Atari VCS/2600 Shmups list a month or so back there was one title people kept asking me why I left out. That title was Spider Fighter and the reason I left it out was, quite honestly, because I hadn't heard of it and didn't encounter it in my research. Having now been made aware of it by these bemused Atari fans, however, I figured I should probably take a look at it to see if it really was deserving of a place on the list of not, and if its backstory is anything to go by I already do! Your job, you see, is an exterminator of some sort who must keep what is apparently an orchard free of fruit-destroying bugs. This is done in the form of a single-screen shooter with your 'Bug Blaster' gun at the bottom of the screen and the various fruits at the top. You can fire off several shots at once and you can 'steer' them too - something that proves very necessary as swooshing around above it are the many terrifying bugs.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Film Review #95

Man of Steel (2013)
Director: Zack Snyder Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 143 Minutes

Tagline: "You Are Not Alone"


I think we can safely say by now that Marvel's shared 'cinematic universe' of films has been a success so it was inevitable that DC would follow suit at some point. What I didn't realise at the time of its release, however, is that Man of Steel was the first of their own series. I had thought it simply (another) reboot of Superman but no, it was actually meant to be DC's equivalent of Iron Man - the one to get the ball rolling. To that end, it's an origins story in the truest sense of the word - the first since Christopher Reeve's film of 1978 if I'm not mistaken - and like that film it begins on the planet Krypton which is on the brink of annihilation. Shortly before it blows up in a highly spectacular fashion, Jor-El (Crowe), who for years had warned of the impending disaster, manages to launch his newborn son into space aboard a small craft.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Splendid Arcade Music #1

After Burner / After Burner II (1987)

Considering a great many retro games originated in the arcades, I have perhaps been a bit neglectful of the motherland with these Game Music posts. Spurred on by my recent review of the stonking After Burner, however, here is the very first such post.

As mentioned in the full review, my favourite of Hiroshi Miyauchi's compositions is Red Out and I was going to feature that ace choon here, but while listening to it on YouTube at work, that stupid autoplay feature played more After Burner tracks, and after a couple of these it came to a rather cool fan rendition of the intro theme.

I'm not sure who the performer is beyond his YT username of 'haibanhunterk' but he's clearly a very talented guitarist - his channel features a number of other guitar-based renditions of popular game music - but I can't see any of the others being more awesome than this one. Check it out along with the original:


Friday, 3 February 2017

Puzzle Games #21

Binary Land (1985)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Puzzle / Maze Players: 1Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 153,400
Also Available For: MSX, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-8801


I don't get game-related gifts for Christmas that often but this year my wife bought me a cool little clone handheld thingy. It looks like a PSP but is actually filled with NES games along with an emulator, and the first one I've spent much time with is Binary Land, an early Hudson Soft puzzle/action game which tasks you with reuniting two penguin lovers. This is done over a series of single-screen stages, each formed from a grid of 15x10 blocks and viewed from overhead, in which both penguins - Gurin (male) and Malon (female) - are dropped in separate locations. Your job is to bring them together at their special meeting point - a heart at the top of each stage which grows cold and diseased in a harsh metal cage until their combined splendour liberates it. The twist is, in an unusual and initially-confusing move, you control both of the stumbling flappers simultaneously, with the movements of one mirroring those of the other!