Friday, 22 August 2014

SNES Driving / Racing Games #3

Uchuu Race: Astro Go! Go! (1994)
By: Meldac / Kaze Genre: Racing  Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing

I think it's safe to say by now that even occasional visitors to Red Parsley will be well aware of my appreciation of Nintendo's stonking F-Zero series. I'm therefore quite flabbergasted that the existence of this catchily-named game only just reached me this very week. The reason for my surprise, in case you hadn't already guessed, is that it's a game that has more than a little in common with the classic series, and in particular its SNES debut. It actually appears to have been directly based on Nintendo's game as far as its visual style is concerned but it doesn't take long to realise that it's quite a bit weirder than its source of inspiration too. Lord only knows what the back-story could be - the game is a Japanese exclusive (although a US version was planned) so I don't have the luxury of reading the instructions - but the first thing I thought of while exploring it was... F-Zero meets Fantasy Zone! That automatically sounds like the greatest thing ever, so let's hope for the best.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Indie Nuggets #3

The Assault of Space Mutants from Arctic Rainforests (2013)
By: Jani Nykänen Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 556,950
Also Available For: Nothing

I'm sure by now many of you have heard about those game-making contests that some websites hold. They have become very popular in recent years and one example I stumbled upon not too long ago is called NESJam. The rules were simple: games must be made by just one person from start to finish within a week and they must be made in the style of an NES game (resolution, colour pallette, etc). One of the most eye-catching entries I saw, probably at least in part because of its amusing name, is this one which was made by a talented chap called Jani Nykänen.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Sega Super Scaler Games #2

Space Harrier (1985)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 6,625,540
Also Available For: Saturn, 32X, Master System, Game Gear, Sharp X68000, Sharp X1, PC Engine, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

These cyclops mammoths rule! How can they be enemies?
Sega's iconic Space Harrier might have just missed out on being the first Super Scaler game released, but it quickly became the most popular arcade game around at the time, and remains one of the most fondly recalled today. However, some say its greatness can only truly be experienced in its native setting - in other words in the large sit-down machine with all its hydraulic wibbling. It's a fair point I suppose but I resolved to find out by giving it my first proper play for a good number of years. Actually, now that I think about it, Sega never really gave this game much a back-story, did they? I suppose it's not really necessary for what was essentially intended a tech-demo, but one thing they did do was to base their fancy adventure in a bizarre land called the Fantasy Zone, later to be populated by Opa-Opa and overthrown by the evil Menons of course.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Film Round-Up #4

Yes that's right, it's time for another Netflix round-up! Much of my time with this splendid service is spent watching TV shows (more posts on them later) but the wife and I do watch a few films too - in fact, all but the first of these were chosen by her (she doesn't like all my sci-fi 'nonsense' so I have to watch that on my own) which means some romantic mush had to be endured, but it's not all been bad...

The Heist (2009)

Also known as The Maiden Heist, this is a film that had a troubled release due to the bankruptcy of its distributor, but it has a strong cast which is what drew me to it. Christopher Walken is the star but he has extensive support from Morgan Freeman and William H. Macy, the three of whom are all security guards at a museum and have each become obsessed with particular pieces of art displayed there. So obsessed, in fact, that when they learn of plans to move the collection to Denmark they resolve to steal them, replacing them with hastily-crafted replicas. The problem? None of them have a clue what they're doing! That doesn't stop them from formulating a supposedly simple plan to make the switch during the removal process but, of course, not everything goes quite according to plan! It's all very silly of course, and is more of a light-hearted comedy than a 'proper' heist film, but it's great fun all the same, especially with such an appealing cast at the helm... 7/10

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

NES Platform Games #6

Yume Penguin Monogatari (1991)
By: Konami Genre: Platform / Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing

Penka turns her back on her bulky beau...
There are several kinds of animals that are always welcome in video games. One obvious example is monkeys but I've come to realise in recent years that another one is penguins. I can't personally recall a single bad game starring a penguin so I had high hopes for this odd example which was released only in Japan by Konami. Accordingly it features their usual flapper known as Penta (of Antarctic Adventure amongst others) who it seems has let himself go somewhat since his earlier exploits. Indeed, the once-athletic penguin is now a portly waddling behemoth whose beloved girlfriend, Penka, has just dumped him for evil top hat-wearing rival, Ginji. Our hero doesn't take his misfortune lying down though, and quickly resolves to get back into shape and win Penka back. This involves collecting as much 'Fat-B-Gone' as possible which Ginji and his 'gang' have stashed across the six stages that now lie between Penta and Penka. And so begins the 'Story of the Dream Penguin'.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

First Look PlayStation 3 #2

Heavenly Sword by Ninja Theory (2007) - PlayStation 3

Exclusives are hard to come by for the 'main' consoles these days but one such release that had PS3 owners warbling excitedly a good few years back now was Heavenly Sword. Unsurprisingly I've only just gotten around to sampling it myself and was far from shocked to find that it's a hack 'n' slasher through which the player controls Nariko, a red-headed young lady who also happens to be a big-boobed hottie wearing a typically skimpy outfit. In between jiggling around and flashing her legs, much of her time is spent fighting the forces of King Bohan, a tyrannical ruler bent on subjugating the various tribes that inhabit the mystical world in which the game takes place.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Top Five N64 Driving / Racing Games

Nintendo's mighty 64-bit monster was a fabulous console to be sure but if you asked the average gamer what their enduring memory of it was, most probably wouldn't mention racing games. I'd say that was testament to the fantastic standard of its first party games, as well as Rare's superb efforts, rather than any particular lack of quality in that area though. Indeed there are some great examples to be found once you stop fannying around with Mario and Zelda, many of which can only be found on Nintendo's machine. To that end, here are, in my opinion, the best ones to try:

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. Excitebike 64 (2000)

Nintendo's decision to do a follow-up to their classic NES title was a surprising one, especially so late in the N64's life, but it was also one with a lot of potential. It continues the motocross theme of the first game, although more realistically this time, obviously, and features tonnes of mostly off-road courses packed with various hazards and obstacles as well as millions of jumps as you would expect. The controls take a bit of getting used to - some of the bikes are a bit temperamental, for example, and the going can be rather slow and frustrating at times, but the courses are interesting enough and the racing exciting enough that I still enjoyed this one a lot. I missed this game the first time around (I was excitedly stroking my Dreamcast at the time) but I'm glad to have played it now. It's not perfect but is good fun, especially with multiple players, and is very addictive too.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Awesome Nature #16

Pallas's Cat
Type: Mammal Lives In: Central Asia Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Just when you probably thought all the most awesome cats of the world had been well-documented, along comes this rather awesome creature! Named for the German naturalist who discovered it, Peter Pallas, these small felines are only found in the remote mountainous and steppe regions of Central Asia where they live alone in caves and burrows. They spend most of their time in these hidey-holes (which are often 'borrowed' from marmots or foxes), usually emerging in the late afternoon to hunt the various smaller creatures they like (including the equally-amusing pika). It must be pretty damn cold there too, as they're covered in long, thick fur which not only makes them the fluffiest cats I've ever seen but also makes them look like the porkiest! Sadly but unsurprisingly, this luxurious coat also means the manul (as it is also known) has been hunted in fairly large numbers over the years and is now being intentionally poisoned as well. Good old humans...

Why It Is Awesome: It's a super-fluff cat!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Scrolling Fighting Games #12

Cyber Cross (1989)
By: Face Corporation Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 16,500
Also Available For: Nothing

When most of us Westerners think of superheroes our minds instantly go to one of the assorted bunch offered by Marvel or DC, but our Japanese friends are rather keen on their own brand of heroic saviours. This PC Engine exclusive stars one such hero whose exploits are inspired by the mighty Super Sentai series (on which the Power Rangers are based). His name is apparently Cyber Cross and the ghastly foe to befall him for the duration of this adventure is known as Dr. Nozumi (another supervillian with a doctorate, it seems!) who has unleashed an army of insectoid monsters from outer space - oh noooooo! They have reportedly infiltrated the entire globe but our hero only has to clear their filth from six side-scrolling stages. The first takes place in some city or other before subsequent stages take in a park, a rail yard, a rocky ravine, and a forest, before moving into more dangerous underground complexes and enemy installations and ultimately the final showdown.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Mobile Games #7

Retro Racing (2012)
By: Mr Qwak Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android
Also Available For: iOS, Ouya

I've never really been too concerned about phone or tablet games and, accordingly, not too many catch my eye, but one genre that always gets my attention is that of overhead racing games. This particular one was made by Mr. Qwak, a.k.a. Jamie Woodhouse of Qwak fame (in case you hadn't guessed!) who also happens to be behind Nitro and ATR which are... you guessed it, both overhead racers! Unlike both of those efforts, however, Retro Racing is based on F1-style racing, albeit in the kind of unrealistic arcadey way you might expect.

Before starting you get a choice of three brightly coloured cars (with three more becoming available later), each of which are rated based on their speed, acceleration, and tyres. Then it's on to the first in a series of 18 small but increasingly complex circuits as one of eight hopeful racers.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Film Review #66

Unleashed a.k.a. Danny the Dog (2005)
Director: Louis Leterrier Starring: Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, Vincent Regan, Dylan Brown, Mike Lambert

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 102 Minutes

Tagline: "Serve No Master"

Just a few months ago now the film world was robbed of Bob Hoskins. The many resulting tributes and obituaries mentioned numerous films he'd starred in such as The Long Good Friday and Who Framed Roger Rabbit but I didn't once see this film mentioned. He's isn't really the main star, admittedly, and the film was hardly a global mega-blockbuster either, but Unleashed has long been one of my favourite films to feature The Cockney Cagney. Unsurprisingly, he plays the part of a ruthless British loan shark and gangster known only as Bart who, along with his cronies, are largely seen collecting their payments from oft-problematic clients. Bart's solution when they are reluctant to repay him? He 'unleashes' his human attack dog, Danny (Jet Li), who's a gormless, stumbling oaf... until his collar is removed and all hell breaks loose!

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!