Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Rail Shooters #1

Star Wars (1983)
By: Atari Inc. Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 70,979 (it's hard via emulation!)
Also Available For: Atari 2600, 5200, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Apple Mac, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Electron, Enterprise 64

Atari's arcade heritage has always been impressive and has long been looked upon fondly by gamers who were around in their day. For most, their day was the early-to-mid-80's; a period that saw some truly wonderful games released, many of which bore Atari's proud name. Of them, one of the most memorable was undoubtedly Star Wars. Not only was it based on the insanely popular film whose sequels were still being gifted upon lucky movie fans the world over (having arrived between Empire and Return), but it was also something of a technical marvel and, even more remarkably for a licensed game, it was even rather good too! I would hope there's no need to detail the back-story here (although I do know a few people that haven't seen the Star Wars films), but suffice to say, Atari were sensible in basing their game on the exciting climax to the first film, namely the daring attack on the mighty Death Star.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Top Five Michael J. Fox Films

He may have sadly been absent from our screens for a good few years now due to the tragically-early onset of Parkinson's Disease, but the name of Michael J. Fox is still one resonates strongly with most film fans, especially ones who were around in the 80's. This, of course, is mainly due to the Back to the Future films, but he has starred in a surprising number of other films too. Here I've taken a look at what in my view are the best of them. Don't agree? Let's hear what your favourites are!

5. The Frighteners (1996)

This early Peter Jackson movie was sadly Michael's last big on-screen role, but was it one to remember? To be honest I think more people remember it due to Jackson's pre-LOTR involvement than MJF's these days but it's not a bad film and he is pretty good in it. He stars as Frank Bannister who is somehow able to see and communicate with ghosts. So of course, he tells them to haunt people, then sells his services as an exorcist! This is all well and good, but when the ghost of a serial killer starts offing locals, both living and dead, Frank must use his abilities to investigate and stop the evildoer. It was a film perhaps more notable for its special effects than anything else in its day but it definitely has more than just that going for it. As well as Mr. Fox, Star Trek alumni Jeffrey Combs is a standout as an eccentric FBI agent, as is Jake Busey, and we even get a cameo from R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket's hardcore drill sergeant). It has perhaps aged a bit now but it's still a fun romp and there are some interesting ideas here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Memorable Gaming Moments #3

Test Drive Unlimited by Eden Games / Atari (2007) - PC

As a gamer, have you ever been in that situation where you don't really know what to play, or perhaps don't even necessarily feel like playing something, but are bored and/or feeling a bit down and need to cheer yourself up? Sure you have, everyone has, and I'm no different. There are a few games which I rely on during these times. Not many, mind you, but the one I've found myself returning to time and time again since I reviewed it last year is the awesome Test Drive Unlimited.

An open-world game it may be, but it still has structure and objectives. Thankfully, however, there are no real time-restrictions or limitations on when you should do this so one of my favourite antics has become thus: set off from my lovely home, smash into a few innocent road-users to get the attention of the local law enforcement authorities, and then spend as long as possible avoiding capture!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

INPUT Magazine - A Retrospective

Oh hey, RetroKingSimon here. Since I started Red Parsley I've been the only person ever to write or post anything here, but today I'm happy and proud to present Red Parsley's first ever guest writer - programmer, developer of Nebula Retro (a mobile game reviewed here a while back), and Facebook friend, John Blackburn, who has written this fantastic piece. Take it away John:

INPUT magazine was a computer programming course published as a partwork by Marshall Cavendish in 1984-5. INPUT must surely be one of the most advanced and impressive partworks ever published on any subject. With 52 editions adding up to 1600 pages, it's huge! And the quality of writing is superb throughout.

One of the first programs I ever wrote. Just a few lines of code produced a
beautiful sunset pattern complete with perspective lines. My grandma was
amazed art could come from "those numbers"!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Gravity Games #5

Thrust (1987)
By: Jeremy Smith / Superior Software Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: BBC Micro First Day Score: 28,850
Also Available For: Electron, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 16/64, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST

I don't think it is particularly unfair to say that the BBC was never really considered a 'proper' gaming system by most players of the day, but of the games it did host, one of the best known must surely be Thrust. It's a little odd since it isn't an exclusive, but it was originally made for Acorn's iconic micro prior to being ported to several other systems and it remains best known there as well. As you might have gathered from its inclusion in this series of features (as well as its name), Thrust is a gravity game not entirely dissimilar to the likes of Gravitar, and like Atari's classic, players find themselves in command of a small, roughly triangular vessel which is slowly falling towards the landscape below. Using it, your mission is to assist 'the resistance' in its fight against the evil Intergalactic Empire by collecting 'Klystron Pods' which are needed to power their 'battlegrade starships'.

Friday, 5 August 2016

TV Shows #9

The Returned Season One (2015)
Developed By: Carlton Cuse Starring: India Ennenga, Sandrine Holt, Sophie Lowe, Mark Pellegrino, Jeremy Sisto, Michelle Forbes, Mat Vairo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Douglas, Tandi Wright, Dylan Kingwell, Kevin Alejandro, Agnes Bruckner, Leah Gibson

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 43-46 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

There have been a number of American shows in recent years that are remakes of foreign (often European) shows. The Killing is a great example, but the one I've watched most recently is The Returned. It's based on a French show called Les Revenants which itself is only a few years old and is set in a small, close-knit American town. However, like all small American towns in films and TV shows, it's a much more eventful place than it might first appear. For one thing, a surprising number of inhabitants have died over the years. Some perished in a flood when the local dam burst 29 years before but many others have been lost in a variety of incidents, some accidents, others not. This in itself isn't that strange, but what is strange is that now, some of them have inexplicably started returning without having aged a day.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Was the Saturn a Flop?

It's a fairly safe bet that most of us retro gamers have a lot of love for Sega and their mighty Saturn. A good few of us probably owned one back when it was first released and I'm sure many more of us have owned one since. It's been a particular favourite among collectors for many years now and, now that I stop to think about it, it's a console I've rarely heard a bad word about.

Recently, however, I saw an eye-catching article about it on the Sky News website, heralding the achievements of a talented engineer who has 'saved the console from extinction' by finally 'cracking its security systems', allowing the system to read from and write to other storage mediums such as flash drives. It's a grand triumph to be sure but one that was of limited interest to me if I'm honest.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Puzzle Games #20

Kero Kero Keroppi no Daibouken (1991)
By: Character Soft Genre: Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 14,400
Also Available For: Nothing

There are several members of the animal kingdom whose presence in a game is usually a good sign of its quality. Everyone knows if a game stars a monkey or a penguin, it's likely to be good, for example, and frogs have a pretty good track-record so far too. I was therefore keen to check out this game after seeing its smiling amphibious star beaming out from its cover, who is, I believe, named Keroppi. It's hard to be totally sure as the game was perhaps unsurprisingly a Japanese exclusive, but he shall henceforth be referred to accordingly anyway. After muddling through a couple of options screens (which allow you to choose one or two players, and whether to start a new game or enter a code), it quickly becomes clear that his game is not only a puzzle-based one but also aimed at younger players too. As Keroppi (probably), it's your job to rescue what appears to be a female frog named Keroleen (so identified by her large eyelashes and what look like pigtails) who has become 'trapped in the castle'.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Film Round-Up #16

I'm not sure why but I've always enjoyed watching serial killer films. It's a bit weird given my aversion to horror films, but 'normal' serial killers? That's just fine by me. I have of course seen the most famous ones such as Seven, Natural Born Killers, the Lecter films etc, but I recently decided it was time to watch some new ones (well, new to me at least). Here, consequently, are the wondrous titles I selected:

God Bless America (2011)

I hadn't heard of this one prior to this feature but I now get the feeling it's one that a lot of people might be able to relate to, myself included. It stars Joel Murray as a seemingly normal salesman, but one who has become sick with the state of American society. Upon receiving several bits of bad news in quick succession, he decides he has nothing left to lose and goes on a killing spree, soon finding himself joined by a like-minded schoolgirl (Tara Lynne Barr). Their targets? Bratty 'reality' TV stars, disruptive cinema patrons, bad parkers, and all the other kinds people that they (and I, and no doubt many of you too) so despise sharing the world with. Okay, so maybe killing them is a little extreme but how many of us haven't felt like doing something similar at least once in our lives? As you might've guessed, it was intended as a black comedy, and it is indeed mighty amusing to people with a mildly twisted sense of humour like me. Murray and Barr are both great in their roles, as are most of their targets I suppose since they are indeed annoying, and their quest is a very satisfying one for anyone with a similar outlook on life and society. Is it too much to call it cinematic wish-fulfilment? ... 8/10

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Retro News - New 2D Sonic Speeds Our Way!

Sonic Mania by Sega & Others (2017) - PS4, Xbone, PC

I don't usually cover special game anniversaries here, I'm not all that bothered by them to be honest, but news reached me today of a special one. Or rather, one that was accompanied by some special news. The recipient of this grand gesture is the incomparable Sonic the Hedgehog who is now 25 years young, and that means, besides making me feel rather old, it's time to celebrate! Sega's chosen method of doing this is to release not one but two new games starring the Blue Blur. The first of these is a new 3D adventure codenamed Project Sonic 2017 which is due for release sometime that year for PS4, Xbone, and Nintendo's new system, the NX. Of much more interest to us is the other title.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Currently Playing...

Ty the Tasmanian Tiger (2002)
By: Krome Studios / EA Studios Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Microsoft Xbox
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, GameCube, PC

Let's face it, as much fun as most of them were, the heyday of fuzzy animal game characters was definitely in the 16-bit era. By the time the PS2 and Xbox arrived with all their almost-realistic human characters and corresponding blood and violence, controlling a cute animal seemed a little childish didn't it? I guess that's down to personal preference but they certainly weren't seen as often. One of the more recent I've come across (outside of indie gaming) is this effort by Krome Studios which was actually the first part of a trilogy starring their feisty marsupial.

It's interesting that they've actually gone for an extinct animal for their game but the Australian setting in which he dwells immediately opens up a number of possibilities. The story is as silly as you might imagine and involves Boss Cass, an evil cassowary (a kind of bird if you didn't know) who wants to become the supreme ruler of Australia. This, he will apparently achieve, by activating 'the Dreamtime' for which he has stolen the five mystical talismans. While attempting this, Boss Cass traps all but one of the thylacines (Tasmanian tigers) in a portal to the Dreamtime before his plan is foiled and the talismans are scattered across Tasmania. Unfortunately, this still leaves the thylacines trapped, however.

Friday, 15 July 2016

First Look PSN #7

MicroBot by Naked Sky Entertainment / EA (2011) - PlayStation Network (PSN)

Exploring inside the human body in microscopic form isn't a particularly new concept for the gaming world but this latest effort by Naked Sky must surely be a contender for the most realistic attempt yet. You play as a teeny robot designed to fight infection, and are in fact the fourth generation of such a device. The previous three are still in the body and, after having apparently gone haywire, have caused a load of problems including many infections. The game takes the form of a twin-stick shooter with your job being to travel around the body destroying all of these ghastly viruses, curing diseases, and tracking down the pesky microscopic culprits themselves, which are found across five areas of the body which are each split into four procedurally generated stages.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Adult Games #7

Strip Fighter II (1993)
By: Games Express  Genre: Maze  Players: 1-5  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 388,100
Also Available For: X68000

It was only a few weeks past that I finally got around to looking at Street Fighter II properly here at Red Parsley, and not before time. It is of course a true classic which, as mentioned in its review, had an enormous influence on pretty much every other developer around at the time, and soon they were busy releasing similar-looking fighting games of their own. Unsurprisingly, these varied in quality a great deal and even included direct rip-offs and spoofs. Ticking all these boxes is Strip Fighter II. There is no Strip Fighter I - it was named purely to riff on Capcom's most popular and successful instalment in the long-running series, and it does this by injecting a bit of sauciness into proceedings (as if it wasn't obvious from the name!). So, after the worryingly-pornographic content of the last 'adult' game I looked at here, we're back in more familiar territory for this PC Engine release it seems, and that's fine by me.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Film Review #89

Robot & Frank (2012)
Director: Jake Schreier Starring: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard, James Marsden, Liv Tyler, Rachael Ma, Jeremy Strong, Jeremy Sisto

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 89 Minutes

Tagline: "Friendship doesn't have an off switch."

There have been a load of films about robots over the years. Most of them feature scary examples equipped with advanced A.I. that usually rise up against their idiotic human oppressors and smack us all up. Robot & Frank, however, is a little bit different. It's the début feature for both director, Jake Schreier, and writer, Christopher D. Ford, it's set in the near future, and focuses on just the one human. Frank (Langella) is a retired cat-burglar - a retirement forced upon him by old age and a failing memory. His son Hunter (Marsden), an attorney with a family of his own, has grown tired of checking up on him, so rather than put him into care, he instead buys him a robot 'butler' to look after him, improve his diet, and get him into a routine to help his memory. Frank, of course, has other ideas and resents the thought of his new 'death machine' waiting for a chance to 'murder him in his sleep'. Chortle!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Retro News - The N64 Shmup That Nearly Was!

I meant to post about this quite a while ago now and I thought I had, but it seems not - oops! Anyway, it's long lost game time again, this time for the N64 - a system many retro gamers bemoan for its lack of 'proper' shoot 'em ups. I imagine it may well cause many rankles among them, therefore, to hear that Sammy Corp were in the process of developing just such a title at the tail end of the 20th century.

As most of you are probably aware already, the original Viewpoint was an isometric shooter, developed by Aicom, published by Sammy, and released first for the Neo Geo and later receiving conversions for the PS1 and MegaDrive, but it seems Sammy later decided to release a sequel of sorts for Nintendo's 3D powerhouse as well. Appropriately enough they switched the titular perspective, making their game an into-the-screen blaster in addition to the original isometric. It sounds promising, I'm sure you agree; kind of like mixing the first game with Star Fox, and indeed it looks promising too - just check out the video below which shows the game in what seems to be a near-finished state which includes some epic-looking boss battles. Sadly, despite showing it off at Nintendo's Spaceworld expo in 1999, Sammy pulled the plug shortly thereafter due to what has been described as 'development issues', and that, as they say, was that.