Friday, 31 December 2010

Platform / Puzzle Games #4

Lost Vikings, The (1992)
By: Silicon & Synapse / Interplay  Genre: Platform / Puzzle  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: SNES, GameBoy Advance, Amiga, CD32, PC

Now that I think about it, the sub-genre of platform/puzzle games, on which I am rather keen, is a little obscure as genres go, but the combination of two older and exceedingly popular types of game has proved to be a fantastic partnership. Examples have taken many weird and wonderful forms over the years and one of the most interesting (though not necessarily best) is of the sort that includes multiple characters with differing abilities. This was of course made popular by the great Lemmings. Dozens of similar games soon appeared and most were average at best, but The Lost Vikings is a pretty rare example of another game taking that premise, putting a different slant on it, and actually succeeding.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick message to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Red Parsley readers! I've been busy preparing for the big day so new posts have been a little thin on the ground here of late, but we'll be back in the swing of things soon. Anyway, here's wishing you all have a great time over the festive holiday period. So, from RKS, and indeed Doraemon:


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Game Gallery #3

Fantasy Zone The Maze (1987)
Master System Version - full review here

Yes, an obscure game this may be, but it's also one that I'm very fond of. For a long time it's been a regular fixture of the two-player gaming sessions I've enjoyed with my good friend, Luke, over the many years we've known each other, and we still play it today. In fact, these very screenshots were taken from our last session, with myself controlling Opa-Opa and Luke controlling Upa-Upa, and we battled those heinous Menon malcontents to the very end. While it's true that I may be the only one who cares, I remain confident that I'm the only person to post shots of every stage this cracking little game has to offer. Behold, I present them thus:

Friday, 17 December 2010

Anime #1 - Doraemon

Anime, or animation originating from Japan, has been around in one form or another since the early 20th century but it still took until the 1980's to gain any sort of recognition in the West, and even then, in all that time there has still been a very small number of examples that have become successful outside of Japan. Younger fans seemed to be entranced by the likes of Pokemon, Dragonball Z, and Yu-Gi-Oh! while shows like Naruto, Cowboy Bebop, and Full Metal Alchemist have also proved very popular. Some movies too, such as Akira (which arguably kick-started the West's interest in anime to start with) and more recently the stunning efforts from Studio Ghibli have become well known, with the latter even winning Oscars, but one of the most popular and enduring of all anime stars in Japan is pretty much unknown outside of the Far East.

Doraemon is a robotic cat who has travelled back in time from the 22nd century to help out schoolboy, Nobita Nobi. Who created him isn't clear but he was sent back by Nobita's great-great-grandson, for it seems that for one reason or another, Nobita's life was fraught with misery and misfortune causing his descendants no end of problems. With that in mind, you might think it'd be easier to send back a sports almanac (chortle), or perhaps even some winning lottery numbers, but a robotic cat? It would have to be one ultra-special robotic cat or I'd be a bit peeved, personally! Luckily, Doraemon is not only special but magic too! He is equipped with the kind of common sense and moral values that Nobita apparently lacks and he uses his many and varied abilities to try and teach these qualities to him, although Nobita is not only lacking in those but is also lazy and mischievous too, so it's not always easy for Doraemon! Much of the help he provides comes from the magical 4th dimensional pocket in his chest from which he can pull all manner of objects and gadgets from the 22nd century, including the Bamboo Dragonfly (a head-mounted propeller that allows flight), the Anywhere Door (takes the user anywhere they wish), and the Time Machine itself. I sometimes wonder why Doraemon bothers though as Nobita generally ends up misusing his various gadgets and getting himself in even more trouble!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Film Review #17

The Tourist (2010)
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck  Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Rufus Sewell

Certificate: 12A  Running Time: 102 Minutes

Tagline: "It all started when he met a woman."

Angelina Jolie is hot. There, I said it. You probably weren't aware of that until I just mentioned it but it's actually true. You're lucky I was considerate enough to enlighten you too as it's this hotness which seemingly forms the basis for The Tourist, which, incidentally, is also a remake of French film, Anthony Zimmer. And therein we already have a problem. To say Hollywood has a patchy history as far as remaking films is concerned would be putting it mildly, but French films seem to suffer this fate even more than most (witness the horror of the 'Taxi' remake for proof of this). Combine this with the alarming amount of flip-flopping around the goodness-knows how many directors and stars did, joining the project then leaving soon afterwards, and it sounds like The Tourist was a disaster waiting to happen. With the likes of Jolie and Depp attached now though, it can't be that bad surely?

Monday, 13 December 2010

Top Five MegaDrive Platform Games

Though popular since the 70's, it was the late 80's and early 90's when gaming, particularly on consoles, really hit its stride, and like today there were a few genres that dominated release schedules. Among the most popular were shoot 'em ups but even more popular than these were of course platform games, and few if any consoles saw more examples of this genre than the MegaDrive. Most of them were average, some were horrifyingly bad, but there were still plenty of top-quality ones, and they took up a significant portion of my MegaDrive game-time. I've owned and enjoyed dozens of them over the years so picking the best five is no easy task. To make it a little easier I decided to not to include any of the MD's fantastic arcade conversions such as New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands, etc, and the (at the time) splendid Sonic series only gets one nomination here too. Naturally, run 'n' gunners (Shinobi series, Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, etc) aren't included either, and nor are arcade adventures such as Flashback, Puggsy, etc. These categories are all good enough and numerous enough to receive their own Top Fives at some point. So, with all that in mind, here is my five favourite Mega Drive platformers.

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!

If I review any MD platformers in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don't appear in this Top Five because I hadn't played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Wiz 'n' Liz (1993)

I'm starting to wonder if I'm the only fan this poor old game has! I'm not usually a fan of fast 'n' frantic, against-the-clock type games, but Wiz 'n' Liz is so happy and cheerful (not to mention addictive), I can't help but love it anyway! The object is simple enough - one or two players must race through each of the themed worlds rescuing the many rabbits that populate each whilst also collecting magic fruits and other items with which to create spells and prolong your game. It definitely seems to be a 'hidden gem' in the MD's back catalogue but I don't really know why. Maybe it's the lack of violence and destruction but for me this has always been a top game - nice graphics, fantastic music, addictive gameplay, and even a few original ideas, equals a winning formula in my book.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Maze Games #1

Fantasy Zone The Maze a.k.a. Opa-Opa (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Maze / Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 421,610
Also Available For: Nothing

I don't know about you but the thinking behind some games is really confusing to me. After releasing ultra-cute shoot 'em up, Fantasy Zone, in 1985, even finding sufficient success with it to adopt its main character, Opa-Opa, as their mascot, Sega then released a similar but improved game in Fantasy Zone 2, also a psychedelic side-viewed shooting game. Both games were tough but proved very popular nonetheless and were converted to several consoles of the time. So after this success, and with the character and game series firmly in place, the logical next step would be Fantasy Zone 3, right? Actually, no. The next game in the series was Fantasy Zone The Maze, a curious combination of the first game and... Pac-Man?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

MegaDrive Platform Games #1

Wiz 'n' Liz (1993)
By: Raising Hell Software / Psygnosis  Genre: Platform  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 1,487,025
Also Available For: Amiga

Released about mid-way through the MegaDrive's life, this quirky platformer for some reason seemed to slip under the radar for most gamers at the time. Is that because it sucks? Actually, no, and it was released on the most popular console and computer of the time, and came during a period when the genre was at its peak too, so it's a mystery to me why more people haven't played it! I actually first encountered it in a very favourable review in an Amiga magazine but it was the MegaDrive version I would ultimately purchase, purely because the MD is better than the Amiga as everyone knows (hee hee!), but the MD is also far better catered for as far as this kind of game is concerned too. So how did Wiz 'n' Liz fare against the likes of Sonic? Not too well, one might think, but could Psygnosis have a surprise in store?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Arcade Shmups #4

Gemini Wing (1987)
By: Tecmo  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 85,980 (one credit)
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, MSX, Sharp X68000

Like most people (or game fans, at least), I have a fairly extensive list of games I always meant to play but never got around to as a result of time or financial constraints, but Gemini Wing has never been among them. My only memories of it are the rather lacklustre reviews the home conversions received, notably on the Speccy (which had blue and yellow monochrome graphics as I recall), so when I decided to take a look at the arcade original of this vertical-scroller (which is actually a few years older than I realised), I didn't have very high expectations. Initially, however, it's been a pleasant surprise! I hope my luck holds, I could do with a decent new shmup to play...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Star Control - Part 3

The many and varied alien races of the Star Control universe are one of the most appealing things about the series, but which side is best? We had a good look at the Alliance fleet here in the last post in this series, and it's reassuring to know that the 'good guys' have a few handy ships at their disposal, but everyone likes to play out the part of the 'bad guys' now and then, especially these days, so now I'll take a look at the ships used by the mighty Ur-Quan Hierarchy, beginning with the series antagonists themselves.

Ur-Quan Dreadnought

The bright green Dreadnought is generally considered THE ship of the game, featuring on all promotional artwork, etc, but is it worthy of such notoriety? It certainly has an imposing air about it, that's for sure! Its speed and maneuverability is only average but its Fusion Blast weapon is the most powerful in the game, along with the Broodhome's Photon Shard and a close-range strike by the Podship's Plasmoid, but it can fire much more rapidly than either of those ships. If you stray too close to a fully-fueled Dreadnought, no matter what ship you're using, you're history - in the right hands, it can take out a Broodhome in five seconds, nevermind the smaller, weaker ships! On top of that, it also has the ability to launch Autonomous Fighters too. Each fighter launched uses one crew member from the Dreadnought's roster and they are launched in two's. They home in on an enemy vessel, regardless of range, and attack it with short-range homing lasers for a short while before returning to their mothership to refuel. They can be destroyed but they're extremely small so it takes a crack-shot (or an opponent with an Earthling Cruiser) to do it. The mighty Dreadnought is a little large and lumbering but even an amateur can do considerable damage with one. In the right hands it's devastating.

Ship Rating: 5/5

Film Review #16

The Sum Of All Fears (2002)
Director: Phil Alden Robinson  Starring: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Bruce McGill, Phillip Baker Hall, John Beasley, Ciaran Hinds, Alan Bates, Bridget Moynahan

Certificate: 12  Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: "27,000 Nuclear Weapons. One Is Missing."

Terrorism thrillers have certainly been around for a long time now, since the debut of a certain James Bond at least, but a majority of them have always seemed to adhere to the same sort of template. This one is a bit different. It was adapted from the Tom Clancey novel of the same name and is part of the convoluted 'Jack Ryan' series that has a rather confusing timeline anyway, nevermind when you take the films into consideration, each of which has changed various details. We'll just concentrate on the films for now though which began with first The Hunt For Red October (with Alec Baldin as Ryan), then Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger (both of which starred Harrison Ford in the main role). For this film the part was handed to Affleck and, unlike the novel, is set early in his CIA career when he was a mere analyst.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Scrolling Fighting Games #3

Robo Army (1991)
By: SNK Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 10,500
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD

Ask most people what kind of game they associate with the mighty Neo Geo and most will undoubtedly say one-on-one fighting games. This is understandable since the machine is positively flooded by games of this type, and mostly good ones too, but what of scrolling fighting games? Well, unknown by me until recently, there is one that goes back just about as far as the Neo Geo itself does! The moment of revelation for me came at the recent R3Play Gaming Expo in Blackpool where my friend Rich and I discovered the only AES at the show was running a game of the type in question. So, I'd discovered its existence, but the fighting game pedigree of the host console gave it a lot to live up to. Is the system as adept at the scrolling variety of fighting games?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Music #3 - Pete Droge

As was the case with Dressy Bessy in my last music piece, it was also movies that introduced me to Mr. Droge. It was 1995 and the film in question is slightly less embarrassing than the rather girlie film that introduced me to Denver's finest. This time it was while watching the highly amusing Dumb and Dumber, starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as the buffoons of the title, that I first heard the catchy melodies of 'If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)', the tongue-in-cheek song that accompanies Harry's (Daniels) attempts to steal Lloyd's (Carrey) unrequited love, Mary!

Almost as soon as the movie was over I was trying to find out who the song was by but, what with this being the days before the internet (at least for me), it wasn't as easy as you might think! I did find out in the end though, with the help of Metal Hammer magazine as I recall, and thus my Pete Droge fandom had begun. Born in 1969 and growing up in Seattle, Pete had the unfortunate distinction of sharing his fledgling musical years with the rise of Seattle's grunge scene, and specifically that of Nirvana. Not all the bad luck was on his side though as he also became friends with a certain Mike McCready who would go on to find fame as Pearl Jam's guitarist. Around the time his friend's band were hitting the big time, Pete had his own band, Ramadillo. They did not share the suddenly popular sound that music fans were flocking to Seattle to hear though, so sadly they didn't achieve much success. However, through his continuing friendship with McCready, he got his lucky break soon after relocating to Portland. Pete's friend passed a recording of some of his solo songs to Pearl Jam's producer, Brendan O'Brien, who was so impressed he helped Pete get his first major record deal.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Single Screen Platform Games #4

Kid Gloves (1990)
By: Logotron  Genre: Platform  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga  First Day Score: 48,550
Also Available For: Atari ST

The poor old Amiga games industry was ravaged by pirated copies of games flooding the market and friends copying games for each other, it was this more than anything else that brought Commodore down in the mid-90's. I've always tried to avoid that sort of business but when I belatedly got my Amiga, a friend gave me a box of discs with copied games on. Some didn't work, others were pretty sucky, but of them all Kid Gloves is probably the one I played the most, guiltily of course, but seeing as it was later given away free by Amiga Power magazine I don't feel so bad now! However, since I no longer have my Amiga and have developed a deep fear of using WinUAE, it's been a long time since I played this game. It's not looked upon too favourably by the Amiga community these days, I wonder if I'm about to destroy my happy memories of playing it too...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Master System Shmups #3

Fantasy Zone 2 (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 40,000
Also Available For: Arcade, Nintendo NES, MSX
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Sega pretty much invented the quickly-dubbed 'cute em up' sub-genre with Fantasy Zone and it was an interesting fusion of gaming styles. The bright, colourful graphics full of funny-looking creatures and cute characters belied the tough shooting action the game provided, but it proved to be very popular and was converted to several platforms of the time. Set ten years later, this inevitable sequel tells pretty much the same story as the first game - the now-expanded territory of the Fantasy Zone has come under renewed attack from the evil Menon Empire who are once again attempting to construct a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone. He's getting on a bit now but Opa-Opa still springs into action to save the day!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Top Five Kylie Photoshoots

Kylie Minogue... For many of us she's been with us since we saw her fixing up her old Mini back in the heyday of Neighbours, or at least since we were swamped by the out-pourings of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman through the late 80's and into the 90's, but even her biggest detractors would have to admit she's persistent, remaining as popular now as ever after nearly around 25 years in show business. However, just as her biggest critics would begrudgingly give her her dues, her biggest fans would be hard-pushed to claim her enduring fame and success is down to raw talent either. She certainly has some talent, but a big part of her success could also be largely put down to her... *ahem*... physical attributes! Luckily for her many fans, she has rarely seemed shy about giving us a closer look, apparently quite happily getting her kit off to some degree or other on a large number of occasions. To that end, here I've selected her Top Five photoshoots. Hope you enjoy! ;)

5. Tous Spring/Summer 2009 Collection

She's wearing an uncharacteristically large amount of clothes in this advertising campaign, photographed by Ellen von Unwerth, and I don't generally have much love for loads of make-up, but this is a particularly stylish shoot with Kylie looking a mixture of elegant and sultry.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

F-Zero Series - Part 3

F-Zero X (1998)
By: Nintendo EAD  Genre: Racing  Players: 1-4  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo 64
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Despite being a highly accomplished racing game, the original F-Zero was perhaps most highly regarded for its admittedly impressive technical prowess. When news of a full sequel (F-Zero 2 was more like a 'data-disk') on Nintendo's brand spanking new 64-bit powerhouse emerged, mouths began to salivate at the prospect of what wonders might befall gamers. However, when it finally arrived it wasn't as instantly mind-blowing as many gamers were expecting. After the bar-raising the original did, a similar advancement was expected here, but the graphical detail was actually notably inferior to most of the other N64 games that had been doing the rounds, nevermind markedly better. This was apparently done on purpose by Nintendo so they could achieve a constant silky-smooth frame-rate of sixty frames per second. Their decision wasn't met with much enthusiasm at first though. Was it worth the risk?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Star Control - Part 2

The first Star Control title really is a game of two-halves. The 'Main' game is seen as the strategy side of the game with its turn-based, territorial expansion-based shenanigans, while the 'Melee' mode is seen as the action, shoot 'em up side, but it is a lot more strategic than people realise itself. Each of the fourteen starships in the game has many variables, as can be seen in some of the screenshots below and, while it's possible for any one ship to defeat any one other, there are certain ships that are better or worse against certain others, and many crafty tactics can be employed to exploit their weaknesses. There really is nothing like an epic Melee battle between two experienced, well-matched combatants. Each lurking on opposite sides of the screen trying to guess what the other is thinking, the occasional skirmish to test each other. They can be very tense affairs! So, for the benefit of any budding Melee-Masters, the next installment in my series of Star Control features will take a look at the ships used by the seven races that comprise the Alliance of Free Stars (the 'good guys')...

Chenjesu Broodhome

Arguably my favourite ship in the game! This is the flagship of the Alliance fleet, used by the crystalline Chenjesu species. While not particularly quick, it's big and powerful enough for that not to matter most of the time. It's primary weapon is the Photon Shard which is a round projectile with an infinite range - when you launch one, keep your finger on the fire button and the shard will continue on for as long as you hold down the button! It's the longest range weapon in the game and causes devastating damage with a direct hit (some smaller ships can be taken out with one strike), but you can only fire one at a time. When you release the fire button the shard will fragment into eight smaller pieces that travel a short distance causing minimal damage.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Top Five Amiga Shmups

It's generally accepted that, outside of the arcades at least, shoot 'em ups have always been the province of consoles. There were a few good examples on the Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, Atari 400 & 800, etc, and the arrival of the more powerful 16-bit machines should've heralded even more, but they never really came, despite the genre's enduring popularity. Few could argue with either the quantity or quality of offerings on the likes of the NES, PC Engine, or MegaDrive, and I myself, in my days as a die-hard Sega fanboy, used to champion the latter console as Lord of Shmups. Of all the computers, however, it was arguably the Commodore Amiga that fared the best with its shmups with not only some decent arcade conversions but also a good few original games too. In fact, I believe all the games in this Top Five were Amiga exclusives! Here they are:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: Unlike my usual Games-Related Top Five Disclaimers, which cover my arse by mentioning that the list was compiled only from games that I already know and love, and that any great games not featured may well not yet have been played by me, this one is different, mainly because I never was a big Amiga gamer and probably hadn't even played five shmups on it! Therefore I had to research this list thoroughly by playing each game via emulation. However, to finally get to the actual 'disclaimer' part, there was a few supposedly great games that I wasn't able to play (because they didn't work). Therefore, assuming I ever am able to play them, I'll make a revised list accordingly. Phew!

5. Agony (1992)

Regarded as something of a tart by many Amiga owners, it's easy to see where Agony gets this reputation - the presentation and graphics really are something else and leave the gameplay with a lot to live up to. It's certainly a pretty original concept, with you in control of an owl which uses echo-location to take down the masses of evil creatures spread across the six worlds that lie between it and the 'Cosmic Power' that it seeks. The intro/loading screens feature beautiful artwork and music, and in-game action is similarly gorgeous. This certainly isn't the most playable shmup I've played, even just on the Amiga, but at the same time its reputation seems a little unfair. Besides its stunning aesthetics Agony is a unique and enjoyable horizontal-scroller which would've blown my socks off if I'd discovered it when it originally came out!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Mobile Games #1

Angry Birds (2010)
By: Rovio  Genre: Puzzle  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android  First Day Score: 108,400 (single stage best)
Also Available For: PC (forthcoming), iPhone/iPod, Symbian

You know, the progress of mobile communication technology really has been remarkable. After many years of refusal to conform, I finally had to yield and buy my first mobile phone, and even to this day I'm only on my third phone. I had no intention of ever using any of them to play videogames and, were it not for a quirk of fate, I'd still be using my second phone and continuing to not play games on it! Through much of this time, however, I had been watching, with a certain degree of envy, admittedly, the evolution of the iPhone as a legitimate gaming platform, yet no single game tempted me enough to take the plunge. Until this one.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Arcade Shmups #3

Metal Black (1991)
By: Taito  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 98,810 (one credit)
Also Available For: Sega Saturn

One of the great things about writing this blog is that I end up learning so much more about the history of gaming. The most recent thing I've learnt is that Taito apparently made a lot more shmups that I had realised! This one was originally intended to be a sequel to their recently-covered, slightly odd vertical-scroller, Gun Frontier. If you've played both games, however, you'll know they actually have very little in common! Perhaps the most immediately obvious difference between them is that the perspective has shifted to a side view for this game, but the story seems to bear no similarity to the Wild West theme from Gun Frontier either, with Taito apparently settling for a more generic 'evil alien invasion' type story here.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Overhead Racers #5

Drift Out '94 - The Hard Order (1994)
By: Visco Corp  Genre: Overhead Racing  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: Neo Geo (variation)

As far as my memory is concerned at least, the original Drift Out was something of an inconspicuous entry in the overhead racing genre, so considering how little-known it apparently was, I was surprised to find that it's actually got a sequel! Like the first game, which has a SNES game based on it, Drift Out '94 was also exclusive to the arcades but also received a modified home conversion in Neo Drift Out for the NeoGeo. Whilst similar, they are different games, and we'll look at SNK's game in a later post, but both are pretty similar to the first game except for one big difference - instead of the direct overhead view used before, Visco Corp have instead shifted the perspective to an angled overhead one.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Film Review #15

The Other Guys (2010)
Director: Adam McKay Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Steve Coogan, Michael Keaton, Samuel L Jackson, Dwayne Johnson

Certificate: 12A  Running Time: 107 Minutes

Tagline: "When the top cops are busy...our only hope is... The Other Guys"

Hollywood has produced countless cop films over the years. More often than not they feature hero cops who have saved the day over and over. But what about the other guys - the cops lurking in the background who get lumbered with all the mundane assignments and spend half their time doing paperwork while the top guys bask in the glory? Will they ever have a chance to show what they can do when they get the chance? Well thanks to another McKay / Ferrell collaboration, we get to find out! I suppose their brand of comedic lunacy is an acquired taste but it's a fruitful partnership that has so far yielded the highly humorous Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers, so the pedigree is certainly there. I don't know about you but I was dearly hoping The Other Guys would keep their run intact...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

R3PLAY - the Gaming Expo in Blackpool - Part 3

Here's the rest of the pictures I took of the event itself and the various systems present there. Notice the 'Minimig', the lovely red Game Gear (is this a rare, limited edition version, or a custom job?), even a N64DD running F-Zero X Expansion Pack which I'm furious with myself for missing - I didn't even notice it until I went through my pictures! I'm a huge F-Zero X fan so, not only would I have destroyed all-comers at the game itself, but I also missed the opportunity to play the Expansion Pack too. Grrrr! It'd better be at the next retro show. I might go specially to play that! I was very pleased, however, to get the chance to play an Astro Wars machine again. I fondly recall a weekend visit to my cousin's house when I was young. As soon as I discovered he had an Astro Wars I spent pretty much the entire weekend playing that, even in the car as my parents collected me! It's still great fun too :)

Saturday, 13 November 2010

R3PLAY - the Gaming Expo in Blackpool - Part 2

Having arrived in Blackpool around half-way through the first day of R3Play, we had obviously missed quite a bit, but as soon as we did arrive we had plenty to explore. Arcade machines are particularly appealing to me so they were my first port-of-call, and many great machines there were too. The first game I played was Viewpoint on a lovely MAME cabinet (and it's still as tough as I remember!) but I soon played many others too. It also took me a good while to find event organiser, Godon Sinclair, who had asked me to bring my own console with me, namely my Japanese Skeleton Saturn (there's a pic of it below!).

I also enjoyed walking around the rows upon rows of tables filled with various consoles and computers and was thrilled with the opportunity to play games on some systems I've never used before such as a Vectrex, a Sam Coupe, a Spectrum running Twitter of all things, a lovely shiny Panasonic Q GameCube, an XBox running 'Steel Battalion' (complete with immense controller), and even the mighty PC Engine SuperGrafx! There was so many systems around, I seemed to find new ones every time I walked around, including something I never even knew existed - a 'Minimig', and Amiga compressed down into a teeny little box. There were also a few stands that I'd missed on my initial walk around the large hall, including a Nintendo Unleashed stand, which was showcasing some of the latest Wii games like Goldeneye and Kirby's Epic Yarn, another Wii-related stand running 'Just Dance 2', another showcasing 'PlayStaion Move', and last but not least, a Sumo Digital stand helmed by the company's Executive Producer, Steve Lycett, who was very friendly and happy to answer questions. Cheers Steve!

Anyway, here's a few more pics of the event, including some close-ups of some of the great systems there.

Friday, 12 November 2010

R3PLAY - the Gaming Expo in Blackpool - Part 1

You know, it's nice being part of a community. Even if it's one viewed as a bit geeky or even weird by some less-informed (not to mention judegemental) people. Forums like the splendid Retro Gamer one are great place for like-minded enthusiasts to share knowledge or just chat about whatever, but every now and then a few determined individuals organise an event for fans to gather, chat, share a few drinks, and of course play retro games! The most recent of these (at time of writing) was the R3Play Expo in Blackpool, north-west England.

There have been a number of previous events already which I have personally not attended for various reasons (not least the travelling usually involved) but this year was different. After being asked to write for the official R3Play magazine, I started to consider actually going to it! Sure enough, four hours and four trains later I was in Gloucester to meet up with my good friend Luke before we headed off again in his car to Blackpool. A further five hours of motorways, during which we listened to various classic videogame music to suitably set the mood, and we were there...

In and Around the Hotel:

I certainly wasn't the only Retro Gamer forumite attending R3Play - there were dozens there! Many of them were staying for the full weekend of the show and had booked rooms at the Bipsham Inn Hotel. Unfortunately I was unable to get a room there as it was fully booked (I found out why when I got to Blackpool - it's not very big!) so Luke instead arranged our hotel. The one he chose was, sensibly enough, the Norbreck Castle Hotel - the very venue of R3Play itself! I later discovered that the other guys from the forum had actively avoided this hotel due to its supposedly horrifying rooms and service, but to he honest, aside from a bit of noise, I couldn't really fault the place - decent sized room, lush breakfast, decent facilities, and we couldn't have been much closer to the event itself!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 10

And so... we finally reach the end of My Favourite Games. As expected there's lots of games I'm fond of that I couldn't find space for, and I'm sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven't previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them. After a few R3Play-related posts here we'll be back to business as usual. Feedback is always welcome, so feel free to email me or message me on Facebook :)

Wiz 'n' Liz - MegaDrive (1993)

Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don't need to be remotely violent to be great fun - aside from a few bosses there's not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect - some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can't stop playing it!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 9

It looks like the R3Play report will have to wait a day or two, the pictures are a pain in the arse to upload and my opportunities to do so are limited. There's really not a great deal to see anyway, unless you were there and want to see if you can spot yourself! So in the meantime... continuing with My Favourite Games, here's the penultimate list:

Blast Corps - Nintendo 64 (1997)

This was Rare's first game for the N64 and what a start! It would also end up being the first in a long, amazingly successful run for the company on that console which many said rivalled that of Nintendo themselves, and with titles like this on offer it's hard to argue. The premise was simple - a truck with leaking nuclear missiles has been set on a straight path to a safe detonation area. Your job is to demolish everything in its way. Yes, it sounded awesome and happily it played awesome too! Featuring eight unique vehicles custom-built for the express purpose of destroying stuff including three robotic suits, there can't be anyone who didn't enjoy the mayhem offered by this game, and the stages were punctuated by time trial stages which featured yet more vehicles and usually involved a race of some sort. Amazingly playable, superb fun, and a thoroughly unique and brilliant soundtrack too!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 8

Well, I finally got back from R3Play yesterday evening and what a fantastic event it was! An upcoming post will reveal its wonders including a good few photos, but for now here's the next five games I've bestowed with the honour of appearing in the list of My Favourite Games!

Saturn Bomberman - Saturn (1997)

The Bomberman series is unquestionably one of my favourite series' of all-time and it's almost unanimous that this Saturn-exclusive version is the best. Unlike many who view the Bomberman games exclusively as multi-player games, I personally really enjoy the single player modes on most of them too. The simple pleasure of trapping enemies and blowing them up, gradually powering-up our White Bomber hero, and progressing through the stages is one that I enjoy a lot, and the stages in this release are the most inventive and feature-laden yet. However, no one can question the frenetic fun of a multi-player Bomberman session and this is another area in which SB excels - it's possible to have up to ten players simultaneously battling away here and it's among the most fun that can be had in any game!

Friday, 5 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 7

Blimey, it feels like going back to the early days of Red Parsley posting these lists again! Still, I guess I could do with a few easy posts since I'm gearing up for R3Play at the moment (leaving in a few hours - eeek!). Anyone in England, particularly the north-west, could do a lot worse than to check out this giant retro gaming geek-fest! I'll be there along with my good buddy Luke, and I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of Retro Gamer Forumites and Facebook friends there too. It should be an event of special magnificence! Look out for an R3Play-related post here at Red Parsley in the days thereafter. Anyway, on to business... here are the next five of my favourite games!

Fighters Megamix - Saturn (1997)

Rarely have I looked forward to a release like I did this one! Unlike many gamers, I never really warmed to the Virtua Fighter style of combat, but it had its good points, and I did like Fighting Vipers a lot, so imagine my excitement at receiving news of this! The extensive roster of combatants includes all of those from both VF2 and FV and let you fight in the style of either game, and also included a dozen or so secret unlockable characters and multiple play modes, so for its day it was a beat 'em up with a lot of longevity. Despite being fond of Candy (for the obvious reasons), I usually fought as Raxel - who wouldn't enjoy smashing people through walls with a Flying V guitar?! Until Soul Calibur came along, this was the most feature-laden fighting game I'd played and it's still immensely enjoyable.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

My Favourite Games - Part 6

Now that Red Parsley has reached 100 posts (hooray!), I figured a good way to start the second set of hundred posts would be the same way as I started the first hundred - by detailing my favourite games! For those who haven't been visiting here for that long, my first five Red Parsley posts each listed five of my all-time favourite games. With the first twenty-five games, I didn't really cover a particularly broad range of systems - a reflection on the machines I grew up with I suppose - and the next twenty-five beginning with this post do little to diversify things. However, considering how many new games and systems writing this blog is gradually exposing me to, I'll finish off my Top 50 over the next few days, then make a whole new Top 50 in the future. I'm sure that list will be far more varied, but for now here are the next five of my old favourites:

Gran Turismo - PlayStation (1998)

There's been a few landmark driving games over the years but I can't remember any that had the impact that Gran Turismo had. Much of the adulation it received initially was earned by the near photo-realistic quality of its action replays, although this always confused me - sure they look good, but it's the game that counts, isn't it? Luckily, this aspect of the game was also ground-breaking in many ways. Featuring masses of real cars, numerous testing circuit-based courses, extensive car customisation options, and lots and lots of competitions, this was a driving game fan's dream come true, and is still the series others aspire to. Many prefer one of the various sequels but this original is the one I always return to, mainly because I've never been too good at 'simulation' driving games but this game lets you keep boosting the power of your car until you're more powerful than your rivals (the sequels brought in BHP limits for races)! My trusty Honda Prelude destroys all!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bomberman Series - Part 2

Bomberman (1985)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Action  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES  First Day Score: 35,800
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, MSX, Sharp MZ-700, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-88

Until a few years ago, the Bomberman series began on the PC Engine for me, so I was surprised to discover that its origins actually go beyond that famous version to a multitude of older Japanese systems, many of them computers rather than the consoles the series would soon find a home on. It was released in the West, on the Speccy no less, and featured a curious main character called Eric who was an explorer looking to plunder treasure from caverns. The Japanese releases, however, featured the classic White Bomber we all know and love today, and the most widely available of these, to those gamers in the West at least, was the NES version. White Bomber himself is apparently a sentient robot who wants to be free of his job in an underground bomb factory. To do this, he must blast his way through fifty stages populated by a variety of enemies who, rather harshly, kill White Bomber with a single touch!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Game Gallery #2 - Part 2

Bubble Bobble (1986)
Arcade Version

After a long and arduous struggle (which took somewhat longer than expected), I've finally managed to finish this damn fine (but also damn long and difficult!) game. Regrettably, I'm not as skilled as I once was as far as playing games is concerned (getting old I guess), and even at my peak I never had the talent that some players have. Like those who can complete this classic with just one credit, for example! Suffice to say, I got stuck a few times (hence the delay in posting Part 2) and had to seek the guidance of an expert or two.

Only then, however, did I discover that those crafty scoundrel's at Taito don't give you the proper ending unless you finish the game with two players. So back I went to complete the game again, after adding a few credits for a non-existent second player, so I could detail the 'proper' ending here. Then I find out that I've still not earned the full ending! To do that I have to decipher the mysterious code that I received on earning the 'Happy Ending', but I think I'll leave that for another time! Taito sure know how to get the most out of a game, huh? As I mentioned in my review, this is a game full of intricacies and secrets!

I'm informed that, on top of all this, there is also a 'Super Mode' which sees some of the levels change colours and some of the enemies switch places. Perhaps I'll look into that for a potential 'Parts 3 & 4' though! Jeez! Anyway, behold I bestow unto thee part two of the much fabled Bubble Bobble Gallery!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Top Five Movie Moments #2

#2 - Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery (1997)

Spoof movies... you either love them or hate them. Well, except me - I love some and hate others! Being subjected to travesties like the Scary Movie series, Date/Epic/Disaster etc Movie, even the recent Vampires Suck, is a trauma that's hard to recover from, and one that continually threatens to destroy my love of the movie-making business altogether. Even accidentally viewing part of a trailer for one of them can be a horrifying experience, but when they're done right, by genuinely talented people, they can be movies of comedic genius, and the movie world is filled with potential candidates.

James Bond films are generally fantastic entertainment, but they are also one of the candidates mentioned that are particularly ripe for spoofing, especially the earlier films. To be honest I'm surprised it took so long, but the combined talents of Mike Myers and Jay Roach did eventually bring us the highly amusing shagathon featured here, which not only represents the birth of the (soon to be 'rebooted') series, but which also remains the best film in the series. Well, in my opinion, anyway! As with the film featured in my first Top Five Movie Moments, choosing the five best moments from this film was tough, particularly as many of the gags are visual, but here are my choices:

Spoiler Alert: the Top Five Movie Moments featured here obviously assume that you've seen the film in question or don't mind knowing about its most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5... "We'll Hold The World Ransom For..."

Friday, 29 October 2010

PC Engine Shmups #3

Air Zonk a.k.a. PC Denjin Punkic Cyborg (1992)
By: Red Company / Hudson Soft Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: 1,184,160
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Zonk and his 'Friends' dominate the title screen...
As the era of the game mascot came to pass the PC Engine was at its peak, so it's no surprise to find that it was the recipient of its own platform hero in PC Kid (or Bonk, as he was known in the US). He was an amusing character, and the star of some outstanding games, but apparently Hudson decided he had uses beyond that genre. But how do you adapt a prehistoric platform game starring a caveboy into a shoot 'em up? Well that's easy - make him a cyborg! Whilst probably a cynical ploy to make PC Kid 'cooler' in the wake of Sonic's rise to fame, it also facilitated a shmup with great potential. The primary antagonist here remains the same as in the PC Kid games - King Drool. This time he has sent forth legions of maniacal robots to take over the world. Having discovered his plan, Zonk and the rest of 'Team Cool' set out to stop him at any cost!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Shinobi Series - Part 2

Shinobi (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Platform/Fighting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 331,150
Also Available For: Arcade, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, Xbox 360 Live Arcade

The original version of Shinobi was a fantastic game for its day and proved to be extremely popular, but for many years the only version of it I knew was this version that Sega treated all of its loyal Master System customers to. It's one of the few conversions handled by Sega themselves and happily it's a splendid version of the arcade great, arguably the best, but it's not identical. The game's story is still the same, which involves the children of the Oboro clan (or of various world leaders, according to the Western versions, as I recall) being kidnapped, but unlike the arcade version where rescuing the children was mandatory, here you don't actually have to rescue them. You can though, if you want, and it's a very good idea to do so anyway, for each one bestows upon courageous Joe a reward of special magnificence!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Top Five Arnie Quips

Arnold Schwarzenegger: love him or loathe him, few could deny that a vast majority of The Governator's films are immensely entertaining. He's been around a long time now, and from his chortlesome beginnings in the late 70's with the likes of cheese-fest, Hercules In New York, up to his attempts to flex his comedic muscles with Kindergarten Cop, through self-parody in The Last Action Hero, right up to the underrated Collateral Damage, his career has proven to be rife with memorable moments.

Regardless of the rest of his filmography, however, his most popular films have always been the loud, explosive action films he starred in, and what a run it was! Starting with sci-fi classic, The Terminator, through Commando, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies... the list goes on. These films have remained enjoyable to this day and have many great qualities, but one of my favourite things about them are Arnie's groan-inducing quips! Here are my favourites, which coincidentally all relate to a bad guy's death...

Spoiler Alert: the Top Five Movie Moments featured here obviously assume that you've seen the films in question or don't mind knowing about their most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5 - Sully's Demise (Commando)

Diminutive Sully doesn't make a convincing bad guy, just a bit of an obnoxious dick, but of all Bennett's cronies, Matrix (Arnie) dislikes him the least, telling him "You're a funny guy, Sully, I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last". However, after a pursuit across a mall followed by a car chase, Matrix runs him off the road in a high mountain pass. Grabbing the dazed Sulley, Matrix holds him by the ankle off the edge of a cliff to scare him into revealing information regarding the whereabouts of Matrix's kidnapped daughter. After believing he has exhausted his resource, he asks Sully "Remember I said I was going to kill you last? I lied" and then drops him from the high cliff, watching him fall to a certain, unpleasant death. Returning to his car, his bit of stuff, Cindy, asks "Where's Sully?". Matrix's calm response?... "I let him go".

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Film Review #14

The Station Agent (2003)
Director: Tom McCarthy Starring: Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale, Patricia Clarkson, Michelle Williams, Raven Goodwin, Paul Benjamin, Jayce Bartok, John Slattery

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 89 Minutes

Tagline: "Loneliness is much better when you have got someone to share it with"

Every now and then I discover a film, usually by accident, that just speaks to me. These films generally turn out to be indies, usually feature lesser-known or even unknown actors, and they are often the kind of films where nothing much actually happens. The Station Agent is one of these films, and one of the main reasons I wanted to start writing reviews of films. I think this is mainly because I’ve never met anyone else who’s even heard of it, nevermind seen it - I wanted more people to know about it, to appreciate it, to love it the way I do. But at the same time the prospect of reviewing it made me nervous. What if everyone who read my review hated it? I don't want anyone to dislike this film, I feel protective of it! However, now that I'm approaching my 100th post here at Red Parsley, and having watched the film for the umpteenth time recently, I thought it was time to finally try to give it the review it deserves.