Saturday, 31 December 2011

Astronomical Musings #1

I recently read a news report on a subject that I've long found slightly irksome - extrasolar planets. They, for non-astronomers, are planets in orbit around stars that are not our Sun. They are difficult to spot - considering their distance it's hardly surprising - and it's only been with the help of recent innovations in the field that astronomers have been reliably able to detect them amidst the glare of their parent star. As the news article in question mentions, this is done by looking out for the tiny and very brief drop in luminescence in the star as the planet passes between it and us.

The existence of quite a large number of these planets has now been confirmed. Amazingly, from such a huge distance it's possible to determine what kind of planet they are and even their temperature. Many of those found so far are gas giants but this latest discovery is not. Not only is it a terrestrial planet (i.e. one with a solid surface) but it's also one that's supposedly in the so-called 'habitable zone' around its host star. By this the genius astrophysicists mean that its distance from its star and therefore its mean surface temperature is comparable to that of Earth. This had led to many excited claims of 'a second Earth' or a 'twin' of our planet which has in turn prompted some more imaginative individuals to speculate that it might even host complex life-forms not unlike those found here on our own planet, and it's from here that my problem arises.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

NES Platform Games #2

Mighty Bomb Jack (1986)
By: Tecmo Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 170,350
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

One of my favourite arcade games when I was growing up was Bomb Jack. Its simple premise and pixel-perfect controls made for a tense and addictive game. During my Speccy gaming days I noticed that Elite had quietly slipped out a sequel on the 8-bit micros of the time which, as it turned out, was a pretty big departure from the first game and wasn't nearly as enjoyable. However, it seems that there was another sequel shortly before the one I played all those years ago, known as Mighty Bomb Jack. It was released on the NES as well as most home micros of the time, but not the Speccy or any Sega system which is probably why I didn't hear about it at the time! As is often the case here at Red Parsley, however, it's now time to rectify that. That usually begins with some brief research before actually playing the game and on this occasion I was shocked to find a game that is apparently despised amongst the NES community. It can't be that bad, surely?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

So, for the second year it's Christmas time here at Red Parsley, and indeed everywhere else that celebrates it! Unlike last year I'm not at home in the UK but am instead enjoying a sweltering festive season in Brazil right in the middle of their summer so it's been a mixture of searing temperatures, monsoon-like downpours, and brick-shaking thunderstorms. This of course means it doesn't really seem like Christmas to someone brought up not too far below the Arctic Circle. I'm lucky enough, however, to have a great family who arranged a special early Christmas for me before I left the UK so whatever happens here over the next week or so is a bonus!

This also means I will be doing virtually no gaming, retro or otherwise, during this most celebrated of festivals, but I suspect many of you will be. Of course, this is likely to be stupid modern games that take an hour to install, two hours to download updates, and are still riddled with bugs, but I'll leave you to it! I'll be back to super retro-gaming before long and, unlike last year, I've actually had a few posts saved up this time too. Regardless of my pursuits here or at home though, I hope very much that you all enjoy whatever you spend your time on and that you have a lot of fun. I've made some great new friends here over the last year including Sean, Bryan, Eric, Pablo, Marco, some older friends have continued to drop by including Marc, Edward, and Darkstalker, and there are of course many others too, so it just stands to me to wish you all, as well as everyone else who stops by here, and most of all my wonderful wife:


Friday, 23 December 2011

Awesome Nature #7

Great Kiskadee
Type: Bird Lives In: Central and South America Conservation Status: Least Concern

It's tempting whilst on holiday here in Brazil to do an 'Awesome Nature' post about one of the more famous creatures or trees found here but one thing I always look forward to when coming here is the sound of the Great Kiskadee's. They're not an especially tropical bird in any regard though. Even with their eye-catching white head-stripe, the brown and yellow colour means they wouldn't look out of place in any of the woodland areas back in the UK, and they don't exhibit any unusual behaviour as a result of their surroundings aside from their bravery in chasing off much larger birds. It's mostly just that loud and distinctive call that makes them stand out and it's a call that can be heard almost anywhere in Brazil, pretty much endlessly! It's also a call that led to their name here - Bem-Te-Vi, which translates to "I see you well!" They might see us but it's not to easy to spot them, only hear them. Everywhere.

Why It Is Awesome: Because it never shuts up!

Listen to their 'song' on Wikipedia or just play this clip:

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Gaming Memories - Part 7

It was my discovery of the mighty OutRun in the arcades of Torquay that first brought the Sega name to my attention and my subsequent acquisition of their splendid Master System console endeared them to me further, but it was when the MegaDrive arrived on the scene that I truly became ensnared by their magnificence, twenty long years ago now.

It must've been around 1988 when I got my Master System. I quickly became very fond of it and remain so today but it was never a console that was gifted by a huge range of titles. There was enough to support a monthly magazine though which was simply called 'S'. Although this magazine went on to become better known as Sega Power and would last right up until the end of the Saturn's reign, in the late 80's it was a pretty small magazine, composed of few pages, but midway through its run it started featuring news of a new and very exciting-sounding console. My interest was piqued immediately but I grew more and more excited the more they featured news and even some tantalising screenshots of some of the games the privileged few could expect to play on this new wonder-machine! The excitement and anticipation grew day by day, for my good friend Luke too. Then, one weekend I dropped by a different friend's house for the first time in a while, only to be greeted by a sight of special magnificence - a gleaming new imported Japanese MegaDrive! The sight of this was quite overwhelming in itself and the expectation increased when he flipped the power switch to the 'on' position.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Top Five Spectrum Shmups

There's no question that over my many years of gaming, shoot 'em ups have become one of my favourite genres, probably my very favourite, but it wasn't always the case. Back when my main source of gaming was my Speccy, I didn't spend much time playing them. Is that because the humble Speccy was incapable of hosting a decent shmup? No, I don't think so - it was graced by more than a few top arcade conversions such as ace ports of Flying Shark, R-Type, and Salamander so that can't be it. Maybe there wasn't many available or perhaps I just failed to notice them. Whatever the reason, it's a subject I've recently looked into and decided to compile a list of the best ones, excluding arcade conversions. Here's my cyan-soaked choices:

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. Xenon (1988)

Whilst I knew the 8-bit micros received ports of this overhead shooter, I've always been under the impression that the ST and Amiga versions were its natural home. But then I recently heard that supposedly the Speccy version is the best one, and playing it reveals that it is indeed pretty sweet! The game itself is something of an acquired taste - you can switch between a flying spacecraft, for which the screen scrolls automatically, and a ground-based tank which can move as quickly or as slowly as you like, and there are of course enemies that can only be destroyed by one or the other of them. The monochrome graphics on this version can be a little confusing at times but other than that, it's a great effort, and the 128k version has some fantastic music too!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Holiday Time!

Well, it's been around twenty months since I started this blog at the behest of my videogame-hating wife who was tired of listening to me babble on about them. I guess she hoped it would channel my interest in the subject in a more creative direction. I don't know how any of my regular readers feel but I'd like to think it's been fairly successful. At the very least, it's forced me to expand my gaming horizons beyond the few consoles I've owned in the past and play some games I've been hearing about for 20-30 years! For the first time since Red Parsley's birth, however, I am going on holiday!

Yes that's right, even as some of you are reading this very post I may be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, for RKS is taking a well-earned break in Brazil for... one month! I've been to Brazil three times before so I know I'll have a supremely enjoyable and leisurely time, plus it's the summer there at the moment too which means it will be very hot but with a lot of tropical rain storms, and believe me - it can rain in Brazil and then some! My travels this time will take in my wife's home town, Brasilia, where we will spend Christmas with her family, before moving on to Sao Paulo (and possibly Santos) for our New Year celebrations with her friends. This overwhelmingly huge city is home to many unique and diverse areas and one of them is Liberdade, its Japanese neighbourhood where I will hopefully encounter the same anime and ninja weapon stores that I saw on my first visit!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Arcade Platform Games #2

Wardner (1987)
By: Taito Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 61,440
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Famicom Disk System

I think it's safe to say Taito have introduced a good few memorable games and characters over the years but Wardner must be considered one of their more obscure offerings. It's a side-scrolling platform adventure and stars a portly young chap who goes by the name of Dover who's out for a stroll with his girlfriend when a mysterious cloaked fellow appears and beckons them to follow him with stories of an awaiting 'fantasia'. Sure enough, the rapscallion has tricked them and swiftly kidnaps Dover's better half (but not before turning her into a crystal ball for some reason) and whisks her off to the evil wizard, Wardner. Predictably enough, it's now up to the girl's porky boyfriend to pursue the foul creatures responsible and rescue her (and hopefully turn her back into a human again too).

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Early Driving Games #5

Battle OutRun (1989)
By: Sega Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: Nothing

I'm not sure why but I'm in a bit of an OutRun mood at the moment. It could just be because OutRun rules more than anything else ever, but is that true of every game that carried the famous name? I took a look at the best games in the series with the recent Top Five OutRun Games, but you may have noticed that Battle OutRun isn't there. In fact, there's a good chance that many of the world's gamers won't even have played it as it was apparently only released in Europe. Seems a bit strange to me - surely if any game in the series should only be released in Europe, the logical choice would be OutRun Europa? Perhaps it's because the rest of the world didn't want it. After all, OutRun hardly has a glowing track-record on home systems...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Film Review #35

Gran Torino (2008)
Director: Clint Eastwood Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley, Doua Moua, Brian Haley, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, John Carroll Lynch, Chee Thao, Choua Kue, Brian Howe, Scott Eastwood

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 116 Minutes

Tagline: "Ever notice how you come across somebody every once in a while you shouldn't have messed with?"

He's been on our screens for over fifty years now, playing a huge variety of roles across most genres, but this film is apparently the last time we'll ever clap eyes upon the great Clint Eastwood. Unless we happen to know him in person, of course. He stated before Gran Torino was released that it was to be his last acting role, and at 78 years old who could blame him? A statement like that does bring with it a certain degree of expectation though. That may be true of any Clint film but his last ever? His legions of loyal fans will have been expecting nothing but the greatest of send-offs! Luckily for me I didn't find all this out until after I saw the film so I didn't go in with such an unreasonable level of expectation.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Scrolling Fighting Games #6

Final Fight (1989)
By: Capcom Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 925,419
Also Available For: SNES, Mega CD, Game Boy Advance, Sharp X68000, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Apple iOS

In recent years, Capcom have probably been most famous for their Resident Evil games. Through most of 90's it was the Street Fighter series, but before all of the many, many incarnations of these games, one of their most popular games was a scrolling fighting game which was so revered that it pretty much single-handedly formed the basis for Sega's decision to create the Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle) series! This game was of course Final Fight and it's a game that I'm ashamed to say I had never played properly until a recent visit by my good friend Luke. In my defence, I was a Sega fanboy during the years in question but it's still no excuse really. To make amends, an hour or so of two-player ass-whooping ensued with the following discoveries.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Atari 2600 Round-Up #1

Hello and welcome to another new Red Parsley feature! As regular readers will no doubt already know, game reviews here are rather on the lengthy side, but not all games need (or deserve) so much detail. Less commonly, I may not be able to discover all the necessary information about a game to start with. Whatever the reason though, I thought the 'Round Up' was an ideal solution! Here I will look at games that fit these criteria, five at a time. These will often include arcade conversions, so to start things off, here's a look at how the Atari 2600 handled versions of some of the most popular arcade games of its time...

Space Invaders (1978)

I don't think there were too many VCS games that were as eagerly awaited as this one! When it did arrive, some bemoaned the unauthentic alien designs or the incorrect number of shields, but the fact is, it's still great fun to play. Of course, even in the arcades it got a bit boring after a while but this version features an amazing 112 variations of the game which includes ones with moving shields, invisible invaders, extra weapons, and even a splendid simultaneous two-player option! It could certainly be prettier (although it is more colourful than the arcade version), and if it was no more than it appears as default it would soon grow equally tiresome, but the huge number and variety of game variations makes it one of the most enjoyable games I've yet played on this classic old console! ... 8/10

Friday, 2 December 2011

Top Five Neighbours Characters

It may have outstayed its welcome now by a good twenty years but once upon a time, just for a short while, the Australian soap-opera known as Neighbours was compulsive viewing. The cast, while hardly award-winning in terms of their thesping, were a distinctive and frequently amusing bunch. Here's the five that have stuck in my mind the most over the years:

5 - Clive Gibbons

To call him the village idiot would be far too cruel but Clive, played by Geoff Paine, was certainly a pretty crazy guy and he would make this list purely for his highly chortlesome appearances in his gorilla suit - all part of the service offered by his gorillagram agency, naturally! He was a big favourite but his wacky antics hid some painful memories from his past...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Run 'n' Gun Games #4

Kenseiden (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Run 'n' Gun ... or is it Platform? Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 40,500
Also Available For: Nothing

Has anyone here actually played Kenseiden? I have, as you might imagine since I'm writing about it, but I still find myself troubled as to deciding what genre it actually is. Most reviews and articles on the internet seem to think it's a platform game, as does as least one reader of this very blog who complained about its absence from the 'Top Five Master System Platform Games' feature. I, however, do not. I've always categorised a platform game as one in which the emphasis is on traversing platforms rather than being troubled by what's on them. But if it's not a platformer, what is it? I would have to say it's more of a run 'n' gun game, even though it features no guns, since the emphasis of the gameplay is more on defeating the enemies that are on the platforms. Read on for clarification!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Bomberman Series - Part 7

Bomber King a.k.a. RoboWarrior (1987)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: Without cheating? No idea, grrrr!
Also Available For: MSX

Well, the splendid Bomberman series is coming along nicely so far but I'll take a short diversion here and look at one of the spin-offs, and like many such obscure Japanese spin-offs, it's one that was released in the West under an entirely different guise. This is understandable, however, since the series was only just becoming established in the US and Europe and this game is indeed a markedly different affair, in both looks and gameplay. The first change you'll notice in the game that became RoboWarrior for the NES is that it doesn't actually feature Bomberman at all, or at least, not as we've seen him before. It actually features a... robo warrior, funnily enough, whose job it is to blast his way through each stage in a familiar fashion. These stages, however, are much larger than those found in the usual Bomberman games and there's a few more unfamiliar features here too.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Awesome Nature #6

Type: Mammal Lives In: Central and North America Conservation Status: Least Concern

I imagine some of my North American friends won't be too keen on these mischievous creatures but since I don't live that side of the Atlantic they are rather intriguing to me! Much of their appeal no doubt comes from their distinctive appearance, but are they friends to us stupid Humans or are they foes? I suppose they're a bit like foxes are over here - they're about the same size, albeit with much shorter legs (while sharing their ringed tails with lemurs), and both are furry, omnivorous, nocturnal animals that are native to wooded areas, but which now also live in urban areas thanks to our recklessly-increasing population. This means many regard them as pests since they forage in people's gardens and steal their food! If they are pests though, I can't really see anyone else to blame, and they certainly look nice. Any readers across the Atlantic got any amusing raccoon tales to tell?

Why It Is Awesome: It wears a bandit mask!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Arcade Shmups #9

Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams (1991)
By: Success / Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 78,370
Also Available For: PC Engine CD, Sharp X68000, PlayStation, Neo Geo Pocket Color

Unlike most unpleasant Western examples, witches in Japanese culture generally seem to be quite perky and cheerful characters. This could be because they're often represented by teenage girlies of course, rather than old green hags who've had years to dwell on their misfortunes in solitude, and their exploits are often charted in manga and anime publications (such as the splendid Kiki's Delivery Service). As far as videogames are concerned, the pickings are noticeably slimmer, but there are a few feisty examples doing the rounds, or more accurately, there were, and Cotton is unquestionably the most well-known example of this exclusive group. She's a red-haired young lady who has a fondness for a candy called 'Willow' and it's her pursuit of this elusive confectionery that forms the basis for her numerous adventures, including this one.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Star Control - Part 5

Even if you're not interested in the (superb) strategy/adventure elements in the Star Control games, there's still a huge amount of fun to be had from the Melee mode which sees two ships engage in one-on-one combat... to the death! The first game featured two sides of seven ships each - the Alliance and the Hierarchy. The second game added a lot including eleven diverse new races, complete with their own ships, whose allegiances could be determined by your actions in-game. In the last post in this series I looked at six of them so this is the last five:

Slylandro Probe

These pesky things will be one of the first types of ship you encounter in the main game and they're a pain in the arse! Their inclusion in the Super Melee mode is probably for the sake of completion as they do serve a purpose in the main game, but actually trying to use one in battle is a haphazard affair to say the least! They're very fast-moving things which 'tumble' through space at their maximum speed automatically, so pressing the 'thrust' button simply reverses its course rather than increasing its speed. They turn at very sharp angles as well so piloting one takes a lot of practise, especially as their only weapon is a short-range one!

For this it discharges bolts of lightning which don't fire particularly quickly, and when the Probe's meagre fuel supply is gone it needs to hunt out any nearby asteroids which it can 'break down' and convert to fuel by way of its secondary ability. It's a very unusual ship whose existence is better explained in the main game, but trying to use it in battle takes a lot of practise. It's a nuisance rather than a real danger to fight against one and even if you get the hang of using it, there's plenty of better ships around.

Ship Rating: 2/5

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Top Five OutRun Games

There's been surprisingly few long-running series' of racing games, but of those that have been doing the rounds there's one that continues to elicit both tremendous excitement and expectation from the many fans that continue to worship the series. The name of the series is of course OutRun and continues to be one of Sega's most popular. By my count, there's now been ten games in the series but here are, in my view, the best five:

5. OutRun Europa (1991)

Unusually for an OutRun game, Europa was never found in an arcade and wasn't developed by Sega either. It did see release on Sega's Master System console though, as well as most of the home micros of the day, courtesy of Probe Software, and was something of a departure for the series. It charged the player with racing across Europe using a variety of vehicles, including a motorbike, jet-ski, and a powerboat, in addition to the usual sports car, to retrieve some 'secret documents' or some such nonsense. Doesn't sound much like an OutRun game I'll agree and perhaps it shouldn't have carried the name, but it is a surprisingly enjoyable and nicely varied game in its own right which even had a bit of combat thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Computer Platform Games #3

Nebulus a.k.a. Tower Toppler, a.k.a. Castelian (1987)
By: Hewson Consultants Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 7,230
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Nintendo NES, Game Boy, Atari 7800, Acorn Achimedes
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

As far as gaming is concerned, when you think of fancy visual tricks you might immediately think of Mode 7 on the SNES or maybe some extravagant demo on the Amiga, but John M. Phillips achieved a pretty nice one as early as the 8-bit computers with this memorable platformer for Hewson. It's a game set in a rather watery world (so Kevin Costner might turn up unannounced) and stars a green space-hopper type creature called Pogo who gets sent by his boss to investigate and destroy a series of cylindrical towers which have sprung up almost overnight. To do this he must make his way to them in his amusing little submarine and climb to the top of each in turn, and they rotate as he walks around them!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

MegaDrive Shmups #6

Hellfire (1990)
By: Toaplan / NCS Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 3,959,060
Also Available For: Arcade, PC Engine CD

Eeek, even the title screen is all fiery!
If you're a regular reader here at Red Parsley you may have noticed that I have a fondness for retro shoot 'em ups. Before starting my humble blog I had played comparatively few but many of those that I had played remained among my favourite games of all-time. Some of these were by the awesome Toaplan who were founded as a subcontractor of the great Taito before releasing their first game in 1984. They lasted almost exactly ten years and a majority of the games they released during that time were shmups, most of which went on to be regarded as classics. My discovery of one in particular can, like so many others, be attributed to the enthusiastic coverage in the pages of Mean Machines magazine. The game in question is also arguably one of Toaplan's most underrated games - the splendidly named Hellfire - which is also my personal favourite.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Single Screen Platform Games #7

Chack'n Pop (1983)
By: Taito Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 8,550
Also Available For: Sega SG-1000, Nintendo NES, Fujitsu FM-7, MSX, NEC PC-6001, Sharp X1
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Any gamer who's not a moronic buffoon knows all about Taito's immensely fabulous Bubble Bobble. It was a game that took mid-80's arcades by storm and, unlike so many other games of the era, remains as popular today. It wasn't a particularly advanced game for its day but it was one of the first to demonstrate that design is more important than technical wizardry. It's also a game that's had a good few sequels over the subsequent years but, much to my surprise, I've recently discovered it has a semi-prequel as well which was released three years earlier. After spending the last few days playing it, there are clear signs of the game that would follow, but it doesn't play much like it. Both games are platformers consisting of multiple stages, each one screen in size, and they share a few character designs, but apart from that they're quite different games.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Lush Food #1

Adventures With Chillies - Part 1

If I may be permitted a brief diversion from the kind of subjects I typically cover here, allow me to relay a recent food-related adventure. Ever since my teens I've been very fond of spicy food. This has mostly consisted of Indian curries which are so prevalent here in the UK but apparently quite rare in other European or American countries. I was introduced to them indirectly by two friends, one of whom sadly passed away recently, who started buying Chinese curries and sharing them with me. I soon moved on to the Indian variety and proceeded to work my way up the scale of hotness, ending with the coveted chicken Phall.

Soon, I was seeking ways to make other foods I liked spicy too. One of my first stops was the pizzas I had recently started eating. Spicing these up seemed simple - buy some chillies, chop them up, and sprinkle over the top! This is exactly what I did for many years and continue to today with the kinds of chillies most readily available to me which I have recently learned are called Anaheim Peppers and Poblano Peppers. Just last week, however, I made an unexpected pizza purchase and had no chillies available. Eating it without them was not a option so I had to venture down to my local 24/7 store to see if they had any. They did, but only an unfamiliar variety called Scotch Bonnets.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Overhead Run 'n' Gun Games #6

Berzerk (1980)
By: Stern Electronics Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 5,740
Also Available For: Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Vectrex

I'm crap as you can see, but consistently so!
Is this an overhead run 'n' gun game? I'm not totally sure it counts to be honest but I'm not too concerned if it isn't, it still gives me the excuse to play it! And play it I did, for the first time since my good friend Luke had his Dragon 32 all those years ago which, subsequent research indicates, did not host an official version either. So, this is my first experience with 'proper' Berzerk and it was one which I'm sure will leave a lasting impression on me. It's a game that was supposedly born in a dream of Stern employee, Alan McNeil, who imagined fighting rooms full of hostile robots. The subsequent game was released soon afterwards and malevolent automatons did indeed play a pivotal role. The object of Berzerk, you see, is simply to avoid meeting your maker at the hands of one of the pesky cycloptic metal monsters.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Overhead Racers #11

Motoroader (1989)
By: Hudson Soft / NCS Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-5 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

I think it's safe to assume that overhead racing games, as one of the very earliest videogame genres, were fairly well-established by the time this offering was made at the tail-end of the 80's, so in order to be noticed it would have to have something special in store for gamers, wouldn't it? Well, it certainly wouldn't hurt either way and Hudson had just such a trick up their sleeve with Motoroader - a simultaneous five player mode! That's right, up to five whole players can take part in the racing action at one time here and it's for this reason that the game swiftly gained an enthusiastic following. This is another of those games I distinctly remember reading about in magazines of the time, and most of the reviews in question were full of glowing superlatives too so I'm sure I have nothing to worry about here. I can instead relax and enjoy the discovery of another Engine classic! Can't I?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Isometric Games #2

Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos (1990)
By: Software Creations Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing

Pesky wizards, sometimes I think they're more trouble than they're worth. It seems that for every good and helpful beardy, there's another who's cruel and evil and generally troublesome. In the case of this splendid British game, released for the NES exclusively, the culprit is an unpleasant fellow who goes by the rather tell-tale name of Morbius the Malevolent who's kidnapped the probably-buxom Princess Eleanor amongst other things. Luckily for all us princess lovers there's a more helpful wizard in the area with the slightly more mysterious name of Shadax who has volunteered to get her back. In order to do this, however, he must find his way through the treacherous fortress of Kastlerock to find the six pieces of the Staff of Demnos, the only weapon capable of defeating Morbius.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Top Five Annoying Things About Star Trek

Some people love it, some people hate it, but no one can deny the impact Star Trek has had on the entertainment world. I personally like it, but even as a fan I certainly can't claim that it doesn't have faults. Here are five that I always notice when I watch the show:

5 - Failure to introduce new characters...

One of the appealing things about Star Trek is the group of main characters. Each incarnation of the show has a distinctive and varied bunch and many of the sub-plots involve their interaction with each other, but the group of characters that starts the series is invariably the group that finishes it too. Okay, there's a few exceptions, more often than not brought on by actors leaving suddenly or something like that (such as Denise Crosby), but how many major characters are introduced mid-way through a show's run? Again, there are a few exceptions but would it really hurt to add a decent amount of new blood? And yes, I remember Seven of Nine but adding a blonde with big knockers because the ratings are falling isn't really the same thing, is it? One of my favourite almost-new characters was Ensign Gomez (played by Lycia Naff who you might remember as the hoe with three boobies in Total Recall) who appeared in a couple of episodes of Next Generation. She and many like her should've received prolonged runs in their respective shows. Listen to me dammit!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Doujin Shmups #4

Blue Wish (2005)
By: X.X Game Room Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 1,346,200 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

Hooray, it's time to look at another doujin game! I've been greatly enjoying the ones I've found so far and here's another one I stumbled upon by accident. It's actually one of several games offered by a Japanese individual or group who call themselves X.X Game Room and, accordingly, all information I've found about the game, including any kind of story or set-up, is in kanji. However, as with most shmups, this isn't enormously important anyway. Like most of the games offered by the splendid fellow(s) at X.X, Blue Wish is a bullet-hell style vertical-scroller. The first thing I noticed when it loaded was that its display options are rather limited - it either plays in a very small windowed mode (the same size as the screenshots here) or a 'full screen' mode which is only about two or three times bigger than that.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Exploring the WonderSwan

I think it's safe to say that if any one company can be credited with not just pioneering handheld gaming, but near enough creating it, it would be Nintendo. The Game & Watch series wasn't really my cup of tea, at least not by the time I got into gaming in the mid-80's, but I was in the minority and it proved to be a big success. Towards the end of that decade the Big N unveiled the spiritual successor to the G&W series, the Game Boy, and this was an even bigger success and has ended up being one of the most successful systems of all-time, handheld or otherwise. Both Atari and Sega tried to get in on the act and both failed. Surely, someone would have to be very brave or just plain crazy to try again?

When I first heard about the WonderSwan, aside from some initial chuckles at the expense of the somewhat unorthodox name, I thought its creators, toy company Bandai, were indeed plain crazy, for here was not just another handheld console vying for a share of the Game Boy's market, but one that was technically inferior to its competition! Okay, its specs made for pretty impressive reading - it had a 16-bit CPU over the 8-bit one in Nintendo's machine, for example - but it had a black & white display for heaven's sake! The long-awaited Game Boy Color had been released the previous year so the decision to launch the WonderSwan with this antiquated screen was frankly baffling. However, when you stop to consider that it was developed by a certain Gunpei Yokoi, the not-insignificant fellow who designed the Game & Watch and Game Boy, then it would be foolish to immediately write it off. Yokoi-san was tragically killed before his latest vision was released but, immediately after its release in 1999, it actually didn't get off to a bad start in Japan.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Film Review #34

The Three Musketeers (2011)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Starring: Matthew Macfayden, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Freddie Fox, Juno Temple, Gabriella Wilde, James Corden

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 110 Minutes

Tagline: "Every legend has a new beginning."

A number of the works of famed French author, Alexandre Dumas, have been adapted over the years but none more so than this tale of D'Artagnan and his new friends, the Three Musketeers. This latest realisation of Dumas' story opens with our three heroes Athos (Macfayden), Porthos (Stevenson), and Aramis (Evans) in action in Venice accompanied by Milady (Jovovich), Athos' lover. It isn't long, however, before they find themselves tricked and betrayed by the dastardly Duke of Buckingham (Bloom). Events are picked up again a year later where we first meet D'Artagnan (Lerman) who is headed for Paris to become one of these famous Musketeers only to find they no longer exist. He instead encounters the three former heroes rather despondent and down on their luck.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Arcade Platform Games #1

SonSon (1984)
By: Capcom Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 61,780
Also Available For: NES
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

There's been millions of completely original games over the years but developers are also happy to take some help now and then. Accordingly, there's also been a huge number of games based on films, TV shows, celebrities, and goodness know what else, but classic Chinese literature? Apparently so, for this early Capcom game is based on the 16th century novel known as Journey to the West! Actually it didn't really surprise me all that much once I learned that the novel has been adapted before and is more commonly known, in the West at least, as Monkey! The story is a potentially great source of entertainment though, whether that be film or game-based, and SonSon is of course the latter. Due to its age, is a rather basic interpretation but, much like the amusing TV show, it's also one that's proven to be an enduring cult favourite so it's high time I had a more detailed look at it.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Star Control - Part 4

Well, it's been a while since I've had a look at anything Star Control-related so I think I'm well overdue for another more detailed look at the splendid series. The first game was a great little strategy game which I played repeatedly over many years on my trusty MegaDrive but it's more keenly remembered these days for the Melee one-on-one starship battle mode that accompanied it. This saw two opposing groups of seven alien races pitted against one another - the heroic Alliance of Free Stars and the evil Ur-Quan Hierarchy. The last two posts in this Red Parsley series have taken a detailed look at the seven ships available to each side but the amazing and far more detailed sequel to Star Control introduced a varied selection of new races with ships of their own as well as the new Super Melee mode to use them in. In this two-part post I'll take a look at these additions to the series.

Chmmr Avatar

After the events of the first Star Control, the Chenjesu and the Mmrnmhrm - two fairly similar races who were long-time friends and allies and who also shared the same region of space - decided to genetically merge their two species into one new race - the Chmmr. Rather than continuing to use the awesome Broodhome and respectable Transformer ships, however, this new hybrid species created a brand new warship, and the result is one of the finest ships in the entire game - the Avatar.

This fearsome craft is a little cumbersome to move around, in part due to its large size, but it's quite fast and has also has a few tricks up its sleeve. The main weapon is its devastating Terawatt 'Heavy X-Ray' Laser which is immensely powerful but, like the other laser-equipped craft, has a limited range. To combat this, however, the Chmmr also fitted their new ship with a strong tractor beam which can pull any faster or more manoeuvrable ships into range.

Both the laser and the tractor beam do of course eat up the Avatar's fuel reserves pretty quickly but it also has among the fastest fuel regeneration speeds around. As if all this wasn't enough, the ship is also circled by three ZapSat escorts which fire their own homing lasers at anything within range as well. An awesome ship which is so good it's almost a 'cheat' ship!

Ship Rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Puzzle Games #9

Zoom! (1989)
By: Discovery Software / Sega Genre: Maze / Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 4,440
Also Available For: Commodore 64, Amiga, PC

We've already taken a look at a few of the MegaDrive launch titles here at Red Parsley. Many of them were state-of-the-art at the time with flashy graphics and amazing soundtracks, but there were a couple that were somewhat less befitting the power and prestige of the world's first 16-bit console (okay, the first proper 16-bit console) and one of them was Zoom! A conversion of a simple puzzle game which first appeared on the rather less powerful Commodore 64 hardly seems like the best choice of game to showcase Sega's swanky new hardware, though, and it isn't an especially original game either! However, as us retro gamers know better than anyone, fancy graphics and ingenious concepts certainly don't hurt but few games actually require them to be enjoyable.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Film Review #33

Dave (1993)
Director: Ivan Reitman Starring: Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 105 Minutes

Tagline: "In a country where anybody can become President, anybody just did."

Times are hard once again here in RKS land, and with no recent cinema visits I thought I'd take a look at another old favourite in the hopes of turning more movie fans onto its charms. It's a film that stars Kevin Kline and... umm... Kevin Kline (chortle) with the two Kevins playing both the character of the title, Dave Kovic - a nice, charming, helpful, everyday guy who runs a temping agency, as well as the President of the United States, Bill Mitchell, who isn't quite as pleasant. Dave's agency is his main source of income but he also makes a few 'bucks' on the side doing impersonations of the President, so he's already aware of the similarity he bears towards the Commander-in-Chief but perhaps he's not aware of just how close the resemblance is.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

SNES Shmups #3

Strike Gunner S.T.G. (1992)
By: Athena / Tecmo Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Mediumd
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: I don't know, it doesn't give you a chance to record it!
Also Available For: Arcade

Since I started writing this blog it has served two main purposes. The first has been to stir some of my many fond memories of the games and systems I played while I was growing up. The other is to introduce me to titles I missed for whatever reason the first time around. The time I've spent playing Strike Gunner over the last couple of weeks has done a little of both. I have a vague recollection of it receiving very little attention in magazines of the day, maybe the odd unenthusiastic review in the corner of a page, so it went under the radar of most SNES gamers, including me. I can't even remember what brought it back to my attention just recently but I went in expecting little. Shoot 'em ups were ten a penny on the 16-bit consoles after all, so if this one was much good, we'd have all heard about it long ago, surely?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Top Five Spectrum Arcade Conversions

Most of us retro gamers look back most fondly on one particular 'generation', or era in the history of videogames and one of my favourites is the arcade scene of the mid-to-late 80's. Many of the games we played on our beloved-but-far-inferior home systems were born here and the unveiling of a new one was often met with both wonder at the (usually) lovely graphics and sounds, but also a little worry at how our meagre computers and consoles could possibly handle a conversion.

Since Dreamcast days, the increasing power of home systems has enabled them to produce games better than their increasingly rare arcade counterparts but in the days of the 8-bit micros it was a different story. One of the most challenging systems to covert these arcade monsters to must surely have been the humble ZX Spectrum. As much as many of us loved Sir Clive's finest, it was hardly blessed with the most extraordinary processing power. Accordingly, many conversions were decent games but had little in common with the original and some were just a mess from start to finish, but there were a few that were different. A few talented programmers were able to defy the odds and produce amazingly playable and accurate conversions. In the start of a new series here at Red Parsley, here are five of the best...

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. Arkanoid (1987)

Okay, this Breakout clone was hardly the most groundbreaking game to begin with, visually or conceptually, so the conversion probably wasn't too taxing from a technical point of view, but that's certainly never been a guarantee of a decent port for the poor old Speccy. Happily, the boys at Imagine did do a fantastic job with this Taito classic, in my opinion at least. There's some clear differences like the less varied and detailed backgrounds, and a few less obvious ones such as a slightly different number of bricks on each stage, but this game arguably took up more of my Speccy gaming time than any other game. It's colourful (a precious commodity at the time), packed with some great and fiendishly-designed stages, and is extremely addictive. Even better - I was actually pretty good at it!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Single Screen Platform Games #6

Qwak (1993)
By: Team 17 Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 210,500
Also Available For: CD32, Game Boy Advance, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron

Most video game developers and publishers have a 'golden age' at some point and few would argue that Team 17's was on the Amiga. They produced a string of fantastic games for Commodore's powerhouse during the latter half of its life covering almost every genre, and one of them was Qwak. Unlike most of their other games, however, this is one that I didn't play until fairly recently, and it was then that I was surprised to find that it wasn't an Amiga game at all. Well, not originally, anyway. Indeed, this amusing little game by Jamie Woodhouse first found release on a couple of Acorn systems in the late 80's before Team 17 resurrected it for 16-bit gamers to enjoy and, as you might expect, they also applied a significant coat of polish while they were at it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Splendid PlayStation Music #1

Viewpoint (1996)

Originally released by Sammy Corp on the Neo Geo, like many games for that rather exclusive console, Viewpoint was later ported to a few other systems including the PS1. Although I've played and like both versions, many seem to dislike this conversion. However, regardless of your opinion, no one could deny that the CD-based nature of the console provided the opportunity to improve upon the already-splendid soundtrack of the Neo Geo version.

Rather than remixing the existing soundtrack, however, Visual Concepts Entertainment, who handled the conversion, charged Music 'Director', Mark Chosak, with assembling an all-new soundtrack from choice house/trance picks of the day. The result is a cracking selection of tunes which suits the punishing shmup action down to the ground. Getting to hear all of them is a challenge in itself so it's perhaps fitting that my favourite is the first one which is a Todd Terry track called 'This Will Be Mine' (1995). See what you think...

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, 7 October 2011

Neo Geo Shmups #1

Andro Dunos (1992)
By: Visco Corp / SNK Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 52,650
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES

One of the many subjects recently under the microscope here at Red Parsley was that of shoot 'em ups for SNK's monstrous arcade and home console system. It hosts some damn good ones for sure but here I'll take a more detailed look at one of the ones that didn't make the cut and, like a surprising number of Neo Geo shmups, it was released early on in the system's life. It's a game that isn't looked upon with much affection by the Neo Geo fanboys either. In all fairness, I suppose when you have the likes of Pulstar and Blazing Star to get your teeth into it has a lot to live up to, but what little I've known about the game prior to playing it for this feature made it seem inoffensive enough, and thanks to a recent visit by my good retro gaming buddy, Luke, I had the chance to finally give it a good going over.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Crap Games #5

China Warrior a.k.a. Drunken Master, a.k.a. The Kung Fu (1987)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 22,400
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

The 'Crap Games' feature here at Red Parsley has thrown up few surprises so far. It seems increasingly likely that most games that get crap reviews and crap reputations actually are indeed crap and thoroughly deserving of the scorn that they receive, but this particular example was a craply-reviewed game that surprised me a lot at the time. The PC Engine was a new and exciting console so its games must've all been equally amazing, surely? This was certainly the case for most of the early titles which wowed many of us jealous C&VG readers here in the UK, so how could Hudson of all companies release a stinker? To find out if Drunken Master, as I knew it at the time, really is as wiffy as I've been led to believe, I've bravely decided to give it a try.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Doujin Shmups #3

Torus Trooper (2008)
By: ABA Games Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 913,674
Also Available For: Nothing

Racing games have been around almost as long as videogames themselves have existed, so the variety between them and the numerous sub-genres that have appeared isn't surprising. What is a little surprising is how few examples of some of these sub-genres there are. Take tunnel racing games for example. How many have you played? STUN Runner is an obvious example but the most time I've spent pelting down tunnels has been while playing the awesome F-Zero X. Now, however, courtesy of indie developer, ABA Games, we have another opportunity. Whilst more of a shoot 'em up than a racing game, Torus Trooper is nonetheless a game that sees the player charged with flying down a succession of pipes and tunnels at insane speeds, but to what end? Who knows but I'm interested already!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Bat 'n' Ball Games #4

Alleyway (1989)
By: Nintendo EAD Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy First Day Score: 2,745
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: 3DS Virtual Console

For some reason the Game Boy's launch is one that I still have very clear memories of. Maybe it's because it was one of the few console launches that enticed me enough to buy the system in question. Actually, I think it was the unanimous praise being heaped on Tetris that most persuaded me, but what of the other launch titles? I didn't get around to playing many of them but I do remember they all looked ideally suited to the little grey handheld including this Breakout clone developed by the Game Boy designer himself, Gunpei Yokoi. It literally is a Breakout clone too, with everything being kept very simple by Nintendo's legendary designer. Games have come a long way since Atari's classic though, even ones of this type. Could he work the same magic on games as he could on the system that hosted them?

Friday, 30 September 2011

Scrolling Fighting Games #5

Dungeon Magic a.k.a. Lightbringer (1993)
By: Taito Genre: Fighting Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 112,490
Also Available For: Nothing

You know, it's pretty amazing when I stop to think about it, just how many games pass by going completely unnoticed by some, and this one is a great example. I like scrolling fighting games and I like nearly anything released by Taito, and yet, somehow, I had absolutely no idea this game existed until a couple of weeks ago! Of course, sometimes games are ignored on purpose as they suck arse, but surely a scrolling fighting game by Taito won't suck arse? It's a fantasy game with a medieval setting meaning there's a good helping of swords and sorcery, and, fittingly, there is also apparently an evil magician on the loose plotting to take over the Kingdom and generally spreading ill-will. He's even kidnapped a big-boobed princess for good measure and it's up to you to get her back!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Budget Games #6

Super Robin Hood (1986)
By: Oliver Twins / Code Masters Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 14,630
Also Available For: NES, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC

The Oliver Twins might be most famous for the splendid Dizzy series, but their first foray into the the world of published games was this budget effort which was first released on the good old Speccy. I'm not sure what made them choose the legendary outlaw from Sherwood Forest as the basis for their first game but the result has seen poor old Maid Marian kidnapped once again by that super-cad, the Sheriff of Nottingham. It's therefore your job to fill the boots of our gallant hero and make your way through Nottingham Castle, battling against fearsome adversaries and overcoming cunning traps in order to free her. Followed, presumably, by a celebratory ravaging. Like many such games, Super Robin Hood is a flick-screen platform adventure, and standing between Robin and Marian are over forty screens of tough action.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Top Five Babylon 5 Ships - Part 1

As great as the various incarnations of Star Trek are, everyone knows the superior show to watch from beginning to end is Babylon 5. This is of course mainly down to the amazingly intricate and enthralling story, superbly developed characters, and the ongoing arc that progressed them all, but it certainly didn't hurt that it had superb alien make-up and a realistic portrayal of the future of mankind, all the corrupt, war-starting lot of it! Something else it had over Star Trek is decent-looking spaceships and here are the best ones in my view:

5 - Earthforce Starfury

The main attack fighter of the Earthforce fleet, this little one-man craft is a superbly versatile thing. What it lacks in raw firepower it more than makes up for with its immense maneuverability. Each of the four 'wings' has a thruster on the front and back and any combination of these can be fired at any time making the Starfury capable of making pinpoint maneuvers and can turn on the spot, even performing one-eighty degree turns while flying in a straight line. It is perhaps for this reason that NASA actually expressed an interest in making it for real. It's not very tough but it looks nice and I get the impression it would be riot to fly one!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Arcade Shmups #8

Darwin 4078 (1986)
By: Data East Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 38,740
Also Available For: MSX

After the wonder of my recent experience with Genetos, its evolutionary theme reminded me of a shoot 'em up I used to enjoy on my MegaDrive. It was a conversion of a Data East coin-op, Super Real Darwin, which as I discovered much later, actually turned out to be the sequel to this very game featured here. It takes place inside a gigantic spaceship which was created using Evol, the lifeforce of the planet Lakya which was unwittingly unleashed by the advanced inhabitants and harnessed by their neighbours from the planet Cokyo (nice name). What this all basically comes down to is a vertically-scrolling shooter in which you must pilot a biological ship through the giant ship over no less than sixteen stages, taking out as many of its defences as possible as you go.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Golf Games #3

Putt & Putter (1991)
By: SIMS / Sega Genre: Sports Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Game Gear
Also Available For: Master System
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Considering how little variety there is in the actual sport, it's surprising how many different kinds of golf games there are. As regular readers here will know, my favourite kind are the cartoony Japanese ones that started appearing around the early 90's, partly because they can be played at a non-sleep inducing pace, but also because their creators are generally much more inventive with their design. Another kind of golf game that could tick both of those boxes is the kind based on mini, or 'crazy' golf. In fact, given the nature of the game, it would be fairly easy to make these games among the most creative of all sports games. The first one I ever played was this little-known title which was one of the few games I had for my Game Gear. I remember getting a lot enjoyment out of it back then but how kind has time been to it in the fifteen years or so since I last played it?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Doujin Shmups #2

Genetos (2009)
By: Tatsuya Koyama Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 2,842,840
Also Available For: Nothing

I'm sure the recently started doujin feature here at Red Parsley will introduce me to some fantastic games by some talented guys (and gals?) that I may never have otherwise played but a big part of my motivation for starting it was to finally force me to get around to playing this game. I think it's probably fair to say that it's the most famous doujin shmup but does that make it the best? This is of course impossible for me say since I've only played one before it, but I will give it good going over anyway, and its popularity is immediately obvious! It's a game, you see, which is in part a retro homage to the shmups of old, but which is also a much more modern take on the genre, and its biggest trick is how it gets from one to the other.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Commodore 64 Games #2

Mayhem in Monsterland (1993)
By: Apex Computer Productions Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 71,950
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

As loyal as I was to my delightful Speccy, by the time the nineties had arrived I had moved on to Sega's glorious Mega Power. Of course, even in the years prior to this, Sir Clive's finest was my main system of choice. These factors combined meant that by the time Mayhem in Monsterland had been released I scarcely even heard about it nevermind played it. Indeed, so late was the hour of its arrival that Apex's creation was played by few gamers. It's arguably a game that has become more famous as time has gone on, but why? Platform games were everywhere in the late 80's and early 90's so what makes this one so special? The very fact that I don't know means I think it's time I finally found out.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Top Five Neo Geo Shmups

I think it's fair to say that the Neo Geo is best known for the masses of fighting games available for it, as well as perhaps the splendid Metal Slug series, but it's also played host to some corking shooters. Like most games on the system, they're hardly the pinnacle of originality but it's tough to complain when the quality is so high! Here's the best five (in my opinion, of course!):

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. Viewpoint (1992)

I've actually got the PlayStation version of this splendid game which I'm told is far inferior to this Neo Geo original but, aside from slightly different graphics and a new soundtrack, I'm struggling to tell them apart. Both versions are isometrically-viewed blasters with the same enemies and stage layouts, and both are harder than ten angry Chuck Norris's, and it's this savage difficulty that prevents the otherwise original and addictive game from featuring higher on this list. Perhaps tellingly, the six stages aren't very long, but they're sure packed with some unique features and tough enemies, and should last a good while. The graphics are very polished and look lovely throughout while the soundtrack is fantastic. The Zaxxon-inspired viewpoint (no pun intended) takes a bit of getting used to, but play this for a few minutes and you'll soon find yourself hooked.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Film Review #32

One Day (2011)
Director: Lone Scherfig Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Tom Mison, Romola Garai, Patricia Clarkson, Rafe Spall, Ken Stott, Jodie Whittaker

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "Twenty years. Two people."

After a sizeable break since my last visit to the cinema I was fully expecting to return this month, swiftly followed by a review of Captain America, a film I remain eager to see. However, circumstances have dictated that I have instead been to see this romantic drama with my wife. This kind of film often scares me but having seen a trailer for it beforehand it didn't look too bad. And I suppose Anne Hathaway's not too bad to look at either, is she? For the ladies there's Englishman, Jim Sturgess, and together or separately they share the vast majority of the screentime as Emma and Dexter whose story has been taken from the pages of the popular novel by David Nicholls (who also wrote the perfectly reasonable Starter For Ten). The film begins on July 15th 1988 (St. Swithin’s Day), the day of their graduation.