Thursday, 31 May 2012

Awesome Nature #10

Type: Fish Lives In: Indian and Pacific Oceans Conservation Status: Least Concern

As amusing as they often are, I think I've probably featured enough cutesy animals here for a while and this menacing brute is about as different as it's possible to get! There are a few different kinds of stonefish but they are all highly venomous - the most venomous of all fish in fact. To make matters worse, they live in most of the shallow areas, both marine and river, across the Indian and Pacific oceans and any surrounding countries, especially coral reefs. This means it's not too difficult to accidentally step on one and suffer a large injection of venom from the row of spines along their backs, particularly since they've frequently very hard to spot. Excruciating pain and swelling comes soon after and their venom can be fatal if not treated. So if you're from any countries in their range, beware - even wearing thick-soled sandals may not be enough to stop these monstrous creatures!

Why It Is Awesome: It's like a sea-ninja!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Licensed Games #1

Ghostbusters (1990)
By: Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Nothing (but different games based on the film on most systems)

The subject of licensed video games is one that has always struck fear into my heart. Some of them attempt to remain as faithful to their source material as possible (usually movies, of course) while others make no such attempts and often bear almost no resemblance whatsoever. Something that both kinds frequently have in common, however, is that they suck ass. Indeed, a popular thread topic on gaming forums is 'Good Licensed Games?' - there are so few gems amidst the masses of cynical cash-in nonsense that many gamers naturally (and quite sensibly) assume that any they encounter will be crap and don't give them the time of day. However, due to their numbers, it's only a matter of time before I have to start covering them here at Red Parsley, so I thought I'd start with one that's often intrigued me. It at least looked okay in the magazines of the day and, accordingly, it's yet another one that I've often intended to try. Let's just hope I don't regret it!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Top Five Cartoon Dogs

Animals have been around in cartoons, both in comic-strip and animated forms, for about as long as the media have existed at all and few creatures have been used as prominently as dogs. I'm sure everyone grew up watching numerous shows featuring them but here are my five faves:

5. Ren

I was never able to decide if I liked The Ren & Stimpy Show or not - sometimes it was filled with moments of ingenious hilarity and other times it was just a bit stupid, and not in a good way (see below), but it was generally pretty good, thanks mainly to the humourous characters of the title. Stimpy was a fat, dopey, put-upon cat, and the source of much of his anguish was his 'friend', a scrawny chihuahua called Ren Höek who, as fans or even casual acquaintances of the show will know, was of a rather 'unbalanced' disposition, mentally speaking! Frequently temperamental, paranoid, delusional, and violent, he would be horrifying to be around in real-life but his unusual antics on screen made him a uniquely entertaining, if slightly disturbing hound.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Maze Games #5

Gauntlet (1985)
By: Atari Genre: Maze / Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 20,332 (starting with 2000 health)
Also Available For: Master System, MegaDrive, NES, Lynx, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Atari 8-bits, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the 'Maze Games' feature here at Red Parsley arrived at the Gauntlet series for a review but the decision to return to it wasn't a hard one. This is mainly because it's one of my favourite games but I've actually spent surprisingly little time with the arcade original. The decent conversion for the Spectrum occupied much of my time in the late 80's before the fantastic Gauntlet 4 arrived on the MegaDrive (basically a conversion of the first game but with tonnes of extras) and occupied much of my time in the 90's as well! The series certainly has its detractors, though, who argue that it's repetitive and frustrating. I definitely didn't agree with them back then but perhaps time has dulled the appeal of Atari's classic. Henceforth, I shall find out...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Game Gear Games #3

Fantasy Zone Gear (1991)
By: Sanritsu / Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players:  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Game Gear  First Day Score: 42,400
Also Available For: Nothing

Sega's Game Gear was a pretty decent little (or perhaps not so little) machine but it wasn't blessed with too many exclusive releases. In the last GG post I looked at one type of exclusive - a completely unique game that can't be found anywhere else. Another is this kind - a sequel or update to an existing franchise. In this case it's a franchise that was already represented in most Sega domains but would the small and intricate nature of their garish shooter series suit a system like the GG? The Fantasy Zone games are seemingly loved and hated in equal measure but I'm definitely in the former camp so I was very eager to find out, especially since it's a whole new entry in the series rather than a port of an existing game which, as hinted at by the sub-title - The Adventures of Opa-Opa Jr. - actually features Opa-Opa's son!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Film Review #41

Bad Teacher (2011)
Director: Jake Kasdan Starring: Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel, Phyllis Smith, John Michael Higgins, Thomas Lennon

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 9? Minutes

Tagline: "She doesn't give an F!"

Who watched the 2003 Billy Bob Thorton vehicle, Bad Santa? It rubbed a few people up the wrong way but for most it was an immensely funny film based on such a simple concept - someone very unsuitable for the job they've somehow ended up with, and who of course doesn't even try to be good at it! I'm surprised it's taken someone so long to move the idea to a different 'profession' but finally here it is - the appropriately named Bad Teacher featuring Cameron Diaz in the title role of Elizabeth Halsey as if you couldn't guess! Like Bad Santa's Willie, she's not an especially nice person either. Rather than a career criminal though, this time the character suits the gender change perfectly - she's a shallow, selfish, golddigger who's been planning to leave her job and live off her wealthy fiancés money - until he wises up to her game and dumps her...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

MegaDrive Platform Games #6

Valis: The Fantasm Soldier (1991)
By: Telenet Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: MSX, NEC PC-88, PC-98, NES

As mentioned in a recent post here at Red Parsley, the Valis games were introduced to most Westerners on the MegaDrive. Unsurprisingly, however, the series has its roots in Japan with the first game debuting on the MSX. The popularity of the game soon grew though, and a remake was quickly released on the far-more-powerful MegaDrive as well. Following an aborted attempt at trying the original game, it's this remake that I've decided to take a more detailed look at. The star of the game is Yuko Asou, a strong-willed schoolgirl who has been 'chosen' to lead the fight against the fiendish King Rogles who, with the help of his five Dark Lords, stands poised to conquer not only the Dream World of Queen Valia, but also the Human World as well (that would be us). Wielding the Sword of Valis, Yuko must battle to restore the Force of Yang, which has been sealed into a Phantasm Jewel, as well as rescue her closest friend who has been seduced by the Dark Lord.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Arcade Shmups #13

Formation Armed F (1988)
By: Fillmore / Nichibutsu Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 102,400 (one credit)
Also Available For: PC Engine

Classic arcade developer, Nichibutsu, were most famous in the early 80's with iconic games like Moon and Terra Cresta, but as they battled on through the rest of the decade and into the next, they released a few other notable games. One of them was this blaster which takes place in our very own galaxy where a mysterious Star Trek-style 'anomaly', known by the rather catchy designation of Point X1Y7Z94, has erupted causing uptold chaos to nearby stations and colonies. Rather than sending an exploratory probe or a scientific research vessel, however, the Milky Way Federation instead sends in their most advanced star fighter, with the almost-as-catchy name of Vowger RC30, to clean up the possibly-innocent intruders. Still, enough jesting as this is a rather interesting game as it happens.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bat 'n' Ball Games #5

Wizorb (2011)
By: Tribute Games Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 952
Also Available For: Apple Mac, Xbox Live

As video games evolve over the years it's inevitable that advances in technology will see new genres born, and equally inevitable is that sadly a few older examples will be consigned to the past. One that I thought had gone the way of the latter is that of bat 'n' ball games, or brick-breakers, or Breakout clones, or whatever you prefer to call them. They originally came about as a one-player version of the first commercially successful game ever - Pong. This obviously makes them one of the oldest and most basic types of game around which shouldn't make their demise too surprising! But wait... what's this? As if from nowhere, a splendid indie developer by the name of Tribute Games has sought to revitalise the ailing genre with this, their very first game!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Top Five Master System Light Phaser Games

Lightguns, huh? Nintendo were making them before they even made videogames but when the gaming boom arrived the arcades were suddenly adorned with impressive-looking cabinets with guns mounted on the front or in holsters on their sides as well. As always though, companies quickly sought to replicate arcade frolics on home machines. Nintendo, fittingly, were the first with the Zapper for their Famicom/NES and Sega soon followed suit with their cooler-looking Light Phaser. This was of course the one I owned - my Master System was actually bundled with it since I had the spiffing Master System Plus package which meant I had the mildly amusing Safari Hunt with which to test my trigger finger. It didn't take long until I had other games in my sights though, and here are the five best.

Special Note: These games obviously can't really be emulated properly so the screenshots are all from the attract mode or the first few seconds of the first stage!

5. Assault City (1990)

Surprisingly, this game is one of the only sci-fi games that could be used with the Light Phaser, and even more surprisingly it didn't originally even use the device at all. For some reason, Sega released it as a normal pad-controlled game before later re-releasing it with a Light Phaser mode. Apart from that though, both versions are the same and pit you against a hostile robot horde as the last human warrior, Joe (must've taken the R&D department a while to come up with that name). The game begins with a short target-practise challenge which will determine the difficulty of the main game before challenging you with six side-scrolling, first-person stages, the high-point of which is the lovely graphics, but the robotic onslaught provides a satisfying and enjoyable Phaser work-out too.