Thursday, 19 December 2013

Single Screen Platform Games #11

Wani Wani World a.k.a. Trouble World (1992)
By: Kaneko Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 52,500 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

I doubt many gamers would argue that the best and most influential example of the single-screen platformer was Bubble Bobble. Near enough everything about Taito's game was close to perfect but one of the many things that made it so appealing was the cute characters it featured. Being so popular was bound to attract imitators though, and that's exactly what this here Kaneko release appears to be at first glance - little more than a blatant clone. It, however, is not. Well, not specifically of Bubble Bobble anyway, for inspiration seems to have come from several sources. The main characters definitely look familiar - a small green dinosaur for player one and a similar pink example for player two, and their ultimate objective is predictable, but the stages that lay before them are notably different to those found in Bub and Bob's classic adventure.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Film Review #58

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Director: Joe Johnston Starring: Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Stanley Tucci, Kenneth Choi, Toby Jones

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: "When Patriots Become Heroes"

Back before Marvel got bitten by the big-budget movie bug which has surely swelled their coffers considerably, there was only one of their many characters I'd seen in 'live action' form and that was Captain America. Back when I was a young whipper-snapper I accidentally discovered a film bearing his name on TV. It was released in 1990 and starred Matt Salinger as our hero but I don't really remember much about it now except that I enjoyed it. I'm sure it would make me laugh a great deal today and make me wonder what on earth I ever saw in it - a quick investigation reveals that it was absolutely slated, even back then - but it did at least introduce the character to me which meant I was more interested than usual when I heard about the impending arrival of this shiny and expensive 'reboot' (chortle).

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Golf Games #6

Wonderputt (2011)
By: Damp Gnat Genre: Sports Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC Flash First Day Score: 117,554
Also Available For: Apple iOS

I suppose Flash games have been around for a good while now but they've never been something I've had much desire to look into. However, I recently heard about a mini golf-based example which I couldn't resist casting my peepers over. That game, unsurprisingly, is Wonderputt which features one large, isometrically-viewed 'course' of 18 holes. The whole thing is visible at once - around half of the holes occupy smaller sections of it with the remaining holes becoming available (giggity) upon completion of some of the earlier ones by way of morphing sections of landscape. The controls are extremely simple too - place the mouse cursor within a couple of inches of the ball and a 'shot arrow' appears which can be moved around the ball to aim and moved closer or further away from the ball to determine the power of your shot. Sounds like a pretty sweet idea!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Arcade Shmups #19

Tiger Heli (1985)
By: Toaplan / Taito Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 45,830 (one credit)
Also Available For: NES

Shoot 'em ups have long been one of my favourite genres and one of the reasons for this must surely be down to the sheer number of them available which means even the pickiest gamer will be able to find some they like. The vast majority of them fall into one of a handful of sub-genres and as I cover more and more games here at Red Parsley I'm starting to think the most numerous one of these is what I've come to call the 'Flying Shark' game - vertical scrollers set over earth-like landscapes (usually rural scenarios) and featuring non-futuristic enemies including as many ground-based examples as airborne, or often even more, and most commonly various sized tanks that often appear from hidden locations.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Gravity Games #3

Space Taxi (1984)
By: John F. Kutcher / Muse Software Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: $182.77
Also Available For: Amiga

One of my favourite games in my early days of Dreamcast ownership was the splendid Crazy Taxi. I bought it on launch day and spent countless hours scooting largely ungrateful oafs around the various locales the game-world offered. I remember thinking what a simple-yet-addictive idea it was and was surprised it hadn't been done before. It turns out, however, that it had been done before - quite a long time before, in fact. Indeed, I was recently made aware of this unusual title released way back in the early years of the C64 which is kind of the same thing. But not in 3D, obviously. And the fact that it's set in space. And that you 'drive' a flying taxi. Apart from that it's the same game! Almost.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

TV Shows #4 - Part 1

24 (2001 - 2010)
Created By: Joel Surnow & Robert Cochran Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Elisha Cuthbert, Dennis Haysbert, James Morrison, Reiko Aylesworth, Kim Raver, D. B. Woodside, Penny Johnson Jerald, Roger Cross, Gregory Itzin, Cherry Jones, Jude Ciccolella, Louis Lombardi, Xander Berkeley, Annie Wersching, Sarah Clarke, Glenn Morshower

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "I'm federal agent Jack Bauer, and today is the longest day of my life."

In the last post for this feature I took a look at a superb example of the kind of TV show I don't like; a kind which was prevalent around that time and which came close to causing me to swear off TV altogether. Even if you like(d) the type of show in question though, few could praise their quality or production values which were generally very… TV like. Only to be expected I suppose - the gap between the worlds of the small screen and silver screen were vast then, and it was always very obvious which you were watching. Just as all hope seemed lost, however, the turn of the century apparently brought with it a change in tide when an ambitious new show called 24 arrived.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Computer Platform Games #6

Dangerous Dave (1990)
By: John Romero / Softdisk Inc Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 24,800
Also Available For: Apple II

If you're visiting this fine blog on purpose there's a good chance you know the name of John Romero. That's right, he was the talented fellow behind Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake amongst others but he's been making games for much longer than that. One of his first notable titles was Dangerous Dave, a simple platform game consisting of ten main levels and four bonus levels through which you're in control of Dave, as surprising as it may seem. The stages apparently make up the 'hideout' of someone called 'Clyde' who could well be a pirate judging by the game's original full title - Dangerous Dave in the Deserted Pirate's Hideout - but all you need to know is: you need to find a gold cup on each level, then look for the exit doorway to access the next, presumably with Clyde's booty in tow.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Top Five Systems I Want

I've been rather fortunate over the years as far as gaming is concerned. I've always had my preferences and allegiances but I've still owned most systems at one time or another, and still do in many cases. However, there were always going to be a few exceptions - in some cases simply because I didn't want the systems in question, but in other cases because of other reasons, usually money (bah!). Some of my most desired systems remains realistically out of reach (short of winning the lottery or something equally unlikely) but here they are anyway:

5. Fujitsu FM Towns

This was one of the numerous new system introduced to me by C&VG, although for some reason it earned far less space than the others. Perhaps that was because if was released in Japan only but it was real! Anyway, for many years all I knew of it was its name, the fact that it looked cool, and that it had the first CD-ROM I'd ever seen. Years later, however, I learned that it was a PC-based system but that it also played host to some pretty sweet games of its own too, including a lot of splendid arcade conversions, ports from other systems, and even a few titles unavailable elsewhere including the almost mythical Rayxanber and probably numerous other hidden gems I don't even know about. Sadly, however, I think this is one dream that will never be realised - most of the games cost a fortune, never mind the actual system. Boo hoo! :(

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Run 'n' Gun Games #6

Cyber-Lip (1990)
By: SNK Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: 26,600
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD

If you asked a random bunch of retro gamers what their favourite run 'n' gun game is, some would probably name a Contra title, one or two may go for Gunstar Heroes, but most will probably start talking excitedly about a Metal Slug game. It's a series the Neo Geo is famous for but before it came Cyber Lip. It was one of the first Neo Geo games and it's not one that's often spoken about with much affection. Like the aforementioned examples it's a two-player game; the heroes in this case are named Rick and Brook (snigger) and they are apparently our last hope to save Earth! The year is 2020 and our colonies in space have suffered several attacks. To defend them we built a military supercomputer but unfortunately both it and the army it controls have started malfunctioning which has seen hordes of crazy androids and lords knows what else go on the rampage back home!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Film Review #57

Rampart (2012)
Director: Oren Moverman Starring: Woody Harrelson, Ice Cube, Ned Beatty, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 95 Minutes

Tagline: "For One Cop Corruption Knows No Limits"

Who's watched the splendid cop drama known as The Shield? No, I don't mean Agents of SHIELD which I haven't seen (yet) - I mean THE Shield. I have and found the exploits of detective Vic Mackey and his ultra-corrupt 'Strike Team' to be mighty entertaining. It wasn't until a little later that I discovered the team was loosely based on the real-life 'CRASH' team of the LAPD's Rampart Division, and that the original title of the show was in fact Rampart. It was therefore with much interest that my keen eye fell upon this film in the discounted section of my local supermarket. I hadn't heard of it before but if it, too, was based on the Rampart scandal, as surely it must with a combination of its name and a mention of corrupt cops on the cover, then it could potentially rule almost as much as The Shield did! And so, with much hope, I bought it and wasted little time in watching it...

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Must Learn Japanese! #1

Hyper Battle Game: Zen-Nippon GT Senshuken (1995)
By: Banpresto / Kaneko Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES
Also Available For: Nothing

One of the things I like most about writing this blog is when I discover an uncommon, obscure game that I'd previously never heard of which turns out to be awesome. More often than not these 'surprise' titles tend to be one of the many that were released only in Japan. Of course, in these cases it can sometimes be difficult for me to find out if they're awesome or not owing to their understandable-but-inconvenient use of Japanese writing. Some genres such as RPG's are always a no-go but with most others it seems to be pot luck. It doesn't present a problem in some cases, and other times English text is even used for some reason, but every now and then I encounter a game like Zen-Nippon GT Senshuken (which means 'All-Japan GT Championship' if you're interested). I can't even remember how I first discovered it now but its screenshots revealed it to be a pretty sweet looking overhead racer - a genre I'm rather keen on - so I had to check it out. Upon doing so, however, I found it to be riddled with tonnes of menu screens in... you guessed it, Japanese!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Next Next Generation Is Here - Are You Excited?

Even if I hadn't mentioned it numerous times, I expect regular visitors to Red Parsley have managed to work out that I tend to prefer using older computers and consoles to more modern ones but this hasn't always been the case. I suppose that would be impossible if you went back far enough and indeed, in the 80's and early 90's I greeted news of upcoming new systems with as much interest as everyone else, particularly when they were new Sega systems.

Sega's Dreamcast: the last good console ever. This is fact...
Probably the new hardware launch in which I had the most interest ever was that of the Dreamcast. My beloved Sega had suffered a combination of bad planning and plain bad luck when it came to the Saturn but I was confident the Dreamcast would address all these issue and more, and owing to the scarcity of new games for their 32-bit machine during its final year or so, magazines such as the Official Saturn Magazine were filled with little more than Dreamcast-related hype. Never before had I been so excited about a system launch - I was certain Sega's new machine would take the world by storm. But alas... despite being very popular with those in the know, it failed to achieve mainstream success, and when it went down it took the vast majority of my enthusiasm for the gaming industry with it. From that point on, I've had little interest in new systems, even if I've (occasionally) wanted to.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Film Review #56

Gangster Squad (2013)
Director: Ruben Fleischer Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Mireille Enos, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Sullivan Stapleton, Jon Polito

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "No names. No badges. No mercy."

They seemed to be a dime a dozen at one stage but it's been ages since I saw a good gangster film so I was rather excited when I learned of the upcoming release of Gangster Squad. It's set in the late 40's and early 50's and, unlike most examples, takes place in Los Angeles which, since the end of WWII, has increasingly fallen under the control of ruthless Jewish boxer-turned-gangster, Mickey Cohen (Penn). Although affiliated with the American Mafia, specifically the Chicago Outfit, Cohen had begun taking violent steps to distance himself from his former associates including the current boss of LA, Jack Dragna (Polito), to ensure his sole control over not just LA but the whole of the West Coast. Most of the cops and judges are in his pocket too, so on the odd occasional an honest cop acts against Cohen or his men, they're back on the street before the bars have even slammed shut.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Gravity Games #2

Gravitar (1982)
By: Atari Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 20,600 (one credit)
Also Available For: Atari 2600
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade

While it's true that the first video games to employ the combination of a space vessel and a landscape with a fairly realistic interpretation of gravity came earlier than this one, the first one you could really call an actual game was Gravitar. Like the earlier Lunar Lander and Asteroids, it makes use of lovely vectors to create its landscapes and other bits and pieces, and this time they're in glorious technicolor! Unsurprisingly for a 'gravity game', it's also set in space and involves cleansing several star systems of the many gun emplacements, or 'bunkers', that are sprinkled across the surfaces of their various planets. Your ship is a small blue thing somewhat reminiscent of the craft in Asteroids and is controlled by five buttons. Two turn it left or right, one shoots its feeble but invaluable cannon, another thrusts its engine to counteract the gravity, and the last activates its shields.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Gaming Memories - Part 12

My past as a Sega fan-boy is well known here at Red Parsley and this was never more prevalent than during the early years of the Mega Drive's release. Sega's powerhouse was certainly not the first popular 16-bit system though of course - Atari's ST and Commodore's Amiga had already been available for several years and it was when I started college in the early 90's that I met someone who was and remains the biggest Amiga fan-boy I've ever known.

Many discussions, comparisons, light-hearted mocking, and of course arguments filled many of our days which probably would've been put to better use actually studying, but after a while the inevitable happened and my new friend's enthusiasm for his favourite gaming system got to me. Games that were featured on both systems were superior on the MD, naturally, but there were a few really decent-looking titles on the Amiga that I had no access to. There could only be one answer to that dilemma, but could I bring myself to actually do it?

Rather than demonstrate blatant betrayal by asking my parents to buy me an Amiga outright (I was still at college, remember – no money!), I instead covertly let it be known that I wasn't opposed to the idea of Amiga ownership. My subliminal approach worked too, as that Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a brand new Amiga 600! Commodore’s machine was already getting old by this point of course, and the days of packaging it with dozens of average titles were long gone. Mine came with the trusty old warhorse, Deluxe Paint III (which I no doubt used as much as other Amiga owners), as well as a title I had previously played on a friend’s Atari ST, and one that I already knew was splendid – the immortal Lemmings. I had also bought a few budget games (or at least budget priced games) in anticipation of my impending ownership including another title I'd already played which was to become a favourite.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Early Driving Games #9

Crazy Cars (1988)
By: Titus Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 4,701,520
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, Amstrad CPC

Hmm, the ZX Spectrum... As much as I loved mine, I'd be the first to admit that into-the-screen racing games weren't really its forte. Accordingly I didn't have many but one that I did end up with, semi-involuntarily, was Crazy Cars which was included on the fairly splendid compilation, The In Crowd. I can't say it was the title I was looking forward to trying the most but I was reasonably optimistic that it would provide at least a few thrills 'n' spills, but it soon became clear my optimism was ill-placed. Apparently 'you're in Florida and you've got to get to Arizona'. No reason or motivation of any kind is given (I hope we're not aiding and abetting a fugitive!) but if you choose to take up the challenge regardless, you'll be facing five sections of open road which are each divided into nine stages. To move from one stage to the next you simply need to reach it before the timer runs down. And that's about it. Okay, maybe there's a little more to it but not much!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Film Review #55

Star Trek (2009)
Director: J. J. Abrams Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Deep Roy

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 127 Minutes

Tagline: "The Future Begins"

As sad as it may be to admit, I'm getting on a bit now, but I've been a fan of Star Trek since all the way back before I hit my teens. The Original Series made my Sunday mornings something to look forward to, then the Next Generation Arrived before Paramount started getting really Trek crazy, introducing multiple shows at once. Most recently there was Enterprise, a much-maligned instalment in the franchise but it was still Star Trek and that was fine by me. Its unfortunate cancellation brought an end to a long run - some eighteen years in fact – of new Trek on our TV screens, and any further movies looked unlikely too. This was a sad period for us sci-fi geeks during which there was little to keep our spirits up. Then, however, news broke of something Trek-related and it would be brand new - hooray!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

SNES Shmups #4

Flying Hero (1992)
By: Sofel Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: 128,300
Also Available For: Nothing

The surprisingly extensive and very often crazy world of Japanese gaming continues to send surprises my way. The latest example is the ultra-peculiar Flying Hero which, whether good or bad, would surely have caught my eye had it ever passed before it. If it had done I expect my reaction would've been similar to the one I had this past week when I did start playing it - largely one of bemusement! I couldn't tell you what the story involves, although judging by a short intro sequence it seems that some female creature has been kidnapped by some evil creature or some such nonsense, but it does mean the 'hero' of the title springing into action. I'm not quite sure what he is - he looks like a cross between Kirby and Opa Opa to me - but he seems cheerful enough considering the tragedy that has apparently befallen him which leaves him with eight vertically-scrolling levels to battle through. Who is brave enough to guide him to what I can only assume is his loved one?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Film Review #54

Faster (2010)
Director: George Tillman, Jr. Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace, Moon Bloodgood, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Tom Berenger

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 98 Minutes

Tagline: "Slow Justice Is No Justice"

If there's one type of film you can usually rely on to be at least reasonably entertaining, it's the revenge thriller. I've therefore watched quite a few of them over the years but I've never seen one get out of the blocks as quickly as this one. Our dealer of justice is known only as 'Driver' who comes in the imposing shape of Dwayne Johnson and the film opens with him pacing impatiently in the prison cell he's occupied for 10 years for his participation in a robbery. It's the final day of his stretch though, and immediately upon his release he begins running up the quiet, dusty road outside. Before long he reaches a yard filled with cars. One of them – a pristine Chevrolet Chevelle SS – has apparently been left there for him complete with gun in the glove-box. He speeds away before eventually stopping outside an office building. He then strides intently inside, looks around, heads towards a particular cubicle, shoots the occupant in the head, and strolls back out again.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Overrated! #6

Ecco the Dolphin (1992)
By: Novotrade / Sega Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Mega CD, Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy Advance, PC
Download For: Apple iOS, Wii Virtual Console

Although they had already been around for a good while, the 16-bit console era represented the peak of the animal game characters. We'd already had a good few weird and seemingly-illogical examples so when Sega announced that yet another was on its way, most gamers didn't really show much enthusiasm. When screenshots started turning up though, it was clear that we weren't in for yet another generic platform game - Ecco was different. Unlike most other characters, Novotrade has bestowed almost no human traits upon him for one thing. Indeed, the intro for his game shows him larking around with his fellow pod-members in a typical dolphin-ish fashion until... !!SUDDENLY!!... while Ecco is in mid-air showing off his leaping abilities, a strange vortex appears and drains the sea of its creatures! Ecco is then left alone and must solve the riddle of what happened and where his friends are. So, no platforms involved either. Intriguing...

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Blu Ray - What's The Big F*ckin' Deal, Bitch?

Although I have long been a keen retro gamer, it’s not just video games that I'm lagging behind on. Much of the music I listen to is by bands I enjoyed in my youth, or even from earlier than that, and I'm happy to wait to see most films and TV shows, even ones I've dying to see (which is probably why there are few 'new release' film reviews here at Red Parsley!). It also takes me much longer than most to embrace new technology. I still don't own a tablet (and have no intention of getting one) and I didn't even get my first mobile phone until about six years ago; even now I've only had three different ones.

Most of my Blu Ray collection (and PS3 too!)
With all this in mind, it's probably not surprising that it's only been in the last year that I finally got around to replacing my trusty CRT television with a flat-screen model, and as I've mentioned here before, I complemented this purchase with a PS3, primarily for its ability to play Blu Ray discs. This obviously facilitated my introduction to 'High Definition' entertainment but I've recently found myself wondering... is this it? What’s the big fuss all about? Ironically, one of the few times I've 'converted' quickly to a new technology was when the DVD format was unveiled. During the height of my irresponsible credit card days I bought my first player for £600 at a time when there were only around 10 films available on the fancy new discs (and half of those were single layer 'flippers') of which I bought three – Contact, Assassins, and Face/Off. The latter was the first one I watched and the difference in picture and sound quality was immediately obvious.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Star Trek #3

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Three

The great and highly-anticipated return of Star Trek to the small screen resulted in a tentative first season, a decent (and better) second season, but it was in this third season that the show really found its feet. The sexiest redhead in Starfleet returned to the Enterprise's sickbay for one thing, which means everything is now present and correct as far as the crew is concerned, but the episodes reached a greater consistency in quality too.

The selection this time around includes the usual spatial anomalies, questionable alien policies, a powerful and scary race of whom nothing is ever seen again, as well as the increasingly common sight of Klingon and Romulan ships. The crew get their fair share of action too - Captain Picard scores, Data gets stolen, and Counsellor Troi even gets her kit off (although sadly so does her irritating mother)! It's a great and varied season then, and the best one yet. Here are my favourites:

Friday, 1 November 2013

Indie Nuggets #1

Cavenaut (2012)
By: Bruno R. Marcos Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

Crikey! No sooner have I reviewed one game featuring a 'spelunker' - the game named after the rather hazardous pursuit, no less - than another one veers into my radar's bloopiness. Unlike the previous example though, this adventurer has slightly more noble intentions. Our nameless hero is apparently a famous explorer and, during his no doubt many and varied trips and expeditions, he discovers strange signs in the 'misty mountains of Peru' (in 1950 if you're interested). What else can he then do but head off into the spooky peaks and investigate?! This results in a very basic flick-screen mazey game which you start above ground in a thinly forested area. Our stick-figure hero can walk only in the four basic directions and accordingly you can steer him any way you like from the first screen. Your first job, however, should be to find a shovel which has two main uses.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Scrolling Fighting Games #11

Altered Beast (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 231,110 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Master System, PC Engine, PC Engine CD, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Well, it's certainly an attention-grabbing title screen...
It may be best known as the first pack-in game Sega's MegaDrive received upon release and thus represented the first, and in many cases only experience that most gamers had with Altered Beast, but I had actually played it before. I speak, of course, of the slightly reasonable conversion the Master System received which, as one of only three games I had for the first few months of console ownership, got a fair amount of attention. I also later had the pleasure of the MD version, of course, like most early owners of Sega 16-bit monster, which did a fairly poor job of showing off the system's power. I had, however, never played the arcade original. I don't believe I even saw it anywhere, for that matter. So, if I'm going to revisit this oft-maligned game, which apparently I am, I guess that makes it the ideal version to check out. So I will.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

When Gaming Became a Reality (kind of)

I don't talk about it often here but, alongside the more obvious choice of football (I mean actual football - you know, where the 'ball' is kicked with the 'foot'), my favourite sport is the stupidly-named-but-still-awesome American Football. It's a sport that always been popular in its homeland, now more than ever, but aside from the odd spurt of interest elsewhere, few other countries really take an interest. There are a few fans here and there of course, like myself, and it may not surprise you to hear that my appreciation of the sport stems from the world of video games.

The superb sequel to the original Joe Montana game...
Back in the early 90's when Sega's MegaDrive was the latest console powerhouse wowing the world, I was given a game by a college friend called Joe Montana Football. I had no clue who he was or what the sport really entailed but thanks to a combination of trial and error and a periodic scan of the hefty instruction book I gradually learnt the rules to this complicated sport. Soon after this I discovered that one of the less popular television channels here in the UK showed games on Sundays so I decided to give the real sport a try, but I needed a team to follow. The first and most obvious choice was the team I played as in the game - the San Francisco 49ers, led by who I then knew was the legendary quarterback of the game's title himself. However, he was nowhere to be seen! It later turned out that he had been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs that very summer and Steve Young now had the unenviable job of following in his footsteps.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Currently Playing...

It probably won't come as too much of a surprise to readers here at Red Parsley to hear that I spend fair amount of time playing video games. A vast majority of this time, however, is spent playing them for blog-related purposes (i.e. to review them or grab screenshots). This leaves me very little time to play a game simply for the enjoyment of playing it, but I do manage it now and then. The latest example is:

LocoRoco by SCE Japan Studio (2006) - Sony PSP

I had been without a PSP for over a year after getting rid of my original model with the intention of buying a more up-to-date model for emulation and stuff. It ended up taking me over a year but I finally received one, from my video game-hating wife no less! I was therefore rather pleased that I'd kept all the games I had bought the first time round and one of these - the game I bought a PSP for to begin with, in fact - was LocoRoco; the happiest game of all-time!

For the uninitiated, it's a crazy platformer, but almost certainly unlike any you've played before. Here you don't have control over any actual characters but rather the planet on which the game takes place! Using the shoulder buttons you can tilt it left or right, rolling the little LocoRocos around its surface, or press both buttons to jolt them into the air. Using this simple interface it's your job to guide the spherical creatures around their world collecting flowers and berries and all sorts of other stuff, but also to help them fight the evil Moja Troop. The result is a very unusual game but also a tremendously enjoyable one.

It's quite easy but there are tonnes of things to collect, all sorts of weird locales to explore, and millions of secrets to find. Add to that the immensely appealing graphics and catchy soundtrack (featuring a language made specially for the game) and you've basically got a happy pill in video game form! If you haven't played it yet, you really should - it's worth buying a PSP for (unless you're allergic to happy, cutesy games). I'm currently playing it all the way through again, from beginning to end, and I'm loving every minute of it! Japanese insanity at its best!

RKS Score: 9/10

See full review of LocoRoco here...

Friday, 25 October 2013

Film Review #53

Disturbia (2007)
Director: D.J. Caruso Starring: Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Aaron Yoo, Viola Davis, Matt Craven

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 105 Minutes

Tagline: "Every killer lives next door to someone"

Slasher films have always been pretty popular but they've never really been my cup of tea. Something else that I'm not too keen on is Shia LeBeouf who I found irritating in Transformers. It's therefore something of a mystery to me as to why I actually bought the splendidly-named Disturbia, which is supposedly an example of the former and stars the latter. Despite only having Michael Bay's disappointing monster robot mash-up to go by (which actually came out after this, but hey - I can't afford to see every film as soon as it's out!), he quickly proved to just be one of those actors I find myself naturally turned-off by. Here he plays Kale Brecht, a seemingly normal high-school student who is suspended from school and sentenced to three months house arrest for assaulting a teacher who made an insensitive remark about his father who was killed in a car crash a year before.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Master System Platform Games #2

Ghost House (1986)
By: Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 56,650
Also Available For: Nothing

You know, it's funny. In all the years I've owned a Master System, which is now over 25 long years incidentally, I don't remember ever owning a game on the Sega Card system (which I swear I remember being called 'Smart Cards' but I guess that's irrelevant). One of the more famous examples is Ghost House which is actually a slightly inaccurate title as it's apparently set in Count Dracula's mansion! Not only that but it seems Mick, the player character who looks like a small boy, is a descendant of the fanged one himself and is seeking to 'inherit the family jewels'. To do this, however, he needs to dispose of the mansion's current host who's still alive and kicking. This is where things get a bit confusing as there are six mansions in total and each one houses five Draculas! It seems our impish hero has his work cut out for him then.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Gravity Games #1

Lunar Lander (1979)
By: Atari Genre: Simulation Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 815
Also Available For: Nothing

I suppose it shouldn't really be too surprising that the very earliest days of the video games industry were dominated by science fiction-based games such as Spacewar, Computer Space, and of course Space Invaders, and unsurprisingly pretty much all of these involved shooting stuff. This late 70's release from Atari, however, not only involved no shooting, but it wasn't even a science fiction game - it was based on science fact! Space exploration was no longer an emerging concept by this point but interest in it was still high, so what better way to further engage the imagination than to allow us to participate (kind of)? Indeed, as if it wasn't obvious from the title, Lunar Lander allowed budding astronauts to re-enact the Apollo moon landings by carefully steering the landing module down to a safe, umm... landing.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Film Round-Up #3

Lethal Weapon (1987 - 1998)
Directed By: Richard Donner Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Mitchell Ryan, Gary Busey, Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, Patsy Kensit, Stuart Wilson, Jet Li, Kim Chan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe

Certificate: 18 Running Time: Approx 460 minutes

Although they had been around for much longer, I don't think too many people would disagree that action cop thrillers were the province of the 80's. The decade saw many classics but the first such series I personally encountered was Lethal Weapon, mainly because the first film was released when I was 12 but, owing to the 18 certificate it had received, my dad wouldn't let me watch it. This just made it more intriguing to me and I did indeed end up seeing it before I was actually 18, which made me feel like a grown-up, naturally!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

First Look Commodore 64 #1

Bomberland 64 by Samar Productions / RGCD (2013) - Commodore 64

Who says social networking is a waste of time? It was thanks to one of my numerous C64-loving friends there that I found out about this splendid homebrew release which is, quite remarkably, the first time Bomberman has graced Commodore's mighty machine, as far as I can tell anyway. It's an unofficial release but looks every bit a product of the special laboratory in Hudson's secret volcano lair. There's a one-player game featuring 36 mazey stages where the object is to destroy the familiar-looking enemies contained within and, impressively, there's also a battle game for two-to-five-players! My only issue with the one-player mode so far is the infrequent appearance of power-up icons which, when combined with the loss of all power-ups when you die, makes the game pretty tough going. It's faithful in every way I can see though, including near-faultless gameplay and some fantastic music, and it could well prove an essential acquisition for C64 fans and Bomberman fans alike. I'll take a more detailed look at it later but for now:

RKS Score: 4/5

See here for more info on the game or to buy the beautifully-packaged cartridge version.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mobile Games #5

Pou! (2013)
By: Zakeh  Genre: Virtual Pet  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android
Also Available For: Blackberry, Apple iOS

Although I have my favourite game genres like everyone else, I have at least played examples of near enough every type of game there is. One that I hadn’t until recently, however, was that of the 'virtual pet'. They seem to go through odd little spurts of popularity and have ranged from simple dedicated devices such as the Tamagotchi to much more advanced releases for computers and consoles such as Nintendogs. Whatever form they took, though, I hadn't ever really been intrigued enough to try any of them, but then I discovered one just a few weeks ago completely by accident and decided to give it a try. It was, of course, Pou who is a 'cute alien pet who loves to eat and play' and was apparently dreamed up by Lebanese developer, Paul Salameh. His creation certainly looks amusing/ appealing enough but I was still sceptical about the virtues of his 'game'.

Monday, 14 October 2013

NES Platform Games #5

Spelunker (1985)
By: MicroGraphic Image / Broderbund Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 48,410
Also Available For: Arcade, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, MSX
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Games with funny names always appeal to me but what about the ones that aren't so pleasant? Well, I suppose the opposite must be true. Take this early NES game, for example. I've known of it for many years but I only recently realised I had made no effort whatsoever in finding out anything about it. I can only attribute this to its highly off-putting name which I had long assumed was created specially for the game. It turns out, however, that it's actually a real term used to describe 'people who explore caves' and, while understandably that may disappoint said people, it should in theory reveal much about what kind of game this is. It was first released on the 8-bit Atari computers by MicroGraphic Image, a new company comprised of three former VCS developers, and it does indeed involve exploring caves. Being from the era that it is, that most likely means a platform and ladders game, and that is also correct, but the intentions of our nameless 'spelunker' may not be as honourable as his real life counterparts.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Star Trek #2

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Two

So, the mighty Star Trek was reborn and its first season largely deemed a success by most fans, old and new. Looking back on it now, however, it's definitely the odd season out. This isn't due its quality though, it's more related to small character and personnel differences, and most of these have been rectified for season two. For example, Cmdr Riker now has a beard, Cllr Troi's hair and cleavage-displaying outfits are correct, Geordie and Worf are now wearing yellow, the former is now chief engineer, the latter is now wearing his metallic sash rather than the flappy fabric one... They're all small differences but the show now feels more like home.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

First Look Arcade #1

Haunted Castle a.k.a. Akuma-Jou Dracula by Konami (1988) - Arcade

So there I was, messing round with MAME again when I selected yet another random, rather generic-sounding title to try. The resultant title screen was pretty cool and from there followed a brief intro which showed some girly getting kidnapped by a pesky Dracula-like nincompoop, and I also noticed that it was a Konami game. Hmmm, something about this was starting to seem familiar, but before I thought about that too much I started the game. At this point, a feeling of unbridled horror soon fell upon me like dark clouds casting their mighty shadows over a once vibrant landscape, but it wasn't the game's spooky horror theme that caused this; noo, this was down to the game itself which stunk like a garlic-riddled corpse. Intrigued by this badness, I then looked into it in more detail so I could know exactly what/who I was cussing, paying more attention this time. Then... egads! Sure enough, it was confirmed - Haunted Castle is actually a Castlevania game!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Commodore 64 Round-Up #1

I've mentioned here a few times how limited my experience is with the legendary Commodore 64 - rectifying this and many other gaming oversights was the main reason for starting this blog - and since doing so I have begun to scratch the surface of the C64's immense software library but not by nearly enough. I have therefore decided to start covering a few more titles for said beige breadbin starting with this splendid Round Up! For the first one I've chosen five random platformers:

Trolls and Tribulations (1984)

In this early release you apparently play the part of some dude who's disguised himself as a troll in order to infiltrate some underground caverns and grab all the treasure! There are several scary beasties patrolling the depths - one type (cretins) can be (and need to be) shot while the other types (skulls, spiders, and buzzards) cannot and must instead be avoided. As well as the treasure, you'll need to look out for keys to pass the numerous locked doors. There are seven stages altogether, each consisting of five fairly short scrolling mazes ("over 200 dark and eery chambers" in total) which are generally well designed and accompanied by some catchy music. Progress through them is hindered somewhat by some rather sluggish controls which often makes moving around the platforms (particularly jumping) and avoiding the enemies a frustrating experience but, with practise, it's just about bearable. The collision-detection is quite forgiving though, and the difficulty level is just about right which makes this a pretty fun game, and a rather one addictive too! Grew on me a lot, this one... 7/10

Monday, 7 October 2013

Atari 2600 Games #2

Atlantis (1982)
By: Imagic Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari 2600 First Day Score: 46,200
Also Available For: Atari 8-bit, Intellivision, Magnavox Odyssey 2, Commodore VIC-20

I'm sure we've all heard the stories of the long lost city of Atlantis and, while the ancient civilisation may remain a mystery to us idiotic humans, it seems that someone has found it. The evil race of warriors known as the Gorgons has sent a fleet of spaceships to destroy the fabled city so it's now up to you to stop them "before it becomes a watery grave!" and consigned once more to hearsay and legend. What this amounts to is a fixed-screen shooter which places you in command of Atlantis' last defences consisting of three cannons - one in the bottom-middle of the screen which fires straight up, with the other two in the bottom-left and bottom-right of the screen which fire diagonally into the sky above the city. Most of the Gorgon ships do little beyond flying back and forth across the screen inviting you to take pot-shots at them. Each time one of the pesky things gets across unscathed, however, it returns at a lower altitude, and then again. If you let any get too low, that's when they can do some damage...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Top Five Capital Cities I've Visited

Over the years I've come to realise that I'm pretty weird in rather a lot of ways. To go into all of them would be folly but the one that's most relevant to this post is that, until I was more than 30 years old, I had never travelled outside of my home country (which is England if you didn't know). This was unusual for someone born into the 'First World' and can only be explained by a lack of funds, as well as laziness of course! However, it did give me an excuse to do a bit of catching up when I met the lovely lady who was to become my wife. So, in the last... five years or so, we've visited a number of places in several countries including their capital cities in most cases. Here are the best ones we've been to:

5. Berlin

We didn't pick a very good time to visit this city - November is usually chilly enough in the UK but it was even colder here - brrr! I also didn't really know much about the mighty German capital beyond what I heard growing up - mostly WWII and Berlin Wall-related stuff, obviously, and these historic periods are still much in evidence here. We visited some remnants of the Berlin Wall and I was actually surprised to see just how many memorials and tributes there are around the city (I thought references to the war in particular was taboo here). We also visited the iconic TV Tower and the impressive Brandenburg Gate and surrounding area and I was more taken than I probably should've been by the traffic-light crossing dude (known as Ampelmann)! On a less significant note, I also enjoyed the food here - plenty of bangers of many varieties and Currywurst in particular was well lush, and the booze is cheaper than bottled water - if you go to a supermarket you can get three beers for €1!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Pinball Games #1

Battle Pinball (1995)
By: Banpresto  Genre: Pinball  Players: Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES  First Day Score: 601,910
Also Available For: Nothing

Have you ever found a particular genre of something ruined for you by its finest example being so superior to all other examples? This happened to me with sci-fi TV shows - I'm a big Babylon 5 fan but it's so good that most other sci-fi seems crap in comparison and my ability to further enjoy the genre diminished. The same sort of thing happened to me a little earlier than this with video games too, or more specifically, pinball video games. Having discovered the Crush series only a few years after getting into gaming to begin with, the supreme awesomeness of the games in question greatly reduced the appeal of pretty much all other examples. Therefore, to this day, almost the only pinball videogames I've played have been Crush-related ones. This kind of closed-mindedness won't do here at Red Parsley though, so I've decided to start looking at a selection of alternatives. The first one I've chosen, based purely on the splendid cover-art I accidentally found, is Battle Pinball which is apparently part of a sizeable series itself.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Puzzle Games #15

Kitten Kaboodle a.k.a. Nyan Nyan Panic (1988)
By: Konami Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: Nothing

They may be a bit girly but kittens are still mighty entertaining little creatures. In fact, I'm surprised they haven't featured a lot more prominently in the world of video games, considering some of the other peculiar choices we've had for game 'heroes'. Konami obviously deemed them worthy of at least a try-out though, as can be seen from this Pengo-inspired action-puzzler which stars two of the agile fluff-balls. There's no story here that I can tell though, just an apparent need to guide them through fifty single-screen stages. Each predominantly features two things - blocks and enemies. The latter consist of insects (who wear lab coats, naturally), angry tomatoes, and bipedal crocodiles and they are all deadly to the touch, but our daring kitty is light of foot and can also perform a helpful leap over them or the blocks. Pushing the blocks rather then jumping them, however, can potentially squash an enemy, much like the Sega's penguin-starring game.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Star Trek #1

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season One

For some reason I seem to have few memories of my childhood. It wasn't a traumatic period for me or anything like that, quite the opposite in fact, I just don't remember much of it – just odd snippets here and there really. One thing I do recall, however, and recall fondly, is waking up early on Sunday mornings, cooking a couple of French bread pizzas, and sitting down to eat them while watching Star Trek: The Original Series (or just Star Trek, as it was known back then) on the little TV in the kitchen.

I hadn't been doing this for too long, however, before I heard something quite remarkable – Star Trek was returning, not only with new episodes, but with a whole new crew and ship! This series was of course the appropriately-named Star Trek: The Next Generation, set 70 years after Kirk’s adventures, and news of its arrival was met with optimistic curiosity from most existing fans, myself included. Without getting into a detailed analysis of the new show, I think I can safely say that it succeeded on most levels and brought many new fans to the franchise as well as satisfying all but the most stubborn of those that already existed.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

First Look PSN #2

ibb & obb by Sparpweed (2013) - PlayStation Network (PS3)

As a platform game fan (2D ones, obviously), it’s very pleasing for me to find so many new ones turning up in the world of homebrew and independent developers. This particular example is one I’d never heard of and just happened to stumble upon during a rare flick through the PSN Store. It is indeed a platformer, you see, but not a normal one. It was designed to be played by two, each controlling one of the titular characters - semi circular green and red creatures respectively - who must simply make their way from left-to-right through each of the surreal scrolling stages. The trick is, the 'platforms' in them consist of a single line representing the horizon. Both characters can walk and jump around at will, but they can also flip from one side of the horizon to the next by passing through wibbly sections called warps.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Saturn Shmups #2

Blast Wind (1997)
By: Techno Soft Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn  First Day Score: 472,450
Also Available For: Nothing

The name of Techno Soft is one that was and still is revered by the retro gaming community. A large reason for this is their awesome Thunder Force series but they are still known for a few other titles as well. One of these, however, is generally not Blast Wind which, while still a shoot 'em up, is a rare foray into vertically-scrolling territory for them. It was released exclusively in Japan and only on the Saturn (although an arcade version was apparently planned), which certainly wasn't unusual for Sega's planetary powerhouse, but it does mean there's a fair amount of kanji, including in the intro sequence. The premise behind the game is therefore something of a mystery to me (even the static intro images don't really help with that) but I believe it has some sort of environmental theme and a good deal to do with a creature/object/place called Gorn. Anyway, whatever it is, let's go kick its arse!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

TV Shows #3

Charmed (1998 - 2006)
Created By: Constance M. Burge Starring: Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, Shannen Doherty, Brian Krause, Dorian Gregory, Julian McMahon, Drew Fuller, T.W. King, Greg Vaughan, Karis Paige Bryant, Kaley Cuoco

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 42 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "The Power of Three Will Set You Free"

Love them or hate them, the Americans do contribute a rather sizeable percentage of the world’s TV shows (as well as many other entertainment media). Their competence at this no doubt varies wildly depending on who you ask but, for me, the 80’s were pretty awesome. When I was growing up, shows like The A-Team, Dukes of Hazard, and Airwolf were the greatest things ever, but when we reached the mid-90’s things took a dramatic downward turn when a new trend reared its ugly head. Shows started appearing which were filled with good looking and/or popular actors/actresses but which had no other redeeming qualities. They were usually playing characters for which they were completely ill-suited and were therefore not convincing as, the premise of the show was usually ridiculous, or at least unrealistic, the stories barely existed, and the characters were usually boring. Shows like Buffy, Dark Angel, Alias, etc, are prime examples of this curious-but-unwelcome trend but one of the last to appear was Charmed.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Crap Games #7

Crackout (1991)
By: Palcom / Konami Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 7,990
Also Available For: Famicom Disk System

In my last review for this series of features I spoke of the lowest magazine review score I could remember from back in the good old days but I may have spoken too soon. Recently re-entering my conscious mind from the dark realms of depravity that lurk in its basement is this game; an NES game which was rather unusually released in neither the Japanese nor American markets. Us lucky Europeans got to sample its delights though, but probably not too many gamers bothered based on the review I can now vaguely recall which savagely hacked it to pieces, then ate and pooped out the pieces, then set them on fire, then peed on the ashes. Such savagery was probably as much in jest as genuine disdain but I think it's likely that Crackout is not generally viewed as the pinnacle of its genre all the same. I'm nonetheless keen to find out just how bad it really is, especially since it's an example of a genre I'm rather keen on, no less. So... shields up, phasers on stun, energise...

Friday, 20 September 2013

Licensed Games #4

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (1982)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 23,297 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, SG-1000, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, TI-99/4A, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari XE, ColecoVision, Coleco Adam, Intellivision

It may have taken a few years but it still wasn't long before the first few licensed video games started to appear. One of the first such games to grace an amusement arcade was this example, by my beloved Sega no less, and was based on the (mis)adventures of Captain Rogers. Well, I say 'based' but this is a game that, name aside, has pretty much nothing to do with the source material - something that would become a familiar story in the years to come - but as we all know, that doesn't necessarily make it a sucky game, just an unfaithful one. Planet of Zoom, for example, takes the form of an into-the-screen shooter. Nothing unusual there for a 70's sci-fi show, I'll grant you - plenty of shooting done in most of those. However, as long as it might have been since I've immersed myself in the gallant exploits of Buck, Wilma, and Twiki, nothing else from the game seems familiar.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Top Five N64 Rare Games

We all have our favourite game system but what qualities earn it this prestigious rank for you? For most, it's probably the quality and/or range of titles available, pure and simple. Generally there are many game developers to thank for this but every now and then one appears who goes on to release a succession of high-quality titles on a particular system to such an extent that they alone become a major reason for owning said system.

Two examples I remember well are Ultimate for the Spectrum and Team 17 for the Amiga, but the period that stands out most for me was that of Rare, ironically the modern incarnation of Ultimate, and their run of releases on the Nintendo 64.

In the eyes of many, Rare's releases for Nintendo's black slab, whilst not always particularly original, were so consistently superb that they even eclipsed those of Nintendo themselves. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far myself but they certainly contributed a great deal towards the success of the N64 and my enjoyment of owning one. They released more than ten games for the system in total; none of them sucked but these are my five favourites:

5. Diddy Kong Racing (1997)

Many consider the N64 instalment of Mario Kart to be the weakest so you could say Rare didn't have to try very hard to improve on that particular title, but that didn't stop them from coming up with this stonking game anyway! It was very similar in concept though, to be sure. As well as offering four-player tomfoolery, there's also an 'Adventure' mode as well as the usual 'Quick Race' option. This offers a series of semi-explorable worlds which each contain several racing circuits and a boss. The worlds are based around four themes - a normal grassy area, bright sandy beaches, twinkly snow/ice, and fiery lava-filled caverns, and there are ten characters to choose from (including a pre-sweary Conker), but the best part is that there are three different vehicles to use, with aircraft and hovercraft in addition to the usual carts. It's still not a perfect game - the bosses are teeth-shatteringly tough for one thing - but all the other stuff helps make DKR more varied than Mario's game whilst remaining at least as enjoyable. Great fun for any number of players.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Film Round-Up #2

I've talked here before (probably lots of times) about the wonder that is Netflix. Some moan about the 'poor range' of films and TV shows available to stream but I suspect these people are looking a specific show or few shows that don't happen to be available (yet). For me, it's fantastic - user friendly, near faultless service (I would've left out the 'near' but an episode of Battlestar Galactica I tried to watch recently didn't have sound - it was okay after a couple of days), no advertising anywhere, and more films and TV shows than I've got time to watch, all for a miraculously generous price of £6 per month!

There is of course a downside to this, at least if you're married as I am. That is, of course, when the 'other half' wants to watch something as mine often does! Occasionally one of her choices turns out to be great but more often they are average or even head-explodingly bad. Nonetheless, I figured I might as well mention such titles here, whether for good or for ill. Of course, most aren't worthy of a full review, so, to that end, here is the first of my Netflix Round-Ups!

Stick It (2006)

When this title was selected during one of partner's many extensive searches, I shuddered and feared for the worst. It comes from the same writer as 'Bring It On' and I was duly expecting one of those annoying teen high-school-based dancing films but actually it's none of those things. Well, it is a teen film and stars Missy Peregrym as talented but rebellious former gymnast 'with an attitude', Haley, who's forced to return to the sport by a judge after a brush with the law so she can gain some structure and discipline. She is sent to a gymnastics academy run by legendary coach, Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), where she is greeted with hostility by the other gymnasts while training for an upcoming competition. So yes, it's all pretty girly stuff, but the gymnastics action is very convincing (at least to my untrained eyes), and Peregrym and Bridges are superb value (especially the former) as the film heads for its not-wholly-predictable climax. Hardly a 'must see' but not as bad as I feared... 6/10

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Doujin Platform Games #3

Cottonhead (2013)
By: Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Super Easy
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: Complete!
Also Available For: Nothing

Although I've been playing fan-made games for a couple of years or so now, the homebrew scene is still one I know relatively little about. The regular competitions that are held, for example, are the province of far smarter people than me. They do occasionally yield a game that I somehow find out about, though, and Cottonhead is one such example which was created for the latest Ludum Dare competition. It stars a small cloud-like creature who's fallen to earth from his home in Cottoncity. Your job is to get him back, but first he must regain his ability to fly.