Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Mobile Games #7

Retro Racing (2012)
By: Mr Qwak Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android
Also Available For: iOS, Ouya

I've never really been too concerned about phone or tablet games and, accordingly, not too many catch my eye, but one genre that always gets my attention is that of overhead racing games. This particular one was made by Mr. Qwak, a.k.a. Jamie Woodhouse of Qwak fame (in case you hadn't guessed!) who also happens to be behind Nitro and ATR which are... you guessed it, both overhead racers! Unlike both of those efforts, however, Retro Racing is based on F1-style racing, albeit in the kind of unrealistic arcadey way you might expect.

Before starting you get a choice of three brightly coloured cars (with three more becoming available later), each of which are rated based on their speed, acceleration, and tyres. Then it's on to the first in a series of 18 small but increasingly complex circuits as one of eight hopeful racers.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Film Review #66

Unleashed a.k.a. Danny the Dog (2005)
Director: Louis Leterrier Starring: Jet Li, Morgan Freeman, Bob Hoskins, Kerry Condon, Vincent Regan, Dylan Brown, Mike Lambert

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 102 Minutes

Tagline: "Serve No Master"

Just a few months ago now the film world was robbed of Bob Hoskins. The many resulting tributes and obituaries mentioned numerous films he'd starred in such as The Long Good Friday and Who Framed Roger Rabbit but I didn't once see this film mentioned. He's isn't really the main star, admittedly, and the film was hardly a global mega-blockbuster either, but Unleashed has long been one of my favourite films to feature The Cockney Cagney. Unsurprisingly, he plays the part of a ruthless British loan shark and gangster known only as Bart who, along with his cronies, are largely seen collecting their payments from oft-problematic clients. Bart's solution when they are reluctant to repay him? He 'unleashes' his human attack dog, Danny (Jet Li), who's a gormless, stumbling oaf... until his collar is removed and all hell breaks loose!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Arcade Adventures #5

Treasure Adventure Game (2011)
By: Robit Studios Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

The prospect of free video games is certainly an enticing one (as long as they don't suck arse) but, without sinking to the thoroughly reprehensible depths of piracy, it's not one that ever reared its head too often back in the 'golden age'. In my Speccy days we used to get an occasional freebie, usually by way of a magazine cover-mounted cassette, but that was about it. These days it's somewhat more common, what with so many indie developers trying to make a name for themselves, but even so - free stuff of any kind usually carries with it some conditions (intrusive adverts, mandatory downloads of crappy toolbars and stuff) as well as a certain level of expectation... or lack thereof. It was therefore with much apprehension that I installed and started Treasure Adventure Game which, as you may have guessed by now, is one such freebie.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Exploring the Xbox

The days leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox were among the darkest in my gaming life. My beloved Sega had gone down in flames, as a hardware developer at least, and I was still in mourning by the time Sony's imaginatively-named successor to the PlayStation and Microsoft's debut console arrived. I had a vague knowledge of them and their early titles though, and had always expected that, if I ever did recover from my gaming depression, the one I would go for would be the Xbox, and there were two reasons for this.

Firstly, I had come to hate Sony, especially the PS2 which had received a lot of the blame for the Dreamcast's demise. Secondly, it seemed, from what I had seen, that the Xbox was much closer to the Dreamcast in terms of the titles it had available. Indeed, it almost seemed like a continuation of Sega's mighty machine what with Sega GT 2002, Jet Set Radio Future, Project Gotham Racing, Panzer Dragoon Orta, etc. Despite all this, I never did get around to buying one, even years later when the 360 arrived and the original system received the customary price drop. I did come close about 8-10 years ago - I even bought OutRun 2 (which, amusingly, I still have at my parents house somewhere!) when I saw it for a good price - but I kept holding off on buying the actual console until I found a limited edition green version for a similarly irresistible price, for it was this model that I had decided I must have. And eventually I had it.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Awesome Nature #15

Whale Shark
Type: Fish  Lives In: Temperate/Tropical Ocean  Conversation Status: Vulnerable

It is in honour of my delightful wife that I thought I'd take a look at this mighty marine creature for the latest (belated) post in this series of features, for she is currently in Mexico visiting a friend who has, I'm jealous to say, taken her on a long boat trip out to the open sea where they will spend some time swimming with them! Mighty they are too, being the largest species of fish in the world - some can reach up 13 metres in length which is twice the size of the rather more famous (or should that be infamous?) great white shark. Luckily for us it's not quite as ravenous as its smaller cousin, feeding instead on krill, plankton, and other small creatures which it filters through its enormous, gaping mouth. I guess that means my wife is in little danger of being eaten (not that it stopped her from worrying) leaving her and her friend free to frolic amidst the majesty of these slow-but-graceful animals accordingly. Maybe a little scary but what an experience that must be...

Why It Is Awesome: Because it's the biggest fish in the world of course!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Hack 'n' Slash Games #2

Rastan (1987)
By: Taito Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 119,600 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, PC, MSX, Apple IIGS, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

For most gamers the first hack 'n' slash title that comes to mind is Golden Axe but, splendid as Sega's classic is, the sub-genre arguably started even earlier with Rastan. Granted, it may be more of a platformer than a scrolling fighting game but is still contains a hell of a lot of slashing. A great deal of it is done by the muscular Conan-like barbarian warrior of the title who's on a financially-motivated quest to battle through the harsh, monster-infested land of Semia and rescue the king's daughter, perhaps even earning her gratitude into the bargain! Such grand a reward can only mean the job at hand must be a rather tough one though, and that is indeed the case. There are six side-scrolling stages in total, each with two parts. The first of each generally takes place through an open exterior location and/or dangerous rocky caverns while the second is set within a castle or fortress of some kind, at the end of which lies a terrible boss from the netherworld!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Top Five Movie Moments #7

#7 - American Beauty (1999)

As a film fan I owe an awful lot to Alan Ball and Sam Mendes (amongst many others). Their writer/director collaboration that resulted in the wonderful American Beauty not only gave me one of the finest films I've ever seen, but it also changed my whole attitude to films in general, inspiring me to seek out and watch many examples I would most likely have previously steered clear of.

I never used to be too bothered by Oscar-winning films, for example, stupidly dismissing them as overly artsy and/or melodramatic. American Beauty came highly recommended by my good friend Luke though, with whom I mostly share a taste in films, so I figured it must be worth watching at least. And without getting into a detailed critique of the film, it was worth watching, to say the very least.

It had such an impact on me, in fact, that as soon as the credits rolled and I sat there in stunned silence, staring at the names scrolling down the screen as I contemplated what I had just seen, it was immediately my favourite film ever. Accordingly, near enough ever scene and every line of dialogue is important to me so choosing just five moments for this list was a tough job, but here they are:

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

5... The Plastic Bag

Having grown up with an overbearing, ex-military father and a meek, browbeaten mother, Ricky has ended up a very interesting character. Angela dismisses him as a 'freak' and Jane finds him creepy as well, partly on account of him filming almost everything with his handheld camera (including her), but she soon changes her tune when he actually pays attention to her rather than Angela as is usually the case (Ricky: "I didn't mean to scare you, I just think you're interesting.")

After walking home from school one day (Angela, incredulously: "Jane, that's, like, almost a mile!"), Ricky shows Jane a few things he finds interesting... including his favourite recording: a plastic bag fluttering around in the wind. Yes, it's a scene that's been mocked many times since, and I suppose with reason in some ways. However, it's not so much what it shows but more about what it means to Ricky and how he speaks about it with such poignancy and emotion which, when combined with Thomas Newman's haunting score, makes it a tremendously memorable scene.

Ricky: "You want to see the most beautiful thing I've ever filmed?"

(cut to a TV showing a plastic bag fluttering around in the wind as they watch)

Ricky: "It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing. And there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just... dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever."

"Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... I need to remember..."

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it..."