Friday, 31 October 2014

Currently Playing...

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (2003)
By: Microsoft Game Studios Genre: Shooting Players: 1-4 (up to 16 online) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Microsoft Xbox
Also Available For: Xbox 360

So, flying games, huh? I've never really known what to make of them to be honest. The idea of them is almost always appealing but on the few occasions I've taken the chance and played one, I've nearly always ended up frustrated and/or disappointed (probably more my fault than theirs but still). A low price point helps though, and I happened to spot this popular Microsoft game for a ridiculously un-pass-upable 75p!

The back-story is actually quite detailed, taking place in an alternate-timeline version of the 1930's where the Americas have fragmented into many smaller nations who are in a constant state of war with each other. As a result, interstate highways were never developed and the main means of transportation is by plane and Zeppelin. Since the people have moved up in the world, so has the crime, and I was (pleasantly) surprised to find that you play as what basically amounts to one of these 'bad guys', albeit a dashing and heroic one, named Nathan Zachary, leader of Fortune Hunters air pirate gang - one of many such gangs that prey on the aerial commerce of the area. The game takes place in four regions starting with Sea Haven, an island off California.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Computer Shmups #2

Cybernoid: The Fighting Machine (1987)
By: Raffaele Cecco / Hewson Consultants Genre: Shooting / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 3,825
Also Available For: NES, Amiga, Atari St, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Before the days of the internet, us gamers had to rely on magazine reviews to tell us which titles we should add to our collections. One that received unanimous acclaim from all of them was Cybernoid, but once I duly purchased it (or received it as a gift, as was more likely the case!), I found myself with a different opinion. Being a Raffaele Cecco game, the quality of the graphics and presentation were a given, but it wasn't as nice to play as it was to look at for me, with the unforgiving difficulty and frustrating nature of the gameplay quickly turning me off. But that was a long time ago and, while I've never been the most talented of gamers and my meagre skills haven't exactly improved over the intervening years, I nonetheless figured it was time to revisit this much-loved classic to see if it finally captivated me the way it apparently did so many other gamers.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Rediscovering a Lost Favourite

Well, okay, not lost but sorely neglected at least! To my ever deepening shame and sorrow it's now been a good couple of year since I fired up my precious Dreamcast, the official 'Last Great Console Ever'. This has mainly been because of this very blog on which pretty much all of my gaming time has been spent 'researching' games for features. A worthy sacrifice? Perhaps, but things still had to change.

My modest collection of CIB games...
So, when my wife and I decided to replace our beloved but ageing car the weekend before last, in order to acquaint ourselves with the new one we drove to my parents house (around 12 miles) where, as well as catching up with my splendid ancestors, I decided to also grab my collection of Dreamcast games which were being stored in my old room. However, when I returned home and tried reuniting them with the console which was stowed in the 'stuff cupboard', to my not-inconsiderable fury I was unable to find the controller! Cue near enough an entire week of searching for it until... Thursday night when I finally found it stashed inside my Xbox box. Grrr! My incredulity at this revelation was, however, mixed with excitement as I could now finally reacquaint myself with my recently recovered collection.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Star Trek #8

Voyager Favourite Episodes - Season One

I obviously can't speak for anyone else but I was very surprised when Star Trek Voyager was announced. After so many years without any Trek TV show, The Next Generation was very welcome and proved extremely popular too, revitalising the ailing franchise in the process. A follow-up series therefore wasn't too unexpected, and Deep Space Nine duly appeared towards the end of TNG's run. But then, after only two seasons of Captain Sisko's adventures, yet another show was unveiled.

After the mixed reaction to DS9's space station-based exploits, Voyager saw a return to starship-based adventures, and for the first time that ship was not called Enterprise. Voyager was a brand new, state-of-the-art Intrepid-class ship - much smaller than most of the hulking great brutes Starfleet had in service (around 140 crew, no families/civilians) but fast and outfitted with all the latest technology and gizmos such as bio-neural circuitry and the ultra-handy EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram), and it would need every bit of help after getting stranded 70,000 light years from Earth on its very first mission!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Arcade Classics #7

Moon Cresta (1980)
By: Nichibutsu Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 8,240 (one credit)
Also Available For: PlayStation, X68000, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Dragon 32
Download For: PlayStation Network, Wii Virtual Console

In the early days of the arcades, quite a few of the games found there were ones 'inspired by' Space Invaders. A majority of their developers tried to do something slightly different to help them stand out and one of those that I remember best was Moon Cresta. This was partly down to the fact that I had somehow acquired it for my Spectrum (I still can't remember how though), and quite a decent game it was too, but it's one of many of these early classics that I never encountered in its native environment. I suppose it had been replaced by a newer machine by then but, having now spent some time with the original version, it's clear the Speccy hosted a decent port. But how does it stand up nowadays?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Awesome Nature #18

California Red-Sided Garter Snake
Type: Snake Lives In: North America Conservation Status: Least Concern

I was always reading wildlife books of all sorts when I was growing up and one thing I always remember is that brightly coloured animals are generally dangerous. These curly fellows, however, might be highly eye-catching but they're actually harmless to us pesky humans. Well that's unless they climb up inside your clothing, making you writhe and jiggle around in panic, straying in front of fast-moving traffic or something, obviously! There are quite a few of them about too. There are dozens of sub-species of garter snakes in general, ranging from Central America all the way up to Sub-Arctic Canada, but even this Californian variety is fairly common. They live on farmlands and grasslands, usually close to a water source such as a marsh or stream as they are also superb swimmers. Luckily for Californians though, despite their small size, examples like this one are also pretty easy to spot thanks to their almost fluorescent colouration, so death jiggles should be kept to a minimum.

Why It Is Awesome: Luminous snake!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Gravity Games #4

Oids (1987)
By: Dan Hewitt / FTL Games Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari ST First Day Score: 152,311
Also Available For: Apple Mac

Quite a few of these gravity games not only require you to combat the natural attractive force of a given celestial body but also land your craft on their surface. This is often in order to save stranded workers or rescue hostages, but Oids must be the only one that asks you to actually kidnap them. Your targets are 'Oids' - android slaves created by the evil Biocretes, forced into servitude, and discarded when no longer needed. You, as a 'member of a compassionate race', were so 'moved and angered' by the mistreatment of these poor sentient clankers that you joined the intergalactic organisation known as SaveOids and vowed to devote your life to freeing the Oids from the yoke of Biocrete slavery. Apparently.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Top Five Robots

Science fiction writers of the early-to-mid 20th century were an imaginative bunch but they sure got a lot of things wrong didn't they? In many cases it was more of a timescale problem - according to many of them, by the year 2000 we should've been travelling around in flying cars here on earth, teleporting to work, and of course exploring space in big, sophisticated interstellar vessels, starting wars with all sorts of alien races, no doubt getting our arrogant arses handed to us in the process.

Our biggest oversight, however, must be robots. It really is desperately disappointing how far behind schedule we've gotten with these clanking automatons. It's 2014, for heaven's sake! They should've been doing our monkey jobs for long enough now to have developed intelligence, risen up against their human oppressors, and wiped our filth from the planet, but we haven't even invented them yet! Oh well, maybe some day. Luckily we have the world of TV and film to remind how cool robots could be, and here are five of my favourites:

5... Smash Robots

Old British people like me must surely remember these entertaining fellows who were used during the 70's and early 80's to advertise instant mashed potato of all things! They're not just robots either, but Martian robots, who take much pleasure in covertly observing the convoluted way in which we stupid humans make mashed potato while they prepare their own Smash variety much more quickly and easily.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Splendid Xbox Music #1

OutRun 2 (2004)

I think it's safe to say that OutRun is a rather famous and much-loved game and a big part of its popularity is down to Hiroshi Kawaguchi-san's magnificent musical compositions. Any sequel to the mid-80's classic would therefore have a tough job living up to it, and when OutRun 2 finally appeared over ten years ago now the first thing I looked into was its music. Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack includes remixes of the classic tracks but there are also a similar number of new tracks. They were never going to have the same sort of impact as they originals but they are pretty good, and the standout track for me is Risky Ride by Fumio Ito. The original version as heard in the arcade game is great but even better is the 'Guitar Mix' as featured on the Xbox conversion. 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!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

New Arrival

It's hard to believe the year is now more than three-quarters over. It only seems like a few weeks ago that I returned from holiday and began larking around on my new Xbox, as well as burbling on about it here of course. Now, however, I've got over 50 games for Microsoft's behemoth and had no plans to acquire any other systems for the foreseeable future. Then, however, for reasons I'm still unable to understand, I pretty much spontaneously decided I would buy a Nintendo Wii as well.

Not a bad haul for a grand total of £52 I guess!
Actually, I think it must have been partly because, as a result of my Xbox game-buying exploits, I had discovered how cheap Nintendo's console now is as well, but that alone can't be responsible - I've never really had any interest in it before, after all. In fact, I'd even go as far to say it was the target of some mocking on my part. Just take a look at the Wii shelf in any gaming store (I guess you'd have to go back a couple of years now though) and you'll see what I mean, surely? Quite a sizeable percentage of the titles that no doubt stand before you can scarcely even be classed as 'video games' never mind good ones! Anyway, that's a subject for another time I suppose. Decide I did, and soon afterwards I had duly selected a random example from the extensive list at the mighty fine CEX online store, and for a mere £24 I might add.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Atari 2600 Games #3

Grand Prix (1982)
By: Activision Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium Featured Version: Atari 2600
Also Available For: Nothing

I can't think of too many systems whose games require as much of a combination of creativity from the programmer and imagination from the player as the VCS, and that's especially true when it comes to racing games. This effort from Activision is not just a generic car game either. It actually seeks to emulate the intense racing of Formula 1 - a challenge indeed! It consists of four games variations in total which are actually different courses representing Watkins Glen, Brands Hatch, Le Mans, and Monaco. Despite such varied locations, however, the courses look very similar. Each is viewed directly from above and scrolls from right to left in a straight line until you reach the finish line. There are no corners or race positions or anything like that, just road and lots of other cars to weave around, with the object simply being to reach the end in the fastest time possible. Hitting other cars obviously slows you down though, and there are also patches of oil here and there that make your car skid, so it's up to you how fast you want to risk driving.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Film Review #69

Escape Plan (2013)
Director: Mikael Håfström Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Curtis Jackson, Sam Neill, Vinnie Jones, Faran Tahir, Vincent D'Onofrio, Amy Ryan, Caitriona Balfe

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 115 Minutes

Tagline: "No one breaks out alone"

Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Seeing those two names together on a movie poster/cover should be more than enough to convince film fans from my generation to watch the title in question all by itself. It was certainly enough for me. My interest was piqued the moment I heard about it, without even knowing anything about the plot. Did it even matter? It's muthafukkin Sly and Arnie for goodness sake. Together! Yes, I know they've previously appeared on screen together in the Expendables series but that's not really the same as the pair of them topping a cast list alone. The first of them to appear is Sly who plays Ray Breslin, co-owner of a Los Angeles-based security firm. Ray spends much of his time getting sent into maximum security prisons under the guise of a real convict and then trying to escape in order to test how secure the staff and facilities are.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Doujin Shmups #9

Crimzon Clover (2011)
By: Yotsubane Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 1,162,840,850
Also Available For: Nothing

I have been meaning to take a look at this interestingly-named doujin shooter for literally years now but kept putting it off for one reason or another. It's recent re-release on Steam (complete with new lick of paint), however, has given me the prod I apparently needed to finally get around to giving it a try! It was originally released back in 2011 by a talented fellow called Yotsubane who first unveiled the finished version at the Comiket 79 (doujin fair) and, like many such games, it takes the form of a bullet-hell vertical-scroller. There are quite a few play modes and options available for a game of its type though, including comprehensive menus which allow you to change lots of things, and three types of game - Simple, Original, and Unlimited - which are basically three difficulty levels.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Memorable Adverts / Flyers #1

Oh, hello there. If you're a long-time visitor here at Red Parsley you may remember that I occasionally post features on game cover-art, usually comparing one version or region's art with another, but it's not only covers that feature noteworthy images in the gaming world. I used to read many gaming magazines in my earlier years and they always included a lot of full-page adverts for games. Many of them have been firmly lodged in my mind ever since for one reason or another, and I figured it might be worth sharing them here from time to time. I thought I'd start with:

L.E.D. Storm by Software Creations / Capcom (1988) - Various Formats

Released in the world's arcades in 1988, it wasn't long before Capcom's overhead racer found its way to the five main home micros of the time and, as it recall, it was fairly well received. The only version I played at the time was on my Speccy which I believe I quite enjoyed, but I didn't try any other versions until much more recently.

Why is it memorable? Mainly because of the awesome orange futuristic car of course! I always thought it looked very cool anyway, leaping across a broken section of road high above lots of gleaming skyscrapers, but those holes at the back looked suspiciously like rocket boosters as well. Not sure where these 'lazers' that Capcom speak of are found though. Nor is your cool car capable of causing much in the way of 'devastation'. Oh well, who cares about accuracy when it looks splendid?

But is the game actually any good? Sadly not. I played the Amiga version for a review here it was not a particularly enjoyable experience due to its rather bland graphics and uninspiring stage designs. It's got some nice idea though, and a sequel could've been great if Capcom had bothered with one. See the full review here.


Monday, 6 October 2014

Next-Gen Driving Games #4

Hydro Thunder (1999)
By: Midway / Eurocom Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Dreamcast
Also Available For: Arcade, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, PC

The glorious Dreamcast days were my last as a happy current-gen gamer but they were tremendously enjoyable while they lasted. This was partly because, unlike the Saturn, there were plenty of top-quality racing games available on Sega's final console, and one that I spent rather a lot of time with was Hydro Thunder, the first of Midway's short-lived 'Thunder' series. As suggested by the name, however, it's a game that features water-based vehicles rather than road-based examples, specifically powerboats. You take on the role of an unnamed 'international boat racing' champion who longs for a new challenge only to receive an invitation from the mysterious H.T.R.A. - the Hydro Thunder Racing Association. This 'underground clan of adventurous racing renegades' don't invite just anyone into their ranks either, so you'll have to work hard to earn their respect...

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Film Round-Up #5

Snitch (2013)

Congratulations Rock, you've now reached the stage where I'll watch a film just because you're in it! This example though, unlike most of the films he's cast in, takes little advantage of his rather impressive physique, casting him instead as John Matthews, the owner of a construction company whose son is facing ten years in the slammer for dealing drugs (he was actually set up by a 'friend' in a ridiculous sting operation). Instead of letting him become someone's bitch, John petitions an attorney (Susan Sarandon) to let him bring down a bigger fish in exchange for a reduced sentence for his son. The only catch is, she won't give him any help and poor old John doesn't really know where to start. Happily, Dwayne Johnson does a great job throughout, with the concerned father's painful false start soon giving rise to a more organised and confident runner getting in too deep, and it's probably his best acting performance yet. It's certainly not a special film in any way and the message isn't made as well as the producers apparently think, but it's definitely worth watching for Johnson fans... 7/10

Friday, 3 October 2014

Indie Nuggets #4

Nebula Retro (2013)
By: Simple Interactive Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Android, iOS

I'm always on the lookout for the latest bright 'n' colourful platform games to wet my gaming whistle, so to speak, so you can imagine my delight when this one recently came my way. It consists of twenty-six floaty stages through which you are charged with guiding 'Blockman' who doesn't appear to be a man at all but a white square with a face on. He isn't the first platform hero to be handicapped by the absence of limbs though, and it seems to cause him little trouble here as he attempts to recover the 'Pearls of Blockoo' which are the numerous yellow blobs that occupy each stage. This is a simple enough process to begin with, made even simpler still by a handful of training stages before the game proper begins, but things soon start getting tougher.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pinball Games #2

Dinoland (1991)
By: Wolf Team  Genre: Pinball Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 2,345,500 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

I think it's safe to say that interest in pinball video games was ignited for pretty much the first time by the Crush series and unsurprisingly it didn't take long for various other developers to try their luck as well. This effort from Wolf Team is one that I remember and it has a lot in common with Naxat's series. Oddly, an improbable back-story has been added here though, which casts you as DINO-Bunz (yes, really), a suitably cool/tough-looking green dinosaur who must protect/rescue his sweetheart, Meeshell (who's pink and has a bow on her head, obviously). This is apparently achieved by smacking up those pesky carnivores with a pinball - actually, I believe DUNO-Bunz is the pinball as he's able to curl into an impressively tight spherical shape - and there are three prehistorically-themed tables over which to do this, based on three primeval environments - land, sea, and sky.