Tuesday, 28 February 2017

TV Shows #14

The Grand Tour Season One (2016)
Developed By: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, Andy Wilman Starring: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, Mike Skinner

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 44-71 Minutes per Episode, 13 Episodes

I can't imagine there are too many TV shows that have been as divisive as Top Gear. To many, the show was infantile nonsense at best, and hosted by three ageing cretins who should know better. Controversy has never been far away from the immature antics of James May, Richard Hammond, and particularly Jeremy Clarkson, with some even throwing labels such as 'racist', 'homophobic', and 'sexist' in their direction. Conversely, however, the show also had a great many fans who adored the troublesome trio responsible for it, and I was one of them. I almost feel like I should apologise for that, what with the misdemeanours (alleged) of its stars. I don't actually like them that much outside the confines of the Top Gear format, and I don't even like some of the things they say/do on the show either, but I can't pretend I don't find them amusing much of the time.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Memorable Bosses #1

Games: R-Type Series

The first appearance of the fearsome creature...

I don't usually place the greatest emphasis on bosses in my reviews but, while they may only be small parts of much larger games, many stay with us much longer than the stages they block exit from, so I thought it might make a spiffing new series of posts to take a look at some of them in more detail. Many horrifying abominations were considered but what better place to start than with arguably the most famous and memorable boss of them all, certainly from the vast world of shoot 'em ups - the ghastly Dobkeratops. Some won't know his name but pretty much everyone who played video games in the mid-to-late 80's will know him by appearance. His likeness did after all adorn pretty much all adverts, flyers, and cover art for the ultra-popular shooter, so it would've been hard not to!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Speccy Homebrew Games #1

Gloop Troops (2010)
By: Little Shop of Pixels Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 22,500
Also Available For: iOS

When I gave the wonderful mobile game I Am Level a good going over last year its Speccy-style graphics and presentation made me realise something. For most of the time I have been running Red Parsley, I've covered a few doujin games here and there as well as a number of indie/download titles for PC and PSN, but I don't think I've played a single homebrew game for the Spectrum in that time, much less reviewed one. This is odd since the continuing passion shown by these talented, dedicated gamers never fails to impress, and the Speccy is of course one of my favourite systems too. So it's about time I started taking a look of some of them, and the first one I've chosen is Gloop Troops which was released back in 2010 by Little Shop of Pixels (also known as Andrew Oakley and Simon Franco). I can't recall where I first saw it now but it clearly did something to catch my eye.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Film Review #96

Captain Fantastic (2016)
Director: Matt Ross Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Ann Dowd

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 118 Minutes

Tagline: "Family values. Power to the people. Stick it to the man."

Shunning modern Western civilisation and living off the land in seclusion is a very appealing prospect for some, and one that's likely to become more and more appealing as the years of one's life wear on and the banality of it all sinks in, I'd wager. This kind of life and the people that favour it have been the subject of several films over the years and Captain Fantastic is the latest example. It is written and directed by Matt Ross and stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash who for ten years has lived with his wife Leslie and six children in a log cabin in the forested Washington wilderness. Their children are taught survival skills, educated in science, history, philosophy, and undergo regular 'training' to keep them physically fit.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Cover-Art: PC Engine - Part 4

Oops, it looks as though chastising myself last time I did one of these posts ended up doing little good, it's been nearly as long between posts as it was that time! Oh well, never mind. This will (probably) be my final look at the often-amusingly differing standard of PC Engine/TurboGrafx cover art anyway, partly because four posts offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the subject, but also because it seems there just isn't that many TG16 games (and resultant covers) for me to mock! So behold, here is (probably) my last selection of fine(?) PC Engine covers:

Neutopia (1990)

The Engine might not have been home to quite as many RPG's as its contemporaries but it did have Neutopia, and it was pretty cool too! Both of its regional covers are successful in indicating its genre but, unusually, I think I actually prefer the US version featuring a brave knight shielding himself from a ferocious dragon's fiery belch. It may not be 100% game-accurate but it would certainly be more likely to catch my eye in a game store than the rather dreary Japanese effort. It has a cool logo, I can't argue that point, and the hero is probably quite accurate (although he has brown hair in the game), but it's dark and murky image of a generic knight does little to capture my imagination... (full review here)

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Atari 2600 Games #4

Spider Fighter (1982)
By: Activision Genre: Shooting Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium First Day Score: 5,840
Featured Version: Atari 2600 Also Available For: Nothing

I would like to think I research my Top Five lists reasonably thoroughly considering I'm just an amateur doing this in my spare time, but when I posted my Top Five Atari VCS/2600 Shmups list a month or so back there was one title people kept asking me why I left out. That title was Spider Fighter and the reason I left it out was, quite honestly, because I hadn't heard of it and didn't encounter it in my research. Having now been made aware of it by these bemused Atari fans, however, I figured I should probably take a look at it to see if it really was deserving of a place on the list of not, and if its backstory is anything to go by I already do! Your job, you see, is an exterminator of some sort who must keep what is apparently an orchard free of fruit-destroying bugs. This is done in the form of a single-screen shooter with your 'Bug Blaster' gun at the bottom of the screen and the various fruits at the top. You can fire off several shots at once and you can 'steer' them too - something that proves very necessary as swooshing around above it are the many terrifying bugs.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Film Review #95

Man of Steel (2013)
Director: Zack Snyder Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni, Russell Crowe

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 143 Minutes

Tagline: "You Are Not Alone"

I think we can safely say by now that Marvel's shared 'cinematic universe' of films has been a success so it was inevitable that DC would follow suit at some point. What I didn't realise at the time of its release, however, is that Man of Steel was the first of their own series. I had thought it simply (another) reboot of Superman but no, it was actually meant to be DC's equivalent of Iron Man - the one to get the ball rolling. To that end, it's an origins story in the truest sense of the word - the first since Christopher Reeve's film of 1978 if I'm not mistaken - and like that film it begins on the planet Krypton which is on the brink of annihilation. Shortly before it blows up in a highly spectacular fashion, Jor-El (Crowe), who for years had warned of the impending disaster, manages to launch his newborn son into space aboard a small craft.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Splendid Arcade Music #1

After Burner / After Burner II (1987)

Considering a great many retro games originated in the arcades, I have perhaps been a bit neglectful of the motherland with these Game Music posts. Spurred on by my recent review of the stonking After Burner, however, here is the very first such post.

As mentioned in the full review, my favourite of Hiroshi Miyauchi's compositions is Red Out and I was going to feature that ace choon here, but while listening to it on YouTube at work, that stupid autoplay feature played more After Burner tracks, and after a couple of these it came to a rather cool fan rendition of the intro theme.

I'm not sure who the performer is beyond his YT username of 'haibanhunterk' but he's clearly a very talented guitarist - his channel features a number of other guitar-based renditions of popular game music - but I can't see any of the others being more awesome than this one. Check it out along with the original:

Friday, 3 February 2017

Puzzle Games #21

Binary Land (1985)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Puzzle / Maze Players: 1Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 153,400
Also Available For: MSX, Fujitsu FM-7, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-8801

I don't get game-related gifts for Christmas that often but this year my wife bought me a cool little clone handheld thingy. It looks like a PSP but is actually filled with NES games along with an emulator, and the first one I've spent much time with is Binary Land, an early Hudson Soft puzzle/action game which tasks you with reuniting two penguin lovers. This is done over a series of single-screen stages, each formed from a grid of 15x10 blocks and viewed from overhead, in which both penguins - Gurin (male) and Malon (female) - are dropped in separate locations. Your job is to bring them together at their special meeting point - a heart at the top of each stage which grows cold and diseased in a harsh metal cage until their combined splendour liberates it. The twist is, in an unusual and initially-confusing move, you control both of the stumbling flappers simultaneously, with the movements of one mirroring those of the other!