Thursday, 19 December 2019

Mega Drive A-Z

It has gone down as Sega's most successful console, proving ultra-popular in all the major territories, and is still held in high esteem today - that's right, it's the one and only, the legendary... Mega Drive! Almost 1,000 games eventually found homes on its rippling innards and I will least try to feature all of them in these listings, although I'm bound to miss the odd one or two here and there. Next up is:

L is for...

Lakers versus Celtics and the NBA Playoffs by Electronic Arts (1990)

This was the game that revealed to most of us outside the US that the Lakers and Celtics were apparently basketball teams. There aren't a huge number of options here for a sports game but the fast-paced action is pretty enjoyable, even if you don't give two pieces of monkey crap about the sport.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Arcade Shmups #26

Scramble Spirits (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 310,120 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

There weren't a massive number of shmups on the Master System - it didn't have a huge number of games of any genre I guess - but of the ones that did find their way to Sega's wonderful console, about the only one I never played was Scramble Spirits. This may have been down to the lacklustre reception it received in magazines of the day, or the fact that it has been pretty much ignored ever since. Perhaps not, but either way, I recently reminded myself that the poor neglected game exists and immediately made a mental note to investigate it forthwith. If I'm going to do that, I then reasoned, I might as well first try the original version of it, so behold: after some problems getting it running, here is the arcade version of Sega's lost shooter. Does is deserve our continued apathy?

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Film Review #112

Parker (2013)
Director: Taylor Hackford Starring: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Nolte, Wendell Pierce, Clifton Collins Jr, Micah Hauptman

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 118 Minutes

Tagline: "To get away clean, you have to play dirty."

Although released all the way back in 2013, the very first I heard of this film was when it popped up on the 'recently added' section of Netflix a while ago. From the cover and synopsis it sounded like yet another copy-and-paste Jason Statham action-thriller, but they can often be enjoyable in a fighty, switch-your-brain-off kind of way, so I thought I'd give it a go. It was only afterwards I discovered that's he's actually playing the star of a series of novels by Donald Westlake (written under the pen name Richard Stark), and that this film is actually an adaptation of the 19th book in the series! Crikey, I wonder why they didn't start with the first one? Anyway, the titular character is a master thief and career criminal - ruthless but principled - and is intended as something of an anti-hero. Sounds like Mr. Statham could pull that off easily enough, but do the literary origins of the story make the film a bit smarter than his usual fare?

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Game Gallery #8

After a much shorter gap than last time, I am happy to return with another Game Gallery here at Red Parsley! I have again gone with a shoot 'em up, which is probably the first vertical-scroller I ever really liked. This might be because I was quite good at it (I could even finish it!) but also because it's a genuinely stonking game.

Not only does it feature tons of distinctive enemies, some scary alien landscapes, and a load of cool power-up weapons, but it was also something of a technical marvel for the Master System which was apparently able to throw the game's many sprites around with none of the flicker that had blighted many other games. Behold, the wonder that is surely the MS's best shmup... Power Strike!

Click here for the full review of this fine game.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

NES / Famicom A-Z

The mighty NES conquered all in its native Japan and the US and is understandably beloved by many. With a library of well over 1,000 games over all territories, it will take a huge effort on my part to feature them all here, but I'll give it a go, and since I never had an NES growing up, I'll be playing many of them for the first time. Up next, not counting text-heavy Japanese language games of course, is:

C is for...

Cabal by TAD Corporation / Rare (1990)

This military-themed single-screen 3D shooter was quite innovative for its day, and Rare did a good job with this conversion considering how little support they had, but it has never been a particularly appealing one to play, or even look at. Fans of the arcade original will probably find much to enjoy here though.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Overhead Racers #16

Speedster a.k.a. Rush Hour (1997)
By: Clockwork Entertainment / Psygnosis Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation
Also Available For: Nothing

Racing games were a huge deal on the first few 32-bit consoles. The latest fancy 3D titles could help make or break a system, so why would you choose that time to make a crusty overhead-viewed example? They were relics from the ancient days, surely? Well, if you were going to do it, you should probably try and make it a 3D polygonal affair as well, right? That's what it looks like we have here anyway, although you could be forgiven when going through the various options screens that you were about to play a normal 3D 'behind the car' racing game. There is a split-screen two-player game, but solo players have the choice of Quick Race, Championship, or Time Trial modes. Then you can choose a car from two classes - High Performance or Heavy Metal - then choose a track, and away you go. Only, instead of being behind your car, the 'camera' seems more like it's attached to a helicopter above.

Monday, 11 November 2019

PS4 Purchases #7

In typical fashion, I'm almost two years late with this one, for the games featured herein were actually received as Christmas gifts... the year before last! Oops! The fact that I've owned them for nearly as long as my PS4 itself, however, shouldn't be a reflection of the esteem in which I hold them - they are of course both valued and appreciated parts of my collection. Here's a quick look at each of them:

Yonder: The Could Catcher Chronicles by Prideful Sloth (2017)

Like several of my PS4 games, this is one that was originally on my Steam wishlist, but the temptation of a physical copy was too strong. The game itself is a 3D adventure or perhaps an action RPG which ultimately charges you with ridding your land of an ominous shroud known as the Murk, but there are millions of quests that you can undertake too. There are some modern gameplay traits I'm not yet very familiar with, such as crafting, but the game world is a very appealing one filled with amusing animals amongst other things. I spent quite a while playing this during the Christmas break upon which I received it and eventually got stuck thanks to my old-fashioned gaming mind, but I keep meaning to come back to this lovely game. The package itself isn't great though - the case contains a disc and nothing else.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Film Review #111

Anna (2019)
Director: Luc Besson Starring: Sasha Luss, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, Eric Godon

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 118 Minutes

Tagline: "Never make the weapon the target."

Basing an ass-kicking film or show around a female vigilante or assassin seems to be all the rage at the moment but Luc Besson has been wise to their potential for many moons now. His latest effort is perhaps his most blatant since La Femme Nikita back in 1990 and, like that iconic film, is named after its main character. As with the French junkie, despite being blessed with favourable aesthetic qualities, Anna (Luss) has not thus far enjoyed a life of glamour and riches. She lives a somewhat downtrodden life in a stinky apartment in Russia with her abusive dick of a criminal boyfriend, but when his latest scheme backfires she finds herself needing to leave town. Before she can do that, a shady guy called Alex (Evans), apparently a KGB agent, gives her a choice - work for them or else, basically! Shockingly, she accepts their offer of gainful employment upon learning she need only survive for five years before being freed from any obligations with a clean record. All she has to do is take out whomever they tell her to.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Steam / GOG Downloads #6

Bibou (2016)
By: André Bertaglia Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

Whether you love Steam or hate it for some reason, no one can deny that it offers an incredible variety of games, including many obscure retro-flavoured titles that are very often cheap. One such title that caught my eye some time ago was Bibou by Portuguese coder André Bertaglia, and it was available for less than the price of a Cadbury's Creme Egg! You can probably see why it caught my eye too - those bright, chunky, pixelly graphics which are either awesome or ghastly depending on your outlook. I thought they looked pretty awesome so I decided to forego my daily chocolate egg and took a chance on this strange looking title instead.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Unreleased Games #1

Space Fantasy Zone (1991)
By: NEC Avenue / Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 CD First Day Score: 35,800
Also Available For: Nothing

I probably won't be doing many of these because, to be honest, most unreleased games went unreleased for a reason, but this is one I have been very keen to try out for many years of men, and there are two reasons for this: Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone. The former was a genuine gaming landmark, both technically and with regards to its unique into-the-screen gameplay, while the latter series was and still is beloved by Sega fans the world over for its cute, colourful graphics and addictive side-scrolling action. Both games feature hyper amounts of shooting and both take place within the same game 'universe' so combining the two seems like a no-brainer, and that's exactly what we have here. It was surprisingly not Sega who were responsible though, with NEC Avenue handling things, and the promising hybrid was heralded for release exclusively on the PC Engine's fancy CD-ROM unit. But then, to the sorrow of all, it was cancelled.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Neo Geo A-Z

SNK probably weren't really renowned as the biggest arcade company around in the late 80's, so when then unveiled their own console it was a surprise to many. Their monstrous 2D powerhouse was way out of the price range of most gamers too, and that's even more the case now for collectors, but it has some cracking games that hold up well today. Here I will take a look at all of them. Up next is:

N is for...

Nam-1975 by SNK (1990)

One of the very first Neo Geo games was this mighty fine into-the-screen shooter which pits you (and an optional friend) as American soldiers against what I assume must be the entire Viet Cong army, including millions of soldiers as well as plenty of support vehicles. Good fun for one or two players, and addictive too.

Friday, 4 October 2019

TV Shows #22

Homecoming Season One (2018)
Developed By: Eli Horowitz & Micah Bloomberg
Starring: Julia Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, Stephan James, Shea Whigham, Alex Karpovsky, Sissy Spacek, Alex Karpovsky

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 24-37 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

I'm sure most of us have seen plenty of films and TV shows over the years that were based on books or video games or other stuff, but we now apparently have a show based on a podcast. Being the old-fashioned buffoon I am, I've never actually listened to a podcast in my life so I'm not totally sure how to approach a TV show based on one, but the creators of the podcast in question - Messrs Horowitz and Bloomberg - also handled its development for TV, so it should at least remain faithful to the source material. The source material in question involves Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a live-in facility run by the Geist Group intended to help traumatised soldiers readjust to civilian life. Most of them seem reasonably able-bodied and sound-of-mind to me so I'm not totally sure what traumas have so afflicted them, but they are there (voluntarily) all the same.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Star Control - Part 10

Generally I need little excuse to burble on about the Star Control series - it is one of my favourite of all game series' after all, particularly the skillish second game - but I've already taken detailed looks at the various spacecraft, the story, and of course reviewed the actual game and its prequel, so what else is there? Why yes that's right, I could take a look at the many alien races themselves!

Seldom have I played a game with such a varied, eclectic roster of species, and while many are perhaps not terribly realistic or even a bit gimmicky (a bit like pro wrestling was around the same time, in fact), they are appealing and memorable all the same. There are quite a few as well though, so I'll split this into several parts. This will be the first of two posts featuring the less-friendly half of the roster...

Spoiler Warning! - It's probably not really worth mentioning for a 25-year-old game but just in case - the following post will likely contain some small spoilers relating to Star Control 2 and the story found in its main game, so proceed with caution if you've yet to play through it! (assuming you plan to) :)

This is probably fan-made artwork so credit where it's due...

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Visual Novels #2

Sakura Swim Club (2015)
By: Winged Cloud Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

It was a cold, stormy night, many moons past. Panic-stricken beetles scurried to take refuge beneath errant leaves, themselves being battered by the large globules of clear water that plummeted from the hazy sky. Observing this chaos safely from within the confines of a nearby residential structure was a portly oaf named RetroKingSimon who had just unexpectedly taken advantage of the latest splendid deal offered by Humble Bundle which was themed around visual novels. For eons did these novels lay dormant in the darkest corners of his computer's storage device. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend, legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the novels passed out of all knowledge.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Film Review #110

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Director: Quentin Tarantino Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Luke Perry, Julia Butters, Damian Lewis

Certificate: 18 Running Time: 161 Minutes

Tagline: "The 9th Film from Quentin Tarantino."

Not so long ago, the impending release of a new film by Quentin Tarantino was met with fevered excitement and expectation from his many loyal fans, as well as film fans generally, but that doesn't seem to be so much the case these days. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, for example, his very latest release, hasn't received as much hype or anticipation as some of his past releases, from my perspective at least. Perhaps that is just my mistaken impression though, and I suppose it doesn't matter much anyway - it is here, and I for one have been very much awaiting what amounts to the penultimate QT release in the history of the universe. Assuming, that is, he sticks to his word and only makes ten films. That will make it even sadder if it sucks donkey balls, but with a cast like this, how can it?

Sunday, 15 September 2019

PC Engine A-Z

A collaboration between NEC and Hudson Soft might not have seemed like the most obvious choice but the result was one of the finest consoles ever made, and one which has justifiably gone down in gaming legend. It become home to a decent number of games too, and for this listing I will attempt to feature all of them:

D is for...

Daichi-kun Crisis - Do Natural by Salio (1989) - Japan

A few minutes spent with this strange game was enough to explain its obscurity. It seems to be some sort or farming game where you plant seeds across the overhead scrolling game-world while repelling invaders, but it's not super-intuitive and seems rather repetitive too. Cute characters add to the appeal though.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Top Five Stars

Stars are pretty mental when you stop to think about it - they are basically giant, constantly-exploding nuclear bombs that hang around for billions or even trillions of years - crikey! Just watch a video of a 'coronal mass ejection' to witness the scale of their fury, and that's just our thoroughly average, non-spectacular star. There are billions more out there, most of which we know little about, but some are very well known. Here's a brief look at some of the most noteworthy examples:

5... Canopus

Unfortunately, only those oafs in the southern hemisphere get to see Canopus but I included it anyway as I like its name. It's a white supergiant and is very very bright - over 10,000 times brighter than the sun, in fact, and is also a source of x-rays which means it's spooky too. It's also a bit of a loner in galactic terms, and is not part of any stellar groups. I can relate to that...

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Sega Super Scaler Games #5 - Part 2

After Burner II (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 1,343,580
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, Nintendo 3DS, MegaDrive, PC Engine

When I was younger there were a good many things that confused me. Many of these are unsuitable for discussion here but some that are included: Why do frogs throats bulge so much? Why did some cars make that whistling sound as they drive along? Why do electricity pylons crackle when it rains? What would happen if you drilled all the way through the earth's crust into the mantle? All these things and many more questions of varying importance pootled around in the perpetually-distracted mind of my youth, but one thing that puzzled me like no other was this: What the frickin' frack was After Burner 2 all about? Game sequels, and indeed sequels generally, didn't often deviate from the originals that much but you could usually tell them apart, especially if you were actually trying to, but what was the difference between After Burner and After Burner 2? Only the Lord on high knew this hallowed secret, surely?

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Star Trek #14

Voyager Favourite Episodes - Season Seven

Great Scott, it sure has been a while since I did one of these! If fact, it has been so long I've had to rewatch the whole of Voyager's seventh season in order to make my selections! As I now recall, it was a pretty good final season for Janeway and Co too, though the fifth season remains the best I think. Nonetheless, I had to leave out a couple of episodes I really like in addition to the ploppier offerings.

B'Elanna and Tom prepare for the race...
Unsurprisingly, we start the season with the conclusion to Unimatrix Zero, a two-parter about a virtual reality place where Borg get to hang out as individuals. In another splendid Seven episode, she finds her life is at risk when her cortical implants start to malfunction. We also get to be dazzled by Tuvok's investigative skills following some mysterious attacks on ex-Maquis members of the crew, while the Doctor is kidnapped and forced to work in a poorly-equipped hospital. We also get an interesting episode where Tom and B'Elanna enter the new Delta Flyer in a space race (look at their fancy race suits!). Must be tempting to just shoot everyone in front of you though! The bumbling Lieutenant Barclay also returns, albeit in holographic (and less bumbly) form, to party with the crew and help get them home. Or does he? And in a rather amusing episode, the Doctor gets Seven all hot and bothered when he gets uploaded into her implants and makes her horny (snigger!).

Friday, 6 September 2019

First Look NES #3

Kira Kira Star Night by Riki (2013) - Famicom/PC

Although the NES/Famicom serves as inspiration for many indie games these days, it doesn't seem to get too much in the way of homebrew releases itself. This one caught my eye a while back though, due to its dazzling graphics and pleasing accompanying artwork. That isn't enormously surprising upon learning its creator, Riki, is a manga artist! Indeed, his talent in that field serves to make KKSN a visual treat filled with neon backgrounds and sharp sprites. Well, I say 'sprites' as in plural but there's only one really - the main character, a young girl known as Fami-chan. Further investigations reveal a game of early 80's simplicity which tasks you, as Fami-chan, with collecting as many stars as possible. These drop from the top of the screen or zip into view from the sides and you simply have to run/jump around the totally flat auto-scrolling stages collecting as many of them as you can.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

More Milestones Fall at Red Parsley!

Times have been hard here at Red Parsley for many moons now. Long gone are the days when I could rustle up 4 or 5 posts a week, getting thousands of visitors a day in the process. A lack of time and dibilitating bouts of depression and/or laziness have conspired to greatly reduce the number of posts here. I believe I've mentioned all this before though, and as Pop always says - never backward, always forwards. So wearily I continue to trudge forth in a perpetually despondent haze.

Apparently going unnnoticed during this mournful period were two landmarks here at Red Parsley of the type I would previously have planned for and marked with grand celebratory posts of appropriate jolliness. These two landmarks were: posting my 500th full game review, and achieving 1,000,000 pageviews.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

TV Shows #21 - Part 1

Killing Eve Season One (2018)
Developed/Written By: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Starring: Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, Fiona Shaw, Darren Boyd, Owen McDonnell, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Sean Delaney, David Haig, Kim Bodnia, Susan Lynch

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 41-55 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

With the exception of a handful of fondly-recalled classics I grew up with, I've never really been into British TV shows for some reason. For those who don't know me, this is slightly weird as I'm British. I suppose at least part of it is down to the main reason I watch films/shows - escapism. British shows, as good as some of them may be, often just remind me of the kind of stuff I'm trying to 'escape' from, so I usually steer clear just in case. On a different-though-related note, my wife has long been a fan of actress Sandra Oh, whose character she liked in Grey's Anatomy before she eventually got bored of the ultra-long-running show. Since a new show centred around Ms. Oh was nearing release, though, my better half was duly keen on watching it and invited me to join her. Upon doing so, however, I was mildly alarmed to find that it was a British show in which Ms. Oh was seemingly the 'token American' (or Canadian, as the case may be), but I had little choice but to try it anyway.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

First Look Xbox #2

Burnout Revenge by Criterion Games / Electronic Arts (2005) - Xbox

From the moment I played Burnout I loved it. It's exactly the kind of racing game I like. Happily for me, the sequel was even better. Both games contain among the fastest, most precise, and most intense racing action I've experienced in an arcade racer and I spent many hours going through all the races and competitions and attempting to better my times. Then the foul EA bought Criterion and, typically, they ruined just about everything I loved about the games. I played Takedown for about ten minutes and that was enough to know I didn't like it, so when I saw Revenge for a mere £2 a while back, even at that price I wasn't sure. I got it anyway in the end, to review here if nothing else, but I didn't expect to like it any more than Takedown. Expecting to dislike a game going in isn't the best idea I suppose but everything I had seen indicated a continuation of EA's nonsense, and indeed, when I finally got it going, an intense frown immediately developed as I realised I had been correct all along.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Game Gallery #7

Thunder Force 3 by Techno Soft (1990) - MegaDrive

It has been a looong time since I did one of these, which is a bit strange considering how many screenshots I usually grab when playing games for reviews. I might as well put some of them to use, surely? Yes I should, and so it shall be once more. To that end, bewildering absence notwithstanding, the Game Gallery is now back! Since the last one was for Thunder Force 2, for this return I thought it's immediate sequel and 'Finest MD Shmup' title-holder, Thunder Force III was a logical choice.

Click here for the full review of this fine game.

Special Note: As many of you will know, players can choose between the game's first five stages from the start. This gallery, however, will feature them in the 'correct' order, thus:

Title and 'Secret' Config Screens:

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Dizzy Series - Part 6

Kiwk Snax (1990)
By: Oliver Twins / Code Masters Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 9,262
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC

Another Dizzy game, another great loading screen...
My good friend Luke and I used to regularly enjoy playing Fast Food all those many moons ago, despite its simple and repetitive nature. Maybe that was its appeal in those days, but little did I (we?) know that it actually got a sequel a few years later too, in the form of the slightly-annoyingly-named Kwik Snax. It's not one of those pesky 'data disc' sequels either - the basic mazey game style is similar but there are definitely a lots of differences between the two. I don't think Fast Food even had a backstory really, but Kwik Snax is apparently set in the 'Land of Personality' where Dizzy and the Yolkfolk are finishing their tour of Yolkland. Unfortunately they had an argument which woke Zaks the evil wizard, and his resultant spells sent all but Dizzy to the furthest reaches of the world! Luckily, this leaves Dizzy free to rescue their sorry arses and bitchslap Zaks while he's at it. If he feels like it.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Manga - A Beginner's Look #2

Do You Like Big Girls? (2014-Present)
Original Title: Ookii Onnanoko wa Suki desu ka?
By: Aizome, Goro (Story & Art)
Chapters: 39 (so far) Total Pages: 14-20 per chapter

Genres: Ecchi, Romance, School, Sports, Harem, Seinen

I guess it's probably not too hard to see why this particular manga caught my eye, but upon further investigation I found that the 'big girls' of the title does not refer to their chest regions but to their statures generally. The main character, Tachibana Souta, is a fairly normal schoolboy except he's a bit on the short side. This is something he finds mighty irksome, especially in light of the fact that his 'big' sister, Kaoru, is a tremendously lofty six-and-a-half foot! Putting this considerable height to her advantage, she is one of six members of her college's volleyball team. Unfortunately, their manager is in hospital long-term, recuperating from an illness, so who do they rope into becoming their stand-in manager? Yes that's right - Souta! Of course, what they call 'manager' ends up meaning 'lackey', but it's not all bad as he also finds himself surrounded by his sister's equally lofty, and not-aethetically-unpleasant teammates, all of whom, in a stunningly unexpected plot-twist, find Souta completely irresistable!

Monday, 5 August 2019

PS4 Purchases #6

Axiom Verge by Thomas Happ Games (2015)

It's slightly startling to think about how long ago this was released as it still almost seems like a current release in my (peculiar) mind, but it has nonetheless been on my wanted list the whole time - first on Steam, then the physical PS4 version on Amazon which is of course the one I finally bought this past week. I was going to get the standard version which was available for the bargain sum of ten sheets. It is, however, bereft of any bells and whistles as you might well expect, unlike the fancy 'Multiverse Edition' which I thought cost significantly more. But soon after receiving my purchase, I found that the lovelier special edition was only fifteen nicker, so of course I swiftly returned the normal version and ordered the special one instead which, as you can see, also arrived promptly!

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Film Review #109

It has a great poster/cover at least...
Peppermint (2018)
Director: Pierre Morel Starring: Jennifer Garner, John Ortiz, John Gallagher Jr., Juan Pablo Raba, Tyson Ritter, Jeff Hephner

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 102 Minutes

Tagline: "The system failed. She won't."

Meet Riley North. She's a middle-aged banker from Los Angeles where she lives with husband Chris (Hephner) and 10-year old daughter Carly. They aren't doing terribly well financially, but they're getting by. For their daughter's birthday they take her to a local carnival. In the midst of this family evening out, however, a drive-by shooting results in the tragic death of Chris and Carly. The injured Riley is able to identify the shooters but they escape justice due to their connections and the corrupt officials handling the trial. Incredulous, devastated, enraged, she is taken away, then disappears. When she returns five years later, however, certain members of the criminal underworld and law-enforcement community formerly involved with her case begin meeting brutal ends. Is isn't too long before the rozzers start remembering stuff and recognise a pattern, but can they do anything about it? Or given the type of people getting killed, will they do anything about it?

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Indie Games News/Previews #14

Savior by Starsoft (2020?) - PC, Consoles (TBD)

There are so many superb looking indie games around these days it's hard to keep track. The latest one to catch my eye is Savior (known previously as Into the Rift) which is currently being developed by Starsoft, a small studio made up of veterans of both the game and movie industries. It's a 2D side-scroller and is being touted as an 'open world platformer', and while it clearly takes influence from several genres, there does seem to be an extensive amount of platforming. Splendidly, this isn't just bog-standard running/jumping action either - one of the numerous notable things about the game is the main character's parkour-inspired movements, as can be seen in the pics and trailer here. Look as she flips and leaps all over the place, dodging enemies and scaling the terrain!

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

PSP Games #2

Platypus (2006)
By: Anthony Flack / MumboJumbo Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sony PSP  First Day Score: 107,745
Also Available For: PC, Mac, XBox 360, Many mobile phones (all downloads)

It has been a while since I looked at a PSP game here (seven years, apparently - jeepers!), so to mark my return I thought I'd take a look at this eye-catching (and rather strangely-named) title by Anthony Flack, an indie game designer from New Zealand. One might assume from its name that it's a curious platformer or maybe a puzzle game or something like that, but no, it's actually a horizontal shmup set in a lovely peaceful land known as Mungola. Sadly, the loveliness of this country is being threatened by those pesky oafs from the neighbouring Colossatropolis which has become so overcrowded that its people have begun taking over Mungola, destroying the peace, using up precious resources, and probably leaving their rubbish all over the place too.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Film Round-Up #26

I suspect many others shared my appreciation of fighting films while growing up in the 80's, with classics like Bloodsport and Best of the Best to watch repeatedly, but I guess I kind of grew out of them. Not so long ago though, I happened upon a YouTube clip of some guy performing all sorts of crazy flippy spinny jumps and kicks on various hapless opponents. I soon identified him and the film in question and had to watch it. It turned out it was part of a series though, so I figured I might as well watch all of them and report back here with my largely inconsequential verdict!

Undisputed (2002)

The story in this original film in the series is centred around George 'Iceman' Chambers (Ving Rhames), the undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion who is sent down for rape and ends up in supermax. Of course, it turns out the prison holds its own boxing matches and has its own 'undisputed' champion in Monroe Hutchens (Wesley Snipes). Astonishingly, the betting syndicate that oversees the fights there are keen to see the two champs go head-to-head. The pompous and cocky Chambers is also eager to assert his dominance, and after a few snags (like Monroe ending up in the SHU) the fight is confirmed, with arrangements handled by ageing mob boss Ripstein (Peter Falk). There isn't really much here that's going to surprise you though. The premise is pretty good but there is basically only two proper fights in the film, and while both Rhames and Snipes look reasonably proficient in them (to my inexperienced eyes at least), that means you'll spend most of your time with the generic characters and bland script. I guess it's not too bad for what it is but don't go expecting a knockout (chortle!)... 5/10

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Retro News - N64 Gets a Boost!

The Nintendo 64 isn't the most respected system in retro gaming circles - mainly, I suspect, due to its shortage of 2D titles, not to mention its reputation among the more snobby elitist gamers as little more than a kids toy (something I looked at here a few years back). I've always liked the N64 though, and I know a good few others still do too, so for the benefit of us, here's what will most likely be good news!

Check out the awesome N64-themed box...
Gamers who are either unwilling or unable to have a bulky CRT TV front and centre of their collection have long been burdened with an unsatisfactory picture quality when using their old consoles on modern TV/monitor screens, and as its critics seem overjoyed in pointing out, the N64 was often blighted by rather 'fuzzy' graphics to begin with. However, help is at hand, for N64 fans at least, thanks to Eon, a company previously responsible for a GameCube HDMI adaptor called GCHD. Now they have announced the Super 64, a similar plug-and-play adaptor for the GC's predecessor. It's due for release on July 22nd and will allow N64 owners to play their games on HDMI displays in lagless 480p - the highest quality possible using the system's native hardware, and twice its original resolution.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Gaming Flashbacks #3

Ask ten different retroheads what their favourite Atari arcade game is and you will be guaranteed two things. Firstly, that everyone will have an answer, but also that you'll probably get ten different answers. They had so many classics, from the early years with addictive coin-guzzlers like Breakout, Asteroids and Centipede, up to what in my opinion was their heyday in mid-to-late 80's with innovative titles such as Paperboy, Marble Madness, STUN Runner, and the marvellous Escape From the Planet of the Robot Monsters, but my vote would usually go to Gauntlet.

It was originally released way back in 1985 and, over the intervening years, I've played just about every version of it to have seen release. The first version I played, though, and still probably the one I've spent the most time with, was the stonking conversion the Speccy received. Despite being a pesky multi-load game it was indeed a fine version of what was already considered a classic. It offered simultaneous two-player action - an option that was duly pursued enthusiastically by myself and friends. As wonderful as the Spectrum was, though, it did sometimes struggle as a result of its meagre 'spectrum' of colours (chortle!), and as a result, the colours of many of the sprites and backgrounds are different to the arcade original. This kind of thing was standard with conversions on the 8-bit micros, naturally, and some enemies such as the ghosts and demons were the correct colours anyway, but one that wasn't was the 'grunts' which were originally brown, but here they were... pink!

Friday, 21 June 2019

TV Shows #20

Cobra Kai Season One (2018)
Developed By: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg Starring: William Zabka, Ralph Macchio, Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni Decenzo

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 22-36 Minutes per Episode, 10 Episodes

As I'm sure you don't need me to tell you, there have been a lot of reboots and belated sequels to old classic films and TV shows in recent years. Some have worked, others have been disasters, so when Cobra Kai was announced I suspect "Here we go again!" was the reaction of most people who cared enough to have one. It is of course based on the Karate Kid film series of the 80's, primarily the original movie which arrived a mind-crushingly vast 35 years ago, and that was a bit of a worry. It is a precious film to many who grew up with it, after all. One of my friends counts it as his favourite film of all-time, for example. Even more concerningly, the new show would be centred around the two leads from the original movie - Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka as his enemy and rival, Johnny Lawrence.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Sega Game Gear A-Z

It didn't take long for Sega to jump on the handheld bandwagon, and their effort was pretty much a balance between the Game Boy and Lynx. A lot of its games were Master System conversions, but it also received a decent amount of original titles, especially in its native Japan. Here I will be looking at them all:

K is for...

Kaitou Saint Tail by Sega (1996)

Like many GG games, this one is based on a manga/anime series and was only released in Japan. It's therefore not super-easy to follow but is basically a collection of mini-games (tile-matching, etc) set around an overworld town/field. Probably one for fans or collectors only. The presentation is nice though.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Top Five Elephants

Few of the wondrous species that inhabit our increasingly-abused planet are as vital to the continued health and longevity of its ecosystem and general environment as elephants. These colossal trampers have been around since not too long after the dinos got obliterated by a giant asteroid, and they've flourished ever since. Well, until our idiotic species came to prominence and started wiping them out, anyway. Here are the five most notable types to have trumpeted their way across the land:

5... Asian Elephant

The pipsqueak of the elephant family is this smallest-but-still-large variety, averaging around 2.6m tall and weighing in at around 3-4 tonnes. It's found in Asia, believe it or not, and is easily recogniseable in pictures due to its smaller ears. It's often also known as the Indian Elephant but is actually found across much of the Sub Continent and South East Asia, even making it to islands such as Sri Lanka and Borneo. Despite having been exploited by mankind since pretty much forever,as well as being considered sacred by some countries, we are still apparently doing our best to cause its extinction, mainly through destruction of its habitat.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Run 'n' Gun Games #8

Green Beret a.k.a. Rush'n Attack (1985)
By: Konami Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 37,050 (one credit)
Also Available For: NES, Famicom Disk System, MSX, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4, Atari 8-bit, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum (ports)
Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 (on compilations)

Although very popular at the time, and converted to every format under the sun, I'd still only played Green Beret on my trusty Speccy prior to this review. I didn't really like it too much back then either, even though I had it on disk for my mighty +3 which meant I could have it up and running within 30 seconds or so. Despite this, for no readily apparent reason it popped into my head spontaneously the other day, so I figured I'd give it the once over here as part of my run 'n' gun feature. This may make some people's eyes widen in shock but I would say it still counts as a run 'n' gunner - you do run around platforms taking out never-ending enemies after all. There isn't much in the way gunning though, I must admit, with the nameless stock military dude under your control here (we'll call him Gavin for review purposes) apparently preferring bladed weapons. So, it's a run 'n' stabber then? That's good enough for me!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Film Review #108

Bumblebee (2018)
Director: Travis Knight Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr, John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Dylan O'Brien, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 114 Minutes

Tagline: "Every adventure has a beginning"

Like many 80's kids, I was very excited when I heard Michael Bay was making a Transformers film back in the mid-2000's. As it turned out, also like many 80's kids, I was distinctly underwhelmed and didn't even bother watching its sequels after hearing virtually unanimous vitriol directed towards them. However, announced around the time the fifth film in the series was in the cinema was Bumblebee which was, surprisingly, being touted as a reboot. Whatever they decided to call it though, I wasn't really interested in watching it back then. After all, Transformers films suck - that was, by this point, the rule. But then, reports began to surface that it was, in fact, not crap. Could it be true? Well, Michael Bay didn't direct it so there was at least a chance. Could there really be a Transformers film that doesn't suck ass?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Top Five Streets of Rage Characters

For many, the Streets of Rage name is synonymous with the very finest of scrolling fighting games, even eclipsing Final Fight, the game it was originally created to rival. One of the many great things about the series is its playable characters of whom there are six across the three official games in the series. That admittedly makes this Top Five somewhat pointless as only one of the characters will miss out, but as always it's just a bit of fun. The big question is, who's the loser?

5. Skate - Appeared in SOR2 & SOR3

This little pipsqueak debuted in the second game and is apparently kid brother to Adam from the original. Given his size and age, he would've been fast anyway, but he also has a pair of roller-blades so he is, by some margin, the fastest character in the game. The trade-off is power of course, but despite his speed making him effective nonetheless, he is still slightly unsatisfying to use. He has a nice breakdance-inspired special move though.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Sega SG-1000 A-Z

Sega's first console was only released in Japan and soon faced strong competition in the form of the NES as well as several home micros. It received a reasonable number of releases though, and I will be featuring all of them in this listing. This is the first of four parts and features all games beginning with letters A through C:

Bank Panic by Sanritsu / Sega (1984) - My Card release

I remember this one better as a Master System release but the arcade original was also apparently converted to the SG too, and it works pretty well. The Wild West theme is well used, placing you in the shoes of a sheriff attempting to thwart bank robbers. Not a bad game but a little repetitive. (mini review here)

Thursday, 16 May 2019

TV Show First Look #4

The Act (2019)

As I'm sure many would agree, the films/shows based on true events are quite often among the most compelling, and the latest one to come to prominence is The Act, a Hulu original consisting of eight episodes. It concerns the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a teenage girl raised by her mother Dee Dee to believe she was wheelchair-bound and suffering from all manner of debilitating illnesses and syndromes. As this show explores, however, she gradually discovers that her overbearing mother may not have been entirely truthful about her many conditions. This inevitably leads to considerable tension between them as well as suspicion from their few neighbours in the secluded suburb they live in.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Computer Shmups #7

Agony (1992)
By: Art & Magic / Psygnosis Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 93,136
Also Available For: Nothing

Shmups have come in all manner of shapes and sizes over the long years of their existence, which is as many years as videogames have been around themselves, in fact. Most of them put you in command of an aircraft or spaceship, some cast you as a lone wizard or warrior of some sort, taking on the evildoers on foot, but there have been very few animal-based shooters. The Amiga is home to two notable examples however, both of which were released in the same year. Almost certainly the most memorable of the two, all things considered, was Agony. Even on a system not particularly associated with arcade-style shooters, it earned attention from all quarters, at least here in the UK during what was probably the genre's heyday. Most marvelled at the impressive artwork, both promotional and in-game, but how does it stand up today?

Friday, 3 May 2019

Indie Games News/Previews #13

Panzer Paladin by Tribute Games (2020) - PC, PS4, Xbox One

Tribute Games have been one of my favourite indie developers since they first arrived about 8 years ago so I'm always looking forward to new releases by them. Their latest is the intriguingly-named Panzer Paladin which is, to quote Tribute themselves, "an engaging action-platformer with fun and intuitive swordplay". There isn't any actual gameplay footage yet but, judging by the screenshots, it looks like it could have a bit of a Castlevania feel to it. It also looks pretty awesome, with Tribute's trademark lovely pixel art visual style very evident once again, even at this early stage. The game will undoubtedly have a bit of an adventurey tang to it as well. It's at least a year away yet but it seems like Tribute could have another corker on their hands here. More to follow...

No trailer or game footage yet but keep track of developments at the official site here.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

TV Shows #19

Hanna Season One (2019)
Developed By: David Farr Starring: Esme Creed-Miles, Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Rhianne Barreto, Justin Salinger, Benno Fürmann, Katharina Heyer, Andy Nyman, Joanna Kulig

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 47-55 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

There haven't been a huge number of films in the last 10-or-so years that I've loved enough to add to my long list of all-time favourites, but one that I did enjoy immensely and have rewatched many times since is Hanna. For those who don't know it (why not?), it's a high-octane chase thriller centred around the unique and highly-skilled 15 year girl of the title. It features a superb central performance from Saoirse Ronan, strong support from the rest of the fine cast including Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, fantastic cinematography, and a great soundtrack, all of which results in a tense and captivating thriller. Suffice to say, anyone producing a TV show based on it would have their work cut out for them. Reassuringly, the man behind it is David Farr who also co-wrote the film, so there's some authenticity, but film-to-TV transitions can still be tricky so I was keen to see how he got on.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Retro Gaming Zoo #3

Humans are stupid. Animals are always better than stupid humans, everyone knows that, and it's something that's also true in the world of video games. A tremendous variety of weird and wonderful animals have starred in games over the years and here I'll be taking a closer look at some of them. Next up is:

Creature #3 - Rolo of Rolo to the Rescue
Type of Creature? Elephant  Realistic Portrayal? Yes

Much of my MegaDrive years was taken up by platformers and most of my favourites featured animals of some sort. This one was a challenge, not least because of its size and lack of save or password facility, but it was enormous fun anyway. One of the many reasons for this was the amusing animals contained therein, several of which you could control. Chief among them was Rolo, a brave trumpeter seeking to escape the oppression of circus life. He faced many dangers across the many, many stages that make up the game, but he mostly approached them as only an elephant could. He's not particularly athletic but he can use his trunk to suck stuff up or squirt it out, he can squash enemies beneath his substantial grey mass, and he is highly adaptable to a variety of potentially hostile surroundings. I'm not sure his perpetually-cheerful demeanour (or fondness for hats) is especially elephant-like but I think we can overlook that since he's such a kind-hearted tramper. It's just a shame this was the only time we saw him. Time for a Steam-based reboot?

Is His Game Any Good? Yes, it's spiffing! It was exclusive to the MegaDrive so those idiotic Nintendo and Amiga owners never got to sample its delights, despite the fact it was by the guys behind the James Pond series which appeared on many formats. It made owning an MD that bit sweeter though. You might even call it a hidden gem! Impressive considering how many rivals it had. Check the full review here.


Saturday, 20 April 2019

TV Shows #18

The Night Of (2016)
Developed By: Richard Price & Steven Zaillian Starring: John Turturro, Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Maadi, Poorna Jagannathan, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Afton Williamson, Ben Shenkman, Jeannie Berlin, Paul Sparks, Ned Eisenberg, Nabil Elouahabi, Michael Kenneth Williams, Glenne Headly, Amara Karan, Kirk 'Sticky Fingaz' Jones, Mohammad Bakri, Ashley Thomas, Paulo Costanzo, Chip Zien, Glenn Fleshler

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 56-96 Minutes per Episode, 8 Episodes

Tagline: "What happened"

There have been several films and TV shows over the years that have dealt with the aftermath of an eventful night out (The Hangover being a fairly prominent recent example), but I can't imagine too many are as messed up, from the protagonist's perspective at least, as The Night Of. It's based on the first season of British drama, Criminal Justice, and is actually a miniseries rather than a new show proper, so this 'first season' is all there will be, but it's likely to be one that will stays with you long after the last of the eight one hour (on average) episodes has finished.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Retro News - New R-Type!

R-Type Final 2 by Granzella (2019?) - PS4

Despite the popularity of their ace series and its legendary status over the years, Irem have often seemed keen to put R-Type to the sword. The last proper new shmup to bear the name was R-Type Final, a PS2 exclusive back in 2003. Given its name you would expect that to be the last. Then, about 5 years later came a couple of turn-based strategy spin-offs for the PSP known as R-Type Tactics (or Command to US players), and I'm pretty sure I remember Irem actually saying at the time that they would be the last games in the series, and so it was for many moons. But then, just a couple of weeks past, on April Fool's Day no less, stories began to surface of something called R-Type Final 2. Given the timing, everyone just assumed it was an amusing-yet-cruel jape on the part of the developer, especially given their track-record of similar pranks, but egads - it has now been confirmed as a real game by the team themselves!

Monday, 15 April 2019

Top Five Red Birds

Birds are pretty awesome, even someone as unenvironmentally friendly as Jeremy Clarkson knows that, but here in Europe most of them are a bit dull in terms of colour. Plenty of blacks, whites, browns, etc, but not many bright colours. They appear to be nearly exclusive to the tropics. There it's rare to see a bird that isn't brightly coloured. Here is a look at five of the finest bright red examples :)

5... Red Munia

Also known as the red avadavat, this little finch is found in tropical Asian regions where it lives in fields and grasslands. Only the male is red like this, and even then only during breeding season, but that doesn't make it any less eye-catching.