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.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

NES Platform Games #7

Kid Kool a.k.a. Kakefu Kimi no Jump Tengoku (1991)
By: Vic Tokai Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES
Also Available For: Nothing

The mighty and wonderful Psycho Fox has been among my favourite platformers (and therefore my favourite games) since the Elder Days, and has spent many moons in my Master System's 'slot' (tee hee!). Back then I always thought it was an actual Sega game - it wasn't until several years later that I discovered the marvellously named (and also very excellent) MegaDrive platformer, Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure was made by the same team at Vic Tokai, a Japanese developer who made games for many formats of their day. One of them has only just come to my attention, owing mainly to the Nintendo allergy that ailed me in the NES era, and it has turned out to be what basically amounts to a semi-prequel or practice run for Psycho Fox itself. This means - hooray! It was released only a year earlier and, as other fans of the stonking Master System game will quickly see, there are many similarities.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Top Five Princess Leias

Those of you around my age will very likely have had at least some Star Wars figures lying around your bedrooms when you were growing up, specifically those from the range of 90-ish figures released by Kenner. I certainly have fond memories of them, even if I never quite managed to collect them all, and one character whose figures I seem to remember better than most is the lovely Princess Leia Organa.

This could be because she was one of my first crushes (especially after seeing Return of the Jedi - snigger!), even if none of her numerous figures really looked like her. Not that any plastic figure would be capable of capturing her beauty anyway (simper)! So here's a largely-pointless look at my five favourite Leia-guises and comparisons with the equivalent Kenner figures. Long may her illustrious hotness live on :)

5. Bespin Leia

The first chance Leia had to get out of her skanky Hoth outfit, have a shower, and enjoy a change of clothes, resulted in this arrangement, possibly chosen by the charming/slimy (delete as appropriate) Lando. I was never the biggest fan of this look, worn during her stay in Cloud City, but hey - it's still Leia!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

New Arrival - Glowy Laptop!

Okay, this particular new arrival may not be remotely retro-related but it does have at least some gaming relevance! Before we look into that, however, let us first pause for a moment to remember my trusty red HP Pavilion which has been retired after about five years of faithful service. Not many of you knew it in person but if you've visited my humble page before, there's a good chance anything you saw or read therein was played, captured, written, and edited on my glorious red laptop.

It was a bit of a pain now and then - it was even running Windows 8 - but overall, it was a mighty fine machine and served me very well. The decision to replace it was made for a few reasons. Getting new stuff is always cool anyway, but it was mainly because of performance issues - it had been getting slower and slower (most likely due to its age, I suspect) and I've been growing impatient for an SSD-based OS, so I just figured it was time for an upgrade. And if you're going to buy something like a computer, you might as well make it a stonking great one!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

PS4 Purchases #5

No Man's Sky by Hello Games (2016)

Despite having posted about most of my recent PS4 acquisitions, I'm still rather behind on posting about the earlier ones, so I thought I'd go right back to the beginning with this one. As long time readers may know, I was ultra-excited about No Man's Sky - the promo blurb and screenshots made it seem like a game that would appeal to me enormously, but as it turned out, it failed completely to live up to its promises. I still wanted to try it anyway but at the time of its release I didn't have a PS4 and my PC apparently wasn't capable of running that version, so I missed out. Upon unexpectedly getting a PS4, however, it was one of the first titles to pop into my head. Supposedly it was superior to the PC version anway, and after buying Driveclub with my new console, the next purchase I made was this one.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Film Round-Up #25

Some say (notably my wife) that I have an unhealthy obsession with Heather Graham but that's not true at all, I just find her a naturally appealing actress. Sadly, it seems not too many of her films are particularly great, but I have been continuing to watch more of them in the hopes of finding a few hidden gems. Here is the latest selection, randomly chosen from her Wikipedia page (chuckle!)...

Committed (2000)

As we learn in the film's very first scene, Jo (Graham) is a committed person - a revelation she hits us with immediately prior to her white wedding. Flash forward a couple of years and she's doing pretty well. She has lots of friends, she runs a club, etc - only to find hubby has cleaned out his stuff and left her. Yes, you heard that right - a guy who was married to someone who looks exactly the same as Heather Graham... left her! ... *bewilderment* ... She would have to give me a judo-chop to the gentleman's region to get rid of me! Anyway, against most people's advice, Jo tracks down her errant spouse Carl (Luke Wilson) to try and win him back despite clear indications that he's not interested! ... *more bewilderment* ... She gets a bit of help along the way from her brother (Casey Affleck) and a few other interesting characters she meets, including Carl's new girlfriend (Patricia Velásquez), and thanks to this great cast, Committed is actually pretty enjoyable, perhaps aside from some questionable decisions made by Heather's character. She's still as appealing as ever though, and this is one of her better non-big-name films... 7/10

Friday, 22 February 2019

Isometric Games #4

Batman (1986)
By: Jon Ritman & Bernie Drummond / Ocean Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1
Difficulty: Medium Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 824
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, MSX

Pretty much ever since I first got (or was given - thanks mum and dad!) a Spectrum, one of my top five favourite games for it has been Head Over Heels. Not only was it a wonderful adventure in its own right but it also made me a fan of isometric games generally, so it's strange that it has taken me such an extraordinary amount of time to get around to playing this example. I've never really been a fan of the Caped Crusader in general but this, possibly the first Speccy title to bear his name, is one that has long been considered the spiritual predecessor of Head Over Heels. Both were products of the same ace two-man team of Jon Ritman (programming) and Bernie Drummond (graphics), so it's not too much of a surprise that they have a lot in common, and there are similarities in both the visuals and game design as well.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

First Look TV Show #3

Wreck Trek (2013)

Not more than a few days past was I watching something-or-other via my Amazon Fire Stick thingy when I saw Wreck Trek in the 'you may also like' section afterwards. I am usually cautious of the unknown but its premise was fairly enticing so I thought I would give it a go. It features a bunch of people - six as I recall - who have been charged with finding the three cheapest cars they can in Berlin (the 'wrecks' of the title), getting them into a roadworthy state, then pairing up and driving them from Berlin all the way down to South Africa. A not-inconsiderable distance I'm sure you'll agree! This sounded like it might be rather splendid - kind of like one of the Top Gear/Grand Tour 'specials' where they drive their own themed cheapo cars across vast stretches of the world (though not nearly as far as proposed here) while engaging in all manner of tomfooleries and showcasing the country/culture they are in too.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Retro News - Free Dreamcast Book!

I don't write about the Dreamcast here nearly as much as I should. It's mainly a time issue - its games will generally take much longer to play and write reviews for - but it's still a bit of a travesty considering how splendid the system is, and how important it is to me too. I do try to keep up with news from within the lively DC community though, and recently I heard a splendid example.

As you may have already noticed by the interceding picture here, the DC community hasn't just been burbling on about their favourite console and its many fine games. They have gone to the effort of making an entire book listing them all, and the best part is - it's completely free to download and keep! This will be of particular interest to hardcore DC fans too, as it's an amazingly comprehensive tome. Every single game ever released for the console is contained within including indie titles released after the console's supposed demise, and all entries have an overview of the game as well as detailed release info including any regional variants or alternate names, etc.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Film Review #107

A Simple Favor (2018)
Director: Paul Feig Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Bashir Salahuddin, Jean Smart, Rupert Friend

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 117 Minutes

Tagline: "Can you keep a secret?"

I have become very wary of Paul Feig's name over the last few years. This is mainly owing to his apparent partiality to Melissa McCarthy to whom I quickly became allergic upon first seeing one of her films, which was a product of their collaborations. I am, however, the opposite of wary when it comes to the delightful Anna Kendrick, so what do I do when she stars in a Feig film? When first news of A Simple Favor reached me, I'm sorry to say that fear soundly defeated affection, even with McCarthy's name nowhere to be seen, and I duly noted it down on my mental 'films to avoid' list. But then news began to reach me of its alleged splendour. I was also mildly startled to see it appearing on some people's 'Best Films of 2018' lists. With this new and unexpected information at hand, I summoned the will to slap fear around the chops with the back of my hand and set out in pursuit of this possibly-fine-after-all film.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

A Decidedly Ungamey Year

As I may have mentioned before, I am in the unfortunate position of only having one real life friend who's into videogames, and sadly he doesn't live particularly close to me these days either. Much of our communication, therefore, is by phone or internet. Around last Christmas, he sent a text asking me what the best five games I'd played for the first time in the previous calendar year were. This was, I believe, with a view to exchanging recommendations to be played in the coming year, but after giving it some thought, I realised I had barely even played five games for the first time that year, never mind enough to be able to select the best ones!

This realisation was slightly alarming, worrying even, but at the same time not too surprising. Nonetheless, I immediately decided this year would be different - I would make sure to play many games this time around. These need not be modern games, you understand - anything qualifies as long as I haven't played it at all previously. As part of this regimen, I would make sure to play the five games my good friend Luke had recommended. Here's a look at his choices, none of which I have played, but by the year's end... I will have - I swear it by the old gods and the new.

SteamWorld Dig (2013)

Rather embarrassingly, this is one I have already had in my Good Old Games collection for lord knows how long. I did play and review the game from which it seems to take its inspiration - Spelunker - many moons ago with an OCD-related intention to move onto this fancy reimagining in due course but, well, you know, I kind of forgot about I guess! I don't know why though, it looks like just the sort of game I would enjoy immensely. I can spend hours collecting and exploring in an atmospheric platformy environment and I haven't found a game of that type that has really hooked me in a good while now. Hopefully, thanks to Luke's timely reminder, I will now belatedly have another one to get stuck into.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Top Five Heather Graham Outfits

As the few regular visitors here may well know, I've long had a bit of a thing for the lovely Heather Graham. She's unlikely to win an Oscar for her acting, I guess I can concede that, but she's a decent enough actress and has a natural charm that I find very appealing. Then there's her aesthetic qualities which are, frankly, remarkable. Not only that but she looks pretty much the same today as she did 25 years ago! Not sure what sort of witchcraft she practises to maintain those pleasing attributes but, luckily for us, she seems happy to let us continue appreciating them from afar. Here are some of my favourite outfits of hers from various events:

          5... Just Cavalli Soho Store Opening, 2013

Friday, 18 January 2019

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #14

Guzzler (1983)
By: Tehkan Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 27,350 (one credit)
Also Available For: SG-1000

I was actually playing a pretty awful old shmup with a view to entering a score in a retro league when I noticed the name of this game just above it. I hadn't heard of it but I thought I'd give it a quick go anyway. Given its name, I expected it to be a blatant Pac-Man clone or perhaps even some some of binge-eating game, like a food version of Tapper, but it was not. While it is indeed a maze game, it's not like the one starring that flappy-jawed yellow gobbler at all. Each stage is a single screen in size and features mazey-like layouts, but the similarities are not extensive besides that. It even took me a few minutes to work out what was going on when I first tried it. I guess that shouldn't be too surprising!

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

PS4 Purchases #4

Okay, they weren't purchases this time, strictly speaking, for I was fortunate enough to receive two brand new PS4 games for Christmas this year, as bequeathed by my simply delightful family. I guess I was at least moderately good this year (chortle)!

Surviving Mars by Haemimont Games / Paradox Interactive (2018)

Historically, I've always been a bit turned off by strategy games, I'm ashamed to say. I do like spacey stuff though, so I added this game to my Amazon wishlist a while back in the hopes that it might persuade me to stop being such a lazy oaf and actually put some time/effort into one. I went for this one mainly due to the setting and premise which are certainly appealing - the player is charged with building and maintaining a domed city - or cities - on the slightly inhospitable Red Planet. Shades of The Martian, perhaps? Well, the game is apparently modelled on real martian data so it's certainly possible (eep!). I'll just have to hope it's beginner-friendly too, or I might have a tough time working out how to play it! I'm looking forward to giving it a try anyway. Watch out martians - mankind is here to ruin your planet too!