Friday 31 May 2024

Steam / GOG Downloads #9

1001 Spikes (2014)
By: Nicalis, Inc. Genre: Platform Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Mac

I can't recall how I first came upon this game but pixelly platformers always catch my eye, and it wasn't long before this example reminded me of a specific, not to mention notorious game from the 80s. Can you guess which one from the screenshots here? Yes, that's right, it's Rick Dangerous! If you've ever played Core Design's game you'll know exactly what that means, but if you haven't, allow me to explain. I believe in general terms the genre is known as 'precision platformer' but in the case of Rick Dangerous, it would be better described as 'cheap death platformer'. Cheap deaths are generally frowned upon in the gaming world but it didn't stop Rick Dangerous from being pretty popular. Does this much newer game from Nicalis Inc. share its appeal? Let's find out :)

Saturday 13 April 2024

MSX Round-Up #3

I guess this makes me a bit of a weirdo, but one of the most memorable things about Golvellius for me was Randar, the awesome shopkeeper. This might seem to suggest that Golvellius sucks ass but it is a mighty splendid game, particularly the versions for the MSX2 and the mighty Master System. But in spite of its splendour, I still carry with me joyful memories of the cheerful blue fellow in addition to fond memories of the game itself. I guess I just like cute/amusing/weird characters in games!

As you've probably already seen for yourself, Randar is basically a blue sphere with rudimentary feet and a perpetually happy face. Well, I assume he's a sphere - I guess he could be a two-dimensional blue circle, but he is awesome nonetheless. He is friendly and helpful and his warm personality could brighten up the gloomiest day. He even speaks in a semi-medieval stylee! Such is my affection for this odd character, imagine my happiness, not to mention surprise, when I found out he had his own entire games! Three of them! Which he alone was the star of! Unfortunately, I also soon found that they're all RPGs of all things - a genre I admire but seldom play.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Film Review #124

Road House (2024)
Director: Doug Liman Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniela Melchior, Billy Magnussen, Conor McGregor, Jessica Williams, Joaquim de Almeida, Austin Post

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 121 Minutes

Tagline: "Take it outside"

Only a few weeks ago my good friend Luke came to visit me for a few days. We don't see each other often these days so we had decided in advance on a few old classic films we wanted to watch while he was visiting and one of them was Road House. It was a popular film with our generation, of course, but I realised that it must've been at least 25-odd years since I'd seen it. Even more surprisingly, I found that I still knew a lot of the dialogue to the point where I could recite lines before they were spoken! Anyway, it was great to see it again after all this time, and it was great to see Luke again too. We watched a few other films, then he left and I got back to the various shows I'm watching on my streaming services... BUT THEN!! What did I see? Road House was showing on the bit at the top of the screen where Amazon spams new stuff, and then I vaguely remembered hearing something about an upcoming remake, but I'd forgotten all about it. Should I risk watching it?

Saturday 23 March 2024

Overrated! #9

Hard Drivin' (1988)
By: Atari Genre: Drivin' Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 44,091
Also Available For: Mega Drive, Lynx, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

When I recently had the brainwave to include this notable game in my 'Overrated!' feature it seemed like a superb idea and I congratulated myself accordingly, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it's a game that was ever all that highly rated to begin with. I mean, I seem to recall the conversions getting decent reviews in the many magazines of the day but it's not really a game that gets mentioned nowadays, nor as far back as I can remember after its release. I first played it on my trusty Speccy and it was pretty good, all things considered, but fairly soon after I did actually find its arcade progenitor too. I seem to recall it being a pretty pricey game for the day but I had to try it, obviously. It was housed in a large sit-down cab and was one of those machines that made it seem like a big deal. It even had a key to start it! Once I started playing it, however, I was rather less impressed.

Friday 8 March 2024

Top Five Master System Budget Games

I've done a lot of Top Fives here over the years. Most are nonsense, of course, some even embarrass me now, but some I was and remain quite pleased with. Examples of the latter were often the most difficult to compile too, insofar as it being difficult to narrow it down to five and/or determine the order, but I'm not sure I had as much trouble with any of them as I have this one.

For those not in the know, if you were lucky enough to own Sega's wonderful Master System, here in the UK at least (but probably elsewhere too), Sega were apparently well aware that mere school kids couldn't often afford £24.99 for new games, so they had a range of cheaper games that cost, as I recall, from £9.99 to £14.99.

Some of these stank of rhino manure but some were great, and were a valuable lifeline for cash-strapped MS owners such as myself. I had several at the time and have acquired others in the intervening years, but when the idea for this Top Five entered my brain, I immediately thought of 8 or 9 candidates and just couldn't decide which ones to leave out.

I've been back and forth on several of my choices already, and will probably do so again after I click 'publish', but it will be too late then. Behold, then, the current version of this list showcasing the best of Sega's helpful budget range:

Monday 4 March 2024

Film Review #123

Freelance (2023)
Director: Pierre Morel Starring: John Cena, Alison Brie, Juan Pablo Raba, Christian Slater, Alice Eve

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 109 Minutes

Tagline: "Retirement didn't suit him."

Historically, wrestlers trying to act has rarely gone too well, but in recent years that appears to have changed. Cena is just the latest one to swap the squared circle for the silver screen, and as quickly as Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista, he's found himself headlining big-budget films. Obviously, like the other two, he's something of a man-mountain and is accordingly more than competent in action scenarios, but it's actually his comedic delivery that made me something of a fan of his - something I never really was in his WWE guise, in fact. This is his latest 'vehicle' where he is once again a military dude, or more accurately Mason Pettits, an ex-military dude this time, who was forced to retire from the US Special Forces after his final mission to assassinate 'Paldonian' dictator Juan Venegas (Raba) was ambushed and he was injured. Since recovery, he has been working unhappily as a lawyer and is in an increasingly unhappy marriage to Jenny (Eve).

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #15

Banana (1986)
By: Victor Musical Industries Genre: Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 2,170 (yes, I'm crap at puzzle games)
Also Available For: Nothing

Selecting the next game to review for this series of posts isn't usually a very complicated matter - just look at lists and see if any names stand out! For some reason, I've always enjoyed games that feature fruits and vegetables. They usually take the form of collectibles for bonus points but here was a game that was actually named after a fruit! The reason for this is unclear but it made it stand out to me in any case. A quick perusal revealed that it was a pretty early release for Nintendo's sprightly Famicom and never made it out of Japan for some reason, which goes some way to explaining why I hadn't heard of it. I also soon learned that it was a puzzle game starring a nameless mole, who for review purposes we'll call Gronk, and it's his job to rescue a nameless female mole, who we'll call Fleeple. She must be a bit of an airhead too, as she apparently gets re-kidnapped (or lost, or whatever is going on) prior to every single stage of the game! C'mon Gronk, sooner or later you've just got to accept that anyone who takes such bad care of themselves perhaps doesn't deserve to get repeatedly rescued.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

The Best of X68000 Cover-Art - Part 1

The X68000 has long been a system that has interested me. As well as looking cool, it hosts some great games including some famously-awesome arcade conversions. I would like to cover it more here but, like most Japanese home micros, it's a pain in the arse to emulate and it's certainly not a realistic system to buy. Due to the high cost of the actual system as well as most games for it, and no doubt for numerous other reasons, it's not one that's popular with collectors, at least in this hemisphere. It doesn't seem to get mentioned much at all really, from what I've seen. As a result of all this, not only have I not played many games for it, but I haven't even seen many of the physical games, even online, so I found myself wondering what the cover-art was like for them. After a little effort, I have found some cover scans and have taken it upon myself to choose the most eye-catching ones! Here is the first of what will probably be four posts on the subject...

38 Man Kilo No Kokuu...
Air Combat...

Thursday 18 January 2024

Game Boy Games #5

Choplifter II: Rescue and Survive (1991)
By: Beam Software  Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Nothing

I've never really been a handheld gamer for some weird reason - it was always the home consoles that interested me - so when I saw that Choplifter III had been released on the SNES I was mildly startled. I had long enjoyed the original game on my delightful Master System, and here, apparently, was the third game, but what in the blue blazes had happened to the second game? The answer wouldn't find my eyes until many moons later but it turned out that Choplifter II was a Game Boy exclusive of all things. Crikey, I exclaimed! Once I got over the shock of this unexpected news and considered the game for a moment, I was immediately sceptical that such a game would work on the small, blurry screen. The view of the action would have to be much more zoomed-in so you could actually see stuff for one thing, and that would open you up to being killed by something when it scrolled onto the screen right next to you. I suppose I should play the game before condemning it for my imagined slights (to partly quote Thor from The Avengers) though, huh?!

Monday 15 January 2024

Top Five John Hughes Films

If you asked someone old enough to name the best films of the 80s, you would very likely hear names like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, but I'm confident a majority of the John Hughes filmography would be mentioned too. When I say that, I'm only counting the films he actually directed as well as wrote, rather than the far greater number for which he has only a writing credit. That only leaves eight films, but nonetheless, for many, his films define 80s cinema, especially if you grew up in that decade as I did. Here are my pics for his finest efforts:

5. Sixteen Candles (1984)

I suspect many had a bit of a thing for teen hottie Molly Ringwald in the 80s and this was the first of her 'big three' releases in successive years, but I was only seeing it for the first time here. She stars as Sam Baker who is hoping for big things following her imminent 16th birthday, only to find her family all forgot about it! They are a little preoccupied with her older sister's wedding the day after but even so! Aside from that there isn't too much of a story though. She goes to school as normal where she gossips with her friend, crushes on senior Jake (Michael Schoeffling), gets chased around by geek Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), goes to a school dance, etc. There isn't much more to it really, it's kind of a 'slice of life' 80s high school comedy that happens to take place on and just after the main character's birthday. It's possibly most famous these days for Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe), a foreign exchange student whose racially-stereotyped scenes are, frankly, not very funny, but I enjoyed most of the rest of it. Ringwald and Hall are great and share some nice scenes, and the general 80s-ness is wonderful too. Not sure Sam should've given up her panties so readily though - lord only knows what ends up being done to/with them...

Sunday 31 December 2023

Run 'n' Gun Games #10

Psycho-Nics Oscar (1987)
By: Data East Genre: Run 'n' Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 93,900
Also Available For: Nothing

I'll be the first one to admit that my coverage of the Commodore 64 has been pretty woeful here. The reasons why could be the subject for another post, but I have been meaning to review Turrican here for a long time. I decided to finally do so recently, only to find it was apparently 'inspired' by an earlier game, and an arcade game no less. Accordingly, my OCD will not allow me to review Turrican first, so here is a look at the curiously-named Psycho-Nics Oscar, released in 1987 by Data East. This puts it in their RoboCop/Dragon Ninja phase which was, in my opinion, their best period as an arcade developer. It doesn't seem to have much in the way of a backstory though. As far as I can tell, the player takes on the role of Oscar, but I'm not sure if he/it is a robot or a guy controlling a mecha. Hmm, anyway, whatever Oscar is, your simple-yet-difficult job is to liberate Ordio City. I am again unsure if this is a city on a future Earth or if it's on an alien planet, but who needs an excuse to neutralise alien (probably) filth?

Wednesday 13 December 2023

First Look Mega Drive #1

Mega R-Type by TheRoboZ (2024?) - MegaDrive

As regular visitors here might have noticed, there has once again been a period of neglect here at this blog. There are reasons for this, of course, but recently my good friend Luke texted me regarding a game I had long imagined: R-Type on the Mega Drive! If that's not something to get me burbling away here like I used to, what is?! Indeed, for I often spend time wondering what non-existent arcade ports might've been like, and one that has always mystified me is R-Type on the MD. Or lack thereof, obviously. I know it had already been wowwing shooter fans for a while by the time the MD launched but it still would've made for a top-tier release for Sega's 16-bit powerhouse, surely? Oh well, it never happened for one reason or another, but it seems I'm not the only one who wished it had.

Saturday 25 November 2023

TV Shows #31 - Part 1

Halo Season One (2022)
Developed By: Kyle Killen & Steven Kane
Starring: Pablo Schreiber, Natascha McElhone, Yerin Ha, Kate Kennedy, Olive Gray, Shabana Azmi, Natasha Culzac, Bentley Kalu, Charlie Murphy, Danny Sapani, Jen Taylor, Bokeem Woodbine

Certificate: NR Running Time: 40-59 Minutes per Episode (approx), 9 Episodes

There are some films/shows that I follow the development of and eagerly await right from them getting greenlit all the way up to their release, especially examples of the sci-fi genre. Halo was not one of these. I ultra-know about the games, of course - I've even played one of them a little (the first one for the original Xbox, as detailed here) - but the show? I didn't even know there was one until it had already been out for a while, and when I did find out, I wasn't super excited since videogame adaptations generally suck donkey balls anyway, and any residual excitement I might have had for the show was quickly tempered by the almost-unanimously negative reactions it had earned online. These things happen often I suppose, especially to things with existing 'fandoms', but it still wasn't a good sign.

Monday 20 November 2023

Arcade Adventures #7

Lord of the Sword (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Arcade Adventure Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System
Also Available For: Nothing

For the second review in a row I've found myself in the not-unstartling position of apparently having had a game's genre wrong for 35-odd years! Last time was It Came From the Desert and now it's this MS exclusive from Sega. It got rather mediocre reviews in its day so I've never shown a huge amount of interest in it, but from screenshots I always assumed it was a Rastan or Legendary Axe type deal. It kind of is I suppose, but it's a more adventurey kind of game than those two. We'll come to that later though. You play through the game as a fellow known as Landau. I assume this isn't meant to be classic actor Martin Landau, star of Mission: Impossible and Space: 1999 amongst many others, probably including even more examples with colons. No, this Landau is just some guy with long hair.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Memorable Bosses #4

Big Core MK I
Game: Gradius & some sequels

Big Core's first appearance on the PC Engine...
Of all the bosses found in the many shmups we've seen over the years, this fairly unremarkable craft is not one that leaps into your mind when thinking of memorable examples, I suspect. But there are two reasons why it does leap into mine. First of all, it was, to my knowledge, the first ever proper boss in the genre that soon came to be known as shoot 'em ups, so it has historical relevance. Secondly, its imminent arrival is heralded by one of my favourite game choons of all time! One might argue it's not really an appropriate composition for a boss battle of any kind, never mind such an important one. It's a short and simple track, as you might well expect from the era, and it sounds rather too jolly and upbeat to really suit the on-screen confrontation. You hear it almost every stage too, since the mighty Big Core is the boss on most of the stages (chortle!), but I don't care about any of that. It holds nostalgic value for me, particularly the excellent PC Engine version which is by far the one I've spent most time playing, but it is also genuinely a memorable boss regardless. The fact that it has reappeared in later Gradius games is testament to that. There have been far more impressive bosses over the years but Big Core Mk I still holds a special place in my gaming affections.