Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Movie Review #116

Ammonite (2020)
Director: Francis Lee Starring: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Alec Secăreanu, Fiona Shaw

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 120 Minutes

The last year has been a lean time for movie fans. This is of course understandable given the rather unique circumstances, but lean nonetheless, with many films I was looking forward to being delayed considerably. Some, like Black Widow and The French Dispatch still aren't out, while others have seen low-key releases on streaming services or very limited theatrical releases. Ammonite is one of these, and while it has only been released in the US so far, I'm happy to say I have now finally managed to see it anyway. I can't even remember what put it on my radar now. It definitely wasn't the much vaunted 'intimate' scenes between the two female leads (*cough*cough*) so what could it have been? It was could well have been simply down to Saoirse Ronan's presence here, having been something of a fan of hers since Hanna, but it's rarely less than interesting to see a biopic of an important historical figure. In this case it's Mary Anning (Winslet), the 19th-century British palaeontologist, but as my wife (who had also been looking forward to seeing it) and I sson discovered, it's not exactly a biopic at all.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Arcade Shmups #27

1942 (1984)
By: Capcom Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 62,520 (one credit)
Also Available For: NES, Game Boy Color, PC-88, Fujitsu FM-7, Sharp X1, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Capcom have been responsible for some truly wonderful games over these long years but one series that seems to be somewhat overlooked nowadays is the 19XX shooter series. It isn't even one of the 13 series mentioned in the company's summary on Wikipedia! What has the series done to deserve such scorn? Does it suck ass? I doubt that, but in order to find out I will play through the entire series starting with this original which graced arcades long before their mighty CPS boards were introduced. It is therefore a simple enough game as you might expect. Rather surprisingly for a Japanese-developed game, however, it sees you on the side of the Americans against the entire Japanese Air Force!

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Visual Novels #4

Noble Works (2010 - Japan, 2015 - translated)
By: Yuzusoft Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

I haven't had the greatest of luck with visual novels so far. Most of the ones I've tried have either been way pervier than I had expected or simply weren't very good due to short lengths and/or limited routes. I was determined this wouldn't happen again so this time sought out a highly-acclaimed VN that I could spend some time getting stuck into. One I saw mentioned a lot was Noble Works, released a few years ago in translated form. In a shocking twist from the norm, it sees you take on the role of a schoolboy, in this case Fujishima Takumi. As seems to be common in manga/anime, despite being of school age he lives on his own for one reason or another, and struggles to hold down part-time jobs in order to make ends meet. BUT THEN!! Fate decides to intervene.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Master System Round-Up #5

They're probably looked back on now as a bit of a gimmick; a silly novelty gadget of limited use, but the Master System's 3D Glasses were actually quite an innovative peripheral for their time. Unlike Nintendo's pointless R.O.B. (Robotic Operated Buddy) for their Famicom/NES, or ridiculous third-party nonsense like Mattel's Power Glove, Sega's glasses actually did something for one thing.

Indeed, by using some manner of spooky wizardry involving shutters in the glasses and flickering images on the screen, they were able to give the impression of actual 3D graphics in games that were made to take advantage of them. You might think that a dazzling, cutting edge technology like this would cost a bomb but, as I recall, they cost a little more than a standard game at the time. When my ultra-splendid parents agreed to help in my acquisition of my soon-to-be-treasured Master System back in 1987/8 (I forget exactly when now), I was lucky enough that they separately added a pair of 3D Glasses to my bundle - a result, I suspect, of my OutRun infatuation - but some lucky MS owners such as my good friend Luke received them with the console itself in the form of the might Super System set! I can't remember if he ever got around to getting any games that actually used them though, besides Missile Defence 3D which was built into his console (I'll have to ask him), but I certainly did.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Film Round-Up #30

The emergence of Keira Knightley in the early 2000's was quite a big thing here in the UK as I recall. Although it wasn't her first film, it was Bend It Like Beckham that did it I think. I never saw that one though, it was the original Pirates of the Caribbean a year later when I first gazed upon her loveliness, but I haven't seen too many other films of hers if I'm honest. Sounds like a great excuse for a 'round-up' here at Red Parsley so let's get moving! Here are the first films I went for...

The Hole (2001)

I originally watched this because of Thora Birch - I hadn't even heard of Knightley at the time. It was one of her first films though, and she was only 15 when it was filmed. Appropriately, she plays a hottie schoolgirl - one of four students who apparently decide it would be a good idea to spend the weekend in an abandoned nuclear fallout shelter only to... !!SHOCK!!... get trapped! After some time spent partying and shagging Miss Knightley, they soon start getting increasingly scared over their predicament and inevitably turn on each other. Miss Knightley and Miss Birch are joined here by Daniel Brocklebank and Desmond Harrington, and all four do a decent enough job, although despite flashing her tits early on, Knightley probably gets the least focus of the four of them. Indeed, it's Birch's film really, her character is a bit of a nutcase, but she is very good here. The film itself is pretty good too - suspenseful, nicely claustrophobic, and with a couple of not-entirely-unexpected-but-effective-anyway twists near the end. A good one-time watch... 7/10

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Crap Games #12

Off-World Interceptor (1994)
By: Crystal Dynamics Genre: Racing / Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: 3DO First Day Score: 195,800 (cash)
Also Available For: Saturn, PlayStation

Most of the titles that are included in the 'Crap Games' feature here at Red Parsley were so chosen due to near-unanimous scorn at the time of their release from magazines of the day, but this one is a little different. I decided to include Off-World Interceptor mainly because of the intense disappointment I felt towards it personally. It hardly received glowing reviews anyway I guess, but I was enjoying my 3DO and its remarkable 3D abilities at the time, in particular The Need For Speed which was so far ahead of any other racing game I'd played. It was still just one game though, and I wanted another racing game for my powerful new console. Unfortunately, there weren't too many options available for it but I saw screenshots of Off-World Interceptor and thought it looked pretty good at least, so figured it was worth a try. Happily I was able to find it at my local games store, and at a bargain price too, and I was eager to get started on my... umm, off-world intercepting.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Indie Games News/Previews #16

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World by ININ Games / G-Choice (2021) - PS4, Switch

Fans of Westone's spiffing Wonder Boy series must have already been ultra-happy with the revival the series has had over the last few years, and apparently it's not over yet! Joining the original Wonder Boy and Wonder Boy 3 remakes is this, a remake of Monster World IV which was originally only released in Japan for the MegaDrive and starred a young girl named Asha rather than our usual hero. Some members of the original Wonder Boy dev team are working on it and, while there doesn't seem to be much in the way of info or screenshots yet, there is a trailer as below. I'm not 100% sure I like the visual style but I'm confident it will a great game regardless. Release is planned for early 2021 and will apparently be available only for PS4 and Switch, although I would imagine a PC version will also be made available, surely? We'll have to wait and see I guess! Definitely one to look out for.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Film Round-Up #29

If there was any actor that virtually no one seems to dislike, it would surely be Tom Hanks. Knowing people these days, I'm sure there are some 'edgy' knobbers out there who would publicly express disdain toward him simply to be 'controversial' (i.e. get attention) but even they wouldn't be able to find much to say. Not only is he a fantastic actor but all evidence points to him being a genuinely nice, funny guy too. All the films I've seen him in are at least pretty good so I wondered if they all are. There are a lot I haven't seen after all. So why not find out? This first round-up features three I've seen before but not for a long time, and two I've never seen.

The Money Pit (1986)

I often forget that Big wasn't the first Hanks 'vehicle', and like most of the ones that came before it, The Money Pit is one I had never seen until now for this feature. It stars the main man opposite Shelley Long as unmarried couple, Walter and Anna, who are kicked out of the house they're borrowing and need to find somewhere else fast. Almost immediately they're offered a million dollar mansion for a bargain price because the granny living there needs a quick sale, so they thank their lucky stars, beg borrow and steal every penny they can, and buy it. And then it all starts going wrong, literally - everything they touch seems to collapse, explode, or break somehow, even the trees in the garden! It is of course ridiculous that it all happens the minute they move in though. I know it's a comedy but it's a bit silly for my tastes, and predictable too. It isn't helped much by Long's character either, who becomes extremely annoying in the second half. The Hanks charm is here though, and you probably won't regret spending this 90 minutes with him... 6/10

Friday, 25 September 2020

Exploring the PlayStation 4

I have had my PS4 since November or December 2017 which, as the mathematically-gifted among you will know, is getting on for 3 years now, and for pretty much all of that time I've been meaning to write this post. I've already made a 'new arrivals' post, itself coming some 7 or 8 months after the console found its way to me. This was basically detailing what I got, how I got it, and my first impressions, but this post was meant to detail my impressions after more prolonged use.

I guess 2 years could be classed as 'prolonged' but, typically, I still haven't actually used it all that much. This isn't because I've gone off it though. The main culprit is that one that causes me to miss so many other things, gaming-related or otherwise - time, or lack thereof. Another of the culprits for missing stuff - money - is also to blame for the ultra-lateness of this post as well though. I have amassed a reasonable collection of PS4 games as far as title-count is concerned, but most of them have been physical copies of indie games I like. I was planning on buying a 'Triple A' big budget studio game as well, to give myself a more well-rounded PS4 experience. The game I opted for was the apparently-excellent Horizon Zero Dawn but I just... haven't gotten around to buying it yet.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Single Screen Platform Games #17

Lode Runner (1984)
By: Broderbund / Irem Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: NES, Game Boy, SG-1000, PC Engine, PC, Apple Mac, Apple II, Amiga, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, Vic 20, Amstrad CPC, MSX, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum, Pravetz 82/82M
Download For: Wii Vitual Console, Xbox Lives Arcade, PlayStation Network, Android, iOS

I've been reviewing games here for a long time now, and a good few of them have been platform games as they're one of my favourite genres, perhaps my very favourite, but I don't think I've ever come across a game that was ported to more systems than this one. Just look at that list - I haven't even heard of one of them! Despite this, however, I never really encountered it in its day (I was still largely-dependent on my parents for new games back then, or even magazines to let me know about the games), but I still keep hearing its name after all this time so I figured it was finally time to give it a proper once-over. I had assumed the arcade version would've been the first, as it usually is, so I got stuck in to that version only to find out the game actually debuted on several American home micros first. Oops! Oh well, too late now!

Friday, 21 August 2020

PS4 Purchases #9

Redout by 34BigThings (2016)

Racing games have long been one of my favourite genres, particularly ones of the futuristic type since I discovered F-Zero, and I'm always on the lookout for new ones. I only heard about Redout a couple of years ago and it had been on my Steam wishlist ever since. But then I happened to see it for a bargain price (£15, I think) on Amazon for the PS4, and a physical copy of the 'Lightspeed Edition' no less, which I assumed meant it included DLC or some other modern-gaming mumbo jumbo, but it doesn't look like it does. Oh well, suffice to say, I needed little persuading to buy it anyway and was excited to try it out. Sadly, I was quickly disappointed. The graphics, presentation, music, and game modes/options are all excellent but... it's just so damn hard! I'm usually pretty good at games like this but I haven't even finished anywhere but last yet (and some way back too). I'll give it some more time and post about it again here later but... geez, I hadn't expected this type of issue.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Film Round-Up #28

Amy Adams is considered by many one of the highest-profile actresses working today but when I actually stopped to think about it, as great as she is, I couldn't really think of too many big-name films of hers. I supposed therefore she also made her name with various smaller roles in lesser-known films, so I decided to use this as an excuse to gaze upon her loveliness while investigating. Here are the titles I went for:

Standing Still (2005)

Probably one of Ms. Adams' lesser known films is this rom-com in which she heads an ensemble cast also including Adam Garcia, her soon-to-be husband, Lauren German, her lesbian (and secret) ex-lover, as well as Aaron Stanford, Melissa Sagemiller, Jon Abrahams, Mena Suvari, James Van Der Beek, and Colin Hanks as various friends of the couple. The film follows the ladies and gents' respective parties the night before the wedding, and then the big day itself. There is of course the odd bit of strife here in there in the shape of an amorous ex-lover, a secret pregnancy, an unwelcome guest, and various other things to keep things interesting. Films like this, though, succeed or fail on the strength of their characters, and not many of the ones here are too appealing, unfortunately. They have their moments, sure, but few of their woes have the making of an emotionally-engaging film, and the laughs are few and far between too. Amy Adams is solid (if unspectacular) though... 5/10

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Steam / GOG Downloads #7

Retrowave (2020)
By: RewindApp Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

Many of us retro gamers have been accused of living in the past. This may or may not be true, but if it is, it might not just be the games of the past in which we seek refuge but perhaps other things too, such as music. As we already know, the music of the 80's was/is awesome but it was only a few years ago that I discovered the wonder that is synthwave - music made in recent times but in the style of 80's synth and electro music. It truly is the greatest thing ever, I listen to it all the time, and it is becoming more and more popular. Synthwave songs have already appeared in some mainstream films (the splendid 2011 release, Drive, being a good example) and the gaming world seems like an even more suitable home. One example that recently caught my eye was Retrowave and I was keen to give it a try.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Awesome Nature #22

Double-Collared Sunbird
Type: Bird  Lives In: South Africa  Conservation Status: Least Concern

Remarkably, there are 56 species of these colourful flappers, but the one pictured is known as the southern double-collared sunbird. It lives almost exclusively in South Africa (a small number can also be found in Swaziland) and mainly eats nectar such as that found in these lovely rocket pincushion flowers which are nearly as eye-catching as the birds themselves! I guess there's nothing particularly special about them though - they are common throughout most of their range and can be found in scrubland, forests, and even gardens in residential areas. In fact, I'm probably only posting about them here in order to share/preserve this wonderful picture I found, but that certainly shouldn't detract from their splendour. If you're lucky enough to live somewhere that these dazzling fellows (it's just the males with the colour) hang out, I'm sure your days are brighter than those of the rest of us!

Why It Is Awesome: Colourful garden friend!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Game News - Most Expensive Game Ever!

As any of us who try to collect retro games these days must already know very well, prices have been steadily increasing for years to the point where now it's just not realistic to covet certain titles, with more joining that number daily. I always wanted to collect all the decent PC Engine games, for example (or at least the ones that can be played by non-Japanese-speakers), but many of those now go for three-figures. Bah! Things are obviously much worse for anyone that collects factory-sealed games too, as this news that found its way to me today proves.

Indeed, for during a public auction of vintage comics and original comic art held by Heritage Auctions in Texas on July 10th, a copy of the original Super Mario Bros for the American NES went under the hammer. This was not, however, a normal version of what is, let's face it, one of the most common games in the world. This copy was in fact complete with its original factory seal and hangtab - something which made it the highest graded (9.4) copy ever sold and which also, unsurprisingly, increased its value significantly. The result was a final sale price of..... $114,000!! This eye-watering figure quite comfortably makes it the most expensive video game ever sold at public auction!

Quite what the buyer (who wishes to remain anonymous) plans to do with the game is therefore anybody's guess but I suppose its most likely fate is to sit on a shelf or in a drawer (or safe!) gathering dust, but let's hope it at least has an interesting view. I suppose this huge price shouldn't be all that surprising though - as they get older it's inevitable that some copies of games will earn higher and higher prices, so we can probably expect this new record to be broken again in the not-too-distant future.