Monday, 24 May 2010

Budget Games #1

Chronos (1987)
By: Mastertronic Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 36,950
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC

Back in the distant past of gaming, a phenomenon known as budget gaming was born. Budget games were something that, until Sony came along and introduced their 'Platinum' range of older titles, had never graced the console market, but were restricted to the classic home computers of the day. They were at their most successful during the days of the battle for 8-bit computer supremacy and, at this time, they usually cost £1.99 or £2.99. They included, either top-selling titles which had been on release at full price for a while already (much like the Platinum range), or they were original but often somewhat limited games whose developers felt wouldn’t shift many units at full price, and thus released them for a knock-down price. Some budget games were indeed substandard, or even mind-numbingly crap, but there were also many better than average, or even awesome titles available too. Chronos was among these.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Top Five Planets

For the longest time there were only the nine planets that were known to us, with this number of course being controversially reduced in eight in more recent years, and they have become incredibly familiar to those of us who care to glance skywards now and then, but now countless more have been discovered orbiting alien stars. Many of these appear to be even stranger than we could've imagined but for most of us, none of them will ever hold the allure of the more familiar worlds that are closer to us. Perhaps one of them was the first sight we gazed upon when first looking through a telescope; perhaps one was the subject of a favourite childhood science-fiction tale; perhaps it's simply a particular alien quality of one of them that we find appealing, but I'm sure we all have our favourites. And these are mine:

5 - Venus

Long considered Earth's twin, this comparably-sized planet features hellish conditions that no life from our home could endure. Its atmosphere has constant lightning and is so dense the first few Venera probes sent by the Russians were crushed before reaching the ground. Even the ones that did manage to land unscathed only lasted an hour or so before melting. There is also sulphuric acid rain, every part of the surface features evidence of volcanic activity, and the entire planet leaves a tail behind it in space, much like a comet, due to the Sun's solar wind!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Overrated! #1

Ridge Racer (1994)
By: Namco  Genre: Racing  Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation
Also Available For: Arcade, PlayStation 2 (as part of compilation)

Back in the good old days when amusement arcades actually had games in them, every now and then an example would arrive that took the world by storm. Everyone, everywhere is talking about it, playing it, or talking about playing it, and if you're not among them, you're left out. Arguably one of the very last of these titles was Namco's rather popular Ridge Racer. When it was announced as a launch title for the Sony's new PlayStation console its fans went into mild hysterics. "We can now play the best racing game of all-time in the comfort of our own homes!" they all exclaimed with glee. It arrived - they all bought a PlayStation and a copy of it, played it for a couple of hours, and realised that Ridge Racer was far from the best racing game of all-time, after all. A valuable lesson to us all then, that good arcade games do not always make good home console games.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Crush Series - Part 3

Dragon's Fury (a.k.a. Devil Crash MD) (1992)
By: TechnoSoft Genre: Pinball Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 22,593,300
Also Available For: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Download For: PlayStation Network

For two years, Devil's Crush had been thrilling Japanese (and to a lesser extent, American) PC Engine gamers before, unlike its prequel, it finally received a conversion, and it was MegaDrive owners who were the lucky ones to receive it. Handled by Technosoft (famous for the Thunder Force series), it's a more or less a straight conversion of the Engine game (aside from the unnecessary name change), but there are a few noteworthy differences. Aside from a few small, almost unnoticeable changes, the main table in this version looks pretty much the same as it did on the Engine - everything's in the same place and everything does the same thing, though the ball feels a little weightier and doesn’t seem to bounce around quite so much.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Film Review #3

Iron Man (2008)
Director: Jon Favreau Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Paul Bettany

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 121 Minutes

Tagline: "This Summer: Heroes Aren't Born, They're Built"

They are continuing to gradually work their way down the popularity list of super-heroes, aren't they? Whilst hardly an unknown, I doubt as many people know who Tony Stark is as Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne! That may have helped this film when it was first released though - I don't think there was huge expectation, even from the fanboys. That combined with the fact that this is Marvel's first self-financed feature and the first part of their 'Marvel Cinematic Univerise' series of films, it seemed quite a gamble. But did it pay off? I suppose anyone reading this now will already know the answer to that but still! As with most films of this type, this is an 'origins' story. It has obviously been updated to make it easier to relate to, but the basics are the same as they were way back in the 60's.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Top Five Master System Two-Player Games

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I've traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven't played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Super Off Road (1992)

This classic is the spiritual successor to the great Super Sprint and pretty much revived the flagging overhead racing genre all by itself. Its popularity saw it converted to virtually every system under the sun but this splendid MS version is the one I played the most (although I also liked it on the Speccy!). Unlike the arcade (and NES) version, it does only support two players simultaneously (as opposed to three and four respectively), but that doesn't massively detract from the enjoyment of racing the big chunky trucks around the numerous bumpy, pot-hole-ridden courses. It's not a huge step forward from Super Sprint, gameplay-wise, but its exciting, addictive, fast-paced action never gets old and is great fun for beginners and experts alike.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Film Review #2

Behind Enemy Lines (2001)
Director: John Moore Starring: Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Gabriel Macht, Vladimir Mashkov, Olek Krupa, Joaquim de Almeida

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 101 Minutes

Tagline: "In War There Are Some Lines You Should Never Cross"

Better known these days for his comedic tomfoolery with other 'frat pack' alumni, Owen Wilson is less well known as an action star, and yet here he is in the leading role of one such film, and with nary a humorous moment to be found! Pretty good he is too in this Bosnian War-set thriller, based unofficially on the experiences of a real-life American pilot. Lt. Chris Burnett (Wilson) is stationed on an aircraft carrier in the Adriatic Sea and has grown bored and frustrated with his career in the US Air Force and is preparing to leave. However, Burnett, along with Stackhouse, his buddy and the pilot to Wilson's navigator, are given a reconnaissance mission on the eve of their ship's departure. Briefly straying off-mission, they discover some far from friendly activity in a supposed demilitarised zone, including evidence of war atrocities. Obviously keen to keep their secret, the Bosnian-Serb army shoots them down.