Friday, 31 December 2010

Platform / Puzzle Games #4

Lost Vikings, The (1992)
By: Silicon & Synapse / Interplay  Genre: Platform / Puzzle  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: SNES, GameBoy Advance, Amiga, CD32, PC

Now that I think about it, the sub-genre of platform/puzzle games, on which I am rather keen, is a little obscure as genres go, but the combination of two older and exceedingly popular types of game has proved to be a fantastic partnership. Examples have taken many weird and wonderful forms over the years and one of the most interesting (though not necessarily best) is of the sort that includes multiple characters with differing abilities. This was of course made popular by the great Lemmings. Dozens of similar games soon appeared and most were average at best, but The Lost Vikings is a pretty rare example of another game taking that premise, putting a different slant on it, and actually succeeding.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick message to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Red Parsley readers! I've been busy preparing for the big day so new posts have been a little thin on the ground here of late, but we'll be back in the swing of things soon. Anyway, here's wishing you all have a great time over the festive holiday period. So, from RKS, and indeed Doraemon:


Sunday, 19 December 2010

Game Gallery #3

Fantasy Zone The Maze (1987)
Master System Version - full review here

Yes, an obscure game this may be, but it's also one that I'm very fond of. For a long time it's been a regular fixture of the two-player gaming sessions I've enjoyed with my good friend, Luke, over the many years we've known each other, and we still play it today. In fact, these very screenshots were taken from our last session, with myself controlling Opa-Opa and Luke controlling Upa-Upa, and we battled those heinous Menon malcontents to the very end. While it's true that I may be the only one who cares, I remain confident that I'm the only person to post shots of every stage this cracking little game has to offer. Behold, I present them thus:

Friday, 17 December 2010

Anime #1 - Doraemon

Anime, or animation originating from Japan, has been around in one form or another since the early 20th century but it still took until the 1980's to gain any sort of recognition in the West, and even then, in all that time there has still been a very small number of examples that have become successful outside of Japan. Younger fans seemed to be entranced by the likes of Pokemon, Dragonball Z, and Yu-Gi-Oh! while shows like Naruto, Cowboy Bebop, and Full Metal Alchemist have also proved very popular. Some movies too, such as Akira (which arguably kick-started the West's interest in anime to start with) and more recently the stunning efforts from Studio Ghibli have become well known, with the latter even winning Oscars, but one of the most popular and enduring of all anime stars in Japan is pretty much unknown outside of the Far East.

Doraemon is a robotic cat who has travelled back in time from the 22nd century to help out schoolboy, Nobita Nobi. Who created him isn't clear but he was sent back by Nobita's great-great-grandson, for it seems that for one reason or another, Nobita's life was fraught with misery and misfortune causing his descendants no end of problems. With that in mind, you might think it'd be easier to send back a sports almanac (chortle), or perhaps even some winning lottery numbers, but a robotic cat? It would have to be one ultra-special robotic cat or I'd be a bit peeved, personally! Luckily, Doraemon is not only special but magic too! He is equipped with the kind of common sense and moral values that Nobita apparently lacks and he uses his many and varied abilities to try and teach these qualities to him, although Nobita is not only lacking in those but is also lazy and mischievous too, so it's not always easy for Doraemon! Much of the help he provides comes from the magical 4th dimensional pocket in his chest from which he can pull all manner of objects and gadgets from the 22nd century, including the Bamboo Dragonfly (a head-mounted propeller that allows flight), the Anywhere Door (takes the user anywhere they wish), and the Time Machine itself. I sometimes wonder why Doraemon bothers though as Nobita generally ends up misusing his various gadgets and getting himself in even more trouble!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Film Review #17

The Tourist (2010)
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck  Starring: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Rufus Sewell

Certificate: 12A  Running Time: 102 Minutes

Tagline: "It all started when he met a woman."

Angelina Jolie is hot. There, I said it. You probably weren't aware of that until I just mentioned it but it's actually true. You're lucky I was considerate enough to enlighten you too as it's this hotness which seemingly forms the basis for The Tourist, which, incidentally, is also a remake of French film, Anthony Zimmer. And therein we already have a problem. To say Hollywood has a patchy history as far as remaking films is concerned would be putting it mildly, but French films seem to suffer this fate even more than most (witness the horror of the 'Taxi' remake for proof of this). Combine this with the alarming amount of flip-flopping around the goodness-knows how many directors and stars did, joining the project then leaving soon afterwards, and it sounds like The Tourist was a disaster waiting to happen. With the likes of Jolie and Depp attached now though, it can't be that bad surely?

Monday, 13 December 2010

Top Five MegaDrive Platform Games

Though popular since the 70's, it was the late 80's and early 90's when gaming, particularly on consoles, really hit its stride, and like today there were a few genres that dominated release schedules. Among the most popular were shoot 'em ups but even more popular than these were of course platform games, and few if any consoles saw more examples of this genre than the MegaDrive. Most of them were average, some were horrifyingly bad, but there were still plenty of top-quality ones, and they took up a significant portion of my MegaDrive game-time. I've owned and enjoyed dozens of them over the years so picking the best five is no easy task. To make it a little easier I decided to not to include any of the MD's fantastic arcade conversions such as New Zealand Story, Rainbow Islands, etc, and the (at the time) splendid Sonic series only gets one nomination here too. Naturally, run 'n' gunners (Shinobi series, Ghouls 'n' Ghosts, Gunstar Heroes, etc) aren't included either, and nor are arcade adventures such as Flashback, Puggsy, etc. These categories are all good enough and numerous enough to receive their own Top Fives at some point. So, with all that in mind, here is my five favourite Mega Drive platformers.

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!

If I review any MD platformers in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don't appear in this Top Five because I hadn't played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Wiz 'n' Liz (1993)

I'm starting to wonder if I'm the only fan this poor old game has! I'm not usually a fan of fast 'n' frantic, against-the-clock type games, but Wiz 'n' Liz is so happy and cheerful (not to mention addictive), I can't help but love it anyway! The object is simple enough - one or two players must race through each of the themed worlds rescuing the many rabbits that populate each whilst also collecting magic fruits and other items with which to create spells and prolong your game. It definitely seems to be a 'hidden gem' in the MD's back catalogue but I don't really know why. Maybe it's the lack of violence and destruction but for me this has always been a top game - nice graphics, fantastic music, addictive gameplay, and even a few original ideas, equals a winning formula in my book.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Maze Games #1

Fantasy Zone The Maze a.k.a. Opa-Opa (1987)
By: Sega  Genre: Maze / Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega Master System  First Day Score: 421,610
Also Available For: Nothing

I don't know about you but the thinking behind some games is really confusing to me. After releasing ultra-cute shoot 'em up, Fantasy Zone, in 1985, even finding sufficient success with it to adopt its main character, Opa-Opa, as their mascot, Sega then released a similar but improved game in Fantasy Zone 2, also a psychedelic side-viewed shooting game. Both games were tough but proved very popular nonetheless and were converted to several consoles of the time. So after this success, and with the character and game series firmly in place, the logical next step would be Fantasy Zone 3, right? Actually, no. The next game in the series was Fantasy Zone The Maze, a curious combination of the first game and... Pac-Man?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

MegaDrive Platform Games #1

Wiz 'n' Liz (1993)
By: Raising Hell Software / Psygnosis  Genre: Platform  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 1,487,025
Also Available For: Amiga

Released about mid-way through the MegaDrive's life, this quirky platformer for some reason seemed to slip under the radar for most gamers at the time. Is that because it sucks? Actually, no, and it was released on the most popular console and computer of the time, and came during a period when the genre was at its peak too, so it's a mystery to me why more people haven't played it! I actually first encountered it in a very favourable review in an Amiga magazine but it was the MegaDrive version I would ultimately purchase, purely because the MD is better than the Amiga as everyone knows (hee hee!), but the MD is also far better catered for as far as this kind of game is concerned too. So how did Wiz 'n' Liz fare against the likes of Sonic? Not too well, one might think, but could Psygnosis have a surprise in store?

Monday, 6 December 2010

Arcade Shmups #4

Gemini Wing (1987)
By: Tecmo  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 85,980 (one credit)
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, MSX, Sharp X68000

Like most people (or game fans, at least), I have a fairly extensive list of games I always meant to play but never got around to as a result of time or financial constraints, but Gemini Wing has never been among them. My only memories of it are the rather lacklustre reviews the home conversions received, notably on the Speccy (which had blue and yellow monochrome graphics as I recall), so when I decided to take a look at the arcade original of this vertical-scroller (which is actually a few years older than I realised), I didn't have very high expectations. Initially, however, it's been a pleasant surprise! I hope my luck holds, I could do with a decent new shmup to play...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Star Control - Part 3

The many and varied alien races of the Star Control universe are one of the most appealing things about the series, but which side is best? We had a good look at the Alliance fleet here in the last post in this series, and it's reassuring to know that the 'good guys' have a few handy ships at their disposal, but everyone likes to play out the part of the 'bad guys' now and then, especially these days, so now I'll take a look at the ships used by the mighty Ur-Quan Hierarchy, beginning with the series antagonists themselves.

Ur-Quan Dreadnought

The bright green Dreadnought is generally considered THE ship of the game, featuring on all promotional artwork, etc, but is it worthy of such notoriety? It certainly has an imposing air about it, that's for sure! Its speed and maneuverability is only average but its Fusion Blast weapon is the most powerful in the game, along with the Broodhome's Photon Shard and a close-range strike by the Podship's Plasmoid, but it can fire much more rapidly than either of those ships. If you stray too close to a fully-fueled Dreadnought, no matter what ship you're using, you're history - in the right hands, it can take out a Broodhome in five seconds, nevermind the smaller, weaker ships! On top of that, it also has the ability to launch Autonomous Fighters too. Each fighter launched uses one crew member from the Dreadnought's roster and they are launched in two's. They home in on an enemy vessel, regardless of range, and attack it with short-range homing lasers for a short while before returning to their mothership to refuel. They can be destroyed but they're extremely small so it takes a crack-shot (or an opponent with an Earthling Cruiser) to do it. The mighty Dreadnought is a little large and lumbering but even an amateur can do considerable damage with one. In the right hands it's devastating.

Ship Rating: 5/5

Film Review #16

The Sum Of All Fears (2002)
Director: Phil Alden Robinson  Starring: Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Liev Schreiber, Bruce McGill, Phillip Baker Hall, John Beasley, Ciaran Hinds, Alan Bates, Bridget Moynahan

Certificate: 12  Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: "27,000 Nuclear Weapons. One Is Missing."

Terrorism thrillers have certainly been around for a long time now, since the debut of a certain James Bond at least, but a majority of them have always seemed to adhere to the same sort of template. This one is a bit different. It was adapted from the Tom Clancey novel of the same name and is part of the convoluted 'Jack Ryan' series that has a rather confusing timeline anyway, nevermind when you take the films into consideration, each of which has changed various details. We'll just concentrate on the films for now though which began with first The Hunt For Red October (with Alec Baldin as Ryan), then Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger (both of which starred Harrison Ford in the main role). For this film the part was handed to Affleck and, unlike the novel, is set early in his CIA career when he was a mere analyst.