Thursday, 31 October 2013

Scrolling Fighting Games #11

Altered Beast (1988)
By: Sega Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 231,110 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Master System, PC Engine, PC Engine CD, NES, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

Well, it's certainly an attention-grabbing title screen...
It may be best known as the first pack-in game Sega's MegaDrive received upon release and thus represented the first, and in many cases only experience that most gamers had with Altered Beast, but I had actually played it before. I speak, of course, of the slightly reasonable conversion the Master System received which, as one of only three games I had for the first few months of console ownership, got a fair amount of attention. I also later had the pleasure of the MD version, of course, like most early owners of Sega 16-bit monster, which did a fairly poor job of showing off the system's power. I had, however, never played the arcade original. I don't believe I even saw it anywhere, for that matter. So, if I'm going to revisit this oft-maligned game, which apparently I am, I guess that makes it the ideal version to check out. So I will.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

When Gaming Became a Reality (kind of)

I don't talk about it often here but, alongside the more obvious choice of football (I mean actual football - you know, where the 'ball' is kicked with the 'foot'), my favourite sport is the stupidly-named-but-still-awesome American Football. It's a sport that always been popular in its homeland, now more than ever, but aside from the odd spurt of interest elsewhere, few other countries really take an interest. There are a few fans here and there of course, like myself, and it may not surprise you to hear that my appreciation of the sport stems from the world of video games.

The superb sequel to the original Joe Montana game...
Back in the early 90's when Sega's MegaDrive was the latest console powerhouse wowing the world, I was given a game by a college friend called Joe Montana Football. I had no clue who he was or what the sport really entailed but thanks to a combination of trial and error and a periodic scan of the hefty instruction book I gradually learnt the rules to this complicated sport. Soon after this I discovered that one of the less popular television channels here in the UK showed games on Sundays so I decided to give the real sport a try, but I needed a team to follow. The first and most obvious choice was the team I played as in the game - the San Francisco 49ers, led by who I then knew was the legendary quarterback of the game's title himself. However, he was nowhere to be seen! It later turned out that he had been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs that very summer and Steve Young now had the unenviable job of following in his footsteps.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Currently Playing...

It probably won't come as too much of a surprise to readers here at Red Parsley to hear that I spend fair amount of time playing video games. A vast majority of this time, however, is spent playing them for blog-related purposes (i.e. to review them or grab screenshots). This leaves me very little time to play a game simply for the enjoyment of playing it, but I do manage it now and then. The latest example is:

LocoRoco by SCE Japan Studio (2006) - Sony PSP

I had been without a PSP for over a year after getting rid of my original model with the intention of buying a more up-to-date model for emulation and stuff. It ended up taking me over a year but I finally received one, from my video game-hating wife no less! I was therefore rather pleased that I'd kept all the games I had bought the first time round and one of these - the game I bought a PSP for to begin with, in fact - was LocoRoco; the happiest game of all-time!

For the uninitiated, it's a crazy platformer, but almost certainly unlike any you've played before. Here you don't have control over any actual characters but rather the planet on which the game takes place! Using the shoulder buttons you can tilt it left or right, rolling the little LocoRocos around its surface, or press both buttons to jolt them into the air. Using this simple interface it's your job to guide the spherical creatures around their world collecting flowers and berries and all sorts of other stuff, but also to help them fight the evil Moja Troop. The result is a very unusual game but also a tremendously enjoyable one.

It's quite easy but there are tonnes of things to collect, all sorts of weird locales to explore, and millions of secrets to find. Add to that the immensely appealing graphics and catchy soundtrack (featuring a language made specially for the game) and you've basically got a happy pill in video game form! If you haven't played it yet, you really should - it's worth buying a PSP for (unless you're allergic to happy, cutesy games). I'm currently playing it all the way through again, from beginning to end, and I'm loving every minute of it! Japanese insanity at its best!

RKS Score: 9/10

See full review of LocoRoco here...

Friday, 25 October 2013

Film Review #53

Disturbia (2007)
Director: D.J. Caruso Starring: Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Sarah Roemer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Aaron Yoo, Viola Davis, Matt Craven

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 105 Minutes

Tagline: "Every killer lives next door to someone"

Slasher films have always been pretty popular but they've never really been my cup of tea. Something else that I'm not too keen on is Shia LeBeouf who I found irritating in Transformers. It's therefore something of a mystery to me as to why I actually bought the splendidly-named Disturbia, which is supposedly an example of the former and stars the latter. Despite only having Michael Bay's disappointing monster robot mash-up to go by (which actually came out after this, but hey - I can't afford to see every film as soon as it's out!), he quickly proved to just be one of those actors I find myself naturally turned-off by. Here he plays Kale Brecht, a seemingly normal high-school student who is suspended from school and sentenced to three months house arrest for assaulting a teacher who made an insensitive remark about his father who was killed in a car crash a year before.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Master System Platform Games #2

Ghost House (1986)
By: Sega Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 56,650
Also Available For: Nothing

You know, it's funny. In all the years I've owned a Master System, which is now over 25 long years incidentally, I don't remember ever owning a game on the Sega Card system (which I swear I remember being called 'Smart Cards' but I guess that's irrelevant). One of the more famous examples is Ghost House which is actually a slightly inaccurate title as it's apparently set in Count Dracula's mansion! Not only that but it seems Mick, the player character who looks like a small boy, is a descendant of the fanged one himself and is seeking to 'inherit the family jewels'. To do this, however, he needs to dispose of the mansion's current host who's still alive and kicking. This is where things get a bit confusing as there are six mansions in total and each one houses five Draculas! It seems our impish hero has his work cut out for him then.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Gravity Games #1

Lunar Lander (1979)
By: Atari Genre: Simulation Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 815
Also Available For: Nothing

I suppose it shouldn't really be too surprising that the very earliest days of the video games industry were dominated by science fiction-based games such as Spacewar, Computer Space, and of course Space Invaders, and unsurprisingly pretty much all of these involved shooting stuff. This late 70's release from Atari, however, not only involved no shooting, but it wasn't even a science fiction game - it was based on science fact! Space exploration was no longer an emerging concept by this point but interest in it was still high, so what better way to further engage the imagination than to allow us to participate (kind of)? Indeed, as if it wasn't obvious from the title, Lunar Lander allowed budding astronauts to re-enact the Apollo moon landings by carefully steering the landing module down to a safe, umm... landing.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Film Round-Up #3

Lethal Weapon (1987 - 1998)
Directed By: Richard Donner Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Mitchell Ryan, Gary Busey, Joss Ackland, Derrick O'Connor, Patsy Kensit, Stuart Wilson, Jet Li, Kim Chan, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe

Certificate: 18 Running Time: Approx 460 minutes

Although they had been around for much longer, I don't think too many people would disagree that action cop thrillers were the province of the 80's. The decade saw many classics but the first such series I personally encountered was Lethal Weapon, mainly because the first film was released when I was 12 but, owing to the 18 certificate it had received, my dad wouldn't let me watch it. This just made it more intriguing to me and I did indeed end up seeing it before I was actually 18, which made me feel like a grown-up, naturally!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

First Look Commodore 64 #1

Bomberland 64 by Samar Productions / RGCD (2013) - Commodore 64

Who says social networking is a waste of time? It was thanks to one of my numerous C64-loving friends there that I found out about this splendid homebrew release which is, quite remarkably, the first time Bomberman has graced Commodore's mighty machine, as far as I can tell anyway. It's an unofficial release but looks every bit a product of the special laboratory in Hudson's secret volcano lair. There's a one-player game featuring 36 mazey stages where the object is to destroy the familiar-looking enemies contained within and, impressively, there's also a battle game for two-to-five-players! My only issue with the one-player mode so far is the infrequent appearance of power-up icons which, when combined with the loss of all power-ups when you die, makes the game pretty tough going. It's faithful in every way I can see though, including near-faultless gameplay and some fantastic music, and it could well prove an essential acquisition for C64 fans and Bomberman fans alike. I'll take a more detailed look at it later but for now:

RKS Score: 4/5

See here for more info on the game or to buy the beautifully-packaged cartridge version.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mobile Games #5

Pou! (2013)
By: Zakeh  Genre: Virtual Pet  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android
Also Available For: Blackberry, Apple iOS

Although I have my favourite game genres like everyone else, I have at least played examples of near enough every type of game there is. One that I hadn’t until recently, however, was that of the 'virtual pet'. They seem to go through odd little spurts of popularity and have ranged from simple dedicated devices such as the Tamagotchi to much more advanced releases for computers and consoles such as Nintendogs. Whatever form they took, though, I hadn't ever really been intrigued enough to try any of them, but then I discovered one just a few weeks ago completely by accident and decided to give it a try. It was, of course, Pou who is a 'cute alien pet who loves to eat and play' and was apparently dreamed up by Lebanese developer, Paul Salameh. His creation certainly looks amusing/ appealing enough but I was still sceptical about the virtues of his 'game'.

Monday, 14 October 2013

NES Platform Games #5

Spelunker (1985)
By: MicroGraphic Image / Broderbund Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: 48,410
Also Available For: Arcade, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, MSX
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Games with funny names always appeal to me but what about the ones that aren't so pleasant? Well, I suppose the opposite must be true. Take this early NES game, for example. I've known of it for many years but I only recently realised I had made no effort whatsoever in finding out anything about it. I can only attribute this to its highly off-putting name which I had long assumed was created specially for the game. It turns out, however, that it's actually a real term used to describe 'people who explore caves' and, while understandably that may disappoint said people, it should in theory reveal much about what kind of game this is. It was first released on the 8-bit Atari computers by MicroGraphic Image, a new company comprised of three former VCS developers, and it does indeed involve exploring caves. Being from the era that it is, that most likely means a platform and ladders game, and that is also correct, but the intentions of our nameless 'spelunker' may not be as honourable as his real life counterparts.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Star Trek #2

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Two

So, the mighty Star Trek was reborn and its first season largely deemed a success by most fans, old and new. Looking back on it now, however, it's definitely the odd season out. This isn't due its quality though, it's more related to small character and personnel differences, and most of these have been rectified for season two. For example, Cmdr Riker now has a beard, Cllr Troi's hair and cleavage-displaying outfits are correct, Geordie and Worf are now wearing yellow, the former is now chief engineer, the latter is now wearing his metallic sash rather than the flappy fabric one... They're all small differences but the show now feels more like home.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

First Look Arcade #1

Haunted Castle a.k.a. Akuma-Jou Dracula by Konami (1988) - Arcade

So there I was, messing round with MAME again when I selected yet another random, rather generic-sounding title to try. The resultant title screen was pretty cool and from there followed a brief intro which showed some girly getting kidnapped by a pesky Dracula-like nincompoop, and I also noticed that it was a Konami game. Hmmm, something about this was starting to seem familiar, but before I thought about that too much I started the game. At this point, a feeling of unbridled horror soon fell upon me like dark clouds casting their mighty shadows over a once vibrant landscape, but it wasn't the game's spooky horror theme that caused this; noo, this was down to the game itself which stunk like a garlic-riddled corpse. Intrigued by this badness, I then looked into it in more detail so I could know exactly what/who I was cussing, paying more attention this time. Then... egads! Sure enough, it was confirmed - Haunted Castle is actually a Castlevania game!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Commodore 64 Round-Up #1

I've mentioned here a few times how limited my experience is with the legendary Commodore 64 - rectifying this and many other gaming oversights was the main reason for starting this blog - and since doing so I have begun to scratch the surface of the C64's immense software library but not by nearly enough. I have therefore decided to start covering a few more titles for said beige breadbin starting with this splendid Round Up! For the first one I've chosen five random platformers:

Trolls and Tribulations (1984)

In this early release you apparently play the part of some dude who's disguised himself as a troll in order to infiltrate some underground caverns and grab all the treasure! There are several scary beasties patrolling the depths - one type (cretins) can be (and need to be) shot while the other types (skulls, spiders, and buzzards) cannot and must instead be avoided. As well as the treasure, you'll need to look out for keys to pass the numerous locked doors. There are seven stages altogether, each consisting of five fairly short scrolling mazes ("over 200 dark and eery chambers" in total) which are generally well designed and accompanied by some catchy music. Progress through them is hindered somewhat by some rather sluggish controls which often makes moving around the platforms (particularly jumping) and avoiding the enemies a frustrating experience but, with practise, it's just about bearable. The collision-detection is quite forgiving though, and the difficulty level is just about right which makes this a pretty fun game, and a rather one addictive too! Grew on me a lot, this one... 7/10

Monday, 7 October 2013

Atari 2600 Games #2

Atlantis (1982)
By: Imagic Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari 2600 First Day Score: 46,200
Also Available For: Atari 8-bit, Intellivision, Magnavox Odyssey 2, Commodore VIC-20

I'm sure we've all heard the stories of the long lost city of Atlantis and, while the ancient civilisation may remain a mystery to us idiotic humans, it seems that someone has found it. The evil race of warriors known as the Gorgons has sent a fleet of spaceships to destroy the fabled city so it's now up to you to stop them "before it becomes a watery grave!" and consigned once more to hearsay and legend. What this amounts to is a fixed-screen shooter which places you in command of Atlantis' last defences consisting of three cannons - one in the bottom-middle of the screen which fires straight up, with the other two in the bottom-left and bottom-right of the screen which fire diagonally into the sky above the city. Most of the Gorgon ships do little beyond flying back and forth across the screen inviting you to take pot-shots at them. Each time one of the pesky things gets across unscathed, however, it returns at a lower altitude, and then again. If you let any get too low, that's when they can do some damage...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Top Five Capital Cities I've Visited

Over the years I've come to realise that I'm pretty weird in rather a lot of ways. To go into all of them would be folly but the one that's most relevant to this post is that, until I was more than 30 years old, I had never travelled outside of my home country (which is England if you didn't know). This was unusual for someone born into the 'First World' and can only be explained by a lack of funds, as well as laziness of course! However, it did give me an excuse to do a bit of catching up when I met the lovely lady who was to become my wife. So, in the last... five years or so, we've visited a number of places in several countries including their capital cities in most cases. Here are the best ones we've been to:

5. Berlin

We didn't pick a very good time to visit this city - November is usually chilly enough in the UK but it was even colder here - brrr! I also didn't really know much about the mighty German capital beyond what I heard growing up - mostly WWII and Berlin Wall-related stuff, obviously, and these historic periods are still much in evidence here. We visited some remnants of the Berlin Wall and I was actually surprised to see just how many memorials and tributes there are around the city (I thought references to the war in particular was taboo here). We also visited the iconic TV Tower and the impressive Brandenburg Gate and surrounding area and I was more taken than I probably should've been by the traffic-light crossing dude (known as Ampelmann)! On a less significant note, I also enjoyed the food here - plenty of bangers of many varieties and Currywurst in particular was well lush, and the booze is cheaper than bottled water - if you go to a supermarket you can get three beers for €1!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Pinball Games #1

Battle Pinball (1995)
By: Banpresto  Genre: Pinball  Players: Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES  First Day Score: 601,910
Also Available For: Nothing

Have you ever found a particular genre of something ruined for you by its finest example being so superior to all other examples? This happened to me with sci-fi TV shows - I'm a big Babylon 5 fan but it's so good that most other sci-fi seems crap in comparison and my ability to further enjoy the genre diminished. The same sort of thing happened to me a little earlier than this with video games too, or more specifically, pinball video games. Having discovered the Crush series only a few years after getting into gaming to begin with, the supreme awesomeness of the games in question greatly reduced the appeal of pretty much all other examples. Therefore, to this day, almost the only pinball videogames I've played have been Crush-related ones. This kind of closed-mindedness won't do here at Red Parsley though, so I've decided to start looking at a selection of alternatives. The first one I've chosen, based purely on the splendid cover-art I accidentally found, is Battle Pinball which is apparently part of a sizeable series itself.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Puzzle Games #15

Kitten Kaboodle a.k.a. Nyan Nyan Panic (1988)
By: Konami Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: Nothing

They may be a bit girly but kittens are still mighty entertaining little creatures. In fact, I'm surprised they haven't featured a lot more prominently in the world of video games, considering some of the other peculiar choices we've had for game 'heroes'. Konami obviously deemed them worthy of at least a try-out though, as can be seen from this Pengo-inspired action-puzzler which stars two of the agile fluff-balls. There's no story here that I can tell though, just an apparent need to guide them through fifty single-screen stages. Each predominantly features two things - blocks and enemies. The latter consist of insects (who wear lab coats, naturally), angry tomatoes, and bipedal crocodiles and they are all deadly to the touch, but our daring kitty is light of foot and can also perform a helpful leap over them or the blocks. Pushing the blocks rather then jumping them, however, can potentially squash an enemy, much like the Sega's penguin-starring game.