Sunday, 27 December 2015

Puzzle Games #19

Bounder (1986)
By: Gremlin Graphics Genre: Action / Puzzle Players: 1  Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 55,340
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Amstrad PCW, Commodore 64, Commodore 16/Plus 4, MSX

I must've played a fair few games that involve a tennis ball in some capacity but this must be the first and only game in which I've played as a tennis ball. The reason for this is not explained in any way in the game's instructions which serve only as... well, instructions, on how to proceed, and even then only briefly. The object of the game is to steer your perpetually bouncing tennis ball through all ten of the vertically-scrolling stages, avoiding the many obstacles and hazards until you reach the 'goal' at the end. You can move it forwards, left, right, and... that's it. The only surfaces you can bounce on safely are the hexagon tiles and the two types of special tiles - arrows which gives you a super bounce, and question marks which give you a bonus, though not always a good one.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Oops, I'm very nearly too late this year (by UK time at least) but just a quick post to wish all my readers, whether occasional or regular, a very Merry Christmas! That's if you celebrate it of course. If you don't, I hope you're having a great time anyway, regardless of what you're doing! The festive season here in RKS Land has been spent in pretty much the same way as usual - gifts and fattening food, lunch with family, lazy evening with new film (review coming soon!), etc. I even received a couple of games from my generous ancestors. Look out for posts featuring those... at some point. Until then, wishing Happy Holidays to all of you. Have fun :)

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Red Parsley Charts - Part 2

Oh, hey, what's going down y'all? Over a year ago now some of you may recall a list posted here of the Top Ten highest rated games that I've reviewed so far. This was meant to be the first of several similar lists leading to a 'Charts' tab at the top of the page, but... I kind of forgot about it. Until now!

That's right, it's now time for the Top Ten highest rated films that I've reviewed! Since I've only actually reviewed a small percentage of the films I've seen and a tiny fraction of those made so far, I guess it's a rather pointless list, but that's never stopped me before. Like its game equivalent, the list will be updated over time, but for now here are the finest films to be reviewed here so far :)

10. Kick-Ass (2010)

I really didn't know quite what to make of this when it first arrived in a shower of glowing reviews but I bought it anyway and immediately loved it! Aaron Johnson is good but Chloe Moretz steals the show for me as Hit-Girl. Great characters, great action, lots of black humour... What more could you ask for? (full review here)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Crap Games #9

XDR: X-Dazedly-Ray (1990)
By: UNIPACC  Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 77,300
Also Available For: Nothing

Most of the titles I've looked at in the 'Crap Games' feature have so far been ones I remember getting slated in magazines of the day, but this latest instalment is different. I have only vague memories of it from back then - possibly because it was only released in Japan - but as I recall its arrival was met with neither adulation nor disdain. It was seen as pretty average in other words. Lately, however, I've been hearing much more about it, specifically from a friend named David who loves shmups so much he even renamed himself after one of his favourite series', Darius. The reason he talks about XDR so much is because he harbours a pure, unmitigated hatred towards what he considers the very worst shmup ever made in the history of the world. Prior to this review I had never played the game but I have been very curious for a while now as to whether it really is that bad.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Gaming Memories - Part 16

Looking back to my early days of gaming, I still find it very odd that I never had any friends who owned a Commodore 64. The mighty Spectrum may have been more popular here in the UK (just about) but there were still plenty of C64’s about, and I read about them all the time in Computer & Video Games magazine and the like, so it was quite strange. Perhaps making it even stranger is the fact that I did have several friends with the less-popular Amstrad CPC, and it was this system along with the Speccy that comprised most of my time with 8-bit home micros.

My good friend Luke had a much-treasured 464 at around the same time I had my Speccy +3 and I recall us using it often, but lodged in my memory most firmly of the the times I spent with the CPC was the example owned by one of my class-mates whose house was, conveniently enough, part-way between school and my house. It was often, therefore, that I would stop off at his house and engage in various game-related skylarkings before running home for dinner and homework. This was the same friend, incidentally, who introduced me, somewhat belatedly, to the Atari VCS. He didn't have too many games and the system was too old to by then to realistically find any new ones to buy, but we enjoyed it all the same. When we weren't hopping around on Frostbite, however, we were in a different room of his sizeable house.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Film Round-Up #11

She may not particularly popular among film fans but I've always been very keen on Jennifer Aniston (at least in part thanks to her always-prominent 'nippular area'). As she proved in Friends over the years, she's a talented comedic actress, but she is capable of more varied roles as well, such as slutty nympho, Julia Harris, in the Horrible Bosses films, and accident victim Claire in this year's Cake.

Most of her work has ended up being in sub-standard romantic comedies though, and while a bit of light-hearted fluff is fine in moderation, she has often seemed stuck in a rut, or even a downwards spiral into oblivion as harsher critics might claim. Here I've taken a look, bravely, some might say, at a selection of her films in the hopes of finding a gem or two amongst the generic rom-coms and other bits and pieces:

Along Came Polly (2004)

One of her first post-Friends films, and it's unsurprisingly a rom-com featuring Jen opposite the usually-decent Ben Stiller (Reuben) who's just broken up with his wife after she cheated on him on the first day of their honeymoon. While he's moping around, however... along came Polly (Aniston) as the title suggests! Polly is a free-spirited, rather directionless ex-classmate of Reuben's whom he starts dating, and her laid-back attitude helps him overcome his neuroses and venture outside his 'safe' comfort zone. That is until his estranged wife (Debra Messing) returns seeking a reunion, obviously. It's silly, predictable nonsense as it probably sounds really, but I still couldn't help but enjoy it anyway. Stiller and Aniston's characters are likeable and they have some decent support from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Missi Pyle as the respective 'best friends', and there are some good laughs amongst the more corny stuff. Not everything works but this isn't nearly as bad an effort as some claim... 7/10

Friday, 11 December 2015

Bomberman Series - Part 12

Super Bomberman (1993)
By: Hudson Soft  Genre: Maze  Players: 1-4  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES  First Day Score: 138,700
Also Available For: Nothing

Growing up as a gamer here in the UK came with a few benefits but it also had its drawbacks. The MSX and NES weren't popular here and we didn't even get the PC Engine at all, so the first time many of us were able to sample the delights offered by Bomberman and his fine games was with this release on the SNES. It was initially launched just a few months after Bomberman '93 which was quite comfortably the best game of the series up to that point, but could the introduction of a new format continue its gradual evolution? I guess we'll see about that later but one thing it did do was introduce a new bad guy in 'the evil Carat Diamond and his cohort, scientist Dr. Mook' who want to steal Bomberman's advanced combat capabilities for use in their special Robot Tournament. Black Bomberman has apparently reformed his character and attempts to stop the diabolical plan but is captured while doing so. Somehow he escapes and warns White Bomberman just as wave upon wave of enemy robots begin their advance toward Peace Town, the home of both antenna-wagglers.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Film Review #84

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Starring: Kyle Catlett, Helena Bonham Carter, Callum Keith Rennie, Niamh Wilson, Judy Davis, Jakob Davies, Dominique Pinon

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 105 Minutes

Tagline: "A Journey in 3D by Jean-Pierre Jeunet."

I've been a fan of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's for a good few years now, at least in part because his films often feature similar kinds of unusual stories and quirky characters as my very favourite director, Wes Anderson, and his directorial style isn't that dissimilar either. This film is his latest effort and the first in English (also the first to be filmed in 3D), but despite the change of language as well as continent, the story is typically unique. It's based on the début novel by Reif Larsen and, as the title suggests, it revolves around T.S. Spivet who is indeed young and prodigious. He's actually 10 years old and lives on a remote ranch in Montana with his entomologist mother, Dr. Clair (Bonham Carter), his unnamed cowboy father (Rennie) who was seemingly 'born a hundred years too late', and his bratty 14-year-old sister Gracie (Wilson) who dreams of becoming Miss America.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Retro News - Amazing Free Game Extravaganza!

I suspect a great many gamers remember an epic adventure/RPG by BioWare called Jade Empire which quickly enchanted all those who sampled its splendidness a couple of generations ago. It was released a somewhat startling 10 years ago now and, while popular, primarily on the original Xbox, it never really reached the level of success many believe it deserved. That, however, could hopefully be about to change.

Electronic Arts are pretty far from my favourite company in the games industry (see here if you are interested) but on this day they bring glad tidings. EA, you see, in their never-ending quest to buy up all of the world's development studios, were successful in adding BioWare to their now-extensive collection. Historically, this would be a bad thing - EA have acquired a reputation for, at best, meddling in games being developed by the studios they own or, at worst, even dismantling a studio entirely (R.I.P. Westwood Studios). But it seems I may have to set aside the fury with which I usually view them, at least temporarily, for I have discovered they are not an entirely cold, calculating, evil entity of a company after all, at least in one particular way.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Maze Games #13

Loaded a.k.a. Blood Factory (1996)
By: Gremlin Interactive / Interplay Genre: Maze / Run 'n' Gun Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation
Also Available For: Saturn

As should be pretty clear from the title screen alone, Loaded is not a game for children. Though certainly not the first game to feature blood 'n' gore in a remotely realistic way, it was probably the first such game I played. It was therefore also the first game to make me question whether the inclusion of so much crimson content added enough to a game to make it worth restricting the number of people that could play it. We'll find that out soon I guess! It's set in the far future and features a space-faring mankind who have colonised many worlds in all corners of the galaxy. One such colony is the Raulf maximum security prison planet where six psychotic mercenaries are among the inmates. They have more reason than the many other inmates to feel aggrieved, however, as they have all been framed for the crimes of an evil space pirate known as F.U.B. who is now warden of the prison.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Top Five Eddie Murphy Films

Opinions of Eddie Murphy today are likely to be very different to those of 20+ years ago. Back then he was considered a comedic genius who made something funnier just be being in it. Today he is viewed rather less favourably after a string of poorly received films which began in the mid-to-late 90's by my estimations. In defence of the often-fickle movie-going public, some of the films in question truly are ghastly but is he really that bad nowadays? To find out I decided to watch as many of his films as I could manage with the outcome being this Top Five of his best work so far. Would any more recent efforts make the cut?

5. 48 Hrs (1982)

Despite hearing people rave about it for years, this was one I missed in its day, seeing it for the first time only for this feature. Starring opposite Nick Nolte's rough and tumble SFPD detective, Murphy is Reggie Hammond, a former armed robber who is given a temporary break from his prison cell to assist the fuzz in recapturing his old partner in crime who has escaped from prison killing several guards and cops in the process. I think this was meant to be more of a comedy than anything else but, while it's not funny often enough for that, it is a good (and possibly first) example of the 'buddy cop' action thriller which works well thanks mainly to the great chemistry between Murphy and Nolte. It was Murphy's first film too, but it doesn't show from his self-assured performance. Like many of his early films, there's a fair bit of racist language, but that was the only thing I didn't like about this fast-paced adventure.

Friday, 27 November 2015

MSX Round-Up #2

They might be better known for the likes of Aleste, Gunhed, and Puyo Puyo but, like everyone else, Compile had to start somewhere. In their earliest days they favoured the Japanese 8-bit micros, eventually settling on MSX as their 'main' machine, and even this far back their focus was apparently on shoot 'em ups. One of the first was Final Justice, also one of the first games by designer, Satoshi 'Pac' Fujishima, and it was the first part of what would eventually became his trilogy - all shooters, all vertical-scrollers (kind of), and all available only on the MSX. Were there already signs of Compile's greatness this far back? Let's see :)

Final Justice (1985)

Hailing the arrival of both Pac and Compile was this, a simple shooter which, while technically a vertical-scroller, looks and plays more like a gallery shooter. Your ship is at the bottom and is armed with a pea-shooter cannon, various enemies approach from the top. Your job is simply to shoot or avoid them long enough to reach the boss. Defeat it and move to the next stage, of which there are supposedly 99 in total. Lord knows who could clear them all without cheating though! You only get one life for starters, although you do get a shield that can take a few hits. The enemies are all pretty basic and each type moves in a different way - some swoop around, some head straight for you, some meander unpredictably, etc. There are also white blocks which can, if you're quick, bestow upon you a shield-refill, shot power-up, or speed-up. Even with these, though, Final Justice is an extremely simple blaster which, while quite addictive, is also very repetitive. It's definitely interesting enough for Compile fans to take a peek at (it even has their little jingle) but it most likely won't hold your attention for very long... 5/10

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Indie Games News/Previews #8

Pang Adventures by DotEmu / Pastagames (2015) - PC, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS

Whichever of its many names you might know it by, I'm sure most gamers remember Pang. I suspect most liked it too, so it should come as most welcome news that an update/reboot is on the way! Yes that's right, continuing the trend of giving old favourites a new lick of paint, DotEmu and Pastagames have turned their attention to Mitchell Corp's 1989 classic balloon bursting harpoon 'em up. The last game in the series, the oddly-named Pang: Magical Michael for the Nintendo DS, dispensed with our usual heroes (the 'Buster Bros' of the game's American title) but they're now back and looking better than ever!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Top Five Star Trek Babes

Ah, good old Star Trek. Most people seem to either love it or hate it. I'm definitely in the former category, as long-time visitors to this page must already know, and there are many reasons that I like all its various incarnations. The epic and never-ending adventure of space exploration offers almost infinite possibilities and can incorporate near enough any genre as well, from emotional drama to kick-ass action, but another thing Star Trek has apparently become known for, chiefly by its male-dominated fan-base, is the lovely ladies that comprise parts of the various casts.

Of course, almost all of them are far more than just eye-candy. Their characters are just as complex as their male counterparts and are just as important as well, holding equal status and frequently being found in positions of authority, but only a fool would suggest they're not nice to look at. Well, for people of the relevant sexualities at least, and I don't think there's anything wrong with appreciating a lady's aesthetic qualities in addition to her less visually-obvious attributes. Accordingly, Trekkies (or Trekkers if you prefer) have many opinions on this subject, like most others, but here are my personal favourites from over the years:

5 - Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell)

Noticing Ms. Farrell's beauty is not something the producers of Deep Space Nine shied away from - her Trill character was ogled and chased by half the males on the station, human and alien alike, and the fact that she had a giant sentient slug living inside her which bestowed upon her the memories and experiences of its previous occupants (including several men) didn't seem to put most of them off either. I guess it's not hard to see why though. Not only is she clearly very attractive but she's also six foot tall, positively brimming with confidence, and is happy to flirt with just about anyone who shows her attention. Of course, it didn't hurt her case that she had a girl/girl 'moment' in a fourth season episode either!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Sega Super Scaler Games #4

OutRun (1986)
By: Sega Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 11,640,950
Also Available For: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 2, Saturn, MegaDrive, Master System, PC Engine, Game Gear, Amiga, Atari ST, PC, MSX, MSX 2, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum (full releases), Dreamcast, Xbox, Game Boy Advance (as in-game bonus or on compilation)
Download For: Mobile

I've already featured OutRun here at Red Parsley a few times - how could I not? It's correctly regarded as an all-time great and one of gaming's most important titles, but it's also a game that's always been very important to me personally as well. As I detailed way back in one of my first ever posts here, it's basically the game that's single-handedly responsible for my love of gaming, and one that's accordingly remained close to the top of my favourites list ever since. I'm sure many others have as much affection for Yu Suzuki's classic as I do - it was such an amazing game for its time it can't have failed to captivate countless others who encountered it - but is the enduring adulation it receives based purely on nostalgia these days, or is it still as enjoyable to play as it always was?

Monday, 16 November 2015

TV Shows #7 - Part 2

Arrow Season Two (2013)
Developed By: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Manu Bennett, Katie Cassidy, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Paul Blackthorne, Susanna Thompson, Colton Haynes, Caity Lotz, Summer Glau, Kevin Alejandro, Dylan Neal, Dylan Bruce, Bex Taylor-Klaus, John Barrowman, Celina Jade, Audrey Marie Anderson, Michael Rowe

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 43 Minutes per Episode, 23 Episodes

Tagline: "His death was just the beginning."

Green Arrow has never been among DC's most popular characters but after a bit of a redesign, modified back-story, and the introduction of a few new characters in addition to reworked versions of the established ones, his adventures quickly proved to be ideally suited to the revitalised world of live-action TV shows. This show was of course Arrow and it was in fact the first such show of DC's assault on the currently-popular 'shared universe' approach to showcasing their roster of characters, although unlike Marvel, their version will be keeping the TV and cinema universes separate, and that makes Arrow its only occupant at this stage.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Platform/Puzzle Games #6

Squirbs (2015)
By: Team Indev Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

A couple of months ago now I did a preview of a rather interesting-looking indie platformer I chanced upon known as Squirbs. Though not entirely unique, it featured an unusual game-mechanic as well as a rather peculiar main character, but it worked well and I enjoyed it a lot. I'm therefore very pleased to say the final game is now ready! Its star is called Squirb and, in his apparent foolish curiosity, he began fooling with a crystal he found which resulted in him breaking it. The many shards were spread over a wide area but also split Squirb himself into two. Your job is simply to recover all the shards, reconstruct the crystal, and (hopefully) return everything to normal. Sounds simple enough!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Cover-Art: PC Engine - Part 3

Despite the fact that they were supposed to be regular features, it has now been a somewhat unsettling two years since the last selection of 'Cover Art' comparisons here at Red Parsley. I guess I'm not too apologetic though - there's just so much stuff to cover, it's easy to get side-tracked! But these posts are good fun so I'm glad to present this third selection for the mighty PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16:

Ninja Spirit (1988)

This conversion of the arcade game of the same year actually features pretty similar covers for both main territories. Each is centred around a possibly-angry ninja aiming a sword at the viewer, although the Japanese ninja is apparently able to either shoot or absorb lightning with his, and each features a scary spirit of some sort lurking behind the ninja - an ogre on the Japanese cover and what looks like a werewolf on the U.S. one. As is often the case, the artwork of the latter is more cartoony and of a poorer standard, but I'm not sure I like the Japanese cover being partly taken up by a couple of screenshots. I guess this one's a draw then, all things considered.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Film Review #83

Avengers Assemble (2012)
Director: Joss Whedon Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 143 Minutes

Tagline: "Avengers... ASSEMBLE!"

I've watched a lot of films over the years. Their quality has obviously varied wildly but not too many of them have really strayed that far from whatever hope or expectation I might've had. Perhaps it's because, more often than not, the producers can't afford to really hype them up too much, and when they can I rarely pay too much attention to their blurb. However, I don't think I've ever known a film to be built up in quite the way Avengers was. Most blockbusters have to make do with intrusive adverts, giant posters and billboards all over town, fast food tie-ins, all that stuff. Avengers had five whole films to build it up! However intent one may be to ignore the latest all-encompassing promotional push, it's hard to ignore hype of that magnitude. Avengers then, as it was originally known, had a hell of a lot to live up to.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Game Boy Games #3

Wave Race (1992)
By: Nintendo EAD Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-4 (via link) Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy
Also Available For: Nothing

To many gamers, the Wave Race name means the N64 game, which is indeed fantastic and well worthy of such attention, but the series actually started elsewhere. On the humble Game Boy, no less, with this very game. Unsurprisingly, that means it didn't start out as a splooshy polygonal into-the-screen racing experience but rather as a humble overhead-viewed game and, very strangely, one that was not even released in Japan at all. The rather basic set-up involves something called the 'Personal Water Craft' (PWC) National Series competition which features "riders from all over the U.S.". Presumably that means people from those mysterious realms beyond the borders of North America are either not deemed to have the necessary skills to compete or are simply not welcome, and that's odd since many locations through the game are based outside the vast continent in question. Either way, you, as an American 'PWC' rider, actually have two competitions choose from.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Indie Games News/Previews #7

The 90's Arcade Racer by Nicalis, Inc. (201?) - PC, Mac, Wii U

Except this time it's not a gaming news post at all really - kind of the opposite actually. It was, you see, many moons past that 90's Arcade Racer first crossed my path and it was truly love at first sight. Racing games have long been one of my favourite genres, particularly arcade style ones, and many of my favourites are from the 90's, so as you might imagine, a game with a name like this sounded like a more than tantalising prospect. Better yet, judging by the screenshots and a demo video, it looked absolutely fantastic. Sounds too good to be true, right? Hopefully it won't end up being another case of an indie developer getting in over their head and bailing but it's already massively delayed.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Top Five Lottery Cars

Most of us dream of winning the lottery some day. The first thing many would do in my experience is leave their place of work (politely and considerately, giving ample notice I'm sure). Next up would probably be a luxury holiday which would most likely incorporate or be followed by a spending spree, and part of this would probably include a nice new car. I'm sure I'm not alone in giving some thought to the latter point in particular and, whilst there are literally hundreds of tempting options from all around the world, I think the five I would buy for myself would be these:

5 - BMW M3

I actually almost have one of these already (my current car is a BMW 320 M Sport) and it's also the only car on this list I've driven before (I did some powersliding in one at a track event), but it would still be one of my first post-winnings purchases. It would probably be my 'practical, everyday use' car - it has four doors, ample storage space, and isn't too low or wide to drive around town, but it still comes loaded with over 400 horse-power with which to see off any unruly challengers too.

Friday, 30 October 2015

First Look Master System #3

Sapo Xulé: Os Invasores do Brejo by Vic Tokai / Tectoy (1995) - Master System

As many of you no doubt already know, Sega's wonderful Master System was very popular in Brazil and lasted much longer there than in any other territory. It was still receiving new releases well into the middle of the 90's and some of them were localised as well. One of these was Psycho Fox, among my very favourite of all games on the system, which was reworked into this, the first of three MS games to be based on Sapo Xulé, a frog character from a series of Brazilian comic-books (the name translates as 'Smelly Feet Frog: Invaders of the Swamp' in case you're interested). Apparently he's popular too (and you would think so if he features in three games) but my wife has never even heard of him, and she's from Brazil! Oh well, popular or not, the point of this post was to see how different the game is to my beloved Psycho Fox, and after spending an afternoon playing it I can confirm the answer is... not very!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Scrolling Fighting Games #14

Crude Buster a.k.a. Two Crude Dudes (1990)
By: Data East Genre: Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 4,700 (one credit)
Also Available For: MegaDrive

The 'Dudeism' movement which fell upon the Western world, primarily the US, in the late 80's and early 90's was a dark time in our history. Everyone and everything was deemed superior simply if it acted and sounded dude-like and this led to many tragedies. The gaming world was one of the hardest-hit, with countless otherwise-decent games being infected, and one example that has always remained foremost in my mind is Crude Buster, renamed Two Crude Dudes in the land of hotdogs and many firearms. It stars two mercenaries, who are indeed 'dudes' of the highest order, who have been hired by the U.S. government to stop a terrorist organization known as 'Big Valley' who are attempting to take control of New York City... after having detonated a nuclear device there. Apparently the threat of the devastating fallout that has surely now contaminated the area doesn't seem to deter them either. Luckily, one of the many benefits of being a 'dude' is apparently an immunity to ionising radiation.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Star Trek #11

Voyager Favourite Episodes - Season Four

I mentioned in the last post in the series of features that season three of Voyager marked an upturn in the general quality of the episodes, but for some that time came a year later with this fourth season, and there was one big reason for that (or is that two big reasons?) - Seven of Nine. If reports are to be believed, ratings were flagging so the producers decided to add a new character to the show who could help pull in more viewers. But what approach did they take? That's right, they went for a young, gorgeous, blonde, female character with huge boobs, obviously!

It's easy to knock them for aiming squarely at the 'horny young male' audience but it was a move that apparently paid off - season four saw an immediate and sharp rise in the ratings (but definitely no 'rises' of any other kinds - snigger). But Seven wasn't all pouty lips, skin-tight outfits, and curvy bits - she quickly proved to be an interesting character as well as a... ummm, rather aesthetically pleasing one. Jeri Ryan's portrayal is consistently superb in my opinion, too, and the character's origins (i.e. terrifying Borg drone disconnected from the collective and rediscovering her humanity in an innocent, child-like way) made for some truly great episodes and many, many memorable scenes. Some of them come this season which is definitely the best yet for the number of top episodes and I really had a tough time narrowing it down to the five featured.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Indie Games News/Previews #6

Tower 57 by Pixwerk (2015) - PC/Mac

It's been a while since I looked at an overhead run 'n' gun game but one that recently came to my attention is this forthcoming indie release. It's a Kickstarter-funded title, set in a world where many of our citizens are holed up in self-sustaining Towers. One of these - Tower 57 - is allegedly planning an invasion so it's your job to find out what's going on and put a stop to it. The game isn't finished yet but it's not far off and will include six varied characters to choose from, each with their own special abilities, for you and possibly a friend to blast through the Tower with in single or two-player co-op modes. The Tower, being a tower and all, consists of multiple floors too, each with its own theme, so there's plenty of stuff to shoot up.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

PC Engine Shmups #10

Deep Blue (1989)
By: Pack-In Video / NEC Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 23,950
Also Available For: Nothing

When I think of underwater shmup action my mind usually tends to picture the splendid third stage of Thunder Force III but I can't think of too many that take place within the big blue wobbly stuff entirely. One that apparently does, though, is this much-derided PC Engine exclusive. Despite this setting, there are still aliens involved in the back-story who have reportedly infected our wonderful oceans with evil bacteria which has made the creatures that dwell therein grow larger and follow the commands of their new masters. Earth's only defence against the attack is the A.N.G.E.L. Fish Attack Sub which is, as you might've guessed, a submarine... with the appearance of a fish! Thankfully its abilities exceed those of most marine lifeforms and by using these you, as the sub's anonymous pilot, must eliminate a substantial portion of said lifeforms. Poor fishies :(

Monday, 19 October 2015

Film Review #82

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Director: Colin Trevorrow Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Mary Lynn Rajskub

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 85 Minutes

Tagline: "What would you go back for?"

There have been lots of films over the years that are based on pretty flimsy premises but there can't be too many that take their inspiration from a classified advertisement. But that is apparently from where the unlikely inspiration behind Safety Not Guaranteed originates - a real classified ad, written as a joke by a bored magazine employee, which read: "Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before." One could easily be forgiven for indeed thinking this a prank of some sort upon seeing it, but Jeff Schwensen (Johnson), a writer for Seattle Magazine, thinks it intriguing enough to be worth checking out for a potential story and, after convincing his boss (Rajskub) of the same, he's given the job.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Top Five NES Arcade Adventures

My classification of some game genres has not always been shared by other gamers but I've always been keen on a one that's often known as 'Arcade Adventures'. I generally consider these to be kind of like watered-down action RPGs - faster paced with more arcadey gameplay but retaining some RPG-ish qualities like the collection of equipment, puzzley elements, back-tracking to access new areas, etc. They can be platform-based, overhead, isometric, or a combination of some or all of these, as long as they possess the aforementioned qualities.

And that brings me to the last NES Top Five I posted here (which was a somewhat startling 9 months ago now - has it really been that long?). After getting a little grief for leaving some games in particular out of my 'Top Five NES Platform Games' list, I decided it would be a good idea to make another list to which they would be better suited. Deciding which to include was nearly as tough as deciding which ones were even eligible (the distinction between genres gets mighty blurry sometimes), and I suspect it may also be derided to some degree, but here are my choices:

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. Gargoyle's Quest II (1992)

This game may actually be unique in that it's an NES-only sequel to a Game Boy-only original! That game cast you as Firebrand, the idiotic red demon thing from Ghosts 'n' Goblins, who was given the job of traversing a series of challenging platformy stages linked by an Zelda-style overworld with lots of towns and random battles. And this sequel is exactly the same! Well, more or less. It's actually a prequel, technically, with the story taking place during Firebrand's formative years, but the format of the game is very familiar. Which is a good thing I guess - the original was an enjoyable adventure after all, and so is this, but with the added bonus of colour graphics! They're quite pretty as well, and include a decent variety of landscapes as well as some nice ghoulish sprites, and the music isn't bad either. The stages feature perhaps more hazards than any other game I've played - it's often hard to find a spot that isn't covered with spikes or fire or something! Firebrand's floaty ability makes things much easier though, and it's a satisfying, enjoyable, and even reasonably fair game to play through. Not the most loved game here but it deserves your time.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Favourite Speccy Loading Screens - Part 5

Oh, hello again. It's now accidentally been a startlingly long time since I last posted selections of my favourite Spectrum loading screens, but nonetheless, here is the final part of this feature which has actually turned out to be among my most popular features for some time! I suppose visually-stimulating posts are always popular but, whatever the reason, I'm very pleased you've enjoyed this extensive gallery...

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Film Round-Up #10

Mission: Impossible (1996 - 2015)
Directed By: Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird, Christopher McQuarrie Starring: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michelle Monaghan, Jon Voight, Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Maggie Q, Lawrence Fishburne, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris

Certificate: 15 Running Time: Approx 622 minutes (so far)

The subject of espionage is one that has been approached countless times in the world of film and television over the years, and one of the first such examples I remember hearing about, other than the adventures of a certain Martini-loving Brit of course, was Mission: Impossible. Though starting out as a popuar American TV series that ran from 1966 - 1973, the name is probably better known today for the film series that it spawned when the iconic name was dusted off some 25-odd years later, this time starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, the hero out to save the world. With the exception of the Cruise-haters, reaction to the films has generally been very positive.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Arcade Shmup #23

P-47 Aces (1995)
By: Jaleco Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 139,489
Also Available For: Nothing

There's nothing particularly ground breaking about P-47 but for some reason it's still a shmup I greatly enjoy, so imagine my delight at hearing about this less-well known sequel. Like the first game, it's a horizontal-scroller and appears to be set during the same sort of time period (1940's). The story plunges you (and a friend, for it supports two players) smack in the middle of whichever war is currently raging (probably WWII) with little explanation other than orders to neutralise specific 'enemy' targets. There are eight stages in total, standing between you and whatever your ultimate objective is (the total destruction of the enemy and their devastating machine of war, presumably?) and, as seems to be customary with shmups from the mid-90's onwards, instead of merely having one lone hero with an 'advanced prototype' aircraft to do this with, you get the choice of four pilots, each with their own unique bucket of bolts to steer through the carnage.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Memorable Adverts / Flyers #2

Driller by Major Developments / Incentive Software (1987) - Various Formats

Released to universally dropped jaws in 1987 by Incentive Software, Driller was the first game to make use of the much-heralded 'Freescape' 3D game engine which was able to produce filled polygonal landscapes, even on the lesser-powered machines such as the Speccy and Amstrad CPC. According to Incentive it was "like being there" - a slight exaggeration perhaps, but it was definitely very impressive and led to a direct sequel as well as numerous other games, and I played and enjoyed most of them, mainly on my Speccy +3, but later on my Amiga as well.

Why is it memorable?
I've been into science fiction for most of my life so when I first saw Driller's advert it captured my attention immediately. It looked like it was straight out of one of the many 70's sci-fi books my dad had passed on to me, which all included some wonderfully imaginative illustrations on their covers and often inside as well. The artwork was fantastic - a futuristic green landscape dominated by a huge tower of some sort, a cool pointy red spacecraft zipping past it, a gorgeous planet looming behind - and it set the mood for the game superbly. Happily we weren't then let down either...

Friday, 2 October 2015

TV Shows #7 - Part 1

Arrow Season One (2012)
Developed By: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, Emily Bett Rickards, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Donnell, Willa Holland, Susanna Thompson, Manu Bennett, Colton Haynes, John Barrowman, Sebastian Dunn, Byron Mann, Celina Jade, Colin Salmon, Kelly Hu, Audrey Marie Anderson, Michael Rowe

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 43 Minutes per Episode, 23 Episodes

Tagline: "His death was just the beginning."

His name, as you have no doubt been told many, many times if you've ever watched the show in question, is Oliver Queen. It's also a name that will already be familiar to comic book fans the world over. However, as I've mentioned once or twice in my Marvel film reviews, as much as I appreciate the characters, artwork, stories, etc, of many comic-books, I've never gotten around to properly immersing myself in that world. Consequently, the name of Oliver Queen was a new one to me. Thankfully, this show, based on the DC Comics character, Green Arrow, is very accommodating for newbies like me.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Budget Games #7

Zub (1986)
By: Binary Design / Mastertronic Genre: Platform Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 1,044
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64

If I recall correctly, one of the first budget games I ever bought (or was given, as was more likely the case in those days) was Zub. It was an immediately eye-catching game, mainly due to its splendid comic-book style cover, but it was memorable for a few other reasons as well. It puts you in the shoes of Private Zub who is summoned by Sergeant Zub and briefed on a mission he is to undertake on the orders of King... umm, Zub. The task at hand is to recover one of the king's crown jewels, the Green Eyeball of Zub, and return it. This dazzling jewel won't be easy to grab though - your quest begins on the planet Zub One while your quarry is all the way over on Zub Ten. Getting there isn't as straightforward as you might think either, as the planets don't simply lead from one to the next.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Retro Gaming Zoo #1

Humans are stupid. Animals are always better than stupid humans, everyone knows that, and it's something that's also true in the world of video games. A tremendous variety of weird and wonderful animals have starred in games over the years and here I'll be taking a closer look at some of them. First up is:

Creature #1 - Leon of Circus Lido
Type of Creature? Chameleon  Realistic Portrayal? Yes

An unusual choice for the first post of this feature? Yes, I guess Leon isn't the best known character around but for some reason he was the first one I thought of. He only featured in one game that I know of which is a platform/puzzle game. His abilities are few (he can't even jump, for example) but those he does have are very faithful to his lizardy origins. They include a curly prehensile tail that allows him to climb up certain types of platforms and a long sticky tongue he uses to capture (though not eat) all the pesky insects that inhabit the game's many single-screen stages. He doesn't talk and nor is he on some human-like quest for revenge or justice as far as I can tell. He seems to simply be struggling to survive in the hazardous environment he calls home. In other words, Circus Lido is a rare case of an animal-based game which is actually reasonably realistic! Well, for video game standards at least...

Is His Game Any Good? Undecided. The premise is good, it's enjoyable to play, and addictive, but it gets too hard too quickly for my tastes. Definitely unique and worth checking out though. For more details of Circus Lido, check the full review here.


Friday, 25 September 2015

San Francisco's Gaming Gem - Part 1

Oh, hello there, how's stuff 'n' junk? As mentioned in my 'why I haven't posted much lately' post, I have recently enjoyed a spectacular holiday driving around California visiting various cities and National Parks alike. There were of course many highlights but few relevant to the usual content of this blog. One, however, was very relevant, and I didn't discover its existence until mid-way through my second-to-last day of the trip when a friend I had met up with who lives in (or near) San Francisco.

The magical place in question was the Musée Mécanique, located at Fisherman’s Wharf in the north of San Francisco, and it's a museum of coin-operated arcade games. While the machines on display do include classic video games like Galaxians, Robotron, Phoenix, etc, the museum is perhaps even more noteworthy for its collection of antique electro-mechanical arcade games, and the best part is that all the machines have been lovingly restored and are fully playable too! Some of these date back as far as the 1920's, amazingly, and range right up to the 70's where of course the electronic games we know today were born (yes, okay, I know Spacewar was earlier), and they were absolutely fascinating to behold.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Neo Geo Games #1

Top Hunter: Roddy & Cathy (1994)
By: SNK Genre: Platform/Fighting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS First Day Score: Don't know, doesn't record scores :(
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES & CD
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

The names 'Roddy' and 'Cathy' may not conjure very heroic images in one's mind - they sound more like the hosts of a kiddies TV show to me - but they are the names of the two heroes found in this here leapy slap-fest which SNK graced us with mid-way through the Neo Geo's life. It's not an easy game to categorise either - it takes the form of a platformy run 'n' gunner, but with much fightyness instead of guns. Well, kind of. Anyway, our 'heroes' (chortle) are apparently bounty hunters who are sent "to put a stop to a colony of Galactic Pirates called the Klaptons who threaten and plunder the cosmos". These cretinous pirates have seized four elemental planets and it's your job as Roddy (player one), and possibly Cathy (player two) as well, to reach and defeat each planet's newly-installed leader, all of whom are of course working for the heinous main man, Captain Klapton.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Film Review #81

Ex Machina (2015)
Director: Alex Garland Starring: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 108 Minutes

Tagline: "There is nothing more human than the will to survive."

As far as many imaginative people are concerned, the great doom of our time will come not from a cataclysmic asteroid impact, nuclear war, or alien invasion, but as a result of artificial intelligence. It's unquestionably something with many potential implications - problems that we will no doubt be faced with in the coming years - and there have been many films that have tried to tackle some of them. The latest is this British effort which is the directorial début of Alex Garland, previously best known as a screenwriter, notably for some of Danny Boyle's films such as 28 Days Later and Sunshine. For his first film, Garland based the story on an idea he's had since he was a child, the essence of which was simple - could a machine ever be truly sentient? The answer seems clear but is it really that straightforward?

Monday, 14 September 2015

Norris Fighter!

I've never really been the biggest fan of fighting games but one series I have always liked is that of Capcom's mighty Street Fighter. Something else I like is Chuck Norris, or more accurately, his hugely exaggerated powers and the resultant feats that are attributed to him (such as those detailed on the highly amusing Chuck Norris Facts website), so the prospect of a video showing the latter as a playable character in Street Fighter II was an intriguing one to say the least. I don't normally post things like this but it really tickled me, so for your viewing pleasure:


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Currently Playing...

Elemental Master by Techno Soft (1990) - MegaDrive

Much like the recent Raiden Fighters post, this is another one I'm a tad late with (not that it takes me ages to get around to everything of course), and was in fact the very next game I played as part of the Shmup League. Unlike that previous toughie, however, I had actually played this one before (I've even reviewed it - check here!) so I had hopes of putting in a better performance. Sadly this was only marginally realised (I finished 9th out of 12 - chortle) but it did also give me the opportunity to play it properly again for the first time in a rather startling five years.

The first thing I noticed when playing it this time is that it's harder than I remember. I guess that's often the case though, when you're long out of practise, but I found that Laden (the character you play as) seemed larger and slightly clumsier to control that he used to, and unsurprisingly I didn't get particularly far! To start with at least, but practise pays dividends as they say, and I gradually gained a degree or respectability (without ever threatening the upper half of the league of course, which consisted pretty much exclusively of 1CC scores). I soon polished off the first four stages, any of which can be selected from the start of the game, but it here that I again ran into problems.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Holiday Time Again!

Yes, it's that time of year again! The few regular visitors I have here at Red Parsley may have noticed fewer new posts lately and that's because I have been on holiday for the last two-and-a-half weeks. This trip was the most ambitious yet undertaken by my wife and I and represented the fourth continent to have been visited by my good self (although my wife had already been there).

Passing under the Golden Gate Bridge on a boat trip...
This continent, following on from a few trips around Europe and South America, as well as a recent visit to Asia, was North America; more specifically California where we had decided to attempt a road trip. After arriving in San Francisco, we intended to drive east to Yosemite National Park, then down to Fresno where we would be staying for a few nights while we explored the mighty Yosemite along with Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks which are right next to each other. Sadly, Kings Canyon was closed due to a raging wildfire whose smoke partially obscured Sequoia Park as well. It seems these fires are much more common than I had realised too. Indeed, there was much evidence of previous fires in the other parks, particularly Yosemite, and all the fire hazard signs we passed were set at the 'very high' risk level. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Memorable Gaming Moments #2

Wiz 'n' Liz by Raising Hell Software / Psygnosis (1993) - MegaDrive

Ooo, ooo, what could it be?!
More often than not it's the silliest, weirdest things I remember about the times I have spent gaming all these years. Sure enough, when I think about Wiz 'n' Liz - one of my favourite games and in my opinion a tremendously enjoyable and underrated 16-bit platformer - the thing that usually stands out the most is all the peculiar little mini-games and bonuses that can be accessed by way of its fruit-based magic spells. On each fast, looping landscape that make up the stages of the game, you see, are a great many rabbits. Running into these first releases letters which should be collected to spell out the magic word at the top of the screen. Once that's done, any remaining rabbits release fruits instead. Collecting enough of these will allow you to use the fruit in question on your 'home' screen where your magic cauldron is found.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bat 'n' Ball Games #11

Thunder and Lightning (1990)
By: Visco / Romstar Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo NES First Day Score: Missed It (not displayed while playing)
Also Available For: Arcade

You would think after the immense success of Arkanoid that many of the clones that followed would also meet with some degree of fame and fortune too, especially if they were any good, but this release by Visco went largely unnoticed. This is even stranger when you realise it first appeared in arcades - the birthplace of most popular games of the day, and was also ported to the NES - the most popular console of the time. Perhaps it stank of poop? Many clones were tremendously generic and highly uninspiring to play after all. After just a few minutes playing Thunder and Lightning, though, that definitely didn't seem to be the case here. Impressions of Romstar's NES conversion were initially very positive - it's bright and colourful, the presentation is nice, and my time spent with it was enjoyable, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was going to suddenly start sucking hard and I would then come to understand the reason for its apparent anonymity.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Film Review #80

Oblivion (2013)
Director: Joseph Kosinski Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 124 Minutes

Tagline: "Earth is a memory worth fighting for."

Earth is dying. That's the bleak message we are given by Commander Jack Harper (Cruise) at the opening of this adaptation of Joseph Kosinski's unpublished graphic novel. It's set in 2077, around 50 years after a devastating war with the invading Scavengers (or Scavs), an alien race forced to leave their own world and who are now keen to exploit the resources of our precious home. It wasn't a direct invasion at first though. The Scavs first blew up our moon which threw the world into chaos. Enormous earthquakes struck within hours and huge tsunamis took care of much that remained. Then came the invasion. We fought back. We used the nukes, and eventually defeated the Scavs, but earth was left a poisoned ruin and most of her population gone. The survivors relocated to Titan with just a handful remaining behind to oversee the massive fusion generators which are slowly draining the oceans to produce energy for the colonists.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Indie Games News/Previews #5

No Man's Sky by Hello Games (2015) - PC and PS4

Given my apparent natural lethargy and general lack of urgency, the E3 fair isn't something I usually pay a massive amount of attention to. Sure, the more popular news items usually end up finding me anyway, some of which I find interesting, others I do not, but there is one game that's been featured in the last two events that I'm desperate to play, and that, as you might've guessed, is No Man's Sky. It's an indie title by a small British studio based in Guildford (which isn't far from me actually!), but the fact that it's been featured in two annual shows (and counting) should tell you that it's a little more ambitious than most indie releases. In fact, it's so ambitious, many believed it couldn't even be realised.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Exploring the Funtech Super A'Can

The number '68000' is probably one that means a lot to many retro gamers. It is after all the designation of the processor made by Motorola that's found in many fine 16-bit systems such as the Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Sega MegaDrive, and SNK's mighty Neo Geo, but there are also a few lesser-known systems powered by it as well. One of them is the Super A'Can which is made by a company called Funtech.

Looks a bit like a 'Stealth Super NES/Famicom' - sweet!
It's not tremendously surprising if you haven't heard of Funtech as they're a Taiwanese company who were responsible for little of note prior to entering the gaming world, and accordingly, their strangely-named system was released only in their native territory. A strange decision, you might think - gaining a foothold in the console hardware market has always been extremely tough for a newcomer to begin with, never mind if said newcomer restricts themselves to such a limited audience. How in the blue blazes did they ever expect to attract any big name publishers to their system? It was also released rather late for a cartridge-based, 68000-powered system - 1995, no less - by which time the PlayStation and Saturn were striding forth, laying waste to all such systems with their fancy 3D graphics and CD-ROM games. It didn't stand a chance did it? I'd say not and indeed, it wasn't with us for long.