Thursday, 25 February 2016

Maze Games #14

Cloud Kingdoms (1991)
By: Millennium Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga
Also Available For: Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64

Having somehow never previously heard of Cloud Kingdoms, it was some appealing box-art that first drew me to it. It features a rather odd but amusing green creature, largely spherical but for a sizable conk, holding a bottle or lemonade whilst surrounded by several similar but more hostile-looking creatures of differing colours, as well as a terrifying spider and bemused snail. As appealing as I found its cover, however, it didn't actually tell me much about the game itself. I resolved to find out and soon discovered that it's a floaty maze game set high above ground amongst the titular kingdoms which are both many and highly varied, and it's a game whose altitude plays a key part in proceedings too. More on that later though.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Film Round-Up #13

Oh hey, what's going down? There have been many and varied pursuits here in RKS-Land and that includes films. I've seen quite a few lately and, of course, time is always found for good old Jean Claude Van Damme and his zany exploits. This latest selection is from either end of his filmography - a few of his earlier efforts as well as a couple of very recent releases. Are any of them good? Read on and find out!

AWOL / Lionheart (1990)

This film is one of many names and was probably the most popular of JCVD's early films after Bloodsport and Kickboxer. He stars as Lyon, a French Foreign Legion paratrooper who's denied leave to see his dying brother. So he goes AWOL. En route to the U.S. his brother dies, leaving behind a wife and young son. Soon afterwards he stumbles into the world of underground bare knuckle fighting and, with the help of his self-appointed manager Joshua (Harrison Page), he starts competing to provide his sister-in-law with some much-needed cash while avoiding the legionnaires attempting to haul him back to the desert. Basically then, it's kind of like Bloodsport, only with hoodlums fighting for the amusement of a bunch of elitist fat-cats. It's not as good as Bloodsport, obviously (nothing is), but it's quite an entertaining take on the same sort of premise. Van Damme's kicky action isn't his greatest but it's decent enough, and just as memorable are motormouth Joshua's constant babbling and Deborah Rennard as the organiser of the fights who keeps trying to seduce our man (why wouldn't he just slip her one?)... 7/10

Saturday, 20 February 2016

First Look PSN #6

Bang Bang Racing by Playbox / Digital Reality (2012) - PlayStation Network (PSN)

I'm not really sure why I'm so keen on top-down racers as I'm not too good at them, but new ones still always catch my eye all the same. Just like this one of course, which despite being released a few years ago now, is at least new to me. It features those stupid melted cars with giant wheels - some twenty of them, no less, spread over four classes, and which can be raced over fifty-four track variants. Most of them are very tight and compact and will have your chosen car sliding around their many, many hairpins and chicanes more or less permanently, and most likely regularly slamming into the barriers and other racers as well. I guess that's the point with games like this - fun, not realism!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Film Review #87

Joy (2015)
Director: David O. Russell Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini, Bradley Cooper

Certificate: 12A Running Time: 124 Minutes

Despite her undeniable talents, I think it's fair to say that at least some movie-goers are beginning to tire of Jennifer Lawrence. I don't think even her harshest critics could try to claim she's not a good actress, nor that she's appeared in some great films, but she has been in quite a few high-profile releases of late, and some would argue that the films in question would not be quite so high-profile were it not for Ms. Lawrence's presence in them. A great example of this is Joy, released this past Christmas season, which is a biopic of an American entrepreneur called, perhaps unsurprisingly, Joy. Or Joy Mangano to use her full name who, having grown up in New York an inventive child, had underachieved quite considerably by the late 80's and was dissatisfied with her life. Although a smart, creative, and resourceful woman and spurred on by a supportive grandmother, she had become stuck in a dead-end job as an airline booking clerk and bogged down by various familial responsibilities.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Nintendo 64 - Retro Gaming's Weak Link?

Over on Facebook myself and a handful of like-minded friends often get together in a chat group and spend an unwise portion of our working day blabbering on about all manner of nonsense*, retro game-related and beyond, when we should probably be doing more important grown-up things. Of all the subjects that are often discussed, however, one continues to vex me so - the Nintendo 64, or more accurately, how it is regarded by this gathering of esteemed retro gamers and beyond.

Friday, 12 February 2016

PC Round-Up #1 - Part 1

Anyone who considered themselves a gamer in the late 80's and 90's had heard of John Carmack. He, along with Jon Romero, was head programmer at id Software who became rather famous for their first-person shooters (just a couple of little games called Doom and Quake). Like all coders, however, he had to start somewhere. I've already taken a look at one of Mr. Romero's first games so now it's his fellow founder's turn, and while these aren't the very first games ever to be completed by Mr. Carmack, they were released in his early years as a coder and would go on to have much significance, for id Software and gaming generally.

Catacomb (1990)

First developed for the Apple II at the end of the 80's, the first game in the Catacomb series is a simple maze shooter. You're a magician called Petton Everhail who has been asked to rescue the Kieralon Empire by freeing their catacombs of the terrifying monsters that now dwell therein. There are ten mazey stages populated by numerous enemies. Petton can run at quite a pace and shoot fireballs without limit (including more powerful charge shots), but the enemies can run just as quickly so fast reactions are needed, especially since his energy meter is depleted rapidly and he only has one life. It's a short game, though pretty tough due to the fast and numerous enemies, but it shouldn't take long to get through it. It was still a pretty cool little game in its day, but early DOS games were never really the pinnacle of gaming and it hasn't aged well. It's certainly worth a quick play for its historical significance, specially for id Software fans, but nothing more than that... 4/10

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Adult Games #6

Amorous Professor Cherry (2004)
By: ZyX Genre: Visual Novel Players: 1 Difficulty: N/A
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: Nothing

All of the so-called adult games I have covered so far here at Red Parsley could really be categorised in the same way: they're all arcade or arcade-style games and they would all be perfectly playable with the modest adult content removed (which usually consists of a few boobies here and there). Games such as the one featured here are a whole different deal, however. It's a visual novel - a type of game very popular in Japan but which I have limited experience of so far; I've only played one in fact, namely Kanon, which itself has a very small number of pervy scenes, although there is also an 'all ages' version. Amorous Professor Cherry, on the other hand, definitely does not have an all ages version. As I discovered within seconds of starting it, we're in full-on 'erotic' game territory here. In other words, porn (or specifically, hentai). But is there a decent game beneath it all?

Monday, 8 February 2016

Film Round-Up #12

For a long while now, Heather Graham has been one of my favourite actresses, but when I recently stopped to consider why, I wasn't really sure. She had a small but important role in the Favreau/Vaughn comedy, Swingers, before really getting her big break as Rollergirl in the fantastic Boogie Nights, soon followed by Felicity Shagwell in the second Austin Powers movie. But what else is there?

There is quite a bit actually but, sadly, as I've learnt over the years, not much of it is very good. So what is it I like about her then? Of course, it could be nothing more than a celebrity crush - she certainly is attractive and is ageing amazingly well (she is 46 now, believe it or not) but I think it's just as much her personality (as much as it can be determined without actually knowing her personally) - she seems to have a natural enthusiasm to her manner which is very appealing.

She's a pretty good actress too, and does about as well as she could with the roles she gets offered, but the films are usually quite poor. But are they all poor? Well, that's what I've been aiming to find out by watching (or re-watching, in some cases) more of the films that feature her at least fairly prominently. Let's just hope there were some corkers amongst the less compelling efforts...

Adrift in Manhattan (2007)

I've long been keen on indies so I'd hoped this little-known example might prove to be a hidden gem. It has an ensemble cast including Heather as Rose, a grieving mother whose two year-old son recently died in an accident, William Baldwin as her estranged husband, Dominic Chianese as an artist who has just learned he's losing his sight, and Victor Rasuk as Simon, a 20-year-old amateur photographer. They all live in New York and naturally their lives intersect here and there; much more so when Simon becomes obsessed with Rose and starts stalking her to take pictures of her. When he outs himself, however, she reacts in a surprising way, but while it goes some way to explaining her inability to let go, it doesn't really resolve anything. I suppose that's often the case with these 'slice of life' films but there's just something unsatisfying about Adrift. Heather does pretty well for me, reigning in her usual bright-eyed exuberance, but much of the meat of the film goes to Rasuk, who's great, and Chianese impresses with most of what's left. It's worth a watch if you fancy something a but more subdued than normal and have no better options, but don't expect to be bowled over... 5/10

Friday, 5 February 2016

Retro News - Another Long Lost Sega Game!

Well, okay, it's not quite as 'long lost' as the last game to bear that description here at Red Parsley but this Sega arcade game is incredibly rare and completely unknown to most gamers, even die-hard Sega fan-boys. This is quite odd considering it features their most famous and popular character, and even more odd since its 1991 release makes it one of the first games to feature the spiky blue wonder.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Quest To Like a Football Game #3

Super Sidekicks a.k.a. Tokuten Ou (1992)
By: SNK  Genre: Sport  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: SNK Neo Geo MVS  First Day Score: Lost 1-0 :(
Also Available For: Neo Geo AES

With our current season of football about half over I thought this was an opportune time to take a look at another game based on the ultra-popular sport. The first two examples I tried were quite early attempts, however, so I've instead gone for a slightly more modern take on the subject this time, in the form of this game which is, perhaps surprisingly, one of several such games on SNK's powerhouse arcade-based system. As a result of this arcadey nature, there are far fewer options than even the technically-primitive games I played before; just the two in fact - SNK Cup (one player) or Vs. Play (two players). Each player can then choose from twelve national teams split into two groups, and then... that's it, you're straight into the game! Fortunately, it's not too complicated.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Film Review #86

The Revenant (2015)
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Arthur RedCloud

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 156 Minutes

Tagline: "Blood lost. Life found."

It's hardly a secret among film fans that Leonardo DiCaprio has for so long been overlooked by The Academy for the Oscar that so many believe he's deserved on more than one occasion. Maybe the crinklies just don't like him? Such has been the force of their snubbing in the view of many, that must surely be the answer! Maybe it's just been bad luck, but whatever the reason, critics and fans alike are now united in their belief that this will surely be Leo's year, for The Revenant has been hailed by all as a surefire winner for him. Whether he chose it for that reason or not, who can say? Probably not, but it definitely has all the ingredients necessary: it's a true story (allegedly) of a man overcoming a desperate situation, journeying far through treacherous conditions, in an attempt to return home against overwhelming odds. What could be more inspiring (and Academy-friendly) than that?