Monday, 29 April 2013

Commodore 64 Games #3

Gribbly's Day Out (1985)
By: Andrew Braybrook / Hewson Consultants Genre: Platform / Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: Nothing :(
Also Available For: Nothing

Although I never owned a C64 at the time, I did frequently see games featured in multi-format magazines of the day, and one that always appealed to me was this one, thanks mainly, I don't doubt, to the peculiar main character I saw in screenshots and adverts. More recently I've discovered that he's something called a Blabgorian and has the rather splendid name of Gribbly Grobbly. His job, at least insofar as his game is concerned, is to locate and rescue infant Blabgorians called Gribblets which apparently have a tendency to leave their home in search of adventure. Blabgor is not a safe place though, so Gribbly needs to recover the careless oafs as quickly as possible, and since there are eight of them on each of the sixteen stages that make up the game, it's quite a challenge that faces him as well.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Film Review #50

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
Director: Derek Cianfrance Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali, Bruce Greenwood, Harris Yulin

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 140 Minutes

Tagline: "If you ride like lightning you're gonna crash like thunder"

Usually it takes it certain kind of film to draw me to the cinema. I can't talk for any of you but doing so has become an expensive business in my part of the world, costing almost as much as a new DVD in fact. The Place Beyond the Pines is not the kind of film that usually succeeds in enticing me - as much as I love films, I'm usually pretty patient and therefore often wait until a film's arrival on home media - but there was something about this particular release. I'm not sure what either; I wouldn't call myself a particular fan of anyone involved and I hadn't even seen a trailer, I just knew I wanted to see it, so that's what I did, knowing almost nothing about it. Even the beginning of the film itself offered few clues, opening on a heavily-tattooed fellow swishing a flick-knife around in a cramped room as though killing time before abruptly pinning it to a wall and exiting what it's now clear is a trailer in a fairground.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Maze Games #10

Pulsar (1981)
By: Gremlin / Sega Genre: Maze / Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 10,150
Also Available For: Nothing

Considering I'm supposed to be a Sega fan, there's an embarrassing amount I don't know about their early years and the games released during that time, and this rather obscure title is a great example of that. I hadn't even heard of it until recently but as soon as I did I sought it out expecting it to be some sort of Space Invaders clone. Happily, I actually found that it's a maze game - a genre on which I'm strangely keen. If there's a story I've no idea what it is - the flyer shows several 'cool dudes' standing around a Pulsar machine while the cabinet artwork shows what looks like that Silver Surfer guy shooting lightning from his hand.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Bomberman Series - Part 9

Bomber Boy a.k.a. Atomic Punk, a.k.a. Dynablaster (1990)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy
Also Available For: Nothing

Usually with any long-running videogame series, the first few sequels stick to the same format as the original game while trying to add to it and improve it, but with the Bomberman series the opposite seems to be true. It was among the first few years of the franchise that Hudson experimented with it, trying new styles, features, even main characters, before settling into the routine that would comprise the later and more successful years of their hero's games. I've already looked at a few of these spin-offs earlier in this series of features, the last of which was exclusive to the Game Boy. Nintendo's handheld was blessed by another visit from our explosive friend though, and this game would be a bit more familiar to fans of his better known outings. Indeed, despite again being released outside its native Japan in a Bomberman-less guise, Bomber Boy was unmistakably a Bomberman game, but was it a good one? As always, I was eager to find out...

Saturday, 20 April 2013

SNES Platform Games #4

Mr. Nutz (1993)
By: Ocean Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES First Day Score: 75,630
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Game Boy, Game Boy Color

As far back as their very earliest days, most platform games have been based around a hopefully-appealing character, and after the success of Sonic many of these characters were cutesy anthropomorphic animals as you might expect. This particular game, which was first released on the SNES before receiving ports to the MD and GB, was one of many that featured such a character. He's called Mr. Nutz, he's a squirrel, and there's not really anything exceptional about him. Indeed, immediate impressions of the game are that it's nothing more than a generic bandwagon-jumper-onner. Even the story is rather yawnsome - apparently an evil yeti called Mr. Blizzard is trying to take over the world by freezing it. Mr. Nutz's mission is to stop him. Via some unspecified means. That's it! So, with an unspectacular (albeit cute, as was necessary at the time) main character and a story so uninspiring that I feel embarrassed using that word to describe it, the game has got its work cut out if it's going to impress anyone.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Arcade Round-Up #2

It's been a while since I took a look at an 'adult' came here at Red Parsley - it's not really a subject I invest much time or thought in I suppose (no, really!) - but I did kind of stumble back into the murky world recently when I discovered... well, let's leave that as a surprise for a later post shall we? Before we get there, however, I thought it might be spiffy to return to the setting of the first such game I looked at and investigate some more of the few risqué arcade games that made it out, purely for the sake of completion you understand!

I had intended to look at each one individually, but as I should've guessed from my previous experiences with the genre, limited as they might've been, games that feature any adult material are generally rip-offs of existing games but with some boobs and stuff tacked on as well. It would've therefore been a bit of a waste of effort to devote a whole review to each one. To that end, here's a round-up of the five somewhat dubious examples that probably no one has ever played:

Block Gal (1987)

Any regular visitors here at RP should know of my fondness for bat 'n' ball games, so simply adding a bit o' skin to such a title must mean I'd still find it at least semi-spiffing, right? It makes sense in theory at least, but this effort, published by Sega no less, is the oldest game featured here so I don't hold out too much expectation for the adult content. Indeed, aside from a slightly sultry-looking (but fully-clothed) young lady on the title screen it was a while before I even saw anything at all, for Block Gal initially appears to be a completely normal, non-adult Breakout clone. Its stages feature all the usual stuff and there's a few minor innovations such as the colour of the bricks denoting how many times they need to be hit, but the only adult stuff I found was a pink-haired young lady sprawled on the ground after each stage. She's obscured by flowers at first but each stage you win removes one line of them until after the tenth stage she can be viewed in all her glory, but it's no more explicit than what's been seen in countless anime shows. As a bat 'n' ball game I quite enjoyed this one at first but after a while it reveals itself to be a bit limited and rough around the edges. Passable but don't play it if you're after sexy girlies doing inappropriate things! ... 6/10

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Film Review #49

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
Director: Lorene Scafaria Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, William Petersen, Connie Britton, Martin Sheen

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 101 Minutes

Tagline: "Nice knowing you"

I seem to have ended up watching quite a few films about the end of the world lately but this one is the first that actually has it in its title! The few words that precede them, however, indicate that it's not the most serious take on the subject there's ever been. There's also the fact that the cover is plastered with review quotes celebrating its hilarity of course. The more I thought about it though, the more I realised just how much potential there is for humour in the apocalypse - the many and enormously varied ways in which people would deal with their imminent doom, for example, could be worth the price of admission alone, especially with the always-splendid Steve Carrell in attendence. It was therefore with much hope that I recently bought and enthusiastically watched this slightly-exhaustively titled film.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Master System Shmups #7

Aerial Assault (1990)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 173,200
Also Available For: Game Gear

The poor old Master System had a bit of a tough time. Few could argue with its splendour but it was hardly awash with original titles, especially those of an arcadey nature. Those that did arrive were usually from Sega themselves and were sometimes based on currently-popular titles by their rivals. One of these is Aerial Assault which is a side-viewed military-based shooter. At first glance it could well have been influenced by any number of other games, and that includes its story which introduces your adversary as N.A.C., an 'evil militaristic organisation' who have developed a laser emitter capable of destroying the ozone layer and in so doing 'cast a shadow of fear stretching to the far corners of the Earth'. As well as their fancy laser, the N.A.C. are also packing a formidable military which eventually defeats all the nations of our proud planet. Then, in the far-future of 1999, a mysterious lone fighter appears...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Puzzle Games #13

Pang a.k.a. Pomping World, a.k.a. Buster Bros. (1989)
By: Mitchell / Capcom Genre: Puzzle / Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 107,700
Also Available For: PlayStation, PC Engine CD, SNES, Game Boy, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Apple iOS

I recently decided it was high time to revisit this classic game but, upon doing so, it got me thinking. It is usually considered a puzzle game but what actually makes a game a puzzle game? Take Tetris for example - the quintessential example of the genre for most, but any puzzle elements it may contain are extremely basic ones to say the least. Likewise, Pang is even less puzzle-based than the Russian classic and the game to which it bears most resemblance - Asteroids - is considered a shoot 'em up! Oh well, who am I to argue with tradition? Puzzle game or not, Pang was certainly an eye-catching title in its day and it's crazy premise is worthy of the genre - apparently the world has been invaded by 'bouncing balloons' which are somehow 'terrorising several of our landmarks and cities'.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Top Five Fast and the Furious Films

My taste in films has always been a bit perplexing, even for me. I often frown upon those visually dazzling films filled with good looking people, special effects, fancy stunts, etc, as they are often the only qualities they possess which makes them rather unsatisfactory, for me anyway. There are occasional exceptions though, and one of them is The Fast and the Furious, a film which one way or another has gone on to have a dramatic effect on my life (mainly because it indirectly led to me meeting the lovely lady who would become my wife!). That's not the only reason though, obviously - most guys like cars and here was a film that not only featured them but had them on an equal billing with the actors!

The result was quite original for an action-orientated film and featured some nice set-pieces, memorable characters, a thumping soundtrack, and some pretty sweet vehicles, as well as some blisteringly fast races and impressive stunts to show them off with. Add a 'new' tough guy, some nice girlies, and a rudimentary story and you were left with a surprise hit! Inevitably this led to a sequel. And then another. And then another, and now we find ourselves awaiting the release of the sixth film in the series (and a seventh has also been announced!). I thought this was a good opportunity to take a look back at the previous five and ramble on about it here.

To that end, I recently re-watched them to help me assemble this list and while doing so I realised that it's a bit of a pointless list really (not unlike many of my Top Fives I guess!). If you like one of them you're probably going to like all of them, and if you don't like one of them I doubt you'll like any of them. They're all slightly different in style but still similar enough that there's little to separate them, frankly. Oh well, here are my largely inconsequential thoughts anyway:

Spoiler Alert: the movie-related Top Fives featured here obviously assume that you've seen the films in question or don't mind knowing about their most prominent moments so don't come whining to me if they ruin a film that you haven't seen yet!

5. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

There was no doubt a great deal expected of this film after the surprise success of the original. A glance at the cast list didn't bode well though. Vin Diesel, the breakout star of the first film, had decided not to return and nor had anyone else save for Paul Walker, the weakest main actor from the first film in the view of many people. It suffers a little from the omissions but does introduce some decent new characters in Roman Pearce (Tyrese) and Tej Parker (Ludacris), the former of whom plays an ex-con reluctantly partnering the now-disgraced Brian as drivers working undercover to bring down Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), a scary drug lord. There are some lovely cars on display in this offering which get more attention than the girlies represented by Devon Aoki and Eva Mendes, but the dialogue seems to alternate between amusing and cringe-inducing and the story/action is probably the least realistic of the series so far (which is saying something, I know!). Still entertaining stuff though.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Bat 'n' Ball Games #6

Robo-Squash (1990)
By: Atari Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari Lynx First Day Score: 16,200
Also Available For: Nothing

Considering the genre was one of the first ones ever created, there's been surprisingly few innovations in the world of bat 'n' ball games, but Atari, the very creators in question, tried doing just that with this slightly obscure release for their own Lynx 'handheld' (snigger). The objective does not, however, include the usual block-hitting tomfoolery that I had initially believed formed the basis of the game. Robo Squash is instead a tarted-up version of the very first bat 'n' ball game of them all, and indeed the very first popular video game full stop - Pong! Instead of the simple left-to-right-to-left-again gameplay of the original though, this example asks you to do the same thing but from an into-the-screen perspective! There's a bit more to it than that though, of course.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Doujin Platform Games #2

Obake no Koushinkyoku (2004)
By: Samona Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: Still going!
Also Available For: Nothing

During my occasional searches for more doujin goodies to try out, it often doesn't take much to pique my interest. With this title it was a mere glimpse of the unusual looking main character, or what I had immediately assumed was the main character at least - it may be tough to tell from the screen shots but he's a curious-looking white ghost similar to one of the pesky examples found in the original video game haunting ground: Pac-Man. Except he's white, as is more traditional for ghosts of course. Although having said that, he's not actually a ghost but a type of spirit called an 'obake' which means 'thing that changes', and was the star of his own manga, and later anime show, called Obake no Q-taro which is a rather Doraemon-ish offering from the same era (60's and 70's). The character in this game, whose title means 'March of Obake', incidentally, doesn't look much like the original though.