Thursday, 27 March 2014

Arcade Classics #6

Frogger (1981)
By: Konami Genre: Action Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 12,310 (one credit)
Also Available For: PlayStation, Vita, SNES, MegaDrive, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit,, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Philips G7000 (blimey, I think that's it!)
Download For: PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, Android, Apple iOS, Mobile

I've always rightfully regarded Frogger as a classic but I've never actually spent too much time playing it. With that exhaustive list of available conversions above I guess I don't really have much of an excuse for that but, as always, in order to take a proper look at the game, I decided to start with this delightful original version which first appeared way back in '81 courtesy of Konami. It has long been considered a slightly odd game though. It consists of a series of single-screen overhead-viewed stages on each which the object is to guide a frog (or in fact, five frogs, one at a time) from the bottom of the screen across a busy section of road, then across a river, to one of five 'homes' at the top.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

TV Shows #5

Breakout Kings (2011 - 2012)
Created By: Nick Santora, Matt Olmstead Starring: Laz Alonso, Domenick Lombardozzi, Brooke Nevin, Malcolm Goodwin, Serinda Swan, Jimmi Simpson

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 43 Minutes (per episode)

Tagline: "It Takes a Con To Catch a Con"

As far as most TV fans are concerned, Prison Break started out as the greatest new show of all-time but gradually decreased in quality season by season until it reached its dramatic conclusion at the end of its fourth season. It still had a lot of fans throughout its run though, so how do you appease them once the show is over? Create a spin-off of course! Yes that's right, for as well as sharing the central theme of 'prison breakouts', Breakout Kings is also by the same production team and is even set in the same 'universe'. In other words, there's the potential for crossover stories - potential that doesn't go wasted, incidentally. The premise of the show is rather different to Michael Scofield's adventure though. Breakout Kings is the name given (unofficially) to a group who are charged with tracking down escaped prisoners or 'runners' and returning them to captivity. The trick is, the team is partially composed of convicts currently serving time themselves. After all, to quote the show's tagline, it takes a con to catch a con... in theory at least!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Top Five Prehistoric Platformers

Throughout the 80's and the first half of the 90's, platform game were surely one of, if not the most popular of game genres. Such popularity brought with it many, many examples to choose from and, while their main characters differed, many of which were anthropomorphic animals, and usually included the odd gimmick or two, most fell into the same pattern of being set in themed fantasy worlds.

One setting that most developers failed to take advantage of, however, was that of our own world's prehistoric years. Given the genre's obsession with grassy, tree-lined stages, our planet's formative years would've made a perfect setting for all sorts of platformy adventures, surely? All those bizarre creatures, rugged landscapes, and geologic instability offered some wonderful opportunities which few took advantage of. There were a few though, most of which appeared within a couple of years of each other, curiously, and here are my favourites:

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. Prehistorik (1991)

Perhaps the least well-known title on the list is this one which was released on a handful of home computers (Amiga version shown) by French developer, Titus, who were notorious in their early years for their consistently poor titles. Luckily, Prehistorik is not one of them! Like all but one of the games in this list it casts you as a hairy caveman and, also like the other games, it inaccurately thrusts Homo erectus (snigger) and dinosaurs together. One way that this game is unusual, however, is that it's a flick-screen game which is something I like about it. Aside from that it's pretty standard stuff - simply whack the various creatures (dinosaurs, bears, monkeys, gonks, etc) with your club to fill your food-meter. Touch any of them without whacking them (or some stuff that looks like parts of the scenery) and you lose energy. It's a simple one but it has appealing graphics, decent music, and is also rather addictive. There are a fair few sequels too - must try those soon!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Star Control - Part 7

Star Control II a.k.a. The Ur-Quan Masters (1994)
By: Toys For Bob / Accolade Genre: RPG / Strategy Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: 3DO
Also Available For: PC, Apple Mac

I have now been posting my highly inane burblings here for almost four years, believe it or not. In all that time I've written about a great many games and related subjects but the ones that I've talked about the most are probably the spiffing Star Control and its even more stonking sequel. The latter was in fact the very first game I ever talked about here and I've done so several times since as well. Rather bizarrely, however, despite being my favourite video game of all time since its release, and despite all the stuff I've posted about it, it's a game that still hasn't actually been reviewed here. As I'm sure many who know me may would agree, I'm a pretty weird guy sometimes, but this is still an entirely unacceptable state of affairs. Luckily it's also one that can be easily rectified. Behold:

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bat 'n' Ball Games #8

Devilish a.k.a. Bad Omen (1992)
By: Opera House / Sage's Creation Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 12,260
Also Available For: Game Gear

I must say, as I discover and play more and more bat 'n' ball games for this series of features, I am continually impressed by creative developers' attempts to come up with stories for them. I mean let's face it - how could there logically be one for a game of this type? That doesn't seem to stop them trying though, and that remains the case with Devilish (released as Bad Omen in Japan). Accordingly, it's set in the days of yore and features a nameless prince and princess who were happy and in love until a jealous demon turned them into... umm, stone paddles, obviously. Then, 'suddenly, a mysterious blue sphere fell from the sky' which allowed the price and princess to do battle with the demon and, presumably, regain their biological forms and continue 'loving' each other (giggity). It all sounds pretty ridiculous, of course, but it does mean we have another Breakout-inspired adventure to battle through which is great news! In theory at least...

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Film Review #63

Born 2 Race (2011)
Director: Alex Ranarivelo Starring: Joseph Cross, Nicole Badaan, John Pyper-Ferguson, Brando Eaton, Sherry Stringfield, Spencer Breslin, Whitmer Thomas, Erik King

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 95 Minutes

Tagline: "Only One Can Win It All"

It was an alarming amount of time ago now that I took a look at one aspect of the legacy left by the Fast and Furious films, namely the simple and/or cheap methods of modifying otherwise-normal cars to turn them into tarmac-shredding monsters. However, one more obvious way they've left their mark comes in the form of the glut of car films that have been turning up in the intervening years. Already one of the more well known of these is the forthcoming (at time of writing) film based on the Need For Speed game series but a less well known example I recently discovered is Born 2 Race (or Born To Race - I don't think the producers could make up their minds). Despite not being deemed worthy of a cinematic release I nonetheless kept an open mind and remained hopeful that it might actually be that rarest of beasts - a street racing film that was actually about street racing rather than being another 'tough guy(s) take down evil crime boss while occasionally driving fancy cars' film. Let's see if my hopes were fulfilled...

Friday, 14 March 2014

Arcade Shmups #20

R-Type (1987)
By: Irem Corp Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 159,200
Also Available For: PC Engine, PC Engine CD, X68000, Game Boy, Master System, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade, Android, iOS

It may not seem like it but this is a rather special shmup review today. For those readers who haven't been keeping track (probably all of you), this is not only the 100th arcade review here at Red Parsley but it's also the 100th shmup review too. At the same time! Amazing, huh? And what better game to mark such a momentous occasion than arguably the most celebrated example of all time?! However, a legend it may be, but it's also a game I haven't played nearly enough. I had it for my Speccy and Master System (probably still have, actually) and both were superb conversions, but by far most of my R-Type gaming has come courtesy of Super R-Type on the SNES which, as you may know, features more of R-Type 2 than the first game. So, the motivation behind this review, other than featuring a game worthy of such a landmark, is to finally, belatedly dissect the original arcade version that so wowed gamers back in the mid-80's. Bydo Empire, prepare to be smacked upside the head!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mobile Games #6

Flappy Bird (2013)
By: .GEARS Studios  Genre: Action  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Android First Day Score: 30
Also Available For: Apple iOS

Aside from the odd flirtation, I've never really been too bothered about playing games on my smartphone. Consequently, many of the most popular titles drift by me largely unnoticed. One that I definitely did notice, however, was Flappy Bird. It was seemingly a rather popular game already, receiving millions of downloads during the short time it was available, but its developer, a Vietnamese gentleman called Dong Nguyen, thrust it immeasurably further into the limelight by abruptly announcing its removal from Android and Apple stores due to apparent guilt over its addictive nature. This is the point I first heard of the game - on the 'proper' BBC News website of all places! Soon afterwards I witnessed desperate pleas from fans for it to be reinstated, stories of how Mr. Nguyen had been raking in tens of thousands of dollars each day just in advertising revenue, and there was even news of people selling phones with the game pre-installed for hugely inflated prices. What on earth was going on? Could the game really be so amazing as to garner this much attention, even hysteria? I had no idea - I still didn't even know what kind of game it was at this point, but I decided to find this 'next Angry Birds' to see what all the fuss was about.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Film Review #62

John Carter (2012)
Director: Andrew Stanton Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Willem Dafoe, Daryl Sabara

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 132 Minutes

Tagline: "Lost In Our World, Found In Another"

So, John Carter huh? Prior to this movie's release who had heard of him? I sure hadn't and, although I may be in the minority in that regard, it meant I had absolutely no idea what kind of film this is. Therefore, for the benefit of those as ignorant as I apparently am, allow me to explain. Mr. Carter is the star of the 'Barsoom' series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of which - A Princess of Mars - was published all the way back in 1917 and upon which this film is based. They are primarily set on 'Barsoom' which is the name given to Mars by the native populace. That's right, for the book was written in a time when it was believed that not only might Mars harbour life but whole civilisations, perhaps even more advanced than our own! Barsoom may well have once been home to such glorious societies but during the time of the story it's a ruined and dying planet.

Friday, 7 March 2014

PSN Downloads #2

Page Chronica (2012)
By: Red Hare Studios Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation 3
Also Available For: Nothing

Being a librarian must be a pretty decent job. You get to sit around reading interesting books in peace and quiet - something I think I would enjoy a lot. I guess it's not the most exciting way to spend the majority of one's waking day though, and one young lady who definitely feels that way is Topez, the star of this intriguing indie release from Singapore. She's an apprentice to Morpheous, the 'Lord of Dreams and Master of Stories', who resides in a place called the Infinite Palace which contains all the stories that have ever been dreamt. Despite her talent and promise, though, Morpheous just leaves her to tidy and organise the many special books. That is, until one day while doing her chores she found a mysterious book she had never seen before, bound in chains.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Game Boy Games #2

Solar Striker (1989)
By: Nintendo EAD Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo Game Boy First Day Score: 143,600
Also Available For: Nothing

Gunpei Yokoi certainly seems to have been a busy fellow during the lead-up to the Game Boy's launch. Not only did he design the system itself but also had a hand in the development of some of its launch titles as well! One was Solar Striker, the first shmup for the new handheld (in the UK at least), and one that has a slightly unusual back-story for such a game. It's set in the year 2159, soon after the establishment of the Earth Federal Government and along with it the Earth Federal Army. This all seems sensible enough for a newly space-faring race. However, it seems that having such an army available wasn't a sufficient comfort for Earth's leaders who instead decided to launch an unprovoked attack on the nearby Turin system. Amusingly, we got our arses kicked in the process! Did we then apologise and skulk back to our insignificant little planet? No, we didn't. We instead developed a 'very advanced space fighter' called... yep, the Solar Striker.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Dizzy Series - Part 4

Fast Food (1992)
By: Optimus / Code Masters Genre: Maze Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 1,246
Also Available For: Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Enterprise 64/128

The spin-off games featuring Dizzy were never as well-received as his 'proper' games but Fast Food was still a fairly enjoyable Pac-Man clone in occasional doses. Well, for us 8-bit users at least, who could pick it up for a couple of pounds. A few years later, however, it was ported to the 16-bit monsters as well and, rather than just being tarted-up a bit as was usually the case, the simple audio/visuals were instead given a complete overhaul. So much so, in fact, that I decided it was worth taking a quick look at these versions of the game too! As you can see, rather than basic and repetitive monochrome mazes, the stages are now based in all-new living, breathing, real-life locales, positively brimming with features and detail! And we all know that fancier graphics make games better, right?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Star Trek #5

Next Generation Favourite Episodes - Season Five

Well, we're now over half-way through the mighty Next Generation's run and even before I started watching the fifth season again I suspected it would be the most challenging one yet to whittle down to five episodes. This indeed proved to be the case - I was even forced to count the mid-season two-parter as one selection - but that at least demonstrates the increasingly splendid quality on offer!

One of the more notable (as well as sexiest) occurrences was the introduction of Ensign Ro Laren, a 'troubled' Bajoran officer, who immediately starts giving everyone attitude, and we also meet the dangerous Silicon Avatar thingy for the second time. Meanwhile, those Cardassians start flexing their muscles, everyone has orgasms playing some weird addictive brain-stimulating game, Worf's parenting skills are (unhappily) put to the test, the Enterprise gets stuck in a time-loop ending with its destruction over and over, a clone of Lieutenant Tom Paris is found on Earth masquerading as a cadet (snigger), a little girl's imaginary friend causes havoc on the ship, and Geordie and Ro get 'phased' during a transporter accident which leaves everyone else thinking they're dead. Eeek!