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...

But is the game actually any good?
Yes! As a proper 3D adventure, it was a kind of game I'd never played before, but I was drawn into its atmospheric world straight away. The object was just as original as everything else about the game - you had to place drilling rigs on each sector of a moon to vent off gas, thereby preventing a catastrophic explosion, but it wasn't easy with all sorts of security systems trying to take you out. It has dated quite a bit now of course, but the impact it had in its day cannnot be understated, and in my view that was helped a lot by this superb advert.
 

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.