Friday, 25 August 2017

Arcade Racing Games #6

Big Run (1989)
By: Jaleco Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 580,300
Also Available For: SNES, Amiga, Atari ST


Not the most inspiring of title screens...
During the years driving games first became popular in arcades (i.e. following OutRun's release), it seems like developers felt they needed little more than a gimmick to make their mark in the genre. Jaleco's effort was the somewhat ambiguously-named Big Run but the gimmick they opted for was to base it on the Dakar-Paris Rally. It may well have been the first such game to be based on the gruelling event in fact (although a similar claim has been made of Victory Run for the PC Engine which came out a couple of years earlier), but was it enough to earn it a spot at the head table, so to speak? Well, I think I recall being reasonably impressed with it back then on the only occasion I briefly encountered it, but how does it fare after a proper play-through thirty years later? It doesn't make the best of first impressions with possibly the drabbest title screen of all time, but things could only get better from there, surely? I was certainly pretty hopeful at least.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Game Music #3

The time of the 16-bit console wars was a glorious time to be a gamer. The die-hard Sega and Nintendo fans spent more time arguing the virtues of their chosen system with their each other than they did actually using their chosen system, or so it often seemed, and the subject of these arguments included just about every single aspect of ownership. Everything from tech specs and graphical prowess to individual games were discussed, but one subject I often found myself focusing on was the respective audio abilities of each company's powerhouse.


It was a topic worthy of discussion too, in my opinion - both systems had distinctive yet quite different sounds. Sega's MegaDrive made use of the Yamaha YM2612, an FM sound synthesiser chip which could produce some cracking synth choons, while the Super Famicom was armed with Nintendo's S-SMP, a sampler that could pump out some impressive orchestrations with a highly recognisable style. One of the most common arguments I heard from Ninty fan-boys, in fact, was regarding the supposed superiority of the SFC's and how the mere MegaDrive would be hopelessly lost trying to replicate them, and I often felt compelled to concede this particular point.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Indie Games News/Previews #10

Racing Apex by Lucky Mountain Games (2017) - PC

Those of us who are old enough to remember the birth of 3D gaming will no doubt have a fondness for the earliest examples with their chunky polygons, crude textures, and scenery pop-up galore. Even in their rather limited forms they were still jaw-droppers in their day, and it seems the talented folk of Lucky Mountain Games recall them as fondly as anyone, for they have been hard at work making the forthcoming Racing Apex, a super-arcadey racing game based on some of those very pioneers. The example that appears to have most keenly influenced them, at least visually, is Sega's seminal Virtua Racing, but there is much more here than we had in the Model 1 stonker back in 1992.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

TV Shows #15

Terra Nova (2011)
Created By: Kelly Marcel, Craig Silverstein Starring: Jason O'Mara, Stephen Lang, Shelley Conn, Christine Adams, Allison Miller, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Ashley Zukerman, Rod Hallett, Alana Mansour

Certificate: 12 Running Time: 44 Minutes (per episode), 13 Episodes

Tagline: "There is no paradise without sacrifice."


I think there's one thing that all modern, future-set movies and TV shows can agree on, and that's the inevitable demise of our environment owing to our own stupidity and shortsightedness. This is also the case with the version of earth found in Terra Nova. The brief time we spend in the show's vision of 2149 reveals a world much like the one we're headed towards. Human greed and recklessness have continued unchecked and our world is now an overpopulated one ravaged by pollution and environmental issues. As a result, people need to wear breathing units while outdoors, and there is also a strictly-enforced two-child-per-family rule. Things are not looking good for our near future, never mind longer term. As if in answer to these problems, a temporal rift is discovered that leads back to earth's Cretaceous Period where the air is clean and the landscape unspoiled.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Single Screen Platform Games #16

Manic Miner (1983)
By: Bug-Byte Software Ltd Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 11,800
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, C64, C16, BBC Micro, Dragon 32, MSX, Oric 1, Memotech MTX, PMD 85, Sam Coupe, Amiga, Game Boy Advance


Okay, time for another Red Parsley embarrassing confession. I am of course highly familiar with Manic Miner, the towering masterpiece of Matthew Smith, and have played it before, but I've never really played it properly on its home turf. I think I even completed one of the other versions but the Speccy original has been sadly neglected by me. Thinking about it now I genuinely have no idea how I missed it in its day, what with the game's already legendary status and all that. Its release came before I joined the ranks of the home computerers but you would still think a game this popular would find its way to me anyway, even a few years later, but no. I don't recall seeing it on sale and I'm pretty sure I never saw magazines going on about it excitedly either. It really is quite strange looking back but the end result was that I, a self-professed Speccy fan, wasn't even aware of one of its most recognised, landmark titles until many years later.