Friday, 22 September 2017

First Look TV Show #1

The Orville (2017)

I don't normally do these posts for TV shows but the arrival of a new sci-fi show is always something to herald as far as I'm concerned and I've had my eye on this one for a while. Like most sci-fi fans, I had some minor reservations but it was looking good from its trailers so I was cautiously optimistic. For those who don't already know, it's the brainchild of Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy amongst many other notable achievements. He's renowned as a bit of a sci-fi geek so the passion will undoubtedly be there, but he has also cast himself in the lead role of Ed Mercer, the new captain of the Planetary Union's mid-level exploratory vessel, the U.S.S. Orville. There has been a question mark over his live-action acting ability for a while, never mind his leading man potential, so I was curious to see how he did, and how appealing the show is generally as well.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Speccy Homebrew Games #2

Circuitry (2017)
By: John Blythe / Rucksack Games Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 368k

Splendid loading screens always make a game better...
When I first started this feature a few months back I thought I was pretty lucky to find a single-screen platformer to start it off - they are one of my favourite types of game after all - so imagine how happy I was to find another such example just recently! This one was made by John Blythe, a.k.a. Rucksack Games, using Jonathan Cauldwell's Arcade Game Designer and casts you as Nan'O'Bot, a tiny robotic AI which you must use to infiltrate the mainframe of Revanox, the R&D branch of military contractor SecuriCorp, and save as much of their data as possible from a rogue AI activated by a heinous hacker before Revanox cut their losses and pull the plug. This is done by hopping around twenty appropriately-themed single screen stages, each of which features two 'data packets' which come in the form of floppy discs (both 3.25" and 5.25" varieties) or cassettes. Hopefully these are just symbolic though - I'd hate to think of an R&D dept using such outdated storage media nowadays!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Film Review #101

Colossal (2016)
Director: Nacho Vigalondo Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 110 Minutes

Tagline: "All she could do was save the world"

While amazingly popular in Japan since the fifties, giant monster films have never really seemed to catch on around the rest of the world for some reason. Indeed, the genre is even known by its Japanese name - kaiju - but that doesn't mean us Westerners don't get the odd example here and there. The latest one is Colossal, an original effort from acclaimed Spanish director/writer Nacho Vigalondo and stars Anna Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis as Gloria and Oscar respectively, childhood best friends who are suddenly reunited when the former moves back to her home town after being booted out by her latest boyfriend Tim (Stevens) for being an alcoholic waster. Oscar now runs his dad's old bar and invites Gloria to work for him, and after closing time the two stay up drinking with his buddies until morning, with Gloria usually engaging in some sort of drunken tomfoolery that she later regrets, if she even remembers it at all.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

First Look Xbox #1

Mojo! by FarSight Studios / Crave Entertainment (2003) - Xbox

Since I've been collecting for the original Xbox, a lot of the games I've encountered have been ones already familiar to me - I'm sure you all know the big hitters as well as I do - but it's finding the more obscure titles like Mojo! that I've enjoyed the most. It cost me a mere £1.50 so it was undoubtedly a bargain and I was really looking forward to giving it a try. It's a platform/action/puzzle game which places you in command of a ball of some sort, much like the splendid Kula World. The objective here, however, is a bit more destructive than it was in the PS1 classic, but also somewhat simpler - just destroy all the colourful cube blocks on each stage by rolling into them. You have to change the colour of your ball to match the blocks you want to destroy using special 'infuser' transformation things but there isn't a great deal more to it really. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Awesome Nature #20

Type: Marsupial Lives In: South-West Australia Conservation Status: Vulnerable

Most of Australia's creatures have become famous over the years due to how unusual they are, but the Quokka is apparently different. Hardly anyone has even heard of it for some reason, even though it's just as worthy of attention as any of the rest. They kind of look like a cross between a wallaby and a wombat, with large hind legs/feet to hop around on and also a short, broad head, but being around the size of a domestic cat, they are more agile than both creatures and can even climb trees. Perhaps their obscurity is more down to how few of them there are. Destruction of their habitat as well as introduced species such as foxes and dogs has seen their population drop to around the 15,000 mark, all of which are found only in the extreme south-west of the Australian mainland as well as on a few small islands. Their plight doesn't seem to bother them too much though - just look how happy they seem!

Why It Is Awesome: It's always happy!

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.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Top Five Amy Adams Outfits

I seem to have found myself on a bit of an Amy Adams kick lately. Not due to her aesthetic qualities you understand - she's a very talented and engaging actress and most of her films are pretty superb too, generally - but it's impossible to avoid acknowledging that she's also a very beautiful woman. I also, coincidentally, found myself accidentally perusing pics of her online (chortle!) and noticed that she often has a tendency to wear somewhat eye-catching attire to her various premieres and award ceremonies and the like as well. Here are (possibly) the five best:

          5... Vanity Fair Oscar Party, 2015

Friday, 28 July 2017

Indie Nuggets #5

Ghosts'n Demons (2013)
By: BonusJZ Genre: Platform / Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 41,800
Also Available For: Dreamcast, WonderSwan Download For: Android, iOS

Capcom have often seemed a little reluctant to return to the Ghosts'n Goblins series over the years which is a little strange considering how popular the original arcade games were. Sure, we got SNES and PSP sequels (of sorts) and a couple of spin-offs in the Gargoyle's Quest and Maximo games but not many 'proper' sequels, especially when you consider how hugely popular they are. Just think of the potential for a proper full-on new adventure on one of the current systems - whether an indie-style 2D game or a flashy 3D example, it could be the most awesome thing ever! Sadly, nothing major seems to be forthcoming but they did release a little-known entry in the series on the WonderSwan called Makaimura, and thanks to talented fan BonusJZ, it had now been coloured-in and released on PC (and Dreamcast) for everyone to enjoy!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Non-Retro News - New Racing Game From Sega!

To be honest, I don't often pay all that much attention to Sega these days. It's a pretty sad thing to admit but they've been slowly declining for some time which is a sad thing to see too. Every now and then, however, some news from them reaches my ears and breaches the security measures meant to filter out the mundane. One thing that's likely to do that is news of a new Sega arcade game.

We've already had a similar announcement from them last year regarding Daytona 3 Championship USA which was mighty welcome - not sure what happened to that actually, the only news since then that I've heard is that they've now dropped the '3' from the title - but anyway, the latest news coming from Sega's arcade division over in Japan is also about a racing game, but this time we're getting a brand spanking new one!

As far as I'm aware, Sega haven't even revealed any screenshots yet nevermind in-game footage, but they have released a few details. It will be called Sega World Drivers Championship and is based on what is apparently the most popular form of motor racing in Japan - the Super GT touring car series. They have already visited this series before with the appropriately-named Sega Super GT (a.k.a. Scud Race), so I guess you could consider SWDC a 'spiritual' sequel to their famously-unconverted mid-90's racer, and like that game it carries an official license which means it will feature all the teams and cars from the real Super GT series including the mental Toyotas, Hondas, Lexuses, Subarus, and Nissans you may (but probably have not) seen on TV hacking around various circuits.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Film Round-Up #21

Crocodile Dundee (1986 - 2001)
Directed By: Peter Faiman, John Cornell, Simon Wincer Starring: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, David Gulpilil, Reginald VelJohnson, Hechter Ubarry, Juan Fernández, Charles S. Dutton, Jere Burns, Jonathan Banks

Certificate: 15 Running Time: Approx 298 minutes

Fish out of water films are usually quite a reliable source of mirth and one of the most famous ones when I was growing up was Crocodile Dundee. Apparently born of star Paul Hogan's desire to establish an Australian folk hero and inspired by real life 'bushman' Rodney Ansell, Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee was a beer swilling, bar fighting, croc wrestling master bushman and survivalist and all round man's man. Apparently raised by Aborigines and now hailing from the tiny, remote Australian bush town of Walkabout Creek, he has somehow managed to catch the attention of a New York newspaper who want to do a story on him. Enter the reporter sent to get the low-down - Sue Chartlon (Kozlowski) - who just happens to be a blonde hottie ripe to be impressed by Dundee's manliness, obviously. It wasn't just her who fell for his charms though - the first film was a big hit, quickly earning its stars worldwide fame (and fortune, presumably).

Sunday, 16 July 2017

3D Platform Games #1

Ninpen Manmaru (1997)
By: Tamtam / Enix Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn
Also Available For: Nothing

Most retro gamers these days love the Saturn, and with good reason, but in its day owners were crying out for more 3D games, specifically some of the 3D platform games that owners of the PlayStation and N64 had been enjoying. As it turns out, it was receiving at least a few of them, it's just that us poor old Western gamers didn't get to play them! One example that has gone on to prove quite popular with collectors in the intervening years is Ninpen Manmaru. Unsurprisingly for a Japanese exclusive, it's based on a manga/anime series which stars Manmaru, a trainee at a ninja school. He is a blue bird of some sort, perhaps a penguin, while the other students consist of foxes, raccoons, monkeys, and dogs, many of whom you see in the game's intro and frequent cut-scenes. I can't tell you what they're about of course, but it seems that it's down to Manmaru to do... something.