Monthly Archives: January 2016

Retro Shitty Rampage Part 1

I’m told I’m a difficult person to buy presents for, which probably explains why every year I find myself lumbered with a hundred pieces of tat with a vague, passing relation to video games.  Case in point, I own two sets of game branded coasters.  Two sets.  I only own three gaming mugs and a single gaming glass so I’m vastly oversubscribed.  Fortunately, if condensation or spillage was to occur I also have an abundance of horrible Atari t shirts that could be used to clear the mess; despite never actually owning an Atari.

I think it’s my poor, beloved mother that struggles the most.  She has a rather strained relationship with technology.  When she’s changing the channel she stands a metre away from the T.V and points the remote directly at the screen; like a robot using an LCD urinal.  Trying to buy something video gamey for me is probably a little outside of her comfort zone.

Last Christmas she got me this little fella. Please note the undoubtedly fully endorsed use of the Sega font and the rather uninspiring claim that 200 games will provide “hours of retro gaming”.  Hours?!  Be still my beating heart.

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Looks legit.

Rather than do the sensible thing and bury it in the garden, I aim to play all 200 of these badboys and provide mini reviews.  This is a monumental challenge; partly because the controller is so fucking small it threatens to turn my hands into talons and partly because the majority of these games are so astronomically bad that forcing myself to play them probably contravenes part of the Geneva convention.

In order to save my sanity, I’m playing them out of order (so I can jump to what takes my fancy) and will be reviewing them in chunks.  I feel I should assure you that my spelling of the game titles is verbatim.  And apologies for the shockingly poor screenshots, but quite frankly, I’m already spending more time on this bloody thing than it deserves.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration; the first ten.

31. Fishwar
Basically an underwater rip off of Balloon Kid; but with the joyous feeling of soaring through the sky replaced by the hopeless atmosphere of an ageless conflict between aquatic brethren that rages in the depths of a smothering, airless ocean.

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Alas, the twin fish of Pisces have forever been torn asunder

37. Strong PJCC
Fantastically confusing typos aside, here you guide a anthropomorphic frog thing through a push block maze towards a red pill.  Sorry, I obviously mean a red “perjucaca”.  Only other point of note is that the frog, perfectly mirroring nature, sprouts a ponytail of luscious blond hair when viewed from the side.  Whit woo.

61. Archery.
Bafflingly complex hit the target game with angles and wind direction that are plucked from thin air by a vengeful God and bear little to no relation to what you do with the buttons.  Topped off by some truly awful losing music which your character accompanies with a wobbly leg Shakin’ Stevens impression.

3. Vangvard
I struggled to last three minutes into this painfully slow tank game that appears to take place on the surface of a giant satsuma.  I’ve heard the sequel, Vangvard 2; Vang Varder is a significant improvement.

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Getting a tank to deliver a pizza seems a little excessive

72. X Racing
Unfortunately not a game that pits previous lovers against one another, but a very basic racer played to the vastly inappropriate sound of 5 bar blues. The cars look a bit like fat man faces so in retrospect, my first point may be invalid depending on your own personal dating history.

8. Police Dog Lasy
“I’m having doubts mate.  Is this game any good?  I mean, we basically made a game where a beagle searches for bags of cocaine buried by a goblin. Doesn’t make sense. Hold on, “Lasy”…is that right?  You know when you look at a word and it starts to look wrong?  Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, yeah, yeah, yeah it’s fine innit. I’m overthinking.  It’s shit hot mate.  Sort us out again will you? This shit is fucking president. It’s fucking Ronald Reagan.  My teeth are itchy. I need a dentist.  Turn this up bruv.  Love this track.”

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“Wats lat Lasy?!  Sumwons trapt in ler wel?!”

22. Utmost Warfare
Horrible, horrible shoot ’em up, delivering an experience not dissimilar to repeatedly smashing your face against a child’s toy piano.  It’s the noise that stays with you, long after the physical pain has passed.  I still hear it sometimes, when I’m alone, during my darker moments. One day at a time.  One day at a time.

173. Egg Contest
You don’t know what an Egg Contest is?!  Jesus, it’s perfectly simple.  Just get a fantastically macho looking chicken to strut about chucking eggs at a mouse.  Fancy not knowing what an Egg Contest is!  You want to have a hard, long look at yourself mate.

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The chicken has a gait reministant of Mick Jagger

30. Apple Chess
Planning on giving your retro gaming controller a version of Reversi, but want to give it a unique twist?  Well want no longer!  Simply substitute the traditionally black and white disks for red and blue ones.  For an extra layer of mystery, why not name it after a fruit and then provide zero explanation?   Ooooh, intriguing!

181. Fruit Gift
I didn’t actually manage to get anywhere with this.   It looks a bit like a cross between a fruit machine and Puyo Puyo but the buttons don’t appear to do anything. Continuing with the fine tradition of “fuck it, that’ll do” title screens, Fruit Gift’s features a caveman.

151. Shrew Mouse
“We didn’t mean anything by it, it was harmless fun.  Listen, it was a different time back then.  You could leave your front door unlocked, kids played in the street, men were men, women were women and if you wanted the title screen of your Snake / Qix crossover to feature what appears to be a rodent in black face it was fine. A bit of fun.  You kids are offended by everything these days”.

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Yeah…that’s not o.k, is it?

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And This Little PEGI Went “Wah-Wah-Wah-Wah”

I have managed to spawn two children (with some minor assistance from my wife) who are currently at the grand old ages of 5 and 3.  For the purposes of this blog, whenever I refer to them I will call them Samus and Blanka.  This is partly down to some ultimately futile attempt to maintain a level of anonymity, partly because their gender and character suit the avatars (methodical, analytical arse kicker and crazed man-beast respectively) and partly because I quite like the idea of someone stumbling across this at some point in the future without first reading this rationale and genuinely believing that those are their names.  Tee-hee future hypothetical reader!  Jokes on you!

Being sired by a super geek, they’re both well on their way to a lifetime of isolation and social awkwardness.  Blanka was able to correctly identify and name the cast of Mario Party before he completely got a handle on the difference between “Mum” and “Dad” and Samus likes to mark her accomplishments by declaring “SAMUS WINS!” and doing a Smash Bros style victory pose, complete with victory sign and that weird repetitive bobbing motion.

Obviously it’s lovely that we all share an interest in something, but it doesn’t half mean I have to play some shite sometimes.   Blanka’s nightmarishly lynchian Mario Maker levels constantly push the boundaries of human perception and Samus’ constant requests to “build a house in Minecraft” start to wear a little thin once you have a portfolio that rivals international construction firm Balfour Beatty (bam-a-lam).   So I’m always on the lookout for something new.  Something suitable.  Something age appropriate.

It was perhaps inevitable I was going to fuck up at some point.  During one of our many, many car journeys over the Christmas break my wife was desperately trying to feign interest as I excitedly described Dhalsim’s excellent beard in Street Fighter V and the children suddenly took interest.  When described in Cbeebies friendly terms, the cast of Street Fighter transform from the world’s greatest warriors into a high octane version of the many faces of Mr Tumble.

“Yeah, so there’s the guy from Wreck-It Ralph who fights in a red pair of pants.  Then there’s a guy can turn himself into a ball of electricity; he looks a bit like a green gorilla with dinosaur teeth.  Well cool.  Then there’s a girl with an ultra-powerful machine in her eye.  Her feet are enormous.  There are a couple of huge fat guys who fight with their bellies out, a posh gentleman boxer with a fantastic moustache and another who has long stretchy arms and legs who can breathe fire and shouts “YOGA””

They were both enthralled.  And somehow during all the excitement I had even managed to convince myself that a game in which combatants smash the shit out of one another with their boobs and bums hanging out was an excellent choice for a good ol’ fashioned family gaming session.

To give this all a little bit of flavour, a year or so back we had a few problems with them scrapping with each other (in retrospect, probably brought on Smash Bros) and in order to focus their chi had enrolled them into “Ninja School” (the local karate class).   “You’re only allowed to do punching and kicking at Ninja School” I sagely warn them.  Before introducing them to a game which is wall to wall punching and kicking.  In my defence, a couple of the stages could be described as Ninja School-esque, but to say that it supported my parental mantra that martial arts are the reserve of safely controlled environments would be pushing it somewhat.

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“Yes.  It’s perfect for a small child”

So we stick it on.  Samus immediately picks Dudley; a moustachioed gentleman boxer sporting a frilled shirt and cummerbund being the perfect match for a little girl who once went through a period of time where she refused to leave the house unless she was wearing a bow tie.    And I go for boring old Ryu, figuring there is no point in sugar coating the experience should she ever decide to try ranked online.

Samus’ hands start to breakdance over the pad in a manner not too dissimilar to a net of fish flapping about on the deck of a boat and I’m suddenly struck with how violent the whole thing is.  Once I tear my eyes from what she’s doing to my controller and onto the screen, I notice that’s pretty vicious in’all.

Blanka sits wide eyed and open mouthed, very much like one of those children you see illuminated by a television screen on a news report on the horrors of the modern age.  “This is fine.  This is definitely fine” I say to myself as we reach the end of our second match.  Samus had picked Oni this time round, a terrifying clawed demon whose victory animations include menacingly gripping the top of his opponents head.  Suddenly Mr Stretchy-Legs and Red Pants the Bear seem a million miles away.

Blanka slowly stands up and walks into the kitchen, clearly bothered by something and I apologise to Samus that I’ve got this all wrong and the next game will be our last.  Brilliantly, she picks Dan.  We quickly finish the match, I turn off the machine and go and check that Blanka is alright.

“They’re playing a really scary game Mummy.  I don’t like it” he’s saying.  Thanks a lot for dobbing me in, mate.  I’ll remember that.  I apologise to him and try to quickly convey a facial expression to my wife that expresses that I’m really sorry and I’ll sort it (sympathetic eyebrows, wide eyes and a “whoopsie-daisy” mouth in case you’re wondering) when I can hear gentle sobbing from the other room.

I asked Samus what the problem is and her response is quite different.  “I really REALLY like Street Fighter!!!”  she wails as I realise I’ve given her a five minutes on a game and then forbidden it, instantly making it a million times more appealing.  “I didn’t even get to practice Dan’s HP xx HP Koryuken xx FADC xx Ultra 2 combo!!!”  “You will do one day honey,” I console her. “You will do one day”.

I worked in video game retail for a couple of years and rolled my eyes so hard at parents picking age inappropriate games for their children that they nearly bored into my skull.  And yet here I was, someone who supposedly know what they’re talking about, making a rudimental error and assuming a PEGI 12 rated game would be fine for my children because they are so much better than everyone else’s.  And this after a childhood of having every single film open with Simon Bates drearily hammering in the importance of BBFC ratings.  That was a waste of everyone’s time.

Fortunately, they both got over it fairly quickly.  Blanka forgot about Oni almost instantly and went back to cannonballing around the house and creating technically and conceptually impossible ordeals for Mario.  And Samus will be fine as long as I keep the creepers at bay long enough to complete her latest 500 acre development project.  But the fire of the warrior spirit has clearly been ignited within her.  Watch out EVO 2030.

A Numerical List of the Video Games I Liked The Most That Were Released in 2015

Like a box of mint Matchmakers or an ultimately disappointing episode of Doctor Who, posting my top ten games of the year has become a Christmas tradition for me.  I’m hoping that if I keep at it it’ll reach levels of national adoration; like when her Maj’ sticks on her sparkly hat and begrudgingly agrees to give us three minutes of her time.

I hope all four of you that actually give a shit enjoy these words and perhaps play these games.  Just to distract me for a few minutes from the gasping black void of emptiness that is the point of all this, and indeed, the purpose of my very existence.

Happy New Year!

10) Life is Strange (PS3/4, XB360/One, PC)

Teenage girl friendship simulators that feel like a cross between Twin Peaks and Mean Girls are bloody everywhere these days, but this is the best of bunch. With a photography college setting and a twangy, folksy soundtrack there is a danger that the hipster levels will make your PlayStation sprout a fully waxed moustache, but the neat time travelling story and gut wrenching twists are well worth a few hours of anyone’s time.

9) Affordable Space Adventures (Wii U)

Sticking you behind the controls of a clapped-out, shitty space shuttle and then sending you off on a cheap interstellar package holiday, this does a marvellous job of simulating what it might be like if we ever get an Easyjet Galactic.  Starting the engine by jabbing at the various buttons on the touchpad is one of the most awesomely geeky things I’ve done this year (and that’s quite an extensive list), while its five hour playtime doesn’t so much as break the forth wall as blast it into the nearest sun.  A lovely little thing that probably makes more use of the Wii U’s odd grab bag of features than anything Nintendo have produced themselves.

8) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS3/4, XB360/One, PC)

On reflection, probably my least favourite Metal Gear, The Phantom Pain is still bloody good even if it’s not quite bonkers enough.  Which seems like a ridiculous thing to say when you’re receiving sniper support from a mute in a bikini who breathes through her skin.  Or when you’re attaching a balloon to a zebra and launching it a hundred feet in the air so you can stick it in your zoo in the middle of the ocean. Or when you task a fifty strong research and development team with inventing a cardboard box in a slightly different shade of brown.  Or when you infiltrate Afghanistan for a stealth mission in the dark of night by arriving in a helicopter that’s blasting out Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ at full volume.  I wub Metal Gear.

7) Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (PS4, XBOne, PC)

Sometimes after seeing the latest mindless, right wing bollocks dribbled out on Facebook I have an irresistible urge to shoot Nazi zombies in the face.  Fortunately, the unashamedly old school Wolfenstein is just the tonic for when you want to turn your brain off and make bad guys explode.  Nicely brief and frantic with a cheeky, knowing glint in its eye, it’s the perfect counterpoint for all the chin stroking, high culture games I normally find myself playing.

6) Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)

Twenty five hours in and I still don’t have a fucking clue what’s going on, but taking on gigantic space dinosaurs in a massive stomping robot under the glare of eight fuck off moons is pretty damn cool.  The most alien world I’ve ever visited, like Salvador Dali and David Attenborough took some LSD and got the crayons out, X is so bafflingly huge that it’s impossible to not be amazed by it.  This also has the dubious honour of having the years most inappropriate and hilariously awful soundtrack, which eventually endears yourself to it by occasionally sounding like the kind of thing the Wu Tang Clan would have produced when they were five.

5) Guitar Hero Live (PS3/4, XB360/One, Wii U, PC)

If you told me at the start of the year that I would prefer the most recent Guitar Hero to the most recent Rock Band I would have removed my glove, slapped you round the face and challenged you to a duel.  And yet here we are.  The decision to have your band mates played by actors and to have the whole thing filmed from first person actually works and makes it even easier to fool your brain that you’re a massively successful musician and not just some 33 year old who has wasted their life pressing brightly coloured buttons on a toy guitar rather than using the hundreds of hours to pick up a real one and do something worthwhile.  Sigh.  Anyway, this is excellent *billandtedguitartwiddle*.

4) Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

Managing to make ten years of LittleBigPlanet completely irrelevant overnight, Mario Maker would be the best game of all time were it not for the fact that 98% of the levels are clearly made by people suffering from ADHD.  But when you do stumble on the crackers made by mini-Myamotos you’ve essentially got an infinite game of Super Mario World, which obviously is bloody brilliant. Making a level yourself is so simple and intuitive that even I can shit out something remotely playable and watching my children huddle round the pad cackling to themselves as they try and make something I can’t beat was both heartwarming and terrifying in equal measure.

3) Splatoon (Wii U)

Nintendo’s brave adaptation of Oliver Stone’s brutal 1986 Vietnam flick discards the films unflinching portrayal of the duality of man in favour of mutant, ultra trendy, squids spraying brightly coloured ink at each other.  And it works fantastically.  The single player would easily have been a indie darling had it been released on Live Arcade but the multiplayer, oh my God the multiplayer, is an utterly sublime piece of online battling that solves about five or six of the genres problems in one foul swoop.  Relentlessly entertaining, and perhaps the most Sega-like game Nintendo have ever made, this would have easily taken my Game of the Year had it been released any time in the last five years.  But this was no ordinary year…

2) Rocket League (PS4, PC)

Combining cars and football might sound like the most boorishly laddish thing imaginable, but by making the vehicles rocket powered and capable of doing somersaults, Rocket League transforms into one of the most beautifully approachable yet difficult to master games in years. The key is that producing a decent goal doesn’t rely on player stats or some hidden attribute in the background figuring out if you’re lucky or not; everything you do here is down to your own skill.  When you play Fifa or PES you’re just a kid in the playground pretending to be your favourite player.  But when you play Rocket League, you actually ARE that player; it’s just he’s sitting behind the wheel of a dune buggy blasting 100 foot through the air, travelling at 150 miles per hour and the car is wearing a top hat and the exhaust is shitting out rainbows. Unbelievable, Jeff.

1) Bloodborne (PS4)

Defeating one of Bloodborne’s bosses is the closest I’ve ever come to a cardiac arrest; the rush of adrenaline followed by the wave of relief feels like taking every drug all at once.  Cautiously making your way through its world is so unbelievably tense, that I managed to accidently get a six pack from all the involuntary stomach crunches.  Piecing together the dark, gothic storyline from scraps of paper and item descriptions makes you feel like Luther, except cooler because you’re swinging a huge fuck off axe.  Bloodborne isn’t just the best game I’ve played this year, it’s a contender for the best game I’ve EVER played.  It’s mind-blowing, superlative-exhausting,  frandly-blooblargh brilliance.  Stop reading this rubbish, smash your phone against the wall and go and play it now.  It’s that good.