Monthly Archives: February 2016

Retro Shitty Rampage Part 3

As the very definition of the complete journalistic professional, I have naturally done my research on the Retro Games Controller.  My initial reasoning was to look up a couple of the games to make sure I wasn’t about to make a complete fool of myself by tearing into a game that was beloved by thousands.  “I used to respect Jolly. It really seemed like knew his stuff.  But fancy never having heard of Vangvard?!  Or Mad Xmas!  Let’s burn his house down.”  This was all-too possible scenario I was obviously keen to avoid.

But after countless minutes of furious Googling (including occasions where I felt extra saucy and dared to visit the second page of results) I was drawing blanks.  These games seemed to exist nowhere other than within the tiny confines of the controller.  I did manage to find a result for an alternative version of Police vs Thief, but then that’s such a snappy, catchy title it wouldn’t surprise me if Rockstar dropped GTA and went for PVT instead.

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My extensive notes.  Notice how my handwriting deteriorates the longer I am exposed to the device.

Perhaps the controller doesn’t exist at all.  Perhaps while I think I’m writing arch and terribly witty comments about macho chickens I’m actually giggling in a fetal position on a hospital bed while my wife sadly leaves her wedding ring on the pillow.  Perhaps she’s delighted.  Perhaps this was the plan all along.  Perhaps she’s poisoning me.  It’s certainly a more plausible explanation than someone intentionally making Police Dog Lasy.

191. Lightning

Nothing captures the essence of speed quite like the vaginal discharge of chicken, which is why Lightning sticks some wheels on a pair of eggs and then places them in a terrifying highway pursuit.  To keep the tension high, there’s a brief and yet incredibly irritating musical jingle that plays incessantly; when you press start, break, accelerate, crash, overtake, look at the screen, look away from the screen, use a respiratory system, have a thought, call the Samaritans or run screaming incoherently into the street desperately clawing for help at the nearest stranger.

177. Final Blood

“GET IN, a turret section!”  A familiar cry from gamers from absolutely-fucking-nowhere, which is presumably why we find ourselves strapped to a gun with the turning circle of a tectonic plate firing nectarines at the horizon.  Bonus points for the title which sounds like a kid in the playground inventing a sequel to Rambo.  His Dad saw it when he was in America and it’s not out over here for another three years.

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The regular appearance of these bits in games should obviously be called Turrets Syndrome

120. Baseball New

Bigger boy rounders has been around for over a hundred years now so could probably do with a bit of sprucing up.  And what better way than by replacing the regulation ball with an object that appears to have the mass and density of a collapsing star. It’s also weirdly difficult to get the ball back to your pitcher, so for a good five minutes I got to play a piggy-in-the-middle simulator.

161. Abscondee 

Abscondee is clearly an excellent word that should definitely exist.  Unfortunately, it’s not to be but we’ll always have this maze navigation title staring the extra-terrestrial version of The Hamburgler collecting what appear to be pools of fermenting piss.  Perhaps the bravest feature is that without rhyme nor reason, the buttons sometimes stop working.  It’s the mystery that keeps you hooked.

50. Music Moment

Rhythm action as imagined by Hunter S Thompson; you play a dragon capturing notes in a bowl alongside a crow frozen mid-flight and a cloud twisted into a face from a half-remembered nightmare.  To completely round of the experience of a trip administered by pouring acid directly in your eyeballs, the song, which is bewilderingly delivered by chutes marked 1 to i, cuts out after thirty seconds and starts again.

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Look at that cloud.  Seriously, just look at it.  Then look at the crow.  Then the cloud again.  I know, right?

138. Hexapod New

The Retro Game Controllers widely celebrated Hexapod series naturally begins with Hexapod New.  Here you control your Dad’s home brew kit which is taking a break from smelling weird in the airing cupboard to shoot the fuck out of some fish.  That the title screens exclamation ‘Presents to Start!’ is the least confusing thing about this game speaks volumes.

139. Hexapod War

A quick Google tells me that a hexapod is a six-legged, mechanical vehicle which does little to explain why the only constant between the two games is the presence of fish.  War is actually a less violent game than New and sees you navigating past eels wearing a heartbreakingly depressed expression and the Egyptian hieroglyph for water. Lol random!!! Xx

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You’d be this happy too, if you had a dog’s head on a stick.

26. Wildworm

Painfully slow grape collecting game taking place in front of what appears to be a very stoned oak tree.   Our hero transforms into a shit, then a retro-styled white shit, before eventually becoming a butterfly which leads me to believe that he might not be a worm at all.  As the perennial name flipper Cat Stevens once sang ‘Oooooh baby baby it’s a wildworm’, and you don’t get much wilder worms than caterpillars.  Them be some crazy fuckers.

7. Crystal Ball 

Video games excel at stirring certain reactions from the human body;  a rush of adrenaline, the eureka moment, shameful embarrassment; but few have dared to try and elicit the feeling of lying in bed after a few too many White Lightnings.   Crystal Ball keeps your character dead centre and moves the map around him, perfectly recreating that sensation of staring at a ceiling which refuses to remain still.  In the kind of move that no longer to raises a single hair on my eyebrow, the title screen reads “pindaball” which sounds like my children singing an Oasis song they’ve misheard.

126. Devildom Doom

Featuring the punchline to every Russell Howard joke, a ninja monkey, Devildom Doom is a rather ominous title for a fairly innocent little Bomberman clone. Another game that takes the brave decision to play out in deafening silence, the game over screen is also totally ineligible.  This makes me wonder if the intention was to put the player in the shoes of Helen Keller, who of course famously, sure played a mean pinball.

101. Tunny

Helicopters shuffling through the sky supported by bright green girders.  Player names read John and Rose on the title screen but change to Sonson when you start playing.   The kind of music you get in a Chinese takeaway. Donkey Kong’s head on the body of a spaceman.  Heart, black pokeball, pink bag of money.  I am the eggman.  They are the eggmen.  I am the walrus.  Goo goo g’joob.

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This is the second time in two posts I’ve had an I am the Walrus reference.  Apologies.  Won’t happen again.

82. Fruit Pig

Not the alleged contents of the alleged basket sent to our alleged Prime Minister for hitting his dickhead target this quarter (allegedly), but one of those rarest of things, a decent game on this crappy machine.  Featuring a rather elegantly animated pig (a phrase I hope to use more often in the future), the only minor misstep is that the title screen reads ‘Frutt’; which I believe is a soft drink from the 1993 Wesley Snipes movie Demolition Man.

87. Spar

Unfortunately not the game of running a moderately sized convenience store that we’ve all be clambering for, but a rip off of Nintendo’s universally derided and completely fucking awful Urban Champion. Reskinned so it’s now a pair of goblins fighting under a tree, it has the look of a drunken brawl on a Saturday night in Middle-Earth town centre.

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“Leave ‘im Rackkvlash!  He ain’t worth it!”

2. Racing Fighter

Racing fiiiiighter! Featuring explosive high speed chase, missile based combat action!

Racing fiiiiighter! Includes intense 8-bit remix of classic party banger Ging Gang Goolie!

Racing fiiiiighter! Each playable vehicle contains a terrifying face on the roof!

“Woah!  Check it out!  It’s just like I’m staring into the abyss!”

Go go Racing Fighter!  RACE-ING FIGH-TAH! Each sold separately.

 

105. Goodhand

From team that brought you Viewtiful Jooe and Ookami a stunningly awful platforming fuck ’em off that was presumably programmed by a sadist in the hours immediately following a long haul flight.    A truly exceptional pile of shit, the aim appears to drive your motorbike past the disembodied head of Stewie Griffin so that you can collect a pig in a top hat.  And your reward for enduring ten seconds of this hell?  The first couple of bars of the infamous ear irritant Chopsticks. Really, really fucking awful. [8]

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“And in the markets, Oil is nup 1406 against 21 flurgh on the 8 car 1”

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Judgebox Jury

Earlier this year I got myself in a bit of bother when I tried to introduce my children, Samus 5 and Blanka 3, to the popular arse-kicking simulator Street Fighter IV. I experienced an odd realisation that the fighting was significantly more kid-friendly in my head then it was in reality.  It was like a reverse version of when you watch a film with your parents and the kissing suddenly becomes intensely erotic and embarrassing. Its sounds utterly ridiculous but the violence only really existed in their presence.  It was like Schroedinger’s Punch.

As a result, hadokens are on the back burner for a bit and they’re back to playing the thematically identical but somehow fine Smash Bros, making me feel like a total hypocrite in the process.  My own mother was ridiculously strict with violent content when I was younger  (we’ve only just started to repair the childhood trauma of that time she wouldn’t let me watch Terminator 2) and I’m wary that my disapproval of toy weaponry and the like is what makes them so appealing in the first place.  Perhaps I should make the most of their naturally contrary nature and enforce a household ban on spaghetti bolognese.  Maybe this will make mealtimes a little less like a taut, drawn out hostage negotiation.

In any case it got me thinking about what they think about stuff that’s age inappropriate.  The other night Samus spent the evening innocently singing the chorus to the Ellie Goulding song from Fifty Shades of Grey.  To her, it’s just some chirpy ditty she’s heard on the radio.  To me, it’s one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.  But what do they think of video games that are beyond their age range?

I decided to ask them to review a couple of video games entirely on their box art and give me a score out of ten.  They say never judge a book by it’s cover; but what if The Man will only let you look at the cover and you can barely read?  They didn’t think about that, did They?

Bloody They.

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Manhunt doesn’t particularly fill them with excitement until I bribe them with the prospect of a snack.  I’m not entirely sure that offering gingerbread in exchange for a critique of snuff movie inspired stealth games is straight out of the parenting handbook but I do consider myself a bit of a maverick.

“I think that guy is a sweetie pie” giggles Blanka pointing at a thug wearing an acid house smiley face mask and brandishing a shotgun.  All of a sudden the prospect of holding a birthday party seems like it might require some strict guest list control.  Mind you, he then follows this up by pulling off his socks and declaring that the game is about ‘chugging a rabbit over town’ so who knows.

Samus’ interpretation is less like discarded lyrics from ‘I am the Walrus’.  ‘It’s a game where men hunt other men…’  I quickly check I haven’t got in a muddle and shown her my Grindr profile before the she adds in dramatic fashion ‘…for BATTLE!’  Her broad, hands-on-hips stance and proud, distant look makes me think she’s imagining a fencing match between noblemen rather than asphyxiation by plastic bag or smashing in heads with a hammer.  I decide against correcting her and ask for the scores.

Samus: [25]
Blanka: [Poo]

 

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Silent Hill 2, one of the finest psychological horror games ever made, explores the protagonists sexual frustrations while watching his wife slowly die from a degenerative illness.  Perhaps a little beyond the scope of a five year old, Samus nevertheless gives it a bash and assures me that it’s ‘a game about eyes, and it has no music because eyes can’t hear’.  A rather literal reading of the games title and box art.  I inform her that it has a character that has a pyramid for a head and she finds this completely hilarious. ‘I want to see him’.  You most certainly do not young lady.

Blanka is a better judge of character on this occasion imagining him as a ‘jungle monster’ before grabbing my beautiful special edition in his gammy, crumb covered hands and proceeding to spin the discs in the case.  I try to remain cool whilst I watch him simulate a DJ cuttin’ and scratchin’ with one of my favourite games, but as he smiles and nods happily at me I wonder if this is the kind of jungle monster he was referring to.  Wickida-wickida.

Samus: [20 Eyes]
Blanka: [Cheese]

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‘I think you are a planet and have to join up the stars.  I like joining up stars.  I do it my dreams.’

Samus opens her review of the Lovecraft inspired, survival horror game Eternal Darkness with a heart-melting sentiment.  ‘Deeeee-ARGH! CHOOOOOOOO!’ adds Blanka while rolling around the floor.  Two interesting counterpoints I’m sure you’ll agree.

I warn them that the back of the box features pictures they might find disturbing, but I’m told that the skeletal faced Roman centurion is ‘cool’ and the bearded caged man with a lost, soulless look in his eyes is ‘cute’ so what do I know.

‘You have to fight dinosaurs that roar over you’ informs Blanka.  ‘Wow, fighting dinosaurs?  That sounds cool.’  ‘ NO!  Finding dinosaurs!’ he angrily corrects me.  Jesus, I can’t even get that right.

Samus: [25 no 10 no 11 no 10 no 12 no 11.  Yeah, definitely 11]
Blanka: [He shrugged his shoulders.  I think that’s a 7..?]

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In an attempt to prove that not all adult rated games are full of stabbing, I show them the box to Catherine, a game that explores infidelity and sexual temptation.  They treat this with all the subtlety you might expect from a pair who scrunch up their faces when I have the audacity to give their mother a hug.

‘This is brilliant.  It’s all inside a toilet and you’re a sheep who had to pull ladies trousers down.’  Samus inadvertently describes a game that no doubt exists somewhere on the shelves in Japan.  Egged on by all the bum talk, Blanka takes it a little bit further.  ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah and then you have to put sick in her hair.’

I let that hang for a bit as I wonder if it’s worth getting my three year old on a register somewhere, but oh good, he’s not finished yet.  ‘And then you have to pull her fingers off.’

We need to talk about Blanka.  Fortunately when I ask him if he wants to play it he quickly says ‘No thanks.  Way too scary.’  Not as scary as the inside of your head, sunshine.

Samus: [20]
Blanka: [Pooch]

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Finally we come to the box of one of the finest games ever made, the utter masterpiece that is Bloodborne.

Blanka kicks off the discussion by firmly establishing his place as the Oliver Read of this roundtable by removing his t-shirt and swinging round his head. Samus and I get into a bit of a confusing discussion where she appears to think that I’m, personally, on the box.  I don’t manage to get to the bottom of what she was getting at before Blanka interrupts to tell me that the game involves ‘shoving baddies in the face’.

Samus asks what the game is called and then suggests that the game is about ‘putting blood into a jug and drinking it’.  Weirdly, both of these comments are rather accurate.  Stranger still, I inform them there’s still a boss I haven’t beaten and Samus gives me the genuinely brilliant advice, ‘all you have to do is calm down and concentrate’.

I’m left with the uneasy thought that they’re sneaking downstairs in the dead of night to play one of the most notoriously unforgiving and difficult games ever made before they’ve got a complete hanble on the bifference detween d anb b.

Samus: [25]
Blanka: [Nobody]

So there we have it.  Hardly conclusive, useful, nor in any way interpretable evidence of the effect of adult rated box art on a young mind but it was at least better mannered than your average episode of The Late Review.  Turns out you can’t judge a book by its cover.  Well done They.  Well done.

Retro Shitty Rampage Part 2

Despite the overwhelming volume of evidence that suggests I am spectacular person, I do sometimes have moments of doubt.  Am I an entertaining writer?  Am I a good man? Or am I just another angry voice, screaming during the two minute hate?

As I write this I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for the creators of the Retro Game Controller.  I imagine a team crouched over their keyboards, much like I am now, just trying their darndest to bring a smile to someone’s face.  These people are children, parents and lovers.  They feel.

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“Guys, guys, the prototype is here!  Wow, it looks great!  Hands in everyone!  And goooooooooo team!”

Sure, there have been missteps.  Perhaps they should have made the pad bigger.  Perhaps it would have been wise to run the text through a spell check at some point.  Perhaps it would have been best to not have a game with a racist title screen.  We all make mistakes.  But at least they got off their arse and created something.  That’s got to count for something, right?

No. No it fucking does not.

51. Airial Hero

With an avant garde use of the English language,  this top down shooter puts you in control of a helicopter that emits a constant droning, humming sound like class 7L trying to break the supply teacher.  During my brief time with the game I saw nothing that indicated what I was actually supposed to shoot.  Instead, l was treated to little more than a birds eye tour of the map, which appears to be based on Link to the Past’s Hyrule had Miyamoto developed a glue sniffing problem.

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It’s a bit like that famous helicopter bit in Modern Warfare, except 100% more fabulous.

45. Octopus Sea 

With a title that manages to conjure up a nightmarish vision of Ringo Starr cast as James Bond, the only other talking point here is the horrible game over screen which features the playable mermaid character being strangled to death by a mass of black tentacles.  It’s like a scene from some Little Mermaid slash fiction in which Ariel finds herself in a prison and becomes one of Ursula’s “fishcakes”.

75. Hoodle

The Retro Game Controller really outdoes itself here by ripping off Nintendo’s NES game Pinball in its entirety and then hiding it behind the name Hoodle in the menus.  Nintendo are pretty free and easy about this kind of thing, right? I can’t help but be impressed by the balls of the bloody thing.

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“Honestly Mark, no one will ever notice.”

56. Assart 

I’m terribly sorry, I must have misheard you.  I could have sworn that you just said this game was called “arse art”.   You did?   Right.  Well, no I wouldn’t have gone with it personally.  I might have tried to think of something that has some kind of loose tenuous link with what you actually do.  You know, the digging bit.  But I’m sure Assart will be fine.  Assart.  Ass.  Art.

195. Meccano 

What better way to draw attention to your shitty match the shapes game by needlessly naming it after a popular construction toy, possibly drawing the wrath of a huge multinational corporation and the vengeful spirit of Frank Hornby?  No publicity is bad publicity!  Meccano also does away with our centuries old and widely accepted numbering system by starting on Level 2.

142. Mad Xmas 

For me, a mad Christmas might involve having ostrich for dinner or not drinking, but here it’s an huge, terrifying Santa launching presents and bombs out of a cloud.  Like a demented Mufassa drunk on power, his evil gaze is surely designed to strike terror into the hearts of children; waiting, heart in mouth, for this lunatic to be set loose in their house during the dead of night.

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“Ho, ho, ho motherfuckers!”

23. Vigilant

I’m a big fan of Konami’s shmup series Gradius, so imagine my delight when I fire up this fella and watch it vomit all over my memories.  I’m genuinely a little bit impressed that someone has made this clusterfuck and then had the audacity to call it Vigilant. It’s less wary, strong and cautious and more scary, wrong and nauseous.

25. Water Pipes

I bet the creators of the Retro Game Controller were pretty red when they discovered that they had accidently ripped off Pipemania.  How embarrassing!  Quick, add a two player option on the title screen that you can’t actually select!  That’ll confuse ‘em.

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POWER JOY

39. Brother Ball 

Ask any man with a full, complementary set of testicles and he will tell you that balls have a strong fraternal bond.  Brother Ball explores this fascinating relationship by tethering them together, like a globular human centipede, and then tasking them with rescuing their female equivalent.  You can tell they’re girls because they’re pink and have bows in their hair.   Progressive.  Occasionally it mixes it up by replacing the Sister Spheres with orbs that sport the stubble of a drunken, aggressive tramp.

9. Police vs Thief

“Violent Chasing” exclaims the title screen.  Blimey, sounds exciting.  And it probably would be if were not the fact that the car chases take place in complete and utter silence, lending the experience an unnerving, existential atmosphere. “What is morality?” you’ll ponder as you watch law and chaos in an unending chase through a forever looping map, bereft of beginning or destination.

194. Man in Red

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought that the cop from the Village People wasn’t quite camp enough.  What he really needed was his uniform to be dyed a ravishing shade of pinkish red.  Here, we get a glimpse of this glorious alternate reality, with the additional flourish of having him hold his enormous weapon at hip height, thrusting it upwards when the need takes him.

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“We were happy, De Burgh!  Why couldn’t you just let us be!”

46. Texas Hold

You can’t really go wrong with poker, right?  Well, you could always make the soundtrack a muzak version of George Michael’s Careless Whisper.  Nearly had something borderline competent there.  Nice save.

155. Small Dinosaur

When ripping off other people’s games starts to become a bit of a chore, why not rip off your own?  This is the same game as Mad Xmas, with exactly the same music, but reskinned to feature a baby throwing toys at a crocodile. Its saving grace is the titular hero’s eye rolling walking animation, neatly summarising the whole sorry enterprise.  I know how you feel mate.

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“Ho, ho, ho mother….no, wait.”

153.  Star Fighter 

Shit awful version of Space Invaders, made unnecessarily complicated with the addition of a teleport button.  The title evokes images of interstellar dogfights so naturally your vehicle for this mission is a land based tank.

11. Power Robot

“Sir, preparations are in place for Phase 2, but the readings are…”
“My patience runs dry.  Engage the slinky.”
“But…but…Sir!  This level of power has not been fully tested!  The inertia Sir! With the slinky fully active the subject no longer obeys even the basic rules of physics. He’ll be uncontrollable!”
“God damn it Bale, I don’t have time for your insubordination!  I said engage the slinky!”
“Very well Sir.  May God have mercy on us all.’

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“And put a white rectangle off centre in the corner.  Perfect!  We’re done here.”