Wednesday 27 March 2013

Classic Game - Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)

Since I spent the last feature article bashing the crappier side of the Super NES platforming genre, I feel I should rain some positivity down on the 16-bit wonder console. And what better way to do than so than to sink my teeth into two of the finest games for the system, Super Castlevania 4 and Zelda : A Link To The Past? I have recently reacquired both titles and am currently playing through them again. Firstly I will look at the whip cracking, bat whacking adventures of Castlevania.

Monday 25 March 2013

Special Feature - The Ugly Side of Super Nintendo Platform Gaming

The Super Nintendo is home to some of the best examples of 2D platform games in existence. It is also home to an absolute deluge of shit that simply beggars belief. This week I decided to spend some time checking out a vast array of 2D platform games on the system with the intention of writing about any hidden gems I found. While I did find a few enjoyable titles lurking among the 30+ games I tried, I was quite taken aback by how many truly abysmal games are on SNES. I genuinely had no idea. I am familiar with the hundreds of terrible abominations on the NES, but for some reason I had assumed (incorrectly) that the SNES had upped the quality control and avoided a library consisted of hundreds of piss poor efforts. 

Maybe it was due to the fact that the SNES cartridges were pretty pricey back in the day, so I only got hold of the cream of the crop after doing my research via CvG, Super Play and Total magazine (remember, this was pre-internet) before hassling my parents to fork out for it. Thus my memories of the 16-bit Nintendo machine consisted of a glorious dream-like haze in which I frolicked through a sunny meadow with such lovable characters as Mario, Donkey Kong, Earthworm Jim, Link, Simon Belmont, the guy from Pilotwings and even the 3d rendered unicycles from Unirally.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Steam Sale - Indie Game Special ( March 21-29th )

For all fans of PC indie titles, it is worth heading over to the Steam store as they are currently running an Indie Spring Sale. There are absolutely tons of great games reduced to ludicrously cheap prices. The sale runs from March 21st to 29th, so make haste and pick up some bargains.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Duck Tales Remastered coming this Summer!

Life is like a hurricane.. (sing along now!)

Oh my goodness. I am extremely excited and blissfully happy to bring you some awesome news. The NES classic, Duck Tales, has been remastered for modern consoles and will be landing this summer!

The wonderful 8-bit platformer created by Capcom in 1989 brought the feathered Disney characters to our screens and secured a place in our hearts. Fondly remembered by everyone who played it back in the day, Duck Tales (and its sequel) are exceptionally well produced platformers with gorgeous cartoon visuals, an insanely catchy chiptune soundtrack, a varied selection of stages containing many hidden secrets, and tight gameplay that is still a pleasure to play.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams - Out today on XBLA / PSN / Wii-U

The excellent retro platformer Giana Sisters : Twisted Dreams has been released today on XBLA and PSN, with a Wii-U version forthcoming.

I reviewed the PC edition back in November 2012, where I praised the game for its wonderful aesthetics, brilliant music by original composer Chris Hulsbeck and Swedish metal band Machinae Supremacy, the switching between sisters mechanism and the enjoyable, and challenging gameplay.

Monday 18 March 2013

REVIEW - Bit.Trip presents RUNNER 2 (XBLA / PC)

So, Bit Trip Runner finally gets its well deserved sequel. The infinite runner was by far the greatest asset of the Bit.Trip series of games, as well as being one of the shining stars of the Wiiware service. Now the star of the show, Commander Video, is back with an assortment of oddball chums for another forced scrolling adventure in twitch platforming.

For those of you unfamiliar with the infinite runner genre, a brief synopsis may be in order. Basically, it plays much like a 2D platformer such as Super Mario Bros on NES, but instead of exploring the game at your own pace, the screen constantly scrolls to the right, with your character in a fixed position. This means you must use the abilities of the character in question to avoid the many pitfalls thrown at you from the right side of the screen, be they jumping, ducking, blocking and so on. 

Friday 15 March 2013

Video Game Box Art From Hell - 01 : Wonder Boy (Master System)

As I have just finished writing about the classic arcade game Wonder Boy, as well as its many home console ports, I was unfortunately exposed to something that has haunted me since I first laid eyes on it back in 1990. I am, of course, talking about the European box art for Wonder Boy.

I intended to include the following discussion (or rant) in the Wonder Boy article, but I felt it deserved its own page. Plus it is a theme I wish to return to in a recurring series. So, before I start frothing at the mouth and tearing into the artwork in question, let's take a look at what other countries were given instead.

Coin-Op Classics - Wonder Boy (Sega) (including Adventure Island series)

Title : Wonder Boy
Year : 1986
Developer : Escape (later known as Westone Bit Entertainment)
Publisher : SEGA
Ported to : SG-1000, Master System, NES, Game Gear, MSX, C64, CPC, ZX Spectrum, PS2, Wii

The original 1986 coin-op classic, Wonder Boy is one of my all time favourite games. I first encountered this enchanting game in my early teens. It was in a hotel bar in my local seaside town, and I was immediately drawn to it due to the usual levels of excitement that occurred whenever I found an arcade machine. This was especially heightened by the fact that it was somewhere I wasn't expecting one. In those days, stumbling across a brightly lit coin-op with merry bleeps and bloops emanating from it was like finding the holy grail itself, and this time was no different. The game was, of course, Sega's Wonder Boy. The colourful cartoon world, cutesy characters, and catchy high speed music immediately appealed to me. Once the first coin clunked into the machine and I pressed start I was greeted by the adorable protagonist – a young cave boy with a large blonde mop of hair and a grass skirt – running excitedly on the spot, and I was almost doing the same. Little did I realise I was about to become enamoured with the game so much so that I would still be playing it, and writing about it, over 2 decades later.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

SPECIAL FEATURE - DOOM - Part 2 - WADs, Mods and Addons


Enjoying Doom in 2013

Hopefully part 1 of this special feature focusing on the first 2 Doom titles will have whet your appetite for some demon slaying action. Now I will take a look at the best way of enjoying these iconic titles on newer platforms, as well as the wealth of additional content available online that can enhance and significantly change your Doom experience.

The early Doom games are still, to this day, the most satisfying, action packed first person shooters you can play. Over the years games have tried to emulate the powerful feel of Doom's weapons, the charming (if you can use that term) selection of monsters, and the adrenaline rush and no-frills carnage, but none have succeeded. Sure, there have been some great first person shooters since Doom, the best ones by id themselves, but as developers tried to add more story-based ideas the games lost their way, becoming full of tedious cut-scenes, drawn out missions, and QTEs (Quick Time Events). Doom 1 and 2 are still exceptionally satisfying and fun to play some 20 years after their release. Whether you are experiencing classic PC Doom via the fabulous DOSBox, the exceptionally atmospheric PlayStation port, the remixed N64 version, or the Atari Jaguar edition, you cannot fail to be entertained. But for those of you who are tired of the standard levels and appearance of Doom, or just want the vanilla experience on your current consoles, there are plenty of options.

Saturday 9 March 2013

The Spelunker Collection - European Release Confirmed!

Exciting news for any fans of the Spelunker series. Tozai themselves have confirmed that the epic Spelunker Collection will be getting a UK (and the rest of Europe) release on Playstation Network.

Having already been released in Japan to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Spelunker, those of us in the West were left wondering if we would see the delightful cave explorer on our shores. A US release was confirmed for later in the year, but no word was given on a European release. Until now. So far no date has been confirmed, but the news that it will be coming is enough for now.

Friday 8 March 2013

Excellent New Music Video Pays Homage to 8-bit Video Games

For those of you who enjoy electronic music AND video games - I'm betting that's a fair few of you! - here is a cool new video from the guys at Hospital Records. The track is from the always dependable High Contrast and, while certainly not in the same league as his classic tunes; Return of Forever, Racing Green, Twilight's Last Gleaming and The Road Goes On Forever, it is a pretty decent mix of drum & bass, electro and chiptune sounds. It is an energetic track with some lovely pads halfway through to give it some depth and emotion.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Coin-Op Classics - Bomb Jack series (Tecmo 1985 - 1993)

Bomb Jack (Tecmo, 1984)

Bomb Jack has always been one of my favourite arcade games of the 1980's. With its bright, colourful graphics, jaunty tunes and simple, yet addictive gameplay, it is a game I can come back to again and again. Join me, as I take a look back at a classic 1980's coin-op, the many home conversions it received and the sequels that followed.

Original arcade flyer for Bomb Jack

The original Bomb Jack coin-op was released in 1984 by Tehkan, which would later become Tecmo. It was a fast paced, single screen platform game that enticed players with its bright and colourful visuals and quirky tunes. What awaited  gamers willing to part with their coins was a highly addictive and extremely challenging game that defied its cutesy veneer.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

REVIEW - Capcom Arcade Cabinet (Xbox 360 / PS3)

1980's Arcade Deju Vu

After the unfortunate failure of the underrated Game Room service, the release of half hearted compilations such as Midway Arcade Origins and the total lack of anything from Taito (boo!), retro arcade games have had a bad run this generation. The exception to this might be the excellent Namco Museum - Virtual Arcade compilation, but even this had flaws. So, while still excited about the prospect of playing old Capcom arcade games on my 360 or PS3, I remained sceptical about what would actually be delivered. Unfortunately it would appear my scepticism was well founded, as what we have here is the most uninspiring selection of 1980's 'classics' I have yet seen.

Capcom have the ability to release wonderful retro compilations, as seen in their collections on PS2, Xbox and PSP. The Capcom Classics packages contained all the arcade games you would expect, with several you wouldn't, and provided excellent value for money. I had hoped that here, Capcom would re-release all those titles again, with the added bonus of HD visuals and online leaderboards. However, 'twas not to be, and instead we are left with an extremely watered down version of those packs.

Monday 4 March 2013

REVIEW - The Unfinished Swan (PS3)

There is an ongoing (it would seem) discussion in popular culture regarding video games. Can they be considered art? It is a fairly tedious discussion of which I will save you all the trouble by stating the answer. Yes, yes they can. If dancing, poetry and, especially, movies are considered art then video games must be too. Of course some games, like movies, are more arty than others. It's A Wonderful Life would probably be considered to have more artistic merit than, say, Bad Boys 2. And a game like The Unfinished Swan will certainly convince a lot more people of gaming's contribution to cultured media than Saints Row The Third. Indeed any game that starts off with a blank (read – completely white) screen with no clue as to what to do, clearly slides itself into the art game camp, as well as showing some serious balls too. It only takes a few seconds of tapping the various buttons until you locate the 'fire' button and a black ball arcs from your cross-hair. It makes contact with a surface and with a messy splatter, covers the area with black paint. It then clicks that you must reveal the world around you using this paint, identifying the walls, pathways and objects in the world around you. Welcome to The Unfinished Swan.

Saturday 2 March 2013

REVIEW - Tales from Space : Mutant Blobs Attack (PC)

They Came From Outta Space

So, Mutant Blobs Attack, a bit of a give-away in the title there, but then anything featuring slimy lumps of alien jello is hardly going to be called Mutant Blobs Take You out for Coffee and a Chat now is it? An updated version / semi-sequel to the previous Tales from Space game, About A Blob, that appeared on the PS3 in  2011, Mutant Blobs Attack is an extremely quirky and amusing 2D platform devour-em-up. A giddy mix of Pac Man, Katamari Damacy and the excellent, Globdule on the Amiga (look it up) that takes its inspiration from the 1950's Sci-Fi B-movies that featured gelatinous monsters from other planets (usually Mars).

The flimsy story that mirrors those found in the aforementioned B-movies has our titular blob escaping from captivity in a science lab on Earth. Rather than chill out and catch the next bus home, he decides to wreak a terrible vengeance on humanity. He does this by eating everything, and I mean everything, in sight. Blob has clearly no concern for cholesterol or looking good on the beach this summer, but then he's a blob so what's he got to worry about?