Monday 17 November 2014

Retro Review - Sega Rally Championship (Arcade, Saturn, PS2, PC)

Sega doing what Sega do best!

There have been many, many arcade racing games over the years, but some stand the test of time better than others. For every amazing and instantly gratifying title that can still be enjoyed 10 or more years after its original release, there are a hundred other bland, generic and instantly forgettable games out there. While racers on home consoles have evolved over time to offer more depth, more cars, more customisation, more tracks and more content in general, it's the simpler, less complicated arcade racers that hold up in the all important fun and replayability stakes. Each Gran Turismo or Forza game automatically renders its predecessor void as they focus heavily on realistic visuals while games such as Daytona USA and Outrun 2006 never lose their appeal. It's no coincidence that I use two Sega games as examples, as they are truly the masters of the genre. Almost every racer they have released has set the bar for the time, provided more thrill and spills than anything else out there, and provided a template for others to imitate, yet never better. The aforementioned Daytona USA and Outrun 2006 are two of the best games in their genre, but it is Sega Rally Championship that gets my vote for, not only best arcade racing game of all time, but racing game overall.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Wolfenstein 3D demo ROM released for Sega Mega Drive

Great news for both retro console gamers and fans of the original first person shooter Wolfenstein 3D as it has finally found its way onto the Sega Mega Drive. Back in 1994, the Super Nintendo was lucky enough to get a port of Id Software's ground breaking title, but it was a heavily censored and very feeble looking port that wasn't a patch on the PC original. Still, it played well enough and was extremely popular. Now Mega Drive owners can finally get some payback as this unofficial port by Gasega68k blows the SNES version out of the water. It features a far less pixellated look that is much closer to the PC version, and the scrolling is incredibly smooth for the 16-bit system. Indeed, the whole affair is incredibly impressive, with 6-button controller support, digitised speech, the ability to save your game and graphical filters to further enhance the look of the game - though these, naturally, would only work on an emulator. 

Monday 22 September 2014

Review - Ziggurat (PC) Awesome Old School Fantasy FPS

Don't be a Heretic, play this new fantasy FPS!

Fantastic news for those of you whom, like myself, adore the classic old school first person shooters of yesteryear. None of this Call of Modern Halo Fighter 4 bullshit for me thanks. I want fast paced, satisfying action, not tedious, po-faced military shooters filled with lengthy cutscenes and constant Q.T.Es. Games such as Doom 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake 1 - 3 and Half-Life are still yet to be bettered and play exceptionally well many years after their original release. It's no wonder all of those titles are still supported by talented modders, with a wealth of exciting and original content to spice up the solid mechanics and gameplay provided in the original titles. Many indie developers have tried to recreate these classic games, but always fail - seeming to miss out the vital ingredients that made the games they are trying to emulate so special. This could be down to poor level or character design, weedy guns that provide zero satisfaction, boring environments to explore, or the addition of unnecessary gimmicks. Both Wrack and Rogue Shooter are recent examples of how not to pay tribute to the classic FPS, and now we have Ziggurat to show us that a decent indie old school FPS is indeed possible.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Review - Behind You (PlayStation Mobile) Fun indie stealth game for your Vita!

Some games seem to want to remain anonymous. That's the only conclusion I can come to when faced with titles like Behind You, a small indie title I recently stumbled across on the PlayStation Mobile section of the Vita's Store page. You see, I could not find any information on the whole of the interweb regarding this cute, Japanese stealth action affair. It had a release date on Metacritic, but that's all I could find, hence you will see I have had to resort to taking screenshots of the game using my camera phone (yes really)! Though, the irony of a stealth game being hard to track down is not lost on me.

Sunday 31 August 2014

Classic PC DOS 'Mario Kart clone' Wacky Wheels getting an HD Remake

In the early 1990's if you were a PC only gamer, you missed out on a wealth of fantastic games on the 16-bit home consoles, but there were always alternatives. Apogee were one of the great developers of the time, churning out a plethora of enjoyable, console-like titles for DOS gamers. One of my personal favourites was their blatant clone of the insanely popular (and insanely awesome) SNES title Super Mario Kart. Featuring a similar graphical style, as well as cutesy critters in karts, it made no attempt to cover up the fact that it was trying desperately hard to be just like Nintendo's racer. But this mattered not as it was a great game in its own right. I had a great deal of fun racing around the well designed and colourful tracks, blasting the other racers with hedgehog weapons and bouncing over obstacles. Sure, it was nowhere near as good as Super Mario Kart, but it was a great alternative option.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Review - Lovely Planet (PC)

Sugar Coated FPS

As a huge, huge fan of old school, 90's style first person shooters I usually take the time to play anything even remotely resembling classic titles such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, so it was mere seconds between me seeing Lovely Planet on Steam and making a purchase. Sure, the graphics looked cutesy and twee, but I figured it could be a wonderfully humorous combination of Doom and Super Mario Bros. Unfortunately I was left painfully disappointed by the incredibly linear stages and the simplistic 'infinite runner' style gameplay.

Friday 15 August 2014

Review - Rogue Legacy (Vita, PS3, PS4)


Back in October 2013 I reviewed Rogue Legacy on PC. Now, 10 months later, this roguelike platformer has found its way to Sony's fantastic and painfully underrated Vita console. And do you know what? I had a far more enjoyable time with it this time around. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Rogue Legacy is a 2d platformer in which you explore a Castlevania-esque castle, defeating baddies with your sword and spells, collecting as much loot as you can. Upon your death you choose a new character, spend the loot you gathered before dying on stats and equipment upgrades, and enter a completely new, randomly generated castle to do it all over again. The aim being to level yourself up enough to face off against one of the four bosses located in the four different areas that make up the game world. 

Friday 8 August 2014

Worst Videogames Enemies - 01 : Spawn (Quake)

'Player' was slimed by a Spawn

Some videogame enemies can make or break a game. Whether it be an impossibly difficult boss, or an adversary with an incredibly irritating movement or attack pattern. Some just annoy you simply by being poorly designed or out of place in the game world. The Spawn from id Software's sublime Quake is one of the worst offenders, being guilty of nearly all of the aforementioned criticisms. Now let's get one thing straight. I love Quake. Adore it! It is one of my all-time favourite videogames, and one I still play regularly some 18 years after its original release. But one thing has always irked me about this game. Something that makes me groan every time I encounter it, and puts a blemish on an otherwise perfect gaming experience. The Spawn.

Thursday 31 July 2014

Instant Dungeon - Roguelike Maze game for PC

Instant Dungeon is a cute little maze game available on both PC and the PlayStation Vita (via the PlayStation mobile section on the store) which features roguelike elements to keep things interesting. Created by lone developer Scott Mattot, Instant Dungeon keeps things incredibly simple by tasking you with little more than moving around a succession of randomly generated, top down mazes, avoiding the skeletons, vampires, zombies and other monstrosities, nabbing any treasures along the way and finding the key to open the exit door. As you progress deeper into the dungeons the light get more scarce, meaning danger could lurk around every corner.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Review - Another World 20th Anniversary Edition (Vita)

A World of Pain

Originally an Amiga title, Another World (or Out Of This World in the USA) blew gamers away in the early 1990's thanks to its impressive animation and atmospheric alien world to explore. You played as Lester, a young professor working on dangerous particle acceleration experiments. One night, after arriving late at the lab one night (in his Ferrari, as the computer needlessly points out) to continue his work, disaster strikes when lightning hits the roof during a critical moment in the experiment. Lester is then transported to a strange alien world, and must escape. It was a pioneering title that would pave the way for more expansive adventures such as the unconnected follow-up title Flashback, Abe's Odyssey, and Tomb Raider. It could perhaps be considered the Uncharted of the time.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Review - Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (Xbox 360)

¡Ay caramba!

As many of you who read this site will know, the so-called Metroidvania sub-genre is one of my favourite types of game. 2D platformers are my passion and have always appealed to me a million times more than even the best 3D offerings (Mario 64 I'm looking at you). So any new game laying claim to the Metroidvania tag is always going to be a cause of much excitement. It was this excitement that got me playing the original version of Guacamelee! on the PS3 last year. It was a beautiful homage to classic SNES game Super Metroid (even containing many unsubtle nods to its source of inspiration) that added a welcome sense of humour to proceedings. Unfortunately, I was never able to beat the game and frustration led me away and, I'm embarrassed to say, I completely forgot about it. Well, I can now right that wrong as Guacamelee! is back in a new and improved 'Super Turbo Championship Edition' (Capcom would be proud of that title!) which adds new content and mechanics and irons out many of the issues of the original version.

Monday 14 July 2014

Video Game Soundtrack Remixes - Toejam & Earl


I'm a sucker for decent videogame soundtrack remixes as they often remind you of how catchy the tunes of yesteryear were - the musicians using the basic hardware available at the time certainly knew how to write melodies that would stick in your head for years to come! While most of the remixes I enjoy fall into the electronic music category, most notably house or techno, this stella funk reworking of a memorable tune from classic Mega Drive game Toejam & Earl is one of the best remixes I have heard to date!

Friday 11 July 2014

Coin-Op Classics - Fast Lane (Konami)

Life in the fast lane

Arcade games of the 80's and 90's offer up some of my favourite gaming experiences. Simple, fast and addictive, the truly great games are easy to pick up and play, yet hard to master. They keep you coming back time and time again in order to beat your high score, thanks to tight controls, exciting gameplay and that essential risk versus reward factor that puts your skills to the test, yet leaving you with the feeling that you can do better next time. Pac Man set the trend way back in the year of my own birth, 1980, with Ms. Pac Man improving on it further. After the yellow dot munchers came an absolute wealth of clones and wannabees, desperate for a slice of the action. Few were able to match Namco's seminal series, but games that tried something slightly different with the formula were often even better. Fast Lane by Konami is one such game. 

Monday 30 June 2014

Review - Max : The Curse of Brotherhood (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC)

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

As anyone who has one will attest to, having a younger brother can be a real pain in the ass. They use or steal your stuff, embarrass you in front of your friends and are generally a thorn in your side until you are are old enough to move out. Max's little brother Felix is no different. Max returns home from school one day only to discover the little runt is in his room again, playing (and breaking) his toys. So, Max does what anyone would do in his situation. He goes online and finds a spell that will rid him of his younger sibling for good. Moments after he utters the magical words a portal opens up and a monsterous claw comes through and pinches Felix right from under Max's nose. Being a decent sort, Max dives in after his little bro in order to save him. So thus begins Max's adventure, a journey that will take him through sandy deserts, deserted towns, lush forests, dank caves and lava filled pits. All in a desperate bid to rescue Felix from the clutches of Mustacho, an geriatric evil wizard kinda guy, who intends to switch bodies with Felix in order to regain his youth. 

Thursday 26 June 2014

Super Mario Bros 3Mix - Fantastic NES ROM hack gives fans a brand new adventure!

The all-time classic is back with an all new homebrew adventure!

As everyone on the planet knows, Super Mario Bros 3 on Nintendo's 8-bit NES console is one of the greatest - if not the greatest - platform games of all time. It blew gamers away back in 1990 (or earlier if you were in Japan) and still remains as enjoyable as ever thanks to the expertly crafted platforming mechanics, exciting and varied worlds to explore and the multitude of different power-ups - one of which, the Tanuki suit, was brought back by popular demand in the recent 3DS outing, Super Mario 3D LandIf, like me, you have played Super Mario Bros 3 so many times over the years that it's impossible to keep count, you will be delighted to hear about this new ROM hack which is now freely available online. Three years in the making, Super Mario Bros 3Mix is the work of one man, 'Southbird', whose previous work includes Sonic Epoch, a homebrew love letter to the Sonic Saturday morning cartoon from the early 1990's.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Subdog - cute underwater collect-em-up for Android & PC

Dogs love bones, that's a well known fact.But what lengths will they go to to retrieve one of their prized treats? Well venturing into the hazard filled depths of the sea is something they will gladly risk if this new indie game from Dark Pixel & Oskey Studios is anything to go by. After a tentacled ocean beastie nabs the titular hero's bone from right under his nose, he dons his underwater apparatus and dives in without a moments hesitation. What follows is a straightforward 2D sidescroller, which plays a lot like the swimming sections in classic platformers such as Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong Country, or... well, every other 80's and 90's platformer that featured a underwater stage. 

Tuesday 27 May 2014

REVIEW - Putty Squad (PS Vita)

Like putty in my hands

Retro gamers and owners of Commodore's wonderful Amiga computer will be familiar with System 3's Putty games. The first, simply entitled Putty, was released in 1992 to favourable reviews, and gained a loyal fan-base thanks to the zany humour and stretchy protagonist. The sequel, Putty Squad, developed two years later, never made it to the system, instead finding a home on Nintendo's SNES console. This was due to the Amiga being a bit long in the tooth by this stage, and the publishers not wanting to risk releasing the, already completed, game to market. All was not lost, however, as System 3 finally released the Amiga 1200 version of Putty Squad - available as a free downloadable disk image - in 2013, as a warm up to the brand new reboot that is now doing the rounds on the PS4, 3DS, and now PS Vita. So, does the remake do the original justice? And is it still relevant in 2014, when fantastic 2D platformers such as Spelunky, Fez, Super Meat Boy and Rayman Legends exist?

Saturday 24 May 2014

8BitBoy - Super Mario Bros clone hits Steam

Super Mario Dross

Last year (February to be precise) I reviewed a free indie game for the PC, 8BitBoy (see full review, here). Basically a no frills ripoff of Super Mario Bros and Great Giana Sisters, its complete mediocrity left me cold, and I awarded it a measly 4 out of 10 score. Well, it's back, only this time it's on Steam and is no longer free. The developers contacted me to inform me of this 'new and improved' version, so I felt a slight revision to the previous review was in order, hoping that this new version would correct many of the problems in the free iteration.

Monday 19 May 2014

CoinOps & Vision - Bringing the Arcade to your home in spectacular style!

Bringing the arcade to your home

Microsoft's first foray into the console market, the Xbox, appeared in 2001 (or 2002 for us European gamers) and was a huge success. But, while I have fond memories of playing Halo 2, Mercenaries, Brute Force and Tao Feng : Fist of the Lotus with my buddies in our earlier twenties, it is not a console I hold with much regard these days. Aside from the games mentioned above, there isn't much else in the Xbox's library of games that holds any appeal. Even games such as Toejam & Earl 3 and Sega's arcade beat-em-up Strike Out left me extremely disappointed. Add in the fact that it's a fairly ugly brute of a console, with one of the worst official controllers ever made - right up there with the Atari Jaguar and Sega's horrible Dreamcast controller - and you have a machine that I am happy to leave in the past. Until now!

Wednesday 14 May 2014

TinyXEVIVOS - Wonderful remixed version of Namco classic Xevious

Bite-sized Shmup

TinyXEVIVOS is a quirky re-imagining of Xevious, the pioneering Namco shooter that introduced the vertically scrolling shmup, as well as the secondary bomb weapon for hitting ground targets. This new version by Japanese developer Kigeki Yahonpo is more of a tribute than a remake, retaining the look and sounds of the original, but changing the levels and certain mechanics to make it a fresh experience.

Monday 12 May 2014

Review - Rogue Shooter : The FPS Roguelike (PC)

Randomly Generated Doom

I have been excitedly awaiting the release of Rogue Shooter since the moment I first heard about it online. After all, here was a game promising to blend two of my favourite genres into one ultra, mega-game; the old school first person action of Doom (the greatest game ever made), with the randomly generated shenanigans of Roguelikes such as Spelunky (The second greatest game ever created). My imagination began to run wild, picturing the dark, atmospheric corridors of Doom, coupled with the addictive and infinite replayability that randomly generated worlds provide. Further depth would be provided by levelling up, perks, different player classes, computer hacking and using science to create new and explosive weaponry. In summary, it sounded like the perfect game. So,  it finally launched, with minimal fanfare, on Steam a couple of weeks ago, and I was barely able to keep my hands steady as I made the instant purchase. Can it possibly live up to my lofty expectations? Is it even a decent game on its own merits? 

Saturday 10 May 2014

Rubble N Strafe - Infinite Runner meets classic shooter 'Scramble'

The amusingly titled Rubble N Strafe is a wonderfully addictive new indie game that melds the continuously scrolling, endless world of games such as Canabalt or Temple Run, with the bomb dropping antics of classic games, Scramble and Harrier AttackTaking control of a continuously advancing plane, you use the incredibly simple mouse controls to make your plane ascend and to drop bombs. Holding button 1 will give your plane a boost skywards, at the cost of fuel, while leaving it un-pressed will cause it to plummet slowly towards the ground. The second mouse button is used to drop bombs, which ark towards the ground and destroy anything they come into contact with. Your plane will also automatically fire its machine guns at anything hostile directly in front of it. 

Thursday 8 May 2014

Review - Twin Tiger Shark (Xbox Indie)

An indie tribute to classic arcade shmups, now on your Xbox 360!

Wide Pixel Games, or Mikael Tillander as he is known to his friends, is back with another Xbox indie title following a string of enjoyable and well made titles. Twin Tiger Shark is a vertical scrolling shmup that obviously has a hard-on for classic coin-op shooters from the late 80's and early 90's, most notably those of developer Toaplan. Both the visuals and sound mimic the look of the arcade games of yesteryear perfectly, giving it an air of authenticity that will delight fans of titles such as Capcom's 1942 series, Raiden and especially Toaplan's Twin Hawk, Twin Cobra and Fireshark. Indeed, the likeness is so spot-on that I initially thought it was a straight-up clone of one of those titles, so much so that I had to boot up MAME in order to discover which one it was. I never found a match, of course, but it pays such faithful tribute to their various titles that it's hard to tell - from the almost identical plane to the one used in Twin Hawk, the similar plane formations, background environments and soundtrack of Fireshark, or the enemy vehicles seen in Twin Cobra, every element of Twin Tiger Shark appears to be from a Toaplan title.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Kero Blaster - From the makers of Cave Story - coming this May!

New Studio Pixel game, Kero Blaster, is almost upon us!

Cave Story is a very well known PC Indie game that was created by Japanese developer, Studio Pixel. Released as freeware back in 2004, it quickly gained popularity thanks to its cute, pixellated graphics, quirky (read, Japanese) story, and Metroidvania style open world platforming. Such was its popularity that it was remade and enhanced for general release on Nintendo's Wiiware and DSiware services in 2010, with a further enhanced version, entitled Cave Story+ hitting Steam a year later and Nintendo's 3DS the year after that.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Midnight Bite - Enjoyable stealth game, out now on Xbox Indie & iOS

Bite-Sized Fun

For those of you still checking the Xbox Live Indie Channel (all three of you), there are still some small nuggets of joy nestled amongst the throne of Flappy Bird clones and appalling anime masturbatory aids. Midnight Bite is one of those nuggets. Coming from the dependable Milkstone Studios, responsible for XBLIG gems such as Little Racers Street and Infinite Danger, Midnight Bite is a top down stealth game that puts you in the shoes of Little Dracu, a young blood sucker who has been left alone in his castle without anything to eat. With a powerful thirst on, he decides to go into town and find some villagers to chow down on, much to their obvious dismay.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Games That Need An HD Update - Little Nemo : The Dream Master (NES)

I Dream Of HD

With the excellent DuckTales Remastered by WayForward opening the floodgates for further potential Capcom / NES game reboots, there are several prime candidates that should be first in line for the HD treatment. Ignoring the obvious choice of their popular Mega Man series, or the home console ports of their own Arcade titles, one would expect to look at their outstanding titles based on Disney characters for inspiration. From the speedy, box-hurling exploits of the Rescue Rangers, the undersea exploration of The Little Mermaid, the cutesy shmup action of TaleSpin, or even the theme park shenanigans featured in Disney World-advertisement-disguised-as-a-videogame, Adventures In The Magic KingdomHowever, it is actually a non-Disney game that, for me, stands head and shoulders above all those titles, a game that is not only a delightful and thoroughly enjoyable platform adventure even today, but also one that, thanks to its creative mechanics, has the depth and variety needed to appeal to modern players. That game is Little Nemo : The Dream Master.

Saturday 29 March 2014

New Indie Action Platformer - Action Mogura - beta available

Action Mogura, or Action Mole if translated from its native Japanese, is a new action platformer with Metroidvania elements from developer, Kro Bon Station. Currently in the unfinished beta stage of development, this action packed uber-Japanese game has bags of potential. Featuring a chubby brown mole who is capable of hurling large Hadouken style fireballs at his robotic adversaries, it is clear that this is a game that doesn't take itself too seriously - though it can often to be hard to tell with Japanese games. 

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Retro Review - Jackal (Arcade / NES)

4 Wheel Shmup Action

Jackal (or Top Gunner as it was known in North America) is a classic Konami arcade shoot-em-up that often gets unfairly overlooked. Not only does it feature the developer's wonderful, and instantly recognisable, style of visuals and sound of the time, but it also offers some great blasting action and some original ideas in a genre usually swamped in predictability. Essentially a vertical scrolling shmup, Jackal has one significant difference that separates it from your standard Fireshark, 1943, or Raiden affairs - the ability to explore the stage at your own pace. After being dropped via parachute onto a beach, your two man team set off in their military jeep and, as you move vertically upwards, the screen scrolls with you. You can stop and move around at your leisure, with the screen following you to the left and right for a short distance should you move off the central path, and even backtrack a little way.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Wizard Wizard - a free indie platformer with hints of Super Meat Boy

Wizard Wizard is a short, but sweet, 2D platform game that apes the masochistic twitch-jumping antics of games like Super Meat Boy. The princess has been kidnapped (surprise, surprise) and it's up to you, the titular Wizard, to rescue her. Each of the single screen stages presents a locked exit door and a key, located somewhere hard to reach. Between you and said key are the usual assortment of saw blades and rotating spikey death things one would expect. Using only the power of jumping and double jumping, you must perform pixel perfect movements in order to nab the key and reach the exit. It's simplistic and very short, yet Wizard Wizard is still worth a playthrough thanks to the not-too-taxing difficulty level, basic yet charming pixel art and music, and the fact that it doesn't take itself at all seriously - owls will make comments such as "Give me $10" or the more stating-the-obvious, "I'm an owl".

Thursday 20 March 2014

Review - TxK (PS Vita)

Tunnel Vision

TxK is another entry in a long running series of psychedelic shooters from British developer, Jeff Minter. Ever since the days of the Commodore 64, when he unleashed his Mutant Camels onto the world, Jeff has had a borderline obsession with LSD-infused visual madness and farmyard animals - sheep, yaks, camels, llamas, you name it (though I guess it has to be a fairly exotic farmyard to host all of those animals). His most famous creation thus far has to be Tempest 2000, a reboot of Atari's classic 1981 arcade shoot-em-up created for their Jaguar console. It is widely considered to be the best game on the system, and deservedly so, despite there being little in the way of competition. It stuck closely to the formula set by the arcade original, only this time with Minter's unhinged acid-trip take on proceedings. Cue, fireworks, explosions of neon light, wobbling nonsensical text, speak-and-spell speech, sheep noises and a fantastic rave soundtrack. 

Saturday 15 March 2014

Retro Review - The Goonies (NES)

Goonies Never Say Die

Everyone has a favourite childhood movie. For me it was the 1985 Spielberg flick, The Goonies, a kids adventure that saw a group of friends search for a pirate's gold after discovering an old map in their parent's attic. Cue the rounding up of a bunch of oddballs - some far less keen to go on said quest than others - a group of comical yet cruel bad guys on the hunt for the same treasure, and an underground cave system fraught with peril. It was perfect escapism for the younger me, and I still enjoy it to this day. On paper, the premise of The Goonies sounds like perfect videogame material, and obviously Konami thought so too, producing an NES adaptation of the movie a year later. 

Friday 14 March 2014

The Ultimate Guide To Indie Games - Essential Reading For PC Gamers

The Ultimate Guide To Indie Games

For those of you with an interest in indie gaming on the PC - most of you, I would assume - there is an excellent bookazine available that covers the games we hold so dear. I am a little late to the party on this one, but after having been bought a copy yesterday by my lovely partner, I felt I needed to bring it to your attention in case it had slipped you by as well. Coming out in January of 2013 from long-running PC gaming magazine PC Gamer, The Ultimate Guide To Indie Games features reviews and previews of a shed load of indie gems, as well as useful Top 50 / Top 100 articles showcasing the best indie games and mods available online completely free. It brought to my attention a multitude of interesting titles that I was not familiar with beforehand, some of which I intend to cover on this website soon.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Review - Nom Nation (PSP Minis / PS Vita)

Playing with your food

The word 'Edutainment' is usually enough to send gamers running for the nearest exit. Whether it's the unnecessary addion of arithmatic or spelling in games such as Donkey Kong Math or Word Rescue, tedious historical searchings in Carmen Sandiego, or the downright laughable (for all the wrong reasons), diabetes related shenanigans in the appalling Captain Novalin, throwing learning into the mix is usually a recipe for boredom. Even Nintendo superstar Mario isn't infalable, with his shoddy educational exploits, Mario Is Missing and Mario's Time Machine proving that the classroom has no place in gaming.

Friday 28 February 2014

Review - Nuclear Throne (PC)

Hail to the King!

It's great to be king. At least that's what the mutated denizens of the irradiated wasteland - the setting for Vlambeer's latest shoot-em-up roguelike - believe. To lay claim to the royal seating apparatus they must navigate a set of arena-like stages, filled with a plethora of other radioactive beasties who will stop at nothing to see the heroes fail. The ever-familiar roguelike genre is unleashed again, only this time with the hyperactive, balls-to-the-wall action of a twin stick shooter attached. This is not a new concept, Teknopants' excellent game Shoot First dished up a winning combination of randomly generated stages, levelling up and Robotron 2048 style blasting back in 2010. But this is the first time the genre mashup has met the boombastic style of Vlambeer and the wonderful pixel art of Paul Veer, who also created the visuals for popular platformer, Super Crate Box.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Review - Life Of Pixel (PS Vita)

8-bit Gaming History - One Pixel At A Time

Hot on the heels of MURI, a new PC indie title that perfectly encapsulates the look, sound and feel of late 80's and early 90's PC gaming, I bring you another game that aims to recreate the style of old systems. This time, not one, but eight different gaming platforms. Life of Pixel tells the tale of a tiny computer pixel who wishes to see the sights and broaden his horizons. So he takes a trip across a wide range of 8-bit home computers and consoles, on a platforming adventure that will see him navigate the black and white worlds of the ZX81 and the colour-bleeding, flick-screen world of the ZX Spectrum, to the more vibrant, smooth scrolling environments of the Nintendo NES. And if he gets rich along the way by grabbing the diamonds littering each stage, then all the better.

Monday 24 February 2014

Review - MURI (PC)


For PC gamers of a certain age, the command lines above will instantly bring back memories of a wonderful era of gaming - that of the PC's DOS operating system. Completely command line driven - there were no Windows style icons to click - DOS involved manually typing everything in order to setup or run the game. The DOS period evokes memories of CGA, EGA, and VGA graphics, of Adlib or SoundBlaster audio cards or, if you go back even further, of the hideous bleeps and bloops that would vomit forth from the PC's internal speaker. Some people look back on it as a huge chore, yet back in 1993, when I got my very first desktop system (a 486 DX2/66), it was like opening up a whole new world of possibilities, one that involved more than just inserting a cartridge and pressing the 'on' button.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Retro Review - Captain Dynamo (Amiga)

Budget Platform Action

Featuring possibly one of the least appealing protagonists I have seen (ranking up there with Lester The Unlikely), Captain Dynamo is another platform game offering from budget supremos, Codemasters - responsible for popular titles such as CJ Elephant Antics, Bignose The Caveman, and the Dizzy series. Released on a range of home micros in 1992, Captain Dynamo was a late starter for the 8-bit systems, who were now reaching the end of their long lifespans (sob). While the ZX Spectrum & CPC versions look very similar, aside from changes to the colour palette, the C64 appears significantly different, with a surprisingly drab and washed out look. It also features vastly tweaked level layouts, including one of the most irritating first screens ever to grace a videogame. One to avoid then, but how does Commodore's 16-bit machine fare?

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Videogame Soundtrack Special - WipEout Series (PlayStation)

The music of WipEout

The impact the original Sony PlayStation had back in 1995 is simply astounding. Not only were the 3D visuals absolutely mind blowing, but the games had a darker, grittier edge that separated them from their 16-bit forbears. These were games aimed at adults (well, twenty-somethings and up anyway). Gone were the charming and twee chiptune tracks from previous console generations, replaced with CD quality audio featuring well known rave and dance acts. Suddenly, games were extremely cool, even making appearances in nightclubs at the time. I remember seeing WipEout being demonstrated on a large screen in a GAME store back in the day. There were large crowds standing around gazing up in awe at the visual spectacle on-screen. It was like nothing we had seen before and the air was electric with excitement. For me, it was love at first sight, and I knew then and there that I simply had to own a PlayStation as soon a humanly possible. Since that fateful day, I have had a long term relationship with the WipEout games. To me, they are the PlayStation brand and, along with Ridge Racer and Tekken, are the games that keep the spirit of the original 32-bit machine alive and kicking with each new machine released.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Review - Excavatorrr 2 : CWOUN (PC)

Dig your way to a thousand deaths

It would appear that videogames have a long term obsession with underground digging. From the early days of Dig Dug, The Pit and Boulderdash, to more recent offerings like Mr Driller, Spelunky, SteamWorld Dig and Minecraft, it's clear that gamers have a penchant for dirt shifting shenanigans. Now lone indie developer Hempuli is adding to the (dirt) pile, with a sequel to his 2009 mine-em-up, Excavatorrr. That title may have possessed crude visuals that aped the style of the Atari 2600, but it was more addictive than nicotine and sex combined. It slipped under the radar of many gamers - which is a shame as it was (is) absolutely excellent - but hopefully this new sequel will get the attention it deserves. 

Wednesday 12 February 2014

REVIEW - Gun Godz (PC)

Hip-Hop Wolfenstein 3D, Y'all

We all love a bit of good old fashioned first person shooter action, don't we? Id Software's pioneering Wolfenstein 3D was not only an impressive tech-demo for the PC, but also a damn good game, thanks to the speedy pace, and no-nonsense, shoot-em-up action. It was released over 20 years ago, yet is still just as fun today as it ever was. Are we really going to say the same about the ever-tedious plethora of military shooters we are inundated with today? The fact that user made mods and levels are still being made for Wolf3D (as I always affectionately remember it thanks to the DOS commands needed to run it) shows that many gamers enjoy a back-to-basics murder-fest, that does away with all the story-heavy, Q.T.E. and linear hand-holding of modern FPS titles. 

Saturday 8 February 2014

Indie Demo - Nightmare Night - Gameboy style platformer

Nightmare Night (surely that should be 'Knight'?) stars a young squire on a quest to vanquish the evil goblins from the nearby forest. His quest may seem a simple one, but that is because this new platform game from lone developer, KG, is only in alpha stage, and thus only has the first stage complete. As you can see, the visuals are heavily inspired by Nintendo's classic Gameboy handheld, with a monochrome palette and cute, yet well drawn, sprites. Beginning with a trusty sword, you must make your way through the forest, slashing the skeletons, adorable lizard things and spiders, as you make your way to the Goblin King boss. Along the way are chests and pots that can be broken for coins or health potions, and you even get to don a Knight's helm in order to look more badass. 

Thursday 6 February 2014

Indie Demo - Tomb Robber (PC)

Raiding Tombs, 8-bit style

Currently holding the work-in-progress title of Tomb Robber, this 8-bit style platformer has been in the works for a couple for years now, with no new news for over a year. However, even in its current unfinished state, it's one of the most enjoyable retro platform adventures since Rick Dangerous or Montezuma's Revenge. As an archaeologist with an urge to explore ancient tombs and recover valuable artifacts, you make your way to an Egyptian pyramid filled with long forgotten treasures. Bringing only your old revolver for protection, you must first navigate a short stretch of desert, avoiding snakes and bats, before entering the tomb. Once inside you must traverse the single screen stages, avoiding acid spitting mummies, skeletons, scorpions and more bats as you attempt to locate the red Ankh that will open the exit door and take you to the next room.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Indie Demo - Cacto Loco! - A Twin-Stick Shooter With A Mexican Flavour!

Plant versus zombies (and other unidentifiable adversaries)

If you fancy a bit of spice in your twin-stick shooter then be sure to check out the utterly bonkers, Cacto Loco, currently in development by Tnerb. The ridiculous intro song (yes, really) tells the story of two young lovers who get tangled up with an ill tempered witch doctor, who turns the man into a cactus (why not?). Being a desert based plant covered in spikes doesn't really work for our hero, so he sets off to locate his missing beau and return to his human form. Cue a top-down, scrolling run & gun affair that sees you blasting away at hoards of beasties using the needles that come attached to your body (all part of being a cactus).

Sunday 2 February 2014

Retro Review - Jazz Jackrabbit 2 (PC)

Console gaming on your PC

In 1994, Epic MegaGames (who would later be known simply as Epic) released a cutesy, high speed platform game for DOS in an attempt to a bring console quality run & jump action to the PC. It was clear that Jazz Jackrabbit was taking its inspiration from Sega's blue hedgehog, as the game was exciting, fast paced and, above all, heaps of fun. Four years later Epic saw fit to release a sequel, this time leaving the archaic DOS format behind in favour of Windows. The plot in the original title involved, yep, you guessed it, saving your girlfriend. Eva was rescued from the nefarious clutches of your arch nemesis, Devan Shell, in a play on the classic fable The Tortoise & the Hare. Once she was safely at home she and our hero decided to get hitched, but before they get down the alter, the ring is stolen. Devan is clearly up to his old tricks again.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Indie News - La-Mulana sequel in the works via Kickstarter!

La-Mulana 2 - sequel in development

The cryptic mind-fuck, masquerading as a 2D Metroidvania platformer, La-Mulana, is getting a sequel. This brand new adventure is being developed by Japanese developers, NIGORO - who brought us the original PC version back in 2005, and Playism, who brought us the remakes for Wii & PC. Using the popular Kickstarter site to fund the title seems like a wise move, as it's already raised $140,000 of its £200,000 target, with another 2 weeks to go.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Retro Review - Mean Arenas (Amiga / CD32)

The Running (Pac) Man

Top down Maze games are one of the oldest and longest running video game staples. When Pac Man sent everyone maze-crazy in 1980, there followed a decade long tsunami of clones, rip offs and cheap imitators, especially for the home computer systems of the time. With the advent of the 90's, it seemed that these simple arcade eat-em-ups had become stale and developers moved on, but there were a few notable exceptions. While the 16-bit consoles only received a few Pac Man inspired games; such as Zoom and Mr Do, Commodore's Amiga got its mitts on a fair few, thanks to its more homebrew nature, and cheaper disk based format. Most notable of these Pac Man spin-offs is Mean Arenas, which blends dot collecting and enemy avoiding with a deadly game show theme 'borrowed' from cheesy 80's action flick, The Running Man, or Robotron 2048 follow up, Smash TV.

Monday 27 January 2014

Review - Into The Underdusk (PC)

Stuck in Limbo. Again.

Back in 2010, when cult XBLA platformer Limbo was released to commercial success, it paved the way for more emotional, sometimes disturbing, platform games, proving that they needn't all be about colourful cartoon worlds full of sweets, coins and hearts. Into the Underdusk, a new indie title from Almightyzentaco, follows suit, featuring a hero who exists in a world being overcome with darkness. With all the world's memories fading away, he wants to obtain a precious locket so that he can remember his beloved one last time before blackness consumes everything.

Friday 24 January 2014

Retro Review - Shinobi X (Shinobi Legions) (Sega Saturn)

You can't keep a good ninja down

Poor old Shinobi, he doesn't get much love these days. Like many other Sega franchises - Toejam & Earl, Streets of Rage, Alex Kidd etc. - Shinobi peaked in the late 80's and early 90's, before fading away, leaving only lackluster titles on more modern systems in its wake. The original Shinobi, released into arcades way back in 1987, is actually one of my all time favourite coin-ops, with some powerful nostalgia attached. Likewise, Revenge of Shinobi, Shadow Dancer and Shinobi III are some of my favourite Mega Drive games, and remain the pinnacle of 16-bit action platform games. 

Thursday 23 January 2014

Indie News - Vindicator : Uprising - Demo released

Welcome to Hell

Welcome you ungodly heathens, please take a seat and wait for your ticket number to be called, upon which point you will be heading straight to Hell. Fire up the BBQ, I'll see you down there. Who doesn't enjoy a bit of casual blasphemy. Apart from, y'know, God, or whichever deity you waste your precious time adoring. Well the guys over at Gamephase have certainly reserved their seats in eternal damnation for this effort - their new game, Vindicator : Uprising. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Review - Destroy The Porn (PC)

A Sticky Situation

What could be worse than dying and being sent to the bowels of Hades? Why, leaving behind a filthy stash of porn in your wake, just waiting to be discovered by your grieving family. This is the exact predicament our hero Joe finds himself in. Upon meeting the Dark Lord, he realises the gravity of his situation and asks to be sent back to Earth one last time, in order to rid the house of his epic assortment of spooge materials. Being the fair sort, Satan allows this, and sends Joe off on a short mission to defeat a boss monster and tidy up his home.