Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Classic movies I don't really like

Basically because I'm bored. This is personal opinion and shouldn't stop you from checking them out yourself, etc etc. No particular order, either.

Blade Runner - I tried to watch this once and got bored in twenty minutes. And when you have Harrison Ford chasing rogue cyborgs through dirty streets simultaneously drenched in neon and rain, you have to actively work to lose my attention.

The Godfather - I didn't actually mind this one, it was pretty good considering gangster movies always depress and anger me. It appears on this list purely for Marlon "What The Fuck Is He Saying" Brando. "Ummph mpph mff, gmmm mf punf."

The Terminator - Possibly spoiled by the fact I'd already seen 2 and 3 by the time I got to it, but I just didn't really care.

Psycho - The music did this one in. It's all very well having a famous score with That Scary String Bit, but when the music's going all the freaking time it does your head in.

To Kill a Mockingbird - The book devotes so much time to the vivid colours of summer in the Deep South that a black and white film just doesn't work. I'll probably give this one another go, mind.

The Matrix - I used to love this, but I think everyone ever nicking bullet-time has ruined it. Now I watch it and just think "get on with it". Also, if you listen really hard during the endless slo-mo shots of great big guns being fired, you can hear the Wachowskis masturbating vigourously over their NRA badges.

Coming soon: Films I Like That Everyone Else Hates. Probably.

Monday, December 03, 2007


87. Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams
Saturn, 1996, Capcom/Virgin Interactive

This is the only SF game I’ve ever owned, which I guess makes me suck or something. Apparently, get this, if you do a sort of quarter-circle forward and press punch as Ryu or Ken, you shoot a fireball. Good, eh?

86. 1080˚ Avalanche
Gamecube, 2003, NST/Nintendo

Jeez, this game’s hard. But good. The difficulty gets to me quite readily, but the glorious panoramas you’re boarding across always lure me back. Top marks to the Frozen Melee levels – stunning obstacle courses of sheer rock at absurd heights, with three or four levels of elevation to choose from – magnificent. Plus, outracing the titular avalanches is great.

85. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Gamecube, 2003, Capcom Production Studio 4/Capcom

I’d probably like this more if I’d picked it up closer to its original release, but chucking a PS1 game onto the Cube with basically no polish or extras was pretty damn cheeky. Of course, I still bought it…Anyway, it offers the usual Resi goodness, and the Live Selection concept and branching gameplay it births deserves to be brought back. The gunpowder idea was pretty good, too, if fiddly. Not bad for an old game, then.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


90. Virtua Fighter 2
Saturn, 1996, AM2/Sega

The VF games have never been my favourite fighters, but their quality is undeniable. It’s pretty astounding to think that this remains one of the most technically impressive Saturn games, and it was only a few months behind the console itself into shops (compare the first Panzer Dragoon to Saga, for instance). Anyway, VF2 was not the Second Coming that some people would’ve had you believe, but you can’t say no to good ol’ Shun Di.

89. Mega Bomberman
Mega Drive, 1994, Hudson Soft/Sega

Boom, boom, shake-shake the room. Four players? Yesplz. Weird kangaroo things that jump and kick and dance and run? Why not indeed. And I liked the one-player mode and its giant robot banana, even if no-one else did.

88. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Saturn, 1996, Avalanche Software/Midway

I’ve always had a massive soft spot for the MK series, although thinking about it this was actually the most recent one I’ve played (I did pick up Deadly Alliance, but it refused to work on my Gamecube). The fighting might not be that great, but the sheer over-the-top style is thoroughly entertaining, and this stands up as the best this side of MK2 (that I’ve played, anyway) with some of the greatest finishing moves. Love that Scorpion one with the clones that’s all squishy sound effects and no visuals.

(All the years of release, publishers, etc refer only to the European versions. Probably should've pointed that out earlier.)


I'm ditching the screenshots, they're a real hassle to sort out on Blogger. So there.

93. Earthworm Jim
Mega Drive, 1994, Shiny Entertainment/Virgin Interactive

Yet another game I’m really bad at. But who cares. Launch cows! Fight dustbins! Whip duodenums! Ride hamsters! Bungee-jump with bogies! Also, the music for the Psycrow boss levels is one of the MD sound chip’s finest hours. Hoo-ray for JIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIM!

92. Sonic Advance 3
Game Boy Advance, 2004, Dimps/Sega

I loved this bad when it first came out, but sadly it’s not as replayable as other Sonics. This is a shame, because it’s arguably one of the best of the lot, balancing the series’ essential simplicity with a partner system that’s surprisingly complex if you bother to fiddle around with it. (For the record, Cream and Knuckles is my team of choice.) Still, the levels are decent, if unremarkable, there’s a couple of good bosses, the hub concept’s quite fun, and the Special Stage entrance is actually achievable, if too convoluted (I think I got five Emeralds, then gave up because it just took too long).

91. Electroplankton
DS, 2006, Nintendo

Another one that’s not really a game, Electroplankton is just a glorified music toy. But Jesus, what a toy. Using one of ten different types of plankton, you poke the screen/draw lines/make spinning motions/clap into the microphone to produce music. But it gets really fancy with the Rec-Rec and Volvoice plankton, which let you record loops of your voice to mess with. Recording a list of obscenities and playing it back at triple speed so it sounds like the Chipmunks are dissin’ your stylez is far funnier than it probably should be. It’s a surprisingly sophisticated tool, letting you produce some genuinely great tunes with a bit of work, but because the developers are idiots you can’t save them, instantly pricing this as an expensive novelty. But if you do splash out, it’ll last you forever – it’s the sort of thing you ignore for months at a time, then pick up and have a blast for an hour with, then ignore again. Repeat for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


96. Athlete Kings
Saturn, 1996, AM3/Sega

The reason I’m keeping relatively optimistic about Mario & Sonic is the fact that last time Sega gave the Track & Field model a whirl, this is what they came up with (well, technically it was Winter Heat, this game’s sequel, but whatevs). Take the traditional decathlon events, make some ridiculous characters (British entrant Jef Jansens, based on Daley Thompson, has arguably the best afro ever), give it silky animation and ultra-simple controls and away you go. Never did get the hang of the pole vault, mind.

95. Sonic Chaos
Master System, 1993, Aspect/Sega

I've long held this in fond regard, as it was the first Sonic I ever completed properly (i.e. with all the Chaos Emeralds). Once I smear the nostalgia out of my eyes, though, it’s not as great as I remembered. But it still has Aqua Planet Zone’s pretty skies, two of the most hilariously easy bosses ever, breaky-wall-go-nuts fun in Sleeping Egg Zone, the holy Rocket Shoes and a Badnik that looks like a turkey drumstick. And they all count for something in my book.

94. Sonic Advance 2
Game Boy Advance, 2003, Dimps/Sega

When it’s good, it’s very good; when it’s bad, it is several kinds of awful. The main levels are fun once you get your head round them – it’s more “learn the best route, then time-trial your face off” than other Sonics. Couple of the bosses are great, couple more of them are abysmal. One thing that is certain is that whoever invented the Special Stage entrance mechanism needs a hearty beating, because it is stupid and hard and awful. Oh, and it looks great.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


99. Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
Gamecube, 2006, Travellers’ Tales/Activision

NGamer once said “Everything’s better in Lego,” and they were distinctly correct. LSWII:TOT (catchy) is packed full of the silly fun that those little plastic bricks seem to emanate (as long as you don’t step on them). Its resolutely old-school gameplay – run that way! Kill those guys! Jump up there! Run that way again! – is refreshingly pure and thoroughly addictive, and it’s easily one of the most charming games ever made. (Love the builders on the second Death Star slacking off and drinking tea.) Its one major problem is that the excellent co-op gameplay is pushed to the fore so much, that some of the levels are downright infuriating in single player because you simply can’t do everything at once. I’m looking at you, Death Star Escape. The solution? Make friends, I guess. Bah.

98. Virtual Springfield
PC, 1997, Digital Evolution/Fox Interactive

This is barely even a game, but I am easily pleased. Basically, you wander round a (damn funky for the time) 3D Springfield, poking things, collecting cards, unlocking secrets and playing minigames. You could probably clock all the stuff that comes closest to actual gameplay in two or three hours, but the fun comes from finding all the little bits and bobs you can do (throw gummi bears at the audience in the Aztec Cinema, fiddle with the lights while the Simpsons are trying to eat dinner), seeing all the animated sequences – all fully voiced by the cast, which was quite exciting back then – and spying all the references to the episodes. I’m pretty sure every single one that had been shown prior to the game’s release got at least one nod. So not much of a game, but a heck of a way to kill time.

97. Sonic Pinball Party
Game Boy Advance, 2003, Jupiter/Sega

So yeah, it’s a pinball game and Sonic is in it. And NiGHTS for that matter. And Amigo. And references to ChuChu Rocket!, Burning Rangers and Phantasy Star Online. The love displayed for Sonic Team’s back catalogue (and Sonic R, for some reason) is impressive, even if they mix up the Frozen Bell and Splash Garden music on the NiGHTS table and then give Frozen Bell Gulpo as a boss and Clawz to Mystic Forest rather than the other way round. The Samba de Amigo table is simultaneously too sparse and too hard to be any fun, but the other two are great, and it’s nicely addictive. The casino minigames, involving pinball takes on roulette, slots and bingo, especially. Oh, and there’s this great little puzzle game that’s kind of like Magical Drop, if you’ve ever come across that, tucked away in there too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


102. Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf
Mega Drive, 1992, EA

I’ve never actually got off the second level of this, because I suck so bad. But I don’t need to to know it’s great. Lovely graphics, good controls, satisfying gameplay, little running sprites that make me giggle, and that sense of panic when you wander into a Danger Zone before you’re ready. Great stuff.

101. Fighting Vipers
Saturn, 1996, AM2/Sega

They should make a Fighting Vipers 3. Who cares if the second one was apparently rubbish. Anyway, if you’re not familiar, this was AM2’s answer to the gamers who said “VF’s elegant, subtle, complex combat is all well and good, but what I really want to do is throw a fat guy into a fence then beat him around the head and face with a skateboard.” Fast and vicious, with all sorts of neck-snaps, arm-wrenches, groin-kicks and a guy with a mullet inserting a Flying V into places where a Flying V really should not go, it was ace and it had a 16-year-old girl in a red PVC miniskirt whose signature attack was to thrust her bare backside into her opponent’s face. Possibly that is why they haven’t made a third one.

100. Another Code: Two Memories
DS, 2005, Cing/Nintendo

This is actually a really, really good game, and I’m placing it all the way down here to punish it. No self-respecting point-and-click adventure should be over in four hours. It is just not right. Also, the ending’s really abrupt. But aside from the monumentally outrageous brevity, this is a great game. The plot’s engaging (if a bit odd), it looks good (although the way the characters sort of stretch when the camera pans over a scene is very unnerving), it sounds fantastic, and the puzzles are intelligent and imaginative. Get it, but get it as cheaply as possible so you don’t feel too short-changed.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


105. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
Gamecube, 2002, Neversoft/Activison

I really, really, really, really suck at Tony Hawk’s games, but I still love playing them. It does mean, however, that I’ve only ever bothered to actually buy one, and it wound up being this one purely because it was the version out at the time. So, it’s great, you skate round, you jump stuff, you know the drill.

104. Psycho Pinball
Mega Drive, 1994, Codemasters

Basically all the fondness I have for pinball tables stretches back to this game. Four tables (the above-pictured Psycho table led to the other three) a few minigames (top marks to the one where you’re in a whale’s belly popping its ulcers with crabs) and a armadillo called Psycho curled up to make the ball. Plus, if you bought it in Woolworths you got a free CD. Lovely.

103. Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
PC, 1997, LucasArts

I think this was actually the first Star Wars game I ever played, so obviously there was excitement in whirling a lightsaber around while the music pounded away in the background, but it didn’t hurt that this was pretty damn ace. Super-hard FPS ak-shun with fantastic levels, brilliant weapons, sophisticated Force system (I believe this was the first game to let you choose between Light and Dark side) the ability to beat up robots, and fully filmed cut scenes featuring various Z-list actors getting excited because they could pretend they were in a Star Wars movie. Also, this is arguably the best game I’ve come across to convey a real sense of height (the level where you’re scurrying along the underside of a power station mounted over a vast canyon is real vertigo-inducing stuff). Fantastic.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

#107 Best Games Ever?

So over at the STCO message boards, people sometimes post lists of their favourite games. I did my top #25 in 2004 (I think), then my top #50 in 2005, and now I'm doing my top #107 because I am insane and very dull. Thought I may as well post them here, so....

107: Fighters Megamix
Saturn, 1997, AM2/Sega

Man, this was just about the most exciting thing ever when it was announced. Virtua Fighter 2 versus Fighting Vipers! With guest appearances from a whole shedload of other Sega games – Virtua Cop 2, Sonic the Fighters, Daytona USA…Yes, the Hornet from Daytona was a secret character. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a car hop up on its back wheels and give Jeffry McWild a quick jab in the face. Also, there was a giant piece of ham with comedy floating hands and feet. And a bean with a sombrero. Anyway, like most 3D fighters of the time, it’s dated pretty badly, but it’s still entertaining and worth checking out to see how Sega invented Smash Bros before Nintendo thought of it.

106. Sonic Adventure 2 Battle
Gamecube, 2002, Sonic Team USA/Sega

It has to be said that this has aged a hell of a lot better than the first Adventure. Of course, it wasn’t as good in the first place, so whatever. But a lot of the levels (basically all of Sonic’s and Shadow’s, about half of Tails’ and Eggman’s, a couple of Knuckles’ and Rouge’s if you don’t mind running around aimlessly for bloody ages) still stand up very nicely. City Escape, Final Rush, Sky Rail and Radical Highway are certainly the best attempts at 3D Sonic I’ve played. Plus, Eggman running around in the Chao Garden is hilarious. YOSH!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Of fat, insectivores and off-kilter bleeping

So it's all kicking off at the moment. Radiohead have caused the music industry a collective heart attack by letting fans decide how much to pay for their new album; Sonic has crashed headlong into Super Smash Bros. Brawl, allowing twentysomethings the world over a chance to settle the highly important "fast hedgehog versus athletic plumber" debate; and being fat is as dangerous as climate change.

In Rainbows, the offending album, is certainly a landmark release as far as the future of selling music goes, and it doesn't hurt that it's a damn good album too. I only downloaded it yesterday, and a Radiohead album is not something that can be fully appreciated in that amount of time, but so far I'd say it beats out Hail to the Thief and Amnesiac - whether it eventually finds itself even further up the echelons of excellence remains to be seen. And good lord that was a long and winding sentence.
It'd be interesting to find out the average price paid for it - I went for £7.99, the usual cost of a download from iTunes, although I forgot the 45p service charge so it actually cost me £8.44. (The service charge only comes in if you pay any money at all, so you can get it for free, but if you try to pay 1p you end up paying 46p instead.) I noted a guy on the BBC website saying he got it for free, but he doesn't like them and he was apparently trying to prove some sort of point (not quite sure what the point was, he confirmed that he didn't like the album and deleted it). The couple of friends I've spoken to both said they paid a tenner, so it looks like honesty may well pay off.

Arguably the most entertaining thing about the Smash Bros. excitement is that suddenly Sega's Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games has suddenly lost most of its raison d'étre. I've always been of the opinion that it's looked pretty good but not great, but then I've always had a soft spot for Track and Field-style games. And the brief videos of Sonic in Brawl immediately carry a lot more pizzaz than the whole of M&S (heh).

As for obesity, yes, it is certainly a problem now and will be a much bigger one very soon, but it's a ridiculous comparison to make. One affects one species in a few areas of the world (i.e. most of the developed countries and a few undeveloped ones too - I seem to recall that Samoa has the highest percentage of obese citizens) whereas the other affects every lifeform on the fucking planet (excuse my language, and yes I know there are reports of various species doing quite well out of the shifting climate, I'm striving for effect here). It makes me distinctly angry when people push global warming to one side like that.

In happier news (of a sort), I saw Pan's Labyrinth the other night and it was very good. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Our work is never over

Meant to say this in the last post (apparently writing lengthy things straight on the Blogger word processor confuses and intimidates me and causes me to leave things out), but one area of realism in games I do approve of is physics. The best boss in the recently released Sonic Rush Adventure, hardly the most realistic game out there, is one that uses inertia to a degree of realism (it's a robot that dangles big spiky balls at you, and you have to hit the balls hard enough to cause them to swing back and slap him one).

Meanwhile, what I really wanted to show you was this.

(I just spent ten fruitless minutes trying to embed the video, but Youtube apparently does not like the concept of someone trying to highlight and copy the entire, lengthy embedding code, and only gave me the first bit. Then it wouldn't let me scroll onto the next bit of the code, so I couldn't copy it in chunks. If anyone has a solution that doesn't involve "throw computer out of window", "swear until you pass out" or "take plane to Youtube headquarters and beat the site programmers around the head and face with their own severed legs", I'd be grateful. Until then, here's a boring old link. I now have a headache.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When I push it, it falls over!

Anyone who's met me will be aware that my life basically revolves around five things:
  1. Books and comics
  2. Music
  3. Computer games
  4. Films
  5. All of the above

I'm on a particularly virulent gaming kick at the moment, and have been thinking about realism in games, fuelled by this article and a piece in this month's NGamer magazine.

My five favourite games of all time are NiGHTS Into Dreams..., Christmas NiGHTS, Panzer Dragoon Saga, Shining Force III and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Which is to say, games involving flying androgynous harlequins, dragons, bird-men, rock-men, centaurs, fairies, monsters, wendigos and a goblin in this really nifty steam-powered armour-robot-suit thing. (Admittedly if you didn't allow Christmas NiGHTS to the party because it's essentially a glorified demo disc my fifth game would be ultra-realistic talk-to-people-and-feed-a-kitten-'em-up Shenmue, but bear with me.) I tend toward the fantastical, the weird, the stuff that you can't actually do in the real world.

I enjoy realistic games - hello, Shenmue - but the thing is, quite apart from the fact they look a lot older a lot quicker than games that have no grounding in reality (boot up a Mega Drive and Sonic 1 has dated a hell of a lot better than Desert Strike), realistic games are almost always po-faced games. And that's rubbish.

I'm a firm supporter of UK Resistance's "Blue Skies in Games" campaign. I'll play Ultra-Gritty Super-Real Angry Marines Shoot People Or Maybe Some Aliens In The Face And/Or Proboscis 7 if it's any good, but given the choice between that and this:

...I know which looks more fun. They're called video "games" for a reason.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Words and maybe observation

Actually, I kind of wish I'd called my blog that now.

I'm back, and I have made some links. For your information - Scott Pilgrim: website for the second-best comic ever made (after Calvin and Hobbes); Mellenhead's Weblog: Mary's blog that I am digitally pimping in the hopes that she will return the favour; Homestar Runner - essential viewing for young and old; Dinosaur Comics - a comic about dinosaurs.

I caught a bit of a BBC London news report on this, and couldn't help but notice that the guy selling the stuff and saying "g'head, use it" did not use it himself.

On a totally unrelated note (I'm basically browsing BBC News because I can't think of anything to write about), I've just discovered that the South African version of Sesame Street has an HIV-positive Muppet to encourage kids not to shun people with the virus. I think that's several kinds of brilliant.

Yeah, I'm really drawing a blank here. Superdickery to the rescue!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Spirited Away

Man, I don't post here for three months and stuff changes. I mean, honestly.

Right. Since these seems to have become something of a movie review blog, I thought I'd go the whole hog and do a bunch of 500-word reviews for my all-time favourite movies. And we start off with my very favourite of all:

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Rumi Hîragi/Daveigh Chase, Miyu Irino/Jason Marsden, Mari Natsuki/ Suzanne Pleshette, Yumi Tamai/Susan Egan (voices)
Country: Japan
Year: 2001

The first time I saw Spirited Away my mouth hung slightly open in astonishment the entire time. Spoilt ten-year-old Chihiro’s (Hîragi/Chase) rite-of-passage in a fantasy land that plays out like Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter and company replaced by Shinto gods and the Queen of Hearts’ castle by a vast bathhouse that serves these gods is so, so brilliant – epic and intimate, dramatic and calm, funny and scary, alien and universal. It deals just as well with big set-pieces (Chihiro defending a dragon from a swarm of enchanted origami birds) as with low-key character moments (a tired, hungry, bewildered Chihiro sitting in a flower field, wolfing down breakfast as tears pour down her face). This balancing act continues through the characterisation – as is typical of most of Miyazaki’s screenplays, no-one is exclusively good or evil (Yubaba dearly loves her baby son Boh, even if she doesn’t always express it well; Haku, her reluctant apprentice who helps Chihiro, abandons her completely early in the movie when he has to feign ignorance of her, rather than acting cold when necessary and reassuring her when safely away from prying eyes), which makes the baffling spirit world sometimes seem very realistic.
You’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve credited two people to a role – my rule for watching foreign animated movies is that if I like the English dub enough I tend to go with that and save my eyes from constantly flicking down the screen. As such, Chase, whilst shrill (I challenge you to watch that first pigpen scene without wincing) is excellent, charting Chihiro’s progress from whiny brat to polite, thoughtful, resourceful girl deftly. Pleshette clearly relishes the roles of twin witches Yubaba and Zeniba (although I fear for her throat) and Egan, arguably the best of the lot, finds the precise midpoint between cynicism and concern for bathhouse worker Lin, Chihiro’s confidante. Marsden, though, is a little bland as Haku, but it’s by no means a bad performance – just a little plain.
It’s a Studio Ghibli movie, so of course it’s so utterly gorgeous you could take any frame from it and sell it as a painting. It has to be said that as wonderfully designed and animated as the characters are (and they really are: it’s incredible how much personality is poured into the tiny figure of Boh after his transformation into a mouse) the real visual stars are the backgrounds; exquisite, highly detailed watercolours that look like you could step right into them. And so beautiful that you wish you could. And backing it up is an astonishing score from Miyazaki’s go-to musical man, Joe Hisaishi. His score, ranging from bombastic to delicate and filled with childish curiosity and regal poise, is arguably his best ever, and that is saying something considering his work on previous Ghibli titles like My Neighbour Totoro and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. I remember walking home on an October night in 2003 slightly amazed. Spirited Away had had a profound effect on me and continues to do so every time I see it. It’s remarkable.