Sunday, 12 December 2010

What's (nearly) New, Pussycat? - Super Mario Allstars - Wii (Nintendo)

Originally released for the SNES in 1993, SMA collected together the first 3 of Mario's adventures, plus the unseen (at the time) The Lost Levels, the TRUE sequel to Super Mario Bros. that was only released in Japan on the Famicom Disk System. It was a compilation that took the graphics of the NES originals, threw them out the window, and replaced them with updated visuals and music. The result? Quite awesome. So, roll forward 17 years to Mario's 25th anniversary, and Nintendo decided now would be a good time to re-release this great compilation for a new generation of Mario fans on Nintendo's Wii. Does it disappoint? Well.....

Yes and no. No because this is classic Mario as it would have appeared if was originally released back in 1993 for the very first time. Plus, it still plays very well to this day. Well, all four games still play well. The downside? It's the SAME release as what appeared in 1993, with those same graphical whistles and bells. And thats it. It plays the same, looks the same, and feels the same. There are NO added games, or video or art extras on the disc, which is a shame. So, on a Wii optical disc (which is roughly 6gb in size say), only roughly 15mb is used. Yes, you read that right. 15MB ONLY. Mind you, to sweeten the deal, Nintendo have bundled a booklet containing a brief history of Mario's main Nintendo console adventures, and a music cd which contains a smattering of Mario music. Oh, and it comes in a smart looking red box. To be honest, as a Mario collectable, its not a bad one, but the lack of extra games, and the fact it's just the SNES cartridge ROM dumped on a disc with no different menus and the aforementioned lack of extras is just shameful. It would have been good to include SM64, SM-RPG, Paper Mario (N64) and even Super Mario Kart (either the SNES or N64 version), but it seems cheap and somewhat of a rip off.

So, lets break this down (prices are rough):
Music CD - £10
Booklet - £5
Game - £5 for the cart (if bought on the Wii, and just the disc was released, say £15-20)
Those prices are if you bought them separately (if you could, and if they didn't bundle the rest of the bits with it). Saying that, if you haven't got a SNES, then this is worthwhile. Just take on board, that there's no extra games on the disc and is just the rom dump. If you do have a SNES and you do have this, there's no point in buying it, unless you want the CD and booklet (which could have been a bit bigger in content it must be said).
Still, that £20-25 quid could be spent on Porn.

(EDITORS NOTE: The person doing this review has just been sacked)

Still, it could be worse. You could get bitten by a Moose. Which can be quite nasty.

(EDITORS SECOND NOTE: The person carrying on this review after the other persons sacking wishes you to know that he has been sacked as well)

Or being bitten by a Lion

(EDITORS THIRD NOTE: The third person carrying on where the other two have been sacked, has also been sacked. I will now continue this instead)

.....erm........Lovely weather. And what a smashing blouse you have on

(EDITORS FINAL NOTE: Even though I carried on where the other three have been sacked, I myself have now been sacked. This review will now end. And with no smashing blouses in sight.)

Monday, 29 November 2010

Old Codger's Corner - PD Division: Star Trek II (Amiga, Tobias Richter)

When I scoured the adverts for 17bit Software in Amiga Format, I happened across a PD game called 'Star Trek II'. At £1.99, for two disks, I thought I'd give it a punt. And, to be fair, there is a lot to this game. 'Warp 3, Mr. Sulu!'

The loading screen is a (near enough) exact copy of one of the scenes from Star Trek III, just after Kirk and Co. have stolen the Enterprise to find Spock. It really looks good, but it's a bit too blue in colour, but that's something that runs throughout. You start off in the Captain's Chair (no, not the toilet!!), when you're given your orders from Starfleet Command, which normally follow the 'Collect X item from X planet, and take it to X Planet'. Once you've completed that mission, you then get orders for your next. Along the way, you come into contact with other Starfleet starships, and every now and again, a couple of Klingon Birds of Prey or Romulan WarBirds pop up to have a pop at you. You can raise shields, fire weapons, phasers, transfer power between all three, all the while keeping an eye on where they go. It does get hectic, but I feel like something's missing...

It could be that it's called Star Trek II, but Khan is nowhere to be found. At least, i haven't found him. And there's only so many 'Parcel Force' missions you can undertake before it gets very samey. Although, you can visit McCoy in sick bay, Scotty in engineering, and the cargo bay. You can fiddle with a lot of things in engineering, but even that got boring after a while. Oh, it's also as blue as the title screen. But the graphics are good, though, and the ambient sounds and music on the title screen (which was ripped from Star Trek II) do set the mood. But, there's only so much you can do before you get so bored, you'd wish you were eaten by Tribbles.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Old Codger's Corner - PD Division: Drip (Amiga, Public Domain)

Ever play a blob of liquid wearing sunglasses before?

Public Domain in the late 80's/early 90's meant either 3 things:
1) the games were crap
2) the games were good, but there were few and far between
3) I can't think of a third one.

One game which was very good (so good in fact I used to play it on a daily basis), was Drip. You play the titular Drip who's got rather narked off after his Party Juice has been stolen (I think). So, Drip dons his sunglasses, and drips off to get his revenge (do drip's even have feelings of revenge?). Along the way, he'll come across acid drips, balls of fire, ice balls and fiendish mazes which have to be rusted, before moving onto the final room, the Pump Room.

Quick! Grab the cloud! Don't know what it's for, but it might (not) be useful!

Being a clone of Painter, Drip, I think, is a work of art. The game looks more like a retail game than a PD game. The graphics are great, which some smooth animation, and quite a bit of detail. Drip himself has always got a grin on his face, and his death animation is quite funny (he even says 'blergh' when touched by the green drops, and 'owww!' when he touches fire). At the start of the game, the maze fades into view, followed by Drip...erm...'dripping' on to the center of the maze. He then calls the baddies by whistling to them. Again, it's this touch which just adds to the game. The music is great at first, and while it does grate after a while, it is damned catchy. I forgot to say about the pick ups. The star makes you invincible, so you take out the bad guys and the heart gives you points. You can collect a cloud, but I have no idea what it's for, apart from floating onto the screen every so often, doing bugger all. You can also drop (or should that be drip?) to the platform below, if the nasties get to close for comfort, bringing a bit of skill to the game.
Our hero, in all glory (that sounds quite wrong on so many levels!) You too can be as cool as him!

If there's one criticism I will bring up, is that sometimes the controls aren't as responsive as I think they should be, as sometimes you'll find yourself going up when you actually pressed right on your joystick. Still, this little niggle shouldn't detract from the gameplay, and the cartoon quality. But, what else can you ask for a game that came free on the front cover of Amiga Format? For the price, I'd say it was a bit of a bargain.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Are you a member of the Cult?: Battle Beyond The Stars (New World Pictures/Roger Corman, 1980)

This seminal cult classic was inspired by Seven Samurai. Directed by Akira Kurasawa in the early 50's, Seven Samurai told the story of a group of villagers who elisted the help of the said seven to fight off a gang of bandits, intent of looting the town every so often. Long, awesome and full of fighting, UA decided to do a Westernised version in the early 60's, called The Magnificent Seven. Starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn, it told the same story, but transplanted the setting from fuedal Japan, to the wild west, and was a bloody good film, with Charles Bronson as another of the seven (who starred with Coburn and McQueen a few years later in The Great Escape, also a classic). Fast forward a few more years, to 1980. Roger Corman has just made Pirhanna, and was looking for another project. Along comes John Sayles with his story entitled 'Battle Beyond The Stars', which was modelled after the Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven, but this time, the setting was Space. The village was on another planet called Akir (named after the Seven Samurai's acclaimed director). And the end product was a movie that launched a certain directors future career.
If that doesn't look like genitalia, then I don't know what does!
The peaceful planet of Akir becomes the target of a ruthless Malmori called Sador (John Saxon), who wants the planet to be his colony for his crew of genetic disfigurations (people who have had their faces disfigured by dramatic amounts of surgery. Sador himself keeps himself young by transplanting new body parts to replace his own). After slaughtering some of the people as 'a demonstration of my power', he gives them an ultimatum of Seven days to subject to his control. A young boy named Shad (Richard Thomas in his Walton days) takes matters into his own hands by setting off in an old Corsair named Nell, to look for a group of Mercenaries to help fend off Sador and save Akir. The motley crew of Mercs consists of Cowboy (George Peppard), who has a huge collection of old westerns; Gelt (Robert Vaughn recreating his role from The Magnificent Seven), who has his own demons to face; Saint Exmin of the Valkyrie (Sybil Danning), who tries to prove herself; Nestor (Earl Boen), who is actually 4 clones and a 5th because they always carry a spare; Cayman of the Lambda Zone (Morgan Woodward), a Lazuli who's race has been virtually wiped out by Sador; and Nanilia (Darlanne Fluegal), who's father wanted Shad to remain on his station because his planet is doomed anyway. With these six (with Shad being the seventh), they return to Akir to take on Sador, and save his planet.
Apparently, 4 clones isn't enough. They always carry a spare. Just in case.
It might be another remake, but Battle Beyond The Stars has a few unigue things to make it fresh: one of the seven is one of the villagers, instead of actually hiring seven warriors; the guy incharge of the models is James Cameron (yes, THAT James Cameron), who attention to detail was so great, he was made head of Art Department, and two of the seven were women, one of which becomes Shad's love interest. One thing that does stand out is that the special effects do hold up to a certain degree even today. It does show that Cameron did, and still does, have an eye for detail. They still look outstanding. Saying that, the Corsair does look like Female genitalia!
The second poster. Used on the German dvd. Just as cool as the original.

The script does seem cheesy in contrast to todays scripts, but that just adds to it's charm. But that was part and parcel of movies back in the 80's, and to think that the movie was made with a small budget (most of which went to George Peppard and Robert Vaughn). Still, it did make $11 million in it's first weekend, and thats something not to be sniffed at. It also had James Horner's awesome soundtrack to accompany it which, as with Star Trek II, has Horner's trademark theme running through it, and added punch to the film at it's key points.

A film that has attained it's cult status, along with Flash Gordon, deservedly, and wears it on it's chest proudly. Like a birthday boy badge. Only it doesn't flash. And isn't crap. And doesn't sing happy birthday at the wrong moment.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Old Codger's Corner: The Simpsons - Bart Vs. The Space Mutants (Amiga, Acclaim/Ocean)

Having been a gamer for the best part of 23 years, I've played many great games: Rescue on Fractalus, Beach Head, Rambo and Space Hulk to name a few. but, when I first got my Amiga waaaaay back in 1990-ish, it came with Captain Planet (bollocks.), Lemmings (pure magic), Deluxe Paint 3 (how many pictures can you draw where all the faces say Arse?) and The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The Space Mutants. Playing Craptain Planet (so called because the game is shit) first, I thought hopefully the rest aren't like this. And, luckily, BVTSM wasn't.

Half way through loading, you're greeted with one of the most impressive 16bit intros I have ever seen. Featuring the voice of Bart, Nancy Cartwright (it might only be some sound bites, but it's still impressive), the animation is of a high quality and looks like it could have come from an episode. Bart's in his bedroom through being grounded. Whilst staring through the window out of boredom, a spaceship hovers in his back yard, beaming down two aliens in human form. Bart finds a pair of shades to shade his eyes from the brightness of the transporter beam, but, through the glasses, finds out that it just a ruse, and that they're aliens (a nod to They Live right there!). Climbing out of his window, he has to find a way of enlisting the help of his family in stopping the aliens plans of invasion of Earth. Obviously, because of his many pranks, his family doesn't believe him, so has to go around, stopping the transformed aliens, and collecting proof of their existence to enlist their help with the end of level bad guys. 

The objectives of the levels change from level to level. On the first, the aliens are after purple objects, so Bart has to go around and cover them up, or spray paint them red to stop the aliens from taking them. The Springfield Mall level requires you to destroy hats so they can't be taken, and so forth. Upon find the mentioned earlier 'proof', one of the members of The Simpsons clan will appear at the end of the level to help you. The family member doesn't change with every play, but stays the same. Maggie helps on the first level, Marge helps on the second, Lisa's on hand for the third, Homer comes to your aid in the forth, and all four help in the last level. The levels change from the Springfield, to the shopping centre, the museum, the amusement park to the final level which is the Nuclear Power Plant, each with it's own hazards.

The graphics are nothing short of excellent, and highly detailed, even thought the MD version has more in the background, but are still impressive. The aliens themselves have a 'Simpson'-ness about them, with the same round eyes and bulbous heads. The level design is really fiendish, especially the Amusement Park and Museum levels, the latter of which to this day I have never gotten past. Sometimes, you do find yourself fighting the controls, especially  trying to do the long jumps. To this day, I've never been able to pull one off on purpose. You can also buy stuff from the shops with coins that you can find throughout, like paint cans, fireworks and keys, which you can use in various levels. You can also use the X-ray specs to find out who's human and who's not. Once you find out, you can jump on their heads and collect the proof.

Games back then were made hard, either unintentionally or otherwise, and that was part of the games charm. Yes, the graphics were great, the music and sound effects were awesome, but boy was the game frustrating. Gamers today have it too easy. Games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty Modern Warfare last roughly 5-6 hours, and are easy, even on hard. This was a fiendish game, with no option to change the difficulty level. That's what makes older games attractive. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Old Codger's Corner: Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters (Spectrum, TENGEN)

The rather awesome box art. Shame they don't do 'em like this anymore!
What would you do, if the greatest scientific minds were put on another planet to work on some scientific stuff, only to find that aliens have taken over, enslaved the scientists and forced them build a bloody massive robot army, and have plotted world domination? Simple, you hire Duke and Jake to take out the robots and aliens, save the slaves and save the world.

Not a tall order, is it? But, it made for a stonkingly fun arcade game. Using an isometric game field, much like Quazatron and The Immortal, EFTPOTRM (because the original name is so f*cking her-uge!) pits our heroes against hordes of said robots, whilst trying to save said scientists. You can go up ladders or escalators to get to the next part of the level, or to complete the level. Now, the graphics on the Speccy part are something special. Heavily detailed, although monochromatic, you do get the feel as though you are on another planet. There are various kinds of robots to shoot, and even smart bomb to oblivion. You can even see the nerdy people playing about with their controls (oo-er!), and a simple touch saves them. Once you've done that, you can blast their control panel to stop more from being produced. Plus, you can also collect gems to boost your Ray Gun's power, and can also collect more bombs to aid in your mission.
One of the best loading screens I ever seen on a Speccy!
Having said that, the controls are very difficult to get to grips with. Using the same sort of system as Resident Evil (but in a more primative form), you move the stick left to rotate clockwise, and right for anti-clockwise, while up moves forward, and back fires your smart bombs. As I said, it takes a hell of a while to learn, but once you do, it does make the already tough game, that bit easier. But, not by much. The stick is very sensitive, and more often than not, you'll find yourself overshooting on where you're supposed to go. I can't see why they couldn't inpliment the control system of the Amiga version (left for left, right for right, up down as normal, and space for smart bomb), as it just makes the game a test of endurance.
Undeniably blue, isn't it? Still a cracking-looking game, though.
One other great thing about this game, is the comic book-like story panels that help set the scene while the game loads. Again, these are in monochrome, but they work effectively.

Another great Spectrum game, if marred by clumsy controls, but worth a bit of patience to get to the great gameplay underneath. Worth a blast.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

What's new, Pussycat? - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (Konami, 360)

A foul darkness has cursed the land. Beasts, monsters and evil has covered the world in darkness. Only one man, Gabriel Belmont, can stop the Lords of Shadow, with his Combat Cross, some killer moves, and with the power of magic, all in the name of revenge. Can Gabriel defeat the 4 Lords of Shadow, reunite the pieces of the God Mask, and resurrect his loved one, Marie?

Not a bad storyline, that. With a hint of classic Castlevania running through it's very heart, this is not like the MetroidVania games that dominated the GBA/DS and Symphony of the Night on the PS1/Saturn/XBLA/PSN, but harks back to the hack, slash and jump games of old on the NES and SNES (Super Castlevania IV), but with a flavour of God of War, and a sprinkling of Dante's Inferno (but a lot better than DI). You start off with a basic set of moves, and just the standard Combat Cross: a handle in the shape of a cross (funnily enough), with a whip inside. You fight against Lycans (werewolves), vampires, huge bugs, trolls, goblins, and a whole host of other nasties, all intent on making your quest more than walk in the park.
How cool is that artwork? Thats the quality throughout the map stages. Great, isn't it?

The first thing you notice, is that this game shows how old the DVD format is, by coming on TWO discs on the 360 (one on PS3, because of the marvel that is Blu-Ray). But, even though it's on two and not one, don't let that put you off. The presentation is superb, from the cut scenes, to the in-game graphics, right down to the phenominal voice work by Sir Patrick 'Make it so!' Stewart and Robert Carlyle. Everything smacks of expertness, thanks in part to being co-developed by Kojima Studios and MercurySteam. It does feel like Castlevania: The Movie in the cut scenes. Example: one of the first things you do, is ride on an enchanted horse. You move the right stick left or right to dodge, and the X button (triangle on PS3) to attack. Once you've gotten the Large Lycan's health down, you can jump on its back, kill it's rider, and take down the huge, rampaging beast, all in glorious HD (plus, it looks fantastic on a standard CRT telly as well!). So, it's presentation is a high factor. But, with that high factor, I did encount some niggles. 1) there were one or two moments of chopness in the cut scenes 2) some do not move smoothly, apart from that, it's nigh on faultless.
The grappling hook. Handy? Yes. Looks cool? Most definitely.

Now, controls can also make or break a game. Thankfully, these ones aren't too bad, but are thoughout methodically. Once you've picked up the Light Magic Amulet, you can absorb orbs that increase the meter (with a press of the left stick inwards), and a tap of the LB button enables you to use it. Once it is enabled, any hit causes you to gain health, but the magic meter drains. Pick up the Shadow Amulet, and it works near enough the same, but instead of gaining health, your attacks are much more powerful. Again, orbs can be absorbed by a press of the right stick this time, and used with the RB button. This does seem to be a bit like Dante's Inferno, but it works so much better, and is implemented better as well. One move, once you've purchased it or course, means once you've jumped, a tap of the RT button sends the chain out of your Cross, pull them towards you so you can take them down. You can mix up your attacks to maximize the damage dealt.

The music is what you would come to expect from a Castlevania game: dramatic, atmospheric, and put you right in the moment. It never detracts from what you were supposed to be doing, and would not look out of place in a big budget Hollywood movie, something Hideo Kojima always does with his games. Take Metal Gear Solid. A solid game, but has a good few hours of cinematics that set the scene. And again, you've got the voice work from Patrick Stewart, Robert Carlyle and Natasha McElhone, which again, puts you right there in the game. You can definitely tell it's a Kojima game.
He''s bit, isn't he? Oh........fuck it.

For a Castlevania game, those are expecting a game similar to Symphony or Dawn of Sorrow, then you won't find it here. And I think, thats what might put some people off. However, I think it's the reboot the series desperately needs, otherwise the whole franchise might have become stale (EA take note). Yes, it's a hack 'n' slash at heart, but then thats what Castlevania is at heart, and it does it well.

Verdict: If you're looking for something not set in a God of War-esque setting, give this a bash. But, come to it not expecting a Castlevania game. 9/10

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

In Tune: 5 of the best movie soundtracks

A soundtrack can either make or break the atmosphere of the movie it's accompanying. These 5, I think, are the best, and really add something to the movie they feature.

5: First Blood (Jerry Goldsmith)

From the opening bars of Home Coming, right up to the opening lyrics of It's A long Road, everything clicks with this soundtrack. Even when Brian Denahey arrests Rambo, the music fits. One of Goldsmith's best (along with Star Trek: The Motion Picture), it's worth seeking out to also hear the instrumental version of It's A Long Road.

4: Star trek II: The Wrath of Khan (James Horner)

As mentioned in my post about the film, this is another soundtrack that just fits perfectly, from when we first meet Khan, to the penultimate battle in the Mutari Nebula, right through to the aftermath of Spock's sacrifice, there's no bum notes. A powerful score, perfectly executed.

3: Detroit Rock City (Various)

A KISS movie wouldn't be a KISS movie, without a rocking soundtrack to make every comedic moment go with a bang. From Foxy On The Run, to the title track Detroit Rock City by KISS themselves, the soundtrack does come as a bootleg with more tracks from the movie, as the original release only had a selection of the tracks. Out of the two, go for the bootleg. Plus, the US theatrical poster is much better than our one (which was pure bollocks!)

2: The Empire Strikes Back (John Williams)

The Battle of Hoth, the Deception at Bespin and THAT plot twist, ESB was, is and always will be the best Star Wars movie ever made. So, the best Star Wars movie needs the best soundtrack, and Mr. Williams came up trumps with this one from 1981. The first of the movies to use the Imperial March, it finally gave Darth Vader a theme to fear him by. 'You don't know the power...of the darkside!' We do now!

1: Flash Gordon (Queen)

Oh, come on. Why not? It's QUEEN, for shit's sake! It has the awesome Flash theme, The Hero end theme (which, has two versions. The second part, which is part of the Flash theme, has different vocal harmonies on the DVD end credits, useless fact fans!), the rather brilliant Battle Theme, and Brian Blessed with his 'Second Wave......DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!!!!' over the top shouty voice on it. So, it's win-win all round!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Crap Game Corner 5-pack - 5 more of the worst games ever!

A companion piece to original flavor Crap Game Corner, here's 5 of the worst that don't even deserve more than a small paragraph (but might want a damned good kicking all the same).

5: Pit Fighter (Any Conversion - Tengen)
Pissed again, eh?
A woeful arcade game, given a woeful conversion. The Amiga one had great graphics, but knackered your joysticks (and was sodding fiddly with trying pick up weapons and Power Pills), the Master System one was just awful, and the original Arcade Coin-Op was just shit. Only the Mega Drive version is worth playing, as it makes use of the MD pad's three buttons and is, to some extent, enjoyable.

4: Primal Rage (Anything it was converted to)
I don't remember this in Jurassic Park!!
Another day, another 1v1 fighter. But, wait, this one has DINOSAURS in it! Epic win, yes? No. More like Epic Fail. Mundane moves, naff looking graphics and a crap storyline (if there is one), the only good thing was that in two player, you could use your tails to smack a bystander back and forth, like tennis. Shoddy, shit, and rubbish.

3: Batman Returns (Amiga)
Frankie, Where Time Stood Still, Cosmic Wartoad. All Denton Games, all better than this!
Oh, Denton Designs, how the mighty fall. Small, fiddly, shoddy graphics, zero gameplay, it's obscene that this ever got made. Absolutely terrible. Do yourself a favor: buy it on the SNES or MEGA CD. It's much, much better!

2: Fifa 64 (N64)
The graphics are passable. Shame that the rest was anything but.
Released at the same time as the console, this was supposed to have shown what the machine was capable of. Instead, it showed how inept EA really were. Elasto-nets, players that had piles when they ran, and a kick that made both feet come off the ground. The only saving grace was the John Motson commentary (what there was of it). One of the worst footy games ever!

1: A View To A Kill (Spectrum)
Doesn't look like Paris, does it?
The names Bland....James Bland. License to get lost in a city that's actually a poorly disguised maze, never to be seen again. And that's just the first level. Make it past that, and let me know what happens, as I couldn't be bothered! Biggest bag of arse I've ever played (and I've played quite a bit!). Plus, it's ultimately boring. Not worth the tape, packaging OR time for loading it. Play License To Kill or The Spy Who Loved Me (the better 48/128k Bond games in my honest opinion), or even GoldenEye 007 on the N64.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Crash! Bang! Whollop! - 5 great Car Chases

Everybody loves a good car chase. Be it in an action movie, and animated movie (it does happen!) or even in a game, a good car chase sets the pulse racing. Here's my fav five.

5: The Self Preservation Society - The Italian Job (1969, Paramount)

What do you get when you cross Michael Caine, 3 Minis, a van-load of gold bullion, and a traffic-blocked Turin? You get one of the best car chases of the Twentieth Century. Over rooftops, through shopping malls, and even through the sewer, director Peter Collinson made the best heist movie ever conceived. And who can forget the immortal line: 'You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!'

4: Ford Mustang Vs. Dodge Charger - Bullitt (1968, MGM/UA)

Steve McQueen's seminal movie about a cop who has to protect a vital witness, Peter Yates directs this film with gusto. A solid performance from McQueen as Bullitt, with a rather good supporting role from Robert Vaughn, the films strong point is the nearly 24 minute long, and rather excellent,  epic chase between two epic supercars of the 1960's, with McQueen doing nearly all the driving, with the rear-view mirror giving away who was behind the wheel (up when it's McQueen, down when it's his stuntman, Bud Ekins).

3: Paris Rampage - Ronin (1998, MGM/UA)

This film should be classified as one long car chase, with the amount of vehicles destroyed. Starring Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno and Johnathan Price, Ronin is the story of several ex-special forces operatives, who have to steal a top secret, heavily guarded briefcase. With loads of backstabbing, gun fights and the brilliant car chases, it's one thrill ride that is definitely worth watching.

2: We're on a mission from God... - The Blues Brothers (1980, Universal)

John Belushi + Dan Aykroyd + one ex-police car = excessive car chases aplenty. Who'd have thought that a movie about an ex con, wanting to start their Blues band back up to save an orphanage from closure, could be a funny, exciting and brilliant cult movie. The chase in the shopping mall, crashing through Toys 'R Us and with a cop car skidding on its roof is a scene to watch over again.

1: I'm making this up as I go! - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982, Paramount)

A chase that ends up with the original driver being run over? Quite novel. Indy really wanted that Ark of the Covenant. So much so, that he chases after the truck carrying it on horseback, jumps on the roof, beats seven shades out of the guards, gets quite a slapping from the driver, thrown out the front window, gets back in, beats HIM to a pulp, and runs him over. Oh, and he also manages to ram a Machine Gun Mounted 4X4 off a cliff. Who needs CGI  Special Effects, eh, George? I was going to put the chase from Last Crusade that involves the Meschersmit and the Citroen, mainly because of the comedy value, but this one just pips it.

Monday, 27 September 2010

What's new, Pussycat? - Dead Rising 2 (Capcom, 360)

Great cover art. Shame about the game. And, yes, you can make that weapon!!
They shuffle. They stagger. They hunger for brains and flesh. Yes, those zombies are back. And they've taken over Fortune City, Nevada. So, a new town needs a new hero. Cue Chuck Greene. Ex Motocross champion, who's arrived in town with his daughter, looking for cash to buy the drug Zombrex, which staves off the effects zombieism after being bitten, but must be administered every 24 hours. But, zero cash means zero drug. So, he has to take part in the Number one show in America: Terror Is Reality, hosted by T.K. After winning the cash needed, it all starts to go pear-shaped. Cue loads of zombies doing the Zombie Shuffle, and loads of zombies succumbing to being shot, hit, crushed, decapitated, sliced, diced, roasted and anything else you can think of, all the while trying to escape before the military come in in 72 hours and quarantine everyone. The only problem being, that after the gameshow, you soon get the feeling you've seen it before somewhere....
Play it again, Zom!
....and that somewhere is in the original Dead Rising, released FOUR years ago. In the original, you had to get to the bottom of what caused the zombie outbreak and try to either stop it, or escape. I didn't like it. I didn't like the fact that you couldn't deviate from the storyline to save the countless survivors that were dotted around, because of the time limit between the parts of the case file, and didn't even let you off the reins to explore. There were also glitches which made it quite unplayable as well. Now, Blue Castle Games have had Four years to improve, or better, every aspect of the original. And, to me at least, they haven't. Everything, and I mean everything, is the same: the graphics, the animation, the controls, and even the gameplay mechanic (what I mentioned that I hated before). This time, the map is larger, and they are more generous with the time your given. Wow, thanks.
Wheelie good fun!....actually, no. No it isn't.
The Psychos also make a return, but this time they're tougher. And I mean tougher. One you'll come across is a chef that seems to have been to Sweeney Todd's School of Catering, and is a right bastard, as he'll not only throw pans at you, but swipe at you with one. If you take so much as a millimetre of health off him, he'll go round the tables and replenish it, meaning he's nearly invincible. Tosser. So, they've made the objective timers fairer, but the Psychos harder. They also added the ability to fashion your own weapons, like a Wheelchair Machinegun, an Auger (a pitchfork in a drill motor) and a plate firing-cement cutter. This is one of the better elements of the game, as you then gain double PP from the weapons you've crafted, but only after you've got the card for said weapon. It does add a bit of fun to the game, as does being able to push around a wheelchair, picking up a zombie giving him a bloody good ride, all the while his/ her arms are flailing around whilst moaning, and then slapping the chair into a wall, sending the zombie flying through a pane of glass. As I said, it's fun, but not much.
Just relax. You might feel a slight stinging sensation...
As I mentioned, the controls are exactly the same as the original DR. So, no change there then. They still haven't included a run button, which is sorely needed in a time-crucial game like this. The game does feel very 'been there, done that' in every aspect, and just feels like a cheap cash-in. After 4 years in the making, they've done nothing but buffed it up a bit. And to think they had the cheek to charge £40 for a 4 year old game with some polish on. The inclusion of a multiplayer adds a bit of spice to it, be it either playing the full game in Co-Op mode, or participating in Terror Is Reality online, against 3 other players. This part is actually quite fun, with various challenges on offer, and being able to import the cash won to the single player mode. But, after a while, this starts to get boring, and there's only so much of the opening cut scene that you can actually stomache, before wanting to kick T.K in the face. But, it does seem that all of a sudden, Capcom have become EA: only producing original games every 5 years, and rehashing older ones every so often. For shame. It could have been great, with a bit of an overhaul of everything (and I mean everything), but instead, it comes across as a bit of a con. Bargain bin it, don't full release it.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Crap Game Corner Wises Fwom the Gwave!: Flash Gordon (Spec, Ams, C64 - Mastertronic)

This is a game sooooo crud, that I can't remember what it is (runs off to look at the title!)...

.....a considerable amount of time later......

(runs back out of breath).....right...(pant)....I've remembered.....(puff!) it! I bought it on a whim, from somewhere (I swear the person is still laughing at me). And to think I went by the name as well. The film might be campy fun, but this is isn't either fun or campy.
Well, at least this is really good. Shame the game doesn't follow suit.

It's Flash (ahhhhhhhh!) Gordon ('s alive?). I'm doing this for your benefit, so you don't make the same (wrong) decision I did.

The title screen is great, with the Flash Gordon logo prominent at the top of the screen, and both Flash & Ming's mugs on the screen. It's really colourful, and easy on the eye. The ingame graphics are alright, just that Flash doesn't look like Flash at all, but rather like a motorcyclist with his crash hat on, who's looking for his chopper (ooo, er!). The game is really (and I think) unfairly hard. To move about, it is vital that you make a map, as navigating is like going into a supermarket and getting lost in the lingerie section (it's Ireland's biggest, I understand!), though there's no bra's or knickers in sight (unfortunately!). When you get past that stage, the next one is a 3d bike-a-thon, if you get that far. Which I didn't. As I couldn't even get out the bloody maze-like jungle part. And by that time, I was bored. So bored, that I would rather play Predator (I hate it that much!).
The map at the bottom is completely useless. Make your own (if you can be bothered)

Control-wise, Flash moves with all the grace of a dead snail. So, when you come into contact with the evil-do-ers, you'll lose time (within which you have to save the Earth), which you will do constantly. And thats the game's punishing factor. Because you have limited bullets (which you have to find scattered thoughout your journey), one wrong press, and you'll lose the whole lot.
Action packed, explosive, fun filled. Shows that inlays can be deceiving!

Yes, I hate it. It sits on the 'Hated Shelf', along with NES T2, NES Dragon's Lair, and the rest of the other lots of cobblers that I can't stand (Predator has it's own case, as not to contaminate the rest of my games. I would burn it, but it would be a waste of a match), never to be played, touched, seen, or spoke of again.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Are You a Member of the CULT? - Logan's Run (1976, MGM)

'It's different now, because it's me! My Life!' - Logan 5

If you were around in the 70's, you might have heard of a little film called Logan's Run, based on the book by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. There is one change from the book, and thats the age limit to 30. It's the year 2274. People live in huge domes, and have their wildest dreams and fantasies come true, all by servo-mechanisms. Once they reach the age of 30, they must enter the fiery ritual of Carousel once beckoned, and thus be 'Renewed'. Of course, there are people who want to reach 31, and so go on the run, becoming 'Runners', and are hunted by a 'Sandman' (a kind of human version of the Terminator). One Sandman is Logan 5, who is tasked, after finding an object called an Ankh on a dead Runner, to find a place called Sanctuary, and destroy it. But, it all changes when he gets outside...

'Logan, I understand, we all go a little crazy sometimes.....' - Francis 6
I want one of those guns!

Starring Michael York as Logan 5, Richard Jordan as Francis 6, and Jenny Agutter as Jessica 6, Logan's Run is nothing more than a chase movie, but it's such a good chase movie, and was the first to feature special laser photography, and in doing so, won a special Academy Award for special effects. The film does have a bit of nudity, especially in a place called The Love Shop, where everything slows down, and people get a bit 'frisky'. Lots of bums and breasts wobbling about a bit, but covered in some sort of body paint. And when Logan and Jessica go outside, the effects to make it a desolate and ravaged world are just as good, with flora, fauna and vines all around the Washington Monument, and around the Lincoln Building, where the two first encounter the Lincoln Statue (Is that the face of....old?), and then the Hall of Congress, where they find Old Man (Peter Ustinov), who is surrounded by lots of cats (who he can't remember the names of). You do get a feeling that it gave James Cameron a sort of idea for The Terminator, and it certainly draws some parallels, even if they are unintentional:
Logan is both Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese, with him trying to stay one step ahead of his pursuer.
Francis is The Terminator, who'll stop at nothing to get his target.

'Fish, Plankton, Sea Greens. Fresh from the sea.' - Box
Some excellent model work, and not something you can knock up from a £4.99 model kit!

The music by Jerry Goldsmith is just as good as well, with many good tracks that set up the various action scenes (like the fight between The Doctor in New You and Logan), and even the main theme is good, where it starts with sparsity, and then builds into it, until it becomes something you'd recognize as a Jerry Goldsmith theme.

'Run, Runner!' - Logan 5
'Did you not hear him? RUN!'' - Francis 6
'Well, it's the first time I've been on a carousel, and there's no ride on horses!'
It's unashamedly 70's kitsch. It has dated, but by god, it's a great movie. And, coupled with the also rather excellent Westworld (also set in the future), you have the perfect 'Fractured Future' double bill. Just be careful when you get to 30, and make sure you have your running shoes on.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Are You a Member of the CULT? - Flash Gordon (1980, Universal)

"Pathetic Earthlings. Who will save you now?" - Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow)
I love this poster, which was also used as artwork for the 25th Anniversary DVD.
Camp? Yes. Rubbish, in a great sort of way Special Effects? Yes. Brian Blessed shouting a lot, while dressed like some sort of Turkey thats escaped from Bernard Matthew's farm? Definitely yes. Is it a cult classic in every sense of the word? Most definitely yes. Flash Gordon is an update of the original comic strip, created by Alex Raymond in 1934, which was then turned into a TV serial, starring Buster Crabbe. It told the story of Flash Gordon, his love interest Dale Arden (no stiff jokes here, please, although I'm dying to say a few!), and scientist Dr. Zarkov, trying to save the world from Ming the Merciless. It was a very good show (even if it did have very dodgy sets), but it would take nearly 40-odd years before anyone made a movie. But, Universal & Dino De Lorentiis had a crack at it in 1980, with their adaption of the screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., which was directed by veteran Mike Hodges (Get Carter. Another cracking film).

"Flash...Flash, I love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth.." - Dale Arden
Where is the microfilm, Mr. Bond?
The story saw our hero, Flash (aaaaaahhhhhhhh!), against the evil, bald headed, long bearded Ming, who has decided to have fun with our planet, creating Tornados, Hot Hail storms and, to top it off, subject our moon to an enormous force to bring it crashing down to Earth on top of us (....nice!) within 11 days. So, Hans Zarkov (played by Topol, and very well in fact), kidnaps Flash (Sam J. Jones) and Dale (Melody Anderson) and takes them to the planet Mongo, in an effort to save us (every man, every woman, every child....ok I stop reciting the lyrics). On the planet, he gets executed and resurrected by Ming's daughter, Aura (Ornella Muti), tries the Wood Beast on Arbora against Prince Barrin (Timothy Dalton), wrangles in Vultan (BRIAAAAAAN BLESSSED!) to help (and laugh a lot), and pilots a huge ship with a very long pointy thing on the end (wait until H&S catch up with him!).

"Gordon's Alive?" - Vultan
The Japanese version. I like this one much better than our poster.
I first saw Flash in the late 90's, on the SCI-FI Channel (when it used to show good films. You know, before it started showing SyFy Originals that were filmed in your backyard using Blu-Tak, Cardboard and a wig from the Party Shop in town!), and enjoyed it's camp-ness, cheap (but still stunning) sets, models on wire (which still look good, in a naff kind of way) and solid performances by all (yes, even Jones, who had to have his voice dubbed, because it was too low, or something). Even the soundtrack by Queen was very listenable to on it's own from the film (I've even got the Battle Theme as a ringtone on my phone!), as the music gave the film a bit of seriousness and oomph.

"Promise me, if you kill me, you'll team up with Vultan and fight Ming!" - Flash
Rocket Cycle? Looks more like a tank from Command & Conquer!
Some lines might be cheesy, but the film is instantly quotable (many lines delivered by Blessed himself), and is the perfect cult movie. It is a perfect adaption, and it deserves it's cult status indeed.