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.