Friday, 24 May 2013

Speccy Capers: OutRun (Sega/Probe/US Gold - 1987)

Awesome titlescreen. If only they could have animated that ingame.

OutRun is one of those games that's a milestone of 80's arcade gaming. Sega's magnum opus, OutRun saw you drive a bloody fast Ferrari Testarossa across 16 varying tracks, that range from a beach, to English countryside to a desert. At the end of the current track, the road splits, letting you choose whether to go left (and make the game easy), or go right (and make the game harder).  Also on the track with you are other road users, that vary from Porsche's to little hatchbacks to full on juggernaut trucks. A crash with one of these will cost you valuable time, which is constantly ticking down. If you found the full deluxe sit-down cab, you were in for a treat. In the headrest of the seat were two speakers, which pumped out the awesome music and sound effects to help immerse you in the atmosphere of the game. And, if I remember correctly, it's also hydraulic as well!
The lovely Speccy version....

 The music is another of the games trademarks, none moreso than Magical Sound Shower. I don't think it's possible to find an OutRun machine and not choose it as your driving track. But, the other music is also sublime, but MSS was in my honest opinion the pinnacle. So, how did Probe manage to compact it from full on 16bit, 3D scaling road midi gorgeousness, to 128k, sprite-based AY chip goodness? I don't bloody know, but they did it.
...and the rather groovy Arcade original.

First up, the graphics are quite faithful representations of the original. All lovingly detailed, and whizz past at a great speed on Uncle Clive's humble little machine. It also has the scaling roads, although the game can only produce two colours on screen at a time, it's a relatively small price to pay to for the awesome graphics. The status at the top isn't cluttered, and you even get the split road at the end of the track you're on.

Even the music is here too, brilliantly recreated in AY chip lovelyness. You don't get the engine noise, unfortunately, but you get the sound the car makes when you skid off the road, so I suppose that makes up for it. The car controls well, considering your using a joystick and not a wheel. The only thing that's not recreated is the hydraulic cab, sadly.
And here's the rubbish Amiga version. *sigh* 

Still, I give this port a hearty thumbs up. Just don't play the fucking awful Amiga port. It looks and plays like it was coded by a child, and don't push the machine to it's potential.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Speccy Capers: Ghouls 'n' Ghosts (US Gold, 1988)

Originally released under the name Daimakamura in Japan, Ghouls N Ghosts sees our hero Sir Arthur off to rescue Princess Prin Prin from the clutches of a demon. Along the way, he must face skeleton warriors, tornado devils and Firebrand (who got his own game in the shape of Gargoyles Quest on Game Boy). If hit, his armour shatters and you spend most of your time in your under crackers. One more hit, and you lose a life and get reduced to a pile of bones. The arcade original is widely known as one of the best games of the 80s, and is also one of the hardest, with enemies flying at you thick and fast. Luckily, to help fend them off, you get a variety of pick ups like replacement armour, a weapon charge upgrade, and various weapons like axes, blade discs and fire bombs. On occasion, chests pop up, and once opened either grant you said armour, or a magician appears and turns you into either a duck or an old man. The spell wears off after five seconds, meaning you can go in your merry way, slaying monsters and wotnot.

There are 5 stages in total, with an end of level boss on each. The levels vary, with one being set first of all in  graveyard, then on a cliff, the next level sees you running through a village, which then goes up in flames, and the graphics change as the levels progress. If you thought the arcade graphics were awesome, the Spectrum version has some of the best I've seen. Highly detailed, and with minimal colour clash, US Gold came up trumps with how this looks. Yes, they might be monochrome at some points, but when it requires other colours, it works really well.

There's hardly any music, except on the title screen and the map screen, which is a faithful rendition of the arcade version. It does, however, have some great spot effects, like the driving rain on the second half of the first level, and sounds like proper driving rain.

Controls are simple, and are very responsive. Just make sure if you're emulating on the DS, that you use keyboard, and can remap jump to one of the other buttons, as it will help a lot. The status bar at the bottom is a huge step up from Ghosts 'n' Goblins, which was just a yellow bar with writing. Overall, a great effort which retains the playability, and difficulty, of the arcade original, while injecting some Spectrum charm into the proceedings. Highly recommended. Also, check out the remade title screen from Ghosts N Goblins, taken from a hand drawn picture (see above), as it's pretty awesome, and should have been the loading screen.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Classic Movie Corner; Outland (Warner Bros., 1981)

Name: Outland
Year: 1981
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Executive Producer: Stanley O'Toole
Starring: Sean Connery, Frances Sternhagen, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking

On Jupiter's moon, he's the only law.

On the Con-Am operated mining colony on Io, Jupiter's moon, strange things are happening. The miners are slowly going psychotic, after breaking mining records, and increasing production ten fold. Upon investigating, new Federal Marshall William T. O'Niell (Connery) soon finds out why: a synthetic drug making people do 14 hours worth of work inside of 6 hours, and after 11 months of exposure , makes the taker go crazy. Now, the general manager of the colony, Sheppard has grown desperate at O'Niell's meddling, and has asked his superior for help in the form of two hitmen. With clock ticking until the shuttle arrives, O'Niell must find a why of overcoming the incoming threat, and even threats from within is own ranks.

Definitely one of Connery's best movies, Outland is a sci-fi retooling of the Gary Cooper classic High Noon, directed with panache by Hyams, who clearly has an eye for this sort of thing, and even does justice to the source material. Connery excels at the tough, no nonsense marshall who doesn't back down, and even brings some of his Bond-esque toughness to the role. Sternhagen plays the icy cool doctor  Lazarus, who becomes his only friend, and later partner throughout the whole film, and is a surprising contrast to O'Niell. Peter Boyle plays the corporate bad guy Sheppard who's as corrupt as the day is long, supplying the drugs to the workers, while turning  blind eye to the carnage.

Jerry Goldsmith supplies the music, and helps keep the film going at a cracking pace, and is a very stark contrast to his scores for the Star Trek movies. You could probably mistake it for a score from ALIEN, but it does it's job well. Definitely worth watching for it's space-western like themes, the action and the fact it's just awesome.