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Chronological Game Reviews – Colin McRae Rally 2 / Fur Fighters

September 8, 2016 Leave a comment

In this week’s update we’re going to look at two less-appreciated video games from 2000. Not much else to say beyond that, so let’s just get on with it!

Colin McRae Rally 2.0
Publisher: Codemasters | Developer: Codemasters | Released: June 3, 2000 (EU)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS2/3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Beat Championship Mode

Actual Outcome: Came 4th in the Championship

The PS1 era was a funny time for me. As well as genres that still interest me to this day, I also loved racing games and always wanted the new ones whenever they arrived. A particular favourite was the Colin McRae series of rally games, which we’ve touched on when I looked back on the first game. And yes, I had several of them, as evidenced by the second one popping up here.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Why Pokemon Go Is Exactly What I Needed In My Life

July 18, 2016 1 comment

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Pokémon Go has taken the whole world by storm. Never since the late 90s has Pokémon been such a huge cultural phenomenon. Last time I saw Pokémon be this big a thing I was in early high school and demanding everything with a Pikachu on it for my birthday. Those were crazy times, but it appears that things just got crazier.

Pokémon Go, if you’ve been living under a rock, brings Nintendo and Game Freak’s popular series about catching cute, cuddly monsters kicking and screaming into the real world. No longer are you wandering around Viridian City or Lavender Town searching for digital monsters, with Pokémon Go you can search for them in Birmingham or Croydon, or indeed, anywhere else in the world.

People adore it, but according to some people, it’s bringing about the downfall of civilisation. Footage of Central Park being swarmed by people trying to catch a single Vaporeon is being used as an indication that people are suffering from some kind of collective madness and that society is doomed.

And I mean, what about the muggings, eh? Teens in Manchester robbing players of their phones at knifepoint, and arrests in Missouri as armed robbers attempting to lure players to them through the app. One girl, on her attempt to find a Poliwag or something, came across a dead body, and there were rumours about someone witnessing a murder (although, to be clear, citation needed on that one). The NSPCC even wanted the UK launch to be delayed because they saw the app as a way for children to be lured away by pedophiles lurking in the shadows.

How can they live with themselves knowing all of this? How can their executives sleep at night, knowing the damage they’ve caused? How can they justify any of their actions?

Well, enough about the national press, and let’s get back to Pokémon Go, because while, yes, there are dangers to wandering the streets with an expensive smartphone in your hand (which we all should know, come on now), Pokémon Go brings about a number of positive aspects, and it’s these that I feel are the app’s main draw.

And friends, Pokémon Go has offered a solution to one of my biggest problems.

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As readers and followers of my work are fairly aware of at this point, I have suffered from depression and social anxiety for many years. It’s something I’ve always felt uncomfortable talking about in the past, but I feel I should be more open about now as I work to heal and improve. One of the side effects of this problem is that I’ve become quite reclusive over the years. At university, I used to walk a lot, and explore, but over the years this dropped off as I felt I had no purpose while out, and this tended to compound my depression, not heal it.

This year has been my attempt to claw myself back from the worst aspects of these problems, and wanting to get out more and explore more again has always been an issue that I’ve never been clear on how to solve. That is, until the release of Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go makes me want to leave the house. I want to catch ‘em all. Be the very best, like no one ever was, and all that. And the only way I can do that with Pokémon Go is to take walks. And taking walks is exactly what I have been doing.

While it’s not turned me into a social butterfly (yet!), it’s certainly helped get me more exercise, fresh air and sunlight, which are all good things. But while naysayers act like people walking around with their heads in their phones is causing people to engage less with the world, my experience has been the exact opposite. I have learned more about my local area in the past few days than I have in the entire time I’ve lived here.

Through my Pokéwalks, I’ve discovered a small local nature walk because every single trail marker is a Pokéstop, I’ve encountered public art I didn’t even know existed, and taken trips down side roads to find places I’d never have otherwise discovered. Pokémon Go has helped turn me into a tourist in my own neighbourhood, and it’s fantastic. I’m engaging more with the world than ever before in mere days, and I can see this only strengthening as I use the app in areas outside my immediate walking sphere (my trip to London in August is going to be very interesting). I’ve also found great amusement that my day job is a gym, giving me more enthusiasm to go to work so I can claim the place for my team on a permanent basis.

So I will not hear a bad word said against Pokémon Go. Sure, there are a few hiccups in its design that could do with some serious ironing out, but thanks to this app, I’ve got out the house more, discovered more and engaged more. It’s done wonders for my general mood, and my fitness. And for me, that’s a success.

Also, I literally just caught a Meowth in my office before I posted this. So I’m even happier. Dat’s right!

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E3 2016 Reactions

June 14, 2016 1 comment

Hello! Here are my slightly unordered thoughts on everything seen at the E3 press conferences this year. Except the PC Gaming Show because I wasn’t able to watch that one.

Let’s start with EA! Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Chronological Challenge: Pokemon Snap / Rollcage

June 8, 2016 Leave a comment

Hello! Another week, another double bill of games from my endless challenge to play every game I own in order of release.

This week, we move into March 1999, where we have two games about travelling around in a vehicle that couldn’t be more different. They’re also both pretty good.

Pokémon Snap
Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: HAL Laboratory | Year: 1999
Original System: Nintendo 64
Played on: Wii Virtual Console

Goal: See how far I can get in a single session

Actual Outcome: Played around in every level a little

Pokémon Snap is an unusual game. Hopping off the back of the huge international success of the Pokémon franchise (which has so far been absent from the challenge due to me no longer owning my Game Boy and the 3DS releases coming out too late), this game took the concept of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” and decided that the words “on film” needed to be added to the end.

This is a photography sim, with the entire purpose to snap pictures of every Pokémon you can, and get them all on their best side. You achieve this by badgering them with food, music and gas bombs, and sometimes they’ll do cute poses and actions that Professor Oak thinks are WONDERFUL. Oh, and Pikachu is naturally a camera whore who shows up in every level to hog the limelight. But you expected nothing less, I’m sure.

And wow, this game is still as fun as it was back in the day. It’s such a sedentary game, but also an incredibly tense one. There’s no threat of being eaten by a Charizard, but there is a threat of snapping one too far or too close, or Magikarp disappearing into the water too quickly, or Haunter not showing up on camera properly because goddammit why do you have to be awkward and show up as a floating orb until the film is developed?!

There’s a fierce addictiveness to getting Professor Oak’s approval. And he’s a picky man. A perfectly centred shot of Jigglypuff singing a jolly tune is all well and good, but if it’s too small, it’s right in the trash. Just love me, Oak. Tell me I’m WONDERFUL.

It also helps that Pokémon Snap is so polished in its presentation. Despite its age, it hasn’t lost any of the charm and cuteness that got me hooked in 2000, and I almost felt sad to move on with the challenge and actually finish games I’ve never finished, unlike this which I obsessively played until I got the most WONDERFUL shot of Mew in the world.

It’s a quirky unique game that thoroughly deserves a Wii U sequel that uses the Gamepad but probably won’t get one now with all the NX stuff on the horizon. In conclusion, I think it should be obvious that I think Pokémon Snap is WONDERFUL.

Rollcage
Publisher: Psygnosis | Developer: Attention to Detail | Year: 1999
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Win the Leagues

Actual Outcome: Came out top on the Leagues

Rollcage

Rollcage is one of the PS1’s lesser-known racing titles, yet it’s seemingly beloved by everyone who did play it. I remembered enjoying this back in the day, but it had been way too long and I couldn’t remember too many specifics about it or even how well I’d done at playing it.

Rollcage is basically WipEout on wheels. You drive incredibly fast futuristic vehicles around twisty tracks and fire weapons at each other to the beats of a pounding club soundtrack. Where Rollcage differs, however, is that the vehicles have wheels with immense grip, and they’re large enough that a car can be flipped on its roof and it can carry straight on without issue.

And it is a BLAST. The sense of speed is impressive, and not just by PS1 standards. The cars are nippy little buggers, and there are constant efforts to push that speed higher through boost pads on the track, turbo powerups, or best of all, riding explosions like the coolest motherfucker in the land. As well as speed, the game encourages destruction, and some weapons actively target the scenery instead of other racers. You can drop buildings or explosive space billboards on your opponents then ride through like nothing happened. You can fire a missile as you pass a power plant, blowing it up in your wake and leaving debris for opponents on your tail to deal with.

There are some moments of frustration as your opponents aggressively hurl missiles around and hinder your progress as much as you hinder theirs, and at times this threaten to spoil the fun of the whole experience. But even listing this as a flaw now, I struggle to say more than that. It’s a minor frustration, and one of those that improves as you play more. You get used to how the handling works, how best to steer out of danger, and where the shortcuts are. What’s more, for every loss, the game just makes you want to try again and again because of how much fun the whole experience is.

Because that’s the key thing to take away from this. Every aspect of Rollcage was designed with fun in mind, and fun it is. This is one of the most enjoyable racing games ever made, and it’s a shame it’s not as well-remembered as it should be.

Flaws Do Not Make Something Worthless

March 19, 2015 4 comments

Normally, I’d like to keep personal issues away from this blog. It’s an extension of my YouTube channel and other projects, and as such I tend to stick to issues in the news, or I talk about video games. But after a series of tweets over the weekend, I considered expanding it, and that’s what this blog post is about. It’s a little sad in places, so be warned.

On Saturday I became aware of a statement made by Nigel Farage, the eternally-present dangerous idiot of politics, where he tried to shun the entire NHS over a misdiagnosis he received 20-30 years ago, with a strong implication that it’d be better if we have a private healthcare system and market forces governed everything because that’s never gone wrong ever, of course. Pay no heed to the rising inequality or the fact that the US healthcare system forces everyone to pay obscene costs. The NHS is bad, mkay. It “almost killed” him, after all.

This prompted a series of angry tweets from me, where I pointed out the ludicrousness of his argument. And I spoke from a position of someone who was similarly let down by NHS services and ended up going private. He used his story to justify wanting to dismantle the entire service, I prefer to use my story to suggest where the service needs more investment and care.

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The Absurdity of “Gamer Gate”

August 31, 2014 3 comments

For a long time, I have been ashamed to call myself a gamer. I’m certainly not ashamed to announce that I like video games and enjoy them to the same degree a cinephile laps up movies or a bibliophile is unable to walk into a book shop and not emerge with about 10 new books to add to their growing pile (although, admittedly, I do have that latter issue too). If I can have a conversation with someone about video games, then I’ve made a friend for life. Video games are not the issue. No, my issue lies in the term “gamer”.

For a while now, I’ve considered “gamers” to be the worst side of people who play games. The type who yells slurs in online games. The type who has no frame of reference outside of games. The type who gets terrified at anything outside the current trend of the two-colour-palette dudebro shooter. They’re alarmingly vocal, but in the last couple of weeks, they’ve become even more vocal, and not in a good way.

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RIP Bob Hoskins

May 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Yesterday news came out about the very sad passing of Bob Hoskins, a well-loved and respected British actor with a huge range of films under his belt, with his lead role as detective Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit listed as one of his major successes.

What makes me really sad, however, is the film snobs who feel it necessary to point out that if you remember him for his Roger Rabbit role, you’re doing the man a great disservice by not remembering him from an older British drama.

It makes me sad because there is a whole generation of kids whose biggest exposure to Hoskins’ work was Roger Rabbit, his role as Smee in Hook and…okay, fine, I guess Super Mario Bros, but let’s not use that as an example ever again. The point is, that many of this generation, and I count myself among them, aren’t all that aware of his less popular work. I’ve seen The Long Good Friday cited as another major example of his work, but while the name sounds familiar, I don’t know too much about it.

But what exactly is wrong with remembering him from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I am here to state exactly what Roger Rabbit means to me and why Bob Hoskins was an integral part of all of that, and why I am incredibly sad about his passing as a result.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a technical marvel, both for its time but even today where the effects still hold up perfectly. While there have certainly been attempts to combine animation and live action before (e.g. Mary Poppins) and after (e.g. Space Jam), but none have ever really matched the skill and quality on display in that movie.

But while great animation and effects are one thing, the whole production would have come crashing down if there weren’t some fantastic actors on set, and Hoskins was definitely fantastic in that movie. The man put in a brilliant performance as a grizzled alcoholic detective, but he also made his disdain for Toons as believable as someone who loves casual racism. But, of course, there’s another aspect to his performance, an aspect that none of his other roles could possibly match.

Hoskins spent much of that movie talking to walls and bits of scenery, acting as if they were living things who could respond to him. He worked with nothing and made it convincing that he really was talking to cartoon characters. It takes immense skill to do that. Without his work in making this believable, the movie wouldn’t have worked at all, but it did, and it was thanks to Hoskins’ expert efforts here that my childhood self fell in love with the movie.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is the movie that very much cemented my love of both animation and mystery thrillers. It’s the movie that taught me the conventions of film noir before I had ever seen any real noir. It’s the movie that taught me that anything is possible in fiction if you’re willing to work for it, and put the effort into making it believable for the audience. Essentially, it’s the movie that got me into the craft of making movies, had me doodling comics for much of my childhood, going to university to study film production, and quite possibly is a big part of the reason I am writing a detective novel. Roger Rabbit is an important movie to me.

It’s the movie that both terrified (damn you, Judge Doom) and delighted me as a child, and as my last rewatch of the movie (when I reviewed it as one of my first movies on SvTM) proved, it’s a movie that still delights me and makes me smile, and without a doubt is up there with some of my all-time favourites.

So, to those who wish to discredit those of who wish to remember Bob Hoskins through a childhood favourite as opposed to something more “serious”, remember this: it doesn’t matter that I choose to remember him for dancing to Merry Go Round Broke Down and kicking a cartoon weasel in the crotch, what matters is that I remember him, and that I remember being entertained by him. Isn’t that how all performers wish to be remembered?

RIP Bob Hoskins. You had a long, prosperous career, but you will always be Eddie Valiant to me. And that’s high praise as far as I’m concerned.