Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Inferno - The scoop and digest

Big screen adaptations of Dan Brown's best-selling novels are bizarrely out of sync, as Angels & Demons is a sequel to The Da Vinci Code.

Let's be grateful Ron Howard wasn't in charge of The Lord of the Rings, or The Fellowship of the Ring would follow The Two Towers.

Due to production complications, The Lost Symbol is ignored (probably permanently), in favour of latest effort.

Tom Hanks - Professor Robert Langdon
Felicity Jones - Dr. Sienna Brooks
Ben Foster - Bertrand Zobrist
Omar Sy - Bouchard
Irrfan Khan - Harry 'The Provost' Sims
Sidse Babett Knudsen - Elizabeth Sinskey

Billionaire geneticist Bertrand Zobrist commits suicide after being chased by World Health Organisation agents.

Plagued by hellish visions, Langdon wakes up in a Florence hospital bed, with no recollection of the past few days.

Dr. Brooks informs hallucinations are the result of head trauma caused by a heavy fall, when bullet grazed his head.

Conversation is rudely interrupted by female assassin Vayentha, and it's time to haul ass.

At her apartment, we learn more about Dante obsessed Zobrist and his virus capable of decimating humankind.

Searching Langdon's keepsakes, Faraday pointer hidden inside bio tube contains a modified version of Botticelli's Map of Hell.

"The truth can be glimpsed only through the eyes of death."

Letters dotted about drawing collectively spell 'CATROVACER', but gobbledygook is soon deciphered as Cerca Trova.

Guess they better 'seek and find'.

Clues lead them to Palazzo Vecchio and gazing at Giorgio Vasari's fresco Battle of Marciano, also displaying said phrase.

During which, we learn assassin works for The Company, headed by Harry Sims, and those suited and booted are Elizabeth's WHO outfit.

Around this time, Sienna helps Vayentha on her way after failing to kill Langdon.

After viewing Zobrist's video, Sinskey joins Sims.

Bouchard spins Langdon a yarn, but transparent lies are immediately seen through.

Destination Istanbul turns sour when Sienna reveals she and Zobrist were lovers and crazy bitch leaves him for dead.

Hot on his trail is Bouchard, but before trigger is pulled, Sims turns up...

Yer' know all that business at the hospital?

It was staged more than theatre.


Sienna procures detonators from associates and heads to Basilica Cistern, where Zobrist prophesied plastic bag holding virus will burst.

Despite Sims playing tough guy, he's given the point by Sienna and believing pandemic will save lives by wiping out millions, pushes the snooze button.

Newsdash.  Bag explodes inside cube.

Virus is taken by WHO for research and Langdon returns 'borrowed' Dante Death Mask.

This was BULLSHIT!

Bourne-esque treasure hunt is ridiculous, clichéd and contrived beyond belief.

Hollywood couldn't resist fucking with source material.

Virus stored within water soluble bag is already unleashed, eventually revealed to randomly cause sterility, thus controlling population growth.

Also, Sienna doesn't die and wants to destroy Zobrist's baby, fearing it will be used as a bio weapon.

Nobody gets their hands on it and she joins WHO to help find a cure.

Why couldn't they just leave ending alone?

Okay, now for humorous relief.

Sienna and Langdon negotiate wooden beams high up in Palazzo Vecchio and lady pants falls from a great height.

Ouch, right?


She just gets up as though nothing's happened.

In Vayentha's case, ceiling's weak spot is magically found.

During opening scene, Zobrist's narration states:

"Insanity is a disease.  Inferno is the cure."

Guess screenwriter David Koepp ripped off one of cinema's greatest taglines, ironically attached to infamous Stallone bomb Cobra.

"Crime is a disease.  Meet the cure."

(Bemused laugh).

Unlike 1980 Dario Argento classic of same name, this Inferno should be extinguished in less time it takes to snuff out a candle.  

Sunday, 16 October 2016

16 bits, 2 bytes - Ninth Event

Equinox, Software Creations 1993

NES original Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos was hugely influenced by Ultimate classics such as Knight Lore, Nightshade and Alien 8.

Ocean copied perspective for Batman in 1986, with Head over Heels expanding matters a year later.

Known as Solstice II in Japan, father Shadax is kidnapped by evil apprentice Sonia and son Glendaal must grit Arabian teeth and brave the eight dungeons of Galadonia.

When bumbling about on world map (which can be spun in glorious Mode 7), bats and trolls often appear from clouds.


Bumping into and destroying these hazards reap the reward of gaining strength.

These aren't random battles, but they do have a habit of zoning in on you.

Most rooms have multiple exits, with some blocked by portcullises that only coloured keys can open.

Things get more complicated and become quite troublesome, particularly when spikes are introduced.

Pushing blocks off a platform can make ‘stairs’, cover spikes so items can be got and manipulate other rooms.

If cock ups are made during puzzle solving, leaving and re-entering resets the situation.

Of course, rooms aren't without other problems.

From knights, ghosts to blobs, enemies feel the collective brunt of scimitar, sword, dagger, shuriken, mace and axe.

Apart from throwing star, you'd expect to 'hold' melee weapons, but all are 'thrown'.

Ha ha ha!

Colours dictate intelligence and attack patterns become more unpredictable than the weather.

Occasionally, enemies must be destroyed for a gate to open sesame.

Geezer isn’t without magic, as spells including heal, slow, freeze, damage, zap, reveal and save.

Adding strings to harp eventually gives the ability to teleport.

Aztecs, Egyptian and Ice Palace aside, the coolest area to frequent is a ghost ship as camera constantly moves to induce sea sickness.

Boss spirits haunt whichever land and can’t be harmed, so to give bad boys a physical body, 12 tokens scattered about each dungeon must be found.

Once got, entering a special room will see tokens summon a Guardian.

Unfortunately, bosses suck smelly ass.

What is Bonehead?

Yeah, a skull.

I really wish Pincha wasn’t a crab, but…


We also get a Dollop of slime, Sung-Sung (mountain with a face), Eyesis (pyramid with eye) and end witch Sonia teleports.

Why didn't they just call Egyptian boss Eye of Providence?

What can’t go unmentioned is how incredibly atmospheric this baby sounds.

Haunting murmurs and minimalist tunes come courtesy of home computer maestro Tim Follin and co-composer Geoff.

Icy wind blowing through ice palace and ancient timber creaking on ghostly vessel are sounds of subtle genius.

As you've probably gathered, I'm a massive fan of this game but holy shit, it's extremely weird to play.


In order to make majority of jumps, one should position Glendaal in a way he's guaranteed to fail.

Even when objects look 'grounded', they usually aren't.

Providing disorientation can be tolerated, optical illusion on crystal meth is an underrated gem.

Micro Machines, Ocean 1994

Whether it be home computer or console, everybody has taken control of ‘original scale miniatures’.

Courtesy of multitap, competition becomes fierce as up to four players battle it out to claim glory.

Or, up to two friends can try their luck against computer AI.

Vehicles range from rally car, quad buggy and speedboat.

Like comedic characters, courses aren't without personality.

Unconventional tracks include breakfast table, garage floor, beach, pool table and school desk.

Expect each to have a variety of hazards and no chequered flag exists.

Instead, your aim is to steal and protect hit points.

Leaving rival for dead and forcing them off track are effective techniques.

For every hit point received (dubbed ‘bonus’), an amusing little victory dance follows.

It’s all jolly good, harmless fun.

Inconsequential sequel Micro Machines 2: Turbo Tournament was released in the same year and included time trials, new courses and various tournaments.

Krusty’s Super Funhouse, Audiogenic 1992

Was this game really made?

Oh rats!

Using blocks and items, Springfield’s favourite clown rids vermin by forcing them into static traps operated by Homer, Bart, Sideshow Mel and Corporal Punishment.

After each area is squeaky clean, find exit and repeat.

Hazards include water droplets, lasers and snakes.

If exciting gameplay doesn’t kill you, the music will.

Jurassic Park, Ocean 1993

With no home system at the time able to handle Sega’s high speed on-rails arcade of same name, like NES and Game Boy, we had to settle for birds-eye adventure.

Dr. Grant wanders about green space giving genetically engineered types a taste of anything from gas grenades, shotgun, cattle prod and er, rocket launcher.

Triceratops, Raptors, Dilophosaurus and Gallimimus all appear.

Dino tips selfishly pop up on huge transparent orange cards and tediously repeat.

Like Boris from Goldeneye, T-Rex is invincible.

Mr DNA’s dishes out scientific trivia we're supposed to believe and Nedry dishes out fucked up advice such as “The T-Rex will give you a 1-Up if you approach him.”

Electrified fences are a shock to the system and getting wet kills.

ID cards gain access to complex and transforms top down lethargy into mouse supported FPS.

Texture mapped graphics are decent and move surprisingly well.

Escaping Isla Nublar involves clearing dinosaurs, collecting eggs, rebooting computer system, activating generator and getting to the helipad.

Graphics and sound impress to a degree, but surprise surprise, doesn't incorporate famous John Williams score.

Like many games of this ilk, expect one huge level.

While difficult to a degree, extra lives and health can be found.

Guess what?

There's no map, continues or passwords.

Best of all, you can't save.

What an inspired decision.

This also has one of the worst endings EVER, as invisible helicopter takes off from spinning logo at boot up.

Bluesky Software's completely different Mega Drive version did feature passwords.

Highlights include T-Rex amusingly growling 'Sega' and Grant or Raptor blundering through missions that never happened in film.

Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues, Ocean 1994

Non-canonical yes, but was the first to follow Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster and even predates the late Michael Crichton’s 1995 novel The Lost World.

Professor Challenger reminds Crichton copied name of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 literary classic

Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World should be labelled the ‘official’ sequel.

Anyhow, here’s what licence shat out.

One year after Isla Nublar incident, Hammond sends Dr. Grant with armed personnel to restore order so park can re-open for business.

However, newly introduced Biosyn Corp. aim to destroy InGen so island can be theirs.

Play as Grant or tactical sergeant Michael Wolfskin.

Finding scientists, reconnecting power feeds to incubators, protecting dinosaurs, gassing Raptors and disarming bombs are all mundane necessities.

Snore bastard snore.

Think your average Probe game, less the polish.

Backgrounds ignore authenticity as volcanoes, mountains, jungle and caves insult movie classics from yesteryear.

T-Rex is brought in for desperately drab jeep sequence and blows up following success.


Actual end boss is Biosyn airship fought inside chopper.

Run and gun mission-based shmup isn’t the worst - it’s just very, very ordinary.

With or without simultaneous play, enemy placement is often cruel and becomes extremely frustrating.

You still can’t save, or get passwords, but continues do exist and infinite opportunities can be obtained via a cheat code.

Game Boy version ditched Biosyn premise and had Grant complete a variety of missions (commonly involving key cards), in a tepid side-scrolling affair.

Earthworm Jim, Shiny Entertainment 1994

Princess What’s-Her-Name has been kidnapped by Queen Slug-For-A-Butt.


She wants Jim’s robotic suit, invented by villain Professor Monkey-For-A-Head.

First on Mega Drive, 24 megs of platform popcorn not only looks superb, hand-drawn animation also possesses pristine personality and a wicked sense of humour.

16 bits largely mirror each other, but Intestinal Distress from Mega Drive is missing.

Racing against Psy-Crow through galactic tunnel in Andy Asteroids? borders on overkill as the only time you don't ride rocket is after connected stages Down the Tubes and Tube Race.

Backgrounds rich in colour consist of volcano, alien base, darkness and space.

Together with a dizzy mix of original themes, ears are spoiled with renditions of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.

Bosses are frankly terrible, but Slug-For-A-Butt spoofing Queen Alien compensates.

Jim exclaims ‘Groovy!’ at stage end, possibly referencing Evil Dead II?

Significance of launching cow at start of game is revealed during ending as Princess is farcically crushed.

Featuring improved visuals, new stage Big Bruty, extended New Junk City, 1000 extra animation frames and obligatory CD quality sound, Special Edition on Mega CD was the version to own.

Portable versions should be given a wide berth, (especially GBA travesty).

Apart from greater vibrancy, Gameloft's HD remake for Xbox Live and PSN didn't really do anything better.

Earthworm Jim 2, Shiny Entertainment 1995

Mega Drive and SNES games were released simultaneously.

This time though, no Special Edition would appear.

An interesting fact is this uses patented Animotion II and Silicon Graphics 3D characters (a la Donkey Kong Country).

Psy-Crow replaces Queen as antagonist and cylindrical hero is boosted by more flexibility, greater vocabulary and five new guns.

Stick or swing? Your wish is new friend Snott’s command.

Stephen Fry's Lord Snot formed part of University Challenge Footlights College Oxbridge in unforgettable Young Ones episode Bambi.

Avoiding falling grannies while ascending on electric stairlift ensures occasion is off its tits.

Therefore, chewing stage gristle is obligatory.

When tackling Udderly Abducted, don't be a silly moo.

Speaking of which, slices of prime beef now state “Well done” after every stage.

Puppy Love replaces Andy Asteroids? and is mercifully less infrequent.

Using marshmallow trampoline, Jim bounces Peter's nephews thrown from window by Psy-Crow to the safety of Uncle's chimney.

You may recognise instrumental of famous Italian song Funiculì, Funiculà.

Mega Drive version doesn’t have huge moon in background.

C64 junkies should raise very suspicious eyebrows as principle is identical to ‘interlude’ from Creatures 2: Torture Trouble.

The Flyin' King changes perspective to isometric shmup. as hot air balloon and bomb must be protected.

In the aptly titled Inflated Head stage, Jim must avoid colliding with light bulbs and resist the persistence of a vicious leaping cat.

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata plays during Villi People and disguised as blind cave salamander, Jim must negotiate intestinal maze.

During which, action suddenly transforms into nonsensical trivia quiz.

For example:

"In what year did the battle of Hamstrings take place?"
"Can Jim speak German?"

Believe me, answers are more stupid than questions.

Filing cabinet acts as relentless terminator in ISO 9000 and boss of Level Ate gives food for thought, as pork steak attacks with plate.

In same stage, secret area 'Totally Forked' can be accessed using Snott parachute about halfway through.

Final stage See Jim Run, Run Jim Run is a traditional 2D race against Psy-Crow.

Rescuing Princess from nefarious feathered fiend wins back her heart, but she, baddie and hero present themselves to be cows.

Err, words fail me.

More diverse yes, but new sections are gimmicky and shifting focus away from platform action disappoints.

Password system (if you like) is bullshit, as before stage is completed, three hidden flags (Earth, Worm and Jim) must be found.


Even with improved soundtrack, Saturn and PS1 versions shouldn't make SNES/Mega Drive owners jealous.

Having said that, passwords are told to flag off and automatically given after each stage.

In DOS version The Whole Can 'O Worms, Rainbow Arts bundled both games together and slightly redrew pixels, but doesn't include Lorenzen's Soil.

2002 GBA abomination had horrific graphics, atrocious sound and glitched beyond belief, rendering experience almost unplayable.

Even worse than Bydo shit storm R-Type III?

Holy shit – surely not.

Operation Thunderbolt, Aisystem Tokyo 1994

Considering home computer ports of 1988 arcade sequel came in 1990, you'd think that would be that.

Is it coincidence that digitised arcade exclusive Operation Wolf III came out in same year?

Abul Bazarre, warlord of Bintazi People's Republic have commandeered a flight and unless comrades are released, we'll regret it.

Roy Adams and Green Beret buddy Hardy Jones are given the boot and six new soldiers Sonia, Erica, Dan, Shin, Kinte and Chamkaur step up.

Commanding officer Colonel Jones (not Hardy), gives you a choice of targets and off you go.

Aside from standard pad, you can also open fire with mouse or Super Scope.

T2: The Arcade Game is another to support all three.

Mission complete screens are redrawn but unlike arcade, dialogue isn't spoken.

Other than that, it's what we remember.

Jerky scrolling manoeuvres poor graphics and 'lack of' enemy presence bores.

Overall, don't bother.

Contra III: The Alien Wars, Konami 1992

Out of respect for what I imported many years ago, I'm using North American name.

This is known as Contra Spirits in Japan and infamously, Super Probotector: Alien Rebels for PAL region.

Why the name change?

For the benefit of those who don't know.

In order to bypass German censorship, the 1990 NES port of arcade original (which ran slower than its North American and Japanese 'Contra' counterparts), was perversely renamed Probotector.

Remember, home computers tagged it Gryzor.

Appleseed tributes Jimbo and Sully came in for Lance and Bill.

So it's apparently more acceptable for robots to kill aliens.

How fucking stupid does that sound?

To maintain localisation continuity, console versions followed like sheep.

Before getting to that, let's focus on stonewall classic.

Whether controlling robots or geezers, experience remains identical.

A.D. 2636

The alien wars begin!

Six stages boast relentless action, impressive variety and ingenious use of Mode 7.

Never before seen Alien Breed-esque overhead stages first require player to select starting point and then it's up to you to rotate freely and destroy enemy bases.

Bosses are tough bastards and take massive punishment before biting the dust.

Giant tortoise and zombie skeleton prising wall open remain iconic.

Final stage is upgraded combo of Contra and Super Contra, but Jagger Froid's brain extends fight.

Once safely subdued, a hero's welcome awaits.

While I respect importance, uber outing hasn't aged well.

Colour shy backgrounds lack imagination, stage complete screens couldn't be goofier and mid bosses are almost pointless.

Sounding like a whimpering baby on crack, gotta love camp death scream.

Music outclasses standard sound with catchy and occasionally dramatic numbers.


Developed by Factor 5 and Andreas Escher providing visuals, cut down version and final Game Boy entry came in 1994.

Contra: The Alien Wars (North America), Contra Spirits (Japan) and Probotector 2 (PAL).

This is not a sequel to Game Boy original, so why pretend to be one?

Here's fun.  Why not Probotector: Alien Rebels?

Yeah, too logical.

Contra Advance: The Alien Wars EX on GBA is mostly SNES, but Mode 7 areas are replaced with two stages from Hard Corps.

The P word

Let's analyse absurd confusion.

Super C was the 1990 North America NES conversion of first arcade sequel Super Contra and when stepping on European soil in 1992, was slapped with the monkier of Probotector II: Return of the Evil Forces.

Screwing everything up was first Game Boy outing Operation C (North America), Contra (Japanese) and Probotector (PAL).

Here's the problem.

This was not another port of first arcade, remake of PAL NES original and jack all to do with Return of the Evil Forces.

Oh no.  It was actually a unique game and marked the debut of Black Viper (sister of Red Falcon).

As spin-off Contra Force was only released in North America, at least title couldn't annoy.

Introducing branching paths and multiple endings, take a look at what titles assholes gave superior 1994 Mega Drive addition.

Probotector (PAL), Contra: Hard Corps (North America) and Contra: The Hard Corps (Japan).

Counting back, Probotector can be three separate games.


It wasn't until 1996 name was finally abandoned in Europe with rubbish PS1 entry Contra: Legacy of War.

You and I both know series continued, but that's another story.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Artistic beauty in film II

Sandwich fillers aside, original was published almost three years ago.

In light of this, enjoy official sequel.

Bringing exhibits and famous paintings to life was undoubtedly the highlight of Night of the Museum 2.

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California - Alfred Bierstadt
Convergence - Jackson Pollock
'Now for the Painter', (Rope.) Passengers Going on Board ('Pas de Calais') - J.M.W. Turner
Love - Robert Indiana (middle), Balloon Dog (Red) - Jeff Koons (right), Spiral Man - Grisha Bruskin (bottom left) and immediately adjacent is Isamu Noguchi's Globular.
Mountain Forms #2 - Victor Higgins (middle) and Nighthawks - Edward Hopper (right).
I point out South Ledges, Appledore by Childe Hassam.
Venus Italica - Antonio Canova (far left), The Thinker - Auguste Rodin (middle) and behind sculpture is Water Lilies - Claude Monet.
American Gothic - Grant Wood
Photograph of V-J Day in Times Square - Alfred Eisenstaedt (left) and Crying Girl - Roy Lichtenstein (right).
Finishing nicely with:

Night of the Museum 3
Relativity - M.C. Escher
Harvard University Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) gets embroiled in murder and conspiracy in Ron Howard's uninspiring adaptation of Dan Brown's best selling novel The Da Vinci Code.

Predictably, there's a bit of Leonardo.

Mona Lisa (left) and The Last Supper (right).

Cover of fictional character's book Sacred Feminine mixes things up.

The Birth of Venus (detail) - Botticelli
Her sensational smile unsurprisingly pops up elsewhere.

Hudson Hawk
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Despicable Me
Batman Returns
Single White Female
Replacing famous smile with that of domestic house cat is pretty strange.
Statue of David - Michelangelo

Children of Men
Fortress 2: Re-Entry
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Only God Forgives
The Rocky saga wouldn't be the same without a spectacular splash of colour from impressionist LeRoy Neiman.

Rocky III
Serving as both a spin off and sequel, Creed was a surprising knockout.
This famously first appeared in Rocky III's end titles and again in Rocky Balboa.
Okay, this is hardly a secret now, but whatever.

Robért Berény's Sleeping Lady with Black Vase was considered lost, until it was discovered by art historian Gergely Barki after watching Stuart Little.
Derived from the Latin phrase Deus-Ex Machina, literally meaning God from the Machine, Alex Garland's directorial debut Ex Machina remains one of the most refreshing sci-fi's in recent years.

No. 5, 1948 - Jackson Pollock
Portrait of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein - Gustav Klimt
Mel Smith's Bean recycles the farce of what made television show Mr. Bean such a hit. Rowan Atkinson's National Gallery security guard delivers some decent laughs when charged with looking after James Abbott McNeill Whistler's Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1.
Yeah, I don't like colloquialism Whistler's Mother.

Back with Despicable Me and Agnes.

Starry Night - Van Gogh
Awww, isn't she sweet?

Well I think so.

The name's Bond, James Bond.

Dr. No
Portrait of the Duke of Wellington - Francisco Goya
Portrait of Lunia Czechowska with a Fan - Amedeo Modigliani
Ellen Page teaches Patrick Wilson's sexual predator Jeff Kohlver a lesson he doesn't forget in the controversial Hard Candy.
Edward Hopper's Nighthawks is found at coffeehouse of same name.
Like short-lived TV show, there's little not to like about pseudo Airplane spoof The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
Ricardo Montalban's villain Ludwig owns Thomas Gainsborough's Blue Boy, which is accidentally destroyed by Drebin.
For the final time, I revisit The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

During wedding ceremony, we admire a clever parody of Grant Wood's American Gothic.
Going full circle, painting appears in the castle.
The Chinese Lady - Vladimir Tretchikoff
It's a mad world in cult fantasy Donnie Darko, and M.C. Escher keeps a careful Eye on Jake Gyllenhaal's bedroom.
If it wasn't for Henri Matisse, we wouldn't get up and Dance to Good Will Hunting.
Hello? You're probably really busy preparing to celebrate Halloween, but can you be a doll and tell me the title of James Ensor effort hanging in my living room?
Certainly Laurie, it's Self-Portrait with Flowered Hat.
Thanks very much.  While I can't promise anything, I
'll do my level best to perturb my brother Michael from trick and treating you to death tonight.
Before scooting off...

'Mousterpieces' created by The Chiodo Brothers provided some light relief to the otherwise unfunny Dinner for Schmucks (American remake of French comedy Le Dîner de Cons).

Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 - James Abbott McNeill Whistler
American Gothic - Grant Wood
Mona Lisa - Leonardo da Vinci
The Creation of Adam - Botticelli
The Last Supper - Leonardo da Vinci
The Scream - Edvard Munch
Not sure if canvas was based on actual scrawl, but either way, I'm sure Picasso would raise a curious smile.
Enter the Van Gogh

Sunflowers (top left), Self-Portrait with a Palette (top middle), Café Terrace at Night (top right), Blossoming with Acacia Branches (bottom left), Branches with Almond Blossom (middle bottom) and Starry Night (bottom right).
Still Life - Paul Klee
Aficionado - Picasso
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