Wednesday, 19 February 2014

16 bits, 2 bytes - Sixth Event

Rock n’ Roll Racing, Silicon & Synapse 1993

Rockstar was previously DMA Design and Blizzard used to be…

Choosing from a variety of chars and viewed from an ‘angled’ perspective, this is the perfect excuse to burn rubber as you skid around corners, smash competitors and move on up through the divisions.

Firing rockets and laying mines meant your opponent’s car will need more than a paint job.

These dogs will fight back so plying your vehicle with armour definitely helps.

The damage taken is magnified as cars smoke like a cigarette.

It’s not the case of a few strikes and you’re out as vehicles have energy and power ups can be got to refill and repair.

To visit new planets, points are required and this is dictated by how you perform on the track.

The opportunity to upgrade, buy equipment and even a new car should be taken between races and acquiring money during the action allows such a purchase.

Larry ‘Supermouth’ Huffman provides frequent commentary and unlike Street Fighter IV, hoping that he chokes on repetitive phrases sooner rather than later is put on hold.

While a well dressed caper in its own right, most pulled their plonkers over faithful instrumental renditions of famous rock anthems.

Playlist includes:

Black Sabbath – Paranoid
George Thorogood & The Destroyers – Bad to the Bone
Steppenwolf - Born to be Wild
Deep Purple – Highway Star

Now you can associate Steppenwolf with something other than 1969 classic Easy Rider.

Also thrown in for good measure is Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme.

The game reminds of Leland Corporation’s 1989 arcade, Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off Road.

Years later, this still holds up better than braces.

Futuristically, the following featured full blown tracks that strum my instrument.

The 3DO version of Road Rash featured contributions from Therapy? and Soundgarden.

Sega’s Crazy Taxi was fond of Bad Religion and The Offspring.

Naughty Dog’s Way of the Warrior reanimated White Zombie and if memory serves correctly, profanity wasn’t censored.

Guitar Hero remains a monotonous rhythm...

Axelay, Konami 1992

Through a series of animated screens, the intro informs that the Axelay is the last hope against alien forces.

Is there a weirder name for a space ship?

From a technical angle, graphics will have mouths drop quicker than handling hot coals.

Six stages of vertical and horizontal mayhem make use of every special effect the SNES can muster.

This is legendary for visuals sent from another planet.

Before getting to the action, you must tool up by choosing firepower for pod, side and bay.

Although limited at first, more become available on progression so effectively becomes a clue in regards which to choose.

These include missile, needle cracker, round vulcan and the dog’s bollocks variety of wind laser.

For whatever fucked up reason, the straight laser is a fireball.

“Arms installation is complete.  Good luck.”

You can cycle through chosen weaponry at will and when hit, the weapon currently in use is immobilised so theoretically, firepower acts as a pseudo shield.

Vertical backgrounds kind of unroll like an exceptional poster.

The effect is difficult to explain.

Switching to a traditional side scrolling affair, graphics do not falter and you’ll marvel at such arcade quality eye candy.

Piloting your craft over cloud, rock, factory, illuminated city, submerged cavern and raging fire is an exquisite treat.

The final stage of this shootathon is sufficiently superb as motherships hover and an alien fortress persists with multiple threat and gorgeous goodies.

Apart from typical biological and mechanical types, mammoth monstrosities exude more beauty than a Van Gogh masterpiece.

We enjoy attacking a shameless but great ED-209 rip off, fire monster, giant spider and what can only be described as a witch’s hat.

The end boss completely impresses as an alien brain (or maybe heart) hides within its armoured casing and when penetrated, you are forced to give chase during high speed scrolling.

When these behemoths yield, they go out with unique dignity.

He engulfed in fire disintegrates and the camera brings the shell of ED-209 into sharp focus.

Mode 7 can only make backgrounds spin so how did Konami achieve full rotation for the OCP wannabe?

Well he is exactly that, a background, cleverly emitting the illusion of a giant sprite.

Like the law, there are loopholes in virtually every situation.

While the sound effects are guilty of unexciting blasts and boring booms, Konami compensates by delivering musical delight.

When Colony from Stage 2 really kicks in, you will hear excellence.

Before the appearance of each boss, a warning siren is raised and it’s another case of ‘clear your bastard throat’.

Earth calling Earth! Earth calling Earth! Earth calling Earth!

I’m still sticking with that’s the nonsense we hear.

Terrible flicker and matters prone to operating in slow motion bring this visual extravaganza back down to Earth with a bump.

He who burns the brightest cannot help but vanish more than most magicians.

You’d expect explosions of any kind to mix red with yellow but no, Konami inappropriately turn things blue.

Why?

Gameplay is thinner than an anorexic lamppost and is over quicker than an elaborate firework display.

But wow, those graphics...

The Lawnmower Man, Sales Curve Interactive 1993

Remember those uncomfortable and ridiculous headsets?

Yes, not the Virtual Boy...

It was meant to be the future but ended up becoming the past, quicker than you could say ‘immersion’.

‘Virtua’ Fighter, Cop, Racing, Striker and Tennis were all successful franchises for Sega.

Although very much the same vein, Confidential Mission practically bombed compared to Virtua Cop.

Remember Shun’s bridge over troubled water stage in Virtua Fighter 2?

Yes you do, don’t bullshit a bullshitter.

Oh, don’t forget fast paced mecha action popcorn Virtual-On.

Now you’re virtually trained, the hype of computer effects couldn’t disguise a mediocre Pierce Brosnan film.

Through imagination alone, such technology presented the possibility creating artificial worlds and most feared a new kind of mind control.

Dr. Angelo used virtual reality to increase Jobe’s intelligence and the cyber being became the energy entering the virtual world within computer networks.

‘The Shop’, led by Zorn (The Doomplayer), planned to use Cyber Jobe as a military weapon.

However, they didn’t bank on the monster breaking into VIR Space Industries and connecting to the main computer system.

Can you enter Jobe’s domain and poop on his party?

Damn straight.

Choose from Angelo or Carla and engage in largely scrolling platform action, with a bit of VR thrown in.

Breaking the code to destroy a terminal distracts as a simple puzzle and top down driving assists with decent variety.

Access mustn’t be denied.

The titular VR sections can be either attractive or bland but importantly, are always a smooth occasion.  The Cyber Run equates to something like F-Zero.

As we steamroll through, the story is nicely connected via a series of screens.

Jobe in Cyberspace instantly reminds of Andross from Star Fox.

After preventing him from escaping into the global network, Zorn is the final fly in our ointment…

Movie licences are a poisoned chalice but drinking from this cup shouldn’t leave a rank aftertaste.

The Mega CD offered a completely different experience and was content to satisfy visual aids.

It served up a puzzle game of sorts, held together by FMV and virtual reality sequences.

For the time, graphics were pulled from the highest of drawers but limited interaction meant there wasn’t much point in holding a joypad.

The sequel, Beyond Cyberspace, polluted film but not pixels...

I know, thank Christ for that.

Super Mario Kart, Nintendo 1992

Frequently imitated but never bettered, we are dealing with the original and best.

Impostors tried to purr but ended up looking like pussies.

This played better than a well fed fruit machine on heat.

Mario Kart 7 on 3DS brings us bang up to date and the next instalment is confirmed for the Wii U.

Namco’s exclusive arcade outing gobbled plenty of cash.

Instead of going through every incarnation, let’s recap on an inspirational classic.

The char roster of eight consisted of Mario, Luigi, Toad, Princess, Bowser, Donkey Kong Jr, Koopa and Yoshi.

Depending on your selection, acceleration and speed differed.

Points are awarded after each race and go towards the overall standings in the hope of achieving a podium finish.

With practice and timing, a race can be started with a slight boost but can also result in a skid.

As you burn innocent rubber, a multitude of opportunity allows you to drive over tiles (item blocks in future games) that bring a mystery item and used to scupper racing rivalry.

Banana skins can be laid, mushrooms acted as a speed boost, lightning bolts shrank all concerned, red shells guarantee a hit and picking up a star means invincibility.

It’s a canis canem edit world.

Hopping and skidding around those corners is completely useful and both manoeuvres should be regularly used.

Mario locales such as Ghost House, Donut Plains, Mushroom Kingdom and Bowser’s Castle all feature.

Regular villains Thwomps, Monty Mole and Blurps are translated as obstacles and broken ice, oil slicks and dense grass count as hazards.

Petrol heads with enough skill and the right choice of ‘CC’ will disengage the Special Cup and with it, the barrier allergic Rainbow Road.

Delightful ditties assist the action that all ears should appreciate but the whiny engine noise grates.

Graphics remain perfectly competent and the Mode 7 tracks effortlessly outshine F-Zero.

Playing this alone or with a friend against the computer is great, but popping balloons is still lauded for been one of the very best excuses for competitive entertainment.

Whichever mode screams elite addiction and you will find yourself playing this again, again, and again…

Almost inevitably, the series picked up pace on meatier hardware.

This allowed 4P action, aggressive track expansion, vehicle upgrades and wireless connectivity.

Despite all these improvements, my engine still suggests drinking from the original and best bottle of driving champagne.

Populous, Imagineer 1991

The original so-called PC God ‘em up was developed by Bullfrog in 1989.

Like all strategy games of yesteryear, it’s an icon-driven isometric affair, on a scrolling but fixed tabletop area.

Why you’d want to I’m not sure but you can have the CPU verse each other, but it’s better to play rather than watch, right?

It’s the usual cliché of Good vs Evil so providing the necessary instruction is the key to overwhelm and conquer.

In the end, there can be only one.

You are given information on landscape, population (also strength of), hostility and expected rate of development.

Walkers are basically your army and can be developed into powerful knights to kick the broadest of bare buttocks.

Goodies and baddies are represented by blue and red dots respectively on an open book which serves as the map.

Similarly, settlements use the same colour code but favour flags over freckles.

The Manna Bar is used to create settlements, permit acts of God and expand your army.  You can expect its reservoir will deplete on use.

Divine intervention includes the creation of volcano, swamp, earthquakes, mountains and floods.

The Papal Magnate is the cross carrier, who must be protected.

Walkers build, fight and follow the leader like a herd of sheep.

Raising or lowering land is prevalent as this not only helps attack, but encourages your peeps to build.

The outcome of manual labour includes huts, tents and castles that are automatically armed.

For ultimate success, enemy settlements should be harassed before building your own.  Erecting structures above sea level and raising mountains greatly assists hindering enemy movement.

However, these large lumps of rock prevent building.

Also, land can be flattened and upgrades can be applied to buildings.

Removing the land beneath will drown and when the leader drops the cross, they will stop at nothing to acquire the object (even if means dying).

You’ve got to admire their suicidal dedication.

Armageddon is the ultimate form of destruction and sees all units go to their respective leader as the population gathers for the final battle.  During which, all settlements and knights are wiped out.

The prudent will only call upon this power when the enemy is vastly outnumbered.

Apart from feudal Japan, terrain includes snow, ice, grassland and desert.

If you like what you see and play, this has your ass covered because the resilient can oversee hundreds of maps.

Crazy shit involves computer viruses, aliens and unique to this version, piggies fight against the big bad wolf.

The game is predictably won or lost when either side is completely obliterated.

In regards to sound, your heart may skip a beat but at least it can be turned off.

I wouldn’t say this was painfully slow but compared to PC, and even Mega Drive, it crawls.

Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods, Imagineer 1991

The mouse squeaks and theoretically, the experience is more fluent.

Long ago, when humans lived at one with the Gods, Zeus’s son (bore by a mortal woman), grew up in Olympus.

Gods of Greek mythology that need to be taught a lesson include Hades, Athena, Ares, Poseidon and Zeus himself.

Little has changed to procedural practice as we set about levelling the land, unleashing divinity, repairing settlements, population expansion and retreating when necessary.

We still have a Manna bar, blue and red blobs and the Papal Magnate

Flat ground dictates settlement size and walkers generate Manna for God power.

After winning a match, a bonus will be given and the opportunity should be taken to upgrade.

As well as walkers, leaders can now be turned into heroes who possess their own powers to wreak havoc.

Divine intervention has been vastly expanded as the power of categories proudly demonstrate.

Nature – (Adonis), flowers, trees, swamp and fungus.
Earth – (Hercules), roads, walls, mountains and earthquake.
Wind – (Odysseus), lightning, storm and whirlwind.
Fire – (Achilles), fire and volcano.
Water – (Helen), whirlpool and tidal waves.
People – (Perseus), Armageddon and plague.

I’m sure that Helen cannot launch a thousand ships…

This benefits from a graphical overhaul but is vastly scaled down.

On PC, hundreds of maps existed and the next opponent was determined by performance.

The SNES version unfortunately favours a linear fashion as you can’t progress until you defeat a current God and less than 50 levels exist.

I suppose this was all down to processing power.

As with most of these strategy animals, it’s always best to play on PC but both retain the ambitious spirit and feel of the originals.

Populous: The Beginning went 3D and a shaman oversaw the attack against rival tribes on various territory and planets.

Released on PC and PS1, it slipped through my celestial net.

SOS, Human Entertainment 1994

Septentrion isn’t a name that sticks like glue but I’m sure our friends in Japan had their reasons.

Clearly influenced by disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure, I liked this, eight days a week.

While doing what giant floating vessels do, luxury cruise ship Lady Crithania springs a leak.

She’s going down and we must get the fuck out of dodge before we’re condemned to a watery grave.

Four chars of different occupations are available such as a medical professional or architect, each with their own story and dialogue.

The screen is constantly bobbing and talking to the concerned brings information.

Mode 7 is usually a fancy graphical effect to wow the player but here, it’s an essential gameplay requirement in order to progress.

As you rotate the screen, falling off is entirely possible.

Arrows act a guide as you attempt to escape the labyrinth before it’s too late.

Synchronise watches because you have exactly 1 real time hour to get out before the ship capsizes.

Music is more dramatic than any Shakespearean tragedy and as the water fills, the pressure boils more than forgotten sauce on the hob.

Along the way, you’ll meet and rescue crew who need little invitation to join.

You can ‘die’ but upon re-spawning, the timer doesn’t make allowances…

When the specific room is found, you can exhale a sigh of relief.

The outcome of escape is dependent on how many are rescued and particularly, if those are important to the chosen protagonist.

Games of this nature are few and far between and because this isn’t the result of some asshole taking a film licence dump, success is distinctly modest.

Okay, apart from aiming for a better time, there’s not a great deal left to do after you’ve exhausted every possibility and scenario but that doesn’t detract from its bold innovation.

The Pirates of Dark Water, Sunsoft 1994

You’d normally associate The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo with Hanna Barbera but clearly there’s more to them then meets the eye.

Adapted from the fairly obscure cartoon, Prince Ren, Ioz and Tula must find all 7 Treasures of Rule to regain control of the Dark Water and bring peace to the submerged world of Mer.

If Pirate Lord Bloth and his loyal army acquire the treasures, Mer will be blanketed in darkness.

Instead of an exciting swashbuckling affair, this is a mediocre version of Final Fight as you, (or with a friend), must resist the might of Bloth’s army.

The only thing separating this generic nonsense is being able to block as that isn’t particularly common.

Rum guzzlers literally come in all kinds of shapes and sizes but repeat, very quickly.

Treasure hunting will take your heroic ass to a marketplace, jungle, desert and palace.

Bosses are few and far between but the Lug Brothers and Kiroptus provide a break from repetition.

While nothing great or even good, taking flight on feathered dragon thing Feryx provides a shmup section.

The Maelstrom is Bloth’s floating crate and as a nice touch, constantly bobs to encourage the feeling of maritime sickness.  Adding to proceedings are lightning strikes, pouring rain and areas that catch fire.

Bloth carries the reputation of a salad dodging pirate around his waist.

Rubbish music and depressing sound suffocates mild amusement but simultaneous play is always a welcome substitute.

Donkey Kong Country, Rare 1994

Let’s face it, only King Kong beats his chest better.

First appearing in 1981, he and his family have come on in leaps and bounds.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is available on Nintendo HD.

After each SNES release, the Game Boy had their own monochrome interpretation (which also became a trilogy), as the gang traversed over Donkey Kong Land.

A right old fuss was publicised over the impressive visuals that Silicon Graphics implants allowed.

Rendered char models meant general loveliness was emitted from 32 megs.

Those apes are going bananas because King K. Rool and his Kremlings have stolen their precious fruit horde and Donkey and Diddy are out to steal them back.

The titular char starts off on his tod but Diddy is quickly found in a barrel.  They act as a tag team while the CPU follows whoever’s in control.

If one departs, no prob bob, as the other can easily got again.

Donkey is stronger while Diddy counteracts this with agility.

Apart from throwing barrels and rolling, eliminating danger by jumping on heads is predominantly used.

Climb, jump and swing.  Monkey say, monkey do.

Various family members should be visited on your travels as Cranky gives tips and general information while Candy saves progress.

Like coins in Mario, bananas aren’t exactly well hidden and are often shaped as an arrow to give an unsubtle hint for more.

Jumping inside non breakable barrels provide the launch to unreachable areas for further treats.

Destroying some crates will permit an animal ride.

Enguarde (swordfish), Expresso (ostrich), Rambi (rhino), Winky (frog) and Squawks (parrot).

If three golden objects are obtained, this will see you playing the corresponding beast and the opportunity to obtain more lives than a cat.

Kremlings aside, enemies range from beavers, armadillos, snakes, bees, sharks, clams and anemones.

Typical platform action is broken up by taking an occasional dip.

Bosses and platforms go together like fish and chips but are just genetically modified versions of smaller varieties.

Bumble B, Gnawty and Necky are timid dangers that usually need dispatching with barrels, rather than jumping on heads.

King Rool is found on Gang-Plank Galleon and he’ll be back…

Ambience throughout is suitably sleek as a stir of echoes suits the mood of whatever area.

Rendered models are unsurprisingly great in terms of movement and look.

Stages are full of classy effects and visual gloss extends to environs including glacier, caverns, jungle, mines and factory.

Lightning flashes, rain pours, snow falls and fog also engulfs proceedings.

The backgrounds are fairly lush but the colours that accompany are a drab and depressing washed out mess.

Scenery and stages annoyingly repeat as new colours and increased difficulty fails to hide distinct laziness.

So despite an advanced coat of technical paint, we tolerate a very linear affair with originality firmly taking a back seat.

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Rare 1995

The Kremlings and K. Rool successfully battle scurvy as the golden age of piracy is washed down with a bottle of rum.

We start on Gangplank Galleon, the final scene from the original game.

I suppose it’s like the principle of The Two Towers because not too long after it starts, we see Gandalf fighting the Balrog, following on from The Fellowship of the Ring.

As Donkey Kong is a bit tied up, it’s up to Diddy and girlfriend Dixie to rescue their banana chomping, tree swinging pal.

Dixie is able to glide and apart from offering a piggyback, it’s also possible to throw each other.

Animals that could be rode before return but Rattly the snake and Squitter the spider provide new amusement.

Of the arachnid, is he so-called for the notoriety of diarrhoea?

Those barrels are at it again and when mini games are completed, the reward of Kremcoins and stars await.

You’ll find Cranky at Monkey Museum and those with money to burn can pay Cranky for various tips.

Swanky allows you to play a quiz about the game and if you’re not happy with your own, the knowledgeable will get a life.

Wrinkly wears his education cap at Kong College and teaches how to play.  He also swaps the role of saving with Candy.

Providing you’ve previously visited, Funky and his even funkier flights can take you anywhere on Crocodile Isle.

It isn’t just friendlies you’ll meet as Klubba’s Kiosk and a toll bridge stands between you and accessing the Kremling’s Lost World.

If you want in, you’ve gotta pay but isn’t mandatory.

Kremcoins is the key to finishing the game properly but beating K. Rool and completing all bonus levels also needs to be achieved.

75 coins are needed to unlock all secret levels.

The determined will venture over a new world (providing that all secret coins are found within the confines of a normal world are unlocked) where special video game hero award coins hide including Mario, Link and Yoshi.

The element of wildlife threat is expanded with bugs, fish, rays, rats, porcupines, seals, dragonflies and crocodiles make life marginally difficult for the gruesome twosome.

Visuals have definitely improved since the gang’s last outing and are vastly more interesting.

Mist surrounds rigging in Gangplank Galleon and a submerged ship forces a swim.

Things warm up in a volcano but the temperature soon drops when ice sparkles.

This place is apparently a gold mine so we should invest before somebody else does…

Honeycombs drip the obvious sticky syrup and a spooky forest blows a hard gale that halts progress.

All the fun of the fair forces a rollercoaster ride while fireworks explode in the sky.

Bosses are arguably even worse as a sword and club wielding crocodile fails to cut the mustard.

After a duel with King Rool, another adventure ends.

We appreciate a more impressive outing as superior graphics, sound and overall atmosphere counteracts a straightforward feel.

Importantly, the splashes of colour are more vibrant than its predecessor.

Having said that, levels with different colours still suffer repetition but the option of lengthening play by seeking out more coin satisfies.

Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble, Rare 1996

Before unzipping and eating the 64 bit fruit, the Kongs have unfinished monkey business to settle.

Not only has Donkey gone (again), they’ve also added Diddy to the kidnapping collection.

Dixie is left to lead the charge and long with new sidekick cousin Kiddy, prepare to board a banana train that is no longer ripe.

Wrinkly is still your saving grace and Swanky’s Sideshow has games to play without Bob.

Funky has lost the flight of fancy but a boat is handy when it comes to riding the high seas.

He builds other vehicles when you hand over parts (acquired on boss victories), including a turbo ski and hovercraft.

I believe the ultimate ride is a gyrocopter but only becomes available when enough Donkey Kong (DK) coins are got.

The map is a more animated event and becomes interactive as bathing in the drink is eminently possible.

A major change exists in NPC personnel as the Brothers Bear are stationed all over the shop.

Brash, Blunder, Bazaar, Bramble, Blue, Bazooka, Barnacle, Blizzard, Barter, Baffle and Boomer provide information and waste your time.

We also meet Benny and Bjorn making for an obvious ABBA reference.

I guess they didn’t like Agnetha and Anni-Frid...

Apart from DK coins, discovering Banana Bird caves is the only way to officially wrap this final present up.

Once inside, each of the blue, red and yellow crystals will chirp and it’s up to you to input the correct button combination to mimic what’s heard, thus freeing those feathered friends.

Keep at it and you’ll end up rescuing the Banana Bird Queen.

Animals can still be exploited; bonus barrels refuse to budge and chomping on the ubiquitous fruit are all staple diet.

Birds, fish, wasps and Kremlings are all out to get Dixie and Kiddy as they bid farewell to 16 bits.

Stages reek of opulence and such sights include a jungle, church belfry, forest, snow, waterfall, tree tops, sewage pipes, cave and laboratory.

As a visual spectacle, underwater sections truly excel.

Fighting various Big Time Bad Guys (yes really), including Belcha, Arich and Kaos ensure we’ve more than had our fill of boring boss battles.

There is some brief frostbite as Bleak the bad tempered snowman is fought from a FPS perspective.

Assuming the new guise of Baron K. Roolenstein, K. Rool turns scientific.

His surname must be a pun on Victor Frankenstein and I guess Baron is a reference to Munchausen.

However, “if it wasn’t for you meddling kids” is a certain tribute to Scooby Doo.

Donkey and Diddy are reunited with the gang and unless the want for DK coins is uncontrollable, that is indeed that.

This is the nicest looking of all and the quality of sound equally delights.

The sense of scenery déjà vu sticks faster than glue and while the generic nature refuses to shed its skin, secrets do compensate.

Although Donkey Kong is a brand that I’ll never go ape shit over, it’s a very playable affair and those gorgeous graphics easily persuade one to beat his/her chest.

U.N. Squadron, Capcom 1991

Capcom bought the rights from Daipro and the kitchen table was laid to produce a 1989 arcade smash worthy of Area 88, the hit Manga in which it was based on.

Unless you owned the Japanese version, it is most associated by this misleading alter ego.

Come on.  My ass has more to do with the United Nations.

The arcade only sequel was inoffensively called Carrier Airwing in the US but perversely, was known as U.S. Navy in Japan.

Now it’s time for the port to receive full on firepower.

After choosing from one of three mercenaries who each handle weapons differently, it’s chocks away chaps.

Blasting the shit out of all things that pose peril brings the reward of dosh.

Unlike many of this ilk, your craft can take some punishment before dying.

As stages fall by the wayside, you can usually attempt a non compulsory side mission to earn more wonga by making enemy placements go bang.

Some dude will happily sell better planes and arsenal at his very exclusive shop and relieve the strain of financial gain.

Upgrading to air freight is fairly essential as they can fire what others can’t…

The successful will fight through ten missions of relentless action and is a challenging pleasure rather than a snore chore.

We’ll fly over sea, forest and desert while negotiating cloud and cave.

Enemy forces stem from fighter planes, gun turrets, tanks, jets and missile happy vehicles.

Those big and rather bad range from a stealth bomber to gun fortress, submarine, giant battleship, helicopter and aircraft carrier.

Minor complaints include claustrophobic environments so you’ll find yourself getting hit more times than you maybe should.

Simultaneous two player action is sensibly missing because I have no idea how to resuscitate a processor from the inconvenience of cardiac arrest.

Bringing home the bacon reaps the unexpected novelty of more crafts and weaponry.

Gradius III poured different gravy compared to insert coin and albeit on a less radical scale, the same applies here.

In the arcade, a new look sub and huge battleship is combined as one but are treated separately on the SNES.

The door swings both ways because the final mission focused solely on the Project 4 fortress whereas the SNES played out an actual level, with a new overweight chopper boss and tinkered finale.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I prefer the home port and that’s not something to be taken lightly.

Finally, how can music packing more tin than a container housing beans kick more ass than Bruce Lee?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Robocop - The scoop and digest

When it comes to satirising American consumerism, only George A. Romero’s ultimate zombie film Dawn of the Dead emulates Paul Verhoeven’s seminal work.

I've vehemently opposed this from the very beginning and predictably, millions of other similar groans reverberated across the globe.

So come on Jose Padilha, prove me wrong.

Dead or alive, plot details and/or spoilers are coming with me.

Staring down the barrel of dystopian despair includes:

Joel Kinnaman – Alex Murphy/Robocop
Michael Keaton – Raymond Sellars
Gary Oldman – Dennett Norton
Samuel L. Jackson – Patrick Novak
Abbie Cornish – Clara
Jackie Earle Haley - Mattox

In the 21st century, OmniCorp is the forefront of robot technology and their products are distributed throughout the world.

We see ED-209's and new foot soldiers EM-208's assisting the prevention of crime overseas during The Novak Element.

I’m guessing that ‘EM’ stands for Enforcement Machine because I don’t think it’s actually revealed.

The Dreyfuss Act prevents mechanicals beating the street on American soil so CEO Raymond Sellars challenges scientist bigwig Dennett Norton to literally make a machine more human.

To realise this audacious dream, a guinea pig is required and after a car blows up in his face, Alex James Murphy is selected to become the poor schmuck to inadvertently volunteer.

Crime boss Antoine Vallon arranged the hit via crooked law enforcement, .

Murphy is quite disturbed by his new suit, er body, but is convinced by Norton to embrace this second chance and builds the confidence to confront the family in his permanent get up.

Military technician Mattox scoffs that dressing a human in robotic pants will never be as technically efficient as an actual robot and after facing off against EM-208’s in a simulation exercise, results show he’s well off the pace.

Norton retaliates by tampering with grey matter and lowers emotional intent to maximise tactical decision making.

As his brain becomes more independent, he overrides police priority and seeks answers from the very spot where it all went wrong.

Computing that Sellars isn't so squeaky clean and learning of Vallon’s involvement, he locates him at a drug factory.

Surprise!

Well not quite, as courtesy of a heads up, he and his goons are ready but Vallon is ultimately sent to meet his maker.

Back at the station, colleagues feel the brunt of his battered and bruised rage and believing that Police Chief Dean will sing like a well tuned canary, Mattox shuts Murphy's ass down.

He’s far from terminated and taken away for repair.

Sellars attempts to sway public opinion by appearing on Pat Novak's show and proceedings begin for the Dreyfuss Act to be repealed.

Sensing a lengthy stint in the grey bar hotel, Sellars arranges to erase his mistake...

A small army of ED-209’s await and Murphy is relentless in his pursuit to bring down Sellars who has taken Clara and David to the roof.

Like Mattox, Sellars is hides behind the protection of being a Red Asset but Murphy does enough to resist and successfully opens fire.

Novak informs that OCP is the parent company of OmniCorp and after a mother [beep], Robocop is rebuilt and the situation is brought to an end.

We know the reimagining drill and references remain obligatory.

During the simulation exercise, Mattox comments “I 'wouldn't' buy that for a dollar.”

The drug factory shoot out is here but completely pointless and ‘Directive 4’ brought by a pseudo wristwatch?

Oh dear...

In order to break free from a fallen ED-209, Murphy loses his arm in the process of escape.

During the building of Robocop, Bob Morton orders his crew to ‘lose the arm’.

Whether this was an intended reference is highly debatable and probably just done for effect.

Mia is forced to part company with an identical limb in the climax of Evil Dead 2013.

Surely a coincidence?

James Franco took 127 Hours to divorce his boulder friend while Arnold's good guy Terminator lost a limb when trapped by machinery in T2.

Pat Novak is Casey Wong so The Novak Element becomes Media Break.  I can’t remember her first name but I know his female colleague was Perkins, as in Jess Perkins.

Sellars begins as Bob Morton and then transforms into Dick Jones.

In Total Recall, Kate Beckinsale’s Lori is fused with Richter.

Antoine Vallon is a very expendable Clarence and only his known associates have less lead in their pencil.

The story revolves around police corruption, Murphy providing emotional analysis and much ado about nothing.

Like Ed Naha’s book, the human angle is expanded but commits protracted suffocation.

Action is paltry and even the ED-209 sequence disappoints more than opening a fridge and finding it empty.

I did like the black suit and scrolling news feeds include something like ‘beer is consumed more than water’ and ‘hookers in space’.

Basil Poledouris's famous theme is given a remix but using The Clash and their version of I Fought the Law for the end titles is particularly bizarre.

Padilha ditches the car for two wheeled transport and filled me with Dredd.

Thank Detroit he didn't choose a jetpack...

Remember that and Peter Weller’s replacement (Robert John Burke) in Robocop 3?

Ha ha ha.

Prime Directives have been deleted from on-board computer assisted memory, but thermo vision (thermograph in the original) is very briefly seen, along with a new targeting system.

Kinnaman does a fair job but leaves the worst until last when issuing the ‘dead or alive’ threat to Sellars.

Oldman almost parodies his superior Batman performance but Keaton is watchable as the slimy big cheese.

Bit part or not, Jackson’s screen presence is the perfect excuse to become ‘Robophobic’.

The wishy washy script is happy to bask in banality and “this is bullshit” is repeated on several occasions.

Wait a minute, I'm inclined to agree.

To paraphrase Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part II), “Hey assholes!  Leave these films alone!”

New vision or not, eliminating all memories of the original makes this bearable, but only if you ask water not to be wet.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

I, Frankenstein - The scoop and digest

Last year, I described this as sounding ‘interesting’.

Based on the graphic novel from Kevin Grevioux, Stuart Beattie serves up action popcorn and inevitably resists the gothic nature of Mary Shelley’s classic novel.

Ignoring the monochrome, Kenneth Branagh’s vision with De Niro as the monster is probably the best example.

In film and game, we've had Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Freddy vs Jason, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, Marvel vs Capcom and Monsters vs Aliens.

Street Fighter X Tekken is a familiar brawl and released only in Japan, the far more obscure Namco X Capcom was a PS2 tactical/action RPG hybrid.

Robocop versus The Terminator was originally a comic and adapted for various formats.

So that's a delightful selection and now we have the unofficial crossover of Gargoyles quarreling with Demons.

How can you go wrong?

Plot details and/or spoilers will ascend from heaven and descend into hell.

Embracing the assault includes:

Aaron Eckhart – Adam/The Creature/The Monster etc
Bill Nighy – Naberius
Jai Courtney – Queen Gideon
Yvonne Strahovski – Terra Wade

In 1795, the monster narrates and tells of his subsequent rejection by creator Victor Frankenstein.

The lead currently has long scraggy hair...

After his master succumbs to the cruel weather, demons attack but gargoyles prove to be the thorn in their side.

Goodies and baddies parade as humans until they push the CG button.

They bring it to Queen Gideon, ruler of the Gargoyle Order, who names the monster Adam.

The gargoyles explain demons must be destroyed by using a weapon of sacrament such as crucifix or holy water.  Of course, the Gargoyle Order glyph, of whatever the fuck it is, also helps.

Dark Prince Naberius sent his cohorts to capture Adam as he serves a greater purpose.

Adam chooses not to get involved in their war and leaves.

200 years later, the poor lamb is a social outcast among the human population.

Remember his long scraggy hair?

Well shit whatever bed, he’s had a haircut.

I’m suddenly in stitches.

Naberius is disguised as billionaire playboy Wessex and scientist Terra Wade is hired to research how to reanimate the deceased.

He needs Victor’s journal in order to discover the secret of Adam’s creation so tens of thousands of corpses can be reanimated and possessed with demon souls.

After a brief kerfuffle, Terra goes on the run with Adam and listens as the monster lays the war between gargoyles and demons all down.

Considering the future of all mankind is at stake, she takes the news pretty well.

The journal changes hands, powder puff fights break out and Terra is kidnapped by Mr Wessex.

Terra activates the machine and the corpses stashed below the Institute hope to reach 100%.

It’s almost like Demolition Man as Phoenix attempts to defrost, thus reanimate a modest army of Cryocons.

Naberius transforms into a laughable monster and of course, the baddie has to have his bit of fun with Adam.

Before attempting to possess Adam, Naberius is sliced three times in the body.

No, surely not.  That’s impossible.  The monster now has a soul.

How convenient.  Ha ha.

Consequently, the exorcism proves fruitless and the Gargoyle Order mark is completed.

Boom!

After spurning his companions, Adam vows to continue the fight and issues the line I, Frankenstein.

Can I be perfectly blunt?  Thanks.

This was fucking abysmal and surely a candidate for one of the dullest action fantasies of 2014.

It’s so spectacularly terrible; the squalor which rots among depravity would cease smelling rancid.

Have you ever seen Blade?  Wait a minute, who hasn't?

Well, you should immediately associate demon descent with vampire demise because of how they combust upon destruction.

Is the whole thing supposed to be some kind of rip off?

Dredd fans with long memories may point out that Naberius pops his clogs in a similar manner to the climax of Costa Del Blood, where the ultimate law enforcer goes up against Dracula.

Yeah, this geezer has enough balls to take on anything.

Using his trusty Lawgiver, Dredd designs a crucifix on his body that doesn't go down at all well with the Prince of Darkness.

Just to make sure, a stake is plunged into his foul black heart as a little insurance policy.

Don’t worry; I’m not accusing this of anything because such a suggestion is far too outlandish.

True desperation extends to using the camera zoom that is always found in Resident Evil.

Don’t you just hate it when people still wrongly label the monster as Frankenstein?

The assholes who wrote this tedium thought it would be fun to have Bill Nighy refer to Adam as Frankenstein.

Not once, but what I remember, at least twice.

There are some expected Underworld nods but CG is amateurish, with Gideon looking more like a stoned cat.

Eckhart grunts and groans through this sham, demon speak and script is unintentionally juvenile and Nighy tarnishes a versatile career by making a rubbish villain.

Performances from those in support are so wooden, they could be used to build a fence.

Trust me; no self-respecting oven would entertain roasting this turkey.
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