Friday, 30 October 2015

This Months retro Video Game purchases:October 2015


OK so it is that time of the month again, the time when one month is almost over and a new one is about to begin, so its is once again time look at the retro purchases I have made. Last month I had a few things that were more important than games like my fiancées birthday, this month I haven't really had any financial obligations and yet I don't really think I got very much game wise. I guess this is because a lot of the time I have been sitting on my hands trying to save cash to take care of Christmas and I even brought some of the presents I need to buy largely because I hate rushing around at the last minute. I do realise that this is very list like and some might find it a bit dry and boring compared to my reviews but I know that some people do enjoy this kind of thing and it also serves me as a reminder of when I am maybe spending a little too much on my hobby.

I didn't actually make my first purchase until Monday the 5th of October and then they were not the most retro of games being as they were Wii titles. I got Donkey Kong Jet race and Donkey Kong jungle beat for £5 both of them boxed and complete from a pawn store. Jet Race was one of those games that I always wanted to get but also figured I would find average at best, I more wanted to get it for the collection than to play so wanted to wait for a low price. I also I ordered a Japanese boxed copy of Fire Pro Wrestling for the SNES for £5 including postage which turned up a few days latter.

The following day I did my rounds of the local charity shops and managed to find a few original Xbox games boxed and complete with good condition discs for £1 each. I got Enter the Matrix, WWE Raw, Max Payne. Desert Storm, Ghost Recon, and RobotWars Extreme Destruction. So nothing that impressive although having owned WWE Raw before I have to admit to having a soft spot for it. I also ordered an American SNES cart of Family feud for £3 including postage, which if you read this blog you will see I have already reviewed as part of my SNES review series, this is pretty much the only reason I got it, but my other half did spend a good few hours playing it and enjoyed it far more than me.

On the 8th I got a few PSP games today all fully boxed with manuals for £1.29 each, these were Avatar the Game, ScarFace and Marvel Ultimate alliance. The following day I got a Japanese SNES cart All Star Dream Slam (Women's wrestling) which cost me £3 and in all honesty beyond seeing it turn on I haven't even played it yet and I fully intended to play it as soon as it arrived.

On the 10th I got Bass Masters Classic for the SNES NTSC American boxed (but with no manual) for £5 postage included and Corporation for the Megadrive for £2 (again including post) cart only arrive in the post and then two days latter I got Zero Tolerance for megadrive boxed complete for £3 and Talmit's Adventure for megadrive just the cart for £2 (again this was through the post and postage was included).

On october the 13th I walked in to Grainger games after work and grabbed a few PSP games, Undead Knights complete for £5, dungeon siege throne of agony complete for £3, Monster Hunter freedom 2 for £2 and Key of Heaven for psp £1

On the 15th I had one of those strange situations where I was almost sure I owned a game from my childhood and then upon realising I didn't decided that I really really needed it, hence I ended up buying Wrestle War for the Megadrive complete for £4, at the same time I picked up the Gameboy game and watch gallery cart for £1

The following day I got a copy of Thunder Force 2 for the Megadrive which had the cart and the box but was missing the manual for £8, this and the above Wrestle War were two of the things I was happiest to get this month. At the same time I also got Dogs life for the playstation 2 complete for 50pence, Dexters labratory Mandarks Lab? for the PS1 Complete for £1, Tomb raider legend disc and case for psp for 30pence, Tomb raider anniversary for psp complete 30pence, Medal of honour heroes 2 disc and case for psp for 30pence and Harry Potter and the goblet of fire complete for the psp for £1.

On the 23rd I got Top gear Rally for the N64 , cart, manual and a very flat box for £3, Dick Tracy for the Megadrive Case and Cart (No manual) for £4, Ghost recon 2 for the psp complete for £1 and Worms open warfare 2 for the psp complete for £1. The following day I got Pit Fighter for gamebiy just the cart for 99pence (Yes I do know its going to be awful, sometimes I just like to see how bad for myself) and Sonic Unleashed complete for the wii for £2.99 again its one of those games I wanted to get but not pay much for due to its somewhat ropey reviews.

On the 27th I Spent £14 on the following complete PSP Games, 300 March to glory (Two copies),world tour soccer 2, X-men legends 2 rise of apocalypse, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters (Platinum re-release),medal of honour heroes, sega megadrive collection, Aliens vs predator requiem, Star Wars Battlefront 2. I got them as a single purchase from a seller who just wanted a set price to get rid of everything but I figured it was a fair price so didnt quibble or start asking if I could just have this or that.

My last purchase was on the 28th and was in fact from Game. I tend to go in mostly to see if they have any PSP or Wii things that are cheap and in this case due to there 3 for 2 offer I got 3 complete Wii games for £9. I got Medal of Honour heroes 2, Battalion wars 2 and Obscure 2. In honesty I really wanted Obscure 2 because I have the first one on the xbox and despite it not being perfect I enjoy it and wanted to get the second on something, it was £5 and the other two games were £4 each so I just grabbed something as it felt silly just to get the one thing and miss out, yep I guess its the old 3 for 2 deal and I was roped in but I don't feel bad about it.

I know there is still 1 day left in the month but its Halloween and I intend to watch lots of horror not buy games. On the other front I have really held off buying any actual new games and have instead made myself play retro games and Xbox One games I haven't finished yet. It was a very PSP heavy month and I think that will proberbly be something that starts winding down, I am seeing less and less of it and I have no real intention of popping large amounts of cash on buying obscure psp games I don't already own, although there are a few RPG's I wouldnt mind getting if I see them for the right price.

Still if my adding is right that means I spent £103.25 on retro games this month, which is around £26 a week, it might sound bad but I don't drink, smoke or take drugs so I guess my money could be being spent on far worse vices.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

SNES Review 101: Tiny Toons Wacky Sports

It’s not so long ago that I reviewed the SNES platformer Buster Busts loose a platformer based on the cartoon Tiny Toon Adventures made by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. So I will try not to spend to long going on about this being a licensed game and where the license came from as I am reviewing another Tiny Toons related game.  Over here (and in the rest of Europe) the game I am reviewing was called Tiny Toon Adventures: Wild & Wacky Sports in the American markets it was called Tiny Toon Adventures: Wacky Sports Challenge and in Japan it was known as Tiny Toon Adventures: Dotabata Daiundoukai. It was released in 1994 for the Super NES and was once again both developed and published by Konami.

So this is a license but once again it’s a license being made by Konami who we must remember back in the SNES days could more or less do no wrong they were one of the prize producers for the machine making hit after hit. Also in case you haven’t guessed by the Wacky sports name this game is basically a quirky game featuring lots of little sort of ‘’sports’’ based events and as most people will know Konami were responsible for one of the most well-known multi sports games of all time Track & Field( or Hyper Olympics as it was known in Japan).

For those not familiar with Track and field it had very simple gameplay, based on quick repeating button presses, but what it really managed to do was to open the flood gates and set the basics down in stone for a whole bunch of games that would follow it, it was essentially the start of the multi sports button bashing sub-genre. It laid down all of the basic ideas that would go on to be seen in this type of game. The NES version of Track and Field was very well-received, and also sold well. Surprisingly Konami did not make a proper direct SNES follow up instead they would wait until the N64 which would get International Track & Field 2000 (as well as a winter Olympics based game which worked in much the same way).

Now personally I see this as a kind of crazy off shot of the Track and Field series, yes it can be a bit silly and a bit kiddy but it is a very fun party type game that is great fun when played with a second player but it’s also worth noting that it's one of the few SNES games to support the SNES Multitap , and if you have one of these and enough pads then four of  you can play against each other at the same time.

So to start with if you’re playing on your own you choose a Tiny Toon from Buster, Babs, Plucky, or Dizzy and then you go through a bunch of wacky events and compete for the gold. It's kind of like Track and Field but with Tiny Toon characters and less obvious sporting events. There is a big variety in the events and there all wacky. There are around twelve events, I won’t list all of them for you, but here is a quick sample to show you the kind of things you will be doing, there is weightlifting, the chicken dash, bungee jumping and ice cream throwing.

The way to win is basically to score the most points, if you’re playing on your own then the computer will take control of the other tiny toons. Hampton the pig will tell you the rules of each event before they start. After the event the points gets calculated and you find out who has won that event and who has come second and so on. Once you have completed all of the events for your current game the overall winners are announced and you will get to see who has won the Bronze, Silver and Gold medal.

The main drawback with this game is that once you get the hang of most events well it really is not too hard to beat the computer, the game soon becomes boring as a one player game however grab a  friend or hopefully three and this just see’s the fun ramp up.

Unusually for a game of this type there is actually a story. Montana Max who if you haven’t seen the show can basically be described as a super-rich brat, think richy rich but a wanker, well for some reason probably the fact he is bored has decided to hold a sports contest with weird events. As a prize Max has offered a Million to the winner and each of the 4 competitors has their eyes on the money because they each have an individual dream that they need it for, if you want to find out if there dream comes true or not then you will need to pick that person and finish the game.

Both the sound effects and music fit the game well, there are cartoon boing noises when someone messes up for example. The music is nothing you are really going to listen to outside of the game but it does fit its purpose well, for example the music during the races has the right kind of beat to it to get you in the mood to work like mad to try to win. The sounds are clear and feel like they were taken directly from the cartoon, the theme tune is also used even though it is without lyrics obviously. The graphics in this game are nice and bright, they are pretty good for the SNES and look and feel a lot like those seen in Buster Busts Loose, these two games certainly can sit side by side as good companion pieces when you think about the fact there made by the same company, for the same machine and feature the same cast. The graphics and sounds together certainly help set the mood for this game and make it feel a lot like the show it is based on.

So I have gone through almost everything, what kind of a game this is, its story, the sound and graphics so that leaves the one most important thing and that’s how the game plays. In my opinion the controls are nice and easy, they are all explained to you prior to the events. The characters all play exactly the same which is no bad thing as it means no one is in any way at a disadvantage well not unless they have ended up with the last pad you have left in four player mode and it happens to be a awful 3rd party piece of tat (Let’s face it back in the SNES days this was a situation you would often find yourself in, popping round someone’s house for a game, being the last one there and having to nurse your way through a game or two with a crappy pad, and even if you did get one of the good pads you’d have to put up with the moans of the poor soul who didn’t)

The controls are good and responsive but like a lot of games of this type you better darn well have strong thumbs because during some of the events you will find yourself having to batter two buttons as fast as you possibly can in order to win, there is also the argument that if you get in to this with some real gusto then your probably not doing your pads buttons any big favours. That's if you want to win and get a very high score.

This is one of those games which I think it is a little hard to rate, after all you have to look at the game in two ways, you have to look at it as a single player game and a multiplayer. As a single player game it’s a fun little distraction but you will soon tire of it, and to this degree it is a little hard to seriously recommend it. If however you own a multi-tap and enough decent pads and regularly have friends around who enjoy playing 16bit games with you then this is an ace title to slap on in the middle of a gaming night, few rounds of bomberman, some Mario kart, followed by winner stays on street fighter and then chuck this on for a while before moving on to something like NBA Jam and it will be fun all round. I think I would give this game a 7 out of 10 but I only recommend it for purchase as a multiplayer title. So if you want this game how much are you looking at paying? Well the average price for a loose cart version of it tends to go for between £15 to £20 and there is very little saving to be made in going for an import copy, it’s not cheap and if you’re going to be playing it on your own its simply not worth it, but as a multiplayer game I think it’s worth it. What did I pay? Well my fiancé got it me along with Cool Spot, Asterix and ClayMates for the awesome price of £23, so I have to thank her for this one.

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Early years of the WWE Hall of Fame

So here is a quick look at the early years of the WWE Hall of Fame.

So what is the WWE Hall of Fame well put simply it is a hall of fame for professional wrestling personalities maintained by WWE. Or to put it more simply its a list of people who it is felt have had a major impact on the WWE brand and company.

It was first mentioned and officially created on the March 22nd 1993 episode of Monday Night Raw. André the Giant, had died around about two months prior to this, and he was announced as the sole inductee.I don't think there is really anyone who would debate whether the Giant deserved his place in the hall,so he was certainly a good starting point. He was a Posthumous inductee as it was held after his death, there was no actual ceremony but a Video was made and shown to announce his induction and celebrate his career, a career which included an undefeated streak lasting nearly 15 years, as well as being both a former WWE Champion and WWE Tag Team champion.

The 1994 and 1995 ceremonies were held in conjunction with the annual King of the Ring pay-per-view events. The 1994 ceremony saw the following added to the hall, Arnold Skaaland, Bobo Brazil, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, Chief Jay Strongbow, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Gorilla Monsoon and James Dudley. Now I wont talk about all of these in turn as I would be here all day and a lot of them are either before my time or I know of them for there other work, for example I know Gorilla Monsoon for his stint as a WWF announcer and on-screen President rather than for his actual in ring career, all of them with the exception of Buddy Rogers were alive at the time of there induction.

The 1995 ceremony saw the induction of stars such as Antonino Rocca, "Big Cat" Ernie Ladd, George "The Animal" Steele, Ivan Putski, The Fabulous Moolah, The Grand Wizard, and Pedro Morales. Again a lot of these wrestlers were before my time, with the only one I really hold a lot of memories and affection for being the lovable monster heel character of George The Animal Steele. The year is proberbly most worthy of note for being the first time a Woman found her way in to the WWE Hall of fame.

In 1996, the Hall of Fame ceremony was held with the Survivor Series event that year. This year would see "Baron" Mikel Scicluna, "Captain" Lou Albano, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, The Valiant Brothers (the first tag team to go into the hall) Johnny Rodz, Killer Kowalski, Pat Patterson, and Vincent J. McMahon AKA McMahon Senior. Captain Lou Albano was obviously very well known particularly as a manager and many kids will know him as being the real life Mario who featured at the start and end of episodes of the Super Mario Bros Super show. Jimmy Snuka will also most likly be known because of firstly the fact that he achieved super fame in the company and has kept popping up again and again but also unfortunatly because of the fact that he is currently facing a court case in relation to a death around 20 years ago. This makes it the first year in which we have a super star entering the hall who will latter be removed from it in at least some capacity (As of September 2015, Jimmy Snuka's profile is no longer in the Hall of Fame section at WWE.com. However, this does not necessarily mean that Snuka has been removed from the WWE Hall of Fame completely as no statement has been made by WWE yet in regards to this, nor do we know if one ever will be).

So there we have the first 4 years of the Hall of Fame and by my reckoning around the first 22 people to enter it. At this point it felt like the Hall of Fame would just keep going, getting bigger and bigger but suprisingly it stopped being mentioned and no new blood would be inducted in to it until 2004. None of these early ceremonies were televised with the exception of the video made to induct Andre.

So is the Hall of Fame a real physical thing or is it just a list, well technically a building has never been built to represent/house the Hall of Fame, although I have heard that WWE has looked into constructing this kind of thing, however In 2008, Shane McMahon, who was at the time Executive Vice President of WWE, stated that they had been storing wrestling memorabilia in a warehouse for years, with all items categorized and dated in case a real Hall was ever made. Now while I am very glad to hear that they are at least storing significant items its a shame we dont get to see them. I would argue that if they cant or do not at present want to create a real physical hall then maybe the next best thing would be a virtual hall of fame, let us see and virtually interact with this pieces of wrestling memrobelia, photo them from every angle and let us virtually turn them around and study them while reading about the greats that they are connected to, this way if they are ever lost or damaged they will live on in this way.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Monster Club was a film which I had always believed to be a late possibly final instalment in Amicus studios portmanteau series (there horror anthology series), however it wasnt it just feels like one, it in fact was made by a production comapny called Sword and Socery Productions and is one of only two films made by them.. Now I have talked about horror anthology films on several occasions because of some of them featuring either actors from Doctor Who or stories taken from EC comics or in one case both. This film features neither of these things but it does feature Vincent Price one of my favourite actors of all time, besides I love this style of film so much that is more than enough reason to dive in to another one.

The wrap around story to the film is about a horror writer called R.Chetwynd-Hayes played by John Carradine who happens to meet a Vampire named Erasmus played by the one and only Vincent Price .Erasmus  takes his fill of the authors blood but after recognizing him becomes all apologetic and reveals himself to be a fan of the man's work. He tells the writer that he feels he owes him something and so invites him to The Monster Club mentioning that it might be a good way for the author to find some new ideas for hie next book.

Arriving at the club we are met with what can best be described as sort of a horror version of the StarWars Cantina, there are all sorts of different monsters walking about while an 80's band play songs about Monsters, it is a touch cheesy admittedly but then something happens which I think is absolutely wonderful.Vincent Prices character starts to talk about Monsters but more than this he starts to talk about Monsters Cross breading, what would happen if one type of monster was to breed with another. It is like one of those childhood conversations you would have with your friends you know what would happen if Dracula sunk his fangs into the wolf-man etcetera but here we have horror Legend Vincent Price talking us through monster cross-breads and cross-breads of cross-breads its a really interesting idea which I wish more films would return to.


This is a brilliant lead in to the first story in this anthology, as the story is about one of these cross-breads. In this story we have a relatively  young couple George and Angela who answer an advertisement in a newspaper. The add is looking for someone to take on the role as a cataloguer of antiques in an old manor.Angela goes and meets the owner who seems somewhat strange. Angerla is scared at first but soon settles in to her job in fact she soon seems to become friendly with her soft spoken and thoughtful employer. He is shown to be scared of the world outside of his manor, but he has a very soft and gentle side shown in the way he feeds and befriends the birds who visit him. Angela keeps saying to her partner George that she can not steel from this man but he keeps pressuring her to do just that. Eventually the kind seeming man tells her he is a Shadmock,(a Vampire/werewolf hybrid) and that he would like her to marry him. I wont spoil how this tale plays out but I like it, I like it for the hybrid monster, but more than that I like it because you never really see him as a monster, he is portrayed as kind and sensitive while it is the humans in the tale scheming and thinking about stealing.

The second story is about a young boy, a young boy whose dad just so happens to be a Vampire who is stalking his human prey on the London underground while being chased by a squad of Vampire hunters called the B-squad  lead by a man called Pickering played by Donald Pleasance (Doctor Lumis from Halloween). The boy doesn't know that his father is a Vampire, he thinks that his dad works at night and that this is why he sleeps during the night. At school he is teased and bullied for being a pale and wimpy child and Pickering witnessing this uses the boy to lead him and his team right to his Vampire father.

The first story is kind of sad, the second story although having its sad side with the child being bullied tends to end up being a little silly, neither of them are scary in any way shape or form. Add to this the music in-between the stories and a brilliant vibrant performance by Vincent Price and although not scary the film is pretty darn wonderful but I have to say it is after this that things get even better.

The third story is about an American movie Director scouting the English countryside to try and find  the perfect location for his upcoming movie. He finds a place on a map which no one has considered and decides to take a look himself. What he finds is a primitive town one that seems to be not only covered in fog but feel like it is from the past. It turns out that the people there are all Ghouls apart from a young girl he befriends who is a Humghoul (a Human and ghoul hybrid) the story is about his effort to escape and take her with him. The Ghouls are interesting, the story is well told and it feels different, there is a bit where he finds the notes of a man who took a ghoul in and bathed it and tried to show it kindness and who is asking god in return why this kindness was repaid with more pain and suffering for the village. I wont spoil the end but this is by far my favourite story.

After this there is a bit more Vincent Price, in particular he gives a speak which I would love to repeat here but I feel you need to hear him say the words, to experience his delivery of it to truly see how great it is. Single handedly he sums up though why humans are far more terrifying than any type of monster that has ever been dreamed up. The in between segments with Price and Carradine are  full of very bad monster make-up and  music which is very much a product of its time. Some people would argue that its a shame to see these two great horror legends working with this kind of material but the truth is they make a lot out of what there is, In some ways I would have preferred to see Price take centre stage in a great story within the anthology but here in this part he shows that he can give interesting speeches and explanations which make you forget about any low budget effects and what is more he seems to get in to the spirit of it all and really enjoys himself.

I would give the film an 8 out of 10, its a nice silly bit of fun which has a deeper message held inside it, yes it is cheesy at points and silly but it is also a lot of fun has some great performances in it and some brilliant ideas, I wish films like this were still around, I wish horror anthologies were still regularly made and that companies like Amicus were still around or that the company who made this had at least had a few more bashes at it.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

On my Soap Box: Germaine Greer, her opinion on Trans people and my opinion on this

Now most of the time I talk about Games and Horror, sometimes I slip in to talking about politics, morality or life issues but I am aware that maybe this bores some of my readers here looking for more entertainment based discussion. I work in a rather regular job but I do have a lot of education, an education which includes a Degree in social sciences and a high qualification in childcare. I have studied Politics, Philosophy, Business studies, Psychology, Sociology and although I no longer study any of them I still go back and read my old books and I also try to keep myself somewhat up to date.

Yet here I find myself more or less at the release of Halo 5 a admittedly important release about to talk about the comments of a Feminist. You see when I was a student I read a lot of books, learned about a great many thinkers in a great many fields. There were certain people or issues who grasped me more than others though and amongst them was feminism. Now its important to note that I am a man, a straight male both in body and mind so according to some this is not something I should worry myself over as I am part of the problem not the solution and any help I could give is to some unwanted and not needed. Still I found the work of many writers in this field to be fascinating and eye opening, obviously like everything I studied some of it made more sense to me or appealed to me more than other bits but there were big names in the field which over the years we kept going back to again and again.

For what it is worth Charlotte Perkins Gilman was probably the feminist whose writing I enjoyed the most. The reason for this is that I liked her style, she wrote some novels which although were fantasy in nature they were also filled with themes and questions which really stopped you and made you think. I would advise anyone with a passing interest who wants an easy yet thought provoking read to try her book Herland. I would argue that the central theme of Herland is defining gender. It looks at gender roles, at how gender is a how social construct. In the story a small band of men go on an adventure and find a land where there are only women, women who In comparison to the women of their world,appear to be a little more masculine. These women have short functional hair, they are physically strong they are very different to what these men are used to. There is a sort of double side to this though, one of the men can be seen as displaying some stereotypical feminine traits. As one of only four male students on a Social Sciences degree course amongst a good few hundred females, as a man who cares very deeply, a man who wanted to work with children and who would go on to be a single father to his daughter I guess this was something I could relate to I guess there were some caring instincts in me that others would see as being feminine attributes.

Still I digress another one of the big names we would constantly come back to in class was a certain Germaine Greer a woman who is regarded as one of the major voices of the second-wave feminist movement. Greer's ideas have often created controversy ever since her first book, The Female Eunuch. In brief she can be described as a liberation rather than equality feminist. Her goal is not equality with men, but women's liberation which according to her writing means embracing sex differences in a positive fashion, allowing women to ''define their own values, order their own priorities and decide their own fate." Now I am very into letting people be who they want to be, valuing everyone based on there own strengths whatever they might be and ignoring gender type stereotypes but there are still issues I massively disagree with Greer on for one she believes that women should give up monogamy, at my heart I am very pro monogamy and long term relationships because I am a romantic, I don't want a monogamous relationship with my partner to pin her down or own her, I want it because I want to spend my every waking moment with her, I love, admire, respect and adore her without end, if you call this wanting to own her well maybe I do but I want it to go both ways, however I do believe this is a choice and I respect people who make different choices.If you are poly then before you start chanting Greer's name remember she also has claimed to want women to drink there own menstral blood, that female genetial mutilation is ok and that Transgender people are delusional. This is the main reason I started writing this blog post.

On the one hand I have always held some respect for Greer and viewed anything really off she has said under the rule of ''well we all believe something stupid and let our mouths flap when we shouldnt now and then'' but this is the thing that has pushed my annoyance button.

A lot of Feminists will argue that women are treated like crap, but I have seen that if women are treated badly then quiet often transgenderd people are treated super bad. Yet the following quote is from Greer ''Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.''

You see to me what feminism should really be about it should be about respecting differences and recognising that traits can belong to anyone, women can be confident smart and resourceful just as men can be soft tender and caring traits should belong to people not to genders, we are all first and foremost individuals, most importantly though you are who you are on the inside, that is what is important and that is what counts. Greer feels she speaks for the downtrodden woman a type or person who is shit upon and who needs to break out from under the ice of there tomb in society, the truth is though that there are many oppressed and hurt groups suffering, some publicly and some in silence and it is deeply wrong to attack and make fun of another group. I am not young myself but I have to argue that maybe she is just old, stuck in her way and no longer understands the society she lives in, Charlotte Perkins Gilman died around 1935 and I think she had a better grasp of our modern world than Greer will ever have.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Movie Debate: What makes a good sequel?

So what makes a good sequel? While I was looking at all of the Demoni/Demons films and talking about which was a real sequel and which was a sequel in name only I was also trying to review the sequels to a limited extent, I was talking about if they felt like sequels but also if they were in fact good films. This got me thinking that for my next blog post maybe I should talk about what makes a good sequel. Now all of my examples and such will be based around film sequels but a lot of the points made within could also relate to video games or books.

Well an easy place to start would be to name a few really good sequels and then maybe think about what I like about one or two of them. The following are films which for one reason or another I believe are some of the best sequels you can find, not all of them will have a 2 plastered on the end but they are definitely considered real proper official sequels. OK so here is my list Dawn of the dead, The Empire Strikes back, Aliens, Star Trek 2 The Wrath of Kahn. I am not saying that these are the only good sequels or that they are the best but they are all sequels I respect and feel don't disappoint fans of the original.

So taking Aliens as a starting point, what does it take from the original film? Well it takes the character of Riply and it takes the alien creature the Xenomorph, it takes everything you learned and know from the first film about both this woman and this type of monster and then applies them to a new situation. It is definitely a sequel and feels like a sequel because it is the continuing story/adventures of Riply. So what is different? Well the first film was very much a horror film, there was one Alien hence the films title Alien and it basically stalked the crew of a ship the ship was a commercial spacecraft so they were just regular working people with no military training, there were also no real weapons on board with which to defend themselves, where as the Alien with its claws, its large frame, predatory instincts and acid for blood was a born killer. In the sequel Riply becomes the civilian advisor to a team of Colonial Marines basically bad ass soldiers with all of the weapons you could dream of, hand guns, plasma rifles, assault rifles, grenades, body armour, helmet cameras, they are tooled up trained professionals, professionals who would have killed that one lone Alien with very little trouble. The problem is that in this case they are not set against a lone Alien, rather they end up facing a relentless hoard of Aliens, yes they shoot, kill and incinerate lots of Aliens but with everyone they kill more and more just keep coming. It would be hard to call this a horror film like the first one, I would be inclined to think of it more as a Science Fiction Action movie with Elements of horror in it, in fact it kind of feels like a War film at times sort of either a Vietnam movie or one of those old Western fort under siege flicks. Yet this is one of my favourite sequels and that is because it has a strong connection to the original film bringing back both the last survivor and using the same Monster but it also is not afraid to take these set pieces and do something new and interesting with them instead of being just a cash in rehash of what came before.

Star Trek 2 the Wrath of Kahn and The Empire Strikes back are even more obvious than this, they are set in the same world's and feature pretty much all of the main characters from there respective prequels. Yet if we look at Dawn of the Dead the sequel to Night of the living dead there is no central character from the first movie returning to feature in the sequel, all that is returning is the monster, the Zombies.and these guys look a lot different, a lot better really. The first film was in black and white yet this sequel was in colour. The same Director was at the helm of both films and they were both based on his vision which wasn't true in the case of Alien and Aliens, Aliens was more like someone new jumping in to the original guys toy box and playing with the toys in his own way. So you can argue that in one way Dawn is a truer sequel because its by the same Director yet Aliens has a returning lead character, which one matters more? Well that depends on your own personal view, I don't mind somebody new being at the helm, new people can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective but I also don't mind sequels that are set in the same world but don't directly follow a certain persons story, in some cases it can be the world itself which is the central character.

So I guess basically a sequel is a continuation, it can be a continuation of a world story or a persons story or a whole group of peoples stories, it can be any of these things and be a good sequel as long as its good. If its the continuation of a person or a groups story then they don't have to do the exact same thing in the exact same place, if its a continuation of a worlds story it doesn't have to even be set in the same part of that world as the last film. A sequel can even be a part of a slightly different genre, what it has to do though is feel somehow connected and deliver something which will interest those who were interested in the original. Often it is when a sequel is too similar or far too different that it is considered bad, people will moan if something is just a rehash but then they will also moan if it doesn't feel connected at all. I think the best formula would be to take elements of the past but to use them to do either a completely new story or a continuing story which offers your fans something of the old while not overly repeating yourself to the point people might as well just save themselves some cash and watch the original again.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Demons/Demoni and the world of fake Italian horror sequels.

Well seeing as its October and Halloween draws ever closer it might be a good idea to touch on a few more horror related things then right? I could look at any number of films, I could look into other Doctor Who actors and their contributions to the world of horror, or I could look for a lesser known film that happens to have been done by a master of the genre or I could look at a dodgy sequel that doesn’t live up to the promising original film it follows

Well instead of any of that I am going to talk about the sort of sequels which exist in relation to various Italian Horror films.

Now most places will only call something a sequel if it actually is a continuation from a previous film but the Italians seem to often slap a well-known name on to what can best be thought of as a bastard sequel. A film that has no or very little true connection to the film it has been named after. As a youngster I used to watch films in a very passive manner, I would walk in to the local video shop and pick up the boxes, turn them over in my hands read the title and whatever description was on a box and make my choice based on that, if the film said it was Zombie flesh eaters 2 it was Zombie flesh eaters 2. This is how things pretty much remained until the internet for me at least. Sure from time to time I had thought well that film seemed to have sod all to do with the one before it, but I never gave it much thought beyond that. Along came the internet and all of a sudden there were whispers of this and that I think a moment that really interested me in it was when the Angry Video Game Nerd James Rolf did a video called Chronologically Confused about Sequel Titles. In this he talked about topics such as the weird way in which some sequel films are numbered but others are not. In this video he touched on the Zombie/Zombie Flesh eaters films and how the titles came about. Yeah he only briefly talked about this but it interested me, it made me read up on these films and in doing so I learned about other Italian horror sort of sequels.

This is when I learned that when it comes to Italian horror there is more than one type of sequel. The first kind of sequel is just what you would expect, it is a film which focuses on the original source material, the movie it is following and actually tries to be a legitimate follow up to its predecessor. The second is a sequel in name alone.it diverges from the original often being made by a different production team and/or studio yet it is made with the name of the early film attached from the very start usually as an attempt to stay true to the feel of the original film even if it is not really connected. Then, of course, there is the third type of sequel. This sequel will have no reference to the original, is a sequel in name only and was named as a sequel latter on solely to capitalize on the success of the movie it is piggybacking on.

Now there is the risk that a name might lead you to watch a film you wouldn’t otherwise watch, you might find yourself watching something which doesn’t feel like it has any connection at all to the film that brought you to it. Yes this can be a good thing because it can introduce you to something new and a little different but it can also leave you feeling cheated. I am sure that somewhere out there you would be able to find a complete list of every sort of sequel and all I can say is bravo to the man that has done that, but it’s not what I will be doing. That is main course style material, I consider this post more of a taster for the slightly interested. I also think it’s important to mention that just because something might be a ‘’fake’’ sequel this doesn’t mean that taken on its own as a piece of film that it is a bad movie and to be honest I find the whole smoke and mirrors aspect of this just as fascinating as the best films of this genre.

So today I am going to talk about  Demoni aka Demons and its various sort of sequels. Now the original Demons is a film directed by Lamberto Bava, produced and part written by Dario Argento. Now if I was to score this film or review it well let’s just say I would be giving it a rave review. I love it, it truly is an awesome film. It’s about Demons but you can more or less basically think about it as a zombie type movie, the demons bite and scratch people and pass on an infection/steal your soul in this way. The plot in its most basic form is that a group of people get free tickets to the screening of a horror movie, once they are there all hell breaks loose when someone becomes a demon everyone gets trapped in the movie theatre and the problem just grows from here. With every person who is killed popping up as another possessed demon it is one of those films were people battle just to stay alive, certain characters will grow on you and you’ll be eager for them to make it or be sad to see them pass away.

There is one direct true sequel to the original, 1985 classic. It occurs several years after the original and doesn’t follow on directly or focus on any character from the last one. Basically the demons strike again but this time in a large apartment building, they are without a doubt the same kind of demons, they pretty much look the same, they act the same basically because it was intended to be a sequel and both producer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava and others from the production team are involved in it. The return of said team seems to have kept cohesion in more than just movie feel and plot continuity. There is a completely new cast of human characters though but in a nice touch the actor Bobby Rhodes who was fantastic in the original as a Pimp, is in this film as a body builder. The musical style is also very similar even though the two films have a different composer at the helm. Both of these films are held in quiet high regard and have found themselves on both DVD and Blue ray. I would definitely advise you check them out. I would as a horror fan give the first a Solid 9. I love it, it is an all time classic horror movie, number 2 is a bit of a rehash and isent quiet up to the first films level but it gets a 7.5 without a shadow of a doubt, if you enjoy the first one and just want more of the same then youll absolutely eat it up.

So now what about Demons 3 you ask? Well that’s a totally different situation for a start I would have to ask a question and that question is which Demons 3 are we talking about? Well why don’t we do this based on which came first. The first film to be called Demons 3 was also called a whole lot of other things including L'ogre, The Ogre, House of the Ogre and basically any connection of these words and the words Demons 3 or Demoni III. It came out in 1988 and is most definitely a sequel in name only, there is nothing here which links to Demons or Demons 2 at all story wise. In fact I watched this one again earlier today and this was only my second viewing of it and will proberbly be my last for quite some time.  So I will sum up the basic story for you. Cheryl is an American, she is a horror author who is traveling with her husband Tom, and their young son Bobby. They go to a villa in rural Italy for a short vacation during which Cheryl plans to work on her latest book. Once there Cheryl begins having nightmares, these are the same nightmares she had as a child, they are nightmares of being stalked by a big ugly ogre

She tries to persuade her husband that the villa has a curse on it, a curse which is causing her nightmares to somehow manifest into reality. There is no hoard of demons, no growing army of the possessed only an ogre. Her husband basically thinks she is insane, that her horror writing has driven her over the edge. It is quite a slow film especially when compared to the likes of Demons and Demons 2 but I do think that certain ideas within it are very clever and there are some wonderful mood setting set pieces, it’s worth a watch but it’s no classic. So does it have anything in common with Demons? Well the director is Lamberto Bava but that’s basically it. The film although having a neat idea basically drags it out for too long and doesn’t give you enough bang for your buck, it’s not awful it’s just kind of average hence the score of 5 I would give it. There is the genesis of a good story in it though and some good set pieces there just far too weighed down in mediocrity.

 Well next there is the film known as The Church, Cathedral of Demons, The Demon Cathedral, La Chiesa, In the Land of the Demons and of course Demons 3. So is it Demons 3? Well on the one hand it once again has a  “Dario Argento Presents” tag on it.  Dario Argento also has a story and screenplay credit as well as a producer credit but there is no involvement from Lamberto Bava with this film instead being directed by Michele Soavi. Although the film is sometimes known by the title 'Demons 3', the script for 'The Church' has nothing to do with the rest of the Demons series. Apparently at one point it was originally conceived as another entry in the Demons series, but director Michele Soavi insisted that the film stand alone and not be connected with the films Demons (1985) or Demons 2 (1986) basically because he viewed them as  ‘schlock horror' and wanted his film to be something  much more sophisticated. So maybe at some point this was a proper Demons 3 during its conception but the film we got is definitely an unconnected film. That does not mean that The Church isn’t a good film in its own right, I certainly thought it was better than the ogre and I particularly enjoyed the medieval, witch hunt sequence, it is a bit slow in the middle but there are great scenes in here and there is the odd little part where you can almost see something Demons related (the closest bit being about 40 minutes in to the film when someone’s own arm appears to be possessed and grabs at his face). With a few tweeks and changes they could have made this a part of the series, infact with the medieval opening I personally feel it could have been made in to a prequel of sorts, it could have been used to explain the origins of the Demons, paid a little fan service here and there and yet still managed to be a very different more series take on horror. As it stands though I would give the film a 6, it drags too much at point to get more but I do feel there are very good parts in it. It’s a lot better overall than The Ogre though.

So this leaves us with Black Demons, Black Zombies, Demónios Negros aka the other Demons 3. This film was produced by Umberto Lenzi and written by Umberto Lenzi and Olga Pehar. While the film was original entitled Demons 3, this is very far from a Demons film. There is plot connection, no shared actors or filmmakers. Neither Dario Argento or  Lamberto Bava have anything to do with this movie in the slightest, this is the film which is probably grasping at straws the most by using the name Demons 3.

Black Demons can best be described as a low budget zombie film, yes I said Zombie film, not Demon film. It’s a voodoo based tale that relies heavily on its atmosphere and effects to carry it. While it is not Demons 3 it does share a love of gore and guts with the earlier Demons films, it feels more like it belongs to the Zombie/Zombie flesh eater’s line of films, and I don’t mean that as an insult just an observation, still I guess Zombies are much closer to Demons than Ogres are.
The film follows three college students, as they travel through Brazil. One of them wanders off from the others and gets mixed up in a voodoo ceremony, which he captures with his audio recorder. After the ceremony, the group find themselves stranded after having car issues. A young local couple appear and offer them the chance to stay at their plantation. Once at the plantation, the same student who saw the ceremony visits an old graveyard on the grounds, where he stupidly plays his audio recording and this recording brings six dead slaves back as Zombies. Armed with scythes, pitchforks, and knives, the zombie slaves seek revenge for their deaths, revenge against the living. Its not the fastest or the best Zombie film going and it doesn’t hold a candle to Demons or Demons 2 but it’s well I think it is average I would once again give it a 5 out of 10.

So does it end here?  Well as far as I know the list of films which call themselves Demons 3 does but not the list of films with a Demons related name there is a film called  La seta, also known as The Devil's Daughter, The Sect and Demons 4, One called La maschera del demonio also known as The Mask of the Demon or Demons 5: The Devil's Veil, one called Il gatto nero also known as The Black Cat or Demons 6: De Profundis/From The Deep, and lastly as far as I know there is Dellamorte Dellamore which is also known as Cemetery Man or Demons '95.
Do any of them have any real basis as a Demons Sequel? Nope. Would I recommend them? I found The Sect to be a decent film, it’s got an occult sort of story but it’s closer to a son of the devil style movie than a demon related movie featuring Satanists and such. Cemetery man is a horror comedy and is a wonderful film I would recommend it well above any of the films which held the name Demons 3.


So why do all these films have alternate titles which connect them to films they have nothing to do with? It’s all about the money baby, it’s all about the money.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A review of Wes Craven and Richard Rothstein's Invitation to Hell and a little bit about YouTube and TV movies.

When someone says the word film to you what do you think of? Do you think of big Hollywood blockbusters? Most people probably do but those films are just the tip of the iceberg there are so many more titles there are indie films and made for TV movies, mock busters there are so many films out that some of them end up lost under the pure weight of how many exist. I think made for TV movies can often be some of the first to get lost.

So what is a TV movie? A TV movie is a feature-length motion picture that is produced for, and originally distributed by a television network, really they are just made to fill a slice of TV time in contrast to theatrical films, which are made explicitly for initial showing in movie theatres.

The term "TV movie" was coined in the United States in the early 1960's, the main idea was to try and get movie audiences to stay at home and watch these instead of going out to the cinema, they were pitched as sort of one time chances to see something new and cool, remember back then we didn't have the likes of on demand services, remember until the 1970's people didn't even have VHS recorders and even when these came in to play obviously not everyone would have one and tapes were quiet expensive so it wasn't like you could just record pretty much everything like you can now.

You would imagine that these movies would be of an incredibly shoddy quality, Movie ideas with a TV episode budget but the truth is that many early television movies actually featured major stars, and some were accorded higher budgets than standard television series of the same length. What if you missed them being shown though? Well some channels would occasionally repeat them and some of them might go on to have physical releases but a great deal of them end up being forgotten about for a very long time.

The film I want to talk about today was a TV movie but it had a very famous Director a Mr Wes Craven (of nightmare on elm street fame) it was originally shown in 1984 and is called Invitation to Hell. Now I feel it is important to mention that I was only a small child when this was shown and as a result of that and its made for TV nature I didn't actually see it until recently so there are no rose tinted spectacles here. It's only available on region 1 DVD and as far as I know it never received a VHS release here either but like many other films it has found its way on to YouTube and various other on-line services.I know some people would complain about all of the films that have found there way on to here and how those involved with them are not seeing any of the profits but some of these films seem to be on the very edge of being lost, they have been forgotten and ignored by there makers because they don't think that there is any profit in them and sites like YouTube have actually given a new lease of life to many movies that were previously unavailable.

OK so first here is a little idea of the films plot a scientist Matt played by Robert Urich and his wife Patricia played by Joanna Cassidy and their kids arrive at a new home. It is supposed to be the start of a whole new chapter of there lives. You see Matt has a new job a new job that is supposed to come with a better wage so he can provide newer and better things for his kids. They have barely made themselves feel at home before they begin to be pestered to join the Steaming Springs Country Club. The idea is built up that this club is the social heart and soul of the community, that nearly everyone is a member and that everyone wants to be a member. Members seem to be getting promoted faster at work. So why wouldn't you want to join? Well Patricia is very keen to join she views it as the key to a better life for her and her children but Matt has a gut feeling that all is not right and is very hesitant to join. When Patricia and the kids start to act strange Matt finds out she has joined the health club and this is when he decides that he needs to find out what is really happening. Now I don't want to spoil the ending or give away too much but there are some great ideas in this film, I have certainly seen far worse things released on DVD in this region, if I had to pick any faults with the film my biggest fault would be that there is a laser in it which compared to everything else in the film is positively crap-tastic effects wise, if it was me I would have gone out of my way to remove this and to have replaced it with a regular pistol or something. The film to me almost feels like a Tales from the Crypt/Twilight zone episode but stretched out to movie length.

The film deals with a lot of ideas that have been dealt with in horror films before and after, the idea of being tempted to do anything to achieve wealth and fame, about how people feel the need to be accepted and to belong to something. This is the real strength of the film, it talks about the way the world works, the way it deals with real world fears in a horror movie setting, the fear that those around us might change, that we might find ourselves alone and alienated, it feels very Wes Craven like even if he only directed and Richard Rothstein wrote it (he is most famous for writing Universal Solider). I cant call the film a piece of cinematic gold but I would certainly describe it as a nice piece of Movie Silver. If you like Wes Craven and you like things with a Tales from the Crypt/ EC comics sort of morality to them then I really would advise that you track this film down and give it a few hours of your time after all it is October. Do not go here if your looking for monster creatures and explicit gore though as you will find this movie really lacking its basically a gore free zone. It does offer some scares but more in a deep thoughtful way, there are no jump scares or things pulling people through windows but there doesn't need to be


7 out of 10 screaming Skulls

Friday, 16 October 2015

Snes Game Review 100: Pop'n TwinBee Rainbow Bell Adventures

Ok so for my one hundredth SNES review what have I picked? Well I have picked Pop'n TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventures, or as it is known in Japan TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure. I had all kinds of ideas for what I should do for my one hundredth review if it should be specially or normal and in the end I think I just decided I should pick a game and get down to it or it would never happen. One of the interesting bits of trivia about this game is that it wasn't released in the USA at all, it was strictly speaking a Japanese and European exclusive, something which didn't really happen that often in terms of the SNES. Usually it seemed like a game would get a Japanese release which might then see it get an American release which would only then filter down to us if it had done OK in both of these previous markets. Why this game skipped the US I have no idea at all.

So other than obviously the Japanese version being in Japanese is there any differences between it and the version Europe got? Well actually there are more than you would expect. The level order in the Japanese version is a little bit more open allowing you to choose at poits what stage to do next, some stages have alternate exits, similar to Super Mario World allowing paths to be drawn that otherwise wouldn't open up. In the European version, though the order is laid out for you in a strictly linear fashion, you simply finish a level and then move on to the next one.There is dialogue between Dr. Cinnamon and the main characters Light, Pastel and Mint (the Pilots of Twinbee, Winbee and Gwinbee) at the level select screen in the Japanese version but this was cut from the European version for some reason. The European version uses passwords to save your progress where the Japanese one offers a battery back-up as well as the choice of using passwords. And last but not least the Japanese version has multiple endings depending on the player's performance (which the game rates) the European version just has one set ending. Now I might be wrong but to me I feel that a lot of this has to do with the way a bright colourful game like this was perceived in Europe, if its bright and silly looking here then its seen to be kids’ stuff, the Japanese are different though they tend to see a bright cartoony style as just one of several legitimate choices for how a game or animated film can be, I think they thought we would see the game as childish so they stripped out some of the more adult challenge and story based aspects and maybe they had a point in doing it. I got this game on release as a present I actually asked my parents for. A lot of my friends didn’t even give this game a second thought, they saw the graphics in magazine previews and pretty much straight labelled it babies stuff. I on the other hand have always been in to things like Anime and know that even with the brightest of colours and the cutest of looks sometimes there can be a lot more than just that held within.

Now there are probably three types of people reading this, the first will be those who already know about the game and want to find out my opinion, the next will be those who have never heard of the title or the characters leaving the last group those who will know that the characters belong to Konami, who will know who Twinbee is but will be going wasn't he that ship from those vertically scrolling shooter games. Well the quick answer is that yes Twinbee was from a series of shooting games in fact one of these games was on the Super Nes one year before Rainbow Bell adventures.

Pop'n Twinbee the snes game was in fact the sixth game in the TwinBee series and a direct follow-up to an arcade game The European version of this snes game was the first TwinBee related game to be localized for the European market. You might ask why I am not reviewing that game first, well there is a simple answer to that question and its the fact that I don't own it. Not to get too sidetracked but alongside sega's Fantasy Zone game Twinbee is pretty much the game responsible for the creation of the "cute 'em up" sub-genre of shoots. Its a shoot em up space ship shooting game with beautiful cute colours, upbeat cartoon style music and, snippets of voice acting I wont review it do to my rule of not reviewing things I don't own on the SNES but I will say its a delightful breath of fresh air that brings a smile to your face as you play it. I only mention it because this is one of the things that really made Rainbow Bell Adventures a surprise, you see with there being a whole series of shoot em up games featuring these characters it was a real shot from left field to see them suddenly release a platform game instead of doing what everyone expected and quickly rehashing a quick SNES sequel to the title from the previous year, you know minimum effort maximum cash style. So old Konami definitely get a bonus point from me here for doing something different.

Ok so let me play story teller here and give you a brief idea of the story (in game this is told to you via the intro sequence). So there are these ''Rainbow Bells'' right and somehow these bells keep the peace throughout the whole galaxy, they seem to do this by keeping a green haired princess alive. So all is good right? No as an evil scientist and his troopers steal the Rainbow Bells and take over the world. You play as the previously mentioned Twinbee, Winbee and Gwinbee and you have to stop him. Yeah its not about to win any book of the year awards here for story telling but its good enough to give you a reason for what your doing.

So you get to choose between the three character Twinbee the blue one, the pink Winbee the pink one, or the green Gwinbee the green one. They are all pretty much the same in how they move and how they control but there are some small differences. First and most importantly there is a charge punch move you can do and there is also the ability to charge your ship so you can shoot off at whatever angle your pressing at the time you release your jets, well the charge-up times are different Winbee charges her flying ability quickly but is slow to charge her punch, Gwinbee charges his punches quickly but takes a long time to charge up his jets, and Twinbee is the middle ground character his punch and flying ability have a medium charge making him the most rounded character. There is another minor difference between them but I will get to that in a little.

The game is absolutely chock a block full of different power-ups, something it takes from its shoot em up heritage. Your basic moves include both a punching attack and jumping, the jumping itself can be used as an attack as you will harm enemies by landing on top of them. Power-ups though come in the form of various coloured bells which appear after you have defeated an enemy. Obviously different colours give you different things. One coloured bell will give you a laser gun power-up another will give you a character dependant physical weapon with Twinbee getting a hammer, Winbee getting a whip, and Gwinbee getting projectile baby rattles. Then there is a bell which will give you a shield, a belle which gives you a mini ship which will follow behind you and a belle which will give you time limited invincibility.

OK so the basic idea in most levels is to find and enter the exit gate. This is no simple keep going right and you'll find it thing like in some games though or at least not all of the time, sure In a few levels, finding the exit is rather straightforward, but in others it can involve a whole lot of exploration. Then every so many levels you are met with a boss. There are the above mentioned bells to pick up for power ups but there are also score related bells which you can sort of consider the equivalent of Mario's coins. You will need to use your charge moves to either blow through a wall or to fly up in to the air. Something in this game I love but is actually pointless is the fact that if you charge up and rocket in to the air again and again eventually you can reach all the way in to space, there is nothing to do up there other than let go and see yourself plummeting downwards but the very fact they allow you to do this without putting some invisible ceiling in place or making you die if you go to high feels very liberating, its like they knew people would want to try it.

The graphics in Rainbow Bell Adventure are so darn cute but its more than that they are so full of colour that there a visual treat especially if you have played a lot of Xbox 360 grey chest high wall shooters recently, if you go from something like that back to Rainbow Bell it will just lay you on your ass and make you think back fondly to the good old 16bit era. The playable characters have lots of animation to them, they feel like they positively pop to life on the screen this coupled with the music just brings everything to life. The music is light and bubbly while also being fun and upbeat, I cant say that you will leave the game humming it but it certainly does put you in the right mood to enjoy this kind of game.

I think the game controls like a dream, its quiet simply awesome, it doesn't just control well its also so much fun to rocket around and bounce off walls and see what tricks you can do. The game is very fun but I also feel it works best in small bite sized chunks, I would advise you to play four or five levels jot down the password and then come back to it rather than trying to do all 33 in one sitting. I know that compared to the likes of super Mario World 33 doesn't sound like a very high number and well its not. If you were to attack this game with a I must complete it attitude you would knock it out of the way very quickly but that would ignore how fun this game is.

So what would I score this game? Well I think I would give it a nice solid 8. Its a nice fun game, its a bit different but I do think that it could do with being a little longer, I do think that some of the things that were removed from the Japanese version were removed to the games detriment and I do think that there are better games out there even if this is a darn fine game. How much are you going to spend if your considering this game though? Well the cheapest I could find at the moment was an English cart only copy for £20 with people asking up to £40 for a loose cart in some instances, a Japanese loose cartridge is closer to £10 but of course you'll need a modified system or a converter, its not like the in game text or anything is really needed so you could easily play and finish a Japanese copy. It might be worth looking at wrongly labelled auctions as I actually got my copy cheaper due to someone listing it as the previous Pop'n Twinbee game (they gave the name of that game but a picture of this cartridge).




Tuesday, 13 October 2015

My argument for Pre-Emptive Retro Purchasing



I am sure that most of you will have heard of the term pre-emptive strike, for anyone who hasn't it can roughly be described as being a surprise attack that is launched in order to prevent the enemy from doing it to you. What I am going to be talking about today is what I would call pre-emptive retro  purchasing. So what do I mean, how would I define this term? Well usually when someone purchases a game to collect for the purpose of having a retro game collection they are buying games that are already old, in doing this you are waiting for a game to become old and desirable and then hunting it down your retro purchasing. Now what if you were to buy a game that will be old, that you think will gain a cult following, and which you think will be worth a lot in the future? Well this is what I call pre-emptive retro purchasing.

Now the whole term Retro is hardly set in concrete but if you look it up then you will see explanations along the lines of ''Involving, relating to, or reminiscent of an earlier time'' and ''denoting something associated with or revived from the past'' the problem is that terms like ''the past'' and an ''earlier time'' are rather vague. I could write a whole article on what is or is not retro in Video game terms and then someone would most likely come along and write a totally different article which argues with my findings and my opinions. Some view Retro games as anything that is not the current generation, while others view them as anything that is not easily brought from a regular shop, yet others will try to put dates or other formulas in to the mix. Personally I tend to view games as being retro when they are either no longer stocked at all by shops or when they are seldom stocked and whatever is left over in the shops has been pushed in to dark corners and is largely ignored. So to illustrate this I wouldn't really view the Xbox 360 or PS3 as Retro yet because they still dominate a fairly large area in my local Game, Grainger, etcetera, yet even though it is similar in age I tend to see the PSP as retro because what little stock there is in any of these places tends to be pushed to the back of the shop and is usually on a very low shelf out of sight if it is even there at all.

The PS3 and 360 have some great games though, and to be fair there will be games which as the years go bye they become harder and harder to find. So if I was to explain pre-emptive retro purchasing to you this would be the generation I would do it with. Its at that point now where the machines are no longer the hip and the new, yet there not seen as old and classic yet, there in a state of flux they are neither new or old. Many people are selling there PS3, 360 and even Wii games in order to afford to get something newer this is in my opinion a mistake though. The games generally will get you very little especially if you are selling them to large registered businesses, there is a flip side to this though and that is the fact that some of these titles will appear in places like pawn stores, markets, on sales sights etcetera for very good prices. Now I am not saying to go run and fill a basket and get your hands on every game going I am talking about playing the odds, gambling if you like.

Do you know what the Futures Market is? Basically people think that banks are mostly involved with the stock market this is where you buy and sell stock in certain companies but there is actually far more that goes on than this people also buy what are called futures. Now the easiest way to explain a Future to you is with a simple example, lets pretend I own a coffee plantation now I could just sell my coffee beans and be done with it or I could sell promises. Lets pretend that a 1Stone sack of Coffee is currently worth £10, what if I agreed to sell you a sack of coffee not now but in 4 months time for £10, now if you shook hands on this and signed the paper work there are three things that could happen. One is that the worth of coffee doesn't change at all, so you get a fair deal, I get a fair deal and nothing much has happened. Two coffee loses its worth, I sell you a sack for £10 which is now worth only £7 and you have to buy it as you have agreed to it. Three coffee grows in value, the sack I promised you for £10 is now actually worth £14 and you've made a profit. Now that's the futures market for you. To do well on the futures market you need to do your research, look at supply and demand curves over time and at how the market currently stands and anything that could change that, so lets apply this to the world of Video games.

If you buy an XBOX 360 game lets say, maybe you find it on a second hand store for £3, if its worth goes up you make a profit, if its worth goes down your at a loss and if it stays the same your basically where you started. So what do you do? You look how much it is typically selling for at the moment in other places, you look at how easy or hard it currently is to get, you might look at how similar games by the same company have done in the past, is one of there games in the same series now almost impossible to get and going for a small fortune? Is it likely to at any point get some form of re-release or be digitally released on a virtual console style platform, and is this likely to effect its worth? Yes no matter what you decide you are basically gambling, but its educated gambling and you can minimise the risks, the best way to do so is to only buy things you'd enjoy playing anyway because even then even if its never worth anything your at least going to get something out of it.

So do I do this? Heck yes all of the time. Has it worked out? Yes, No , sometimes. When did I last do it? Today after work when I picked up Project X Zone for £12.99 and about a week ago when I got Etrian Odyssey Untold The Millennium Girl for £15 hence the fact there is a picture of them at the top of the page. The thing is I want to play both of these titles, but I know I don't really have the time for them at the moment, but I also think they will most likely cost more in the future, so I am not only trying to make some kind of minor investment here I am also trying to save myself cash because I know that if I didn't get them and then latter ended up paying through the teeth for them I would feel dumb for having looked at them and passed them by.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

On My Soap Box: A rant about being unemployed, working for charity and the kind of Unemployment programme we need.

Oh dear here I am doing another rant again. Yes it is pretty much about politics and social issues in the UK again. If you have read much of the stuff I have written both on here and on my past blog then you will know I have had my issues with mental health which were largely brought about due to a horrible incident I experienced. Now while this was an awful thing to live through I did learn a lot about myself and about the world around me because of it. I learned about how some people would disappear when the going got tough and how others would surprise you by being there for you, I learned how important and vital it is to have someone who can listen to your issues who can be there without judging you to offer advice and support and I also learned how rare and special a thing this is.

Now I had to have a lot of help and support and even some therapy to help put myself back together again after what happened to me (I had my head smashed in with crowbars during a robbery.) The worst thing though was that the place I worked, the place where the robbery had happened fired me while I was off sick suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a recognised mental health condition which I had found myself with thanks to what happened on there premises while I was under there employment, worse than this though they actually tried to bully me into quitting by being as none understanding and pushy as possible, heck even though thousands of pounds was stolen from the business at the time that happened to me, they even tried to deny it had happened until police reports and other things were put in front of them.

On the one side this was probably for the best because well after all the work I had done to piece myself back together would I really want to work in the same place, looking at where it happened on a daily basis? I managed to get myself on a funded educational course for a year to learn new skills so I could hopefully find employment in a new field. This didn't work out though, people were happy to have me as a free trainee while the educational fund was paying for me but when that was done no one wanted to give me a paying job. So I ended up on Job Seekers allowance looking for work at first in my new field and then slowly eventually just any work doing anything.

Now when you go to the job centre they are supposed to help you find work, partially by motivating you and pushing you but also by sending you on courses or to job fairs and the like. There is a dark side though, you get put on these courses and these job programmes where there is no intention to build you up or to make you feel better no the real intention is to make you feel worse. You sit in rooms and get told how the unemployed no matter how or for what reason they find themselves in that situation are the scum of the earth. Countless times I found myself sat there on an upper floor of a back to work agency after having had an epileptic fit, sat with my head in my hands being told how I should just stop being lazy and get back to work and how I was a blight on society. I would sit there and look out of the window and the thoughts that would run through my mind would sometimes verge on the realms of why don't I just get up and jump and end it all now, after all I am a pain in everyone's ass and I am constantly being told about it. Its important to realise that I was filling in more application forms than anyone I have ever known, sending out more perspective letters and literally going from business to business dropping in CV's and covering letters, I could not have tried harder to get myself employed.

I think if it wasn't for four things I very seriously might have killed myself. One thing was my daughter and my parental desire to be there for her, to help her and to ensure that she was taken care of and that she had everything she could, including a Dad who was there to tuck her in, a father who was there to wipe her tears and make sure she was being raised well. Another was the support network I had including my wonderful Fiancée and my parents who were there to remind me that a man is more than just his job, he is everything he means to everyone around him, the way he touches there lives and how pure his heart is. Then I had my writing which at the time I treated as a job, every time some paid individual would try to bully me into feeling like I was nothing I would counter this inside my head with I am a writer. The fourth thing was charity work.

Now I never wanted to work in a shop putting jumpers on hangers not because I think its a bad job, in fact I am glad that there are people who do it for many reasons, one being I like shopping in charity shops for old games, but another is that I know that these things will be sold for cash which will go on to give a charity the funds to help people but what I wanted to do was help people as directly as possible. So that's why I became a Life Mentor working with children who were being bullied and children who were suffering from mental health difficulties. The man who had been damaged himself through the things that had been done to him found himself helping others to deal with the damage that had been inflected on them. This in turn helped me. Through loosing my job I had lost my sense of purpose and when a man has no purpose it looks from his perspective like he has no reason to live. By helping these people to fix themselves I gave my self a reason to get up in the morning. My daughter, my Fiancée, my family, my writing and these poor children who needed somebody all became reasons to live , reasons to carry on.

Mental health issues can be like a chain that drags you down and unless you find something to keep you afloat then your going to drown in them. Believe it or not I actually got mixed signals from the Job Centre for working for a charity, they quizzed me on it and said that it might stop me from being allowed Job Seeker allowance. I had to fill in forms and answer questions and in the end they seemed to deem that it was a good thing as it was something that could go on my CV and something I could talk about in interviews.

Having been a volunteer for a few charities and having looked at working for a few different ones it can actually be surprising how harsh and demanding some can be when it comes to volunteers. I loved working for two charities in connection with young people and there issues. I then looked at working for what I will refer to as Charity X (again dont want anyone to come after me for liable or go nuts that I am bad mouthing someone who helps people), they wanted a promise that you would do it for a year or not at all, a promise that you'd do a set amount of hours per week, at times that they wanted you to do them without fail and a list of rules twenty times longer than the ones I had worked for while telling you how lucky you were that they were going to offer you training and how much that training cost (this is just regular do your job training nothing that's going to get you an NVQ or anything). It was a shock when the last two I had worked for were just grateful for you to do anything any-time for as long as you could and never made you feel like a cost or a burden.

For me I kind of put my family first then paid work and then anything charitable so the above put me off working for Charity X. I think working for a charity is a wonderful thing to do but they do need to realise that your giving your time and skills freely and unlike an actual job where to a degree they can say shut the hell up and take it we are paying you after all, they need to be a little bit more forgiving and make you feel so wanted and like a valued part of what there doing that you drive yourself to be there, that you feel needed, and like if you just don't bother then your letting the team down.

In the end most charities exist to fight issues and problems which our government either is not fighting or arguably is not putting enough time and money into. So what am I arguing here? Well for one people who work for charity as unpaid volunteers deserve some level of respect, most of the time they are doing it purely out of the goodness of there heart or out of a desire for a purpose a reason to go on. I believe that if someone is working for a charity that they should get cut some slack when it comes to job seeking, it should be treated as a positive thing as showing there desire to do something. When I attended the job centre everyone got the same treatment you could be sending a million applications while working for a charity while trying your best and apart from a few special advisers who seemed to see the bigger picture you were seen as the same as the drug addicted dirt bags who arrived to the job centre in shell suits stinging of alcohol and drugs with there job search notes scribbled on to a filthy piece of paper which had been slung n there pocket.

Maybe to some degree here I sound like I am having an attack against certain types of people but what I am really getting at is we need a job search/unemployment programme which takes a deeper look in to peoples situations, who they are, what they are dealing with, be this health wise physically or mentally and what they are trying to do to better there position. I personally feel that anyone who is putting in time working to help a charity deserves to see recognition for this instead of facing the third degree. Most of all though I think we need to see the end of courses and treatment that tries to bully people in to finding work as I do not believe this works at all. Those determined not to work will have made this decision and no amount of bullying is likely to alter this decision, where as for those who are actively trying, for those who desperately want to work it is just kicking them while they are down.

Friday, 9 October 2015

SNES game review 99: Family Feud

So the game I have been playing is Family Feud, it’s based on a well-known American Quiz show, in fact you will have most likely have been watching the British version of it Family Fortunes on and off for years. The basic premise of the show for those who don’t know and therefore for this game is that two families compete to try to name the most popular responses given to survey questions in order to win. Now I have to admit that this is a bit of a weird one to review for a whole host of reasons. One being that it is an American game, asking you questions which might at times throw you culture wise for example ‘’Name a dish which you are sure to find at every PotLuck dinner’’ now I have heard the term before it’s basically a dinner where everyone brings something they have prepared to the hosts house but this just illustrates the fact that the questions are aimed at the market it was released for.

Ok so you are probably wondering at this point how you answer do you select from options or…? Well you answer by using your control pad to navigate a virtual keyboard and type the answer you want to give out, basically making the possibilities endless, add on to this that you need to spell the word or term correctly and that’s spell it correctly according to the Americanised spelling of the word. Now maybe I suck but I got my first five or six questions wrong even thinking and spelling American style for example I had to name something that someone would like as a present if they were an outdoors kind of man and I said Rifle as well we know Americans love their guns. Rifle wasn’t actually a valid answer knife however was.

So one of the important questions to raise about this type of game is how many questions is there, as with this kind of thing if the question count is low and starts to quickly repeat then the game is of very little worth well surprisingly this game has around 4,000 which is actually a lot especially when you consider the fact the latter Playstation one version only apparently has 1500. I guess they lowered the number to add in digitised speech and such. You won’t find anything like that here, sound wise you have some twee midi music in the background with a buzz noise for when things are wrong and a clap noise. The graphics well its largely static screens with your cartoon family just standing there, my personal favourite sprite is the Asian old man Harry Hill look alike, although I am also partial to the guy on one family who looks kind of like Chuck Norris. There is this clapping animation that I actually find really funny. Basically your sprites stay perfectly still there faces don’t change and they don’t move apart from their arms and hands which move backwards and forwards clapping erratically for some reason it makes me think they are all dead and being operated puppet style like the film weekend at Bernie’s.

Playing this on your own is as dull as dishwater, it is a little bit better with a friend but to be fair you’d probably have more fun just watching Family Fortunes and guessing along and seeing if your guesses are right or wrong. I basically knew going in to this that I wasn’t going to be blown away, I was just curious to see how they handled things, do I think it could be better? Well I guess I would have gone for offering a screen full of answers people could choose from instead of typing the answers out but maybe that would make it a little too easy and remove some of the pressure. This is one of those things where it’s hard to rate as we now have games like this which work better on modern smart phones. I have sat and watched my fiancée play all kinds of mobile scrabble and quiz show games which are free or cost literally pence which knock this out of the park.

This is most definitely a case where it’s only worth it if you just want to see what it is like or you are trying to collect any and every SNES cart you can get your hands on. I wouldn’t have bothered buying this myself if not for the fact that it was £3 including postage costs so I wouldn’t really recommend it as a purchase to anyone. I feel a bit mean giving it a score as it really is a product of its time but as it stands playing it now I would give it a 2 out of 10. If you desperately need this game I have seen a few copies on ebay selling from America where they want about £3.50 for the game and then £3.50 postage to the UK but remember you need either an American system, a convertor or a modified console.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead: A review and why you should watch it

So I came across Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead on Amazon Prime. Basically my fiancée had gone to work and my daughter was out with friends, Prime had been left logged in and I wanted something to kill a few hours of me being on my own. I had read nothing about this film other than the little blurb wrote on Prime while I was flicking through the movies. The great thing with these movie subscription type services is that you pay whatever amount it is per month and that covers you for the films you watch, bearing in mind last time I found myself in a rental shop they wanted £2 a film if the film was made in the last sort of three years so that means you only have to watch about three semi recent films to make something like Prime worthwhile.

So I sat down to Wyrmwood with an attitude of, watching this is not really going to cost me anything and if it sucks I can turn it off at any second with no sense of buyers remorse or cash wasted, the very second it delivers less than I want I can turn it off. Now this is somewhat of a double aged sword for films because it means that you might take a chance on something you otherwise wouldn't if you were having to buy it or physically rent it but it also means you don't feel any need to push yourself past a boring intro, or see if a dull film gets better latter on, you can instead shut it off the second its not registering with your expectations and move on to something else. So how far did I get through Wyrmwood? I got to the very end, not only that I could certainly see myself watching it again.

Will you like Wyrmwood as much as I did? Well do you like Ozplotation style films featuring an apocalypse like the original MadMax? If so stick with me and answer the next question. Do you like Zombies and zombie films? In simple terms what we have here is the illegitimate love child of Mad Max and Dawn of the Dead. This is something I thought when watching it and then as soon as I had finished and I looked up more info on  the film I noticed this was a comparison the makers had made themselves, to the extent that they had put it on posters and other promotional material for the movie. This doesn't mean it is without its own ideas though. I would say more but I don't want to spoil them.

So I will lay out some of the plot but I am purposly going to drop off mid film and leave you to watch it if you desire after reading this to find out the rest. A Mechanic called Barry who is the central character of the film lives in the Australian outback with his wife and daughter.

Barry's sister is attacked in her garage photo studio by her model and her assistant, who have suddenly become zombies. She handles herself well and manages to get up in the rafters of the building. She calls Barry and warns him to get himself and his family out of the city. So Barry his wife and daughter all put on gas masks and fight their way to the family car. Unfortunately his family members turn and Barry is forced to kill them.

Chalker, another survivor, finds Barry and tries to talk to him but all Barry is intrested in is trying to get Chalkers gun so he can kill himself. Chalker knocks barry out and when Barry comes round he asks Chalker to take him to his Sisters studio, During this time however a military unit has taken his sister captive in the back of a truck that serves as a mobile lab for a strange overly eccentric scientist. Chalker's truck stops working leaving him and Barry to continue on foot. Benny, another survivor, mistakenly kills Chalker. At this point after apologising and offering Barry his shotgun. Benny and Barry team up and come upon a garage staffed by Frank and his assistant. Frank explains that all flammable liquids have become useless and that this will be why Chalkers truck stopped working. There garage is surrounded by zombies so this is when it becomes time to strap on every piece of armour they can find from shoulder pads to crash helmets and hocky masks and get ready to take on the zombies.

I was very surprised to learn that this was the feature film directorial debut of its director Kiah Roache-Turner, it seemed so good and well directed to me that this really blew me back especially when you factor in its $160,000 budget. It does have a very Mad Max feel to it and I think if you like either the Mad Max films or zombie movies then you should really give this film  a crack. I am now about to say something which I know would get me shot in some places but I actually found this film more enjoyable than the latest Mad Max Fury Road. It was less serious, less up its own arse and more focused on fun. I know that some people seem to love Fury Road as being the greatest thing ever while others see it as some kind of Femi-Nazi propaganda, but personally I just saw it as a big explosion festivel that showed you lots and explained very little leaving you to take minor grunts and looks as if they were the deepest of character development. People would argue that it provided you a world full of ideas to think about and make flesh in your own mind but then the same can be said about WyrmWood which itself provides a whole world of possibilities while also explaining more while still leaving enough blanks to let your mind run wild with speculation.

It was originally supposed to have a one night only theatrical release in Australia, opening on 74 screens, but due to an overwhelming response and lots of sold out sessions across the country its run was extended for weeks in some cinemas. This is a film which through its quality and its fans enjoyment managed to push its self rather than being pushed along by a ridiculously high promotional budget. I think this alone tells you why you need to see this film.