Author Archives: Kim Justice

Judge Dredd and the absence of generic licensed fluff on consoles

As it often is, Friday is another video day on the Kim Justice channel — and today’s is about Judge Dredd, published by Acclaim and Probe in 1995 for the Mega Drive and SNES. The game is, of course, based primarily on the terrible 1995 movie adaptation of Dredd — y’know, the one with all the “I AM THE LAW” memes — and it isn’t what anyone would call good. It’s a generic piece of licensed rubbish, a side-scrolling affair with generic backgrounds from the movie, average controls, and nothing much interesting for the most part…you don’t see too many games like this anymore, which oddly enough is something that I rather miss about gaming these days.

Licensed games that tie-in with some popular star or movie or TV show etc. are one of my favourite subjects in gaming — even if the quality is often average, some games have their moments (plenty more are legitimately very good) and I love seeing how a studio translates something like a big action flick into a traditional video game. Unfortunately, these sort of games aren’t as common as they used to be — tie-in games do exist still, but they often fit into a couple of categories: There’s the well established tie-in series such as the LEGO games, which are very good and working off a strict formula. For less famous IP’s, licensed games do exist still but they seem to be making their home more and more on smartphones these days, as opposed to consoles — which is a bit of a shame. Who wouldn’t want to see a proper game of the upcoming Baywatch movie on their PS4? Don’t kid yourself — you’d be curious at the very least. The amount of licensed games potentially starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that we’ve missed out on is an outrage.

Digression aside, Judge Dredd is one of the more unfortunate IP’s out there when it comes to licensed games — it’s had some pretty miserable efforts in the past. This 1995 game is far from the worst – there’s a 1991 game by Virgin for home computers that makes this generic maze level-based platformer look like Super Metroid by comparison. Really, Dredd never got anything close to a decent game until the release of Dredd vs Death in 2003 by Rebellion Developments (who actually own the 2000 AD comic outright these days, including the Judge) – an FPS that certainly did the best job so far of capturing the Dredd universe. It’s funny, really — one of the odd things about licensed games seems to be that the simpler an IP should be to adapt to a game, the easier it is to screw up. Judge Dredd is a powerful lawman who goes around shooting and arresting creeps in a post-apocalyptic universe — is that really difficult to adapt? It turns out that yes, it is.

The crime is being a generic walking around goon in a lousy licensed game. The sentence, unreasonably, is death.

There are some more intriguing things about this 1995 effort, mind you. With very little in the way of action to work with in the 1995 movie (seriously, it’s really bad) the game decides to divert totally from the movie halfway through in terms of plot. The first half takes in all the events from the movie, ending with the corrupt Judge Rico’s demise atop the Statue of Liberty, but then the second half has Dredd fight the Dark Judges (Fire, Fear, Mortis and Judge Death), who are more traditional antagonists. This half is not based on the film, nor is it based on anything that happened in the “Lawman of the Future” comic series that spun off from it — and so naturally is a little more interesting in terms of levels and design as Probe work directly off the comic book…the play’s still not very interesting, mind you. Judge Dredd isn’t exactly a game that’s worth the time to check out on the whole, but it is a good example of a game that, sadly, you simply don’t get anymore. It’s almost a shame that console games are, on average, too good these days for something like Dredd to exist.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Game Analysis, Retronauts, Video

What old SEGA games should be brought back from the dead?

There certainly seems to be a lot of intrigue about what SEGA are up to lately — there’s talk of them bringing back some of their old IP’s, for a start, which has certainly got some tongues wagging. Not to mention all the talk about something called SEGA Forever that could be (although we obviously don’t know) a subscription-based sort of Games on Demand service for mobiles, which if true could perhaps cover the “bringing old games back” deal, depending on just how old SEGA are talking — you can find some of the workings of the rumour mill on videos such as this one by Youtuber RGT 85 right here.  As far as anything concrete goes though, nothing is confirmed whatsoever, and chances are nothing will be until E3 at the earliest — and as a highly distinguished retrogaming website it is quite frankly not cricket, or even baseball, for us to write an article all about this speculation that may well end up being untrue. I, for one, would never allow such things to appear on your computer screen.

With that said, the thought of SEGA digging up some of their old games from the dead is certainly worth having fun with, if only for the purposes of humour and light entertainment. So the question of today is; what old IP’s could SEGA bring back? And what, exactly, could they do with them? It’s all very well bringing a series back and doing the exact same thing that it originally became famous for — that would be the sensible thing to do, perhaps — but some IP’s might need a bit of a twist. Let’s review a selection from the archives and see how we can, for lack of a better expression, sex them up a bit.

Alex Kidd

SEGA’s pre-Sonic mascot has always had a bit of a raw deal — we’ve actually got a fair bit of time for him in Europe due to the Master System’s popularity here compared to the rest of the world, but even we just about managed to forget his existence once a certain spiky blue hedgehog came rolling in. It perhaps doesn’t help his cause that Alex was pinged around genres a lot in his time — there’s a couple of Mario-esque platform games, a trial biking game, a crossover with Shinobi, a terrible adventure-action hybrid…he struggled to find a consistent identity, which was a bit of a bummer for him really — however, that’s something we can use to our advantage nowadays. SEGA have explored the depressive side of Alex Kidd before, using him as a lowly clerk in their self-referential Dreamcast game Segagaga, and perhaps this can be delved into further with a depressive, noir-esque action sandbox title where an older Alex with a drinking problem finds himself having to combat villains on the crime-infested streets of the Miracle World. Think Max Payne, only with more Janken — it’s a guaranteed hit. There could even be a role for Sonic too as Alex’s unwilling, straighter-laced partner.

The Ooze

There’s a fair few games that folks remember from the days of the SEGA Technical Institute — those were the people who brought us the likes of Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon and Die Hard Arcade, games that people certainly remember well, and might even want to see make a return…however, everybody forgets about The Ooze.  There are a few reasons for that — the first being that the game was, put bluntly, not very good. Secondly, it did come out pretty close to the end of the Mega Drive’s life and so there weren’t a whole lot of eyes on it. The premise was certainly weird enough — you played as a scientist who had been turned into a giant blob of green goo, and was then tasked with getting revenge on the scum who’d put him in this situation…perhaps more could be done with this title? The roles could be reversed — you play as one of the human scientists in a survival horror game. It’s Alien: Isolation, only instead of a xenomorph you’re hiding from a giant cartoony puddle of luminous snot…it might sound somewhat incongruous for a horror title, but people said that about IT back in the day too, and look what happened to them! It’s worth looking at.

Streets of Rage

This should be the biggest lay-up of them all really — as soon as speculation started about Sega reviving old IP’s, Streets of Rage was undoubtedly one of the first names on people’s lips. SOR used to be one of Sega’s biggest franchises, but then it rather inexplicably disappeared, never coming out of the 16-bit era despite numerous failed attempts at a sequel and a bunch of dismissed plans. So just go ahead and make another beat-’em-up, right? Well…let’s think outside the box a little. Streets of Rage is a very open title that can be interpreted in a variety of ways — sure, it can describe a group of friends punching the teeth out of thugs in a battle against a crime syndicate, but what if a string of reality was brought in? Perhaps those streets could represent a city in crisis, possibly because it was invaded by a military force that needs to be repelled by another stronger military force that people like more. With that in mind, the best direction for Streets of Rage is surely an Army-based first-person shooter based in a foreign city, with questionable political content. Besides, everybody knows that beat-’em-ups don’t sell anymore.

ESWAT

As far as old IP’s go, any decision to revive ESWAT would come from right out of leftfield. The series only had 2 games, both of which had the same title, and it was never the most popular of SEGA’s ’80s arcade side-scrollers — it was quite a lot like a game version of Robocop, but that itself already had a successful arcade game thanks to Data East…however, there could be something in that Robocop influence. It’s something of a shame that there’s no such thing as a proper Robocop simulator — a big open-world city where you preserve the public trust, uphold the law and all that, solving crimes, chasing bad guys…it seems unlikely that we’ll get anything like that out of Robocop itself, or a similar franchise like Judge Dredd, but you know what? Maybe ESWAT could be the way to do it. “Robocop simulator” is basically my dream game, so this is a suggestion that I’m actually half-serious about.

Phantasy Star

There’s no need to be half-serious about this one, or even to make an attempt at being funny. For heaven’s sake, folks — give us another Phantasy Star. As in, a single-player RPG Phantasy Star. Even if it has to be crowdfunded. Please.

This could obviously continue on by looking at all of SEGA’s old and discontinued IP’s and thinking about ways in which they can be twisted and distorted to meet the demands of the modern gaming world, but it’s probably wise to draw the line at five. While nothing here should be taken seriously as such, it is certainly an exciting time to be a SEGA fan — there’s definitely something brewing, and the possibility of games being revived has certainly excited people to a degree that may well end up being too much, but in the meantime is still a positive for a brand that, not too long ago, was often thought to be a bit of a zombie. Whatever happens, whether it’s something beyond our wildest expectations or just another way to play those old games that lots of people love, it’s good to see people being interested again.

 

16 Comments

Filed under Game Analysis, Retronauts

Kim recommends…Trashman (ZX Spectrum, 1984)

With the ZX Spectrum Next Kickstarter campaign coming to an end after making £723,390 and hitting all stretch goals, it’s a good time to look at some of the Speccy’s more memorable titles. Over 24,000 games came out for the system, so there’s certainly a fair bit of memorable material — but more than that, there’s some games with premises and gameplay concepts you just don’t seem to get anywhere else. When you consider that a lot of Speccy games in the early ’80s were usually made in their entirety by just one (usually quite young) guy in their bedroom, the amount of weirdness there is on the Spectrum isn’t that surprising…what’s great though is when that weirdness is combined with an actual good game — something like Trashman from 1984, made by Malcolm Evans for New Generation Software.

Trashman is an extended look into the world of garbage disposal  — something that, as it turns out, is very freaking dangerous indeed. You play as the titular trashman of the title, and you have to collect bins from each house and empty them into the dustcart as it slowly moves down the road — naturally you’ve got to put the bins back too, don’t go thinking that part would be left out. You’ve also got to do this pretty fast — waste no movement, and for heaven’s sake keep off of the grass! If you’re on the grass, that means that you’re stepping all over Betty Swollocks’ geraniums (you clumsy oaf) and you’ll lose your time and your bonus. Just because you’re going fast however, doesn’t mean that you should avoid any requests that people make of you as that would be rude — if a kid wants to show you his new computer game then indulge them, as that will increase your time and bonus. Do this for every house on the street and you can consider the job to be a thoroughly good ‘un.

A typical street in the world of Trashman. Every one of these cars spells death for our hero. But then, every cleansed bin spells rejuvenation.

Sounds basic enough, but Trashman is on a dangerous mission. He’s going to have to cross the road quite a few times in order to complete this task, and this is a busy street packed full of cars that like to drive really fast. Most trashmen don’t even last one day on the job — they’re assigned to Montague Road on their first day, they unsuspectingly walk in front of an automobile driven by a raving maniac, and the next thing you know they’re the ones being put in the trash compactor — for in this dangerous vision of the world, too many trashmen die for them to be given a proper burial. Cars aren’t the only menace out there — sometimes a dog will speed out of a house with its eyes, mouth and teeth trained on the trashman’s scrotal sack. Even the pavement isn’t safe, with clueless bikers speeding down it and taking out unsuspecting targets — and while dogs and bikes will only leave you with a limp, that’ll make you an easy target for those damn cars because no matter what injuries you might have, the work’s still got to be done…seriously, I think it might be in these guys’ best interest to form a union.

Trashman is a strange little game that, as a lot of classics do, spins gold out of menial labour — And yet it’s too slow and even a little grounded in reality (somewhat anyway) to be considered an arcade game. It’s more like a dad explaining to their wide-eyed kid what they did today on the road, complete with exaggerated details and good old fashioned British humour – of which Trashman has quite a bit when you’re asked to go into people’s houses and the like, or if you go and visit the caff and pub for a much needed Full English/booze break. It’s often requested on my streams – partly because it’s weird and people like it a lot, but I think that in the main it’s requested because it’s quaint and charming. 24,000+ Spectrum games can be a big number for folks to get their head around, but this is undoubtedly 1 that you ought to play if you wish to understand the evergreen appeal of the machine.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Game Analysis, Retronauts

Artdink celebrate 30+ years of A-Train with a game that goes back to the past

While a lot of long-running video game series tend to be fairly high profile for most of their existence, some of them can creep up on you. In the case of A-Train (A Ressha de Ikou), Japanese company Artdink’s railway simulation game, you might be shocked to find that the series has been going since 1985 — 32 years of building a city off the back of the rails. While immensely popular in Japan, the series has rarely risen above cult status in the West — its highest profile outing was back in 1992 when the third game in the series was published in America by Maxis (and Ocean in Europe) as, simply, A-Train. A lot of its other outings in the West have weirdly been on consoles — the PlayStation got the fourth game, AIV: Evolution, as a launch title, there was a very poorly received version of A-Train HX for the Xbox 360, and there’s been a couple of handheld releases in recent times. However, the series has returned once again with Artdink announcing A-Train PC Classic for release on the Steam platform in roughly two weeks’ time.

The new A-Train is notable for having considerably older aesthetics than more recent installments such as A-Train HX that have usually gone with full 3D (often resulting in them being panned for substandard 3D graphics).. Instead, railway building in the new game is done in the classic isometric style, with a look that’s reminiscent of the earlier games in the series as well as the likes of SimCity 2000. You can choose to view your city in 3D by taking a tour of your rail track, but most of the game will be played in good ol’ 2D — this is a decision that may well help the series as it takes it away from competing with the successful and graphically intensive likes of Cities: Skylines.

The look of the new A-Train is closer to the modern handheld installments — probably wiser than trying to imitate ol’ Skylines.

Of course, A-Train isn’t just your average city building sim — it is very much based around mass transit, particularly the rail. As you build an ever more complex and efficient railway system and develop the land around your stations, your city will gradually grow with the help of the computer as important resources such as coal, iron and people are funneled in — slowly turning your area from a wet patch of grass with a railway line through it into a sprawling modern cityscape. The game can be tricky to get at first, and the actual aim of the game hasn’t always been communicated too well by Artdink — which in many ways has contributed to A-Train games often getting rather poor receptions in the West. If the game is approached as a more traditional city building sim, people are likelier to be confused and annoyed by the game — instead, the focus is on combining rails, roads and trams in a way that makes sense and helps your city to grow in terms of size and population.

The first A-Train game in the West, with glorious high-rise buildings all over. Often misunderstood then, but hopefully not now.

The new A-Train promises to do what the series has largely always been known for: There will be multiple scenarios introducing competitors who will build their own networks, the chance to develop both an overground and an underground transport system, the ability to play through various different ages from the modern era to the days of steam locomotion, the sort of intensive tutorial that hasn’t always featured in these games, integrated Steam Workshop support so you can share your creations with others, and of course — lots and lots of trains. More trains than Sabin can physically suplex, in fact. If you fancy yourself as a capable Fat Controller then barring the presence of any leaves on the line, A-Train PC Classic will hit the virtual shelves on June 8th — and who knows? Maybe people will actually get the game this time and not immediately dismiss it as just another city builder.

4 Comments

Filed under Retrogaming News

After over 20 years and 25 games, is the original Worms still fun?

Yes, it is.

After a much needed quiet week following the release of that hour-long Duke Nukem Forever documentary, the Kim Justice channel is once again on the move today with a little video that’s all about Worms — specifically the very first Worms game, made at the request of a patron who most certainly adores the series. Worms is undoubtedly very successful as far as British video game series — indeed, it’s one of the last from the Amiga that’s still standing today, despite coming so late in the computer’s life (development on the game was started on the Amiga, although strangely this version came out last — not arriving until December 1995). It is also undoubtedly a big contributor to Team 17’s continued existence as one of the longest lived independent studios in the game.

One of the difficulties of covering Worms as a series isn’t the sheer amount of games, it’s that most of the games are pretty damn similar. They’re all very casual games based off of an artillery game formula that’s as old as the creation of computer games itself, although really came to prominence with Wendell Hicken’s DOS game Scorched Earth in 1991. Talking of which, one of the highlights of this video was playing Scorched Tanks — a great Amiga version of the classic that came out on an Amiga Power coverdisk back in the day, featuring all of the original’s customisation and what feels like 100 different weapons…definitely worth checking out. And so is the original Worms, if you haven’t played it in a while — one of the good things about the similarity of Worms games is that you can go to almost any of the “good” games in the series and have fun because they all follow the same formula of bazookas, grenades, high-pitched voices and exploding sheep.

Ah, Worms. The only game where the Royal Family can call up an airstrike on their rivals in a world made of spaghetti.

The video also touches a few more bases such as The Director’s Cut, a rare Amiga-only update of the original that actually introduces a lot of the most famous weapons and mechanics from later games — everything from Holy Hand Grenades to backflipping actually come from this obscure 1997 game, which makes it feel something like an Amiga version of Worms 2. This video also reminded me of the “multiplayer wars”, which happened at around the same time as the more famous bit wars —  at a time when games loved to lay claim to as big a multiplayer number as possible, Worms claimed 16 through hotseating. A team could consist of four players, each assigned to a single worm! But hey, why stop there — why not assign 2 players to 1 worm? Or 4? I think they undersold it somewhat. Of course, you’ve got to fit all of these people in the room so it might get a tad uncomfortable in there…just having 1 player to a team’s usually fine.  There’s more in the video but obviously that shouldn’t be spoiled — hopefully you enjoy it on this fine Monday morning! Do feel free to leave your memories of the time your brother gave you a dead arm after a jammy bazooka shot took out half of his team in the comments.

6 Comments

Filed under Video

Kim recommends…Lionheart (Amiga, 1993)

The Amiga was, during its time, particularly well known for its demoscene — one side of this was, of course, the hacking of lots of Amiga games and all of that good old piracy stuff, but plenty of talent went into the “cracktros” that usually accompanied said games, not to mention the graphical demos that these teams would create on their own, using the Miggy’s graphical hardware to create some definite magic. There are lots of different stories from the demoscene world of software whizkids doing their thing, and occasionally taking their talent and applying it to games — one group of demoscene kids known as The Silents went on to become Digital Illusions CE, made their name with the likes of Pinball Illusions on the Amiga, and gradually became one of the world’s biggest video game developers as EA DICE. Another ex-demoscene group, Thalion, weren’t quite as fortunate — but before their demise, they left us with several classic games, chief among which is the frankly staggering Lionheart.

There’s not a whole lot to say here other than my god, it’s beautiful.

When I talk about Amiga graphics, “parallax scrolling” is likely to be the first thing that comes to your mind — the art of differently-scrolling planes is something that the system was pretty good at, as evidenced in the main by Psygnosis’s Shadow of the Beast. Naturally parallax scrolling could get overused — it soon stopped being impressive after a while, and there were plenty of egregious examples where parallax frankly just got in the way of the actual game. Lionheart, however, even after years of parallax-based fun before it, is the definitive example of how well it works on the Amiga — it manages to do the whole “every screen is a Roger Dean prog rock album cover” schtick even better than Beast does, and I’d struggle to find a game on the Amiga that, on the whole, is prettier than Lionheart. For the game’s artist, Henk Nieborg, this would be the title that made his name — you can also find his work on the likes of Flink, The Adventures of Lomax and the Shantae series.

Even better than the art, however, is the fact that Thalion matched it up with excellent gameplay. Lionheart is a very playable hack ‘n’ slash title — it’s fun to deal with the various creepy-crawlies and otherworldly behemoths the game throws at you. There’s enough variation to keep things moving, and as opposed to a more straightforward game like Shadow of the Beast you’re allowed to explore somewhat without things going wrong. One of the big problems with a lot of parallax-heavy games was the significant lack of gameplay that ended up being associated with them, but Lionheart showed that you didn’t need to sacrifice good gameplay for pretty pictures, and that they could co-exist comfortably.

Someone should re-release Lionheart, only with songs by Yes being the entire soundtrack. It’d definitely work.

Lionheart’s developers, Thalion, were all about creating games that, technically, were right on the bleeding edge for both the Amiga and the Atari ST — the majority of their games were all graphically excellent, and that was often married with very good gameplay. Alas, good sales often seemed to elude them — as one of the smaller games studios around, they often found their sales damaged greatly by the sheer prevalence of piracy in the Amiga scene. Lionheart was their attempt to see if making such graphically strong action games on the Amiga was still commercially viable — and despite excellent reviews, the sales showed that it weren’t. Thalion ultimately closed their doors in 1994, preserving their work on the UK computers for all time — Lionheart is perhaps the most accessible and greatest example of the legacy that they left behind, and one of the strongest Amiga exclusive titles out there to boot.

3 Comments

Filed under Game Analysis

The ZX Spectrum Next meddles with the primal forces of nature and cooks an egg

No.

 

This isn’t right.

 

Not at all.

 

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Olifiers. And you will atone.

What we have here is the ZX Spectrum Next (which has been talked about previously at Retronauts towers) showing off the benefits of its new, larger FPGA — which it reached thanks to achieving its first stretch goal. Because of this, they’ve been able to add some more functionality to the system…part of that being the ability to play with (or emulate accurately) a SID music chip. The SID is, of course, the chip that was used in the Commodore 64 to make some of the best game music of the decade — created by Robert Yannes, it was a technical marvel that still baffles people somewhat today, considering that most other computers at the time (including the Spectrum 48k) possessed little more than a single-channel beeper in terms of sound. The Spectrum 128k upgraded its sound to an AY chip — the same sort of thing you get in a Game Boy — but still, the SID was the undisputed champion in the world of ’80s computer sound.

Even though I myself belong more to the Spectrum crowd than the C64 crowd, hearing a ZX Spectrum playing SID tunes so effectively is almost wrong, as if the streams have just been crossed. Of course, it is just a cool little bit of functionality and emulation — the Spectrum Next folk are not busy cannibalising old C64’s and cutting out their SID chips in order to stick them into the Spectrum Next (something that actually can happen to C64’s that you buy on Ebay due to the chip’s value as a synthesizer), but the feeling this brings is strange, as if someone managed to get a Mega Drive cartridge to run on a Super Nintendo. We truly are in an odd dimension.

In other Speccy Next-related news, the system has already managed to secure itself a big name character — one that may be familiar to anyone who grew up in the era. Dizzy is an egg with hands and feet, and the ability to roll around all over the place collecting objects, solving puzzles and saving his kinfolk from evil wizards — he was one of the most popular characters around back in the UK computer days with several big games under his belt, although there’s a chance that Americans may know him from Fantastic Dizzy, which did come out for both the NES and the Mega Drive/Genesis. It has been announced by the creators of the series, Philip and Andrew Oliver (better known as The Oliver Twins), that a brand new Dizzy game directed by themselves and made by a team that remade Crystal Kingdom Dizzy — one of the more maligned entries in the Dizzy canon — will be released onto the ZX Spectrum Next, not for two pounds nor for three pounds, but for free as a way of commemorating the success of the project. After several false starts and failed Kickstarters, said new game will be the first official Dizzy title in 25 years, ending a pretty long wait.  Speaking of the project, there are four days left to run on the Next’s Kickstarter, and it stands at over half a million pounds — if you fancy sticking your two’pennorth in, then don’t hesitate to do so.

Comments Off on The ZX Spectrum Next meddles with the primal forces of nature and cooks an egg

Filed under Kickstarter, Retrogaming News, Retronauts

Amiga classic “It Came From The Desert” comes full circle as trailer released for film version

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Cinemaware were one of the more visible game developers out there, and often one of the first ports of call for anyone who wanted to show off just what you could do on the Amiga. They made games that wore a heavy cinematic influence on their sleeve and were usually pretty high on plot and cutscenes. The games didn’t always work out — the less said about their attempt at making a cinematic basketball game, the better — but games such as The Three Stooges, The King of Chicago, Defender of the Crown and their final WWI-based title Wings all certainly have their place and are loved by many. Perhaps no Cinemaware game is as loved as It Came From The Desert is, mind you — and thanks to the efforts of Finnish director Marko Mäkilaakso, a film adaptation of the game is going to be coming out soon, with a trailer released a couple of days back.

The original game sure loved to put you in a tight spot. Both ants and shadows are confirmed to be in the film.

The original It Came From The Desert is loved for being a heartfelt tribute to classic ’50s/’60s B-movies where you play as Dr. Greg Bradley and attempt to contain an infestation of giant ants — in particular, it takes a big dollop of inspiration from the 1954 film Them. All the while, you try and find evidence for the sudden appearance of these monstrous insects by way of scanning the town for evidence and conversing with the local yokels — some of whom aren’t exactly kindly predisposed towards your investigation. There’s certainly plenty of material there for a good film, although you’d expect that from Cinemaware.

Work started on the film adaptation of the game in 2015 courtesy of Finnish studio Roger! Pictures and producer Teemu Virta, with principal photography taking place in Almeria, Spain around the Autumn of 2016. It has been clear from the outset that the film takes a rather loose approach to the source material — if you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of the game’s plot and setting, forget it. This has been pitched more as a horror comedy based around hordes of ants attacking groups of younger people that presumably will have more than the odd callback to the source, but is quite in line with modern B-movies — the likes of Sharknado, Sharktopus, Dino Shark and about 1,000 other movies that also involve sharks. This movie is different from those ones because it doesn’t feature sharks, it features ants.

While it’s not fair to judge the piece from a minute-long trailer, it doesn’t look particularly hot – and if you’re looking for a film that’s faithful to the game, you’re probably not going to find it here. It appears to be rather action-oriented and set in the present day, with motocross bikers running from ants that, considering the quality of the CGI on display, should probably not have been shown in the trailer. The acting is in keeping with typical B-movie standards in that it’s stilted, wooden and generally very bad indeed, and I don’t know about you but I had a really strong urge to buy Nissan after the trailer was done. Fans of the original game, needless to say, are not best pleased by what they’ve seen in this trailer.

It is worth keeping in mind though that this film is in itself a B-movie. It Came From the Desert is unlikely to see the inside of a theatre — that sort of quality just isn’t there, and it’s more likely going to be found on an on-demand service near you sometime later this year, or perhaps even on the SyFy channel at some point. If cheesily acted, comedy tinged modern horror B-movies are your bag, then perhaps this will be suited for you — especially if you don’t have any ties to the original game, as this film appears to be connected to that by virtue of name and setting only. Of course, the worst case scenario is that we end up with an Uwe Boll-style disasterpiece on our hands, in which case those who are tasked with covering the thing will probably be hoping that the director of this film doesn’t share Uwe’s penchant for punching up critics in the ring.

3 Comments

Filed under Retrogaming News

Kim recommends…Skitchin’ (Mega Drive, 1994)

(This post will be even better if you load up this here YouTube video and listen to the contents within while reading. Seriously, do it. In the words of Dr. Evil, throw me a frickin’ bone here.)

With news about old machines being rather slow today — as is often the case — it’s perhaps time for another recommendation post.  Skitchin’ is one of those games on the Mega Drive that can be somewhat unfairly maligned, perhaps due to it being the absolute single most ’90s game in existence – the entire decade runs through it. You’ve got the crunchy guitar soundtrack, the digitised pictures of folks with asymmetrical flattops and other ridiculous hairstyles, the graffiti aesthetics and the very art of skitching itself – hitching a ride by hanging on to the back of a car while also on skates or rollerblades. Skitching’s a real act and can be pretty damn dangerous, meaning that like any true ’90s video game, Skitchin’ also generated tons of controversy as people worried about their kids copying what they saw on the screen. Nothing even comes close to being as ’90s as Skitchin’.

Dunno about you, but I’ll buy anything sold by a greasy guy out the back of a van. Those shades are back in, by the way.

What’s often forgotten about the game amidst the entire summation of the whole Generation X period though, is how great Skitchin’ actually is. It’s an offshoot of the much more popular Road Rash series, with the same focus on beating your rivals — literally and figuratively — to first place, but the gameplay has a lot more features than just on the road violence. The art of skitching itself is so fun to do in game, as you quickly try to switch from the back of one car to the next, launching yourself from the side each time…it’s nuts and normally goes badly when you don’t quite make it to the car in front, but it’s so fast — it helps that Skitchin’ runs really smoothly, a lot better than Road Rash I and II does.

Skitchin’ is also a very active racer — again, more so than Road Rash where it often seems like you just move from one biker to the next. Every other skitcher is trying to do the same thing you are, and it’s quite a difficult act — meaning that it’s not uncommon to watch as your rivals get sent flying everywhere on a busy road as a car slams into the back of them.  Hazards on the road are plentiful – cars aside there’s oil slicks, the odd barricade, and plenty of ramps, which can kinda surprise you. Ramps offer a chance to show off by doing a trick too, as long as you stick the landing…you can even do this off of any skater who happens to be lying in the road. Imagine flying off of a rival, doing a star jump and sticking the landing as the crowd admire you — that’s pretty freaking gnarly. Of course, unexpected jumps like that often result in you landing in a crumpled bone heap and then getting knocked for six by an incoming vehicle. Skitchin’ demands serious engagement, all the time.

The art of Skitchin’ itself. In the words of Dr. Dre, “Never let me slip ’cause if I slip, then I’m slippin'”.

It was often hard for people to take Skitchin’ seriously at the time and it obviously still is in many ways — it couldn’t hammer home the time it’s from any more than it does. But then virtually everything about the game actually works — the risk/reward gameplay that it revels in, the technical craft, even that music — which is one of the few times that anyone, especially in a Western game, has made electric guitar on a Mega Drive game sound really good. Only a few years after Skitchin’, extreme sports games would be absolutely everywhere as the craze for skateboarding gathered momentum, and in that context Skitchin’ is far from out of place. It’s taken me quite some time to take the game seriously — you’ll probably be the same — but I’ve come to think that it’s better than any of the classic and better known Road Rash titles. But whatever, enough beeswax from me — if you’ve got the cheddar, then peace on out to the local Atari store, and gank yourself a copy. It’s the bomb-diggity, no diggity. We outta here.

1 Comment

Filed under Game Analysis, Retronauts

TecToy’s newest authentic looking Mega Drive clone is out…with some potential extras

The new adventures of TecToy’s brand spanking, old looking Mega Drive.

News has generally been pretty good for Sega recently — not only did they announce that their earnings are on the rise, but they’ve also announced that cult classic VANQUISH is heading to PC’s later this month following the success of Bayonetta’s arrival on Steam. That’s all well and good, but there’s something else on the retro side of things — their partnership with Brazilian electronics company TecToy has been going for 30 years, and that anniversary has been marked with the official release of TecToy’s new Limited Edition Mega Drive for the Brazilian market — yours directly from the company for the price of R$449 (or roughly $140).

This particular Mega Drive generated something of a stir when it was announced due to its highly authentic look — all of the packaging is based around the classic Mega Drive that TecToy would make back in the 90’s, and the exterior of the console itself is basically a Mega Drive 1, using the same molds that TecToy used in the past for the console and its joysticks. This is in direct contrast to previous, less authentic clones that TecToy have made such as, for example, Mega Drive 4 Guitar Idol — where Mega Drive games were packed in with more modern mobile titles and a Brazilian-focused take on Guitar Hero. The new Mega Drive also features a cartridge slot for any old games you might have, and is compatible with most games — the SVP-laden Virtua Racing naturally won’t play, and neither will the Sonic 3 & Knuckles combo, Eternal Champions, Super Street Fighter II or — weirdly — Truxton. I’m not sure why Truxton, of all the older games, is incompatible, and can only deduce that it’s because they’re not fans of Classic Game Room. Sorry, Mark.

This typical TecToy clone comes with a Guitar Hero clone that’s not as good as Rock Revolution, but it has a death pact with Guitar Praise.

Mind you, anyone looking to import the machine should be aware that it is still pretty much a console on a chip, like most MD clones, with 22 built-in games that come on a mini-SD card. This selection includes classics such as Shinobi III and Comix Zone, along with…um, Crystal’s Pony Tale and Last Battle – although apparently updates to the game list will be available, and it’s not clear whether you could just bung that SD Card full of ROMs and stick it in there. This Mega Drive is also composite video only using Brazil’s PAL-M video format, and naturally it’s designed with Brazil’s rather exotic power system in mind — so you’re going to have a whale of a time getting the machine to power up without frying it, let alone getting it to display a picture. In the end, if you do manage to not blow it up and get a picture out of it then you’ll be greeted with a quite low-quality clone system, with the usual poor sound and graphics you’d expect from such a thing — this is still an ATGames machine on the inside distributed by TecToy, therefore it’s not a recommended purchase by any means. For anyone outside of Brazil, it’s a commemoration of the country’s status as a market where Sega has continued to sell for 30 years now…of course, there are a myriad of different reasons for that — the incredible taxation that Brazil puts on imported goods, political corruption and general poverty being just a few — although that’s all a subject for another day.

What is potentially of interest, however, is that the company have announced that they will be reprinting several of their own classic Mega Drive games in cartridge form to go along with the release of the console. The first of these is Turma da Mônica na Terra dos Monstros (Monica in the Land of Monsters), which is a 1994 reskin of Wonder Boy in Monster World based on the popular Brazilian comic strip and cartoon “Monica’s Gang”. There are two other Monica games by TecToy, both of which are based on Wonder Boy titles — perhaps they’ll get released too, along with the likes of Férias Frustradas do Pica-Pau (Woody Woodpecker’s Frustrated Vacations) or Show do Milhão (The Million Show – basically Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?). TecToy president Stefano Arnhold also mentioned that they wanted to reprint Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II, the classic Mega Drive racing title that TecToy actually had a large hand in through introducing the late great F1 driver to Sega in Japan, but licensing issues thwarted it.

Monica in action. Instead of a sword, she beats the shit out of people with a bunny rabbit doll. She’s pretty cool.

The general hype and interest worldwide has certainly shown one thing — there is surely an interest out there for Sega to produce an authentic clone in the same vein as the NES Classic Edition. If some people are willing to import a TecToy system from Brazil just because it looks like a Mega Drive, then surely they’d buy something more globally produced. Of course, Sega have licensed their old systems out for cheap and cheerful clones for some time now — ATGames make them, and companies like TecToy, Hyperkin in the US and Blaze in the UK distribute them. But if Sega were to commission something more authentic looking and with, one would hope, better production values than the typical ATGames clone – including things like HDMI Output, or a neat little menu, or even some cool little fake scanlines? They could be onto a very nice little earner.

9 Comments

Filed under Retrogaming News, Retronauts