Monday, April 27, 2009

Old school to the next generation in one afternoon

Finding myself at a loose end on a Sunday afternoon I decided to find something to play and found myself unable to find anything out of several hundred console games, many consoles, a few PCs with its games including quite a few emulators making a few thousand more games available or the arcade machine with several thousand games of its own. And lets not count the hand-helds... or the retro games.

It is hard to fathom on human nature but it reminded me of being back in my school days when I had literally thousands of ZX Spectrum games to play (on hundreds of C90s) and couldn't find any particular one to play. I am willing to concede that this could just be me.

So it was time to reel in the past. First up was Robotron 2084 on the arcade machine and was pleasantly surprised to pass the 110,000 mark on the first go and the few after that, couldn't reach the 135,000 high score though. Then I ran through the game list to Battle Zone which I played until I passed the high score; I even ran it with the bezel and found it a pretty good addition. Feeling good with vectors it led me onto Asteroids, which I also played until I beat the high score, which to be honest, was not that high to begin with. I noticed that there was a Asteroids Deluxe and gave that a go, once again with the bezel. This wasn't so good with a rather distracting background drawing, although I did enjoy the game.

It was like a warm-up giving a taste for something more expansive, so it was onto the PS2. I remembered playing Ecco the Dolphin a few years ago and picking it up again it was a game I really want to enjoy playing. I found myself really enjoying the control of the dolphin but that is really where the enjoyment ended; I could never tell the coach dolphin from the others during the training (does that make me a dolphin racist?) and found myself wandering around trying to solve rather obtuse puzzles in the game proper, with little direction and little satisfaction. By the second hour into it I'd solved little of consequence to give any sense of progression with the exception of a few 'songs', which are all awfully alike and involve pressing the same button, regardless of the song. The final straw was a massive leap backwards to a previous restart point when I died and I really couldn't face going through it all again.

So it was time to pick up something more action orientated and decided it was time to open up Shinobi X on the Saturn. Having never fired it up before, I was immediately impressed by the shonky, quite badly acted video cut scenes of Japanese actors dressed in plastic ninja armour; you gotta love the early CD 'multi-media' games. It did lead to a rather good example of action platforming though which controlled well and was as forgiving as Beelzebub with a hangover. I did notice, as I always do when I use it, that the Saturn doesn't have any way of saving the progress which is a bit disheartening. But Shinobi followed Ecco onto the pile when a restart point placed me back at the very start of a level having worked my way through a maze of tree branches and a Boss battle and then stupidly getting hit by a simple knife afterwards. It is something that never fails to give me the biggest cause to dump a game.

It was a jump to the Xbox 360 next, firing up Stranglehold, which I had found for sale in Game for less than $30 a few weeks ago. It was very enjoyable, although I do have bias as I rather enjoyed the film this game is a sequel to; I stumbled across Hard Boiled during a particularly pretentious foreign movie phase during my younger years. In the game, the main character gets hit by a bizarrely large number of bullets and it doesn't even try to explain why your 'Tequila Bomb' meter heals you if you shoot enough people. Great stuff. The whole game is based around shooting people in the most stylish way possible, including throwing yourself on a food trolley and shooting as many people as possible while rolling across a floor. Pretty much like the film. And pretty much like all of John Woo's other Hong Kong films.

It was, all-in-all, an interesting afternoon.

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