Author Archives: lewispackwood

About lewispackwood

The first game that Lewis ever played was "Horace Goes Skiing" on the ZX Spectrum. Yes, he's that old.

A Most Agreeable Pastime

Ian and I are still working on our New Project (watch this space!), but in the meantime I just couldn’t resist the lure of writing about video games. Luckily, Old Gaulian – co-author of The Piranha Poodles – had a similar hankering, so after months of planning we present…

Set in a Victorian Manor, A Most Agreeable Pastime is a blog dedicated to all aspects of video gaming – each room of The Manor is home to a different gaming topic, and over the months to come we will continue to add more rooms and posts. Click below to begin exploring:

http://amostagreeablepastime.wordpress.com/

The blog will be updated EVERY TUESDAY, so keep checking back for regular posts.

Lewis

Leave a comment

Filed under Feature

Podcast 24: The Games That Didn’t Quite Make It… Part 2

In part 2 of our round up of the games that didn’t quite make it, Lewis questions why on earth he didn’t write anything about these frankly brilliant games:

Click below to listen to the podcast directly through this site:

Or download and listen on your MP3 player of choice:

Podcast 24 Games That Didn’t Quite Make It Part 2 – Lewis

OR subscribe to our podcasts through iTunes by clicking the link below:

Although seeing as this is the last podcast, if you’re only just subscribing now you’re a little bit late to the game. Ho hum.

There are a few games we talked about that deserve a bit of a special mention, as they came within a gnat’s hair of making it into the magic 101. Here’s a video of the stunning (for the time) Hunter in motion. Long before GTAIII, Amiga owners were stealing power boats and hijacking tanks in 3D:

Then, of course, there’s Rez: it came so close but in the end it didn’t quite make the list, mostly because Lewis couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to add to the mountains of fawning praise that have already been heaped at its door. However, if you’ve never played it, click the video below to see what all the fuss is about. And make sure you have the sound turned up.

Global Gladiators is probably one of the more obscure games on the list, and the cynical McDonald’s advertising that runs all the way through the game is a little hard to stomach at times, but it’s an undeniably brilliant platformer with some superb animation.

Finally, Point Blank was an absolutely wonderful light gun game that unfortunately Ian doesn’t seem to remember. Hopefully the video below will jog his memory:

And that’s that. The end of 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better. It’s a sad day in many ways, but we’ve really enjoyed writing the blog over the past couple of years, and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading it too. Thanks for listening to our ramblings and reading our musings, and special thanks to everyone who’s left a comment. (Unless it was a negative comment, in which case don’t bother next time.)

We’ll be back in the summer with a new (non-games-related) project, but right now it’s time to climb back into our big Morecombe & Wise-style comedy bed and turn the light off on 101 Video Games.

Goodnight all.

Lewis & Ian

1 Comment

Filed under Feature, Podcast

Name That Game

Throughout the history of this blog, we’ve regularly changed the header at the top of the page. Below you can see all of the many different headers in all their glory, but can you guess which games they’re from? Some are games that have already been featured on the blog, but most of them haven’t (and one isn’t even a game at all, but I’m guessing you’ll figure that out pretty quickly). There’s some fairly obscure games in here, so we’d be frankly astounded if anyone gets all of them. Click on the comment button at the bottom of the post to register your guesses, and good luck!

Oh, and anyone who does particularly well might even receive a highly coveted 101 Video Games pencil!*

Header 1:

Header 2:

Header 3:

Header 4:

Header 5:

Header 6:

Header 7:

Header 8:

Header 9:

Header 10:

Header 11:

Header 12:

Header 13:

Header 14:

Header 15:

Header 16:

Header 17:

Header 18:

Header 19:

Header 20:

Header 21:

Header 22:

Header 23:

Header 24:

Header 25:

Header 26:

Header 27:

Header 28:

Header 29:

Header 30:

Header 31:

Header 32:

Header 33:

*Despite originating as a joke on a post way back in September 2010, these do actually exist now (listen to the 2010 Christmas Special). Pencils will be awarded based on the whim and fancy of the authors.

The highly coveted 101 Video Games pencils. You know you want one.

Lewis and Ian

13 Comments

Filed under Feature

#98: Lost Kingdoms

Format: GameCube Genre: RPG Released: 2002 Developer: From Software

It’s been incredibly difficult to decide which games to cover for the final few places on our list, and dozens of equally worthy titles were considered for this particular spot. In the end though, I felt that this almost unknown GameCube title thoroughly deserved a place on the list: not least because I think more people should find out about it.

The utterly dreadful cover art for Lost Kingdoms. There's definitely something not quite right about the proportions of that woman's face...

Lost Kingdoms made my life slightly better because it’s one of the few games I can think of that I enjoyed from start to finish – there were no frustrating difficulty spikes and no tacked-on ‘stealth’ sections, just pure, unadulterated fun from the moment I picked up the controller to the moment I watched the credits roll. Admittedly, the time in between the two wasn’t particularly long, and this is probably the game’s biggest flaw – it’s far too short. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – particularly if you’re an older, time-poor gamer – and considering the game can now be picked up on eBay for an absolute pittance, you’d be mad to miss out on it.

The cards in your hand are on the right, and the rest of the deck is shown on the left.

The key to the game’s success is its innovative combat system, which is based on ‘Magic: The Gathering’-style trading cards. Each card summons a specific creature, which either performs a one-off attack or hangs around for a while and attacks any wrongdoer that ambles by. All of the cards have specific affinities (Fire, Earth, Wood, Water), and part of  the game’s enjoyment comes from carefully preparing your deck before a level to ensure that you have the right balance of cards to fight the upcoming monsters (e.g. if you’re going to be facing a lot of fire-breathing monkeys, it’s probably a good idea to bring along a few water-based cards).

The best thing about the game might just be conjuring up a host of Harryhausen-esque walking skeletons. They're fairly rubbish in battle, but they evoke fond memories of Sunday afternoons spent watching Jason and the Argonauts.

The best thing is that all of the fighting is done in real-time, so the fights can get enjoyably frantic as you sift through your deck, trying desperately to find the right card to deal with the monster that’s just jumped up through the floor in front of you. The creature cards themselves are also impressively designed, and there are some particularly good showstopping animations for the more powerful beasts (á la the Guardian Forces in Final Fantasy). Best of all, there are around a hundred different cards to collect, and you can also upgrade your cards by ‘transforming’ them, so there’s plenty of fun to be had for the compulsive collector.

You can see the main protagonist in the centre - she's certainly up for the worst-dressed-hero award. Are those booty slippers?

Speaking of which, isn’t it weird how obsessive collecting has been such a part of video games since the very beginning? From collecting coins in Super Mario Bros. to finding Riddler Trophies in Batman: Arkham Asylum, it seems gamers like nothing more than to gather pointless tat for hours on end – although to be fair, the cards in Lost Kingdoms are a little bit more interesting than many game collectibles.

I think the worst example of pointless collecting I’ve witnessed in recent history was Assassin’s Creed, which tasked you with collecting several hundred flags of various types. And what did you get for painstakingly collecting these flags? A poxy little Xbox ‘Achievement’ and the knowledge that those five hours spent trawling through every street and alley in Jerusalem are five hours you’ll never get back.

Beware the glowing red dome of scariness! OoooOOOOOooooh!

The thing is though, I get totally suckered in by these collecting quests: once you’ve started collecting these little in-game trinkets, it’s very difficult to stop. Assassin’s Creed was definitely a watershed moment though – receiving the ‘Achievement’ for collecting god knows how many flags was the point at which I seriously asked myself “What the hell am I doing?”

Still, certain games handle item collecting well, and because it kept the number of collectibles down to a reasonable level and made each item unique and interesting, Lost Kingdoms was certainly one of the better ‘collect ’em ups’ (another good example is Ghostbusters: The Video Game – the ‘haunted artefacts’ scattered throughout the levels were genuinely worth finding).

To sum up then, Lost Kingdoms is a cracking little game that’s well worth picking up if you’re in the mood for a spot of RPG-lite collecting and card battling, and its relative shortness means it’s guaranteed not to outstay its welcome – definitely one of the GameCube’s high points.

To whet your appetite, here’s a video of the first level:

And below is a video of the final boss battle – it gives you a good idea of what some of the higher level cards do. (But don’t watch if you don’t want to see the ending. Obviously.)

Lewis

(Cover image fro gamefaqs.com, screenshots from Softpedia)

9 Comments

Filed under 2002, From Software, GameCube, RPG

Podcast 20: Amiga Power (And Other, Lesser Gaming Magazines)

Welcome, wanderers of the SuperInformationCanalPath, to the Podcast of Champions: an entire 26 minutes (count ’em!) dedicated to the MIGHTY BEINGS of Amiga Power (and other, lesser gaming magazines).

It's Doom... but on the Amiga.

Pay attention as we DISSEMINATE ESSENTIAL INFORMATION about Stuart N Hardy, the Amstrad CPC464k (NOT the Amstrad CPC6128k), Bob The Hamster, Office Joust, Doom… but on the Amiga, “Orwellian dandies” and AP’s dreadful, hateful magazine rivals: we’re looking at you, (“Michael Jackson” – Ed).

Despite receiving some devastating feedback from a certain anonymous, whining, childish hatemonger, and despite Ian’s repeated attempts to torpedo the conversation, we struggle through to produce the finest podcast the world has ever seen. With hilarious consequences.

Click below to listen directly through this site:

Or download and listen on your MP3 player of choice:

Podcast 20 Amiga Power

OR you can subscribe to the Podcast of Gentlemen through iTunes:

And if this podcast has whet your appetite for more Amiga Power shenanigans, we recommend you hasten forthwith to AP2 (it’s Amiga Power – but on the computer) and Stuart Campbell’s forum for the chastising of useless, cretinous morons, World Of Stuart.

Ian lines up another laser-guided conversation torpedo, yesterday.

Lastly, here’s a video of Bob The Hamster*. BYE-BYE BOB. YOU WERE A GIRL HAMSTER.

*Not the actual Bob The Hamster. Natch.

Lewis & Ian

(Cover image from Amiga Magazine Rack)

6 Comments

Filed under Podcast

#95: Defender

Format: Coin-Op/Amiga Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up Released: 1980/1994 Developer: Williams/Ratsoft

Sadly, I’ve never played the original Defender arcade machine, although with the current growth of the retro game scene, it’s surely only a matter of time before I come across it at some sort of retro-themed club night. However, I did play the Amiga shareware conversion a helluva lot, so that’s what I’m going to talk about here.

Good old Ratsoft. Whoever you are.

There may well have been more than one shareware version of Defender, but after scouring t’interweb, I’m fairly sure that the one I had was developed by Ratsoft (thanks lemonamiga.com). Having never played the arcade original, I’m not in a position to comment of the quality of the Amiga conversion, but as far as I’m concerned it’s bloody brilliant. Interestingly, according to Retro Gamer and Edge (via Wikipedia), “most official and unofficial ports [of Defender] failed to accurately emulate the arcade’s gameplay”. If that’s the case, I’m obviously in for a real treat when I finally play the original arcade machine, because to my mind the Amiga version was nigh-on perfect.

Ah lasers. Good old lasers.

Unlike many eighties arcade games, Defender has really stood the test of time. The lightning-fast gameplay is  incredibly frenetic and tense, and the controls are amazingly responsive (which is in stark contrast to the woolly controls of one of its contemporaries, Space Invaders). The scrolling and collision detection are both spot on, so  however difficult the gameplay gets (and it gets very difficult indeed), you can never blame the game for an unfair death.

The trick is to shoot the alien without hitting the human - harder than it looks.

Speaking of difficulty, this has to be one of the hardest but most rewarding games out there. It’s difficult because the secret to success is aiming and shooting at enemies on the main screen while simultaneously keeping one eye on the top radar screen – a very difficult task unless you happen to have eyes that swivel independently of each other. Still, keeping an eye (or at least part of an eye) on the radar is the only way you’ll have a chance of avoiding any aliens lurking off-screen once your ship gets up to full speed, unless you have Tron-like reflexes. Likewise, the radar screen helps you to find and rush to the aid of humans who are being abducted, and one of the most rewarding (and challenging) aspects of the game is shooting a fleeing alien out of mid-air (being careful to avoid hitting its human cargo), then deftly catching the falling human and returning him/her to terra firma.

Whoever's playing is in a spot of trouble here - if the screen fills up this much, it's almost a guaranteed Game Over.

More often than not, your little rescue mission ends with you missing the alien entirely and destroying the innocent human instead, or shooting the alien but failing to catch the human before they plummet to their death, which is why it’s so damn satisfying when you’re successful. It’s a brilliant mechanic that’s endlessly entertaining, and despite my general awfulness at this game, it was enough of a carrot to keep me playing and replaying for hours at a time.

The fantastic Guardian - shame so few people got to play it.

Lastly, I have to mention an excellent Defender spin-off called Guardian, which was one of the very few games that was exclusive to the Amiga 1200 and the ill-fated CD32. Guardian did an absolutely amazing job of replicating the mechanics of Defender in 3D, and it’s just a shame that it was released so late in the Amiga’s lifespan (it was rated as the third best game on the Amiga in the penultimate issue of Amiga Power in 1996). The makers, Acid Software, were also behind the fantastic Super Skidmarks, but as far as I can gather, they were sucked up by some kind of black hole that emanated from Commodore’s HQ at around the time the Amiga imploded, and no-one’s heard of them since. Shame.

Anyway, here’s a clip of Defender in action – this is from the coin-op, but it’s pretty much identical to the Amiga version (make sure to have the sound turned up to fully appreciate the bombastic SFX).

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.lemonamiga.com)

1 Comment

Filed under 1980, 1994, Amiga, Coin-Op, Ratsoft, Shoot 'Em Up, Williams

Games Behind Glass Cases

My girlfriend and I took a trip to the V&A Museum of Childhood this weekend – it’s a fascinating place, and highly recommended if you live in London. There were tons of interesting exhibits, but the one that stood out for me was, of course, the video game display.

The Amstrad CPC at the Museum of Childhood.

The thing that immediately drew my eye was the Amstrad CPC. The whole display wasn’t that big, and there were only a few select consoles and computers, so it was nice to see the mighty Amstrad represented among the Playstations and Game Boys. It’s a shame Ian wasn’t there to share the moment with me really, I’m sure he would have been welling up.

It's like Space Invaders. But it's Invader from Space.

Another thing that drew my eye was ‘Invader from Space’, an early portable game that I remember playing for hours at a time when I was a child. Look kids! It’s a console that you can only play one game on! You can imagine my generation’s collective delight when the Game Boy was launched and we could – shock horror – play more than one game. Still, when the only game you can play is Space Invaders – sorry, Invader from Space – it’s not so bad.

I wonder what happened to Grandstand? Perhaps they went under after a massive lawsuit filed by Taito.

Ah, the Game Boy. Shame the box isn't the right way up.

Of course, the Game Boy was featured, and looking at it there behind glass with a little placard explaining what Tetris is for ten-year-olds, I suddenly felt very, very old. I miss my old Game Boy – it disappeared off into eBay some time ago, but seeing it again today had me hankering after a Tetris fix.

The Xbox at the Museum of Childhood.

It was interesting to see the original Xbox featured. Flick (my girlfriend) mentioned how old-fashioned it looks, and looking at it again, she’s definitely got a point. Even when it came out I thought it looked awful, and if anything it’s got worse with age. Interesting to see they displayed it with the later, smaller controller. When I told Flick the original controller was even bigger, she couldn’t believe it.

The last pic is of the Binatone TV Master, which I’ve never actually heard of before, but the Luger-style gun certainly caught my eye. Not sure you’d get away with that today.

And that’s about it. It was interesting to see these slices of my childhood locked away behind glass like priceless exhibits, and it made me wonder what subsequent generations will think of the consoles and computers we have today – I expect they’ll be laughing at the concept that you actually had to buy special equipment to play games on. And the idea that you have to buy more than one piece of equipment to play games made by different manufacturers will seem absolutely ludicrous.

Lewis

1 Comment

Filed under Feature