Category Archives: Feature

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

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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

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Podcast 23: The Games That Didn’t Quite Make It… Part 1

We know, we know. Surely Post 101 was the end of this thing? Well it was. Kind of. But we couldn’t finish without having a not-so-quick look at the games that didn’t quite make the magic 101. The games that made an impression, that were loved, that were remembered, but lacked that special something.

The next post and podcast will feature Lewis’s games that for some reason weren’t quite up to scratch. In this post though we will be looking at Ian’s selection. Games that due to the pressure of time he never got round to writing about. And by pressure of time we of course mean laziness.

Just to warn you this is a long podcast, but it feels fitting to give these games that time. C’mon, you owe this random collection of old games at least that!

Click below to listen directly through this site:

Or download and listen on your MP3 player of choice:

Podcast 23 Games That Didn’t Quite Make It Part 1 – Ian

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

Ian & Lewis

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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!*

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*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

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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

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Breaking the 50,000-hit barrier

Last week 101 Video Games smashed through the 50,000-hit barrier, so in celebration of this momentous occasion we’ll be bringing you a new blog post EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT WEEK.

Yes, in a break from blog tradition, we will actually be churning out posts on a daily basis, rather than knocking up some half-arsed prose whenever we feel like it. It might kill us, but we can only try.

Oh, and look out for the next exciting instalment of our ‘Best Ever Console’ feature, the contest that’s gripped the nation.* You can subscribe to our podcasts in iTunes by clicking the link below:

And to keep with the 50,000 theme, we’ve also designated the week of 11th October to 17th October as 50000 Quaoar Week. Join us in celebrating this binary trans-Neptunian object and dwarf planet candidate as it orbits the Sun amidst the Kuiper belt.

Artist's impression of 50000 Quaoar.

All week we’ll be campaigning to get this diminutive solar satellite recognised as a genuine dwarf planet. At roughly half the size of Pluto, 50000 Quaoar is a prime candidate for being upgraded, so please do email NASA with your recommendations for dwarf planet status, along with accurate astronomical readings of 50000 Quaoar’s diameter and orbit, if you have them to hand.

Lewis & Ian

*Or at least 25 podcast subscribers anyway.

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The Games Clearout

I’m a terrible sucker for a bargain. I can’t resist snooping round charity shops on the off chance of finding a rare book or CD that I’ve always wanted, or scouring eBay in the hope of coming across some fantastic old game at a rock bottom price. The only trouble is, when it comes to games, I end up buying them quicker than I can finish them. My shelves are groaning under the weight of games I’ve snapped up for a pittance but have never got round to playing, and it’s got to the point where I can’t justify buying anything new until I’ve got rid of some of the ‘bargains’ that are gathering dust in the corner of the room.

So here we go, it’s time for a clearout. It’s raining outside and I’ve got the day off work, so the conditions are perfect for playing through some classic games and deciding which ones are destined for the local charity shop.

Metal Arms: Glitch in the System (Xbox, 2003)

8.40am – I bought this game about two years ago in a secondhand shop in Camden. I’d recently read an Edge magazine Time Extend feature on Metal Arms, so I picked it up with high expectations of the “randomness, lunacy, sadism, idiocy and comedy” promised by the review. Sadly though, the first one or two hours played like an extended tutorial, and the game ended up back on the shelf not long after I’d started playing it.

Coming back to it after all this time and picking up where I left off, it’s interesting that the very point I abandoned the game last time is the very point where the “chaos” promised by the review begins to emerge. The environments start to get a bit more interesting, the enemies get a bit more challenging and the weapons suddenly become more plentiful… but after an hour of playing the game still hasn’t grabbed me. There’s just something about it that’s not quite right – perhaps it’s the awkward, clunky controls or the frustrating level restarts. Whatever it is, Metal Arms becomes the first game to go into the charity shop bag.

Red Dead Revolver (Xbox, 2004)

9.32am – Next up is Red Dead Revolver, which I picked up for an absolute pittance (£1.50 I think) on eBay last year. I’d been reading about the upcoming Red Dead Redemption for Xbox 360, so I thought I’d give myself a taster of what’s to come by playing the prequel. The only thing is, as I found out later, Revolver is absolutely nothing like the critically lauded open-gameworld of Redemption. Whereas Redemption is a pure Rockstar game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto, Revolver is a weird hybrid that’s the result of the game being started by Capcom and finished by Rockstar San Diego.  The end product is a game with an identity crisis – it doesn’t seem to know whether it wants to be an all-out third-person shooter or an RPG, and when playing I felt oddly disconnected with the character. I’d previously played through the first couple of hours of the game, and another 20 minute session today confirmed what I’d suspected – this is another one for the charity shop bag.

Jade Empire (Xbox, 2005)

10.02am – The reason I haven’t yet played Jade Empire (which I bought over 2 years ago in a charity shop) is the same reason I still haven’t read the 1,500-page novel A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, which has been sitting on my bookshelf for longer than I can remember. I know that once I get into them, I’ll enjoy them both immensely, but the thought of starting something so long and complicated is enough to put me off beginning at all. Sure enough, I’m sucked into Jade Empire immediately, and it’s immediately apparent that it shares plenty of characteristics with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, another BioWare game that I absolutely loved. It’s decided then: Jade Empire is a keeper, but I’m going to have to turn it off right now otherwise I’ll be playing it all day…

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection (PS2, 2003)

10.47am – My God, it’s amazing how much first-person shooters have moved on over the years. I didn’t realise just how many changes have overtaken the genre until I started playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein this morning: as soon as I spotted my first Nazi my initial instinct was to tap the X button to go into cover… but of course this game came out three years before Gears of War made a cover system standard fare for any FPS worth its salt. The result is that I’m standing toe to toe with a German soldier, tapping the fire button repeatedly until one of us falls down in a situation reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch. In fact, the game feels more like a cartoon than anything else (and not in a good way like XIII). Add in the utterly pathetic sound effects and you’ve got a game that’s destined for the charity shop pile a mere 25 minutes after it’s been turned on. Next!

Viewtiful Joe 2 (PS2, 2005)

11.23am – I bought this game last year at the same time as Return to Castle Wolfenstein – they were both part of a ‘4 games for £10’ promotion – but what a difference there is between the two. Whereas Wolfenstein felt positively archaic, Viewtiful Joe 2 feels fresh and modern, despite the fact that it’s five years old. I loved the original Viewtiful Joe, but I was worried that the sequel would just be a rehash of the previous game and, even worse, that the side-on beat ’em up format might seem a bit old hat in the brave new world of 2010. I shouldn’t have worried – the game is bursting with imagination and charm and I don’t want to put it down, but I still have a pile of games to get through and half the day’s gone already. Needless to say though, Viewtiful Joe 2 is a keeper.

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (PS2, 2004)

12.38pm – Like Metal Arms, I bought this game after reading a Time Extend feature about it in Edge (although annoyingly I can’t seem to find the feature online). Seeing as it was released just a year after Return to Castle Wolfenstein, I thought it might seem similarly dated, but it’s actually aged rather well. The graphics are pretty good, the controls work well (it even has a rudimentary cover system) and the mind powers add an interesting twist to the gameplay. The sci-fi nonsense plot is a little hokey, but it’s quite interesting and it romps along at a fair old pace. Not bad for a game that cost £2.50! Looks like we’ve got another keeper…

Yakuza (PS2, 2006)

2.39pm – After a break for lunch it’s back to the gaming coalface with Yakuza. I bought this game last year after hearing good things about the sequel, and I was impressed on my first go – until I had to save the game. One of my pet hates is games that will only let you save your progress at certain ridiculously far apart save points, and Yakuza is a prime offender in this category. It’s all very well having restrictive save points if you’re a teenager with hours of leisure time at your disposal, but having to sit through lengthy cut scenes and wander round various backstreets for 20 minutes before you can save your game quickly begins to grate if you’ve got limited time. And especially if your girlfriend is waiting by the door, tapping her foot and making remarks like, “We should have been at the restaurant half an hour ago, what on earth are you doing?”

Of all the games I’ve played today, Yakuza is perhaps the most instantly engrossing. It shares many similarities with Shenmue (one of my favourite Dreamcast games) and the attention to detail is brilliant. The Tokyo side streets look amazingly authentic – I used to live in Japan, and just wandering around the gameworld started making me feel nostalgic for the place, especially when I found out you can wander into a conbini and buy random Japanese drinks like Dekavita C and Natchan Orange. It’s just a shame about that damn stupid save system… If it had an autosave feature this game would be a definite keeper, but there was a point today where I was playing for 40 minutes with no opportunity to save, which is frankly ridiculous. I ended up playing Yakuza for far longer than I meant to, partly because of the save system and partly because I was really enjoying it, but sadly it’s one of those games that I doubt I’ll ever have the time or the patience to finish. It’s a shame, but this one’s for the charity shop.

Half-Life (PS2, 2001)

5.09pm – I missed Half-Life the first time around, but I bought the PS2 version after I finished playing through Half-Life 2 on the Xbox and wanted to know what happened in the first game. I got about three-quarters of the way through (to the Lambda Core level) before it became too frustrating and I gave up. Loading it up again now, I’m struck by just how primitive it looks – but then again, it did come out about ten years ago. Having said that, you can see how it completely revolutionized the first-person shooter genre, and the game excels in providing a sense of place and purpose rather than just a succession of bigger and badder enemies to gun down. The weapons are ingenious too, and ab0ut ten minutes into Lambda Core I come across the Gluon Gun, which introduces me to the joys of vaporising aliens in a maelstrom of blue light. Lovely.

Unfortunately, the frustrations I felt when first playing the game quickly resurface, and the game becomes a constant grind of creeping forward, saving, dying horribly, restarting, creeping forward, saving, dying again… you get the picture. It gets to the point where I really just can’t face crawling through the remaining five levels at this glacial pace, and I decide enough is enough. Half-Life, you may be brilliant, but it’s the charity shop for you.

And so I come to the end of a productive, sometimes frustrating, but mostly fun day. The charity shop bag is full, I’ve enjoyed the all-too-rare delight of having a day to myself to do nothing but play games, and there’s a satisfying gap on my games shelf… which leads to the question: what can I buy next?

Lewis

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