Saturday, 24 July 2010

Retro Monday: Xenon II Megablast (Amiga)

I'm so glad that I played a pirate copy of this game. Just look at this box art. Imagine THIS on the shelf at Gamestation:

It looks like a Fishmongers, on acid. Bad acid. I actually couldn't believe this was the box art for the game, as I had never seen it before. But it doesn't matter anymore, as what does matter, is that this was an INCREDIBLE game.

Before we start, I thought I'd tell an embarassing story, and what made me remember all about this charming game. My Uncle, the pirate king, used to hardly play any of the games he copied for me and my cousins. But when I used to go on holiday to visit them, he used to make an exception, and play Xenon with me. The game was prone to occasional crashing. My Uncle, the crafty git, capitalised on this, and claimed that if I didn't dance around the room whilst it loaded, it would definitely crash. Cue me dancing around the room, in a somewhat wild and erratic manner, desperate to get to the next level, with my family laughing.

I was 7. But to be honest, I'd still dance around the room today if I had a copy. You can't jinx these things.

Xenon was a space shooter. Gradius style, but scrolling upwards. Incredibly hard, but the cracked version had cheats. The game looked, for the time, amazing. Really crisp graphics, really sharp and really polished for the time. The game was made by Bitmap Brothers, who did a sterling job in crafting this. I even remember back then how good it looked.

The game was fantastic, if a little formulaic. But this isn't what the game is ever going to be remembered for. No, Xenon has and always will be nostalgically thought of as 'the game with the awesome music'. Even when I was 7, I had awesome taste. The intro is what EVERYONE remembers about Xenon, as it was a 8-Bit version of the track 'Megablast' by Bomb The Bass. And it sounded INCREDIBLE. I even think it sounds better than the original. Imagine, in 1989, loading up your Amiga, and hearing this:

In the time where it's closest competitor was Rainbow Islands twee version of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow', this was like nothing you'd ever heard before. I still get all giddy thinking about it, and these days I often have to restrain myself from jumping up, dancing around so that I stop people's games all over the world crashing.

And we've not even had chance to talk about the in-game money mechanic. Mid-way and at the end of every level you're confronted with Colin, the alien who bears more than a striking resemblance to Predator:

The power-ups you could buy looked fantastic, and added a real depth to the game. They were little floating satellites that attached to the sides of your ship, floating along with you and offering a variety of meaty lasers, rockets and all other manner of boy-hood sci-fi weaponry. Colin was also a cheeky scamp, being genuinely funny, and often insulting.

Once again, a great game is made even better when combined with my fond memories. The more I think about it, it's that it's purely the game that is shaping these experiences, making me remember these little silly things, as I cling on to my memories of fantastic computer games. Xenon served as a shining example of a game that can soar above it's humble parts, with a bit of style and some graphical polish.

And Peter Molyneux is a massive fan. If it's good enough for the creator of Fable and Dungeon Keeper, It'll do for me.

Monday, 19 July 2010


I've just been away for the weekend. And last week, my new iPhone arrived. Safe in the knowledge I wasn't going to get any reception unless I held it suspended with a piece of string, I decided to investigate more and more apps. My old iPhone was full of useless junk, silly apps that I'd forgotten to get rid of, and really didn't need. No more, as I decided that my new phone would be sleek, useful and cool. It was then that I stumbled upon the Marvel Comics app, and was taken aback.

I wasn't sure what to expect. To be totally honest, I was expecting some scanned-in JPEGs, for twice the price. But no! Somewhere inbetween a PowerPoint presentation and a TV Cartoon series, the comics take on a whole new form, as the frames have dynamics, and really add to the pacing of the story.

And the store is actually easy to use. unlike some of the other comic shops I've used since, the Marvel and DC store are incredibly easy to use. Let's not kid ourselves, they want our hard-earned dollars, but they do it in such an easy and pleasurable way, it makes for a very pleasant experience. Like being robbed by your nan. They do some good introductory comics for free, that entice you in and show you the brilliance of the work they've done.

So far, I've been enjoying the House of M series, and have realised this is going to open another dimension into how many comics I'm going to read. If you haven't checked it out yet, give it a look. It may just reignite the love affair with the idiot's novel once more. It may even make you find something stupid in a Museum gift shop, pretending you're Dr Doom.

Oh dear.

Friday, 16 July 2010

We have a YouTube channel....

Launched this morning called 'ChannelGainboy.' This new channel demands new subscribers, comments and your own video recommendations. Created by our own Drluciansanchez it features different playlists ranging from favourite t.v clips to amazing game trailers.

Clink the link to head there now....
please Subscribe and enjoy

Hip-Hop, with a videogame twist...

This is a short but very sweet post today, but if something is good it's worth bringing to your attention world. Good afternoon, ladies and Gentleman and welcome to the 9Lives Battle Tour !! Set up by my friend and work collegue Joe public AKA J-toker this epic rap battle sees him touring 9 cities, on 9 different dates facing off against 9 different opponents.
Kicking off 23rd october 2010, who will you choose for a flawless victory!

Checkout these links to find out more about this upcoming event.
Also look out for 'Soapbox' the new fusion band featuring J toker and members of Population 4

Load up and enjoy,
The good Dr

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Metro 2033: Terrible, but Fantastic.

Hey there!

It's been a while. Sorry for my apparent disappearence from the planet, but I've been moving house. Moving one's worldly possessions from one place to another is a lot more stressful and time-consuming than you think, and has left me with little time to think, let alone game. But game I did. The lack of internet meant I've been playing games old-school. No online, no co-op, just straight gaming. Luckily, my latest rental from LoveFilm was exactly that, and I adjusted myself in my new gaming space (my living room) and awaited my internet arrival and killing time with a game that took me totally by suprise. Metro 2033...

Not in a long time has a game intrigued me this much. Absolutely fascinating. I'm almost scared to recommend it so fearlessly, as it's a bit shit. But then it's good. See? Look at the turmoil I'm facing within myself! This game has me flustered, to the point logic is taking a backseat. Let's get a grip, talk about the bad points first, and hopefully restore some kind of order.

The hit detection is shockingly bad. When you shoot a dude, they have to go through an animation before you can cause damage again. This leads to frustration, and approaching the game in an almost rhythym-action manner. We also have the level design being punishing to the point of sadism in parts, and god-awful Faux-Russian voice acting. Add to this uninspiring gunplay and a rather disappointing ending, and it's difficult to see why I'm writing about this game at all.

But it's the atmosphere that makes this game an intriguing little purchase. All throughout the game, you can see it's made for about 20p, but you can also see that it's less-than-average parts are held together by the passion, sweat and spit of the designers that made it. It bleeds honesty, and vision. You can tell this is a team who had grand, grand ideas, and were only limited by time. By setting the game in confined spaces, and dark environments, the game has given itself a headstart. They obviously didn't have the time or the money to make grand, open-air vistas. But this doesn't matter, as by setting it in narrow and confined spaces, even little pieces of grandeur seem absolutely decadent compared to the paranoia-inducing corridors of the rest of the game.

After tunnels of unspeakable evil and dank, empty halls, a settlement really is awe-inspiring, and you feel genuinely safe when you walk past the armed garrison, and into the safety of an occupied metro station. Metro 2033's greatest strength is it's dark, terrifying atmosphere. Even clunky story-telling can't mess it up. Metro 2033 plants a sticky grenade on Halo's neck, and watches it's saccharin-sweet innards brightly explode everywhere, as it sinks back into it's black tunnels, wiping the purple blood from it's tattered rags. An antidote to the sci-fi shooters of late that keep things 'kid-friendly'.

Indeed, I have not played such an atmospheric and scary game in some time. There really is a sense of desperation about the levels, due to both their shortness, and overall feel and setting. The sound design is also fantastic for heightening the tension. So much so that when you hear a monster shriek in the distance, you really do shit yourself. It instills in you a sense of fear, a sense of urgency, and a sense of dread. All from a sound. The art direction is also pretty excellent, with the guns and the thought process behind them being spot-on, and meticulously planned. Pneumatic Ball-Bearing rifles being a prime example of clever thinking, a rationale that as bullets have become harder to come by, the Russians have looked to other ways to make weapons to protect themselves.

So, Metro 2033. Shit but also exceedingly good. It's already £20, and I can see it going down even further. But trust me, you may just fall in love with it. The last time I was this suprised by a game was when I bought The Darkness. Best £3 I ever spent.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Retro Monday: Spaced (Tv)

OK, so not technically 'Retro', but at 11 years old I like to think that the influence that Spaced has had on comedy is very great indeed. We wouldn't have even seen a lot T.v shows or films made.
This sounds extreme but its true, if you need proof I'll be talking about that later.

Right lets start at the beginning, an unknown channel 4 sit-com first aired in 1999 starring a group of unknown comedians/actors. It's set in a south London suburb about two failing twenty-some thing's Tim Bisley and Daisy Steiner and their Zoo of odd friends. Their constant struggle to meet with life's curve balls gives them a chance to get into some colourful adventures, throw in a tonne of rapid fire pop culture references mixed with the often surreal cartoonish flashback sequences and ...dingdingding We've got a winner!
A writing team of Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes (then Stevenson) and a shit hot director Edgar Wright saw this show elevate above most standard British sit-coms. One of the reasons for this as an inclusion to my Retro Monday choice is the fact that 'it got me.' I'll explain, the characters talk about movies, they play games, get pissed/high enough to think that everyone is a zombie and they're in "Resident Evil", they give full detail backgrounds on the history of star wars and why the gunner on the star-destroyer is responsible for the whole thing, they drink, take drugs. Its pop culture at it's very finest, unbelievable amounts crowbar'd in to each lovingly crafted episode. 14 were made and 14 is enough, very much like The office did always leave them wanting more.
So lets take a (brief) look at the characters and story, I wanted to blog about spaced and talk what its done for the industry not so much a list of character and episode intricacies. Simon Pegg plays lovable loser Tim Bisley, who happens to meet the equally lovable Daisy Steiner (played by Jess Hynes) in a local cafe. On the off-chance, their both looking for somewhere to live and over a little persuasion they decide to pose as a couple to rent a local flat. Problem solved? right?
Marsha (the excellent Julia Deakin) is the landlady of said property and needs to stay convinced that Tim & Daisy are a couple or its out you go. Living below them is the artist/painter and social outcast Brian (played superbly by Mark Heap) who becomes friends with the new duo on the day they move in. Invited to a house warming party we get the first taste of Army obsessed Mike Lewatt (Nick Frost) and Twist (katy Carmicheal) a friend of Daisy's. This ragtag group of geeky, awkward, fashion obsessed army nerds somehow form a kind of family. A strange dysfunctional opposites attract kind-of family. And we loved it!

OK, my fellow bloggers will agree with me here that without this program we wouldn't have some very delicious comedy morsels to chew on. As i was mentioning at the top of this blog Spaced's knock -on effect is like a pebble in a pond. In particular Edgar wright, Simon Pegg and Nick frost's careers have gone from strength to strength.
No spaced means no Shaun of the Dead, Hotfuzz, or Scott Pilgrim (well, looking that good anyway.) All 3 of them are now in the super leagues - starring in Spielberg's TinTin bigscreen adap and writing Antman along with fellow funny man scribe Mr Joe 'Cornballs' Cornish.
Tv wise Nick Frost was in Man stroke woman, hyper drive, and the recent Money. He's also writing and starring in 'Paul' with partner Simon Pegg, can't exactly hurt one's chances can it.

For me, I can re watch Spaced over and over and never get bored with it, it's not that i see different things each time no, it's the genius of the character flaws that keep me hooked and of course its now infamous machine gun style editing. The surreal mixed with heart is at the shows centre, Tim & Daisy's will they/won't they romance is at the core of Spaced, of course their complemented with a man who once dressed his dog up in period costumes to take pictures. a man who once stole a tank and tried to invade Paris and twist, a woman so shallow that working in a laundrette is working in fashion.

So dust off that old VHS copy (yep, i had it on video) or collectors edition DVD and re-watch the 14 episode pop culture laced classic that started it all. Great soundtrack too.

Peace and love,
Dr Lucian Sanchez

Friday, 9 July 2010

Crackdown 2 first impressions . . . let the leapathon begin!

So if any of you guys out there were big fans of the original sleeper crime busting leapathon that was Crackdown, I’m sure you hurried yourselves down to your local game store to pick the answer to your prayers in the form of its sequel Crackdown 2 today.

Now I’ve only sessioned it for a few hours, maybe I’m yet to hit the core of the game but in my opinion it just feels like they’ve repeated the same awesome formula of jump, smack, shoot, blow stuff, blow more stuff up etc. But not much else!? No that this is a necessarily a bad thing but I just didn’t think they’d make Crackdown 1.5, this game has so much potential, just feels like they’ve cut it all a bit short by not taking a few leaps in its production.

The graphics are improved, don’t get me wrong I love the cell shaded look but the city still looks the same, only a bit tattier! I also have some initial gripes with the handling of the combat/lock on system making it impossible to switch between gunning someone down and them beating them with the butt of your machine gun when you get in close (which end ups with you break dancing around one guy while everyone shoots at you). I may just be scraping the surface but already I seem to be repeating the same mission objective of activating three Sun bomb machines, just in different places scattered around the city, I hope this changes or I’m going to be a little bit peeved.

I’m a little dismayed if I’m honest, I just hope the multiplayer redeems itself as this was the biggest let down of the original yet keeping a car in the air with continuous explosions or deciding to lob it at your mate just doesn’t get old.

Khronos out.