What I’ve been up to


Destiny_2

I haven’t posted on here for a while.  Well, apart from going away on holiday for a long weekend last week, I haven’t been watching any movies and have more been concentrating on a combination of work and in my leisure time, playing some games.  Currently I’m playing Destiny 2 on Xbox One which I had pre-ordered a while back.  Short impressions?  I’m really digging it.  It’s not exactly far removed from Destiny 1, bar some improvements and polish to the formula, such as now being able to travel to different locations without returning to orbit.  I put many hours into Destiny 1 and can see me putting just as much time into this sequel.  The advent of clans and easier to be a part of fire teams seems an added incentive also.  Graphically it’s no slouch either, with varied planets to explore and great effects and atmosphere.  The core combat is also as satisfying as it ever was.  The game could greatly do with some new enemy types however but apart from that I’m having a great time.

Steam World Dig 2

Another game I’m enjoying is Steam World Dig 2 on the Nintendo Switch.  I liked the look of this game from footage I’d seen a while back and it’s as fun and interesting an experience as I’d hoped.  What can I say – platform exploration mixed with mining / digging is like gaming crack, and I find it very appealing that I want to rush back to the game time and time again.  It may be a 2D platformer but it has colourful, vibrant graphics with a charming art-style and plenty of detail.  I don’t have much else to say other than give it a try if curious.

I also got my hands on the highly anticipated Sonic Mania.  I have the Switch version and boy, I’d forgot how difficult Sonic used to be.  It’s sort of a celebration / re-imagining of the first 3 Sonic The Hedgehog games from waaaay back on the Sega Megadrive, with a few new stages added in for good measure.  Although I’m enjoying it and it’s still a great deal of addictive fun, it’s reliance on old-school pixel graphics is a little disappointing – a bit of refinement here and there would’ve been nice – and a few new animations only adds so much.  Overall for a Switch game it’s at times a bit ugly.  Yet as a celebration of a famed videogame character, I guess it does it’s job well enough.

twin-peaks

I finished watching Twin Peaks Season 3 also, and have come away somewhat disheartened.  The ending, without spoiling just left me thinking ‘wtf?’ and many plot threads (if they can be called that – this was not your usual show) failed to go anywhere.  I’m leaving my final verdict until after I’ve re-watched the whole season on Blu-ray where I can really study it … not that I’m really expecting to come away all that wiser.  We’ll see.  Yet I will say this:  as a purely artistic, utterly surreal ‘vision’ and as a return to film-making by acclaimed director David Lynch it was still effective, and at times amazing – but satisfying?  The jury’s still out on that one.

I have some movie reviews in the pipe line and a few other ideas for this blog, so keep an eye out for further updates soon.

Craig.

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My gaming history – Part 3


See previous posts here:  Part 1 and here: Part 2.

As I started work, got money of my own my history with gaming gets a tad cloudy.  I think the very first videogame system I obtained from my own hard-earned cash was the original Sony PlayStation.  I saved up to afford it and even remember buying a walkthrough guide to Resident Evil 2 in the weeks leading up to getting the system.  To say I was excited was an understatement.  For a long time the PlayStation was my only system (I think I got a Gameboy somewhere along the line but my interest in that was limited to simply playing and completing The  Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening).  Sony PlayStation

gran turismoI played a lot of games on it and recall a firm favourite was Tekken 3 which I enjoyed endless nights playing against a friend and well, those bouts were legendary!  Some of the best games on the system for me were of course, the first Metal Gear Solid and also I’d say Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (a series I really wish would come back).  I also think Gran Turismo was a particular highlight.Sega-dreamcast

Following the advent of PlayStation that made gaming much more of a mainstream hobby, I did get hold of more systems, firstly the Sega Dreamcast, which I’d say pioneered the online gaming revolution we take for granted these days and was seriously ahead of it’s time.  The Dreamcast I’d say had one of the strongest games catalogues around with such gems as Jet Set Radio, Virtua Tennis, Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive 2 and Powerstone as well as many more.  It was a short-lived system and really deserved to be more successful – but as at the time the PlayStation 2 had just been released, Sega’s final console didn’t stand a chance.  It was around this time I also got a PS2 and a little later an Xbox.

The_Legend_of_Zelda_The_Wind_Waker

The PS2 was of course my gaming system of choice for a good while but I did like my Xbox too even if the advent of Microsoft didn’t really hit it’s stride until the Xbox 360 came out.  During this era I also managed to get a Nintendo Gamecube which I think back to fondly and well, it had Super Mario Sunshine and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on it, but as with Nintendo consoles in the post-PlayStation era the only decent games were Nintendo produced (mostly) so quickly having games to get for the system became few and far between.  I sold it somewhere down the line and think that pushed me onto the last generation of consoles before we find ourselves where we are today.

To be concluded.

My gaming history – Part 2


In the early nineties, I was in possession of two more gaming systems, firstly the much famed Sega Megadrive (aka Genesis) as well as another micro-computer, the Commodore Amiga 600.  Now for a long time, along with the Amstrad CPC 464 computer, I had found my gaming hobby growing, mostly down to having friends who had the same systems as me (mostly the Amstrad), and borrowing games and building a collection.  However it was time to movie on and if memory serves me correct, my parents got me a Megadrive for Christmas one year.  The only real issue with such a console was that compared to what I had been used to with the Amstrad, the games were much more expensive, and well let’s say the at the time bundled ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ was my only game for the system.  Not that I was complaining – I’d never seen graphics like that in my life and it was a firm favourite.

megadrive

I later with some saving and borrowing was able to get hold of games like Revenge of ‘Shinobi’, ‘Road Rash’ … as well as being able to rent some titles from my local video rental store.  One firm memory I have of this era though was the rather guilty confession of seeking out ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2’, which was a later Christmas present and I remember finding it when looking for prezzies in my parent’s bedroom, and having a cheeky play on it when they weren’t at home…then putting it back and acting all surprised Christmas morning.  No, I’m not proud of myself but I was only about 14!.

Road Rash    Sonic the Hedgehog

I think I had the Commodore Amiga 600 a little after the Sega Megadrive and it was one of a series of computers that were all the craze at school amongst my friends.  When I had the Amstrad everyone talked about the Amiga (and it’s nearest rival at the time the Atari ST) both home computer’s which were like a more user-friendly, cheaper alternative to the PC which was more an office system back then and not as widely available.  The micro-computer boom fizzled out in the mid to late nineties when consoles and PCs became more popular (with the success various Sega and Nintendo systems ruling the nineties).  Yet despite owning a Megadrive, to have an Amiga made me feel like I was finally a part of a bigger, more respected crowd, and it was a system I really enjoyed.  I would buy, borrow and (ahem…copy) many games for the system and firm favourites were ‘Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’, ‘The Chaos Engine’, ‘Alien Breed’, ‘Turrican’ (1 & 2), ‘Formula One Grand Prix’ and ‘Syndicate’.  I formed a friendship with a friend of mine that worked in a shop and both owning an Amiga developed a friendship that still exists today.  Good times.

Amiga 600

Monkey Island 2  Turrican 2

In part 3 I’ll be taking a look at the advent of PlayStation … the console to get that was marketed quite unlike other consoles before it.

All conquering PS4??


This is coming from now owning both supposedly ‘next-gen’ systems, and feeling rather underwhelmed by what the PS4 has offered me thus far.  I haven’t played many games on it but do find myself going back to the XB more often than not – and the underwhelming allure of the PS4’s exclusive titles doesn’t help matters.

the order 1886

The latest thing is that the heavily hyped and long awaited The Order 1886 has turned out to be a very disappointing game, despite a lengthy development cycle.  Again another game in Sony’s supposedly killer line-up that fails to live up to it’s potential.  It joins a growing list of games that have failed to completely wow critics or many gamers and warrant that expensive purchase of a new machine.  Yet despite games like Infamous: Second Son, Kill Zone Shadow Fall and Drive Club not delivering – the PS4 continues to fly off the shelves.

driveclub_weather_0

I’m confused.  Since when did tech-specs and NOT games make a machine the biggest and most popular?  Certainly wasn’t the case last generation when the PS3 failed to initially grab people despite technically being superior to the Xbox 360.  It has baffled me this time how brand loyalty or simply good marketing and well, a bit of brainwashing seems to have won over quality entertainment.  I remember owning both the Sega Dreamcast and the Nintendo Gamecube and liking both, with some amazing games on them – but they did not sell, and so quickly they were discontinued by their manufacturers.  This of course isn’t the case for Microsoft’s Xbox One which has done admirably well sales wise despite the PS4’s dominance – but it still means that marketing and brand win over actual quality of games.  Third-party isn’t so bad for Sony’s machine as it usually wins out against the XB for resolution and frame-rate (but not always…) and such has grabbed a lot of media attention and made it look like the console to go for – but now owning both, I find the games on the XB, especially the exclusives like Sunset Overdrive, Titanfall etc. a huge amount of fun.  Microsoft have done a great deal to rectify a difficult start for their new console and I for one applaud their wealth of updates, new features, their excellent games with gold feature and some top notch indie titles.  Yes Sony’s machine has all of these things but often feel limp and lacking compared to how Xbox does things – who just make it all look a lot more attractive.

dualshock4

That then brings me to the consoles themselves.  It’s clear that the touch pad and speaker on the PS4 controller is a gimmick and will get very little use in games, and well, when the speaker does come on, it just doesn’t seem right.  Kind of cool, but a bit annoying.  Also let’s talk about the recording of gameplay features on both consoles.  XB’s Upload Studio is excellent, very easy to use and you can send gameplay to your friends at a click of a button.  Not so on the PS4, with the Share Factory very cumbersome and complicated (but possibly more robust in features) and you can send screenshots to friends – but not gameplay, unless you post it to Facebook or YouTube.  Huh??  Why??

I’ve also mentioned before that the PS4 doesn’t let you attach an external HDD via USB to enlarge your storage capacity (at least as far as storing games on it is concerned – you can back up other media like screenshots or game saves) but the XB allows you to store games on an external HDD – avoiding any awkward tinkering inside the console itself.

So yes it puzzles me just why the PS4 remains so universally loved.  The exclusive games are seriously lacking and the features of the console itself clearly pale in comparison to it’s immediate rival – but hey, its a pretty looking machine, and everyone is talking about it … so that’s all that matters, right?  Sigh.

A classic returns


This blog has mostly moved away from reporting on video games in recent months, as I feel it isn’t really what I started this site up for.  But every now and then I just feel the need to tell the world about certain games.  Jet Set Radio (aka Jet Grind Radio) is one such beast, newly released last week on XBOX Live Arcade and Playstation Network, this HD re-make of the Sega Dreamcast original has thankfully for me, lost none of its magic.  The game has you as a member of a street gang who travel around a cartoon version of Tokyo claiming their turf by spraying graffiti and chasing off rival gangs, whilst at the same time avoiding the Police (or Army, or Assassins).

Developed by the now defunct Smilebit and released by Sega in 2001, this is a game with a very unique identity.  The game is just pure fun to play, challenging due to strict time limits and  a quirky control method that takes a bit of getting used to – but for about £5 this is a steal and worth every penny.  The game is also huge with various vibrant districts to skate around and just enjoy exploring, and the cast of characters are pure Japanese  brilliance.  Now the icing on this wonderful cake is also its bubble-gum pop soundtrack that mixes dance, techno, rock and synth wonderfully to create a possibly bonkers gaming vibe.

The HD re-release looks gorgeous.  The graphics are very colourful and the art design has not dated at all.  Ok there are a few low-res textures, pop-in rears its head (as it did in the Dreamcast version) and glitches and a few audio stutters do occur.  These could all have been addressed, but this is still far from a lazy port.  In widescreen on a big TV it all just looks stunning and with a silky smooth frame rate – I couldn’t help but be blown away all over again.

The 2nd greatest game I have ever played (next to Half-Life 2).  Essential for any ‘true’ gamer’s collection.