One Small Step

I have always been obsessed with Space. As a child most of my Lego was Space related, the biggest of which was the Space Police Commander which I loved and mourned when my brother threw it down the stairs. All the shows I loved the most growing up were intergalactic in some way, Space Precinct, Stargate SG1, Babylon 5 and of course my beloved Star Trek. I was fascinated by it and for a time between wanting to be a fireman and a pop star my dream was to be an Astronaut and go to Space. To this day I love keeping up with news on space science and science fiction is my genre of choice.

That’s why, when browsing the trends last night on twitter, I was greatly saddened to see that Neil Armstrong had passed away. For most people if not all Neil Armstrong is Space personified, he was nothing short of an icon. It’s the first person in my head when I think of Space, not Yuri Gagarin or Richard Branson or Jean Luc Picard. A man who uttered a few words so famous that every child born thereafter who had even a passing interest in astronomy has them branded to their brain.

There were others who went to Space first and there will be plenty more to go in the future, all of them inspirational. But Neil Armstrong transcended mere inspiration, he was and will be a legend to every generation from the day he took that small step ad infinitum.

Random Access Memory Lane Part 5: The Final Boss

So we have finally come to the climax of our epic recollection of our own personal ghosts of gaming past. There are so many games that we haven’t had the chance to talk about like Road Rash, Desert Strike, Tomb Raider, FF7, Nebulus, World cup italia 90, Tennis Ace, Alex the Kid in Miracle world, Splatterhouse, Ghouls and ghosts, Another world, Turtles in time and Speed Ball are just some of the titles I considered boring you to sleep with. Alas we decided to narrow our selections down to five and without further ado onto the last.

For my final choice I opted for a game that was again released in the bumper year of ’97 (coincidentally the very same year our beloved Bungie was formed) I didn’t mention this or my compatriots game in my previous posts run down of titles from the same year as I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for you, our lucky, lucky readers. (MS Dosser: – unfortunately I did like a nob)

george a romero creator of the fine of the dead series

Mild mannered old man, or horror movie legend?

The game I’m about to discuss has an age rating on it so for argument’s sake lets say I didn’t play it til around ’99. After the original ’96 title received critical acclaim this extended version was released to tide fans over whilst awaiting the sequel. A first for me, despite having seen George A Romero‘s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead a few years earlier, I had never before had the chance to go toe to toe with a horde of flesh-eating, brain-dead Zombie Bastards.

resident evil directors cut box

(Resident Evil Directors Cut 1997 PS)

You had probably already come to the conclusion that I was going to be talking about the RE series. Like me, many of you would have screamed yourself silly when that first iconic dead head craned his neck and rose to meet Chris/Jill after being so rudely uninterrupted from his less than conventional snack. From that moment on this game kept me on the edge of my seat right up until the glorious rooftop climax. Capcompreviously better known for the hugely successful Street Fighter series and Megaman games you would probably never have guessed that this (almost) spoof of Western horror flicks would become their biggest and most profitable franchise to date. However with the popularity of the PS amongst adolescent teens and young men the walking dead were always destined to become a massive hit.

first zombie resident evil

The first VG zombie?

The opening sequence was most unusually filmed footage with real life actors!! Far from lending the game some gravitas this shoddy B-movie style intro actually detracts somewhat from the horrors you would find within the Arklay Mansion. That said I still love everything about this cheesy intro (from Barry’s blatantly stuck on ginger beard to Chris woodenly shouting “No! Don’t go!” at a rapidly shrinking badly animated CG helicopter) and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So you escape the attentions of the first Zombie and try to find your missing fellow S.T.A.R.S (special tactics and rescue service) members from the Raccoon city police department, things can surely only get better right ….. right? Nope.

Barry Burton

Al from Home Improvement

Pretty soon you get the hang of dodging or killing the shambling, moaning, biting, rotting corpses wandering the hallways of this mountainside mansion. Should you decide to try to take out each and every T-virus victim you are going to run out of ammo pretty quickly (Unless you are playing on noob mode), which you will soon live, or not, to regret. In the early stages of the game running from Z-heads is not the most of your worries and you will find yourself spending most of your time searching through files for clues (some of the most important plot points come from reading through various documents and diaries known as files) rifling through drawers for ammo and searching high and low for the various jewels, crests, crank handle and keys required to gain access to the other areas of the mansion giving the game something of a puzzle/mystery adventure. As you delve further into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Bravo team and the Umbrella corporation’s sinister experiments you find yourself up against odds stacked increasingly against you.

zombie dog resident evil

Sit Ubu Sit …. good dog.

The Zombies become the least of your worries when you discover what other mutants the mad scientists have created from the labs hidden deep within the mountain under the mansion. Cerberus the infected dogs are one of the earliest to be introduced, their movement speed combined with your characters slow aiming makes them incredibly difficult to take down without taking some serious damage.

Hunters come next, a kind of mutant frog zombie thing with razor claws that will slice you to pieces given half a chance. If you think that’s the worst of it you’re wrong, as giant spiders, snakes, bloodthirsty sharks and more await you down each and every corridor and lurk in all the dark corners.

The villains are brilliant (I wont name names in case you have yet to discover who it is but most of you know who I mean) and the spooky atmosphere created here is topped probably only by the brilliant Silent Hill and the game will have you jumping out of your seat time and time again (especially if you insist on playing it alone in the dark). I know it’s not without its drawbacks, the clunky animations of the square chunky character models stand out against the lush static backgrounds and I know many who would criticise the games slow pace, you could wander around for hours searching for a key and not encounter any enemies. Every time you enter a door or climb a set stairs you are treated to a painfully slow first person animation depicting the opening door or ascending of stairs, for some this is an unwanted distraction, for me however this along with the frozen camera angles (which at times seem to be designed deliberately to make it impossible for you to see your foes) just adds to the tension, an important aspect for any horror title movie or game. Yes the voice acting is a joke and the way the characters gesticulate wildly whenever they speak is borderline hilarious and completely unnecessary … we can tell who is speaking thank you very much but these are minor flaws and they have little impact on the game.

Resident Evil is one of the best titles, not just of the 128 bit generation but of all time. It has been so influential to many games that have come since (Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness, Project Zero, Obscure to name but a few). A series which has spawned many sequels, prequels, Hollywood movies even novelizations and reboots over the years, most notably a full remake on GameCube and DS and continues today. With the forthcoming RE6 looking to bring together some of these games’ most beloved characters I think there is life in this old viral mutant romp yet.

I have to give thanks Capcom for preparing me for the inevitable Zombie Emergency from a very early age.

-” So I ate his face Itchy …. tasty ….”

-Elth

The last game on my list I know pretty much every gamer holds dear to their hearts and undoubtedly gave a lot of you your first proper case of ‘Nintendo Thumb’. It’s a totally obvious choice so by all means call me a noob in the comments, that’s fine because this game pretty much invented everything in every game I play now in one form or another. Its Goldeneye 007.

goldeneye box artWhilst you lot finish your silent nerdgasms at your desks and public fist pumping on the bus I’ll give you a brief history. For those 3 people who don’t know it was released in 1997 and developed by Rare, who also created the brilliant Donkey Kong Country mentioned earlier in this series, Goldeneye is a stealth game that takes place during the James Bond movie of the same name released 2 years earlier. At first it was destined to be a Virtua Cop inspired on-the-rails shooter but given the strides in console technology the viability of a more Doom based 3D shooter meant that the Goldeneye we love was born.

This game’s accomplishments have been trumpeted from on high and still echo round the crevices of gaming culture today and I think it’s important to just recognise how this game was able to become so influential. I am sure this was down to the fact that Rare were given as much time as they needed to develop this game and were under no pressure to get it released to coincide with the movie. Which if released today, for a game such as this is a scenario that would just not be permitted with the likes of EA and Activision banging the drum at developers to make sure they row or face a lashing. This game proves that time is by far a developers greatest resource.

So now we know how (complete with sly corporate dig) the question now is why was this game so bloody good. Personally as much as I loved the single player, I mean that  moment where you hurl yourself off the Contra Dam sticks with anyone who played Goldeneye, but as usual the multiplayer was where the real fun started for me.

It is even more staggering that Martin Hollis the lead designer said that the multiplayer was “a complete afterthought”. Good job you put it in there Mr Hollis because every console shooter has only really moved a couple of inches since from your vision and in fact in some cases have taken a step back by not even allowing split screen multiplayer.

The N64 brought you the ability to have up to four players at once in split screen mode and with Goldeneye being the first proper multiplayer console shooter it paved the way for those early LAN party style play sessions where automatic gunfire ushered in the birth of talking smack for a whole generation. Living close to school I spent many a lunch time and even more revision time for mock GCSE’s glued to my TV trying to, often unsuccessfully, kill three of my mates whilst another few lads watched on awaiting their turn.

The only rules were winner stays on and no one can be Oddjob.

Oddjob’s villainy stemmed from never being able to go on any rides at Alton Towers

The game modes were genius and still directly translate into almost every modern shooter. Take the always tense and quite often very campy You Only Live Twice, whereby a player has two lives and once you lose those lives your out, you lose and are subsequently mocked by your friends. A modern parallel that immediately springs to mind is that of the Call of Duty series Search and Destroy mode which just added an objective which everyone ignores and got rid of a life. Similarly the License to Kill mode is a one shot one kill game which is basically Halo’s Team Swat and The Living Daylights is an objective game whereby you must control a flag and hold it for as long as possible… sound familiar? It should because this mode exists in pretty much every FPS out today.

Continuing with the theme of firsts, the guns again were right up there, Goldeneye used realistic models of guns which if you look at most of its contemporary PC shooters like Quake they were much more pretendy, as were the guns in the N64’s coldly received Turok. Proximity and remote mines made an appearance which as far as I am aware had not surfaced before, which personally led to some of the most ridiculous infinite proxy mines custom matches and now are seen throughout most realistic military shooter in the form of claymore’s and C4. Oh yeah it had throwing knives too, nuff said.

Most notably though is the console appearance of the zoomable sniper rifle which, along with MDK that Elth mentioned last post, Goldeneye is credited for popularising. You just have to look at any game with guns in it and this feature is as standard.

I could go on about the level design for an age but I wont as I know this is getting a little long and gushy but I will say Archives and Facility were a triumph and especially good for those remote mine insanity sessions I mentioned earlier. The variety of levels was great too and it didn’t matter one bit about the extensive use of gray-scale throughout most of them. Back then this game was cutting edge and it felt like it every time you played, nowadays its firmly planted in the history books as the game that pushed the console shooter snowball off the top of the cliff. Epic cannot even describe my love for this game and it’s perfect in every way.

Just ignore the fact you can’t jump.

-MS Dosser

Well that’s it, the rose tinted glasses are off and our look back at our most memorable games as a youngster has come to a close. Did you play Resident Evil or Goldeneye? What did you think of them or indeed any of the games in the previous posts? Please subscribe and leave us comments, you can also follow us on Twitter @TeaBagOrDie.

Random Access Memory Lane Part 4: – Tamagotchis and Teletubbies.

Again just before slide down the 8-bit sphincter and see what sprites shoot out I would like to  give yet another shout out to the graphical sorcerers over at Me and Alan who made us our wicked banner earlier in the week and now have sorted out our twitter background too! Check it out for yourselves @teabagordie and visit their site. Cheers.

These days my staple diet now is low carb first person shooters, as an early teen I had a sweet tooth for real-time strategy games such as Age of Empires, Civilisation II and Sim-City 2000. Similarly at this tender age I found that watching nice people really knack themselves on You’ve Been Framed absolutely hilarious. I believe this is why this next game struck a chord with me and made it one of my most cherished titles. Straight from my teenage brain I present to you Dungeon Keeper.

This game was developed by Bullfrog under the guidance of Peter Molyneux, for those readers who don’t know he is most famous for promising the moon and delivering cheese in the Fable saga. Released in 1997 to critical acclaim this RTS at first glance is fairly standard fare using a pretty standard mouse interface found in most RTS games. What sets it apart of course is the premise of the game. You play the bad guy.

This angle, to my knowledge at least, had never really been tackled before and the result is pure unadulterated fun. The aim of the game is to build up a dungeon and fill it with a multitude of evil minions to protect the dungeon heart. Once your horde was strong enough you then sent them to lay waste to the noble kingdom on that level, then wash rinse and repeat until the idyllic world map was a decimated smoking ruin. All the while sat in front of your PC doing your best Vincent Price evil  laugh…don’t look at me like that I know you did the laugh.

Going back to the whole minions thing Bullfrog certainly threw plenty of those in, all of which were quite unique, you had Warlocks which glided everywhere and researched new spells for you to unleash on the next hapless hero you came across. Bile Demons (pictured) who ate live chickens by the handful and made good use of their weight and digestive gases in battle, Dark Mistresses who are often found in the torture room whipping themselves whilst screaming in delight. Oh and of course the cluster fuck that was The Horned Reaper, a killing machine that if left idle would pulverize your own creatures!

And if you wanted more peons you could opt to kill your foes and bury them in your graveyard and once you had enough bodies a (non sparkling) vampire would rise from the grave. The other option was to render them unconscious and either put them into a prison cell where they would eventually die and become skeletons for your unholy cause, or my personal favourite was to give them to a mistress in a torture room and have them whipped until they either turned traitor or perished just like on You’ve Been Framed…..

You see pain was a great motivator in Dungeon Keeper and as the ungodly floating hand you were the one to mete it out to lazy workers with a couple of swift slaps, which sped them up in their task and provided some great noises from the now decidedly non-lethargic creature. The slap was also very handy at stopping in fighting between natural enemies in your stronghold, the skeleton and bile demon despised each other and were spoiling to knock the seven bells out of the other if left unattended. Of course it was possible to get a bit carried away and possibly slay an imp or two but hey that was just more fuel for the graveyard right?

Now before you have a specialist come out and look at me I would just like to point out just how influential Dungeon Keeper has been to the games industry at large. By far the most notable of which is Minecraft whose creator “Notch” openly states that he was partially inspired by Dungeon Keeper.

Of course this game got a sequel which again was very good but I think as it got prettier it lost a touch of that dark appeal from the first game. Back in the day there were plans to make a third game but they were shelved thanks to the greedy garter snake that is EA swallowing poor Bullfrog whole.

I bet EA has the best evil laugh ever.

-MS Dosser

97 is the year Daft Punk released the fantastic Homework sadly it’s probably more famously the year The Spice Girls burst on to the scene and topped the charts on the far side of the pond with debut single Wannabe (the first British act to perform such a feat …. sigh). This was a bumper year for Video games too with some truly exceptional titles on display. Dosser has already mentioned Dungeon Keeper but how’s this for a list of games; Final fantasy VII, Carmageddon, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, Fallout, Age of Empires, Grand Theft Auto, Riven, Monkey Island, Tomb Raider 2 and the original Gran Turismo.  Absurd right?

So what chance would Earthworm Jim developers Shiny Entertainment have to make their mark on the market against all these gems? Unlikely hero Kurt Hectic was their only hope.

mdk box art

(MDK PC and MAC ’97)

I think the main reason this slightly wacky game really stuck with me was because it was the first 3D third person shooter that I had ever played (well at least one in which I didn’t spend most of my time trying to re-angle the camera to look up Lara’s shorts).The game focused around the escapades of former janitor Kurt Hectic whose life aboard a research ship was thrown into turmoil when his boss Dr Hawkins discovered that an army of Alien ships were headed to Earth in order to strip the planet of its resources with the primary goal of stealing our potatoes…. don’t ask.

The zany Dr Hawkins has as it happens developed a Coil Suit capable of offering Kurt some protection and a means to destroy the behemoth ships hell-bent on the destruction of Earth. In terms of graphics the game won’t look massively impressive now but back in ’97 this was the mutts nuts, especially when it was time to use the suits head mounted sniper rifle. As far as I can recall this was the first third person game to give you ability to zoom in and actually head shot an enemy (Something that is a staple with most shooters may very well have started here). What makes this mechanic more interesting is the three mini displays above your main scope which were capable of showing the trajectory of your shots even after you have panned to a new mechanical target.

The robotic alien foes and in particular the bosses could be difficult to defeat but our hero Kurt had a range of abilities at his disposal. Whilst gliding, chain gunning and sniping your way through a level is all well and good, the comical yet tenacious enemies had surprisingly intelligent AI and the tide could quickly turn against you. In order to counter-act this Kurt had a plethora of alternate methods to take down his foes. Hand grenades, decoys, mini nukes and airstrikes from Bones the robotic dog (it’s a long story) were just a few of your options and in a game that never lacked in creativity.

kurt hecticPointy headed but cool

Hilarious in execution, intelligent in its design MDK really offered something a bit different even if it wasn’t necessarily the first of its kind, coming after the likes of Tomb Raider had shown what a third person game can really be it did offer some new mechanics however and a fun game that never seemed like it was too concerned with its own self-importance. Obviously it worked because the game scored a PlayStation release and a Bioware developed Dreamcast & PC sequel.

Both MDK and the sequel are available on Steam.

– Elth

Random Access Memory Lane Part 3: The Era of the 20 pence mix up.

You can find Part 2 of our Random Access Memory Lane series here

So far we’ve talked beat em-ups, adventures, and puzzlers what we have sorely missed so far is a war game. There were two games in the running for me Desert Strike and Cannon Fodder I decided to roll with the latter.

cannon fodder front cover

Cannon Fodder ’93

Virgin are now known more for their high-speed internet and TV services but in the early days they had fingers in all kinds of pies and they published this RTS gem from Sensible Software. Where other games can tend to glamorize war Cannon Fodder took a different approach and hidden behind this comical war sim was a pretty strong anti-war message. The thing that sticks in my mind most about this game was not the excellent gameplay and humorous little digs at the futility of many of our planets great conflicts, but the intro song. Those who played this game on a 16 bit console probably wont have heard this before but it was a killer track and I still remember the lyrics completely today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiYuq6Ac3a0

War .. Never been so much fun.

They were right war probably had never been so much fun. Taking control of a small squad of teeny soldiers the player was tasked with taking on much larger armies of little shooty men. The game starts out pretty easily but the difficulty soon gets ramped up as you are forced to take on more crafty enemies in more difficult terrains. A mouse based game, your infantry follow your clicks around the screen and can be split into groups in order to more effectively take out your opponents or cover ground more quickly.

cannon fodder boot camp

Boot Camp

Getting your troupe to the objective alive was important. Loose a soldier and you would have to bring in a new recruit, one whose lesser experience made him/her a less efficient killing machine, luckily you could arm them with more than just machine guns. The standard tiny dot firing guns were effective against infantry and explosive barrels but for the more difficult jeeps and for those craftily placed troop houses you needed something with a little more punch. Grenades and rocket launchers were available but ammunition was sparse so making good use of your power weapons then was as important than as it is in modern shooters.

poppy intro

Armistice

The game found itself in a spot of bother after the media claimed the opening imagery was mimicking the remembrance day poppy and that this, combined with the games comical take on war was in someway undermining the importance of the symbol. The media had a point I guess but it was blown all out of proportion and I doubt it was ever the intention of the developers to make light of the sacrifices made in the past, I feel it was intended more to make people think twice about the necessity of future conflicts. More importantly the game was great fun to play and another tick in the box of a fab developer from the 16-bit era.

– Elth

Ok you dirty bitches, time to seamlessly segue into my pick, no more fucking about lets bring out the big guns. Yeah that was an awful segue but you wont care when you see the bad boy I have on the cards here. Donkey Kong Muthafuckin Country! (the swearing is not part of the actual title.)

I will always remember the day our parents got my brother and I got us a SNES as a joint Christmas present, our first console. It was amazing, playing classics like Super Mario world, Super Mario kart, Super Mario all-stars… hell anything with that mustachioed fearless plumber in was some of the most fun I have ever had and I will always hold Mario on a pedestal. However it was not the flagship brotherly combo of Nintendo that wins the 16 bit gold medal for me. It was DK all the way. In fact, game wise, it was my first true love. Eventually I would move on and meet Halo, who I knew was the one I wanted to grow old with, you know get a villa in Spain with a pool, some dogs and a garden and have the grand kids John and Cortana over in the summer to float around lazily in their rubber ring….*blinks*…Wow, that got weird, lets move on.

So why was Donkey Kong Country so fapping good?

Rare made it, the legendary developer behind so many Nintendo classics like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and of course the seminal Goldeneye 007. This company made some amazing games for various Nintendo systems, but it was DKC that announced their arrival as a heavy hitter.

The level design and variety was impeccable, the difficulty increased at exactly the right gradient. Some of the outstanding levels that spring to mind still are Barrel Canon Canyon and Vulture Culture. Oh and of course Mine Cart Carnage! Those mine cart levels were the exception to that well honed difficulty gradient. When one of these cropped up on you then the fun and games were over and you had to lean forward and put every mental faculty you had in to each jump and when you finished that level the sense of achievement was worth more than a thousand wham bars. Oh and looking back there was a level called Necky’s Nuts!? oo err.

Rambi the Rhino, what a legend. In fact all the animals that you got to ride were perfectly useful for the level they were found on, but everyone loved Rambi, most for the fact that you could get to bonus games with him very easily when you accidentally crashed through a wall. Personally I loved him for the noise he used to make when he hit enemies.

Two player co-op was the most fun. This was mainly because being the oldest I was always Donkey Kong, but my brother didn’t mind because he loved being Diddy Kong!

The replay value of each level, always striving to get those letters to spell K O N G for the extra life, if you missed one, you went back and played until to got it.

Visiting Cranky Kong was always a laugh even though his tips were never really that handy.

The music spot on for each level as well, sounding fun on easier lighter levels and descending into something entirely more creepy the harder or darker the level got.

And finally the graphics, oh the graphics. For their time they were mind-blowing, that little cartridge squeezed every drop of capability out of the SNES, and this isn’t just me being ultra nostalgic, this game genuinely broke through the graphical barrier the console had, I remember reading in Nintendo magazine that they had never seen the like of it and when I got my paws on it I honestly thought graphics in games could never beat this.

On this point alone I am glad I was wrong. Although I think I could still get down with 16 bit Halo…

-MS Dosser.

Did you spot the anti-war message in Cannon Fodder? or did you just like blasting sprites to bits? Let us know.

Do you have as fond a memory of DK or have a different favourite game on the SNES, please leave us a comment, subscribe, like, tweet or +1 us. Thanks.

Random Access Memory Lane Part 2: The fizzy drink diet.

Just before we get going on today’s nonsense I thought I would mention the new banner emblazoned across our blog, it was designed by one of the powerful chaps over at the emperors of design Me and Alan, I think it looks epic so please visit their site to see just how mint they are. Cheers.

If you haven’t read our part 1 you can find it here, if you have then lets crack on.

Its 1992 and shit is going down. For the adult world at least.

It is announced that a third of our coal mines are to be closed, which contributes to a record high in unemployment. A spate of IRA attack occur throughout the year across the nation of which Manchester suffers the worst of it. Windsor Castle is severely damaged after a proper massive fire. The economy is in tatters, so much so that it was decided the Queen is going to have to pay taxes.

For me it was a different kettle of fish, for me 1992 was all about my football team Newcastle United signing Alan Shearer for a record 15 million quid, watching some wicked telly including some particularly epic cartoons like X-Men and Animals of Farthing Wood and experiencing my first beat em up on a console. The glory that was Double Dragon

Now I know that technically Double Dragon had several iterations but I played the one on the Mega Drive which the internet tells me released in this year. This seminal game considered to be the progenitor of the modern beat em up. Taking on the role of either Billy or Jimmy Lee (twin brothers obviously) you are tasked with applying the fictional martial art with some ridiculous name, which incidentally was inspired by Jeet Kune Do and is one of the many references to the great Bruce Lee, to smash the snot out of innumerable enemies as you make your way through each level.

When I think about it, this game’s co-operative was probably the first time I felt that multiplayer buzz which would become the dominating force in my adult life as a gamer. Sure co-op was nothing new in the industry but to be 9 years old and to take on the role of a kick ass, muscle-bound Chuck Norris type with your best mate being every bit as ninja whilst to punch and kick your way through as many hapless bad guys whose skulls are standing in the way of you and justice, well that kind of experience will stick with you.

As a kid you wanted to be a hero, preferably one with granite hands and fly kicks up the wazoo (TMNT was huge at this point) and this game gave you that in buckets. To poach a phrase a friend of mind used to describe Dizzy when he read our last post, Double Dragon was ‘the tits’. End of.

As with my last post that offered up a link to play Dizzy, the generosity continues and this time it’s for you hipsters that have an iPhone. Here is Double Dragon for the iPhone for when you get sick of sketching out the same pictures in Draw Something. You will have to pay for it like I’m not made of money, probably due to the fact I’m always distracted playing or writing about games to achieve any true modicum of success on the career front.

– MS Dosser

Cast your mind back to the previous year. It’s ’91 and none of Dossers depressing issues have come to the fore as of yet. Operation desert storm is over, Mario and Sonic are locking horns in the battle of the consoles, Link has a new quest on his hands and Terminator 2 is out at the cinema surely you’d think there would be no reason for tiny green haired blue smock wearing animals to throw them selves off the nearest edge? Well you’re wrong.

Lemmings
(Atari ST ’91)

Lemmings box art

Blocker, Builder, Basher, Climber, Floater if these words bring to mind seven Dwarves for you then a) you didn’t play Lemmings and b) you don’t know much about Snow White. No these names were not those allocated to the Hi-ho chanting little fellas from the classic German fairy tale, they are in fact some of the skills which made these tykes into the lovable (if somewhat frustrating) stars from one of the most popular video games of all time.

Wiki tells me that Lemmings throughout the years has shipped over 15 million units and honestly I can’t think of a title that deserved more success. The thought and care that went into the level design of this game make modern puzzle game creators cry into their coffee every morning. It was a simple idea taken to monumental levels by DMA design, who it is worth noting are now the amazing Rockstar North, sometimes it would feel as though a level was impossible but once you figured it out it would leave you wondering how on earth you failed to spot the correct path through.

lemmings level

Diggers will be necessary.

So this bunch of ludicrously cute little sprites drop down from a trap door in the sky, screaming their trade mark “let’s go”, and it’s up to you to guide them past the various pitfalls, traps, spikes, lava, fire and whatever other devious little tricks the developers had hidden along the way. Through various typical video game sets such as desert, dungeon, ice land etc.

a gif of the two competing walking animations

This gif actually shows the original competing designs for the walking animation.

Originally an Amiga title its instant success led to multiple ports and sequels (it has even seen a re-release on PSP) and soon people all over the world were scratching their heads and smashing their mouse’s (mousai? mice?) in frustration as the poor little chaps met their grizzly end time and time again.

lemming jumping artwork

Let’s go!

So enamored with the artwork as a child I actually wanted a pet Lemming and I’m not ashamed to admit I would’ve dressed him in blue and dyed his hair green had I ever had one but alas I didn’t so I made do with an imaginary one that lived in my watch (I know, I know but I already told you I was a weird kid.). I even used to spend hours sketching crude Lemmings having fun little adventures, driving cars, fighting monsters and so on.

falling lemming

not one of mine

One of the main things I remember about this game was the music. Slightly akin to being stuck in a lift listening to pan pipe versions of classic pop songs the tunes on display here were midi versions of classical music and various random school yard tunes (I may be imaging this but I’m pretty sure one of them is ‘how much is that doggy in the window’) rather than adding to the infuriating nature of this puzzler I find them somewhat calming but that might just be me. Take a listen to one of the more memorable tunes for yourself and you will (hopefully) see what I mean.

So what is essentially an epic puzzle game becomes without a doubt one of the most phenomenal titles of all time. Don’t believe me? Well some clever so and so has ported it into your browser so you can enjoy the original game in all of its glory.(albeit without the fantastic sound effects.) YIPEE!

– Elth

P.S you ever get to the end of Double Dragon in co-op MS-Dosser? I did with my cousin….. it doesn’t end well.

Hope you enjoyed the second part of our trip along nostalgia avenue. Did you love Double Dragon? or were you more of a Streets of Rage kinda guy? Did Lemmings cause you to punch a hole in the nearest wall/person/screen available or were you lulled into a deep calm by the weird ass music? Let us know in the comments and subscribe to keep up with the continuing recap of the games that caused us to be hopelessly addicted today.

Random Access Memory Lane Part 1: The Milk At School Years.

Having watched Indie Game:The Movie both myself and my fellow tea bagger Elth got a little nostalgic about ‘the good old days’ when a whole megabyte of RAM in any kind of computer was only seen in Star Trek. So we decided it might be a good idea to give you a run down of the video games that we remember from when we were littler. In order to keep you from tears of boredom from what would definitely have become the war and peace of amateur games blogging, we have cut it up into manageable under-seasoned goujon’s for your dainty palates. Anyway my turn first, let’s go waaay back to the day when shoulder pads were only just going out of fashion.

 Fantasy World Dizzy

(Commodore 64 – 1989)

To the best of my memory, which at this stage in my early development was still mushy mental ribena fueled contraption that only really had to focus on was the nuances of British Bulldogs, ensuring my lego was secure in a larger red lego brick and wanting to follow in the footsteps of fireman Sam, this was the first proper video game I played.

The exact year is not important but I think it must have been really late 80’s or right at the beginning of the 90’s. What I do remember from when I first visited my friend Thomas’ house to have tea (fish fingers I believe) is the moment I walked into his room to see this kind of brilliantly clunky keyboard affair with a huge floppy disk drive and a tape deck attached, along with an array of cassettes. When he put one of these tapes in and a video game blinked to life on this massive 9 inch monitor I was immediately mesmerised. Previously I thought tapes were only for the music of Michael Jackson and the ‘Now that’s what I call music’ albums. (I would like the record to show I have since discovered that these tapes are in fact NOT what I call music).

I can’t remember whether Dizzy was on one of these tapes or a floppy disk, but he had all the Dizzy games and the one thing that stuck out and still does to this day was Dizzy had an explorer’s hat on and wikipedia tells me this was Fantasy World Dizzy. It was immense and we played for ages. At this point I should fill you in on the plot, but I was like 8 or some shit and didn’t have a clue what was going on so again I will let wiki do the hard stuff that my memory can’t

“The game’s plot revolves around Dizzy and his girlfriend Daisy. Daisy is taken by the King Troll while walking through a forest with Dizzy, and he has to chase after her. On his way Dizzy must also collect 30 coins. Some of them are hidden quite well.”

Quite well hidden indeed, the wiki also mentions that Dizzy has garnered some kind of resurgence thanks to the usually excellent and very popular YouTube game reviewer   Zero Punctuation. Although if I am honest his video on Dizzy is a bit rubbish so here is a much better one on Skyrim instead.

So if that fairly vague recountal and completely off topic video has got you thinking “fuck yeah I would love to play a dead old game” then you’re in luck because you can download Fantasy World Dizzy for free!

-MS Dosser

Gauntlet

(Spectrum, ’87)

Unlike Dosser I have never known the discomfort of not having a machine with which to while away the hours gaming so I began my career of gaming very early using this.

My parents can probably give you a more accurate description of Gremlin graphics’ port of the Atari Arcade classic Gauntlet but from my perspective this title was like being transported to another world. Looking at it now I cannot see any of the game I remembered mainly because my tiny brain had a much better imagination than my boring fully formed present day noggin. I vividly remember the bleak gray dungeons, large wooden doors and shining golden keys. Terrifying ghosts hurtling towards me and hell hounds firing magical fireballs all over the shop. Ducking and dodging as my chosen character (the Elf Questor obviously) taking down sorcerers and the aptly named lobbers with my trusty bow. This however is what it actually looked like. Kids eh? mental.

Is this a game or a pirate flag?

The premise of the game is actually just your standard dungeon crawler, pick a character from four basic classes, dive in knock some heads together, collect some keys and get out alive. A lot of modern hack and slash and RPG titles owe to Gauntlet their very existence and it set the mould fo all the subsequent Dungeons and Dragons inspired titles. The in-game footage may not have been very exciting but a quick look back at the box art goes someway toward explaining my misremembering of the grandness of this early adventure game.

Many sequels have been released for many different platforms but none since the first (which is available on xbox live arcade) have managed to capture my imagination as much as this iteration. Perhaps this was because of my age or even because it was my first real gaming experience that I loved this game, still do. Probably nostalgically and much less colourfully than in my younger days mind you.

So it may not have as much substance as my co-writers top-notch choice Dizzy but it really was the first of its ilk and will be remembered fondly by many a child born in the early 80’s (but probably more accurately by their parents).

– Elth

So what did you guys reckon to Part 1? If you have any thoughts please leave us a comment about these games or share your first gaming experience with us, we would love to hear from you.

Part 2 is coming on Thursday the 16th of August so please follow us by clicking the button at the top right of the page, we are also on twitter @TeaBagOrDie. Cheers big ears.

Meta Critical

When it comes to video game to movie cross overs the success ratio is, how can I put this nicely, shite. But don’t just take make my naughty word for it. Lets take a brief examination of the facts. (Warning I may shit on some of your childhood memories so you may just want skip over the next few paragraphs if you want to maintain those happy delusions)

Streetfighter: The Movie

With the game turning 25 years old not so long ago (inoright?!) it seems relevant to start here, in 1994 a film was made which on paper seems to tick all the boxes for a great movie. It had Van Damme kickin’ ass and taking names as Guile, the late great Raul Julia in his last proper movie as Bison and our nations favourite adopted daughter Kylie wearing some tight clothing. As an 11-year-old this film seemed to be the greatest movie that was and ever will be made. About a year ago I flicked over and found this polished turd on TV and I am telling you now I just couldn’t watch more than 5 minutes of it, it was diabolical in all kinds of ways from the migraine inducing script to the wafer thin storyline. Epic fail.

Mortal Kombat (both of them)

Now I love Christopher Lambert as much as the next dude and because of Highlander he will be excused forevermore. However this man cannot read, if he could he would realise how utterly substandard the scripts for these movies were and would not have done them. The first one I can almost stomach but number 2 (Annihilation) is dog shit on so many levels. If you don’t want to burn you retinas on this filth check out this audio commentary of MK2 over at JTPodcasts.com. I will say these films did one thing right and that was to only waste a small amount of money in the making of them with their limited budget

Tomb Raider (again both of them)

Now I loved these games as a teen, mainly to try in vain to get a look up Lara’s shorts when she was swimming (you know you did the same) and don’t get me wrong 11 years ago when the first movie surfaced I like most easily excitable 17-year-old boys of the time, were more than happy to sit through an action heavy and plot deficient film in the vague hope of seeing some side boob from Miss Jolie. Ok so the first one is actually OK (partly down to my inner 17-year-old) but that second one can be described in one monosyllabic, all-encompassing word – Gash.

Right, I think it best to stop the attack on shit movies you love there. I could go on about the Final Fantasy movies which all look very pretty but are boring as fuck. I could flip it and talk of how many great movies got turned into rubbish games (see Avatar, almost any movie based superhero game, any game based on a Pixar film.) or the exceptions to that rule (see Goldeneye64 and Lion King on the SNES). Instead lets look to the present and the very near future.

So in my opinion the whole game characters to the big screen hasn’t translated so well, so this next movie maker took a different route altogether and decided to make a film about the makers of games instead.

Indie Game: The Movie

If you read my co-blogger elth’s post about our society’s dismissal of gaming culture and you want to see just how much effort goes into making games, or you just want to watch an expertly crafted documentary which happens to be about games developers then please watch this. This independent film follows a few independent (indie) developers as they strive to get their games out there to the masses and documents their heartfelt struggles in making their respective games and their daily lives. This documentary is poignant at times and it really makes you feel for them and what they are going through. Either way I would suggest you watch this by purchasing from the official site or as most of you have it get it off iTunes. It’s only £6.99 ($9.99) and it will make you happy.

Right time to remove my makeup and emotions, let’s talk explosions.

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

Whether you are a Halo super-fan like me or you just like a good bit of sci-fi this forthcoming web-series by the team at 343 Industries shows a lot of promise. In the build up to Halo 4 this episodic story tells a tale of a group of cadets a couple of decades before the Halo game series at the beginning of the Covenant War, detailing their fight for survival. For those who have no idea what I just said this series will introduce you to the rich Halo universe and show you what you have been missing out on.

The story is not all guns and ammo, the creators of this series say it is very much character driven and aims to develop the relationships between these young soldiers facing this impossible situation. Those worried about it getting a bit too soppy this will not be a snooze fest, with Daniel Cudmore (of X-Men and Twilight fame) taking the role of a young Master Chief you can be certain that a lot of Aliens are going to die.

Needless to say I am creaming myself over this but don’t take my biased view on how good it is going to be watch the trailer here for yourself and do a little sex wee afterwards.