Friday, 23 May 2014

Sega Mega Drive Revisited

Recently I was in an uncontrollable mood to play my Sega Mega Drive again. However, the poor little thing is dusty and weathered beyond belief, and the cables for it are long gone. After grabbing myself an emulator and revisiting some of my favourite titles back when I was a kid, I found myself interested at my opinions on them if nostalgia is removed from the equation. So, let's take a look at some of these classic Mega Drive/Genesis games and see which ones hold up, and which ones do not...

Mickey Mania

Based on Disney's iconic mascot, Mickey Mania by Traveler's Tales was well received when released in summer 1994. It has a lot going for it in terms of design; the visual style is gorgeous and deftly blends each of the unique worlds together seemlessly, paying tribute to the classic Disney cartoons that inspired it. It's also got a brilliant soundtrack and tons of joyous references to the Disney mythos.

What players mainly criticized was the game's insane difficulty, which made getting to the final stages beyond brutal. A particular trolley stage near the start of the game is so abrupt and poorly implemented that you'll likely die without completing it on your first try - the game allows you to continue despite failing this stage, but not without draining all your goddamn extra lives. Some parts of the game embrace the beginners traps which bring platforming to a halt and make trial and error an irritating necessity. For newcomers, the game can become virtually unplayable by the time you even reach the second level. Shame really, for the premise has a lot of potential and it simply isn't met.

Alien Storm

This classic arcade beat-em up has you playing as the aptly named Alien Busters, who must fight off an invasion of absolutely terrifying looking aliens straight from Planet Nope in the fuckthatshit galaxy. The aliens have infested a number of towns and cities, so it's up to you to fight them off one by one by blasting them to oblivion. The game features some decent graphics and a catchy soundtrack, but can't help feeling outdated in today's world.

Now, that's not due to bad design, and I remember loving this game as a kid. But it certainly hasn't aged well and playing it today becomes a bore fairly quickly due to the repetitive nature of the enemies, who seldom do more than run at you and swipe their claws or tendrils. A lot of the enemies are lazily recoloured countless times in the later stages to serve as new opponents and thus killing them becomes a samey and somewhat dull experience. Great fun, but not for as long as it goes on for.

Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

Not sure if I suck at this game, or if perhaps it genuinely is poorly designed. Who knows. But I could barely clear the first three levels without throwing in the towel. Controlling Spidey to web around the city, clinging to walls and scaling buildings becomes a clunky mess almost immediately and the beginner's traps that plagued most 2D sidescrollers at the time are present here. Enemies are ridiculously designed to a baffling degree; thugs with guns will stand on platforms above you shooting and shooting and shooting, never running out of ammo or pausing, just waiting for you to jump into their line of fire - and sometimes it seems you have no choice but to do just that. Bar its kickass soundtrack and great visuals, nothing about this time game really enticed me to keep going, even as a kid.


A lot of the Disney movie tie ins for the console were extremely enjoyable albeit bland experiences, and Pinnochio is no exception. Initially it's a little bit of a mess as to where you need to go and what you need to do, but once you bypass this it becomes a fun if short lived platformer that controls well and has some excellent music. But believe me, when I say short, I mean extremely short; you can literally complete it in around half an hour, and thus it seems a little uninspired and rushed. In spite of this, it remains an entertaining little package that will at least kill some time if you've got a boring day ahead.


Quackshot has one of the most loyal fanbases of any niché Sega Mega Drive game, and it comes as no surprise when you sit down and play it. One of my favourite Sega games as a kid, Quackshot remains a diverse and challenging experience even today. An experienced player can easily complete it within an hour, but newcomers are sure up for a challenge as they control Donald Duck on a quest across the globe. The game offers a steady challenge and is innocent enough for the younger crowd, but at times the unpolished jumping mechanics and beginners traps instigate many cheap deaths and make simple looking stages ungodly difficult. The vague necessity to backtrack can also bring the game to several annoying standstills, but still, the level design is generally brilliant, the atmosphere is superb and there is a surprising amount of depth to the gameplay, making it tons of fun even today.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Movie Review - Godzilla

The last time the Americans were trusted with the Godzilla franchise did not end well. Any fan of the king of the monsters remembers Roland Emmerich's gargantuan turd from 1998 fairly well; but for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully, the second attempt at bringing the iconic lizard to US screens is in the hands of new filmmaker Gareth Edwards; it seemed he couldn't fail after producing the brilliant Monsters on such a low budget in 2010, and believe me, he has lived up to all expectations.

Godzilla features the titular beast as a powerful force of nature, coming to the aid of humanity to restore balance when creatures aggravated by our scientific curiosity threaten the future of our race. Caught up in the chaos is bomb disposal technician Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), whose father Joe (Bryan Cranston) becomes obsessed with discovering the truth after his wife is killed in an apparent 'natural disaster' - though Joe knows something is being hidden, and his actions lead to the eventual revelation of the truth as further disaster begins to unfold.

The trailers for Edwards' new take on Godzilla have washed away the terrible taste of the 1998 film, and the film itself should purge all memories of its existence. In the style of classic monster hits such as Jurassic Park and Alien, Godzilla uses the presence of its titular monster to create tension and reveal its effects on the terrified characters. The slow burn pacing means we focus on the human characters, which are fleshed out to more than generic screaming citizens panicking and running. We seldom see the titular creature for the first hour, and he probably has around 20 minutes of screen time in total - this sounds horrifying, but trust me, it really works.

Godzilla has a certain character and personality to him, being more faithful to the original concept of a godlike being who restores balance to the natural way of life. Edwards has lately impressed us with his talent in the field of CGI special effects and with a $160 million budget behind him this time round, the end product truly shines. The action scenes and the creatures all look fantastic, and the animation breathes more personality and believability into their portrayal. 

Performances across the board are generally superb, even if some characters come off as a tad bland - both Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Cranston are particularly impressive in their roles, the former effortlessly being able to play a convincing father, husband and soldier even at the young age of 23. The principal issue with Godzilla is perhaps the occasional irritating vagueness of its storyline, which could've elaborated more on the villains and the actual meaning behind Godzilla himself. This aside, this is far from a disappointment; superb pacing and awesome action make it a perfect redemption to Emmerich's atrocity and easily one of the best films of the year thus far.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Movie Review - Monsters

Gareth Edwards is a name known mainly to British sport fans, but did you know there is also a rather talented gentleman in the world of film who shares this namesake, who is directing an upcoming blockbuster known as Godzilla? Well, you do now. And before the lucky bugger nabbed himself such an incredible job, he had worked on a $500,000 film of his own titled Monsters. Set in the near future where alien life has spread across the Earth, Monsters follows the story of a young man and woman attempting to cross the border from Mexico to America, traversing through the deadly infected zone in the process.

Now allow me to elaborate a little on Edwards' story here; a NASA probe crashed to Earth many years ago, and alien life within it began to escape and reproduce. The running and screaming has since ended; now the monsters are residents of our planet, albeit dangerous ones. They're quarantined in vast areas of land known as the infected zone, which our protagonists Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) must journey through to get home. As you can quite probably tell, the story is massive in scope, yet when watching the film you'll find it's so humble and subtle in execution.

In order to tell such a large story, Edwards has employed a clever use of computer generated imagery to create the backgrounds of each scene - helicopters whizzing past, signs displaying the infected zone areas, and buildings destroyed in unseen attacks. His technical expertise are combined with a clever setup that allows us to be absorbed into the world around the characters without necessarily seeing much. This echoes classic monster movies such Spielberg's Jaws, where seeing so little of the monstrous antagonist actually created a stronger feeling of tension.

The actors do a superb job and share an interesting chemistry, even if their romance seems a little underdeveloped. It's also amusing how so many of the extras perform so well despite a lot of them being random people the crew approached when filming on location. The spontaneity of the production benefits the final product in many ways like this, but also paves the way for inevitable problems; employing mostly natural light means the film is often a little too dark at times. Scenes set during the nighttime hours are barely visible which can create a sense of irritation just as much as it can create suspense. In spite of these few flaws, Monsters remains an entertaining and interesting low budget sci-fi story, and it's clear now that hiring Edwards to direct Godzilla was indeed the right choice.