Watch: Chinny on Supergran

Obviously, there’s no universe where a game based on Supergran would be anything but a bit naff. A game based on Supergran published by Tynesoft though? That’s going to be a special kind of naff, the best kind of naff and really, it doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

There’s something wonderfully Don’t Buy This about every version of Supergran Chinny looks at in this vid and I’ll be honest, I can’t ever get enough of that sort of thing.

It’s clear from whatever version you pick, the template the game works to is going to present problems regardless of anything else. With sprites as big as they are, it’s going to be difficult to squeeze any sort of arcade game out of that. And sure enough, it’s a struggle! An almost unsalvageable one at that.

Despite that though, a couple of the versions really do push to get something, anything, that works from it.

It’s marred by flickering but the Commodore 16 version looks really good. Well, providing none of the sprites go over the buildings, anyway. The Commodore 64 version makes a noble push to almost Minter-ise the game. It doesn’t work but the effort’s clearly visible. They’re proper good tries and in all seriousness, likely taking more effort than the game deserves.

The thing about games is that even a ropey one takes a lot of effort and I think that’s why a lot of consumer-first journalism rubs me the wrong way. Like, I have an enormous love of tat films and until the internet developed into the siloes it kinda is now, I had no idea anybody saw these films as a problem, as aberrations, wrong.

The same goes for games, music, whatever. This isn’t a New Sincerity thing because urgh at all that! This is a complete so what if they’re not the most earnest 10/10 things? I can still find things to enjoy and appreciate. Well, providing they’re not harmful anyway. There’s only so much problematic I can stomach.

I am totally guilty of falling into the trap where I wholly believed the “if you pay money for it, damn right it better be the best” mantra of consumer journalism, sometimes I have to snap myself out of it. It is that deeply ingrained in our culture, that pervasive, that it’s hard not to fall into it sometimes.

I should stress that I’m talking about consumer led journalism, not criticism here. Very specifically that thing which holds makers prisoners of perfection because money is finite and only the best will do. (Amount of best may vary, terms and conditions apply. Please see a doctor if you suffer side effects)

Mind you, that’s why this site exists. It exists so that I can talk about things I enjoy in games and why I enjoy them, what I get out of them – videos, articles or whatever.

Yes, even if it’s a slightly naff TV tie in game. That’s just how things roll round here, so nerr.

Read: The All Shooter

I swear so much of 2020 is spent with me trying to reconcile existing at the end of history with the odd effects it has on my noggin. Catching the arse end of a million potential futures due to having spent the better part of half a century on the planet makes the cultural what’s now is then and what’s then is now that is any artform or media in 2020 weirdly difficult to process.

Not gonna lie, this ReBind piece on The All Shooter really didn’t help in that regard. It’s totally on the nose to the point of being almost too easy, too obvious. It’s exactly that obviousness that makes it messier for me to deal with because, well, it’s only a tiny amount of changes required here and there for it to fit perfectly into any year in the past decade.

Like I say, living at the end of history is weird. I have to concentrate really hard to remember that this article wasn’t always obvious, wasn’t always so deeply embedded in what videogames simply are. The All Shooter was not always a thing. It doesn’t have to always be a thing and isn’t all things – it’s a looming shadow over all videogames though because it forever dominates conversations.

The latest all shooter is the latest all discourse. Its position bought and assured, regardless of quality, invention and aesthetics.

As games have pushed further and further into fringes, niches rarely explored in the medium prior, towards audiences who’ve been forced to defend their right to Just Be in games, the discourse dominance of the All Shooter is a great disservice to all of games.

But we know this, it’s been said for my entire time in games, year after year after year. It’s right there in the ReBind piece. That’s the thing though, isn’t it?

What’s then is now, what’s now is then. And so it goes until the grave.

No wonder it wrecks my head.

Spaceships In No Man’s Sky

Can’t lie, I like a good spaceship. Whether it’s the post war airforce analog of Dan Dare’s Anastasia, the flying St John’s Beacon-isms of the Dalek flying saucer from the 60’s Who film (any flying saucer is great really but that’s the gold standard), my personal all time favourite of The Liberator (Scorpio just doesn’t cut it) or the absurdly ominous kitbash of the Star Destroyer. Spaceships, frankly, are good.

Well. Film, TV and comic spaceships are good. Videogame spaceships have largely failed to grab me in the same way. I’m not even sure why. When sitting down to write this post out I tried racking my brains for some spaceships in a game somewhere that I really love and I guess there’s the R-9, that’s pretty good though that’s more for the attachments, I guess. And errr, well, that’s where No Man’s Sky comes in because the spaceships are fantastic and there’s so many variations to pick through thanks to them being built out of modular parts.

And sure, it’s a bit of a cheat because the ships in No Man’s Sky do often riff on familiar ships but no matter, they’re really something. The only real problem is that the game only lets me own six at any one time so picking the fleet I desire most is as much a part of the game as anything else. In a game where the appeal is predominantly aesthetic, it’s actually a rather hefty part.

I’m rarely entirely content with my fleet but right now, I reckon I’ve got a bit of a special bunch. I mean, take a look at these.

The ridiculous thing is that my fleet doesn’t even touch the sides of the amount of ship designs in the game. There’s an absurd amount of variations from the curious Captain Blood-esque living ships to 70’s SF book cover style haulers, tubular shuttle craft, “bug” spaceships and even a bunch that look like they’ve popped straight out of the Dyson factory. It should be illegal to have this many spaceships in one videogame.

Like, Destiny 2 has a bundle of spaceships but for the bulk, it’s a paint job to tell them apart. To be fair, they’re often exceptionally good paint jobs because that’s Destiny for you! Just, you know, spaceships.

Because my brain is terrible to me at the best of times, I absolutely do find myself looking over at the ridiculous amounts of money Star Citizen asks for their post-Aliens militaristic in-game spaceships (some of which you’d currently only be buying a promise that it’ll appear in the game at some vague point in the future), then looking back at how I could, if I wanted to, swap round my ship for a markedly different one at nearly every stop I make in No Man’s Sky.

I do know it’s kind of mean but, again, spaceships.

In summary: spaceships.

Skool Daze Reskooled

I’m not sure at what point I managed to lose my way but I do know me of relatively few years back would be ashamed by more recent me for avoiding Skool Daze Reskooled because of how it looks.

Like, I’m not here to argue it’s an amazing looker of a game but I’m definitely here to point out that for someone who defends making games at most levels, it’s pretty bloody hypocritical of me to make a thing of this. Especially when what it might well lack in looks, it more than makes up for as a remake.

I’ve been kicking myself about this for week or so now. Considering my roots in remakes, it’s pretty atrocious of me. I’d be made up to be able to write a Skool Daze a tenth of what this is and Molyneux only knows, I’m personally responsible for making games that look worse. Honestly, I’ve no defence.

Crucially, I’m not damning it with faint praise. It is a great take on Skool Daze. If this had landed on my old remakey haunting grounds and/or been entered into one of the prominent remake competitions I used to run, I’d have been a strong advocate for it. You would think the recommendations of my friends and peers would have tipped me off, but nooooo.

Live and learn though, eh. Not exactly the first time I’ve been wrong.

Skool Daze Reskooled is pretty cheap on Steam as well as Android/iOS. It’s pretty good! Sorry.

Watch: Rob on Cuthbert In The Cooler

Watching Rob take a meander through Cuthbert In The Cooler reminds me that I don’t think I’ve actually played any of the games the titular dude starred in. They’re games still burnt into my memory thanks to magazine adverts at the time but nope, not played the things.

A family friend* at the time would occasionally bring their Dragon computer round for a weekend, I can’t remember a single thing I played on it though.

Anyhoo, right. Part the reason I’m spinning you round and pointing you at this particular video of Robs is because I’m hoping someone can answer a question for me.

Like with a lot of videogame characters in the Eighties, players could follow Cuthbert across genres and in-fiction jobs.

Here’s Cuthbert doing some digging. Not in the ratio’d on Twitter sense, in the proper sense of digging a hole. Look at this:

Cuthbert Goes Digging, pic courtesy of Wikipedia

I just want you to note that Cuthbert is clearly pretty young, probably around 14 or so (which is no age to be taking on aliens with a pickaxe but at least he remembered to wear safety gear).

Fast forward to Cuthbert In The Cooler and…

Cuthbert In The Cooler, pic from World Of Dragon**

Cuthbert is now a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany after getting into another fight (in space). Look! He even has his own army uniform, including cap. You know, like kids often do. Cuthbert is nothing if not prepared.

Which leads me to the big question here. No, not what did Cuthbert do to be arrested and thrown into a concentration camp, though that is a good question. What I want to know is can we start doing this sort of thing for more modern mascots? Not necessarily thrown into a concentration camp because that’s weird and tasteless, more them taken out of their usual spaces and placed into new, more mundane, ones.

I’m thinking that bald God Of War dude could be in a game about doing the doors at a low rent nightclub, Sonic could be shaving cats at the vets, the Doom marine waiting in a queue for a back to work interview and okay, okay, let’s arrest Bubsy for crimes except you play the guard trying to throw the key away.

It goes without saying that Destiny’s Shaxx would be in their thirtieth game by now if I had my way. Shaxx Goes Skiing. Come on, you know you want to play it, Guardian.

Anyway. You can buy Rob a drink if you enjoy their video. I’ll shut up now

*Sweetly, when on a magazine rummage I found an advert from them selling up their Dragon gear in one of the final issues of Dragon User, a remarkably long time after most people had given up on the machine. The Dragon had an incredibly loyal bunch of owners who kept a slow trickle of software coming for it way past its commercial lifespan. You know, how things should be.

** Source

Calico

It’s a simple videogame fact that there aren’t, and can never be, enough cat games. It’s unpossible.

I’ve had my eye on Calico for a while now because “magical girls restore a cat cafe” is the best sort of premise for, well, anything really. Also because it looks absolutely beautiful.

And absolutely everything to do with chonky cats. Everything. Not even kidding.

As if that isn’t enough, it’s not just cats.

Thinking on, there aren’t enough games I get to ride around on a broomstick in either*

What I’m trying to say is Calico is absolutely a Day 1 purchase. Whilst writing this short ooh piece, the youngest insisted I pop the trailer on for them to look at and I can say that’s 2 people who definitely want Calico for definitely definite. Definitely.

Did I mention you can ride cats in Calico? You can ride cats. There’s just no contest, really.

*curiously, Destiny 2 is one where I can. Videogames.

Super Destronaut: Land Wars

Please sir, I cannot tell a lie. Sometimes, I really just want my videogames to let me switch my overly thinky brain off and allow me to run round a maze and explode things. The prettier the colours, the better. Scratch that! The more colours, the better.

I’m not an especially competitive person so stuff like kill/death ratios mean nothing to me. Ranking and whatever? The same. I do enjoy watching a number go up but that’s about where that particular thrill ends. “Ooh, that was a 7, love a good 7, me. An 8? Back of the net!” like the embarrassment that I am.

I have no shame in admitting that when I first spotted Super Destronaut: Land Wars, I had my fingers crossed that it would live up to my hopes that here was a game that would not only let me watch a number go up but also run around a maze exploding things into lots of colours. Readers, it did not disappoint.

I’m being a bit silly here, obviously, but it’s really important to remember that it’s 2020, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’m perpetually fluctuating between upset and angry (so much so I’ve taken up an MMO). If ever I needed a game that didn’t require anything of me, it’s right now.

In less interesting times, I doubt I’d hesitate long to take a gander at Land Wars, in times this interesting, I bloody well crave this sort of thing. And Land Wars hits the spot beautifully.

It’s a ridiculously neon affair, more Tron than the recent VHS tribute brand of neon that games have adopted. It’s the right kind of neon, yeah? Colourful, glowing, gratuitous. Enemies are huge, chunky pixel, also neon, things (this is definitely not a game where you’ll be squinting to see where enemies are hiding, that’s a definite). They bounce around a bit, act a little bit threatening but even on the higher difficulty levels they are often little more than target practice.

I know I probably sound like a broken record but this is all fine and desirable, I’m not slating the game here. This is what I want from it.

There’s a few rudimentary challenges you can indulge in if you prefer a bit of structure (they rarely stretch far beyond “shoot 5 baddies with this weapon” or whatever) or there’s a selection of slight difficulty adjustments if you want the game to push back at you a bit but this isn’t Destiny or something here. It’s a four quid neon shooty lazer maze thing with no ambition to be anything more than that and hand on heart, I love it.

It’s not a game you’ll learn to master, it’s not a game that prizes mechanics or depth or anything that isn’t lasers in a maze. It does everything I hoped it would, as nicely as I hoped it would.

In these tumultuous times, I’m not asking for much else so put those neon lasers into my face and let’s forget about the world outside for a while. Molyneux only knows, we could all do with that right now.

Brut@l

I don’t really remember seeing many mentions of Brut@l when it came out four years ago, which is a shame because it’s really quite a nice arcadey dungeon crawler.

Wearing its inspiration on its virtual sleeve, it translates the more traditional ASCII dungeon map exploring into an arcadey 3d world. Where it ends up isn’t exactly unexplored already but, and this is the bit that matters, it does do a fine job of it.

It doesn’t really need much in the way of explanation, I don’t think. You choose a class at the beginning, run through dungeons hitting and collecting things, find the entrance to a deeper level and go.

Along the way there’s a mild bit of crafting to be done for weapons (nothing strenuous, just have the correct letters and a book, press a button and tada! Brew a mystery potion!), a lot of hitting, some jumping, the occasional maze and whatever. It’s a videogame! There’s nothing mould breaking, just a really good videogamey videogame.

It genuinely doesn’t look good static being largely busy and black and white with slight splashes of colour but in motion it’s both perfectly readable and, frankly, fine. I’ve not had a single problem either finding where to go or anything I need. I’m only mentioning this precisely because the screenshots make it look rougher than it is.

With the exception of a jump that doesn’t quite jump far enough to be entirely comfortable and the odd small but messy interface quirk (forgivable given most big budget games often end up in a worse place with their interface), I’ve really got no complaints of note. It does what it does and it does it well.

Well enough to make me sad that it’s probably been skipped over a thousand times in favour of more on-trend takes on dungeon crawling. That’s a fate it certainly doesn’t deserve. Playing a few quick-ish runs of it this afternoon and yes, it still hits the spot. By the time I’m hitting the third floor and it really gets going and comes into its own, a lovely speedy swords and sorcery dungeon delve, I’m invariably enjoying myself a great deal .

Oh, and it has a level editor too, which is always welcome.

So yeah, Brut@l! Overlooked and good. It’s a game I’ve been ducking in and out of for a few years and still find myself enjoying it a lot when I’ve become long bored of plenty of others. That’s worth something, I’m sure.