Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Boxing Calculator

Apologies for the abscence blame the snow, everyone else is Laughs Out Loud.
Bit of a blast from the past this one ~ the Casio BG-15 Electronic Calculator Clock & Boxing Game! I remember being the talk of my class after finding one of these babies in WHSmith. (And a lot of nagging to Mum of course!) Before long half the school had one, and a few paid more attention to these things than the old BBC computers we had set up in the Maths classroom.

A nifty little calc

I was going to see if I could pick one up on one of the auctions sites but so far the lowest price ive seen was £80 and I cant justify spending so much on a calculator at this time of year, especially when most should be tightening their belts (including me.) I'll stick it on top of my car boot hunting list, who knows I might get lucky?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

In Car Dreamcast

Nevermind the radio, heres the Sega Dreamcast!

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE the Dreamcast console. Like the Speccy before it, it fed my gaming addiction but there was 'something' more about it. Ive never been able to put my finger on it, it was just an amazing console to me. (And I know im not alone.)
So imagine my delight when I stumbled across the photo above. I'll admit its more than likely fake because the Dreamcast wasn't designed to be played upright but still, it looks GOOD and now my car will always feel like its missing a wheel.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

God Listens To Slayer!

Yes He does but enough on the Big Guys holy playlist, this is about mine. When I heard Slayer's classic Reign In Blood album in 1986 when it was released it was Love at first spin (it was all vinyl in them days.) I couldn't believe it, I had discovered a band that instantly took over the place in my heart held until then by Metallica.
Slayer (or F**king Slayer! as we fans belovedly know them as) are in one word ~ Awesome. Capital A Awesome. I am a big fan of many, many bands but none will ever replace Slayer. Not even Maiden or AC/DC.
After getting hooked on Reign In Blood I immediately went out and bought Haunting The Chapel, Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits and Live Undead and the rest is history. In school no desk was safe from the bands pentagram logo and my bedroom walls bounced from the speakers and covered in posters of my new found Love.

Photobucket Can draw this in my sleep

I pretty much love everything they do (including the much panned punk covers album Undisputed Attitude) and its not just the incredible music either. Its the package entire; attitude, image, artwork designs, tattoos, general kick assery. Whenever I simply write the word SLAYER I have to write it in their now famous style.
I saw them in Cardiff (with Slipknot, Mastodon and Hatebreed) in 2005 and they were on top formas usual. How Kerry King can headbang while shredding his guitar the way he does never ceases to amaze me. The man is a full on legend and I don't use that word lightly.
New album, World Painted Blood is another addition to a fine catalogue of material and shows the guys are not easing up in their old age. (And no, they are REALLY old but you get my drift.)

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Delved back into 1985 tonight and booted up Capcom's run and gunner, Commando. It was a favourite of mine back in the eighties and its certainly not too bad on the eyes today. Its not the longest of games, but thats by the by, arcade games weren't built like that in days of old (they were purely a 10p fix) and it was the one-more-go factor which kept players coming back.
Commando, along with a lot of titles back in the day, had neat little touches which always fleshed the game out that bit more. In this game (for me) it was the way the soldier puffed on a cigarette after succesfully completing a level. He stood there all defiant with his foot on a raised mound like he was saying, 'bring on the next army.'


The next thing that grabbed me by the 80's quiff was the Hi-Scores. Or more precisely the way you in inputted your initials ~ crosshairs would appear over the alphabet and the gamer would shoot the relevant letters onto the scoreboard. (Which also included heart symbols!) Believe me, when you're a fourteen year old computer games geek it was little touches like that which wedged themselves deep into the brainbox. Or maybe it was just me?
Gameplay was pretty straightfoward and after a helicopter dropped your commando (Super Joe) at the start of the game, you would have to charge UP the screen, facing waves of enemy, which were on foot, jeep or motorcycle. It was the first veryical scrolling game id played and was easily the inspiration for other titles like Ikari Warriors and Gun.Smoke.
Super Joe was armed with a machine gun and limited grenades (more supplies could be picked up) and as well as plugging the enemy, you were also able to free hostages being marched up the screen between two bad guys. After reaching the top a gate would open, spilling enemies out, including an officer of rank (bonus points), which had to be dealt with before the levels end and that well deserved ciggie break.
Commando was one of those early games that truly had that one-more-go factor and could be very addictive. I dropped a ton of coinage into this in the arcades and am able to lose a swift hour even in this day of Modern Warfares and Medal Of Honours.
Lock and load Joe.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Rattlesnakes Of Sunset Strip

1980's Los Angeles spawned a slew of great rock/metal bands, from thrash metal to hard rock. It must have been a f**king amazing scene to have been mixed up in if you had the good fortune to live there at the time.
Even before rock music claimed it, Sunset Strip had been a gltzy, glamorous place in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. There was the 'Gardens Of Allah' apartments where writers including Dorothy Parker and F.Scott Fitzgerald had lived. Make no mistake, the Strip has been the favoured haunt of many artists. One could say it was a cradle of creativity when it was in its prime.
But lets go to the 80's when rock and metal was king. If you were in a band, Sunset Strip was THE place to get noticed and make a name for yourself. Everyone from Van Halen to Guns N' Roses strutted their stuff there and hung out but for me, a young 10 year old living on the other side of the world in Wales, one band stood out. One group grabbed my attention with their wild image (which I thought was utterly beautiful) and rock/metal/punky sound and that was the awesome Motley Crue.
It must be said I loved them as soon as I clapped eyes on them, which would have been after the release of Shout At The Devil in 1983. I bought it on cassette (Cd's were a way off) and it was the cover design that first pulled me in. The flames behind Mick Mars, Nikki's wild hair underlined by those now famous thick, black lines under his eyes, Tommy staring defiantly like he was on a mission and Vince with his blonde good looks resembling a rock n' roll angel come to preach the virtues of sin. And it only got better once you pressed PLAY. I remember sitting up way past bedtime on school nights, listening to Shout At The Devil back to back on a Walkman (they were new then too) and playing 'air drums' while sitting up in bed in the dark. It a wonder I awoke for school at all.

Kickstarted my rebel heart

By the time Theatre Of Pain was released in '85 I was a total Crue head, filling my school books with scrawls of glittery pentagrams and Motley song titles. Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Kiss and Ozzy were there too of course but these dudes from Los Angeles filled with hedonistic attitudes and dangerous 'recreational pursuits' moved into a space in my heart that they occupy to this day. In hindsight I was a pretty wreckless, bratty kid myself so its little wonder they clicked with me and as I myself went on to live a life near the edge Motley were the perfect soundtrack.
Come to think about it the band released a few albums at important times of my life; the awesome Girls, Girls, Girls arrived in 1987 just as I was leaving school and 1989's Dr. Feelgood when I entered into my first 'serious' relationship with a girl. By then I was a huge fan, almost to the point of obssession. (Motley Crue and Slayer will always be the biggest bands in my life. Different sounds, same F**K You aggression.) I could draw Motley tee shirt designs using free hand and without looking at the picture. I knew them all by heart.
The bands debut offering, Too Fast For Love, I got around the same time I picked up Dr. Feelgood because it was such a hard record to get hold of back then in this tiny part of Wales. You had to go to shops which sold imported records and be grateful when your favourite band turned up.

Photobucket Number ONE...erm SIXX!

Nevertheless I must be honest in this piece and while my love for the band has never really left me, my enthusiasm did wane and for a few years I did take time out from their music. In 1993 I (along with everyone else) was swept away from the hard rock scene when Nirvana almost single handedly reshaped music. Grunge was in, rock was out and to be fair it was a refreshing blast. So the Crue's 1994 self titled album 'Motley Crue' slid by without me paying it the slightest bit of attention. Ditto to Generation Swine in 1997 and 2000's New Tattoo. I had gone back to my more heavy leanings and bands like Slayer, Pantera, Cannibal Corpse and Crowbar. I don't think I ever read news about Motley Crue or read a story about them during these times (the internet back then not being as popular as now.) They simply slipped off my radar as far as their new stuff was concerned, but of course I still played the early albums.
It wasn't until 2007 (maybe 2006) that my love was rekindled for the Crue. By this time I had moved in to my new house with my wife and we set up a regular internet connection, enabling me to catch up on the recent news and gossip of artists I had grown up listening to. Naturally Motley were one of the first I checked out.
The internet is a Godsend for music fans when I look back to how fans of yesteryear got their information. Now it only takes a few clicks and one is supplied with everything you need to know in a few seconds. And man was I glad to discover that not only were Motley Crue still going (none of them had died yet shock!) but they were still releasing music. From then on my old love resurfaced and I was a re-addicted Crue head!
Online I found out about Nikki's other projects like Brides Of Destruction and the brilliant Sixx A.M. (should being in TWO cool bands be allowed?) and best of all the new Motley Crue album, Saints Of Los Angeles, in 2008. And what a record thats is! There were a few old metal/rock/whatever artists who released CDs in 2008 which managed to recapture the energy and enthusiasm of days of old and Vince and co. were definately among them. Saints went back to being what the Crue are all about; sleazy riffs, balls out attitude, cute imagery and full on rock n' roll. They went back to being the band I remember sitting up all night in the dark air drumming to. They were simply Motley f**king Crue ~ the beast that never dies.
Someone really ought to make 'em Saints.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

When Grave Robbing Became Cool

Way back in 1996 (seems further back than what it actually is) game developers Core Design and publishers Eidos Interactive released a videogame on the Playstation, that would catapult the games heroine into the stratosphere and make her an icon. Never before had a game character been a household name. (Well okay there was Mario but he didn't have some of the worlds most beautiful women playing him.)
The game im preparing the drum rolls for is of course Tomb Raider, starring wealthy (we say 'posh' around here) adventurer Lara Croft. And I will not do what everyone else does and say a bustier, prettier and more kissable version of Indiana Jones. So ignore that last sentence.
Tomb Raider is only just 'retro' but rest assured, it IS retro. I remember first playing a demo of this, courtesy of some Playstation magazine, and being blown away by the water pools. I played the heck out of that demo, usually swimming, before finally getting my mitts on the full game proper.
And what a game it was! Nice visuals (aside from Lara's conical breasts) short but sweet cut scenes with a combination of action and quirky puzzles. The sheer size of some levels (especially the Sphinx level) were enough to make your jaw hit the floor.

Crofty does her bit for wildlife conservation

The story revolves around recovery of the Scion, something which has phenomenal power, as is typical in these adventure games. Lara travels to Peru, Greece and Egypt in an attempt to stop the games antagonist Jacqueline Natla securing it for herself. I can't remember another game before Tomb Raider that did so much globe trotting and so it was a refreshing experience having different types of terrain to explore and cull the wildlife (see above pic.)
The puzzles were sometimes straightforward and ofen frustrating but having recently replayed the game, some of the ideas were cool. Like in Greece on the St Francis' Folly level, there are four puzzles (Thor, Neptune, Damocles, Atlas) to solve to obtain keys and each one were nicely thought out and satisfying to solve.
Having said that, I must admit the puzzles were used too often in later games, requiring to solve one even to open a single door which quickly became irritating. Especially when Lara had a shotgun which one would think was capable of opening even the stubbornest of doors! On Miss Crofts first outing though things were new and players didn't notice the puzzle hungry doors (or I didn't anyway.)
The only big gripe I have about Tomb Raider was the way you saved the game; you couldn't unless you bumped into a blue diamond save crystal but these were awfully placed and gamers could usually find two within 10 minutes, then not find another for half an hour. And in the Coliseum part there is a save crystal almost at the end of the level! Why?
Anyway thats enough whining, Core Design fixed the save problem in further installments and in such a groundbreaking title I find it rather petty of me to pick out little faults so onto the good stuff which there are aplenty.
The most obvious WOW Factor came for many in the early Lost Valley level. There Lara is merrily weaving her way through rock clusters, not a care in the world as she picks off ravenous wolves like they were mere bugs. You think to yourself 'well this is all rather nice,' as you scramble down a craggy ledge to get to the valley floor. Then it happens. Two velociraptors come charging from the ferns, intent on making a Crofty supper. And before you can finish saying 'dinosaurs! WTF??' You're gunning them down, sending the lizards back to extinction. But its not over, oh no.
There is silence, two dead raptors lay at your booted feet. You proceed with a renewed caution, scanning the trees for more angry dinos. Less than a quarter of the way across the valley floor you spot muddy prints. Giant lizardy clawprints. Suddenly orchestral music kicks in, the doom laden kind that spells TROUBLE and there he is. Heading straight for Lara is a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex, jaws as big a Land Rover! It really is a great moment in videogaming for me and the fright meter is easily up there with the dogs smashing through a window in Resident Evil.

Photobucket Run Lara! Run!

Another stand out moment is the Egypt level as I said above when you discover the Sphinx. Its massive and really hit home just how good the original Playstation was. I had never seen as large a level anywhere before and Core Design were at the top of their game. Its still impressive even today.
I could go on and on about how great a game Tomb Raider is/was but nothing I can write will beat actually playing it again so do yourself a favour and fire it up for old times sake. This title is very popular at car boot sales (in my area anyway) and you can grab a copy for a £1. Gamestation sells it cheaply too so might be worth checking them out.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Much like previous metal bands mentioned here, Motorhead definately need no introduction. (And the author is well aware that Lemmy would hate his band being described as 'metal' but there you go.) They formed in 1975 after Lemmy was booted out of Hawkwind for 'doing the wrong type of drugs,' as he has put it. The bands first monicker was going to be Bastard but figuring televiosion appearances would be very limited they changed it to Motorhead after a song Lemmy had written for Hawkwind.
The band are regarded as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, eventhough they predate the thing, but nobody could deny their contribution to hard rock over the years. From 1979/80's 'Bomber' and 'Ace Of Spades' to more recent great albums like 'Inferno' 'Kiss Of Death' and 'Motorizer', Motorhead have left a trail of ringing ears and banged heads in their noisy wake.

The image on a gazillion tee shirts

Confession time; I used to dislike Motorhead. True, this hardcore, born for devilhorns and metal; this passionate, dyed in the studded denim, headbanger DID NOT LIKE one of THE most heavy metal-est bands known to mankind! I actually looked down on them like some toffee nosed brat and thought of their music as a mess played by scruffy buffoons. (I thought the exact same thing of the Sex Pistols but I wasn't far wrong in that assumption.)
It wasn't until 2005 that I folded away my haughty attitude towards Motorhead and bought a Best Of double CD in HMV. And was blown away! True I had always begrudgingly loved 'Ace Of Spades' (who would'nt?) and the brilliant 'Killed By Death' but the sheer ferocity and razor melodies of songs like 'Rock n' Roll' and 'Shine' were a revelation to my then 34 year old self. So much so that I immediately set about collecting all of the bands albums on CD and loving every whisky soaked riff.
Looking back to my teenage years (and those of my 20s) I can't believe how foolish I was in ignoring Motorhead. To realise how important the band are to heavy metal, it was like someone into more mainstream music shrugging off David Bowie's albums as being not any good, which would be incredibly stupid. To think how I would happily listen to the likes of Poison and Cinderella while sticking two fingers up at Lemmy and co. makes me cringe with embarrassment.
I can only hope that the Metal Gods are a forgiving bunch and take my dedication to all things metal/rock for almost 30 years into account should there be a divine judgement. Motorhead are a truly great band and if you listen through their early works like 'Orgasmatron' you'll notice how the music is timeless and never on any given track sound out-dated or stale.
There are very few bands around like this. Bands with staying power who keep it real with their fans. Bands where putting on a fantastic show and releasing a solid record are the most important things to offer. In short, Motorhead have not crawled up into their posteriors and decided they are bigger than the music which a lot of other bands seem fond of doing. (No names but there are a few in the rock world who this is certainly true of I am sad to report.)
Motorhead are amazing live. The band is reputedly louder than a 747 plane taking off and its not hard to believe that this claim is NOT an idle boast when they suddenly kick off onstage like some ravenous, rock n' roll hellhound bent on carnage. You don't get the fancy theatrics of other acts but you DO get full on attitude, honesty and great rock music in abundance.
Motorhead - a founding stone of British Heavy Metal and a band with very few equals. Go party with Dr. Rock !!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Street Fighting Man

In 1987 games publishers Capcom released the now mega successful Street Fighter game into arcades. By 1992 they ported it onto the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the game became an instant hit among gamers making it one of the developers biggest ever sellers.
Everybody has played something of the Street Fighter series (it has about a million versions) and most of us are still scarred by that awful movie featuring Kylie Minogue and Jean Claude Van Damme. *shudders* But is it truly the class act we think it is? Or has there been too much praise heaped upon it? After spending another night on Street Fighter IV on the Xbox 360 last night, I tend to lean more to the latter. (And no, there are no wasps in my pants and im NOT on the wrong end of a hangover.)
Now don't send me to the scaffold just yet because im not utterly dismissing the game. (Only a dolt would do that.) Street Fighter II was the first game I rushed out and bought for my SNES and I spent many happy hours, biting my opponents on the head/shoulders. (Guess who I always picked? Hint in photo below.) So im not trying to antagonise Street Fighter fans here, or rubbish it to hell. I like the game, I do.

Hey Sumo dude! Fancy a dance?

It was only that when playing Street Fighter IV I came to the conclusion that I like Tekken and Soul Calibur more. Sure the games have always looked great, and on the 360 SF IV looks really luscious, but for me there is a spark missing from Street Fighter that the previously mentioned beat 'em ups have in abundance. Ive tried to figure it out but the answer has eluded me thus far. Its not the characters thats for sure. You really cannot fail with an electric wild man and rubber limbed shaman in the cast. (However M. Bison has got to be one of the most boring game baddies there is.)
Perhaps its the 'pick up and play' nature of Tekken that wins me over. I feel as if I can fight with relative ease using Marshal Law but need to memorise ten button combinations to get anywhere with Ruy or Ken. It all seems so fiddly to me. So many combinations that it takes away the fun aspect of it. Sure Tekken has it share of kung fu manouvres but I seem to get my head around the moves more. And Soul Calibur is simplicity in itself despite having a glut of scenarios.
Like ive said, im not knocking Street Fighter, but for me it belongs in the group of beat 'em ups that require more dedication than I am able to summon.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Rage Of Dinosaurs

In 1994 the 2D fighter Primal Rage was developed by Atari Games (Probe on home consoles) and published by Atari (Time Warner on consoles.) First off, can 1994 qualify being called 'retro'? Well Sony's original Playstation is thought of by some (including myself) as being retro, so this slab of gaming brilliance does indeed. (Defining what is retro will always be argued in the same way nobody can ever agree on BEST OF lists, its all down to personal choice.)
Anyway onto the game. I didn't play a lot of this when it was released but recently got it bundled on one of those retro compilations (Midway Arcade Treasures 2 on Xbox) and I must say WOW! What a cool game and seriously good looking compared to some of the titles on offer back in '94. Playing it last night, I often caught myself forgetting to play properly simply in order to just ogle the screen. It really IS that nice looking.
I really love the story behind it too. Whereas other fighters like to confuse its audience with ludicrous, off the wall stories (Tekken im looking at YOU) Primal Rage has a neat straightforward clash between the Virtuous beasts and the Destructive beasts.

In camp virtuous we have -
Armadon - God of Life
Blizzard (giant ape)- God of Gooodness and Virtue
Sauron - God of Hunger (what a strange thing to be a god of?!?)
Talon (velociraptor)- God of Survival

And on the bad Destructive team we have -

Chaos - the charmingly sounding God of Decay
Diablo (T Rex) - God of Evil and Destruction
Vertigo - God of Insanity

Nit-Pickers will of course peg this as being just as ridiculous as anything Tekken has come up with, but NAY I say! Take away the god like statuses and all you have is an almighty scrap between two giant reptiles, which was always happening 60 million years ago.
Another cool thing are the cavemen/women supporters watching the prehistoric punch ups. They whoop it up and jump around clapping if their beast wins and with certain moves you can even bash them into the air with your giant tail or fist. No fun for the hapless cheerleader but a satisfying little extra for you and your dino.
Primal Rage is one the best 90's 2D fighters you can get and to have it for peanuts is a wonderful thing indeed. Praise be the God of games!
Oh and the games coolest dinosaurs? Without doubt its the two apes (Blizzard & Chaos) and Diablo, a fiery red T Rex. Awesomness!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Only Priest That Will Save Your Soul

Formed in Birmingham in 1968, the original metal Gods, Judas Priest have sold over 35 million albums. Make no mistake about it, thats a lot of kicked asses. First time I heard them was when I was 11 years old and my mother bought me a VHS video called Molotov Cocktail for Christmas. The tape featured four bands (Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Fastway and Blue Oyster Cult) and had two songs by each. The Priest songs were 'Breaking The Law' and 'You've Got Another Thing Coming' and using the old cliche, they blew my tiny ears away. Melted the fleshy shells to the core!
It was Ozzy that I was the biggest fan of at the time but Judas Priest had no trouble in reaching Ozzy's level (even surpassing it over time) and I was a fan as soon as I heard them. That very first time. I remember swapping compilation music cassettes in school and some of the songs I fell in love with without having a clue who the bands were, the songs being so brilliant. I was later to discover that Judas Priest were the authors of most of them.
Curiously enough I never bought one of their albums in the early years. There were too many great bands coming onto the metal scene, and being still only a teenager in school my funds for heavy metal albums were somewhat limited. Of course I had seen the album designs for such classics as Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith, had a few of them sewn onto my obligatory denim jacket, but the first Judas Priest album I ever got was Ram It Down.

Photobucket Ram It Down album artwork

Songs like 'Heavy Metal', 'Blood Red Skies' and the awesome cover of Chuck Berry's 'Johhny B. Goode' from that album had me bouncing off the walls like a pitbull jacked up on amphetamine. And this isn't even one of their considered classics! Just imagine, if even a mediocre record (according to critics, I personally LOVE it!) can get me into such a delirious state, then think of what truly genius records like British Steel and Painkiller do to me? What an amazing band to keep coming up with such melodious slabs of heavy metal lovliness. Their only slip up occuring during those ill fated years when Ripper Owens replaced Rob Halford as frontman.
Not long ago I decided to get every Juda Priest album (including the Ripper ones) on CD and a mighty collection it is. I can play them back to back for days on end and still never get tired of the songs. Ditto the iPod. I can play Priest on shuffle and always a top tune will crop up. Im never thinking to myself, 'oh not this song again,' its always, 'bloody brilliant, love this song!'
There are not a lot of bands one could say that about. Few acts reach such heights, and even fewer could topple Judas Priest off their deserved place as one of metals premier and outstanding contributors. All hail the Priest!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Inventing A New Word

Title says it all and the word is Retrolicious, a combination of the words RETRO and DELICIOUS. Retrolicious - a word dreamed up by my good self for a social networking status update. A word to be repeated often here. And in main stream media if they have any sense.
Example: the awesome Ghosts n' Goblins appeared on home computers in all its retrolicious beauty....

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Original Retro Shells

One day way back when, a certain Gunpei Yokoi was sitting on a Bullet train, no doubt his mind on other things, when he spotted a fellow traveller (presumably bored) playing with the buttons on his calculator. (Make that definately bored.) This gave Gunpei an idea and lo and behold the Nintendo Game and Watch was born. I friggin' LOVED these handheld games back in the early 80s (they were produced from 1980 to 1991) and was positively obssessed with the orange Donkey Kong version. I even accidentaly put my foot through a toilet lid on my travels to get one (long story to be written another time.)
Unlike the handhelds of today which can play hundreds of games, the Game and Watch only had one game on a LCD screen along with the clock/alarm. Actually there were two games (game A & B) but B was simply a faster version of A. There were sixty made in all and they were such cool things to have back then, especially in school.

Photobucket Donkey Kong: My Ruin

The ones I had were Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong II, Donkey Kong Jr, Pinball, Mario Bros Factory, Parachute and Lifeboat. There might have been others but those were the stand out titles for this young (back then) gamer. I may purchase a few at some point again, when I am better able to justify shelling out £70 for what is in effect a dinosaur piece of kit. (Im certainly not at the moment as im halfway through buying an entire PAL Dreamcast collection.)
One could say it was these games that started it all off for me regarding videogames. They were the little lithium battery 'seeds' planted in my brain which would go on to bigger gaming things and indeed flower still to this very day.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

My Game Is Death

Being the morbid ghoul that I iz I thought id compile a little list (or long one depending how it goes) of what games and songs (metal genre only) feature death row and executions. In regards to the games they don't have to be soley focused on capital punishment, just include some nod of the head to it.
I'll start with the music and first band springs to mind is Metallica with Ride The Lightning, a track which if you read the lyrics is decidedly AGAINST the death penalty. As is German metallers Tankard's tune, cryptically entitled Death Penalty. Great song but it has ridiculous lines like this - 'Death penalty, taking lives of our young' making it sound like capital punishment is an out of control killing machine.
Iron Maiden are much more sensible with their Hallowed Be Thy Name classic. Its still slightly on the side of the condemned but there's more thought (even philosophy whoo!) about it than the teutonic thrashers.
Others of note:
Judas Priest - Death Row
Sabbat - For Those Who Died (Not for inmates but witches burnt at the stake.)

Games are better because you actually get to visit death row, or even witness the execution yourself. Note: ghouls will only find this of interest. If you are this way inclined dear reader then read on for a tour of softwares DEATH CHAMBERS! *Cue the guy with the evil comedic chuckle* Mwa hahaha!

1. Manhunt - Rockstar's 2003 Playstation 2 outing. In the begining players see convict James Earl Cash being dragged into the death house and strapped to a gurney for lethal injection. Of course being the games anti-hero he's merely knocked out, awoken later and forced to take part in a grisly snuff movie. Thems the breaks huh?

Manhunt: death row hide n' seek gets out of control

2. Saints Row 2 - Volition. Out in 2008 for Xbox 360 & Playstation 3. After your character is almost killed in the first title, you come out of a coma in part 2 and find yourself incarcerated on the death row medical ward. Unsurprisingly so due to your free roaming murderous activities. Your first mission is to breakout. Hopefully like Thin Lizzy would have done it.

3. The Suffering - Midway 2004 for PS2 & Xbox. This one was a kicker for ghouls because not only was the entire game spent on Carnate Island (sounds divine!) in the Abbott State Penitentiary among electric chairs and gurneys but you could also use them on foes! People who previously worked there many years ago come back as vengeful spirits like the mad shrink Dr. Killjoy and former executioner Hermes T. Haigh. And this was a game where you could choose to be good or evil so if you fancied being Satan's little helper you could fry prison guards.

The Suffering: do you want FRIES with that celldog?

4. Kane & Lynch - IO Interactive 2007 for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. The start of this is extremely violent and sees you (as Kane) on your way to death row after being convicted of murder. In the prison van with you is psychopath Lynch, also due a lethal jab. Then it happens, a giant crash and heavily armed mercenaries come to your aid to recue you for their own nefarious ends. A mighty firefight ensues between villians and police in which officers' bullet riddled bodies lay all around like a war zone. Pretty it ain't.
And then before you can say 'carnage' you find yourself having to break INTO prison to help another of your violent chums avoid life behind bars. Naturally a firefight begins again between cons and prison officers. Best leave this title OFF little Timmy's Christmas list.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Pac Man - A Legend That Is All Face

The 80's spawned a slew of classic videogames and when Namco released Pac Man in 1980 to a delighted audience, Pacmania took off like wildfire. (Can fire actually take off? Hmm answers on a postcard.) The game itself was simple; guide a yellow orb around a maze while being chased by ghosts (Blinky, Pinky, Inky & Clyde) and eating dots and various fruit to get a hi-score. Eat one of the larger flashing dots and for a few seconds Paccy was able to chase and eat his pursuers.
To me it is arcade gaming in its purest form where it is all about the scores and 30 years on (where does time disappear too? *shudder*) I am STILL going back to it via a Playstation 3 download to try and beat my best score. (For the record it stands at a rather puny 20180 in 5 mins 23 seconds.) It never gets old for me. Frustrating at times when I get close to beating my personal best only to balls it up but never old. Its the typical timeless classic that resulted in an avalanche of spin off merchendise from lunchboxes and figures to duvet covers and shampoo. (Ive never actually seen the shampoo but its bound to be in Japan somewhere.)

the iconic intro screen

Pac Man is without doubt one of THE most recognisable videogaming mascots, in fact a great mascot for everything 1980's. The yellow guy is up there with breakdancing and Miami Vice. And who can forget that catchy music at the start of the game? Great stuff and for me the whole Pac Man package from arcade cabinet to cartoony images and bright colours heralded the arrival of computers and technology, announcing to the world 'This Is The Future!'
Regarding the games enemies, or ghosts, many casual players are not aware how clever they are. To onlookers watching Pac Man being played it looks like the ghosts are just following any path through the maze but this is not the case. Each of the four have different 'personalities' and styles. Blinky is the chaser, Pinky an ambusher, Inky is fickle and Clyde is the stupid one. Paccy creator Toru Iwatani said that he had designed each enemy with its own distinct personality in order to keep the game from becoming impossibly difficult or boring to play.
Some retroheads are divided in so far as the game itself is concerned, some are even bored of it but there's no doubting its impact on the entertainment world. Pac Man was/is HUGE! A giant amongst erm...yellow discs with big mouths. And don't forget there was Ms Pac Man (Pac Woman surely?) who also had her own games. Now how many game heroes can say they have girlfriends to go home to after a tiring day being set upon by neon ghosts? Not many. Wacca Wacca Wacca Wacca!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Double Dragon: The Fist Whisperer

Waaay back in 1987 Technos Japan developed the now legendary arcade game Double Dragon, a fighting title that would inspire other computer brawlers for years to come. And like Green Beret before it, this was one of my early pixelated 'loves'. (Steady on...worried ed.) I remember first seeing the cabinet (through starry eyes) in the arcade that was on Swansea marina. And so blown away was I by the great graphics and cool fighting moves that I regularly skipped school and jumped a train to Swansea just to play it.

Photobucket ♦ the famous intro screen ♦

The story was simple; twin brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee battle their way through the Black Warriors gang in order to save Marion, who curiously enough was BOTH the siblings love interest. (Hmm I bet conversation was interesting when those two hit the pub!)
There were four stages in all - City Slum, Factory, Woods and Bosses Hideout and players could either go solo playing as Billy, or a friend could join in as Jimmy in the two player cooperative mode. Doing it this way added extra moves like one could hold an enemy while the other used him as a punchbag. Neat.
A few things made this a fabulous title for me. Firstly it looked fantastic, characters were chunky and there were enough different types (whipcracking girls, green hulks etc) to keep it from getting boring. Even details like advertisements on brick walls impressed no end (see pic below.) Then of course there were the moves. Simple punch and kicks but also headbuts, grabs plus the ability to pick up bats, knives and whips. It was all very new and exciting back then trust me.

Photobucket ♦ check out the Scoop mini ♦

If you were successful in getting to the Boss Hideout at the end (and beating the Boss naturally,) one of two endings were triggered. If you had been playing solo then all would happen is Marion would fall into your arms and everything would be tickety boo, disappearing into the sunset and all that. If players had been playing in cooperative mode however then after beating the Boss, Billy and Jimmy fought each other for the honour of taking the delightful Marion's hand. (Some more interesting pub chatter between these two, after the blood dried of course!)
It was, and still is, a wonderful arcade game which inevitably got its fair share of conversions onto home computers. ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Sega Master System, Gameboy, the list goes on and on. And well it should because Double Dragon stood out even during a time when other future classics were jostling for prime space in the arcade halls.
You can still see the inspiration of it in this current age of ever powerful consoles, just look at the scenario mode in Tekken 6 for example, pure Double Dragon gameplay. Everytime I play this mode I smile to myself, remembering the golden era of videogames when thinking about playing arcade quality games in the home was a distant dream. We owe a lot to Double Dragon, it helped shape a genre.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Four Horsemen Of Metallica

Metallica are metal giants and like Iron Maiden elsewhere on this page, need no introduction. When San Francisco's Bay Area first started throwing up Thrash Metal music back in the early eighties, Metallica were at the front, carving the way ahead with mammoth bass lines and razor tinged guitar riffs.
I remember first getting hold of Ride The Lightning when it was released in 1984 on cassette and after pressing PLAY (and waiting for the leader tape to wind on) instantly banging my then bowl cutted mop of hair to every track, starting with the thunderous melody of Fight Fire With Fire until the beautiful The Call Of Ktulu closed things down. Epic as we say here in deepest West Wales.
Metallica's first four albums were ALL great, timeless gems every one. Surely bands releasing such quality material, four classics in a row, are a rare thing to come by? They took their collective feet off the speed pedal with later releases like St Anger and Re-Load (2008's Death Magnetic brought them back on track) but its safe to say that from 1983 when Kill 'Em All was released to the magnificent And Justice For All in 1988, Metallica ruled the metal waves.
Don't believe me? A quick list of songs from all four should set you straight; The Four Horsemen, Jump In The Fire, Whiplash, (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth, Seek & Destroy, Ride The Lightning, Fade To Black, Creeping Death, Trapped Under Ice, Battery, Master Of Puppets, Leper Messiah, Damage INC, One, Harvester Of Sorrow, And Justice For All, Dyer's Eve. How's that for a blistering set? And obviously ive not named everything there.
None of the albums sound dated at all. Im listening to Kill 'Em All as I type this very piece and the cruel hand of time hasn't touched it. Not even close. Nobody's metal collection should be (could be) without these raging, melodious quadruplets. Go play them all now, back to back and you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Game That Came With Handlebars

Picture the scene; a thirteen year old enters a busy games arcade filled to the brim with popular cabinets with a fistful of 10p pieces given to him by a pestered mother. All the usual suspects are lined against the wall - Space Invaders, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger while a few pinball tables lay back like easy women trying to seduce you with lights and bells. But something isn't right. These machines which are normally surrounded by young scallywags, fighting for their turn are quiet. As ignored as water in a brewery.
Suddenly the teenager sees a crowd in the far corner and as soon as they thin out, spots the reason for the tumbleweeds in other parts of the arcade. There is a game with a bicycle's HANDLEBARS acting as its controls! No joystick or buttons, just regular handlebars reserved usually for bikes. Well that thirteen year old was me when I first clapped almost disbelieving eyes on Atari's superb Paperboy cabinet, pictured below.

It was quite a sight, especially when you consider that gimmicks like this didn't come around as often as they do now. The early eighties is when videogames started to get cool and it was a fantastic time to grow up in and be part of. Im truly grateful I was there.
The game itself (when I finally got to it after the mob died down) was a simple enough challenge. Choose a street - EASY, NORMAL or HARD - then steer the paperboy along the pavements while throwing newspapers into customers' mailboxes and throwing them THROUGH non customers' windows. Or you could hurl them at the numerous obstacles that stood in your way like drunks, kids on go karts, speeding cars and even the grim reaper! On Easy Street life was well ....EASY but getting from Monday to Friday on HARD took a lot more skill. (And a dash of luck.)
At the end of the street, providing you made it that far, was a training course where you had to jump over ramps and fling your papers at giant targets. Successfully complete this and paperboy was greeted with an applauding audience with one of them holding up a sign that bore the legend 'I Luv Paperboy.' Im not sure exactly why but that is one of my favourite gaming clips. Weird huh? But still, ignoring my strange taste, Paperboy remains one of my beloved arcade games and cabinet.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Four Aces Of Thrash

The early 1980s saw the emergence of thrash metal and four bands took it by the studded lapels gave it a mighty case of Whiplash. They were of course Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth and each one has created classic albums and inspired a million bands. Who could argue with albums like Master Of Puppets (Metallica), Reign In Blood (Slayer), Among The Living (Anthrax) and Peace Sells (Megadeth)? Certainly nobody with even the slightest appreciation of metal music would.
Fantastic albums every one and of course those are just skimming the surface because each band has a great arsenal of songs in their back catalogues. I have been a fan of them all since the beginning and its been a privilege to grow up with them. Having my bedroom walls get smothered with more and more posters, faithfully buying Kerrang! every week and Metal Hammer each month to soak up the news and the delight of travelling to HMV in Swansea whenever one of them released a new album. Good times people, the best.
I suppose arguments could be made to include Testament and make it a Big Five and I can see where people are coming from when they say this because no doubt about it, Testament are a fantastic band with brilliant albums. They have been stalwarts in the thrash scene forever but if an argument can be made for Testament then surely Over Kill or Nuclear Assault and a slew of other cool thrash bands could be considered also? So no, as much as I am a fan of Chuck Billy and company, I like the Big Four as it is and not being a Big Five.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Stabby Stabby Beret

One of the early games to get me hooked was Konami's 1985 hit Green Beret. My God I LOVED this title, adored it and would slobber over it just as I do over high heels and Jagermeister now that im that bit older. The game itself simply involved running through levels as an elite soldier (a Green Beret natch) killing Russians as you go in order to save POWs at the end. But everything from the cassette cover depicting a charging soldier (see top photo) to watching the enemy disintegrate into running skeletons from a blowtorch blast drew me in making me play until my fingerpads almost bled. I was always a button control guy, joysticks were not too accurate for me.
It was quite the looker in its day and steaming around stabbing everything that was unfortunate enough to run into your path was VERY satisfying. The characters were solid enough looking and those wintery backgrounds were very nice. And who can forget the alarm siren at the beginning? It still takes me back to Christmas in the mid 80s when I play today. Which is what the stand out games did of course, they not only stand the test of time in terms of playability but they wind the cogs back as if a quarter of a century was last week.
Yes there were loading times (and times when it wouldn't load at all) but who cared? Certainly I didn't because I was too busy 'limbering up' my fingers in anticipation of yet another marathon stab stab session. Frustration was almost non existant in youth and it never once bothered me when it took repeated turns to open up another level. And on reflection Green Beret's stages weren't THAT long so my gaming skills (or lack thereof) were to blame there.
It would be fantastic if today we could recapture some of the excitement we had from playing in those days. I will never forget the thrill of seeing this title on the shop shelf and swiping at it like a rattlesnake at a cowboy's heel before rushing home and waiting impatiently while it loaded. Loading times were brilliant and as much of the gaming as the gaming itself back in the day.
It is safe to say that Green Beret was one of my biggest gaming moments and stabbing kung fu kicking Russians as they fly into you has never felt so grand.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Skate & Thrash

I was a big skateboard fan back in the day (around 1987 - 1991) and even better the scene merged into the thrash metal world which made for exciting times to both skaters and moshers alike. You can see how each scene complimented each other, both being pumped up, energetic and adrenaline fuelled. Thrash music was the perfect soundtrack to skateboarding and at the time there were lots of cool bands to ride the pipe and ramps to.
I have one of my old vinyl thrash compilation records in front of me as I type and looking at some of the band names brings a slew of memories racing back; Gang Green, Mucky Pup, Toxik, Stormtroopers Of Death, D.R.I., Znowhite, Sacred Reich and Atrophy to drop just a few classic bombshells. It was good times shredding the streets with these guys blasting out of a propped up ghettoblaster, the music pushing us further into attempting higher acid drops (skating off high ledges) and better ollies.
These years are meshed into my mind in glorious detail and it was truly a golden era of thrash and skate scenes. I used to love drawing band logos onto the wooden ramps, and in a sense it contributed to my creativity. Copying the artwork made me want to do my own stuff and so followed some interesting (and morbid) creations.
God how I wish I could shred the streets like I used to with S.O.D on my tail like a rabid, killer puppy from the moshpit! But alas my skatboarding days are over, apart from the odd occasion when I dig out an old board and do a few laps of the living room. And one things for sure, skating helped to forge a truly powerful heart in my chest that beats loudly for the good old days.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Iron Maiden - One Of Britain's Greats

The cover which started an amazing journey

Iron Maiden are a band that need no introduction. They have been on the metal scene since almost the beginning, consistently releasing fantastic albums and artwork and pulling off amazing live shows. They are true music legends (a word that gets thrown about like cheap confetti at times but not today) and I have been a fan since Day One, when I first noticed their debut album on cassette in WHSmiths with the bands mascot Eddie seeming to order me to 'buy me! Buy me now!'
After turning on my 10 year old charms and begging my mother for the money I came home, pressed PLAY and instantly turned into a Maiden fan.
In fact I had a fantastic introduction to the Heavy Metal world owing to the fact that the first albums I ever bought were Iron Maiden's debut, Kiss - Destroyer, Ozzy - Bark At The Moon and AC/DC - High Voltage which are all classics, able to turn anyone into a mosh baby. But back to Eddie's guys.
I have come to look upon the band as one of the engines of Heavy Metal, taking the music, OUR music, onward with each generation. If Heavy Metal was a temple, Iron Maiden would be one its mighty columns holding it all in place and the anthems played would include the bands classic after classic songs. And boy do they have some songs to choose from! Iron Maiden must have one of the strongest back catalogue of any band in existence. Truly. How about these ditties; The Trooper, Number Of The Beast, Iron Maiden, Aces High, Wasted Years, Can I Play With Madness?, Wrathchild, Running Free. And im only skimming the surface there. I could pick ANY one of their albums and be sure to find a classic tune or three, if only we ignore the silly hic-up they had when they temporarily replaced Bruce (but less said about that the better.)
It wasn't just about the music either. Whenever the band released a new album I would rush and get it on tape or vinyl (cds didn't exist when Maiden started) and just drool over whatever cool cover their artist Derek Riggs had come up with next. Vinyl was best being the biggest thus showing off every stroke of Riggs' work with even more detail. Good thing too because the artist always included little things in Iron Maiden album covers that weren't seen with the first look. A good example being on Somewhere In Time with its futuristic theme and the 'Aces High Bar' and West Ham winning football score. Neat little touches which were often missed on first glance. Buying a new Maiden release always brought its ritual to me of soaking up the art then getting immersed in the lucious rock melodies.
The gigs were brilliantly done. I mean how could any fan not get thrilled at seeing a giant Eddie appear midway through the set and loom over Bruce or bassist Steve Harris as they churned out another live hit? As ive said, it all made for an excellent package and hasn't aged one bit. Maiden is a timeless beast.
Naming my favourite album is something ive tried before and failed because of the wealth of material on offer, but definately Piece Of Mind and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son are strong contenders. But then I think of Number Of The Beast and Powerslave and I soon find myself having a change of mind. Iron Maiden is all kinds of Awesome, and yes Awesome with a capital A.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Ghost n' Goblins - The Heroes Game

It is fitting that I begin this blog with two firsts; Ghosts n' Goblins and Iron Maiden. (Altho Eddie's guys will appear in the next post, this ones all for Sir Arthur.) This game wasn't my first played, those were Oric 1 titles like Rat Splat!, but it was most definately the first game to make an impact on my bowl haircutted model way back in 1985. (Haircutted? A word? It should be.)
The story of Capcoms unforgetable classic was simple; Sir Arthur must rescue Princess Prin Prin, who has been kidnapped by non other than that pesky Satan, King of Demon World. Go get him Sir Arthur!
Blocking your path to glory were hoardes of zombies, ogres and lethal crows (amongst other foul creatures) and this was a one hit, one kill affair, meaning if you were touched (oo-er!) by a foe you were killed straight. No health packs or rations for us gamers in the 1980's, or at least for this bearded knight. Actually thats not entirely correct because the first touch stripped you to you underpants (there's that oo-er again) which had you fighting the undead on screen while much hilarity ensued OFF it.
It was an amazing game and all these years later I still fire it up to pass a few hours. And you know something? Ive still yet to complete it. 25 years on, a quarter of a century, 25 friggin' years of sweat and vile cursing and im still nowhere near beating this game. I completed Metal Gear Solid in a DAY!? Pfft Solid Snake? Sir Arthur would have him for breakfast. A nice, big, gruff voiced, smoky lipped, rationed-to-the-gills breakfast. And have enough room for Ocelot dessert.
There was a bunch of things which made Ghosts n' Goblins fab for me, things which even after all these years are still stamped on my Jagermeister drenched mind. The white ogres with studded wristbands and red heart tattoos for example. I remember really taking a shine to those, amazed that Capcom would be so detailed in character design. Hey don't snigger! Red heart tattoos were like this generations water effects in that most games designers either bodged it or skipped it completely.
There was something cool about those ogres which made me fight all the harder to reach the levels they inhabitated just so that I could wallow in their awesomeness. (Another word that should be if it already isn't.)
Then there was the zombies themselves which from the very start had you delighted in the way they emerged from their pixelated graves and arms outsretched, staggered to halt you in your tracks. In fact those zombies still look great today, so chunky and well drawn and the blue tattered suits went well with the grey skin.
And those flying devils weren't too shabby either and rated highly on my young in-built horror radar which most boys have between ages 12 to 15. (And some never lose.) I liked they way they flitted about in the air ahead of you, enticing you into a good old scrap which inevitably ended with a lance in his winged ass.
Which brings us nicely onto the subject of weapons on offer. There were the lethal spears (or lances? I could never decide which) and daggers that felt oddly satisfying to throw but everyone avoided picking up those dreadful fireballs. If there was anything broken with Ghosts n' Goblins it was those balls of fire. As soon as the player picked up the flaming power up (or power down in this case) they quickly spent the next five minutes hoping for the dagger to appear. The fire balls were next to useless as they fizzled through the air, only to flop just a few feet ahead of Sir Arthur like golden snowballs. Bad fire!
Still you can overlook that minor niggle when the rest of the game is such class, and for me (and a lot of gamers) to still be playing it 25 years on is all the proof needed that Ghost n' Goblins is pure retro gaming gold.