It that time again to sing the praises of a forgotten classic, This time we're looking at a game with nuclear weapons, a bull-dowser and a plot that i imagine EA would describe as "wallet suicide"
Ah the N64 days, the quirky console that both looked to the future with analogue sticks and 3D graphics and yet was a blast from the past with the now defunct Kart based games. Some were vehemently against the machine whilst others loved it. I belonged in the later camp, arguing in playgrounds that it was a better machine than the Playstation. I stand by this, despite the superb PSX library for two reasons: the stone cold classics a la Ocarina of Time and the unique games like Blast Corps.
It was a golden age for Rare software, and with Blast Corps they really lived up to their name. The basic concept is that a truck caring a nuclear missile is stuck on one course and cannot be changed. What’s the logical response to this? Why demolish everything in its way using a variety of weird and wonderful vehicles of course! From the power sliding dump truck to the stomping mech robot, this game had imagination coming out of the wa-zoo.
Set over a series of imaginative and well designed levels, you must drive, smash, stomp, blow up and generally cause carnage to stop the disaster. The levels are so well put together, that despite this chaotic premise they tap into puzzle solving and require expert timing. The vehicles take time to master, and there is plenty of scope with a gradual difficulty curve. The power slide truck for example, is hair tearingly difficult to the first time player, but with practice it proves to be a dominating force. As the levels grow, vehicle changes are required all the while keeping an eye on the clock. The main campaign is chaotic, challenging but most of all FUN.
And the fun didn’t stop there, as you progress time trial levels and challenges are unlocked. As you progress and earn medals and promotions, more and more levels are released, with a wide selection available. This proves an awesome distraction, but also another dimension to the vehicle’s uses and to test the player to their limits.
My favourite part of Blast Corps was its compulsive encouragement that you could do better. By awarding a medal and a rank to each level, the game encourages you to do it better, faster and with more precision. Long before it earned me a pretty platinum trophy, I 100%’d Blast Corps with glee, every challenge was perfectly placed to be horribly hard… but still possible. A classic video game trope, that only the Souls series keeps up, the game could be mastered and the rewards were great. Every hour was worth it when the Blast Corps team are charged with cleaning up the planets of the solar system, each one with a unique gravity and even more issues and problems to be solved.
Blast Corps is the sort of game that doesn't get made often these days. Perhaps by an Indie dev, but these sorts of quirky games just don’t get made. The N64 and to a lesser extent the Gamecube both had bizarrely wonderful titles, that where hard to explain but joys to behold.
The Blast Corps… we salute you.
We all know the fate of Rare games, and lets not dwell on it. Unfortunately it does mean that the only way to play Blast Corps is to dust off your Nintendo 64 and get a kart of ebay. Or find a good emulation, but you didn't hear it from me.
DICKS DICKS! DICKS! Men are awesome. Women are equally awesome, but do you know what men in nineties video games had? Unintentional Homo-eroticism! Sure, the ladies were shamelessly sexualised as well, but let’s focus on the BOYS for this one. They were so straight they had looped right back over and were making young teenagers think naughty thoughts about muscles, strong arms, steam and baby oil.
I know they didn't mean it at the time. I’m sure that they were trying to appeal to “nerds” that they could role play as the mighty warrior. But come on you guys! When you look back on some of these, its amazing to think no one piped up and said “Isn’t this…. You know…. a bit gay?”
I applaud their mistakes. I adore bad game artwork, and I adore semi-naked men. Lets re-visit some classics...
That shirt billowing in the wind, those rippling abs… offt! In fact there are rippling abs and denim everywhere! Okay so there is a lady in the picture, but if you look his full attention is what is on the other end of that whip. Not only is everyone dressed for a sexy time, but there is the slight hint of BDSM. And who doesn’t love a little street BDSM?
Yay! Even less clothing! I know when I go out saving the universe I make sure I wear as little as possible. Both gents have a glowing bronzing to their skin, two gentlemen who look after themselves, and want to look good when they “slay trolls”. Plus- a Snake. The most erotic of the penis shaped animals.
The exact same concept as Swords and Serpents! But with more crotch bulge and a dwarf! I’m not into beards myself, but I can only assume that those that love beards will love the dwarf’s. It looks thick and solid, good to hold on to. And a horny helmet? Well that’s just blatant. Another lady, another pair of men ignoring her completely. Shame really, she’s very hot in an eighties sorta way. But who amongst us can tear our gaze away from that adonis stage front? He’s got muscles that don’t exist!
HELLO DUCKY! I wouldn’t last five minutes in the ring, but this muscle bound village people can play with my ring any time. We got something for everyone! The cop one, the crazy one, the one that looks a bit like a white Lil John…. Something for everyone! They all look so angry! I don’t know about you, but anger and repressed sexual desire go hand in hand.
Saving the best till last, Pit Fighter has it all. Dudes beating each other up, muscles upon muscles, a guy wrapped in chains for absolutely no reason… its fantastic. Unlike our other entries, this is an actual photograph, with real people. People who should have known better. Again, we have a hot mama in the back ground, but the focus is on men being manly. To complete the montage, there’s some money, and nothing is more slutty then some chedda changing hands. Except for actual sluts of course.
Unintentional Homo-eroticism… we salute you, and thank you for all the naughty thoughts.
The Suffering is the next in the series where i jump into my game collection and find a classic that doesn't get the respect and love it deserves. There are so many games that don't get remembered as fondly as other classics. So today we champion a unsung hero...
When people think of survival horror, there are a few names that spring to mind. Resident evil, Silent hill and more recently Amnesia and Outlast have all scared the willies out of us horror fans.
The Suffering is one of the best, and yet it’s praises go unsung.
Released on the PS2, The Suffering was a 3[sup]rd[/sup] person action horror set in a prison. The lead Torque (points awarded for a stupid name) must attempt to escape with his life, all the while battling the manifestations of the prison which have taken on physical forms.
The action is fast and bloody, and the tension is high and oppressive. All things you would want in a survival horror, but the genius of The Suffering comes from other particularly unique points.
The art style is mind blowing. Each of the enemies encountered represents one of many horrible ways a human life can end in a prison. There are monsters made of razor sharp shanks, grotesque cretins with lethal injection syringes and monstrosities with countless rifles strapped to their back to represent a firing squad. All these monsters are manifested out of mans cruelty to man, and now they are a very real danger. As Torque travels the island, he learns the dark history of the prison- torture, slavery, mass murder, mental illness, corruption… its all here and its blacker than coal.
This ties in nicely to another outstanding element of this game. This is not a happy story. Torque is a convicted killer, he is haunted by the ghosts of his family, for whose untimely deaths may or may not be his fault. The men Torque meets are twisted, warped shells of humanity, pushed to their very brink by the chaos around them. It never eases up throughout the game, and no one breaks character, the bleak nature of their struggle is well represented. Criminals become heroes, cops become selfish monsters, all played out through the eyes of our own morally questionable lead.
The greatest touch to The Suffering is its take on mental illness. Almost like a blue print for Spec Ops: The Line, the lines between reality and Torque’s troubled mind blur constantly throughout the game. This is not painted on thick either, it is treated very cleverly and subtly. Often mental illness is treated very bluntly as a plot twist, think of how many games have a “YOU WERE MAD ALL ALONG! OMG!” moment, often seen coming from a roman mile away. The Suffering points it out, but lets the player make up their own mind about how truly crazy Torque is. I’ve met people who vow that Torque isn’t crazy, that he can turn into a rage demon, and that the monsters are real. And I’ve met people who deconstruct the whole game, that it is merely an out of control prison riot through the eyes of a mad man. Both are completely valid views. You as the player are left to form your own opinion.
The Suffering is a great game that got lost in the sea of great PS2 titles. A game for those who want to wallow in the misery of mankind, it is clever, violent, grotesque and unforgettable.
With a heavy heart, The Suffering is not on XBLA, Steam or PSN. So I recommend you get ol’ faithful out a buy a second hand copy at your local game/pawn shop. Best pound you’ll ever spend.
This is the first part of a series were I jump into my games collection and find a classic that doesn't get the respect and love it deserves. There are so many games that don’t get remembered as fondly as other classics, so today we champion a unsung hero...
The story of Thor (as it was known in Europe) is the story of Prince Ali (no, not the one with the singing genie) as he travels the land fighting the forces of darkness to defeat the evil wearer of the silver amulet. Finding a golden amulet in a forgotten cave, Ali must follow in ancient footsteps to save the kingdom with the power of four elemental spirits.
So far so RPG…. But no. Story of Thor throws in a pretty comprehensive brawler fighting mechanic akin to Streets of Rage and other scrolling beat’em ups. Ali can leap, stab and combo with the best of them, altering his approach depending on his enemies. Adding in a collection of temporary weapons, an item inventory and the ability to summon spirits gives The Story of Thor a perfect mix of RPG, puzzle solving and hack and slash violence.
As a complete experience, the game truly does give the full spectrum you would expect from a multi genre title. A complete swash buckling story, fiendish puzzles and monstrous bosses. Graphically it is a testament to the 16-bit generation, with bright popping colors and spooky blacks and greys. The music is stellar, and the digitized screams of your fallen enemies was pretty ground breaking at the time.
The puzzles are truly a master stroke. In a metroidvania style, the player is encouraged to back track when more skills and spirit powers are unlocked to claim copious rewards. The spirits Ali can summon require their corresponding element to burst into life. A flame for Efreet the fire spirit for example. This begins simple, but becomes fiendish later on, requiring eagle eyed play. For example a stand out scene lands the player in a dead end with nothing but a single dripping leak. By summoning the water spirit the player can begin a chain reaction to progress. The game is full of little tricks like this that give it a charm all of its own.
The Story of Thor is still remembered by the faithful, but it seems to elude the love shown to similar titles like Zelda or Secrets of Mana. Whilst it’s not perfect, it does still give a fantastic RPG experience with a violent twist. It’s a shame that it didn't become a series or get a re-boot, as a HD version would be all my Christmases at once.
If you get the chance to delve into The Story of Thor, you will get a great old school experience, that really could show modern games a few things about pacing, combat and problem solving. A true diamond in the rough.
The story of Thor/Beyond Oasis was available for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. Now you can get a copy on the Virtual Console as well as on the Sega collection for X-box 360 and PS3.
Yeah you heard me. That's what comes to mind when i think of my past as a video gamer.
My older brother was the first gamer in my household, he got an NES when i was about six, with Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. Right off the bat we had two games. TWO GAMES!Instantly a world of options and hours of fun to be had was available. The TV was set up in the living room, and as it was the families only TV, it could only be played when mother and father didn't want to watch one of the four (count it, four) TV channels we had in Britain. It was also always played on mute, as the 8-bit choons drove my father insane when he was trying to work.
As time progressed, our game collection gradually grew. And i do mean gradually. A game would take months of saving, and a new console? at least two years, two birthdays and two Christmases of saving before we could get one. I graduated to Mega Drive, whilst my brother when SNES. He even saved up for a color TV, whist i inherited my grandmothers black and white. I could play in my own bedroom! I could play any time i wanted! True, my games of Sonic and Theme Park were rendered very ugly on black and white, but at least i could play!
I would trade in games for the next new hotness at our local game trade shop, this continued into the N64 and then the Dreamcast. I was able to buy a color TV for my room, but getting new games was still a labor of love. Pocket money and weekend job salaries were put towards new games. Lylat Wars and Smash bros took forever to raise the money for.All the while me and my friend would pour over screen shots and previews, waiting sometimes years to get a new game.
This was where my love of retro gaming began. Suddenly i could get games for a fraction of the price by looking in the right places and taking advantage of those who traded for the newest gear. I got Megaman 2 for a pound and Killer Instinct for 2 pounds. Gradually my game library began to evolve and swell, and as my brother migrated to PC gaming, his "mad skillz" allowed for access to new games the he would crack to be able to play without the CD.
Why the trudge down working class memory lane? Its quite simple, most of us have shed loads of games gathering dust. We used to graft, work, beg and plead to get new games. We would obsess over games and consoles that were years away (okay so that bit hasn't changed much) and we would play one or two games over and over again because that is all we had. Now our shelves heave with games, Steam offers amazing deals constantly and PS+ and X-box Gold give us games for free. even our phones can download free to play games from THE FUCKING SKY that we can play anywhere, any time. And we delete and dismiss the shitty ones just as quickly as we gain them.
That's what i think of when i think of the past. Things are AMAZING in gaming these days, and sometimes i think we don't appreciate how far we have come. Compared to 8 year old me, compared to 14 year old me and compared to 19 year old me, I am like a game king. I have more games than i could ever play and more systems to play them on than i could ever imagine. We are spoiled brats.... and its awesome!
So the Steambox is beginning to be an actual thing, with commenters sizing up commitment versus fiscal woe. For me it begged the question, why are we accepting a machine we plug into our televisions that requires all software to be bought digitally, whilst we put the boot into the X-box one reveal with the same idea last summer.
Like all things, an eighties ska song put it perfectly:
[quote]“You've done too much
much too young
Now you're married with a kid
when you could be having fun with me”[/quote]
The X-box One did far too much, much too young. The third console from Microsoft introduced some big concepts, it pushed the envelope and it wanted to leap ahead of the market. It wanted to grow up faster than everyone else to be the big dog in the pound. Unfortunately for X-box, these leaps ahead were shot down and hastily reversed. The power of the community spoke, but not without a little unnecessary spitting and screaming. No offence to anyone out there, but there is a definite stigma for the community that when things don’t go our way, we can act like spoilt children throwing the toys out of the pram. The x-box, like the Playstation is stuck holding the baby that is never happy with anything.
Steam and Valve on the other hand, took the time to mature and grow. Sure there was the awkward teenage phase, the spots and pimples of community crashes and the abysmal PC ports still bring back bad memories. But we stuck with them, they had strong foundations in software development, and as a company Valve were lauded as forward thinking and consumer friendly. These beginnings took a long time to create, but I’m sure Valve are glad that they did. Now when they introduce their new offspring like the Steambox or that WEIRD controller, we look at the photos with pride, knowing that the parents of these lil’ns will help them grow up big and strong.
I’m not ripping on X-box, all is forgiven and the new Killer Instinct makes me hard. Just comparing two companies and two reveals.
[center][i]“Call me immature
Call me a poser
I'd love to spread manure in your bed of roses”[/i][/center]