Why we love….Super Mario World

I’ll admit straight up that this isn’t going to be entirely objective. A lot of my love for this is personal. This is the Mario game I grew up with, the one where I learnt the basics and mastered the complex parts, the one which (and this isn’t an exaggeration) defined gaming for me. Every platform game I played after this was compared to it, and let’s be honest, very few even come close (off the top of my head: Space Station Silicon Valley, Donkey Kong Country, other Mario games). That kind of sucks actually that the first game I played couldn’t be matched, it would be like if the first punk album you heard was London Calling. Ideally your first game should be like your favourite film as a child, objectively kind of bad but you have nostalgic love for it (For me, Short Circuit, which watched as an adult is so mildly racist).

This actor is white, the character…not so much

So yeah, this was the first Mario game I loved, yet was the third Mario game I ever played (after two Game Boy games, Super Mario Land, and the obviously titled sequel Super Mario Land 2). Yet it was only about five years ago that I completed it. The difficulty level of this game is just right, there’s no “and this is where it starts to get really hard” level. It’s a slide from “if you die on this level, how?” to “you only lost twenty lives this level, nicely done” that is so gradual you don’t really notice it until you go back to the earlier levels and realise you can probably do them with your eyes shut. Not that you should keep your eyes shut, as that means missing on the visuals. Now I’m not going to lie and say “the graphics for this still hold up to modern games”, as that’s a lie. But that says more about modern graphics than the graphics of the game itself. I think 2D platform graphics peaked at this, there was no “well it looks okay, except for….”, everything looks lush and gorgeous. The clouds look so fluffy they’re practically candy floss.

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Disappointingly this game isn’t edible.

But now it’s time for the ultimate question; is this game “good for its time” or just “good”. There are many games I loved growing up that have not aged well. Primarily it is 3D games, as graphics were so blocky then and are so smooth now that it can be hard to believe what was considered life-like. Games like Tomb Raider for example, once held up as graphical perfection, looks plain ugly now. It’s not just graphics, gameplay has moved on leaps and bounds, mostly in sports games and FPS. I don’t know if you’ve tried to play a Fifa game from before 1998, here’s my advice; don’t. As a genre it’s moved on so much that it’s impossible to play older ones without thinking “this is missing something”. Same with FPS, because so many of the things it innovated are now commonplace, even Goldeneye is kind of terrible by today’s standards.

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This game, though? It never feels lacking. There’s no moments where you find yourself attempting to do something from a later game on reflex. Want to know how well this game still holds up? Look at the reviews on gamefaqs.com. The lowest one is 2.5/5. That’s the lowest. Nobody on the internet actively hates this game, and that’s the internet, they hate everything. Even the low review seems to be done mainly so he can have the lowest score on it. There are reviews from this year which declare it near perfection. There are people still playing it today. This game came out almost 25 YEARS AGO in Europe, and there are people still playing it. That to me is the mark of a good game. It’s not about sales, it’s about retention, about being so good that people don’t want to get rid of it. Back In Black is one of the best-selling albums of all time yet I have never seen it in a second-hand shop or a boot fair, because almost everyone who owns it loves it and wants to keep it. Almost everything is iconic, the music, the look, the level design, oh my god the level design. You know how when you’re playing old Tony Hawk’s games (never THPS5, nobody plays that), and almost everything in the game is laid out to perform perfect lines? That’s what this game is like. Everything’s laid out so you can get through it with the right rhythm etc. There’s also the sense of exploration. You can just go through the game as it looks and complete it. But you can also explore the levels, take different routes, and you’re rewarded for that.

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At one point reward by this little guy. Who is awesome.

I suppose the true brilliance of this game is when you beat it you don’t want to move through to another game, you want to play it again. It really kicked off the “100% completist” attitude to console gaming which Rare later perfected (or exploited, depending on your attitude). When you spoke about it, it wasn’t just “have you beaten the boss?” it was “did you find this level?”. I didn’t know until two years ago there’s a secret level in the second world which is basically the platform equivalent of a motorway service station, with weapons and extra life in there. Now that’s it about Super Mario World, let’s hope Odyssey can match it. Join us next week when we’ll be (hopefully) talking about Airplane. If you have any thoughts on that, this, or anything else, let us know on the facebook or in the comments section below. Until then, if you need awesome looking shirts, cushions, or bags, check out Let Lou’s here and check out what they’ve got, some amazing designs available.

The 5 Best Film-Based Video Games

Happy Friday The 13th everyone! Now like all of you I’ll be celebrating this most holy of days by killing horny teenagers near a lake somewhere (lake, puddle, it’s all the same). But other people celebrate it differently. Since the days of Jesus fighting a Pterodactyl in the Roman Colosseum, some people have watched some of the Friday The 13th films on this day. So it makes logical sense that I should take advantage, celebrate this by blogging about it. But I’ve never seen any of the films so instead I’m going to talk about video game adaptations of films, because there was once a video game adaptation of the film, and do I need another reason?

5. Goldeneye

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Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. This is the first game everybody talks about when they talk of truly great video games. There’s not a word missing there, that should be “video games based on films”, that’s how good this game is. At the time I’d never watched a James Bond film, and even now I’ve seen one I still think he’s a prick, he’s a sociopathic monster who probably has so many STD’s that he should pretty much change his name to Mydia, Chlamydia. But despite that, I still love this game. It has not aged well however, but that’s mainly because of the lot of the things we found innovative in the game are now standard. Before this game it was normal for weapons and ammo etc just to be laying around, this made ammo collecting logical: you could only pick up what had been dropped by people you killed. Yes, there were a few bits of ammo laying around, but your main source of it was the people you killed. Then there’s the multiplayer. There are two types of people who played video games in the 90’s. Those who spent hours shooting their friends in the head in multiplayer and obeying the “no oddjobs” rule, and liars! Dirty stinking liars!

4. Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

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This game comes from a different time, whereas modern games help the player, sometimes with tutorials, sometimes with guidance during the game, and sometimes with just skipping parts of it if you find it too difficult. Gaming is now focused on enjoyment, making the player have fun (with a few notable exceptions). It wasn’t always the case, however. Some video games used to make you wonder what you had done to piss off the creators. The biggest genre for this were text adventure games. Games which by their nature were quite annoying: you could spend hours trying to talk to a character before you work out the exact phrasing needed (for example: “Talk to person” wouldn’t be accepted, but “converse with person” would). This game is fiendishly difficult, but also very funny. It will make you laugh, scream in anguish, and then hate yourself, a bit like having sex with a clown. I’m not exaggerating by the way, the game is available here if you don’t believe me.

3. Aladdin

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Oh, should have mentioned, I am not doing these in any particular order, otherwise there’s no way this would be higher than Goldeneye. But it is very very good. A 2D side scrolling platformer that stands out on a console which it seemed like almost every other game was a platform game. I don’t think people can appreciate how hard it must have been for a platform game to stand out in the early 90’s. You were competing against Mario and Sonic at their peaks. The Mario games had some of the best level design in video game history, easing you into an unforgiving game with innovative gameplay that filled you with wonder, whilst Sonic went “vroom” and moved quickly. So for a game to stand out it must be truly great, and this is. I would talk about why, but I already did it here so anything I’d say would just be repeating myself. So because anything I say would be repeating myself, and I don’t like repeating myself I won’t say anything more, because I don’t like repeating myself.

2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

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Because rarely has a video game of a film been so faithful in tone to the film. Anybody who has played video game versions of films and television shows know that the games can play fast and loose with the themes of the film. For example: there’s a Doctor Who game where you play as the famous pacifist, and go around shooting and killing everyone. In Scarface, crime totally pays, and the Fight Club game has Fred Durst. This game doesn’t suffer from that. It’s a throwback game based on a film which loves 80’s video games. It’s not just the film it uses for inspiration, the graphic novel has a scene where two characters get beaten at the same time and an achievement pops up, if you recreate this in the game, the same achievement pops up. It’s little touches like that which are missing from a lot of games.

 

1. Alien Isolation.

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This game is terrifying, it makes the Alien scary again, which it should be. It should be a fearful beast, it shouldn’t be something you can handle with a few shots from a pistol. This game makes you fear it, and that’s wonderful. You know how highly regarded this game is? It put faith back into the franchise after Colonial Marines, a game so bad someone attempted to sue the makers, and won. Whereas that game had you running around shooting aliens by the hundreds (and just made them into another enemy), this game only has the one alien, and you can’t kill it, all you can do is hide and survive. This is the survival horror game the latest generation has been waiting for. I am in no way saying that the genre is not good anymore, just that it’s mainly indie developers doing it now, you don’t have many major releases anymore (I mean, P.T got cancelled for f*cks sake), most of the franchises people used to turn to for the genre have now changed into more action games, so it’s good to see a game where you’re completely helpless, a game where (contrary to video game logic) exploration and discovery will probably kill you.

 

So yeah, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed it, and Fuck You Konami

5 Video Games That Should Be Films

Yes, we’ve all had this discussion. “Oh my god, that would be an amazing film”, then you actually watch Street FighterSuper Mario Brosor anything by Uwe Boll and suddenly you blame video games for all that’s bad in the world. Maybe they’re picking the wrong games, or maybe they just don’t care as they know people will watch it anyway, who knows? But here’s five games they haven’t done yet, which I think could work, our reason for doing this? I dunno, can we blame it on Hardcore Henry basically being a FPS?

1. Eternal Darkness

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Hot damn I love this game. Scary, beautiful and with a fantastic story. It’s a horror that spans a thousand years and just four locations. We get to see the places in different stages throughout time, for example we see the Amiens Cathedral during the medieval years, and again when it serves as a hospital during the first world war. All the stories are connected by one common theme: mankind fighting the ancients. Because of this I feel it would work as an anthology film, six 10 minute segments each with their own director, with an overarching theme directed by David Robert Mitchell, the director of It Follows. There’s not many anthology films, which is a shame as they can be fantastic when done well. Horror serves the format well as there’s more than one kind of way to do horror, there’s the “blood and guts torture porn”, the “no deaths but lots of shadows” etc. That’s why I feel they should each have their own director, that way each segment has its own unique style. It will be odd if one person enjoyed every segment, but the diverse styles should mean that there’s at least one section that they’d like.

2. Turok

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It’s a man fighting dinosaurs. If you make that Tom Hardy and make sure it’s directed by George Miller then this will basically be Mad Max only with dinosaurs instead of cars. Not as long as the previous entry, but it’s Tom Hardy shooting dinosaurs, do you really need anything else?

3. LA Noire

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Because there’s a distinct lack of noire lately. The closest we’ve had have been films like The Pledge, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Sin City. Which is a shame as it’s a good genre with a unique style and stories that draw the viewer in and holds them round the throat and refuses to let go.

4. The Secret Of Monkey Island

This has to be made on one condition: it HAS to be animated. Not realistic pixar animation either, we’re talking the almost elastic-looking animation. The kind where characters bodies stretch in unnatural ways and they look frankly ridiculous running. Also, it has to be funny. Very very funny. Have someone like Bill Hader as the voice of Guybrush Threepwood (who wants to be a pirate), and a good script and you’ll have an awesome movie.

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5. Zombies Ate My Neighbours

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As anyone who saw Goosebumps can testify, there’s definitely a market out there for horror movies aimed at kids. And this could be it. The original game was a fun cartooney and really really silly game where your main weapons were water pistols and cans of soda. Translate this to a modern film, keep the references to obscure b-movies in to placate the nerds (such as me) and you’ve got a hit. Or a noble failure.

Why we love…The Lost Crown: a ghosthunting adventure.

Let’s talk about British Video games (and by that again I mean, I talk, you read). They are out there, I know that. Most famously we all know Rockstars’ British (though I shamefully didn’t know that till I saw The Gamechangers), but I’m not just talking about Brits making video games. I’m talking about Brits making video games set in England that actually feel English, and not just another culture’s idea of us they’ve seen on the telly.

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Lame name, but with a cover like that it doesn’t matter.

I’m sure there’s more out there than I know, but it’s a good segue into the topic of this week’s post. A continuation on our look at all things spooky, the British Horror-adventure game, The Lost Crown: A Ghost Hunting adventure. (Yes the names lame, but apt, so bear with me)

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Seriously, it takes a bit of time to get going, but it evolves into a deliciously messed up adventure.

Written and developed by Jonathan Boakes, who has developed a number of other British point-n-click games, like the very awesome Dark Fall Series. The third installment of which I almost reviewed for this spook fest, as it  is another of my favorite, and most underrated scary games.

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Lost Crown is set in The Fens of East England coast, and steeped in British folklore and legend. In classic story form, you play as amateur ghost hunter Nigel, sent to track down, what else, lost treasure. But the only way to find it is to solve the mystery of the strange town of Saxton.

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Now there is a lot wrong with this game, faults that would make most rightminded gamers run to the hills, faults I will get to. But I’ve already gone on record saying I’ll put up with the worst if the story grips me, and man oh fucking man, that’s where this game digs deep.
Solve the mystery, put some ghosts to rest, and find the treasure. It sounds simple enough, but with a backdrop filled with British history, and influenced by classic ghost stories like, M.R James A Warning to the Curious, Lost Crowns plot has the mentality of a Zelda fetch quest.

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It even a hefty amount of procedural work as you piece together all the mysteries, Zodiac style.

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To solve one mystery you have to solve one or two others, just to get the context to solve a bigger one that’s really just part of an even larger one. Every location you explore has a dark past to uncover, from the station, the forest, the caves, the church, and even the home you rent. The game truly captures a sense of history, by not just being a long story for you to stumble plot point to plot point, but by subtly laying a dozen stories set over centuries; all connected through your investigation. Stories ranging from pirates, to smugglers, to WW1 bombers, to religious cults, suicidal couples, and crazed kings.

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Like a store clerk who only speaks through a rag doll.

It’s this understanding of place, and depth of history that like fictional towns Silent Hill and Bright Falls before and after it makes Saxton feel real. Another part of that are the characters, beyond the prissy everyman you play as, the inhabitants of Saxton are an…eclectic bunch of people. To use the well warn example, it’s a bit Twin Peaksy in how normal yet off everyone feels, like they’re from another time. And there more than window dressing, as you actually get to know them pretty well; who they are and their pasts tend to tie in to at least one mystery and ghost around town.
So yeah the story’s tight. The ends a bit obtuse, but far from ruins it.

But on to the other stuff. The technical stuff.

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To get the positives out the way, the graphics are good, not great for 2008, but good. Done in stylish black and white with splashes of colour, it does its job and creates the perfect atmosphere for a ghost story, rendering the English countryside beautifully. I didn’t find it a very scary game, more just creepy; but it has its moments and excels at building unease with minimal action. Having a, hear don’t show approach, with subtly unnerving visuals. The direction is also topnotch, with the use of fixed camera positions to make some truly gothic and unnerving angles. So even when it doesn’t look good, it looks good.

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The gameplay is also your typical point n click fair; click the screen and the character will wonder over, biggest fault there is the speed Nigel moves at. Slow and steady doesn’t win shit.
The puzzles are mostly a lot of fun too, based around using actual ghost hunting gadgets, your EVP meters, night cams and whatnot, to unearth phantom clues. So any fans of Ghost Hunting shows will be at home here.

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But the rest of the production is… shaky….no, a better word is hilarious- unintentionally so. The dialogue works when it needs to but is largely stilted, especially when married to some bizarre voice acting. The supporting cast come across okay, but our hero Nigel is the odd mix of wooden yet over the top, which leads to plenty of unintentionally funny moments. You will never want to hear the phrase “Nothing ventured” again.

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And for some fucking dumb reason, this puzzle based game also features a very out of place rail shooter section, with some of the worst 2D ghosts you’ll ever see in a 3D game. It comes out of nowhere and is over just as quick, no other part of the game is like it. It’s the worst kind of bad, sudden and random.

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Then theres the FMVs, oh the FMVs. At certain points, mainly near the end, FMVs are used to show flashbacks, and they look terrible. This isn’t Ripper or Phantasmagoria level video either, it’s straight up film student looking, and again, out of nowhere and pretty pointless. Most of what they show, like a person being killed, could just be covered in dialogue or by investigating the crime scene…which you do.There was no need for a jarring psychic full-motion-video vision of their demise. It’s the only moment in the game that made me want to stop playing, and I would have if I wasn’t so invested in finding out what’s up with this town. Lucky theres only a handful in the whole game.

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Now I haven’t played it in a few years, so I’m sure there’s even more odd stuff I’m forgetting. But with all that said I still recommend this game highly. If you like a spooky ghost story, and defiantly if you have a taste for old style point n clicks.

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I need to play it again before I can name it one of my favorite games guilt free, but I’ve always had affection for ugly ducklings, for the odd and the strange. And a game that is simultaneously amazing in one aspect and so bad its funny in another is just my style.