Monday, 27 February 2017

Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion (PC)




Dangerous Dave In The Haunted Mansion (PC) :



Before John Romero and the Carmacks started the whole FPS craze with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, they developed this fun little platform shooter! A sequel to an earlier platform game, Dangerous Dave, this has us take control of Dave as he enters a haunted mansion to look for his brother Delbert!





Armed with a shotgun, we travel through 8 levels of spooks and traps, blowing baddies apart into bloody chunks and leaping over various walls and obstacles, opening doors to reach further into the depths of the mansion.The enemies are a nicely varied bunch, with Frankenstein Monsters, Witchy-looking little imps, spiders, slimes and others all out to put a stop to Delbert's rescue.




Good job then that you get decent control of your gun and are able to aim it at different angles to help dispose of them before you come a cropper! But useful though the shotgun is, it will require reloading...something which you better remember to do after blasting every few fiends, or you'll end up witnessing one of the many animated death scenes that pop up in a nice little panel every time you pop your clogs....





It's a great little platformer and heaps of fun! The feel of the shotgun feels strangely familiar if you've played Doom too, even though the games are in different perspectives..which is a bit odd! But yeah, find a copy of this if you can and you should find yourself suitably pleased!



Monday, 20 February 2017

Night Hunter (ZX Spectrum)




Night Hunter (ZX Spectrum) :



Having already looked at how to battle bloodsuckers, we now switch sides and take a bite at life as a vampire! And not just any old sucker, but Dracula himself! He's on a mission to gather up some old parchments and thwart Van Helsing's plan to put him into a daisy-pushing position for good.....




These parchments are lying around all over the place, and taking control of our old bloody...sorry...buddy...you'll have to find various keys and objects to help find them all. Trying to put a stop to this are various helpers of Van Helsing. Well, I say trying to put a stop to it....the men will come along and give you a punch in the face every now and again, but the women just seem to run around not doing much at all really. Still, they all provide a rather handy source of blood and health for Drac at least!




Not like the witches who are flying around all over the place...they seem to have something against vampires and will also bash you around a bit. Luckily, being a vampire has other perks which come in handy, and the ability to change into a bat or a werewolf for a short time helps you avoid these hags and also the various pits and holes which also litter the landscape. It takes a while to work out how best to use these other forms though, and I spent a good deal of time falling through holes and getting confused to begin with...




Once you get used to it though, the game is really quite enjoyable! Nothing startling by any means, but it's nice to play as the baddie every once in a while! It's also available on various other platforms from the era too, so even if you don't have a Speccy there's a good chance you can still experience some Helsing harassment on your system of choice......

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Zombi (ZX Spectrum)




Zombi (ZX Spectrum) :


We can thank George A. Romero for starting off the whole brain-munching-zombie epidemic witnessed in cinema and games for the last few decades...and in his 1978 film Dawn Of The Dead he also made sure that we'd forever associate the undead flesh-fiends with shopping malls! This Ubisoft game is basically a cheeky homage ( read "blatant rip-off" ) and as close as gamers would get to recreating the movie until Dead Rising came along....

The wonderfully awful comic in the instruction manual tells how our four heroes have managed to nab a helicopter from a hospital roof, but are now severely lacking in petrol. Deciding that the shopping mall might have loads of the stuff, they head there and find the undead have decided that it's the best place to pick up a quick snack....




Using on-screen icons to move around and click on things, you start to explore the mall and can switch between characters to use their different strengths. For instance, the chaps are supposedly a bit handier with the weapons...which is probably seen as being a bit sexist, but if they're following the movie they're probably supposed to be members of SWAT or something....




Anyway...as you search, zombies keep popping up and trying to get access to your yummy brains and you have to batter them with whatever's at hand...or just, well...your hands....by clicking furiously on their head! You'll find guns lying around too which are obviously a bit better for dealing with the hungry horrors..




Items are picked up by clicking on them...Cupboards also reveal their secrets when clicked upon, although sometimes it can be difficult to work out what exactly you're picking up, as the item graphics aren't the best....and with minimal instructions, you're pretty much left on your own when it comes to working out what to do with an item too, meaning you'll probably need to seek help from a walkthrough at some point!




Despite all this, the game is a lot of fun and you should definitely check it out! It'll keep you happy as you recreate scenes from Dawn Of The Dead such as blocking the doors with trucks, throwing dead bodies down garbage chutes to keep the place clean and eventually having to deal with a bunch of scary bikers who have come looking for food! 



Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Arachnophobia (Commodore Amiga)




Arachnophobia (Amiga) :





Ah yes...time for anyone with a hatred for things with more than six legs to look away! This BlueSky Software game is based on the 1990 movie of the same name and has you take control of bug exterminator Delbert McClintockJohn Goodman's character in the movie




A deadly Venezuelan spider had hitched a ride in to town and got frisky with the local arachnids, creating an infertile but dangerous horde of offspring. Driving around a map that reminds me of the Ghostbusters game, Delbert must stop and go through the houses in eight different towns, killing all the spiders in each one. 

He's armed with a can of bug spray, and you can aim the joystick in the required direction depending on where the spiders are, and give them a blast of the repellent...be careful though, as some of the little feckers will jump at you, making it easy to miss them as they try to chew your face off and web up your insides!!




You also get a couple of gas bombs that you can set on the floor, and these will wipe out all the spiders in that room....unless of course it's a queen spider! Yes, in every town there will be a queen that you have to track down and kill. She's not always easy to find, but the compass on the map screen will handily point in the general direction of where she might be hanging out...

You'll discover her nests everywhere though, and these need to be taken out to stop spiders spawning in the houses. Also, if you find yourself running low on spray, a quick jump on top of a spider should squish it in to a sticky, bloody mess...a trick worth remembering when you're in a tight spot. If you run completely out of spray, you'll need to leave the house for another can y'see...but this spawns all the spiders back to life when you re-enter...




As I just mentioned, gas bombs will only slow the queen spiders down when you find them...not kill them....and spray is pretty useless against them too. No, these silk spinners need a special kind of finishing off! Somewhere in town there will be a red can lying around. This allows you to spray fire once you aquire some matches, which will also be lying around somewhere...it's worth checking where the queen is first though before you light up and waste the spray, as I've been told the queen sometimes isn't in the same house as some of the matches, meaning you might light up only to discover you've no flame spray left when you actually need it!




It's a fairly enjoyable little bug hunt, and the spiders move around in a suitably creepy way. It can get a bit repetitive I guess, but in the short time I've played it it's never really become a problem. Whilst looking for the box art I discovered a little extra something awaits those who clean out all the towns too, so I'll definitely be going back to the game later to try and do just that! And also try to avoid the screen below that greets you every time you die....


Monday, 23 January 2017

Freak Out / Stretch Panic (Playstation 2)



Freak Out (Stretch Panic-US, Hippa Linda-JPN)  (PS2) :





More utter insanity now, but this time from Treasure, a company who excel at making great games that nobody buys! And even a lot of Treasure fans seemed to not give this one much notice...

Freak Out tells the tale of Linda, a girl who has to deal with 12 rather vain sisters who constantly mock Linda's fashion sense and love of her scarf, which was gifted to her when she was six by her now deceased father. One day...whilst Linda is off picking up the weekly cosmetic shopping for her self-obsessed sisters... a mysterious package arrives on their doorstep. Possibly thinking it has come form some secret admirer, the sisters open it.....and unleash 13 scary vanity demons looking to punish pretty types!





12 of the demons possess the sisters, but the 13th only manages to attach itself to Linda's scarf... thanks to her lack of vanity. Despite her obvious annoyance at her stupid siblings, she decides she better get to the task of saving them from the vile Zakos, for that is what these demons are called! Because Linda took good care of the scarf, and with it's magically gained sentience it agrees to help Linda rescue her sisters, and let her utilize its newly acquired powers of stretching... that turns everything it touches into elastic!

Each of the sisters has been zapped off to a seperate dimension, and these are accessed through various different dimension doors. In order to open the doors, Linda must first defeat some more vanity demons...ones named Bonita Zakos! 




These rather large-breasted baddies can only be defeated by pinging their heads or bums, which can be tricky to grab hold of as their bulbous boobs block your aim! Once you've managed to get a few of them to explode though, you can access one of the doors to the other dimensions..

Here you'll face one of your possessed relatives, and have to work out exactly what needs to be stretched and pulled in order to free them. Once..well, if... you've managed to do that, your sister will be saved and she'll be added to the Gallery Of Shame...a place you access by pinging a bell in the hub world and that lets you mess around with your families features and textures later in the game! And you set off to blow up more Bonitas and rescue the next victim of vanity!




It's truly a weird little game, and won't be for everyone. It has a sort of odd Tim Burton-esque atmosphere, but probably has just a touch too much colour in it to be really classed as such. Still, I think it looks rather groovy but I can see how some people might find it a bit too strange...

It was one of Treasure's first 3D titles, and you can see they haven't quite mastered how to make a good game camera, with it spinning around and not letting you see what you need to see sometimes.




It can also be tricky to judge exactly where your scarf is in relation to things, and the controls for using it take a bit of getting used to too. And I've had to refer to an online guide more than once to work out exactly how to defeat the bosses...But having said all that, I still enjoy it every time I restart it to try and play through again, and if you're looking for something very different from the type of things you normally play, then this could be a good place to start!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Dracula - The Undead (Atari Lynx)



Dracula - The Undead (Atari Lynx) :


I've never really been one for portable gaming devices...I've always thought that I do enough gaming while I'm indoors, and so like to do other stuff while I'm out and about and be more sociable and look at trees and animals and people and things.... If I had a hand-held, I'd probably never stop playing games....




Because of this, even though I picked up an original Gameboy a few years back, I still tend to play the games via a Super Gameboy on the big TV. Also, I never ever got to experience the joys of playing other handheld systems, like Atari's Lynx! So after discovering this game via emulation, I'm wondering just what other gems I've been missing....





As you start the game, you're greeted with eerie music and a screen featuring the author of Dracula himself, Mr. Bram Stoker! He explains that using the magic of technology he is able to narrate his tale to you through time, and that you'll be able to interact in a way that would be impossible in his day! Which basically means you'll read a lot of text and then get to play a nice little point-n-click type affair for a bit before reading some more....



Once Bram has finished his first little bit of story telling, you find yourself in control of Jonathan Harker, who is staying at Dracula's Castle with a view to doing some business with the old count. Using a slightly odd interface that takes a little bit of getting used to, you can wander the rooms and interact with various doors, cupboards and objects in order to advance the story...


Some doors and objects can be tricky to see, mainly because of the graphical limitations of the system. It took me quite a while to discover a door at the back of the antechamber where I started for instance, as I couldn't make it out by looking at the screen and only discovered it when I saw "door" pop up as I walked past...



But you'll soon get used to hunting around everywhere and trying every command available to find things and work stuff out, and it becomes a little easier to play. And then you'll find your way to the Dining Room, where you'll meet our old pal Dracula himself!
                                       
                                     
It can still be a bit tricky to work out what you have to do sometimes, and I'll admit I had to cheat a couple of times and look at a walk-through to progress... but I reckon if you were a bit more patient than me you would probably discover what to do by yourself eventually anyway....







But yeah, I still haven't finished it...and I would have had to start again anyway, as I discovered that when you find your notebook, you have to keep using it every now and again to take notes...or when you get to the end of the game, you'll get a bad ending and need to play again for a good one!






It is a good little game though, and has lots of nice cut-scenes and sound effects that help add to the classic horror atmosphere! But I suppose it won't be for everyone, as the puzzles can frustrate and there is a lot of text in the game, although if you like such stuff and want a nice little spooky treat,  you could do a lot worse than this! Oh.. and it sticks close to the book! It even has the Dracula crawling down the wall bit in it!!



Friday, 20 January 2017

Chakan - The Forever Man (Sega Megadrive / Genesis)




 Chakan The Forever Man (Megadrive/Genesis) :



Way back in the mists of time, when sorcerors and warriors still held sway over the lands, a swordsman named Chakan reckoned he was pretty good at the death-dealing business, slaying anyone and everyone who crossed his path and didn't bow to his greatness. So sure was he of his abilities that he'd often boast that one day, Death himself would fall at his feet after being bested in battle....


Some fearful wizards and gods decided to test this claim, and using a mysterious ancient ritual summoned Death to the world, where he found Chakan on a misty plain and proposed a wager...Happy with the souls that Chakan had sent him over the years, Death decided that although Chakan had become far too powerful he would offer him immortality if he could actually beat Death in battle! Chakan accepted, and after many days actually achieved what no-one had ever managed before...Death lay at his feet!




Chakan called upon Death to acknowledge the wager and bestow immortality upon him.....Death honoured the agreement, but as always when you do dealings with the reaper, it came with a few unwanted extras.... Stripped of most of his powers and with a face changed to resemble that of his fallen foe, Chakan was cursed to walk eternity in constant pain and suffering, only being able to find peace if the last of the dark beings was slain, and evil was ended....





Starting life as a comic strip by Robert A. Kraus, Chakan was licenced and became a Sega Genesis game...one that has been tormenting my existence since I first picked it up almost 15 years ago. The game picks up the story after Chakan has been cursed, with Death telling him if he slays all the evil lords he will lift the curse and be able to die in peace....But this is a task that is easier said than done! This is quite possibly one of the hardest games ever! 



You start the game in a hub world, able to choose one of four elemental stages...Earth, Air, Fire & Water...via doors which will teleport you to the different realms. These individual realms consist of three levels of platforming and a boss stage. However, once these levels are completed, you've only cleared the "terrestrial plane" and a further 3 levels and a boss await for each of the four elements!





As I've already mentioned, you'll have to get really good at the game if you want to see the later levels, as it is far from easy...I've had the game for years, but have never gotten further than the first few levels! I was sure I had beaten it at some point, but after going back and playing it I realise that I must have been thinking of something else....Luckily, the fact you can pick different levels from the start means you'll still get to see a decent variety of stuff, even if you are rubbish at it...

Despite being insanely difficult, the atmosphere and playability of the game mean that it's still one of my favourite games on the Megadrive. It has a dark, depressing feel that was a bit different from other games around at the time, and I've always felt that the setting and story would make for an awesome sequel on a modern console or PC! In fact, a sequel was planned for Dreamcast, but for whatever reason this was cancelled. Interestingly though, it was later revealed that a lot of the concepts and designs were later used in the Legacy of Kain game Blood Omen 2


Below is an animation video of what the Chakan model would have looked like in the Dreamcast game...someone needs to get on the case and get a new Chakan released on the next-gen machines I reckon! The story is perfect for videogames....




I also managed to pick up the Chakan The Forever Man - The Compendium comic just after I decided to include Chakan in the list, and the drawing you can see at the top of the post comes from it's cover. Anyone interested in Chakan as a character would be well advised to hunt down the comic strips as well as the game, as the atmosphere and general groovyness of the story is present in those too! Here's a couple of pics of some of the stuff you can find in its pages.... 

 So yeah, if this sounds interesting and you've yet to play the game, I heartily recommend you seek it out and add it to your collection...unless of course you hate difficult games! If that's the case you should run screaming in the opposite direction! Although it's rather odd that other really hard games infuriate me to the point of making me want to destroy every copy on the planet, but this one, possibly the hardest game I've played,  just makes me want to try again and again until I beat it!?  I can't quite understand it....but yeah, choose your own fate wisely!










Thursday, 19 January 2017

Manhunt (Playstation 2, Xbox, PC)




Manhunt (PS2, Xbox, PC) :

Never being ones to shy away from courting controversy, 2003 saw Rockstar Games launch Manhunt to a  games playing public hungry for more GTA-style shenanigans after the wonderful Vice City...the public would soon discover that this game would take inspiration from a rather darker side of the eighties though...the video nasty!





As Death Row inmate, James Earl Cash, players awoke to find themselves escaping execution thanks to the mysterious Director... a strange chap who communicates with Cash via a headset and keeps an eye on him with various cameras positioned throughout Carcer City, the dark and seedy backdrop for what is about to become a really bad night for James.....

The Director informs us that we can only be free if we indulge his sick taste for snuff movies, and roam through the streets assassinating various vicious gang members who similarly are all out for Cash's blood! Not having much choice, he (and therefore we!) are forced to hide in the shadows, popping out every now and then to bump-off a baddie and try to find some form of escape from all the madness....




Using plastic bags, shards of glass, baseball bats, crowbars....basically anything with at least one pointy end...you sneak up behind one of the low-life gang goons, lock on with one of the shoulder buttons and let go to unleash an execution. Each weapon has 3 different attacks, depending on how long you hold the button down....the lock-on cursor changing from white..through yellow..to red, with that being the gruesomest execution and therefore the one that bags you the biggest brownie points from the Director!

You have to stay in the shadows though, as walking out into the light sees load of enemies all ganging up on you, making it very difficult to fight back unless you can run away quick enough to find more shadows to hide in! It's this lurking in the shadows that takes up the biggest part of the game, and means that people with no patience won't do very well with this, as sometimes you'll need to learn the enemies paths for the best way to kill them and this can take ages....




Thankfully, being a Rockstar game, all of the enemies are blessed with some great dialogue, and whilst they seek you out you'll hear them complain about being hungry or losing their shoes or what they're going to do to you when they find you for making them stand in the cold for so long! You'll encounter quite a few different gangs too...from the racist Skinz to the totally bat-shit crazy Smileys, all with their own relevant rantings to keep you entertained while you wait for the opportunity to bash their brains in....




About halfway through the game, just when you've got used to sneaking about using the bats and knives, guns are introduced and you discover just who it is putting you through all this craziness, and decide to go pay them a visit! Having hold of these weapons changes the pace of the game slightly, meaning it never gets too stale and keeps you interested!




One extra element people sometimes forget to mention when talking about Manhunt, is the ability to use your Playstation's headset and mic to influence the game...Plugging it in, you hear the Director's voice directly in your ear making it feel like he's actually talking to you! And, any cough or sneeze you happen to let slip during play will actually alert the hunters in game, and have them coming to find the source of the noise! So best not to play this way if you happen to suffer from allergies, but it's an awesome addition to an already impressive title....




Understandably, all this murder and mayhem had various censors and retailers worried about putting the game on shop shelves...this was made even worse when the game was linked to the murder of Stefan Pakeerah, although it was later noted that it was Stefan who owned Manhunt and not his murderer...

Back in 2004, I was working in the Virgin Megastore's game department, and was told to take Manhunt from the shelves and place it under the counter...We were still allowed to sell it, but only if it was specifically asked for! Needless to say, the publicity from the tragic case above... and the fact it was banned in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Germany...only helped sales of the game, and almost every 5 minutes I had people coming in to the store asking if we had any copies left....




It's a game that's definitely not for the squeamish, and it is very graphic in its display of violence...but as usual, the media surrounding its release made it seem far worse than it actually is! Although not for everyone, I recommend you give it a try though, as it's one of the best stealth titles out there...and having to hide in the dark as some psychopaths from the local asylum try to hunt you down and poop down your neck makes for some of the most truly suspenseful and scary gameplay in any of the games on this blog!