Monday, 24 August 2009

Nedroid Is Good

Hey, have you ever been to I like several webcomics, and Nedroid definitely counts as one of them. Praise indeed. The two main characters are Reggie, a bird, and Beartato, a potato-shaped bear. You should go there and read the comics. Do it. Go check it out. Here's one I like:

Did you also know I went on holiday last week? For the first time since sixth form? It was GREAT. Not that it's any of your goddamn business. When I'm less snowed under I'll post a couple of pics and tell you some about it. Okay? *mwah!* I love you. Sometimes I want to cut you. Just on the hand.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Games With Stupid Names - #6 Violence Fight

In the early part of 1950's in USA, a game called "Violence Fight" was in vogue among Mafia, reckless drivers and general businessmen.
The "Violence Fight" was the game to struggle for "No.1 Quarreler" with fighters who were gathered from all parts of the USA speaking boastingly of their strength.
And of course a lot of winning money as well as the honor were given to the "winner".
Here in a downtown in L.A., a young fighter "Bat" and his manager "Blinks" seek for the winning money eagerly.
As a matter of fact, can Bad take the No.1 place of the USA?'

Taito's 1989 alley brawler beat 'em up Violence Fight remains a classic of the genre - if the genre in question is 'shit arcade games that sank without trace'. Stagger slowly around dull, samey levels! Mash at the unresponsive controls to perform as many as four or five moves! Struggle to comprehend the poorly localised text!

My favourite part of Violence Fight, ('favourite' here operating in a purely technical capacity, as it might in sentences such as 'my favourite STD' or 'my favourite suppurating head wound') are the big comic sound effects that appear whenever you land a blow that knocks your opponent over. GOGON! BOGON!

Beat three foes and you get to battle in a bonus round against the mysterious 'Tiger'.

But wait, those inverted commas are a trick! You're not facing some tiger-like brawler at all, but an actual tiger! Naturally he kicked my peasy ass. GOON!

Looking at these screenshots I'm sure you'll agree that it's a miracle Capcom's paltry effort Streetfighter II ever managed to find a niche in the market. But seriously, Violence Fight achieves the near-impossible task of making me recall Pitfighter fondly. WTF? I'll leave you with my spit n' sawdust scrapper of choice, Ben Smith, warning off his next opponent with a chilling battlecry:

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Japanese Techno-Pop Makes Me Wee Rainbows

(via the ever-giving wellspring of EPIC WIN that is Metafilter)

So yeah today I watched these performances from an 80s Japanese kids' TV show, three Techno-Pop bands, P-Model, Hikashu and Plastics. The sound quality is mildly anus, but you get the idea:

Everything I know about J-Pop and all its bizarro corollaries could be written on the back of a postage stamp in fat-nibbed magic marker, but regular readers of my blog (I'm looking at you, Mum) will know I reckon proggy girl trio eX-Girl are rather spesh. (you should check out Waving Scientist @ Frog King - it's probbo my fave track) Wikipedia reveals that the first band on in the vid, P-Model, are fronted by Susumu Hirasawa, who did the soundtrack for spooky millenial angstathon Paranoia Agent. I got sent a review copy of part of the series when I was writing for NEO, and I can confidently say it's one of the best, most unnerving anime series I've ever seen. It follows a succession of people who get attacked by a rollerblading, bent baseball bat wielding kid known to the media as Lil' Slugger, and explores estrangement, insanity, and people's pasts coming back to haunt them. It's endlessly inventive and manages to have a great sense of humour while being genuinely disturbing.

I remember even finding the opening credit sequence upsetting for reasons I couldn't quite put my finger on, but it provides a great opportunity to show how Susumu Hirasawa's music helps create an atmosphere of weird uneasiness:

Friday, 7 August 2009

Games With Stupid Names - #5 Diet Go Go

Diet Go Go belongs to that rare class of video game, the 'issue' title. The Oddworld series - Abe's Oddysee, Abe's Exoddus, Munch's Oddysee, etc - all foreground an ecological/animal welfare message, Cannon Fodder claimed to be anti-war, although how many players actually picked that up, and to what extent pleading 'satire' provided a convenient defence for the prodigious, unremitting violence is up for debate, uhh... Mick & Mack in McDonaldland advocated eating at McDonald's?

At first glance, Diet Go Go appears to be a game with the laudable premise of encouraging exercise and healthy eating. From the somewhat sparse cut scenes, it appears that a cyborg mad professor is intent on turning our planet into a world of fatties by pelting everyone with food. Clad in leotards, sweatbands and legwarmers, our two heroes set out to battle the professor's mischievous scran-dispensing minions and restore Earth's people to their former shapely glory.

Except - this shit is really fucked up. Touching any food whatsoever turns you into a slow-moving, miserable bloater, and touching a second item whilst fat instantly kills you. You don't even pop in a cartoonish way - your character moans and keels over, apparently from cardiac arrest. It's super-unpleasant, and particularly twisted given that most of the foodstuffs are somewhere between harmless and very healthy - bits of sushi and even tossed green-leaf salads flicker with a skull and crossbones showing that to eat them is to condemn yourself to life as a worthless sweaty chuffer.

Worse still, you can't work the weight off by running around or eating healthily - the 'diet' the game purports to promote in fact consists solely of bottles of diet pills, which, if collected, return you to your original shape. I mean, I can see why the Japanese felt the need to create this game, what with their country's long history of chronic obesity problems, but for fuck's sake, it's horrendous. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some humourless knee-jerk offence-finder - I thought the furore over Fat Princess many months back was ludicrous hand-wringing that trivialised a very serious issue and showed a worrying lack of judgement by advocacy groups apparently more interested in shrill, petty controversialism and column inches than credibility.

Fat Princess featured weight gain and loss incidentally as part of its game mechanics - Diet Go Go is actually attempting to promote an ideology, yet its take on the subject is a confused, cackhanded mess.

For the most part, the game's a remix of Tumble Pop, a cutesy platformer where two bandana-clad heroes suck enemies up into vacuum cleaners then fire them out at other foes, working to clean up the globe then eventually confronting the alien menace in space. Diet Go Go borrows several power-ups and baddie sprites, then adds its own rubbish twist on the game mechanics, essentially taking a reasonably yummy chocolate cake then glazing it with some Korsakoff's-addled boozehound's pungent arse Bovril.

Instead of sucking foes into a vacuum cleaner, you fling what look like little balls at them, causing them to get fat and float towards the ceiling. Bumping into fat enemies makes them go pinging around the screen, crashing into their cohorts, who get destroyed in the process. Their trajectories are pretty much random, largely removing the element of skill from the whole game. Brilliant.

At the end of each level, you face a big boss character. Initially they look quite exciting, until you realise each one follows an identical pattern, spazzing about dropping little bad guys which you need to fatten up then knock back into the big boss. That's it. Every time. Man it fucking sucks.

Eventually you confront the professor, hit him with a ball, and he duly explodes. Game over. I actually played all the way through this game just to write this review. Agghh.

Diet Go Go is abysmal. If you want kids to improve their health, it seems somewhat shortsighted to do so through a medium that encourages long periods of inactivity. However, Diet Go Go is so aggressively unentertaining that I can only imagine it drove thousands of Japanese youths staggering from the video arcades, blinking into the sunlight, emphasising as it does just what an intellectually bankrupt, wretched waste of our temporary sentience video games are. I feel miserable and dirty, and I'm not sure if I'll fully enjoy gaming again.

Complete a world, and you're 'rewarded' with a titilating/hilarious pic of the two central characters struggling with their weight or flaunting their unrealistic bodies. Actually I do fancy the girl a bit. Gnnngh. Do you see? This is what this steaming aggregation of colon slurry has done to me. It took my innocence. IT TOOK MY EYES!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Kings Of Power 4 Billion %

Look, my question to you is simply this: have you watched Paul Robertson's Kings Of Power 4 Billion %? No? THEN DON'T COMPLAIN YOUR LIFE ISN'T EVERYTHING IT COULD BE!

It is special. You could watch it on Youtube:

But actually the quality of the compressed vids is pretty shitty. My advice? Be patient, go here, and download the full-quality avi file. You might need to download a little codec to make it run on your video player, but fuck it, you're a capable kind of person, you'll manage it. Don't worry, you're not pirating it or some zany shit like that - the creator, Paul Robertson, has been distributing it from his blog. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know I think he's a golden god, also being the dude behind Pirate Baby Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006.

I mean come on. Just the soundtrack to KoP4B% is a work of insano J-prog majesty. Obviously I love the video game aesthetic and all the little nods, both to games, and to nuggets of pop culture. This is clearly a guy who loves his Metal Slug, an ideological stance I can get behind with considerable gusto. I gaze upon this video and for a few, fleeting minutes the technicolour vomitworks that I laughingly call my mind seems somehow normal. Anyway, enough gushing. I think it's good. You may not. But then, you may be a gormless pranny.

Monday, 3 August 2009

EVEN MORE What I Did On My Holidays

So this weekend I toddled north up to the Lake District for a little festival called Kendal Calling. I say toddled - I dozed in a van while Ventriloquist and the Tongue Fu band drove us the 6+ hours all the way up there on Saturday. I'd had to get up bright and early to get the train from Cambridge, so I was a tiny bit pooped. During my brief periods of consciousness, I read TV rent-a-skeptic Richard Wiseman's pop-psych book :59 Seconds, full of lots of little 'quick fix your life' tips and descriptions of interesting research. It's pretty good, except when he attempts humour. I try not to read too much pop-psych these days - as I wrote about in Astronauts, when I was younger I got quite addicted to pop-psych books. I used them as a form of escapism, imagining that I could supercharge my heart and mind and become immune to all the painful knocks and burns of life. I think consuming a diet of aspirational literature quickly makes you feel knackered. It's funny how many books on relationships talk about engagement styles and negotiation but seem to leave something as simple as love by the wayside. Self-improvement is all very well but I don't think it's defeatist to practise a little self-acceptance too. It's difficult, when you see a friend stung by disappointment or hurt by self-destructive behaviour, not to start dismantling their actions and identifying the things they did 'wrong', because you want to protect them and see them happy, but this kind of habitual micro-criticism can backfire when it's your turn in the barrel. You'll be lazy some days, you'll forget things, sometimes you'll feel insecure in a relationship, you'll lose your temper, and you'll act in whole host of other suboptimal ways. This will never end. It doesn't make you a bad person and no amount of beating yourself up about it will prevent you from doing it. Instead of feeling blue about your own perceived shortcomings, it's best to acknowledge them and draw on them as a source of compassion and understanding when dealing with others' shortcomings. We'll all live our entire lives doing less than the best possible. That can be a source of warmth and community and love.

And because I'm human I only sometimes put the above into practice. And I feel a bit sanctimonious for coming out with all that. Ah well. I forgive myself. A bit. Heh.

Talking of imperfection, at Kendal Calling I performed my most spectacular stage exit yet, hallucinating an extra section of stage after my set, catching my foot on the hazard tape and falling, faceplanting into the dirt. Fortunately the damp weather had turned the ground the consistency of Playdoh, so I merely left a big reverse imprint without hurting myself. I lifted myself onto all-fours, put my specs back on and looked up to see Howard Marks stood in front of me, looking down, asking if I was all right. 'Mr Nice' - not just clever branding, apparently!

I had a really lovely time travelling with the Tongue Fu crew, who seem like a thoroughly friendly bunch of people, and it was good to see Berkavitch and Kate Tempest with Sound of Rum at the festival. Kendal Calling seemed to be doing a lot to support local bands, which I can only doff my invisible hat to. You get to imagine what type it might be. I'm imagining a black felt tricorn with a single quail feather tucked into the brim. Your model may vary.