Saturday, 31 December 2011

...and the winners are...

Alright everyone, there's going to be a belated Christmas present coming to some of my readers. It would have been nice to have more people entering these giveaways, but not to worry. The aim, of course, is to have more people reading my blog. It would be nice to think I've at least accomplished that, heading into 2012, but I suppose the proof of the pudding will be in the stats. Erm... that doesn't really work, does it?

Enough idle banter... here are the winners!

The Mark of Kri - Tony Mansfield, if he wants it!
Rayman Forever – RetroWench
Hitman Trilogy – Shuyin
Alpha Protocol – Josiah Y
Sonic Generations – Bryony Ramsden
VVVVVV – nobody!
Grand Theft Autos – Bryony Ramsden
Oddboxx – gnome
Space Channel 5: Part 2 – Shuyin
Gaming Soundtracks – Nobody!
Psychonauts – Steve Morton
Indie Humble Bundle 4 - Ashcroft

Congratulations to all those above, and commiserations to those who missed out. If you didn't win anything, keep an eye on my Twitter feed... I may (will) be offering some consolation prizes in the next day or two...

Get in touch with me if you've won anything, I'll need details for sending out the prizes.

Happy New Year!

Games of the year?

With 2012 just around the corner, the time has come for all self-respecting publications to consider, and then publish, their top games of 2011. And once they've done that, I'll have a go at mine. Just kidding! Ideally, I want to get my list up while 2011 still resides in the memory banks (and not in April, like I did last year...).

But what on Earth will go in there? 2011 was a fantastic year for games! I've played tons of top quality efforts in the last twelve months, so narrowing it down could prove to be very, very difficult (maybe it will be April when I'm finished, after all...).

I've made an early decision to produce two lists, one for iOS games and one for "proper" games. Which is not to diminish from the little uns... in fact, some of those games have been among my very favourites, with real imagination and joy to be had. No, this way I can include more! Yeah, it's a bit of fence-sitting, but I just can't see any way to do a top ten otherwise. Unless I do a top twelve... or a top twenty... or... GAH!

Oh well, we'll see what I come up with in the fullness of time. In the meantime, enter my giveaways (if you read this in time), have a great New Year and I'll see you back here very soon!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

On the twelfth day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... twelve indie crackers!

This is a biggie.

I'll say it again.

This. Is. A. Biggie.

The last giveaway of my Twelve Games of Christmas is... the Indie Humble Bundle 4!

The Humble Bundles are magnificent affairs, whereby some of the finest indie games developers get together and sell off their games on the cheap, in the name of charity. So we get loads of good stuff to play, and charities get a stack of cash. Everybody wins! Erm... except for the devs... although I suppose they get to feel all warm and fuzzy at the good deed they're doing. Well done, indie devs!

Now then, I paid more than the average price for this gift bundle, because I'm such a giving soul. So what does that mean you'll be getting, if you win? Well, you'll be getting these games:

Gratuitous Space Battles
Cave Story+
Bit.Trip Runner
Super Meat Boy
NightSky HD
Crayon Physics Deluxe
And Yet It Moves

Not only that, you'll be getting the soundtracks to all of them as well! That's just flippin' awesome.

So come on, enter this one. You'll get stacks of fun out of it if you win, and it's all for a good cause! Just post a link to this article somewhere appropriate... go on, give it a good plug! Then post a comment in here telling me what you've done, and you'll be in with a chance of winning a dozen great games and their soundtracks! It's worth it just for Jamestown if you ask me, that's brilliant, but there's not a duffer on here and most games are superb. Enter! Now!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... nauts that are psyching?

I was going to give away some kind of Pipemania game today, but I couldn't find one that wasn't on an emulator. So instead, I'm just going to give away something excellent! And that excellent game would be... Psychonauts!

Awwwww! How cute?

I first played Psychonauts... right when it came out, actually. In fact, I wrote a short review of it for excellent-but-resting-indefinitely games mag, Way of the Rodent. That was when I was living in America, so I've been a fan of this game for a long time.

Age hasn't diminished it any, it's still great. It's a platform adventure of the most imaginative kind. You play Raz, a kid who has run away from his life in the circus (hang on, don't you usually run away to join the circus?) to join a psychic summer camp.

Yeeeah, He doesn't look mental, at all...

Unfortunately for Raz, the camp only allows students that they have recruited, so-called "Psychonauts", so once he's there, the camp leaders phone his parents to come and collect him. Hang on, what? They do, though, realise the Force is strong with this one, and allow him to stay and take part in some of the camp's gentler activities.

That's when the game goes around the bend. The actual camp just acts as kind of a hub. The real levels of the game are like nothing else you've played... As a psychic wunderkind, you have the power to enter other peoples' minds! And this, you must and will do.

Christ. He'd need a lot of Fairy Liquid.

These levels and boss battles are spectacularly imaginative and brilliantly warped, providing an incredible insight into the game's characters... and, I suspect, the designers! You'd probably expect nothing less from the mind behind the likes of Grim Fandango, but it's really quite mental and has to be experienced to be believed. And you can experience it, as I'm giving away a copy on Steam!

Here's the scoop: post a link to this write-up somewhere appropriate, then post a comment here telling me what you've done. That'll put you in the draw. Good luck!

On the tenth day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... ten gaming soundtracks...

This giveaway is a little bit different. Rather than give away games, I'm giving away their soundtracks. Now, I could have just ripped a few MP3s and e-mailed you Rob Hubbard's Greatest Hits (which would have been awesome), but I'm above that. Instead, I've got you ten complete albums... soundtracks from some of indie gaming's best!

There are tunes here from the likes of... Super Meat Boy! Minecraft! VVVVVV! And a few others besides. You could spice up the MP3 player of your choice to no end, by adding some of your favourite recent gaming tunes. Or maybe even some stuff you've never heard of before.

This stuff is all DRM-free, and available to download as either 320kbps MP3s, or in FLAC format. So if you like the sound of that (see what I did there?), then all you have to do is publicise this blog/giveaway somewhere appropriate, and then post a comment here telling me where you've gone and sprayed my scent. Then you'll be in the hat! Easy!

On the ninth day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... all kinds of dancing...

You won't find nine ladies dancing in this giveaway. There are some ladies dancing, and one in particular. And there are lots of aliens dancing, too. That's because today's Steam giveaway is Space Channel 5: Part 2!

This game is just the geekiest type of cool. It's so cool, it's not cool. Set 500 years into the future, you play sexy ace reporter Ulala, facing off against the Rhythm Rogues as they kidnap innocent people and force them to dance. The bastards! Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to dance the enemy off their feet and save the day... and get the best ratings you can while doing it!

Up, down, up, down, shoot! Shoot! Shoot!

It's a really strange game, truth be told, but very charming and great fun to play. It even features an appearance from "Space Michael", namely Michael Jackson, who was a renowned lover of video games, of course. And you wouldn't exactly see him as a character in a beat 'em up, would you?

There's not much more that needs to be said. It's a simple game, and a simple giveaway. Do the old "plugging this link in a relevant place" thing, post a comment here letting me know where you've done it, and you might need to get your dancing shoes on!

On the eighth day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... eight types of ammo...?

Bit on the cryptic side, this one. There's not really any way you could guess what game features eight types of ammo. Or rather, there are probably loads that do, and it could be any of them. But come on, it's really hard to tie things into this!

Anyway, the game I'm thinking of in this instance is... Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath.

Yes, you can win the slightly strange Western-themed FPS classic! And not only that, because I'm nice, I'm actually giving away the Oddboxx - all the Oddworld games in one handy package (well, it's not really a package, it's a series of downloads on Steam). What a great collection of games!

It's an odd sort of place, this.

The first Oddworld game is Abe's Oddysee, which I distinctly remember playing on the Playstation. It's a side-scrolling platform game in which you, as Abe, must free enslaved creatures before they can be turned into food products at the factory where you work. It has to be said, one of the main reasons I was ever drawn to the game was its bizarre and somewhat dark storyline! Always did have a liking for the slightly twisted...

It's a lot of fun, with plenty of humour to lighten proceedings. This is welcome, because there are moments of frustration in the game. Still, it's well worth sticking it out till the end.

A bolt of lightning!

With Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee being so successful, a sequel was inevitable. Indeed, the path of Oddworld had been mapped out to include five games, right from the off. However, in a move that would cash in on Oddysee, a spin-off sequel was released that was not a part of the main storyline. That spin-off was called Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus.

Exoddus continues at the exact point where the first game finishes. This could be said about every aspect of the game... there's not a lot new there. It's a bit less frustrating, due to a newly-implemented save system, but other than that it's the same bizarre, tripped-out platforming goodness that the first game was full of. It's cracking old-school action.

Like a mouse on a wheel!

Not exactly hot on the heels of these two came the next Oddworld game... Munch's Oddysee. As you might have guessed, this introduced a new Oddworld character. It also introduced the 3D viewpoint that is the norm in most platformers nowadays (and was thenadays, too!). I haven't played this entry in the series, so I don't know what it's like. Critics weren't as keen on it, though, although it still managed to do reasonably well, scores-wise.

And so, finally, we come to the centrepiece of the collection - Stranger's Wrath. Which I haven't played yet. I really ought to... I know several people that highly rate it, with one fella rating it as his game of the year for 2005 (2005? Was it really as long ago as that?).

A man's got to know his limitations.

It's a hybrid of a game, featuring first-person shooting action and third-person platforming bits. It brings new meaning to the term "live ammunition"... the things you fire at enemies are actually living creatures! Any game that allows you to shoot wasps at things has to be worth playing.

There you go, then. Four classic games, one classic series. Yours for the taking. You probably know the drill by now, but if you don't... go and plug this post somewhere relevant, and then come back here and post a comment telling me where you've put it. That'll put you in the draw... go for it!

Monday, 26 December 2011

On the seventh day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... seven Grand Theft Autos.

OK, as giveaways go, this one is pretty epic. Seven Grand Theft Autos? How much game is that? Enough to last you until next Christmas, if you're so inclined...

So, what the fuck is in this fucking Grand Theft Fucking Auto giveaway, then? Here's what you can win:

You'll never catch me, coppers! Oh, wait...

Grand Theft Auto (the first one ever!).
Grand Theft Auto 2.
Grand Theft Auto III.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Grand Theft Auto IV.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City (GTA IV add-on comprising of The Lost & The Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony).

See how fucking nice I am? Giving someone all that lot? That's not just a pile of fucking videogames, it's a fucking history lesson. And for nothing, too. Well, almost nothing... all it costs is a bit of spamming of this blog, somewhere on that there internet, and a post in the comments telling me where you've posted it. Easy. Oh, and you'll need Steam, too.

You're looking very earnest there. What?

I haven't played a lot of Grand Theft Auto, myself. I played the first one when it came out... I enjoyed the APB-style viewpoint, but I can't say I ever played it properly, instead finding great delight in just running people over. After that, I never really saw the appeal. I left GTA2 alone altogether. GTAIII, I bought on the PC. I did have a reasonable go at that, enjoying the free-roaming aspect of the city and the amusing radio stations.

Then came the real game-changer... Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Seller of eleventy-billion copies, everyone's played it. Except me... I rented it from Blockbuster when I lived in the States, but the disc was scratched, and I only got five minutes into the game. They didn't have any more copies in when I took it back, and I've never bothered with it since. Sacrilege!

I'll be honest, I have no idea what's going on here. But I like it.

Not only that, but I've never played San Andreas at all. I think just about every friend I have has raved about it, but it's never appealed to me at all. Someone's going to have to try and talk me into it at some point, but nothing about that game grabs me. I'm really selling this giveaway, aren't I?

When GTA IV came out, I took the day off work. I got an early bus to town, stood outside Woolworths with a couple of other likely fellows, and bought it as soon as the shop opened. I savoured the opening sequence, took time to familiarise myself with the controls and the city, sat in my apartment watching the telly (hilarious stuff).

I love a bit of California Games...

Once I started to actually play, I did really enjoy it... it was worth taking the day off for. Until the point where I missed a mission trigger, that is. Then, I spent three hours wandering around with nothing happening. And you know what? Those three hours killed the game for me. Once I realised what had happened, my enthusiasm for the game had gone, and it didn't come back. What a shame.

Still, it's an epic, alright. And with two highly-rated add-on packs coming with it (highly-rated by one of my mates, anyway... he loved them), there's a ton of gaming to be had. I actually own those add-ons on the 360... I do feel like getting back into GTA IV.

Shefki Kuqi was growing increasingly frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities.

I can't imagine there are many people out there that don't own at least one Grand Theft Auto game. So the chances are that if you enter this giveaway, you're going to be duplicating something. Not to worry though... when you're getting it gratis, that's a nice problem to have. Want a shot at winning? Just post a link to this blog entry somewhere, then post in the comments, letting me know where. Make sure it's a gaming-related place where you plug it though (or Twitter)... there's not much point putting it on Alan Titchmarsh's forum. Cheers, and good luck!

On the sixth day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... six Vs a-slaying.

Hey! Whaddya know? I'm revisiting another game! And this time, it's the rather wonderful VVVVVV.

I've actually written about this twice before... the first time was on 28th March 2010, which was when I first played the game. Wow. Was it really as long ago as that? The second time was when it made it into my top 10 games of 2010. It really is that good.

Because it's Christmas, I'll be nice and not show any spikes.

There's not much I can say about VVVVVV that I haven't said in those two earlier posts. Run around a spaceship full of spikes to try and rescue your crew. You can't jump, though. You can flip gravity, which is your jumping alternative. And you'll die a lot. That's the game, right there.

As if it didn't sound old-school-awesome enough, it's very Commodore 64-ish in style, so if you had a beige breadbin in your youth and don't own this game already (and are a Steam user), post a link to this giveaway somewhere, then post in here telling me where you've done the deed. That'll give you a chance to win the magnificent VVVVVV!

On the fifth day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... five (thousand) gold rings...

Alright, I haven't played this game. I've played the demo on the 360, which had some very nice graphics (maybe too nice...) and whizzed around at a fair old rate. And I bought the 360 version for my nephew, on the 360. Hang on a minute, what am I talking about? Why, Sonic Generations, of course!

Ring-a-ding-ding! Sonic does what he loves best.

That's right, you can win yourself a PC copy of the latest Sonic the Hedgehog game (on Steam)! And what's more, by all accounts, it isn't shit! So it must be well worth your while getting hold of this one.

Anyway, it sounds like fairly typical Sonic fare, but with a few twists along the way. Race at breakneck speeds through familiar and unfamiliar landscapes, collect gold rings, jump on robot heads, battle bosses. That's how it's been for 20 years, and it's been massively successful (commercially, although not always critically). You wouldn't expect it to change, but at least they try to freshen it up on the new consoles.

Neeeeeeeooooownnnnnng! This thing really moves!

So, are you a Sonic fan? Do you want this game? It's averaging 82 on Metacritic, which ain't bad at all. Why not post in here to discuss Sonic the Hedgehog in general? And then, enter the giveaway... spam this giveaway in an appropriate gaming place, and then let me know in here where you've done the deed. Once you've followed those steps, you're in with a shout!

On the fourth day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... four calling birds?

When I first started this blog, I had the intention of occasionally going back to a game I'd written about, revisiting it and posting my thoughts on the game once I'd completing it. You know how many times I've done that so far? None. Not once. I might have written about a game more than once, but not in a retrospective manner. But that's changing today.

Aaahhh... there's nothing like a warming winter fire.

The game I'm giving away today is Alpha Protocol, a game I first played on the XBox 360 and first wrote about on August 15, 2010. I really enjoyed it then, and fully expected to play it to completion... but then, as usual, I was distracted by the shiny and the new, and Alpha Protocol was put on the back burner.

Something about it kept jabbing away at my brain, though, and I kept getting the urge to play it. And so I would, for an hour or so, making a little progress and then putting it away again. It's not the ideal way to play any game, especially one that's so heavily story-oriented. And then, last month, I started it up yet again, but got hooked enough to get to the end.

Something tells me she could be a bit of a... pistol? Does it look like she's got nice... guns? Austin Powers has got nothing on me.

Alpha Protocol is billed as "The Espionage RPG". And indeed, there's an element of role-playing to it, with you earning points so that you can level-up your skills throughout the game. Depending on what you choose to improve, you can either be a suave and sophisticated ladies' man, with a silver tongue and smooth-as-silk stealthy movement. Or you can be a brutal crack-shot agent, with awesome hand-to-hand skills to match.

A lot of people online complained about the poor nature of the gunplay and the stealth in Alpha Protocol. And yes, initially, there's a fair bit lacking. The controls are woolly, aiming isn't especially accurate and there are frustrations in the way you're led down certain pathways, with scope for exploring levels pretty much eliminated.

Oh no! Such carnage! What a waste of arcade machines!

But if you persevere, you'll be rewarded. Many of these elements improve as your levelled-up abilities improve, making the game more fun to play. But that's only the half of it...

The real star of this game is the dialogue, or rather, the way the dialogue is handled. There's a lot of talking here, but it's all necessary, and it's done in a way that makes the game quite gripping. It's certainly more intriguing than your average game, I feel. There are many characters to interact with, and when talking with them, rather than give you a choice of lines to speak, you're given a choice of mannerisms. The way you respond determines your success.

Look at that expression. You'd think I'd come home at 4am with lipstick on my collar.

It could be disastrous, but it really works incredibly well. You have to get to know each character you're interacting with, so that you know how to stroke them in order to get what you want, or how to wind them up until they snap. And depending on how your interactions go, you might or might not open up other missions or opportunities.

I really feel that this is a brilliant engine, and although Alpha Protocol does have its share of gameplay weaknesses, it really is worth sticking with until the end. Not only that, I'm planning to replay it in a completely different way, to see how else it might play out. There won't be a sequel, but the premise and conversation system is so good it would be a real shame if it didn't get used again.

Surely if "Headslam" is an option, you'd use it every time?

You can see just what I'm talking about, if you own a PC and use Steam. I'm giving away a copy of Alpha Protocol on Steam. All you have to do is post a link to this piece somewhere appropriate (Twitter, gaming forum etc.), and add a comment here letting me know how you've plugged me, and you'll be in the draw. Good luck!

Oh... four calling birds? Well, there's an Achievement in the 360 version for "romancing" the four main female characters in the game. And as they call you regularly in the game... well, there you go!

On the fourth day of Christmas, Sky sent to me...

... a plug.

My blog, and the giveaways, were derailed when my internet connection went up the Swanee on day four. After a couple of phone calls to Sky, my ISP, they said they would send me something in the post. I figured it would be a new router, but it turned out to be a plug for the router. I was a bit dubious, but whaddya know, it worked!

Internet connection restored, I can get on with the giveaways, but it's all out of sync now (and I wasn't doing any on Christmas Day, sorry!).

I've got some brilliant stuff to give away... well, I think it's brilliant. So please, to make it more fun, publicise it wherever you feel it's appropriate. That's your ticket to winning stuff anyway, so go for it!

Friday, 16 December 2011

On the third day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... three hitmen

I'll be honest with you, Hitman was not a game that was on my radar when it was first released. The word "stealth" was tied heavily to it, and that's not usually a gaming trait that sits well with me. But my missus, believe it or not, quite fancied it, and so it was bought and installed on our PC. And whaddya know, I quite enjoyed it!

Hmmm. Could have done without seeing that.

I always found it a bit odd that you play a top-class stealthy assassin... with a big barcode tattooed on the back of his head. Surely that's just drawing attention to yourself? Grow some hair. Wear a hat. Wear a scarf. Anything that doesn't make you look so distinct... it's not exactly a common design, is it? I bet Sam Fisher hasn't got a barcode tattoo.

Anyway, the object of this game (and in fact, the series of games) is to take out a number of specified targets across the globe. It's alright, they're all evil... you're doing the world a favour, so you can sleep with a clear conscience.

There. Nobody will look twice at you now. Oh, wait...

I mentioned that stealth is a big part of the game, and that I'm not a stealth fan... perhaps the reason that I enjoyed Hitman is that you can (and should) also use disguises! I'm not exactly talking comedy moustaches and silly outfits here (but could it really be any worse that a barcode tattoo?)... instead, you can incapacitate citizens and take their clothes. In so doing, you blend in... as long as you don't do anything out of character for that outfit...

This is a really interesting aspect to the game, one that I found refreshingly different from the usual "hide in the shadows" guff. Couple this with what I thought was a genuinely interesting storyline, and it's easy to see why Hitman was, erm, a hit.

In a quiet moment, Agent 47 plays at being David Beckham.

There are new Hitman games on the way, but what better way to tide yourself over than with three, yes, THREE Hitman games for the PC? I'm giving away The Hitman Collection on Steam for one lucky reader. This includes Hitman: Codename 47, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Blood Money. Not bad, for nothing! All you have to do is plug this blog somewhere appropriate (Twitter, your favourite gaming forum etc.), and then make a post here telling me where you spammed me, and you're in the draw! Good luck!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

On the second day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... two Rayman gloves

Recently, I've been playing the XBox 360 demo of Rayman Origins. It's lovely. Proper, old-school 2D platforming, with gorgeous graphics, great level design and lashings o'fun. I liked it so much, I've bought the game as a family Christmas treat.

Hey! Watch what you're doing with that thing!

But Christmas is still nearly two weeks away! What if I can't wait that long? Well, I could always head over to, where it's possible to buy PC versions of the first three Rayman games!

The first game in the series was just called "Rayman", obviously enough, and was released on a number of formats. PC owners, though, saw a number of updates. Rayman Gold added a load of new levels, and then Rayman Forever was released, and that included fan-made levels alongside the content of Rayman Gold. Plenty of bang for your buck then... and that's the game I'm giving away this time.

The key to this lies in those white fists...

The plot of Rayman Forever sees you, looking like the weirdest snooker referee of all time, having to save your world. "What's wrong with it?", I hear you ask. Oh, the usual platform game stuff... an evil dark being has stolen the world's provider of harmony and balance! In so doing, he has allowed a range of freakish creatures to infiltrate the world, and they are capturing all the Electoons!

If this sounds bad, well, it is. It's all a bit nonsensical too, but that doesn't matter... all you need to know is you have to leap around gorgeous levels, rescuing some cute critters and smacking around some other cute critters. This is fairly simplistic to begin with, but you gain extra powers and abilities as you progress, making critter-smacking even more fun.

*whistle* Do you think if I ignore it, it'll go away?

Rayman Forever is a classic platformer, although there's not a lot in there that's new. In fact, it takes many of its ideas from existing classics (Ristar is one game that springs to mind... I think it's the hands...). It does, though, bundle those ideas together with wit and charm, and in doing so creates a classic game in its own right. It's well worth a few hours of your time, and of course, one of you can do it for free! Just post a link to this somewhere relevant (Twitter, gaming forum, wherever you hang out), and post a comment here telling me where you've posted it, and you'll be in the draw! Good luck!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

On the first day of Christmas, A Gamer Forever Voyaging gave to me... A Game Called The Mark Of Kri.

I'm too good to you lot. Last year, I did A Game A Day Advent Calendar, with a different game for each date in December. I loved the idea... but it was hard work, and really difficult to source games for every date! So I decided I couldn't do it again this year. The question was... what to do? Well, Christmas is a time of giving, so I'm going to give away games!

Loosely based on the Twelve Days of Christmas, there will be a range of items up for grabs, although mostly they'll be PC games, and most will require Steam. I hope that doesn't put too many off.

Awww, come on, ref, that must be a penalty!

OK, so having said all that, today's giveaway is a game that I suspect is a little bit underappreciated... The Mark of Kri on the PS2. I said "mostly" PC games, alright?

The Mark of Kri is a remarkable game. It was released quite early on in the PS2's life, and was a quite stunning looking affair, with some innovative gameplay. The story sees you as a hulking warrior who gets duped by some dodgy bloke into running an errand for him. When you get back from the errand, your home village has been destroyed and your sister kidnapped. You have no choice but to go and get her back... and this will mean killing those in your way.

Nothing like a good fight in the twilight.

The game looks fantastic, but it's the fighting system that really sets The Mark of Kri apart from the rest. Using your right stick, you can "sweep" the playing area, locking onto enemies before launching your attack. In this fashion, you can target your enemies more effectively, and you'll find yourself gracefully attacking the closest foe and then blocking an attack from the next in one fluid motion. It's quite glorious in execution, and makes the game great fun to play.

There are other elements here, too. Stealth plays a large part... despite your size, you can't just go blundering through the game. Sneaking up on enemies makes your task a little easier. It also looks better, as they're dispatched in surprisingly gory ways, for a cartoon animated game. You'll also learn to use new weapons, helping to keep the game fresh.

I think we all know what's going to happen here...

The Mark of Kri is a game I've enjoyed immensely over time, and now you can too. I'm giving away one (pre-owned) copy of The Mark of Kri. All you have to do to stand a chance of winning is to post a link to this article somewhere... anywhere. Twitter, your favourite gaming forum, wherever. Once that's done, post a comment here letting me know where you've spammed me, and you're in the draw! Yeah, it's a shameless attempt at getting more promotion for my blog. But at least my readers can get something out of it!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

What's going on?

Hey gang!

Bit quiet here at the moment, but plans are afoot...

Christmas is coming, and last year I did a Game A Day Advent Calendar. It was actually rock hard to do, and there's no chance of me doing it again this year. But what can I do instead? Well, I've decided to do The Twelve Games Of Christmas. And no, I'm not finding games that have partridges or lords a-leaping... I'll be giving away a game every day for twelve days in the run-up to Christmas!

I'm too good to you lot. Now, most of these games will be PC games, via Steam. Sorry if that rules you out, but there might be the occasional game (or maybe gaming-related item) that's on another format... Haven't decided how the giveaway will work yet, but it'll be based around getting more readers here and followers on Twitter, no doubt.

I've got more, too. Remember the Braybrook series? There's going to be something more based on that. I can't say what yet, and it's not all my own work, but I'm quite excited by it...

And then I'll be thinking about more things to do in the New Year. I'm thinking of doing something around boxing videogames, which could be interesting. There will be more videos, although don't expect commentary just yet... I tried it and it was very uncomfortable! What do you think? Is there anything you want to see me have a go at? All comments and suggestions are welcome...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

DoDonPachi Resurrection Deluxe Edition (XBox 360)

Oh boy, here we go again. Let the Japanese bullet hell madness recommence!

Rising Star Games are sticking their necks out for us European gamers, and are publishing some very niche titles from the country that specialises in niche titles - Japan. Last year, they published My number two game of 2010, Deadly Premonition. At the beginning of this year, they published a game I enjoyed very much, Deathsmiles. And now they've mined that very same vein, and published another Cave shooter... DoDonPachi Resurrection.

Awwww, look... an easy one. How nice.

I'll be honest... I was never a great fan of the DoDonPachi series of arcade games. I'm a simple man at heart, and I enjoy just flying up the screen, blasting whatever is in my way. DoDonPachi relies on chaining for the best scores, and I could never get the hang of it. It's not just that series, though... I'm rubbish at chaining on anything. That doesn't mean I didn't have at least a reasonable time... the sheer blasting potential means there's always some fun to be had in any game of this type.

It's not a genre that's heavily catered for these days, so even though I knew it would kick my arse to Kingdom Come, I was determined to support Rising Star and buy DoDonPachi Resurrection as soon as it was released. As is their wont, Rising Star have managed to put together a Deluxe Edition. It's not as impressive as the Deathsmiles Deluxe Edition, but you do get a soundtrack CD in with the game. It's slightly disappointing that the Black Label and V1.51 editions are paid DLC, rather than being included on the disc, but they're only 800 and 80 points respectively, so you might as well fork out the extra (I did).

Yeah... time to start concentrating...

So what of the game? Well, it's a batshit-crazy vertically-scrolling arcade shoot 'em up. The fifth in a legendary series, the storyline sees you transported back in time to 2008, to where (when?) some unknown entity is sending vast quantities of material and data through portals which are spreading like a virus and threatening our very existence!

Or something like that. It really doesn't matter that much what the story is, it's just a thinly veiled excuse to put you in a spaceship and give you the opportunity to destroy many, many alien enemies. And this, you will do. You're given a choice of three ships, each equipped with massive firepower. You have a standard, wide-ranging shot, and a more focused, concentrated laser. These can be switched between at will... simply holding down the fire button activates the laser. You also have a supply of bombs, which you can deploy yourself or which can be triggered by an enemy bullet as a last-ditch defence mechanism.

Looks like someone's chucked a bag of liquorice allsorts at me.

And then there's the Hyper. This is a special, massively powered-up version of your standard shot or laser, but you can only use it once it's been fully charged. It's worth the wait, though... not only is it more damaging, it also cancels enemy bullets and counts as hits to your hit counter, meaning you can quickly rack up a large chain, boosting your score tremendously.

It's very rewarding to see your counter rocketing upwards. It's also pretty difficult to keep it that way... at first, DoDonPachi Resurrection is a bit like a standard shmup, but then the madness kicks in and the screen starts to fill with bullets and projectiles. I'm not kidding... weaving in and out of the mass of blue and pink takes a steady hand, a sharp eye and not a small amount of luck, if you're anything like me!

Hyper! Hyper! Hyper!

I won't lie... I'm not great at these games. But the masochist in me still enjoys playing them. I've been playing this sort of game since the days of 1942, and because I'm quite good at the old-school games, I feel as though I shouldn't let the new breed beat me. It's a faint hope, but I do enjoy trying. Sadly, after a week or so, I was ranked at number 81 in the World on the Normal version of the game. That means that hardly anybody has bought it so far, which is terribly disappointing, if that's correct. Rising Star Games need our support, so that they'll keep bringing these games over here. Nobody else will do it, and they deserve our attention. They're not for everyone, but they're for more than have (apparently) bought it so far. If you fancy a real challenge, and something a bit different from Generic FPS #337, and you've got some money burning a hole in your pocket, be a devil... buy DoDonPachi Resurrection. I love it.

Images courtesy of the Rising Star Games website.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Time for change?

Hey gang,

I've just been having a look at some of the templates available on Blogger, and I'm considering a bit of a redesign. One of the main benefits of this will be that I'll be able to use bigger screenshots, which can only be good, surely? Although, I'm wary of that, because some emulators will be restricted in the size of the images I can take, and I want uniformity or the blog will look messy.

I'm also wary of overdoing it, as it's easy to go from clean and simple to cluttered and messy. A change might be nice, but not just for change's sake.

So, what do you think? Good idea, or not? I might be doing a bit of experimenting over the coming week or so, so if you see something you don't like, don't be afraid of shouting up in the comments. If you've got any suggestions, let me know, too. For instance, thoughts on a good width would be handy. Is 1024px wide the accepted standard these days, for instance?

Other than that, we're coming up to Christmas. I won't be doing an Advent Calendar this year... it was hard enough getting games for each date last year! I will be doing a top ten in the New Year though... and much sooner than last year's! I've also got a couple of other features lined up. I'll try and do more videos, and I'm going to look into ways to make them better too.

So, I might be quiet... working seven days a week at the moment hasn't helped on that front. But I'm still here, and I'm going to keep this going, so let's see how it goes!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Have I Still Got It? Number 1 - The Human Race (Commodore 64)

I've been asked many times if I'd incorporate video into my blog, and I've always thought that it's a good idea in principle, as long as it fits in OK. I've added a few representative gameplay videos lately... I think this is a good idea, although they aren't getting a lot of views. I still think it's better to have them than not... I won't be commentating on them, I prefer to do that through the writing. But sometimes, watching a game in action can be a better memory jog for someone. So they're staying, although I might try and find ways to make them more interesting (all suggestions welcome!).

Another idea I had was to start a new series, called Have I Still Got It?, where I play a game I used to love and be really good at many years ago, and see if I've still got the skillz. I figure that might be a slightly more interesting angle, although I doubt, given my time constraints, that I'll be doing it on a regular basis!

The first game I'm having a go at for this feature is one I've written about before... The Human Race.

I'm not going to go into the game too much... I did that last time. I used to play it so much though... mostly because each level had its own astonishing Rob Hubbard tune. I couldn't get enough of them, and the only way to really listen to them properly was to play the game, and I suppose that was what spurred me on. It got to the point where I could easily complete the game on a single life, which goes to show how often I played it just for that music!

The game itself was a good un, to my mind, and well worth the £1.99, even though it only had five screens. But almost everybody else I've talked to and that knows about the game seems to think it's really difficult! That being the case, it seemed like the ideal candidate for an experimental feature. But the question is... have I still got it? Well, watch the video and find out!

The Human Race - have I still got it?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

River City Ransom (NES)

I've mentioned it before, a long time ago, that I'm not exactly steeped in the Nintendo lore. So there are tons of games ripe for exploration, enjoyment and blogging. That said, it can be hard to stick a pin, as it were, and decide on what to play, so recommendations are always welcome.

One game that I've heard talked about as a bit of a must-play is River City Ransom. That's all I could remember about it prior to today... I didn't know what it was about, what you had to do or anything. What better way to find out than to just dive right in?

Barf? I must have hit him really hard!

I was pleasantly surprised, at first, to find a game that was not unlike Double Dragon or Renegade (it felt a little more like Renegade to me). And, in fact, research showed that this was the third entry in a series that started with... Renegade. Damn, I'm good! And if you haven't heard of River City Ransom and live outside the US, well, it was known as Street Gangs in other territories. Isn't the internet wonderful?

River City Ransom is another in the long line of videogame tales that see your useless girlfriend captured and imprisoned and in need of rescue. One of these days, someone is going to program a game where that happens and the hero just says, "Ahhh, fuck it" and goes out and gets another girlfriend. That would be pretty subversive. Until it happens though, we chivalrous (in-game) fellas will keep on putting our lives on the line, battling past innumerable hordes of bad guys for the honour of our girls.

Oh man, I could murder a decent cuppa (and about a thousand goons).

The game features a number of inner-city locales to batter your way through, including parks, building sites, tunnels and buildings, and each of these locales is the turf of one of the many gangs that are featured. It's not quite The Warriors... each gang is determined only by the colour of their shirts... but it still adds a welcome sense of scope to proceedings.

Also featured in the game are high street shopping areas. In these, a number of shops can be visited and their goods purchased. These goods will go towards increasing your character's stats, be it through the eating of food or drinking of beverages (which will replenish lost stamina and energy as well as increasing maximum levels). You can also buy books which, when read, add extra moves to your character's moveset. This is a pretty cool touch, actually.

They what> The bastards! But I... I... trusted them!

One thing I noticed, bearing in mind that this is the first time I've ever played this game... River City Ransom has obviously been a massive influence on the whole Scott Pilgrim vs The World phenomenon. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the recent downloadable Scott Pilgrim game is almost a carbon copy of River City Ransom. I was amazed at how similar they are... I played Scott Pilgrim on the 360 when it was released, but not having been a NES owner, I didn't realise the extent to which it had been an influence. I suppose it's the sincerest form of flattery, especially as the Scott Pilgrim game was done so well and so lovingly.

River City Ransom is a good game, although its limitations can become a little wearying after extended play. You're only ever attacked by two enemies at once, which is a bit dull... that said, they often attack at such speed that you're easily caught out. I'm not a fan of the way you have to move three-quarters of the way across the screen to push the scrolling... it's a bit awkward. And I never actually saw an endgame as such... I didn't play it through to the end, but every time I died I was just put back to a recent point; there was no Game Over.

Hey, what's up homies? What's that? You want to batter me with bricks? Harsh.

Because the game never seems to end, the repetitive nature of the gameplay can become a little boring. Then again, that's the danger with almost every scrolling beat 'em up. At least you have the extra depth that comes with the RPG-Lite elements, and it's a little harsh to criticise what was obviously quite revolutionary for its time, and is still a pretty decent and fun game when it comes down to it. It's got me looking forward to digging out a few more NES games now.

Why is it called River City Ransom when you're not going to pay a ransom?

Monday, 17 October 2011

All your (Game)Base are belong to me.

Apologies for riffing on an infamous gaming meme, but it seemed appropriate at the time. If you're thinking that I'm throwing some fair old variety into the systems I'm using at the moment, then it's all thanks to my mate Alan Mamemeister.

Erm... that's not his real surname, but it's his nom de plume on the old interweb. Anyway, I've known him for over ten years online, but only finally got to meet him a couple of months ago. And to make the occasion particularly memorable, he chucked GameBase onto my laptop, along with the emulators and games for eighteen systems.

I said, "Eighteen systems".

I really did say "Eighteen systems..."

As you can imagine, that gives me a hell of a lot of blogging options. Too many, at times... it can be hard to settle on something, especially with so many games I've either never heard of, or haven't played. But it's a good problem to have when you're trying to fill in gaps in your gaming history.

It's a pity my laptop was playing up a bit, because he had loads more that he could have kitted me out with if we'd had time. Maybe next time... never mind, though, he left me with over 50,000 games as it is. At my current rate, I'll get these done by the time I reach Yoda's age...

GameBase is a wonderful thing. Like MAME, the intention is to document our gaming past. You don't just get the games, you get the history. Scans of game boxes, manuals, instructions, sound files... there's all sorts in there. If you're serious about your classic games, I'd recommend you check it out. Now, I think I might play Zero Wing for the blog...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Enduro Racer (Sega Master System)

Wow. Sega, eh? Just the name causes many to speak in hushed tones of reverence. And indeed, they've been responsible for some of the finest gaming moments of all time. There was a spell in the Eighties where their arcade games were simply incredible, and their name was a cast-iron guarantee of pure joy.

One of the games that caused jaws to drop was the mighty Enduro Racer. Not exactly a follow-up to Hang On, it was a hulking behemoth of a cabinet, with a giant screen positioned in front of a sit-on bike which not only did you have to wrestle around the course; you also had to "wheelie" with it to get over jumps most effectively. After you'd finished a game, you felt like you'd had a real workout.

It's no good doing that, you're bike will smash to bits way before the finish line.

When Sega entered the home console market with their Master System, it was no surprise to find they were plundering their arcade back catalogue... with so many classic names at their disposal, they'd have been foolish not to capatalise on a hungry gaming public. What probably did come as a surprise was their release of Enduro Racer.

I'm sure you've played Enduro Racer in the arcades. If not, you've probably played Hang On. Or OutRun. Or Super Hang On. Or... well, you get the picture. A large part of the thrill comes from racing into the screen at incredible screens, with traffic, scenery and obstacles passing by in a glorious blur. I don't know if Sega were worried that the Master System couldn't handle it, but in their infinite wisdom they decided to program an entirely different game, with an isometric 3D viewpoint, and release it with the Enduro Racer name.

This is where a rocket launcher would come in handy.

It makes for an unusual game today... probably moreso back then, when unsuspecting gamers would have had to overcome their initial disappointment and just get on with it. The format is largely the same... race a course inside a set time limit, jumping over logs and avoiding sporadic traffic and other obstacles. But with the alternative view, it plays completely differently.

To add a bit of a twist, maybe to make the game just a little less "arcadey" for the home market, at the end of every level you can buy upgrades for your bike... if you've done well enough. For every vehicle you pass, you earn a point. Score a minimum of five points, and you have enough for an upgrade. It's basic stuff, and I'm not even sure if I noticed any differences, but it's a welcome attempt at a little bit of strategy.

Wonder if you get a bonus for landing on the car?

Enduro Racer on the Master System does have a certain charm. It's a bit like playing BMX Kidz, or maybe Excitebike (there's a classic I've never played... ideal opportunity now!). I enjoyed BMX Kidz a little bit more though... with Enduro Racer, the first three levels were fairly easy, and then there was a huge difficulty spike on level four. I suppose that with practice, I could overcome this. I have to say though, that for all the game is alright, I never felt any real compulsion to go back to it.

Race! Jump! Crash! Endure!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Hybris (Commodore Amiga)

I'm constantly on the lookout for new games to play, not just for the blog but also for my own entertainment and education. I've said it before... I've played thousands and thousands of games in my lifetime, but for every one I've played there are probably ten that I haven't.

Commodore's Amiga is a machine that I have fond memories of despite not having owned one until recently. It has a number of games that I really love, but stacks that I've never heard of. One name that I've heard mentioned in revered tones of late is Hybris.

Pew! Pew! Shooty shooty aliens!

I didn't have any idea what it was about, although I'd gathered it was a shoot 'em up. Great... I love a good shmup. My chances of playing it seemed slim, though, seeing as I didn't own it... but then my mate Alan fixed me up with GameBase, and finally I had a hassle-free way to play the game.

If there's one arcade game that Hybris takes its inspiration from, it's Terra Cresta. The backgrounds are similar, the attack patterns are similar, the weapons power-ups are similar... even down to the way you can split your ship for more deadly firepower. And that's all well and good, because Terra Cresta didn't get a release on the Amiga.

Hey, that's not fair! Stop ganging up on me!

There's a plot, but what do you care about that? All you need to know is that you're flying a heavily-armed craft over a planet's surface, wiping out ground-based defences and enemy craft. What matters is how well it's done. And in Hybris it's done really rather well.

The blasting action is satisfying, although attack patterns are somewhat limited, but even with that being the case it's easy to find yourself getting caught out and having to fight your way out of trouble. You get large points bonuses for wiping out entire formations, and you can pick up other bonuses by uncovering hidden objects, Xevious-style.

There are bosses too, of course. The few I've encountered have been slightly more interesting than usual. Nothing spectacular, but with slightly more unpredictable patterns than usual. You need to be on your game to see them off.

You're not the boss of me...

I'm really glad that I picked up on the talk about Hybris. It certainly ranks up there as one of the better shooters that I've played from the home computer era. Pity I never got to have a go back then, but it's always better late than never, and I'd like to have a bit more time with it. Oh, look, here's a video of one of my games! Let me know what you think, I might try and do more of these.

Amiga shoot 'em up Hybris, in action.

Tweet! Tweet! What I'm up to at the moment.

Hey gang!

The first part of this post is for those that read the blog, but aren't fans of the old social networking. As you might have noticed, I post links to every blog post on Twitter. But I also like to post other, non-blog-worthy gaming things up there every now and again, if you're interested. And then, there are the giveaways...

Yep, every so often, I like to give away games. That's right... give them away! Free! For nothing! Just when the mood takes me. It's usually cheapo PC stuff on Steam, but it's still better than nowt, right? So if you like a bit of a Tweet, follow me and we'll have some fun.

I've been having problems lately when trying to play certain PC games with my Logitech Wingman Rumblepad. It's a fine pad, and it works fantastically well for MAME, but it's struggling with other emulators and, more crucially, actual PC games. Not that matters in some ways... I haven't exactly got a mighty gaming rig, so big new releases are bought on consoles. But a lot of indie games are not mouse-controlled, and so I haven't been getting the optimal experience.

So, today I bit the bullet, ran up to Argos, and got myself an XBox 360 wired controller. And it's a bit of a revelation. It's so simple... just plug it in, the drivers will install and you're away. I expected that. But then I fired up WinVICE, an emulator where I was forced to use my D-pad to play Commodore 64 games, and lo and behold, I was able to use the left stick. Brilliant!

The main reason I bought this controller was so that I could properly play Scoregasm, the new release from Charlie's Games. My Wingman just wasn't having it, and it dragged the game down. But with the 360 controller, it's fantastic. I'll probably write a review at some point, but I will say that if you enjoy twin-stick arena shooters, you'd be a bit of a mug if you didn't buy this.

So I've got that to look forward to, along with getting back to loads of other games that I simply couldn't do justice because of controller issues. Don't know how I'll manage, though... I've just bought RAGE and the absolutely vicious Dark Souls for my 360, and Forza 4 is out next week...

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ready Steady Bang (iOS)

It's a funny old world, the iOS game/app market. Seemingly innocuous little games can become blockbuster gaming juggernauts, crushing all in their path with their simplistic, easy-to-grasp concepts. And yet, others which are similarly polished and possibly even more fun can fall by the wayside, looking terribly forlorn when you check your Game Center leaderboard and find you're "#23 of 978". There are 250 million+ iOS owners out there... surely every app should be picked up by more than 978 by default?

Come on, old-timer. Put that thing away.

Over the next few weeks, I'd like to give a shout out to a few iOS games that might not get as many mentions as the behemoths that have become part of pop culture. They might not have the profile, but they're irrefutably enjoyable, and all for less than the price of a Mastertronic budget game. And the first game I'd like to pimp to the "masses" is a terribly simple affair called Ready Steady Bang.

If you've ever wanted to be a cowboy or a sheriff in the Wild West, dispensing bullets one at a time in a life-or-death draw against a deadly foe, then Ready Steady Bang is the game for you. What? You question me?

No? Well, if you insist...

Ooohhh, alright... it's a reaction test. In the single player game you take on ten increasingly dead-eyed opponents. You shouldn't have many problems against the first or second, but once you start moving on you'll encounter goes that even The Waco Kid would have trouble dispatching.

That's all well and good, and it's great fun going up against these daftly-named adversaries. It's very satisfying to see your slightly-bigger-than-a-stick-man opponent fall to the ground, clutching his chest after you've beaten him to the draw. And the over-the-top winner's screen is great, displaying your average reaction time in huge numbers. But it's the two-player mode where this game really comes into its own.

Yee-haw! Take that, pardner!

Beating your mates is always fun, but never more so than when defeat comes in an instant. In the last couple of weeks, I've played Ready Steady Bang down the pub a couple of times with mates, and it's an instant winner. Just ramp up the sound on your iDevice, plonk it in the middle of the table with a mate sitting opposite, and away you go. It's like a two-player version of the shootout at the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The pair of you sit there, hunched at opposite ends of the table, fingers hovering and twitching above the screen... the announcer shouts out "Ready.... Steady.............. Bang!" Your fingers race to be the first to tap the screen. The loser falls, a broken and defeated man. The winner jumps for joy, being careful not to spill his pint over the iPhone...

Quick Draw McMoz prevails again!

It's fantastic. You could actually imagine this being an arcade cocktail table in a bar. It could rake in a fortune. Everybody has that competitive edge, and playing Ready Steady Bang amongst mates really brings that out. I love this game, and I've brought in a few sales purely on the evidence of a quick session at the bar. For 69p, it's a little gem that should be impossible to refuse.

Ready Steady Bang at the iTunes App Store

Monday, 26 September 2011

Defender of the Crown (Commodore Amiga)

Cinemaware is a company that had quite a reputation back in the day. Well, actually, they had two reputations... one was as a company that produced very ambitious, highly polished games with tremendous production values, in an attempt to make games that captured the essence of classic Hollywood. The other reputation that was held in some quarters was that they were overrated, producing nothing more than a series of dull mini-games held together by ropey plots. Seems a bit harsh...

Ladies and gentlemen, please bear witness to the arrival of Sir PaulEMoz.

I've only played one Cinemaware game before today, and that was Rocket Ranger. It just so happens that that game is one of my all-time favourite Amiga games. Not having owned an Amiga in its halcyon days, though, meant that I never got the opportunity to sample the rest of the Cinemaware catalogue. The first of their games, and the one that served to hype their name to the heavens, was Defender of the Crown. Finally, twenty-five years after its release, I've managed to play it.

Defender of the Crown is a strategy game, with action sequence mini-games. You find yourself in Ye Olde England, in the time of Robin Hood. And in fact, you're one of his mates. But he's decided he's past all that heroic rubbish, and is leaving it up to you to wrest control of England (and Wales, I guess, as you can have that bit o' land too) from evil hands. That said, he does agree to come to your aid up to three times, should you require it. Mighty generous of him.

I love Eugene Jarvis. Oh, wait...

Once the game starts, you're presented with a map of England and Wales (well, most of it... the map stops at Yorkshire. Racists!). There are six castles on the map, one of which is yours! But you can't just sit in your stately home, Lording it over all and sundry. The crown is missing, and you have to not only retrieve it, but also defeat the other five usurpers and earn the right to the throne.

Many of our land's counties are not under rule to begin with. That's how the game starts, with you taking turns to mop up strategically useful pieces of land. You'll earn money off this land, and this can (and must) be used to build your army. This isn't complicated, or especially deep. The only units you can buy are soldiers, knights, catapults and castles. You'll need catapults to attack the other castles. Knights and soldiers should be gathered in nicely proportionate numbers to ensure effective fighting.

My counties are displayed in light blue. Looks like it's going alright, so far.

Once you have an army fit for a prospective king, you can go and set about one of the other pretenders to the throne. It's probably best to take some of their other counties first, lessening their forces in number before laying siege to their stronghold. You don't get to control fights, but you do get to have a go at smashing the castle. If you can correctly judge the strength at which to hurl each boulder from the catapult, you'll smash a big enough hole in the wall for your army to flood through, and that will be one foe conquered! Or at least, you hope it will... you're never aware how many opposing soldiers lie beyond those walls...

Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries. Now go away, or I will taunt you a second time.

It's then a case of rinse and repeat for the rest of the game. Which makes it sound boring, which is to do it a disservice. And there's a little more to it than that. For instance, at times, tournaments will be called. All the contenders will be summoned to one location where they (and you) will joust, for fame and possibly for land.

On a more serious note, there's castle raiding. This can happen in two ways... off your own bat, or to avenge a damsel from foul Normans. Either which way, you'll break into a castle, do a bit of swordfighting, and if all goes to plan, have your way with a lovely maiden. Get it wrong, and you'll be captured, and will have to part with some of your hard-earned funds in order to secure your release.

Alright lads, we're in! You take this lot, I'll get the wench!

These bits all sound like fun, but the problem is, I can't win any of the mini-games. At all. Well, that's not strictly true... I can knock down the castle walls easily in a siege. But the jousting and swordfighting are proving to be impossible for me. Now, you can win the game without them... I did, on my first try... but where's the fun in it if you're not dominant in everything? You want to win the joust. You want to win the swordfights and rescue the damsels. Of course you do. I feel like a bit of a limp-wristed fraud.

Still, as a groundbreaking bit of strategy-lite, Defender of the Crown is something of a triumph. And I would go so far as to say that, even today, it would be a good introduction to the genre for anyone that's a bit wary (or even scared) of the more dense strategy games. You can count me in that number.