Freddie Wong, you wonderful lunatic (live-action Time Crisis short film)

13 08 2010

If you’re not aware of the work of Freddie Wong, I’ll sum it up for you: he makes video shorts with awesome special effects. Perhaps more importantly though, he’s a massive geek and often uses games as his muse. Oh, and he has a wicked sense of humour, but his homages are never mocking, more gentle fun-poking and in-jokes. OK, so that summation wasn’t that short, but then some of Freddie’s video ‘shorts’ aren’t that short either (see his Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Frozen Crossing pt. 1 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Frozen Crossing pt. 2 for evidence of that – they total over 16 minutes of action and gun play that wouldn’t look out of place on a high-budget series like 24).

I’m more interested in his homage to 1995 arcade classic Time Crisis though, the on-rails light gun shooter that revolutionised the genre with its high-quality scripted action sequences and foot-pedal cover system. I’m not sure whether Freddie’s latest creation has anything to do with the upcoming new Time Crisis title (Time Crisis: Razing Storm for PS3), but watch out for plenty of cute references to the original game (and to how we all used to play it): the players shooting off-screen to reload while in cover; agreeing to cover enemies on the left and right (but nobody covering the guy in the middle); the ridiculous hostages, and the better player getting annoyed with his comrade for not helping (highlighted by the old-school score sheet at the end); the unfair boss entry that results in someone getting killed and requiring another coin to re-join the game; and best of all, the way we all used to deal with the bosses – the old semi-automatic light gun finger trick, for when rapid-fire hits on a large target area, not accuracy and sharpshooting, are the order of the day. Kudos too goes to Freddie for getting a major star to be his P1, and it’s great to see Andy Whitfield (star of Spartacus) looking fit and well after being diagnosed with cancer (that interrupted filming of the next series of Spartacus). Enjoy!


Breaking News: Project Needlemouse Becomes Sonic 4

4 02 2010

Or, Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I, to give it its full title.

The action picks up after the story of Sonic & Knuckles (which was in itself, the second ‘episode’ to Sonic 3) and these episodes are going to be downloadable content from WiiWare, XBOX Live Arcade and PSN. In terms of gameplay, Sonic is, as we’ve all been hoping and praying, going back to his 2D roots – in a similar style to the hugely successful ‘New Super Mario Bros.’ titles from Nintendo, it’s going to be 2D side-scrolling, built with slick 3D visuals. Gamespot have another teaser trailer (featured below) that contains just a couple of snippets of the gameplay and visual style that if you blink, you’ll miss them, but then isn’t that what Sonic is all about?

There are already a few grumbles around the web about the episodic format, but honestly right now I don’t think that’s a bad thing, so long as they get the gameplay right. If they essentially present a modern interpretation of Sonic 2 for the Mega Drive, they can churn it out in as many episodes as they like – if we love the first one, then we’ll want more. It might seem a little gimmicky to have episodes rather than individual titles sold in stores, but if Sonic 4: Episode 1 is as good as it could be, I’d rather be sure that Sonic Team were tied down to creating X number of follow-up titles in glorious 2D, without being tempted to re-hash or overhaul it – let’s face it, that’s what got the Sonic franchise into trouble in the first place. If they get back on track (and I have a feeling they will) an incentive to stay old-school by promising episodic follow-ups might be just what Sonic needs to stay on the straight and narrow (2D) path.

Thanks to Gamespot for the teaser. You can also find little snippets of info (and countdown to when the next snippet will be released) at the official Sonic 4 site.

All Hail the Physicists!

26 10 2009

As in my previous post about the ArcAttack madmen, here is another lovely example of physicists (who are quite possibly a little mad – I mean this in the nicest possible way) taking something that would ordinarily have quite dull scientific properties and uses, and turning it into something highly entertaining. Tennis For Two is (depending on how you see it) either the first, second or possibly third computer game ever created, but it’s certainly the first to have the entirety of its gameplay and its visuals contained within the game and displayed electronically, and was created by physicist William Higinbotham in 1958.

William was working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and observed that it was a tad dull for its visitors, so in his spare time he developed and built Tennis For Two with bits of equipment he had lying around. It featured an oscilloscope for a screen, was around the size of an old microwave oven, and had two handheld controllers with two functions – a push button to hit the ball, and an analog dial to adjust the ball’s trajectory. Hundreds queued up to play this infuriatingly addictive game and loved the game’s surprisingly realistic physics – even balls hitting the top of the net received a little drag, slowing them and altering their trajectory.

He never made any money from the game because had he filed a patent, it would have belonged to the US Government (as it was made in their lab with their equipment) but you have to love that he took the time to do this as a technical exercise and simply as a bit of fun, so William Higinbotham, we salute you, and here for your enjoyment, is his masterpiece:

I’ve Seen The Future, and It’s 2D

16 09 2009

Power is king in this day and age. Our processors must be faster, our graphics cards must have more memory, and our consoles are about to become self aware. The quest for higher frame rates, more polygons on screen, and the most spectacular explosions is all-consuming in the gaming world. Why is it, then, that I get such a warm fuzzy feeling inside from 2D games?

It’s probably because I remember them the first time around, and at the risk of sounding really old, I long for that simpler time (I’m not that old, honest – I just started gaming early). I don’t always want my games to be massively multiplayer, to require peripherals costing more than the console itself, or to be so crushingly realistic that instead of just giving you a limp and slowing you down, a gunshot wound to the thigh causes you to bleed out in under three minutes, then have to wait an hour for the next round to start. Sure, if anyone asks, I’ll tell them that Fallout 3 was the best title released in the past couple of years, but if I’m honest I’ve probably gleaned far more enjoyment from New Super Mario Bros. and Yoshi’s Island on DS than I ever could from Fallout’s wasteland, in spite it being more than light years ahead in terms of, well, everything.

It brings joy to my heart and puts a spring in my step then, that on top of the fantastic looking A Boy and His Blob, we’re soon to be graced with the 2D games that we have all been waiting for – a new Mario, and a new Sonic, and I’m not sure which I’m most excited about! The Mario title (New Super Mario Bros. Wii, shown off at E3 last month) looks fantastic in that it’s essentially a ramped up version of the DS title (which was in itself a ramped up version of the old NES games). It looks slick, it looks pretty, it looks fun to play, and includes four-player-on-one-console action! Super Mario Galaxy 2 is due to be released at roughly the same time, and it’s going to cause some real internal conflict as to which I play more, as I already love both the ‘New’ and ‘Galaxy’ games immensely.

The Sonic title is a little more mysterious, however, with SEGA having only released a teaser promo video that doesn’t include any gameplay, or really, any concrete information at all. What it does allude to, though, is the important stuff: it’s Sonic, it’s 2D, it’s fast, and they’ve scrapped all their dreadful attempts at 3D and pseudo-3D in favour of an old school style. It’s also cleverly titled ‘Project Needlemouse’ (the SEGA codename for the original Sonic title in the days of pre-history) and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I have a sneaking suspicion that because they’re simplifying things and getting back to their roots this will just work in the way old Sonic titles used to (and new ones don’t). Deep down, I feel they’re going to absolutely nail this one.

A Boy and His Blob – The Most Adorable Game Ever?

8 09 2009

Yes, I think it genuinely might be.

I remember the original A Boy and His Blob when it was released in Europe in 1991, and it was a sweet concept then (pardon the pun). A young boy is joined by gelatinous blob named Blobert (or Blob, to his friends) and together they quest across Earth and Blobolonia to save Blob’s homeworld from the evil emperor. So far, so average, then. Move from left to right, jump, fight, collect things – hadn’t a short fat plumber done this already? The difference in A Boy and His Blob was the puzzle element, that genuinely relied on teamwork with Blob (yes, I did say ‘teamwork’) in order to pass through the game.

Blob, you see, has a taste for jellybeans (the ‘sweet’ pun becomes apparent) but by a strange twist, different flavours have some very different effects on him. Throw him a licorice flavoured bean, for example, and he’ll turn into a ladder, or a honey one, and he’ll turn into a hummingbird. All you have to do is give a little whistle, and he’ll transform back again. This makes for an extremely novel method of problem solving, really giving you a sense of connection and attachment to Blob, and you start to care for the little ball of fun more and more.

How happy was I, then, to see that A Boy and His Blob is coming to the Wii! And what’s more, they’ve made it even more adorable! Now on top of the original jellybean and whistle related shenanigans (of which there are so much more than the original – shields, rockets, even giant blobular mechanima robot combat suits aren’t beyond Blobert in the modern incarnation) you get the chance to give your pal a cuddle. This isn’t just a saccharine visual tag-on, though – Blobert’s mood changes depending on the situation you are in, and you need to treat him nicely in order to keep him in top transforming shape. The necessity of hugs aside though, this reimagining is a visual picture book feast, and you will find yourself giving Blob a cuddle when he’s already maxed out on happy, just because it looks so damn lovely, and we all need a cuddle from time to time.

Video courtesy of, UK release: November 6th, 2009.

Where it all began…

21 04 2008

In the beginning, there was God. And God created man.  A short man with a moustache, a red boiler suit and blue overalls, but a man nevertheless. Not best pleased with this, a rival God created a hyperactive blue hedgehog, and one of the greatest battles of all time ensued. Read the rest of this entry »