Monthly Archives: July 2015

My name is Jacob. And today I die.

StateofDecay_Boxart_XB1Tales from State of Decay.

My name is Jacob, and today is the day I die.

Huddled cold in a public restroom, cold, tired and bleeding, waiting for my inevitable end.  It’s dark outside and I can’t see a thing.  But  I can hear them, scratching. They’re at the door.  They know I’m in here.  It’s just a matter of time until they break through.

“It’s a simple run up to Mt Tanner and back”, my sister Lily said.  And it was, should’ve taken five minutes. But how was I to know they’d have taken over?  That they’d be there, waiting?  It was an infestation.  If only I’d known, I’d have brought Alan along.  He’s a wanker, sure, but he’s good with a gun.  I could use that right about now.

I’d only taken a step into the Ranger Station before they swamped me, the decaying flesh on their hands tearing off as they grabbed at my arms.  There were hundreds of them in there, or at least it seemed like there were, and I didn’t stand a chance.  I had to get out of there.  I took a few down, swinging my axe, blood splatting everywhere.  But who was I kidding?   I’m not an idiot.  I couldn’t fight them all.

So I ran.  I ran until I was out of breath. I ran until I couldn’t run anymore, and until I sure as hell couldn’t fight anymore.  Just carrying the axe is starting to feel as heavy as lead, let alone swinging the thing at one of their ugly heads.

There was only one option.  I had to find somewhere to hide. I had to find shelter.

And that’s how i ended up in here, trapped.

It’s a shame it had to end this way.  Alone, huddled in a female public bathroom, of all places.  If Lily were here she’d be laughing.  “You’ve got yourself in a shit situation” she’d say.  And we’d be laughing.  How we’d laugh.

I wish she was here.

She’s not.  But they are.  And they’re at the door.  Banging at the door.

I’m exhausted but I’m not scared anymore.

I was Jacob, and today I died.


Leave a comment

Filed under Opinions, Pulp

Most Agreeable T-shirts

What better way to proclaim your love for the WORLD’S GREATEST VICTORIAN-THEMED VIDEO GAMES BLOG than with some beautifully designed apparel?

Thanks to our multi-talented resident designer Simon Bradbrook Esq., we’re proud to present our exclusive range of MOST AGREEABLE T-shirts, available in PREMIUM or PEASANT forms and in a RANGE OF EYE-GOUGING COLOURS to suit your sordid chromatic preferences.

Blue Most Agreeable T-shirtGreen Most Agreeable T-shirtRed Most Agreeable T-shirtWhite Most Agreeable T-shirtYellow Most Agreeable T-shirtTeal Most Agreeable T-shirt

To order, simply click on one of the options below, according to the corner of the world in which you currently reside:


1024px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgCLICK TO VISIT THE MOST AGREEABLE US SHOP


Leave a comment

Filed under Pulp

That strange old Metal Gear novel

I pitched the idea of an article about the Worlds of Power books to Kotaku UK a while ago. Little did I know how long it would take to write…

Worlds of Power novels

The Worlds of Power books are a series of tie-in novels based on NES games that date from the early 1990s. They’re short, aimed at kids, and not particularly great, but they were hugely successful in the United States (over a million copies sold), and they were probably what really started the video games to novels genre. They’re also deliciously weird, thanks to a few circumstances which I describe in the Kotaku article – which went live today:

The Metal Gear Novelisation is Super Weird

Incidentally, one of the editors added that ‘super’ in the title – to my ears it sounds a bit Famous Five. Is this how the kids speak nowadays? [Shakes head in confusion.]

Anyway, I ordered three of the Worlds of Power books from the US, and they took forever to arrive – and by the time they did, I had a new baby and was somewhat preoccupied, as you can imagine. I’ve managed to snatch a few spare moments over the last month or so to work on the article, but this one was tough – I ended up going through two unused drafts before I hit on a format I liked. It took an AGE. Whereas previous Kotaku articles have been fairly straightforward to write, I really struggled with this one for some reason – perhaps due to a lack of sleep now Merriweather Junior is on the loose.

Anyway, despite ordering three books – Metal Gear, Bionic Commando and Castlevania II – I only actually used Metal Gear for the article because there was so much great stuff in it. Maybe I’ll end up writing about the others sometime… once I get some sleep!

Metal Gear novel

Buy Metal Gear (Worlds of Power) on Amazon.


Filed under Pulp

This Amiga book is my new favourite thing

I decided to treat myself. I bought the rather lovely book Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium from Funstock, and it is awesome.


At 30 quid it’s not cheap, but it’s worth the money – the book comes in at around 400 pages and has beautiful colour images throughout, in addition to some fascinating developer interviews.


I was a huge Amiga nut back in the early nineties. I inherited first an Amiga 500+ and then an Amiga 1200 from my uncle, and I dearly loved them both. My friend Alex around the corner had an Amiga 600, and we used to constantly swap Amiga games and magazines, as well as play link-up games like Stunt Car Racer (above). Great times.


The book covers pretty much all of the major Amiga games in chronological order. I’d heard of most of them, and it was a wonderful nostalgia trip to be reminded of classics like WizkidRuff ‘n’ Tumble and Putty. But there were quite a few early games I wasn’t aware of or didn’t know much about. I was particularly intrigued by Cinemaware’s games, like It Came From The Desert (above) – I’d love to play a few of these releases that I missed out on first time around.


There were quite a few games that I’d completely forgotten about. Bubba ‘n’ Stix (above) was one, along with Soccer Kid, Apidya, Brian the Lion and dozens of others. I remember religiously reading Amiga Power every month to keep track of the state of the Amiga scene – I seem to recall that Brian the Lion didn’t come off too well at the hands of AP‘s reviewers.


One game that it was particularly brilliant to be reminded of was Guardian (above), a sadly obscure release from Acid Software, who I think were based in Australia as far as I can recall. Guardian was basically a 3D version of Defender, and it was incredibly fast paced and addictive. I’m surprised it hasn’t undergone a revival, to be honest.

Anyway, Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium is a truly excellent book, and a poignant reminder that the Amiga was taken from us far too soon – it really was home to some of the most innovative and fun games of its generation. I’d love to play through some of those classics again…

Click to buy Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium from Amazon or from Funstock.

Click to buy Commodore 64: a Visual Commpendium from Amazon or from Funstock.

Leave a comment

Filed under Pulp

Is understanding 90’s Sonic the Hedgehog ‘mechanically’ where SEGA is going wrong?

SG_3DS_CVR SHT_2xThere seems to be no game series that is more self aware of how it has evolved over the years than Sonic. Which is why it’s so hard to understand why SEGA is still unable to troubleshoot where exactly it all went wrong with the long-running mascot’s appearances. Sonic may take his steps at a lightning pace but SEGA’s steps toward making Sonic the genre stalwart he was in 90’s are a bit like a rapidly receding glacier.  Sonic was delectable, but SEGA seem to have misplaced the recipe

Or perhaps the recipe was just more like the avant-garde Heston than the traditional Childs.  Perhaps the recipe wasn’t as simple as it seemed.  Perhaps it was something more experiential.

I grew up around SEGA, and in particular Sonic. Let’s be honest for anyone living as a kid through the 90’s it was hard not to.  The 16-bit era was the time where Sonic could almost literally do no wrong, to the point where he was practically ever-present, his tapping foot and waving finger seemingly on every street corner.  I vividly remember the presence of Sonic the Hedgehog games, from the first game to Sonic and Knuckles, standing idle at Mega Drive demo kiosks in Department stores music blaring across the floor.  The (then unnoticeable) flicker of the cathode ray screens was hypnotising, the bright colours of Sonic’s world mesmerising, and .  It was an exciting time to grow up alongside video games, and even though I was never an owner of the system, SEGA were an enormous part of why.

While I never played sonic in earnest, I was around enough SEGA kids at the time to have seen the games start to finish, without even lifting a finger.  The Green Hill Zone music could be heard emanating from houses right the way across the neighbourhood as every kid and their dog strained their eyes trying to keep track of the eponymous hedgehog, as he whirled frantically through loops and zoomed left to right across the screen.  I’ve never finished any of the Mega Drive Sonic Games – and only a small handful of the subsequent ones for that matter – but the all-encompassing nature of Sonic has left an imprint on me that’s been impossible to shake.

But by Jove, if you asked me what made Sonic so great, I’d be at a loss.

That said, even for me there is something intangible about what made Sonic the Hedgehog special, and as someone who was merely a spectator of the phenomenon, the 3DS Sonic Generations perfectly captures that certain unidentifiable quality.  The cheese-tastic electric guitar licks and garish visual design – particularly the geometric shapes reminiscent of the side panel of an early 90’s Daihatsu Charade – are a type of faux nostalgia evoking the period rather than the game in a way that many games with 1990’s roots have left behind.  Sonic Generations successfully identifies and recreates, and then contrasts, the enormous evolution the gameplay has experienced in the past two decades.  And that’s undeniably impressive, putting old Sonic up against new Sonic is a minor stroke of genius, and one that at the very least reminded people how much subtlety there’s been in the change.  But that’s certainly not what had my radar blipping.

While the speed is nice – and it is undeniably nice for a large proportion of those who played and loved it- there’s something a little more intrinsic that made the series so special in the nineties.  It may sound a tad wanky, but Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t just about the speed or momentum, but its about the sum total of the experience.  The look and the feel of the game – the attitude, the music, the character design, the sound effects – it all came together as a perfect storm.   In short, there is no gameplay equation that made Sonic what it was.

And perhaps that’s where SEGA have misunderstood the appeal of Sonic.  For someone raised on a tidy diet of the more euro-centric Giana Sisters and Turrican, the speed of Sonic was always off-putting, and I came out of the nineties with a fondness for Sonic in spite of its speed.  But despite that the notion of Sonic is still an exciting one.  The jovial tune Palmtree Panic juxtaposed with the sound of Sonic’s spin dash brings back an instant feeling of jealousy for those that had SEGA consoles, bringing back memories of birthday parties and after school hangouts where of which Sonic were often a major feature.  Is it nostalgia, possibly, but for those there and then there was something undeniably appealing about the Sonic games, and that something wasn’t just running at a million miles an hour.

So perhaps recreating 90’s Sonic games isn’t necessarily the goal.  Perhaps its about recreating everything that made it a phenomenon.  Perhaps it’s about evoking the same feeling of playing a Sonic game without evoking the mechanics that made it so.  Perhaps understanding Sonic mechanically is where SEGA is going wrong.

Is Sonic Generations a good Sonic game?  You’re probably looking at the wrong person to answer that question.  But then again what is a good Sonic game?   In the end it doesn’t really matter.  For an entry in a series that seems to struggle with its own identity, the portable version Sonic Generations perfectly captures my own memories of Sonic.  And honestly, I don’t need the extent to which it’s Sonic quantified, I’m just glad to finally understand what all my childhood friends’ fuss was about.



Filed under Opinions, Reviews

RIP Iwata-san

Like the rest of the gaming world, I was utterly shocked to hear this morning of the passing of Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, aged just 55. I knew he had been diagnosed with bile duct cancer last year, but recent reports suggested that the surgery had gone well and he had returned to work, seemingly on the mend. The news of his death came as a hammer blow – I’m still reeling from it.

But I’m not alone – it’s heartwarming to see the outpouring of tributes from across the world, particularly the pictures people have created. I was particularly touched by this creation by Brawl in the Family.


To me, Satoru Iwata will always be the friendly face from the Nintendo Direct videos. I’ve written before about how brilliant these videos are (Getting Chummy with the Nintendo Prez) and how genuinely Iwata-san came across. He really showed he understood his audience and that he was a gamer too, just like them.

Reading through several tributes to the Nintendo President today, I found out that there’s a lot I never knew about the man. I had no idea that he was one of the founders of HAL Laboratory for example, the creators of Kirby, and that he developed Balloon Fight on the NES. But reading about his illustrious past only serves to deepen the loss.

Rest in peace, Mr Iwata. We’ll miss you.

Satoru Iwata




Filed under Opinions

Winter is coming? All you need is a nice big bowl of Lombax Soup

RatchetFTOD_amostagreeablepastimeAfter playing through Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction I realised that, at the same time of year every year, I pull out a Ratchet game and play it start to finish.  And it always puts an enormous smile on my face.  The characters and the colourful worlds ooze the same uplifting feel that the Disney and Amblimation films I’d watch during school holidays as a kid did, so while the Ratchet games are new relatively speaking, ripping into one is a little bit like settling down and cuddling up to a nice bit of nostalgia.  And that feeling is a little bit like having a nice warm bowl of mum’s homemade soup.  Only with a tad more Lombax.

There’s something to childhood tastes and sensibilities.  They have this uncanny ability to latch onto things, obsessing over them, and consuming them over and over and over again.  For an adult like me, deriving enjoyment from something for that long, well it’d be a bit like drawing blood from a stone.  But for kids it’s all part of being young and unaware of the finite nature of time.  They don’t need everything they consume to be the next War and Peace, they just need fart jokes and the occassional doe-eyed character getting up to a bit of shenanigans.  Ah, to be young again.

But then you grow up.  And let me tell you a little bit about how that goes.

Something happens to most of us in the brooding teenage years.  Suddenly the Presidents of the United States of America CD that you’d play incessantly makes way for a Nine Inch Nails album, and instead of your parents having to listen to “I will survive in my Mach 5” blaring through the plasterboard walls, they’re stuck hearing Trent Reznor insist he wants to “f**k them like an animal”.  It’s a hard time where, rather than everything seeming amazing, everything seems a little bit rubbish.  Even fart jokes lose their shine, and those doe-eyed characters with their shenanigans, well they’re just kid’s stuff.  You’re into heavy stuff now, stuff with meaning, stuff with purpose, the world sucks and you haven’t got time to muck about with bloody cartoons.

So for years you’re floating through the world hating anything and everything, searching for that figurative War and Peace that blows your mind and changes your world view. And if it’s not that then forget about it.  Even the video games you’re playing change, as you’re attracted to games that ask the existential questions, that make you question the world and your own humanity.  “I need mature games, I’m an adult you know, I need adult stories and stuff” you insist.  “They do it poorly”, you say to yourself, “but they’re a hell of a lot better than they used to be”.  And you’re mostly right.

And through this entire phase, there’s always mum with a nice bowl of warm soup, which somehow makes everything better.

But in the years that follow you’ll realise that they have a long way to go.  You embarrassingly tell the story of how you thought Gears of War was “deep, man” years later.

So why am I telling you this absolutely fictional tale about a totally fictional person?

Well it’s winter in Australia right now, and like any Aussie worth their salt, I’m sitting inside counting down the days to summer.  They’re the three months of the year that, if I’m ever going to feel a little bit down about things, that’s when it’ll be.  Whether it’s seasonal affective disorder, or something imagined, for those three months my usual optimism gives way to an overwhelming sense of negativity, and at times, I’m only a hair’s breadth away from turning into that teenage Nine Inch Nails fan.  And mum’s soup is nowhere to be seen.  It’s cold.  It’s miserable.  And I bloody well hate it.

But I’ve found there’s nothing quite like a nice big bowl of Lombax Soup to make Every Thing feel better. Every year.

So thank you Insomniac Games, for being my video game equivalent of a bowl of warm soup.

Leave a comment

Filed under Opinions