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Manic Miner – A Retro Retrospective Part 2 – The Cold Room

Winter is coming

In the post-war designed house I grew up in, the kitchen had a small stone shelved pantry that acted as our cold room. A remnant from days before refrigeration, it wasn’t a large posh walk-in store, but merely a reasonable sized cupboard. I remember this getting knocked down to make more room in the kitchen as I had one of those rare lucky days where I was allowed to play the Spectrum in the living room on the colour TV. It was goodbye to one cold store and hello to another.

The use of the magenta tiles against the blue background in this level, psychologically always worked well to make me feel cold when playing.  As many of us like-minded, 70’s born 8-bit fanatics, I still vividly recall what it felt like playing my Spectrum in my pre central heating era bedroom.  A dressing gown over my clothes and on my feet were the thickest of socks that probably were knitted by my grandmother from cheap, scratchy and nasty wool that could only have been acquired from the fleece area around a sheep’s anus.  Even on this rare occasion down in the living room, with the coal fire roaring away and squealing from the potato peels that had been chucked in it, I still found myself cold.  I have to say that in all of the game’s levels – this is the most aesthetically befitting one.  All that was missing was a puff of vapour from Miner Willy’s breath.

My brother who was playing the game with me this day, told me a joke I’ll always remember.  What do Polar Bears and Police Men have in common? Blue Helmets.

This level didn’t look as challenging as its predecessor. Before I knew it, I had quickly jumped from the ground, onto the crumbly platform and onto the conveyor belt to collect the ice lolly. I love how the dual direction of the conveyors work in Manic Miner.  They have a default direction, but if you land on it from the opposite direction, you can go that way until you let go of the direction key. When you do let go, you go back in the default direction.  So, with a quick key release, the conveyor hurled me back to the right and I timed my jump onto the next platform. From there I waited on the shuffling penguin to move back to the right.  I then hopped up to that level, grabbed lolly, jumped over the penguin on its return journey and collected the lolly from the crumbly floor.  This is where it got interesting.  There was a shaft full of crumblers that took me back to the bottom floor.  Timing was paramount – I needed to get back down to collect the lolly down on the ground that I hadn’t collected and there was a roving penguin down there that walked right under the shaft.  With my timing guessed, I let Willy slip down the shaft (ooer), collecting the lolly trapped within. With precision timing as always from me, I hit the bloody penguin and died.

Gurr, there’s got to be a better way, I thought.  The method in which I died relied upon too much trial and error. A quick trip to the loo and a read of Crash magazine whilst I finished my business, presented me with one of my many toilet seat epiphanies;  get the bottom lolly first and see if I can fall down the right side of the shaft. Yes indeed, after I wiped my arse, I was going to try a leap of faith (hand washing as well, I may add).

Easily leaping over the lower level penguin’s head, I got my lolly no bother and jumped back over the bird to ascend the same route as before.  Very quickly, it was time to test the leap of faith. I jumped too big and wide and hit the stalactite and died.  My expletives were masked by the sledge hammer slams from the kitchen.  I quickly returned to the same point and triumphantly plummeted into the flashing gate and I was presented with that wonderful sound of the remaining air depleting. From then on, I always played the level this way.

The one thing I never tried, was to see how well the collision detection works for the gate if the penguin is within there when you land. Does the player die, or does the gate save you from death by bird? I’ll need to try this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manic Miner – A Retro Retrospective Part 1 – The Central Cavern

 

How it all began

 

“Go under the first fucking hedge, not over it”, I screamed in my mind as I watched my lad attempt his first, and vocally reluctant play of Matthew Smith’s seminal platform game.  I would have been roughly the same age as  Kingy Jr  when I first experienced the delights of the Central Cavern. It was at the town church’s jumble sale for the grand total of 5p a game.  The minister, himself, was in charge of overseeing the ZX Spectrum and its wobbly wallpapering table, that acted as a precursor to a gaming station. With no joystick, I was introduced to the world of using those lovely rubber keys to control my character – Q, W and Break Space were the weapons of my choice. Like his father before him, I also mirrored the same mistake as my son. I assumed the path of least resistance was to jump up through the soft platform (a tile that allows a player to just through so he can go on top of it) and take on the first obstacle that is the jaggy hedge. It’s certainly doable, but the player runs the risk of colliding into the weird yellow wind-up automaton thingy with Miner Willy’s head. This is exactly what happened to my first life. That’s okay – I had 2 more lives left. Unlike my son, who just repeated his fate 3 times, I saw a safer route. Yes, it was so obvious – I can go under the bloody combative shrub and go up through the soft floor after it.  So, with my second life I evaded the potential repeated death only to screw up the crumbling floor and not make the level passable as the jump was too big. So, back to the bush it was, to experience my first videogame suicide. If only life gave us 3 chances at every mistake.

With only one life left, I was determined to get at least one of the collectable keys. I passed the 2 previously screwed up hazards with professional ease. I was now an expert. With a congratulatory fist of achievement in the air, I obtained the first key. I quickly leaped onto the conveyor belt and, well, died. More jaggy bush hazards!  This time there were two of them; intentionally and nastily placed as well – one above and one below.  The crushing foot came down signifying my failure at a spelunking treasure hunt. My mate Harry was edging towards the Spectrum, assuming it was his turn in his perceived world of  fairness. In my insta-addiction of this lovely and cruel game, I shoved him on the floor, scattering his thrifty accumulation of 1970’s Topper annuals that he accrued from the other stalls. Screw him, I was having another shot. I slapped 10p into the ministers hand; he was too busy scoffing a cherry scone and chatting to his wife to notice the newly diminished queue.

Right, this was my last life and I had to make it count. Under the hedge, over the crumbly floor, grab the key and now back onto the conveyor. With my tongue pressed firmly on my lips in sheer concentration I timed my jump between the hedges perfectly. I was now off the conveyor and rested on the wall just before the automaton. Its mechanical waddle defied the intertia of the conveyor belt. Back and forth it went. I done something that I still do today. Rather than drop off the wall when the  treacherous thingamabob was at a safe distance and leap over it in a timed manner, I just flung myself over its head as it approach my resting point on the wall.  I truly though this was a lemming’s leap, but I succeeded, and with a yell of delight, I made it to the triplet of platforms at the others side. I hopped through them and faced my final challenge – the top tier of the level.  Stalactites, shrubs and crumbly floors enticed me to risk life and limb for the remaining keys.  I wasted my entire 3 lives on the second of the spiky limescale formations as the key was directly under it. The player can’t simply jump directly under it as Minder Willy’s helmet won’t protect him from its lethal jab. One must judge the jump arc so that the key is collected on prior of after the peak of the parabola. That was a nasty one that still gets me on occasion, even after all these years of playing – precision and timing being paramount.

So, with my last play that my 10p earned, I managed to avoid all the hazards on the top level (losing a few silly lives en route), only to discover the gate at the bottom flashing. My triumph was short lived as I had to go back the way I came. Luckily I had enough crumbly floor left directly above the wall on the middle row, that I was able to simply fall down and time my jump over the robot for the final time.  I rolled off the conveyor and landed on the platform with the first hazardous bush.  This is where I did something stupid, really stupid. I decided that rather than fall down one more level to the left, I’d chance my luck jumping over the bush and try and avoid the clockwork denizen. Seriously, why did this thought even occur to me?  I lost my final life by doing what I did during at my very first play and hit the damn pesky thing. I was on a home run, for goodness sake. I could have easily strolled under the bush and walked into the gate and I would have felt like a pro. Instead, I walked away and had a read of one of Harry’s Topper annuals on the road back home.

Always walk under the first bush.

Avalon – The Greatest Game of All

I was young enough to be simply sold on the idea that Avalon was a 3d Adventure Movie. I was also young enough to be lured by the larger than standard cassette box with its bold front cover and fact based statements on the rear side.

 

Avalon – the all action 3D arcade adventure movie

Avalon – with unique stunning moving graphics

Avalon – the breakthrough that bring adventure to life

Avalon – the adventure game of the decade

 

I was just 10/11 years old, I held on to every word and I had money to spend. I hadn’t read a single review, but I gravitated back to this game amongst the vast (it seemed like that at the time) archive of John Menzies games section. The seed had been planted, my mind had already been made up.  This was my “take home” game -sometimes one has to trust their gut instinct.

 

It was a cold winter night, so it must have been within the release of November/December 1984.  I remember my dad moaning at me because he was bored waiting on me making my final purchase decision.  I had £40 to spend that night – I had sold my unused accordion (another story). That was a substantial sum of money to spend on a set of games back then, so I had to make a somewhat wise investment decision.  Up until then I just had the ZX 6-pack that came with the system. They were charming titles, but I was convinced the machine could handle better. Boy, did I hit the mother lode that evening. I glowingly walked out the shop with Manic Miner, Chuckie Egg, Pyjamarama and of course, my coveted Avalon.

 

I remember wolfing my tea down rapidly after my return home.  This was a Friday night and I knew I wanted to maximise my extended weekend bedtime with starting gaming as soon as humanly possible.  I loaded them up in the same order as above. And I can’t deny the impact of all of the above as they are probably still my most favourite choice of games ever. But Avalon, the staunch and well-crafted Avalon; it gave me something beyond my expectations. It gave me irrevocable suspension of disbelief as if I were reading a compelling book.  I fired it into the cassette player and read the instructions and lore contained within.

 

 

Congratulations!

 You are now the proud owner of Avalon, the first in a new world of computer

games, the Adventure Movie.

 

 

 

Oh, I was able to taste the anticipation. Surely the hype cannot be bettered by the game itself.  The world map and the poem contained within the box just fuelled my desire to get playing it.

 

The first impact the game actually had on me wasn’t the game itself, but the intro music.  It’s a haunting melody that still sends shivers down my spine to this day yet. It sounded discordant and minor in its keys.  It contained none of the merry optimistic melody of the previous games I loaded up. It emitted malice as if it were music performed by the dark Lord of Chaos you were meant to defeat within the game.

 

And there I was, zapped into the cold damp dungeons of the Gatehouse level. I couldn’t move and I had completely forgotten the instructions I had just read.  Yeah, I needed to select move from the menu as you were meditating and sending out your characters astral projection. Now I became this dungeon explorer in this catacomb where few had walked.

 

I instantly loved the aesthetics of this game, the vector style minimalistic dungeon rooms along with the 2d models of the main sprites worked really well. I found the 3d floaty environment a treat to rove around in.  The way Maroc bounced off the doors and they swung open felt right.  The colours were bright and everything looked so detailed.

 

It was soon that I came across my first adversary – a goblin warrior.  I shat myself when I first came across one.  He didn’t have a fixed path, oh no – he came malevolently towards and I had no means of defence.  I tried to escape but he followed me through rooms with the creepy footstep sound effects making me panic enough to make fatal mistakes.  Rest assured, I died quite a number of times whilst getting to grips with the game. But once I got the feel of the pace of it all, I came across the spells required to Freeze such foe and later on, spells to destroy them and re-energise myself.  One of my longest lasting memories in Avalon is the artificial intelligence of the creatures of the dungeons.  It’s not enough just to escape one room – you have set a distance of 2 of them between your pursuer and yourself. Not only that, if there is only one way out of a room, then that distance increases as it was clear your foe knew where had went. So you need to escape a minimum of 2 rooms in which had multiple exits.  Many times, I thought I had escaped only to see the door swing open and those haunting footstep sounds come into play.  This was genius and my single most favourite thing of the entire game.

 

I’ve said this a number of times in various forums and I don’t want to sound like a Monty Python Yorkshireman trying to get one-up-man-ship on how tough life was, but I think the cold damp house with no central heating that I grew up in added to the atmosphere in Avalon.  I felt I was personally in the dungeon and I lamented warmth.  It’s the perfect winter game and it always resurrects memories with a tsunami of nostalgic fondness.

 

Needless to say, I played this countless times and loved the fact that I was able to save my game state onto a C15 cassette.  I got further and further into the depths of the game. From the multiple doors in The Wayroom to the varying monochromatic colour schemes of the Mines of Madness and the Chamber of Chaos, this game was a cartographers dream.  Not since Adventure on the Atari 2600 had I felt a deep love for an RPG/Dungeon Fantasy game.

 

It was clear that Avalon was created with love and passion and that passed onto me as the player.  I still play it today and find in no less enjoyable than when I first bought it all those years ago.  That is testament to how great I think it is.  My single best gaming investment.

 

 

 

That Gaming Funk……..

Yeah, I’m a bit of a girny cunt just now.

For whatever reason, no game is blowing my skirt up at the moment.
Don’t even have the desire to dig into a lot of games I have sitting.
A lot of wasted wages just sitting there, un-played.

It’s opposite of ( me personally ) gaming at 10/11/12 years old.
Where you saved up your pittance of a pocket money or outright begged your parents to give you 2:99 to go and get that new dizzy game.
The one that’s lurking tantalisingly behind that glass case in the chemist.

Yes, you read that right.
It was the chemist in my town that sold the games.
Who knew?

Anyway, I think the over abundance and saturation has a lot to do with it.
There’s just so many games available now and as a working adult, easily attainable.

I’m wondering if that’s part of the problem too?
Was I just more selective when I was skint?
Did I play games more as they meant a great deal more to me as they were harder to get?
Are games just shit now?

A combination of the above I think.
I find it easier to criticise a game now as I expect more.
Partially my fault for being so susceptible to the hype.
Problems with games are also subjective.
For example, as a passionate platform game player/designer, I find fault with level design in platform games that others may not even perceive as faults.
Uncharted, I’m looking at you!
You can drop 10 feet from a balcony, make a stealth kill and go on your merry way as that’s the way the narrative wants you to go but you dare step off a 2 foot step, literally up to your shins and you die from falling as you’re not meant to go that way?
Naw, no having that. Wall it off cunts!

Anyway, no real point to this, better oot than in!
It’s my site and I’ll post shite if I want to lol.
It is called girny gamer after all!

The Legend of Zelda : Breath of the Wild – First Impressions

Ok, I’ll get this out of the way right off the bat.
I’m smitten!
Enough so that I remembered I have this site and wanted to post this to, well myself I guess as no one knows of this site really lol.

There are a lot of odd criticisms of this game.
It’s too open world, it strays from the traditional Zelda formula, there’s no clear direction etc…..

Just ticked a lot of boxes for me!
There’s nothing like being plopped into a game world with nothing but a vague idea of what to do next and an ominously vast world to do it in!

I want to be scratching my head in a game.
I want to find out where to go and what to do for myself.
I’m sick of games being so dumbed down that you are merely a spectator.
Stand here, press this, no – you can’t go over there!

BOTW is a refreshing change from that condescension that even its own predecessors were guilty of.
You awake from your sleep, walk out side your cave ( sorry, spoiled the first 30 seconds for you there ), and are left to it.

It’s not so obtuse however it leaves you entirely clueless.
From the very start at least it will try and nudge you in the right, or more useful direction.
I followed this instruction, was given some basic info on how the world hurts, a little metaphorical pat on the head and was on my merry way.
I literally spun round in circles, stopped and went, “Right, this is the way I’m going!” and proceeded forth.

Walking along, I thought randomly, “Hmm, I wonder if I can climb that tree?”.
Now, perched atop my tree peering at the unfolding horizon, I get the feeling this game is something special.
“What, ’cause you can climb a tree?”
No, it’s just a feeling you can’t really put into words when a game grabs you.
A sense of wonder I guess.

The world looks so busy too.
It’s not what I’d call a fake open world.
Hundreds of acres of map with fuck all to do in it.
I’ve not made much progress as every 10 minutes I find something I want to explore.

For example, I saw a shrine atop a mountain through my binoculars equivalent device.
Plot a rough path in my head and begin my journey.
On my way I spot a goblin camp.
As it’s night now, they’re sleeping.
As they catch some Z’s, I tip toe up and murder them in their sleep.
Hey, it was them or me!
I plunder their camp and continue.

It’s morning by the time I get to the mountain and start making my way up, after stopping to catch dome frogs as you do.
I’m half way up and Link starts chittering.
It’s too clod for my clothes and my health starts to diminish so I abandon my quest for now.

I back track and try to follow the map round to my next objective.
A goblin camp is in my way so I’m about to attack them when I see a bee hive in a tree.
I shoot that and a swarm of bees splits the pack up.
I kill goblin 1 while his wee pal is getting the shit stung out of him then turn on him.
Boom, camp clear.

I then happen upon a guy chopping trees.
He notices I’ve picked up an axe earlier and gives me instructions on how to chop trees down.
I chop a tree down to span a ravine, cross it and access a new area.
Wandering this new area I get a pang of classic Zelda nostalgia.
A cliff face with a crack in it!
Whip out a bomb ( which I previously got from a shrine ) and blow it up.
The classic Zelda secret found jingle plays and I’m presented with a chest.
Ahhh, that felt good.

I look above the crater I’ve just made and see mushrooms growing out a wall!
I think, “That’s a long way up!” but as I circle and scope the area, I spy an overhang.
“I think I can make that before my stamina expires!”

I climb up, pick the mushroom and stop to rest.
The mushroom info advises me that this can be cooked into a stamina potion.
Noted.

I spy another higher up.
I climb up and grab it.
It’s only then I realise that I’m under the shrine I was trying to get to previous!!
It was then the true awesomeness of this game and the way you can play it the way you want to really hit me.
I then stopped to write this…….

Nintendo Switch

switch

 

So, the Nintendo Switch is upon us and like everything released in the age of the Internet, the masses are out in force to condemn it before they even know what it is.

Seriously, what is missing in people’s lives that people hate everything now? It’s not even everything, it’s the concept of everything.
It’s like Jay out the Inbetweeners who says “completed it mate” whenever someone mentions a game.
There’s this new……”hate it!”

Anyway, I digress.

The switch is a hybrid hand held/living room console with indeterminate specs which brings me to the point of my post.

People are freaking out saying it’s not as powerful as a ps4, it’s not as powerful as an Xbox one, it’s not gonna be 4k 60fps.

Well A, these are all assumptions and B, people are missing the whole point of the Nintendo.
This is the console you go to for games and experiences you can’t get elsewhere.
You are buying Nintendo’s charm, their unique titles, their expert game design that you can’t get on the “big 2” or computer.
Do you really need another platform to play assassins creed on?

That’s the reason the WiiU was deemed a failure. They never made any Nintendo games for it!
Ok, there were some but you get my point.

I for one am giving the switch a chance.
My money is on Nintendo learning from their mistakes with the WiiU.
A Mario and Zelda game at launch for one.
Those alone will rack up the pre orders.
These are the games you can’t get elsewhere.

Mutant Mudds

My first 15 minutes impression of Mutant Mudds was it was an Amiga game emulating a SNES style platformer. In the same way Zool was Gremlin’s answer to Sonic the Hedgehog, I didn’t expect much longevity as aesthetics over style doesn’t work for me. You can have all the lovely sprites in the world,  but if the level design sucks, there’s nothing to keep the player interested. I’m pleased that I persevered with Mudds though as it does have decent levels to battle through,  and more importantly,  it gives the player reasons to return to already completed worlds. There’s hosts of secrets,  many of which you can’t find on first visit as you lack the necessary power-ups. I’m happy to say that the worlds in which you visit do have more in common with Super Mario than they do with the aforementioned Zool, or Superfrog, to name but a few.  This game is a completionists pipe dream. It’s tough,  unforgiving and the ice levels piss me right off to the point of vowing a negative review, but it is also very rewarding.  I thoroughly enjoy games that open up extra levels when you accomplish goals.  I’ve never had a much fun like that since Yoshi’s Island on the Snes. It’ll never beat its peers in terms of level design but if I were to compare,  I’d give it a b+ for effort.  

The curse of the gaming magpie

My Steam collection is preposterous. Being filled with hundreds of games that were purchased under the “cheaper than a pint”  mantra, I’m not short of beer substitutes for a very long time to come.  In fact,  if I just played every game I own for a mere scratch the surface hour, it would take an unfeasible chunk of my already limited gaming time.

If I include my entire backlog of games which ranges from 8-bit to recent times and chuck in Mame for good measure,  then I’ve more chance of visiting every planet on No Man’s Sky. So now I stand over the ultimate 1st World problem precipice – choice.  Far too much choice. 

 I’m a videogame glutton of the highest order.  Trading in a game for the next best thing at CEX is sacrilege to me.  I bought it,  and I want to keep it.  Yes,  the grey world of emulation has certainly taken some weight off the attic joists, but the choice has only increased as a result.  Emulation allows oneself to be a completionst with a visit to archive.org and suchlike. I was happy playing the aforementioned No Man’s Sky,  then I took a notion for Windwaker,  now Chuckie Egg is calling.

 Choice gives us an overwhelming amount of variety and I can relax and enjoy a single game for the next game calling me before I’ve exhausted the current one.  Writing this has been a better example of my longevity in a single thing than my current gaming habits. Right. Chuckie Egg…..

The Internet Generation

NMS

Firstly, the irony is not lost on me, penning a post on the internet about people complaining on the internet but that is basically the sole purpose of this site so I consider these posts exempt from internet dickery.

The reason there is a large (parodied) version of the No Man’s Sky logo perched atop this post is that the release of this game has re-highlighted to me what annoys me about the self entitled internet user of today.
It’s all the complaints that the game is not this and the game is not that and blah blah blah.
All this for a game (at the time) that no one had played yet.

Now, don’t get me wrong.
If someone plays the game and think’s it’s shite that’s fine, that’s up to them.
If someone doesn’t want the game as it doesn’t look like their cuppa, that’s also fine.
If people aren’t fine with me saying what’s fine, that’s also fine! (Getting a bit meta here – Ed).

Anyway, I digress.
While using No Man’s Sky as an example, it’s the hype people build up in their own minds for something.
So much so it can never deliver and caused them to take to the internet, up in arms, as if they’ve been short changed or personally slighted.

One complaint I’ve read is that the game can be completed.
Really, the game can be completed?
Wow, what cunts the devs are releasing a game you can finish.

Another girn is that people are complaining that the game’s end can be reached in 30 hours or so, even though this has been identified as an exploit that has been patched.
That aside, so fuck if it can be “completed” in 30 hours?
Most AAA games these days, you’re lucky to get 15-20 hours out of so why people are complaining about being ripped off is beyond me.
You can rush to the end of most games if you want and skip the glut of main content, as is your right as the consumer of said content but to turn around and attack the developers for the quickest possible completion time being double that of an average game just because you’ve decided this game should be longer and has some how personally wronged you is mental.

Another belter is an excerpt from a review in progress I saw.
Bear in mind that this game has been described as a procedurally generated game from day 1.
The complaint I read is that the reviewer was complaining that the planets lacked the hand crafted feel he prefers in games.

To be fair, I get his point.
I hated Batman Vs Superman because Ironman wasn’t in it.
I can’t stand baked beans because they’re not sweet corn and I’m personally writing a letter of complaint to Aldi HQ as their own brand of Vodka isn’t a lovely 18 year old Dalmore malt.

I tell ya, it’s these fuckwits that complain that the new superman isn’t a transgender homosexual Chinese person in a wheelchair and claiming you are racist and homophobic if you don’t agree.
The mob that start petitions to make the new dog in Lassie a cat so they can seem progressive.
The mob that call people father’s paedos and say they should have their kids taken off them because they see an innocent picture of a proud father bathing his infant son on instagram, just so SOMEONE can hear their voice.
The same mob that would piss their pants if you so much gave them a chirpy hello in person.

In a nutshell, the internet generation!

Windows

Don’t you just hate it when windows,  or any preferred os for that matter,  stops working properly for no real reason.

Maybe because you’ve installed a program it doesn’t like but an uninstalls leaves harmful remnants, maybe you’ve used it for more than 10 minutes without a clean wipe or maybe because it’s dark on a Tuesday.
Either way,  I hate it when it degrades before you like it has some sort of degenerative illness and no amount of maintenance can restore it to an acceptable state.

No real point to make other than Windows is a dick!

(Posted from android!) – lol ed