Game Feature

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: MediEvil 2

MediEvil2

If you’re already susceptible to being raised from the dead, it’s a safe bet that it’ll happen to you a couple more times. This is the principle that keeps mad bastards like Jason Voorhees coming back again and again and a-freaking-gain. After a while, they just stopped bothering trying to explain what resurrected him, just ‘in unknown circumstances’ was enough.

Skeleton knight Sir Daniel Fortesque died again at the end of MediEvil, having whupped Zarok in the scrote and fulfilled his destiny as hero. He was, true enough, dead for quite some time the second time around, until more dastardly and bastardly magic awoke him in the Victorian era. You see where this is going: it’s sequel time, buddy boy.

MediEvil 2 arrived in 2000, a PlayStation exclusive just like its papa. It’s a macabre action platformer not very far removed from the original, and is just as freaking awesome in my humble opinion. Let’s take a look.

The story kicks off 500 years after the events of the first game. Dan’s remains are on display in a museum in Merry Olde England, where Brit-tastic villain Lord Palethorn has found Zarok’s old book of magic spells. In what I can only imagine was a ‘#yolo’ moment, he decides to resurrect the dead of London, because that’s not a goddamn awful idea at all.

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So yep, zombies everywhere. But on the plus side, Dan gets up off his moldy ass as well as a side effect, and sets about dealing with this dastardly bastardly Palethorn.

If you played the first entry, you’ll know the deal. It’s a combat-centric platformer with some light puzzling going on, with a gothic-yet-humorous twist. Imagine Mario with swords, crossbows and axes, as created by Tim Burton, and you’re probably about there.

This time, the skeleton knight is cruising through the smog-ridden streets of Victorian London, with a steampunkish air to his weapons and gadgets. You’ve still got your standard fare from the original (yep, you’ll be ripping off your own arm to use as a club early on, like the unstoppable renegade from the depths of the devil’s ass you are), your sword and such, but then you can branch out a little. The primitive gatling gun in particular is a lot of fun.

MediEvil 2 changed very little from the first game. With regards to gameplay, interface and general gameishness, all’s really just as it was. There is that bizarre boxing minigame, and the love affair between Dan and an Egyptian mummy going on in the background, but otherwise this is just another slice of MediEvil in a different setting. But depending on how you slice it, that may not be anything to bitch about at all.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Call of Duty!?

Call of Duty

Oh, screw all of you. This had to happen eventually. Let’s just call it irony or something, and get on with our lives.

Even the all-consuming, indestructible, almighty, haul-ass-out-of-my-way-I’m-off-to-crush-Tokyo behemoth that is Call of Duty had to start somewhere. It had its fairly humble origins among the shitstorm of identikit World War II shooters of the early 2000s. Let’s take a look back at a simpler time, before codfish ruled the world.

Call of Duty hit the PC in 2003 (and Nokia’s half-assed and freaking ridiculous N-Gage the year after, if you’re interested). Unlike Medal of Honor’s patented MERICA approach, it presented an international view of World War II action, switching between the perspective of Soviet, British and Canadian soldiers.

Throughout the campaign, you’ll take the role of studly dudes from all three nations. You’ll get your FPS-y guntastic goodtimes on during the Battle of the Bulge, that Dam Busters business, and other legendary setpieces from the conflict. None of this was particularly new for the time, but Call of Duty approached the whole thing differently.

Call of Duty 2

Now, historical realism isn’t the biggest of deals right here. You want weapons and environments to look somewhat authentic, sure, but this is an FPS. As long as Hitler doesn’t appear as the end boss in a huge transforming anime mech, I’m not going to be pernickety. Even if he did, that’d be freaking awesome. But one concession to realism that is welcome is the squad-based gameplay.

For the most part, your character is accompanied by a CPU squad. This allows for all kinds of Gears of War-esque manly fistbumping, and a couple of ‘Dillon! You son of a bitch!’ studly handshakes from the start of Predator. But it also made for a completely different –and much more World War II– atmosphere. It all adds to the drama. And if there’s one thing Call of Duty has done well right from the start, it’s drama.

You know how such shooters work: each mission gives you a series of varied objectives, which must be completed to advance. The campaign is pretty half-assed as far as length goes, but they rammed more explosions, yelling and bullets-amundo into its short life than my brain can handle. Relentless action was the name of the game, and it still is almost fifteen years later.

Call of Duty was another case of a winning formula being pretty damn well established from the start. Weapon slots and such have changed along the way, medkits are out and multiplayer is the star of the show now, but this was a big damn deal. This would become Call of mothereffin’ Duty.

The Weekly WTF: ‘Harvester,’ the Creepiest, Batcrap-iest Horror Game You Ever Saw

Harvester

A lot of nineties horror is, let’s be frank, ball-bustingly awful. Like many (well, most) things from the era, all memory of it should really be sealed in concrete and dumped in the North Sea somewhere. Cell phones the size of studio apartments, leisurewear, shit hair… nope. Denial is the way to go. Those ten years did not happen.

Nevertheless, it can be hard to let go. If you’re brave enough to venture back through the Nineties archives, there’s some sweet, sweet weirdery ripe for the Weekly WTF treatment. Gentlemen, I give you Harvester.

Over in Merry Olde England, the Harvester is a quaint little restaurant chain, offering a salad bar so damn good I’d rent it a seedy motel room and show it a night of damn good illicit lovin’. But it’s also the name of a 1996 point and click PC game. It has the most violent adventure game of all time written right across the front of the box there, so you know this isn’t one to eff with. Let’s take a look.

It’s a familiar story: amnesiac dude awakens in a strange town, with no knowledge of who or where he is. He is ‘Steve,’ and that’s all he’s got to go on. A-pointin’-and-a-clickin’ his way about, Steve soon picks up on the creepy, Silent Hill-esque vibe the town has going on. He picks up on this straight away, sharp guy that he is. It was the sight of a couple children eating their mother that tipped him off.

So yep, shit has very much hit the fan right here. The developer intended the game as a nerdly look at violence in the media vs violence in society, and which creates which. Which is why we’re going to such twisted, WTF places.

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The story centers around a mysterious cult in the small town of Harvest, known as the Order of the Harvest Moon. Steve is repeatedly encouraged by the townsfolk to go and join them, and it’s at their HQ in the center of town where most of the homicidal shady doings go down. ‘It’s messed up and bloody throughout,’ quoth PCGamer. ‘How do you feel about a puzzle where you burn down a poor woman’s diner, leading to her committing suicide and taking her daughter with her? That’s nothing compared to the stuff in the second half…’

In Harvester, any effing thing goes. Most of the NPCs, we’re told, can be casually murdered for no reason at all. There are Itchy and Scratchy-esque gory death scenes, ghastly-ass torture machines, and a cast of townsfolk that’d make the Manson Family look well-adjusted. It’s just damn macabre weirdery on every and any front, and we salute it for it.

At the end, we learn the grim secret of the town. Steve (and Stephanie, his non-killable sidekick) are hooked up to a VR simulator, which has created Harvest and everything they’ve seen there. The whole twisted vision ws intended to turn gamers into serial killers, apparently, and Steve has to make a choice: kill Stephanie and be freed to live (real) life as a serial killer, or marry her and live ot their virtual lives in Harvest.

Because that’s just the kind of thought Harvester likes to leave you with. For a taste of this confuzzling cult classic, take a look below.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Mega Man

Mega Man

Before there was Mega Man 2, there was… Mega Man 1. Because, y’know, that’s how this whole ‘numbering’ thing works. But this isn’t Barney the Dinosaur’s Mathtastic Craptastic for Kindergardeners. Mega Man doesn’t eff around, and you’d better hold on to your butt because his first game is coming at you now.

The Blue Bomber (which sounds like one of those shitty nicknames you tried to give yourself back in the day and bitterly regret later) debuted on the NES in 1987. The game marked the start of a decades-long struggle between a humanoid robot, a non-ginger Doctor Robotnik and his crew of dastardly and bastardly robot masters. Let’s take a look.

Dr Light and his assistant Dr Wily have created seven fancy-ass advanced robots: Mega Man himself, plus the six masters (Cut Man, Elec Man, Bomb Man, Ice Man, Fire Man and Guts Man). They were intended as goodly workers, but the traitorous Wily reprograms the robot masters for use in his meglomaniacal plans. Only the nerdly Mega Man remains, and it’s up to him to take these angry mofos out.

It’s not easy. Which is to say, it’s ball-busting, shit-your-pants difficult. Before Dark Souls and Bloodborne and the like, this is what unforgiving and challenging gaming looked like. This was the case with most games of the era, but Mega Man took it a step further.

Mega Man 2

The 2D platform/guntastic levels are riddled with hazards. They’ll demand pixel-perfect jumps out of you, then enemies will spawn at the exact spot to send your ass plummeting into the ravine anyway. Then there are the effing spikes of death, so beloved of the series. The remotest contact with these will kill, and the devious designs of the levels still bring players out in a cold sweat almost thirty years later.

For the uninitiated, you choose to take on the robot masters in any order you like. They are the bosses of each of the six stages, and you gain their own special weapon for defeating them. Each of the ‘bots is vulnerable to the weapon of another, so there’s a little strategy at play here with the order.

The first game introduced so many of these elements, all now synonymous with the series. It’s one of those magic formulas, and that’s exactly why Mega Man is still the badass little gaming icon he is today.

Egotastic’s Flash-tastic- The Most Fun You Can Have in Your Browser: ‘Longbow’

Longbow

Back in Ye Ancient Days, the Romans couldn’t be assed with archers. They had all the togas, latent homosexuality and fancy helmets with those weird mohawks down the back they could ever want, but bows and arrows? Nuts to them.

Ranged weapons were looked down on. This was not the man-tastic way to do battle. We need big ol’ studly guys with six foot long beards and arms the size of studio apartments wanging huge axes at each other. But a little later, the power of the English army’s bowmen made them a power to be reckoned with, famously screwing over the French at the battle of Agincourt.

But anywho, there’s a point to all this BS. Hold on to your butts, here it comes now: Longbows are pretty badass after all. And even badassier than Longbows? Longbow.

This little slice of flashtastic has been doing the rounds for some time now. It’s the story of a lone dude/woman in a camp Robin Hood outfit, with said bow, defending themselves from an encroaching horde of angry stabby knights.

Longbow 2

It’s another tower defense-ish affair, with the archer immobile and able only to aim shots up or down. In true flash fashion, it’s simple to play (arrow keys to aim, space bar to fire) but you’ll find yourself wasting far, far too much time returning to it in the name of the almighty high score.

Enemies have no ranged attacks of their own, and can only run at you en mass like the ballistic missiles of steely death they are. A single hit anywhere will dispatch them, by means of a delightfully grisly yet gore-free death animation. You, meanwhile, have a lil’ health bar, and can take a blunt and/or sharp and pointy weapon or two to the face a couple times before game over. What you can’t do is shoot particularly fast, so it’s all about placing arrows carefully and prioritizing the closest knights.

Check out Longbow in action and give it a go for yourself right here.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark

Remember all the ballbusting hypetastic that Destiny received pre-release? Of course you do. It was Bungie’s spiritual successor to the mighty Halo, and that was a big freaking deal right there. Perfect Dark was a similar affair.

As N64 FPSs go, natch, GoldenEye is where it’s at. It’s still regarded as one of the best and most beloved games the genre has ever seen. It had a spiritual successor of its own, which was pretty freaking sweet in and of itself. Strap yourselves in and let’s party like it’s 2000.

Yup, Perfect Dark hit the N64 fifteen years ago. It’s the story of Joanna Dark, special agent and the kind of lady-badass the medium needed back in the day (and still does). In 2023, she is wanged slap-bang in the middle of an interplanetary war between two races: the Skedar (reptile dudes who use a holographic disguise to look like Scandinavians, because sometimes the great ideas are just right in front of you) and the Maians. The latter are much less interesting, and just look like a stereotypical ‘alien.’ So there you go.

The Skedar are dicking about on Earth, safe in their human costumes, but they are threatened by the Carrington Institute. These shady R&D guys are in league with the Maians, and employ Joanna Dark to perform a series of missions to advance their cause.

The whole story escalates into a who’s-really-who-they-say-they-are-and-who-are-they-screwing over conspiracy involving the President, alien weapons of mass destruction and a top secret spaceship or two. But nuts to ‘stories’ and all of that BS, we’re here for the gun-totin’ action.

Perfect Dark 2

So what we have here is a stealthy/shooty sort of FPS, the kind that was all the rage back in the day. It borrows heavily from the similarly spytastic GoldenEye, and that’s always a good thing. Gadgets, sneaking, the very GoldenEye engine itself… it’s all very familiar.

But Perfect Dark also throws in some fancy-ass new tricks all of its own. What with the setting and all, there’s more than a few alien guns to nab and shoot some face with. Your usual arsenal (pistol, shotgun, machine gun, you know the drill) all have secondary functions too; letting you use them for close range attacks or such and adding a little variety to combat.

As is usually the case with the genre, the multiplayer is the name of the game. Unlike 007′s adventure, Perfect Dark isn’t just a deathmatch sort of deal, offering a couple other modes. There’s co-op for starters, and another where player two takes control of one of the campaign’s guard enemies and tries to stop Dark from achieving her objectives.

All in all, Perfect Dark is a must for FPS fans. It’s not as iconic as GoldenEye, true enough, but in many ways it’s even better. The visuals, sound and improved AI are a step above, and retro heads won’t want to miss out on this one.

The Weekly WTF: The Madness of ‘Killer 7’

Killer 7

Everyone’s had a particularly unhinged dream and thought, where in the name of holy hell did that come from? Even if you haven’t, you have now, because I’m typing these words at your face and I make the rules here. You don’t want to eff with me, buddy boy. I do pilates on Tuesday evenings.

Anywho, the subconscious can concoct some bizarre scenarios. Awakening from a nightmare where ravenous giant fang-y peanuts on legs are chasing you through a golf course can be jarring indeed. Dreams are, as a leading psychologist at Harvard University once said, “mothereffin’ weird.”

I get that same what did I just wake from feeling from the games of Goichi Suda. This nutbag visionary (a sort of Tim Burton of the video game world) has brought us such lunatic wonderment as the No More Heroes series and Lollipop Chainsaw, all cult favorites in their own right. But for many, his standout moment of crazy-ass is Killer 7. Strap yourselves in and let’s take a look.

This action adventure hit the GameCube and PS2 in 2005. It centers around the titular Killer 7, distinct personalities of wheelchair-bound schizophrenic Harman Smith. You can switch between control of them at will, and each have their own abilities which will be crucial to your progress. They’re also all badass assassins, natch.

Now, being able to transform into anyone from an angry drunk Irishman to a Mexican Luchador whenever you fancy is a little whack in and of itself. But mere schizophrenia isn’t enough for Killer 7. Instead, Harman Smith is afflicted with ‘Multifoliate Personae Phenomenon.’ This condition allows him to absorb the souls of other people after their deaths, even physically ‘becoming’ them as he wishes.

Killer 7 2

A useful party trick to have, because this guy’s in some trouble right here. The Killer 7 are under the employ of the government, carrying out high-profile hits where the shady need arises. In the course of their shady duties, they run across an old accomplice of Harman’s, Hun Lan. Lan has the power to spread the Heaven Smile virus, which corrupts humans and turns them into vicious killers. People infected by such form a terrorist group, and Heaven Smiles become the game’s main enemies.

Killer 7 is an FPS, for want of a better word. Combat takes place from a first-person guntastic perspective, true enough, but the on-rails movement and restrictive controls go against that a little. It feels very odd to play because it’s designed to be played in this fashion, as though to be as jarring as possible at all times. Damn it, Suda51, you so crazy.

Along with the setup, the plot itself takes us to some bizarre places. We go from supernatural killers-for-hire to political conspiracies and Japan/US relations at an alarming pace, and the whole thing is a rollercoaster ride of weirdery.

Killer 7 is, in its way, one of the most ambitious, imaginative and artsy games I’ve ever experienced. It’s also completely batshit, and that’s always a plus.