John Walker's Electronic House

TB 95

They’re Back 95

Blair Witch Triple Pack
Take 2

Nobody knows when to stop anymore. Within the arts, success appears only to signal an opportunity for merchandising and marketing, rather than representing the recognition of artistic merit it should prove.

A great painting is a wonder to see. A great painting plastered to the front of a cheap t-shirt is tacky and unpleasant. Write this down.

The Blair Witch project was a great film, whether //you// liked it or not. It was made for $34,000 and captured the imagination of the world, changing attitudes and approaches to filmmaking, and opening numerous eyes. Unfortunately, most of these eyes appear to belong to idiots.

Blair Witch existed as what it was – //a// film. It was not a springboard for a sequel, set of action figures, poster sales, and certainly not for a series of PC Games. It’s demoralising really – how long until we see Schindler’s List Lemmings, or perhaps Fight Club Pinball?

There are three games here, each of which were released separately over three months for £20. If anyone bought them, then they are in a very strong position to get very angry once they find out that one month later the whole lot are being put out for £30. But then if anyone bought them they weren’t reading their Gamers very carefully.

All three use the rubbish Nocturne engine, all three utilising its appalling camera angles, stupid flapping clothes, and hideous cut-scenes. Part 1 is set in the 1940’s actually from within Nocturnes setting, and is nothing more than a dodgy mod for the game. Part 2 is a split-set tale of flashbacks, 50% made up of cut-scenes (and if you plot this on a graph, you will notice that the words “Interactive Movie” start flashing). And Part 3 is a deer hunting tank simulation set on the Moon in the late 15th century. Probably. Who cares? None of them have the slightest thing to do with the film, none of them are at all good, and none of them need to be in your house.

Instead go get those Dali-print beer mats you always wanted. Hey, go mad, splash out on that Magritte pipe-set.


A collection of insults to a Good Film

Martian Gothic: Unification

I’m playing on my swivel chair. It has five “sticky-out bits” at the bottom, each possessing a wheel, and this means that I’m not only able to wheel in all directions, but I am also capable of tipping up on two wheels in five different directions. Plus of course all this is combined with the ability to swivel. This can sometimes be dangerous, and when I was new to swivel chairs, I was prone to the occasional tumble. But don’t worry, I’m more proficient now.

Martian Gothic: Unification is everything that is wrong with adventure games. Why this most noble of genres should be the one that suffers the presumption that making games for it is easy by lazy developers is a mystery. But boy does it receive more than its fair share, and this game isn’t even made by Cryo. The idea is that you have three characters investigating a Mars base that has gone a bit on the silent side, and in a twist that would have been oh-so incredibly original if it hadn’t already been done twice before by LucasArts, while you must control all three, they cannot meet each other.

I suppose the numerous bugs that cause it to crash should be greeted mercifully when they prevent one from having to listen to the tedious dialogue, solve the boring-as-hell puzzles, or being killed by nonsense incidents in the erratic storyline. And the colours are really annoying, which isn’t exactly a fair criticism, but who could care less? Hell, I’m going to criticise this game for its smell. It smells horrible.

If I lean over to one side while on two wheels, sometimes the base jolts jumping onto the next wheel. It’s very difficult to pull off, but boy is it worth it when it works.


The Fifth Element

I’m in love with Leeloo. This game features her. 100%. Next. Hmm, well, journalistic integrity (fnnrrr) prevents me from doing that when you bare in mind quite how average The Fifth Element is. But still, Milla Jovovich, with that hair…

The film received mixed opinions. Everybody in the world except for me thought it was mediocre and over-long. And everybody in the world except for everybody in the world apart from me thought it was just brilliant. Flying cars, Gary Oldman at his campest, Bruce Willis shooting stuff, Milla Jovovich in minimal clothing with gorgeous hair, and a hokum-sci-fi plot that incorporates every wonderful cliché ever – well that would be filmic perfection then, surely? And whatever you think, that scene with the opera singer juxtaposed with Leeloo ass-kicking is one of Besson’s finest moments.

It’s just a shame that the game receives no such contradictory opinions. Everybody thinks that it’s just average – a third person perspective beat-em-up with some token puzzle solving thrown in in order to attain the title of “Action Adventure”.

You can play as Willis or Jovovich (like it’s a choice), and this decides the kind of approach you will have to take to the predictable levels. As Willis you shoot everything with your rather wanting weapon, and as Leeloo you hack and chop at everything with your arms and legs. Neither of these prove that effective – Bruce’s gun is a measly affair when compared with the enemy’s artillery, and Leeloo’s arms and legs may be lovely, but they aren’t much cop when attacked by a room of robots.

In summary then, just look at the picture on the box. Yum.


Wild Wild West – The Steel Assassin

There are two themes emerging this month: Games of films; and games which I reviewed when they first came out. Blair Witch, Martian Gothic, and finally Mr Wicky Wicky Wah Wah himself, Wild Wild West. Another pattern I am spotting is that I seem to get given a lot of rubbish games to review. I must remember to complain to Kieron about that (some more).

Who remembers the film? You went to see it because you had enjoyed Men In Black didn’t you? Same director, same Will Smith, and as you soon discovered, same plot, and none of the same charisma or charm. It was a dreadful mess, confusing what had made MiB successful with what had made MiB merchandisable, and producing a quite heinous result. All sewn together with some entirely non-ironic and utterly unpleasant jokes about disability and race.

Woo-hoo! I can’t wait to play the game! And of course it’s f***ing awful, as you’d expect. Thanks to games like these, fans of the adventure genre are left shouting two entirely contradictory statements at once. “Make more adventure games for us to play!” is accompanied by “Don’t’ make any more adventure games for us to have to play!”. This confusion isn’t helping anyone.

The Steel Assassin sees you playing as both Jim (Smith) and Gordon (Kline), each using different approaches to play (shooting things, or using gadgets, respectively). Puzzles are over-simplistic, and the annoying shooty-bits are all about luck, which is a shame when you consider quite how good it all looks – the graphics and presentation are splendid. But that is a bit like placing an ornate gilt frame around a picture of Jim Davidson. Don’t do that.


Age of Wonders

There is a real lack of research into the period of history when orcs, goblins, elves and faeries walked the earth. We were never told anything about it at school – it was glossed straight over as if they didn’t want us to know. And you never see Tony Robinson excitedly digging up an old halfling settlement on Time Team. There appears to be some sort of conspiracy here, and I am now on a life-long quest to ensure that this vital part of our history is properly taught.

A good place to start is Age of Wonders, which as the box clearly states, is set on Earth at the time when said creatures were alive, and more specifically, when humans were first introduced. This is probably one of the most significant points in this forgotten era, as it was the beginning of the end for numerous races. Twelve of them appear in this game, and each has thirteen unique units with all sorts of specialisations, to be used in lovely big turn-based skirmishes.

This particular version of events states that at this time there were two factions: the vengeful Cult of Storms, and the peace-loving Keepers. These two were, unsurprisingly, not the greatest of friends, and provide a lovely opportunity for you to wage wars in this rather lovely TBS-cum-RPG. There are lands to be explored, battles to be waged, and units to be developed and distributed, just the way you like it. And it’s all very cute. This is a good thing.

When you have finished playing, please pass on your copy to a school child so they too may know the truth. One day our real ancestry will be known. Work together people.


And The Rest

Empire’s Xplosiv range (it’s still a dumb name, even when it’s spelt right) is hoping to woo you with a glut of ancient Sega titles for £5. Erm, not that attractive guys. The Sega line on the PC didn’t exactly, um, wow us with its quality – or sales for that matter. Never mind, £5 isn’t very much money, and who knows, you might be dying to play Sega Sonic Racer (45%). Then there’s Sega Virtual Cop 2 (38%) which was an arcade game involving the use of a big plastic gun. Um, I’m not sure about yours, but my PC doesn’t come with a big plastic gun, and, er, that’s how you play the game. Ingenius huh? And of course Sega House of the Dead (55%) which needs… you guessed it, a light gun to be played properly. £5 isn’t so cheap when you are adding the cost of a gimmicky weapon, although House of the Dead can be briefly enjoyable with a mouse. Briefly.

Finally, Sold Out have taken their office time machine back into ancient times, and found Heroes of Might & Magic (60%), which isn’t that bad an affair, even though it’s covered in dust and other things that people put on things to make them look old in movies.

That’s it. I’m off to watch Countdown.