John Walker's Electronic House

The Missing They’re Back

They’re Back: The Missing They’re Back.

Breaking new boundaries in irrelevance for four years. This month: Impressions.

Hooligans – Storm Over Europe
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PCG 110
By Kieron Gillen

I have spent the last week sat in the presence of my own consciousness. If one becomes separate from one’s chi, one can meet oneself in the zenith of one’s self. It was in this state that I was able to see the very core of the Truth of myself, and thus learn greater knowledge than any human has ever possessed. And why, you ask? Because it is only by knowing oneself that one can recognise the weakness in others. And others are WEAK. We must CRUSH them.

The anarchic hegemony of British football rules over our lives whether we consciously accept this, or remain in an idealistic sub-reality. It matters not if we actively display tribal associations with the particular colours of a favourite capitalist venture, or have no time for the activity, and instead spend our energies in the Higher arts. It is an inescapable rain shower, and we must either display our umbrellas, or prepare to get wet.

Like the Logical Positivists trying to understand that the meaning of a statement is the method of its verification, DarkXabre collapse under the paradox of their own belief system. In developing a football hooligan management simulation, it was their intention to generate an ironic sense of post-modernism, putting you in control a mob of thugs, the intention being to cause as much violence and mayhem as possible in and around football matches. But irony is a delicate herring, and one that disintegrates and aborts when ill-conceived.

Attempting to create gaming out of a pinprick zeitgeist from the infinite well of the welt-geist will either win international supremacy, or an oblivion of obscurity. And as Warren Ellis who blogged recently, “oblivion is a world of pain away from the fresh blood of success”.

Much like in my Deus Ex mod, Cassandra, fighting against the system is a necessity, and one that people must not avoid, but Hooligans fails to provide the platform through which this can be achieved. Like the failed misery of severed love, a shoddy RTS can only hurt you, HURT YOU, tearing away the flesh of your chest, until its savage, hateful lust has drained the last of the energy from your fading heart.

This is it. The end. The end of the review. The final words, as it all comes to a close, and exists no more. This leaves us the solipsistic question: did it ever exist?


The unplayable fightness of being.

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PCG 94
By Richard Cobbett

A review of a fish-tank management sim, eh? Hmmmm, this cod be quite interesting.

The first thing you notice is how crappie the graphics are. Actually, it looks as though it were designed for a console machine from the 80’s, and most specifically the little-known Japanese classic called Fishimitu Flushidun Diloo, on the Nintendo Sideswipe in 1987, featuring the first known appearance of Pori, which would eventually appear on the Sega Forecast in 1989 in the classic Pori’s Sandwich, which of course span off into everyone’s favourite cartoon, Pori Pori Pori. Er… which is… a good perch on which to stand.

Aquarium was actually originally released in Japan, designed for that market by former members of Bullfrog, and is in the mould of many of EA’s theme games. But the question is, gill they have made anemone out of the public this time?

The main issue is, gameplay is a bit fin on the ground. In fact, it’s only minutes into playing that it begins to flounder. You soon realise that a game that basks you to manage an aquarium is going to be far too bassic.

Like any other theme game, you can research in order to develop new attractions, in order to keep your aquarium open to the paying public, and keep the financial sharks away. New tanks, new breeding facilities, and of course, an array of new fish, can be perchased.

Feedback comes from thought bubbles appearing above visitor’s heads, telling you what they like, and what they hake. But none of this is enough to prevent it being an out and trout red herring, boring to play, horrible to look at, and causing your to whale in frustration.

And anyway, it’s all a rip-off of the anime classic where Imaki Thi Sissup battles the Dolphinmaster Itsi Nottru.


Theme Hospital
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PCG 42
By Ross Atherton

What the bottoms were they thinking? The world (the real world – remember that? It was on MTV. Pretty rubbish) is being ripped apart by the combined forces of terrorism, corporate greed, a nasty cough, and influenza. We might all have SARS by the time you read this; a disease being spread with unclear goals, for unclear hankies. The world of Theme Hospital paints an all-too-real picture of the NHS being burned by still-hot fire victims and orderly reprisals; of chemical and biological illnesses and civilian accidents. Should these things be avoided in our videogames? No. We don’t need to be protected from facts. But should they be simplified, dumbed-down, sterilised? Should we be required, as a sole mission goal, to chop the tongues off 300 civilians using big tongue chopping machines?

If you’re already dialling my number to complain about the word ‘bottoms’ in the first line, take a moment to think what’s really obscene over these next five paragraphs before you do. And how did you get my number? Are you stalking me?

I have a beard. Bullfrog were the pioneers of the theme management game with Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper. But they never seemed as unreal as this; never as seriously silly as Hospital. It’s managing a hospital, and all the farcical diseases patients develop, at its most unrealistic. It’s six years old, and dated for that, with poor sound.

But we can forgive its shortcomings, hence the inclusion of such an ancient game. Some of its subject matter is unforgivable, but I can’t bring myself to let it affect the game’s rating. Why not? I don’t know.

This review barely tells me anything about the game, and I’ll be very lucky if I don’t send it back to me to make me write it again. You’ve been warned Ross.


Starsiege Universe
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PCG 70
By Jim Rossignol

Will Self who wrote in Flytopia, “The computer went about its work, chomping through the text, looking for instances. He felt himself relax into the machine’s labour. It made clicks and whirrs companionably, this clean thing, this ergonomic thing.” The same can be said of all machines, especially large metallic ones, ones with large metallic feet, feet that can stomp, feet that can crush. They are our mothers, and it is in their large metallic breast that we can lay our head, lay to sleep, sleep in the clicks and whirrs. Will Self also said, “So I was smacked out on the prime minister’s jet, big deal.”

In the hot air balloon of computer entertainment, if the material of the balloon is the engines upon which the games are built, then the air that swells its side is the enjoyment that’s had when playing, fuelled by the fire of the challenges set. And hanging from beneath that balloon is the wicker basket of gameplay, that contains the passengers – the player. This balloon is buffeted by the winds of level design and the rain of NPC AI, and threatened by the pecking beaks of the birds of buggy code.

Starseige’s balloon is unhindered by the birds, free from the worries of the wind, and there’s not a cloud in the sky. The only danger facing our aircraft is the shortage of fuel in the pilot’s fire, allowing a sagginess to develop above, as the simulation side of the game can remove some of the intensity of the fun.

But we allow ourselves to become distracted, for at its heart, Starsiege is an opportunity to be at the helm of a Giant Stomping Robot. And from your robot you can shoot things, with guns, with big guns, and big canons. And you can shoot tanks. Tanks: like ‘thanks’ typed too quickly.


Tomb Raider IV
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PCG 78
By John Walker

This last week I’ve had the worst toothache I can ever remember having had. In fact, this is the worst pain I can remember ever having had. I don’t think it’s worse than the migraine I had that lasted a week and finished with me in hospital, but I don’t really remember that, so I think this toothache has the number one spot. I got it because I had a tooth removed – a tooth that was long dead, and so you’d think easy to pluck out. But oh, no. It came out in bits, with hideous, wet, crunching sounds, splintering and fragmenting, and leaving a part of itself buried deep within the gum impossible to shift.

Now that hurt, because for some reason, God has seen fit to give me a mouth that takes no notice of anaesthetic, and as such I can feel every detail of the drill head, every scrape of the metal blade, every suck of the plastic sucky thing, in every part of my body down to the tips of my toes. But still, that didn’t compare to the pain I felt last night, as the infection that found its way into the exposed hole let loose wave after wave of agony, that bore its way through my gum, and somehow managed to radiate down my right arm, and ricochet about my head as if it were filled with a thousand angry wasps.

Five days of this pain, on and off, but mostly on, led to my becoming more and more irrational and short tempered. But living on my own, it was only inanimate objects that met the firey end of my wrath. Door frames were cursed, computers were threatened with staircases, and apparently innocent items of cutlery exposed as the evil little demons they truly are.

Fortunately I now have these amazing painkillers that make my head ok.


And The Rest

Tim Stone: Rally Championship Xtreme, Sold Out, £5, 77% – Rollicking rallying racing reacts really radically round rather risky racetrack, respectable realism. Remember: roundabouts.

Steve Brown: Jagged Alliance 2 – Gold, Softkey, £10, 81% – Where’s the gun? There’s no gun pointing out the bottom of my screen. Guys! This one’s broken – there’s no gun pointing out the bottom of the screen. And I appear to be floating above the ground at some sort of isometric angle. I can’t seem to get a console to turn ‘fly mode’ off. What do all these letters mean? “RTS”? “RPG”? What’s going on? I don’t like it. I’m scared now.

Matthew Pierce: Corsairs Gold, Softkey, £10, 55% – Leave me alone. Go away – I don’t work here any more. CAN’T YOU SEE I’M BUSY NOW!? I’ve more important things to be doing that fiddling around with your silly little games magazine. I am beyond you mortals now, and it sullies my name for you to talk to me. BOW BEFORE ME! Now leave, you disgust me.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. Remember, I can be seen performing in many of the street corners of Bath – throw a coin in, there’s a chap. Try the veal. Thank you and goodnight.