random thoughts to oil the mind

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Daily Links

What If English Were Phonetically Consistent? – Seriously impressive little piece of Thespian skill, almost like going through the English fossil record.

The Rogue Consultant – One man fed up with Brexit has decided to say it loud. One van, 32 countries, 30,000 km, two words.

Auditorium – A playful mix of colour and music all packaged in a little Flash game.

Badger or Bulbasaur – have children lost touch with nature? – Young children are now more capable at identifying Pokémon than real animals.

[Photo by Hans Veth on Unsplash]

GTA: Vice City

It’s good to be back!

Last week I had one of those urges that only a pregnant man can have, to step back into the shoes of Tommy Vercetti and relive the delights of Vice City. This 2003 Rockstar outing was easily one of the best games I ever played, everything about it simply oozed style and polish. It’s almost as if the developers took a standard checklist of things that get rated in a game, made sure every area got given the works, and then spent the rest of their time filling in the gaps. Because it’s exactly that which nails it for this game, the attention to detail that makes playing Vice City like stepping into the ’80s: the clothes, the music, the cars, the giant mobile phones, heck, even the intro scene features the game being loaded on a Commodore 64. Rockstar’s particular sense of humour is also here to see by the bucketload, from the tongue-in-cheek nature of some of the missions, through the fantastic dialogue and hilarious radio stations, to the small jabs and puns that little the streets of Vice City.

All of which is without even touching on the gameplay. Sitting firmly in the sandbox genre, Vice City gives you a wonderful feeling of being able to go about things your own way. Goofing around, stealing cars, running from the police, there’s plenty to do in the game when you aren’t really doing anything! But fortunately that doesn’t mean that Rockstar skimped out on the main storyline, which is by all means fantastic, and features all sorts of mission types, from starting riots, racing through the streets, to knocking off banks and delivering numerous methods of ‘persuasion’ to various denizens of the city. Aside from the main plot, there are plenty of other side missions and extras to discover, which add ample distraction to the standard mayhem generally meted out whilst driving between missions.

Left 4 Dead Review

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead (PC)

For whatever reason, Valve deemed last weekend to be worthy of celebration, and in addition to offering a welcome discount, offered a free trial for their action-packed zombie fest Left 4 Dead. Never one to pass up on such offers, and having a few friends who’d already bought the game, I spent a fair few hours last weekend testing the game out, enough so to have convinced me to actually buy the thing!

Whilst Left 4 Dead sits firmly in the survival horror genre, it is without a doubt a shooter through and through. Whilst the genre may have its early origins with games like Alone in the Dark, Left 4 Dead is to that what 28 Days Later is to Night of the Living Dead. It’s a high-energy bloodbath, which is well and truly the game’s essence. Forget setting, plot or character development, the game boils down to an assault course for four, through levels strewn with zombies to some method of escape, with occasional safe points along the way.

That might not sound particularly novel, but the game’s central tenet is its co-operative side. Whilst there are plenty of games past that have featured zombies in one way or another, none have quite provided the experiences associated with the stereotypical zombie genre. Left 4 Dead clearly owes a lot to the zombie movie, from the opening intro to the closing credit sequences, and the gaming world has been truly aching for such a game. Mods such as Zombie Panic! or Zombie Master filled a gap, but Left 4 Dead has made full use of the Source engine to create a movie experience built for four.

Reliving an Old Gaming Experience

Classics of their medium, but which will have a harder time in the future?

Classics of their medium, but which will have a harder time in the future?

In comparison to a medium like cinema, computer games suffer from a particularly poor level of longevity. The vast majority of films can still happily be viewed today, often in an updated format, though keeping to the original production. That isn’t to suggest that films do not become dated, nor that more than just distribution formats are updated in later productions. Only recently I had the privilege of watching a once lost silent Polish film, A Strong Man (Mocny Człowiek), rediscovered in 1997. As there were no hints as to what musical accompaniment was meant to be played with the film, the DVD was released with a modern ambient style, that took a short while to get used to, but actually fit the film’s plot and style rather beautifully. On the whole, however, a film produced fifty years ago can be viewed with much the same clarity today as on the day it was released.

Worms under DOSBox

I recently had one of those urges to dig up an old classic and relive some memories when we had a guest over to stay. Worms was one of those games we’d both played when it was new and became instantly hooked. Amazing to think that it was released over a decade ago. At the time of its release, most games needed a bit of memory tinkering to work properly, and although I don’t remember now whether Worms was one of them, getting the game to run under a modern operating system was similarly tricky. To that end I thought I’d write a little guide showing how we managed it.

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