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Eggciting news – Dizzy Returns!!

It’s no great secret that I’m a huge fan of the original Dizzy games – we’ve posted Dizzy love up on the blog, provide prizes for the annual DizzyAGE games competition and if you’ve ever received an email from us, you may have noticed that all our servers are named after Dizzy characters!

So, when we received an email yesterday announcing the return of Dizzy in a brand new game, Lawrence literally had to scrape me off of the ceiling with a rake!

The Oliver Twins have wanted to make a new Dizzy game for some time. The ‘Fantastic Dizzy‘ teaser has been online for years (though has now been replaced) and there are countless interviews and posts alluding to the idea – it seems that they’re finally able to do it, but only with help of the likes of you and I.

The new Dizzy adventure has been launched as a Kickstarter project and Blitz Games are looking to source funding of £350,000 to get the game developed and launched.

The new game, ‘Dizzy Returns’ will be developed for PC and iOS, taking advantage of all the benefits that up-to-date technology has to offer – The concept art looks beautiful and the ideas suggested in the project promise a fantastic new game made for and importantly with the fans.

From the press release:

 “Dizzy Returns is the game that Andrew and I have wanted to make for over twenty years”, says Philip Oliver, CEO at Blitz Games Studios, the company founded by the Oliver Twins in 1990. “We’ve always believed in creating games that are fun, challenging and rewarding and we’ve carried those principles through into everything that Blitz has created since. Dizzy encapsulates these ideals perfectly: quirky characters and story, interesting locations, challenging platforming, the satisfaction of a puzzle well-solved and exploring a colourful, fun world.”

“It’s been over two decades since the last brand new Dizzy game” continues Andrew Oliver, CTO,  “and since then not only has technology advanced dramatically, so has the way we play games. We want to bring Dizzy bang up-to-date, and introduce him to a new generation of gamers. We also want to give loyal fans the Dizzy game they’ve been waiting for! Capturing the spirit and magic of the original series of Dizzy games, whilst creating a gaming experience relevant to gamers today is something that we’re confident that we can do, and do right.”

Dizzy Returns is billed as ‘the biggest and best Dizzy game ever’ and The Oliver Twins will be working closely with the development team at Blitz to create new control methods, new game mechanics and new puzzles never before seen in a Dizzy game.

Take a look at the Dizzy Returns Kickstarter campaign and pledge what you can to make this happen!!

Sonic 2 on iOS & the trouble with emulators

These days everyone has an Xbox 360, a PS3 and a Wii, but in the days of old, who could afford to have two consoles? You supported manufacturers like football teams… team Sega, team Nintendo… team Sinclair, team Commodore… We’re talking fights in the playground, arcade conversion comparisons, arguments that ended in violence… oh yes…

I was a Sega fan in my youth. I had a Japanese megadrive and a Mega CD… To this day I have no idea how my mother – profoundly unaware of technology as she was – knew enough to get me a Japanese megadrive for my birthday from the local games importer, over the standard PAL version available in the high street, but god bless her for doing so!

Like all Sega enthusiasts at the time, I favoured Sonic over Mario… our arguments were fairly solid right up until Super Mario World’s level count blew us out of the water… but still, we loved our little blue haired hero.

Recently, I’ve been revisiting my youth with the Sonic apps released on the iPhone. Sure I could, and have, played the old games on an emulator, but something about the iPhone app just makes it a more pleasurable experience. Perhaps it’s the widescreen aspect ratio that gives it the feel of an official release, or perhaps it’s the use of the iOS multitasking that means I can steal a quick couple of minutes in a queue or a bus ride on my ongoing game… but whatever the reason I’ve found myself as immersed in Sonic on the iPhone as I ever was as a kid.

D’daa, d’daa daa, d’d’d’du duuh daaa…

Mostly I’ve been playing Sonic 2. I remember the hype surrounding the original release… the teaser screenshots in various magazines, the coverage of this new ‘tails/miles’ character and the news that there would actually be a 2 player splitscreen mode! I remember the day Sonic 2 was released… the feature on GamesMaster where people phoned in their times for completing the game on release day. I think the record was just over two hours… The palpable hysteria over the day the cheats were released, first on the Bad Influence datafeed (remember that?!) and then on GamesMaster, and then, every magazine imaginable… A certain order of sound tests??? How were we ever supposed to guess that?! You *know* the first thing we all did when initially firing the game up was to press up, down, left, right, all three buttons and start… just in case…

Still, I remember the overwhelming excitement of going to sleep on Christmas Eve, knowing for certain that Sonic 2 would be in my Christmas stocking when I awoke the next day.

I spent most of the next month playing that game to oblivion… I was good enough to get almost to the end, but never quite managed to finish it. Even if I had, it would have been sans Chaos Emeralds.

Playing the iPhone port recently has been a revelation – I don’t get much time to game these days, and new games hold your hand through so much that it seems like a whole different experience… The words ‘Game Over’ or ‘Continue’ mean little in today’s gaming world. A world of ‘almost death’ where getting out of the line of fire for a few seconds can restore you to good health; a world where death is often followed by a reprise and an invitation to try again… In Sonic 2, ‘Game Over’ is followed by the Sega logo and the beginning of the Emerald Hill Zone.
Emulators are different. They hold much more novelty, seeing the original screens, watching your PC turn into another computer, it’s easier to flick between games and be less involved in the gameplay of each one. Playing the iPhone version has felt exactly like it did back in the day, working my way through the game, trying to collect every ring, every power up, in an attempt to store lives and continues for the more difficult levels ahead… When a game costs £40, you play that game!!

I feel invested in Sonic 2 now. I’ve been playing a lot, enjoying taking the time to play properly… fearing the game over screen just like I did as a kid. And it’s just as difficult as I remember.

During one playthrough, I’d stored up a mass of lives, and wasted them all on the Mystic Cave boss – because the final continue lamppost doesn’t allow you to collect a single ring before fighting Robotnik – meaning you need to complete it without a single hit.
On a second playthrough I spent time collecting lives and continues right the way through to the final zone, Wing Fortress. After a great many attempts I finally beat the end boss, only to watch a 45 second success animation, during which time my timer ran out and Sonic died suddenly for no reason half way through!!!

This time around I’ve found a section of the Wing Fortress zone that allows me to collect 100 rings and an extra life, so that I can repeatedly run through the same section again and again, storing up lives for the difficult boss battles ahead. After collecting around 30 lives, my save data was inexplicably erased and I found myself right back at the Emerald Hill zone again!!

Perhaps this shows my incompetence at the game, I’m sure most people reading this post will scoff at my struggles, having completed Sonic 2 on one life on the first try… after all it’s just a simple platform game, nowhere near the difficulty level of some of today’s games – but I guess it’s easy to assume that because I run a company based around retro games, because I’m an avid fan, that I would obviously be excellent at the games I play… I’m not. I’m just a guy who counts gaming as an important force in his childhood. Retro games are a source of happy memories for me, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that they play such a large part in my working life… However, a prolific gamer does not a good gamer make.

For all my struggles, I’m loving playing the game through again, with the same restrictions I had the first time around. Emulators are great, but having so many games at your fingertips, being able to save the state of a game before a difficult obstacle or hit a button to increase credits at will, breeds a kind of apathy towards the game itself.

I remember wasting countless weeks of pocket money playing arcade classics like ‘Final Fight’ and ‘Blood Brothers’. These days with a Mame emulator, I know before beginning the game that I can complete it – and consequently I’m more careless… losing a life means nothing… a continue screen no longer indicates a financial loss to my schoolboy pocket…

It’s interesting how modern games have progressed in this direction. Games are measured in terms of gaming hours, rather than completion difficulty… Perhaps this trend begun with the Lucas Arts philosophy of letting you get stuck, but never die, compared with their Sierra counterparts that would happily kill you every few minutes… Save often my friends!! These games are more easily accessible, sure, but they can lose that feeling of fright and determination that makes the older games so addictive. A wrongly timed jump, an overzealous attack, and its back to the beginning with you, young grasshopper!

I’ll complete Sonic 2 eventually, and most likely I’ll not play again for many a year, but I’m glad we’d had our time together again.

Retro Reflection: Ikaruga – travel sickness pills at the ready!

So it’s been a little while since my last blog. Following Kristen Stewart’s relationship status and whereabouts takes up a lot of my time. But I’ve also been suffering from endless frustration and brain-meltingly awful bouts of nausea. In fact, not bouts, but more like marathons; nausea marathons.

And what is at the heart of this? Only one of the best 2D shooters ever. Ikaruga.
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Retro Reflection: Age of Empires 2 – if it’s worth building, it’s worth building it slowly

Right, instruct villagers to gather resources. Instruct scout to, er, scout. Build some houses. Going good so far. Build some farms, all in a nice straight line for efficiency. Now to build some sort of defence…wait, what’s this!? The enemy! In my base, two minutes after the game has started? This isn’t supposed to happen. This isn’t how I… I lose!?!?

Playing Age of Empires 2 online wasn’t quite what I expected. It was more baptism of molten lava than fire. I’ve had better first-time experiences when… let’s not go there. Suffice to say, I had not envisioned a strategy where my opponent might attack me with two or three men this early. The game had barely started. What’s the point?

You see, I used to play (and still play) AOE in a more civilised manner, if that’s possible in a war game. I played by the history books. Build up a huge army, meet enemy army at said battleground at 3pm and hurl them at each other. None of this guerilla warfare, hit and run stuff – I literally took an age to build my empire. Age of SimCity Empires would better describe my approach to this game. I get a thrill from just building stuff and making it look nice. It’s a popular thing now games such as Minecraft facilitate this type of gameplay – software version of “make your own fun”.

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Retro and geek coverage in the last few days

As the Assembly digital arts and demoscene party in Finland draws to a close, it seems to me that both retro and modern tech is still high in many people’s minds. Long may that continue, even if I chose to scream at our Olympic gold-medal-winning athletes rather than watch the compos last night.

The goings on at the Mini Maker Faire in Manchester have been grabbing some serious headlines too, it seems.

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Retro Reflection: Fur Fighters

Summer has finally arrived and with it comes a lot of moaning. Moaning about how hot it is. And usually the same people who, just a few weeks previous, were moaning about how cold and wet it was. So what better reason is there to get away from these pitiful humans than shutting yourself away in complete isolation to play old games your friends (if you have any) have never heard of. Plus, the bright days give you a valid reason to pull the curtains; who would want actual sunlight invading the room? Horrible, nasty sun.

Fur Fighters is one of those games that precisely half the gaming population know about and the other half doesn’t. Actual gaming fact. I know because I conducted the study. It was released on Dreamcast in 2000, but, despite good reviews, it hardly caused a stir at the time. With its recent debut on the iPad, I thought it was time to give my retrospective thoughts on the DC version.

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Retro Reflection: Rez – good vibrations for you and your partner

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t see very much because it was dark and it was all a bit messy really. No, I’m not talking about my first time, but my experience of playing Rez on the Dreamcast.

Rez is one of those games I’d heard people rave about over the years and never actually played myself. I also discovered it was quite desirable on the Dreamcast, so I decided to “invest” in the game. I bought my used copy from eBay for about £40 – not the biggest investment I’ve ever made – but the case and disc looked new when it arrived.

I’d considered just sitting on my investment and waiting until demand forced prices up. Unfortunately, the sudden swell in demand for Dreamcast games did not materialise and it didn’t look like I’d get the 500% return I’d envisioned. In light of this revelation, I opted to play the game. After an hour or so, and having finished the four stages, I still didn’t really know what was going on, but I did understand why this game is held in such high regard.

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The London Film & Comic Con

While some of you were amusing yourselves at Games Britannia, others of the con-going community were making their convoluted way to Olympia for the London Film and Comic Con. No thanks to British Rail’s lack of signage which meant many people got lost on the final stretch, being directed to Brompton from Earl’s Court to catch a (cancelled) overground service instead of instructed to wait for the Tubes which were running to Olympia directly from the station. Read more

Retro Reflection: International Superstar Soccer

I can’t play this game. I just can’t bloody play it. I’ve tried and I’ve failed… I’m sorry.

I’ve put hours and hours (hence the late review) into International Superstar Soccer (ISS) on the SNES, only to be driven into fits of rage the likes of Christian Bale would be jealous.

I have to be honest; it isn’t because the game is terrible – it’s not – but I can’t get into it. By that I mean I can’t score at all… ever – a fundamental part of football games I’m sure you’ll agree. It doesn’t matter what I do, the ball won’t go into the net. It doesn’t matter which team I pick either. I’ve picked teams that have thrashed me, seemingly with 11 Lionel Messi’s on the pitch, but under my control the team apparently consists of 11 Emile Heskey’s heading down blind alleys, bumbling over the ball and generally missing the space between the goalposts.

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Collectormania 18, Milton Keynes 1-3 June 2012

The MKDons’ stadium is once again playing host to the Collectormania gathering over the Jubilee weekend.

Would-be autograph hunters are advised to get there early (the parking can be HORRENDOUS!) and acquire virtual queue tickets for all the guests they wish to obtain signatures from. Prices average around £15, with the big names operating a queue system and sometimes rules about personalised signatures and photograph permissions.

Whilst waiting for your number to come up, as it were, there is always plenty to see. People-watching is a competitive sport here, as the guests will mix and mingle if they can, as well as there being a large contingent of cosplayers wandering around. The Dalek Builders’ Guild is always in attendance, as is the R2D2 Builders Club, a battalion of Storm Troopers, Darth Vader and any number of other characters. Read more