Thursday, 7 June 2012

This Week: A Competition I Am Aren't Entering

The year was 1976 and an ageing star was making a come back on kids tv show Swap Shop.
Cliff Richards was not only performing a come back hit "Devil Woman", but announcing a competition.

To aid Cliff's self promotion he announced that he was seeking a bride to be for his come back. Cliff told the viewers that he would hold open auditions the length and breadth of the country for 3 weeks solid. The proposed talent would be whittled down over the weeks with live tv shows. Each round would be judged by Cliff and two other stars, Jimmy Saville and Bruce Forsythe.

A the the televised rounds commenced the British public were transfixed, and viewing figures went through the roof. As Cliff was warm and engaging, Bruce was witty and sometimes flirtatious. Saville on the other hand was down right nasty and mean. This was topped one week when he referred to a lady from Bournemouth as "looking like a plate of offal rolled in a sleeping bag of sick".

As the rounds continued the competition moved to the countries capital. It was in this round that something unexpected happened. As the panel waited, unaware of what the next contestant looked like. Out walked A balding, ginger haired, spectacle wearing man. With a large object under a cloth. This man announced himself businessman and inventor "Clive Sinclair". Under the cloth, he revealed his "hermanoid": "Elsie".

Initially the crowd burst into laughter. Saville puffed on his cigar declaring this as "balderdash and flim flam". Forsythe saying "this is cyboring more than anything else!" But as the room quietened, one person in the theatre was falling in love. Cliff was mesmerised even before Clive switched Elsie on. Clive showed the audience how Elsie could sing and dance. Elsie knew all Cliff's back catalogue and even sang his current hit "Devil Woman" in it's clunky, robotic, voice.

With the performance concluding the judges gave their opinions. Bruce said he was "amused and intrigued" by Elsie's talents. Saville bemoaned the robot temptress saying "guys is guys, gals is gals. That's just a bean tin!" But Cliff gave the deciding vote: "You've led me to love Elsie, you're my bride!" The crowd applauded in the theatre and across the country. Cliff declared he would marry in the morning!

As the huge wedding went on, the eyes of the world watched the televised event. As Cliff declared "I do!" Elsie declared "syntax error", until the Sinclair (always near by) corrected the error. The passing months saw Cliff and Elsie honey moon around the world (with Sinclair in the back ground of every camera shot).
But by time the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament arrived, it appeared there was trouble in paradise. Spotted at the finals was Cliff and Clive, but no Elsie.

Cliff shrugged off the questions after the men's final, declaring "okay, Elsie is a little unwell. Clive will have it sorted pretty soon. Thanks!" As Cliff continued his ascension of the charts, he also released "Miss You Nights". With a performance on Top of the Pops. The back ground image being the face of Elsie.

As the year was concluding, rumours began to circulate that Cliff and Elsie had split. Indeed, media vultures pictured Cliff and Clive arguing on Hampstead Heath. By the new year, Cliff announced all ties with Clive and Elsie were cut. Nobody really found out what went in those fleeting days but Cliff managed to resurrect his career and never dabbled with robot love again. Clive went on to marry and have children of his own. Much to Cliff's managements surprise.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

This Week: Owen Hargreaves Soccer Playstation 3

With the transfer of Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich in 2007, Owen Hargreaves agent saw fit to promote his player's standing for his new club.
Of the many self promoting exploits Hargreaves ventured into, a video game seemed a worthy asset to his profile. With the new Playstation system hitting the shops, Hargreaves's agent: Helmet Worn decided to capitalize on this.
Approaching Sony regarding this, Worn agreed a deal to launch a game based on Hargreaves's exploits as a Manchester United player. Hargreaves was brought in early to discuss his routine at the club and also to "motion capture" his playing style.
Sony worked strenuously to capture everything that would occur in the players day to help immerse the player of the video game. It was so impressive, that Sony included Alex Ferguson himself in the game!
Once the game was released, sales were excellent. Fans declared the game to be the "next level" in football simulation. But after 3 months, gamers started to gather on internet forums to excitedly talk of how the game became really strange!
As Sony had worked so hard to programme all the elements that made Hargreaves the talented player he was. They also created a programme that was self aware! As Hargreaves became injured, the excitement of the crowds and goals lessened. These were swapped for treadmills and laps alone, on a training pitch. As this became tiresome for the gamer, it became a point of anger for the CPU Alex Ferguson!
As Hargreaves worked on the weights in the gym, a voice would be heard saying: "Off there new Own, I need yee ta do a few jorbs!" The CPU Ferguson had decided that if Hargreaves would no play, then he would earn his crust as an odd job man!
The player became dumbfounded by new tasks he where given. Painting walls, building fences, fitting windows. Even cleaning boots! As the game had morphed into the bizarre world, so had the computer Ferguson. As tasks were finished Sir Alex would arrive to give barely a whisper of credit. Owen's character started to become disillusioned as a footballer. Ferguson though, only became more demanding. More tasks were thrown at Hargreaves and his reliability slipped. It became a regular occurrence for the player to here Ferguson scream: "NOWEN,WHA' YA DOOON!" as Hargreaves errors increased.
Gamers also began to become sick of the Ribenna faced, hair trigger tempered, jock appearing. Many decided to sell the game rather feel the apoplectic rage of the unapologetic bastard. For those who stayed on, a new phrase was born: "Leave it to Hargreaves" as many cited the games mutation akin to a Norman Wisdom film.
In the end, the sadomasachistic few that clung on were rewarded with a get out. With Hargreaves stat's at an all time low, a get out clause arrived as Ferguson became bored of the "lilly livered odd job man". The player made a youtube video of Hargreaves work out and the game ended as Owen left for Manchester City.
Hargreaves himself was asked about the game's similarity to his own real time at United, with Hargreaves declaring: "no comment!"

Friday, 23 March 2012

This week: A TV Show I Am Aren't Watching: "Fathom" ITV 1987

Fathom was an ITV quiz show that ran for only five episodes in 1987.
Early in 1985, ITV bosses had become increasingly frustrated with their dwindling viewer figures, and the strength of the BBC quiz shows.
With this in mind, bosses worked closely with companies willing to invest heavily in a new show which would in turn show their goods in the ad breaks. The bosses devised a new idea that would be based around a generic quiz show format, but under the sea! This idea would be known as "Fathom".
In Fathom, celebrity contestants would be taken by submarine to an underwater base, were they would answer questions about the sea and general maritime events. The base itself was a large domed affair, which was anchored near the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This base was manned by five full time aquatic experts and ten tv crew members.
The opening titles of Fathom showed the three celebrity contestants entering the sub and taking their seats. This was interspersed with pre-recorded footage of the contestants saying how they felt about going on the quiz. The screen would then cut the the live footage of the celebrities entering the quiz dome and taking their seats.
The show was hosted by Fred Dineage with additional support from the super computer "Depth Charge". Dineage was dressed as a ship's captain, complete with hat and jacket. Depth Charge was a cabinet style super computer with rows of flashing lights that made up a face. It was not uncommon for Depth Charge to "but in" on Dineage's questions, often causing Dineage to bite his lip before saying "thank you Depth Charge, speak when spoken to!"
Each of the five rounds would have a nautical title such as "Salty Sea Dog" which involved tasting and guessing the sea food. Or "Down Periscope" which involved a periscope dropping down for the contestant to guess the partially blurred, sea based, item. At the end of the quiz the contestant with the most points would win the "Captains Wheel" trophy before leaving with the other contestants.
Viewing figures for Depth Charge were exceptional. Bosses were elated that it was such a success. But into episode five, disaster struck. The three contestants this week were: Keith Harris and Orville, Matthew Kelly and Dave Lee Travis. The journey to the base went without error, and all contestants were excited and as Orville put it: "a little bit scared". The rounds went to plan but near the final round disaster struck.
Through one of the many viewing, port holes, a tv camera man saw to his amazement, a Hunter Class Russian Submarine colliding with the base! A large bang was heard and many staff members fell to the ground. Dineage was seen by millions to be visibly shook, but like the professional he was. carried on.
Viewers at home sat in stunned silence as the situation worsened quickly. As Dineage asked Depth Charge for the scores, another lighter bang could be heard. As the camera spun round it was apparent that one of the periscopes above Keith Harris's head, had dropped down and knocked the children's entertainer clean out!
More unsettling was that as Harris lay motionless with his head on the desk, Orville continued to speak! "I want my mummy, I want my mummy!" Screamed the duck. As Dineage stumbled for a reply, Depth Charge could clearly be heard saying "well I didn't see that coming!" As the set slowly descended into chaos, crew could be seen racing across the studio towards the away sub. The cameras kept rolling though and as one hand held camera man filmed the staff leaving, another filmed the dramatic proceedings in the dome. Matthew Kelly could be seen strangling Dave Lee Travis as Dineage pleaded for calm. Depth Charge began praying to God and then sobbing and cursing God for not giving him wheels and leaving him to die. By now the away sub was full, all but for one more place. Dineage was waving a spear gun at the other contestants as he made good his escape.
As a large crack appeared in the dome and water came cascading in, viewers could see Orville singing on his own: "I wish I could swim, right out of this bin, but I can't!"
Then the screen went blank.
ITV bosses made a 30 second apology announcement the next day, citing the incident and loss of four lives was down to the Russian submarine being off course. The shows developers never went to sea again.
Six months later, a green bearded, dishevelled Orville was rescued from a remote island in the Atlantic. His subsequent multi million selling book made his fortune. The book concept was then bought up and turned into Castaway starring Tom Hanks.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

This week: Motorway Commodore 64 1986

Motorway was a game produced by Turbo Fire Studios in 1986.
The game took 2 years to develop in the bedroom of Kevin and Barry Foam in Birmingham.
The idea of the game was to drive from one destination to the next. Kevin (the elder of the two brothers) convinced his younger brother Barry, that the game should not contain elements of other games, such as count down timers, chasing/being chased by other vehicles. Not even crashes.

Instead the game would be accomplished by driving from point A to B on a map from the first screen. Once the root had been plotted, the view switched to an in car view of a Mini Metro. The controls were the first stumbling point for first time players as they were vast. The "phone book" sized manual informed players that not only would the joystick be used for control of speed and direction. Virtually every key on the keyboard would be used also!

Some of the many keyboards commands were as follows: "Space bar" would work the wind screen wipers when it rained. Simple enough it would seem, but for the wipers to stay on the space bar had to be held down! If a player found this a problem then it was just the tip of the iceberg. For instance the "Z" key controlled the car's choke. The choke had to be set before the car could even be started. Gamers found themselves quite often "flooding" the engine by leaving it open too long. It was often found the young gamers enlisted the help of dad to start the car. Unfortunately this also lead to many fathers informing sons that "if we want to make it to Stoke son, we'll have to let me do the driving!" and sons returning to their fathers complaining "are we there yet?"

Many gamers actually thought the game flawed as some of the commands never worked. In fact this was not the case. Barry Foam stated in an interview some years later: "Kevin was such a control freak, he just ignored many of my ideas, I had to do something. So basically I made it so the car was continually knackered and needed you to limp through the game or break down!" Such things as faulty window wipers, faulty lights, brakes, and worst of all, a radio that when switched on could not be switched off!

Though the game became quite tiresome after hours of play, Barry managed to sneak in some more enjoyable elements. Firstly was the petrol stop. Although Kevin knew of this, and indeed helped Barry develop this part. He did not know how Barry had changed it. For starters Barry had made the fuel gauge highly unreliable. This meant that depending on how fast you were going, the needle was pointed to "full" then suddenly "empty". Gamers became worried sick looking for the turn off for services, to the point many developed back pain and nervous ticks.

When gamers did fuel up, they found the first of Barry's surprises. First was the ability to simply fuel up and drive off! Indeed many found this to be more fun than anything! The second was the toilet stop. Barry had quite mischievously made a point of a player icon that filled up a yellow and brown colour at once! Gamers raced their character to toilets to find "out of order" signs and blocked lavatories. If all was well they could use urinals to fire a jet of urine at a cigarette but, walking the length of the urinal to "sink the battle ship".

When the game finally came out, most gamers were intrigued by the elements Barry had installed. It sold progressively well leading to a sequel: More Motorway. It was at this "junction" the brothers split in gaming became apparent. Kevin was angry with Barry's betrayal of his idea of gaming and this lead to solo development. As Barry's eye for the ridiculous lead him to games like Dick Spring's: Cow Tipper and Archibald Fallon's Magical Markers. His brother faired less well with Bus Que and Gas Meter.

Sadly penniless and jealous of his brother's fame, Kevin went on to work for the highways agency, designing contraflow systems.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

This week: Brass Band Playstation One 1997

Brass Band was created by Taistral Styudyus in Yorkshire.
The initial idea was conceived off the surprising success of the the film "Brassed Off", which made considerable stars of Ewan McCewan and Peter Pepper Pot.

The game was conceived by a local business man Frank Rank, who having witnessed some of the filming believed he could cash in on the "Brassed Off" fever. Rank, although a highly successful businessman was completely clueless with gaming and this is were the problems began.

Rank hired a local studio (Taistral Styudyus) to develop and deliver his own ideas. Frank wasn't completely clueless though and brought in a local Band Leader: Alan Pleng to give advice and help with details. Unfortunately for Rank though, his initial knowledge was soon marred by his drink problem. Rank spoke to close friends of how he found Pleng asleep slumped in front of his television. Rank said at the time: "Eee was bladdered. The fella was out cold with an empty whisky bottle next to im. Worster though were his gaming problem. The dorzy basteds at Taistral had lent him PaRappa the Rapper and a ps 1!" It wasn't long before Rank sacked Pleng and moved on with his own vision.

The game itself was something of an oddity that beat the Wii for innovation. This came in the form of the controllers. Rank believed that if one was to capture the feel of the brass band, one would need to tap that feeling. Rank developed 28 separate, wired, controller that resembled the instruments they would mimic! On top of this, Rank conceived a conductors "wand" to be the main focus.

As development continued, it was noticeable that this much effort was too much for the developers. Rank brought Pleng back in to "shore up" the instrumentation. But this too was proving unwise. As the budget grew beyond belief, Rank was horrified to find Pleng at home hanging from a noose. Pleng was attired as the character he loved: PaRappa the Rappa, complete with "boot polish" nose.

Rank was now unravelling, as he couldn't tell the incidents from the film, reality, and consequently the game. He layered in the story of Pleng's death and pushed forward a release date.

Two weeks after release, Rank declared himself broke and never developed a game again. The game bombed and was laughed out of town. But a twist was around the corner. Japanese gamers had received the game late as Rank was unaware of the Eastern potential. Gamers here revelled in buying all the instruments and it was not unknown for families to perform live at meet ups. The game gained a cult following and was loved by all!

Rank was worshipped in Japan where he went on to develop five more games in the series before retiring a wealthy man. Sadly for Pleng's family, the future was bleaker. Rank denied any knowledge of his involvement and left them penniless. A clearly insane Irene Pleng can be seen to this day, dressed as ParRappa the Rapper pushing a shopping trolley through busy streets. Cursing Rank's name

Thursday, 16 February 2012

This week: Monty Saurus on the Stickleback 5 1998

Monty Saurus was a children's game released by Spoilt Child Studios America in 1998 on it's new system the Stickleback 5.

The game was aged at children between the ages of 4-6 years. The premise of the game was a simple one, move the friendly, cartoon, dinosaur, left and right collecting pickups. These pickups being: food, drink, and eating cavemen.

The controllers for the Stickleback were hard wired single button affairs, with a single joystick. Technological advances had meant Spoilt Child Studios had developed an accompanying head set with microphone. In the case of Monty, it allowed children to give him orders: "eat", "bite" and "poop!"

Initial success was apparent, for straight away, heavy demand was being made in the run up to Christmas 1998. Unfortunately for Spoilt Child, they had not had enough time game testing, and were soon aware of gaming issues.

What senior developer Orville Shapeshifter had chosen to omit to other staff, was the internal "intelligence" of the game. Orville had been "moon lighting" at Black Onyx Games up the road. Onyx were themselves working on a gaming console for teenagers, and using the very same chip that Orville had used for the Stickleback. Orville was more than aware that the "Intellechip" was going to be big, but knew that Onyx were ironing out bugs for their forthcoming machine The Bachelorg, a gaming system for single men and losers and would be some time.

With this, Orville decided to see if the chip would push a long in a children's console. His eagerness was his downfall though as complaints were soon coming in. Parents were appalled to find out what their child could make Monty do. Here is an exert from one complaint:

"I came into the living room and sat down to watch my son playing his favourite game Monty Saurus. What I saw on screen was disgusting. My son was telling Monty to "bite" until he had eaten all the fruit off the trees. He then told Monty to "poop!" so he did. He then turned Monty round to eat his own "poop!" I couldn't believe this was happening. Next my son made Monty "puke" as he obviously didn't want to eat poop! Monty was then sick. I thought this was bad enough but then my son shouts "bite!" so excitedly. Monty starts eating the "poop sick!" I was shocked. My son then gets Monty to walk over to a bunch of cavemen. I thought he was going to "bite" as the game instructs, but no. My son shouts "poop!" and quick as you like, Monty has defecated on the caveman! He then tells Monty to "bite" again. Jesus, the poor dinosaur is eating a man covered in dinosaur crap! So then my son tells Monty to "puke" again, but on more cavemen! This goes on and on till Monty becomes pale and falls over. He doesn't get up! My son shouts: "yeah, Monty is dead!" I switched the machine off and sent him to his room. What were you people thinking?!"

Reports like this flooded Spoilt Child, who were rightly concerned and ordered a full recall on the system and game. The investigation led all the way to Shapeshifter, who could not be found. Days later his body was found inside a windmill. On a Crazy Golf course. Suicide was the verdict, so nobody else was accused. Leaving Shapeshifter as the sole person for the disaster.

Spoilt Child Studios was broken up and never again made technology of the kind again. But what of Black Onyx and the Bachelorg?

The following year the Bachelorg was released and became the biggest selling new console ever. And what sold the console so well? The Bundled game: Celebrity Breakdown.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

This Week: Barry Von Richthofen PS1 1995

"A stricken tri-plane is seen above the French Town of Amiens. It is 1918 and The Great War is nearly at an end. Infantry man Barry Blot has just discovered the town and the sight of the plane, having been separated from his unit. Following the plane instead of heading to the town, Blot finds the plane downed in a near bye field.

"Blot approaches cautiously, checking for the "hun" and any life in the pilot. It is clear the pilot is dead and that he is German flyer. Blot drags the body clear before seeing the plane explode in a bright ball of flames. As the flames dance in the rising sun, it is clear to Blot that the man is the image of himself! On checking the pilot's papers Blot is shocked to reveal he is none other than "Manfred Von Richtofen" The Red Baron!

"(Oh and he also looked at the bright red tri-plane, and figured it was probably him.)

So begins the journey for Barry Blot. Removing a flight ready pigeon for his kit bag, Barry writes a message to home:
(The scroller writes)

"Dear Mam and Dad,

The weather here is lovely. It would be better if there wasn't a War on, but hey-ho. Got into some bother in the first battle so ran away. I've had a change of  heart now since I remembered they will shoot me for it. Anyway, you have to tell General Ash Burton Grove that The Red Barron is dead and I am going to be him! Shhh, don't tell anyone, (like that snooty slag, Vera Bollard at number 42) as it's on a need to know basis. I'm planning to fool the hun into thinking I got out alive when secretly I will be sending a flying pigeon home with jerry's plans each week. I reckon my Grammar School German will get me through and I'll blag the flying. Any shooting will involve missing or shooting their lot down!
Stay safe mam, and keep grand dad away from my parsnips in the potting shed!


So begins the game. Barry dons the Baron's flying suit and buries the body. Will the Germans smell a rat? Will Barry be shot down by RAF? How many live pigeons does Barry have in that bag?
All these questions will soon be answered!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Nope It's: "Kids TV I Am Aren't Seeing!

This week: "Trilby and Co" LWT 1978-1982

Trilby and Co was a kids tv programme aimed at 4 to 6 year olds and pre school kids.
It was commissioned by London Weekend Television and filmed around the South East of England.

In early 1976 producers for children's television devised a new programme to entertain and educate at the same time. The programme would follow the adventures of a live chimpanzee called "Trilby". Trilby would drive a double decker, red, London bus to schools and meet school children. There with his assistant Aljanon, he would "talk" to the kids about school and learning. A small sub story would involve Trilby collected numbers and letters to fill his "Monkey Board".

Trilby's helper, Aljanon was played by a black man (Marcus Mears) who would "speak" for Trilby using such lines as "what was that Trilby, you want the kids to give you a banana?" or "what was the Trilby, you want to go to sleep now?" Casting of both Trilby and Aljanon took some time as both needed to suit each other. As Trilby needed to be well behaved, Aljanon needed to be able to follow the handlers course and look after Trilby and the safety of children.

In late 1977 a chimp called Mr Fitz had been deemed suitable and had bonded well with Mears. Filming soon began and that is when the problems began. For although Trilby was manageable in most parts, he was prone to mood swings. In a documentary of "Kidz Top 40", Mears was asked about the time with Trilby. "The chimp was horrible. For every adorable cuddle, there was faeces throwing and blind refusal to cooperate".

In Mears biography (published in 1990 "Monkey Business and Me". Flannel Books) he tells of how Trilby would take off his blue boiler suit and cap, parading around the bus naked. The problems were not particular to Trilby either, as Mears tells how racist exec's paid the monkey more than him, forcing him to quit the show in 1981. Mears was replaced by "Jan" (Sue Flipflop) with no explanation to fans, late 1981, but was also unhappy with the chimp. Flipflop left the show after rumours of Trilby trying to "make love on her".

Sadly by November 1982, it was all over. Trilby was cancelled after an "automotive incident". Chinese whispers circulated that Trilby (now heavily dosed drunk and chain smoker) had actually figured out how to drive the bus! Word spread that the chimp escaped from his handler and jumped into the bus, started it, and went screaming off round the studio car park. Witnesses reported seeing the chimp grinning in the driving seat, "flipping the bird" to shocked onlookers. After hundreds of pounds of damage to parked cars, the bus crashed. The LWT Marksman took aim and shot Trilby. Bringing an end to a bitter sweet adventure.

Exec's were rightly saddened by the passing of Trilby, but had to move on. They followed this up with Gonk! in 1983. It was an animated stomach that taught children how to eat the right food. Although popular, it never captured the hearts of a cheeky chimp and a helper called Aljanon.

To this day you can see a statue dedicated to the memory of "Mr Fitz" at Gypsy Adventure Park, Norwich. The inscription on the stand reads: "Mr Fitz, actor, womaniser, misunderstood bus thief"

Monday, 30 January 2012

This week: Talon Torque Thrust: Justicator Sega Mega Drive 1994

Talon Torque Thrust: Justicator, was a game released by games producer Cyril in 1994.

The game followed ex Special Forces Talon Torque Thrust, who has to battle the crime ridden streets of Talamus City. The flying elements of the game are taken from a cockpit, first person, view of the Knight Falcon. The Falcon is a multi million pound "Chopper-Jet" hybrid, armed to the teeth with state of the art weaponry.
There are two elements to the game, one consisting of flying the Falcon and engaging enemy "Glider Hoards". And taking on the enemy at ground level in game play that is viewed as a side on scroller. At any time Talon is flying the Falcon, he may receive communications from various characters. These include Mayor Brian Tyler, a man trying to get Talon "onside" to help him clear the streets. Police Chief Henry Martland, a tough cop who doesn't trust Talon. And Seegus Raynard, a crazy, criminal, master mind. Hell bent on ruining both Tyler and Martland, through criminal acts and unearthing secrets about their past

When Talon is contacted, a speech bubble appears showing an image of the caller and what they want. Talon is offered money or "knowledge" for missions that pay for his weaponry. The money can be spent at Cuboid Industries, where Professor Kelvin produces strange weapons behind the companies back. The knowledge given to Talon, will give him the information to know who to trust and which missions to take. As the game progresses, we see Talon find more clues to the Cities problems and also shows Talon double crossed on occasion.

The game was largely overlooked on release, but has a cult following now. It had a small release quantity compared to other games, and was never released in Japan. Copies can now fetch many hundreds of pounds to collectors and is highly sought after in it's full release packaging: Box, game, instructions, map, and sunglasses. The sunglasses are the very same that Talon is wearing in game. Many didn't realise, that to finish the game by opening the safe and stealing the microfilm, one had to copy the code imprinted on the glasses arms.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

This week: Operation Wolfamstow Sega Mega Drive

Operation Wolfamstow was a first person shooter from Developers Potaito (1988)

The object of the game is to rescue the four hostages in the shopping centre. The game is divided into six stages: Chingford Setup, Epping Forest,Woodford, Tottenham, Leyton, Leytonstone, and London City Airport. Completion of each stage advances the story. For example, upon completing the Epping Forest stage, an enemy leader is interrogated and the location of the enemy's multi story car park is found. This was one of the first shooter games to feature a storyline, and it had some similarities to real special operations missions of East 17.

The band originally felt that having a game about their life would be unimaginably dull, as they spent most days drinking Tizer and buying clothes two sizes too big. Management agreed with this and allowed Tony Mortimer to "expand on the East 17 universe." Thus a first person shooter was born. Tony devised an idea that before each level, a band member shown holding an uzi would advise the players that: "shit has got real  man, an it's time pop some caps innit?!"

The player would then begin the level with the track "House of Love" booming in their ears. Every so often senior enemy characters would jump out as a band member would shout "dat bitch iz not showin' you respek!" as a sign you need to eliminate the offender. As the first level reached its climax, a banner would declare: "Chingford Massive!" as the screen was filled  with big coated hoodies, in silly hats. A band member can clearly be heard saying: "BLAP, BLAP, BLAP!" In the back ground.

The game would continue in this way until the last level was reached. This was the most difficult level and was accompanied by the song "Stay Another Day". The Airport level also has snow fall to enhance the potential for Christmas sales of game and song. The level began with Tony Mortimer informing the player: "Right this is it. Forget oh that atha shit. Let's make some noise!" From there the action is fast and none stop. The difficulty heightened as amongst the hoodie gangsters are the general public. All off to sunny climbs. As the player faces the final baddie, the band itself joins the fight in pixelated glory. One by one they are sadly offed and it is also possible to release a handbrake on a truck by shooting it. Thus seeing Brian Harvey squashed to death.

Once the game is complete, the band members are shown on screen with arms around each other smiling at the player.
"You did it brav, that was pucka, you trumpet!"

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

This week: Stylophone Hero, Playstation 2

Stylophone Hero is the third game in a series of musical video games released in 2005
After the roaring success of the original game (Kazoo Hero) and the eagerly awaited sequel (Theremin Hero), developers Blue Bog Roll decided to push the musical potential to its extremes.

The original concept, Kazoo Hero was released on the Playstion 1 (1998) to incredible fan fare. In the game players used the wired kazoo to play along to popular kazoo hits. Within this the player could "jam along" to such hits as Frank Zappers "Hungry Freaks, Daddy", Jimi Hendrix's "Cross Town Traffic", and The Beatles "Lovely Rita" from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

An interesting aside to this was that the screen showed nothing but the album cover and no actual lead into how the tune should be played on screen or using the instrument. Despite this draw back and an unseen audience booing the poor performance, it was not uncommon for players to play into the early hours of the morning, due to the simple "pick up and play" concept.

With the success of the first game came a much anticipated sequel Theremin Hero, (1999). The bar had been set quite high by Blue Bog Roll developers, so a new idea was born. This centred around the Theremin. Players  used the Theremin by waving there hand close to the instrument to create "sound waves". Although many found the concept unashamedly "hat stand", it still sold 13 million units. Players could "wave along" to such hits as The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations", Led Zepplin's "whole Lotta Love" and "No Quarter". The game also had "unlockable" cinema score content for 50's B-Movies.

The final part in the "Hero" game trilogy was Stylophone Hero (2005) on the Playstation 2. Many believed that developers had rung the concept dry as rival development studios had created  hits like Empty Washing Up Bottle: Full of Dry Rice and the heavily lauded, 20 Great Triangle Percussion Hits. But Blue Bog Roll had one more ace up it's sleeve. This was Stylophone Hero. A game that consisted of a small electronic box like keyboard, with metal strip that had segmented notes. The instrument was played using a stylus connected to the device to produce sounds akin to somebody asphyxiating a goose eating a bumble bee.

The public surprisingly lapped it up, with sales in access of 22 million units by the end of 2005 making it the "must have" Christmas toy. The game came bundled with hits like David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and "Slip Away", Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator". Other groups that featured keyboards heavily but not necessarily the Sylophone, jumped on board to boost flagging careers. These included The Pet Shop Boys "West End Girls" and Erasure with their hit "Sometimes"

Such was the popularity of Stylophone Hero that "Hero Bands" were formed containing the previous two instrumental games. Groups such as "Blow-Wave-Bleep" and "Rolf's 8 Ball" with their incredibly catchy hit "The boy who cried Rolf!" drew critical yet short term fame.

In the end of 2006, the Hero games era had passed. Blue Bog Roll had ran out of paper and with nothing but a cardboard tube to its name, went into receivership and folded. New ideas and consoles came and swallowed up the format and today the Hero games are remembered with great nostalgia.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Rumba: First Ballad: Master System

 Rumba: First Ballad was top down vertical dancing game for the Sega Master System

First Ballad (also known as Rumba: First Ballad) is a 1986 dance video game directed by Lou Bega. The game follows Lou Bega as John Rumba, a troubled and misunderstood Free Dance veteran, with Judge Will Teasle (Bruce Forsythe) as his nemesis and Colonel Samuel Trautman (Len Goodman) as his former dance teacher and only ally. It was released on October 22, 1986. Based on David Morrell's 1972 novel of the same name, it was the first of the Rumba series. Unlike the sequels, which were musical adventure films set in foreign countries, First Ballad was a post-Cha-Cha-Cha psychological thriller set in the United States. First Ballad lacks the jazz hands and hot shoe shuffle that would become a trademark of the series

The first level follows the film closely as John dances up the screen distracting local law enforcement and scaring children. The aim of the game is to shoot musical notes from a saxophone, so enthralling the town into involuntary dancing and singing.

Soon the Sheriff Forsythe arrives to arrest John for his creepy dance moves and encouraging fruity behaviour.
In the cells John is tortured with the continuous play of Take These Broken Wings by Mister Mister. Tapping your buttons as fast as possible increases your "tolerance meter" until the timer is beaten.
Escaping the cells John steals a girls bicycle and pedals of to a local dance hall to hold up and face off the sheriff and make a stand on his turf.

Will John make it through the game alive?
Will level 5 "Pans People: High Kicks and Twirls" be too much?
Or will Len Goodman save the day with a "SEVEN!"

Thursday, 12 January 2012

This week: Kingston Peabody's Need For Speed

You are Kingston Peabody!

(You are, live with it)

You have become the air apparent to Lord Barrington Smythe's fortune.
The monotonous scroller informs you that in a distant Summer, some 20 years previous. Your mother (washer lady, Mavis Peabody) did engage in an act of "salacious parlour games" with Lord of the house Smythe.

Dismissed from the house days later for acts of candle wick pilfery, Mavis finds solace in the work houses. Heavily pregnant, she is unaware that Smythe has changed his will. Having returned from Java (the place not the downloadable programme) afflicted with Beriberi, he is ridden with guilt (and disease) for his true love. Knowing his days are not long, he informs his solicitors of his intentions. Thus leaving his wife (Petunia) and son (Arthur) with nothing.

Through an arduous labour, Mavis delivers her son Kingston but only lives long enough to kiss him goodbye. Kingston is raised by auntie and uncle Peabody, living an impoverished life of err impoverishment. Only on his 18th birthday is he informed of his new found wealth, having been tracked down by Smythe's solicitors; whose office is two doors down from the glue factory.

Kingston declares that from this day forth, he shall live the life of a high flying man about town and buy a car!

The game has now started proper and finds our hero Kingston wandering around the Ford Motor dealership of the year 1913. Struck by the complexity of choice (one car) your character indicates to the clerk that he wishes to purchase said vehicle post haste. He hands over $825 dollars to the clerk, who absent mindedly releases his monocle from his astonished face.

Your first driving of the game is at the accompaniment of your instructor Hanley Von Bratwurst. A bullish man of ill temper. Hanley barks orders in his heavy German accent, "Shtraight on! Levt! Dumkof, zee trottle iz too high!" Before declaring you have passed.

It is at this point that your time in America ends as you venture to England, to seek out the truth behind your fathers life and death and other motoring high jinx.

Having settled in a swanky London pad you receive this first telegram from an as yet unknown nemesis. The scrolling roller declares a wager is at hand! Lord Finbar Hydron Collider III has made his intentions clear to sully the name of the rich American, tarnishing the well to do area with his odd accent and flash car. He declares a race from London to Brighton and wants you in the race!

Having dictated your eagerness to partake with your butler Cloisters, you begin spending on the necessary provisions for the event. At the local corner shop, you spend lavishly on scones, buns, jam, and a chest of tea. At the local garage you purchase tires, tools, parts. (Then hand them all to Cloisters).

The start line beckons, and as you thumb the throttle a speech bubble appears from an unidentified opponent to you left: "Blast you Peabody, blast you! The money should be mine! You may know me as Finbar, but my  real name is Arthur Barrington Smythe!"

As you look on in shock, the flag drops and you push the throttle as the car lurches forward, gallantly towards 45 mph. There is more than bragging rights at stake now!!!