Punching Robots Club

With your host, Rob Remakes

Read This: The Law Is Whatever Nintendo Says It Is (Brendan Sinclair)

So. Dolphin, then.

From PC Gamer’s absolutely careless recent coverage around Nintendo and emulation to The Verge suggesting that it’s Valve “poking the bear” earlier today (conveniently forgetting that Valve are a huge business who not only have a working relationship with Nintendo but will -always- prioritise the sanctity of Steam above any developer by default), there’s been so many infuriating words around what’s been happening that I’ve been cussing a lot more lately.

Being old and coming up through channels where negotiating around cease and desists and limiting coverage was part of the territory does leave me extra sensitive to this stuff I’ll admit but still, I have spent so much time wondering what on Earth people are even doing at the moment. It’s been like so many people are forgetting what these companies are, never mind how they will always work. Having been told a few times now that emulation is absolutely legal and there’s precedent for that despite no such precedent existing, gnyah! Frustrating.

The Friday round ups over on gi dot biz are always pretty incisive and thoughtful, this week’s knocks it out the park with an interview that gets to the heart of the issues facing anyone existing in the legal grey area that is a portion of the emulation and retro scenes.

As well as providing a well sourced overview and commentary on the whole kerfuffle, there’s an interview with Jon Hangartner, the lawyer who represented Bleem when they found themselves on the recieving end of Sony’s legal wrath.

The most important points in the article and interview are that there is a difference between what is considered legal and what is just untested in court (emulation exists largely in the latter), that this grey area is preferred by companies in general as it puts them in a position of strength and – crucially – that this strength comes from simply having the capital at hand to keep going, keep making legal threats with a near unlimited war chest, thus meaning the other party will find their time, energy and money exhausted long before the company raising the legal threats ever will. Whilst the grey area remains, they’re free to continue! And they will! And they do!

While the lawsuit itself was a dud, Sony’s legal team did successfully make an example out of Bleem, serving notice that being in the emulator business carries with it the very real risk of being sued into oblivion by a massive company that won’t hesitate to spend a reported $10 million to accomplish nothing more than making your life miserable.

The law is whatever Nintendo says it is, Brendan Sinclair

Up until these past few weeks or so I had (wrongly, natch) assumed that people were generally aware of this and acted accordingly around these things. Whoopsy me! Mr Wrong Rob, esq. Just the PC Gamer coverage alone should have tipped me off on that one.

To be fair, most people doing the work in emulation and retro are aware of this and do see the value in keeping the work ticking along over some numbers but the intensity of recent weeks is enough to make me doubt which way is up, never mind the rest of it.

I am fundamentally not equipped for when the internet gets on one, I guess.

The law is whatever Nintendo says it is | This Week in Business | GamesIndustry.biz
This Week in Business is our weekly recap column, a collection of stats and quotes from recent stories presented with a…

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Top 5 Doctor Who Games That Should Exist

A fancily dressed skeleton with a fine pipe and hat introduces the top 5, an occasional series of lists of 5 things not to be taken entirely seriously.
  1. Getting Over It With Fenric’s Body
  2. EYE: Divine Cybermansy.
  3. Dear Mestor
  4. Sea Devil May Cry
  5. Glider Nyder

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Play This! Murtop

Beautiful bum bombing bunny brilliance! – David Darling, probably.

I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on Murtop since the press release landed in my inbox a while back. These days with only having a small audience and not much energy I rarely push to play something early but I’ll admit, Murtop had me tempted for a while. Luckily, I managed to distract myself playing Zaga 33 for a ridiculous amount of time so the wait for Murtop’s release could have been worse.

Good news though! I’m happy to report that Murtop hasn’t disappointed me in the slightest. I kinda love it.

It’s Dig Dug x Bomberman, not in an abstract sense or a tenuous comparison, it is pretty much that. If you’re familiar with Dig Dug, the stage set up is instantly recognisable, just rather than having a lead with an inflation fetish, the main character in Murtop is a bunny who craps bombs (this is canon btw) and the bombs explode as they would in Bomberman. Dig Dug x Bomberman!

It’s a crossover that really works for me. I like but don’t love Dig Dug because I find the inflation stuff slows things down a wee bit too much for my impatient tastes and I like but don’t love Bomberman because it’s a wee bit too chaotic (or at least it is playing it with my kids). Murtop finds a nice middle ground between the two by taking the bits of each game I like the most and cobbling them together, slowing the parts that are a bit too fast and speeding up the bits I find too slow. And putting a bunny in it, obv.

Took me a few goes to get used to the timing (it’s tight) and to stop blowing my bunny up with its own arse but now I’ve settled into a nice rhythm on it where I’m dying correctly now – by my own complacency and daring rather than my own exploding anus – I’m starting to chalk up more points as I go and we all know what points make, yeah? (Prizes, it’s prizes)

Also, it’s really gorgeous. I’m rather fond of additional palettes in new arcade games on the best of days but the ones in Murtop are especially nice. The first couple on offer are fairly standard inclusions but the latter half of the palette choices do a great job of echoing a bunch of different arcade vibes. Good enough that I’m finding I enjoy switching them up between games rather than settling on just the one favourite as I invariably do.

Look, I don’t get to say this often enough but this is Locomalito levels of fantastic new arcade fun. Honestly, I haven’t got any greater praise than that.

I’m playing on Switch, other versions are available. Go play.

Murtop – Flynn’s Arcade Publishing

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In my day…

That was real music, Mr Winnie. None of that modern claptrap.

Murder In The Red Barn

There’s a terrible tendency for some folk to slip into “things were better in my day” when writing about older videogames and I can’t fib, it drives me absolutely spare. Whether it’s the implausible claim that games used to be released in a perfectly working state (which has never been true) or designed not to take your money (also not true) or anything in between, I just don’t understand the levels of ignoring reality it takes to even beginning thinking along those lines.

I do, however, accept that it is an eternal constant. I may never be able to understand what possesses someone to slip into get off my lawn mode over any art form, I do understand that every generation goes through the same thing.

These days (not like in the old days) I tend to think of the wonderful Tod Slaughter film, Murder In The Red Barn when thinking about “kids today” thinking. It’s a great adaptation of a bunch of Victorian era melodramatic plays and Slaughter takes his usual obvious pleasure in playing the villainous Squire Corder which makes the film a delight! However, it’s an early scene that sticks with me the most.

The film opens at a dance organised by the squire where a band plays, there are dances and drink and smiles all round. Nearly everyone attending is having a wonderful time. As the entertainment comes to a close, there’s a brief scene where a guest congratulates the band and in doing so, thanks them for playing “real music … none of that modern claptrap”.

Kids today, eh.

The film is from 1936 and I’m certain there’s plenty of examples of the same sentiment in literature and plays in the years prior. Look, I haven’t researched this but given as long as I can remember I’ve heard variations on the same thought or people taking the piss out of other people for it so I feel pretty comfortable making that claim. I lived through the eighties and synth bands existing and I still wear the scars of “that’s not real music, no guitars see”, there’s always something.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the idea that games (or any other art form) are forever moving in a forward direction whether that’s for better or for worse.

Whilst we certainly learn from games and works that have gone before, there’s so many tangents and routes to explore that it’ll be years before we’ve even touched the sides of it all and along the way we’ll continue trying things that perhaps aren’t to someone else’s tastes, making a mess with stuff that works out, stuff that doesn’t and all this can be in just one game, never mind all of them.

These things are messy and I get a great deal of pleasure from the mess.

As long as there’s money to be made, there’ll be games made to extract cash from someone as efficiently as possible and games that prefer to just be and have none of that, thanking you. At both ends of that particular spectrum there will be great games and not so great games made and some will hit the spot in ways other older games could not, some will pine for the fjords for the games of Christmas past, some will have their feet firmly in the future, some will even be pretty nasty.

Whatever, it’s going to be a wild ride and no amount of “in my day” will make it any less exciting to me.

Let’s raise a glass to the now and the future of videogames and the glorious mess that they are. Oh, and do give Murder In The Red Barn a watch, it’s brilliant stuff.

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Play this! Zaga 33

Explore rogue planet Zaga-33, beware the hideous green aliens, find esoteric devices to help you, destroy the alien cortex to escape.

Absolutely made up that one of my all time favourite games is playable and purchasable again. Zaga 33 is back on the app store (the Android version is currently up on Itch only but hopefully that’ll change soon, a PC version is also available)

Zaga 33 was in my thoughts a lot whilst I was writing the early versions of Death Ray Manta and its philosophy of keeping the scoring straightforward and immediately readable is one that I’d still stick with if I had enough noggin space to design something today. Perhaps one day I’ll get round to that but in the meantime, Zaga still holds up really well.

I’m definitely out of practice, mind. My current high score is a whopping 7.

‎Zaga-33 on the App Store
Read reviews, compare customer ratings, see screenshots and learn more about Zaga-33. Download Zaga-33 and enjoy it on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Zaga-33 by smestorp

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A cracking bunch of Pico 8 remakes for your edification

Pico 8 really is a gift.

I’ll confess I amused myself earlier reading over one of those terribly cringeworthy developer profiles people used to write around a decade ago that positioned Lexaloffle’s other virtual videogame console, Voxatron, as The Future, especially when combined with Also The Future Kinect. Well. That was certainly one future that never happened, bless.

Whilst Voxatron ticks along nicely enough in a post Kinect world, it was its lowkey alternative Pico-8 that videogames embraced wholesale. Turns out developers kinda like easy-ish ways to write games, fixed specifications to aim for, pretty colours and letting people play the end result without too much trouble. Who knew!

Over the past seven or eight years since Pico 8 got thrown out into the world there’s been just so much stuff made, it’s been truly fab to watch. Whether it’s something like Celeste or some of the stuff demosceners wrench out of it, it’s all kinda lovely.

It’s also been a lovely little corner for a bunch of people to go and remake old games in. There’s plenty to be found out there but a whole bunch of recent favourites come courtesy of chum of Punching Robots and all round remaking legend, Minion.

I’m not even going to pretend I’m unbiased here! For the past twenty years I’ve admired the stuff Min’s been quietly putting out there, a bunch of their old Dark Basic (one for the old people here) remakes were best in class by a few leagues and then some. It helps, also, that they’re an absolutely lovely human being.

Min’s Pico 8 remakes seem to have flown under the radar a little bit despite there being a bunch of corkers in there (I’m super fond of Manic Miner, been playing that a bit the past few days but Scramble is the all timer for me) so really, this is just a post to remedy that somewhat because here’s a fabulous bunch of remakes that deserve to be played.

So, erm, go and do that and you can thank me later.

MinionSoft – itch.io

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Undrium is out, an Underwurlde for 2023.

I was unfortunately/fortunately cursed to have bought a copy of Underwurlde that would load one time in a gazillion and then crash anyway upon its release. Because of this for a fair few years I had kinda filed the thing under “The Ultimate game that got away”,

Of course, time passed and Speccy emulators existed (nobody tell anyone responsible for denying distribution of Ultimate games, this is our secret) and I eventually got to sit down and play Underwurlde for a good amount of time and sweet baby Molyneux on a bike, it’s bloody annoying, isn’t it? One second you’re trying to jump onto one platform, the next you’ve bounced 4 screens in the wrong direction and you’re cussing the Stampers with all the foul language you can muster.

Undrium takes a punt at making the game a bit more usable by humans and has a pop at removing the cussability of the game so the concept can shine. My favourite kind of remake! Sure, sometimes I want a fairly faithful reproduction and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a game being that, just I get way more excited by seeing folk building off the original, taking the stronger parts of the concept whilst trying to exorcise the rougher parts. It’s a tricksy balancing act because it’s really, really easy to lose the heart of a game whilst fiddling.

I’ve always considered Rich as a bit of a master at walking this tightrope well. His Skook Daze rework, Klass Of 1999, was for a long while the gold standard for me. It is evidently, obviously, Skookdaze still, it’s also Rich’s game. Nailed it, basically.

Undrium walks the same path – it’s instantly recognisable and proud of its roots, clearly respectful of the foundation it’s building on yet very much Rich’s game: 2023.

Or, in short: the good stuff.

Undrium by BitGlint Games

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Exploratory Void Machine: Starting Again

No Man’s Sky, April 2023

April 2023

I’ve started a new game of NMS a couple of times. I first set forth with the PC version at launch, later moving to Playstation, spinning up a game on Switch when it launched there and now with having an Xbox in the house, starting a game up there too. This is the slowest I’ve taken it though.

Certainly with the Switch version, I had pretty much everything I needed up and running in the space of a fortnight – money, farms, bases, the works. Not so this time. Partly, I’m exhausted a lot at the moment – effort is hard – and partly it’s that I’m just not in a rush. I’m here more to tootle around and take pictures, the gamey bits I can fit in-between.

I’ll confess I used a combination of Twitch rewards and the last expedition to get out the gates a wee bit faster, ensuring I didn’t have to exert too much effort on the basics. Sure, everything is a lot smoother and a lot easier now than the few times I’ve gone from the top, still.. after 7 years I can’t say I’m especially arsed with the early game acquisition part. Now, I know I could just start in creative mode and have everything in place at the start of the game but I need some degree of friction for the times where aimless wandering isn’t doing it for me.

Not a lot, just some.

So progress is pretty slow and so far, I’ve only visited a handful of star systems and pretty much all of those haven’t been too far from the one the expedition dumped me in.

I’m loving the extra fidelity this latest gen version of the game brings though, especially where the grass is concerned.

In previous gen versions, the grass would be really dense and gorgeous up close but a very, very short distance away it would kinda just stop leaving a bald landscape that matched the colour of the grass. Perfectly fine when you’re playing the game and everything is moving, less ideal for photo mode.

This is an old PS4 Pro shot where you can see the grass gradually disappearing the further from the camera you look.

(Obviously I understand the reasons for this and it’s cool, you can’t blame me for wishing it didn’t have to be the case though!)

Well, with the latest gen it’s no longer a problem. The grass is thick, dense and visible into the distance at pretty much all times. Now, the grass has always been one of my favourite things in the game since launch and now it gets to look incredible in static shots as well as whilst playing. It’s fantastic and I’m a very happy Rob with it.

Big pics from this month’s adventures after the cut.

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Read: What Videogames Did To Haunting, Nate Schmidt (Unwinnable)

When they are talked about at all, haunted videogames are almost always retro and retroactive. Electric media was haunted from the beginning, so now that our most popular forms of communication and entertainment are electrical, why aren’t there more hauntings?

Nate Schmidt For Unwinnable

From this month’s Unwinnable mag, a lovely essay asking why it’s never new videogames that are haunted (Minecraft being an obvious exception) and also, a possible theory as to why.

There’s an extract up on the site, you’ll need either a sub or a copy of the mag to read the whole piece – something I heartily recommend as in all my (now many) years of subbing to Unwinnable, it’s never managed an issue I haven’t enjoyed yet.

I’ve long maintained that if the time comes where I need to cut down on subs (very possible given living in the UK at the mo is increasingly unaffordable for normal people who like things like warm houses and eating food to live) then Unwinnable and Fallen London will be the last to go. So far, nothing has changed my mind on that one, only reinforced my opinion.

Unwinnable | creating Cultural Criticism | Patreon
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Look At It! Into The Pit (Nullpointer Games)

Realised yesterday that now we have one of those new fangled Xbox things in the house I can finally play Into The Pit on a big television. Best decision I’ve made all week because gosh, what a stunning looking videogame it is.

Absolutely criminally overlooked game too. Perhaps there just aren’t that many people looking for a videogame that mashes up a 1950’s/60’s gothic horror village set aesthetic with 1980’s thrash metal album covers, throws in the most wonderful glow, splatter and Bava-esque coloured lighting and finishes it all off by pushing it through the most intense pixellated rendering, looking like a modern successor to your Quake and Thief games (albeit via a path not taken by reality).

It’s fucking catnip to me though! Bloody hell, talk about hitting all the right spots.

It’s just such a vibe! Revisiting it for the first time in a year or so, now in big-screen-o-vision, I found myself getting killed way more often than I should have been because I was just far too busy gawping at the spectacle. The glow, the lights, the shimmer, the levels caught between chunky 90’s videogame and pulpy film set and the way everything moves and explodes and oh, look, it’s really something.

One of my favourite aesthetics in recent years for the sheer pride it takes in wearing its multitude of inspirations on its sleeve and yet still there’s a game that looks like nothing else that exists.

I’m honestly not really a fan of a bunch of the recent FPS revival games (Cruelty Squad and Prodeus being the only ones that hit the spot), most of them either don’t vibe right or just look like a game I’d have skipped had it been released in the era it purports to pay tribute to.

And sure, I’d have probably loved Into The Pit even more as a campaign FPS rather than the roguelike it is – the thought of a Quake that looks like this is an exciting one – but you know, I’ll take this as it is all the same because it’s a stunner.

Into the Pit – Humble Games | Retro FPS Roguelike
A fast-paced retro-FPS roguelite! As a member of a family of lore-hunting mystics you are summoned to a cursed village, drawn by rumors of a demonic portal.

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