Quick Notes Videogames


Just realised the Dan Dare 2 loading screen has some serious Brian Eno’s cat vibes going on.

The loading screen from Dan Dare 2. It's the Mekon staring menacingly from behind Dan Dare's shoulder.
It's a photo of Angel the cat staring menacingly from behind Brian Eno's shoulder.


Like I wasn’t going to give a game called Inksplosion that looks like this a try.

A big splat of colour within a green border

You know, me liking colours and all that.

Let’s just stop for a second again and do another screenshot (all pics here taken from the Steam page because I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting the ones off my PS4, sorry)

A light blue border, a splat of colour. This time the sprites are easily visible, they're white abstract designs with bold black outlines.

Yeah, there was absolutely no way I was going to let this pass me by.

Just look at those colours, they’re fantastic. Go on, let’s do one more picture.

Like someone has tipped paint on the screen, a splurge of colour stretches out across the screen in yellow, greens and blues. Some white sprites with black borders are visible amongst the noise.

It’s some sort of visual hybrid of (my own) War Twat and the all time greatest Asteroids game of all time, Spheres Of Chaos. That’ll do me.

Sorry. I’ll calm down now. I’m okay. I haven’t been this excited about colours in a game since Ultralight Beam. It’ll pass in a second.

Anyhoo. As twin stick shooters go, there’s probably few surprises here. You’re faced with a jumble of waves and each wave finds you having to use a different weapon to clear the screen. Clear the screen, move on to the next wave. You now have a different weapon. Shoot those baddies! Clear the screen! And so on.

There isn’t really that much to distinguish each weapon from the other and as far as I played, not much to distinguish each enemy from the other either. But that’s okay, yeah? I’m not playing this for mechanical marvels, I’m playing this because I really really like watching colours explode across the screen and Inksplosion does that perfectly.

Inksplosion is, primarily, a game about making things explode to smear colour across the screen. Every thirty seconds or so the mess will be cleared up and you get to do it all over again.

My only real gripe is that the announcer that declares each weapon you find yourself suddenly equipped with comes across more Viv Stanshall On Tubular Bells than befitting of an arcade game but I’ll freely admit that I have very, very specific ideas of what speech in arcade games should sound like. Also, I dearly love a lot of Bonzo stuff but Tubular Bells brings me out in hives. Not sure I can put the blame for that on Inksplosion, really.

Phew. Got a bit lost there, sorry. Anyway. Inksplosion set me back about four quid and I don’t regret a penny of it. I plumped for the PS4 version but other formats are available.


Willy Jetman

I’m not saying my eldest knows me well at this point but I had to nod shamefully when they asked did I buy this game just because it had “Willy” in the title.

I’m not sorry though.

A side view pixelly alien landscape, brown rocks covered in blue grass and purple plants, a waterfall plunges into a lake below, alien looking trees sit in the background. The player, a small astronaut, stands by the lake.

I’m sort of ducking in and out of this a bit. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that it’s such slow progress getting anywhere that I find I get the most out of it playing through small chunks at a time.

I’m a fair few hours spent and really, I don’t feel like I’ve made it far at all. Just looking at the huge amount of upgrades still unavailable to me and the cost of them suggests unless the game surprises me, it’ll keep me going for a while.

It’s not even an especially difficult game so far, anyone used to sort of 8 bit arcade adventures won’t find much in the way of surprises. You meander round a bit, do a bit of jetpacking here and there, shoot some baddies and grab objects to plonk in another object.

The slow progress is largely down to enemies taking a long time to chip away at and the materials for upgrades being slight whilst the cost of upgrades are high.

It's a pixel cavern with a rocky entrance, a metal save point and a very videogamey shop.

I can totally understand if that’s off putting – certainly, me of ten years ago would be having none of it.

But! I’m not me of ten years ago and I largely don’t care. I tend to like this sort of arcade adventure, thanks to no longer needing a multiface to save me having to repeat sections (and to save at all, I suppose) I’m fine with pushing forward achingly slowly providing I’m fine with the rest of the game. Which so far, I am.

Well. Except for the ‘jokes’. I’m rarely fine with videogame jokes but even by videogame joke standards, I definitely pulled a few faces at these. Still! Worse things happen at sea, eh?

Anyway, unless it does something especially awful I’m likely to see it through to the end. Can’t complain too much then and it’s maybe worth a look if you fancy a slow crawl through one of the older videogame formats around. Luckily, I do.

Willy Jetman is available on a few machines, as usual I’ve been playing the PS4 version.


Ultralight Beam

It seems kinda fitting that after a fairly lengthy enforced absence from playing much in the way of videogames, the first game I want to post about is by Tom Sennett, author of the last game I posted about.

Ultralight Beam is the perfect distillation of the be-positive-scribblepunk aesthetic Tom’s been working with for years and as aesthetics go, it’s definitely one of my favourites. Combine that with an arena collect ’em up? Yeah, I’m down for that, alright.

A scribbly screen with STAY COOL in green letters.

Look, you just collect stars and avoid monsters, right? There’s not really that much to explain.

A screen with REJECT PEER PRESSURE on it. It is a pic of the game, promise.

But sometimes you don’t need much more than collecting stars and avoiding monsters.

A screen with TALK TO THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU on it. It's all very colourful.

Because sometimes avoiding monsters and collecting stars feels really fucking good.

Quit your job, in big letters

And when the game looks and sounds really good too?

Bands of colour with the score "130" overlaying them.

Don’t look at me to go picking at it, wondering if and where it could be better.

This screen reads "escape your life"

Sometimes I just want to feel good, y’know?

It's the words Ultra Light Beam across bands of colour
It's the words "get stars" with lots of scribbly stuff going on.
It's the words "avoid monsters"


Originally posted May 2016, updated January 2021


Byte Driver

A screenshot from Byte Driver. It's a black and white racing game done in the style of a Vectrex game. The mountains in the background are lines, the road is a bendy line, the car is also made up of lines.

Byte Driver is a neo-vectrex vroom vroom videogame. The vroom vroom is important because Byte Driver is speedy in a very specific early eighties arcade/home computer kind of way.

It’s a game where every turn is a really wide turn, every straight a chance to try and go fast without crashing into a mine, some bullets, or something videogamey.

You go forward, you go fast. You take a turn, you go fast. Vroom Vroom.

Sometimes, you slow down to hack a car and then you have to make a choice really fast. Hacking a car throws up a menu with some goodies to choose from, which is so far so videogame, except you’re still in a car going fast. That’s still going fast whilst you try and choose whether you want to upgrade something or cadge some energy in order to survive, in case you weren’t managing to keep up.

Without energy, you won’t be going fast any longer. You won’t be going anywhere because it’ll be game over.

Here’s a quick video to show how it works:

Yeah, yeah, I died pretty quick there, you can stop laughing now.

Byte Driver is available on Steam and Itch in exchange for some money. Needless to say, I enjoyed it.


Inferno 2

It's neon maze. The walls are blue with rounded corners, the rest is a sea of shapes and colours exploding.

Please sir, I cannot tell a lie – I absolutely love Radian Games stuff. One of the select few developers that I’m fairly likely to grab pretty much anything and everything they put out, if at all possible.

Whilst their very first XBLIG release (the wonderfully titled “Joy Joy”) slightly missed the mark for me, I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve played of their twin stick and shootybang games since, XBLIG, phone and on. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite (seriously, I like them that much) but if you really made me choose, Inferno in all its incarnations would be pretty much near the top of my list.

Again, a blue neon maze but now with even more explosions and brighter colours.

It was the easiest sell for me. It’s essentially Berzerk meets Gauntlet with the faintest hint of ARPG to it. Pretty much the kind of game I’ve spent the best part of 40 years losing hours to and I don’t really see any reason to change in that regard. Especially not whilst I’m still enjoying myself so much with that kind of thing.

You no doubt know the drill already. You find yourself in a maze, you have to get to the exit. Between you and the exit lies an enormous amount of enemies and a number of locked doors. Collect keys to pass through the doors, use lasers to get rid of the enemies. Get to the exit, find yourself in a new maze with more enemies, more doors more keys and do it all again.

It’s a videogame in the absolute purest sense. A direct descendant of I don’t know how many arcade and home computer games, a game that does exactly what it needs to do with absolutely no bloat or complication. A game where you get from one end of a maze to another, with colourful lasers.

I love it.

More colours, shapes and explosions. The maze is a deep blood red now.

I love that there’s very little in it that couldn’t have existed in the eighties but also, it absolutely could not have existed as the game it is then. The upgrade shop, the absurd amount of particles, the much more relaxed difficulty curve make it more a game of the now. Did I mention the absurd amount of particles? It has an absurd amount of particles. It’s great. I love particles, me.

Anyway, it’s been around a few years on the PC but with it recently (finally!) seeing a console release I’ve been playing through it all over again and yep, still works for me. Still works for me very well indeed.


The 5 Most Useful New Blocks In Minecraft Bedrock 1.17.007 for Windows/PS4/Xbox One/GX4000

  1. Crenellated Goose
  2. Eggy Trevor
  3. Glass Eye
  4. Three Quarter Witch Armament (Green)
  5. Multi-layer Thermal Insulation – 1.2m x 10m (12m2)

Skool Daze Reskooled

A screenshot from Skool Daze Reskooled. It's a side on cutaway of a school to the left, the rest of the screen is taken up with a school field. A kid rides a scooter whilst some other kids and a teacher mill around

I’m not sure at what point I managed to lose my way but I do know me of relatively few years back would be ashamed by more recent me for avoiding Skool Daze Reskooled because of how it looks.

Like, I’m not here to argue it’s an amazing looker of a game but I’m definitely here to point out that for someone who defends making games at most levels, it’s pretty bloody hypocritical of me to make a thing of this. Especially when what it might well lack in looks, it more than makes up for as a remake.

I’ve been kicking myself about this for week or so now. Considering my roots in remakes, it’s pretty atrocious of me. I’d be made up to be able to write a Skool Daze a tenth of what this is and Molyneux only knows, I’m personally responsible for making games that look worse. Honestly, I’ve no defence.

Crucially, I’m not damning it with faint praise. It is a great take on Skool Daze. If this had landed on my old remakey haunting grounds and/or been entered into one of the prominent remake competitions I used to run, I’d have been a strong advocate for it. You would think the recommendations of my friends and peers would have tipped me off, but nooooo.

Live and learn though, eh. Not exactly the first time I’ve been wrong.

Skool Daze Reskooled is pretty cheap on Steam as well as Android/iOS. It’s pretty good! Sorry.


Adventures in New Dawn

A black and white picture from Far Cry: New Dawn. It's the player caught mid dance.

I know it’s almost like the Ubi-game fan club round these parts recently but I promise, that’s mainly because I’m clearing out a backlog of things I meant to post but didn’t.

I enjoyed my time with Far Cry 5 a lot though it certainly had its Very Ubisoft issues with magic villains and a side order of out of place Very Ubisoft nastiness, amongst other things.

It’s par for the course with the main entries into the Far Cry series, that’s 3 out of 3 now since folks settled on the icon clearing formula where the joyous systemic chaos of crashing a car into a tree, accidentally setting fire to some wildlife then getting into a boat just to crash that into a tree and now everything is on fire and is that a bear, oh no is offset by the edgy and ill fitting nonsense of a story.

Maybe I’d appreciate it more were I fourteen or something, I dunno! That was quite a long time ago now.

The inbetweeny games are where I look to for the more interesting stuff. Blood Dragon misfired as much as it worked but painful tutorial aside, made a great showcase for how well the base raiding silliness works with a lot of the peripheral stuff sidelined even further or removed entirely. Primal’s riff on survival clearly filtered through to Days Gone and stretched the formula a bit. New Dawn, on the other hand, felt a lot like the game I wanted Far Cry 5 to be.

With only a short interlude into absurd magic mans stuff and its embrace of allowing the player even more freedom with few interruptions, it fixed a lot of the issues of 5. Also! What an amazingly beautiful game!

Its colourful view of a post nuclear future incredibly at odds with the usual videogame grey and green dullness gave the folks working on the map rework the leeway to go to town. Still very much the photorealism of Ubi games that we’re used to but now with a slightly more fantastical bent and honestly, I loved it.

An in-game screenshot of a field. Purple flowers are dotted throughout grasslands. The sky is blue and a sign reads "garage" and "helipad"
It's a videogame screenshot of a body floating in a lake, taken from underneath the water, at night.
It's the player bursting through a fence on a motorbike
It's the player driving uphill on their motorbike with a dog in the sidecar.
It's the dog running through a forest
A painterly view of the same forest, a light mist covers the view.
A black and white shot of the player walking forlornly through some burnt out woods.
A view from inside a derelict boat storage area, looking out to the lake. A lantern is lit at the front of the picture.
A dust track by the burnt out woods. It is morning and somewhat eerily misty.
A man with a motorcycle helmet on, welding a flamethrower in the woods at night. The area surrounding them is on fire.
The dog looks out of the window of a van, their tongue is sticking out.
A black and white mysteriously lit shot of a power generator at night.
An absolutely great looking sheep.
The player wearing a leather jacket and a fetching hat with their arms raised as though appealing to heaven.
A wooden water wheel, in the fog, on fire.
A worryingly realistic picture of the in-game forest.
The player squares off against a turkey whilst defensively holding a shotgun.
The player dives into a lake. In the distance, a forest and mountain.


A screenshot from the game Funtime. It is a neon lit maze in space, there's pink spikes, yellow squares and red and yellow barriers as obstacles. A red spaceship is trying to escape.
A screenshot from Funtime. A mazey bit, at that.

Back in glowing arena shooter territory (you know, for a change), I’ve been playing a fair bit of Funtime recently. It’s enjoyable!

If you’re already well acquainted with Geometry Wars RE 2 then the arcade modes will be fairly familiar. You’re plonked in the middle of an arena, glowing things are going to attack you, you shoot them before they kill you. Videogames!

A screenshot from the game Funtime. It's over on the right side of a glowing arena, an enemy sprays colourful particles whilst a bunch of other colourful enemies accumulate ready to give the player a hard time.
Particle spuffing enemies right here.

I’ll be honest, that was all I really wanted from it and it acquits itself well in that department. I’ve easily sunk a few hours into it and been really happy, all told. Would recommend etc…

It’s worth noting that the survival modes (as they’re known) come in three flavours too, each presenting a different sized arena. I found the initial survival mode a bit too cramped and the third choice, “open”, where the game moves to an infinitely scrolling asteroid field, a bit too much. Large, on the other hand, is where I’ve settled.

There are other modes, mind. The main attraction is a colour switching dodge and shoot variation, navigating the arena requires a lot of button pressing to ensure the player is the right colour at the right time and constant movement is a must.

It's Funtime. Still neon stuff, there's some colourful lasers stretching across the screen this time.
Lasers. Every game needs lasers.

Not going to lie, I couldn’t play it. That’s not really a slight on the game, I’m just older and more sore these days and my ability to rapidly button mash is not what it was. I genuinely couldn’t tell you if that aspect of the game is any good, so I won’t! It looked nice, if that’s any consolation.

Dragging the game back into more familiar territory is the waves mode requiring the player to clear one wave of baddies, then another, then another.

There’s a few walls placed within the arena to shuffle things up a bit and I’ve churned through around 20 of the 50 possible stages so far and it does get pretty frantic. I wouldn’t even consider ducking in to this mode until you’ve unlocked the maximum level of firepower, the friendly drone and have a few bombs under your belt unless you’re really good at this sort of thing though.

It's Funtime again, very yellow this time as the player paints a grid yellow, yellow explosions are going off and there's orange bullets which is nearly yellow if anyone asks.
A yellow thing goes boom. In yellow.

I’m not 100% sure but I think some of the later stages may be impossible to complete without either earning the colour switching or having some bombs in your inventory. It’s an odd thing to let you play unequipped but maybe I’m just rubbish and can’t see the way out! Can’t really rule that out with my attention span. I do have a really poor attention span. Did I mention I have a really poor attention span?

The final two modes, “Zones” and “Funtime” require colour switching so I can’t say I’ve been compelled to give them a shot for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. I can’t really do them justice so no point really.

All told, that’s a fairly nice selection of modes to toy around with. Survival and Waves are enough fun that I really don’t mind there being modes I rather literally cannot play.

No idea what mode this one is from as I grabbed the screens from Steam. It's a slightly more spartan grid with a giant 3d cube tumbling around the place.
If your mum asks, I haven’t got your rotating space laser cube.

Oh! There’s also an unlock system where the stuff carries across all modes that I’m not entirely convinced has much benefit in being an unlock system (rather than just handing the player all the abilities from the off). But! I am the person who starts the player off overpowered in virtually every game I make so maybe don’t listen to me. Regardless, it’s not exactly a grind to get everything maxxed out so perhaps it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things anyway.

A few rounds before you’re a colourful death machine never hurt anyone.

On the whole, I’m enjoying Funtime! I’m playing through the PS4 version, other versions are available.