It's too roughly drawn seagulls, held by two hands, being made to kiss each other.

With a big thank you to autocorrect for trying to change “area” to “rear” whilst I wasn’t paying attention. Bad autocorrect, naughty. That’s something else entirely.

My dear old nan, bless her soul, used to say to me “Rob”, “Rob love, you haven’t lived a full life until you’ve popped two seagulls in a basket to see if they can truly love each other” and whilst she was absolutely correct, she forgot to mention just how difficult it is to put a seagull in a basket.

THEY KEEP FALLING OUT, NAN. THEY KEEP FALLING OUT.

I don’t really want to say too much about Hot Seagulls In Your Area for fear it might somehow take away some of the magic but it absolutely cracked me up.

As if the idea of having to get a bunch of seagulls to smooch each other wasn’t silly enough, everything about the game leans into that silly from the writing to the minigames to the art. I’d barely gotten as far as weighing the love compatibility of seagulls up for the first time before being reduced to giggling mess. And somehow, it managed to keep working on me the more time I put in.

It’s a little bit Foddy-core (though without the punishing element), a little bit point and click and all ridiculous. It’s great and just the tonic given this year and everything.

Grab it on Itch.

It's a Speccy game so only a few colours and low res, right. But! It's a cowboy on top of a futuristic train firing at an incoming rocket. There's a ladder that goes into the train where some elaborate futuristic platforms (tables?) occupy space. A blue box reading "lock on" is to the far right. It looks very good indeed.

Just a very, very quick one today.

I finally remembered to get round to buying Last Train To Tranz-Central a few minutes ago after legit forgetting for a ridiculously long time.

Since I first saw the screenshots, I was in love. It’s such great spritework, not only does it carry off the whole futuristic train thing well but screen to screen, manages to look like very little else.

I’d tried the demo, loved that too. Managed to wax lyrical about it on Twitter one time then by quirks of payday timings and my increasingly terrible memory, simply forgot to go back and buy it.

I ended up thinking about it again a few nights back because really, I can’t overstate how much I love how it looks, and finally remembered to punt a few quid over for it.

Better late than ever and I get there in the end.

Another screenshot from the game. This time we're looking at a yellow carriage, the player is inside close to some fetching purple diamonds. There's chains and balls and a display with a red warning sign.

You’ll either need a Spectrum emulator or the real deal hardware to give it a shot. I’ve been playing it on my phone through Speccy Deluxe and it works just great.

It's a caricature of HP 'Sauce' Lovecraft being carted off by the bizzies. Serves the racist git right. Tesla looks on with a fine moustache.

Whilst I don’t entirely understand the internet fixation with either Tesla or Lovecraft, or why they seem to go together like Cannon and Ball, Rod and Emu or Andy Crane and Edd The Duck, at least it’s led us to perhaps my favourite 10tons game yet. For that, I’m grateful.

If you’re new to the 10tons formula, it’s twin stick blasting mixed with ridiculous upgrades – never *quite* game breaking upgrades but certainly for a few moments each round, there’s invariably some ridiculous level of things blowing up or going splat happening.

In Tesla Vs Lovecraft’s case, this comes courtesy of Tesla’s mech. Once or twice a round you’ll find yourself having collected all the parts of a mech, summon it up and it’s time to tear through absolutely everything in sight. It’s remarkably satisfying.

A very, very purple screenshot from Tesla Vs Lovecraft. Everything is exploding. In purple.

Most games would be content with just providing a mech and being all “alright, that’s plenty” but that’s not the 10tons way. In-between rounds, it’s time to start levelling up and kitting out Tesla with even more firepower, even more armour and stuff and things that glow and go bang.

There’s a silly amount of customisation in there, well above and beyond the call of duty and because in Tesla Vs Lovecraft, power ups all stack, it won’t be long before the screen is a blur of glowing lasers and the innards of whatever old gods popped by to cause trouble. I love it! It’s just so unecessary and so over the top, I can’t help but grin at it.

You’re already handed some firepower fairly quickly but there’s movement upgrades for good measure too. Tesla can ‘teleport’ in Dishonored-Blink fashion beginning in one of the very early stages so a good part of the game is spent shooting stuff then *pop* blinking to safety (or as is more likely, into an even bigger throng of suit wearing frog things).

A screenshot from Lovecraft Vs Tesla. Tesla shoots his way through a massive amount of cosmic horrors as electricity tears through the environment.

Once you’re a few stages further and you start racking up upgrades, new inventions and perks, it’s just flat out silly. The good kind of silly, obv. A very neon good kind of silly. My kind of silly.

There’s a bit of story and a vaguely roguelike structure glueing everything together, not much in the way of surprises in that regard. Travel from start to finish on the map, there’s a few different tasks to be completed depending on what location choose but eventually, it all comes down to exploding cosmic nasties using glowing neon laser beams in some fashion.

There’s also a couple of difficulty levels to progress through. They’re less about whether you prefer the game easy or difficult and more about finding the most enjoyable pairing for whatever your current Tesla is kitted out with and amount of things you fancy shooting.

A relatively calm moment on the game where there's only about 3 gazillion enemies instead of 98 gigagaziillibillion

I wouldn’t recommend going straight to one of the higher levels without grinding some power ups and perks first though, when the bulk of enemies work on the Gauntlet ghosts principle of “loads of the buggers running at you at once”, it’s wise to be prepared.

So yes! Tesla Vs Lovecraft is fantastic. I’ve been returning to it every couple of months for a fair while now for when the more sedate and methodical Neon Chrome and Jydge just won’t do. It’s 10tons doing what they do better than most teams in the business and whilst their twiddling with the formula doesn’t always land (Undead Horde), when it does it’s magnificent.

If anyone prefers something that leans ever deeper into the roguelike structure, has co-op multiplayer and just generally more of that than vaguely linear, Tesla Force is everything that’s great about Lovecraft Vs Tesla, plus all that stuff.

It’s good! Just, you know, I’m personally a lot happier and more relaxed around the Lovecraft Vs Tesla progression. I do like to feel like I’m working towards an ending of some sort so a lot of the roguelike structures in games now do very little for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Go on, give it a go. It’s available on nearly everything at this point! I’m most at home on the PS4 (as ever) but aside from a bit of trickiness with the teleporting, the mobile version is great too.

Highly recommended.

It’s pretty obvious to me that games peaked in 1992 and we’ve been coasting ever since because how else can you explain Popeye 3 existing and only Muscle March ever coming close?

Yes, that is Popeye wrestling a xenomorph. And yes, the xenomorph has Popeye in a bit of a pickle.

If I were Popeye, even after eatsing my spinach, I’d be a bit worried! As far as I know, spinach does very little against acid for blood. I mean, I haven’t actually tested this in any scientific way but it seems like a safe assumption to make given what we know about plants and acid. I would not chew on a leaf to ward off an alien.

Anyway. You can see why there’s a packed out auditorium. If someone I knew was selling tickets to a wrestling match between Popeye and a xenomorph and promised me the universe’s widest ghost would have a ringside seat, I would move heaven and Earth to get tickets and totally sneak a camera in too.

Come on, videogames. You need to be at least this weird with licensed games or go home.

Ye Olde Videogame is a once a month-ish (or more if I’m feeling fruity) retro game recommendation.

Please sir, I cannot tell a lie, Alchemist is one of a number of videogames I’ve bought over the years for no other reason than it had a big wizard in it. A few weeks back I tried counting up exactly how many games I’d bought for this reason alone and I needed more fingers than I have! So, out of necessity, I stopped counting after ten.

It’s a thing, sorry. I’m trying to deal with it.

It's the poster art for Alchemist. An old wizard in purple garb rests upon a sceptre with a skull on top, the logo is smeared across the screen like a prog rock album left to grow wild. There's also a massive golden eagle hovering over a witch and cauldron. The tagline says "experience the visible adventure!"
I’d hate to experience an invisible adventure so good call, Imagine.

Anyway! Overdelivering on the promise, the big wizard (the eponymous Alchemist) can turn into an even bigger bird. How good is that? I’ll tell you, it’s seven good. That’s the best number of good.

Thinking on, I’m not sure what this means in turns of scale. Like, is the big wizard really a small wizard that turns into a perfectly normal sized bird? Is that it? Have I gotten things all wrong? I’m not sure I could take that right now so let’s just keep believing big wizard, even bigger bird. It’s a videogame and we can have a bird the size of Uranus if we want to.

Playing it now and I’d politely describe it as “compact” – there’s a relative handful of baddies and slight few tasks to be done, all of which can be cleared in a relatively brief amount of time once you know your way round the map. I still like it a lot! My only complaint is the exact same one as I had at the time – the push scrolling can be kinda painful, but you know, 1983 so cut it some slack.

The one thing I absolutely love about Alchemist – and it’s far from alone in doing this at the time – is how well each screen feels like a distinct elsewhere. With only a small map, the game has a lovely sense of place with the castles and caverns making it feel way, way, way more expansive than it is. Using a few screens for each ‘room’ is an especially neat way round achieving this.

Alchemist reminds me that I never needed a massive open world to feel like I’m truly exploring a place and Alchemist is a lovely, early, example of a game world I enjoyed getting lost in, felt present in.

Also, you can shoot lightning from your fingers in it and that’s always a win in my book.

Snip Snip is an occasional look at a magazine cutting from computer games past. Where necessary, names and addresses have been removed to protect the innocent.

I stumbled into this particular letter pretty much by accident whilst looking something else up and gosh, the eighties.

I’m not entirely convinced this was written by a 15 year old, I mean “shindig” is not a word that would have passed most 15 year old’s lips and it suspiciously references the same documentary and quote used in a couple of letters across different magazines about the issue. I know there wasn’t much on the TV and that but still.

Mind, stranger things have happened and as the existence of Reddit ably proves, it’s not exactly unknown for teenagers to try and sound like they’re aged 69 or something. It could well be a libertarian, you know what they’re like.

It's a rather too enormous to transcribe cutting from the letters of Home Computing Weekly, end of March 1984

The context here is an incident in 1984 when the government, much to the disgust of industry anti-piracy bodies (yeah, it was ever thus), put an untimely end to a Barnsley data duplication firm’s grand idea for an anti-piracy device, citing that it would endanger national security. Questions were made in parliament about the government’s actions, such was the concern.

There was a bit of a do in the home computer press about it at the time too, though how much of the correspondence came from within, rather than outside, the industry is debatable. I can’t imagine many teens or what have you stanning for copy protection.

To prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same – one spokesperson for the industry insisted that it was only right that the government compensated the industry for the millions in lost revenue caused by their intervention, an intervention that obviously sided with the pirates because of course it did.

Nothing that wouldn’t be out of place on a Torrentfreak article in 2021 there.

For those curious, you’ll be glad to know the videogame industry survived this incident and you can still buy some videogames if you like that sort of thing.

It's a hairy ass minotaur from The Elder Scrolls Oblivion. It's in a forest because videogames.

…Gamebryo would sometimes get blamed for bugs that were, in reality, caused by Bethesda. Ive always found it hilarious when enraged fanboys online say Gamebryo AI sucks, look at Morrowind. Theres no such thing as Gamebryo AI, Tim said, laughing.

David Lightbown retrospective on Gamebryo, Gamasutra

In “quotes that have stuck in the gamedev segment of my noggin” corner, this is a recent-ish one that always makes me smile.

There’s no such thing as Gamebryo AI

A screenshot from Recompile, a glowing player avatar runs through a minimal surreal environment whilst a pair of tentacled sentinels with glowing eyes float nearby.

Not really the kind of game I go for these days, largely alternating between games which I can play in 10 minute bursts or games which just leave me alone to pick up some flowers or something, but I’m really impressed with the style Recompile has going on.

There’s a really nice mix of the economical indie style and some grandstanding stuff and sure, it looks nice static. Look at this!

A screenshot from the game Recompile. A digital representation of a humanoid generated out of glowing particles faces off against an enormous, mechanical, Event Horizon looking spider thing. It seems to be taking place in a volcanic area, judging by the hue and limited scenery.

There’s a nice bit of Rez to the digital player avatar and that spider-like whatever thing appears to be some sort of Event Horizon meets the sadly abandoned but should have had a bigger audience 3d tool GroBoto. Yes, this is definitely a look, I like it!

I’d bailed out of last year’s trailer due to an aversion to trailers playing sad songs at me and, as is usual for me, I’d completely forgotten about the game until a post on the PlayStation blog a few days back. The post goes into a little more detail of how the game looks, complete with now obligatory animated GIFs to show off different parts in motion and yeah, okay, it’s a grand job visually alright.

I don’t have a PS5 and my PC has just bitten the dust again so I doubt I’ll be getting round to it anytime soon but given I keep this damn site around to write about things that make me go ooh, this is a game that definitely made me go ooh.

Okay, I’ll admit it. It the glowing particles that got me. I may be old and tired but I’m still me. Just look at the lasers in this! Incredible!

There’s a lot of things I really enjoy in Captain Forever Remix. The way it transforms a curious retro styled sci-fi experience into a sister vs brother game is most definitely the biggest but ultimately, I’m also always going to be a sucker for really pretty things and Captain Forever Remix *is* really pretty.

It doesn’t really come off too well static but the spawn in sequence is a blink and you miss it nice touch, especially when you zoom the camera in. Then there’s who you fight. I got into a fight with a dog and lost. It’s not the first time but I think it’s the first time since Saboteur on the Speccy that it felt a bit like I’d just embarrassed myself. That’d never happen with cats, you always know you’re onto a losing streak with them.

It’s all done with a very playful This Is Make Believe On A Saturday Morning thing which lends the whole game a really joyous tone even whilst your carefully built modular craft is trashed by a goldfish. It’s probably worth mentioning that it has some great looking explosions too.

Captain Forever Remix is out now and is pretty much everything I’d hoped it would be. It paints a very human face on a previously cold and clinical videogame and in doing so makes it all the better.

Originally published March 2015. Captain Forever Remix is now on Itch too.

A screenshot from Assault Android Cactus showing its variation on an arena shooter stalwart environmental enemy - the 4 way laser beam. The player fights robots in-between the beams. Given how aggressively red and purest all engulfing white the beams are, probably best not to get hit by them because ouch.

Originally posted January 2020

Look, I’m not sure how I managed to make it through to 2020 and have nothing on here about Assault Android Cactus before now but it’s clearly incredibly slack of me because Assault Android Cactus is wonderful.

It’s been pretty wonderful for the near five years it’s been out there now too. I’ve been enjoying it on and off for most of those five years as well.

I’m not kidding when I say I’ve been slacking here. Five bloody years! Molyneux save me. It’d be excusable if it wasn’t one of my favourite things.

To be honest, I kind of know why I’ve been putting it off. It’s an easy game to do a mammoth injustice to because when you write it all down it’s easy to go “so, err, what?”. It’s an intimately familiar looking, familiar feeling videogame. It’s born of purest Dreamcast, not the Sega Blue Skies of a thousand UK Resistance dreams but the final gasp of the arcade at home before digital downloads changed so much. It *looks* like a Dreamcast game too, though obviously more as my memory would like to convince me of what the games looked like than what they really did. It’s got a vibe. It’s good. It’s committed. It deserves the right words.

A screenshot from Assault Android Cactus. A robot viewed vaguely from above unleashes a frankly ridiculously large laser beam towards the player. It really is a big laser.

There’s so much game there too. It’s positively abundant. Ridiculously so! Full on call the cops and arrest these people for making the rest of us look like we don’t put enough game in a videogame stuff. I’m not sure I’ve played a twin stick shooter that crams quite so much in and where so little of it feels superfluous.

Some of it is unsurprising – multiple characters with different weaponry, ridiculous cosmetic tweaks (normal head mode! JJ mode for when you need so much lens flare you can’t see the screen! More!) – it’s a lot but it’s kinda an expected lot.

What isn’t quite so expected is the amount of videogame scenes the game runs through. At times it feels like an A-Z of arcade videogame levels. Never pastiche, never a nod and a wink, videogame levels because there’s something the game can do with them. It reminds me of Mutant Storm Empire in that regard though much, much, much more focused.

A screenshot from the game Assault Android Cactus. An incredibly chaotic moment in the game as creatures, spiderbots all Duke it out against the player in an oval arena. Floating text indicates that the player has earned a 112 chain of enemies shot bonus.

Early on you find yourself riding a very videogame lift, you know the kind – it’s in a hundred or so FPS, a multitude of top down shooters, it’s in Valve’s Alien Swarm, even Destiny couldn’t resist the lure of riding a lift whilst aliens hem you in from all sides. Then before you know it, it’s a stage where robots are pouring out of the floor, there’s lasers everywhere, flames, bullets, pick ups and there’s a stage where the room is built around you and then and then and then.

It’s like the team responsible wanted to cram every idea they had for games into one game. It’s astounding. More so when you realise how normal this sort of thing used to be, how arcade games at home would let themselves spiral outwards rather than just retain a really narrow focus, done well. I didn’t even realise how much I missed that but I do. I really do. It makes me feel spoilt, ruined, like you can’t possibly be giving me all this? Seriously, you are? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Oh, there’s local co-op too because of course there is. Why leave any stone unturned?

A screenshot from Assault Android Cactus. It is a busy factory-esque area with yellow and black safety stripes marking a square within it. Spider robots and glowing bullets, and explosions, abound.

It’d all be for nothing if it didn’t play so well, obviously. Which it does! It plays wonderfully, always pushing you into the swarms of killer drones rather than running backwards, rather than the circling of Geometry Wars. Wade in, knee deep in roboguts, needing to grab batteries to make it to the end of a stage alive. It takes no time to find the rhythm the game wants you to fall into, alternating between primary and secondary weapons, rushing for power ups, aiming for that ever enticing higher score.

Gosh. I love Assault Android Cactus so much, you know? There’s few games I’d use the term masterpiece for but in this case, Team Witch Beam have worked for it and earned it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s the right and proper good stuff. It’s an arcade game, a not Dreamcast really but totally Dreamcast videogame that the best part of five years on still excites me.

Which, let’s face it that’s what you want from an arcade game. Okay, okay, it’s what I want anyway. I genuinely couldn’t ask for more. Well, except maybe for some fish but that’s just me. Maybe the next one, eh?