Punching Robots Club

With your host, Rob Remakes

Zuzu: Lie To Myself

Hard to pick a fave from Zuzu’s recent stuff but for today I’m going to go with Lie To Myself for skillfully, and perfectly, getting the lyric “that was a dick move” into a slice of indie pop perfection.

Anyway. Go listen to Zuzu. They’re great.

Dungeonoid

After so many years playing Breakout games with a whole bunch of modern conveniences, whether that’s flipper bats as in Gunbarich or more curvy bats as is the trend in casual (and the excellent Shatter), Dungeonoid’s lack of such things certainly ensures I find it a wee bit more challenging than a lot of more recent efforts.

It doesn’t help that my enjoyment of Breakout games is matched only by how rubbish I am at them and Dungenoid is no exception.

My problem, largely is one of impatience. I enjoy a lot of the more hands on arcade games because I am constantly pressing buttons, they’re as much something to fidget with as to play. Breakout, by design, includes plenty of moments of downtime as the ball bounces from brick to brick. I get twitchy waiting and when I get twitchy I inevitably muck stuff up.

Dungeonoid does compensate for this somewhat. Clearing a level is not necessarily a matter of clearing all the bricks, nor a matter of taking out all the enemies or or treasures littering the place, instead it’s just a matter of reaching the exit. Get your ball through the door and whoosh, next level. You won’t score so much in a game that’s about scoring the most but at least it can mean a level is over quickly if need be.

Despite my impatience though, I do love a good Breakout game and have done for a long time now, pretty much since Thro The Wall had me hooked all those years ago and Arkanoid and the lovely Batty cemented it. I’ve been really enjoying Dungeonoid even though my progress through it is incredibly slow.

It absolutely is defiantly old school in its design (and yes, that does include the dreaded ‘reverse controls’ power down), tough as old boots and asks for a lot more patience than most modern takes do. I must admit, this is largely why I love it. I wouldn’t want every game to be this tough for me to progress through but every now and then, the right one comes along and that’s Dungeonoid alright.

Dungeonoid is on the Switch and it’s quite cheap, really. Recommended but with the caveat that it is far from an easy ride.

Robyn Hitchcock: The President

I can almost hear it raining.

Nothing ever cheers me up faster than listening to some Robyn Hitchcock, from The Soft Boys to The Egyptians and now it’s been a steady run of songs that just hit that magical spot. Some more than others.

Element Of Light (1986) has some of my favourite lyrics of all time nestled amongst it (“I’m going to burn your bongos tonight” is an unreasonably special one to me) and my favourite Hitchcock song in Airscape. It’s one of those albums without a single duffer on it and runs the gamut from power pop to prog and so much in-between.

The President is one of a couple of the more “serious” tracks (it’s all relative) on the album and one of those I should really stop trying to sing along to because I completely strangle the thing. Ditching much of the surrealism and storytelling present in the rest of Element Of Light for a much more abrasive, heavier, sound and a kick at Reagan, it ticks along alright for a bit and then the chorus hits and it’s just sublime.

As an aside, I still remember a bearded guy at the table opposite the first time I rolled up to a Hitchcock gig. He leaned over and asked if it was my first time seeing him, to which I answered yes. Moments later he followed it up with “if you can leave here without him becoming a favourite, you’re a better man than I. Have fun!” and returned to his pint.

I was categorically not the better man. To be honest, I don’t want to be either.

Cataloguing The New Arcade: Debris Infinity

Whilst the high bar for Asteroids reinventions remains a tie between Spheres Of Chaos (I prefer the older version over 2012’s rejig but YMMV, they’re both available for free now) and Echoes (Again. I prefer + to 3 but honestly. It’s so close in quality as to be unimportant), Debris Infinity (available on Steam too) is certainly worth a mention also.

After being mildly disappointed by the recent Asteroids Recharged (it’s not a bad game but it did very little to excite me, I wouldn’t not recommend it but I’d not enthuse over it in a hurry either) I’ve been on the look out for a fresh & decent new arcade take on Asteroids and stumbled onto Debris Infinity pretty much by accident whilst rummaging for something else I’d forgotten the name of.

It’s a game that fuses, surprisingly successfully, Echoes style arena based asteroid shooting and familiar Geometry Wars enemy wave patterns across a handful of modes. So twin stick asteroids with bolt ons, essentially. I doubt anyone going into this, even having not played either of the games it borrows from, would find many surprises here.

It’s definitely scrappy! The art is a bit all over the shop both in style and in coherence, the asteroids and smaller enemies are great, it’s sort of just the rest of it that doesn’t always come together.

Which is fine, you know? I’m not complaining so much as just stating something rather obvious. I can’t say it bothered me even for a moment because I was far too busy trying not to crash my spaceship into things but it does mean it doesn’t present quite so well in a single screenshot.

So, it all kind of adds up to a game I enjoyed a lot but also, don’t really have all that much to talk about with it. It’s a good, solid, enjoyable Asteroids variant where everything glows really nicely and has enough flashing lights to keep me quiet.

I’ve been dipping in and out of it on the Switch but the game’s available most other places, except for PlayStation for whatever reason. Definitely worth a punt.

Top 5 “If Steven Moffat made videogames” ideas. Do not steal.

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. Crash Bandiwandy
  2. Animal Crossiwossy
  3. Hitmanywany
  4. R-Typiwipey
  5. Bioshockywocky

Pity Pit

Rock hard

Bless any game where my first half hour or so is spent thinking “does this even have a level two?” as I once more smack into a passing bad guy, ending my game. Pity Pit is brutal like that.

Gosh, it’s compulsive though.

If you’re looking for an easy comparison, it’s Mr Driller meets Downwell as imagined for the Commodore 64 except the Commodore 64 is your modern device. Also, it hates you.

It’s all about digging down. Get to the bottom of a stage, start a new one. Along the way the player will encounter different kinds of blocks – some requiring multiple smacks with the pickaxe to clear, some requiring bombs, some the player is unable to dig through. Naturally enough, there’s a small menagerie of enemies to avoid en route and a copious amount of different rocks and coins to collect for points. All the time, a rockfall threatens to crush the player should they take too long.

It is a difficult game and that difficulty is defiantly home computer difficult. It’s the exact sort of difficulty I’d expect to find in a 1988 budget game – which is to say, precisely up my street. I can see how anyone expecting the springy bullet ballet fluidity of Downwell might be in for a shock here because, well, that’s just not this videogame.

What it cribs from Downwell is predominantly structural, the rest is rigid, controlled, convincingly 8 bit. And yes, that does mean the occasional moment that feels unfair! It isn’t unfair, just sometimes it’s nice to blame the videogame instead of my own crappiness. One of those “this videogame needs a referee” things.

I’m not sure how much longevity there is here but I loaded it up earlier to have a quick go, just to see what it was like really, and five hours later I still find myself going back for a quick go. And yes, there is a level two! Level three on the other hand? Well. I just don’t know…

I bought it aaaages ago for the PS4 and never got round to giving it a go but today, I’ve been playing it on Switch. Other formats are available.

The Pale Fountains: Bicycle Thieves

Some records certainly make me whisper “fucking hell” under my breath whilst listening to them and The Pale Fountains “Bicycle Thieves” is one of them. Okay okay, Mick Head records make up a good number of them but let’s ignore that for now.

From a swirling Animals-esque intro, it’s one of those songs that just gets better and better as it goes on and Mick Head absolutely belts the vocals out like their life depends on it. Lyrically, …Across The Kitchen Table might be peak Pale Fountains (that opening line!) but “and when I seen you in the subway station, you looked like you hadn’t seen The Queen’s face for a while” is still up there in my books.

What a record! Fucking hell.

Cataloguing The New Arcade: Glitchangels

The character select screen from Glitchangels, it's glitchy! And purple. There's a distorted pixelised angel in the background, a green hued user interface with two big icons in white, one some arrows to indicate 'dodge', the other a skull to indicate 'rage'. It's very nineties cybergoth.

Sitting at the intersection of glitchgoth and cybergoth, Glitchangels is Berzerk reimagined as a Nuclear Throne-alike. Throw out the unending maze of the arcade classic, replace it with discreet rooms with tight corridors, clear the enemies to open the exits, paper it with Droid Assault inspired art – strip out the Paradroid elements, keep the store and upgrades.

Glitch everything, movement, firepower, everything. Play the videogame as VHS, make a mistake, rewind and forward your angel to safety. It’s weirdly now. It could really only collect all these things together and vibe like it does in the now but yes, it’s an EBM arcade dancefloor Robotron.

What a heady mix for a twin stick shooter all this makes. Instantly familiar to anyone who’s even mildly been paying attention in our post Geometry Wars world and it’s not like the game makes any effort to hide or obscure its influences anyway, quite the opposite. It’s there in the credits, it’s there the moment you spawn into the first screen. 40 years of twin sticking, goth’d up, glitched up.

Buy it on Switch, grab a cider and black and sit in a tree to play it, preferably in a graveyard. In Whitby if you need to. Maybe get the flourescent gear out, meet the game on its terms, you know? Sod it, chuck a glowstick or two in your bag whilst you’re at it. If you know anyone with a dry ice machine, I’m not saying it’d complete the vibe but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Or, y’know, grab it on the PC or Xbox. Whatever works. But really, do grab it. It’s good. I’ve been having an absolute ball with the thing.

Fight. Die. Glitch. Win. It totally does what it says on the tin.

Saboteur!

A skeleton holds onto itself, announcing the ye olde videogame segment

Revisiting Saboteur for the first time in a very long time, all thanks to a slightly messy but the game is perfectly intact recent-ish port.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I still enjoy the game!

I can’t quite put my finger entirely on how it works as well as it does for me but a part of it is how irrevocably tied to a certain strand of VHS film it is. Look, I can’t explain why or how (I’m not entirely convinced anyone knows why), just know that the eighties had the most amazing preoccupation with ninjas and Saboteur gets that.

A screenshot from the PS4 port of Clive Townsend's Saboteur. A ninja rushes into a green tunnel to be confronted by a guard dog and armed security guard. There's a bunch of ladders leading up and down out of the room because it's an eighties videogame and they loved ladders.

Rather than just kick or punch things for points, you’re tasked with sneaking into a waterside warehouse to pilfer a floppy disk and, of course, getting out alive. Naturally the warehouse is crawling with guards, security cameras and guard dogs (which is only a Tadashi Yamashita short of everything you need to make this work) and you’ll have to make short order of them to escape in one piece. I find throwing bricks helps.

What I find most impressive about Saboteur is that it feels like a segment from one of these low budget VHS tat films. You ride in by dinghy, you creep through the warehouse kicking security guards in the face as you go, you fiddle with computer terminals and shunt through underground tunnels in train carriages. It’s probably a whole five or ten minutes of a film made game yet somehow it completely nails the vibe.

It is incredibly eighties action film in a way a lot of other ninja-y games just aren’t. Partly it’s the animations which though super limited, I just love the sneaky ninja walk cycle. Nobody ever ran like this outside of VHS ninja films, except in Saboteur! Partly it’s the vehicles – a dinghy and a helicopter? In the same videogame? Well now!

If you want a tenuous Rob comparison, Saboteur is the American Ninja to the Datasoft Bruce Lee’s Shaw Brothers film. I’d go out on a limb and say Bruce Lee has the better ninja, solely because they’ve got a big stick and don’t need to rummage around in rubble for something to hit somebody with BUT there’s always room for a bit of variety.

It is worth mentioning that Saboteur is very 1985 and from 8 bit home computers so don’t go expecting wonderfully fluid graceful movement here. It totally is clunky!

You don’t chain moves or combo or anything, you stand still to punch someone in the nose, you jump kick them in precisely one (1) frame. The port does very little to remove that old clunk and friction, adds a bit of its own if I’m being truthful, and I don’t think sticking with that hurts the game especially either.

I’ve rarely cared about clunky and that’s the case for Saboteur too. It works enough, you know? Perhaps it may not work enough outside of the hazy VHS moment it’s forever trapped in for me, I’m not sure. To be brutally honest. I don’t really care if it doesn’t – not while it’s still got that magic for me.

Saboteur, a port of its sequel and a new entry into the series (which I really must check out when I have some spare cash) are all available across the usual videogame formats. As usual, I’ve been playing on the PS4.

x_purrsonline_x

It's a mainly cyan faux chat client. In the top left, you have a magnifying glass, a gear and an I icon, below that a list of contacts with their avatars. To the right is the chat window itself which is filled with cat typing and a drawn picture of a cat. Everyone is a cat in the client.

I have got so much stuff on Itch I really need to get round to talking about, it’s embarrassing.

Rummaging through stuff earlier and remembered about x_purrsonline_x a toy chat client for talking to cats. My youngest absolutely fell in love with it when I showed it them and they had an absolute ball with it.

Originally made for the 2019 A Game By It’s Cover Jam, it’s name your own price and just one of those things that’s really sweet and I’m glad exists.

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