Video Of The Week is just any excuse really to link to a video or series that I’ve been enjoying. Chances are there won’t be one every week, mind.

It’s a bit of a silly conceit but I really do enjoy watching someone else play a videogame until they run out of energy/lives in it, just to see how long they can go. I’d totally be down for a festival of this similar to _______ Games Done Quick.

Namcos has been doing Until I Die for aaages now and built up quite the supply of old vids you can work through if you’re so inclined. Latest in that series is Ultimate’s Cookie.

A few minutes in Cookie is good going, I reckon. It’s one of those games that, depending on how luck falls, I find I can either play for ages or have a round over and done with in no time.

As you’ll see in the video, it’s very easy to get caught out by something you have absolutely no way of stopping or avoiding. Luckily, super arcadey and quick to restart means being back in the game really quickly to try again.

If you want to have a try yourself, a Spectrum emulator and a quick search on the internet will see you right seens as it was missing from Rare Replay.

I’ve sort of been going through a phase where I’ve been happily enjoying a whole bunch of videogames but not really being too excited for anything on the horizon after Psychonauts 2.

Partly it’s down to the computer fizzling out so I’m stuck on the PS4 for quite the foreseeable and, not to beat around the bush, a lot of ‘big’ games just don’t really do anything for me.

I’m absolutely not short of anything to play on the thing in the now and for the near future but I invariably only find out whether there’s anything I want on the week they’re released because that’s just sort of how PSN works with smaller games.

It also means I end up with a fair few platform games of varying quality and (thankfully) ones that aren’t a little too frustrating for my tired brain. Unfortunately neon shooters and weird stuff (pretty much my favourite things) is in short supply.

(Also I seem to have an abundance of games with a fox in because that seems to be a thing! Not complaining – nowt wrong with foxes unless you’re wearing your wife’s green kimono early one morning, it just amuses me somewhat)

It’s not exactly a terrible situation but yeah, it has meant that I don’t spend a lot of time actually excited for future games.

So thank Molyneux for the new Saints Row trailer giving me a huge grin and a couple of laugh out loud moments. I enjoyed (and replayed fairly often) Saints Row 3 and 4 but between the all too obvious pressures Volition were clearly under making them and the increasing absurdity, I was also sort of content for them to maybe just go do something else.

Obviously, I would dearly love a this-gen Crackdown meets Prototype yet much, much, sillier because I’m still me but also, I’m fairly happy to have a bit of Saints Row style open world around a cast that’s kinda just great to muck around with.

I get the Watchdog 2 comparisons some have been making and sure, I largely enjoyed my time with the characters in Watchdogs 2 but the game left me cold. Not as cold as the facking hell that was Legion but still, pretty enough game but not my bag in the actually playing it department. Put that sort of Watchdogs 2-ish characterisation through the Saints Row filter and yes please.

So yes, actually properly excited for the new Saints Row and one that hopefully doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart at any moment too. Agents Of Mayhem certainly proved Volition have it in them given time, tech and money so yes, excited.

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