Crap Shoot

Saturday Crapshoot: Rocket Ranger

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, there's no case too big, no case too small - when you need help, just call... Chip, Chip, Chip and Dale, Resc- Oh. Wait. Sorry. Totally different guy.

It's the future, and we still don't have our flying cars. Boo. We don't even have our own rocket packs, though thinking about it, that's probably for the best. Nobody wants to be one butt-scratch away from losing a hand, and that's if they're lucky. That's not a hole you want cauterised if the straps slip a little, to put it mildly. But I think we can all agree that, maybe with the exception of hoverboards and grappling hooks, there's no cooler completely ridiculous way to get around. And in an alternate World War II, no other weapon capable of saving the world from Nazi... whatever it is they're up to this time.

Saturday Crapshoot: Dune

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, the most important planet in the universe is up for grabs. Time to call Muad'dibs, because Usul, we have word-sign the likes of which even God has never seen!

Even now, it's hard not to feel sorry for Dune, and indeed, for its creators Cryo. Those aren't words you'll hear very often, because Cryo's output over the years was... how to put this politely? It was not good. It was not good at all. (How to put it rudely? Its output was about the same as a sewage plant's intake). Mostly it produced for the time impressive visuals on tedious games, specialising in truly boring adventures, but occasionally branching out to inflict the likes of Hellboy on the world.

But just as everyone has a good book in them, so can any developer hope to create one genuinely great game - and for Cryo, that game was Dune. Dune (based on the movie rather than the book directly) was genuinely good, written from the heart, and arguably one of the best film licenses ever to make the jump from silver screen to monitor. And it had a whole five and a half minutes to bask in that glory before Westwood's Dune II came along to both single-handedly create the RTS genre, and bury its predecessor under a billion tons of sand. In retrospect, it's hard to blame Cryo for giving up on 'good' games...

Saturday Crapshoot: Hacker

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week... look at you, Hacker, a pa-pa-pathetic creature of meat and bone. No, wait, sorry. Different hacker. Didn't mean to be rude there.

Hacker begins with nothing but a login screen, and no password. It's a strong start for a game that wants you to, on at least some level, think that just maybe you're actually hacking into an evil worldwide conspiracy that threatens the future of the world, and never mind that you almost certainly had neither modem nor the belief that 'skills' is spelled better with a z back in 1985. Ah, 1985, when DOS ruled the world, computer speeds could be measured in single digit megahertz, and PC users were used to having to type the word 'park' to prevent the hard drive spinning out like a disc from Tron after an accidental or careless power-down. Or at least, that's how it felt back then, when computers were magical.

And Hacker gets that, and the appeal. Until it wheels out a magic robot. Then things get weird...

Saturday Crapshoot Live VI: Synnergist

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Update: It's over! Video embedded below. Hammy acting! Primitive greenscreen! Hopefully some laughs! But can we save the future with the power of lazy journalism and also write a restaurant review in time for dinner? There's only one way to find out! Join Richard for a trip through this obscure techno-thriller, whose fiendishly subtle villain you will never, ever see coming...

Saturday Crapshoot: Neuromancer

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, as Watch Dogs tries to make hacking cool again, a jump back to a time when a 56k modem would have made you a true god amongst geeks.

The future's always been a tough thing to predict, but does generally go one of three basic routes - dystopia, utopia, everything turned into sentient cheese by deep space super-bacteria. Oh, that tiresome old cliche. When it comes to anything with the word 'cyber' in it, you pretty much know what you're going to get. It's going to be dark. It's going to be cynical. Chances are it's going to be heavily 'inspired' by Blade Runner. Surprisingly few people will have worked out that carrying umbrellas around 24/7 is a really, really smart idea. And it's almost certainly going to owe a serious debt to William Gibson's Neuromancer, which was published in 1984 and is one of those books so influential that is almost doesn't need to be read any more to know more or less what goes down and the kind of elements it plays with.

1988 was clearly too early for something so forward looking to be made into a game. But Interplay decided to give it a crack anyway. And it is... ah... well, you'll see.

Saturday Crapshoot: Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? (The Game Show)

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, she sneaks around the world from Kiev to Carolina, but it's her TV appearances we'll be taking a comically oversized magnifying glass to.

The problem with the word 'obscure' is that it's very subjective. If you know of a thing, chances are you won't consider it such. When I do games from the 80s for instance, other people who were around at the time will merely consider them 'retro', while to people who weren't born yet, the idea that people could actually play games whose only colours were cyan and magenta can seem like insanity. Today, if you grew up or took holidays to the US, you may well think "Well, yes, obviously that existed." To that I can only point to your people's reactions when they saw Knightmare for the first time. Smugly, because we had Knightmare and you did not. But you know what we didn't have? The cheapest ever attempt to turn a computer game into a TV show. With the possible exception of Maniac Mansion, of course.

Saturday Crapshoot: Darkseed

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, Alien creator HR Giger passed away, and while most of the games based on that series are too well known for Crap Shoot, there is... another.

Darkseed was an odd little game, and not what most people expected. Not quite. Definitely not what it seemed to be at first glance - a dark horror game that would give the world endless nightmares, which the publisher claimed at the time had caused the art team to have to seek counselling due to so much exposure to Giger's freaky biomechanics horror show. (A claim that, while possible, does rather seem to lie somewhere between 'hyperbole' and 'complete balls'). Was it a good game? Not really. But it did at least turn heads, some of them covered with veins harvested from long dead science gods, so let's pay a visit to the house that Hell made, and only an idiot named Mike Dawson would actually buy.

Saturday Crapshoot: Choose An Enemy

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, an offer it sounds like nobody should refuse! It's on! MORE DULL KOMBAT 2! STREET FIGHTER II: ACTUALLY ON THE STREET EDITION! Round 1! Fight!

I think I'd probably go for 90s Rick Moranis. The early-ish one, before the millions and millions of dollars that would allow for the hiring of bodyguards and lawyers to sweep any 'unpleasantness' under the carpet. Nothing against the guy himself, I just think that if you're picking an enemy, go for someone you can probably take on, unless he turns out to be Stay Puft Marshmallow Size, in which case... hmm. Never mind, I wouldn't want to leave any wiggle room for whatever celestial entity is making this offer. Maybe then, Gilbert Gottfried. I'm sure his acidic put-downs would be devastating, but the satisfaction of repeatedly thumping that face has to make up for any tragic twist in the tale, right?

You know, this is a harder decision than I thought. Oh, but Russian thugs? Not on my list.

Saturday Crapshoot: Star Warped

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, in space, nobody can hear you laugh. Though in this case, being in a nice echo chamber with a megaphone wouldn't help much.

It is said that, in the long distant past, dark gods working on a forge crafted from a dead star did curse their ability to craft the Anti Comedy; a sucking ball of awfulness from which no light, no sound, no hope could escape. Its jokes drank of their souls, ripping away all sense of meaning and all justification of existence from their quivering eye-balls to the very electrons in their tiniest parts; its punchlines so painful and yet so uninspired that their echoes are still with us today. Whenever a joke fails, all hear them in their hearts. Whenever a stand-up comedian demands of an audience "Is this thing on?", the absence of a laugh rings through their silent night. For every successful joke that lands, scientists reason, there must be an equal and opposite reaction somewhere. Here is where they nest. Where they bide their time. This is their eternal jail; where no toe goes uncurled, but no rib ever gets tickled.

And Star Warped is pretty bloody awful too.

Saturday Crapshoot: Vangers

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, an ancient slice of madness returns to the commercial world to wreak havoc once again, but this time, those who would oppose its chaotic rule are ready...

I knew immediately why I'd been summoned. The poor man's face was slick with saliva, except for the bubbled areas no nurse wanted to approach and his bound hands were unable to wipe. But he didn't even seem to have notice. His bloodshot eyes just stared up at the fluorescent light, flickering only when each spasm ran through him. Occasionally, he made a sound that was less a word, less a cry, than a cruel joke played on vowels and consonants by a dark eldritch force that lorded over futile ambition. In all my years as a professional insanologist, I had never seen anything so tragic or so unnecessary.

"What happened to the poor bastard?" I asked, fearing the answer.
"I'm afraid..." The nurse bit back a tear. "I'm afraid he tried to play... Vangers."

I froze, praying I'd misheard. "My god," I whispered. "Why was I not called at once?"

Saturday Crapshoot: Amazon: Guardians Of Eden

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, interactive movies are about to make a bit of a comeback... so let's flashback to before the technology made them possible, but people were still willing to try.

It's New Tex Murphy Week next week, and I'll be honest, I'm excited. (Though I haven't played it yet, so I'm only hoping it doesn't suck.) As well as being a big fan of the original interactive movies... though less so the adventures that spawned them... I've always had a bit of a soft spot for FMV. I remember it when it was the impossible technological dream, the future of gaming, the disappointing present, and then the best-forgotten past, and honestly it made the jump to the second half of that with good cause. Still, there's something so endearing about the goofiness of a greenscreen, amateur actors desperately trying to carry stories by first-time scriptwriters, and all that, that I still look back on them a little fondly.

But Amazon? Amazon was an interactive movie that couldn't even wait for CD-ROM. Be afraid.

Saturday Crapshoot: The Journeyman Project

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, they say the next big thing is here, that the revolution's near, but to me it seems quite clear, that's it's all just a little bit of histo(is deleted by temporal wave)

There's something endearing about the way that The Journeyman Project managed to both hang on as both a cult classic and an adventure, and GOG's recent re-release of Pegasus Prime doesn't hurt. What's Pegasus Prime? Well, there's a tale. The original game, The Journeyman Project, was a time-travel based CD based adventure for the Mac from back in 1992; one of many to figure out that these new-fangled CD things could hold lots of pictures, high quality audio and all that other good stuff. It also ran like crap, so was re-released not that long afterwards in 1994 as The Journeyman Project Turbo. Then came a sequel, Buried In Time, as you'd expect... before once again the idea came along, "Hey. We resold this once before. Maybe we can do it again!" And so came Pegasus Prime, a remake of the first game that only came out on Mac in 1997, before the final chapter, Legacy of Time, hit in 1999. And now after all that, it's back once again - a 2014 re-release of a 1997 re-release of a 1994 re-release of a 1992 game.

Even before the story begins, you need a time-machine to pick this series apart. But what is it about it that's kept The Journeyman Project alive in fans' hearts all these years? Let's find out. It's about time.

Saturday Crapshoot: SimAnt

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, everyone had a big laugh over Goat Simulator. But as SimCity creator Will Wright once proved, not all animals have such a fun time of it.

Welcome to the battlefield in your back garden. For all our sakes, let's pray this isn't how ants ever actually manage their colonies, or I suspect we're all in deep trouble. In fact, that's the ultimate goal here - to not only use your army of black ants to obliterate the evil, possibly communist red ants, but empty the house of those pesky humans who counter your raids with Raid. Tsk. Talk about antagonistic.

Saturday Crapshoot: Muppets Inside

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, it's time to start the music, it's time to light the lights. It's time to meet the Muppets, in this Muppet game tonight... or from about 18 years ago. One of the two.

What's great about Muppets Inside is that it all goes wrong. Immediately. It starts up with a CD-ROM version of the classic theme - "It's time to boot the disc up. It's time to turn stuff on..." and then it crashes. Loudly. Full on speaker-crashing, back-to-desktop crashing. Well, poo. What a waste of money that was!

Except. "Well, that worked out great, didn't it?" mutters Kermit, as Fozzie Bear pushes open the desktop itself to apologise. "Oh no, not the bear!" shout Statler and Waldorf. "I thought computers were meant to make things better, not worse!" Because what could be more appropriate for a Muppets game than the whole thing to be based on technical difficulties, and a trip backstage to your computer system to put things right so that they can put on a show? The answer: Nothing. Nothing at all.

Saturday Crapshoot: Detective Barbie

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, justice is coming, Barbie style. So, presumably in several shades of pink, with lots of accessories... to murder. Kidnapping, anyway.

Life in plastic. They say it's fantastic, but what would they know? Even in a world of glitter and glamour, the dark soul of humanity is always with us, waiting to strike. That's where I come in. When life in the Dreamhouse turns into a nightmare, they call me. I look up in my office and see a dame whose face says trouble and spells out many things, and I know I'm just looking at my full-length mirror. The name's Barbie. And this doll's only yours for 200 dollars a day. Plus expenses, naturally.

Saturday Crapshoot: Bad Mojo

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, a game that... wait a minute, are you eating? Yeah. You might want to put it down for a while. Just a thought. And animal lovers? Push it far away.

Bad Mojo is The Cockroach Game. It's actually not unique in that any more, thanks to Daedalic recently releasing an adventure called Journey of a Roach, but that doesn't matter. When you think cockroach games, you think Bad Mojo. If you don't, you're not aware of it. You will be. Oh yes. This is a story of death and decay, of dirt and disgust. And that's just the behind the scenes anecdotes.

Saturday Crapshoot: South Park

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, the Stick of Truth may finally have given this series some gaming dignity, but let's not forget what happened the first time it made its way to our screens.

This game scored 8%. Just 8. Not 8 and then another number, like 2 or 7 or 4. A raw, naked 8%, all the way back in PC Gamer 69, which isn't at all an appropriate number or funny in any way. You'd think that would make it one of the worst games ever reviewed, but as we all know, there are worse. Monsters Inc: Wreck Room Arcade got a single, solitary percentage point to its name. Bass Avenger was, mathematically speaking, twice as good. But still, 8% is what we in the trade refer to as 'a really, really low number'. That's the kind of score reserved for games like Forbes Corporate Warrior, and Little Britain. You might think that at least creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone would have some pride in these early works that helped build their empire of farts, but no. No, no, no. As far back as 2000, they were happily describing this and the others as "these video games that we ****ing hate".

Today is a seriously lousy day to be fitted with a negativity-zapping V-Chip.

Saturday Crapshoot: Maupiti Island

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, a detective mystery that you could call the Dark Souls of adventure games... except that Dark Souls at least had a decent translator on its side.

Consider the bullet well and truly bitten. Maupiti Island is one of those games that's been on my list for years now, and I mean that literally. To know it is to be obsessed by it. To actually play it, well, that's another matter. To decrypt its secrets, and I don't even mean in terms of plot, practically needs a Rosetta stone along with the standard adventurer supply of a really big bag of Malteasers. It only takes ten minutes to finish, but getting to the point where you can do that legitimately... and have a clue what's going on... could be a matter of months, or even years. It's Maupiti Island, a murderous place of sin and confusion and pixel-hunting from which careless visitors may never truly find mental escape.

Well, before the internet anyway. Hurrah for walkthroughs, eh?

Saturday Crapshoot: Revolution X

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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, are you ready to rock? I SAID, ARE YOU READY TO ROCK? Well, too bad, because music just got declared illegal. You disgusting degenerate scum.

Revolution X likes to declare "MUSIC IS THE WEAPON." I suppose it's a snappier tagline than the original, "A MACHINEGUN WITH INFINITE AMMO IS THE WEAPON", or the even more honest "ABANDON ALL SANITY ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE." In the arcades, this was one of the louder rail shooters - in the home, still one of the more surreal. It's also definitely a case where buying the damn game was definitely cheaper than trying to win it with a pocket full of change - especially as having at least one friend helping out is almost essential when things get tough later on.

Oh, and it has some guys with long hair in it. I think they played bebop in the 80s or something.

Saturday Crapshoot Live V - Hopkins FBI

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Hopkins FBI. Held by some to be one of the worst adventures of all time, and certainly one of the weirdest. On February 15th, we took a surreal tour through it to find out how weird it actually was. What would you get if these guys wrote a cop show? And really had a few things to get off their chests? And loved drawing gore? And boobs? Why, you'd get something like Hopkins FBI.