television

Saturday Crapshoot: Monty Python

Richard Cobbett at

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... wait for it... wait for it... It's...

If a man's worth can be judged on how many drunken students and parents have repeated their material, the Monty Python team is rich indeed. They've not done too badly in terms of more mundane success either. From the Spanish Inquisition to the Dead Parrot, to the cinematic masterpiece that was Life of Brian, there's no sense pretending you don't know who they are. (Though if you don't, you'd probably best avoid sitting down with a notepad for that upcoming Holy Flying Circus thing...)

But did you know there have been Monty Python games? Five of them to be exact, four on PC. How do you turn the anarchic surrealism of a sketch where anything can happen, but will probably get forgotten due to not being about Vikings singing about spam, into a game? Let's find out...

Saturday Crapshoot: Xena: Warrior Princess

Richard Cobbett at

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 though, it's ancient history, in syndication.

"She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of 90s girl power. The pouting. The fashion. The lesbian subtext. Her cleavage will change the world..."

Yeah, I never really watched this show, nor its predecessor, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Saw a few episodes. Even... or perhaps especially as a big mythology buff, they just didn't click. The same goes for all the similar shows from the same period - things like Sinbad, Robin Hood, Jack of All Trades, and god help us all, Cleopatra 2525. (Not heard of that one? It's the one where a stripper gets cryogenically frozen after a botched boob-job and wakes up in a future full of killer robots.) Xena was by far the most popular of these shows though, especially when it came to spin-offs, and the inevitable games. You'd expect lots of simple hack and slash cash-grabs. You'd be right. Obviously.

But this isn't one of those. Nope. This is Xena, adventure style!

Saturday Crapshoot: Wing Commander Academy

Richard Cobbett at

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This morning though, he's settling down in front of the TV in his pyjamas for an animated series that really set the fur flying throughout deep space.

Watching the Wing Commander movie was a difficult experience for me, mostly because I couldn't decide whether it was more like a dentist accidentally drilling through a nerve, or like being stabbed in the back with a serrated dagger. Even by the low, low standards of game to movie conversions, it was a stinker. The characters I'd been flying alongside since around 1990 were ruined. The addition of mystical elements to its serious sci-fi universe were just as stupid as George Lucas trying to mix a bit of science into his magic. Most of the storyline was cut due to a lack of budget, and the need to keep the hideous alien puppets off camera as much as possible, and... oh, god. Just no. Terrible film.

It wasn't however the Wing Commander series' first foray into the mainstream. Back in 1996, shortly after the third game took the world by storm with its full motion video, incredible space combat and then-unheard of $4 million budget, the decision was made to bring Wing Commander to TV audiences.

...as a Saturday morning kids cartoon. This is really going to hurt, isn't it?

Crap Shoot: The Crystal Maze

Richard Cobbett at

Richard Cobbett takes a look at the wonderful world of gameshow conversions, starting with one of the best British programmes... and one of the most disappointing licensed games.

Games based on gameshows are generally a bad idea, and for pretty obvious reasons. No fame, no tension, no prizes, no point. The Crystal Maze had the chance to be different. It was a gameshow about playing games. How could anyone screw that up? Well, let's have a little think, shall we?