Avatar Drive-By Rapping

It’s important to remember that truth will always be stranger than fiction. I’m living proof of this.

When I first saw him, first heard him, I wasn’t really paying attention so his presence drifted past me without any kind of moment to speak of. It was only when I encountered him a second and third time that he began hard to ignore.

Picture this; a cool Autumn day, the leaves blowing through the streets, people hurry past clutching under their coats. There I am doing the same as everyone else. I’m not going anywhere in particular because I need a little fresh air on my lunch break before I head back into the jungle. The air is crisp and fresh, a lightness on my tongue. Coming towards me is a man on a bike so I make sure to keep to the far right so he can get past. He’s wearing a hi-vis jacket and his mask is covering the entirety of his face; were it not for COVID-19 you would swear he was some kind of thief. He doesn’t say anything as you approach, only when he’s cycled past you does it happen. He starts rapping.

When absurdity hits, it is quite disorientating. That’s why I brushed it off to begin with thinking that this guy was shouting at someone or something else in the street. Only when it happened again about a fortnight later did it stick in my mind. I can never make out what he’s saying or at least not yet anyway. Usually by the time I’ve realised who it is, he’s already starting cycling off in the opposite direction, spitting rhymes like the best of them.

Does he do this all day? Is this his job, drive-by rapper? Is he practising for some kind of poetry slam tournament, one held where the people are on bikes and constantly move about? It wouldn’t make it any less interesting than your usual poetry slam tournament but hey it’s a little bit different. Does he only do it at me or does everyone feel the brunt of his lyrical wordplay? I can’t imagine he’s saying nice things, nobody ever walks past me and says a nice thing. The last time that happened was only a fortnight ago; a friend and I were walking back to his house and some kids on the corner, who were using their time wisely to twat a metal fence with a stick, voiced, “Melons!” as we walked past. Then they started laughing. I don’t have any melons so I can only imagine what kind of voracious insult that youth was hurling in my general direction.

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever be wandering around where I work however if you do and you see a tall, gangling-looking youth in bright yellow and navy blue tracksuit bottoms riding towards you, make sure you’re listening to what he has to say.

Avatar Dave Lister Egg

Sad sack egg

I know what you’re going to say so let me get my excuses out the way first.

Some time ago, in some post or re-post by Chris, I was given the task of trying to draw Craig Charles’ lovely viso/volto on an egg. How did this come about? Who can remember. I decided that now, on the last day of the month, was the time to act.

Perhaps the time wasn’t the best though. The actual time as in half past ten at night. I stupidly didn’t take the egg out of the fridge so that it could acclimatise to the temperature in the living room. It was an ice cold egg in a mostly tepid part of the flat. So, with pen in hand, I watched in horror as many efforts turned into one big fish face smudge fest.

The poor lad looks like fetid potato. Do you remember ‘Biker Mice from Mars’? Kind of like the main villain, Lawrence Limburger.

I have socially soiled myself so I’m going to wince away solemnly…

Avatar ‘Chicken Police: Paint it RED!’ – mini review

“The sun rolled over for the last time of that week. I checked my chagrin; it was sitting on a fence down by the side of the street that I daren’t walk on anymore. The air was crisp and clear, it kissed my cheeks and promised me more than it could ever give. I tipped my hat and headed on my way.

‘Chicken Police’ is exactly how it sounds; it is a video game where you play as Sonny Featherland who is both a policeman and a chicken. These are very important details. Sonny, like all of the characters, has a human body but an animal head. His hands do various non-chicken things like pointing and holding guns. He talks like a character from a detective novel from the 1940’s and looks like a modern day Humphrey Bogart would… if he was a chicken.

At the start of the game you are currently 120 days away from retirement and Sonny has been put on suspension by his hard-hitting police chief. Locked away in his hotel room of an office, he is visited by a mysterious femme fatale who wants him to work a case outside the law for her client. With curiosity gnawing at his mind and nothing much else to do, he recruits his old partner Marty to help him work out just what is happening on New Year’s Eve in the city of Clawville.

‘Chicken Police’ is a very simple point and click adventure game. You won’t find any absurd puzzles here (see ‘the moustache’ from ‘Gabriel Knight III’ or ‘the goat puzzle’ from the original ‘Broken Sword’) as everything is catered to the more casual gamer. You can look at things, pick things up, talk to / ask people questions and eventually interrogate them after a period of time (where you are graded on how quickly and effectively you obtained the information you needed to progress the story). You travel between key locations on the map around the city trying to piece the puzzle together. There is the main plot to follow but you can also visit other places to chat and procure achievements for doing certain things; you know, typical video game fodder.

The visuals are lovely, like a new summer’s morn. All of the locations and characters look almost real despite the aforementioned animal head looking back at you. This is coupled with a moody soundtrack and excellent voice acting by all the main cast. The story is interesting and varied and twists at the right points to lead your expectations into red alleys and dead herrings.

Where it falls down is that it is a little too easy. There are no penalties for failing to ask the right questions (you can even re-do the entire conversation if you want to get a higher rating), you cannot die and when you are trying to assemble the clues into a cohesive structure the game is all too happy to tell you where you are going wrong and nudge you in the right direction. The dialogue is a little clumsy too, where what is being said by the characters doesn’t match the written account at the bottom. There are also numerous instances of double spaces where there shouldn’t be (such an egregious error). Sometimes you’ll ask questions of someone and then press the talk button only to instigate a conversation that was leading up to you asking questions, as if you were supposed to talk first (perhaps even more than once) and then choose to question them. The game doesn’t want to move things along based on what you’ve already done making it a little disjointed.

These are only minor gripes though. For the 5 to 10 hours I spent playing it I enjoyed every moment. It’s more a visual novel with light puzzle sections than anything else. It’s also very funny and I do hope that the developers make a sequel.

‘Chicken Police: Paint it RED!’ is available on Steam, Playstation 4, X Box and Nintendo Switch.

Avatar Chess for beginners

I learned how to play chess when I was about ten.

Wait. That might be overstating things a bit. What happened was that one of the other kids at my childminder’s house could play it a bit, and they showed me, and we had about three games that lasted about five minutes, and then I didn’t play it again until last week.

Last week I was reintroduced to chess, and found I had forgotten almost everything. If you have also forgotten everything about chess, either because you haven’t played it in a long time, or because nobody told you anything about it in the first place (sometimes referred to as “pre-forgetting” or “not knowing things”), then allow me to help.

Setting up the board

You need a big square made of other squares. They should be chequered. You also need lots of playing pieces. If you don’t have a chess set, you could borrow the pieces from a Monopoly set instead, but you will need five Monopoly sets because chess uses a lot of pieces. Put the pieces in lines.

How the pieces move

Every piece has rules about how it moves.

  • Pawns are small and so can only move slowly. They can go two squares, but only once, and they can only go in a straight line forwards, like one of those toy dogs on wheels. If they eat another piece they can go diagonally.
  • Castles are actually called Rooks. They are also sometimes known as Towers or Rectors or Benedicts or Backsliders or French Fancies or Ronnie Johnsons or Fluteypipes. They can go left and right and up and down, and they can go as far as they like, and in that sense are not much like castles at all.
  • Knights look like horses and can jump over other pieces, but go sideways a bit when they do it because they have bad ankles.
  • Bishops move diagonally and have nice hats.
  • Kings are rubbish. They can go anywhere but only one square at a time, and if someone else eats your King then you lose. If you try to protect your King by taking it off the board and hiding it, which is the most sensible thing to do if you want to win, then you also lose, apparently, which isn’t fair.
  • Queens can go as far as they want in any direction and might also be able to fly and travel underwater. This is similar to the real Queen.

Strategy

White always goes first. However, the ideal way to start the game is to steal some of your opponent’s pieces before the game has started. This early pre-game attack can offer many advantages in the later stages.

Attempt to gauge your opponent’s skill level at the beginning of the game by sliding all your pawns forward two spaces in a single move. If they are inexperienced enough to let you get away with this, you can claim a great deal of territory this way.

Spend lots of time taking your turn so it looks like you’re thinking really hard. This will make your opponent nervous.

Win the game by taking your opponent’s King. You can do this either by moving one of your pieces into a position where the King will be taken on its next move no matter where it goes, which is called “checkmate”, or by picking it up and refusing to give it back when you’ve had enough, which makes it impossible for the other person to win, meaning you have won by default.

If you have any chess questions (“chesstions”) please post them below and I will do my best to help you become a Chess Grand Master just like me.

Avatar ABOFB 26: Sex & Sandpaper

A episode that’s a month late, but guaranteed not to disappoint*, we take a very quick detour from the starting question to discuss:

  • How to attach sandpaper
  • Dog kennels
  • Double dipping chips
  • The merits of various sauces

*Guarantee valid only for residents of care homes and Finland.

A Breath of Fresh Beans
A Breath of Fresh Beans
ABOFB 26: Sex & Sandpaper
/

Avatar The Pompadoose Moose

In my long and illustrious career as, well, pretty much everything and everyone I have achieved a number of accolades to my name. I’m not going to list them all here because we don’t want it turning into one of those back-slapping exercises that other people seem to indulge in. I’m far too shy and retiring for that.

That said, I suppose 2020 was the worst time to change my career. I decided to be an animalogist just as the Bovona virus took hold of the world and squeezed it like a sad lemon to make a tiny droplet of lemonade so lacklustre it would fail to quench the thirst of a dung beetle.

For those not in the know, animalogists are those people who look like they got dressed in the dark / with their eyes closed and go out into the world to record all the different types of animals living in the world. All of them from such famous ones as the Alaskan mountain nut boar and the wig herons to the common ‘o garden hassle mice, they all need to be documented as many times as possible so that when you meet one of them you know what their star sign is and how they take their coffee.

When I was (secretly) roaming the more uninhabitable parts of Northern Russia in the later months of the year I came across a species of moose that was yet undocumented. It was tall and graceful, with a large volume of hair that took up most of the horizon line. I could see many nests of birds hiding in there. Worn high over its forehead, it was the most stylish moose I have ever seen with my moose-viewing eyes (they were commissioned especially for this expedition). After a general introduction I started asking it all of the pertinent questions starting with shirt size, favourite astronaut and whether or not their rivalry with raccoons had been blown out of proportions over the last few decades.

The information I acquired was priceless. In my bag I had reams and reams of paper filled to the brim with a veritable cornucopia of details. I was going to offer the definitive take on this new breed, coupled with one of my award-winning and best-selling books to boot. The only downside is that the pompadoose moose would not allow me to take its photo. I could ask all the questions I wanted but the world was not ready for its beauty and so I left pictureless.

To gaze upon its pompadour and its grace was a treasure like no other. I only hope that when the world is ready for it, that I am there at the front, pushing everyone else out of the way, ready with my trusty Kodak Ektralite to record that wonderful moment.

Avatar InterSportball Euroleague 2020

At long last, football fever is here again! Come and join us on the Beans for the lowdown on this year’s best new last year’s footsporting tournament, the InterSportball Euroleague 2020!

How does it work?

All the countries in Europe, excluding some obviously European countries like Ireland and Luxembourg but inexplicably including several countries that are mostly in Asia like Russia and Turkey, are sending teams of footballists to a range of places in Europe and also some places outside Europe to go play footballs at each other.

Every single team of footballsters has about eleven men, and no women at all. The men are all good at kicking, running along doing little kicks to move the ball around without anyone else getting it, running at other men and doing kicks at just the right time to get the ball off them, and sliding along the grass on their knees. The point of the InterSportball Euroleague 2020 is to find out which team of footbollogists are the best ones.

What kind of footballs are being played?

All 24 teams are playing sportball according to the Queensbury Rules, which are:

  • It’s a game of two halves
  • No wrestling or hugging
  • A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered offside
  • The gloves to be fair sized boxing gloves of the best quality
  • No shoes or boots with springs allowed

At the start of the game both teams bring their favourite football to the sports arena and the referee chooses the one they like most to be used for the match. Most teams are bringing circular footballs with a black and white design on them, but England have chosen an orange one that reminds them of 1966, Wales are bringing an oval rugby egg and Germany have opted for a nice stripey beach ball.

Who is playing who?

Every team is playing every other team, making a total of 276 matches in the initial stage of the tournament. Three matches are played every day so this will go on until mid-September.

At the end, there will be the Grand Final, where all 24 teams play each other all at once, with 24 footballs on the pitch, at a specially built ground in Belgium that has 24 sides, 24 goals and a pitch that covers eight floors with escalators between them. The match will continue until one of the teams has scored a hundred goals.

The winners of the Grand Final will be declared the Best at Football and will pick up the Ian Botham Trophy for Best International Kicking.

Time to get out there and enjoy all the football! You can watch the football in every pub in the UK, all the time, or at home on the TV, and if you’re watching a game that’s being shown live from a hot country, don’t forget to wear sunscreen.

Avatar ‘Void Bastards’ – mini review

When it comes to video games I am equally attracted to both the box art and the title itself. ‘Void Bastards’ immediately jumped on my radar when I was reading about it last year and recently I managed to pick it up in the sale for the reasonable cost of twenty sheets.

It’s available on Nintendo Switch (where I’ve been playing it), XBox One, PS4 and Steam so just about anyone can get their sweaty paws on it.

You play as one of an infinite supply of dehydrated prisoners who is brought back to life because the spaceship is on the fritz, stranded and floating in space. Your task is to use your widdle wocket to fly to derelict vessels in the area, steal everything that isn’t nailed down, hopefully find some useful item that you can use to smush together with something else to make a better item and, eventually, fly the fuck out of there.

Played from a first-person perspective, as you infiltrate the various spaceships you encounter enemies and other environmental hazards such as radiation, fire and oil which makes you slip everywhere. Sometimes the generator is down so you have to turn the electricity back on before you can start sniffing around for junk. Sometimes the lights are off and you have to peer through the darkness hoping not to trip any alarms. Each vessel is randomly generated, using the same series of rooms mixed up each time, so whilst it can be repetitive you can never guarantee what you will get every time.

Movement is responsive and fluid. The graphics are cartoony, cell-shaded and fits the feel of the game perfectly. Progression is measured by certain milestones broken down into smaller achievements such as making weapons, armour and other items. You need to keep your supplies of fuel and food topped up otherwise you’ll be stranded for good or die from starvation. Your time on each ship is limited due to the small supply of oxygen (usually less than ten minutes) granted so you have to be fast and you have to be precise.

The only real downside, other than the aforementioned repetition, is the humour. The game sadly isn’t as funny as it thinks it is. There’s an enemy called a ‘Janitor’ who walks around and when he hears you approaching he shouts, “Gary! Is that you?”. Smaller enemies called ‘Juves’ call you names such as twatface and dickwad in their nasal almost Mancunian accent. The AI on your spaceship tries desperately to ape the peerless deadpan narration of ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ with not great success. If you can get past this, you’ll find lots to enjoy. It’s a shame though because ‘Journey to the Savage Planet’, a similar game in structure and tone, is a lot funnier.

8 voids out of 10