Avatar Jolly good: free wood

I started the ”jolly good” series a couple of years ago when the world seemed less than jolly good and we all needed a nice cheering up. It only lasted a couple of posts, but actually it’s nice to see something positive, so I’m going to carry on labelling my good news under the ”jolly good” banner.

Here’s some good news now. Our house came with a wood burning stove in the living room, which is great but more difficult to use than the central heating, since we have mains gas, but no way of getting logs delivered by underground pipeline direct into the stove. Logs have to be bought, which isn’t always cheap, and have to be brought home somehow, which isn’t easy in a small car.

The people next door are landscape gardeners. The man over the road had a large pear tree in his garden that needed to come down. The people next door were happy to cut it down for him, but couldn’t be bothered going to the hassle of getting rid of the bits. We got a knock on the door. Could we take some of the wood, maybe, and save everyone a trip?

Yes. Yes we could. In fact we could take all of it.

I am treating this windfall as a birthday present from the universe. Jolly good.

Avatar ‘Ion Fury’ – mini review

‘Ion Fury’ is the best old new old game I have played in a while.

What do you mean you don’t know what an old new old game is? Isn’t it obvious? Okay grandad, let me explain.

Back in the day, a series of first person shooters were built on an engine called Build. This Build engine powered many a successful game such as ‘Duke Nukem 3D’, ‘Exhumed’ and ‘Blood’. After a while people were looking for fancy shizz that had polygonal roundness and curvy sumptuousness that Build couldn’t handle so it quietly disappeared into the background. Cut to 2019 and a new game using the same engine was released called ‘Ion Fury’. It was a prequel to a game called ‘Bombshell’ nobody could remember because it was bollocks. Thankfully ‘Ion Fury’ was actually pretty good and garnered much better reviews and a smidgen of success as a result.

Now, two years later, I have been playing through it and it’s a spicy meatball of a game. If you still need me to explain the old new old thing I’m going to need some slides and a hammer.

You played as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison (ahhhh, ahhhh, see why? Ahhhh!). What’s the plot? Is there really one to begin with? You an ass-kicker and you have to pick up some guns and kick some ass; that’s all you really need to know. If you’ve played any of the aforementioned PC games then you’ll know exactly what to expect: chunky graphics, over the top weapons and more explosions than a Michael Bay boxset on fire. It plays incredibly well, smooth and fast, the developers knew what they were doing and squeezed everything they could out of a fairly familiar and well-trodden scenario. The settings are somewhat similar to Duke’s first 3D outing taking in city streets, skyscrapers and malls with alien bits scattered around for good measure. What really sets it apart though is the difficulty.

This game is hard. I played through it on the second easiest difficulty and even then it was an uphill struggle. You cannot gleefully blast your way through the campaign. You will be saving often and you will need to think about the order in which you do things. At times it was more like a tactical RPG where you carefully plan where you move to, what gun to use and when to retreat back to hide behind that soda machine. The enemies are smart and often they are placed in the position that is most likely to blow your face off in that they have the freedom of a large area with a grenade launcher pointed in your general direction and a fuck ton of body armour and you, even with your strongest weapon, will feel like wet cheese slapping them on their elbow.

It does require a lot of patience because sometimes even the silliest error would make you lose half of your health within a matter of seconds. Thankfully there are numerous checkpoints and you can save at any time.

After playing for fifteen hours I was convinced I was near to the end and they practically slapped a huge NOPE across my forehead because I wasn’t. It was a slog towards the end. I would recommend playing in short bursts, kind of like my company; too much is bad for your health. To put it into context I blasted my way through ‘Doom 64’ in-between playing ‘Ion Fury’ and finished that before I’d even gotten two thirds of the way through this. You certainly get your money’s worth.

‘Ion Fury’ is available for PS4, X-Box One, Nintendo Switch and Steam (steam!).

Avatar Award ceremony

Back in Bridlington, we invested significant amounts of money on the 2p machines in the arcades on the seafront. Ian and myself only walked away with angst and a lesson about the dangers of gambling, but Kev was quite successful, winning a whole range of worthless items.

But Kev is kind and charitable, so he gave me one of his prizes – a bright blue figurine of what might be a turtle, but might not, with one of its arms missing. This, he said, was to be presented to Kate, and photos were to be taken of the ceremony in which she was given this prestigious gift.

Months have gone by since then, while I waited for the perfect moment. But now the time is right. Earlier today, I approached Kate as she enjoyed some relaxing downtime to break the good news and officially award her this prize.

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Avatar Floor Pasta – a short play

The scene reveals a man, a woman and a teenage boy in the kitchen of a semi-detached house. A television can be heard coming from the living room. Two or three dogs are roaming the kitchen floor looking for scraps.

S: Go on, tell your dad about the floor pasta.
I: The what?
R: It’s because I brought home a packet of spaghetti that I found on the floor. It’s still sealed, it’s not minging or anything.
I: I see. Dubious but still useful I suppose.
R: Oh come on, don’t tell me you wouldn’t because I know you would! It’s free food and it’s perfectly usable.
I: Whereabouts did you find this?
R: When I was walking home from school.
I: A lone packet of spaghetti just lying there on the floor.
R: In the street, yeah. I looked around to see if anyone had dropped it but I was the only one there.

Later that evening. Still in the kitchen.

I: We’re a little concerned about the floor pasta. Are you sure you didn’t steal it? Come on now, if you’re going to risk going to jail for a 50p pack of spaghetti then I think we need to get you to a psychologist.
R: I knew you would do this.
S: If you’re a klepto just own up to it, we won’t judge you.
R: This is nonsense.
I: You have to admit the story sounds a bit too convenient, a bit too farfetched if you ask me.
R: Yes it does but it’s true, well, apart from the bit about finding it on the floor.
I: Come again?
R: I didn’t find it on the floor I found it in a trolley.
I: Here we go.
S: So it wasn’t on the floor, you stole it from a trolley in Sainsburys?
R: The trolley wasn’t in Sainsburys, it was in an alley.
I: This sounds even less believable. Which alley?
R: You know the one that’s equidistant between Sainsburys and Dhillons fish shop?
I: No, surprisingly not. I’m not out measuring equal distances between two places near where you live.
R: It was a trolley there and it was full of pasta.
I: Full of pasta, a trolley full of pasta lying in an alley sort of behind a supermarket, just left there for anyone to take.
R: Yes. I checked and it’s in date, it’s not as if it was out of date goods or anything.
S: So with all that pasta available to take you only took one small packet of spaghetti?
R: Yes! I didn’t want to be greedy.
S: This is sounding less believable the more he says.
I: You’re telling me.
R: Look, I know you don’t believe me and that’s fine. This isn’t the first time it’s happened anyway.

The man and the woman look at each other with the same confused look.

S: So how many times has it happened?
R: <thinks> about nine or ten.
I: So nine or ten times you’ve been walking from school and you’ve come across a shopping trolley filled to the brim with pasta and this is the first time you’ve thought to mention it?
R: Like you would have believed me anyway…

Lights fade.

The End.

Avatar McIver ‘in the know’ newsletter – 2021

Dear all,

Gosh darn it another year has already passed. Where did the time go? What was I doing with my life? If you already knew the answers to these questions then there would be no point in this newsletter. Let me gladly waltz you through the BEST news from the family from the last twelve months.

Jeff, you remember Jeff right? The boxer? He had the biggest bout of his life in February. He was up against Cornwaller “Duck fat” Turner, a man so tall if you asked him for directions he could already see where you were trying to get to. I had a few nagging doubts yet thankfully Jeff took him out in the third round with the old 2-10-4. That would never had worked had he not wore him down with the 8-8-2 and a vicious 1-5-9 to the gut, ouch! I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that. Despite what his sister will tell you, I taught him that.

Uncle Tupperware finally returned from his travels in Vietnam in May. The family hadn’t seen him since mama c-word last made her gingerbread soul soup. He brought with him marvellous tales of lofty mountains, inner wisdom and getting tanked with a bunch of monks for eight weeks.

Cousin Plip-plop was released from prison as July turned to August and then forgot about August so it went back for a second round of July. She had used her time wisely and emerged not only as a free woman but also dragging three diplomas in feminist science studies and a hat made of time. I tried to get her to make one for me alas it was too late as she could stay for a few days before starting a job in Hollywood. I predict big things for her before we see her again.

Little Billy joined the circus because, as we all know, he is the sturdiest stilt walker we know. He is quite the prodigy if you ask me. At that age all I could do was scratch myself and tell jokes about kangeroos whereas Billy can juggle up to eight grapefruit, hang mice from his ears and perform tricks on a unicycle. When they see his piece de resistance, you remember, throwing up into the air and catching it back in his mouth, they will drop their trousers in gasp and awe.

Reuben (or Rude-Boi Throckers as he is known round these parts) finally passed his Pope exam and was crowned grand high Pope of Russia for the next four seasons. We had our fingers crossed for Minsk and thankfully we were not disappointed, with Rome and Doncaster as his (fairly predictable and pretty obvious, I know) second and third choices. On his first day of the job he blessed a crowd of thorns, created three new words and shouted scorn at a cloud until it watered a village’s crops.

Me? Well, there’s not much to tell. I can’t really compete with everyone else’s news. I opened a packet of custard powder, tried a new flavour of crisps, taught a dolphin about feelings, lived in a mushroom for a week, polished some cheeses, stretched some weasels, ate far too much shoe polish and watched two sailors arguing about figs. I know, I know, I should really get out more. I promise I’ll have more to tell next year.

All the best

Ian

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.