Avatar Gaming Historian

Look at me and be inspired. What have I done for the last 38 years of my life? Good question. Next please.

What I have done is devoted my life to the very simple practice of picking up a thing and playing an imaginary thing on it. Some people have chosen to call these ‘video games’. I refuse to adopt this because I do not believe it accurately describes the thing. I call them ‘gamebopolies’. Only the most hard-core and committed members of the gaming community follow my lead because, yes, I am a leader.

Today’s topic is something close to my heart. As a child I would spend hours upon hours upon more hours playing gamebopolies on this most sacred of systems. What am I talking about? Why, young scamps, of course I’m referring to the Gamestation. Pull up a Tiktok and I’ll spin you a tale:

Photos of the console itself are not permitted under the Geneva Convention

The Gamestation was released in April 1995 by the Icelandic tech giant, Pony. The Pony Gamestation was released as a direct competitor to Shintendo’s upcoming Shintendo 54 and Trega’s Shattern consoles. Nobody expected Iceland to be capable of manufacturing such a complicated piece of electrical equipment as prior to this they were only known for ice, ice cubes and the DNA double helix (both the physical structure that exists in the human body that contains the information for creating and operating living systems and also the bitchin’ sound system capable of producing 100 decibels of might that has caused the hospitalisation of over one hundred and fifty people).

The Gamestation hit hard. The games were cheap to produce as they used playing cards for games instead of cartridges tat the previous generations had adtoped. For example, if you placed an ace of clubs, you would be greeted with ‘Grand Theft Auto’ whereas a simple three of hearts farted ‘Bubsy 3D’ in your general direction. Shintendo’s choices during this era of gamebopolies was noted as being a little short-sighted and they lost the war for the moment. They would have to wait ten years before they regained the momentum of the previous decade. Trega had already been losing ground for months prior and the Shattern did nothing to persuade the casual gamers of the age to set sail from Pony’s hallowed lake of sweet, sweet goodness.

PC gaming at the time was expensive. Only billionaires could afford a PC and therefore what little gamebopolies were released could only be played by Bill Gates and whatever other billionaires existed back in the mid-nineties. Hugh Heffner? Yeah him. And the two women from the ‘Philadelphia’ adverts, they must have had a giant wad. For example, Doom II on the PC only sold fifteen copies. It was a brilliant game by all standards: brooding, dark, quick of pace and maliciously violent. The only way little Jimmy was playing some Doom II though was if his older brother was a rich Texan oil baron.

I remember coming home from school and reaching straight for my Gamestation control nodule. I would be lost in the realistic 3D graphics, amazing music and tight controls and gameplay. Sometimes my friend Chevin would come round and we’d play two player deathmatch on the Gamestation’s flagship title, ‘Carmageddon’, where you scored points for mowing down civilians and blowing stuff up. Occasionally we’d play ‘Grand Theft Auto’ where you scored points for moving down civilians and blowing stuff up. It’s a shame ‘Postal’ was never released on the Gamestation because it was so wildly different from everything else on the system at the time; you scored points for only moving down civilians, you couldn’t blow anything up.

It was a wonderful time in my life. If you have memories of these gamebopolies or any others, then do let us know. Let’s share and be together as one giant community (with me as the leader).

Avatar Marshall Box

I’ve been working where I work for a long time. Years. Maybe hundreds of years. I can’t remember.

Anyway, the delightful thing about working here is that I’m still discovering new things. The other day, for example, I went into a room I’m sure I’ve visited countless times before, but I noticed something new. Something important.

I found my box.

Avatar A strange little lift

Recently I had to visit an office building not far from work on my lunch break. It was one of those really small office buildings that’s just a stack of little offices above a shop, so you go to a door next to the shop and ring the bell and they tell you to come up.

When you’re inside, the offices are tiny, just a room on each floor really, and there’s a tiny staircase that spirals up. There’s also a lift, but this being a tiny building of tiny rooms it is a tiny lift. The kind where you get in and there isn’t really any space for anyone else. It has mirrors on three sides to make it feel bigger but nothing can really change the fact that it’s about the size of a coffin. 

Anyway, the point is that I’ve never heard of the company that made the lift. If I had I’m pretty sure I’d have remembered them. 

Avatar Welcome portrait

I travel by train a lot these days, so you’d think that – like Smidge Manly – I’d be an expect in the ’istries and mistries of the railway – but sometimes I still stumble on something that baffles me.

Yesterday I boarded a train and found this. I cannot explain it.

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 Smidge in writing

Smidge Manly is one of the UK’s most famous interviewers, entertainers and northerners, so it’s no surprise that YouTube is bristling with videos of him in action, doing all the things he does best.

What you might not know is that, nowadays, YouTube automatically generates subtitles for videos. It does this by running the soundtrack through a speech-to-text programme and putting the results up on the screen. It’s done this for all Smidge’s work.

Unfortunately for Smidge, YouTube hasn’t yet got the hang of his accent.

Avatar Security message

Due to recent security breaches affecting The Beans, a number of extremely important changes have taken place which you need to be aware of. Please read this briefing in full, and if you are uncertain about anything you see here, then please don’t hesitate to read it again but more slowly so you understand it better.

In order to help The Beans respond to this security incident, and all future security incidents, as quickly and efficiently as possible, a new Elite Security Response Taskforce Committee has been formed. Its members – Kev, Chris and Ian – have been chosen for their expertise on cybersecurity matters, their proven 24/7 availability, and the fact that they are the only people involved in The Beans. All security problems are presented to the Elite Security Response Taskforce Committee, who will then respond with a plan of action within eight to ten working weeks.

Already changes are evident. A new method of logging in to The Beans has been established and is now in service.

  1. Members should navigate to the new super secure login page at security.keep-out.pouringbeans.com/go-away/no-hackers-allowed.html from where they can enter their login details.
  2. Members should then enter their username and their password when prompted.
  3. Passwords must contain three uppercase letters; four lowercase letters; a number of numbers between none and twelve, though the numbers themselves must be no lower than eight and no higher than fourteen; three symbols; one emoji (but not the clown face); and a special noise. Users should make the noise into their device’s internal microphone at the appropriate point while typing in their password.
  4. On entering the correct username and password, the member will then receive a telephone call from an unlisted number in Cuba, and will be given a unique sequence of six digits, masked by the sound of heavy breathing and occasional bouts of coughing.
  5. The six digits must be split into two groups of three and then multiplied together. The member’s year of birth should then be deducted from that total to produce a one-time code. This should then be sent by text message to a number that will be shown on the screen.
  6. If the code is correct, an email will be sent to the member containing a unique link. Following the link will open what appears to be the Wilko’s homepage, but clicking on the picture advertising a special offer on broom handles will open a new webpage that will require use of your device’s camera.
  7. Facial recognition software will then scan the member’s viso/volto and compare it to images of the member in the photos section of The Beans.
  8. If the v/v is considered acceptable, the member will be granted access to The Beans and will have three minutes to write a new post or otherwise carry out activities in the admin interface before being automatically logged out.

The danger presented to The Beans by hackers, cybercriminals, cyberbullies and incompetence remains extremely high. The Pouring Beans Elite Security Response Taskforce Committee thanks you for your understanding as we continue to work for a more secure future, today and tomorrow, for our children, and our children’s children. Although at this stage neither our children nor our children’s children will be allowed to access the website for security reasons. Thank you.

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.