Way back when, this was one of my favourite games. The main reason being that it had a built in level editor, but the catchy music has remained in my head for decades. My copy was one of four games in a compilation, the other four being Panzerdrome (which was impossible), Tidy Tony (which was a bit like Atic Atac only rubbish), and Steelyard Blues (which I liked until many years later when I found out it was a hacked version of another game).
Anyway. The plot of Big Ben Strikes Again is that you’re a reporter named Monty and you have to bribe various celebrities (mostly politicians, it seems) for a scoop. It plays out as a platformer, with baddies to avoid and 6 items – the bribes – to collect and then give to the celebs. It’s also a lot easier than I remember.
The collision detection is terrible, but once I’d compensated for that it was pretty straightforward – just take your time and watch your step!
Hey whoa what what what? Didn’t I just complete this only a few days ago? Well actually, yes I did! Fancy that!
After doing so, I was curious about the Spectrum version. And, since RetroPie (which isn’t half getting a lot of use at the moment) does Spectrum games too, I gave it a go on there as well – completing it in the process.
I was quite amazed at it really. Certainly, it isn’t as good looking or sounding (or controlling, sadly) as the Mega Drive version I played the other day, but what was impressive is just how much of the game was the same. The levels, the bosses and the weapons were all present and correct, with only a few slightly shortened sections in the whole game. Even some of the bits I’d have considered pretty hard to manage on the poor little Spectrum, like the ascent into the tree, the massive several-screens-wide gunship, and the huge final boss-head with all his brains and worms were present and well represented. Just look at the screenshots and compare with my other post!
That’s right, folks – I’ve completed a Spectrum game. But not a Spectrum game from 30 years ago – one from last year. Or this year. It’s new, anyway.
And it’s also really good. A new Castlevania game (a fan one, not a Konami one) that manages to fit into the Castlevania canon, with astounding graphics and sound considering the hardware it’s on. And it’s a full adventure experience too, like Castlevania II was on the NES, which abilities you gain from bosses giving you access to new areas of the map.
I’d forgotten how responsive the controls on Speccy games could be. All too often there was some vagueness and input lag, but here it’s perfect – and it needs to be for some of the later sections where you have to be pixel perfect and make use of your double-jump or warp abilities. Or both.
Like all good Castlevania games, Spectral Interlude is a bit of a challenge. OK, it’s a lot of a challenge. Nigh on impossible, in fact. Thankfully, I was playing on an emulator, so I could make use of save states. This was probably just as well as it’s a big game too, and took me several hours to finish.
An utterly superb game. Please don’t ignore it because it’s for such an old system, as it stands up really well today despite the limitations. Not that you’ll even see any limitations, really, aside from the usual colour clash. Go and download a copy here.
It’s been a while since I played Yakuza 3. I did really enjoy it, but never got round to picking up Yakuza 4, probably because it was a PS3 game and I don’t really like playing PS3 games, however good they are. However, for reasons I won’t explain, I got a PS+ subscription and with it came Yakuza 4.
I’m a few hours in, and have spent most of the game so far watching cut scenes, playing with UFO Catchers, opening lockers, and buying clothes for girls. And a few fights, but not many. It’s good, but so far it seems to just be Yakuza 3 with a new story and no mobile phone camera. The asset reuse is high with this one.
3D Shinobi III (3DS)
When 3D Outrun was released this week, a few older 3D ports were reduced in price. I picked up Altered Beast (I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry) and Shinobi III. I was pretty sure I’d played Shinobi III before, but it appears not. I don’t recognise any of the levels so far, aside from seeing screenshots in magazines. It’s great, and not as hard as I was expecting (Revenge of Shinobi was virtually impossible, I seem to recall). The levels disjointedly follow on from each other with no obvious link, but that’s par for the course for games of this age, I suppose. I’m only a few levels in, but really enjoying it so far.
Pokémon Shuffle (3DS)
Still playing this off and on. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve completed the game, but I do return to have a few goes at the special stages or to try and capture a few missed pokeymens.
The Swapper (Vita)
I’m not sure if I’m enjoying this. I sort of like the setting, but the way you generate clones and can transfer into them feels slightly too vague to control. Also, some of the puzzles are such that completing them feels like you’ve kludged it or brute forced it rather than actually found a solution. I also don’t like how you have to turn your man around by using the on-screen pointer rather than just pressing the opposite direction like in almost every other game ever. Still, it’s a free PS+ rental so I’m not too bothered if I don’t play it again, although I suspect I will.
Castlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum)
Someone made a Castlevania game for the Spectrum. Oh my. And not only that, but it’s polished to within an inch of its life, it plays flawlessly, looks fantastic, and even – somehow – fits into the normal Castlevania timeline. At least, until Konami rebooted it with Lords of Shadow, anyway. I’ve beaten two bosses, collected the double-jump artifact, and am generally loving it.
Various Crap Games (Spectrum)
Somehow I have become involved in the comp.sys.sinclair Crap Games Competition again. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, as I’m having to play some terrible, terrible games. Intentionally terrible games too. I think they’re driving me a little bit mad. Take a look here.
Hurrah! I managed to melt the disc and make a ring in the mould without Micky finding me, and so the three warps were complete. The three artifacts found in each, however, opened up another warp, and so it was off into the next bit of the adventure.
I’m now in some sort of fish-universe version of London, where everyone is a fish, there are fish puns a-plenty, and there’s even a version of the Tube to ride around the plaice. OH MY SIDES.
Anyway. My fishton has been nicked, I’ve bought it back again, wandered around a lot, found a pub, get a drunk even drunker, nicked his ID, and have bought a cylinder (which was instantly stolen from me). It clearly isn’t my day.
I’ve entered the final warp (unless there are more later), and I seem to be in a forest near a smithy. I’ve figured out that there’s a mould in a birdcage in the smithy, and the parrot in the cage is actually a bomb (so you have to let him out and run away). There’s a clearing in the forest where a guy called Micky hangs around, but he randomly kills you. He also randomly leaves, meaning you can get the gold disc from the tree stump he’s sat on, but then he randomly returns and nicks it and/or the mould from you.
So I know what I need to do (I suspect I have to melt the disc into the mould in the smithy), but I can’t seem to get there intact with all the required items without Micky interfering.
Well, that’s another warp done now. I was stuck on the bit with the gargoyle for ages as I didn’t know how to get it as wrapping the cord round it and pulling did nothing… until I realised you had to pull it from another location.
OK, so it’s not on an actual Spectrum. I’m playing Fish!, a text adventure co-written by ex-YS chap Phil South on Fuse, a Spectrum emulator. On my Mac. Yes, it is complicated.
So far, I’ve become a goldfish (or perhaps I’m a fish all along?), spent ages trying to figure out how not to be swimming upside-down (“turn upside-down” seemed to do the trick), and completed the first of three “warps”. How about some screenshots to show you, eh?