Author Archives: Steve Perrin

About Steve Perrin

An old timey gamer and movie fan that enjoys playing and talking about games as well as moives. I have been playing games since the early 80's and still do today and been a fan of films since before I can remember. I hope to create a website that like minded gamers & moviegoers can read, enjoy and relate to.

Cobra Kai: The References

So earlier this year, a sequel T.V. show to The Karate Kid film franchise launched on YouTube Red called Cobra Kai. Picking up the story 30 years after the end of the 3rd film, the show continues the story of Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny’s (William Zabka) decades long rivalry. You can watch the first two episodes for free too on YouTube.

I didn’t have a lot of interest in the show at first, but when an old friend (thanks Mike) suggested I should check it out, I decided to do a full retrospective of the entire The Karate Kid franchise… and I ended up enjoying the show a lot more than I thought I would. Cobra Kai is a brilliant show, one that pays respects to the film series and yet does its own thing at the same time. I loved it so much that I watched the whole thing twice and it was while enjoying the series for the second time when I noticed a lot of in-jokes, references and call-backs to not only the film franchise but also fan theories over the years. The second season of Cobra Kai is filming as I type this and set to be released next year. So to pass the time until then, I thought I’d take a look a the many, many Cobra Kai references from season one. Now, I’m not sure that I caught everything but I’m going to cover as many as I noticed.

If you’ve not seen Cobra Kai yet then check it out as it’s brilliant. Also, SPOILERS ahead too as some references give away plot points.

Episode 1: Ace Degenerate

This one kicks off showing the fight that ended the original film. But it also features some new shots, angles and even previously unused footage not shown in the movie. Johnny still likes his red cars, in the show he now has a bright red Pontiac Firebird while in the movie he had a bright red Avanti convertible – I guess it would be too much to expect the same car three decades later. But it still shows that Johnny likes red cars.

Cobra Kai Johnnys Car

It’s also shown that Johnny is now living in the Reseda area of L.A., which is where Daniel and his mother moved to in the film. Plus Johnny is now working as a odd-job/maintenance man which is the same job Mr. Miyagi held. Then, when Johnny’s car is hit and towed away, the company is called “Pat’s Towing” which could (or could not) be a reference to Mr. Miyagi actor Pat Morita… maybe?

When Johnny and Daniel finally meet in the show after 30 years, Johnny makes reference to the fact that Daniel should’ve been disqualified as his infamous crane-kick hit Johnny in the face and it’s made clear at the start of the tournament that blows to the face are illegal. It’s a much discussed plot hole among fans of the film. Also while at the car dealership, Daniel introduces his cousin Louie and in the films he had an uncle Louie. There’s a chance uncle Louie named his son after himself.

Episode 2: Strike First

While talking to Miguel Diaz, Johnny recites a Cobra Kai mantra (“A man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.”) and even signs off by saying “What is the problem Mr. Diaz?”. Which is exactly what John Kreese says to Johnny in the first film and even signs off by saying “What is the problem Mr. Lawrence?”.

When talking to his wife, Daniel mentions how he was pushed off a cliff while on his bike. Aside from some hyperbole from Daniel, he is referencing when Johnny and the Cobra Kai students pushed Daniel off his bike and down a hill in the first film. There is also a brief flashback showing Daniel teaching his daughter karate, he says “True karate is here, here but never here” while pointing to parts of her body from her head to her stomach. This is something Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel in the film.

Cobra Kai Daniel Flashback

Daniel invites his daughter’s boyfriend, Kyler round for dinner and at that dinner he mentions how he got his sashimi knife during his first visit to Okinawa which is a reference to the second film. Also during the dinner, Daniel questions Kyler on his injuries especially his black eye and hand. Mr. Miyagi also does this to Daniel in the first film after he is beat up by the Cobra Kai students.

At the Cobra Kai dojo, Johnny has Miguel clean the windows. Miguel asks if he should clean the windows a specific way… which is an obvious set up for a “wax on, wax off” joke, but Johnny says he doesn’t give a shit.

Episode 3: Esqueleto

While at dinner (again) and discussing his daughter going to the Halloween dance Daniel mentions him being a chaperone, he goes on to say how his mother used to drive him on dates which is a reference to the date he and Ali went on in the first film in which his mother drove the love birds.

Cobra Kai Original Date

As Johnny trains Miguel (rather brutally) at the swimming pool, he says “Cobra Kai never dies”, which is a reference to the mantra said in both the first and third films. Then at the Halloween dance later in the episode, Miguel turns up in the same infamous and iconic skeleton costume Johnny wore in the first film. And as Johnny is walking trough the school, he sees a picture of Ali from the first film.

Episode 4: Cobra Kai Never Dies

To be honest, this one is a little light on the references as it spends a lot of time with the new characters instead of the older ones. Well the title of the episode is a reference I’ve already covered with that previously mentioned mantra of the dojo.

This is a tenuous one I admit, but Daniel makes Bananarama pancakes for breakfast, Bananarama performed the song Cruel Summer which appears in the film. When Kyler and his friends bully Miguel in the library, one of Kyler’s cohorts says “I think he’s gonna cry.” This is the same line said by one of the Cobra Kai students to Daniel in the first film in the locker-room before the tournament begins.

Episode 5: Counterbalance

Johnny says “This isn’t a knitting class, it’s a dojo.” to Miguel. John Kreese says the line “This is a karate dojo, not a knitting class.” in the first film to Mr. Miyagi.

As Daniel sets up his dojo at home, he hangs a rule of karate on the wall, this is the same rule (rule 2) Mr. Miyagi has on his dojo and teaches to Daniel in the second film. Plus the country club Daniel frequents in the show (seen a lot in this episode) is the same club where he gets covered in spaghetti from the first film after seeing Johnny and Ali dancing together – the Encino Oaks Country Club.

Cobra Kai Daniel Karate Rule

As Daniel performs a kata near the end of the episode, he strikes the exact same pose he used in the third film’s final fight and the music in the background is the same as the music in the first film’s finale.

Episode 6: Quiver

This one opens with a young version of Johnny showing us his past. We see him ogle some motorbikes, which is something featured in the first film and then young Johnny discovers the Cobra Kai dojo for the first time. He looks through the window and can see and hear a young John Kreese talking to students – the audio used is taken directly from the first film. Funnily enough, the audio used is taken form a scene in the first film that Johnny was in.

Cobra Kai Johnny Flashback

Johnny teaches his students a simple one-two jab punch. This is the same punch John tells Johnny to use to warm up the students in the first film. Daniel is doing some katas when Robby asks him what he is doing. Daniel explains how they are the foundation to Karate, Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel the same kata and says the same thing in the third film.

Johnny walks past this students in the dojo saying “Fear does not exist in this dojo does it? Pain does not exist in this dojo does it? Defeat does not exist in this dojo does it?” John did the same thing in the first film.

Episode 7: All Valley

This one opens with a very familiar scene as Daniel has Robby do some chores around the car lot including waxing cars. This is Daniel teaching Robby Karate the same way Mr. Miyagi taught him. And when Robby is finished waxing the cars, Daniel asks “Both lots?”. This is a nod to when Mr. Miyagi asks Daniel to paint the fence. Then Robby get upset that he’s not being taught Karate at all and accuses Daniel of using him to just do chores, the same thing happened to Daniel with Mr. Miyagi.

As Johnny is looking through his karate magazine, he sees an ad for the All Valley Karate Championships. The design for the ad is almost identical to the original save some colouring and a date change.

Cobra Kai Ad

Miguel and Sam go on a date to the Golf n Stuff which is the exact same place Daniel and Ali went on their date in the first film. Many of the shots and actions are recreated too including the opening crane shot, having their photo taken in a photo-both, playing mini golf, etc. The whole scene is full of nods and references to the original film.

Johnny learns that the Cobra Kai dojo has a lifetime ban from entering competition. This is a plot point carried over from the third film when John Kreese and the dojo are given a life time ban due to the events of the film. It also makes sense that Johnny knows nothing about it as he was not part of the third film.

Episode 8: Molting

Johnny wears a red jacket in this one (he really likes red) and it looks a lot like the red jacket he had in the first film. Meanwhile at Daniel’s home, he gets a visit from his mother, Lucille and she is played by the same actress as the original film – Randee Heller. Lucille also references the time Daniel was pushed of his bike down that hill… or cliff according to Daniel. She also describes Daniel’s eyes as “baby browns”, something she did in the film.

Cobra Kai Lucile

Johnny recaps the events of the first film while talking to Miguel… only there’s a twist (more on that later). But he mentions several characters from the the flick including Ali, and some of the old Cobra Kai students. When Daniel trains Robby, he wears a baseball catcher’s mask and chest protector, just like Mr. Miyagi did with Daniel in the film. He also mentions about power coming out of one inch of his fist, which is what Mr. Miyagi also said to Daniel.

Cobra Kai Original Training

Miguel discovers his girlfriend, Sam with another boy. A boy she has no interest in, but Miguel misunderstands the situation. Daniel did the same when he saw Johnny and Ali at the country club.

Episode 9: Different But Same

Johnny arrives at Daniel’s house and says “You still can’t leave well enough alone.” This is a reference to the first film when, after the Halloween dance, the Cobra Kai students catch Daniel and Johnny says “You couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you, you little twerp?”.

While test driving a car, Johnny calls Daniel “Danielle”. One of Johnny’s fellow students, Dutch, also referred to Daniel as “Danielle” in the locker room before the big fight in the first film. Also while on the test drive, they stop at Daniel’s old apartment complex where he and hos mother lived in the first film. Then Johnny mentions kicking Daniel’s “ass around the corner”, which is a reference to the Halloween fight in the film. Of course Daniel quips back “how’d that end?” which is referencing Mr. Miyagi beating the crap out of the Johnny and the Cobra Kais.

Cobra Kai Halloween Fight Original

Then while at a bar having a drink together, Daniel and Johnny talk about the spaghetti calamity at the county club as well as well as referencing a few other things from the films including the opening of the second film. Daniel also says he knows where Ali is now (possible set-up for a cameo in season 2?).

Episode 10: Mercy

The scoreboard for the karate tournament is in the exact same style and colours as in the original film. The Cobra Kai gis are also the exact same style and colour as they were in the film. Of course the infamous crane-kick make an appearance when Miguel uses it to score his first point to mock Daniel. The whole tournament has plenty of references to the big fight from the film, Johnny making a fist aimed at one of his students – just as John Kreese did, the semi-finals are announced the same way, one of the Cobra Kai get disqualified for using an illegal move and many more.

Cobra Kai Crane Kick

Robby gets taken out of the competition with an injury, just as Daniel was. Then back in the locker room Daniel rubs his hands together, just as Mr. Miyagi did when readying himself to heal Daniel… only this version has a different resolve. Then when Robby returns to the tournament after his injury, the announcer exclaims, ” Daniel LaRusso’s gonna coach!” – which is a twist on the line “Daniel LaRusso’s gonna fight!” from the first film.

The episode ends with Daniel taking Robby to his old training grounds… Mr. Miyagi’s house. It’s complete with the old cars (especially that yellow Ford Super Deluxe convertible). Then they go into the garden and it looks just as it did in the film, all while the famous Bill Conti music plays in the background. Only that’s not quite the end…

Cobra Kai John Kresee

Back at the Cobra Kai dojo, Johnny get an unexpected visitor – John Kreese, his old sensei, still played by Martin Kove and with a big, fat stogie in his mouth. Setting up for a hell of a confrontation in season 2.

Bonus Reference

As a nice bonus reference. There has been a fan theory for years that Daniel was actually the bully in the original film and Johnny was the victim. Plenty of people have covered this theory and you can read one example here. Well in the show, Johnny is not really the bad guy. He’s a bit of a loser, a drop-out sure – but he’s also shown to be sympathetic and caring. While Daniel is shown to be a more antagonistic, likes showing off his wealth, popularity and success.

Cobra Kai Johnny Talk

It’s almost as if Johnny is the victim here and Daniel is the bully… kind of like the fan theory. In fact, in episode 8, Johnny tells the story of the original film to Miguel – but he tells it as if he was the victim. In-keeping with the fan theory thing. It’s a nice bit on the part of the writers to include such a reference and even base the whole show off.


 

There’s a lot of fan-service in the show (some references I’ve not covered, some I’ve not even noticed myself) yet it never feels forced. The writers have crafted a wonderful series with Cobra Kai that while fresh, still has one foot in the 80s and the original three films.

Bring on season 2, I can’t wait.

Advertisements

Not Your Usual, “Is Die Hard A Christmas Movie?” Article

Yup its that time of year again. The annual celebration we like to call Christmas is back and I bet that if you typed “is Die Hard a Christmas movie” into Google (or your choice of interwebs search engine), you’ll find dozens of articles all asking that particular question and all with differing answers. Most sites keep regurgitating the exact same article from the previous years too just with a few wording tweaks and many offer “a new poll” which, as I’ve noticed seems to switch results every year. Last year a poll said yes Die Hard is a Christmas film but this year it’s a no. It’ll be a yes again next year.

I have been writing this blog for a few years now and never bothered to offer my own insight and answer to this age old query, until now. Except I don’t want to do what everyone else does with a simple yes or no – I want to not only answer but also explain my answer.

This summer saw the 30th anniversary since Die Hard was released and I’ve been doing Die Hard based articles all year in celebration. So it only seem fitting to tackle this sticky subject as part of and to end my 30th anniversary celebrations. But before I get to my opinion and answer to the query, lets see what some people connected to the movie say…

Are They Right?

Die Hard screenwriter Steven E. de Souza already put his view across a while back and he says it is. However Bruce Willis has said its not when he was quoted during his comedy roast by saying:

“Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie!”

– Bruce Willis

Bearing in mind, that was (as mentioned) during a comedy roast. So I’m guessing Bruce was trying to be funny. Plus there is the fact he’s getting old and senile too – I mean back in 2007 he said that Live Free or Die Hard is better (at times) than the original.

“It’s at least as good if not better at times that the first film.”

– Bruce Willis

As I said, senile. So what Bruce says about the original being a Christmas movie or not is moot… seriously it’s as good as if not better than the original? Bruce needs to be put down – it would be kinder.

Now I Have A Machinegun

I suppose that is really the crux of my point, it’s opinion. When it comes to this question everyone falls into one of three categories.

  1. You have the naysayers, the ones that refuse to see Die Hard as a Christmas flick.
  2. You have the opposite, the ones who will say it is a Christmas movie every year until they die.
  3. Then you have the third group, the ones that just don’t give a fuck.

People say it’s not a Christmas film because it has nothing to do with Christmas… and they’re right from a plot point of view. Then there are those that say it is a Christmas movie because it takes place over Christmas Eve – but is that enough? For me, no. But I will come off as very hypocritical next as it’s now time for me to answer that yearly question – is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Well…

Die Hard Jumpers

Those are my Christmas jumpers for this year, what do you think my opinion is? Still, I said earlier how I don’t just want to answer but also explain my answer. And this is where the hypocrisy will come in. No, I don’t think that Die Hard being set at Christmas is enough to qualify it as a Christmas flick. I feel the same way about that other controversial choice too, Lethal Weapon. I love me some Riggs & Murtaugh and I think Lethal Weapon is a damn fine picture… but it’s not a festive flick to me despite it being set at Christmas just like Die Hard.

What Is A “Christmas Movie?”

Yet something like Batman Returns or Gremlins? Yup, I see those as Christmas films despite the fact they have little to do with the festive season other than the setting. I did pre-warn you about the hypocrisy. Die Hard gets shot down as a festive film just because it’s set at Christmas but the plot has nothing to do with the holiday… yet Home Alone is always lauded as a “Christmas classic” when it is only set at Christmas but plot-wise? What does a really annoying kid fending off two really fucking stupid burglars have to do with the Yuletide season? So what is Die Hard ignored as a Christmas flick because it has nothing to do with the season and only set in it – but others in the same boat get a free pass? You don’t see “Is Home Alone a Christmas movie?” articles year after year do you?

This line of reasoning can be applied to films that no one would argue against being a Christmas film. Take my all time favourite festive flick – It’s a Wonderful Life. Usually at near the top if not at the top of a lot of Christmas film lists…. but why? The opening of the film and the end are set in and around Xmas sure, but the majority of the story has absolutely nothing to do with the silly season at all. George Bailey thinking life would be better of he was dead is a story that could’ve been told any time of the year, not specifically Christmas. Yes it being (hardly) set at Christmas gives it a little lift, a bit more gravitas. But the core of the plot and meaning behind it – that could’ve been told in the Spring and still got the same message across right?

Its A Wonderful Life

What about the all time, undisputed classic A Christmas Carol? I love this story. No matter how many times it is told and re-told, I never get bored of it. Form the Alastair Sim starring 1951 Scrooge, the Bill Murray take from 1988 with Scrooged to the greatest version of the tale yet – The Muppet Christmas Carol from 1992. It’s a story that has been done dozens up on dozens and dozens of times from 1901 onward. Yet it’s another one that is considered a “Christmas classic” when it really has little to do with Christmas outside of it’s setting. Yeah I know what you are thinking – how dare I? But just look at the plot for a second. it’s about a miserly old man learning to be more generous and friendly. Let me put it this way, keep the same plot, same characters, ghosts everything –  only change the setting from Christmas Eve to October 31st and you have an effective Halloween film about a mean old bastard scared into being nice by ghosts of his past and even Death itself.

Seriously, What Is A Christmas Movie?

Of course there are films that are not only set at Christmas but also have a plot that is cemented in the festive season. Miracle on 34th Street as an example. It’s a film about a man trying to prove his is the real Santa Claus. It’s kind of hard to get a more Christmasy film than that. You can change the setting, but the plot is still about someone proving they are the real Santa. But what about something that features the real Santa but is hardly set at Christmas at all? I present the short film Father Christmas from 1991 based on the books by Raymond Briggs, the man behind another all time Christmas classic, The Snowman. Have you ever seen Father Christmas? (the short film not the real dude). It basically tells the story of what Santa does the rest of the year when it’s not Christmas. For those not in the know, he goes on holiday and says “bloomin'” a lot. It’s a film about Father Christmas that has little to do with Christmas itself… yet it’s a definite “Christmas classic”.

Father Christmas

And that really is my point, it’s hard to pin-down what makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie. You can have Christmas films that have plots and characters centric to the season. There are ones that are only set at Christmas but from a plot point of view have nothing to do with the holiday. Then there are some that feature Christmas characters at the centre, but story/plot wise have little to do with Noël. So where does Die Hard fit into all of this? I said earlier how I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas movie just because it’s set at Christmas. Yet I do see it as a Christmas flick none the less… and so this is where the explanation comes in.

This Is What A Christmas Movie is…

Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rocky III. So what do all those films have in common? Well they’re all Christmas flicks. Maybe I should clarify, they are all Christmas films to me specifically. See here in England in the 80s when I grew up, we only had four T.V. channels at the time and these channels would always battle year after year to get the big films shown over Christmas, sometimes it would be a T.V. premier too. It was a wondrous time of year for the young film-fan me as I got to watch plenty of flicks. I’d probably watch more films over the 2 week Christmas holiday from school than I would the rest of the year. A lot of first time views of these films for me comes from Christmas and so they go on to be forever associated with Christmas to me personally, despite their settings, plots or characters. Then there is the other thing I connect Christmas to – family. I still remember and miss those family gatherings every year. Let me take one film from those above as an example with Rocky III and continue my explanation.

The film itself has nothing to do with Christmas I know. Yet the first time I saw Rocky III was on T.V. in the 80s over Christmas (I think 86?). I still remember the day vividly. Nan and Granddad came over on Christmas Eve and stayed with us. We opened our presents in the morning and I got an X-Wing, toy not a real one. We’d had a huge traditional dinner around 1 PM before The Queen’s Christmas Message came on the telly at 3 as Nan would never miss that. Me and my brothers got to play with our new gifts for a while before we had to tidy up. And then later that evening, Granddad snored away in his favourite armchair, sleeping off that huge dinner as the big film, Rocky III came on T.V. I sat on the sofa next to Nan and she put her arm around a 10 year old me and we both sat there watching Sylvester Stallone punch the crap out of Mr. T.

Rocky III

Whenever I watch Rocky III even now it reminds me of that Christmas Day and so is, for me, a Christmas film. it has nothing to do with Christmas, no Christmas characters, story or plot and not even a hint of a Christmas setting. Yet it will always be a Christmas movie because of that memory.

Same goes for Die Hard (finally), I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas film because it’s set at Christmas, it helps I admit – but it’s not the reason it’s a Christmas flick to me. The reason is because I first saw it over Christmas. I was way too young in 1988 to go to the cinema to watch Die Hard. But when it was released on VHS, I remember my older brother Rob coming home one day with a copy and we watched it together a few days before Christmas. From that day in 1989 to this, I always watch Die Hard on Christmas Eve as a tradition. Now I’m an adult, I pour myself a large glass of Jack Daniels, plonk myself into a nice & comfy leather armchair, then sit back and relax as Bruce Willis shoots terrorists (who said they were terrorists?) in a skyscraper. I’m not satisfied until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza. And I’ll be doing the same this Christmas Eve too 29 years after that very first time.

Hans Gruber falling

 

That is what a Christmas film is. It doesn’t have to have a Christmas theme or plot or characters, nor does it need to be set at Christmas either. A Christmas flick is one you watch over Christmas because it gets you in the mood, it sparks off a festive memory, a film you watch because it’s Christmas not because it’s a Christmas film.

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? For me, yes and it’s up there with the likes of Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course Rocky III.

John McClane Christmas

Have a good Christmas folks. Oh and yippee-ki-yay mother fuckers.

I Need To Talk About The Red Dead Redemption II Ending

Oh this article has been bubbling away inside me for weeks now. See, I bulldozed my way through RDR II‘s story just so I could get to the ending ASAFP as I wanted to do a write-up for this ere’ blog. Since finishing the game, I’ve been mulling the ending over in my head and comparing it to the ending of the previous game. See, I really didn’t much enjoy the ending of RDR when I first experienced it. It’s a cruel and unforgiving ending that torments the player. However, after a while and finishing the game again – the finale to the previous game quickly became my favourite game ending ever.

John Marston Death

So obviously massive SPOILERS ahead and throughout this whole article. If you’ve not finished RDR II yet, stop reading now and go play the damn game. This is the only SPOILER warning I’m giving and directly after this paragraph is done, I’m going straight into huge SPOILER territory… you have been warned.

The Ending

So Arthur dies in RDR II. When I first started playing the game, I had already convinced myself that Arthur would die in the game. I mean, this is a prequel and seeing as the plot of the last game was John Marston hunting down his old gang members and given the fact that Arthur was not part of the last game… you could pretty much work it out yourself. However, through the course of the story, some gang members do just leave the gang. So a ray of hope was given that maybe, just maybe Arthur leaves the gang at the end and is still alive during the events of RDR. But that wasn’t to be the case. Arthur dies in this game and depending on your moral-meter (being good or bad), the ending slightly changes too. But before I get to the last moments of Arthur Morgan, I need to cover just what it is that kills him…

Arthur Morgan Dies

Arthur is diagnosed with Tuberculosis at around 50% of the story. It wasn’t until my second play-through when I noticed during the mission Money Lending And Other Sins III where you have to collect a debt from a farmer called Thomas Downes that he spits in Arthur’s face. Later his wife reveals that Thomas is ill and even later still during another part of said mission, Thomas dies. It’s that previously mentioned spitting when Arthur contracts Tuberculosis from Thomas. As the game continues, Arthur slowly dies in front of your eyes and even before he is diagnosed. It begins with some subtle coughing that you don’t really notice, the coughing gets slowly worse as the game progresses. Arthur’s skin becomes pale and his eyes bloodshot. Other characters will comment on how ill he looks, etc, and it goes on until the very end. It’s a marvellous piece of storytelling from Rockstar where Arthur’s fate sealed very early in the game, but you the player (and Arthur) are not made aware of it until much later. Playing a second time really brings the clever writing to the forefront.

This is what kills Arthur, not a hail of bullets as with John Marston in the previous game but a disease. It’s a slow death and one that unfolds as you play. Rockstar can be pretty damn cruel sometimes, they make you enjoy and even love a character… then they kill them off. They even kill off your horse in this too and it’s got some emotional gravitas to it. I mean, you spend a lot of time with your horse, you brush it, feed it and bond with it through the game. The horse becomes more than just a means for transportation and as he/she dies, Arthur comforts it and its pretty damn touching too.

Arthur and Horse

There was one thing I was doing whole playing my way through RDR II, I was keeping an eye on the story completed %. As the game slowly built to it’s finale, as Arthur’s time was coming to an end, as I completed the “final” mission… I noticed something. The story was only 70% complete. Arthur was dead but there was still 30% of the story left? That’s when the epilogue began, a fucking huge more than a quarter of the entire story epilogue. John Marston returns and you get to play as him for this final 30%. I was kind of expecting something like this. I thought they would do something similar given the ending of the previous game as after John dies, you control his now grown up son Jack. In RDR, you only play as Jack Marston for a single mission as he tracks down Edgar Ross and kills him for betraying John. In RDR II, you play as John for a huge chunk of the game. It’s got to be around 5-7 hours of the game.

John Marston Callback.png

John’s section of the game is very slow and plodding in an already slow game. Most of John’s story is about him going straight by turning his back on his outlaw days, getting a job on a ranch, making a bad decision and Abigail leaving him. It then continues with John trying to make amends as he buys some land and builds his own ranch, the ranch in RDR. You have to physically go out an buy goods and building materials too then actually build the ranch to entice Abigail back. The whole thing is very slow and very, very reminiscent of the ending to the last game where John works on his ranch, tries to build a relationship with his son Jack and so on. It all leads up to where RDR (almost) begins as Edgar Ross searches for John to get him to work for the government to hunt down his ex-gang members.

Everything ties up nicely indeed… but is it a good ending?

Honestly, I’m still not sure. Yeah I didn’t much like the ending to the last game at first but it grew on me and became my favourite game ending so far. But that’s because it was a shock, a ballsy move by Rockstar to kill off the main character. With RDR II, it just feels like a repeat. Arthur’s death is very, very different – but the point is, it’s still pretty much the same ending. A lot of the same beats are repeated, not necessarily in the same order but they are there. The slow working on the ranch, the death of the main character, the “surprise” epilogue, etc.

I enjoyed playing as John at the end, of course I did as he’s one of my favourite game characters, but I also think it dragged out a bit too long. Did the epilogue really need to be 30% of the game? It’s not just the ranch building and all that, its the fact you have to take Abigail out on a date, get a photograph taken. Before all of that when working on the first ranch you have to teach the rancher’s kid how to ride a horse, milk a cow. etc. It just began to feel like unnecessary fluff to drag out an already very long game. Maybe if the John Marston epilogue had been released as DLC later and not part of the main game. Maybe if the credits rolled when Arthur died and with John escaping with his family leaving me to fill in the blanks, leaving me with a sense of loss as with the previous game, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more?

John Marston Ranch Building

I don’t know but after spending 50+ ours playing as Arthur Morgan and watching him die… that was enough for me. His demise was brilliantly written and realised. Yes I love John Marston and yes, of course they had to tie everything into RDR. I just think the epilogue as too much and superfluous.

 

Good And Bad Die Hard Rip-Offs

When it was released in 1988 (happy 30th), Die Hard was a revelation in action films. It took a lot of the clichés most other action films were guilty of overusing and turned them on their head. Die Hard blew film-goers away and can still hold it’s own against other actions films released now. It became as massive success and went in to spawn a huge franchise in it’s own right, not just with movies – the sixth of which (called McClane) is in production as I write this. But there were Die Hard games, comic books and all sorts of memorabilia. And I’ve been celebrating three decades of Die Hard all this year with numerous articles covering the film. 

Die Hard Art

Credit to Chris Weston over at Xombiedirge.com for this amazing fan-art.

The staggering success of Die Hard gave birth to an often used motif in action cinema, the Die Hard rip-off. For years and still even today, whenever an action film is released that features a usually lone hero going up against bad guys and normally in a confined setting, it gets lumbered with the “Die Hard on/in/at a…” label. So in no particular order or preference, here are some good and bad Die Hard rip-offs. 

Skyscraper – (A.K.A Die Hard In A Skyscraper)

Skyscraper

No, not the recent Dwayne Johnson flick of the same name, this is the 1996 Skyscraper  that took the idea of Die Hard and set it in a skyscraper… like Die Hard. Implementing the now often overused idea of the gender swap and making the hero and heroine. Starring cough “actress” Anna Nicole Smith and swapping the human and everyday main with a heart characteristics of John McClane with big tits.

Anna Nicole Smith plays Carrie Wink, a helicopter pilot who finds herself caught up in a plot involving terrorists and something to do with electronic devices… I’m not 100% sure what the plot is about to be honest or of there really is one. I’m pretty sure this film only exists to show-off Ms Smith’s breasts, at least they are the only two things I remember about the film anyway.

This is bad, this is really, really bad. But I guess Anna Nicole Smith was nice to look at.

Sudden Death – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Sports Stadium)

Sudden Death

This Jean-Claude Van Damme starring flick came out in 1995 and has “The Muscles From Brussels” taking on bad guys till Sudden Death. Released when Van Damme as at the top of his game and making a name for himself as a bankable action hero.

Set in a hockey arena, Van Damme plays fire marshal Darren McCord (its almost McClane) who attends a big hockey game with his son and daughter. While at the game, a group of terrorists arrive and hold various V.I.Ps  hostage in a luxury suite. McCord steps up to save the day and the lives of his children as the terrorists plan on blowing up the stadium when the hockey game ends unless their demands are met. 

To be honest, this one is half decent. I do love some JCVD and while this is far from his best, it’s also far from his worst. Plus you get to see JCVD kick a penguin.

Passenger 57 – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Passenger 57

From 1992 comes this high octane and cliché ridden (such as using phrases like “high octane” to describe and action film set on a plane) picture with Wesley Snipes. At the time Snipes wasn’t really known for action flicks but soon became an action star after this one… a bit like Bruce Willis with Die Hard really. 

John McClane… sorry, John Cutter played by Snipes is a retired United States Secret Service agent who now teaches self defence to flight attendants. While struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife during a botched robbery, Cutter is offered a new job as the vice president of a new anti-terrorism unit. Cutter is the 57th passenger on a flight to Los Angeles (where was Die Hard set again?) to attend a meeting regarding his new job. Oh and on the same flight is psychopathic terrorist Charles Rane being escorted by two FBI agents. Shortly after take off, things go wrong when Rane and his cohorts take control of the plane leaving Cutter to save the day.

Snipes is a good action star and this was his first proper stab at the genre. The plot is very predicable but it’s a good film overall. Always bet on the one that isn’t red.

Air Force One – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Air Force One

Yes even the Die Hard rip-off begin to rip-off the rip-offs eventually. This one is from 1997 and stars the legend that is Harrison Ford. An impressive all star cast join Ford in this high octane (sorry) action flick set in on the most famous plane in the world.

So Ford plays U.S. President James Marshall (J.M, John McClane?) who after attending a diplomatic dinner in Moscow, boards Air Force One to return to America. Only for Russian terrorists posing as the press to seize control of the plane and take hostages. Marshall is rushed to an escape pod for his own safety… only he never leaves and stays on-board to save the lives of his wife and child along with the other hostages.

So you’ve got Harrison Ford, a legendary action hero – going up against Gary Oldman, a legendary bad guy. Ford mumbles his way through the film as Oldman chews the scenery like he’s not eaten in a month… and it’s glorious.

Con Air – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Con Air

Okay so now the rip-offs are ripping off the rip-offs that are ripping off the rip-offs… I think. Also from 1997 comes this other high octane (last one I promise) plane based action film. With Nicolas Cage in the main role.

Cage is Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who’s honourably discharged after killing a man who tired to attack his pregnant wife. Poe serves ten years in prison but is paroled two years early. He has to take his final trip home to reunite with his wife and see his daughter for the first time, as a prisoner aboard The Jailbird – a flying prison transport along with several other prisoners being transported to other jails. Of of course the bad guys take control of the plane leaving Poe to clean up the mess.

Of all the Die Hard on a plane rip-offs (there’s a lot of them), this is my favourite. Cage is brilliant as the hero with a heart plus you have John Malkovich playing the main villain. 

Under Siege – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Boat)

Under Siege

“I’m just a cook”, Steven Seagal liked to tell people back in 1992 as he continually punched people in the face on board a Navy battleship in Under Siege. At least it made a change from a plane right?

So Seagal plays Casey Ryback, he’s just a cook (honest) on board the USS Missouri. A musical band land on the battleship to entertain the troops… only they turn out to be a band of mercenaries who take control of the ship. As it turns out, Ryback is a little more than just the cook (he lied) as he’s a highly trained and experienced Navy SEAL who specialises in anti-terrorism tactics. So of course he kills the bad guys, gets the girl and saves the day. Not bad for a cook.

Perhaps one of the most famous rip-offs when people knew who Steven Seagal was. Again an enjoyable romp, nowt too special but fun… just avoid the terrible sequel.

No Contest – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Beauty Pageant)

No Contest

Yeah you read that right. Just think of all the locales already mentioned and where one could set a Die Hard rip-off… would you think a beauty contest would work? This one is from 1995 and stars very soft porn actress Shannon Tweed… she’s married to Gene Simmons you know?

Yeah this is as bad as it sounds. Tweed plays kick-boxer/actress Sharon Bell who while at A Miss Galaxy beauty pageant, fends off a gang who take hostages. The gang demand diamonds as a ransom or they’ll… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry dozed off for a while there. Oh errrrr, Robert (“Agent Johnson, no the other one”) Davi from Die Hard is in it.

This is fucking atrocious, I mean – this is Die Hard 4 & 5 levels of bad. Even worse, they made a sequel… don’t look it up.

Icebreaker – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Ski Resort)

Icebreaker.png

It’s time to hit the piste as Sean Astin plays Matt Foster – the cough “hero”. Released in 2000 a year before people would finally recognise Sean Austin as a Hobbit.

So everything is going great at the Killington ski resort. Foster, one of the resort’s Ski Patrol is seen as a bum by his soon to be father-in-law. Enter terrorist Carl Greig who takes control of the ski resort/. The plot has something to do with radio active material stolen from Russia or something. I really lost interest in this one, can’t really remember the plot if I’m honest. But whatever happened in the plot, Foster gets the chance to impress his fiancé’s father when he saves the day.

Dull film with a bland plot. Still, Bruce Campbell plays the main bad guy and that’s the only good thing about the film.

Speed – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Bus)

Speed

Very few of these Die Hard rip-offs are any good. Some of them are terrible, most of them are okay and a handful of them are fantastic. Speed is definitely one of the greats. Released in 1994 when the Die Hard rip-off still felt fresh and starring John Wick, sorry Keanu Reeves.

Reeves plays Jack Traven a young SWAT officer who finds himself trapped on a bus armed with a bomb after he thwarted a previous attempt to extort money via the use of a bomb by madman Howard Payne. When the bus hits 50 MPH, the bomb is armed and if it drops below 50, it blows up killing all on board. Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? Traven teams up with plucky bus driver, Annie to save the hostages on board the bus as well as themselves.

The chemistry between Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven and Sandra Bullock as Annie is wonderful. The action is exiting and well directed. Plus you have legendary Dennis Hopper playing the mad bomber. When it comes to Die Hard rip-off, they don’t get better than this… the sequel though?

Command Performance – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Live Gig)

Command Performace

From 2009 comes this written by, directed by and starring Dolph Lundgren flick. The film is said to be (very loosely) based on a true story where Madonna performed a special live gig for Vladimir Putin… only with a large sprinkling of fantasy.

So the Russian President asks pop sensation Venus (Madonna/Venus, get it?) to perform an exclusive gig as his daughters are big fans. Lundgren plays Joe, an ex-biker, turned drummer who has to save the day when terrorists turn up at the concert and take the President, along with others as hostages. Joe teams up with young Russian agent Mikhail Kapista to kill the bad guys and save the hostages.

Dolph Lundgren is a drummer in real life and I’m pretty sure the only reason this film exists is so Lundgren can show people he can really drum… and do it well too. Just a shame the film isn’t as good as his drumming. This is one of those very mundane Die Hard rip-offs. It’s not terrible, its far from great – it just kind of is.


 

Well there you have it, a few good, and more than a few bad Die Hard rip-offs. Trust me, there’s a lot more out there – I’ve only just touched on a handful of the more famous ones as well as highlight some of the not so famous ones… Die Hard at a beauty pageant, seriously?

Die Hard Art Feet

More stunning fan-art from Chris Weston at Xombiedirge.com

Next up in my celebration of 30 years of Die Hard, I’m tackling the big one, a subject I’ve avoided for a long time. It’s December so it just seems right that I offer my own opinion on that yearly debate and eternal question that is, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

Into The Wonderful? GODS Remastered

Back in the 90s growing up as a British teenage gamer with a Commodore Amiga at hand to play on, there were two gaming developers that for me defined the decade. There was Bullfrog with games such as Theme Park/Hospital, Syndicate and Populous to name a few. And then there were The Bitmap Brothers who stood out from the crowd at the time as they posed for pictures in the gaming magazines of the day in shades next to helicopters (not theirs).

The Bitmap Brothers

They were the cool kids amidst all the geeky nerds other gaming studios had, the Bitmaps were the ones that developed games with a real passion and drive that pushed the limits of the hardware and even the people who played them thanks to the game’s punishing difficulty. They showed the world that games could be beautiful to look at and great to play at the same time. Titles like Xenon, Speedball, The Chaos Engine and GODS (yes the title is stylised in all caps) were sublime. I’m currently writing a book covering the best of British game developers/publishers, companies I grew up with and their games – you can check out the first three chapters (in the first draft) right here. One of the developers I cover in the book is The Bitmap Brothers and I signed off the first draft of their chapter saying how much I adored their games, especially GODS and how much I’d love to see a sequel or even a remaster. Well that was a few months back when I wrote that and at the time I didn’t know my wish would come true. Yes GODS, perhaps my favourite game from the Bitmaps (after The Chaos Engine of course) has had the remaster treatment and I’ve played it thanks to receiving a review copy. The good news is I get to play a remaster of one of my all time favourite games, the bad news is I have to re-write the ending of that chapter of my book. But the big question is, does GODS have a place in today’s gaming market?

First up, a very quick history lesson on the original. GODS was developed by The Bitmap Brothers and released in 1991 for pretty much every 16-bit machine at the time, though the Amiga original is still the best. Kicking off on the title screen with a brilliant tune by Nation 12 (A.K.A John Foxx) called Into The Wonderful. One thing their games always had was amazing music and GODS was no exception.

You play as the legendary Hercules on a quest to become a God by exploring and conquering the citadel of the gods, defeat the numerous enemies and four guardians to achieve immortality. GODS was an action/shooter/puzzle/platformer and was bloody hard too (all Bitmap games were tricky-dicky), this was our Dark Souls of the day. Controlling Hercules was pretty standard stuff. Walk left/right, die a lot, shoot bad guys, die a lot, find treasure that can be spent on upgrades, die a lot, play around with switches and levers to discover secrets, die a lot, make pixel perfect jumps, die a lot. Yup GODS was a tough cookie… but never unfairly so. It was a game where you had to play and replay levels over and over to not only to get the most out of them but also add a new bit of info to your memory for next time. Each time you played, you’d learn something new – remember an enemy spawn point to get the drop on them next time, learn a switch pulling pattern to discover a secret room with treasure, experiment with the upgrades to find out which one worked best for that particular level. GODS was a game that needed your upmost attention and I loved the hell out of it back in the day.

GODS Amiga Box

It’s now 2018 and GODS is back as GODS Remastered for the Xbox One and Steam. Developed by Robot Riot with cooperation from one of the original Bitmap Brothers, Mike Montgomery. GODS Remastered is just that, they’ve not messed around with the core gameplay and a few tweaks aside (that I’ll get to soon) this is the same as the original only with fancy HD graphics.

I did get a bit of a nerd-smirk when I loaded up the game and was greeted with a slightly updated version of the original title screen, 16-bit, scan-lines and all. I was instantly transported back to 1991.

GODS Remastered Old Title

But that old school looking title soon gives way to an all new HD one. GODS Remastered is a very faithful recreation of the original. The levels are the same, the enemy placement is the same, the puzzles are the same, the weapons the same… everything is the same. Well perhaps not “everything”, I was so looking forward to loading this up and being greeted by a updated/remix/remastered version of the classic Into The Wonderful intro music… but no. I believe there was a licensing issue with the song and so we get a new tune instead. Heaven to Hades is the new track and while I’m definitely disappointed about the lack of Into The Wonderful, this new music works and doesn’t sound out of place at all – still sounds very “Bitmap Brothers” if you know what I mean.

GODS Remastered New Title

With this being such an accurate remaster, I don’t really need to dwell too much on the game itself. Chances are that if you are reading this, then you are already aware of what GODS is and most probably played it a lot too. This is the same as the original but with shiny new HD graphics. I’ll even give you a quick look at the very start of the game and segue nicely into one of the new features.

Anyone who played the original will have the image of the very start of the game embedded into their subconscious with how may times we had to play and replay the levels due in part to the difficulty and the fact we loved the game so much we payed and played it over and over. You all remember that very first gameplay image right? With our hero, Hercules standing and the bottom left of the screen the first weapon over to his right, with a ladder leading up, as a gem spun above his head in a seemingly impossible to reach area. And you all remember what happens when you walk over to that first weapon. Well that opening screen now looks like this…

GODS Remastered Start.JPG

Oh yeah, that brings back some memories eh? It’s very familiar and yet new at the same time. You instantly recognise it – probably still have nightmares over it. Well a feature of this remaster is that if you feel a little nostalgic and want a trip back to 1991, just give the right stick a click and…

GODS Remastered Old Start

Yup you can switch between the HD remastered graphics and the original ones anytime you like. Though I’m sure they are not the original Amiga graphics as they look more like one of the console ports, possibly the CD-32 version – which is a shame as the console versions are not as good. But you know what? I found myself switching between the graphic modes a lot as I played just so I could see the differences between the two and compare how accurate all the background details were… and they are pretty much 100% accurate with the HD version having more going on. The HD graphics themselves are very nice indeed and while all new, they still look like they belong in a Bitmap Brothers game. The colour palette is more vibrant and yet it still maintains that use of plenty of grey they were famed for with splashes of orange/bronze. Yup GODS Remastered is a very pretty game that has lost none of the original’s charm. Along with the “improved” graphics comes some very nice lighting effects, shadows and such. Though if I’m being 100% honest, I much prefer the original 16-bit visuals and after my incessant flicking between the two, I eventually just stuck with the original graphics.

Another new feature is the saving. I’m sure veteran GODS players will remember that the game only had four levels (four hard levels) and each level was split into three sections. Clear all the sections in that level, beat the end of level boss and you would be rewarded with a password that would start you back at the start of the level. This meant there were only 4 passwords for the whole game, no checkpoints here folks, you fail at the end of level boss and you’d have to play the entire level from the start. Well GODS Remastered has gotten around that by having a auto save feature that saves not only after each fully completed level, but also in between each section that makes up each level. So fail at the end of level boss here and instead of gong back to the very start of the level, just load up the start of the section. For me, this makes the game a little easier and may put off some hardcore GODS players.

The controls are still as clunky as ever, and I mean that in a nice way. There’s something about the way GODS plays that feels right even though it’s a bit stiff. I mean, when Hercules turns around, he doesn’t instantly flip left/right, there’s a little animation that lasts maybe a second or so – but that second is pretty important when you have enemies spawning on either side of you. There is a little help added to this remaster as when you press the left/right trigger buttons, Hercules turns and shoots at the same time. It’s a nice little addition that can really help you out of a tight spot when you get overwhelmed. Plus there is the fact we now use modern controllers these days too. The original Amiga version had the disadvantage of using a joystick with one button, so everything you had to do in the game came from that single button. Playing on the Xbox One with it’s multi-button controller means you now have a button for jumping, one for shooting, one for using switches and one for picking items up. The whole thing makes controlling Hercules easier.

So far it’s all sounding really good… except I have a major problem with GODS Remastered. It’s a problem I can’t overlook and needs addressing. That problem is this…

GODS Remastered Pricw.JPG

£16.74? I mean, aside from the rather stupid pricing instead of £16.99 – almost £17 for this? Look I fucking love GODS it really is one of my all time favourite games but this remaster is bare bones, you get the original game with nice graphics… that’s it. There are no extras, nothing to add gameplay value. It’s a 27 year old game with shiny new graphics.

Okay so there are some new features besides the ones I’ve already covered. Finish the game and unlock a speed run mode… but let me ask you this – what is a speed run mode? I mean, people speed run games all the time and they don’t need a specific mode to do so. You know what is needed? A stopwatch. So all this game offers as a “bonus” is a stopwatch, you know that thing you have on your phone anyway. Then there are leaderboards so you can compete for the best score, achievements have been added and that’s all you get for your £17. Do you want to see how minimal the game is?

GODS Remastered Options

That’s the options screen… all of it, every single option in the game. It’s a volume slider and that’s all you get too. GODS is not a complex game I know but is that all we get, something I can adjust via the volume control on my T.V.? No button mapping, no screen adjustments, nothing other than a music and sound effects slider.

The game offers nothing new that justifies the price except the HD graphics and for me, I don’t think that’s worth £17 especially as I prefer the original 16-bit ones anyway. You get four levels. Now I’m no GODS master but I did play it a lot back in the day. I sat down to play this remaster and got the boss of level three on my first attempt… there are only four levels. I completed the game on my second attempt and I’m currently at the top of the world rankings leaderboard… well the game hasn’t been released yet so that’s hardly worthwhile – but still. There’s an achievement to speed run the game in under an hour. That’s how short this game is, it can be finished in less than 60 minuets if you know what you are doing. In fact, it can be completed in a little over 36 minutes.

GODS Remastered needs more to it. Bearing in mind that the original game only had four levels and while this remaster does a cracking job of recreating the levels – there are still only four. For a game that costs a shade under £17, it’s a joke. What’s needed is more levels created just for this remaster, maybe a level editor so people can share and challenge other players, new weapons and upgrades, armour/clothing that could offer gameplay benefits, play as different heroes, more secret rooms to discover.

You know what would’ve been nice? Ports of all the other versions from the Amiga original to the SNES, Megadrive, DOS, CD 32, etc… all of them just so you could see the numerous different iterations of the game and find your personal favourite.

GODS Remastered Action

Something, the game needs something to warrant that price-tag. I mean, there is already an unofficial GODS remake called GODS Deluxe from a few years back with new graphical options, the original four levels, four all new levels and even a level editor so you can create your own… and it’s FREE. Maybe not 100% legal and all but still, it offers a lot more gameplay value than this remaster does with it’s high price which is my point.

Yes it’s a remaster not a remake, I get that but for the asking price, gamers expect more for their money these days. Maybe this would’ve flown ten years back or so, but not in today’s gaming climate. I got a review copy for free and for free – GODS Remastered is utterly brilliant. You want the best (subjectively) looking version of GODS to play right now, then GODS Remastered is it. But if I’d paid full price for this, I’d be really pissed off because there is nothing here. This is a £6-£8 game, maybe a £10 at the most, certainly not £17. I don’t think I paid £17 for the game back in 1991 so paying that much for the same game (with “nicer” graphics) almost three decades later in 2018 is ludicrous. The little to none additions are not helping either… a speed run mode?

Just as a quick comparison – one of my recent previous reviews was for Horizon Chase Turbo. Another indie game that is hugely inspired by 90s arcade racers. It has a slightly lower price of £15.99 and yet in terms of content, game modes, replayability, unlockables and gameplay value, Horizon Chase Turbo is heads and shoulders above GODS Remastered as it offers the player a lot more game for their money… less money too. I’m sorry, but you just can’t release a bare bones game like this an expect people to fork over close to £20 for it.

Robot Riot

What Robot Riot have done here is commendable – I mean this remaster was not crowd-funded as is the norm these days. This was 100% self-funded and I have to applaud everyone over at Robot Riot for that. I don’t mean to piss on their cornflakes here. I really, really want GODS Remastered to do well, the core game is still solid and just as very playable today as it was back in 91. I just don’t think it’s worth the asking price and can’t recommend you buy it. Robot Riot either need to drop the price by at least half or add new features for free.

Again, take a look at the previously mentioned GODS Deluxe (Google it) as an example of how to do this right and add value to an older, much loved game game.

Overall, I do like GODS Remastered as its GODS, which is an all time classic game that still plays well today and think Robot Riot have done a cracking job recreating it, but it’s all just garnish with no real meat. It’s just a very bitter pill to swallow at £17.

If the original GODS is a fine, classic Rolex watch – then GODS Remastered is a cheap knock-off being sold to you by the “lucky-lucky” man on a beach in Benidorm, only he’s expecting you to pay over the odds for the knock-off.

Disappointing…

I Don’t Need No Education: Skool Daze Reskooled

One of my all time favourite games growing up was the ZX Spectrum classic Skool Daze. It was one of the first sandbox games. Granted, compared to the titles of today like Red Dead Redemption II, Skool Daze is nothing to shout about. But it was the first game I recall whee I had the freedom to play my way. Yeah there was a point and that point was to open the safe where your school report card was held so you could steal it. You had to learn the combination to the safe first and how you did that was really quite open for the time. You could walk around and explore the school at your own pace and ignore the main mission all together. Cause trouble, all while trying to avoid getting lines from the teachers as too many lines meant game over.

Skool Daze.jpg

Write funny and rude messages on the blackboards, hit students and teachers with a catapult/slingshot, jump around like a kangaroo, attend classes or skip them all together, get other students into trouble, etc. There was so much you could do of your own free will and Skool Daze is often considered a pioneer of the sandbox game genre. Skool Daze was a big hit and was followed by a sequel, Back to Skool. Giving you an bigger school to play around in and even including a girls school, more characters and ways to cause some trouble. The two games were stone cold classics and there have been numerous remakes and updates over the years. Even Rockstar Games themselves got in on the act with their Bully game.

Alternative Software.jpg

Enter Alternative Software (who have been around since 1985), the latest team to try to bring Skool Daze to a new generation of fans with their remake Skool Daze Reskooled. Only this is more than just a remake of the original game, this is a unification of both the original games in one. Yes, Skool Daze and Back to Skool all in one game with various updates to keep things fresh. First up I just want to mention the options, this game is full of options. Fully customiseable keyboard controls, gamepad support, audio sliders and even difficulty settings. You can tailor the game to suit your needs.

Skool Daze Reskooled Controler Options

Alternative Software have been wise enough to not mess too much with the core gameplay. If you played and enjoyed the original games, then you’ll find yourself slipping very comfortably into Skool Daze Reskooled. There are a total of four maps to play in… okay so one of them is just a tutorial to get you used to the game’s mechanics. The other three are the maps from Skool Daze, Back to Skool and then there is an all new map called Nu Skool (I’ve not unlocked it yet though) designed just for this game. The renaming of the main characters is also carried over from the originals and that was something I loved about the game. Yeah renaming a character is all too common place now, but back when Skool Daze first came out? I remember renaming some of the students and teachers to people from my school who annoyed me at the time and really enjoyed punching them in the face or hitting them with a well timed catapult shot… still did it with this game too. But Alternative Software have added a nice twist as you can now unlock other characters to play as and they each have their own strengths, weaknesses and bonus. For instance Eric, the main and only character available at the start is very average at everything, but keep playing and you’ll unlock other characters with better/different stats.

Skool Daze Reskooled Character Screen

The graphics are 2D, bold and colourful. Basic stuff but you really don’t need fancy high polygon counts graphics here. They suit the game well and pay homage to the original in plenty of ways. When you attend classes now (if you want to) you can answer questions and even learn something along the way too. I’ve had to brush up on my periodic table.

There’s a handy waypoint system showing you your next task and even a hint system in the pause screen to help you out if you get stuck or unsure of your next move should be. Skool Daze Reskooled even features achievements giving you some nice and funny goals to aim for. Plus there’s a nice little display that slides in and out at the touch of a button to tell you where you should be, whether that be in class, break time or whatever. Everything is well designed so you never forget what your goal is or where you need to be if and when you decide to go off and just mess around with the game mechanics… and you will. It’s just too damn tempting to punch that annoying swot, Einstein in the face and letting another pupil get the blame.

Skool Daze Reskooled Angel Face Lines

It’s a much smoother game over the original with vastly improved animations and frame-rates. The slow chugging along of Skool Daze is now a distant memory as controlling Eric here is a complete joy. Everything is so much brighter and easier on the eyes too. As much as I loved the original game, it was a visual mess and often found it difficult to tell which character I was in a crowd or even where I was a lot of time. Skool Daze Reskooled is just so much more easier to follow.

Skool Daze Reskooled Achievement

Available on Steam now for a very reasonable £5.99 as well as being available for Android and iOS at a slightly cheaper £2.99. But I think it plays far better on a computer then a mobile device. There’s a lot of game here for your money and any fan of the classic Skool Daze will not be disappointed. I’ve played several remakes of the game over the years (Klass of 99 is probably the most famous one) but Skool Daze Reskooled is by far the most fun, most accurate (while also new) and most gameplay packed version yet. If you loved the original as I did, go get yourself a copy right now and prepare yourself for a wondrous trip down memory lane. I doff my school cap to @AlternSoftware  for bringing back one of my all time favourites is such great style.

Now if you’l excuse me, I need to go and write “Mr Wacker is a wanker” on the blackboard.

Horizon Chase Turbo: OutRun Great or Spirit Of Speed Terrible?

One of my favourite games growing up was the Sega classic OutRun, that game is guilty of spawning my love for arcade racers – particularly those of that 80s/90s era. Sadly, its a genre that has all but faded away what with the advent of modern gaming. Racers these days are going for that ultra realistic kind of approach as seen in titles like the Forza and Gran Turismo series of games. Simple but fun racers are hard to find these days, those pick up and play racers without all the fine tuning guff. Still for every stone cold classic like OutRun there were several terrible arcade racers like Spirit Of Speed 1937 – Just trust me, it’s fucking terrible.

Aquiris Game Studio

Enter Brazilian indie developer/publisher Aquiris Game Studio and their attempt at reviving classic arcade racers with Horizon Chase Turbo. But is this an arcade hit or a coin-op flop? Horizon Chase Turbo started out as a free to play game for mobile back in 2015, but it has since grown into a “proper” title and has already been released on the PlayStation 4 and Windows earlier this year with it’s new turbo additions and tweaks but it has only just seen an Xbox One and Nintendo Switch release and I’ve been playing the Xbox version.

First up, there are a good selection of game modes to keep you playing. The only one available at the start is World Tour which is exactly what it sounds like as you tour the world stopping off at places like like America (specifically California), South Africa, Iceland, China and Japan to name a few. There are a total of twelve different locales to race in and each of those locales features multiple races with even more varied places. As a for instance, the first and only place unlocked at the start is California and yet within California you’ll race at San Francisco, Sequoia National Park, Los Angeles and even Death Valley. There are almost 50 cites to race in and over 100 tracks to tear around. As you play you earn points and said points are used to unlock new cars to enjoy and countries to race in. Unlock more of the World Tour and more game options open up. Soon you’ll find yourself taking part in Tournament, Playground and even Endurance game modes all with their own set of challenges and options.

Tournament mode offers you three different difficulties and each difficultly features multiple tournaments to ply your driving skills to as you and nineteen AI opponents fight for the top spot. While Endurance mode sees you racing on either 12, 36 or even all 109 race tracks in the game one after another. Which will take a good few hours to get through I’m sure.

Horizon Chase Turbo Trio.jpg

The Playground mode is an all new feature added to the Xbox and Switch versions with the PlayStation 4 and Windows version getting an update soon. I could sit here and try to explain Playground mode but I did get some info on the new mode from Aquiris Game Studio themselves:

Playground is a rotative competition that present 5 new races each time. They are time-limited tracks that will always bring something special to the table: Time Attack races with no opponents, changes in weather and time of day, mirrored races, infinite nitros, restrictions on which cars competitors can use.

Expect to see sandstorms in Iceland, volcanoes in California and new rules! You never know what the next season will feature.

Races come in one of 5 difficulty levels, meaning there’s something for every type of Horizon Chase player. Each race presents two levels of challenge for Playgrounders to take on: beating the computer opponents may be a challenge in itself, but you can always take it up a notch and fight to climb the leaderboards. Each race has its own leaderboard, Global and Friends-only, that stay online only for the duration of a season.

In Playground mode, each season brings a new set of surprises and a new place to compete.

Playground mode is immense fun as it throws you into a variety of races each with their own unique challenges and levels of difficultly. You might find yourself doing something as simple as racing a track in mirror mode or maybe you’ll be in a thunder storm at night with unlimited nitros and no HUD. With races that vary from racing on your own or against a dozen or so opponents. Plus the races will change regularly too so there’s always something new to experience and be challenged by. Playground mode is pretty damn amazing.

Horizon Chase Turbo is not a licensed game so you won’t be seeing any Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porches and the like – but you will find some very, very close imitations. The first two cars you have in the game are basically a Ferrari F355 and a Dodge Viper.  And it’s not all about supercars either as you’ll be driving this game’s version of a classic Mini, VW Beetle and camper van plus other everyday vehicles. The cars also come in numerous colours and you can unlock special races that will then unlock upgrades for the vehicles too. There are around 30 cars to unlock and drive and you know what, no pay to play, no lootcrates, no DLCs. You can unlock everything, all game modes, all cars, all races and all upgrades just by playing… you know, like we used to be able to do. Plus you can play four player split screen with friends… yes a local/couch multiplayer game – remember those? Horizon Chase Turbo Online also includes online leaderboards so you can compare your race times with players around the globe and even ghost cars so you can race against not only your friends but yourself and try to beat your personal best lap times.

Horizon Chase Turbo 4 player.jpg

Races are fast paced and enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve taken part in a race that has lasted longer then five minutes yet – and I love it. Speaking if the races, each one has tokens you can collect as you speed along. Collect all the tokens and finish first to get a Super Trophy. worth more points to unlock more goodies, so it gives you something to aim for even if you’ve already completed a race. There is also a fuel gauge so you’ll need to pick up fuel icons as you race. Horizon Chase Turbo offers a firm but fair challenge. I found myself blistering my way through the first three or so countries and races, but the AI gets tougher and the tracks begin to become more twisty and feature narrow roads which begin to push your driving skills.

Your driver comes up with quips and jibes as you overtake or crash, delivered via a speech bubble which is something taken directly from the Top Gear games on the SNES. But Aquiris have added a nice little spin on the idea as depending on which car you are driving, your driver will say different things, if you drive the Explorer car (this game’s version of the DeLorean DMC-12) the driver will quote Back to the Future with lines like “Great Scott” and “This is heavy”. In fact there are a few movie based cars to unlock each with their own references.

Horizon Chase Turbo DeLorean

The graphics really are quite something. They’re retro yet modern in glorious HD. They have that cartoon-like, cell-shaded look. Low polygon count but high in colour and vibrancy. The cars and scenery lack any real detail, but that’s the appeal. The lack of detail means the game moves along as a very speedy pace, this game is fast. Each country/city is represented by a scrolling backdrop that highlights famous landmarks such as The Golden Gate Bridge, Moai stone heads from Easter Island or even the Acropolis.

Horizon Chase Turbo is simplistic and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – in this case, simple is great. The controls are bare minimum, accelerate, brake, a button for nitro and then just turn… oh and you can blare your horn at opponents. No gear changing, there’s no tweaking your set-up, worrying about down-force, selecting the right tyres, etc. This is simple, basic racing. Select your car, its colour and hit the track taking corners at 140+ MPH as the colorful scenery blasts past you.

Initially, I was disappointed as the game isn’t very OutRun at all. But the more I played it, the more it dawned on me that I don’t think it intended to be OutRun. You remember that Louts Turbo series of games on the Amiga? They were published by Gremlin Graphics and went on to evolve into the Top Gear franchise on the SNES. Well Horizon Chase Turbo very much puts me in mind of those games. The graphics are of a similar style, the cars drive the same way, the sense of speed is the same and even the music is similar (well it was all composed by the same man, Barry Leitch). Horizon Chase Turbo is an imitation of some of the best 90s racers and a damn good one at that. It’s quite clear the guys and gals over at Aquiris Game Studios knew what kind of game they wanted to make with @Horizon_Chase, it’s obvious they have a passion and drive for those 90s arcade racers.

Horizon Chase Turbo Crash.jpg

I first put the game on aiming to play for an hour and thinking I’d get bored. Four hours later and I was still playing while writing this article at the same time, I only turned the game off because it was after 3 AM and my eyes were getting heavier and heavier. I just couldn’t stop playing, I’d unlocked the third locale, Brazil and wanted to see more – but fatigue eventually got the better of me. Let me put it this way, this game has made me stop playing Red Dead Redemption II… for a while at least.

I have since played the game a lot more and still thoroughly enjoying it. As I write this article, I’m a little over 50% way through the World Tour mode and I’ve dabbled a little in some of the other game modes too with Playground being the most fun, I can’t wait to see what crazy rules and races they have lined up next. I’ve still got a lot to unlock and enjoy. This is well stocked game with lots to unlock, new cars, tracks and even game modes. Horizon Chase Turbo is more than a game, it’s a time machine that has taken me back to that early 90s era when me and my brothers would play Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge on the Amiga 500 till all hours in the morning.

Horizon Chase Turbo is pure and simple arcade racing fun that I hope Aquiris Game Studio will refine and add new features too. May I suggest a track editor, overlapping tracks that use tunnels/bridges at the cross-point, jumps, race creator where you can set up your own rules Playground-style… this could be an almost limitless racing game.