GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Dave Perry vs Mario 64

Well, now that my mighty huge GamesMaster retrospective is done, I can finally cover the most (in)famous of GamesMaster incidents ever! The truth is that I was always going to be covering this anyway. In fact, going back to my original idea for an article, I was only going to be covering this subject, but I got a bit carried away and ended up covering every episode of every series.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to write this article was not to get ‘the truth’ of what happened out there. Let’s be honest, only Dominik Diamond and Dave Perry know the real truth. No, I just wanted to offer my own views of what I think happened. I may be completely wrong with my interpretation of the whole incident, I may be closer to the truth than I think. But the point is that what follows is just my personal opinion on the whole Mario 64-gate incident.

For those not in the know, a very brief recap. Back in series six of the show in 1996, there was a Christmas special, the episode took a break from its usual format and instead hosted a gaming quiz show type thing. Dominik Diamond was the host with four GamesMaster regular co-presenters/reviewers as the contestants. Long story short and Dave Perry, along with Kirk Ewing made it through to the final round of the show. Here, they had to face off against each other in a challenge on Mario 64 (N64) where they had to do the tricky Big Penguin Race stage, whoever finished the race in the fastest time wins. Another long story short and Dave fell off the course and claimed he was set up. It all sounds relatively mundane now, but back then? It was major gaming news for us Brits of a certain age and an incident that is still talked about today. Look, here’s the clip in question and you can see just how pissed off Dave Perry was.

Dave comes across as a bit of a baby over the fact that he lost at a video game. He has also had plenty of ridicule and abuse aimed at him over the years too for his behaviour. Still, I have always wondered if there was more to this story than just Dave Perry being a bit of a dick because he lost a gaming challenge.

As I said earlier, I’m not aiming to uncover the truth, especially as DD’s GamesMaster book is going to do just that when it is released anyway, as Dave Perry is one of the book’s contributors and the whole story is going to be covered. So, that will certainly make an interesting read! This is just me offering my own personal view as an outside observer. So…

THUMBS UP

I guess the first thing to address is just why Dave Perry was so annoyed over losing at something as trivial as a game challenge? A lot of people put it down to his ego, his persona of Dave ‘The Games Animal’ Perry. See, Dave always put himself across as the ‘greatest games player in the UK’ and several times in the show, he is labelled just that. His being bested in a video game really dented his ego and he just got a bit pissy over the whole thing. There’s no denying that Dave Perry definitely had a bit of an ego, But for me, he never came across as being that childish that he would sulk over losing. I have always felt there was more going on than it just being Dave upset that he lost at a gaming challenge. When you scratch the surface of the whole incident a bit, there is something there worth looking into. Then there is the claim that Dave makes about being ‘set up’. I mean, set up how and why?

First, let’s look at how and why he was possibly set up. From some digging around, I learned that Dave Perry asked to see the answers for the quiz ahead of the recording of the show. Why? He had a gaming book coming out (Dominik slyly mentions it in the above clip) and he wanted to ensure he didn’t get any of the questions wrong as to not look like an idiot, what with his gaming book soon to be released. The producers refused, there was a bit of an argument and Dave eventually relented on his request and agreed to do the show without knowing the answers to the questions. Of course, Dominik Diamond heard about Dave’s request and argument with the producers and so decided to show him up on national TV.

See, according to sources, they rehearsed the final challenge with all four contestants, just so everyone was familiar with the game they would be playing. Only, the game that was used for practise was (I believe) WipEout (PlayStation)… at least that was the game they practised on when Dave was there. When he wasn’t, they all played Mario 64. Giving the other three contestants of the quiz the upper hand as (also mentioned in the above clip), Mario 64 had not yet been released in the UK at the time. So when it did come to doing the show, Dave would be at a serious disadvantage. Plus, the other finalist, Kirk Ewing, had an N64 and a copy of the game on import and had been playing Mario 64 a lot in the run up to recording the episode. 

MARIO 64

But how could they ensure that Dave Perry would even make it to the final of the quiz to begin with? That was very possibly set up too. Now, I admit that I’ve not been able to find any reliable sources to this claim, but just using what I have witnessed watching this whole thing for my retrospective, it is very clear that there was some animosity aimed towards Dave Perry for quite a while. I’ll mention some instances soon, but for now, I just want to concentrate on this Christmas quiz. See, if you watch the episode in question, you may notice some unfair play.

I mean, there is a point in the quiz, during the Mastermind parody bit, where Dominik askes Kirk Ewing the following question:

“What flightless black and white Arctic bird which gives its name to a famous chocolate bar, an enemy of Batman and brand of paperback, does Mario have to return to his parents on a snow level of Mario 64 and here’s a clue, it looks like this…?”

PENGUIN

After which, Dominik holds up a stuffed penguin, as the answer is quite obviously penguin. I mean DD just quite literally gave the answer away. However, Kirk still gets it wrong as he answers with ‘puffin’… yet Dominik says it’s correct and gives Kirk the point. There are other questions that Kirk either gets wrong, or the questions/answers are just utter nonsense, yet Kirk still gets points for answering them. It’s pretty damn obvious that there is some underhanded playing going on here, as if DD is forcing a result. I mean, the four people who take part in the quiz are supposed to be experts in their field, yet they get some of the easiest and most obvious questions wrong. I guess that I’m suggesting there was quite possibly some kind of meeting before the recording of the show that Dave Perry was not invited to, but the others were, where it was possibly planned on letting Dave win to get him to the final… possibly? But also a plan to ensure Kirk also made it to the final as just maybe, he did the best in those Mario 64 practise sessions that Dave was not part of… possibly? Oh yeah before I forget, Dominik and Kirk were very good and close friends too as they were both from Scotland.

There was even a round before this where the contestants had to guess what happened after a clip of a game. The classic Resident Evil (PlayStation) bit where the dogs jump through the window was played… and it was answered wrong by someone who’s supposed to be a gaming expert? Then, when it is Dave Perry’s turn, he gets a clip from Sonic The Hedgehog (Mega Drive) of Sonic running to the end of a level and had to guess what happens next. Now, anyone would say that Doctor Robotnik appears, which is correct and also what Dave answered. However, the clip was edited to show a completely different game. Clearly done to try and screw Dave out of points. The whole thing is a fix.

I have even heard that during the previously mentioned Mastermind parody quiz, Dave was given less time to answer his questions while the others had more. You know what? I checked. See, Dominik Diamond says that everyone gets 45 seconds to answer as many questions as they can… but not everyone got 45 seconds. Oh yeah, I timed all four contestants. The truth is that no one got 45 seconds. One of the contestants got 47 seconds and everyone else got 30-32 seconds. Now, it wasn’t Kirk Ewing who got the 47 seconds advantage, he got the same 32 seconds that Dave Perry did. So while the 45 seconds thing was utter bullshit, it still never disadvantaged Dave at all as he got the same time as Kirk. However, it still shows that there was ‘something’ going on if the 45 seconds rule wasn’t upheld for the quiz.

DAVE PERRY 1

But let’s move onto the Mario 64 finale challenge that pissed Dave off so much when he lost. See, the challenge was to race to the bottom of the Big Penguin Race stage with the fastest time being the winner. So Kirk Ewing went first and fell off the course with a time of 20 seconds. As Kirk never finished the race, all Dave Perry had to do was last longer than 20 seconds. Even DD himself points out that all Dave has to do is beat the 20 seconds that Kirk set. Dave sets off, comes a cropper just after the first corner and falls off with a time of 14 seconds, failing the challenge. People like to claim that Dave was going for the shortcut, but lost it and fell off. However, I’d like to ask a question here… why? Why would Dave be going for a shortcut when his time was irrelevant, all he had to do was last longer than 20 seconds? He didn’t need to go for the shortcut at all.

In fact, if you go watch the above clip again, the timer starts before Dave even sets off on the slide down. He could’ve just stayed exactly where he was and won without moving Mario a millimetre. There’s also something else worth paying attention to, just how the two start off on the race. Kirk runs right to the start of the slope without even hesitating, clearly he’s played the game before. Whereas if you watch Dave, he is much more hesitant and seems to struggle with the controls, as if he’s never played the game before. Dave Perry himself even stated that he hadn’t played the game as it wasn’t released yet in the UK at the time. A lot of people call bullshit on that, but not me. It’s really quite clear that Dave hadn’t played the game before just from how he started the race with his stuttering start. Seriously, go watch the clip again and tell me that Dave’s start is one of a person who’s played Mario 64 before.

Quick addition here. One of the first questions of the quiz is a picture round and Dave Perry had to identify this image:

MARIO 64 SCREEN

Now, Dave correctly recognises it as Metal-Mario from Mario 64. People use this to suggest that Dave was lying about never playing Mario 64 if he could recognise that screenshot as being from the game that he never played. I fail to see how that works, there are dozens of games that I have never played, but could still recognise a screenshot from the game. Plus, Dave Perry worked in the industry, I really don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to believe that Dave had seen Mario 64 and was aware of it (as it was massively hyped and in pretty much every gaming publication at the time) but still never actually played the game. Seeing and recognising a screenshot from a game isn’t the same as playing the game. 

Do you remember playing Mario 64 for the first time? I do. It does take a while to get used to the controls, we had only ever played Mario in 2D up to that point and yes, the 3D movement was strange, especially coupled with the rather bizarre N64 controller. Then throw on the fact that this particular part of the game, the Big Penguin Race, is hardly the best place to get used to the controls either. It’s a very tricky part even if you do know what you are doing. Did you clear that bit the first time you played it? I know I didn’t and I had played the game a fair bit before that point to get used to the controls too. The thing is that the controls for that race feel very, very different to the rest of the game. The whole inertia thing as the gravity of the race pulls you down, along with the slippy ice, really does take some getting used to. You know what? I’m siding with Dave here and believe him when he said that he hadn’t played the game before. It’s just so blindly obvious from the first 3 seconds of the challenge and how Dave starts the race that he has no idea what he’s doing compared to Kirk’s start.

MARIO 64 RACE

This brings me back to the whole shortcut claim. If Dave had not played the game before… then he wouldn’t know about the shortcut would he (that he didn’t even need to take anyway)? If he didn’t know about the shortcut, then how/why would he be going for it? So, why does he slide towards the shortcut then eh? Yup, that is certainly a great question, but one that I think I have an answer to. Remember your first time playing that particular bit on Mario 64, did you slide off at the same point? I did… a few times. I did because (as mentioned) everything feels very different due to the ice slide, etc. I fell off because I slowed down and you just naturally gravitate toward the apex of the corner. Go play Mario 64 now and try it yourself, slow down on that first corner and you will slide toward the shortcut, even if you don’t mean to (that is probably how the shortcut was found in the first place, by accident). You have to speed up on the first corner and only someone who has played the game before will know that… like Kirk Ewing.

Yup, go back and watch the clip and you will see Mario that leans forwards when Kirk plays because he is making him accelerate to avoid sliding off the track. Watch Dave Perry’s attempt and he doesn’t accelerate, in fact, Mario is constantly leaning back and decelerating. Why? Because Dave hadn’t played the game before so was very wary about what he was doing. Seriously Dave’s apprehensive corner taking, coupled with his hesitant start really does lead me to believe that Dave Perry had never played the game before. Just as a quick aside, if you are going for the shortcut on this bit of the game, it’s actually better to speed up as you have far better control of Mario to line him up for the shortcut and not slow down as Dave Perry did.

MARIO 64 RACE 2

But there is a difference between Dave Perry not playing a game before and him actually being set up right? That claim is still one with a big layer of uncertainty surrounding it. Look, I may be sure that Dave never played Mario 64 before the challenge (and I am) but his claims of being ‘set up quite badly’ (his words) are not quite as easy for me to outright believe. I certainly think that it is possible especially if the whole swapping from WipEout to Mario 64 without Dave’s knowledge is true. If you want more suggestions of the possibility of Dave being set up, then how about this quote from Dominik Diamond himself during an interview with Eurogamer?

“The way I treated Dave on screen is not something I am particularly proud of. It was perilously close to bullying. As much as we felt Dave was being a dick, with this whole Games Animal thing and thinking the wheel was square before he got his hands on it – I think we humiliated the guy. Yes, at the time, he was a dick. But jeez, no one was a bigger dick during the ’90s than me.”

Or this quote from the same interview?

“I made some disgusting comments about Dave. I did an interview with Edge magazine and said the most reprehensible things; unforgivable, nasty things which he never deserved. I hate the fact I did that. Let’s all just move on.”

I have tried to find that Edge magazine interview (number 143) but couldn’t track it down. Anyway, even DD himself has admitted that he pretty much bullied Dave Perry, has insulted him over the years, etc. Would it really be that much of a stretch to believe that Dave was really set up? I think it is a possibility at the very least. I do just want to bring up that Dominik Diamond is very remorseful of how he treated Dave Perry while making GamesMaster. The two have reconciled since then as Dave is part of the awesome looking GamesMaster book. It is now all water under the bridge and all that.

Still, just going back over GamesMaster and something I most definitely noticed watching all the episodes for this retrospective. Even on-screen, Dominik acted like a complete dick to Dave several times. It all seems to start about midway through series four. When Dave was co-commentating with Dominik, many, many times DD would pull faces, pretend to fall asleep, etc whenever Dave was talking. It was all very childish shit, but it is there. And if Dominik was ‘perilously close to bullying’ Dave (his words) on screen, then what the hell was going on behind the scenes?

Still, you do have to ask just why Dave Perry got so upset about being set up (if he was) and losing the challenge right? I mean, all DD really did was slightly embarrass one of his co-presenters, no biggie. You just suck it up and crack on with your job, take it in your stride. But Dave Perry didn’t. As the episode shows, he behaved like a spoiled brat. Dave did stick around for a couple of more episodes, but ultimately left GamesMaster shortly after that Christmas special. Dave Perry’s ego could’ve been a huge part of it but I think there was much more to it than that.

DAVE PERRY 2

 

See, Dave was not just a co-presenter/reviewer on GamesMaster. In a great many ways, if it wasn’t for Dave Perry, then GamesMaster would never have existed to begin with. While the basic idea of the show came from producer Jane Hewland, Dave played a massive part in making GamesMaster the show it became too. He was a pretty big gaming journalist (sorry, marketing manager) back then and held quite a lot of sway in the industry. He had a lot of connections and friends throughout his career. Dave actually called in a lot of favours with industry insiders to get that first series made. At the time, no one wanted to make a TV show based on video games, no one. Still, Dave Perry (and Jane Hewland) made it happen regardless. Here’s a quote from Dave Perry when he did an interview with Classic Replay:

“Dominik and I got on fine in the early days of series 1 and 2. We had a good laugh. Why things changed I don’t know.

My experiences of GamesMaster were a combination of very high, highs and annoyingly frustrating lows. I loved doing the show, as it had been my ‘baby’ from the start. But I always felt like I was on a crusade to keep it true to its original concept, to make sure that when I was onscreen it was always about the games not just a forum for cracking one-liners and childish innuendo. By series 6 I’d had enough. I didn’t feel I could stop the rot and lost interest in the politics. Series 7 showed my decision to walk to be the correct one.”

Now, not knowing exactly what went on between Dominik and Dave behind the scenes, I have to agree with Dave here that the show did begin to rot away. It’s very clear from series five onwards that the focus began to shift from the games as DD became the main draw. Plus, if you do go back and watch all the series and every episode as I did, you’ll notice a very clear shift of power in terms of Dominik Diamond. That first series and DD was clearly nervous, very geeky and more than a bit cheeky in his presenting style. He comes out of his shell a fair bit in series 2, but is still fairly reserved and very much respectful as a presenter. Series three, he didn’t do. Series four and there is a definite cockyness to him now, he’s not cheeky anymore with a larger sense of bravado. With series five and six, Dominik Diamond is just an outright prick now. From series five onwards, the show started to become the ‘Dominik and Friends Show’, it began to feel less and less GamesMaster and more ‘look at me, I’m Dominik Diamond’.

I have zero doubt that Dave Perry had a bit of an ego, but it makes perfect sense that he would be so upset that he was being pushed out (allegedly) off the show that he helped create. So yeah, of course he’s going to be massively pissed off. Wouldn’t you?

Just going back to one of Dominik Diamond’s quotes I used where he said ‘no one was a bigger dick during the ’90s than me’. He was right too. At the time, I adored DD and his presenting of GamesMaster… but I was a stupid teenager back then. Now when I watch the show, I seriously think that Dominik is just a massive prick from series five onwards. Dave Perry had a bit of an ego, no doubt about it, coupled with Dominik Diamond and his own ego. There was bound to be a conflict between the two. They were both dicks during the 90s, it’s just that DD was a much bigger one, as he freely admits.

DAVE PERRY 3

So, onto my conclusion of the whole incident. I do think that the quiz was ‘fixed’ to force a pre-planned result and get Dominik’s friend, Kirk, to the final. Dominik and Kirk were good friends and the quiz itself clearly shows Kirk getting questions wrong, but still being given points by DD. I think it is more than possible that there were meetings between everyone, except Dave Perry, as they planned to stitch him up. While I can not find 100% proof that the game used in the final was swapped from WipEout to Mario 64 without Dave’s knowledge, it is another possibility. I am 100% convinced that Dave had not played Mario 64 before. It was not available in the UK at the time and yes, Dave most definitely could’ve got in on import and played it (anyone could have). But just because he could, doesn’t mean that he did. Just going back to the clip and watching the two playstyles between Kirk and Dave, it is painfully clear that Kirk had played the game before as he was much more confident. Whereas Dave’s playstyle was far more apprehensive and hesitant. Why would Dave purposely play like that? He didn’t go for the shortcut as he didn’t even need to and as I previously covered, if you do slow down on the first comer (as anyone who had not played the game before would naturally do), Mario loses all momentum and just gravitates towards and drops off art that same point anyway.

But as for Dave’s claims of being ‘set up failry badly’? I think that is a bold claim that could be seen as childish on Dave’s part, certainly. But I also don’t think that it is beyond the realms of reality that he was. Dominik Diamond has already (pretty much) admitted to bullying Dave Perry when they were making GamesMaster. You can see a lot of DD’s childish behaviour towards Dave on the screen too. Dave has said he felt the show was rotting away. A show that he helped to make it to TV in the first place. So yeah, of course he would be upset that the quality was dropping, and it was. I’m not sure if the ‘setting up’ of Dave was meant to force him out of the show, ultimately it did, but I can’t say I believe that was the intention. If the story of Dave Perry asking for the answers to the questions is true, then I can certainly believe that Dominik wanted to stitch him up on national TV, even if just to give Dave’s ego a bit of a kick while inflating his own at the same time. But at that point, Dave Perry had already had enough of the show’s decline. Perhaps he would’ve left even if that Christmas quiz hadn’t happened? But I see it as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

For me, I’m siding with Dave here. This is a massive 180° for me as for years and even going into this article, I have always had the belief that Dave Perry was just being a childish little shit. I have always thought that Dave was throwing his toys out of the pram just because he lost at a game. But now? There was clearly a lot more stuff going on behind the scenes than I originally knew. You have to look at the entire episode and not just the Mario 64 bit at the end. Even Dominik Diamond himself admits he mistreated Dave and yes, I can believe that he would go out of his way to try and show Dave up on TV.

Just to finish, doesn’t anyone else found it strange how Dave Perry has been ridiculed for years over his failure at Mario 64. Yet Kirk Ewing, who had a copy of the game for at least a month before, failed after only lasting 20 seconds has had nothing like the trolling that Dave had?

MARIO 64 RACE 3

We’ve been laughing at the wrong person for the last twenty-five years…

Game Review: The Persistence Enhanced

So, I took a week holiday recently. Nothing too special, just took the kids to the seaside for a few days. Anyway, aside from my pre-written Raiders at 40 celebrations, I just unplugged from my blog and got some much-needed family time. Then I got back home, checked my emails and I had multiple games sent to me for review… Then I got a bit sick and really didn’t feel like doing much of anything. Basically, I’m well behind and there’s a lot of catching up to do this end. So the next few weeks will be a tad game review heavy as I get through all I have to. First up, I’m taking a look at The Persistence Enhanced from developer Fabrik Games, via publisher/developer Firesprite.

The first thing to cover, ‘enhanced’ why? Well, The Persistence was originally released back in 2018… In VR too, also not in VR. But it has recently had a bit of an upgrade. Tighter controls, performance improvements, better graphics and so on. It has been ‘enhanced’ for the latest gen of gaming, in a free upgrade if you already owned the game. But what’s it all about? Well, you play as a clone of a dead security officer who is on the doomed colony starship, The Persistence, where everyone on-board has died (everybody’s dead Dave). The ship has become severely damaged and inoperable due to it getting a bit too close to a black hole. On The Persistence, you’ll cross paths with all kinds of horrific aberrations, which you’ll need to deal with as you try to restore power to ship and get back to Earth. Well, that’s the basics of the plot anyway, but how does it play?

At first glance, The Persistence looks very much like a very typical FPS with a Sci-Fi setting and it plays very much like one too… At first. But first impressions can be deceiving. See, The Persistence isn’t just a FPS, it’s a rogue-lite game too. Now, I have a major soft spot for rogue-lite/like games and they really are on trend at the moment. Playing as a clone means that each time that you die (and you will… A lot), you respawn as a new clone. Also in typical rogue-fashion, the game will be procedurally generated. Each new restart after each death gives you an all-new ship layout to explore.

When you die, you do lose any weapons and gadgets you may have picked up previously. But this is a rogue-lite, so something has to carry over and that something is permanent upgrades. These upgrades allow you to improve your gear, but you first need to find the schematics for them. Then you have to use credits to unlock and upgrade those schematics. Then there’s the use of stem cells that you’ll also find, which can be used to alter your DNA and give you more personal upgrades, health, melee damage and the like. Really, upgrading it’s a bit more involved than just collecting upgrades and you really do have to work to no only get them, but also have them installed. So there is a great deal of looting going on too, from finding credits and stem cells just lying around, to then being in containers that need to be opened, to them being found on the bodies of your fallen enemies. Yup, this is a very loot searching heavy game.

PERSISTANCE DEAD GUY

You know how with pretty much all rogue-lite/like games that when the map does change, it’s not actually explained how or why? It just does because you are playing a rogue game. Well, The Persistence actually does have an in-game explanation worked into the story, and it’s a good one too that makes logical sense. I don’t want to spoil that here, but I will just say that (like playing as a clone being reprinted), actually having a reason why everything is randomised adds a layer to the game that most all other rogue-lites are missing. It really is quite refreshing.

To be honest, The Persistence isn’t a huge game at all. The ship only has four floors, each floor has a specific task for you have to complete. But of course, this is a rogue-lite, so those four floors will be packed with plenty of death opportunities, which does pad out the game a hell of a lot. So no, you won’t be flying through this in one sitting over a handful of hours. As is the nature of the rogue-lite sub-genre, death is a little baby step toward victory. Each new upgrade is a leg up that you will need to use if you want to see the end of the game. At times, The Persistence does feel very ‘grindy’ as you build up your upgrades to go further and further into the game. I mean, I died a good twenty-odd times before I began to make some serious progress. But hey, that is the very nature of the beast that is a rogue game. If you enjoy the sub-genre, then you know exactly what you’re getting into here.

Combat here is really quite varied. The game does start out with a slow and very steady pace. Opening up with you sneaking around the ship, using stealth to either avoid or to dispatch your enemies. But things do get more hectic later on and especially depending on which objective on which of the four floors you are trying to complete. You’ll go from sneaky-stealth action, to all-out blitzkrieg, dealing with brutes and hordes of enemies. Thankfully, there’s a multitude of weapons to use to help you out too. Guns, melee weapons, grenades, special enchantments and more, all of which can be upgraded as you progress.

PERSISTANCE ROOM

Some remainders of when the game was a VR game are still here. Weapon and items selections, the upgrade stations and so on still feel very VR and can be a tad cumbersome to navigate with a pad playing it in non-VR. But really, that is pretty much the only niggle I have with The Persistence. I never played the original, non-enhanced version from a couple of years ago, so I have no idea how much better these enchantments are. But, I felt the game’s graphics were great, wonderfully dark and moody, they oozed atmosphere. The corridors and rooms of the ship are full of life, flickering lights, cracking electricity… And some bloody effective scares too. 

For me, The Persistence Enhanced really is a beautifully crafted and well balanced rogue-lite game. It’s tough and you will die a hell of a lot for your first few hours of play. But when you begin to get to grips with what The Persistence offers, when you begin to get some upgrades and so on, progression becomes much more rewarding. A very intruding blend of a rogue-lite, FPS, survival-horror, Sci-fi game. And even if you do manage to clear all four floors, get the ship up and running to complete the game, there are some nice unlockables to extend your gameplay further too.

I do love a good rogue-lite title and The Persistence Enhanced most definitely is one. Dark, scary, intense and chock full of upgrades and weapons to play around with, a game that I am certain I will be returning to again and again for a good while yet. With a price tag of £24.99, there really is a lot of game here for your coin, highly recommended if you enjoy a tough but fair rogue-lite.

Diana Rigg: We Have All The Time In The World

A few months ago, back in April, we lost my all time favourite Bond girl. Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman, was a class act and her mix of beauty, brains and brawn made her a formidable girl for James Bond to conquer… she was lesbian in the book don’t you know? Today we lost another Bond girl and if Pussy Galore was my favourite, then Countess Teresa ‘Tracy’ di Vicenzo was a very close second. Played by the amazing Diana Rigg, who sadly died today.

DIANA RIGG 2

Now, when I do these in memorandum articles of stars we have recently lost, I tend to do a whole look back at their career and life in general… I don’t want to do that this time around, I’m sure other sites will do just that. Instead, I want to look at the impact this Bond girl had in the James Bond character and the franchise as a whole. I mean, she is the only Bond girl to ever tame Mr Bond. But before I do get into that, there’s just a little quick thing I want to bring up.

I’ve already mentioned the passing of Honor Blackman earlier this year. Now with Diana Rigg gone too, there’s a little something the also connects them outside of the whole Bond girl thing. 

THE AVENGERS

Yup, Honor Blackman played Cathy Gale, the sidekick to Patrick Macnee’s, John Steed in the classic sixties TV show, The Avengers (Iron Man not included). But when Honor left the show at the end of the third series (to play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger), a replacement was needed. Enter Diana Rigg as Mrs Emma Peel. So we’ve not only lost two great Bond girls within a few months, we’ve also lost two feisty Avengers too.

So anyway, back onto the point of this article and time to take a look at just how much of an impact Diana Rigg’s, Tracy di Vicenzo had on James Bond.

OHMSS

Appearing in the only Bond film that George Lazenby was in, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which incidentally is one of my favourite Bond flicks. Tracy was the only girl in the original franchise to mean more to James Bond than just an opportunity to get his leg over. We all know how ‘disposable’ Bond girls are in the movies. They appear in one film, James Bond seduces them and are never mentioned again. Not Tracy di Vicenzo though, she was much more than just another notch in Bond’s bedpost. He actually fell in love with this one. This wasn’t just a roll in the hay of the stables of the main villain, this was a genuine and evolving relationship between James Bond and Tracy di Vicenzo, up to the point where they actually got married and Tracy became Mrs Tracy Bond. Not a sham marriage to cover tracks, get out of the country, get a green card or any other flimsy excuse. This was a marriage of love and respect. James Bond actually married one of his girls.

The wedding was a massive shock at the time as Bond was already very firmly established as a womaniser, a casual sex kind of guy, the ultimate bachelor. No woman could ever tie him down… but Tracy did. However, that shock of the wedding was soon overshadowed as the happy couple drove off at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, planning their lives together and talking about having children, for Tracy to then be tragically killed by James Bond’s arch nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (well his hench-woman, Irma Bunt) in a drive-by shooting.

As Bond cradles his dead wife, he talks about her as if she’s still alive (“she’s having a rest”), as if he can’t believe that she’s gone… and then he says it, he says the line. “There’s no hurry you see, we have all the time in the world”. It’s really genuinely heart breaking, not just for James Bond, but also the viewer. Perhaps the darkest moment in James Bond history and a moment that was never fully forgotten.

Usually, there’s very little, if any continuity in the James Bond franchise. Each film is pretty much like a restart, a new mission that doesn’t reference any previous Bond films. There is the odd exception here and there, the 40th anniversary of the Bond franchise and the many references in Die Another Day as an example. But generally speaking, events from one Bond film tend not to impact another… until the Daniel Craig era anyway. But Tracy’s death was referenced in the movies from that point on and I’m going to see if I can mention all of them.

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

Strangely, the next film after Tracy’s death doesn’t mention her at all. Sean Connery returns for Diamonds Are Forever and it opens up in that classic Bond manner of a pre-title action sequence. Here, Bond is tracking down Blofeld. We can assume it’s to get revenge for killing Tracy… but it’s never mentioned if that is the reason. It could just be Bond going after his nemesis because that’s what he does. I’ve always felt that Diamonds Are Forever should’ve referenced Tracy in some way, but it never did and missed the perfect reason to give Bond motivation.  However, the first and often overlooked reference of Tracy is from when Roger Moore stepped into the tuxedo for The Spy Who Loved Me. When Bond meets Russian agent, Anya Amasova, she begins to talk about James Bond’s life, she says of Bond that he was “married only once. Wife was…”. Her speech is cut off by Bond saying how she had made her point, to which Anya replies that Bond is sensitive about certain things. Yup, I guess your new wife dying, after being gunned down in cold blood by your most bitter enemy is kind of sensitive.

Next up is perhaps the most famous reference. It comes from For Your Eyes Only. In it, James Bond is actually standing at the grave of Tracy, on which he places some roses. The grave clearly has the immortal line engraved into it to… we have all the time in the world.

TRACY BOND GRAVE

After which, Bond boards a helicopter controlled by Blofeld, sending James on the ride of his life. Once Bond gets control of the copter, he manages to pick up Blofeld and drops him into a industrial smokestack. Presumably killing him and finally getting his revenge for Tracy’s murder. Though due to some strange licencing and legal issues, Blofeld is not actually credited as Blofeld but as ‘Bald-Headed Man with White Cat’.

The next reference comes in the Timothy Dalton starring Licence to Kill. In this flick, CIA operative and friend of James Bond, Felix Leiter gets married. Felix’s new wife, Delta throws her garter after the wedding and Bond catches it. She then suggests that he (Bond) will marry next. James Bond looks upset and leaves. Delta asks Felix if she said anything wrong, to which he replies that Bond was married “a long time ago”. Plus there is the whole plot of Delta being killed shorty after getting married in the film that mirrors James and Tracy’s short marriage. In fact, it could be suggested that the reason Bond goes after the main bad guys in this film is because he was motivated by the memories of his own tragically short marriage.

GOLDENEYE

Another film another Bond as Pierce Brosnan’s first foray also has a reference. In GoldenEye, naughty 006, Alec Trevelyan asks Bond if he has “found forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for the dead ones you failed to protect?”. Now, this one is a bit more vague as doesn’t directly reference Tracy or their marriage… but Bond gives a certain look that to me, says a lot. A look that’s not just one failed relationships with random women, a look that has a lot of pain behind it. Sticking with Pierce Brosnan and The World Is Not Enough. When Bond is talking to Elektra King (whose father was killed in the opening sequence), she asks if Bond has ever lost anyone he truly loved. Bond never replies, he offers another one of ‘those’ looks and seems to be very unconformable by the question. Bond then changes the subject and continues the conversation.

I believe that is all the references, either direct or just passing to the death of Tracy. But it goes to show that Mrs Tracy Bond’s death is one that had a bigger impact on James’ life than you first realise… and it’s all thanks to the wonderfully beautiful and charming Diana Rigg. She was more than just a typical Bond girl, she was Mrs James Bond.

DIANA RIGG

“I thought it was ridiculous that I was being paid less than a cameraman, and I wanted to shame them. And I did.”

– Diana Rigg

Ready To Feel Ancient? The Matrix Is Twenty Years Old

Originally released on the 31st of March way back in the space year of 1999. The Matrix was the brainchild of Andy and Larry Wachowski the then Wachowski brothers… that’s a whole other article in itself. The Matrix changed cinema for years with it’s groundbreaking effects work. But it was not a film that was all looks an no substance, The Matrix is a flick that can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Just watch it as a kick-ass action romp and enjoy it on that level – or delve into its more philosophical elements and how it questions reality and existence.

I still remember the day I went to the cinema to watch the film. You have to bear in mind that we are talking about a film made by relatively unknowns. This was only the Wachowski brothers (yes I know, but at the time they were brothers) second film after the taught and incredibly sexy and stylish thriller Bound from 1996. Bound was very much an underground hit. It had it’s fans (I’m one) but it was hardly Hollywood blockbuster material – so expectations were low for The Matrix. Then there were the stars like Laurence Fishburne who now is instantly recognisable, but back in 1999? He was known as that guy from the Tina Turner biopic or Max from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Carrie-Anne Moss, aside from some bit-parts in T.V. shows, she was unknown and The Matrix was her big breakthrough. Hugo Weaving was perhaps even more unknown than anyone else in the main cast unless you were Australian. Joe Pantoliano had already had a steady acting carer by the time 1999 came around mainly playing bit-parts and character roles. He starred in the previously mentioned Bound… and that’s about all he would’ve been known for back then unless you were a die hard Goonies fan.

Plus it was a time when the internet was still till in its infancy, we didn’t have super-fast fibre optic broadband to watch trailers with, no social networks to spread the word, no smartphones to catch up on movie news on the go… it was a very different time.

The Matrix Cast

Oh and there was some guy by the name of Keanu Reeves. Yeah a household name now but not back in 1999, he was really only known for comedy rolls like the Bill & Ted films and small indie films. I guess the action flick Speed could be seen as his foot in the door of action cinema but he was still hardly known as an action film star afterwards in the same way he is today. It’s not as if Speed was to Keanu what Die Hard was to Bruce Willis. So really with The Matrix you had writer/directors not really know for anything with a cast of actors no one really cared about. It was not an easy film to see any merit in.

So yeah, quite honestly I had zero interest in the film. My brother called me up and asked if I wanted to go to the cinema – I had nothing going on so said yes. Didn’t see any trailers, paid no attention to who was in the film or who made it. Had no idea what I was going to watch just went along because I was bored and had nothing else to do. I went into the film 100% blind. But when I came out of that cinema? The first thought that went though my head was that must have been what it was like to have seen Star Wars at the cinema for the first time back in 1977. I felt that The Matrix was a game changer as if cinema had just taken several jumps forward not just in terms of effects work but also storytelling. I just knew then and there that The Matrix was something special, that people would still be talking about it decades later… twenty years later and here I am.

The Matrix Pills

But the big question is, two decades later, does The Matrix hold up? We live in an age where films date quickly. I’ve certainly seen films in the last decade or so that feel old only months after release. Yet some films are timeless no matter when they were made – The Matrix is one of them. Aside from some of the questionable technobabble and dated references/technology (remember when everyone wanted one of those Nokia flick phones?). The effects are still impressive, bullet time may not hold the impact it did when you first saw it, but it still looks good and just as satisfying as ever. The fight sequences are as exciting as they were back in 1999. Shoot outs are heart-pumping, that lobby scene is still one of the best shoot outs ever caught on film. As an action picture, The Matrix delivers. But it’s not just the impressive action sequences and still amazing effects work that hold up after twenty years. It’s the writing, the storytelling. It’s when you really get into the deeper aspects of The Matrix when the film comes to life.

The basic of good vs evil, human vs machine is nothing special I admit and yes the whole fulfilling a prophecy, being ‘the One’ shtick got tiresome. The love thing between Neo and Trinity was trite. Yet it’s the questioning reality, self-existence and everything that comes with it where the story excels. The multi-layered and textured story telling is fascinating and I love getting lost in the questioning of reality, the two worlds shown in the film – the simulation that is The Matrix and the real world of a desolate future where humans are dying out compliment each other perfectly. When Joe Pantoliano’s Cypher wants out of the real world by betraying his crew mates and when he is offered to be reinserted into The Matrix with a whole new life. The line “ignorance is bliss” he says speaks volumes. Seriously, given the choice of living in on a dead planet being hunted by machines, fighting a war that seemingly has no end or living in ignorance inside The Matrix is a tough call. I can’t be the only person who has often wondered if there is something better out there, something other than the life we believe is all we have?

The Matrix Gun

I’m going off on bit of a tangent here, but I quite honestly could write lengthy articles just on how deep The Matrix goes.  I don’t mean to get into questioning one’s own existence but just to look back at The Matrix after two decades and see if it still holds up. It does, very much so. Having just re-watched the film for the first time in a good few years – I still found it thoroughly entertaining. As I said earlier, it’s a film you can watch on so many levels. Yes it’s a great action flick, but it also asks and addresses much deeper themes and ideas if you really look beyond what is shown on the screen.

I’m not a fan of DVD commentaries, I find it’s usually full of nothing but overpaid people inflating their own egos by making themselves sound like cinematic geniuses. But the commentary for The Matrix is very different and highly unique. Instead of having the Wachowskis harp on about how creative and insightful they are, they decided not to do the commentary themselves. Instead what you get are two commentary tracks. One is from two film critics that didn’t like the film, while the other is from two philosophers who did. The two commentary tracks are amazingly interesting and show how one can perceive the film from two very different standpoints. The critics are negative but bring up several interesting flaws (some stupid ones too). While the philosophers, understandably get deeper into the subtleties of the story. Their polar opposite views really are interesting to hear and yet they really work together. Well worth checking out. I came out with a very different view of The Matrix after listening to the two commentary tracks.

The Matrix Kung Fu.gif

The Matrix is my generation’s Star Wars. Even two decades since it’s release, there just hasn’t been anything like it… plenty of imitators that have tired to delve into the depth The Matrix offers, countless flicks doing similar/same effects work – and yet none of them have managed to capture what made The Matrix so special, not even it’s own sequels and spin-offs.

It’s a film that is still talked about twenty years after it’s release and will probably still be talked about in another twenty, and still relevant in today’s cinema. Even films coming out soon like to throw in a The Matrix reference now and then, it seems even Keanu Reeves himself can’t escape them…

 

“Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.”

 

– Morpheus

My Book Update And The First Three Chapters

So I guess I had better do a quick summary for those not in the know.

I’m currently going full-tilt on writing a book covering some of the best British game developers and publishers of the 80s and 90s gaming boom, a book I spent a huge chunk of 2017 reserching. There really was a revolution in terms of gaming going on that I think tells an interesting story – one that intertwines and creates a tapestry of British gaming.

My aim is to entertain and even educate. A fantastic trip down memory lane for older gamers like myself  and even an insight for younger gamers that didn’t realise just how important the British gaming scene was. Right now, I have seven chapters written up, but there is still a long way to go yet. Each chapter tells the story of a gaming company from the start until the end while also covering the people responsible for founding them and some of the games they created. When finished, I hope to put together a huge and impressive hardback, glossy paged beauty any gaming fan would love to own. I’m making good progress on the book, as I previously said – so far I have seven chapters written and I’m working on it on a daily basis. I think I’ll have the first draft completed within two months – depending on how big the end result ends up being. Then the editing and proofreading begins and I’ll remove some parts, add to others, etc. I think I can get a final draft done by mid-late summer.

I have decided to let people (who wish to) read the first three chapters of the book just to give an idea of exactly where its heading and what it will contain when finished. But before I do let people read, there are a few things I want to make clear.

  • The following chapters are a VERY rough first draft. There are spelling/grammar errors. These will be sorted out through future drafts. So please don’t let them bother you too much.
  • This is just the text version. I aim for the final product to be accompanied with numerous images that relate to the stories being told. So try to imagine those as you read if you can.
  • I have a very specific art style in mind for the final product that will make the chapters pop, but all of that will come much later.

So anyway, if you feel like having a read you can find the first three chapters right here.

If you wish to give me some feedback, then you can leave a reply or use the contact form on this very blog.

Happy reading.