Movie Review: Everything Everywhere All At Once

The multiverse, a wonderful concept that can lead to an inexhaustible infinity of ideas. There could be between one other and an infinite number of universes, other than this one, where there is another version of you leading a different life. Maybe in this universe you clean toilets for a living but in another, you are a world-famous movie star, a scientist who discovered the cure for all known cancers, an honest politician… or just a slightly different version of you wearing a hat while cleaning toilets for a living. The multiverse is an endless well to pull ideas from.

Marvel have been exploring the multiverse with their films, most recently with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. A film that I felt was very okay and that was mainly down to the fact it was directed by Sam Raimi. Then there was Spider-Man: No Way Home, a film that used the multiverse to play on fan nostalgia. I really enjoyed this one but I can’t help but feel that enjoyment mainly came from the fact it did feature past Spider-Men and villains already familiar to me. If it had been the same film but with a completely un-nostalgic cast, I honestly don’t think it would’ve had the same impact.

SPIDERMAN VERSE

On the flip side of that point, there is Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. An animated multiverse flick that didn’t have nostalgia to fall back on and did something a bit more ‘out of the box’. I mean, I doubt that you’ll ever see Peter Porker/Spider-Ham in a live-action Spider-Man film. Why am I bringing Marvel/Sony’s attempts at tackling the concept of the multiverse? Well mainly to show how the same idea can be handled in very different ways. With the MCU, they don’t really seem to be using the idea of a multiverse all that well, it feels very ‘safe’ and ‘fan-service’ like. However, Sony’s effort with the animated film allowed the filmmakers to be a bit more experimental and push the concept of a multiverse a bit further to make a much more interesting film.

And this brings me to Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film about Evelyn and Waymond Wang, a middle-aged married couple who own a laundrette and who are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Yup, in terms of multiverse films, laundrette ownership and tax audits are not exactly high concept ideas. And yet…

“When an interdimensional rupture unravels reality, an unlikely hero must channel her newfound powers to fight bizarre and bewildering dangers from the multiverse as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.”

Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels. These guys have a bit of a penchant for the ridiculous. See 2016’s Swiss Army Man as proof. A film that features a man stuck on an island, and who uses a dead body with severe flatulence as a jet ski to travel the seas. The dead body has a multitude of other uses too, hence the title. So yeah, that’s the level of absurdity we are dealing with here. If you can’t get on board with the idea of a dead Daniel Radcliffe’s erection being used as a compass in Swiss Army Man, then Everything Everywhere All at Once will most definitely have you screaming ‘what the fuck!?’.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE SCREEN 1

Starring the absolutely awesome Michelle Yeoh, who I have adored for years now, and Ke Huy Quan… or Short Round from Indiana Jones, as he will always be known. Yeoh and Quan play the aforementioned married couple Evelyn and Waymond Wang, running a launderette. As they are being audited by Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis) an IRS official, Evelyn learns that she is part of something much bigger than washing people’s undercrackers. An evil ‘verse jumper’ called Jobu Tupaki is threatening the destroy the entirety of the multiverse and Evelyn must connect with multiple parallel universe versions of herself (that she created by making different decisions in her life) to stop that from happening. Oh and don’t worry, I’m not doing spoilers here, so this is safe to read.

What kind of a genre is Everything Everywhere All at Once? Well, it’s kind of everything, everywhere and all at once really. It’s a martial arts, black comedy, romance, action, fantasy, family drama, animation, sci-fi… a discussion between rocks about the existence of the universe, a film about bagels and so much more. This film is just utter bat-shit crazy and the title really does sum everything up nicely. Split into three parts the Everything, the Everywhere and the All at Once that the title suggests. We follow Evelyn Wang as she learns that she has to stop the pretty major concern of the end of the multiverse and destruction of all life everywhere, ever in every possible reality. In terms of threat, this is a pretty big one.

Evelyn pulls skills and talents from the many other versions of herself to help defeat the evil… and that is all I’m going to say.

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The film shows many different universes and some of them are really quite sane, such as the self-referential one where Evelyn, played by Michelle Yeoh, a martial arts movie star in our reality, becomes a martial arts movie star in the reality of the film. To the not quite as sane universes, such as one where everybody has hotdogs for fingers… because? There is even a part of the film that becomes a deep discussion between two rocks about how and why the universes and life exists… all done in complete silence and via text-based dialogue. Yup, that is the kind of craziness that Everything Everywhere All at Once throws at you. I mean, it does feature butt plug kung fu…

And yet, in all of that insanity, there is a real human story here about acceptance and family values, especially within Chinese culture that is highlit by the fractured relationship between Evelyn and her daughter (Stephanie Hsu). Really, nothing here should work because none of it makes any logical sense. And yet, it is the utter nonsense of it all that ends up making the most sense. Obviously, I am avoiding spoilers here so can’t really get into the details of what happens to who and how. But the basics of an evil possibly destroying the multiverse really is the gateway to a much deeper and engrossing plot about family.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE SCREEN 4

The various universes that we get to see, from the perfectly sane to the utterly ludicrous, are wonderfully realised and a joy to experience. There’s a lot of circular symbolism (washing machine doors, googly eyes, scribbles on IRS receipts and more) that is seemingly pointless at first but it all becomes clear towards the end of the film. Everything Everywhere All at Once is crammed with loads of little touches that you may miss the first time around but pick up on with subsequent viewings. As I write this review right now, I have watched the film three times in two days and I’m still picking things up that I previously missed. I have only just noticed how, when Evelyn first experiences the multiverse and the screen fractures, so do the subtitles that we the viewer read. from tiny little details, to much bigger ones are littered all through the film and you’ll need a keen eye to not just see them but also understand the point.

As basic as the good guy (or gal in this case) has to stop the naughty evil plot is, there is so much more going on in this film that is subtext and leads to a much deeper piece of storytelling all round. I have been trying to summarise exactly what watching Everything Everywhere All at Once felt like and I think I may have it. Watching this took me back to the first time I watched The Matrix. Both films have that stylised action look to them and both have a lot more depth and meaning behind them too. Both have that ‘WTF’ aspect to them, even if for entirely different reasons. Both films have a duo of filmmakers at the helm with a vision that is so non-Hollywood that it stands out in its own right. I don’t think I’ve seen a film that has challenged and entertained me in the way that Everything Everywhere All at Once has since I watched The Matrix 23 years ago.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE SCREEN 5

The cast is wonderful too. I have loved Michelle Yeoh ever since seeing her in Jackie Chan’s Police Story 3: Supercop back in 1992. Speaking of which, this film was actually originally written specifically for Jackie Chan. However, the Daniels decided to change the lead to a female, I think this would’ve been a great film for Chan to do too but Yeoh is outstanding. From the action scenes to the more grounded in reality/family drama stuff or even when this film goes full-on absurd hotdog fingers mode, Michelle Yeoh is perfect. It really is great to see Ke Huy Quan (Short Round from Indiana Jones) doing something with some real meaning too. He’s not the kid with the cute voice anymore and depending on which version of Waymond he is playing. The dowdy and useless one from the ‘normal’ universe or the kick-ass and exposition spouting version from the Alphaverse, he’s on point.

Jamie Lee Curtis as the IRS official is really more of a supporting character but don’t worry, she also gets pretty involved in the more bizarre aspects of the film… as well as some doing some ass-kicking of her own. Seeing Jamie Lee Curtis do some martial arts and pro wrestling moves could be the greatest thing you’ll see this year. Even James Hong is in this and if you are a big Chinese/American film fan then you should know who this legend is. I mean, Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China… ’nuff said.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE SCREEN 6

Everything Everywhere All at Once is beautifully shot too with some great use of cinematography to allude to certain aspects of the plot that are very subtle. I only just noticed, on my third viewing, that the aspect ratio of the film changes as it progresses. It becomes more wide-screen as Evelyn sees and understands more of what is going on, clever. The action is captured brilliantly and clearly. Funny nods and references to things in our universe that are different from the universes shown in this film (the Ratatouille bit was great). A madcap hodgepodge of film genres, filming styles and story threads. But like a patchwork quilt, everything is stitched together to make a final product that works as a wonderful sum of its parts.

In terms of multiverse films that I have seen recently, Everything Everywhere All at Once blows all of them out of the water… and on a much smaller budget too. Proving that money doesn’t always buy the best of everything. Jamie Lee Curtis even took to Instagram to declare that this film “out marvels any Marvel movie they put out there”… one in particular. She’s not wrong either. As pissed off as a lot of Marvel fans were over her comment, that is exactly how much better this film is as an exploration of a multiverse concept and as an overall film. Around $200 million is what Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness cost to make, this film? $25 million. An eighth of the budget and yet, infinitely better in every possible way.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE TITLE

Now, I know that Everything Everywhere All at Once is not going to be for everyone because it is so ‘out there’. Yet as crazy as this film can be and does get in places, under all of that chaos is still a very grounded story about family relationships and human needs, mothers vs daughters, husbands vs wives, aspirations vs disappointments. There is a lot to take in here and as I said earlier, subsequent viewings can reveal details that you may have missed first time around. Like The Matrix, this film can be viewed on a multitude of levels. You want to just watch some well shot and pretty awesome action? This flick has that. You want a film with scenes that would make the Monty Python Colonel character appear and say “stop that, it’s silly” over the nonsense? Check. You want a movie about relationships and love? That’s here too.

A few days ago I watched Top Gun: Maverick and I thought it was the best film I had seen this year. A very worthy sequel to a classic 80s flick that is adored by many. Then I watched Everything Everywhere All at Once afterwards and suddenly, Top Gun: Maverick seems so ‘underwhelming’… but still amazing in its own right. Everything Everywhere All at Once is what cinema should be about more often. Ballsy filmmakers taking chances with smaller budgets to deliver refreshing pieces of unique art… no matter how absurd they may get. Proof that you don’t need a $200 million budget to make a deep and engrossing film… with a scene that features two rocks discussing the existence of life in utter silence.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE SCREEN 3

Game Review: Gearshifters

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a huge fan of the arcade classic, Spy Hunter. It was tip-top, top-down, car-shooting action. The Peter Gunn theme tune, the clearly James Bond influenced gameplay (titbit, the game was planned as a Bond game but the publisher could secure the rights), the fast and frantic gameplay was massively addictive. Ever since playing Spy Hunter back in 1983, I have always had one major desire, I have always wondered what it would be like if the arcade cabinet was tipped on its side. Well, thanks to developer Red Phantom Games and publisher Numskun’tll Games, I can finally live out my dreams with Gearshifters.

As the tagline for the game states, ‘Drive. Destroy. Get Paid. Upgrade’. Yup, that pretty much sums it up perfectly. While Gearshifters is very vehicle orientated, don’t go thinking this is a driving game. This is pure arcade shoot ’em up action from start to finish. It’s more like paying something akin to R-Type, Gradius or Darius, just that you control a car instead of a spaceship. Waves of enemies, big boss battles and a plethora of weapons. A side-scrolling shoot ’em up that really has a lot of content, once it really gets going.

Now, there is a story in Gearshifters but please don’t ask me what it is because I really wasn’t paying attention, to be honest. Something to do with big, evil syndicates taking over the roads and you having to make deliveries of ‘stuff’ to earn some coin… while shooting the crap out of a tonne of other vehicles. Look, I’m not dismissing the story here. This is more a case of you don’t play a game like this for the story, do you? You want to know what the gameplay is like and not the story. Well…

GEARSHIFTERS MAIN SCREEN 1

To be honest, the first hour or so of playing Gearshifters, I really wasn’t enjoying it at all. This is through no fault of the game and purely my own mindset. See, I was trying to play it like a driving game… a driving game with a lot of shooting, but still a driving game nonetheless. As I said earlier, this is an arcade shooter and once I finally understood that, Gearshifters suddenly became much more enjoyable. I began to pay more attention to enemy movements, attack patterns and so on, began to play it as a shoot ’em up I guess. That was when it all began to fall into place. Well, that and getting some upgrades.

In terms of the upgrade system here, there’s really a lot to get your teeth into. You have some cosmetic customisations where you can change your paint, add a spoiler and different wheel trims. None of these make any difference to the gameplay and are there, as I said, as pure cosmetics. But then there are the many upgrades that do make a difference to the gameplay. There are weapon upgrades, both primary and secondary. You’ll soon be using basic machine guns, missiles, flamethrowers, shotguns and more. Some of these even have elemental aspects, like a shotgun that sets fire to enemies.

GEARSHIFTERS MAIN SCREEN 2

But there’s more. Other upgrades include defensive ones. Increase your front and side armour/melee attacks. Add armour plating to decrease damage taken and more. Then there are performance upgrades that improve your car’s acceleration, braking and handling. But there’s even more, as you also have special attacks like oil slicks, droppable spikes, modifiers that increase how much money enemies will drop and other elements. Plus, as you progress through the game you’ll unlock special skills such as using the handbrake to get behind enemies, drifting so you can attack while sliding your car, slamming your car into reverse so you can shoot enemies behind you and even a spin used to avoid missiles.

You can also change tyre compounds to suit each level and how your car handles. Some stages take place on the standard tarmac roads, while others take place on sand, mud and even the weather can affect how your car will feel. Seriously, there’s so much customisation and so many upgrades that you can add to your car that would easily turn James Bond green with envy.

Picking the right weapons and tyres for each level adds a layer of strategy and you’ll soon find that one car set-up may work brilliantly on one level, but not so much on another. So you are continually tinkering with your car to find the perfect loadout for each stage in the game.

GEARSHIFTERS MAIN SCREEN 3

How you actually unlock those upgrades though is the hard part. They are one several pickups that enemies drop after you’ve destroyed them. After being blown up, they drop schematics and you need to finish the level to actually take those schematics back to your HQ where they can then be bought for cash. Oh yeah, you’ll need cash in the game too and lots of it. This is another one of the pickups that enemies drop after being destroyed, you’ll also earn cash for finishing a stage and taking out the big boss at the end.

Speaking of which, the boss battles are great fun. Huge construction vehicles, trains, helicopters and more. All with massive weapons that’ll take you out faster than Max Rockatansky killed Toecutter and his gang. You’ll need to pay attention and learn the bosses attack patterns and find their weaknesses. Hone the use of your weapons and skills to perfection to get the best of the bosses and proceed to the next stage.

GEARSHIFTERS MAIN SCREEN 4

As I have already covered, this is an arcade shoot ’em up but it has a rogue-lite mechanic at play too. See, with something like R-Type, as long as you know the game well, you can get from the start to the end in one go. With Gearshifters, that’s just impossible to do. Here, you will die… a lot. But along the way, you’ll earn cash and unlock more schematics to help upgrade your car. You then use those upgrades to aid in clearing some of the much trickier aspects of the game. And as with most rogue-lite titles, Gearshifters is ‘effing hard and sometimes even frustrating. Still, those upgrades really do help you out and tinkering with your car’s setup will soon have you making progress through the game. Yes, Gearshifters is tricky-dicky, perhaps even punishingly so at times and yet it never feels unfair. You’ll often die as you don’t have the right upgrade (yet), or because you made a stupid maitake, misused a skill or something.

So yeah, Gearshifters is a cracking game and I’ve really enjoyed playing it. Full disclosure, despite having the game for about a week and playing it a hell of a lot… I’ve still not finished it yet. But for me, this is a measure of a good game. As hard as it is (and it is), I’m still fully engrossed and really want to carry on playing.

With a price point around the £17 to £22, depending on the format (Steam and Switch versions are currently 10% off too), this is a game that’ll really boil down to it being your thing or not. If you love a good (but hard) arcade shooter then Gearshifters is a must buy. There’s a lot here for your money what with the various upgrades and cosmetics, plenty of stages to play and bosses to master. But, this being a rogue-lite and having you playing and replaying the same stages over and over may not suit arcade shoot ’em up purists. Before I forget, the levels are randomly, generated, so even though you do re-play them over and over, they are always different.

GEARSHIFTERS MAIN SCREEN 5

For me, I loved Gearshifters and as I said, I’ve not finished it yet but still playing and enjoying it too. So I do recommend it but with the warning that this is a tough cookie and progression through the game can be a slow (but enjoyable) slog. Gearshifters is a very tough game for sure, but one that harks back to the classic days of arcade shooters like the brilliant Spy Hunter.

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