Tag Archives: LBoG: Retrospectives

Evolution Of F1 Games 1974 – 2020

Formula 1 as a sport turns seventy years old this year. That’s quite a momentous occasion to celebrate. I used to be a huge F1 fan, mainly through the eighties and nineties with Ayrton Senna being my favourite driver. Then, the blackest race weekend that was Imola  94 happened and for me, F1 died. Still, I’ve always enjoyed playing F1 games even if I really don’t follow the sport itself much anymore.

So I thought, to celebrate seventy years of Formula 1, that I would look at how F1 games have evolved through the years. From the first ever F1 game right up to the latest in 2020. Now, I’m not going to cover every single F1 game as there’s quite a lot of them and when you get into the latter games, they’re really just yearly updates. But I will be looking at some of the more notable F1 games to see how they’ve changed over the decades. Plus, a lot of the early games may not have been officially F1 licensed, but it’s very clear they were definitely F1 influenced. There will be links aplenty to gameplay footage of many of the games, a big thanks to the various YouTubers who complied the gameplay.

So anyway, here we go on an F1 trip through gaming, spanning six decades.

BORN 1950

The first ever Formula One race was held in 1950 at the famed Silverstone circuit. Italian driver, Emilio Giuseppe Farina would go in to be crowned the first official F1 World Champion. I don’t have to go back to the fifties (especially as video games didn’t exist then) for the first ever F1 game, but what could be considered the first F1 themed game is still very early in gaming history.

The Seventies

1972’s Pong is often considered the first ‘proper’ video game. It’s certainly the one game that kick-started the whole arcade and video game revolution in those early days. Back then, gaming was in its infancy and games were very simple. Perhaps the first F1-ish game could be Speed Race from 1974.

SPEED RACE

Developed and released by Tatio in Japan (Midway in the US where it was called Wheels), Speed Race offered some very simple gameplay. You controlled an F1-like car on a fast vertically scrolling road. Given just ninety seconds to make it as far along the road as you could. Along the way, you’d have to weave in and out of other racers. The arcade cabinet itself was a stand up thing with a steering wheel, simple hi-low gears and an accelerator peddle. The game itself was very basic and may not have offered much in the way of F1 thrills, but it’s cabinet design screamed F1. I believe that Speed Race was also the first ever vertically scrolling video game.

Also from 1974 was Gran Trak 10, developed and published by Atari. This wasn’t scrolling like the previous game, but instead had you racing around a single screen track. Gran Trak 10 was a bit more in-depth compared to Speed Race. It was another stand up cabinet with peddles to accelerate and break, but this one offered multiple gears, including a reverse. There was only one track available in the game and you had to race through checkpoints to extend your limited time. Do as many laps of the track as possible before the time runs out.

A lot of those early seventies racers followed a similar gameplay style. Simple weave in and out of traffic, or complete laps within a time limit. Titles such as Sprint 2 (it wasn’t a sequel, the number just reflected the number of players) was the first in a long running franchise Night Driver and F-1 were further early examples of such games with similar ideas. The latter using a unique miniature diorama and projector system to create the illusion of racing over standard graphics. But it was perhaps Sega’s Monaco GP from 1979 which could be considered the first ‘proper’ F1 game.

MONACO GP

Where as the previous games mentioned may have had an F1 art style to the cabinet with some F1 questionable influence, Monaco GP was unmistakably Formula 1… mostly. This one played very similar to Tatio’s Speed Race, it just had fancier graphics and a few new gameplay additions like night driving, ice roads, etc, all those things not seen in Formula 1 . Still with that vertical scrolling, race against time thing while dodging other cars. It certainly wasn’t a revolution in gameplay, but it was definitely trying to engage the F1 fans of the day. I mean, it was called Monaco GP, named after one of the most popular and famous races in F1 history. Plus, once again the cabinet was F1 themed especially the sit-down version.

The Eighties

If the seventies was the infancy of the Formula 1 game, then the eighties were its teenage years. The first few eighties F1 games still carried the same ideas and concepts from the seventies, not too much evolution really going on. Then 1982 happened and Namco released Pole Position. Just reading that title should spark off memories of many an older gamer and if it didn’t, this screenshot will:

POLE POSITION

Pole Position was perhaps the defining Formula 1 game of the eighties. Playing from a third person perspective, you raced around a (for the time) accurate recreation of the F1 Fuji racetrack. Before you could race, you’d have to ‘prepare to qualify’, as the digitised speech would tell you. Put in a good time for a lap and then it was on to the actual race. Here it was you against several CPU controlled opponents in a championship race. Overtake other cars, try not to explode by crashing into billboards and come first. Pole Position was the first F1 game to depict a real race track and also the first to feature a qualifying session and actual racing instead of just overtaking endless opponents. The following year in 1983 and Namco followed up with Pole Position II. Very much more of the same with some minor graphical refinements. Plus it added three more tracks, taking the total to four. Though the gameplay between the two games was identical.

By now, and thanks to the success of Namco’s two Pole Position titles, F1 racers were fast becoming hugely popular in the arcade and even at home. The rise of cheaper hardware saw consoles and computers in the abodes of avid gamers around the world. 1983’s Chequered Flag for the ZX Spectrum was an early example of a F1 simulator. You got to chose from three F1 cars, two called Ferretti and McFaster (Ferrari and McLaren) and race around six representations of real F1 tracks and four fictional circuits. There were no other cars to race against, just you trying to put in fast laps… oh and you had to avoid on-track hazards like oil slicks and broken glass, just like real F1? Chequered Flag also featured a pit-stop game mechanic, the first game to feature pit-stops where you could repair and refuel your car.

Grand Prix Manager from 1984 on the ZX Spectrum was the first ever F1 management game. Putting you in charge of a Formula 1 team. Chose your difficulty, number of races, sponsor, driver, hire mechanics and then it’s away you go. You have to keep an eye on your team, the car, drivers as you advance through the season. Grand Prix Manager was basic, very basic stuff, but it did the job well enough, for the first ever F1 management title.

GRAND PRIX MANAGER

By the mid eighties, there was a great mix of arcade style racers, more simulation style F1 games and even a few hybrids of the two. Atari released Super Sprint in 1986, a sequel to their long running Sprint franchise. 1985’s Formula 1 Simulator, despite it’s name, was less a simulator and more a Pole Position clone for the home market, even though Pole Position saw several home ports. Pitstop and Pitstop II (1983 and 84 respectively) offered some simple but fun F1 action for home computers. The latter of the two, me and my brothers spent many an hour on racing each other on our Commodore 64.

The late eighties began to see the rise of the officially licensed Formula 1 games. Satoru Nakajima F-1 Hero for the Famicom from 1988 was one of the first licensed F1 games. It saw a release outside of Japan on the NES as Michael Andretti’s World GP, which actually made little sense as Michael Andretti wasn’t an F1 driver, he raced in IndyCar. Though he did eventually race in F1 for the 1993 season. Anyway, the game was one of the first to offer a playable full F1 season, complete with all the real races and ‘drivers’… though pseudonyms were used. Then there was Nigel Mansell’s Grand Prix for home computers from 1988. This one was much more simulation-like and even allowed you to try full race distances. It also offered recreations all of the sixteen Formula 1 circuits of the time.

FINAL LAP

Arcade titles such as 1987’s Continental Circus and Final Lap, 1988’s F-1 Dream and 1989’s Super Monaco GP (the sequel to the Sega classic Monaco GP from 1979) began to push just what arcade games could really do. Buttery smooth and fast gameplay with exciting race action to boot. But then, as the eighties began to end, a real game changer was released. Namco had already established themselves a great arcade racer developers, but in 1988, they unleashed a genuine beast of a game. Winning Run was was a revelation in arcade racers, F1 themed sure, but it was the titles amazingly impressive 3D shaded polygon graphics that really blew people away. Giving you a choice of two difficulties (cars) but only one track. You have to complete a qualifying lap before going up against twelve other racers to fight for first place. Winning Run opened the doors for 3D polygon racers, both in the arcade and at home.

The Nineties

Well this is it, the decade where Formula 1 game really took hold and began to show just how good they could be.  There were more F1 games released in the nineties than any other decade. The arcade format began to grow a little tired of the Formula 1 racers and started to look at other racing disciplines for games to be based on, but the home market was a very different story, you could hardly move for F1 themed games for home consoles and computers. It was 1991 when one of the finest Formula 1 games ever was released with Formula One Grand Prix.

F1GP

At the time, Formula One Grand Prix, from game designer Geoff Crammond was THE definitive F1 game for home computers. Its impressive 3D graphics were highly detailed for the time and the game offered a very, very in-depth, simulation representation of the 1991 season. Though the game was not officially licenced by the FIA, Geoff still made the game as authentic as he could. All the correct tracks were there and so were the drivers and cars… kind of. The driver helmets and car liveries were in the game, but the names were not. However, Geoff was smart enough to add an editing tool in the game so you could change the names with ease. There is so much I could write on this one F1 game alone (like it’s online and modding community that still exits) that this article would go on for days and I have so much more to cover… like this game’s sequels. But I will finish by adding that this game was the one that not only got me into racing some, but also F1 as a sport much more deeply. Yeah I watched and enjoyed F1 before this, but it was all the car set-ups, track info, etc from this game thatmade me want to understand the sport more.

Two of the biggest F1 drivers in the sport of the era got in on the whole licensing thing in 1992 when they had games released bearing their names and likenesses. Nigel Mansell’s World Championship Racing saw you able to play a full F1 1992 season as the mustachioed one himself. This was much more arcade-like but still offered things like pit-stops, minor car set-ups, tyre choices and the like. Even the greatest racing driver of all time ever got in on the action with Ayrton Senna’s Super Monaco GP II from Sega, a licensed version of their long running F1 series of games. This one was based on the 1991 season and Ayrton himself even helped with the development of the game. He not only allowed the use of his likeness, but Ayrton pops up though the championship offering you driving advice and tips for each track, all of which was written by the man himself. Plus he helped with how the cars should handle and even designed two fictitious tracks for the player to drive on, Ayrton even had a few voice samples in the game too.

SENNA SUPER MONACO GP II

There really were a slew of Formula 1 games in the early nineties, they were everywhere. Titles like F1 Pole Position, F1 Hero MD, Formula One World Championship: Beyond the Limit, F-1 Sensation (which was actually fully FIA licenced), F1 Grand Prix: Nakajima Satoru, F1 Circus Special: Pole To Win to name just a few, were all released between 1990 and 1994. I just need to give special mention to F-1 Grand Prix Part III from 1994 on the SNES. One of my favourite F1 games on any console at the time as it melded a really great racing game with some light management elements, allowing you to create your own F1 team.  But 1995 saw Geoff Crammond return and vastly improve on F1 game when he released the sequel, Grand Prix 2… only this time, fully licenced by the FIA. All the races, drivers (with the exception of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger for obvious reasons), and teams for the 1994 Formula 1 season were wonderfully recreated and the simulation feel of the previous game was exceed ten-fold.

But it wasn’t all about heart pumping racing as Grand Prix Manager and Grand Prix Manager 2 saw releases in 1995 and 1996 respectively. Two very good and solid F1 management games full of options and variables as you take your chosen F1 team onto victory over a ten year career. To be honest, the games do feature some very questionable AI and overall simplistic gameplay, not exactly in-depth for management games, but still offered some good gameplay along the way.

GP MANAGER 2

1996 saw the release of Formula 1. Perhaps one of the most important F1 games to ever be made. This was the genesis of the F1 games we have today. Formula 1 featured the most accurate representation of the sport to date at the time. Fully licenced cars and drivers, tracks designed using actual real-life data and telemetry, TV style presentation including Tag Heuer timings. It even had commentary from the legend that was Murray Walker. This wasn’t quite as simulation heavy as Geoff Crammond’s games, but it was the first F1 game to get the whole feel and presentation of the sport right.

Formula 1 as a sport already had a rich history worth exploring in the nineties, and one game broke from the norm of trying to make the most recent season the star of the game. 1998’s Grand Prix Legends took the sport back to the sixties, in particular, the 1967 Formula 1 season. The tracks were tighter, the cars didn’t have the safety features and the sport on the whole was far more dangerous an this game tried to capture that. A full on simulation of what it would’ve been like to drive and F1 car back then, Grand Prix Legends was brutally realistic, a trait that turned many gamers off and the title didn’t sell well. But it is a game sim fans look back on with fondness.

GP LEGENDS

As the nineties came to and end, the F1 games did not. F-1 World Grand Prix, Formula One 99, Monaco Grand Prix: Racing Simulation 2, Grand Prix World and Official Formula One Racing were all released in the last coupe of years of the decade. And believe me, I’ve not even covered half of the F1 games released in this decade.

The Two-Thousands

As the next century began, F1 licenses became more strict and the games began to thin out in an quality over quantity kind of way. That’s not to say there still wasn’t a good few F1 games released. Kicking things of right was that man again, Geoff Crammond, with the third of his brilliant F1 games.

Grand Prix 3 followed the 1998 season. Yes, that is two years out of date. Though it was given an update in 2001 for the 2000 season via an expansion pack. Much like Geoff Crammond’s previous F1 titles, this one once more offered a fantastic racing experience and some in-depth simulation options. Electronic Arts got in on the F1 act using their famed EA Sports (it’s in the game) label, releasing multiple titles.  F1 2000, F1 Championship Season 2000, F1 Manager, F1 2001, F1 2002 and F1 Career Challenge all offered a more acradey feel to the racing over a deep simulation. Except for F1 Manager which was obviously a management game.

F1 Championship Season-2000

Grand Prix Challenge from Infogrames was a decent attempt at an F1 title, though it strived to be more simulation-like, it never really felt like it. Williams F1 Team Driver from 2001 put you in the driver’s seat of a young driver trying to make it into F1. Starting out in  go karts before Formula 1600cc, Formula 3, and finally onto Formula 1. An interesting title that was doing things a bit different from the usual Formula 1 games a the time, but overall, it was pretty disappointing. 2002 saw Geoff Crammond release his final F1 game with Grand Prix 4. This was pretty much more of the same from Geoff, still a good F1 racer indeed. But the problem was that other games on the market were beginning to get better and better, meaning these, once standout games no longer stood-out.

Formula One Arcade

Formula One Arcade from 2001 did exactly what the title suggested. It was a much more arcade-like game wrapped up in the official F1 licence. As far away from a simulation as you could get as the races featured power-ups like speed-boots, large high-grip tyres and even shields. This was all about high-octane, OTT racing.

By 2004, F1 games started to just became yearly update affairs. Sony secured the official F1 licence back in 1996 and made plenty of games from it too. Fourteen games in total released between 1996 and 2007. Other studios made F1 games, sure, but by the mid 2000s, Sony monopolised the market. Then in 2008, Codemasters were the ones to pick up the licence, though they didn’t use it proper until the next decade. There were still a very small handful of Formula 1 games released. For instance, F1 2009 was published by Codemasters, but developed by Sumo Digital. It was in 2010 when Codemasters released and developed their first Formula 1 title.

The Twenty-Tens And Twenty-Twenties

Yup, from this decade onward, Codemasters had exclusive rights to the official F1 licence. Meaning only they could release ‘proper’ F1 games. I don’t think it’s really worth going into all of their titles as they are basically yearly updates over the previous game. From F1 2010 to the most recent F1 2020, Codmasters have given us a decade of solid F1 simulations. Their F1 games over the last ten years have been great and easily offer the best Formula 1 racing around. All fully licenced with all the tracks and drivers representative of their respective years. I reviewed the most recent game only a few weeks back too.

F1 Race Stars

Codemasters did release a little curiosity of an F1 game back in 2012 that wasn’t part of their F1 sim games. F1 Race Stars was a more kart-racing-style arcade game, Full of power-ups, weapons and crazy track layouts that included jumps and even loops. Far and away from the simulation games, F1 Race Stars was actually really good fun and it even featured the official FIA licence too. Yup, you could drive as any of the twelve teams and twenty-four drivers from the 2012 season around OTT tracks inspired by the real circuits.

Other games have offered F1-like racing in some of their games. Rockstar introduced F1-style cars and races in GTA Online and the Forza Motorsport series has also included  Formula 1 cars and tracks. As too does the Assetto Corsa franchise. Though in these cases, they are either fictional cars or historical ones due to Codemasters having exclusive rights to the current F1 season.


And so, that’s pretty much it. Formula 1 games from the dawn of the sub-genre in 1972 right up to today in 2020. From simple arcade racers to more in-depth, realistic simulations and even management titles. F1 has seen a real evolution in terms of games that has spanned six decades. As much as I love the Codemasters F1 sims, it’s a shame they have exclusivity over the licence. I’d like to see more studios making F1 games like back in the eighties and nineties. I’d like to see more variation on the sport too instead of these yearly updates. Codemasters’ own F1 Race Stars was good fun and showed you don’t have to always make 100% serious Formula 1 titles.

I’d love to see more historic F1 games. Why not relive the career of a legend like Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher? Start out in karts, before moving through the ranks of the  Formula Ford 1600 Championships, Formula 3 before moving into F1? There could be a real-life comparison kind of thing where the actual career of Senna/Schumacher is going on in the background and you have to try your best to match it. I’d like to see more F1 management games, a sub-genre greatly underused. I’d like to see more acradey-like games and so on, titles that push the imagination of F1 beyond the simulation genre. There’s so much scope to be had with the sport, yet all we are getting are yearly updates of (admittedly) great F1 sims and cameo roles in other driving games.

A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother – Psycho: A Retrospective

So Psycho is sixty years old today, and as it’s one of my all time favourite films, I’m doing a huge celebration. I’ve already looked at the making of the film, and now, is time to look at the Psycho franchise… all of it. A quick, obligatory SPOILER warning right here, as I’m going to go through each film, including the endings and then offer my view. Plus I’m not just covering the films here, I’m doing the films, the TV shows, spin offs, and the books… everything. This is going to be a big one! Any and everything Psycho I can find will be covered in detail. So, you have been warned… SPOILERS ahead! I repeat, this is going to be a big one. You’d better go grab a glass of milk and sandwich.

First up, the movies…

Psycho

Psycho Poster

Originally released sixty years ago today on the 16th of June, 1960. The film tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young and attractive real-estate secretary from Arizona who steals $40,000 (over $350,000 in today’s money) from a client of her boss. Her aim is to use the money to start a new life with her lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin) who lives in California. Marion sets out on the long twelve hour, seven-hundred and fifty mile drive from Arizona to California, stopping off to trade in her car with Arizona plates for a second-hand California plate car. Then gets back on the road for California and Sam.

During a heavy rain storm at night, Marion pulls into the Bates Motel with the idea to spend the night and leave to see Sam fresh-faced in the morning. At the motel, she meets proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). After Marion checks into the Motel, Norman offers to make a light meal for her up at his house behind the motel. But an argument kicks off between Norman and his mother, Norma, so Norman instead suggests they eat in the parlor at the back of the motel office. Here, Marion learns that Norman’s mother is mentally ill and how she can’t live without Norman’s help. The two chat and Marion begins to feel guilt over her stealing the money.

Now in her motel room, Marion decides to take the $40,000 back the next morning instead of running away with Sam. She hides the cash in a newspaper which she leaves on the nightstand before taking a shower. Que one of the most famous scenes in cinema history and Marion is stabbed to death in the shower by Norman’s enraged mother. Norman discovers the grisly crime scene and sets about cleaning it up to protect his mother. After carefully wrapping Marion’s body in the shower curtain, he puts the body in the trunk of Marion’s car. Ensuring Norman has covered everything, he also puts all of Marion’s possessions in the car… including the newspaper with the stolen $40,000 hidden in it (unbeknownst to him).

Marion Shower Scream

Norman then drives the car, body, money and all to a swamp at the back of the motel and pushes the car into it. Norman stands there nibbling away on candy corn as he watches the car and Marion’s body sink into the swamp. Everything has been taken care of and Norma Bates’ heinous crime has been covered up.

A week passes and Lila Crane (Vera Miles), Marion’s sister arrives at Sam’s place in California looking for her sibling. Sam, of course, has no idea where Marion has gone and he had no idea that she was on her way to come and see him a week ago. This is when private investigator, Milton Arbogast (Martin Balsam) turns up asking questions about Marion and the missing $40,000 to both Lila and Sam. After some local investigation, Milton learns that Marion checked into the Bates Motel last week… under a different name. He also learns that Norman has his elderly and ill mother staying in the house. So Milton gets on the phone to update Lila and Sam on what he has learned and says he will try to talk to Norman’s mother before heading back. Milton decides to let himself into the house and tries to talk to Mrs Bates for any info on what happened to Marion. As he is climbing the stairs and nearing the top, mother makes another appearance, and so does her knife as she stabs the private investigator and he falls down the stairs to his death.

Psycho 1960 Milton

After not hearing back from Milton Arbogast, Lila and Sam go to the local sheriff to tell him about all that has been going on. They tell the sheriff that Norman and his mother must have had something to do with the disappearance of Marion and possibly why Milton has not checked in with them. The sheriff is quick to dismiss their theory because Norman’s mother has been dead for the last decade. The sheriff suggests that Milton must have lied to Lila and Sam about Marion and that maybe he plans on chasing Marion to get hold of the stolen $40,000 himself. Neither Lila or Sam are convinced by the theory and decide to check out the motel themselves. While Sam distracts Norman, Lila sneaks up to the house wanting to talk to the said to be dead Norma Bates. Norman becomes suspicious, knocks Sam out and goes up to the house himself. Lila makes her way into the fruit cellar and discovers Norma Bates sitting in a chair… and yes, she is very much dead. Leading to one of the biggest twist endings ever, as it is revealed that Norman Bates dug up his dead mother, preserved her as best he could via taxidermy and developed a very disturbing relationship with her corpse. He would often dress up as his own mother, hold conversations with her and of course… kill as his own mother.

So Norman is arrested over the murders of Marion Crane and Milton Arbogast as well as the murders of two other women previously killed off screen. Now, ‘mother’ has taken over Norman completely as she sits there in her cell knowing people are watching her, as she decides to prove that she’s no killer by not harming a fly…

Psycho 1960 Norman

There really is very little that I can say about Psycho that hasn’t already been written a thousand times over. It’s one of the greatest films ever to be made. It’s writing is sharp, the pacing is terrific, the direction is astounding and the music is etched into my memory forever. Then of course, there is the acting. Janet Leigh is mesmerising as the young secretary who has a moment of weakness and steals $40,000. A stupid mistake that will lead to her bloody and brutal death. Then you have Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, and an instant classic film character was born. His charm and personality really help to sell the sheltered and shy Norman. A troubled young man who’s life has been destroyed by the death of his mother. Alfred Hitchcock made some amazing pictures in his career, but none of them came close to the genius of Psycho. With how much he had to sacrifice to get the film made, you can really feel his passion on the screen.

Psycho II

Psycho II Poster

Released just a short twenty-three years after the original in 1983. Psycho II is set twenty-two years after the events of the first film in 1982. Norman Bates is released from the mental institution he has spent the last two decades in, now having being ‘cured’ of his insanity. He now accepts that his mother is dead. However, some people are not happy that Norman is being released, one such person is Lila Loomis, Marion’s sister who eventually married Sam Loomis, Marion’s boyfriend from the first film… and she thinks Norman is insane? With some help from his psychiatrist, Dr. Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia), Norman settles back into his home at Bates Motel.

The motel is now being managed by Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz), that’s one less thing for Norman to worry about. So he sets about getting back to a normal life, he lands himself a job at a local diner. An older lady, Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar) is one of the few people around who believes Norman is cured and should be forgiven, in fact it was Emma who landed Norman the job at the diner. After work, Norman meets waitress Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly) who is having boyfriend troubles. Mary has been thrown out of her boyfriend’s place and has no where to stay. So Norman offers up a room back at his motel, FOC… free of charge. Back at the motel, Norman learns that his new manager, Warren has been renting out rooms to drug users and prostitutes. An angered Norman sacks Warren and sets about getting Bates Motel back up to scratch by running it himself. A young and pretty female staying, Norman running the motel? History is beginning to repeat itself.

Soon after, Norman begins to receive phone calls and notes from mother, just as things were going so well for him too. After being sacked, an upset Warren Toomey picks a fight with Norman and he (Norman) suspects that it is Warren who has been making the calls and leaving the notes in order to try to drive Norman back to his old ways. However, as Warren is packing to leave the motel for good, he his stabbed and killed by a mysterious figure in a dress. It seems that mother is back. Sympathising with Norman, Mary decides to stay at the house in a guest room permanently and help Norman get the motel back into shape. As Norman starts renovating his motel, he begins to hear voices coming from the house and even sees mother standing in the window of her room. He goes up to the house to investigate, enters mother’s room and finds it untouched from twenty-two years ago, nothing out of place as if it’s still being used by her. Norman hears another noise that lures him up to the attic, and he is locked in. Meanwhile, downstairs, two teenagers break into Norman’s house and go into the fruit cellar to do what teenagers do… smoke dope and knock boots. Realising someone is in the house, the teenagers try to escape, only the boy is stabbed to death. The girl gets away and tells the police. Mary comes home to find Norman locked in the attic and lets him out, they go back to mother’s room to find it in a state of disuse, not like it was before. Norman begins to think he’s going insane. The sheriff arrives and questions both Norman and Mary about the killing of the boy, Mary says they were both out at the time for a walk. Norman begins to worry that it was him who killed the boy, that mother is starting to take over again. But Mary reminds him that he was locked in the attic, so he couldn’t have killed the boy. Someone did.

Psycho II Norman Phone

Mary calms Norman down and insists he is innocent, she then goes down to the motel to try to find a bottle of booze to make an Irish coffee. Waiting in the parlor of the motel is Lila Loomis and it turns out that Mary is her daughter. It was Lila and Mary who had been making the phone calls, leaving the notes and messing around with mother’s room, dressing as mother, etc. Between them they were trying to convince Norman he was going crazy again and force him to kill, in an attempt to get him re-committed to the mental institution. An act of vengeance on Lila’s part for the death of her sister. However, Mary has genuinely become friends with Norman and honestly believes he couldn’t have killed anyone, she thinks there is someone else involved, someone else who killed the the boy. Dr. Bill Raymond learns that Mary is Lila Lommis’ daughter and tells Norman all about it and their plan to try to drive him insane. Norman only half believes it and is convinced that someone else is involved. If Lila and Mary were only trying to goad Norman into killing but he never did… then who is the real killer? Norman suggests that it could be his ‘real mother’, whatever that means. Mary tells Norman that she wants nothing to do with the whole ruse anymore, that she wants to help Norman and not harm him. Lila however is a different story, she still wants Norman re-committed.

Lila Loomis is in the fruit cellar and she tries to retrieve her hidden mother costume that she has been using to fool Norman. But a mysterious figure steps out of the shadows and kills Lila, so she couldn’t have been the killer either. The police dredge the swamp at the back of the motel and find Warren Toomey’s car and his body inside it. Just how Norman hid the bodies in the first film. Mary tells Norman he should run away otherwise he’d be arrested and taken back to the mental institution. Just then, the phone rings and Norman answers it, it’s mother. Norman begins to talk to his mother, so Mary listens in on another phone and there is no other voice, but Norman keeps talking to mother regardless. Norman begins to debate with mother about killing Mary, so Mary runs off to the fruit cellar to get the mother disguise, complete with a large kitchen knife, to convince Norman that mother can’t be on the phone if she is standing in front of him. Dr. Raymond turns up and grabs Mary dressed as mother, believing she is the killer and trying to send Norman insane again. Mary and Dr. Raymond struggle and the good doctor is killed by Mary when she accidentally plunges the knife into his chest. In Norman’s unstable state, he sees Mary/mother standing over the dead body of Dr. Raymond and believes that she is back. Norman finally snaps and tries to kill Mary/mother to stop her once and for all. Mary runs away to the fruit cellar and finds the body of Lila. Now Mary thinks that it was Norman who killed Lila, so she raises the knife in self-defense. The police turn up, see Mary seemingly trying to kill Norman and assume she is the killer. Mary is shot dead by the police. So everything is wrapped up… except for the fact that neither Norman or Mary were the real killer of course.

Psycho II End

Later, the old lady from the diner, Emma Spool turns up at Norman’s home and Norman had been expecting ‘someone’ too. She tells Norman that she is his real mother, that Norma Bates was her sister. Emma says how she gave Norman to Norma as an infant because she had been institutionalised. It was Emma Spool who was the killer, she was upset that people were picking on and trying to harm her son. So in response, Norman smashes her over the head with a shovel and kills her. Norman then carries the body upstairs to mother’s room and begins talking to her and her to him, as she barks at Norman to open the motel. The whole cycle starts anew and mother has taken over Norman once more.

Psycho II End Shot

You know, for a sequel to an all time classic and released over two decades since the original, this really isn’t too bad. In fact, it has some truly great moments. The whole plot of trying to fool Norman that mother is back is really well done. The tricks both Lila and Mary play on him are cruel, but they work. There are some great throwbacks to the first film (the opening is fantastic). But the ending, the last fifteen minutes or so are a bit, well crap. The whole retconning of Norman’s back story to make this random old lady who is only in the film for thirty seconds his real mother really annoyed me and seemed pretty desperate. It’s also lazy rehash of the first film but in reverse. In Psycho, it’s Norman Bates who is the killer, while the audience are led to believe it’s an old lady. In Psycho II, it’s an old lady who is the killer, while the audience are led to believe it’s Norman Bates. A really good main plot, but just falls flat in the end. But from a directing point of view, this is a very competent film. With Hitchcock dying in 1980, that means he had nothing to do with this one. Still director, Richard Franklin does a damn good job and still maintains a lot of Hitch’s quirks. This feels like a Psycho sequel and not just a cheap cash-in (last few minutes aside). Plus the fact that both Vera Miles as Lila Loomis and Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates returned adds a level of genuineness. Oh yeah, despite his death, Hitchcock still has a cameo in the film too.

Psycho III

Psycho III Poster

So in 1986, the next film in the franchise was released. Yes Anthony Perkins is back as Norman Bates, but he also takes on the role of director too. This one takes place a month after the events of Psycho II in 1982. So Norman has got the motel up and running once more, his ‘real’ mother, Emma Spool from Psycho II has now taken the place of his adopted mother, Norma, from the original Psycho… that role being a corpse. Oh and Norman is bat-shit crazy again, talking to his dead mother (Emma) and her talking to him… which is really him talking to himself. So with that confusing recap out of the way, on with the plot…

Maureen Coyle (Diana Scarwid), a young and mentally unstable nun attempts to kill herself by jumping from the bell tower of the convent. Instead, she accidentally knocks one of her fellow nuns to her death, and so Maureen is kicked out of the convent and renounces her nunship. Out in the hot California sun, Maureen is offered a car ride by sleazy musician, Duane Duke (Jeff Fahey), who is very protective of his guitar. After pulling over to get some rest, Duane puts the moves on Maureen and she freaks out. Duane kicks her out of the car and leaves her to her own devices. Duane pulls into the Bates Motel and meets Norman. Only instead of staying as a guest, Duane is offered the job as Norman’s assistant to help run the motel. Meanwhile journalist, Tracy Venable (Roberta Maxwell) is writing an article on newly released serial killers. Tracy believes that Norman is killing again (he is) and wants to talk to him about his life and supposed rehabilitation. Tracy interviews Norman in the diner (from Psycho II), but he becomes distracted when Maureen walks in. She is young, blonde and pretty… very much like Marion Crane… oh and Maureen is also carrying a suitcase with her initials… MC. Norman has a flashback to him/mother murdering Marion in the shower. Maureen is looking for somewhere to stay and of course, the Bates Motel has vacancies.

Psycho III Maureen Duane

So Maureen ends up checking into the Bates Motel and crosses paths with sleazy Duane once more. Mother is angered that another young woman is staying in the hotel and goes off to kill her in the shower, just as with Marion Crane twenty-two years previously. Only Maureen has saved mother the job by slitting her own wrists. Norman is shocked out of the mother persona and attempts to save the dying girl, while the delirious Maureen mistakes the knife wielding mother as the Virgin Mary holding a crucifix. So Norman rushes Maureen to the hospital and says she can stay the the motel as long as she needs… FOC of course. The night and Duane picks up Red, a woman in a bar. The two head back to Bates Motel for a bit of the old mattress mambo. When Red says she wants more than just a one night stand, Duane kicks her out of his motel room. Leaving Red to make her own way home, she tries to call for a cab at a near by phone box… only for mother to stab her to death.

The next morning and a group of football fans, who are in town to watch the big game, check into Bates Motel. While elsewhere, Tracy still looking for information on Norman for her article and gains access into Emma Spool’s apartment, who by now in the timeline has been missing for several weeks. Digging around, Tracy finds a magazine with the phone number for Bates Motel written on it over and over and over again. So Tracy works out there must be a connection between the missing Emma Spool and the motel. Back the the motel, the football fans are getting a little rowdy from partying. But one guest, Patsy Boyle, the only sober one of the lot, is murdered by mother while trying to find a toilet to use. Norman soon discovers the body and hides it in the motel’s ice machine outside of the office. 

Psycho III Norman Sheriff

The next morning and the sheriff turns up to ask Norman about the missing girl, Patsy, from last night… while trying to cool down with some ice from the ice machine that hides her body. Tracy tells Maureen all about Norman’s disturbing past. A very scared Maureen decides to not stay at the motel, but instead stay with Father Brian who looked over her at the hospital. At the house, Norman learns that his mother’s body is missing. He finds a note from Duane saying that she is in cabin twelve, so Norman heads out to get his mother back. Duane tries to blackmail Norman into giving him money, otherwise he’ll go to the police and tell them all about the whole dead mother thing. Norman and Duane get into a fight, which Norman wins by beating Duane unconscious with his own guitar. Norman puts both the bodies of Pasty and the unconscious Duane into Duane’s car and uses his tried and tested method of disposing of them in the swamp. However, Duane regains consciousness and attacks Norman while he’s driving. The car ends up in the swamp as Norman escapes, but Duane is not so lucky and drowns. Tracy talks to the owner of the diner and learns that Emma Spool used to work there for the previous owner. So Tracy tracks the now very elderly ex-owner down to an assisted living facility and learns that Emma was institutionalised for murder.

Maureen manages to convince herself that Norman is no harm to her and hurries back to the motel to declare her love for him. As the two share a tender moment together at the top of the stairs, Norman hears mother shout at him about having a girl in the house. This startles Norman who, accidentally, knocks Maureen off balance and she falls down the stairs, killing her. An enraged Norman says he will get mother for this. This is when Tracy enters the house and finds Maureen dead and sees Norman dressed as mother holding a large knife. She tries to reason with Norman and explains what she has learned about Emma Spool. It turns out that Emma actually his aunt and in love with his father, but he decided to marry her sister, Norma instead. As an act of revenge and when Norman was just a baby, Emma kidnapped him and killed his father. After being caught, Norman was returned to his real mother, Norma while Emma was institutionalised for killing Norman’s father. Normans seems to listen and break free form the mother persona. Tracy finds Emma Spool’s corpse in mother’s bedroom and as Norman takes of the mother dress, he hears her order him to kill Tracy. Norman raises the knife, but instead of attacking Tracy, he stabs and cuts up Emma Spools body instead. Norman is most definitely insane and the sheriff turns up to arrest Norman. After the sheriff tells Norman they will lock him up forever, he replies, “But I’ll be free…I’ll finally be free.”, as Norman is taken away.

Psycho III end

This one is very typical eighties slasher movie territory. It lacks the suspense and taughtness of the previous two flicks and favors simple jump scares and blood instead. Of course Anthony Perkins is still great as Norman Bates, a character he was seemingly born to play. His role as director is pretty decent too and he throws in quite a few nods and references to the other films, but his direction lacks the subtly of the previous two flicks. The story is just a bit bland and uninspired, well it is the third flick. There are no real surprises, we know from the off that Norman is crazy again, we know mother is controlling him once more, so there’s no real mystery as to who is doing the killing. Yet when the murders do happen, they are disguised as if to try and hide who’s behind them, the face is hidden in shadows or you only see the hand holding the knife… but we already now it’s Norman. It’s all a bit pointless really. The retconning of Emma Spool being Norman’s real mother is reconnected itself to make Norma his real mother again. This makes a lot more sense to Norman’s backstory, but it seems awfully convoluted. Emma Spool should never have been made Norman’s mother to begin with to be honest. Overall, Psycho III is a decent horror flick, it’s just that aside from having Norman Bates in it… it’s not very Psycho. It lacks surprises, it lacks punch, it lacks suspense.

Bates Motel

Bates Motel 1987 Poster

So this one is a bit of a curiosity. It’s an official spin-off from the main franchise and released in 1987. Oh yeah, it’s also the only film from the original franchise where Anthony Perkins doesn’t play Norman Bates. Plus this was a made for TV movie with the idea for it to kick-start a Bates Motel TV show… that never happened. The film is set after the events of Psycho and tells an alternate history, not connected to the films. It focuses on Alex West (Bud Cort), who is admitted to an asylum after he killed his abusive stepfather. While in the asylum, Alex befriends Norman Bates (Kurt Paul). Years later and Norman dies, Alex learns that Norman has left him the Bates Motel and house in his will. When released from the asylum, Alex sets about re-opening the motel.

Long and very boring story short. Some bank manger tries to stop Alex from re-opening the motel by scaring him in a very poor Scooby Doo kind of way. Alex gets some help renovating the motel. There’s something about a suicidal divorcee, a portal to an alternate dimension (seriously) and some other terrible plot points I really couldn’t care about. The film ends with Alex setting up for the motel to receive more guests and the start of a TV show that never begun.

Seriously, this is utter shit. First, you don’t recast Norman Bates… never mind kill him off in a Psycho film. Second, you don’t force in supernatural elements in a Psycho film either. There’s some bullshit about an alternate dimension and lost souls of teenagers being trapped, etc. The acting is atrocious, way beyond terrible. The directing is a mess and the story is nonsensical that plays up for inane laughs. Just don’t waste your time on this one, not even for curiosity sake. But it can be found on YouTube… if you dare… to be bored and angered. Norman Bates himself only has literal seconds of screen time too.

Psycho IV: The Beginning

Psycho IV Poster

Released in 1990, this sequel/prequel is another made for TV movie that brings back Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates as well as writer of the original Psycho, Joseph Stefano. On the surface, this flick has a lot going for it. Flat out ignoring the terrible, previous Bates Motel monstrosity and bringing back the original’s writer too. Anyway, a radio show is having a talk on matricide, hosted by Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder) and accompanied by Dr. Leo Richmond (Warren Frost). They receive a call from someone called Ed… Ed is actually a rehabilitated Norman Bates using a fake name (Ed Gein?). Ed begins to tell his story of matricide, how he killed his own mother. The film jumps around the timeline telling Norman’s past from the 1940s and 50s through flashbacks as Norman discusses his life over the phone.

So, when Norman was six years old, his father died leaving him alone with his mother, Norma (Olivia Hussey). Norma’s mental health begins to decline as she seemingly suffers from schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. She starts to dominate and punish Norman for any and everything, no matter how trivial. She teases and torments Norman, then punishes him when he reacts. The two are happy living together alone in relative isolation. Then in 1949, Norma get’s herself a lover, Chet Rudolph (Thomas Schuster). Chet is an oafish brute who bullies and terrorises Norman (Henry Thomas), while Norma does nothing about it. Business at the motel begins to suffer due to a new interstate being built near by.

Chet continues his bullying of Norman until he can take no more. Driven by anger and jealousy that Chet had now become his mother’s main focus of affection. Norman kills both of them by lacing some ice-tea with poison. After the funerals, Norman steals Norma’s corpse and preserves it via taxidermy. Over time, Norman begins to develop a split personality and becomes mother in an attempt to suppress his guilt of murdering his own mom. Norman begins to dress in his mother’s clothes and talk to himself in her voice. Mother takes over and Norman kills two young women who try to seduce Norman. The two girls Norman is guilty of killing off screen, in the events of the first flick.

Psycho IV Young Norman

Back in the present day at the radio station and Dr. Richmond works out that this ‘Ed’ guy is actually Norman Bates. Norman begins to worry that he could kill again. He married a psychiatrist named Connie (Donna Mitchell) and Norman reveals that Connie is pregnant with his child. Norman says that he never wanted a baby out of fear that it will be born like him, insane. He tells radio host Fran that he fears mother could repossess him, killing Connie and the baby. The chase is on to try and track Norman down to stop him from killing his wife and unborn child. 

When Connie returns home from work, Norman takes her to the old Bates Motel and house. He does try to kill her with a knife, but Connie does her best to try and convince Norman that he chose to go insane, that mother does not control him and that their child will not be born like him, that there is always a choice. As Norman realises the truth, they he can chose not to be mother, he drops the knife. He then sets the house on fire to destroy it once and for all. Just barely escaping, Norman says that his is now free. Then there’s a pretty pointless stinger ending with a fade to black and a baby crying.

Psycho IV Norman

This flick really is a mixed bag. First things first, writer, Joseph Stefano has gone on record as saying that this film is a direct sequel to the original Psycho. A film that ignores every other sequel. There is no mention of the whole Emma Spool stuff from Psycho II and III. So none of the previous events happened in relation to this film. Looking at this film with that in mind, this is an interesting picture. I really liked the idea of a prequel looking at the younger Norman Bates and seeing exactly what happened between him and his mother. Henry Thomas does a decent job as the younger Norman Bates too. I honestly think that if this had just been a prequel, it could’ve really worked. It’s the whole framing and story with the radio show and older Norman that just does not work for me, which is a shame as again, Anthony Perkins is fantastic. I guess this is worth a look, just don’t expect anything amazing. Plus, there’s a couple of fun cameos to spot. First one is famed director John Landis and the second is Kurt Paul. Now, who is Kurt Paul you ask? Well he was Anthony Perkins’ stunt double in Psycho II and III… oh and he played Norman Bates in that atrocity that was Bates Motel.

Psycho (1998)

Psycho 1998 Poster

I guess it had to happen didn’t it? Yes Psycho was remade. Directed by Gus Van Sant, maybe remake is not really the correct term to use. This is a shot for shot re-enactment of the original Psycho film. Given this, it’s not really worth me going into the plot, because it’s the exact same plot just moved into a more contemporary setting. The characters are the same, the dialogue is the same (save a few modernisations), everything is the same, except more modern. Instead of stealing $40,000 in the original, Marion steals $400,000 in this version, etc. This is less a remake and more an experiment in recreating a classic movie. This film was slated when it was released and is still very much hated among Psycho fans. I’m a Psycho fan, so what do I think?

I just don’t have the hatred toward this film like others do. Is it as good as the original? Of course not, it’s not even close. Nothing will ever be as great as the original Psycho. But as a film in of itself, it’s a good horror/thriller. There are no surprises here if you already know the original as the plots are identical. But I fail to see how that is a problem when the plot is so damn good. Sure, Gus Van Sant is no Alfred Hitchcock, but his experiment is still a fun one and you can’t help but wonder what Hitch might have done differently if he had a bigger budget and fewer restraints for his version. The acting is decent and Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates is believable. Anne Heche’s take on Marion Crane works. Julianne Moore as Lila Crane comes across as a little more ballsy in this version and a lot less 1960s clueless female. Virgo Mortensen as Sam Loomis is enjoyable and William H. Macy as Milton Arbogast is actually bloody great. That’s about it really, there’s little more to say. Yes of course I much prefer Hitch’s version and that will always be my choice between the two films. But I really don’t mind this remake at all. It’s kind of nice to watch just to see how close it is as a re-enactment and just where things have been altered too. 

And so, with all the films covered, next the books…

Psycho

PSycho Book 2

Written by Robert Bloch and released in 1959. Just as with the film remake, I don’t need to dwell on the plot as they’re the same between book and film. There are a few minor changes. The book kicks off with an introduction to Norman and his mother right from page one. Marion is Mary in the novel and she’s also not in it for much either. The book is more violent. As an example, Marion in the film is just stabbed in the shower, in the book, Mary is beheaded. Norman isn’t the good-looking, young man he is in the film. Here he’s middle aged, over weight, sexually perverted and drinks a lot. Arbogast’s death is different. Then there are some minor differences with the structure of the story. But all told, the novel and movie are virtually identical otherwise.

I just got through re-reading Psycho last week and I still enjoy it very much. It’s a short book and you could get through it in one sitting easily enough. Bloch’s wording seems a bit outdated in 2020 (it is sixty-one years old), but Psycho is still a fantastic read. If you know the film, then there are no surprises here as the plots of both are the same. Still, a very worth while read though.

Psycho II

Psycho II Book

Okay, so this one needs a little explanation before I get into the plot… and I need to get into the plot. So when Hollywood came up with the idea to make a sequel to the movie, Robert Bloch offered his services as the writer. He pitched his idea… which was quickly dismissed. Instead, the studio wanted to make their own picture. And 1983’s Psycho II is what we got. A film I really quite enjoyed. But after being shunned by Hollywood, Bloch became annoyed, so he decided to expand on his pitch for a movie and write a sequel to his novel instead, which he finished and published before the film was released. Yup, this book, Psycho II is very different to the film Psycho II… very different…

So the story picks up twenty years after the events of the first book. Norman has been locked away in a mental asylum and been treated by his psychiatrist, Dr Adam Claiborne. Two nuns stop by for a visit and to talk to some of the patients. One of the nuns chats to Norman, under the chaperone of Dr Claiborne. However, the doctor is requested on the phone and leaves Norman and the nun alone. Of course Norman does what he does best, he murders the nun by strangling her with her own rosary beads. Now disguised as the nun, Norman makes his escape along with the other nun in their van. Shorty after, Norman murders the other nun with a tire iron and leaves her body in the back of the van… after raping the corpse. Along the way, Norman picks up a hitchhiker, kills him and sets fire the the van in an attempt to throw the police off his trail. The police eventually find the burnt out van and work out that the body in the back is of the other nun while the charred remains in the front must belong to Norman. So as far as the police know, Norman is dead. But Dr Claiborne isn’t so sure, he thinks Norman is still out there.

Due to a serious accident involving a bus and several dead civilians, there would be a delay on autopsy of the body in the to confirm who he is. Meanwhile, Norman has tracked down Sam and Lilia Loomis and killed them both. He also finds a newspaper reporting on a story that Hollywood are planning on making a movie based on the events told in the first book… yes this is getting a bit meta. The Hollywood movie is going to be called Crazy Lady and is set to begin filming soon. So that’s where Norman heads next, to Hollywood to stop the production of the film in his own special way. The producer of the film contacts Dr Claiborne about background info on the whole Norman Bates case to help with the film. Dr Claiborne heads to Hollywood himself under the guise of a technical consultant when really, he wants to try to stop Norman, who the police think is dead and not in Hollywood trying to kill anyone. 

Now in Hollywood, Dr Claiborne is introduced to the cast and crew, including the director, Vizzini who Dr Claiborne thinks looks just like Norman Bates. So Dr Claiborne tries to warn anyone who will listen that he thinks Norman in in Hollywood and is trying to kill the people making the movie, Crazy Lady. No one really believes him… until the producer of the flick is found decapitated. Yes, it seems that Norman Bates has been busy. Now things are getting serious, plus Dr Claiborne learns of Vizzini’s disturbing past, that as a boy, he witnessed his mother being raped and killed. It seems that the director of the film has more in common with Norman Bates than just looking like him, and Dr Claiborne seriously begins to question the director’s sanity. Turns out the good doctor is right too as Vizzini arranges to meet with he actress playing the Mary Crane role at the movie studio to ‘rehearse’ the shower scene. Two crazies running around the set of the movie is bad news.

So at the movie studio Vizzini and his lead actress are all alone, and he tries to rape and murder her. She fights back and at the same time, Dr Claiborne is told about the meeting between Vizzini and the actress. Seriously worried the director is insane, Dr Claiborne rushes to the studio while keeping an eye out for Norman Bates. Except Norman Bates is dead. Yes, that charred body in the van was actually Norman Bates all along. The hitchhiker Norman picked up was found and questioned by the police. He killed Norman in self-defense when Norman tried to kill him. The Hitchhiker then set fire to the van to hide any evidence. So If Norman Bates is dead, that that must mean that it was the director of the film, Vizzini who was the real killer. Gone insane after the boyhood trauma of seeing his mother raped and killed and was trying to drum up some free publicity for his Crazy Lady flick.

Dr Claiborne makes it to the studio just in time. The actress manages to kick Vizzini away as he tries to rape her on the set of the shower scene. Vizzini stumbles backward into the shower curtain, where he lets out a scream and re-emerges with a stab wound in the back and drops dead on the floor. The real killer tries to kill the Mary Crane actress, only for the police to show up and shoot them. The killer falls to the floor and he is revealed to be Dr Claiborne. Surviving the shooting, Dr Claiborne is committed to the same asylum that Norman Bates was. Yes, the real killer had been Norman’s very own doctor all along. Norman died in the van early on and Dr Claiborne just kind of snapped when he realised Norman was dead. After being his psychiatrist for twenty years, some of Norman had rubbed off onto Dr Claiborne. 

Psycho II Book 2

So there you have it, the alternate Psycho II, very, very different to the film version. You can see perhaps why the movie studio initially turned down Robert Bloch’s sequel idea, because it really was a bit petty and a dig at horror films and Hollywood in general. When you read Psycho II, you can definitely see a certain level of resentment from Bloch. But is the book any good? Yes and no. The twist is a good one and one not really spoiled early on. Killing of Norman in the opening chapters is certainly ballsy and Bloch does a good job of keeping the subterfuge up. But, there are issues. At times, it feels over-written and overtly meandering. Psycho II is just not as well paced and snappy as the first novel. Plus, while Norman was a bit of a creep in the first book… raping a dead nun in this? I just seems very off to me, as if Bloch was trying to shock for the sake of trying to shock. It never felt organic really. As mentioned, you can feel a sense of petty resentment toward Hollywood and film-making too. It feels like Bloch never really got over having his idea turned down for a sequel movie. There’s quite a few completely unnecessary chapters that could’ve easily been cut to help with the pacing. There’s one chapter that has the lead actor of the film within the book going to a gay bar to research the fact the Norman Bates dressed as his mother. But Norman dressing as his mother had nothing to do with being gay. It was a pointless chapter that added nothing to the plot, plus the gay bar featured big Hollywood actor look-a-likes… why? I think with a bit of editing and a not so bitter attitude toward Hollywood and this could’ve been amazing. But as it is, it’s a decent enough read, a little long winded and thin on actual plot. Nowhere near as great as the first book, but still worth a read with a good ending.

For a while, I thought that was all the Psycho books, but there were a couple more.

Psycho House

Psycho House

Robert Bloch is back with his third book in the Psycho franchise, released in 1990. Again, a new story not connected to the films, but serves as a sequel to Bloch’s Psycho II.  Set ten years after the events of the Psycho II novel. The plot revolves around how the Bates Motel has been turned into a tourist attraction, based on the infamy of it’s history and Norman Bates’ story. Amy Haines, a plucky writer looking to pen a novel based on the Bates Motel turns up to get some background information and a little inspiration for her book. A teenage girl is found stabbed to death at the infamous house and Amy decides to investigate who is behind the murder. The town is full of suspects and whenever Amy questions someone, they turn up dead soon after. Someone is out there trying to keep the mythology of Norman Bates alive… but who?

Robert Bloch’s Psycho: Sanitarium

Psycho Sanitarium

Despite his name in the title, Robert Bloch did not write this one… on account that he died in 1994 and this novel was released as recently as 2017. In the writer’s chair for this one is Chet Williamson. So this book is both a sequel to the original Psycho and a prequel to Psycho II. Telling to story of Norman Bates’ incarceration in the mental asylum. Norman Bates is gone, taken over by the murderous mother persona following the events of the first novel. Dr. Felix Reed works closely with Norman to try and bring him out from under the shadow of mother. It is rumored that the asylum itself is haunted and when a series of murders begin to happen, the place is not short of suspects, including Norman himself who still has a few dark secrets yet to be revealed.

Now to be honest, I’ve not actually read either of these books, not yet anyway. Which is why I’ve not offered my opinion on them. But I’ve done some snooping around and the general consensus is that Psycho House wasn’t very good at all. A far cry from Bloch’s previous Psycho books, that comes off as a pretty lazy ‘whodunit?’ kind of thing. But Psycho: Sanitarium is said to be great. Despite not being written by original author, Robert Bloch, the novel does maintain the style set up in the first book and even goes on to elaborate and even extend on certain plot points set up in Psycho. All told, it seems like Chet Williamson has put together a worthy sequel to the original book after so many years.

So now the movies and books are out of the way, that just leaves TV…

Bates Motel 

Bates Motel Show

Interestingly enough, and before I really get into this show. The other Bates Motel, the TV movie from 1987 was meant to kick-start a TV show called Bates Motel. Only due to the poor and very much deserved low reception of that TV movie, the show itself was cancelled before it got started. Then just a short twenty-six years later and Bates Motel the TV show finally existed… only this show was nothing to do with the TV movie of the same name. So this show is a prequel of sorts telling the story of young Norman Bates and his mother. Only it’s not a prequel to the films or the books. It’s a kind of an all new re-telling of the history in a more contemporaneity setting. I’m not going to go over each and every episode as that would take way too long, so just a quick summary of each season instead I think.

Season One: After the death of Norma Bates’ (Vera Farmiga) husband, she buys a motel and sets about beginning a new life with her son, Norman (Freddie Highmore). When the former owner of the motel breaks into the house and attacks Norma, she fights back and stabs him to death. With the help of Norman, Norma hides the body and covers up the killing. The town sheriff, Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) begins to sniff around after the missing person, Norma and Norman do their best to keep their secret.

Season Two: Norman’s teacher is murdered and suspicions begin to build around the Bates family. Norman’s estranged brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot)  starts asking questions about their family history. While Norma begins to worry about Norman’s state of mind.

Season Three: Norman’s mental health begins to get worse and worse, yet he denies that anything is wrong. Norma increasingly becomes worried about what is happening to her son and grows increasingly more concerned about just what he may be capable of. While Alex Romero’s suspicions on the Bates’ continues.

Season Four: Norma fights to find some professional help for Norman’s state of mind. Norman’s grip on reality begins to slide more and more. Unable to pay for expensive treatment, Norma agrees to marry Alex Romero for financial support to help her son. An enraged Norman learns about the wedding and attempts a murder/suicide of his mother and himself. Norma dies, but Norman survives.

Season Five: Norma has been dead for two years and Norman is alone to run the motel. Out in public, and Norman seems to be coping well, but it’s when he’s behind closed doors when he loses his grip on reality. He begins talking to his dead mother and her to him. A beautiful young woman called Marion Crane books in for a stay at Bates Motel… but just how will Norman Bates react?

Bates Motel Show Marion

So I did start watching this show and made it to about halfway through season three… then I just got bored. Now, I’m not saying it’s not a good show, the problem is me. I just can’t get into these long winded American TV shows. I just found this whole thing crammed with filler and fluff to pad everything out. Yes I know the history of Norman Bates and his mother isn’t really a deep one… and that’s the issue I had with this show. Five seasons, each season with ten episodes at around fifty minutes each. It was just too much. If this had been a three seasons, six to eight episodes each, then I probably would have held my interest more. There’s the main story of Norman losing his grip on reality and his relationship with his mother… that was great. Both Freddie Highmore as Norman and Vera Farmiga as Norma being utterly fantastic. But then there’s all this guff going on with Norman’s brother, drug dealing, love triangles, etc. I just didn’t care about to be honest. From what I watched, I really did enjoy this show, but I soon got bored and just didn’t bother with season four and five. And as far as I understand, season five is where the plot catches up with the whole main plot of the first film. But just to be clear, this isn’t a prequel to the film series or the books. It’s a re-telling of the whole Norman/Norma history and when the show does get to the meat of Marion Crane turning up at the motel, it does things very, very differently. If your a Psycho fan, then this is well worth checking out. 

Okay, so there is one final thing to take a quick look at… a Psycho video game. Yes, a video game…

Psycho

Psycho Game Cover

Oh yeah, there was a Psycho game. Developed by Starsoft Development Laboratories, published by Box Office, Inc. and released in 1988. Psycho saw a multi-platform release on the home computers including the C64, Amiga and Atari ST.

The game was an action/adventure type thing that uses a verb interface, telling a new story ‘inspired’ by the film series. You play as a detective hired to find a missing curator of a museum. I’ll let the back of the box cover the plot…

Precious jewels and an unwitting curator have been hoisted from the Metropolitan Showcase of Art. Tracing the crime to the menacing Bates Motel, you are the only detective willing to take the case…

Travel to the Bates Motel to unravel this strange mystery. Enter both the Motel and the forbidden house on the hill to search for clues. Keep your eyes alert and your back to the wall as you encounter the psychotic Norman Bates and his curiously silent mother. Prove yourself worthy of the title, Master Detective, as you plot your escape with the stolen jewels, captive curator… and your skin intact!

Just a couple of things I want to quickly cover with that description. You never go to the motel at all, the whole game takes place in the Bates’ home. Plus Norman/mother don’t make much of an appearance either, only twice in fact. Your biggest enemies in the game are not the main character(s) but dogs and ghosts.

Psycho Game Mother

It’s one of those search everything kind of things with a few little puzzles thrown in to annoy you. Kind of like one of those classic Lucasarts adventure games… only not as polished or as well written and designed. The Amiga and Atari ST versions both feature some fairly nice (for the time) digitised images taken from the first film and the presentation is pretty good. But the game itself is a slow, cumbersome mess. Even so, if you know what you are doing, the game can be finished in five minutes or so. I mean, here’s a complete walk-through for the game from start to finish…

Look in mailbox to find and read a letter.  Open the door of the house go inside. Find a vase, dig and search it to find and take a key. Go through the middle door of the foyer to the kitchen and open the dumbwaiter. Use the dumbwaiter to go up, take the gun and ammo you’ll find. Go down in the dumbwaiter to the second floor and open the bathroom door to the right and take the caffeine pills. Down in the dumbwaiter again to the gardener’s room and search the pile of coal for a key. Open the door on the left to find the missing curator. Back to the dumbwaiter and up to the second floor again. This time, go into the master bedroom on the far left. Open and search the closet for some medicine. Back down in the dumbwaiter and use the medicine on the curator, hell give you a combination. To dumbwaiter again and go back to the bathroom on the second floor. Shoot ‘mother’ with the gun. Go upstairs to third floor, then through the door on the left and open the attic. Shoot ‘mother’ again. Open the safe with the combination you got from the curator, take the jewels and leave out the front door you came in by. Done.

Psycho Game Screen

There you go, the entire game covered in a single paragraph. Psycho wasn’t very well reviewed when it was released. Nor should it have been, it’s horrible.


And so, that’s everything Psycho related. From the original novel in 1959, through the movies, other books, a TV show and even a little known video game. Psycho has been a pretty long and successful franchise. A franchise that has spanned from 1959 – 2017, fifty-eight years of Norman Bates and his mother.

I hope there’s still more Psycho to come too. Personally, I’d love to see another remake more in line with the novel. I didn’t hate the 1998 remake as many others did, but I will always say that doing a shot for shot re-enactment, with a modern day twist was very much redundant. So I would very much like to see someone else interpret Robert Bloch’s novel their own way and make a new version of the story. I’m looking forward to reading the other two books that I’ve missed up to now, as bad or as great as they may be. I just love me some Psycho.

Psycho Fanart

Okay, so one final Psycho thing to go over for it’s sixtieth birthday. I explore and try to explain why the teaser trailer Alfred Hitchcock created for the film is the greatest movie trailer ever made.

Saints Row Retrospective: You Ready For This, Playa?

When Rockstar North (then DMA Design) developed and released Grand Theft Auto III back in 2001, they literally changed gaming from that point on. GTA III certainly wasn’t the first open world/crime game, I mean, there were two other main GTA titles before it for starters. But that one game in particular struck a very receptive nerve among gamers. It was, for want of a better word, perfect at the time. It’s melding of open world, anarchic action and tight storytelling was unmatched in 2001. Yeah sure, there were other GTA-like games, but those just weren’t GTA.

For a good while after the release of GTA III, there was an ongoing trend of developers trying to out GTA Rockstar North, developers wanting to not just mimic GTA III, but also attempt to better it. Those games were a very mixed bag. Some really good titles, some awful ones. It seemed for a while that no one was capable of making a truly brilliant ‘GTA clone’, as they were labelled as back then. Then in 2006, American developers Volition threw their hat into the ring with Saints Row. A new franchise was born that is still going today, with the announcement of the latest game, Saints Row V last year. And according to Volition, they’re deep in development on the game too. So with fourteen years and four main games in the franchise… and a spin-off or two. I thought I’d take a look at the entire Saints Row franchise… you ready for this, playa?

Okay so a quick aside here. I originally started to write this one in August of last year when Saints Row V was first announced. Covered the first two games, but put the article on hold as I waited more info on the fifth game, and then… I just forgot about the whole thing. Then, Saints Row: The Third Remastered was announced, that I completely missed, until a friend mentioned it to me (thanks Martin). So with the remaster now out, I thought I’d get back into this retrospective and finish it. Oh and a big thanks to Dan over at Koch Media for sending me a copy of Saints Row: The Third Remastered.

I always do this, but I’m going to pop in a SPOILER warning right now. I’ll be covering the plots of each game, including the endings. So if you don’t want the story of Saints Row ruined, then stop reading now.

Saints Row

Saints Row 1

This is where it all started. You control an unnamed, low level street thug, who never talks. Finding yourself in the city of Stilwater, you are taken under the wing of local gang, the 3rd Street Saints, who really like the colour purple and is run by Julius Little. Dexter “Dex” Jackson, Johnny Gat, and Lin are Julius’ main lieutenants in the gang. After a few initiation missions, Julius Little tasks you, the player to take out the three rival gangs in Stilwater. An African American gang, the Vice Kings, who’s main source of income is from strip clubs and record labels. The Los Carnales are a Hispanic gang who’s main line of business is drugs, they run the narcotics trade. And finally, an underground racing gang called the Westside Rollerz. Julius also appoints one of his three lieutenants to each of the three gangs to work alongside you.

Once all three gangs are taken care of and the 3rd Street Saints in control of Stilwater, the player is made a chief lieutenant by Julius. Then, Stilwater’s corrupt police chief, Richard Monroe arrests Julius and holds him to ransom, forcing the player to kill the city’s mayor in exchange for Juluis’ life. The Saints ambush the police chief, kill him and free Julius. The mayor invites the player onto his yacht, where you learn that he (mayor) is planning on having all of the 3rd Street Saints arrested and to also have their main territory, Saints Row, burnt to the ground and made way for redevelopment. The mayor orders for you to be executed, at which point, the yacht explodes as Julius watches on. Was Julius involved in the explosion and are you, the player dead? Questions to ask as the game ends on a cliffhanger.

Saints Row 1 End

Saints Row, while definitely a ‘GTA clone’, also stood out in it’s own right. It wasn’t very original, but what it did do, it did very well and in some cases, it did it even better than GTA. The introduction of a cell phone for instance, which you could use to call in back up, unlock hidden secrets and cheats. A GPS system to help you get around the map. All done before GTA. There was a certain element of ridiculousness that came with Saints Row, which GTA just didn’t have at the time. An almost cartoony style, which gave the player many more options and ways to create havoc around the open world the game provided. Then there was the immense level of customisation available to you. Creating your player, with such a deep and easy to use system which allowed you to design a reasonably ‘normal’ looking character, or you could go the other way and create some real freaks of nature. That deep customisation also applied to the many vehicles in the game too. The customisation soon became a fan favourite feature and would only get more in-depth and more insane as the franchise continues.

Saints Row is packed with anarchic missions and side-quests/distractions which just make the game so much more fun and exciting. Developers Volition managed to make Saints Row offensive (a good thing) and thoroughly entertaining in ways Rockstar with GTA hadn’t even thought of back then. They do say that imitation is the best form of flattery, and so Rockstar should’ve been extremely flattered with Saints Row… and maybe a little envious too. A little bit ropy and rough around the edges now, especially with the controls. But Saints Row is still a great title to play.

Saints Row 2

Saints Row 2

Picking up five years after the events of the first game. Your character survived the explosion on the yacht… but not unscathed. Finding yourself in Stilwater’s maximum security prison, being in a coma since the explosion, and laid up in the infirmary of the prison. You regain consciousness, after some extensive plastic surgery (queue the game’s impressive customisation), you break out of the prison to find that the 3rd Street Saints have disbanded and leader of the gang, Julius Little has gone missing. Oh and you can talk now too. Amazing what being on board an exploding yacht can do.

The Ultor Corporation have redeveloped a large chuck of Stilwater, including the gang’s main territory, Saints Row itself. After taking down and rescuing ex-Saints lieutenant Johnny Gat from a court trail, you and Gat set about rebuilding the 3rd Street Saints. Setting up a new HQ in an earthquake damaged hotel, you the player becomes the new boss, and now earn the name of The Boss. With help from Johnny Gat and two new members, Pierce Washington and Shaundi, you have to recreate and even re-brand the 3rd Street Saints from the ground up.

Of course, after a five year absence, the  3rd Street Saints name is now mud and new gangs have moved it to lay a claim to the streets. The Ronin, a Japanese gang who run gambling and porn operations in Stilwater. The Sons of Samedi, a Haitian voodoo gang who run the drugs business. The Brotherhood, an outlaw gang who are into gun-running. Take out the new gangs, reclaim the city in the name of the 3rd Street Saints, teach that pesky Ultor Corporation to not mess with Saints Row… oh, and find out what happened to ex-leader Julius Little.

Saints Row 2 Gang Edit

Saints Row really was a cracking game, Saints Row 2 was even better. While still set in the same city as the previous game, the five year gap between the stories means the city has changed a lot, thanks to the not exactly on the level, Ultor Corporation. The map is familiar, yet still fresh.

Yes, the customisation is back, and far more in-depth than before. Not only can you still create a seriously strange looking character, you can now be male or female too. There’s even some amusing dialogue in the game from the likes of Johnny Gat who suggests that you look different somehow… but he can’t quite put his finger on it. Yes the customisation is back in full force with plenty of new features, you can even customise the gang itself now too. The humour of Saints Row 2 is what really works here, the first game had a sense of humour sure, but this sequel goes above and beyond to be hilarious. That crazy OTT gameplay style of Saints Row is back, and pushed even further this time around. More zany distractions and side missions, more stupidly silly but thoroughly enjoyable main missions too.

For me, this is as good as Saints Row got. It melded everything together perfectly. The OTT gameplay, the humour, the characters (especially Shaundi) and the story are all balanced to perfection. I quite honestly didn’t think Volition could ever top Saints Row 2. Then…

Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row 3

Taking place five years after the previous game’s events. The 3rd Street Saints have become a brand, and a vastly popular brand too. The Saints name appears on clothing, drinks and anything they can sell to keep the 3rd Street Saints brand alive and profitable. But don’t think that the Saints have gotten soft over the years, they still indulge in criminal activity. The game opens with you the Boss trying to rob a Stilwater bank, with help from Shaundi and Johnny Gat

But the robbery quickly goes sideways and the Boss along with his/her lieutenants are arrested. The trio are handed over to Phillipe Loren, head honcho of a worldwide criminal syndicate rather imaginatively called the Syndicate. So Loren says that Shaundi, Gat and you Boss (that’s really your character’s name, Boss) can keep their lives in exchange for most of the profits from the 3rd Street Saints brand. A deal that doesn’t go down too well at all. Johnny Gat sacrifices himself so Boss and Shaundi can escape, and what an escape it is too.

Boss and Shaundi find themselves in the (new) city of Steelport. A city overrun with gangs owned by the Syndicate. There’s the Morningstar who are Phillipe Loren’s main gang and who run the sex trade in the city. The Luchadores are a Mexican wrestling gang who run a large casino. Then the Deckers are a high-tech gang who operate the cyber black-market. Saints lieutenant, Pierce Washington turns up in Steelport and the Saints begin to fight back against Loren and his gangs to take over the city as their own.

Saints Row 3 Action

I said previously how Saints Row 2 is as good as it gets. That’s a statement that needs some clarification. I think the map, story and characters in Saints Row 2 are perfect, at the time, the customisation was unmatched too. For me, Saints Row 2 is the best of the franchise. But with Saints Row: The Third, Volition perfected other elements of the franchise. The zany, ridiculousness of the franchise is absolutely perfectly balanced against it’s more ‘grounded’ elements. The customisation is brilliant, now with many more options and variables. The distractions and side missions are wonderful. Yet saying all of that, I still prefer Saints Row 2 as an overall game.

What Saints Row: The Third does, it does with passion and delight. But the story is a bit flat, passé… a bit ‘seen it all before’. Plus I really miss old stoner Shaundi as a character as she becomes an overbearing business woman in this one. This game is still utterly brilliant. It’s OTT nature is sublime, the level and detail in the customisation is second to none, especially with the character creation. Over the years, people have made some amazing Boss characters, even some based on real world people and TV/film characters. I do genuinely adore Saints Row: The Third and it’s insanity, I just prefer Saints Row 2’s structure as a game little bit more.

But before I move onto the next game in the franchise, I just want to offer my view on Saints Row: The Third Remastered, and again, thanks to Dan over at Koch Media for a review code.

Saints Row 3 Remaster

So this remaster is just as good as the original game, but with a few bells and whistles. This is more than just a slight upgrade as Sperasoft Studio, who have handled this game, have done a bit more than just give it lick of paint. Models have been completely redesigned from the ground up, the characters, vehicles and weapons have all been re-built from scratch. The environments look beautiful, now with improved lighting, visual effects and a deeper colour palette. Every piece of previous DLC has been included too, that’s over 30 for those keeping count. From cosmetics that really add to the customisation to full on extra gameplay additions. And it all runs buttery smooth on the Xbox One X too. Some sites have been saying the game is locked at 30 fps on consoles… it’s not. In fact, there’s even an option to unlock the frame rate, which I did and had zero issues. The game looked and played silky smooth.

Saints Row: The Third Remastered is the definitive version of the game. Whether you’re new to the franchise or an old-timer when it comes to Saints Row. I highly recommend this remaster to anyone who fancies causing some crazy havoc and destruction…. with a great sense of humour to boot. But of course, this all depends on how much mileage you may get out of the game. I mean, at least on the Xbox, the original version is backwardly compatible, so is it really worth spending cash on this remaster? That’s a tough question to answer and I guess it all boils down to just how much you love the game.

Saints Row IV

Saints Row 4

When I finished Saints Row: The Third, I honestly didn’t think that developer, Volition really had anywhere else to go. The previous game was so OTT, it didn’t leave much room for experimentation. But boy was I wrong!

So the opening to Saints Row IV takes place just a few months after the events of the last game. It begins with Boss going on a mission to assist MI-6. This mission results in Boss stopping a nuclear missile from hitting Washington D.C. and the White House. Being hailed a hero by the Americans, Boss is elected President of the United States.

Cut to five years later (they really like these five year time jumps eh?), now established as the POTUS, Boss has actor Keith David as his/her adviser and several 3rd Street Saints members as part of his/her cabinet. And if that’s not crazy enough, then things get really out of hand. Aliens invade Earth, led by evil warlord, Zinyak. These aliens, called Zin, abduct Boss along with his cabinet. The Zin enslave humanity and trap Boss in a computer simulation/The Matrix kind of thing, which he must escape, rescue the Saints and save the Earth from the aliens. See, I told you I was wrong about Volition having nowhere to go… but does it work?

Saints Row 4 Fight

I have a real love/hate relationship with Saints Row IV. There is a lot to love. The game features some very clever, self-referential and very meta writing and humour. There are parts of this game when your stuck in a 1950s sitcom. Parts where (thanks to the computer simulation) you go back into previous games. There’s a clever and very well observed Streets of Rage parody tied into one of the major events of Saints Row 2, there’s a part where you go back the very first game and Boss makes comments on how bad the graphics look. The moments between Keith David (who voiced Julius Little in the first two games) and Ruddy Pipper when they reference ‘that fight’, the interactions between characters both past and present, etc. Saints Row IV is crammed full of creative moments, references and in-jokes to films, TV shows and games, enough to keep the biggest nerd, like me, happy.

These touches are great, brilliantly written, conceived and realised. And that much loved customisation is back in full force too, turned up way beyond eleven. But there’s so much more I don’t like about Saints Row IV that I just can’t ignore. Where as Saints Row: The Third managed to strike the absolute perfect balance between it’s iconic craziness and yet, still maintain a level of verisimilitude, Saints Row IV goes way too far into the absurd. Your character is too overpowered, the fact you can run at super speed and fly around the map renders the use of vehicles redundant. You become a superhero. The computer simulation setting is horrible, the re-used map from the last game just doesn’t work here and gets old fast. The game is perpetually set at night, making everything gloomy. Plus the fact you become the POTUS is completely irrelevant as the aliens enslave and eventually destroy the Earth, rendering your presidential status completely void anyway.

Then there’s the mission structure itself. Truth be told, there’s only a small handful of actual story missions. Everything else revolves around the reused distractions and side missions from the previous game. On the previous games, these distractions and side missions were just that, distractions and side missions. But in Saints Row IV, they are integrated to the main plot, the side missions become part of the main story… so not actually side missions now. The whole game feels like an afterthought, like this was half a game that has been massively padded out. It just didn’t sit right with me. It’s too OTT, even for Saints Row, it’s main plot is haphazardly thrown together, it’s structure makes zero sense. You feel like you’re playing a game with cheat-codes on that you can’t turn off and it all gets a bit boring to be honest.

Saints Row 4 Keith Roddy

I enjoyed Saints Row IV from it’s humour point of view. It is funny, it’s well written and observed, it’s chock full of clever references and all that… but it’s just not a Saints Row game, it doesn’t feel right at all. If Volition had created an all new IP about a disgruntled and reluctant superhero, like the movie Hancock, I think they could be had a fantastic title here and future new franchise. If they had fleshed out the story proper and installed a real story progression system, instead of relying on building everything around side missions, this could’ve been amazing. Saints Row IV is a good and funny game that’s fatally flawed. It’s just not Saints Row and feels more like an extended piece of DLC over a full game.


Well that’s the main games in the franchise covered. But I also want to take a look at the various spin offs too.

Saints Row: Total Control

Saints Row TC

This game was developed by Punch Entertainment and not original developers Volition,  which should tell you all you need to know really. This wasn’t a ‘real’ Saints Row game, it was a Facebook only kind of thing.

This was completely non-canonical to the main series and was one of those property building games, very much like Mafia Wars or Gangster City, with some social media interactions thrown in. Those not very interesting tappy-tap games with no real depth and long, real-time waits to do mundane tasks. The game was set between the events of Saints Row 2 and Saints Row: The Third. Not that it really matters because, as I said, this was non-canonical and never mentioned or referenced in the main games.

No longer available as it was removed from Facebook back in 2011. No major loss either as it was dull and didn’t bring anything new to an already over crowded market then.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell

Saints Row Gat out of Hell

The story of this one is a little out there, maybe not quite to the level of Saints Row IV, but it’s certainly close. Taking place after Saints Row IV, Boss gets dragged to Hell by Satan after playing around with a Ouija Board. Satan tells Boss that he/she will have to marry his daughter, Jezebel. 3rd Street Saints lieutenants Johnny Gat and Kinzie Kensington go to Hell to save Boss. When in Hell, Gat and Kensington learn that the Saints old enemy, the Ultor Corporation have a branch down there. But instead of rekindling bad blood, Ultor offer to help Gat and Kensington save Boss from his forced marriage and take out Satan once and for all.

Saints Row: Gat out of Hell isn’t a full sequel or even a full game. It’s more if a fun and extended piece of DLC. It plays very similar to Saints Row IV before it. It’s stupid, OTT and ridiculous. You don’t play as Boss for the first time in a proper Saints Row game, Saints Row: Total Control doesn’t count. Instead you play as either Johnny Gat or Kinzie Kensington, with the ability to swap between the two.

Just as with Saints Row IV, you become incredibly overpowered and pick up all sorts of crazy talents. Flying and other superhuman abilities soon make you pretty much unstoppable. As you don’t play as Boss this time around, there’s no character customisation, which is definitely greatly missed. I enjoyed this one a bit more than Saints Row IV to be honest. I think it’s mainly because it can can be seen and treated as non-canonical, it doesn’t really effect the plot of the main games like Saints Row IV does. It’s not a big game at all, as it really is just a piece of DLC over a full title. But what it does, it does very well. It’s stupid, OTT, funny and a fun, playable little experiment.

That’s really it for Saints Row games and spin offs. There were a couple of planned, but never released games, such as Saints Row: Money Shot and Saints Row Undercover. Though an unfinished version of Saints Row Undercover has made itself onto the interwebs if you really want to check it out. But that’s about it. However, interestingly enough, the Saints Row universe is actually a shared one and spills over into other games too.

Red Faction

Red Faction

Red Faction is it’s own franchise, consisting of four main games. A franchise also developed by Volition, though no new games in the series have been announced since 2011’s Red Faction: Armageddon. Though a Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered, a remaster of the third game, was released in 2018.

The franchise is set way in the future, starting in 2075 and going through to 2175. Oh and takes place on Mars too. So pretty far removed from Saints Row really… even at it’s craziest. But the main villains of Red Faction are the Ultor Corporation, the same Ultor causing problems for the 3rd Street Saints since 2006.

Agents of Mayhem

Agents of Mayhem

This one is set in a futuristic version of Seoul, South Korea and is based off one of the endings to Gat out of Hell. Telling the story of M.A.Y.H.E.M. (Multinational AgencY Hunting Evil Masterminds), an organisation funded by the Ultor Corporation. Various agents from M.A.Y.H.E.M, including Johnny Gat, do battle against super-villain organisation L.E.G.I.O.N. (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations).

Overall

Saints Row All

I love the Saints Row franchise. It’s stupid, ridiculous, completely OTT and full of fun gameplay. Of the ‘GTA clones’, Saints Row is by far the best. So much so that it’s broken free from that ‘GTA clone’ label into it’s own, very much deserved sub-genre and one others just can not match. I may not have enjoyed Saints Row IV as a Saints Row game, but it is a fun-packed title none the less. For me, the games peaked with Saints Row 2. The map, the characters and the story was a great as the franchise got. But Saints Row: The Third is the franchise at it’s madcap best.

Saints Row V?

But before I end this, Saints Row V (or whatever it’ll be called) was officially announced last summer. That’s the reason why Sperasoft Studio took on Saints Row: The Third Remastered instead of series creator, Volition, who are already deep in development on the new title. Anyway, after the immensely fun, but far from right Saints Row IV, it’s hard to say or even guess where the franchise can go. I’m seriously curious as to what Volition have planned for the new game. So much so that I and some friends came up with a few ideas.

If we do ignore Saints Row: Gat out of Hell and it’s multiple different endings, if we go off the ‘proper’ ending to Saints Row IV. Then Earth has been destroyed, but Boss and what’s left of the 3rd Street Saints discover time-travel. The credits even roll with humorous images of the Saints going through time interacting with historical people and events. So, I guess Volition could use time-travel to put the Saints pretty much any-when they want. This could kick-start a new franchise of the Saints in history creating their brand centuries ago, Assassin’s Creed style. As my pal Badger suggested, have the Saints ride a T-Rex to kill Adolf Hitler.

Maybe the new game won’t be Saints Row V at all. Maybe it’s a complete reboot? Given the ending to Saints Row IV, given the fact Volition pretty much screwed the franchise from a storytelling perspective, maybe hitting the rest button is the best thing to do? An all new Saints Row starting fresh.

Or how about the idea that there are various 3rd Street Saints all over the world? Saints Row IV could’ve been the end of the story for that particular Boss. But what if there’s another Boss in China, England… pick a country. What if the 3rd Street Saints are a worldwide gang with branches spread all over the globe? The new game could jump back 20 years or so and tell the story of a new and different Boss in another country. A story that runs concurrent with the main plot of the first four games.

They could even do an origins kind of thing and tell the story of how the 3rd Street Saints began. Get into the histories of some of the more notable characters from the games like Johnny Gat or even Julius Little himself… remember him?

Perhaps Saints Row V could be a ‘real’ sequel to Saints Row: the Third. Maybe the events in Saints Row IV didn’t really happen, it could’ve all been a crazy dream, Bobby Ewing shower scene style. Then the new game could be the ‘proper’ sequel to Saints Row: the Third.

Anyway, enough of my rantings. Time to end this Saints Row retrospective, just sit back and wait to see what Volition have planned for the next game…

GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Series 2, Part 1

Well, after a lot of research and re-watching GamesMaster, I have finally managed to complete series 2. Now, series 1 only had 10 episodes, but the episode count was upped to 26 for this series (and others after this)… so as I have a lot more to cover, I’ve decided to split this series into 2 parts.

Series 2

Originally airing on the 1st of October, 1992. This series gets of to a very cheeky start. Kicking off with the same opening titles as series 1 and even the beginning moments of an episode, with the same set as series 1 and Dominick Diamond still as he was in the same costume too… but the footage begins to glitch and a message pops up on screen telling the viewer not to adjust their TV set. The opening continues and the glitches get worse and worse as Dominick introduces the first challenge. Eventually, the footage just completely craps out and breaks down. A picture of a heard of sheep with some calming stock music plays until the system ‘reboots’ and series 2 starts proper.

A wire-frame helicopter flies out to an oil-rig, the setting for this series (filmed at the Sunbury Pumphouse, London and also used for the Red Dwarf episode Justice). More (good for the time) CGI builds GamesMaster once more, ready to dish out his challenges and gaming help. Celebrities this time include Vinnie Jones, Vic Reeves, Take That, Ulrika Jonsson and even Jet from Gladiators, who becomes directly connected to the GamesMaster family later.

Dominick Diamond

Then of course Dominik Diamond is back (so are his endless double entendres) and he’s wearing probably in his most iconic look for the entire show, that sharp red blazer attire that anyone who ever watched GamesMaster growing up will instantly recognise. The cloaked monk from series 1 is gone and replaced with a female scuba diver simply known as The Diver. Also introduced to series 2 was a place just called The Pit and whenever a challenger failed… badly, they would be taken to said Pit as punishment. Plus there was the addition of Auntie Marisha who would occasionally appear and serve food to the contestants and Dominic himself, always ending each episode with one of her freshly cooked specials. Despite a few changes and additions to the show, it’s format remained the same. First challenge,  game reviews and feature, celebrity challenge, followed by the GamesMaster tips. Then finishing with the final challenge. So with that out of the way, let’s get into the first episode of series 2.

Episode 1

Straight into the action with the first challenge on all time classic beat ’em up, Street Fighter II (SNES). Henry Coleman Jr. and Peter Deetz have to punch and kick each other until only one remains standing, in a best of 3 rounds bout. Henry chooses to play as sumo supremo Edmond Honda while Peter favours Hadoken throwing Ken Masters. The first round goes to Henry when he Hundred Hand Slaps Peter to a KO, the second round goes to Peter who lands some hefty hits and finishes Henry off with an uppercut. It’s one round each as the fight resumes and Henry takes a pasting from Peter and it looks like he’s going to lose this one without putting up much of a fight… but after a well timed slap-fest and back breaking bear hug, Henry takes E. Honda to victory and wins the first golden joystick of series 2.

The game reviews are brain game themed (whatever that means?). Platforming puzzler, Krusty’s Fun House (Mega Drive) gets an 87%. Troddlers (Amiga) is given a mediocre 46%. Then a preview (and TV first) of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive). Sticking with the tried and tested GamesMaster formula, it’s celebrity challenge time next. Comedian Tony Slattery has to take on Who Shot Johnny Rock? (Arcade). A laserdisc light-gun shooter set in the 1930’s mob era. Tony has to survive a shoot out in a pool hall and one in a casino, kill the bad guys and avoid shooting civilians, you know the drill if you’ve ever played a light-gun game. So Tony gets off to a fairly bad start (he did state he hates games) and loses 2 of his 3 lives in less than a minute. But he soon gets into it and blasts away mobsters with his roscoe, finishing the first level and making it to the casino… but he shoots one of those annoying civilians who needlessly pop up in the middle of a gunfight in these games, losing his last life and fails the challenge.

Tony Slattery

GamesMaster helps out some less fortunate people with his hints & tips for the first time this series. Super Mario World (SNES), Tennis (Game Boy) and Zool (Amiga) all get covered. Then it’s onto the final challenge of the first episode. Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp (Arcade) is GamesMaster’s title of choice and Dougie Johns has to make his way through the first level of the game without losing a life. Having to dodge a giant snake, falling rocks and a very angry mother-in-law, Dougie’s lighting fast reactions serve him well for a while until he misses a cue and gets eaten by said giant snake, failing the challenge and ending the first episode. As Dominick goes off to enjoy the Catfish & Almond Bake that Auntie Marisha has made for him.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 2

No fake title shenanigans this time around as episode 2 gets right into it. The first challenge is on Chuck Rock (Mega Drive). George Denifontos is the challenger who has to finish a whole level, including defeating the end of level Triceratops boss in just 1 minute 45 seconds in this prehistoric platformer. Taking a few hits making his way though the level, some strategic to save time, others not at all intentional, George makes it to the boss with only a little bit of health and time left. With just 1 second on the clock, George takes a hit from the boss which kills him, failing the challenge.

Reviews this week are platformers and include Dragon’s Lair (SNES) which gets 57%. The New Zealand Story (Master System) is awarded 87%. And Hook (SNES) is given 76%. The feature this episode covers music being made using game samples. Then a quick plug for GamesMaster Live follows. This episode’s celebrity challenge sees a return from the last series. Back is the game, Sonic Blast Man (Arcade) from episode 2 of series 1. Back too is that game’s challenger,  Paul Turner who last time beat professionally trained and experienced boxer, Garry Mason. This time, Paul takes on the legendary, the only man to fight Mike Tyson twice, former WBC heavyweight champion, Frank Bruno. Frank demolishes Paul in this test of strength punching challenge to take home the golden joystick.

Of course it’s tips time again as GamesMaster shares his knowledge. Faxanadu (NES), Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (Amiga) and Fighting Masters (Mega Drive) are given a little help. Yes, next it’s the last challenge. Mother and son, Mavis and Matthew John-Myner both take on Zool (Amiga). The challenge is that whoever can finish a specially designed GamesMaster level the fastest wins. Mother Mavis goes first and finishes the level with a very respectable time of 54 seconds. But Son Matthew manages an impressive 43 seconds and all with having his left arm in plaster after breaking a bone. Auntie Marisha turns up with her homemade Cockles En Croute with Codswallop Dip as this episode ends.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 3

And so, here we go again. The first challenge is on Super Mario World (SNES) where Catherine Allen has to collect 200 coins on Donut Plains 1 and finish the level in 1 minute 15 seconds. Given the fact there are less than 200 coins on the main level and finding secrets is the only way to win this challenge, this is a tough one. Catherine manages to find a nice cache of hidden coins and nabs herself 201, but still needs to finish the level to win and now with only 20 seconds left. She goes for it, dodging enemies and projectiles to get to the end of the level with just 2 seconds left on the clock, taking home that golden joystick.

SMB Challenge

More reviews and they are all RPGs this time around. First up, Drakkhen (SNES) gets an understandable 46%. Darklands (PC) scores a 84%. Then Legends of Valour (PC) lands itself a nice 87%. Controller reviews follow as the Capcom Street Fighter 2 Joystick (SNES), the U-Force (NES), the Logic3 Free Wheel (Home Computers) and various Cheetah Characteristicks (Home Computers) all get looked at. Then another plug for GamesMaster Live. Yes it’s celebrity challenge time again as Vinnie Jones (when he was known for football not acting) takes on Callum Green at Soccer Brawl (Neo Geo), a futuristic soccer game with OTT power-ups and a smidgen of violence. With Vinnie playing as Korea while Callum favours Japan. Vinnie scores a very early goal thanks to a power-shot and follows that up with another goal via a header. Callum puts up a fight as the first half ends with Vinnie winning 2-0. Despite several decent shots, the second half doesn’t bring any more goals and Vinnie Jones wins the challenge and the golden joystick.

GamesMaster does his thing again and offers hints & tips next. Super Mario World (SNES), Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender (PC) and The Adventures of Rad Gravity (NES) get some much needed assistance. Then there’s something special for the final challenge. Returning from series 1, episode 9 is Sega European games-playing champ, Danny Curley. This starts what becomes a weekly challenge where Danny takes on open requests to play and try to win any Sega game. This first challenge sees Danny take on John Morrison who is plucked from the audience. The game of choice is Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive) and a speed challenge to finish the Spring Yard Zone Act 2 level in the fastest time. John goes first and finishes the level in 49 seconds. But Danny smashes through the level to finish in 40 seconds and wins the golden joystick… or does he? No golden joystick is given out as Dominick explains that Danny is far too good. But there is another reason why Danny didn’t win the golden joystick, I’m saving that for another article in this retrospective. But as previously mentioned, this all kick-starts a weekly challenge where Danny goes up against audience members at Sega games, so more from him later in the series. This episode ends as Dominick Diamond goes off to enjoy Auntie Marisha’s relatively normal sounding Salmon & Broccoli Quiche.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 4

Well this episode gets off to an interesting start as the much mentioned Auntie Marisha is actually seen for the first time. She appears up on one of the balconies handing out her interesting food to audience members. They’ll be more from Auntie Marisha as the series continues too.

Auntie M

But of course, first up it’s challenge time as always. Fire & Ice (Amiga) is GamesMaster’s game of choice here and taking up the challenge is Coolwinder Rye (which I think could be a great porn name). Coolwinder has to finish a level of the game in under 2 minutes, he even brings his own homemade joystick just for the challenge. After only 30 seconds, he loses a life and things begin to look bleak, especially when he soon loses another life leaving him with only one more chance. Then with just 10 seconds left on the clock, he gets taken out by one of the games many enemies and fails.

Beat ’em ups are the games under the spotlight this time around. Street Gangs (AKA  River City Ransom (NES) gets a unbelievable 32%, I mean , it’s one of the most loved and revered games on the NES. Fighting Masters (Mega Drive) scores 65%. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (SNES) gets a deserved 80%. But still, River City Ransom 32%… seriously? The feature this episode takes an interesting look at the design and programming of System 3’s Putty (Amiga). Yes there’s another plug for GamesMaster Live… I’ll stop mentioning these from now on cos they just keep coming every episode. As is the tradition, it’s celebrity challenge time next. Navy Helicopter Flight Simulator (Amiga) is the game here and Matthew Frary goes up against English rugby union player Rory Underwood. The challenge is to land a helicopter on a carrier and the payers are scored on speed, accuracy and smoothness of the landing. Matthew’s landing scores him a 61% while Rory struggles with a 56% as Matthew Frary takes home the golden joystick.

Super Castlevania IV (SNES), Psycho Fox (Master System) and Prince of Persia (Game Boy) get the GamesMaster tips treatment this time. Then carrying on from the previous episode and Danny Curley is back as he is challenged to a game of Mario Lemieux Hockey (Mega Drive). Taking on Danny is Warren Brasier at a 1 minute 30 second period of ice hockey. It’s a frantic match with Danny scoring and early goal in 15 seconds, but Warren does not give up and manages to put a goal away himself with 22 seconds of the match left. The challenge ends in a 1-1 draw, though Danny does put another away after the time is up, it doesn’t count. This marks the first ever GamesMaster draw and seeing as Danny Curley technically didn’t lose, he still remains undefeated. Sprat Thermador with Rice Pilaf is Auntie Marisha’s meal for this episode.

Hockey challnge

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 5

It’s the brother and sister duo of Michael and Emily Gleeve who take up GamesMaster’s challenge on Pilotwings (SNES). Being given the sky-diving stage, whoever manages the highest score by falling through five rings and then making a landing wins. Emily makes her anti-game feelings clear when she says that girls have more sense than to waste money on gaming… so I guess she’s not a fan then? Turning this into  not just a battle of siblings, but also one of the sexes too. Emily takes up the challenge first and manages to go through all the rings and even makes a decent landing for 70 points, a good score but certainly beatable. Michael goes through the first three rings with ease… but then balls it up when he misses the final two, leaving him well behind on points and now needing a top-notch-landing for a higher score to beat his sister. Michael goes way past the big points for his landing and manages a mediocre 59 points. The anti-gamer Emily Gleeve wins the golden joystick.

This episode’s reviews are all scary, gory games. First up is Splatterhouse Part 2 (Mega Drive) which gets an understandable 57%. The Legacy: Realm of Terror (PC) manages a 87%. Then perhaps one of the scariest games ever made, Barbie Game Girl (Game Boy) is awarded 51%. Feature time and some add-on peripherals for the handheld consoles take the spotlight. The Solar Boy for Game Boy, The Master Gear Converter for Game Gear, The Joyplus Handyboy for Game Boy, The TV Tuner for Game Gear and The Workboy for Game Boy get looked at. This episode’s celebrity challenge involves the biggest boy band at the time, Take That. Dyna Blaster (Amiga) is the game here and the five TT lads have to blow each other up until only one remains standing. Gary Barlow blows himself up early on in the game, Howard Donald gets taken out by Robbie Williams, Mark Owen gets caught in a chain explosion and bows out, leaving just Robbie and Jason Orange… until he (Jason) manages to trap himself between one of his own bombs and one of Robbie’s. Dummy sucking, dungaree wearing prick Robbie Williams manages to win the golden joystick.

Robbie Williams

GamesMaster dishes out more of his hints & tips. Thunder Force III (Mega Drive), The Addams Family (SNES) and James Pond II: Codename RoboCod (Mega Drive) are all given that GamesMaster love. Then finally it’s the weekly Curley Challenge where Sega European champ, Danny Curley goes up against Jeff Gallies on basketball game Arch Rivals (Mega Drive). Danny scores and early 3 points, leaving Jeff to play catch up. More tight rim-shots and slam dunks follow as Jeff manages to beat Danny 20-17, ending Danny Curley’s unbeaten run. As Jeff takes home the golden joystick, Dominick enjoys some of Auntie Marisha’s Red Snapper.

Golden joysticks won – 3

Episode 6

The light-gun game Mole Patrol (SNES) is the first challenge and Adam Freeman has to shoot 17 blue moles in 1 minute while avoiding shooting the pink ones. Adam gets of to a flying start and manages to get 10 moles down in 30 seconds, leaving him just 7 more to do at the halfway mark… but then he shoots a pink mole which speeds things up and he loses momentum. The clock ticks away and Adam fails with just 2 moles left to shoot.

Yes it’s review time again and (supposedly) historical simulations are the theme this time. SimCity (SNES) gets 94%. KGB (PC) is given 84%. Just the two reviews this episode as up next is a GamesMaster competition. Using AMOS (Amiga), the game programming software, the competition is for members of the public to submit game ideas and even go on to have the winning game become a real product available in shops. Then WWF superstar, ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan takes on Hayden Croft at WWF Super WrestleMania (SNES). With this celebrity challenge being introduced by ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith instead of GamesMaster himself. With Jim Duggan playing as ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage while Hayden Croft chooses The Undertaker. There are body slams and suplexes a plenty as Hayden manages to win the match via a pin for the 3 count and gets his hands on the golden joystick.

This time it’s Super Mario World (SNES), The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants (NES) and Super Tennis (SNES) that all have their secrets revealed via GamesMaster’s tips. The final challenge offers something a bit different as Auntie Marisha herself takes on bitter rival Lettie Edwards at King of the Monsters 2: The Next Thing (Neo Geo) in a best of 3 smack-down. The gargantuan creatures punch, kick and throw each other into buildings as Auntie Marisha wins the first round. But Lettie isn’t the kind of old-gal to take that and she goes on to win the next 2 rounds after giving Auntie Marisha a pasting, poor Auntie M. So Lettie Edwards wins the golden joystick as Dominick goes off to enjoy some of Auntie Marisha’s Winkles in Whale Sputum Sauce, yummy.

Auntie M challenge

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 7

Straight into the action as Tim Cant tests his gaming skills at Myth: History in the Making (Amiga). Tim is given just 1 minute and 30 seconds to finish a level, including defeating the end of level boss, the Hydra. Tim comes prepared with his own, custom made joystick and even manages to give Dominick the giggles by cracking his own double entendres. Making great progress and even decapitating Medusa along the way, Tim makes this challenge look easy. With 45 seconds left, he comes face to face with the Hydra and that golden joystick is very much in sight. Tim takes out one of the heads from the Hydra leaving only 2 left… but then misses a jump to a platform and falls to his death, failing the challenge.

Reviews this week are sport games. Starting out with Speedball 2 (Master System) which rightfully gets a well deserved 91%. George Foreman’s KO Boxing (NES) is given a 54%. Then World Class Leader Board Golf (Mega Drive) lands an 84%, but no feature this time. Two celebrities for the price of one on this episode as Shadow and Jet from the hit TV show Gladiators go up against each other on American Gladiators (Mega Drive). Playing the assault course level of the game, Jet manages to take a bit of a lead early on but soon falls behind at the first obstacle. Shadow begins to pull away and makes easy work of this challenge. Jet is left way, way behind as Shadow breezes to victory and finishes the challenge, winning that golden joystick, while Jet only just starts the second obstacle of the course. Jet may have lost this challenge, but she’ll be back in both GamesMaster and another show I aim to cover later.

Gladiators

GamesMaster is back dishing put his helpful hints once more. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES), Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Master System) and Fire & Ice (Amiga) are all given some tips. It’s final challenge time and Tristan Grove takes on Jason Pickford at Super Tennis (SNES) in a best of 5 games match. Jason takes the first and second games with relative ease. Then Tristan takes the third and begins a comeback, quickly followed by winning the forth game making a 2 – 2 draw, with only 1 game left to play. Tristan loses the first 2 points and it looks like Jason will be winning this one, but then Jason has 2 outs making it 30 – 30 in this very tight last game. Tristan manages to score another point, making it now 40 – 30 in his favour and now with match point in hand… but he soon fluffs up and Jason scores a point making it deuce. Jason hits another out giving Tristan the advantage and match point once more. Then after a very nice across the court shot, Tristan scores the point making him the victor and winner of the golden joystick in this (quite honestly) pretty exciting game of tennis. Auntie Marisha serves up some Shark Fin Thermador for Dominick.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 8

The Addams Family (SNES) is the first game challenge of this episode. GamesMaster gives Lisa (just Lisa) 2 minutes to collect 50 dollar symbols and finish the level. I’d like to say how Lisa turned in a great effort and ploughed through the level, smashing the challenge… I’d like to say that. Instead, Lisa looses all but one of her energy in only 8 seconds and things begin to look very bleak. She manages to hold on for 18 more seconds and lasts just 26 seconds of her 2 minute time limit before jumping into an enemy and failing the challenge. Lisa is taken away to The Pit for punishment. Very poor indeed and I think, the fastest ever failing of a challenge on GamesMaster so far. But perhaps there was a reason for that…

Gaming version of board games are up for review this time. Scrabble (Home Computers) gets 80%. King’s Table – The Legend of Ragnarok (PC) is given 84%. While Trivial Pursuit (CD-TV) gets 68%. The feature this episode takes a look at the age old (pointless) fight of the console wars. Pitching Sega’s Mega Drive up against Nintendo’s SNES to see which one is best as gaming journalists offer their professional opinions on each machine. Kristian Schmid, some actor from Aussie daytime soap Neighbours, is the celebrity for this episode. GamesMaster gives him the laserdisc, light-gun game Space Pirates (Arcade) and Kristian has to shoot intergalactic bad guys and rescue hostages. Getting off to a great start, Kristian makes his way through the first few sections without missing a bad guy or losing any health, he’s looking like he’ll win this with ease. But he takes too many hits trying to save the hostages at the end and fails.

It’s that time again where GamesMaster throws out morsels of help to those struggling with games. The Immortal (Mega Drive), James Pond II – Codename Robocod (Amiga) and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (Amiga) get some assistance. Agony (Amiga) is the final challenge this time. Jack, Angela, & Rashpal are plucked from the audience have to take turns in trying to get through the first level without dying. Going first is Jack who gets a little complacent and dies when he finds himself in a corner of the screen and is hit by an enemy. Next up is Angela who somehow manages to die in the exact same spot, the exact same way as Jack despite the fact she saw what happened before. So finally, it’s up to Rashpal to win a golden joystick. Rashpal does stay alive a little bit longer, he gets past the spot the previous two failed… but he doesn’t last that long and dies soon afterwards. Yeah they all failed the challenge… but all still lasted longer than Lisa did in her challenge. Meaning no golden joysticks at all for the first time ever. So Dominick consoles himself with some of Auntie Marisha’s Gefilte Fish Balls.

Golden joysticks won – 0

Episode 9

This first challenge has a bit of a surprise to it. Playing Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja (SNES) is Wolf Wood. Being tasked by GamesMaster to finish the first level in under 1 minute and 30 seconds. Wolf makes it to the end of the level with 30 seconds to spare, but he than has to defeat the end of level T-Rex. With just 2 seconds left on the clock, Wolf does indeed finish off the pesky prehistoric pest and wins the golden joystick. Now about that surprise, it turns out that Wolf is in fact the boyfriend of Lisa who failed so badly at The Addams Family (SNES) in the previous episode. Wolf winning this challenge not only got him a golden joystick, but he also earned Lisa’s freedom from The Pit… in a not at all scripted challenge. Especially suspicious seeing as the Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja level ends with the hero recusing his girlfriend…

Joe Mac

Anyway, it’s review time again and it’s arcade adventure games this episode. Another World (SNES) is given 76%. Prince of Persia (Master System) earns itself 80%. Flashback (Amiga & Mega Drive) is awarded a very much justified 94%. The episode’s feature looks at the Miracle Piano Teaching System (Various Systems) which teaches you how to play the piano via a blending of gaming and actual piano lessons. Then there’s a phone interview with Paul Reed who claims to have finished the then newly released Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive) on the day of release in the fastest time of 2 hours and 4 minutes while managing to collect all 7 Chaos Emeralds… and on his first attempt too. He then says that he wrapped the game up and gave it to a friend as a Christmas gift. All with no actual evidence… of course you did Paul, of course you did. Then Adam Whisker takes on professional snooker player John Parrott in this episode’s celebrity challenge. Archer MacLean’s Pool (Amiga) is the game of choice here and the man himself, Archer Maclean also provides commentary. Both Adam and John are given 1 minute and 30 seconds to get the highest score by sinking a many balls as they can. Adam goes first and scores 29 points, then it’s John’s turn next and he gets 23 points, he then misses a fairly easy shot that would’ve given him the lead. Adam takes home the golden joystick.

Yes it’s hints & tips time again. Super Mario World (SNES) and Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Mega Drive)… that’s it for this episode, just the 2 games helped via GamesMaster’s big tips. Matthew Sleet then takes on his father, Ian Sleet on beat ’em up  Fatal Fury (Neo Geo). Matthew playing as Joe Higashi beats the crap out of Ian playing as Andy Bogard. Neither one of them really seem to know what they were doing outside of some manic button mashing and they do take a round each in the best of 3 bouts fight, but it is Matthew who takes the golden joystick. Auntie Marisha serves up a very tasty sounding King Prawn & Oyster in Black Bean Sauce.

Golden joysticks won – 3

Episode 10

GamesMaster breaks out the classic Super Mario Kart (SNES) for this episode’s first challenge. Peter Walters playing as a Koopa Troopa has to come first in a race on Mario Circuit 1 of Mushroom Cup 100cc. Not the hardest track in the game, but playing it on a harder, 100cc difficulty setting (though 150cc is the hardest). Peter gets off to a shaky start and goes off track more than once during the first lap. By the start of lap 3, he’s got things under control and is in 2nd but struggles to maintain that place. Starting his 5th and final lap, he’s still in 2nd with just 1st place Luigi to beat. Peter wastes a red shell that would mot definitely got him up to 1st if he hadn’t used it on a star protected Luigi and coming up to the last corner, Peter actually takes the number 1 spot, but only for a moment or so as Luigi manages to win with Peter less than half a second behind. Peter fails by literal milliseconds.

Driving games are under review this episode. Test Drive II: The Duel (SNES) is given 61%. Super Off Road (Game Gear) gets 84%. Jeep Jamboree: Off Road Adventure (Game Boy) scores an 84%. No feature this episode, so its straight to the celebrity challenge. GamesMaster has something a bit special up his sleeve for this one in a simple game of Catch the Flag, you know this. Two people, one on each side of a map and the aim is to grab your opponent’s flag and take it back to your base, gain a point for ever flag captured and the most points win. But what makes this one a bit special is the fact it’s played in a then, cutting edge virtual reality machine. These VR units were not like the more streamlined Oculus VR/PlayStation VR units we have today. Oh no, these things were huge pod things the player had to stand inside, 1992 was a wonderful time. And clambering into these David Cronenberg/Seth Brundle/The Fly type pods are Andy Thomson and Aussie soap star Richard Norton. It’s a very close game with both Andy and Richard being evenly matched… however, they’re not interested in capturing the flag in this game of capture the flag and just end up shooting each other instead, which also scores them points. Anyway, in a very rare and never happened before GamesMaster challenge, both of them score 3 points each when Richard gets the final kill in the last second, leading to a draw. That means that 2 golden joysticks are awarded for one challenge in this GamesMaster first.

More hints & tips are abound as GamesMaster does what he does best. QuackShot Starring Donald Duck (Mega Drive), Super Mario Land (Game Boy) and finally, F-Zero (SNES) have their secrets revealed. Of course we end with the final challenge and this one involves a bit of sibling rivalry as the Goddiano, identical triples of Nino, Angelo and Martino take on Pinball Fantasies (Amiga). Playing the Party Land table on this pinball classic, the aim is simple, whoever has the highest score using only one ball wins. Nino beats his brothers with a score of 338,150 over Angelo’s and Martino’s respective 195,630 and 191,880 points. Nino takes the golden joystick. Sadly, no Auntie Marisha’s delicious food this episode as Dominick has to dash off to host GamesMaster Live… at least all the annoying plugging for the event every episode can stop now.

Golden joysticks won – 3

Episode 11

Back from his hosting duties at GamesMaster Live, Dominic Diamond wastes no time getting things started in this episode. The first challenge is on ABC Sports Presents: The Palm Spring Open (CD-I). Paying the game on one of the worst home consoles ever is Aidan Smith who has to finish the first three holes of the back nine on the Jack Nicklaus Resort course without going over par. Hole 1 is a 450 yard, par 4 with a huge bunker and a large body of water to negotiate, Aidan finishes the hole 1 over par. Hole 2 is a 132 yard, par 3, a smaller hole with fewer hazards and a good chance for Aidan to get back under par on… which he doesn’t and goes 1 over par again. Now 2 over par, Aidan needs a pretty much impossible 2 stoke win on the final 135 yard, par 4 hole. Of course he doesn’t do it, his first shot sends him into the trees and makes the impossibility of sinking the ball in 2 shots even more impossible. Aidan fails. Despite playing a game with lots of balls, holes and strokes, Dominick shows great restraint with the double entendres.

This episode’s games for review are all sports titles. John Madden Football ’93 (Mega Drive) scores 87%. David Crane’s Amazing Tennis (SNES) gets 80%. Sensible Soccer, Version 1.1 (Amiga) is given a very worthy 97%. The feature looks at the endlessly mentioned GamesMaster Live event. Then of course, it’s celebrity challenge time again. British Formula 1 ace, Johnny Herbert plays the awesome Lotus 3: The Ultimate Challenge (Amiga). GamesMaster tasks Johnny into finishing a specially designed GamesMaster track in 1 minute and 30 seconds. Getting off to a pretty bad start and bumping into roadside obstacles and losing valuable time, Johnny struggles in the first half of the race. The second half fares much better and he does make up a lot of lost time, but it’s just not enough as he runs out of time seconds away from the finish-line, no golden joystick here. Respect to Dominick for getting in a very cheeky Ayrton Senna jibe at the expense of Johnny, F1 fans would get it.

Lotus

Less fortunate peeps seek out GamesMaster for some help once more. Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly (Game Boy), Asterix (Master System) and Another World (SNES) get some much needed attention. The final challenge starts something a bit special. The first round of the GamesMaster: Magazine Challenge where journalists from some of the most popular gaming magazines go up against each other in a knockout style tournament. This first round sees Paul Laken (Game Zone) take on Duncan McDonald (Zero) at the mighty Street Fighter II (SNES). With Paul playing as Dhalsim, while Duncan goes for Chun-Li. Duncan takes the first round with ease, the second round times-out and Paul wins due to having (very slightly) more health. The third and final round goes to Paul, but he doesn’t win a golden joystick as this is a knockout tournament, but he does get through to the next round. As a side note, I just want to say how, for so-called gaming experts who play games for a living, that was some of the worst, most boring Street Fighter II gameplay I’ve ever seen. No finesse, no using the character’s strengths or special moves, just pure button mashing and hope for the best fighting. Anyway, Auntie Marisha serves up some Fillet of Anchovy.

Golden joysticks won – 0

Episode 12

Kelly Sumnar, the managing director of Commodore UK, starts off this episode with a challenge on Humans (Amiga). Being given the classic 1 minute and 30 seconds to guide 5 cavemen to save a baby dinosaur trapped on a platform in this tricky but amusing puzzle game. Each of the cavemen has a special ability and Kelly will have to utilise all 5 of them to get this one done. Despite being the MD of one of the biggest computer companies in the world at the time, Kelly admits to never playing games before… so this one looks like it’s over before it even begins. But he does do it, Kelly manages to get his cavemen to save the baby dinosaur… even if I’m more than a little suspicious seeing as the clock ran out and was on 0 seconds for over a second, yet he still won?

Anyway, of course it’s review time again. Movie tie-ins are the subject this episode. James Bond 007: The Duel (Mega Drive) is given 73%. RoboCop 3 (SNES) has 61% rewarded to it.
Universal Soldier (Game Boy) lands 80%. The feature this episode looks as some bad games. Road Fighter (NES), Altered Beast (Mega Drive), Space Ace (Amiga), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Amiga) and Goal! (NES) all get mentioned. Then a quick update on the GamesMaster design a game competition using AMOS (Amiga). Todd Carty of Grange Hill and EastEnders fame is this episode’s celebrity and he takes on Jamie Brown at Baseball Stars 2 (Neo Geo). Each player is given a single innings to score as many runs as they can. Jamie steps up to bat first and scores a decent 5 runs. Todd is up next and doesn’t do quite as well, failing to score a single run. Jamie wins 5 – 0 and also gets himself a nice golden joystick to boot.

Super Mario World (SNES), Star Wars (NES) and Dungeon Master (Amiga) are given some relief thanks to GamesMaster. Then the continuation of the GamesMaster: Magazine Challenge errr… continues. Gary Harrod (Mean Machines) takes on Greg Watson (C&VG) at Street Fighter II (SNES). Gary plays as Guile while Greg plumps for the classic Ryu. Gary demolishes Greg in the first round, it’s not even close. The second round it a little closer, but not by much as Greg wins again and gets through to the final of the challenge. As another side note, this fight was much better than the one from the last episode. At least these guys looked like they actually knew how to play. Braised Calamari is what Dominick has to look forward for supper tonight thanks to Auntie Marisha.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 13

Well I’ve made it, I’m halfway though this 26 episode long series 2 and quite nicely, this one is a GamesMaster Christmas special as this episode originally aired on the 24th of December, 1992. I expect lots of Dominick Diamond trademark Christmas themed double entendres here. Keeping with the Yuletide festivities is the first challenge, Santa’s Xmas Caper (Amiga). Paul Tucker is given only 1 life and 1 minute to collect 20 Christmas presents in this platforming game. Despite Paul admitting he doesn’t like platformer games, he makes this challenge look easy and nabs all 20 gifts with 10 seconds on the clock and wins the golden joystick… not even a nice Christmas one tarted up with a bit of tinsel. At least GamesMaster himself made some effort…

GamesMaster

Review time again and given the fact this is a Christmas episode and that the reviews are always themed, can you guess what the theme is this episode? That’s right, helicopter games. Super SWIV (SNES) gets a very nice 87%. Steel Talons (Mega Drive) lands an understandable 57%. Comanche: Maximum Overkill (PC) is awarded a 94%… even Auntie Marisha likes it. The feature takes a look at those cheat code carts, the Datel Pro Action Replay (Amiga & SNES) and the Galoob Game Genie (NES, SNES & Mega Drive). It’s the final celebrity challenge of this first part of series 2 and they only went and landed a genuine legend. Playing Volfied (Amiga), a simple action/puzzle, Qix-like game that requires some quick thinking and reactions. Each challenger is given 1 minute to fill in as much of the screen as they can, whoever fills in the most wins. Oliver Gibson is the mere mortal taking on the quiz show maestro, former James Bond and grandfather of Oliver, Bob Holness. So it’s a grandson v grandfather challenge. Oliver struggles and loses 2 of his lives, but manages to pick up a time stop power-up which freezes all the enemies on screen and scores himself a very reasonable 48.8%. Bob gets off to a much better start, but soon finds himself in trouble and loses all of his lives, only managing a score of 14.7%. Oliver takes home the golden joystick.

Bob Holness

Straight into the hints & tips from GamesMaster once more. Super Soccer (SNES), James Pond 2: Codename: Robocod (Mega Drive) and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) all get a extra helping of Christmas cheer. Then it’s the final of the GamesMaster: Magazine Challenge as Gary Harrod (Mean Machines) has to go up against Paul Laken (Game Zone) at Street Fighter II (SNES) once more. Gary plays as Blanka while Paul Laken chooses Zangief. Given the previous rounds of this tournament and witnessing how badly Paul played compared to how well Gary did… I wonder who will win this one? Gary pummels Paul in round 1, winning with a perfect KO. Round 2 also goes to Gary (no surprise), though it’s quite obvious he was just playing with Paul before deciding to finish him off. Gary Harrod wins the golden joystick. Well that wraps up this Christmas episode… with a severe lack of festive games. Dominick leads the audience in a sing-a-long of O Come, All Ye Faithful before enjoying some of Auntie Marisha’s Sausage wrapped in Bacon. Very festive.

Golden joysticks won – 3


 

And so that’s it, halfway through this 26 episode marathon of series 2 of GamesMaster. Still plenty more to cover as this gargantuan retrospective continues. See you in part 2.

Total golden joysticks won – 24

“Let’s say ‘Ho-Ho-Ho’ to the man with the biggest sack of all, the GamesMaster.”

–  Dominik Diamond

GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Series 1

So here we are, at the start of the very, very long retrospective looking back at the greatest gaming TV show ever, GamesMaster. Just before I get into this, you’ll have to excuse the rather average/grainy quality images throughout this whole retrospective. GamesMaster has never been given a home release or a clean up, so I’m having to use old VHS recordings and almost 30 year old footage to get these pics. It’s the best I can do.

Series 1

Originally aired on the 7th of January, 1992, kicking off with a (for the time) very nice CGI opening title of, who I assume, is the GamesMaster himself sitting on a throne. Series 1 was set and filmed in an abandoned church (St Paul’s Church, Dock Street, London). Presented by the foppish and very cheeky Dominik Diamond who wastes no time in tossing off and slipping in as many double entendre and sly sexual references as he can.

Series 1 Dominik

Series 1 consisted of 10 episodes and featured celebrities such as Jimmy White, Annabel Croft, Barry McGuigan, Eric Bristow and others, all trying their gaming skills at some of the newest games on the market.

A mysterious and cloaked monk would bring the golden joysticks to the winners of the challenges in this series and was played by gaming media pioneer Dave Perry, who would become an integral part of GamesMaster and part of one of the show’s most infamous moments… but I’m getting ahead of myself here. First up, every episode from series 1.

Episode 1

Kicking off with the first challenge is Daniel from Edgware, who has to finish the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) and collect 50 coins all in just 2 minutes. Despite Daniel messing up and initially missing a pipe housing some hidden coins, he does manage to complete the challenge with 14 seconds to spare, winning the very first GamesMaster golden joystick.

Games reviewed are movie themed, The Terminator (Mega Drive) which scores a 87%. The Addams Family (NES) gets a 63%. And finally, the greatest point n’ click adventure game ever made, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis which receives a very worthy 93%. Then next up is a feature on customising the Nintendo Game Boy. Moving onto the first celebrity challenge. A game of footie on Manchester United Europe (Amiga) where Simon from Bishop’s Stortford takes on then Wimbledon F.C. and England striker, John Fashanu. Simon playing as Liverpool beats John playing as Manchester 2-0 to take home that golden joystick.

Then it’s the turn of the GamesMaster to deliver his hints & tips on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive), Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (Amiga) and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES) with that infamous and annoying whirlwind thing. Episode 1 ends with the final challenge, a shootout on Mad Dog McCree (Arcade), the first ever live action laserdisc game. Tony from North Wales is the man who has to shoot the varmints in this Wild West light-gun game. Tony finishes the challenge with ease to win the golden joystick and ends the first ever episode of GamesMaster.

Golden joysticks won – 3

Episode 2

First up is a challenge on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive). Being given 2 minutes to collect 150 rings and finish the first level, Alex from Stanmore, decides to show his cocky side. Thinking that 150 rings is too easy, he asks for the challenge to be upped to 160 rings. Seeing as the level only has 163 rings in total, collecting 160 in 2 minutes is no mean feat. Of course he does it because this is Alex Verrey here, who would soon become known to many British gamers as ‘Big Boy Barry’ (more on that later).

Big Boy Barry

Reviews this time are all beat em’ ups. Starting with The First Samurai (Amiga) which gets a very respectable 90%. Pit-Fighter (Amiga) doesn’t do so well getting a 59%, which I think is about 59% too much. Then Double Dragon II (Game Boy) receives 70%. The feature this time looks at gaming peripherals such as the Power Glove, Quickjoy Footpedal and the Sega Action Chair… all utter pants. The celebrity challenge is next and Paul goes up against former British heavyweight boxing champ, Garry Mason at Sonic Blast Man (Arcade). A game where all you have to do is punch a pad as hard as you can to score the hardest hits. Of course the professionally trained and experienced boxer loses (how/why? I don’t know) and Paul wins his golden joystick.

GamesMaster shares his help on games such as Strider (Mega Drive), Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) and Robocop (NES). Then onto a challenge on one of my all time favourite games, Lemmings (Amiga). Given 2 minutes to save 91% of his lemmings, Robert from Leicester is the guy for the job… oh, he also has to do this on one of the hardest levels in the game and he was only told this 5 minutes before filming began too. After a slightly mistimed exploding lemming, Robert loses a few rodents and only manages to save 87%, Robert is the first non-celeb to fail a GamesMaster challenge.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 3

The first challenge of this episode is on Mega Man 2 (NES), an already tricky game made even harder here, Nick from Muswell Hill has to finish one of the most difficult levels in the game without losing a life and in under 3 minutes, including defeating the end of level boss. But Nick misjudges a tricky jump midway through and plunges to his death, failing the challenge.

Racing games get the review treatment this time around. Starting with Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (Amiga) which gets a stupidly low 68%. Formula One Grand Prix (Amiga) receives a very deserving 89%. Then OutRun Europa (Master System) is handed a 52%. A sneak peek at a then up and coming movie tie-in game, Dune (PC & Amiga) is next and is highly praised too. The formula continues as next up is the celebrity challenge. Sahid from Mile End takes on former British ladies number 1 Annabel Croft at tennis. Pro Tennis Tour 2 (Amiga) is the game of choice, which Annabel wins, making her the first celeb winner of a GamesMaster golden joystick. But who wouldn’t enjoy getting beaten off by Annabel Croft?

Annabel Croft

More hints & tips follow with Alex Kidd (Master System), Cadaver (Amiga) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) all made a little bit easier. Zoom! (Mega Drive) is the final challenge and to mix things up a bit, three members of the audience are selected to play and finish the first level in 1 minute. Scott, George and Dorla (I think, the sound wasn’t very good) are randomly chosen from the audience… all three of them fail, bringing the end of episode 3.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 4

Classic beat/bike em’ up, Road Rash (Mega Drive) is the first challenge of this episode. Richard from Dartford is tasked to complete and win a race on the Redwood Forest stage on the game, punching, kicking and riding his way to victory. After smashing into a car at a crossroads, Richard falls behind and only manages to finish second, failing the challenge… might have had something to do with the stupid way he held the controller too.

Reviews this episode are fantasy games. First up is the gorgeous Psygnosis classic, Shadow of the Beast (Mega Drive) which gets an understandable 59%. Then Populous II (Amiga) is given a much more worthy 94% because it’s one of the greatest game sequels ever made. Finally, Kings Quest V (PC) is handed a 62%. The feature looks at SEGA’s marketing ideas for the Mega Drive. Then onto the celebrity challenge. World Champion darts legend, Eric Bristow is given the game Heimdall (Amiga) where he has to throw axes at a tied in place maiden to cut her hair and free her from her captives in 2 minutes… he fails. Also worth noting that this challenge is the first ‘proper’ appearance of Dave Perry as co-commentator not hidden by the monk outfit… and so it begins…

GamesMaster once more shares his wisdom in the form of hints & tips. Folks having trouble with Duck Tales (NES), Altered Beast (Mega Drive) and Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) all get a helping hand. Then to the final challenge of the episode. Panza Kick Boxing (Amiga) is the game of choice here and siblings, Jason and Lisa have to fight it out. Despite Lisa being knocked down early in round 1, she manages to knock her brother out in round 2 to win the challenge.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 5

Straight into the action with the first challenge. Duck Tails (NES) is GamesMaster’s game of choice here and it’s Scott from Manchester who has to make his way though and finish the icy Himalayas level in 2.5 minutes. Scott claims to be very confident he’ll beat the challenge with ease… and he does, finishing the level with 39 seconds to spare.

Duck Tails Challenge

Review time once more, this time the games are linked by the word “funk”. ToeJam & Earl (Mega Drive) manages a 70%. Top Banana (Amiga) is given 65%, while Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly (Game Boy) gets 89%. Up next is a preview of the then latest Bitmap Brothers game, The Chaos Engine (Amiga). Which shows an early 3-player version, the final release was only 2-player. Then a quick intro to the GamesMaster Golden Goal competition on Kick Off 2 (Amiga), before the obligatory celebrity challenge. Legendary game designer Archer MacLean has to tackle his very own game with Jimmy White’s ‘Whirlwind’ Snooker (Amiga). Archer goes up against Christian from Nottingham while the man himself, Jimmy White offers commentary with Dominick. Each player is given just 90 seconds score as many points as they can only using the coloured balls. Christian scores 31 points but Archer manages 37 points and wins the golden joystick. Then Jimmy White has to pull off a trick-shot designed by Archer MacLean on the game, just for fun, no golden joystick reward here.

It’s tip time again as people seek help from the main man. Spider-Man (Mega Drive), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) and Shadow of the Beast II (Amiga) all get covered. Then onto the final challenge. Neighbours (Amiga) based on the popular Aussie soap is the game of choice and the aim is to race around Ramsay Street against other residents and win. Taking on the challenge is another celeb (I guess?), Ashley Paske who was on the show itself. The game is terrible, but even so, Ashley is extremely bad at it and fails spectacularly.

And with that, we’re halfway through the first series.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 6

After perhaps the most double entendre fuelled intro by Dominick, up to this point anyway, the first challenge tees off. Top Player’s Golf (Neo Geo) is the game of choice as Mark from Ross-on-Wye (with a handicap of 4) takes up this challenge and has to finish the first 3 holes of the course in level par or below. After a couple of rough shots and landing in the bunker, Mark fails the challenge.

Reviews next and futuristic games are the theme this time around. First up is Alien Breed (Amiga) which scores an understandable 70%. Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe (Mega Drive) earns a very reasonable 85%. Then Wing Commander II (PC) nabs an underwhelming 59%. The feature this time around looks at the overtly expensive Neo Geo console. Yes, it’s the celebrity challenge next as Capital Radio DJs Pat Sharp and Mick Brown take on Ski or Die (Amiga) and have to battle for the best score on the aerial skiing section and pull of impressive tricks. Mick scores a total of 54.5 for his aerial antics, while Pat after some very shoddy jumps, only manages 40.6. Making Mick the winner of the golden joystick.

Time once more for the GamesMaster tips. Gamers having trouble with The Legend of Zelda (NES), Forgotten Worlds (Mega Drive) and Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (NES) are all given a helping hand. Then, of course, it’s the final challenge of this episode. Isometric puzzler Brat (Amiga) is the game of choice this time. Michael is the man who thinks he can guide the leather jacket wearing toddler to the end of the level. Getting off to a flying start and looking very much like a winner, he manages to make it near to the end of the level, but a slightly misplaced bit of direction causes him to fail.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 7

It’s a James Pond 2: Codename: Robocod (Amiga) challenge that kicks off this episode. Having to finish the first level in less than 1 minute and amass 50,000 points along the way too are 3 members of the audience. Mark, Julie and Claire all take turns in tackling this challenge. After falling on some spikes… several times, Claire dies and fails early doors. Next up is Mark who doesn’t fair much better, again, falling on spikes… several times before being killed by a snake. Finally, it’s Julie’s turn who also manages to fall on some spikes… several times, yet she does last a little longer than the others before death via snake occurs. No winners on this one.

Time for a few reviews and this time, adventure games are up for scoring. The Immortal (NES) nabs 80%. Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge (PC) earns itself a very deserving 94%. With Heroes of the Lance (Master System) getting 65%. Then it’s time for a preview of Alien 3 (Mega Drive), based on the movie of the same name. Finishing with a feature looking at gaming music soundtracks in a Top of the Pops style countdown… Xenon 2 Megablast (Amiga) is number 1. Celebrity challenge time next and British wrestler, Kendo Nagasaki (real name: Peter Thornley) takes on David from Hertfordshire at WWF WrestleMania Challenge (NES) with the first person to win via a pinfall. David completely destroys Kendo to win the golden joystick.

GamesMaster Moore 2

Hints & tips next as GamesMaster offers his help for The Legend of Zelda (NES), Strider (Mega Drive) and Mega Man (NES). But before I move on, does anyone know why a wire-frame butt-plug always used to float near the GamesMaster’s head during his segments? This episode’s final challenge is on Thunder Force III (Mega Drive) as Jeremy has to finish the underwater level of Seiren on the game’s hardest difficulty setting. Due to a typhoon of bullets, Jeremy fails the challenge spectacularly.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode 8

Strider (Mega Drive) is the game for the first challenge and Chevron from Harrow has to make his way through the first level and finish off the boss in 3 minutes. Some very confident playing, a few minor niggles aside and Chevron destroys this challenge with 45 seconds to spare.

Flight sims are put up for review this time. Birds of Prey (Amiga) lands itself 80%. F-22 Interceptor (Mega Drive) gets 72%. While Knights of the Sky (Amiga) receives a 80%. A preview of ATAC: The Secret War Against Drugs (PC), a flight sim come anti-drug themed shooter is shown. Then onto the celebrity challenge. 1987 Wimbledon champ, Pat Cash takes on his wife, Emily at Baseball Stars Professional (Neo Geo). Simple enough rules, 1 innings each and whoever gets the most runs wins. Pat manages a respectable 5 runs, while Emily a grand total of 0. Pat Cash wins the golden joystick with ease.

The GamesMaster helps out more of the less fortunate with his hints. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES), Alex Kid (Master System) and Escape from the Planet of the Robot Monsters (Amiga) all shown a little love. Then of course, the inevitable final challenge. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Amiga) is the game of choice and it’s that annoying sliding puzzle thing from this very poor game that makes for this challenge. This is another audience challenge as Dominick selects someone from the crowd to tackle this one. Martin from Stanwell is the man for the job… maybe? No, he fails and only manages to complete 25% of the puzzle before the timer runs out.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode 9

Challenge number one from this penultimate show comes from Zany Golf (Amiga). Father and son, Nigel and Adam have to complete as many holes on this crazy golf game as they can without running out of shots. The person who finishes the most holes wins. The opening windmill hole causes a few problems for Nigel, but they both manage to sink their balls with shots to spare. The second hole is an issue for Adam who runs out of shots, while his father manages to putt his way to victory and win the golden joystick. However, a rather funny ‘judge’s decision’ rules that Nigel is too old to be playing games, so the golden joystick is given to son Adam instead.

This review round-up looks at sports games. John Madden Football ’92 (Mega Drive) scores 95%. NBA All-Star Challenge (Game Boy) gets 69%. With Graham Gooch World Class Cricket (Amiga) manages a 60%. The winner of the previously mentioned GamesMaster Golden Goal competition on Kick Off 2 (Amiga) is announced… it was Robert Moss from Hertfordshire if you were wondering. This episode’s celebrity challenge involves former British featherweight boxing champ, Barry McGuigan who goes up against Gary from Aldershot. They fight it out on Final Blow (Amiga) with the winner being the last man standing after being punched a few dozen times… you know, boxing. In the first round, Barry comes out fists flying and manages to knock down Garry with 30 seconds of the round left. Recovering from his beating, Gary comes back strong and puts Barry on the canvas with 15 seconds left and again in the final second of the first round. Being saved by the bell, the fight goes onto the second round. A flurry of punches and an uppercut from Gary puts Barry McGuigan down only 13 seconds into the second round and out for the count. Making Gary the winner of the golden joystick.

Barry McGuigan

It’s tip time again as GamesMaster hands out his help. Metal Gear (NES), Mega Man 2 (NES) and The Revenge of Shinobi (Mega Drive) are all looked at. Final challenge time and it’s Sega European games-playing champ, Danny Curley who takes on this one. To make things a bit harder for the champ, he has to play a brand new game he’s never seen before. Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Mega Drive) is the game and Danny has to finish the second and third levels, rescue all 11 the hostages, kill the boss, not lose a life… and all in 2.5 minutes. Danny completely demolishes this challenge with 1:09 still on the clock. Well he was Sega European games-playing champ.

Golden joysticks won – 3

Episode 10

So here we are, the final episode of series 1 of GamesMaster. Kicking off, as always with the first challenge. Classic light-gun game Duck Hunt (NES) is the game of choice and having to shoot his way to victory is a name a lot of older British gaming/YouTube fans should recognise… a young Paul Gannon (though it sounds like Dominick introduces him as Paul Gammon). Getting off to a very strong start Paul scores an impressive 9 out of 10 on the first level, needing another 9 out of 10 on the second to win the prize. Early on, he misses a target, meaning he can not afford to miss any more… Paul misses the very last one and fails the challenge. No golden joystick here.

And just to try and embarrass Paul a bit, here he is on GamesMaster not winning a golden joystick and I have no idea why he’s wearing his watch near his elbow…

Paul Gannon

As is the norm, it’s review time and adult games are looked at. Deluxe Strip Poker 2 (Amiga) is dealt 60%. Geisha (Amiga) is given 41%. And finally, Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (Amiga) gets an unbelievable 89%. The feature this time around takes a look at the then soon to be released, latest 16-bit console the Super Nintendo Entertainment System… I could’ve just written SNES there couldn’t I? If you’ve been following the format so far, then you know it’s celebrity challenge time. GamesMaster has chosen Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (Amiga) for a game of footie. Playing is Suni from Ealing going up against the man himself, former Liverpool FC and England captain Emlyn Hughes. With Suni playing as Brazil while Emlyn favours England. Suni makes short work of this challenge and completely decimates Emlyn 5-0 to win the golden joystick.

The last batch of hints & tips for this series as people struggling with The Legend of Zelda (NES), Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi (Mega Drive) and The Adventures of Rad Gravity (NES) are all helped. Then onto the final challenge of the final episode with Decap Attack (Mega Drive). Having to finish the first 2 levels of the game in under 2 minutes is John from Hastings. Managing to fly through the first level with ease, it’s onto the second level with 1:07 still on the clock to finish this challenge. John messes up on a jump and takes a hit from an enemy, leaving him short on time and vulnerable as he can only take one more hit before dying and failing the challenge. But he finishes the second level with 12 seconds left to win the final golden joystick of this series.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Overall

As welcome as the first series of GamesMaster was, compared to latter series, this was a little uneven and not quite there yet. Dominik Diamond’s cheeky persona is here, but doesn’t really come alive until later series. The lighting is very drab and dank with a few lasers shooting around and smoke machines making the set look like a really bad early 90s rave venue. I never really liked the original set. The show evolves (for the most part) later on and as the budget increases, so does the quality. The first series is a little ropy and rough around the edges, but for the first dedicated gaming TV show, GamesMaster did well indeed.

And with that out of the way, it’s time to don the smoking jacket and enjoy a nice hot cup of jasmine tea.

Series 1 End

Total golden joysticks won this series – 18

Much more to come in series 2… right here.

“You may be wondering why I’m playing with my organ in a crowded church? Well, this is GamesMaster, television’s only video game magazine show. Coming to you from the only church in the country where Harry Secombe is too fat to fit through the door. But nevertheless, we’ve managed to squeeze and ample portion into tonight’s slot.”

– Dominik Diamond