Tag Archives: Little bits of gaming

Game Review: 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin

I grew up watching seventies chop-socky flicks. Those distinctly cheesy, bad effects, badly dubbed, masters with long beards teaching students type of kung-fu films. Before Bruce Lee came along and revolutionised Hong Kong cinema, proving that kung-fu films could be so much more and even break down boundaries with Enter the Dragon, there was this unique brand of martial arts films that captured my heart from a young age.

SHAOLINS ROAD

Over the years, there have been a few games that have tried to emulate seventies kung-fu flicks. Titles like Shao-lin’s Road, Kung-Fu Master or more recently Invincible Tiger: The Legend of Han Tao, among others, have all tried to bring some of that Hong Kong, chop-socky love to gaming. From developer Sobaka Studio comes a new game hoping to capture some of that stylised kung-fu cinema magic with 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin. But is it Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury amazing or Jackie Chan’s New Fist of Fury atrocious?

The Plot

Set during the Chinese Year of the Water Monkey in 1572. You play as Wei Cheng, who’s parents were killed by Wokou (Chinese pirates) when Wei was a child. Taken in by his grandfather, Wei learns all about the family fishing business… as well as how to fight with a staff. Now a grown man, Wei’s village is attacked by bandits, his grandfather is killed and Wei is left for dead. Buddhist monks find Wei and nurse him back to health. This is when Wei learns those bandits were actually deadly Wokou. With the help of the monks, Wei sets out for revenge.

The Game

At heart, 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin is very basic scrolling beat ’em up fare. If you’ve ever played Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Battletoads (just not the new one) or similar, then you’ll know exactly what to expect here. Move around the levels and smack the crap out of bad guys with various attacks. Even though 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin does have that basic style gameplay, there’s a lot more going on beneath which adds so many more layers to the gameplay.

9 MONKEYS OF SHAOLIN ACTION

You have your standard quick-light attack, a slower-heavy attack, a thrust raged attack and a dodge move. Then there’s a deflect/parry move which is used for defence, stringing together moves by mixing things up will build your combo score, bigger combos give you more points. Finish levels to earn reward points and use those points to spend on upgrades and for your moves. You can swap your standard staff weapon for something else, with different weapons having different modifiers and abilities. Special equip-able items and footwear, numerous variables that allow you to create a character they meets your own playstyle. These weapons and items are earned just by finishing the various levels ion the story.

There there are the additional attacks by holding down the left or right trigger buttons and pressing one of the three standard attacks. You’ll soon be learning acrobatic moves and magical attacks that will cause enemies to float, slow down and even pull enemies toward you, all of which can be upgraded. The story is split into five different chapters, each representing a clan of the Wokou that attacked your village. With each chapter featuring multiple levels and a boss fight. The levels themselves can be really creative and often offer something unique along the way, fight in a sawmill and you’ll find saw blades that need to be dodged, storms can bring lighting strikes that can hit you and the enemies, levels in long grass will slow you down and make enemies harder to see. Honestly, 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin really does offer a lot of little nuances that add layers to not just the levels but also the fighting itself.

9 MONKEYS OF SHAOLIN ACTION 2

Different enemies have their own strengths and weaknesses, meaning you’ll need to experiment with your variety of attacks to discover the best way to deal with each enemy type. And if that’s not enough for you, the game still offers more. There’s co-op action so you and a friend can play though the entire story together. Either online or even some old school, couch co-op. There are little statues hidden on the levels which unlock amusing gameplay mods. Remember GoldenEye 007 on the N64 with it’s big head, paintball mode, etc? Well you have some of those style unlockables here too. Give your character a big body, the emeries big heads and so on, just to add a little comedic slant to your game.

I did manage to finish the game in one sitting, in around four hours or so. It’s not a huge title at all. There are twenty-five levels, which does sound like a lot, but each level can be finished in just a few minutes. Still, you don’t really want a title like this to needlessly drag on anyway. 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and neither did it feel too short. Besides, even though I finished it, I am going back to find all of those secrets and even try to finish it on the hardest difficulty. I really enjoyed this slice of retro beat ’em up action.

9 MONKEYS OF SHAOLIN ACTION 3

Overall

The only thing negative I really have is that the game never really goes full seventies kung-fu flick style, aesthetically speaking. I’d loved for it to have had a Chinese language with English subtitles to add a layer of authenticity. Maybe some seventies style film grain (could be one of the hidden extras, I’ve not yet found them all). A funky seventies soundtrack. But those really are just very minor niggles. 9 Monkeys Of Shaolin is fantastic and as an old school beat ’em up fan, this really scratched an itch.

GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Series Three, Part Two

So here we are, after part one, the inevitable part two of series three of my GamesMaster retrospective. There’s yet another slight format and location change coming up. This latter half of the series focuses on the previously mentioned GamesMaster Team Championship that people had been applying for and taking part in while the normal show was being aired. Due to this, the format changes to focus on said championship. Also, the set location was changed to the furnace you heard about in part one of series three (filmed at Clerkenwell House of Detention, they really liked filming in prisons!). Another change is that the co-presenters are gone. In the previous two series and the first part of this series, Dominik and Dexter were always joined by various gaming journalists (sometimes a celeb) to commentate on the challenges. Well, they’ve all been given the boot for this championship and Dexter is joined solely by Dave ‘The Games Animal’ Perry… they’ll be much, much more on him later.

DAVE AND DEXTER

So anyway, this second half of the series starts here with episode thirteen. The GamesMaster Team Championship breaks down like this, twenty-seven teams play nine knockout heats of three teams, with the winning team of their respective heat going through to the semi-finals. Three semi-finals of the previous nine winning teams follow, and then onto the grand final for the last three teams who won in the semis. Each of the teams consist of three players, of which there is a beat ’em up specialist, a platform specialist and an all rounder. Then in each episode, the teams will select their best gamer to play two initial challenges for points in a mini-league type thing. Team with the lowest amount of points will be eliminated from the championship after the second challenge, with the final challenge being a knockout, leaving just one team the winner at the end of each episode (heat) as the series progresses,. Which will all lead to the semi-finals and eventually, the grand final and win some smashing gaming prizes. Got that? Look, it’ll make more sense as you read this retrospective.

Now, even with this new approach, the show still pretty much sticks to the previous formula, but adds a new challenge just for the championships. So we’ll now have the first challenge, reviews/feature, second challenge, celeb challenge, hints & tips, final challenge. So with that lengthy explanation out of the way, on with the GamesMaster Team Championship.

Episode Thirteen

The first team are Armchairs of Hertfordshire (yes, the teams will all have team names) and they go up against Redbridge Raiders and Turbo Destructors in this first heat. The first challenge is on Aladdin (Mega Drive) and the players have to collect as many apples as they can in 45 seconds, each team choses one person for their team to take this on. The Armchairs grab 13 apples, Turbo Destructors manage to get 14, while Redbridge Raiders die in three seconds by falling into lava and score nowt. So this is how the scoring works, the winning team of each challenge will get 5 points, the second place team get 2 points and the losing team… well they get nothing. So this early in the championships the scores are:

Armchairs of Hertfordshire – 2
Redbridge Raiders – 0
Turbo Destructors – 5

SCOREBOARD

No, I’m not going to be posting a pic of every scoreboard in the championship, just this one as an example. Anyway, it’s the first set of reviews, Sensible Soccer (Mega Drive) scores with a 92%. Dennis the Menace (SNES) gets a 58%. Then Goal (Game Boy) get an embarrassing 37%. No feature, so it’s on to the next challenge and the game is winter sports game, Val d’Isere Championship (SNES). Contestants have to snowboard down a slalom course in the fastest time. The losing team always goes first in the second challenge, that’s Redbridge Raiders who finish with a time of 39.12 seconds. Armchairs of Hertfordshire are up next and get a time of 38.92. So, Turbo Destructors are up last and get a very impressive 34 seconds dead. After that, the scoreboards are:

Armchairs of Hertfordshire – 4
Redbridge Raiders – 0
Turbo Destructors – 10

That means the Redbridge Raiders are out of the championships already. But, Turbo Destructors and Armchairs of Hertfordshire go on to do battle in the final challenge (see, makes sense now eh?). Before that though, it’s celebrity challenge time, and just to make things a bit more confusing, there’s a little celeb championship going on within the main championships. A friendly game of footie with Vinnie Jones and Les Ferdinand. The game is the first ever FIFA game, FIFA International Soccer (Mega Drive) with Vinnie playing as Holland and Les as Brazil. Vinnie takes an early lead when he tucks one away, followed by another soon afterwards and the first half ends 2-0 to Holland. The second half gets underway and Les comes out fighting, her gets a couple of decent shots on target, but nothing gets through. The final whistle blows and Vinnie Jones is the winner, securing a place in the final of this championship… within a championship. Dexter Fletcher and Vinnie Jones together five years before appearing in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in1998.

VINNE JONES

Hints & tips next and GamesMaster helps out Aladdin (Mega Drive), Super Star Wars (SNES) and Syndicate (Amiga). Then it’s the final of this opening heat and there are no points here, just a simple win or lose, with the wining team going through to the semi-finals of the GamesMaster Team Championship. The game is the beat ’em up, World Heroes 2 (Neo Geo). Turbo Destructors play as Captain Kidd while Armchairs of Hertfordshire use Johnny Maximum. Armchairs take the first round, though it was a close fight. Turbo Destructors win the second round… using some spamming techniques. So it’s one round a piece and the final round goes to Turbo Destructors who win with relative ease and they go through to the semi-finals while Armchairs of Hertfordshire go home.

Golden joysticks won – 0

Episode Fourteen

This episode sees The Wizards, Culture Crew and The G.I.T.S fight for a place in the finals, the first game is Skyblazer (SNES) and the teams have to collect 50 diamonds in the quickest time. First up, The Wizards manage to grab 59 (thanks to a cheeky bonus) diamonds in 35 seconds. The G.I.T.S only pick up 25 diamonds in 22 seconds as they die before they can collect the total. So it’s Culture Crew next who mange 49 diamonds before the 35 seconds set by The Wizards is up:

The Wizards – 5
Culture Crew – 2
The G.I.T.S – 0

SKYBLAZER SNES

Reviews again and Aladdin (SNES) gets 78%. While Cybermorph (Atari Jaguar) get an inexplicable 81%. Then it’s feature time and we get an exclusive look at Mortal Kombat II (Arcade) before it’s release. The second challenge is on Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Mega Drive) and the three teams have 45 seconds to get the highest bean count possible. The G.I.T.S go first and get a count of 28 beans. Culture Crew is up next and 25 beans before running out of time. Lastly, The Wizards also nab 25 beans, that makes the scoreboard look like:

The Wizards – 7
Culture Crew – 4
The G.I.T.S – 5

Despite failing the first challenge, The G.I.T.S secure second place with The Wizards in first, so they go through to the final challenge. But Culture Crew get sent packing. Onto the second round of the FIFA International Soccer (Mega Drive) celeb challenge and it’s Dennis Wise vs. John Barnes kicking a ball around bit, with Dennis playing as Germany and John as Italy. It’s an action packed first half and John Barnes really comes out attacking, scoring two goals. Dennis fights back and tucks one away before the halftime whistle blows… only for John to sneak in another goal seconds later. The first half ends 3-1 to Italy. John Barnes just keeps attacking and sticks another away, the final whistle blows and it’s 4-1 to John Barnes, who goes through to the final against Vinnie Jones from last episode.

TMNT TOURNEY

Micro Machines (Mega Drive), The Ren & Stimpy Show: Veediots! (SNES) and Donk! Samurai Duck! (Amiga) get some help from GamesMaster. So it’s the final challenge on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (SNES) and The G.I.T.S play as Leonardo while The Wizards favour Shredder. The first round is very nearly a perfect as Leonardo destroys Shredder with ease. Round two is pretty much more of the same as The G.I.T.S win and secure a place in the semi-finals. 

Golden joysticks won – 0

Episode Fifteen

First challenge this time is on Street Fighter II Championship Edition (Mega Drive). The Hackney Pranksters, Essex All Stars and Humberside Hawks are the teams. Now, as there three teams, this particular two-player fighting game causes a few issues with how to fairly pit each selected member of the team against each other. So, this is a single round fight and each of the team’s beat ’em up specialist will play each of the other team’s beat ’em up specialist in a round robin tournament-thing, each round won earns the team 5 points. So Hackney Pranksters go up against Humberside Hawks first and the first fight goes to Humberside Hawks. But Hackney Pranksters stays on to fight Essex All Stars. Anyway, the second round goes to Essex All Stars. So next up are Humberside Hawks fighting Essex All Stars, so each team has then fought each other team on the same game… that’s how a round robin works, and they’ll be more later. Essex All Stars win against Humberside Hawks. All that is left to do next is tot up the points and it works out like this, Hackney Pranksters didn’t win a single round in the fight, so score 0. Humberside Hawks won one round, 5 points but Essex All Stars won two rounds, which leaves the scoreboard looking like this:

Hackney Pranksters  – 0
Essex All Stars – 10
Humberside Hawks – 5

It’s on to the reviews and this section features an inspiration to me and a man I didn’t even know was ever on GamesMaster until doing this very retrospective. So Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (Mega Drive) gets 75%. While World Soccer (SNES) scores 69%. The feature looks at the (then) soon to be released, disaster of a game Rise of the Robots (Multi-format). Oh, and as for the man I admire and didn’t even know was on GamesMaster

BIFFO

Paul ‘Mr. Biffo’ Rose! If you don’t know who he is, click here and here and here as Paul has been one of my biggest influencers, I seriously love this guy. Platform game Magic Boy (SNES) is the second challenge and the teams and they have to capture as many animals as possible in 45 seconds. Hackney Pranksters are up first and they manage to catch 9 animals before the clock runs out. Humberside Hawks don’t have time to see the end of the 45 seconds as they die before that can happen, but they did nab 6 animals. Finally, it’s Essex All Stars who get 7 animals. The scores stand at:

Hackney Pranksters  – 5
Essex All Stars – 12
Humberside Hawks – 5

With two teams on 5 points and as only the top two can go through to the final, it’s a tie-breaker. GamesMaster pits the two tying teams against each other on Super Mario Kart (SNES). One lap on the Mario Circuit track and whoever crosses the line first wins. Humberside Hawks do a cheeky shortcut to win and meet Essex All Stars in the final. Speaking of finals, it’s also the final of the FIFA International Soccer (Mega Drive) celeb challenge. Vinnie Jones vs John Barnes with Vinnie playing as Holland and John as Italy. Vinnie scores a bit if a sly goal and that’s the only goal in the first half. The second half sees two more goals… both of them from Vinnie Jones. Final score 3 – 0 to Vinnie Jones who wins the first golden joystick of the second half of series three.

VINNIE AND DEXTER

GamesMaster throws out some more gaming life preserves with his hints & tips. Cool Spot (SNES), Arabian Nights (Amiga) and Jungle Strike (Mega Drive) are all helped. It’s Humberside Hawks against Essex All Stars in the final. The game is tennis game, Davis Cup World Tour (Mega Drive) and each player has 10 balls to hit set targets. Humberside Hawks are up first and they score a very decent 7 points from 10 balls. Essex All Stars only manage to get a very poor 3 points from 10 balls. So Humberside Hawks go through to the semis while Essex All Stars are sent packing. I guess it’s also worth mentioning that it was the team captain who failed so badly for Essex All Stars in that last challenge, a kid called Simon.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Sixteen

Merry Christmas! Yes, it’s the GamesMaster 1993 Christmas special. There’s a slight break from the GamesMaster Team Championship as this episode is a Christmas panto special with three teams of celebs representing their panto, going up against each other to try and win a golden joystick. Though this isn’t part of the GamesMaster Team Championship, it still plays out the same with the three teams battling it out over various gaming challenges to win points, to get to the final. The teams are Dick Wittington – Croydon (Lorraine Chase, John Altman), Dick Wittington – Bath (Robert Duncan, Wayne Morris) and Aladdin – Woking (Graham Bickley, Ray Meagher). The first challenge is on Adventures of Yogi Bear (SNES) and players have 45 seconds to collect as many clocks as possible. Robert Duncan from Dick Wittington – Bath is first and he manages 16 clocks. Lorraine Chase from Dick Wittington – Croydon is next and gets 13 clocks. Then finally we have Graham Bickley from Aladdin – Woking, who scores 14 clocks. Same scoring as the normal championships so: 

Dick Wittington – Croydon – 0
Dick Wittington – Bath – 5
Aladdin – Woking – 2

GAMESMASTER CHRISTMAS

No reviews this time around, but five previous reviewers chose their games of the year, 1993. Steve Merret choses Street Fighter II: Championship Edition (Mega Drive) as his game of the year. Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall has FIFA International Soccer (Mega Drive) as his pick. Paul ‘Mr Biffo’ Rose selects Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES) is his game of the year. Andy Nuttall picks Syndicate (Amiga) as his game of 1993. While Josse Billson has three games, Sensible Soccer (Mega Drive), Claymates (SNES) and ClayFighter (SNES). No feature, but a competition called ‘Room of the Future’ where viewers can win some newly released games consoles is introduced. Then it’s onto the second challenge of the episode and the teams have 45 seconds to collect as many diamonds as they can on Super Alfred Chicken (SNES). Up first is John Altman for team Dick Wittington – Croydon, who gets a grand total of 0 as he dies early doors. Aladdin – Woking’s Ray Meagher is next and he does nab 12 diamonds before dying. Finally there’s Wayne Morris for Dick Wittington – Bath trounces over the others with 33 diamonds… and he doesn’t die either. Taking the scores to:

Dick Wittington – Croydon – 0
Dick Wittington – Bath – 10
Aladdin – Woking – 4

SUPER ALFRED CHICKEN SNES

A very poor performance from Dick Wittington – Croydon who didn’t score any points at all. As with the normal championships, it’s only the top two who got through to the final. So Dick Wittington – Croydon go home while Dick Wittington – Bath and Aladdin – Woking face each other in the final. Then, within this celebrity special episode, there’s still a ‘normal’ celebrity challenge to get through. Frank Bruno is the celeb and goes up against his own daughter, Nicola at boxing game Greatest Heavyweights (Mega Drive). It’s only a 1 round bout and Nicola comes out fighting, punching her father in the face over and over. There are no knockouts, so it goes to points and Nicola wins the golden joystick.

Showing some Christmas merriment, GamesMaster helps out those less fortunate once more. Joe & Mac (Game Boy) and Superman (Master System) are the games offered a little Christmas present. Then it’s on to the final where Dick Wittington – Bath and Aladdin – Woking have to play Christmas Lemmings (Amiga) and whoever saves the most % of lemmings in 45 seconds wins. Aladdin – Woking are first and get a very beatable 45%. Dick Wittington – Bath score a decent 60%. So team Dick Wittington – Bath are the golden joystick winners of this Christmas celebrity panto special.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Seventeen

After that Christmas special, it’s back to the GamesMaster Team Championship. The first challenge is on Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (SNES). The contestants have 45 seconds to score as many points as they can. Dream Team are first and get a terrible 950 points before the clock runs out. Charlton Crew are next, who get a much more impressive 5100 points. Perfection score 1800, which is below average, but still enough to secure second place. The scores look very much like this:

Dream Team – 0
Perfection – 2
Charlton Crew – 5

SUPER EMPIRE STRIKES BACK SNES

Yup, review time once again. Boxing Legends of the Ring (SNES) get a 78%. Then F-117 Night Storm (Mega Drive) is given 67%. Another plug for the ‘Room of the Future’ competition and no feature. So it’s onto the second challenge, the game is on pinball game Dragon’s Revenge (Mega Drive) and the contestants have to beat a level boss in the quickest time only using one pinball. The losing team, Dream Team go first and manage to win in 40 seconds. Perfection next, who get off to a very bad start by losing their only ball in 9 seconds and fail. Charlton Crew are the last team and only have to last more than 9 seconds to win some points, but finish in under 40 seconds to win. The bad news is they lose the ball, the good news is… not until 25 seconds into the challenge. Though Charlton Crew failed, they lasted longer than Perfection. The scoreboard is thus:

Dream Team – 5
Perfection – 2
Charlton Crew – 7

Perfection are out of the championship, while Dream Team and Charlton Crew go to the final. Celebrity challenge time once more and two members of the audience have a chance of winning a date… but with who? She has been on GamesMaster before, the Games Mistress (Dianne Youdale). The challenge is on Lethal Enforcers (Mega Drive) and Games Mistress goes first to set a score within half a minute, then the contestants, Daniel and Steven have to try and beat that score in the fastest time possible. Games Mistress puts in a very beatable performance, after shooting a cop in the first 4 seconds, she does get a score of 46 in 30 seconds. Steve goes first and knocks up a score of 48 points with 5 seconds left. Daniel’s aim is worse than a drunken stormtrooper as gets a grand total of 0 points after loosing all his health due to massacring innocent civilians. Steven has a big ‘ole smile on his face, not just because he won a golden joystick, but because he also got to spend some time with the Games Mistress… lucky bastard.

GAMES MISTRESS

Technoclash (Mega Drive), Shadowrun (SNES) and Alien 3 (SNES) all have peeps asking GamesMaster for some help. Final challenge time and we have a fight on the rather ‘wooden’ beat ’em up Elfmania (Amiga). You know the score by now, best of three rounds and the winner goes through to the semi-finals. Dream Team and Charlton Crew grab hold of their joysticks to give each other a fierce beating (sorry, but there’s a severe lack of double entendre with Dominik not being around). The first round goes to Dream Team, as does the second. Truth be told, Elfmania is a bit crap… so lets just quickly move on. Dream Team go to the semi-finals.

Golden joysticks won –  1

Episode Eighteen

This episode’s three teams are Conquerors, Nightmares and Livewires. The first challenge is on Top Gear 2 (SNES) and the contestants have to finish a single lap of the Austrian circuit in the fastest time. Conquerors put in a strong effort and despite smashing into a billboard at the side of the track, they get a time of 33.51 seconds. Nightmares spend more time bumping into the back of the opposing cars than going around them, losing seconds and finishing in 37.06. Then we have Livewires, who get a time of 33.20 to win the big points. Scoreboard time:

Conquerors – 2
Nightmares – 0
Livewires – 5

TOP GEAR 2 SNES

Review round up and ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron (Mega Drive) gets 90% and F1 Pole Position (SNES) scores 78%. The feature looks at the pre-release version of Alien vs Predator (Jaguar) while that ‘Room of the Future’ competition continues. Round two of the championship next and the game is Tinhead (Mega Drive) and GamesMaster gives 45 seconds to score as many points as possible. Team Nightmares are first and gets a very nice 6150 points. Conquerors are next and they take too many hits, die after only a few seconds with a piss-poor score of 500. Livewires are up next and they can beat 500 points with ease, they do take a few hits and it looks bleak, but they manage to hold on and score 1000 points before dying. That mixes up the scoreboard a bit:

Conquerors – 2
Nightmares – 5
Livewires – 7

Nightmares and Livewires go through. Simone Robertson from then popular Aussie soap, Neighbours is the celeb and she takes on a Sam, a challenger from the audience at Plok (SNES). Given only a single life, whoever finishes a level in the fastest time wins. Simone breezes through the level, avoids the bad guys and finishes with a time of 21 seconds. Sam does even better and get to the end in just 17 seconds to win the golden joystick. A rather quick, ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ challenge.

3 BOUT COUNT NEO GEO

GamesMaster is back dishing out his hints & tips. Rocket Knight Adventures (Mega Drive), Magic Boy (Amiga) and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Game Boy) get some help. So it’s the final challenge, the game is wrestling game, 3 Count Bout (Neo Geo). Whoever pins their opponent first wins. Nightmares and Livewire get down to some man on man grappling action and it’s a close fight as the two exchange blows. They both have zero health left, but they have to pin to win and Nightmares just about manage to win by a whisker. 

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Nineteen

Three more teams fight it out for a place in the semi-final. Warwickshire 49ers, Heavy Tactics and Mega Maniacs are the teams. It’s another round robin tournament with a single round bout on Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo), each round won earns 5 points. Warwickshire 49ers vs Heavy Tactics first and Heavy Tactics win. Then Mega Maniacs step up to take on Heavy Tactics, for Heavy Tactics to win again. The last round is Warwickshire 49ers vs Mega Maniacs, which the 49ers win. Now each team has played each other. Warwickshire 49ers won one round, Heavy Tactics won two rounds, while Mega Maniacs won nowt:

Warwickshire 49ers – 5
Heavy Tactics – 10
Mega Maniacs – 0

SAMURAI SHODOWN NEO GEO

Eternal Champions (Mega Drive) scores 81%. Total Carnage (Game Boy) gets a mediocre 58% in the reviews. there’s a bit more of that ‘Room of the Future’ comp and no feature, so straight onto the second challenge. GamesMaster gives 45 seconds and 3 lives to collect as many bells as possible on Pop’n TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventures (SNES). Mega Maniacs up first and takes a few hits, dying before the clock expires, but grabbing 145 bells along the way. Warwickshire 49ers go next and they spend more time avoiding he bells than collecting them, but still get a total of 110 bells. Heavy Tactics get squished under a falling block and die, but they did collect 145 bells, the same as Mega Maniacs. The scoreboard says:

Warwickshire 49ers – 5
Heavy Tactics – 15
Mega Maniacs – 5

It’s a tie-break between Warwickshire 49ers and Mega Maniacs, so GamesMaster pits them against each other on Mortal Kombat (SNES). It’s only a single round fight, Warwickshire 49ers play as Sub-Zero while Mega Maniacs use Rayden. It’s not even a close fight as Mega Maniacs romp tom victory with ease. Celebrity challenge time again and athlete with the best laugh ever, Kriss Akabusi picks a challenger form the crowd, Gia. James Pond 3 (Mega Drive) is the game and it’s a simple finfish the level in the fastest time thing. Kriss goes first and falls on some spikes as well along with struggling to get up a hill, both errors lose him time. Kriss finishes with a beatable 28 seconds. Gia next and she falls on the same spikes and struggles with the same hill as Kriss, only much worse and runs out of time, failing the challenge. Kriss Akabusi wins the golden joystick… but he gives it to Gia in a gallant act of chivalry, or maybe he just didn’t want the golden joystick? Useless bit of trivia for you. YouTuber, ‘Guru’ Larry Bundy Jr bought Gia’s golden joystick from her on eBay a few years back.

MORTAL KOMBAT SNES 2

Hints & tips time yet again as Jurassic Park (SNES) and Brutal Sports Football (Amiga) get some GamesMaster help. Heavy Tactics take on Mega Maniacs at NBA Jam (SNES), whoever scores the most points in a single quarter wins. Mega Maniacs break the ice with a slam dunk to score first, they follow that up with another basket… and another. Heavy Tactics finally score, only for Mega Maniacs to score again, making it 8 -2 to the Mega Maniacs, it’s all a bit one-sided. Then Mega Maniacs foul and give 3 points to Heavy Tactics, it’s now 8 -5. Heavy Tactics do get another basket making the score 8 -7 and if they had a bit more time, they could’ve made an amazing comeback to win… IF they had more time. The clock runs down leaving the score 8 – 7 to Mega Maniacs who go to the semi-finals.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twenty

GamesMaster selects Eternal Champions (Mega Drive) for the first challenge and it’s another round robin beat ’em up thing. You know the score by now, one round bouts and each team plays against each other team with 5 points awarded for each round won. The three teams battling it out this episode are The Delilahs, Take This and Wanstead Magic. Up first it’s The Delilahs vs Take This and Take This wins. The Delilahs do battle with Wanstead Magic with the win going to The Delilahs. So the final round is between Wanstead Magic and Take This and ends with Take This as the victors. Setting up the scores like this:

The Delilahs – 5
Take This – 10
Wanstead Magic – 0

TEAM PICS

There are no reviews this time, but instead we get a a selection of previews seen at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Stunt Race FX (SNES) and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Mega Drive) get looked at. More ‘Room of the Future’ competition stuff before the second challenge. Bubba ‘n’ Stix (Mega Drive) is the game and the contestants are given 45 seconds to score as many points as possible. Wanstead Magic are first and scores 6,000, a good but certainly beatable attempt. The Delilahs are next and despite getting stuck in an easily escapable pit, losing seconds, they do manage a score of 6,300. Finally it’s Take This who lead with a 6,800 score:

The Delilahs – 12
Take This – 15
Wanstead Magic – 0

Wanstead Magic go home while The Delilahs will battle it out against Take This in the final. Celebrity challenge time now and Andrew Paul and Lisa Geoghan from popular police drama, The Bill are up. GamesMaster has them playing T2: The Arcade Game (SNES) and it’s whoever scores the most points in 45 seconds wins. Andrew goes first and manages a 11,500 score. Lisa tired her best, but only gets 10,900, meaning Andrew Paul wins the golden joystick… though to be fair, both were handicapped having to use that awful SNES Super Scope bazooka thing.

T2 SNES CHALLENGE

GamesMaster opens his ‘soup kitchen for the gaming undernourished’ (his words, not mine) as Puggsy (Mega Drive) and Zool (Mega Drive) get dished up with some help. Then it’s the final team challenge to secure a place in the semis. The Delilahs and Take This play a classic game of footie on Super Goal! 2 (SNES) is the game. The Delilahs playing as Brazil while Take This chose Germany. It’s a scoreless first half, but both teams had a few attempts on goal. The second half is a bit more spicy as Germany tuck one away. Despite fighting back, the score remains 1 – 0 to Germany as Take This go through.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twenty-One

Megabites, Elite 3 and RCC (Reading Console Crew) are the three teams this episode. The first challenge is on Adventures of Yogi Bear (SNES), with 45 seconds to collect as many clocks as possible. Megabites score an pretty good 34 clocks. Elite 3 just nudge ahead with 36 clocks collected. So RCC go last and mess up a little along the way, only managing to grab 26 clocks. Leaving the scoreboard looking like:

Megabites – 2
Elite 3 – 5
RCC – 0

DAVE AND DEXTER 2

Review time again and The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES) is given a very worthy, but not good enough 81%. Alone in the Dark 2 (PC) gets 90%. Then we get a sneak peek at Sega’s Virtua Fighter (Arcade). Yup, more of that ‘Room of the Future’ comp. Second challenge time and Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (Mega Drive) is the game. Whoever scores the most points in 45 seconds wins, simple. RCC go first and get a score of 221,990. Megabites are next and they get a relatively poor and very beatable score of 91,710. So it’s current leaders, Elite 3 next and they land a better score of 106,720:

Megabites – 2
Elite 3 – 7
RCC – 5

Elite 3 and RCC go to the final challenge. Snooker ace, Ronnie O’Sullivan is the celeb this episode and he has to picks an audience member, Carla to play pool game, Side Pocket (SNES). GamesMaster gives them just five shots each to score the most points. Carla goes first and gets off to a good start, sinking a couple of balls. She also sinks a rather lucky re-bound shot and scores 400 points. Ronnie is up next and puts in a rather rushed and dismal attempt to score 200 points. Carla wins the golden joystick.

JAMMIT MEGA DRIVE

GamesMaster hands out more hints & tips, Adventures of Dr. Franken (SNES), Desert Strike (Master System) and Linus Spacehead’s Cosmic Crusade (Mega Drive) get helped. Then it’s final challenge time as Elite 3 and RCC face each other on street basketball game, Jammit (Mega Drive), with the first player to score 5 baskets being declared the winner. They waste no time in dunking their balls on each other as they both score 1 basket a piece. It’s very evenly matched as neither team pulls ahead, until Elite 3 block an attack and sink a basket to make the score 4 – 2 in their favour. RCC do get another point, but Elite 3 just come right back and score their last and wining basket. 5 – 3 to Elite 3, and they send RCC home.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twenty-Two

So this is the last of the heats before the semi-finals start next episode. The teams are Fowley Force, Laser Force and Questers. Challenge number one is on Skitchin’ (Mega Drive) and contestants are given 45 seconds to overtake as many opponents as possible from starting in 7th. Fowley Force manage to do really, really badly and gain zero positions, remaining in 7th. Laser Force do just as badly and stay in 7th, can anyone gain a position? Questers show them how it’s done and finish in 3rd place. The scoreboard says this: 

Fowley Force – 2
Laser Force – 2
Questers – 5

SKITCHIN MEGA DRIVE

Time to look at some reviews again next and it’s basketball games under the spotlight. HyperDunk (Mega Drive) gets a 58%. NBA Showdown (Mega Drive) is given another 58%. Then NBA Jam (SNES & Mega Drive) is on fire with 92%. The winners of that ‘Room of the Future’ competition is announced and Sarah Tongue from Redditch won an Amiga CD-32, John Henry from Lancashire won a Philips CD-i, S Ahmed from Liverpool won an Atari Jaguar and Jonathan Rangel from Wolverhampton won a 3DO. Yup, crap prizes all round really and no eBay in 1994 to sell them on either. So with that out of the way, it’s onto the next challenge. Jim Power: The Lost Dimension in 3-D (SNES) is the game for some platforming action, contestants are given 45 seconds to get the highest score possible. Laser Force are first and get a very good but beatable 5,030 points. Fowley Force are up next and 4,420 is the very dismal score they manage. Which leaves current leaders, Questers a pretty easy target to beat… but they right mess it up, die and only get 2,500 points.

Fowley Force – 4
Laser Force – 7
Questers – 5

So the final will be between Laser Force and Questers. ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage is the celebrity next and he plucks an audience member, Bertha.  WWF Rage in the Cage (Sega CD) is the game and it’s ‘yer basic last person standing wins. I’d like to say how this is a close fight, I’d like to say that, but Bertha destroys Randy to win the golden joystick.

RANDY SAVAGE

Lamborghini American Challenge (SNES) and Street Fighter II: Champion Edition (Mega Drive) get some GamesMaster help. Laser Force and Questers fight it out for the last spot in the semi-finals on Boxing Legends of the Ring (SNES). It’s a single round fight to be won by knockout or points. It really is a close one as both teams give as good as they get. No KOs, so it goes to points, which the judges score 10 – 9 to Questers. So that’s all of the heats done and dusted, it’s now onto the semi-finals as the GamesMaster Team Championship approaches its climax.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twenty- Three

So this is the start of the semi-finals and the winners from all the previous heats are back to take part in gaming challenges once more, this time battling for a spot in the final. Nine teams left and the first three are The G.I.T.S, Humberside Hawks and Dream Team, their first challenge is on Starwing (SNES). The teams have to score as many points as possible in 45 seconds. The G.I.T.S go first and make good use of the bonuses for extra points to score 8,004. Humberside Hawks go next and it looks like they are struggling for a while, but a well timed smart bomb with only 1 second left kills some enemies and they score 8,017 points. Dream Team go last and have some tough scores to beat, they miss out some early and easy points and end up with a total of 7,764. Scoreboard time:

The G.I.T.S – 2
Humberside Hawks – 5
Dream Team – 0

STARWING SNES

Reviews again and they focus on football games. Virtual Soccer (SNES) gets a 78%. The more cartoony Empire Soccer 94 (SNES) scores 81%. Then platformer Soccer Kid (SNES) is awarded 86%. No feature here, so straight to the second challenge on Sonic the Hedgehog (Mega Drive). The teams just have to finish a level in the fastest time. Dream Team are up first and get a time of 30 seconds, very good but still beatable. The G.I.T.S go next and get the exact same time of 30 seconds. 30 seconds is beatable, as both the previous teams did loose a second or two slowing down. Humberside Hawks go last and early doors, a mistimed jump slows them down and they end with a time of 33 seconds.

The G.I.T.S – 7
Humberside Hawks – 5
Dream Team – 5

It’s tie-break time again and GamesMaster picks beat ’em up World Heroes 2 (Neo Geo). It’s a single round fight and it’s Humberside Hawks vs Dream Team. Humberside Hawks absolutely pummel Dream Team and almost get a prefect. The ‘techno, techno, techno, techno!” duo band, 2 Unlimited are the celebrities taking on Fatal Fury 2 (Neo Geo). Bandmates Ray Slijngaard and Anita Doth have to punch and kick each other until only one remains in this best of three fight. The first round is actually a close one with both giving as good as they get, but it goes to Ray. Second round is even closer as both players get down to a one hit wind situation, Ray just about takes it via a jumping punch to win the golden joystick.

2 UNLIMTED

GamesMaster pops up again to hand out some gaming help. Kevin Keegan’s Player Manager, (SNES) is asked for some help from Kevin Keegan himself! James Bond 007: The Duel (Master System) and then, Kevin Keegan comes back asking for more help on his own game again. Final time and it’s Super Mario Kart (SNES) and the players have a 5 lap race, first to pass the line wins. The G.I.T.S really get to grips with the power-sliding to get into 1st place, but when Humberside Hawks nab a star power-up, they shoot into the lead on lap 3. The G.I.T.S catch up, but get hit by a shell and lose valuable time when they get stuck on a boundary wall. Just before the final lap, The G.I.T.S pick up a star which helps them gain some of the lost ground, but it’s just no enough and Humberside Hawks win a place in the grand final.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twenty-Four

Round two of the semis and it’s Turbo Destructors, Mega Maniacs and Take This as the teams trying to secure a place in the final. GamesMaster selects Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive) as the game and yes, it’s another round robin. Mega Maniacs beat Turbo Destructors in round one and Take This in round two. The final round goes to Turbo Destructors. The scoreboard looks like:

Turbo Destructors – 5
Mega Maniacs – 10
Take This – 0

Another review round-up as Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (Mega Drive) gets 90%. Choplifter III (SNES) scores 78%. Then there’s a preview of some of the games for the soon to be released 3DO console. Super Mario Bros. 3 (SNES) is the game for challenge number two and all they have to do is finish a level in the fastest time. Take This up first and they last a terrible 16 seconds before they die. Turbo Destructors and all they really have to do is stand still for longer than 16 seconds to secure some points, but they try to finish the level and get a time of 23 seconds. Mega Maniacs and again, all they have to do is survive longer then 16 seconds, which is easy… but they try to finish the level and die in just 6 seconds. 6 SECONDS! I can manage sex longer than that.

Turbo Destructors – 10 
Mega Maniacs – 10
Take This – 2

SUPER MARIO BROS. 3

Though it is a tie at the top of the scoreboard, it’s the loosing team who go home. Turbo Destructors and Mega Maniacs go through to the final. But before that, it’s celebrity challenge time again. Crash Test Dummies… not the band, but actual crash test dummies, Slick and Spin take on The Incredible Crash Dummies (Mega Drive). Fastest to finish the level wins the golden joystick. Slick goes first and gets a tie of 41 seconds. Spin goes next and just wins with a time of 40 seconds to take the golden joystick.

More hints & tips from GamesMaster and Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 (Mega Drive), Rock n’ Roll Racing (SNES) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Game Boy) are all given a leg up. So it’s the final between Turbo Destructors and Mega Maniacs. GamesMaster picks Striker (SNES) for some footie action. Mega Maniacs win and secure a place in the grand final. 

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twenty-Five

Nightmares, Elite 3 and Questors are the three teams vying for the last place in the grand final. Aladdin (Mega Drive) is the game picked by GamesMaster, who gives the teams 45 seconds to collect as many apples as possible. Team Nightmares storm though the level and pick up a very good 46 apples. Elite 3 pick up the pad next and also score 46 apples. Now, both previous teams did miss a couple of easy to grab apples along the way, so 46 is beatable. Questors are last on this challenge and are in good stead to win… but they miss a few very easy to get apples in the last few seconds and only grab 42 apples. The scoreboard says:

Nightmares –  5
Elite 3 –  5
Questors – 0

ALADDIN MEGA DRIVE

No reviews to speak of this time, instead it’s a preview/opinion as four FMV games for the Sega CD get looked at. Prize Fighter, Ground Zero: Texas, Double Switch and MegaRace get shown with a few comments (not really reviews and no scores) from some gaming industry peeps. No feature either, so let’s crack on with the second challenge. Pilotwings (SNES) is the game and it’s the parachuting level. Freefall trough rings, land close or on to the target to score points. Questors go first and they miss several rings and splashdown in the water, missing the landing target to score a very, very poor 9 out of a possible 100 points. Being at the bottom of the scoreboard… this does not look good for Questors at all. Elite 3 next and with a score of 9 to beat, this should be a doddle… and it is, going through all the rings already beats the previous score and even land a bullseye, scoring the maximum 100 points. Nightmares go next and again, all they have to do is beat 9 points, but they miss several rings and do a very sloppy landing outside of the target… but at least it wasn’t in the water, 11 points. 

Nightmares – 7
Elite 3 – 10
Questors – 0

PILOTWINGS SNES

After that very embarrassing performance, Questors go home. Long forgotten about, British boyband, Bad Boys Inc are the celebrities up next, well two of the four are, Tony Dowding and Ally Begg. The duo take on Star Wars: Rebel Assault (PC) and have to navigate Beggar’s Canyon in their training ship. Ally goes first and he pinballs around the canyon and blows up, only lasting 20 seconds. Tony next and he smashes into the canyon wall a few times too, but manages to last 37 seconds to win the golden joystick.

Once more, GamesMaster offers up some help. Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (SNES) and Premier Manager 2 (Amiga) are both given a leg up. So this is it, the last chance to secure a place in the grand final of the GamesMaster Team Championship. It’s Nightmares vs Elite 3 and they are fighting it out on Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES) in a classic best of three scrap. Elite 3 win the first two rounds to win.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Twenty-Six

So this is it, all the previous heats and semi-finals have led to this point, the GamesMaster Team Championship grand final. There’s some really cheesy, toe-curling nineties trash-talk as the teams are introduced. Cybermorph (Atari Jaguar) is the game and contestants have just 45 seconds (again) to collect 18 diamond pods on the level. Mega Maniacs only grab 8, leaving 10 pods. Elite 3 just about get 9 pods. Then Humberside Hawks also nab 8 pods. With both Humberside Hawks and Mega Maniacs grabbing the same amount, the scores look like:

Humberside Hawks  – 2
Mega Maniacs – 2
Elite 3 – 5

CYBERMORPH (JAGUAR)

No reviews or feature, straight into the second challenge and GamesMaster selects one of the most infamously bad games ever made, Rise of the Robots (PC). As this is a beat ’em up, it’s another round robin scrap. Humberside Hawks win round one, Mega Maniacs win round two, then Humberside Hawks take the final round. After which:

Humberside Hawks  – 12
Mega Maniacs – 7
Elite 3 – 5

Elite 3 are out of the grand final, leaving Humberside Hawks and Mega Maniacs to duke it out. No celebrity challenge or GamesMaster hints & tips this time, straight back into the action. Things get shaken up a bit for this grand final. There are three separate challenges on three different games, so it’s the best of three challenges. Sonic CD (Sega CD) is the first game and it’s a simple finish the level in the quickest time thing. Humberside Hawks are up first and set a time of 34.68 seconds. Mega Maniacs mess up badly and fail, unable to beat the time set.

The next challenge is on Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES) in a best of three round fight. Mega Maniacs win the first round and the second round… quite easily too. So it’s one challenge a piece, whichever team wins the next challenge will become GamesMaster Team Champions.

STREET FIGHTER II TURBO SNES

So, this is it, Striker (SNES) is the game for two halves of (possible) goal scoring action. Humberside Hawks play as England and Mega Maniacs chose Germany… a bitter rivalry to be settled on the football pitch. Germany waste no time and score the opener in seconds, 1 – 0 to Germany and Mega Maniacs. England come back fighting and quickly respond with an attack with two shots.. both hit the crossbar. Germany are not too happy about that, so just as quickly pop another one in the net, 2 – 0 to Germany. The halftime whistle blows, England, Humberside Hawks are 2 goals down and need to come out fighting… and they do, putting the round leather thing between the posts 2 – 1 to Germany. With just a few seconds left on the clock, German make it 3 – 1. Then England put another away 3 – 2 with only 10 seconds left! It’s a close one, but England just couldn’t do it. Germany, team Mega Maniacs are GamesMaster Team Champions.

MEGSA MANIACS WIN

Mega Maniacs win an Amiga CD-32, Philips CD-i Atari Jaguar and a PC. The PC they (have) to donate to charity. Runners up, Humberside Hawks win a golden joystick each. Then, on top of their gaming console prizes, Mega Maniacs win a special jewel encrusted golden joystick each, as well as the title of GamesMaster Team Champions.

Golden joysticks won – 3
Jewel encrusted golden joysticks won – 3


Overall

You ask any GamesMaster fan about series three and you’ll get nothing but anger in return. That anger mainly comes from Dexter Fletcher’s presenting, his penchant for shouting and screaming ‘OI GAMESMARSTA!!!’ is a very notable point of anger, then there’s the infuriating whistling that he keeps doing. Myself, I always remember hating this series more than any of the others, but that was twenty-seven years ago. Re-watching it for this retrospective, I really didn’t think Dexter was all that bad to be honest. He doesn’t have the cheeky charm of Dominik Diamond and the writing of some of the ‘jokes’ for this series was pretty flat. But overall, Dexter was not as bad as I remember, yes he is a bit overbearing a times, but I still found him enjoyable… mostly. Looking at the series as an adult, I’m pretty sure it was the writing that was the biggest issue and not so much Dexter himself. Still, it’s not as if Dexter Fletcher would ever go on to do anything major after this is it?

Some of the format changes felt out of place, I understand they wanted to do something different, but I honestly got bored of the whole GamesMaster Team Championship thing in the second half, it just dragged on and on. You can probably tell as some my commentary here got less detailed and a bit more lax as it went on (I honestly lost interest at points). Plus, to cram in more challenges and more players for the teams, the challenges had to become shorter overall, which didn’t add much to the excitement really. Look at previous series and challenges lasted several minutes, here in the second half, most lasted seconds. I think if they had a smaller team count for the championship and made them fight it out over two episodes instead of cramming it all into one, it could’ve been better. Possibly the weakest series of the whole show? I’ll pass judgement after I’ve been through all seven series at the end.

DEXTER 2

Total golden joysticks won – 13
Total jewel encrusted golden joysticks won – 3

Well, now series three is out of the way, things begin to get really interesting both in front and behind the cameras at GamesMaster. Series four begins soon. 

“OI GAMESMARSTA!!!”

– Dexter Fletcher

GamesMaster: A Retrospective – Series Three, Part One

Well this one has been a long time coming. I’ve been a bit side tracked what with other writing projects going on… oh and there’s been that pandemic whatsit-thing too. But I’m now cracking on with the next two (maybe three) series of GamesMaster for this very lengthy retrospective. Coming off the back of series two, there’s been a few changes. Dominik Diamond is gone, to be replaced with Dexter Fletcher for series three. The format is slightly changed too. Series three, like two before it also has a whopping twenty-six episodes to cover, so I will once more, be doing this in two parts.

Series Three

So okay, onto why Dominik is gone. It really depends on who you ask, but the general consensus about the reason why he left is because the show was to be sponsored by McDonald’s (see the main image up there ^^^), even Dominik himself has gone on record as saying as much. That sounds a bit stupid to me, I think there were other behind the scenes reasons why Dominik left. Not that it matters now, almost thirty years after the fact. At least Auntie Marisha is back. As for the in-universe reason Dominik Diamond is gone. Well if you remember the end of series two, the oil rig set blew up. The story is that Dominik died in that explosion. Patrick Moore is still on board as the titular GamesMaster though, now with a pet cat.

DEXTER

Beginning airing on the 9th of September, 1993 and being set in a fictional GamesMaster Academy (filmed in Oxford Prison), Dexter wastes no time in getting things underway. The format mixes things up through this series. Most episodes stick to the old format (first challenge, celeb challenge, final challenge), but now there’s this first challenge knockout round, then the final challenge… well final. Think of the episodes now being mini-tournaments in each episode. Some episodes spotlight just one game and offer other special challenges. Though the episodes still contains reviews, features, etc. Oh and the celebrity challenges are also back too. So, with that out of the way, on to episode one.

Episode One

This is one of those spotlight a single game episodes and Mortal Kombat (SNES) is the game of choice here. Dexter plucks four random contestants from the audience.  Chris, Paul Martin and Akbur have to fight it out to the death in a classic best of three round battle. Up first is Chris playing as Scorpion and Paul as Kano. Chris gets off to a cracking start and destroys Paul in a matter of seconds to win the first round. The second round is a little bit closer and Paul gives as good as he gets… until he corners himself and Chris as does a cheap, Johnny Lawrence ‘sweep the leg’ thing over and over and takes Paul out with ease. Going to the infamous ‘Finish Him’ finale and all Chris has to do is pull of a gruesome fatality, but just settles for a standard uppercut instead. Not that it would’ve really mattered as they were playing the heavily censored SNES port. As this the first of the longer, single episode challenges format that series three favours, Chris does not win a golden joystick, but he does get through to the next round. Next up are Martin as Rayden and Akbur as Sub-Zero. A bit more of an even fight here, though both still seem to be clueless on how to play Mortal Kombat. After a few exchanges of punches and kicks, Akbur takes Sub-Zero to victory. Martin comes back fighting by spamming Rayden’s special flying  move thing. Akbur puts up a good fight, but looses the second round. At one round a piece, it’s onto the decider where Martin continues to spam that flying move of Rayden’s, but Akbur gets wise and smacks him down to win the round and fight… again, no fatality. Akbur moves onto the next round.

MORTAL KOMBAT SNES

Up next are the first reviews of this new series. Of course, game of the episode, Mortal Kombat (SNES & Mega Drive) gets reviewed and it scores an 81%. Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES) is next  and it lands an 86%. Then it’s onto the feature, a look at the half a million dollar ad campaign for the console ports of Mortal Kombat. Interviews with the actors who played the digitised characters of Mortal Kombat and a look at how they were inserted into the game. Celebrity challenge time and we have another Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive) fight, only this time Daniel Pesina who played Johnny Cage and Elizabeth Malecki as Sonya Blade fight in character as their in game characters… in the game! Seeing as these guys are actors and not gamers, I’d expect the fight to be a bit poo. But its not, they offer a better fight and look at the game than the previous contestants. The first round goes to Sonya, but it’s a close one. Round two is a bit more one sided and won by Sonya again… and she even finishes with a fatality. Elizabeth Malecki (Sonya Blade) wins the first golden joystick of series three.

MORTAL KOMBAT ACTORS

Yup, its time for some hints & tips form GamesMaster. I bet you can’t guess what the first game is… Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive). Then Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES) and Starwing (SNES) get some help too. Next up is the final of the Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive) challenge. Previous winners, Chris and Akbur go head to head. Chris favours Scorpion while Akbur plays as Sub-Zero. Chris gets battered in the first round and it begins to look very bleak for him. Then he stages a genuinely impressive comeback with only a slither of health left to win the first round. The second round goes to Akbur who wins without breaking into a sweat. So it all comes down to the final round. It’s a close one but Chris as Scorpion goes on to win and he even does the (suspiciously edited) fatality too. Chris wins the golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Two

GamesMaster wastes no time kicking things off with Ultimate Soccer (Mega Drive) for this episode. A special multi-player challenge with eight contestants playing in two teams of four, England lead by Woody and Scotland captained by Jim. Playing indoor, five-a-side football, the winning team goes into the finals where they will be split into four players and enter an every man for themselves play-off. Jim’s Scotland team are all over England in the opening and soon tuck a goal away to lead 1-0. England begin to fight back after the goal, but the first half ends 1-0 to Scotland. England start the second half strong and do get a shot on goal, but struggle to score. The game ends with Scotland winning 1-0, so Jim and his team go through to battle it out for a golden joystick later.

Review time and Rock n’ Roll Racing (SNES) gets a worthy 86%. Thunderhawk (Mega CD) manages a decent 81%. Cartoony scare-fest Haunting (Mega Drive) is given 75%. The feature looks at the terrible Newton MessagePad from Apple… think of it as a really, really early iPad. Basically, it was a glorified, digital Filofax and if you don’t know what a Filofax was, it was something pompous twats used a lot in the eighties to make themselves look even more of a pompous twat. OTT beat ’em up King of the Monsters 2 (Neo Geo) is the game selected for the celebrity challenge and eyepatch wearing singer Gabrielle is the celeb, who takes on non-celeb Nadine. It’s a best of three fight and the duo spend more time smashing buildings than each other. Then, after a bit of dancing around the screen, a fight actually breaks out and Nadine takes round one. In the second round, Gabrielle nabs a power-up that can give her the edge in the fight… and completely wastes it, Nadine pounds Gabrielle to win the fight and the golden joystick.

BOMBERMAN SNES

GamesMaster dishes out more help as Striker (SNES), Alfred Chicken (Game Boy) and Kirby’s Adventure (NES) are all made a bit easier. Then it’s the final and the winning Scotland team from the first challenge are back but now split into individuals. Chris, Jim, Jamie and Ross go head-to-head on  Super Bomberman (SNES), the classic, ‘blow the crap out of your mates’ game. Chris manages to get himself trapped between his own bomb and someone else’s and is the first to go BOOM! Ross walks blindly into an explosion and goes BOOM!, leaving only Jim and Jamie to fight it out. After a set time, the play area gets smaller and Jamie just walks straight in to the enclosing screen and dies… doesn’t go BOOM! Jim wins the golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Three

This one is a special sports themed episode and kicking off the first challenge is James Pond’s Crazy Sports (SNES). Three peeps take this one on, Chirag, Sally and Darren take it in turns to get the fastest time on the Leap Frog race. Chirag puts in a great performance, hits an obstacle, but still puts in a very impressive time of 22.82 seconds. Up next is Sally who gets off to a fantastic start, but it all goes wrong in the last half of the race as she hits several hurdles and manages a time of 26 seconds dead. This challenge is actually qualifier to get through to the next round and only the top two fastest times go to the final. So Darren doesn’t have to get the fastest time, just beat Sally’s 26 seconds. He gets a time of 29.90 seconds… which is actually really surprising as he even used a cleverly hidden cheat to get a lengthy head-start. GamesMaster has a few words to say about Darren’s cheating. Given the big man’s penchant for handing out cheats in the show, he doesn’t actually berate Darren for cheating, but he does send him to the furnace for cheating and still losing. Fair I feel. Anyway, both Chirag and Sally go through to the final.

Street Fighter II (Mega Drive) gets 92%. Space Ace (SNES) scores a still too high 70%. Then Garfield Labyrinth (Game Boy) gets a scathing, but justifiable 28% in the review section. No feature this episode, so it’s straight to the celebrity challenge and the start of a three part Gladiators special challenge. Beat ’em up ClayFighter (SNES) is the game and it is Shadow and Falcon from the then popular TV show Gladiators to take it on. Shadow plays as Blue Suede Goo while Falcon favours Helga in this best of three rounds fight. Shadow kicks some clay-ass and takes the led in the first round, until Falcon begins to fight back and evens the score… but Shadow manages to land the final blow to win the first round. Then, despite putting up a good fight in the second round, Falcon loses, making Shadow the winner. No golden joystick though as this was just the first round, with the next rounds of this Gladiators special challenge coming over the next couple of episodes.

CLAYFIGHTER SNES

GamesMaster dishes out more of his gaming knowledge to us mere mortals. Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure (Mega Drive), Gunship 2000 (Amiga) and Another World (SNES) get helped. Final challenge of the show, Chirag and Sally are back and go up against each other at International Tennis Open (CD-i). It’s a best of three games match and the first game seems to go Chirag’s was as he leads 40-15. But Sally brings it back to take advantage point and goes on to win the first game. Chirag destroys Sally in the second game, making it one game a piece. It’s the final game and Sally gets revenge for the last game and whitewashes Chirag to win the game, match and golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Four

Mr. Nutz (SNES), one of those ‘cutesy’ platformers that were everywhere in the nineties is the game for the first challenge. Alister, Tom and Amber have to finish the opening level, fastest two go through to the final. Amber goes first and she takes a hit quite early on, given the fact it’s three hits and game over, that’s not good. She makes her way to the end and takes another hit from a bee, leaving her only one more chance. Thankfully, that hit was right at the end of the level, and Amber finishes in 24 seconds. Tom is up next and he makes it through the level without taking a single hit, that’s the good news. The bad news is he didn’t use the run button and finished with a time of 30 seconds. Alister blisters through the level with a time of 22 seconds. Tom goes home while Amber and Alister go through to battle it out in the final challenge. In all fairness, I think Tom was only about six years-old while the other two were early teens at least.

MR NUTS SNES

Review round-up and Lamborghini American Challenge (Game Boy) gets 86%. Pac-Attack (SNES) is awarded 81%. Then Fantastic Dizzy (Mega Drive) scores 75%. This episode’s feature takes a look at the Philips CD-i portable console which cost a whopping £1200 at launch. No, I had no idea these things existed either and £1200 in 2020 money would be around £2500… for a handheld console! No wonder they died out. So it’s celebrity challenge time again and the continuation of the Gladiators special from the previous episode. Cobra and Scorpio battle on ClayFighter (SNES) again with Cobra playing as The Blob while Scorpio uses Ickybod Clay in this best of three rounds bout. The first round is quite tight.. for a couple of clueless button mashers, but Scorpio takes the win. Then, in round two, Cobra gets pummelled and Scorpio goes through to the final.

A few games prove to be a tad too tricky for some. Players of Mr. Nutz (SNES), Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Game Boy) and Cool Spot (Mega Drive) get some much needed help. So it’s final time as Amber and Alister go toe-to-toe at Muhammad Ali Heavyweight Boxing (Mega Drive) is the game as the two peeps have to punch each other in the face until one of them falls down or two rounds are up. At only thirty-five seconds into the first round, Amber knocks Alister down, he does recover, only to be knocked down again with just seven seconds left of the first round. Alister is literally saved by the bell as round one ends. Round two sees Amber throwing punches like crazy, Alister manages to stay up this time around, not that it matters as it goes down to points after the second round and given Alister’s poor performance in round one, he loses badly. Amber wins the golden joystick. I’m not sure just how fair this last challenge was. Amber got to play as Muhammad Ali in a Muhammad Ali boxing game, while Alister had to play as a no-name challenger. I’m pretty sure Amber had a pretty huge advantage there.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Five

GamesMaster picks a corker for his first challenge, Street Fighter II Turbo (SNES). Four fighters step up to this one, Tim, Carl, Ramone and Poojah. Tim and Carl are up first with Tim playing as M. Bison and Carl with Ryu. Tim decimates Carl in about ten seconds and with a perfect too, quite embarrassing. Carl does a lot better in round two… well he manages to land two hits before losing, that’s a lot better then no hits I guess. Tim goes through to the final. Next up is Ramone and Poojah, playing as Blanka and Balrog respectively. This one is a bit of a closer fight… a bit, but Ramone does end up wining the first round. Round two is an even closer fight, but Ramone still wins. So Tim and Ramone will face each other in the final.

SMART PC

It’s review time and the awesome Flashback (SNES) gets a 86%. Sonic CD (Mega CD) scores 78%. Then Captain America and The Avengers (SNES) gets itself a very understandable 43%. The feature looks at something called the IDA Home Automation soft and hardware, presented by Auntie Marisha. It was this smart home thing before the ‘smart’ prefix even existed. You could plug it into your PC and program it to control household appliances (turn you TV on, program it to turn on your coffee machine in the morning and so on). No idea if it worked well or not as I can’t seem to find any evidence that it even existed, except for it being looked at in this feature. Anyway, it’s celebrity challenge time again and the final of the Gladiators special. Shadow and Scorpio from the last two episodes are back to face off against each other at ClayFighter (SNES). Shadow playing as Bad Mr Frosty and Scorpio favours Tiny in a classic ‘best of three’ round fight. Round one is very close with both contestants giving as good as they get, but Shadow manages to land the knockout blow and wins round one. The second round is even closer, it really gets down to each of them only needing one more hit. Scorpio does the deed and wins round two. So it goes down to the final round, which starts of pretty close, but Shadow does some serious butting mashing to win the challenge and the golden joystick.

SHADOW WINS

GamesMaster throws out more hints & tips and he asks for questions for beat ’em ups only. A cheeky chap gives GamesMaster some sass, asking for help without using manners and GamesMaster politely tells him to go away. You just don’t talk to the big man like that. Muhammad Ali Heavyweight Boxing (Mega Drive) has a secret revealed. Sassy boy comes back and asks for help again, for GamesMaster to dismiss him once more. Tuff E Nuff (SNES) is offered some help next. The yes, he’s back for a third time and this time, sassy boy offers his apologies and finally gets hints for Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive). So now it’s final time, Tim and Ramone take each other on at Art of Fighting (Neo Geo). Tim playing as Jack with Ramone as Lee. There’s a lot of jumping in round one and not much else, as Tim spams the flying kick move and takes the first win. Round two isn’t much different as Tim (once more) spams the flying kick and wins the golden joystick in the very dull final.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Six

Force your opponent to the edge of the screen racer, Micro Machines (Mega Drive) is the first challenge and taking this one on are Steve and Adam, who have to race mini-speedboats around a bath. Steve takes every point and whitewashes poor young Adam to win this one, with pretty much no issues. Given the fact Adam didn’t even score a single point, GamesMaster sends him to the furnace as punishment for such a poor performance.

This episodes reviews are Robocop Versus Terminator (Mega Drive) which scores 86%. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES) gets given 75%. Then Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES) gets a worthy 90%. Feature time and we get to look at the Atari Jaguar console ahead of its release. Not that they needed have bothered as it was shit. A quick mention of the ‘GamesMaster All Formats Team Videogames Championship’ is next, more on that later. The Utah Saints are the celebrities up for the next challenge. WWF Royal Rumble (SNES) is the game and Jez Willis and Tim Garbutt of the band have to grapple with each other until only one stands. Jez plays as Razor Ramon and Tim uses Randy Savage. It’s painfully clear that neither of them have any idea how to play as they just keep running up and down the ring… very occasionally landing a blow. Tim eventually wins when Jez knocks himself out by running into the railings outside of the ring. What a fight!

WWE SNES

Yup, it’s GamesMaster sharing his knowledge up next, throwing out more tips. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (SNES),  Jungle Strike (Mega Drive) and Mystic Quest (Game Boy) are all given a GamesMaster boost. Welcoming back Steve from the first challenge, he has to finish the first level on Super Q*Bert (SNES). GamesMaster gives Steve one minute and three lives to finish this challenge. Steve loses one life by jumping of the edge of playing area, he soon loses another by hitting an enemy… but he does manage to finish the challenge regardless and wins the golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Seven

Cosmic Spacehead (Mega Drive) is the game to get things started on this episode. No, I’ve never heard of it either, but if you remember the classic Combat (Atari 2600) game, that’s basically what this is. A top-down combat game where players have to throw custard pies at each other to win. Taking this one on are Liam and Mamuro (from Japan who only ever says ‘no trouble’) and the first to score ten points wins. It all starts off rather slow with neither Liam or Mamuro wanting to get in on the action. Liam scores a hit, Mamuro scores a hit, Liam scores a hit, Mamuro scores a hit. The fact that each player starts with a score of five and each hit lands a point, but also removes a point from whoever is hit means it just keeps going back and forth and basically staying at five points a piece for a while. Mamuro does manage to trap Liam and lands plenty of hits, taking the score to 9 – 1, needing only one more hit to win. Liam scores a point back… honestly, this one really drags on and on. I’ll just skip to the end, Mamuro (‘no trouble’) wins to take on the final challenge later.

COSMIC SPACEHEAD

Up for review this time are Gunstar Heroes (Mega Drive) gets 90%. Jurassic Park (SNES) is given 81% and Out to Lunch (SNES) cooks up 78%. Feature time and we get a look at the ReelMagic video card (PC) that allowed for full video playback on your computer… this was ground-breaking in 1993. As the video card came bundled with a copy of the adventure game Return to Zork, we also get a little look behind the scenes of the making of the game. Funny men Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis are the celebrities taking on the next challenge. Lucky & Wild (Arcade) is the game, one of those light-gun, on-rails shooters… but with a twist as this throws in driving to the mix. One player drives the car while the other shoots. Steve and Hugh have to finish the first level and take out the drug dealer boss at the end. This is actually quite an exciting little game, Starsky and Hutch inspired, tearing though the city, driving though shopping malls and jumping over hills action. After getting off to a pretty good start, Steve and Hugh find themselves ambushed by a bunch of bad guys and lose a lot of health. Smashing through scenery while shooting up henchmen in cars proves too tricky and the pair lose. GamesMaster is not happy about their performance, and so sends them to the furnace for six months of hard labour.

LUCKY AND WILD

Mega-Lo-Mania (Mega Drive), Super Star Wars (SNES) and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (SNES) all get some help provided thanks to GamesMaster’s encyclopaedic knowledge. Mamuro is back to try an win the golden joystick, the game is a special exclusive first look for GamesMaster, Jungle Book (Mega Drive). Mamuro is given just one minute to score 4000 points. Getting off to a good start and using secret areas to score some points, it looks like Mamuro will have ‘no trouble’ in wining this one. But with only 15 seconds left on the clock, he only has a score of 2600. He runs out of time, well short of the target. No golden joysticks won in an episode for the first time this series.

Golden joysticks won – 0

Episode Eight

Super Pang (SNES) is this episode’s first challenge, whoever survives the longest wins. The Mother and Son duo of Sonya and Paul go up against each other with Mummy Sonya playing first. Mummy does okay at first. Shooting balls and managing to last a while, but comes a cropper with 47 seconds left on the clock. Paul up next and confident he can beat that 47 seconds. He not only beats the time, but also finishes the level (which he didn’t need to do), just to rub a bit of salt in the wound. Son beats Mother to go through to the final.

It’s review time once more and Cannon Fodder (Amiga) gets a very worthy 90%. Top Gear 2 (SNES) is given 81%. Then Dune II (Mega Drive) is given a very spicy 92%. Feature time and GamesMaster Live is back and given a big ‘ole plug. Celebrity challenge now and Eastenders star, Sean Maguire takes on non-celeb Steve on footie game, Striker (SNES) and it’s a classic game of two halves. Sean playing as Ireland while Steve plays as England and both players put up a good fight. There are tackles and shots a-plenty, despite the action, the first half ends with no goals. The second half is much of the same, more action and neither side seemingly better than the other… until Steve’s England tucks away a fantastic goal. Sean comes back fighting and does have a few shots on target, but nothing gets past by the time the final whistle blows and Steve wins the golden joystick. 

GAMESMASTER

GamesMaster returns to offer more of his hints & tips. Mummy Sonya from the first challenge is back asking for help with Super Pang (SNES), GamesMaster accompanies his help with a little cheeky remark about her lack of gaming skills. Dr. Franken II (Game Boy) and Day of the Tentacle (PC) are also helped out. Paul is back for the final challenge and he takes on Robocop Versus Terminator (Mega Drive). Paul has to finish the first level of the game in less than 1 minute. In 25 seconds, Paul loses a life, not that it matters much as long as he finishes the level in time. With 15 seconds left, he loses another life, but manages to get to the boss at the end of the level. With just 4 seconds left, Paul makes short work of the end of level boss… but he still needs to exit the level, which he does with just 1 second to spare. Paul wins the golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Nine

GamesMaster chooses a belter for the first challenge, Super Mario All-Stars (SNES), a collection of four classic Mario games remastered. For this challenge, GamesMaster has picked three of the games and Sam, Steven and Samuel are the three contestants to take them on. Each of the three challengers pick one of the games at random, Sam gets Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (though the art for Super Mario Bros. 2 is shown), Steven takes on Super Mario Bros. 3 and Samuel has to tackle Super Mario. Bros. GamesMaster has selected a level on each game and the aim is simply to finish the level on that particular game in the fastest time with only one life. Sam goes first and takes it easy, a slower approach while trying to avoid losing her only life. She finishes the level in 59 seconds. Samuel is up next, he goes for a more direct and faster approach, using the run button as much as possible. Making a few very risky jumps and Samuel is close to the ned of the level with 37 seconds on the clock… when he mistimes a jump and falls into a pit, failing the challenge. So all Steven has to do it take his time and beat Sam’s time of 59 seconds to go through to the final. Given a much more tricky underwater level, Steven finishes with a time of 49 seconds and secures his place in the final. I’ve always had a problem with this challenge as each player gets a different game and different level, that’s not exactly fair really. 

MARIO SNES

Another review round up as Young Merlin (SNES) gets 86%. Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (Mega Drive) is given 70%. Then The Fidgetts (Game Boy) is scored 63%. No feature this time and just another mention of the GamesMaster Live event. So it is celebrity challenge time once more and Dexter promises a special twist. British rapper Monie Love is the celeb and she goes up against two randomly picked audience members, Andy and Steven. Cool Spot (SNES) is the game chosen by GamesMaster… who’s cat has a flea problem. Monie is given one minute to score as many points as possible, then Andy and Steven have to try to beat that score on their one minute attempts. The twist to this challenge is that whoever wins gets to go out on a date with Monie. Monie sets the bar with a score of 4450 to beat. Andy goes first and beats Monie’s score with a 4550 in 45 seconds. Steven up next who only manages a score of 4100 before his time runs out. Andy wins not only that date with Monie, but also the golden joystick.

F1 MD

More poor unfortunates seek out help from the GamesMaster once more. Out to Lunch (SNES), Fantastic Dizzy (Mega Drive) and Super Strike Eagle (SNES) are all given some much needed love.  F1 (Mega Drive) is the game for the final challenge and GamesMaster gives Steven 1 minute to finish a lap on the famed Monaco circuit… just like real life! Steve crashes into a billboard at the side of the track and loses a big chunk of time. He tries to make up for the lost seconds, but fails to take the chequered flag before his time runs out. No golden joystick here.

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Ten

This one is a very special episode as it was broadcast live from The Future Entrainment Show event, 1993, held at Earls Court. A live show, what could go wrong? The first challenge is on classic platformer Aladdin (SNES) and contestants have just 45 seconds to collect as many diamonds as they can. Taking this one on is Susie, Paul and Jamie who are pulled up on stage from the live crowd. Susie is first and puts in a very poor performance, grabbing just two diamonds. It almost looked like she was purposely trying to avoid them. Paul is up next and he also manages to only nab two diamonds. I swear, these kids must be doing this on purpose, I mean, they actually move away from very easy to collect diamonds. So up last is Jamie and he must be able to do better than two. I mean, there are two in a line that are easy to get near the start in the opening. Jamie grabs two within the first few seconds and two more a little later, making his total four. He still missed some easy ones, but Jamie didn’t need them as he wins the golden joystick regardless.

No reviews in this episode, instead, live Dexter introduces himself doing a pre-recorded tour of The Future Entrainment Show, looking at various stands and attractions. There is still the celebrity challenge though as British boxers Barry McGuigan and Nigel Benn take on Sonic Blast Man (Arcade). This game has featured on the show before, each boxer punches the pad three times, greatest total damage done wins. Barry McGuigan is up first and scores 123 +126 + 126 = 375. Nigel Benn dons the glove next and punches 137 + 136 + 131 = 404. Nigel ‘The Dark Destroyer’ Benn wins the golden joystick.

NIGEL AND BARRY

Even with the live episode going on, there’s still time for some pre-recorded help from the GamesMaster. Exhaust Heat (SNES), The Addams Family (Mega Drive) and Black Hole Assault (Mega Drive) get some attention. So it’s onto the final challenge of this special live episode and Dexter promises something ‘mega’ (his word). GamesMaster choses Street Fighter II Turbo (Mega Drive) and six people are picked out from the crowd. No idea what their names are as Dexter rushes through them before they run out of time for the show, can’t edit live TV can you?. Anyway, the six have to do battle against each other as Ryu vs Ken in this ‘mini-one round, winner stays on tournament-thing’. It’s all rather hectic as it is live and they have to reset the game after every round and reselect the characters for each fight (no idea why they didn’t just set it up for more then one round and swap players after each one). Watching the stage-hands desperately scramble around to get the game set up after every fight, all while Dexter does his best at filling the gap with pointless spiel is quite hilarious. Anyway, one of the challengers wins two rounds and is the winner who stays on… no idea if he won a golden joystick or not because they run out of time and have to end the show before the challenge ends. Live TV eh?

Golden joysticks won – 1

Episode Eleven

After the chaos of the previous live episode, it’s back to ‘normal’ and GamesMaster picks Puggsy (Mega Drive) for the first challenge. Two members of the audience are dragged out to take on this special GamesMaster exclusive level to light a giant candle. Kelly and Jim are the pair to take this on and it is fastest to finish the level wins. The thing is, Dexter says how this is an exclusive level designed for GamesMaster and no one has ever seen it before, Kelly is the first of the two to play… and yet she knows exactly where to go and what to do? Anyway, Kelly (who supposedly had never played this level) makes great progress solving the puzzles and getting the candle lit before heading for the exit. Aside from a few minor mistakes, she finishes the level in 1.26. Jim, next on the controller, blisters through the level and lights the candle in just 57 seconds, well ahead of Kelly… but he just sits there thinking he’s finished when he actually needs to exit the level to end the challenge. The camera cuts to Jim after a while and you can clearly see him mouth ‘shit!’ releasing his mistake, he makes a dash for the exit and even with his faux pas, he still finishes in 1.16, and goes through to the final. 

Aero the Acro-Bat (SNES) gets 86%. Lethal Enforcers (Mega CD) is shot down with a 63%. Then Skyblazer (SNES) scores a 75% in the reviews. Feature time and we get to take a look at a new PC file idea called ‘Saving and Recognition’, which would allow you to play multiple games at once. The idea being that you could have more than one game installed on your PC and flick between each game at will… kind of like what we can do now on modern consoles with digitally installed software. Dexter then ponders on seeing Mario and Sonic in a game together, as if that would ever happen. So then, it’s onto the celebrity challenge and nineties TV babe, Dani Behr is the lass for this one. Monkey Mole Panic (Arcade) is GamesMaster’s game of choice, think and updated and digital version of the classic Whac-A-Mole. Dani goes up against James and it’s the person to score the most points who wins. James goes first and bashes a fair amount of moles, even gets a few bonuses along the way. He manages to finish with a score of 1920, a pretty poor attempt and certainly very beatable. Dani goes for it and at the halfway point, already amasses a score of 1620, only 300 short of James’, still plenty of moles to whack too, Dani can’t lose. Finishing with a whopping 4280 points, Dani spanks James to win the golden joystick, as if being spanked by Dani Behr is a bad thing.

DANI MOLE

More games are in need of help next. Morph (Amiga), Rock n’ Roll Racing, (SNES) and Wolfchild (Master System) are all covered by GamesMaster. Then it’s the final challenge and Jim is back to play Batman Returns (Mega CD). GamesMaster has Jim playing the driving stage and he has to defeat the end of level boss. Now, Jim can just drive as fast as possible and avoid all the enemies as they are not important to this challenge, he just has to get to the end… but he choses to try and take out everyone he sees instead, wasting valuable time. Still, Jim does manage to get to the finial boss and take him out to win the golden joystick.

Golden joysticks won – 2

Episode Twelve

One of the most annoying and pretentious 16-bit platformers ever is the first challenge, as Bubsy in: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind (Mega Drive) is the game of choice. Given 1 minute or 1 life to collect as many yarn balls as possible are James and Ian. James wastes little time in finding secret areas to help bump up his total. Unfortunately, he takes a hit and dies before the minute is up, but he did grab 66 yarn balls before he met his demise. Ian follows pretty much the same route as James and soon has himself 66 balls and with 10 seconds still on the clock too. No problem here as he grabs two more, taking his total to 69 (dude) and Ian goes through to the final.

BUBSY

Massively underrated platformer, Plok (SNES) scores a criminally low 69%. The Lawnmower Man (SNES) gets a stupidly high 86%. Seriously, Plok gets 69% but The Lawnmower Man is given 86%? Anyway, the game that started it all, FIFA International Soccer (Mega Drive) scores 95% in the reviews. An update on the previously mentioned ‘GamesMaster All Formats Team Videogames Championship’ is the feature and out of over 4000 applicants and via various gaming challenges, they have been whittled down to a small teams and will battle it out later in the series. Oh and one of the teams is headed up by some cocky, young unknown kid called Simon Amstell…

SIMON AMSTEL

So it is, of course, celeb challenge once more and cricket star, Liam (son of Ian) Botham takes on Matthew. The game is Graham Gooch World Class Cricket (Amiga), given only six balls each, whoever scores the most runs wins. Liam playing as Australia bowls first while Matthew as England bats. There are a few nice hits by Matthew, but Liam is all over him with his fielding and after the six balls, Matthew manages a beatable eight runs. They swap over and now it’s Liam’s turn to bat. Going down to the last ball and Liam has seven runs, needing two more to win, he hits it short and chances a run, but is out as the bails fall thanks to some quick thinking fielding. Matthew wins the golden joystick.

Time for more gaming help from the big man. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive), Battletoads & Double Dragon – The Ultimate Team (NES) and ClayFighter (SNES) get the GamesMaster treatment. Ian returns from the start of the show, hoping to get his hands on a golden joystick. His challenge is on the awesome Jungle Strike (Mega Drive) and Ian has to protect and escort the POTUS to the White House and only one life too. Ian uses the ‘ole noodle and goes ahead of the motorcade to take out the bad guys before they can do any damage. He has no problem in getting the POTUS to his lovely house making the challenge look way too easy and wins the golden joystick with little effort.

Golden joysticks won – 2


That’s the halfway point, continuing series three in the next part and things get changed up again, format wise once more. Now before anyone mentions… twenty-six episodes in this series and episode twelve isn’t halfway, there is a reason for that…

Total golden joysticks won – 18

Review: Ride 4

I do have a bit of a soft spot for racing games, grew up playing them and still very much enjoy the genre today. However, there’s one motorsport discipline that I’ve never really gotten into from a gaming perspective, motorbikes. I think the last time I played a bike racer was Super Hang-On in the arcade, back in 1987… maybe the original Road Rash.

Anyway, I’ve just never been attracted to motorbike racing in the same way I am with cars. I know nothing about the sport, nor do I have any interest in learning about it either.  So in that regard, I’m probably the last person that should review a motorbike racing sim… so here’s my review of motorbike racing sim, Ride 4.

RIDE 4 ACTION

If you have ever played any kind of racing game recently, then you’ll find things are pretty standard here in terms of game modes. Single races, where you can take any of the bikes out for a ride on any of the tracks in the game. There are 176 different bikes from 17 different manufactures. Brands like BMW, Honda, Ducati, Suzuki, Triumph and more all offer various machines to ride on. Then there are the tracks, split over three continents, America, Europe and Asia. All three offer multiple real-life race tracks. Laguna Seca, Imola, Brands Hatch, Suzuka to name a few, thirty tracks in all to enjoy. So just pick a bike, pick a track and away you go for some single race action.

Then there are the endurance races. Pick a race length from 20 minutes to 24 hours. Choose your a bike, though you have to use a specially modified endurance bike. Select a track, tinker with the weather and time of day, time compression. Hit the track for a very lengthy race. There is also the basic time trial mode where it’s just you, your bike and the track. No opponents and no racing other than against the clock, a great way to learn the numerous circuits. There is also a career mode, which I will cover soon. But aside from the multiplayer mode (which I couldn’t really test with the game not being out as I write this), that’s about it for you racing options. Ride 4 offers pretty much what any other racing game offers, it neither excels nor falls behind in this regard, it’s all pretty much standard racing fare.

RIDE 4 ACTION 2

There are some nice features to play around with, a photo mode that is accessible from the pause menu, so you can take some snaps of your bike racing action. Of course you can tinker and tune your bike, buy new engines, transmissions and so on. You can even customise your rider, name, gender, info, riding styles and more. Then there is the editor where you can create your very own helmet and riding suit designs, you can even design your own unique liveries for the bikes. Ever played Forza Motorsport and its creation system? Same thing here. When it comes to the customisation, there really is a lot to get your head around with Ride 4.

In terms of looks, Ride 4 is a cracking looking game too. I know several of the tracks very well and they all looked fantastic. Tearing around Monza, Donnington Park, Interlagos and they felt like the tracks I knew. I’m not a bike person, yet the machines all seemed great too, I can’t say if they are authentic or not, but they are nicely detailed and looked like bikes… so that’s good. I did a race in the rain, which for me is the true test of how a racing game should look. Ride 4 looked stunning, reflections on the track, rain kicking up and hitting the screen, puddles formed on the circuit… it looked and felt like a wet race, ticked all the boxes for me. So far, so good. Until…

RIDE 4 ACTION 3

So that career mode I previously mentioned. Every good racer needs a career mode and I wish I could tell you how good this one is… but I couldn’t actually play it. From what I saw, it looked quite extensive. Split into three leagues, there’s the regional leagues (European, Asian and American), a world league and then the final leagues (superbikes and endurance). But before you can take part in those, you need to earn your licence by doing several tests. A time attack, lap on a test track, ride through gates, etc. Could I pass these tests? No. Oh I tried, I tried dozens and dozens and dozens of times. The tests are just too damn strict, from extremely tight times to beat to the test being a fail if you so much as put a millimetre of your bike off track (seriously, a millimetre). I did manage to do three of the tests after many, many, many attempts and a lot of time spent, but they got so frustrating that I just gave up in the end. I could not even get into the career mode to tell you what it’s like. I had to switch on all of the driving assists, and I’ve never done that with any racing game before. Yet, even with all the help the game offers… I could not do those damn tests to play career mode. I’ve had the game for over a week for review and I could not review the main part of the game.

I couldn’t work out if it was me or the game being really unfair and unforgiving. As I said at the start, I’m not a bike person… but I can play racing games… I think. I’ve never had this issue with any other game like this. I can race okay in the other modes, I can put up fight and even secure a podium or three in single races. On tracks that I know well, I could put in some decent times in time trial mode. It took a while to get used to riding the bikes in the game, they feel really heavy and you have to think about turning into and out of the corners about three turns in advance, but I got used to it. Yes, it is very different to racing a car around a track, I get that. I know I would never be able to ride a bike like this in real-life around a real track, but then again, I doubt I would ever be able to drive a Ferrari F40 around Monza in real-life on a real track… but I can do just that well enough in a driving sim. I just can not pass the tests to play career mode… even with the driving assists on. I became convinced the problem was the game.

RIDE 4 ACTION 4

But is it really the game that is the problem and not me the player? I’ll happily admit (and I already have, several times) that I’m not a bike person at all, so there is a very good chance the issues I have with the game are not really with the game, as I just don’t understand bikes. So, I did a little research into the previous Ride games. As of writing, the original Ride holds a metascore of 54 on Metacritic. Ride 2 holds a 66 score and Ride 3 has itself a slightly better score of 76. They’re not exactly great scores are they? Very average to above average at best. Getting better with each new game yes, but still not great scores. Quick side-note, all of those scores on the Xbox as I’ve been playing the Xbox version of Ride 4. So as a franchise, Ride isn’t exactly setting the racing gaming world alight is it? Perhaps it is the game that is at fault and not so much me, or at the very least, there’s a bit of both there? But again, I got on okay with the single races, etc. It’s just those damn tests for career mode, they’re too ‘effin strict and the game is just not accessible for newbies to bike games like me.

Plus, seeing as I was having such a disappointing time with Ride 4, I thought that may be my driving skills had dulled. So I loaded up both Forza Motorsport 7 and F1 2020 just to re-test my skills. I was tearing around tracks, racing, fighting for positions and really bloody enjoying myself too (without all the assists on too). It has to be the game, I may not be a bike person… but I know a good racing game from a distinctly average one and average is what Ride 4 really is.

I really wanted to enjoy Ride 4, I honestly did, but it’s just rubbed me up the wrong way. As someone who plays racing games regularly and a person who considers himself pretty good at the racing genre, I just found it too punishing for what it is and a very stubborn game to truly get into. Ride 4 is just very, very meh for what I did get to play.

The Next Generation Of Gaming, The Death Of Gaming Generations

Things are warming up as the inevitable release of the new consoles fast approach. As of writing, Sony are being very quiet about their new PlayStation 5, we’ve seen its design, but no price or release date yet… yet. However, Microsoft have been a much more forthcoming about their new Xbox Series X console. We’ve seen the machine and its little brother the Series S, we also have a price for both and a confirmed release date too of the 10th of November.

Still, come early-ish November, the next generation of consoles gaming will be here.  Just a few more months and your shiny new console of choice (assuming Sony have a similar release date to Microsoft) will be under your TV… but does it really matter anymore?

See, I’ve started writing an article looking back on my gaming history through the computers and consoles I’ve played/owned over the many, many years I’ve been gaming. As I’ve been writing said article and looking back on the machines I’ve grown up with, exploring how and why each gaming generation felt like a leap forward, I’ve come to realise that this new generation seems to be less of a leap forward and more of a baby step. I’m just not seeing the point of buying a new games console anymore. I mean, I will buy one, but there’s no real point.

I guess my first subject has to be graphics. I started out with an Atari 2600, famed being the Granddaddy of home gaming. Not the first ever home console no, but certainly the one that popularised video games at home. The 2600 was also known for its very simple graphics. I mean, here is classic arcade beat ’em up, Double Dragon on the system. 

DOUBLE DRAGON 2600

Basic and certainty very primitive, a far cry from its arcade source. But that’s the kind of graphics the Atari 2600 was capable of, and for that system, that is pretty damn good too. Anyway, after the 2600, I had a Commodore 64 and this is what the same game looked like on that system.

DOUBLE DRAGON C64

No, it’s still not arcade perfect… but it looked a damn sight better then the 2600 version. There’s more colour, the graphics are not as blocky, they are better defined… the sprites actually look like humans. It was very clear to me that there had been a major advancement, visually speaking. Now look at games today. Here’s a comparison image of a game (Gears of War 5) on the original Xbox One, the upgraded One X and the new Series X.

XBOX COMPARISON

What’s the difference? Just quickly go back and look at the two Double Dragon images above. Again, a very clear upgrade from one generation to the next, to the point where they don’t even look like the same game. And now, back to the Xbox comparison. Where’s the great advancement? Where’s the major visual upgrade? 

It’s not just Atari 2600 to Commodore 64 either. Look back through gaming history. Look the jump from 8-bit to 16-bit, from 16-bit to 32-bit. Look at the advancements when games went from 2D sprites to 3D polygons. Look even more recently when we went from SD games to HD. There was a clear and defined visual difference between game graphics. But now? As I said, what’s the difference?

Yeah, you might spot some very minor improvements with a 4K screen or even an 8K screen, if you are lucky to own one, which to be honest, most people don’t. But for myself, I only upgraded to a 4K TV a couple of years ago and to be honest, the difference going from my 1080p TV to a 4K one wasn’t exactly a major leap.

But this is my point, graphics are not ‘improving’ like they used to. Then even if you do want to get the best of of your console, you need to fork out on a better TV. We didn’t do that in the old days, the graphics improved because the hardware you were playing on improved. From a visual point of view, why buy an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5 when they are just offering the same level of graphics? Have game graphics plateaued and the only improvements we will see will be due to your TV? Yeah I know we will have better frame-rates, etc with the next gen and that is a good thing. But still, from a visual perspective and just looking at the graphics, why bother with the next gen?

Then there are the games themselves. Currently, there’s a bit of a trend for developers/publishers to offer a ‘free’ upgrade of the game you buy now for the next gen consoles. Graphics aside (which I’ve covered is pretty much nothing), what upgrade? The previously mentioned better frame-rates, possible quicker load times… and that’s about it for your ‘upgrade’. But my point is, if the game runs on the current gen perfectly fine and the differences between two are negligible to the point of hardly noticeable. Why not just stick with the current gen? It’s the same game right? Is a slightly smoother frame-rate a good enough reason to buy a new console?

I used to look at a new console and think it the games looked so much better. But now, unless you have a 70 inch, 8K TV and a magnifying glass, you really don’t see a difference.

It’s not just the graphics though. Going back to the Atari 2600, the music and sound was minimal, bleeps and bloops. Then we had the rise of game music composers such as Rob Hubbard (to name just one) in the 8-bit era and game music began to evolve. Through the generations, game music and sound has grown. It was with the more common use of the CD format in the early nineties when music and sound reached it peak because they could quite literally offer CD quality sound. from a quality perspective, game music and sound has not evolved for decades. I’m not saying there are no great composers anymore, just that from an audible quality perspective, its never really increased since the CD format.

Yup, eventually, the current gen will be discontinued. Yes some games will only be made available for the next gen too. But right now, just a handful of months before the next gen launch… is it really worth jumping ship to the next gen? Besides, the only reason the older generation will be discontinued is because publishers/developers will stop making games for that older system. But they don’t have to, do they? The hardware is not advancing from generation to generation like is used to, so why not just keep making games for the older machines, therefore negating the need for a new generation. I could play Cyberpunk 2077 perfectly well on a current gen machine just as I could on a next gen machine. Maybe at a slightly reduced frame-rate, granted… but the gameplay is still identical.

CYBERPUNK

Backwards compatibility is a major draw for me. It means I don’t have to keep two or more consoles under the TV with all those annoying wires running wild. I can have just one console and play (some of) my ever increasing backlog of games. But I can do that anyway, without having buying a new console. As just covered, the early games coming out for the next gen are also currently playable on the current gen too. So I don’t need backward compatibility because the games play the same regardless. See, backward compatibility only needs to exist due to the older system becoming obsolete… but it doesn’t need to be if games are still released on the console.

To me, it just seems like gaming generations are dying, if not already dead. The advancements are just not there like they used to be. The differences between the Xbox One (X) and the new Series X or the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 are so minor that they may as well not exist. I honestly think the death of gaming generations has finally begun. Thinking forward, where do you go from here? What amazing improvements could the future Xboxes and PlayStations possibly offer from this point on?

Digital gaming is on the rise, internet connections are getting faster and faster. We’ve already seen what TV and movie streaming services have done to the home viewing market. I have a BluRay player… yet I’ve not used it for well over a year due to being able to stream my entertainment. We already have things like Google Stadia appearing, Microsoft have been pushing their Xbox game (XCloud) streaming hard recently. It won’t be long until game streaming becomes normal. Just like sitting down to watch Netflix without the need of a physical machine or media to play videos, I think gaming will go that way, very soon too. If the consoles themselves can’t offer huge advancements (and they can’t), then consoles will become obsolete and gaming generations will no longer exist, and let’s be honest, they hardly exist now.