I revisited the small provincial carbuncle of Leigh again last weekend. My journey was one of 'pleasure' rather than business, and indeed turned out to be filled with such delightful events as having my face, arm and left nipple zapped with a taser; being threatened with a chainsaw; playing ten pin bowling in the street at 1am; witnessing two grown men throw gravel at each other with shovels and, lest I forget, trying to get two terrapins to shag. Of course, most of this behaviour was influenced - nay fuelled - by considerable volumes of alcohol, but they all pale into insignificance when compared to the activity that followed only a day later: I visited a Gamestation and found Dreamcast games in abundance!
After managing to explain to the fourth member of Greenday (who, incidentally, was working behind the counter) that I DIDN'T WANT TO PRE-ORDER A FUCKING WII, I managed to procure the following titles for my ever-growing stash of blue boxed loveliness (loneliness):
Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles
Even though I'm not a fan of the Star Wars franchise in any way, shape or form, I have seen all six movies and played pretty much every SW game there has ever been (except Yoda Stories, because it looks wank). Even stranger, with the purchase of Jedi Power Battles, I now own all three Star Wars games released for the DC (Episode 1: Racer and Demolition being the other two). All three range in quality drastically - Racer is arse-meltingly good, Demolition is just arse and Power Battles is, well, also a bit arse. It sort of follows the story of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (which was also, surprisingly, arse) and you get to 'battle' through various appropriatley themed levels with your (very) trusty lightsabre in hand.
Most of the enemies encountered along the way are of the robotic variety and will crumble at the merest of touches, and you can also deflect their own laser fire back at them with your blade. But that's about as good as it gets in Power Battles. Apart from the light sabres and the legendary intro music (complete with yellow writing that vanishes into an invisible sphincter in the middle of the screen (more arse!)), there's not a lot to recommend it - animation is extremely ropey, the graphics look like they were created by Bertha (right, yesterday) and it could be any old generic platformer if you took out Ewan McGregor and the Yoga "Mmmm!" noise every single fucking time you collect an item.
Not a game I've ever actually seen on sale before - even on eBay, but one I knew existed somewhere out in the ether due to a review I saw in a mag once. It's basically the official game that accompanied Aardman(Wallace & Gromit)'s animated movie of the same name. The most noteable thing about Chicken Run is that it doesn't feature Mel Gibson's voice. The second most noteable thing is that on the back page of the instruction manual, it states that 1287 chicken pies were eaten by the game's production team during the development. Cheers for that information guys!
Moving on to the game itself, it plays a bit like a super-watered down version of Metal Gear Solid in that you, as a hen, must venture out of the chicken coup and into the various areas of the farm in order to collect items that will help you build a plane to escape. Or something along those lines. I mention MGS in comparison because Chicken Run is more an exercise in not being seen by the guard dogs who are wandering around, or the farmer himself. If you do get seen, you invariably get mauled to death by the dogs and ripped limb from limb in a bloody cloud of feathers. Tony Martin then pops up and shoots a gypsy through the window in the background. Graphically, Chicken Run is only marginally better than the average PS1 game and is full of hilarious glitches and fuck ups; but the sound is of such outstanding quality it makes you wish they'd put the same amount of effort into the visuals. Fans of the film will be interested, but the rest of us (normal) people will see it for what it is: a slap dash cash in that not even Mel Gibson would lend his alcoholic, drug addled, anti-semitic name to.
Not really the kind of thing you expect to see on the Dreamcast: a title that should really only have been released as a freeware PC game. It's a bare bones point and click adventure (that, gasp, uses the mouse!) where you take control of a group of aliens who, whilst returning home from a picnic in space, manage to crash on a depressing, rainy, putrid planet inhabited by mindless worker-ant type beings whose only interest in life is destroying themselves and eating burgers. It's called Earth. Now my Ford Prefect bit is out of the way, I'll continue.
These aliens, whose number totals five and have names such as Bud Buddiovitch and Stereo Monovici, happen to crash near a small quiet town and decide to set up home in an abandoned house whilst repairs are carried out on their ride. Unfortunatley, the local nutty professor (there's one in every neighbourhood, folks) Dr Sakarin finds out and decides he wants to perform experiments on the aliens (and, possibly, full cavity searches). He sends out a bounty hunter called Bolok to capture them and thats basically the premise of the game. Getting away from Bolok...and the Earth.
On first glance, Stupid Invaders appears to be the best looking game you've ever played due to the high-res pre-rendered backdrops and well animated 'claymation' characters, but look a little deeper and you'll realise it's no more than the sum of it's parts - flat 2D images. The gameplay consists mainly of wandering from screen to screen picking up items and then using them to solve a puzzle in the very next room; and scratching your head in bewilderment as it attempts to amuse you with one of the many, many bizarre cut scenes or visual jokes thrown in. It's billed as a 'adult' themed game, and yes, there are various refences to poo, wee, wanking, homosexuality and sexual perversion...but funny? risque? pull the other one guys - Duke Nukem 3D was more risque than Stupid Invaders. It's not a terrible game by any means, just a bit pointless on an arcade-geared console like the Dreamcast.
Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
Oh...where am I?! Don't do that with my toothbrush Mr Glitter! Oh...wait a second...oh, I must have had a funny turn there: BECAUSE I HAVE JUST WITNESSED ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GAMES THAT THERE HAS, IS, AND EVER WILL BE!
It's called Ecco, and it's on the Dreamcast. Don't bother buying that Xbox 360 Mr Warbucks...here, buy this twenty quid Dreamcast and five pound copy of Ecco instead. Now, go home, plug it in and prepare to have your retinas tickled by Sega's version of the feather duster.
If you're still in the dark about what I'm trying to say - you clearly are a bonafide oxygen thief, but i'll get to the point - the 3D world, characters, effects...everything visually represented in Ecco...is unbelievably beautiful. One of the best looking games I've ever played - bar none. And that's not even taking into account the sublime sound effects and watery music; the silky smooth way your super-intelligent, warm blooded avatar moves through the oceans and lagoons, and the countless mini-quests and missions availible.
When you think of the Dreamcast, you conjure up images of Shenmue, Jet Set Radio, MSR, Soul Calibur, House of the Dead, Sega Rally, Urban Chaos...well, maybe not the last one, but definatley the others. Well add another to that list: Ecco. Find it, get it any way you can - you owe it to your Dreamcast to witness the production values and love that has gone into creating it. STOP READING THIS AND GO FIND A COPY OF ECCO! NOW!
And as an added bonus and testiment to my love for Ecco and his 'slippery when wet' fuselage, here's an Ecco wallpaper robbed from a vastly superior website: