In Praise Of Caleb...

It's been a while since Mr. Caleb, (the American Dreamcaster) walked into our lives and made The Dreamcast Junkyard a truly international affair... Apart from the Dreamcast love he's shown quite a lot, over on his excellent Hunyak Blog, he's also put quite a lot of sterling work over at our sister site, the Saturn Junkyard...
But he surpassed himself this week. You see apart from juggling about twelve jobs, and supplying residents of New York State with their lovely televisual pleasures, he's also taken the time to post me a shitload of unusual Dreamcast goodness...

Let's start with Smash TV, it was the winner of some sort of Homebrew development award... It's a lovely Robotron style shooter and it's so great to see new development on our favourite console... (but God Damn! - wouldn't it be nice to see something other than a shooter put out there? I guess Alice Dreams comes close - that was in the last package of lovely CDR's he sent me...)

Next there's Vampire Beat's Of Rage... BOR is a lovely cross between Streets Of Rage and erm... some other stuff... A fabulous piece of Homebrew that recreates the lovely linear 2D beat 'em ups of Megadrive/Genesis days...

But perhaps the newest kid on my Dreamcast block has to be the ability to play the lovely Lucas Arts classic "Monkey Island" from way back in about 1990... Yep, I'm able to access that lovely PC point and click classic tale of Mr. Guybrush Threepwood on my Dreamcast, courtesy of the lovely Scumm VM emulator...

It was a very lovely bunch of stuff! (Slightly disappointing was the failure of my CDR Street Fighter III - Third Strike, to load up... In the wake of the upcoming SF4, Games TM Magazine heralded SFIII as the best incarnation of the series..._

OK, I'd just like to say a big thanks to Mr. Caleb! He's a diamond! And thanks for expanding the Homebrew side of my DC collection!

Puzzling Wet Patch

Saw an interesting little movie called Alpha Dog yesterday. It tells the (dramatised, slightly doctored) true story of a small-time drug dealer/wannabe gangsta who kidnaps the kid brother of a former ‘dawg’ who owes money. And it’s got Justin Timberlake in it. Pretty decent film, if I’m being honest. However, the reason I’m telling you all this, believe it or not, is because the Dreamcast should really have featured in Alpha Dog. How so? Well, there are several scenes in the movie that show various characters playing on an Xbox console. Fair enough, I hear you say. But the film is set in November 1999 – a mere two months after the US launch of the Dreamcast! Now, if these hip, young, spliff smokin’, gun totin’ dudes had, say, a DeLorean powered by a nuclear reactor (coupled with a flux capacitor), I’d have believed that they could have feasibly owned an Xbox in late 1999, but seeing as Mr Gates’ pet project was a mere twinkle in his bollock sack at the time, maybe Timberlake et al should have been bashing away (chortle!) at Power Stone or Dynamite Cop instead. Just a thought.


Timberlake and chums clearly holding Xbox pads. In 1999. Anachronism?

Anyway, moving on to more pressing matters. I’ve been at it again. Wasting time and money on eBay when I really should have been working. Damn you, eBay Mobile. Alas, bids were placed and auctions were won. The fruit of this latest auction-checking frenzy? Why, its…

Wetrix +

Coming straight from the N64’s top drawer of puzzlers, Wetrix+ is quite a unique game on the Dreamcast in that the water effects are actually quite convincing. I’ll reiterate: The water in Wetrix+ actually looks and behaves…like water! Not blue jelly (Surf Rocket Racers), Blu Tack (Championship Surfer), or glass (Hydro Thunder) – it’s just water! In your face, Wave Race! But wait – water in a puzzle game? Yes. Let me explain.

The aim of Wetrix+ is to construct ‘lakes’ on the little square of floating ‘land’ in the centre of the screen. You do this by dropping clusters of little ‘up’ arrows that magically descent from the ether above. By connecting these clusters or rotating them and then dropping them on the ground, the land raises up in that shape. Still with me? Good. After a while, the arrow clusters make way for water droplets that you can strategically drop into your newly formed dry lakes and they fill up with the wet stuff. The idea is to make as many ‘lakes’ as possible and make 'em as deep as possible before too much water drains off the side of the landmass and fills up the test-tube thingy at the side. It’s a very simple idea and works suprisingly well – until the bombs start falling, ripping gaping holes in the floor and allowing the water to drain off all the quicker. It can get very tense as you battle to repair holes and drop fireballs in order to evaporate water from lakes that either have a hole in the side or are overflowing. Simple, but again – crackingly addictive.

Like I said earlier, Wetrix+ is basically a slightly upgraded port of an N64 game (just plain Wetrix – no ‘+’ sign y’see). The main difference you’ll notice between the two titles is that this Dreamcast incarnation has, as you’d expect, slightly better graphics and crisper sound effects. Gone are the fuzzy old mega-aliased visuals of yore, to be replaced with new ones that have been sharpened up no end; likewise the old music has been put though a head cleaner so it all sounds better than ever. If weird aciiiiiiid trip-out muzak is yer thang, that is. There are plenty of different game modes in Wetrix+ too, ranging from your common or garden ‘Classic’ mode to the challenge modes and the ‘Pro’ game. All of which are basically the same, save for their difficulty and range of different pieces which fall from the sky.

Wetrix+, then. A very simple concept exectuted with great mastery. A top puzzler that is both pleasing to the eye and really quite addictive. Get it in, peeps.

I actually only paid a quid for this copy (in mint condition, I hasted to add), and it even had a copy of Dream On Volume 1 hidden away in the rear of the case…along with a receipt from a French games shop. In case you were wondering, someone paid 5.90 Francs for it back in April 2004. Dreamcast games: a bargain in any currency. 

Propellor Arena

Having just read Tom's frankly magnificent post (below), I felt inspired to chip in my two penneth worth, and give an update to the (frankly) most barren gaming period since I got my first Dreamcast...

You see I've gone a bit 'current gen' since I first started posting on this most fabulous of blogs... I've got a Wii, a 360 and a DS... The Dreamcast is no longer my exclusive console... and therefore, my attention to our fave system has been somewhat diluted...

Still! I have been thrown a little Dreamcast gem in the week, which came by post across the 'pond', from regular DCJY correspondent Nick944, in the shape of the most excellent Propellor Arena! This is 'vapour ware' peeps, unreleased Dreamcast goodness that never saw the light of day.

But somehow, through the magic of the internet, we can now enjoy these unreleased classics, as if we'd paid £40 sterling for an official release, back in the day...

OK, I knew of the title, but had somehow imagined it as a shitty Aerowings clone, that I frankly would have rather eaten my own cack, rather than given a hope of playing... How wrong I was!!!

As soon as I popped the CDR into my Dreamcast ( despite being downloaded and burned in the USA) it played perfectly!!! Happy days! No region specific nonsense then...

And what a treat it was!!! A most wonderul AM2 production, the title screen made it apparent that this was a pure arcade treasure, with goofy playable characters to choose from, (my immediate thoughts referenced Crazy Taxi). The presentation, characters and musical score screamed arcade! Why, oh why, did this title never hit the stores for general release?!

Well, I knew from reading up on this title that the '911 event' had made the marketing of this particular game "ill timed" to say the least... when I first loaded it up, I couldn't fathom why it could be considered offensive... When I played the third level "Sky Scraper City" and my propellor monoplane hit that first building, I knew where the controversy was born...

Now at this point, the conspiracy theorist in me wants to shout from the ... erm... rooftops!
What a crying shame that this 'gem' was lost to the world because the Bush administration needed an excuse to start Gulf War 2! If you want justification for that sentence watch Loose Change, and make up your own mind...

However, what I can say is Propellor Arena is one of the most exciting pieces of 'vapour ware' ever, much better than Half Life, PBA Bowling, or the frankly dire Flinstones:Viva Rock Vegas...

For more information look here...

Propellor Arena
Flinstones: Viva Rock Vegas
PBA Bowling

Bollocks and Diamonds

Saw that Cloverfield last week. Wasn’t expecting much, but this gamer was very impressed. So what if it’s full of cock ups, plot holes and clichés. It fucking rocks. Big time. What doesn’t rock are the fucking imagination vacuums who reckon it’s shit. Why? Why is it shit? Because it wasn’t written by Jane Austen? Because it’s not riddled with bewildering, contrived sub-plots? Because it’s not in black and white with Spanish subtitles? FUCK OFF! It’s a good old fashioned monster movie delivered with a breath of fresh air in the way its shot. Simple as that. And if you’ve still not seen it, go and watch it. Now. It fucking rocks.

Just wanted to get that off my chest.

In other news, earlier today, whilst out spending hideous amounts of money on clothes manufactured in developing countries by starving people who earn less in a year than most of us do in a week, I spotted a rather curious looking book. No – it wasn’t a pristine copy of The Never Ending Story, and nor was it an original edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio. No, it was something far more remarkable – the Guinness Book of Records 2008: Gamer’s Edition.

Picking it up and flicking through it’s crisp and new-smelling pages, I was at first rather awed by the in-depth critiques of several of gaming’s biggest franchises – Halo, Tekken, Zelda et al. Then, after a sudden brainwave, I flicked to the index at the back to see if there were any entries dedicated to our favourite off-white cuboid of ecstasy – The Dreamcast! And there were…a whole two. TWO! The first was the slightest of mentions on a contents page timeline…and the second a measly paragraph squashed into a corner of a page that fleetingly honours the DC with being the first console of the ‘sixth generation.’ And that’s it, save for a few brief mentions when DC software is grudgingly given a look in when studying various genres. And, get this, there’s a sales figures section that features both the N64 and PSX, but neither the Saturn OR Dreamcast are mentioned. Furthermore, in the ‘Fighting Games’ chapter, there is NO MENTION WHATSOEVER OF SOUL CALIBUR!

Is Guinness yet another media entity that is trying to deny the existence of the Dreamcast under orders from Sony? Looks like it, people.

But fuck Guinness. And fuck their shit tome of LIES and DECIET. I’ve been buying more Dreamcast games off eBay. Lets have a looky…

Blue Stinger

One of the Dreamcast’s earlier releases, Blue Stinger is a 3D explore-and-shoot-things ‘em up much in the vein of Tomb Raider. But with a hint of Resident Evil thrown in. You play as either Elliot Balade or Dogs Bower and must travel to the heart of a mysterious island that has been overrun by mutants to basically find out what the fuck is going on. Along the way, you’ll get to meet various other characters, engage in unintentionally humourous conversations, kick the shit out of beasties (and steal their cash to buy ammo from vending machines (?!)), gasp at the swearing in the dialogue and marvel at the crispness of the garishly hued first-generation visuals. 

If you can’t tell from that diatribe, I really like Blue Stinger. It’s a quality, no-nonsense action game that features a super-cheesy story and has brilliant action sequences bursting out from around every corner. Brilliant stuff that puts a lot of later releases to shame. 8/10

Surf Rocket Racers

Taking the baton from the awesome Hydro Thunder and the not-so-awesome Aqua GT, Surf Rocket Racers is the third water based racing game on the ‘Cast. However, rather than having you race obscenely powerful speedboats (like in Hydro Thunder, that is. Aqua GT’s are more like pedalows), SRR squeezes your ass into a wetsuit and up onto a Jet Ski. Obvious comparisons to the N64’s seminal Wave Race can be made, but that’s just lazy. So I’ll leave that till later. So what does SRR offer? Well, loads of tracks, loads of playable racers to choose from (with the typical slow/good handling – fast/shit handling statistics), several championship modes and even a Crazy Box style challenge mode. So, you see – it already trumps Wave Race in that it has about a billion more play modes and tracks. 

Graphically, it also manages to impress slightly. The trackside detail is commendable and the racers themselves are well modeled. It’s just that the water looks less like water and more like a mass of jelly. So Wave Race has better water effects, but for me Surf Rocket Racers is the better of the two just because the former has the longevity of the Hepatitis virus once it leaves the body. SRR on the other hand will have you playing for ages. Well, a good half an hour anyway, and that’s 23 minutes longer than Wave Race will hold the attention of any intelligent sentient being. 7/10

Pro Pinball Trilogy

Pinball games aren’t really something I usually go for, but Pro Pinball Trilogy caught my attention simply because I’ve recently been hammering the shit out of the little pinball game that comes integrated with Windows XP. Yes, I am that sad. It’s addictive as hell though, so I figured that a full blown pinball game for the Dreamcast, complete with all the 128-bit bells and whistles you could wish for would be like gaming nirvana. Erm, not exactly. Pro Pinball has ‘Trilogy’ tacked on the end because it has 3 different tables to play on, and the back of the box proudly rams this fact home with some kind of smug satisfaction. My response?

“THREE?! Is that meant to be good?”

Fuck me – Windows’ free pinball game has one table. Anyway, Pro Pinball Trilogy does exactly what it says on the tin (smug box). 

It’s a pinball game that lets you control the flippers at the bottom of the table with the L and R triggers and lets you nudge the table with the analogue stick. Rumours that you can actually jump onto the table and smash the glass with your steel toe-capped rigger boots by pressing X and Y together are unfounded. For the more anal pinball aficionado (of which I’m sure there are many), there’s the option to view pre-rendered images of each table and even chance to tinker with the table’s dot matrix score display in order to test the light bulbs in the flippers (no, really). If, however, you’d rather go to the pub and talk to real people – give Pro Pinball Trilogy a miss. And stick to the free pinball in Windows. 4/10

Walt Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour (The Hunt For Curly’s Gold) (Part IV)

No, that’s not it’s real title – but fuck me! How long does the name have to be?! Anyway, I believe that several posts ago, in my study of Wacky Races, I claimed that that game was the Dreamcast’s answer to Mario Kart (hmm – more suspect Nintendo envy…). Well consider that comment well and truly rescinded. WDWQ: MRT is actually the Dreamcast’s true answer to Mario Kart. Obviously, it doesn’t quite measure up to Ninty’s powerhouse series (that doesn’t include Double Dash, by the way) because nothing can, but it goes a fair way to claim the crown as the Dreamcast’s most enjoyable ‘Kart’ game. 

Taking on the role of either Chip, Dale or one of the other strange Disney ‘characters’ that no-one’s ever heard of (where the frigging hell are Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy etc?!), it’s down to you to race around various Disney World themed circuits in order to win back parts of a firework machine that exploded because nuts were emptied into it. Naturally. Ignore the daft story and rather poo graphics though, and what you get with WDWQ: MRT is a genuinely fun little racer. It’s obviously – as with most games of this ilk – for kids, and this is reflected in the difficulty level, but it really is quite an enjoyable game. It all moves at a fairly slick pace and features some great weapons (check out the ‘teacup bomb’), and is a hoot in multiplayer. All in all, a nice karter. Not a patch on Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing, you understand, but fun nonetheless. 6/10

Caesar’s Palace 2000

I’ve only ever been in a Casino once, and that was only because a mate had a trial membership and all the other bars in town were closing. I didn’t actually play any games, you understand. My main focus was the bar, but this experience alone qualifies me to rate Caesar’s Palace 2000. And if the real Caesar’s Palace is even remotely like this game, I pity the fools who shell out a small fortune to go there. Casino Royale, this most certainly ain’t. 

The box gleefully announces that the game boasts “…the largest assortment of heart pounding 3D gambling games ever under one roof!”. Heart pounding? I almost had a fucking heart attack when I discovered this mess masquerading as a Dreamcast game. Put simply, Caesar’s Palace 2000 is a collection of card games, slot machines and roulette wheel games modeled in 3D. There is very little sound or music to speak of, and unless you have more than a passing interest in any of the shit that goes on inside a real casino, you’ll find very little of interest here. I really wanted to see Joe Pesci smash someone’s head in with a whisky glass, but alas it wasn’t to be. The game’s Poor. Very Poor.

See what I did there? (shotgun cocks) 2/10

So there we are! Another mixed bag of bollocks and diamonds. Not literally – that’d be slightly sick. Until next time…

Oh, and with regards to the Manchester derby on Sunday, Father Krishna: My prediction - United 7 City 0 :)

Guns...Lots of Guns

Aye up! You’ll be pleased to hear that since my last post here at the ‘Yard, I haven’t thrown my guts up once! Two whole weeks without spewing the contents of my stomach all over a) the floor, b) the wall, or c) my bed, curtains or other related soft furnishings. I’m actually quite proud of myself. I have, however, been on the receiving end of a fist (well, several fists) and have duly acquired a black eye and a suspected broken nose. Such are the risks when one partakes in the quaffage of alcohol. Which I won’t be doing again for a while. Cough.

But you don’t want to hear about my drunken escapades. You want to know about man’s greatest feat of technological engineering – No, not the Stargate – the Sega Dreamcast! More to the point, Sega Dreamcast GAMES! Yes, even more games, by way of eBay, have landed on my desk and then jumped into my console. Are they good? Well, we’re about to find out…

Conflict Zone

I personally can’t understand why there was never a Command & Conquer or Starcraft game released for the DC. I’m pretty sure EA hadn’t swallowed Westwood at the time of the Cast’s reign – so why no port of either?! Even the fucking N64 got (blurry, cut down) versions of both. As with most things to do with Sega’s white brick of joy – The Mind Boggles ™. Aaaaaaanyway, back to the present. Conflict Zone, then. About as close as you’re likely to get to playing Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Warzone etc etc etc on your Dreamcast. Basically it’s a top down real time strategy game that has you constructing a base, building tanks, training troops and then marauding over the countryside wiping out enemy units. The premise is a simple but effective one – and one which proves to be immensely enjoyable…if executed correctly.

These are PC shots, but the DC version is practically identical. Looks sweet, no? Wait till it moves...
With this in mind, Conflict Zone has all the right ingredients, but it seems as though the chef is a retard. With dribble on his chin and shit stains on his apron.

Let me digress. In conflict Zone, you are only allowed to build your base where the computer wants you to build it – so forget about scouting around for a good location that may be naturally fortified or protected by trees etc. Also, you can only place buildings next to each other in a grid pattern so when you do finally get up and running, the base looks more like a council estate than a highly functional military outpost. This is only a minor thing – but still quite annoying. Slightly more niggling is the graphics engine.

It may look pretty sweet in the screen shots, and for the most part it’s quite a good looking game – especially since the whole battlefield is modeled in 3D – meaning that you can zoom and spin the camera around to your heart’s content. It’s just that the whole engine seems to creak and strain as soon as you have more than a few units chugging around the screen. Wouldn’t it have been better to just use a 2D engine like Red Alert 2’s?

Don’t get me wrong – Conflict Zone is a highly playable real time strategy romp – certainly the best (only?) example on our favourite console, and features some great ideas. For example, gaining public support for your campaigns by treating civilians well is a nice touch, as is the way you get more funding depending on whether your war is seen as just by the media (clearly the stuff of fantasy, eh, Mr Bush?). It’s just that the interface is unwieldy and the graphics are so jumpy…

You get the idea. It’ a nice try at a new take on the strategy genre and for the most part it’s quite good. Just not as good as it could’ve been. And nowhere near Command & Conquer.

Gunbird 2

Yet another uber-camp Dreamcast game? Looks like it. Yep, following on from Fighting Vipers, Tech Romancer and Bust A Move comes Gunbird 2 – a super gay 2D shoot ‘em up that features a fat bloke on a magic carpet, a semi-naked school girl on a broomstick, Count Dracula and a Bon Jovi lookalike that can turn bullets into roses. Just a normal day at Capcom, then. 
There’s not actually much more to it than that.

Once you get through the ridiculous intro and loading screens (of which there are many), you get the choice of whether you want the screen to be the size of a postage stamp, normal or bigger than the telly so you can move it around whilst playing. Sounds weird, I know, but I you play it you’ll understand. After that, you chose one of the aforementioned oddball characters (again, why is there a fat bloke on a magic carpet?) and then launch into the game. Like I said, it’s a 2D up-the-screen shooter like Xenon 2 (anyone remember that classic?!), where loads of flying baddies come down and shoot glowing shit at you. Which you must dodge. Or die. That’s it. Hold down the fire button and Bob’s your uncle. It also kinda reminds me of Raiden on the Jaguar, only with really well drawn enemies. The graphics are very slightly blocky, but it’s packed with detail – there are even people walking about in the streets below the action, obviously oblivious to the frantic battle between fat blokes on magic carpets and flying mechanoids going on above their heads.
Which leads me to the next quandary. If the enemy forces in Gunbird 2 have the funds and technology to build such impressive battle-droids and flying fortresses, why can’t they manufacture a gun than shoots in a straight line? Strange…

That aside, Gunbird 2 is a wholly inoffensive shooter that passes time nicely. Can’t really complain.

European Super League

A football game, unofficially based on the Champions League…that doesn’t feature Manchester United. And only has 16 teams in it. And has no running commentary. And has shit graphics, shit game play and shit sound effects. That’ll be European Super League.

Again, these are PC shots. Although the DC version is practically identical. Look at his arms! Chortle!

Based on the already arse Viva Football engine, ESL comes straight from the bottom of the Virgin Interactive cess barrel without so much as a fart, let alone a fanfare. Joining the rest of the Dreamcast’s utterly pathetic crop of footy games, ESL does nothing to buck the trend that the rest of the pack so adamantly adhere to, ie it has a complete lack of anything good. Although the pitches are nice and green. Complete sewage.

So there we have it. 3 games – two of which are OK, one of which is the gaming equivalent of face cancer. My advice? Give Gunbird and Conflict Zone a whirl, avoid European Super League like you would a Lenny Henry DVD boxset.

Reet, I'm off to watch Cloverfield.