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10 Very British Games for the Sega Dreamcast

The British are an odd bunch. We're not really a country (look we're not, you have to admit it. It's like someone got a bunch of nations together who don't really like each other all that much, told them the same rich pricks are in charge of them all and everyone was like "oh okay" and went on about their business. Other than the Irish, obviously), but we have contributed far more than our share towards modern culture (partly by being real arseholes to just about everyone else and insisting they consume our culture whilst invading them), have terrible cuisine, terrible weather and a really, really shit flag. Yet the internet (and by "the internet", I mean Americans on the internet) views all of us Brits as a bunch of posh people who live in country estates who apologise to each other every other second; generally a bunch of genial, mostly nice and horribly polite people with bad teeth. Of course, the Europeans don't see us like that, and instead see us for our true selves - a bunch of gammon-faced troublemaking binge-drinking tourists who invented the sport they're now better than us at. And of course by "us" I mean "the English" because somehow the Welsh and Scottish get a free pass from everyone else despite them both sitting right alongside us when we were arseholes to the rest of the world. So yeah, we're not really a very nice country all in all, if you can even call us a country. What has this to do with the Dreamcast? Absolutely nothing - other than the fact that there are several games on this little Japanese 128-bit wonder that try and come close to truly capturing the real essence behind "being British" - and those games are my target for the latest in my ongoing series of lists about Dreamcast things.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at the ten most "cor blimey, fish n' chips, bottla wateh, tea and crumpets, god save the king" games on the Dreamcast.


Disney's 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue

Set mostly in London (aren't all UK-based video games?), this Disney adaptation contains Big Ben, posh English people and dogs. All quintessentially British. The little canine stars travel to various locations either directly modelled after real-life locations (or at least as far as "modelled" can be attributed to a Dreamcast-era movie tie-in) as well as some more generic locations with a British feel. As the game is based on a live action movie and not an actual Disney animated film (which was always a bit of a weird mix), there is some definite artistic license taken, especially as developer Toys for Bob are based in the distinctly un-British state of California, along with Prolific Publishing, who dealt with the Dreamcast port. This all results in a "Disneyfied" Britain that will be familiar to most of us but doesn't quite reflect the hard streets of London or the rubbish-strewn, annoying middle class walker-infested countryside we all love. At times, you half expect Mary Poppins to emerge from a chimney with a hopping Dick Van Dyke singing some ridiculous song behind her. Disney's bastardisation of British culture is something we should all bemoan, especially if you've ever visited the city of Bath and had to contend with the culture-shocked American tourists despondently trudging the streets who thought that everything would be posh, cultured and historic but instead have to contend with crackheads trying to sell shit-stained PS2 games from a carrier bag to people on the street. And that's just Bath - can you imagine their reaction if they visited Swindon?

This is Piccadilly Circus. Sort of. Points for the phone box, but it's slightly less busy than I remember it.

The first appearance of a red double decker in the article. Surely more will come?

The British countryside in all its glory. Sort of.

Britishness Rating: As British as Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Dancing chimney sweeps should, however, make a return.

British Town it Best Represents: London, I suppose. If you're American, anyway. 


Chicken Run

Take the Great Escape (standard British Christmas TV fare), mix it with chickens, and you have a perfect example of how we're still holding onto the memory of World War II in some weird national obsession that can't be very healthy. As a video game, Chicken Run takes another classic piece of media (this time Metal Gear Solid) and replaces the Snake with characters of a far more avian variety. Despite being a movie-licensed title (uh oh) and mostly being aimed at kids, Chicken Run is one tough mother of a game. I take no pride in saying I would have seen precisely one level of this game if it hadn't been for the ease of downloading and using old VMU saves, but then I really don't get on with stealth games (other than the Thief series, but I won't bore you with a tangent about how that is one series we should have had on the Dreamcast). How British is it though? Well the faux-wartime nostalgia is palpable, Aardman Animations is an absolute British institution (and a beloved Bristolian export. We have a Wallace and Gromit store in our mall, we're fucking crazy for this shit!) and anyone who has spent anytime in the Great British countryside will instantly recognise the dingy air of desperation and despair that hangs in the air above our industrialised meat production industries. I can almost smell the manure in the air. Oh, and there's some old chicken who thinks he's a spitfire pilot (well he's in the film, I can't actually remember if he's in the game) which is also very reminiscent of conversations you might have down the local pub in any English village with some old chap wearing a cap. Honestly, there's a generation of people in this country who I think view themselves as personally punching Hitler in the teeth, despite being a toddler during the war. 

The prison camp / English countryside farmhouse comparisons are very real.

Living the English dream of pretending they are in a prison camp.

British duvet cover. Win. 

Britishness Rating: As British as a 75 year old pensioner crowing on about World War II despite them not being born at the time. A British staple. 

British Town it Best Represents: Norwich. This is because I associate Norwich exclusively with Bernard Matthews, and I imagine that Norfolk is full of these prisoner of war-like camps for all of his turkeys. Don't question me. Also, important that you search for "Bernard Matthews" and not "Bernard Manning" when researching, as whilst the first is a jolly fellow who nonetheless murdered millions of turkeys, the latter was a fat racist who was never funny.  


Deep Fighter

This forgotten deep-sea adventure is not the highlight of the Dreamcast catalogue and is quite clearly not set in these hallowed isles, but it does have David Walliams in it, and clearly this makes it as British as sausage and mash. His inclusion means the game is like an underwater X Factor but slightly less irritating. He was also on Little Britain - a comedy series so unfunny it recycled offensive jokes from the '70s but everyone gave it a pass because Tom Baker did the voice over and he's everyone's favourite Doctor Who. Somehow David Walliams became a household name for that and his subsequent celebrity status rather than this half-decent action-adventure, which is not that surprising as his appearance in the game's cutscenes are acted about as well as any film on the Sci-Fi channel with the word "Dinosaur" in its title (did you see that film where Stonehenge was some sort of energy-channelling conduit with earth-destroying power? Literally the most hokey shit imaginable. It was Ed Wood-glorious) but it did bring an air of '70s British sci-fi to proceedings, like some sort of underwater UFO. So really, overall, not very British, but it did allow me to moan about David Walliams. Also - game's title could be the name of a porn movie. Just saying.

There he is!

Utterly, utterly wooden.

I didn't play past the first level so I'm afraid all you have here is his opening cinematic appearances. Why are his arms so long?

I stole this screenshot from an article Tom wrote about 18 years ago. I'm super lazy. Obviously this screenshot is not very British though.

Britishness Rating: As British as terrible reality shows, awful early '00s comedy and superb '70s British sci-fi. What a combination!

British Town it Best Represents: Christ knows... I didn't think this bit through. Slough? Let's go with Slough. 


Giant Killers

Saturday afternoon, 3pm, middle of winter. Rochdale take on Oldham Athletic. You've just purchased a Spanish wonderkid who has no idea about the cultural vacuum he's about to step into. This is football management. To the average British lad (and many lasses) these are two words which illicit an excitement that is almost impossible to put into words. Wrongly insulted as "staring at excel" by people who can only play games that have flashing lights and fantastical worlds, I along with many others have lost countless hours tinkering with formations, scouting foreign transfer markets and pondering over which training regime will help your latest youth intake be more Real Madrid than Blyth Spartans. Like the finest of grand strategy titles, its a genre where bold decisions and risky moves can either pay off with big wins or leave you clinging on to your job with forlorn hope that next Saturday you'll turn it around. On the Dreamcast we can enjoy this most refined of game with the pretty-decent-but-it's-not-Football-Manager Giant Killers, the very name of which conjures up memories of watching the football scores come through on Grandstand and witnessing the latest cup exploits of your Herefords, Yeovils and Barrow Towns. It's pretty barebones presentation-wise, as you'd expect, but that just lends it an even more nostalgic kick of playing these games on an '80s micro. There's no grand view of English heritage or picturesque images of the British countryside here - instead, this is a game which invokes Des Lynam and Chris Kamara, a tracksuit-wearing pursuit into lower-league football that only the British can really do quite so well. Half a battered sausage in a polystyrene burger box; walking to the ground surrounded by your comrades, belting out songs with a scarf around your neck. I can think of little else more quintessentially British.

As I can't actually take screenshots on GK, here's one Tom did earlier! Imagine explaining to anyone not from England about these places. Leigh, Hednesford, Doncaster, Dagenham... 


A result Charlton fans will never again see.

Kev's superb Giant Killers video series took us to some really exotic places.

Britishness Rating: As British as watching the football results coming through on a Saturday afternoon.

British Town it Best Represents: Rochdale, because I know nothing about Rochdale other than that football club. Imagine that - of all the places represented on a Sega console, one of them is shitting Rochdale.  


Jimmy White's 2 Cueball

Only in Britain could Jimmy White be a genuine sports icon to a generation of teenage boys. If I tried to explain to the TikTok generation that the bloke above was an inspiration, and not some part-time window cleaner that hung round the pool table in the local pub every night, I'd be laughed at - but he really was someone viewed in awe (at least by my classmates). Snooker is a bloody odd sport to explain at the best of times but the idea that these ordinary looking blokes who don't quite fit into their fitted vests are actually highly skilled wizards of the green blaze is difficult to truly convey. But what makes this game so very, very British is not only everyman Jimmy on the cover, but its reasonable recreation of a most serene and treasured institution of this country. You can have a go at snooker, obviously, as well as pool if you are that way inclined, but you can also play around with Archer Maclean's arcade title Dropzone, fly around the faux Victoriana-inspired digital room like a little bee, and most importantly of all, indulge in a spot of the old arrows. Darts, the only sport whose competitors make snooker players look like Olympic athletes, has been keeping the drunks in pubs occupied for generations. Stepping up to the beer-stained oche in the local; witnessing the multiple holes in the plaster where previous players have shown their lack of ability; playing against that one bloke who constantly talks about being in the darts team and thinks Eric Bristow is a legend, but can barely keep himself vertical with all the Old Speckled Hen he's drunk. Darts is as British as can be, and any game which contains it should make any warm-bloodied Brit well up, "Rule Britannia" gently playing in their heads. Jimmy White though - what a legend. 

I've never been to a snooker hall which looks as nice as this. Most are in the upper floors of '70s leisure centres and stink of piss.

I'm pretty sure I've been to a pub with that wallpaper though.

Successfully recreates what posh people in this country have in their houses whilst the rest of us live in squalor.

Britishness Rating: As British as that weird old bloke sitting in the corner of the pub with a flat cap, a pack of pork scratchings and a mild smell of must.

British Town it Best Represents: Sheffield, due to the Snooker being played at the Crucible. I do love Sheffield though, - great city. I did go to a cider bar there once though, and I don't know what you soft Northerners are doing, but some sort of wine bar-style environment to sell cider is some seriously dorky stuff and the entire city of Bristol laughs at you for it.  


Magic Pockets

This underrated indie release merges numerous things which are as British as Queen Camilla's guilt-stained knickers. Its Amiga roots hark back to a time of gaming genius, with a whole host of British developers who pushed boundaries and inspired a generation. The game's very developers, the acclaimed Bitmap Brothers, had a dark, brooding style, very much in the vein of the glorious days of 2000 AD - dirty and dystopian future worlds, a cyberpunk / dark Victoriana worldview which was always more appealing than the bright and hopeful comic book view of America. And finally, the game was based off of one of those phone-in Saturday morning kids TV show games, the ones where some hopeless lad from up North would shout "left! Left! Right! Up!" down a crackly phoneline in a forlorn pursuit of some proper rubbish prize. I never saw the appeal of those games, it always seemed to be mostly designed to make the kid look a bit rubbish and illicit cheap laughs at the player's expense, but hey, that was what those morning shows were like back in the '90s; an anarchic display of acceptable rebellion and the ever looming threat that some kid would shout "fuck" when they managed to get through to the studio to ask the latest terrible pop group a question. The full game itself is a decently enjoyable platformer with some wacky ideas but let's not kid ourselves and think this article is about the games themselves. It holds up a mirror to a period of British culture and that, frankly, is why this is very British indeed. 

Literally screams mid-'90s Amiga to me.

So blocky. Actually... very Milton Keynes.

Last two screenshots from MobyGames, as I still haven't set up my capture device properly.

Britishness Rating: As British as Going Live!

British Town it Best Represents: Milton Keynes - but in particular the Milton Keynes dystopian mutant ghetto as displayed in the Strontium Dog comics, my personal favourite ever 2000 AD character. The city itself is an absolute disaster though. 


Silver

There's nothing more British (I know I've said this about several things already) than a warped, historically inaccurate medieval fantasy with added magic. We've grown up on a diet of saints killing dragons, long-bearded wizards in blue robes, and an unvoiced desire by us all to cast off the shackles of our land-owning overlords and follow in the footsteps of Wat Tyler with a spot of rebellion, in a collective delusion that someday we'll be free from the oppressive royal yoke of servitude we perpetually find ourselves living in. Silver - a criminally underrated RPG-adventure romp, allows you to do that very thing (well... sort of), and is full of clich├ęs, amazing regional accents, and lots of dead landlords. The British dream. It's not quite Tolkien, obviously, and its vision of the world is somewhat more exotic than a trip to the Bull Ring on a Wednesday afternoon, but there is a kernel of Britishness here that is unquestionable. Sure, if this was a movie it would have Kevin Costner as the star (complete with his "I can't be arsed to try to do the accent" Prince of Thieves voice), and the fantasy world is now a universally applied trope that has as much to do with Germanic romanticism as it does with anything from these isles, but there's probably nothing quite as good on the Dreamcast which allows you to channel the hatred for your ancestors refusal to fight against centuries of Norman-fuelled, land owning aristocratic, church-supported class warfare as this game does. Plus, added spells and shit.

Traditional British home (yes, I know my video settings for capturing screenshots is set way too dark).

Post-industrial wastelands, a must for any game set on these isles. It's like the hordes of Mordor triumphed in these hellscape cities. 

I went to a place like this in Cornwall. It smelled heavily of fish and the stench of years of underfunded development.


Britishness Rating: As British as a Hollywood-produced version of Robin Hood.

British Town it Best Represents: We Brits have a thriving tourist industry pretty much entirely based around the sort of mythical, fantasy-based legends that this game displays. There is a palpable air of disappointment when tourists realise that far from a land of Harry Potter, dragons and merry little peasants happily serving their social betters, we are actually a land of shagging behind the bins at the back of the kebab shop, pissing against a HMV window and starting fights with door staff because we can't handle more than one pint of Carling. 


Tomb Raider Chronicles/The Last Revelation

Queen Victoria. Princess Di. Boudica. Florence Nightingale. Alongside these female icons of the British isles we can clearly place the pointed breasts of Lara Croft. A cultural icon of the '90s, Lara embodies everything that the middle classes in this country aspire to be - adventurous, well-travelled, independent, ability to lock a butler in a fridge. And of course, what else embodies the British spirit more than visiting foreign lands, robbing their ancestral burial grounds of culturally important artefacts, then putting them on display in our museums for generations of school children to walk past without giving a single shit? It's what has made this country great. Yeah sure, Lara's seemingly cavalier attitude to gunning down entire populations of wild animals doesn't quite fit with the animal-loving nature of us Brits, but watching some posh bird going to foreign lands and making a bit of a nuisance of herself is pretty close to the bone. Indiana Jones obviously did it slightly better (he punched more Nazis for one thing) but Tomb Raider's rise to fame during the "Cool Britannia" phase of this country has cemented her as part of this country's psyche. When the Dreamcast duo of titles do visit the British isles they look pretty cool, with a dramatic Scottish castle serving as one stage in the young Miss Croft's adventures and actually being visually pretty decent. But it's the unbearable poshness and empire-building cultural insensitivity that really is the core takeaway here.

Most locations are decidedly not British.

Nice map. No seriously, the map is interesting. I have a thing for maps.

Giving off Frankenstein vibes to me.


Britishness Rating: As British as lads mags, cool Britannia and the theft of foreign artefacts through the guise of imperial conquest.

British Town it Best Represents: Oxford. Because it's full of really posh folks, has plenty of imperial crimes to answer for, and is a bit of a disappointment when you visit. 


Who wants to be a Millionaire

Yes, the Americans had their own version of this immensely popular quiz show, but it was us Brits who brought this to the small screen first, and I would question whether there is any TV quiz show more British than this (maybe Bullseye comes a close second). A coughing major (did he cough, or was it his wife? I lost interest very quickly), the one who isn't very good from the Eggheads winning the first million pound prize, and the ever annoying Chris Tarrant on hosting duties. Luckily the host doesn't get some sort of digitised version of himself here (a visual atrocity we would not have wanted), but does lend his voice to a range of very British questions that will have people from anywhere else in the world scratching their heads. You also have some hilarious accented "phone a friend" answers, which presumably come from the developer's friends and families. No doubt about it, this is a definite contender for most British game.

I've never noticed how Tardis-like the set is. Now that's British.

If only this money was real, I could afford to pay my electricity bill this month.

I do like Sheffield. Lovely little bit of green outside the Crucible too if I remember correctly.

Britishness Rating: As British as a pub quiz down the local, with all the drama that the regular teams always display. One of my quiz team's opponents once accused us of having a professional in our line up. Lads, I write stupid shit about the Dreamcast on a blog, calm yourselves down.

British Town it Best Represents: Swindon. Definitely Swindon. Don't ask me why.


Worms Armageddon

If Monty Python was a video game, I'd expect it would be like Worms. I don't mean it would have the Pythons throwing ridiculous projectiles at each other (...to be fair, that would be cool), or a giant foot coming down to stomp the entire stage (Shit, that's a damn good idea actually! Someone tell Team 17! For the love of God, no one involve John Cleese though), but it's the anarchic humour of the series which is reminiscent of the best Pythonesque moments. From the silly names of the various worm teams, to the childish weapons, to just the real absurdity of the entire thing, this is a prime example of what our public school educated upper classes have brought to our culture. It's a shame more comedy classics didn't get some sort of Dreamcast treatment. Morecombe and Wise as the stars of the Floigan Brothers? The League of Gentlemen being the NPCs in Shenmue? Phantasy Star Online with a hologram, a square-headed android, a cat and a scouser? Literally could have been gaming nirvana.

I think this is from the PC version. My capture device wasn't working and like the cheap, lazy sod that I am, I refuse to try and fix it. Thanks MobyGames for making another of my articles actually doable!

I think this is actually World Party. On PC. To be honest I genuinely resent having to find pictures for this article as I'm very, very tired.

Prince Andrew (worm) here in a precarious position. I bet he's sweating.

Britishness Rating: As British as The Brittas Empire. I bloody loved the Brittas Empire. There's something about leisure centres that is so incredibly British, so incredibly... shit. 

British Town it Best Represents: Cambridge would be the intelligent answer, but as the game I referenced is Worms Armageddon, I'm going to go for a city which best encapsulates that second word - that city is Hull.

***

There we go. The most British games on the console. For all you non-Brits out there, I encourage you to delve into the above titles and really experience what this country is all about - Mary Poppins and prison camp Chickens; terrible reality shows and lower league football on a Saturday afternoon; terrible kids TV and incomprehensible sports icons; class-based fantasy revenge and posh lasses robbing foreign lands; coughing majors and Monty Python. Britain. You have to love it.

2 comments:

  1. Deep Fighter what an awful game so bland and why the FMV

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  2. As an American, I do not "views all of us Brits as a bunch of posh people who live in country estates who apologize (with a "z") to each other every other second." But maybe I've spent too much time on mainland Europe. ;-)

    Cool list though. 'Chicken Run' as a game always intrigued me, but I've never played it. I used to be a big soccer (football) fan, and still occasionally watch the Premiere League, Bundesliga, MLS and the US teams play, so I was always bummed we never got a FIFA level game on DC.

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