2003 REDUX – Time Crisis 3

Time Crisis 3

Developer(s) Nex Entertainment (as Nextech) [1]
Publisher(s) Namco
Designer(s) Hajime Nakatani (producer), Takashi Satsukawa (director)
Platform(s) Arcade, PlayStation 2, Mobile phone, iOS
Release date(s) PlayStation 2–  October 31, 2003
Genre(s) Rail shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Arcade system Namco System 246


Joel: What a game, what a series! Any arcade with a Time Crisis machine is a decent arcade in my books. I’d prefer TC2, but 3 is damned good too. I think it’s fair to say I have spent more coins on playing Time Crisis games in the arcade than any other.

So, as you’ll know, this is the replacement for 2003, given the dismal reception we got with Simpsons Hit n Run. I can’t really argue either; this is simply a better game, sorry Mr. Groening.

The Time Crisis games are largely similar to one another, but it’s a great formula so why not? You and your (either AI or real) buddy are enforcers of all things good and wholesome, charged with taking down legions of baddies for whatever reason is relevant to the story. In the case of TC 3, they have occupied the fictional island of Astigos. In this third instalment, your rather mundane pistol is supplemented by a veritable arsenal of weapons comprising a shotgun, machine gun and grenade launcher. Which is great news! The premise is simple enough. Shoot. Don’t get shot.

As some of you may be aware, special arrangements had to be made for this game. As it uses light guns (yup, I have a pukka, beautiful condition pair of G-CON guns) we are forced to use an old-style CRT television to play this game, just to add to the logistical nightmare Rachael will have to deal with on the night. It also meant I had to lug a CRT television all the way across town on the damn bus, which was just awesome.

On the night, we’ll be playing this on a television kindly donated by my parents (though I can’t help but think it was just an excuse for my dad to buy a TFT:)) It will be a bit smaller than what we’re used to but totally worth it.

I’m very fortunate to live walking distance from not one but two arcades with Time Crisis machines so I play this game a lot. I think I’m going to win this one, assuming I retain enough strength to hold the gun that is.

Liam:  So poor old Simpsons: Hit and Run has been the victim of a coup d’état. It’s our fault really. When we started the process we put a prototype list together which was mainly full of placeholders. Simpsons Hit and Run was one of these placeholders that seemed to slip through the net and get into the main list. It was a good game but the multiplayer was very limited and on reflection we agreed that something better could have taken its place.

We had a few great ideas to replace it with (SSX and Mortal Kombat being the main two – although I did try very hard to sneak Tiger Woods Golf in) but we thought that as the proposed games were sequels or similar to games we already had on the list – that we were not 100% confident with any of them being in. We needed something fresh, something that was truly enjoyable and if we were going to make a change then that new game would have to be undeniably excellent. Then we came up with the idea of Time Crisis.

Along with the House of the Dead franchise Time Crisis is the de-facto arcade game of our generation, especially for me as someone who dislikes racing games. Players shoot the screen with a plastic gun to dispatch enemies which controlling the ‘cover mechanism’ with a foot pedal. Many hours of my life were spent in smoky, run down arcades pumping my modest pocket money into a Time Crisis machine so I could hop around in front of a screen with a bright pink plastic gun – the best part being that all the arcade machines had two player ‘link play’ where you and a friend could team up against the nefarious Zagorias Federation – ultimately causing arguments when one of you dies and leaves the other with screen after screen of bad guys.

Sadly the old light gun games that run on home consoles have been made obsolete by advancements in television technology. New LED, LCD and Plasma screens render the traditional light gun ineffective – a huge pain for someone trying to organise a charity game marathon with the additional stress of sourcing an old style CRT monitor required to play this game. Also Rachael will have to pick up the logistical nightmare of swapping TV screens forward and backwards at 3am.

Time Crisis 3 is perhaps unsurprisingly the third in a line of very successful rail shooter from Japan. I’m not 100% sure I have played this version before which should be a nice surprise for me. I did own the original on my PSX so I am pretty familiar with the concept. Really glad this game has forced its way onto the list and I think it will be a very enjoyable hour.


2012 – New Super Mario Bros. U

New Super Mario Bros. U


Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Group No. 4
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Masataka Takemoto
Producer(s) Takashi Tezuka, Hiroyuki Kimura
Designer(s) Shigeyuki Asuke, Daiki Iwamoto, Ryutaro Kanno
Artist(s) Masanobu Sato
Composer(s) Shiho Fujii, Mahito Yokota
Series Super Mario
Platform(s) Wii U
Release date(s) November 30, 2012
Genre(s) Platform
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Wii U Optical Disc, Nintendo eShop

Liam:   So here we have it. 29 hours down and we can get stuck into the last game on the list. By this point I imagine our bodies (especially our thumbs) will be tired and weary and we will be craving natural sunlight and non-sugarcoated foods. Fittingly we end with a game that is not only part of the biggest video game franchise of all time, but also has played a massive part in our lives as gamers.

The thirty years we have covered, encompass the whole span of the Mario lifecycle so far with Mario Bros. the arcade game being released in 1983. Mario did appear in Nintendo’s ‘Donkey Kong’ a few years before as a character nicknamed ‘Jump Man’ but he did not receive his own name until 83. Since then the Mario franchise has spawned over 200 games, several TV shows, a raft of merchandise and a terrible terrible film. (Seriously the film is awful, if you want to watch a video game film go watch Street Fighter with Jean Claude Van Damme, Kylie Minogue and Raul Julia – that’s how it should be done)

NSMBU is a 2d side scrolling platformer. Similar in vein to the Mario Bros. games of old that we both grew up with. The series has received a lick of paint and a HD upgrade for the Wii U – Nintendo’s newest console. In the story, Bowser and the Koopa Troop invade the mushroom kingdom (again) and take Princess Peach hostage (again). It is then up Mario and Luigi, with the help of yellow and blue toadstools, to rescue Princess Peach and bring tranquillity back to the world by eating super powered mushrooms, smashing bricks with their faces and jumping on turtles. I imagine most people are familiar with the concept of a Mario game and this one does not disappoint. Despite the Wii U being less powerful than the next generation consoles due to be released this year it manages fine with the colourful Mario bros game. In fact Mario has never looked so good.

The Wii U allows up to 5 players to play simultaneously. Four players control characters using wiimotes, with 1 player using the Wii U gamepad to block off enemies and lay blocks for the players to jump against. It’s a nice mechanic that allows the whole family to enjoy the game together – a core part of Nintendo’s recent approach to gaming.

In fact it’s worth mentioning that we are borrowing the Wii U from my daughter Paige who has kindly allowed us to use it for the event. By this point in the challenge she will be there along with her brother and sister and my partner to cheer us over the finishing line, and possibly to administer fruit and vegetables.

Joel:  This is it… The final writeup. If I could get Europe’s smash hit out of my head I might be able to write something insightful, but right now, all that’s bouncing round inside my melon is “do-do-do-doooooooooo, do-do-do-do-doooooo, the final write-up!” So anyway, here it is. New Super Mario Bros. U is a great example of the Mario franchise, as well as demonstrating how difficult it is becoming to name new Mario games, presumably because of the number of previous releases in the franchise. This is about the 20th (platform) game in the series, 19th according to Wikipedia, but I can think of at least one release they have not included in their timeline and that doesn’t include non-platformers, such as Mario Kart and the various puzzle games. I have to admit, I’m a huge fan of Mario and consider myself a bit of a buff on the subject. There’s even a vicious rumour that I may have a Mario tattoo somewhere, but that’s a story for another day.

I reckon if you went outside and grabbed the next 50 people who passed and showed them a picture of the red-capped plumber, 48 of them would know who it was. Maybe even 49. He has become a legend in his own (virtual) lifetime and Nintendo’s major cash cow, having a release of some kind on every major platform Nintendo have pushed out in the last 30 years. My first Mario game was Super Mario Land on the (Fat, original) Game Boy, though I had played all the other major previous releases (Mario 1, 2, 3) at friends’ houses. I tell you, I played and played and played that damn game until I completed it – no mean feat for an 8 year-old! I do still have a Game Boy, sadly it’s not an original, but a bright yellow “Game Boy Pocket” and I do still have that Mario game. I was actually playing it a couple of nights ago.

This is one of the games I’m most looking forward to playing as I am yet to use a Wii U and I’m dead keen to see what this latest iteration has in store for our old friend Mario and his slightly under-appreciated chums. You can apparently have up to five players on this, with four on standard controllers and the fifth on the whizzo tablet-controller-thing that comes with the Wii U. That guy apparently is able to place blocks in the playfield and interact with enemies, but not have control of his own character. Some kind of ben/mal-evolent God type role from the sounds of it. I can see me dropping blocks over pits whilst my “friends” try to jump over them, making them fall to their doom. Yes, this is going to be fun for sure.

So, not only is this the last writeup, but, as such, this will be the last game in the marathon and the end of this rollercoaster few months preparing (not that we are ready yet – the game are about the only thing that are actually sorted!!) I don’t imagine that I’m going to be quite myself by the time we’ve finished this thing, but I do honestly think a part of me will be sad that it’s over. When I first signed up for this, I thought it was going to be an absolute nightmare and it times it has been, with the worst yet to come, but still, it’s been great. I don’t think I’ve put so much time, money and effort into anything (aside from child-rearing) for a very long time and I don’t regret a single bit of it.





2011 – Portal 2

Portal 2

Developer(s) Valve Corporation
Publisher(s) Valve Corporation
Distributor(s) Valve Corporation (online) Electronic Arts (retail)
Director(s) Joshua Weier
Producer(s) Gabe Newell
Artist(s) Jeremy Bennett, Randy Lundeen
Writer(s) Erik Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton, Chet Faliszek
Composer(s) Mike Morasky, Jonathan Coulton (Ending Theme: “Want You Gone”), The National (“Exile, Vilify”)
Series Portal
Engine Source
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s) Retail   April 21, 2011 Steam  April 19, 2011
Genre(s) Puzzle-platform game
Mode(s) Single-player, co-operative multiplayer
Distribution Optical disc, digital distribution

Liam:   Despite the fact there will be no way for us to directly compete in this game I still really wanted to play it. I found the single player game to be one of the most enjoyable, touching and genuinely funny games I have ever played. Ever since I first played it I have recommended it to anyone in earshot and I am finding it quite hard to not turn this entire write up into a sales pitch for what is probably one of the best games ever made. Ps. Buy it!

The game is a first person puzzle game when you take the role of a silent protagonist named Chell. You have a gun but instead of bullets you fire ‘portals’. You walk into one portal and you appear from the other, you can also manipulate other objects such as ‘companion cubes’ through the portals. All the puzzles revolve around using these portals to overcome any obstacles in the ‘test chamber’ such as lasers, turrets and poisonous insta-death water and making your way to an lift taking you to the next puzzle chamber. All this is done under watchful supervision and constant dripping sarcasm from GLaDOS, a malicious and often narcissistic artificial intelligence system. I don’t want to spoil the plot for any of those that haven’t had the pleasure of either of these games, but needless to say there is a reason why GLaDOS is upset with you. You monster.

I can’t think of many console puzzle games that have broken thought to the mainstream, aimed at the casual market they tend to dominate the handheld computer space like the excellent Professor Layton series or the once ubiquitous Tetris. Portal does this excellently though by combining traditional FPS mechanics with a truly amazing story line feature impressive voice acting with what is a fiendish puzzle game which will have you scratching your head.

We will be playing the co-op game and I fully expect this to be an utter train wreck. The co-op game requires both players to co-ordinate their way through test chambers by working together to figure out the puzzle. The way the chambers are designed mean that one player cannot essentially ‘carry’ the other player – both are required to be involved. I have no idea how this is going to pan out after being awake for 28 hours. There is a high probability that one of us will lose our temper with the other during this game.

Joel:   Well… this is a game that’s been on my wish list for a long time. I was really pleased when it ended up on our list as my crippling apathy was a real obstacle in picking this up and so I was finally inspired to grab it. Liam, despite our “no practising” rule kindly conceded to let me “work through the single player game” which was nice. So I did. At least, I started to and made pretty decent headway, but I’m yet to finish it what with the aforementioned apathy. And “The Last of Us.” And “Resident Evil 6.” And half a dozen other top drawer games – it’s hard work finding the time!

So having racked up a fair few hours on it, I can honestly say it’s one of the most original (conceptually at least) games I have played in a long time. The careful balance of wit and threat from the omnipresent GLADoS (I think I’ve capitalised that correctly, but that pesky apathy is preventing me checking) is one of the real delights of this game, as is the whole concept of “thinking with portals” which I must admit I’m guilty of bringing into real life on occasion. Then there’s your fair-weather-friend Wheatley, expertly voiced by Stephen Merchant. But I won’t go into too much about him. Suffice to say he’s nearly as funny as GLADoS.

So what is it? Simply put, it’s a puzzle game. Find your way from point A to point B via button C, using your portal gun – a device which projects either end of a portal onto particular types of surface. Sounds simple. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it makes you want to break things. I suggest familiarising yourself with Occam’s Razor before you buy Portal 2, it may save you some time and a few bars of blood pressure.

I really hope they make a third instalment because, as I near then end of the game, I am fairly sure it’s one I’m going to miss. Liam and I are going to be working through the co-op mode on the night, which is a lot like the single player mode except that on occasion, you have to string together both of your sets of portals to achieve your objectives. That requires teamwork, something Liam and I are not known for when playing together 🙂

We have devised a few metrics for gauging performance to try and declare some kind of winner, but as far as I’m concerned, we get to play Portal – Everyone’s a winner!

2010 – Madden NFL 11

Madden NFL 11


Developer(s) EA Tiburon, EA Canada
Publisher(s) EA Sports
Series Madden NFL
Platform(s) PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360, iOS, PlayStation Portable, Android
Release date(s) August 13, 2010
Genre(s) American football simulation
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer

Liam:   Pad up fat men. It’s time for gridiron. Blue 42, Blue 42, hut, hut, hike!

American Football is a series of advertisements for fast food, terrible cars and erection medication all leading up to the Super Bowl which is a really important set of advertisements for fast food, terrible cars and erection medication; also occasionally featuring Janet Jackson’s nipple. At points during this onslaught of consumerism, two teams of heavily armoured fat guys are directed head first into each other by two blue eyed American heroes called quarterbacks. There are also cheerleaders and massive hot dogs.

Now that the intricate explanation of the sport has finished I can go onto explaining the game. It’s pretty much the same… but instead of adverts every 30 seconds, Microsoft Visio diagrams appears and ask you to make totally meaningless choices between throwing it a short distance to a guy who then collapses on the floor or throwing it a long distance to a guy that then collapses on the floor. You can kick as well but this involves taking off one of your big burly Americans and bringing on a tiny European guy, who has never fully recovered from being rejected by the Lazio youth team – why the hell would you do that?

As you can probably tell, I don’t know much about American football – although I have to admit I find it fascinating. The game we are playing Madden 11, has all the good bits of American Football (you know, the actual game without the adverts) and even has a handy mechanism for skipping the endless tactical decisions that make games like this entirely unplayable for the uninitiated. As we didn’t get a chance to play Jonah Lomu Rugby (if it was up to me we would be playing that instead of Goldeneye) I really wanted to get a contact sport in and when it comes down to utterly over the top hits and hijinks, American Football is good value for entertainment so much in fact that I am actually going to my first American Football game this Autumn (or should that be Fall). Madden is the premier American Football franchise and is named after ex-commentator John Madden who as far as I can tell is the Andy Grey of American Football without the rampant sexism.

The main reason this game is on the list is that despite really only being played in a single country, this game franchise has managed to rack up over 100 million sales. That’s pretty impressive in anyone’s book if you consider that is only a few million less than the FIFA series which represents a sport played worldwide. Due to its massive sales it has a huge amount of resources thrown at it by EA meaning that the end game is a highly polished and fluid affair. There are only a few sporting series that are in this top tier of games, dominated by repeatedly high sales and yearly releases and we are lucky enough to see two in this challenge. Sadly we couldn’t find a space for the third – the Tiger Wood’s golf series.

I know Joel is going to be terrible at this. He lacks any sort of sporting mind set and I believe when he was doing his testing phase he was getting his ass kicked by his little boy. Great news for me as this should be a perfect opportunity to crush his already waning spirit as well as throw in some hilarious puns about tight ends, huge sacks and penetration. That’s right, beating Joel, contact sports and terrible dirty jokes after being awake for 27 hours straight… I can’t wait.

Joel:  We’re getting so close to the end now, I can almost smell it. I think in some weird way, I’m actually going to miss writing these things… The only drawback of them is that every now and again I have to try and write about a game I’ve never really played. Aside from testing this (where, as Liam rightly points out, I got my ass handed to me by a nine-year-old) the only American football game I’ve ever played was on the Atari Lynx. A little research leads me to the conclusion that it was the originally titled “NFL Football” going by screenshots on the intertubes. I was pretty rubbish at it too, but I seem to remember it being pretty good fun. Though it seems at least one reviewer disagrees with me:


It doesn’t help if football games on other portable game systems are no more sophisticated than NFL FOOTBALL. The bottom line is that this game is a futile exercise in boredom, and is certainly not fun to play nor worth the price asked for it.


Interestingly, this is how I usually feel when I try, most years, to watch the Advertbowl. For a game with a scheduled playtime of 60 minutes, you can watch in amazement as this stretches into four hours or beyond. All the while not having a clue what’s going on. Which is a shame, because, I think it would probably be pretty good otherwise.

Anyway. What to say about this one? It’s a massive franchise, probably propping up the US-side of EA all by itself, having released a game every year since 1990. In fact, in researching that last statement, I’ve just learned that Trip Hawkins actually founded EA games just so he could start work on a predecessor to the line. So there you go, it not only props up EA, but is, in fact, its raison d’etre. Well you learn something every day.

The more astute among you are probably beginning to notice I’m doing everything I can to avoid talking about the actual game – You’re right. I’ll stop wasting your time now. I know nothing. I don’t stand a chance here. I might just take a nap. No not really, that would be cheating, but I’d probably do better.

2009 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2


Developer(s) Infinity Ward
Publisher(s) Activision,  Square Enix
Director(s) Jason West
Producer(s) Mark Rubin
Designer(s) Todd Alderman, Steve Fukuda, Mackey McCandlish, Zied Rieke
Artist(s) Richard Kriegler (Art Director)
Writer(s) Jesse Stern
Composer(s) Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe
Series Call of Duty
Engine IW 4.0
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release date(s) November 10, 2009, November 11, 2009 (Steam)
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, cooperative, multiplayer
Distribution Blu-ray Disc, DVD-DL, download

Liam:  I don’t think there would be much point me talking about this game as nearly everyone will be aware of how games like this work. Instead I want to talk about how Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was a brave game.

Don’t get me wrong, Activision weren’t exactly taking a risk commissioning Infinity Wards sequel to the very successful ‘Modern Warfare’. Nor is the game itself pretty brave considering it is essentially a level based shooter. The bravery, and indeed most of the criticism, was focussed onto one level in particular.

Everyone who has played the game is familiar with the level entitled ‘No Russian’ but for people who are not I will give you a quick run-down  In this particular level you play a deep undercover CIA operative infiltrating a Russian Terrorist group taking part in the terrorist attack on a Moscow airport. You start in a lift dressed in NATO armour with NATO weapons and you are told ‘No Russian’. The lift opens and you are ‘on rails’ walking through a busy airport while your companions proceed to gun down all the civilians in sight. You have the option to join them and shoot civilians or you can just walk through while they commit the massacre. This isn’t a quick attack, this is a full couple of minutes walking slowly, shooting unarmed people who are screaming, panicking and running away. Even for the most desensitised gamer it gives you a real feeling of unease which is exactly why I think this is brave.

Violence in video games is well documented. Games such as Postal, Manhunt, and Grand theft Auto look to directly sell copies by promoting over the top violence. The thrill of doing something which you wouldn’t dream of doing in real life drives the sale of these games.  Violence itself however has the potential to be used as a plot device. Games aren’t movies; they have many more skills at their disposal to create immersion. By drawing you into the plot, allowing the player to make moral decisions and having repercussions and feedback for those decisions you become far more involved with the story. This has been known for years and skilled game developers have been using techniques like this. I’m not saying that this was the most poignant moment in gaming history, games have introduced moral decision making not only before but better, for example 2008’s Fallout 3 has a fantastic moment where if you decided, you could eliminate and entire population of people by detonating a nuclear bomb all from the safe confines of a penthouse tower.

Modern Warfare didn’t need to do it though, it would have sold many copies and received a massive amount of publicity regardless, but it felt the scene was necessary in the process of telling the story. A brave technique, particularly considering Video Game violence is already under a massive media spotlight following a series of shootings in US schools and the decision to use an airport in a time when the September 9th attacks on America were still fresh in peoples mind was not a coincidence. With a medium like video games, designers must be allowed to push the boundaries on what we deem acceptable to create a more immersive narrative – for doing this in an ‘AAA’ title that did not need to take the risks, MW2 was a brave game.

Joel:  When someone says the three words “first,” “person” and “shooter” to me, images of Doom, Quake and the unbeatable Unreal Tournament spring to mind. Those are the games that, to me, not only stand out from the genre, but are some of the best games I’ve played. My laptop still has UT on it and I still play it pretty often. Goldeneye, as I’ve said previously was very good, but the control system for that was fairly rudimentary when compared with PC game rivals using mouselook, which Quake and UT did. But as with all things, they either evolve or die out and so did the genre. I’ll leave you to decide whether the modern equivalents of these demonstrate evolution or entropy, but I know which camp I’m in.

Young Joel started his career working in a small local computer store in his hometown. Mostly, he just sold PC’s he couldn’t afford to pensioners who wanted to use them for word processing, but every now and again, someone would come in wanting something a bit more interesting. There was the old chap who bought a computer so powerful we had to spend a good while sourcing the parts – So he could play Train Simulator – quite possibly the most boring game I’ve ever played: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK8zdtMpy2w  – But I had great fun building the machine.

Then there was the chap who wanted a “proper” gaming rig to play “proper” games on. He didn’t really know what he wanted other than the machine had to run the brand new “Medal of Honor Allied Assault” on the highest settings. So this was great for two reasons – I got to build a stupidly powerful machine AND I got to play-test it extensively on an FPS game. Not just any FPS game, but a brand new one! So anyway, some time passes and all the parts are in. I build the thing (IIRC it had a Voodoo 5 5500) – this was graphics card porn if you’re as old as me – and install the game. Fire it up. Crank it up. Initially I was very impressed, it was a lot more polished than UT and GLQuake, which were my staples at the time. So after maybe an hour of testing, I’d finished it. What a load of rubbish! It had absolutely no replay value either, as I quickly came to realise this through multiple test play-troughs.

That was when I went off the “modern” FPS. Sadly MOH became a massive franchise, as did its competitor: Call Of Duty. Unfortunately this was, in my humble opinion, the end of the FPS line. Clearly I was wrong… 1.6billion hours of logged online play can’t be mistaken, but I just can’t get into them anymore. But apparently, so I’m told by the legions of COD players, I’m a “fag,” so what do I know? I’m lead to believe that in America, this has a meaning other than cigarette. I was actually relieved to find the definition as constantly trying to figure out which end of me was alight became quite tiresome.

So where am I going with all this blither..? I haven’t enjoyed a pure FPS game since UT2004. Not even UT3 really and not for a lack of trying. I think by this point in the marathon I won’t care less whether I win at this or not. Liam will probably have an unconquerable lead margin by this point, so I’ll probably just run around like a headless chicken until I become a headless soldier.

2008 – Mario Kart Wii

Mario Kart Wii

 mario kart wii
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD Group No. 1
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Yasuyuki Oyagi
Producer(s) Hideki Konno
Composer(s) Asuka Ota, Ryo Nagamatsu
Series Mario Kart
Platform(s) Wii
Release date(s) April 11, 2008
Genre(s) Racing
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer

Liam: Mario Kart Wii is apparently the world’s best selling racing game. I can see why, the game is the most charming game in a series renowned for making charming games.

Mario Kart is essentially the racing game equivalent to crazy golf. You and a series of other Mario franchise characters hurtle around a brightly coloured track on go karts. Along the way you avoid various obstacles and enemies while collecting coins and power ups. The power ups are quite easily the best part of the game. Some are fairly explanatory and rather general like invulnerability stars, speed boost mushrooms and banana skins to drop. Some power ups are much more specific, for example if you are in last place and you collect a power up box, chances are you will receive the ‘Bullet Bill’ power up turning you into a massive automatically flying bullet which is usually enough to drag you up from last place. My personal favourite and the bane of every half decent Mario Kart player is the blue shell. The blue shell, when fired, will seek out and blow up the lead kart causing them to lose a great deal of speed and possible the lead. The lead kart can hear it coming but can do nothing about it.

Being the Wii the controls for this game are slightly different to preceding versions. Instead of the typical control pad steering, you ‘steer’ by tilting the wiimote left and right. Many people also have little plastic wheels you clip the wiimote into to make this seem like actual driving. In truth this control system is a little erratic and takes some getting used to. On a game that takes itself seriously this would be a problem, however if anything this seems to add to the charm of Mario Kart in a way that it would with no other game. I’m eagerly awaiting the Wii U version of Mario Kart due out next year, as is the entire Fitzgerald household.

For reasons such as this I think this will be fairly hard to predict. Joel is undoubtedly the better driver and as we go through to some of the harder courses (Rainbow road!) I would expect that will start to tell. On the easier courses though? I have just as much of a chance as anyone else.

Oh and don’t ask why I race as Daisy. I just always have okay. (Daisy rocks!)

Joel: I’ve gotten excited anticipating the release of many games over the years, but I was beside myself in the build-up to this one. I love Mario games, I love racing games, I love the Mariokart series and at the time this came out, I was still pretty enamoured with the Wii’s innovative control system. I’m pretty sure I got it on release day. I was not disappointed.

For the uninitiated, the Mario Kart series has had a release on every Nintendo platform since the SNES. Copies of earlier ones go for an awful lot of money, relatively speaking. The premise is pretty simple if you don’t know – various characters of Mario lore compete in go-karts on tracks styled around the various realms of the Mushroom Kingdom – the home of said characters. There are various lore-consistent weapons and bonuses which can be collected in-race. Each new release came with a number of new tracks and a selection of re-made, re-mastered versions of tracks from previous iterations. That about covers it, but doesn’t really do justice to the amount of fun you can have with a few friends and a copy of this brilliant game.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you about this one really. I could write about the time the boy accidentally over-wrote my ninety-something percent complete save game with a fresh one, but that wouldn’t be very professional of me. I think, really, that if you haven’t played any of the Mario Kart series then you have sorely missed out. If you have any kind of dusty old Nintendo kicking around, it’ll be money well spent to pick up a copy of the relevant version of Mario Kart and give it a bash. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

In terms of predictions, despite my comparatively vast experience of racing games compared to Liam, he is actually uncharacteristically good at Mario Kart. I still think I’ll win, but it will be a lot closer than I’d like to think.

2007 – Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock


Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock


Developer(s) Neversoft, Vicarious Visions (Wii)
Publisher(s) Activision
Distributor(s) RedOctane
Series Guitar Hero
Platform(s) PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3,Wii, Xbox 360,Microsoft Windows,Mac OS X
Release date November 23, 2007
Genre(s) Music, Rhythm
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution Blu-ray, DVD, Wii Optical Disc


Liam: They say every generation has a ‘sound’. The electronic synthesiser dominated the late 70s, the wail of the electric guitar signified the dawning of rock and roll in the 50’s and the ‘clackity clack’ of plastic guitars will in future be heralded as the emergence of the Guitar Hero generation.

The game is simple really, as the popular music piece plays you need to strum the plastic guitar while pressing the corresponding coloured button on the neck of the guitar, in time with the music. This simple concept beguiles the often fiendish difficulty of the game. Sadly this version of game only has compatibility to play as a guitarist. Future games had the opportunity to play as the whole band. Drunken caterwauling to various classic rock tunes being one of my new favourite hobbies.

The version we are playing – Guitar Hero 3 – has a fairly decent soundtrack consisting of over 70 songs including tracks by bands like Rage against the machine, The Strokes and Pearl Jam. This is further supplemented by a massive catalogue of DLC. Many of these songs can be carried forward to subsequent versions of the game. For example my copy of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (the last in the franchise) has a track list of over 500 songs taken from previous games and DLC. The genre had multiple spin-offs of Guitar Hero and the rival game Rock Band, with licensed games by Green Day, the Beatles, Metallica and Aerosmith and even a keyboard instrument. Sadly Guitar Hero is on hiatus with no games planned for release in the near future. I am hoping that there will be another game release one day though.

Joel has played a hell of a lot of this game. He was one of the few people who played this game so much that they could have actually learnt the guitar to a decent level – realised this – and started to learn guitar to a decent level. I think because of this he probably hasn’t played a lot of guitar hero since then and I am hoping that his real world guitar ability will hamper his guitar hero skills. I very much doubt it though and while I at my best could muddle through on hard difficulty, Joel will be performing admirably on Expert difficulty. I think the plan is to play through a co-op career and try and get through as many songs as we can. Even if I am terrible, at least I can enjoy the music!

Joel: Where to begin here..? I picked this up the day it was released, with great anticipation. I’d played it in the arcade, or at least an earlier version of it and I’m a fan of most music that could be classified under the very large umbrella of “rock” so this was a no-brainer. I still remember (I know, it wasn’t that long ago!!) putting the guitar together for the first time, the internal (and external, as Rachael had paid for half) debate over where to stick the stickers, the excitement as the various splash-ads for the different producer flipped by… Then I saw the setlist – tracks by bands like Disturbed, Pearl Jam and Dragonforce – I was fit to bust.

So with joy in my heart I fired up the career mode, the first song started and then it hit me. I knew immediately how the guys in Peter’s band in Family Guy felt when they open their band’s first set only to realise they had neglected to actually learn any songs! (season 4 ep 4) I Was a dismal failure. The video crowd booed me off stage before I knew what was what. Bummer man. My second attempt (at Slow Ride by Foghat in case you’re interested) was little better. By now, Rachael had understandably become impatient – nobody likes seeing what a loser their other half is – so I reluctantly handed the big plastic guitar over to her and watched her get through the song without much trouble at all. The video crowd went nuts. This won’t do. The game must be faulty.

Being the man I am, I continued to blame the game, the controller, the sofa, New Labour, until I set the thing into left handed mode and then it all clicked into place. I went from strength to strength (as, I should point out, did Rachael who is one of a very small number of people I know who can occasionally beat me) and before long I was playing on Expert. Many nights were spent playing this until way too late and many subsequent days were spent in considerable pain. Blisters were involved on occasion. This was a little bit like being in a real band! (only a little bit mind)

This game was actually responsible for making me get off my backside and learn the real guitar which, for the record, I do NOT play left handed. So yeah. I owe this game a lot. It had a real, measurable impact on my life. I’ve since bought and played just about every sequel and spin-off, with the exception of DJ Hero that is.. and have now graduated to Rocksmith, which in case you don’t know, allows you to use your own real guitar (or bass) to play along with real songs in a very real way. Anyone interested in learning the guitar should pick up a copy of Rocksmith, its very good, but this isn’t about Rocksmith.

So predictions then. I’m not known for being arrogant but this is the game for me. My absolute, undisputable grand slam. This is my Brian Lara ’96. Sorry dude…