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9/5/2003: Deadly Nightshade

[Okay, so there probably won't be a fixed weekend updater to fill the slots Space Monkey left behind. What I'm going to do is have Chris do alternate weeks as he's been doing, and fill the rest with whatever guest updates I have. We cool? We cool.

This week's weekend update comes courtesy of the lovely Sarah Wright. If you have a NES emulator, you can download the game she's talking about from here.

- Yahtzee]

In an unnamed metropolitan city, so large that it has a staggering total of 20 accessible stores, clubs and places of residence, evil is at large. Led by the inappropriately named Setekh, a robed, jackal-headed supervillain, these minions of darkness have captured and killed the local superhero in spandex, Vortex. Not a very promising beginning. But wait! Who is this mysterious stranger, brooding over the mean streets in a fedora and trenchcoat of day-glo orange? According to the game title, it's Nightshade, the only superhero too cool for tights, whose superpowers consist of leaping his own height and the ability to lean against walls that don't actually exist.

Tremble with awe, mortals!

Sadly, these stunning feats of prowess don't seem to be enough. The introduction sees Nightshade launching an attack on the crime boss, and the game begins with Nightshade tied to a chair in a cellar with a bomb for company. It's a rather pathetic superhero whose exploits begin with his being blown up, but Nightshade doesn't let this bother him, continuing his one-man war against terror by feeding squirrels, rescuing kittens, giving money to homeless chimpanzees, and spending far more time in sewers than I was personally comfortable with.

This is chiefly due to one of the games special features, and by 'special' I mean 'retarded', the Popularity Meter. You gain points by rescuing old ladies from muggers, returning lost library books, returning kittens to their owners, and beating up police. You lose them by kicking puppies, vandalising museum exhibits, spying on naked girls, and beating up homeless chimpanzees. If your popularity is too low, you get kicked out of shops and heckled by signpainters. Too high, and old men invite you into their homes to show you the knob on their Staff of Ra. All this helps you in your quest to fight crime.

You heard the man, it's Nightshade Time!

Occasionally there are periods of action where you battle enemy minions one-on-one, like Mortal Kombat if Sub Zero dressed like a retro 60s Sam Spade and didn't actually know how to fight. The rest of the time is essentially spent as an adventure game. Nightshade's task is to locate four 'power objects' around the city and seal them with magical evil-proof forcefields, which seem to work like a mosquito repellent for evil. With the power objects safely stashed away, he's free to beat the snot out of four main bosses. Your health meter can run out very quickly and there's a limit to available health items, but instead of dying when it's gone completely, you are transported to a 'death room' where Setekh will taunt you mercilessly before putting you on a slow conveyer belt toward a spinning blade, or in between two walls which gradually move to crush you. They are escapable, since Setekh doesn't stick around to watch in true supervillain style. You also start out with a substantial amount of cash to help you along your quest, but you have no way of knowing how much there is at any given time. The result of this was that I assumed the supply was endless, and wasted it all on cereal, antique shop curios, and homeless chimpanzees.

To match up with Nightshade's snappy style of dress, the designers obviously went to considerable effort to turn the setting into a dark, brooding 'Gotham City'. The streets are moonlit and atmospheric, the music is about at gritty as 1991 MIDI files allow it to be, and for the most part the effort succeeds, only slightly let down by an entire suburb being inexplicably pink, and the fact that the city doesn't seem to have its cultures quite sorted out. The setting and story seem to have an American feel, the streets are crawling with English bobbies, most of the streetsigns are Japanese (which Nightshade helpfully translates for you), and Egyptian hieroglyphs appear on random walls. They aren't just scrawled on the brickwork either, the artists went to some trouble to make them look ancient, as though the city was considerately built up around them. The power objects suffer a similar problem. The Papyrus Scroll, the Anubis Statue, and the Cairo Diamond seem Egyptian enough, but the so-called 'Pharaoh's Crown' is clearly taken from Buckingham Palace. Hey, I think I just figured out what the bobbies are doing there.

Setekh exposes himself to Nightshade, establishing his position as dominant male.

Initially the humour is of the 'written by inexperienced and anal-retentive nerd trying to be amusing' variety (read circa 1980s Marvel comics for more of this exciting genre) but it improves as the game progresses, leading me to believe that the nerd responsible for the dialogue either got fired or got laid.

MUSIC 10/10
Surprisingly great, and changes with the location so it doesn't get boring. Several times I stopped where I was and just left the buttons alone so I could let a particular tune run its course, despite Nightshade's much fidgeting, folding of arms, and exercising of his 'leaning-against-wall-that-is-not-there' powers.

Some are almost impossible to beat, while others are easier than their countless minions around the city. Setekh himself is faster, more resilient, stronger, and more colourful than Nightshade, but not only did he name himself after the wrong god, he misspelled it into the bargain. It is true that there are numerous interpretations of the spelling from Egyptian hieroglyphs - Re and Ra, Bast and Baast, etc - but 'Setekh' is a pretty far cry from 'Sekhmet'.

Not too bad mostly, although Nightshade and a few chimpanzees suffer from the condition of being painted one colour all over.

You have to continually access a menu to execute commands and it's annoying as fuck. But in all fairness, I did enjoy this game enough to play it all the way through, and it is actually fun, although I honestly couldn't say why.

Bar the signature mask, Nightshade seems to have the basics of the costume down, with only a few minor mistakes in the colour department. And while Rorschach would probably not have stooped to rescuing small kittens from lampposts to prove his worth even while he was Walter Kovacs, he and Nightshade do seem to share a fondness for excessive violence in apprehension of criminals.

Nightshade is just so damn cute.

9/5/2003: Questions, questions

This week, the other half of the one hundred questions I started answering last week.

Alternatively, you could go and run through the forests and swim in the streams of this magnificent natural world, but good luck finding humour outside of the antics of sloths.

8/5/2003: Play Ball

Many many years ago, the sport of football (or 'soccer' if you're fat) was invented by a team of Dutch diggers who discovered a skull and began kicking it around. Obviously this was before Time Team, or they'd have immediately stopped digging and gotten a team of men with beards and West Country accents to come continue the digging work with toothbrushes.

Anyway, after they'd finished kicking the skull around, a couple of other diggers immediately began screaming and breaking things. This is because they were smacktards and had just discovered an interesting shiny stone. But it became a traditional method of ending a game, and those two smacktard diggers went down in history as the first two football hooligans.

Forgive me if you were clever enough to guess this already, but a lot of the above paragraph isn't true. But frankly, it's the best explanation I can come up with for the time-honoured practise of shouting and breaking things immediately after a football game.

I know there are more mysterious things I could concern my magnificent brain with than football hooliganism, but it's often the most irrational things that get my attention. I honestly thought we'd screened out the 'shout and break things' instinct at our last evolutionary rung, but it seems I was mistaken. Obviously those boffin scientists who study this sort of thing never imagined that seeing a bunch of men in shorts kick a piece of dead cow around would be enough to regress mankind to the 'homo erectus' stage.

Oh, shit! The smacktards are breeding!
This is your future, England.

I suppose shouting and breaking things is a pretty common reaction to excitement, if you're six or medically retarded. Grown men, even grown men who haven't had university education, really have no excuse for it. So your team scored? Great. I guess that never gets old for you. I look forward to when they do it again next Saturday. Give me a call when they've invented a car that runs on blowjobs, and then we'll talk about me getting excited.

And even if they did invent the dicksuck combustion engine, I doubt I will run around shouting and breaking things. I probably wouldn't even pull my shirt over my head. Albert Einstein didn't run down the street whooping with all his physicist mates when he finally pinned down the Theory of Relativity, and I see no reason to expect people from allegedly the same species to act differently.

I think a football hooligan could be deterred if he could be just made to stop before he smashes another headlight and ask himself the following three questions.

1. What are you doing?

I'm going to smash this car headlight with a femur which I think belongs to the owner!

2. Why are you doing this?

United won the cup!

3. Again, why are you doing this?

Unite - you know, now I come to think about it, I guess that isn't a very good reason. Alright, you found me out. I'm doing this because I'm a neanderthal twat.

Or for a more accurate portrayal of his thought processes, misspell every other word and add the word 'durr' to the beginning.

On the other hand, maybe they aren't really celebrating at all. Certainly it doesn't seem to matter which team actually won for people to start shouting and breaking things. Perhaps shouting and breaking things in a certain way is how the smacktards communicate with each other. And to riot on such a scale, why, it can only be a coded message for the Lord High Smacktard!

LACKEY: My lord! We have recieved a message from Wembley! Your minions have successfully done a lot of shouting and breaking things!

LORD HIGH SMACKTARD: Lord High Smacktard is pleased with your actions. As a reward, you may have some Angel Delight.

LACKEY: My lord! We gave them Angel Delight but they tried wearing it as a hat because they are all smacktards!

LORD HIGH SMACKTARD: Then there is nothing more I can teach them.

In conclusion, then, football hooligans can fuck off. And since you ask, no, I probably wouldn't say that to their face.

7/5/2003: Green Eggs And Spam

Ah, spam. Spam, spam, spam. Lovely spam. Wonderful spam. I get so much spam these days I'm surprised I don't turn into a freakish pink spam being. Maybe I'm asking for trouble posting my e-mail on a website for all the world to see. Maybe I should be a little slower to hand over my e-mail address to abandonware sites that let you download hentai. I sometimes wonder if the phrase "your e-mail will not be shared with any third parties" isn't just used as a formality these days, like starting letters with 'Dear Whoever' even if you hate that person with a vengeance.

Someone is going to have to start regulating advertising soon. It's becoming so intrusive. Companies make no secret of seeing the general public as little walking money creatures, and they use every trick in the book to separate us from our earnings. No way is the government going to organise some regulation, because whenever anyone in the government comes up with legislation that could affect big businesses the big businesses in question come and stun the fellow to submission with piles of bribe money.

So what does that leave? It leaves a general public with no defense against being bullied left, right and centre by fatcat businessmen. But come on, we're the general public. We outnumber them. If our government isn't meeting our interests, it's time for my all-time favourite solution: vigilante mobs! Yes, we shall march through the streets tearing down billboards and forcing fatcat businessmen to eat the pieces. We could have a team of elite hackers to bring down the sites that assail us with pop-ups. Then we could lead the way to a glorious new age of enlightenment and all the usual shit.

Maybe I'm too much of a dreamer, but I genuinely do feel that the world would be a better place if advertising was kicked out and all products were manufactured by the government. Personally, I would be more than happy to buy my shopping in plain grey wrapping if I'm not having pictures of grinning bimbos with sports drinks shoved down my throat every five minutes.

But getting back to spam. I think I know the origin of the word 'spam'. When I was at school, one of my friends found it highly amusing to type the word 'spam' into Wordpad, highlight it, copy it, and paste it ten million times. He would add to the file whenever it occurred to him, and pretty soon he had a file in excess of 100meg containing nothing but the word 'spam'. He couldn't have been the only one doing this in the world, I know. And after writing such a migraine-inducingly idiotic treatise, it's only a matter of time before some twit presses the wrong button and e-mails it to all their friends.

So, regrettably, spam is with us and it's here to stay. When you give your e-mail to certain sites, the clever boffins at Spam Central ascertain from the sites you visit what products you'd be most interested in and send appropriate spam. I've honestly lost count of what sites I have given my e-mail to, but here's an itemised list of everything the spam boffins apparently think I need.

- Penis enlargement surgery
- Pictures of naked girls
- Printer toner cartridges
- Weight loss pills
- Holidays in Nigeria
- Penis enlargement pills
- Viagra (and lots of it)
- Home insurance
- Natural penis enlargement methods
- Garden furniture

I'm not sure, but I think I'm supposed to be punching someone for questioning my virility. This doesn't make sense. They're trying to sell me viagra while simultaneously trying to sell me miracle penis enlargement things. If you're that desperate to help me get it up, matey, I don't think adding extra weight is going to help. Besides, I have no problem in either regard. Being six foot four gives one a natural advantage in these areas, and I am also one of the priveleged few males to have been bestowed with the secret knowledge of the clitoris. There are many areas about me I could improve, but sexual performance I have licked. Quite literally, ladies! Ho ho ho! Form a queue.

Of these, the only product being offered I may conceivably want is the printer toner. Being a writer constantly submitting to publishers and agents I find myself having to use a crappy old smeary Deskjet to print out manuscripts, so a laser printer I could really make use of. I just wish the company selling them weren't based in the fucking US. Couldn't they just take a few seconds of their time to check the mail they're sending to doesn't finish with ''? It's this lack of professionalism that really lowers the tone of the internet, if it's possible to get lower than the current level, which I believe is somewhere around the centre of the Earth.

6/5/2003: Gobble Gobble

Forgive me for what I said a while ago that the goal of mankind is to find a way to eat everything on toast. I have rethought this matter, and now believe that the ultimate goal of mankind is to eat everything, full stop.

I honestly can't understand this. We eat almost every single part of a cow. We eat faggots made of brain, loin steak made of loin... some of us can even stomach the heart and tongue. From the hooves we make gelatin, and from the tail of the ox we make soup. The bones we give to our dogs, as long as we're finished making beef stock out of them.

I challenge you to find a single organic thing in the world some smartarse hasn't tried to eat. Putting quite some work into it, I might add. I can understand trying to eat things that immediately taste nice, like apples or vagina, but how the fuck did we end up eating potatoes? Potatoes on their own are completely inedible, but we weren't to be thrown! We damn well chopped it and sliced it and boiled it and fried it until we could comfortably stuff it down our yawning gullets. Onions, too. No-one can eat raw onion on its own, but with suitable experimentation we found it could be used to add flavour, or to make rings, or to bring tears to the eyes of even the hardiest of men.

We're forever finding new things to consume. There are people who eat insects, people who eat lard, people who eat their kids' placentas. When humanity discovers a new substance, we instinctively go through the following stages -

1. Trying to eat it on its own.
2. Preparing it in various different ways, then trying to eat it.
3. Trying to eat it as garnish with something else.
4. Trying to eat it on toast.
5. Trying to distill alcohol from it.
6. Trying to build houses with it.

How did I start thinking about this, you ask? Well, I had just come up with a brilliant argument to offer people who think nudity is a sin - why, then, aren't we all born wearing pyjamas, or little smoking jackets? And then I realised; we all come free with a placenta, don't we? Maybe we're supposed to be wearing that. Obviously not for our whole lives. I mean, it's OK when you're two seconds old, but by the time you hit 18 it's more of an evil-smelling miniskirt. If we are supposed to be wearing the vile things, God must be pretty pissed off with us by now.

"Marvel upon my engineering, my children. I have designed this magnificent flesh garment with which you may stay warm in cold weather and dry on rainy days! What's more, you're already wearing it when you're born! I call it the placenta, and it is also suitable evening wear and machine washab - DON'T FUCKING EAT IT! What the FUCK is wrong with you people? Okay, okay, forget the placenta. Let me introduce you to this other marvellous thing called a 'potato'. As well as being a great throwing weapon, if you cut it in half and carve little pictures in it, you have an automatic ink stamp! Hours of fun for all the - what are you doing with that deep fat fryer?"

So that's probably why God lifted his protecting hand from America long enough for Afghanistan to sneak a few planes under it. It wasn't because some of us like to hump things we shouldn't, as certain parties have claimed. It's because we keep trying to digest His bounty. I dunno, maybe if some of our boffins actually took the time to examine the things we spend most of our lives eating, we might find other purposes they could have. Maybe carrots are designed to glow and make honking noises in the presence of danger. Maybe seaweed contains the formula for the elixir of life. And maybe the pattern in which lemons grow corresponds exactly with an ancient Hebrew symbol meaning "STOP EATING MY ART PROJECTS, YOU FUCKING FREAKS".

5/5/2003: The Nature Of Monkey Was Irrepressible

Three more Angular Mikes. That is all.

Oh, and some bad news depending on your point of view. I've reluctantly decided to let Space Monkey go. By his own admission he's been a bit lame of late and I really would prefer a higher level of professionalism on my site. I'm sure we all wish him well in his future endeavours. So, if you think you can fill the void that he has left behind, and can write hilarity on a fortnightly basis, send me a funny update or two and we'll see how it goes from there.

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All material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw
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