Author Archives: kayjoon

About kayjoon

Thirty-something geek on the south coast of England. Think I'm sort of smart, but I might just be fooling myself. Player of games, reader, feminist, humanist. Sometime podcast contributer at maximumpowerup.com

The Black Album - Jay-Z

Jay-Z – The Black Album – Perfect Album #4

Now my journey through ten perfect albums continues with something completely different…

Discovery

I came to Hip Hop pretty late really, despite the first record I ever bought being Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby. Actually, maybe that was why…

I had a few friends in high school who were into Snoop, Dre and the like, but I didn’t hear enough of it to get into it. I did like the Beastie Boys but I was only really exposed to them via MTV2. I guess they were just ‘alternative’ enough for that playlist.

After I left school and started a part time job building computers in a local indie PC shop, the majority of the staff there listened predominately to hip hop. I think I tried to resist it for a while, but eventually it started to stick.

Initially I only really enjoyed ‘club hip hop’, finding the way in was via artists like Ice Cube, DMX, and ODB. I enjoyed some of the singles from Jay-Z’s Blueprint album, but it was The Black Album that I fell in love with, and solidified Jay-Z as my favourite rapper.

Standout songs

Encore

Very much a favourite, Encore carries the implied weight of the album. The Black Album was presented as Jay-Z’s retirement from hip-hop. I remember at the time being mildly disappointed that I’d discovered Jay-Z just in time for him to retire. Repeated listens to the album though made it clear retirement wasn’t going to stick though. “When I come back like Jordan” indeed.

What the hell are you waiting for?

99 Problems

Probably the most distinctive single from the album, 99 Problems is almost the definition of catchy hip hop. This song was everywhere when it came out.

I heard “Son, do you know why I’m stopping you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low
Or do I look like a mind reader, sir? I don’t know

December 4th

I love this, so much of rap is biographical, but December 4th is a very literal telling of Jay-Z’s life story. Including memories delivered, by his mother.

And it’s nobody’s fault, I made the decisions I made
This is the life I chose, or rather, the life that chose me

Relationship with the album

When this album came out in November 2003, I think I pretty much grabbed it on day one. In December I was given my first solid state portable mp3 player as a Christmas gift from work. It only had a meagre 64 mb of storage, and The Black Album was the first and only album I put on it. I basically listened to this one album every day for the next 4 months.

It still sounds fresh to me now, and remains my favourite Jay-Z album.

Jay-Z

My relationship with hip hop involves some pretty heavy cognitive dissonance. Jay-Z is my favourite rapper, but I also unashamedly love 50 Cent. I think Jay-Z is probably the ‘best’ rapper, while 50 is much more of a ‘performer’. Both artists, along with many, many, others are problematic. However, their upbringing and background is so dramatically different from my own that it feels impossible to judge.

I do like to see areas where hip hop takes positive strides though, and while it’s easy to find examples of misogyny etc in Jay-Z’s lyrics, he has also used his platform to champion areas of Social Justice.

Other albums and songs

There are far too many great albums from Jay-Z to cover here, I’ll just touch on a few, but there are many more I could easily have included.

Collision Course

While Linkin Park’s – Hybrid Theory was a strong contender for my list, it didn’t quite make the cut. However this EP collaboration from Linkin Park & Jay-Z deserves a shout out here. Numb/Encore was the single, but all 6 tracks are great fun.

The Blueprint 3

Another favourite album, the Blueprint 3 is one of those albums that just “sounds like summer”. A real go to whenever the sun is shining.

Unplugged

Already acknowledged in my Mighty Mighty Bosstones post, Jay-Z – Unplugged is an outstanding live album, with Jay-Z collaborating with The Roots.

Conclusion

I’m sure people who have been listening for hip hop much longer than me, with arguably much better taste, would point to any number of Jay-Z’s albums as being better than The Black Album. Not me though, I adore this whole album and it’ll forever be a favourite. It is perfect.

February Games

February Games – (Sponsored by Nintendo Switch)

Well it was hinted as a possibility for this year, I’ve cracked and bought a Nintendo Switch. I didn’t even wait for Animal Crossing. More thoughts on that in the Pick-ups section below. No games completed, but hey, at least there are more games in the backlog now…

Games played during February

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Switch

It’s Mario Kart, I’ve been playing quite a bit, but haven’t taken it online yet. Was trying to at least 1 star all the cups first, but 200cc races are madness. I may need to rethink that.

Tetris 99

Tetris 99 – Switch

This was a surprise announcement / release from Nintendo. A free (providing you pay for the online service) Tetris game where you play a “battle royale” style competitive game. You versus 98 other people. Last one standing wins. It did what it was supposed to, and made me pay for the online service.

February Pick-ups

Nintendo Switch - February Games

Nintendo Switch

As headlined at the start of the post, I caved and picked up a Nintendo Switch. I had been toying with the idea on and off, particularly now there is an Animal Crossing announced. The main thing that sold it to me though was just the urge to get properly into a Mario Kart game again. There still aren’t many games I want for it, but I expect that to change in the future. I anticipate the Switch becoming my preferred platform for those indie games that previously I would have got for my PlayStation Vita.

February Games

Hyper Sentinel – Switch

My second Switch game. A fun little C64 style shooter, I originally played this at a retro event last year. It was £1.49 in the Nintendo eShop, where almost everything else is comically overpriced.

Starlink - February Games

Starlink: Battle for Atlas – Switch

I’d heard good stuff about the core game of Starlink, but I think the expensive toy mechanic meant that the game pretty much tanked, and is now available very cheaply. Nintendo’s version of the game also includes Star Fox as a playable character. This month they announced the Switch version would be getting some free DLC to add the rest of the Star Fox crew to the game, so I figured I’d pick the starter pack.

Tetris Effect

Tetris Effect – PSVR / PS4

I had been waiting for a price drop on this since trying the demo last year. Found a bargain online and can’t wait to get my face on it. The demo was incredible. Pretty much the trippiest way to play Tetris.

Puyo Puyo Tetris (yes again) – Switch

The Switch is the perfect home for this as a great multiplayer puzzle game. This does however mark the fourth time I’ve bought Puyo Puyo Tetris, and the third Tetris game I’ve picked up this month! What year is it again? Fortunately I managed to sell my Japanese copy of Puyo Puyo Tetris on the PS4, recouping 70% of the cost.

SEGA Ages Thunder Force IV – Switch

The Switch has a whole bunch of shmups old and new, but annoyingly they tend to be much more expensive than on any other platform. I expect I’ll pick up more when they go on sale, but Thunder Force IV was the most tempting of the SEGA Ages range of games to start me off.

Golf Story – Switch

The only Nintendo exclusive I’ve really wanted to play on Switch so far outside of Mario Kart and the as yet unreleased Animal Crossing. Looking forward to giving this a proper play, definitely up for Golf the RPG.

Games retired in February

SEGA Heroes – Mobile

I haven’t been properly into a mobile game for years, unless you count Ticket to Ride & Hearthstone, which I don’t. This game is a standard “puzzle quest” style match 3 bejeweled clone. It is from SEGA though, and I was highly entertained by the fan service in the game. However, they launched a recent event to obtain “Tails” that was ridiculously cynical even by mobile game standards. It was looking at a purchase of upwards of £49 just to take part in, so I’m out.

I appreciate there is money to be made chasing “whales” in the mobile or free to play market. However, a company like SEGA should probably be more protective of its IP. Or we might be looking at the demise of the SEGA boy

Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Live from the Middle East

Mighty Mighty BossTones – Live from the Middle East – Perfect Album #3

Now for something a bit more cheerful, and the only live album that made my top ten. As always, if you missed my original post, please check out “ten perfect albums” first.

Discovery

Finding my way to the Mighty Mighty BossTones was quite the journey. In 97 / 98 I would occasionally hear “The Impression That I Get” on the radio, sometimes when waking up, or perhaps in the car with my parents. We were sometime away from services like “Shazam” however, and although I had the internet, I never quite managed to find out what the song was. It didn’t help that when I was asking other people, 15 year old me was referring to it as ‘Knock on Wood’.

No one else ever seemed to know what it was though, and it may have been a whole year later, when I’d all but given up on finding out what the song was called or even who it was by. When watching the film “Clueless”, I saw, and more importantly heard, the scene where the Mighty Mighty BossTones perform “Where’d you go?”, I recognised Dicky Barrett’s distinctive vocals as being from that song I already loved. While I obviously didn’t have the foresight to just wait for the credits, a week or so later I was in HMV in Hanley and it occurred to me to look for the Clueless soundtrack. I didn’t buy it, but a glance at the back of the box told me that “Where’d you go?” was performed by the Mighty Mighty BossTones. HMV didn’t have any of their albums in, but I wandered down to Mike Lloyd Music to try my luck.

Mike Lloyd Music storefront, Hanley, Stoke-on-trent.
Sadly no longer with us, the iconic Mike Lloyd Music

Mike Lloyd Music had three Mighty Mighty BossTones CDs, result! Given my financial status (pretty sure I was still at school, or just left) I could only afford one CD. They had an EP “Ska-Core, The Devil and More”, a studio album “Question the Answers” and the subject of this post, the live album “Live From the Middle East”.

I used a schoolboy’s approach to value for money shopping, and went for the live album, as it had 22 songs on. Also from the track listing it had “Where’d You Go?”, so even if the other song I was looking for wasn’t on there, I at least know I liked that. Took that CD home and fell in love.

I think there was a good chance I was the only Mighty Mighty BossTones fan in Stoke, over the next couple of months I saved my money and bought those other two CDs from Mike Lloyd, no sign of anyone else buying any.

Standout songs

Where’d You Go?

Going to start with “Where’d You Go?”, it’s a great single and received its own EP. As above, this should be recognisable to fans of the movie Clueless, and I still have it to thank for helping me connect with the band.

Any minute you will show and I’m wondering where did ya go?

The Impression That I Get

While it’s very uncool to say you like a band’s most successful single, I don’t care. The Impression That I Get remains my favourite song of all time. I adore everything about it. Introduced on the album with the less than subtle “I think we know this f*cking song…”, damn straight it’s a highlight.

I’m not a coward, I’ve just never been tested.
I’d like to think that if I was I would pass.

Hell of a Hat

As a live album, it’s by default also something of a ‘best of’. I’m going to resist linking them all though, and just point to one more. “Hell of a Hat” is another great track, a song about being nervous around someone carrying a gun. I can only imagine the extra poignancy the lyrics have in America.

The gear you wear seems complete
Why you gotta pack the heat

Relationship with the album

Live albums are funny things. Some of the MTV Unplugged albums are really good, and those offerings from Placebo, Nirvana and Jay-Z are personal favourites. They could have conceivably made this list. Broadly though, I usually prefer a studio recording.

Live from the Middle East managed to convey the energy and personality of the Mighty Mighty BossTones, to a teenage me in the UK. It was still a long time before YouTube was established, so it wasn’t easy to see much of the band here, despite their evident popularity in the USA. While I have picked up the rest of their albums in the years since, this remains my favourite. It is timeless.

Mighty Mighty BossTones

If you were paying attention during the Placebo post, Mighty Mighty BossTones are the answer to the question raised there; “Who is your other favourite band?” Every other band or artist in this list I can point to a person who either influenced my discovery, or at least discovered them at the same time as me. The Mighty Mighty BossTones is the only one where not only did I get into them off my own back, but no one else has ever really shown much interest at all.

Generally (not always) if I mention the Mighty Mighty BossTones being my favourite band to people, I usually have to include a short explanation of who they are. The one major exception to this was on a visit to Charlottesville, Virginia to see a friend. Discussing music with some of his local friends in the bar, I mentioned my love for the BossTones, and they were also passionate fans. I think at least one of them was from Boston though, which goes someway towards explanation.

Unlike the last two artists, I’ve never seen the Mighty Mighty BossTones live. That is due to change this year though, as I have tickets for their gig in London in June. Hurrah!

Other albums and songs

The Magic of Youth – “Like a Shotgun”

The Magic of Youth is the only album I’ve ever been gifted via iTunes.

After chatting about music with a date who had also never heard of the BossTones, they went away and looked them up. This album had been released only a short time before, and I hadn’t even noticed. She gifted it to me, taking a chance I hadn’t got it already. Like a Shotgun was the single released from this album, and classic BossTones.

You were us and I was only me
And you were only waiting patiently

Enter Sandman

As an unashamed fan of Glee,I’m no stranger to an ill-advised cover. I’m no Metallica super-fan, but I recognise the classic status of some of their output. Enter Sandman is one of the biggest of those, and not the sort of song you’d want to cover lightly.

I think the BossTones do a great job though, and Dicky Barrett’s voice is one of few that I think could really do it justice. One of my favourite covers.

Conclusion

As per my initial post, all these albums are ones I return to often. I regularly just ‘throw on some BossTones’. Generally that means either hitting shuffle on the full discography, or it’s replaying Live From The Middle East in its entirety. If you’ll excuse me I’m just off to do the latter. It is perfect.

Glasvegas

Glasvegas – Perfect Album #2

Onto the second album in my list, and it’s Glasvegas’s self-titled debut album. As always, if you missed my original post, please check out “ten perfect albums” first.

Discovery

I’m not entirely sure quite when I discovered Glasvegas. It’s possible it started just with hearing their first chart single, “Geraldine” on the radio. However it really took hold when I found I shared a love for the band with my boss at the time, a man who otherwise has dubious taste in both music and football.

I think for ages I only had a downloaded copy of the album, but later picked up a second hand CD to make me feel better. Glasvegas are more ‘indie’ than I usually get into, but something about their sound stood out to me.

Standout songs

Predictable as you like, but Geraldine remains a firm favourite. I’d never heard anything like it before, and pretty much haven’t since. Hands down the best song I know about a social worker.

When you say that I’m no good and you feel like walking
I need to make sure you know that’s just the Prescription talking

Headline for the album is probably the heart-wrenching “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry”. The song climbs as the vocals spiral in despair, sure it’s depressing as hell, but it’s impossible not to sing along.

The end was always coming and now it’s here

As the first track on the album, Flowers & Football Tops sets the scene for the whole thing. The euphoric sound, the distinctive Scottish vocals, it quickly establishes tone. The song is also brutally sad once the lyrics sink in.

It’s perhaps more subtle than The Smiths’ “Girlfriend in a Coma” but I can’t help but draw a parallel. I remember being pretty young when my sister Heather would describe parties in the 80s where everyone would sit around listening to the Smiths, feeling awful. Yet would likely all describe what a great time they’d had when discussing it later. I think I get it.

Flowers and football tops
Don’t mean a thing.

Relationship with the album

This album was instrumental in my finally getting round to putting this list together. As I mentioned in my Placebo post, I’ve been keeping an eye out for gigs from my favourite artists. Last year Glasvegas toured a 10th anniversary of this album, and came to Brighton. I got tickets and dragged my friend Sam along. (He’s not a huge fan, but has sung Daddy’s Gone with me on SingStar numerous times…)

They played the album live in its entirety. It was an amazing set, incredible to hear the whole piece live. Before the gig I outlined my idea for this list to Sam, and we continued the discussion into the night afterwards. I committed then to putting my list down and blogging about it. I’m still interested to also hear his list, although his first draft was Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, ten times. So we’ll see.

Glasvegas also re-released the album on vinyl to celebrate its tenth anniversary. I couldn’t resist picking it up at the gig.

Glasvegas vinyl
Yes, apparently I now buy vinyl

Glasvegas

In many ways I’m the worst kind of Glasvegas fan. The follow-up albums passed me by, as they sadly did with most people. I do enjoy tracks from “EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\” but listening to it mostly just sends me back here. They did however release the incredible EP “A Snowflake Fell (And it Felt Like a Kiss) shortly after the album debut. I discovered that late too, but it has become essential festive listening.

As snow fell from heavens above
Directionless no more, Emptiness no more

Those of you who have followed me on Twitter for a while will also recognise the photo below. Although I changed it recently, it was my avatar on there for years. Pretty sure I’m still using it in some places, despite the photo being almost 10 years old. I was very pleased to discover the T-Shirt still fit when I dug it out for the gig.

Glasvegas, it me
It me

Conclusion

This isn’t the only indie album to make the top ten, but it is the only one that I’d describe as actively bleak. (Potential spoiler that there won’t be any Radiohead coming up…) Glasvegas are not alone in struggling to follow up an incredibly successful first album. I’m sure many would describe them as a ‘one album wonder’. For me, it wouldn’t matter if they had never released anything else. I consider this album, “Glasvegas”, perfect.

January Games

January Games

Off to a reasonable start for the year. Even sort of managed a completion. Albeit one where I imposed my own definition of “complete”.

Completed this month

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4

Finally calling this ‘finished’, although I’ll no doubt be playing it for considerable time to come. I have wrapped up the story, finished all the exploration (map & bonus boards), hit max level, ‘prestiged’ and bought all the in game houses. I’m never going to even attempt 100% completion on these games as long as there is a requirement to complete ‘drift’ events.


Also played this month

Worms W.M.D. – PS4

Managed to get quite a bit of this on in multiplayer recently, remains excellent and I think has become my favourite in the series. Finally toppled Armageddon & Worms World Party.


God of War – PS4

Managed to make a bit more progress with this, still loving it but could do with a day or two to just sit down and play.


Pinball FX2

Pinball FX2 – PSVR

You’ll spot a bit of a pinball trend this month, it’s been ongoing since last October or so as we’ve been preparing for a Pinball Episode over at Maximum Power Up. Look out for that soon. Playing Pinball in VR is a revelation, although I’m currently trailing in my leaderboard battles and need to get back on that.


Demon's Tilt promo

Demon’s Tilt – PC

Played quite a bit of Demon’s Tilt in January, pinball everywhere. Read my full Demon’s Tilt Preview. It’s now available to buy, and pretty much essential if you like video pinball.


Pick-ups during Janaury

Wi-fi and Bluetooth Card

When adding my new microphone (link) to my computer last month, I discovered I was somehow using all the rear USB ports. Rather than just add more ports, I picked up this card. I was previously using a USB Wi-Fi adapter so it freed up that port, but also a wired Xbox 360 Controller. I’ve now switched to a Bluetooth Xbox One pad, so I’ve reclaimed two ports. My local Wi-Fi is now 2.5 times faster than it was before too, and is much more reliable for my SteamLink and streaming my PS4 and Xbox One to the PC.


Gears of War 4 – Xbox One & PC

Gears of 4

Already had this as a physical copy for the Xbox One, but it cropped up in a sale for £3 digitally, so I re-bought it so I could also play it on my PC. Looks and plays better on there and still worked perfectly to play online co-op with my mate. Managed to trade my physical copy in at CeX for the two games below as well. Result.


Flipnic & Taito Legends – PS2

Essentially free thanks to trading in Gears of War 4, I was very pleased with these pick ups. Flipnic is an interesting curiosity, although not really any good. Was good to get hold of it for the upcoming podcast episode though. The Taito collection is excellent, and a nice addition to my recent PS2 acquisition.


Rollers of the Realm – PS4 / Vita

A game I completed on PC back in November, I couldn’t resist buying it again when it popped up in a PlayStation sale for less than £2. It’s crossbuy so you get both the PS4 and Vita versions, and it’s absolutely perfect for the Vita. A rare game I’m happy to replay.


GameBoy pickups January

Game Boy Games

In January we visited a retro games shop in Brighton, Ninja Games Den. I was pleasantly surprised by the prices and it was fun to choose a handful of Game Boy games. The only one of these I’d played before was Wave Race so it was a bit of a gamble but I’ve had a little go on each and I’m happy with the selection.


Kirbys Pinball Land

Kirby Pinball – GB

One more Game Boy title to round out the January games pick-ups, although I took to eBay for this. Continuing my recent pinball game kick, this is great, and one I missed out on previously.

Ten Perfect Albums #1

Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing – Perfect Album #1

First off, the order I’m publishing the posts in does not represent any sort of ranking. Mostly I’ve just organised my list to try and avoid grouping similar artists or sounds together. Thought I’d use photos of my own copy of each album as I go too, so some may be a bit worse for wear. Also, if you missed my original post setting out the context for this list, please read “Ten Perfect Albums“.

Discovery

I imagine a few people discovered Placebo around 1999, thanks to the success of Dangerous Liaison’s remake, Cruel Intentions. Personally, while I was certainly aware of them before that, it was their presence on the Cruel Intentions soundtrack that really got to me.

I had the soundtrack on a dubious CDR of MP3 albums, and it was on the strength of this that I ordered Placebo’s “Without You I’m Nothing” released the previous year. Amusingly, I also bought it in the most 90s way possible, via the Britannia Music Club. Placebo have gone on to become my joint favourite band, and while I love all their music, this is the album I consider (by my own definition) perfect.

Standout Songs

Pure Morning and Every You Every Me are obvious choices as they were such iconic singles and are rightly deserving of praise. However the song that I’d point to as a personal highlight is Allergic (To Thoughts of Mother Earth). The energy to the track is something of a turning point for the album, following the haunting title track, Without You I’m Nothing.

“The light divining, the light defining, the light divining, the light dividing.”

The song, Without You I’m Nothing, is excellent, and I do adore it as part of the album. However, if you’re going to just listen to it in isolation, you’ve got to choose the single release featuring the late, great, David Bowie.

“You’ve never seen the lonely me at all.”

Relationship with the album

The majority of my musical preferences formed before the mid-nineties, can be traced back to/blamed on my older sisters and my brother-in-laws. Some of those influences will crop up in this list, but by 1999 I was finding my own way more and more.

Growing up, I used to fight quite a bit with Helen, the youngest of my sisters. I think because we were closest in age, and my being 4 years younger I was probably just annoying and uncool to have around. These days I aspire to be less annoying, but suspect that I am no cooler. However by the time I finished high school, we did start to become much closer. This was when we discovered we did have some overlap in our musical tastes, and Placebo was one of those we had in common.

“Without You I’m Nothing” not only takes me back to my college years, and the music I was just starting to get into then, but just as much it takes me home. Takes me to a time when our other sisters had moved out and Helen and I had discovered such shared interests as ‘walking to the pub on a Sunday evening’.

Placebo

There are some vocalists that are instantly recognisable, and while Placebo certainly have a distinctive overall sound, it’s Brian Molko’s incredible voice that really sets them apart.

As I mentioned above, Placebo are my joint favourite band, along with another that’ll crop up on a later post in this series. While I’ve historically been terrible at seeing any of the bands or artists that I love live, I managed to finally change that in 2016 when Placebo came to Brighton on their 20 years of Placebo tour. They were superb, and it was everything I’d hoped for.

Before that I’d been to plenty of gigs, but always those suggested by other people. This has involved much more drum & bass and dub-step than is probably good for me. I have now turned this round, and ever since seeing Placebo have been gradually ticking other bands off my bucket list.

Other albums and songs

I know a number of people who regard Placebo’s self-titled first album as their best. I wouldn’t really contest this, as it is excellent. For the purposes of my own criteria though, it doesn’t quite hit ‘perfect’. Without You I’m Nothing is the album I come back to again and again. One of my lecturers in college was a strong advocate for their first album, and she was keen to lend me her CD so I could be convinced. I think this is the copy I still have at home. Sorry Jo.

I have found something to love on every Placebo album since, with 2013’s Loud Like Love being another favourite. I adore “Too Many Friends” from this album, and hearing it played live was very much a highlight of the gig in Brighton.

“My computer thinks I’m gay.”

Conclusion

From what I’ve read, even the band don’t rate this album as highly as I do. When I decided to make this list, Without You I’m Nothing was one of the first to claim a place. It is perfect.

Demon's Tilt promo

Demon’s Tilt – Game Preview

This is a game I’ve been following in development for some time. As mentioned in my December round up, we have been in the planning stages of a pinball episode of the Maximum Power Up podcast since October. The fine folks at WizNWar & FLARB were kind enough to provide me with a beta code back in November, so I’ve now spent a fair bit of time trying the game out.

Although the pinball episode should be out soon, [edit: pinball episode is out now] Demon’s Tilt goes into Early Access on Steam next week, on 22nd January 2019. I wanted to share some of my thoughts in time for that, and hopefully contribute a bit to the conversation around the Early Access launch.

Overview

Demon’s Tilt is a 2D Pinball game, very much in the style of the 90s Crush Pinball games series from developers Compile and Tengen. From the screenshots it’s easy to see these influences, not least by the presence of a large head in the middle of the playfield. The game utilises pixel art and mega drive style music to present an experience reminiscent of the era, but with modern HD displays in mind.

Demon’s Tilt also takes some influence from ‘bullet hell’ shmups, with the various bosses in the game more than happy to fill the screen with projectiles. While this can look a little confusing in screenshots, it soon makes sense when you are playing. This is pinball, so pretty much every element is there for the same thing, to give you more opportunities to increase your score.

Graphics

Like Devil’s Crush, Demon’s Tilt takes a heavy occult influence for it’s aesthetic. This is focused on the creepy nun in the middle level of the table. Given the success of the Conjuring series of films and its descriptively named spin off “The Nun”, it would appear creepy nuns are very much ‘in’.

The lowest level of the table is where the various mini-boss enemies appear as the game progresses. This starts with the Hermit, the gatekeeper for the Cathedral. He gives way to increasingly disturbing horrors, my personal favourite being the mass of tentacles that is Shub Calamari.

Once you’re at the top of the table, you’re met by the overlord of Demon’s Tilt, the dreaded Manticore. Part lion, serpent and scorpion, the Manticore looks great, and is a deserving headline for the game.

Screenshots

TATE mode

A recent update has added TATE mode (support for a monitor rotated 90 degrees, to have a ‘portrait’ display). Short of playing in full VR, TATE mode is my preferred way to play Pinball games. It is much more satisfying to have a whole pinball table on the screen, rather than the screen to scroll with the ball. Demon’s Tilt is still great in the standard view mode, with the screen scrolling with the action, and making some impressive use of zoom.

Music

demon's tilt ost

Composer Charlie Heinrich has created a soundtrack to the game that is pure Mega Drive. To get the authentic sound, he emulates the sound chip from the Mega Drive itself. The image above is a soundcloud link to the tracks so you can check it out. The music really suits the occult aesthetic of Demon’s Tilt’s and evokes those classic games. Especially when the bell tolls for MULTIBALL!

Thoughts & issues

There have been continued updates since I was first given access to the game. While there were initially several bugs that you can expect in beta software, those I experienced have almost all been eradicated. The main one I suffered was that I had to exit the program after each go in order to start a new game. As it happens, that was almost a useful feature. Demon’s Tilt nails the “one more go” element of the best pinball games. When your last ball slips down the gutter, it’s impossible not to think that you’ll do better next time. At least having to close the game and restart it helped me pull myself away after just one or two goes. Rather than the five or six credits I now play.

The only issue I have now is that the frame rate can drop some when things get particularly frantic (and they can get frantic). It has been improving with each update though, and doesn’t put me off wanting to play.

If you enjoy pinball at all this is easily worth a look. If you’ve got any love for the Alien Crush and Devil’s Crush/Dragon’s Fury, then Demon’s Tilt is pretty much essential.

Pre-release leaderboards make me look better

Interested?

I can’t wait for the final release of Demon’s Tilt. I’m even looking forward to the game entering Steam Early Access and for more people to get their hands on it. Even if it does mean I get pushed down the leaderboard.

If you want to check it out for yourself, the Steam page is here.
You can also follow developments via the game’s official Twitter and Facebook.

My long serving iPod. May he live forever.

What are your Ten Perfect Albums?

The Premise

Perfect Albums you say? Well. This is a project I’ve been working on in my head for about 5 years. It started out even longer ago, based on the seemingly innocuous question, “Hey, what are your top ten favourite albums?” The more time I spent thinking about it, the more it bothered me. Could an album really be my favourite if I’m skipping 40% of it, but I really like 5 or 6 songs? Sure I love Bros – Push, but is it really in a top 10? (Hey I said it was a long time ago.)

I have decided to re-frame the question. I’m now asking, “What are your top ten albums that you consider perfect?” Perfect in this sense being those albums:

  • where there are no tracks that I skip,
  • that I often find myself returning to,
  • that I easily put back on again from the beginning after it finishes.

Choosing my Ten

After years of deliberation, I have finally decided on my ten. I’m no music critic and it’s important to stress the importance of “I consider perfect” not being equivalent to “technically great” or “musical genius”. In some cases I may even admit that there are “better” albums by the same artist, if so I’ll try to acknowledge these in the posts.

Many people have written about the links between music and memory. It is widely recognised that songs and albums can transport you to a time and place (sometimes whether you like it or not) and this has been very much in my mind when considering the list. All the albums I have chosen feel connected to my life in some way.

I can promise there is no Bros in the line-up, I can’t promise there isn’t anything you’ll consider a dubious choice. Hopefully though you’ll stick with me (both of you), and at least read the posts where I’ll share my thoughts, perhaps pick out some standout tracks and maybe even talk a bit out the memories the album evokes. We’ll see.

The Plan

I intend to treat each album to an individual blog post. Aiming to cover an album every couple of weeks. When I’m done I may do a couple of honourable mentions, as there are a number on the cutting room floor.

I’d also be very interested to hear other people’s take on this question, although that may require people reading the blog. I shall keep my expectations low.

2019 in Games

A quick glance over the 2018 post shows an almost complete failure to stick to the plan. I’ll just have a quick review of the few I did play from the list, then come up with a new list for 2019. I’m going to roll some forward, but still give it a refresh.


Played in 2018

1. Gears of War 4 – Xbox One

I think I’m slightly less than half way through this now, playing in co-op with my usual Gears & Halo buddy. Pretty sure we’ll wrap it up in 2019, and hopefully make a start on something else. Maybe Halo 3.

2. Skies of Arcadia Legends – Game Cube

I made a start on this, but wasn’t really in the mood. I’ve dropped it back into the ‘one day’ pile, and will consider it again at some point when I’m in the mood for an epic JRPG.

3. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – PS4

Hurrah, a game from the list I played and completed during 2018! Loved it too. I think the next game, Wolfenstein: Young Blood, has the potential to be really good too, but I don’t expect I’ll get to it this year.


10 games for 2019

1. Super Metroid – Wii / SNES

One I’ve rolled forwards from last year. I think it was a bit soon after finishing Axiom Verge (and playing so much Castlevania for the podcast) to play this last year, but I think we’re getting there.

2. StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void – PC

Another one carried over from 2018’s list. I know I’ll be hooked once I make a start but I just need to be in the mood for an RTS. I did already buy the remastered original game though, so I’ve got that to look forward to as well at some point.

3. Riven – Saturn

I scrapped this from a previous list due to difficulties getting it to run well on PC. All the MYST games have recently been re-released digitally, and may well now run much smoother. However, I picked up a mouse for my Saturn last year, so I have scraped Myst III from the list for now, and reinstated the Saturn version of Riven. Excellent.

4. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow – GBA

Enough time has passed since the Castlevania episode, I think I’ll get to this soon. Good to have a handheld title on the list too.

5. Fable Anniversary

Picked this up a while ago and keep forgetting I’ve got it. I loved the second and third games but have somehow never played the original. This may be the year I sort that out!

6. Indigo Prophecy: Fahrenheit – PS4

Really intended to get to this last year, having bought the same game repeatedly and never played it.

7. Marvel’s Spider-man – PS4

The only game on my list that I don’t own already, I plan to buy this once I finish God of War. Hopefully won’t be too much longer on that. Comparisons between this Spider-man game and the Batman Arkham games are reassuring.

8. Quantum Break – Xbox One

Also from last year, I’m still looking forward to playing this.

9. The Last Express – PC

Last one on the list that I’ve brought with me from last year. Gotta have a train game!

10. The Witcher 3: Game of the Year – Xbox One

Only just picked this up during December. Not sure if I’ll take to it, but I plan on at least giving it a go during 2019.


2019 releases I’m looking forward too

This section was a bit of a washout last year, with only the Street Fighter Anniversary collection really catching my attention. Metro Exodus should be out in 2019 though, so I’ve kept it on the list for this year. Given the demise of Telltale, it’s unlikely Wolf Among Us 2 will ever appear.

1. Metro Exodus – PS4

I’m still worried that a shift to open world may ruin the tight experiences of the first two games, but I really like this world so I’m trying to be optimistic. Will keep an eye on the reviews before picking it up though.

2. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – PS4

I’m all in for this spiritual Castlevania sequel, hoping it lives up to the promise.

3. Doom Eternal – PS4

The previous game was a masterpiece, really looking forward to more of the same. Early footage has been promising.

4. Warcraft III: Reforged – PC

As you may imagine from my All-Time Top 5 RTS Games post, I’m pretty excited for this. I’m hoping to replay the full campaign again, and with a bit of luck, maybe play some multiplayer too.

5. Animal Crossing – Switch

Yeah I know. If one game can sell me a new Nintendo system though it’s a proper Animal Crossing game. Will see how the game looks when it comes out, but this is probably the only thing that could sell me a Switch at this point.

December Gaming

December Games

Well I did manage to finish one more game during December to close out the year, and also picked up a bunch more. Oops.

Completed this month

Yoku's Island Express

Yoku’s Island Express – Xbox One

I was originally going to skip this one. Although I was interested in the premise, the demo felt like a poor Ori & the Blind Forest knock off. However, back in October I started preparations for a pinball related podcast we were due to record towards the end of 2018. Due to scheduling conflicts, we have put this episode back to early 2019. I saw the retail version of this cheap in a sale and thought I could squeeze in some playtime before the recording, and talk about it good or bad on the podcast. I’m glad I gave it another chance though, it was a real joy to play. The pinball mechanics really come into their own as the game progresses.


Also played this month

Still in love with my GameBoy

Solar Striker – GameBoy

I was playing this in a high score challenge, a bit disappointed that I didn’t manage to complete it in one credit, but I put in some respectable performances all the same. Really enjoyable to be playing this on my backlit modded GameBoy, rather than needing to use an emulator.


Forza Horizon 4: Fortune Island – Xbox One

The first expansion for Forza Horizon 4 arrived in December. I haven’t had a lot of time with it yet, but first impressions are good. Looking forward to getting into it properly in January.


Pick-ups during December

One of the best prize bundles ever

Super Bomberman R Goodie Box – PS4

I was lucky enough to win this on Twitter. The game is a pretty solid Bomberman, although some of the timing seems a bit off compared to previous versions and may take a bit of getting used to. As well as a copy of the game, the box had some really good stuff. Three T-Shirts, a beanie hat, stickers, a poster and the box itself is really nice.


Pang Adventures – Xbox One

Had my eye on this for a while, and it appeared in the Winter sale for a couple of quid. Hopefully it’s as good as the original games.


Pinball Gold Pack – PC

Another one I’d got on my wishlist waiting for a sale. I paid £2.40 for this pack on Good Old Games, containing 20 tables from the old school pinball classics: Pinball Dreams 1 and 2, Pinball Illusions and Pinball Fantasies/Pinball Mania. These are the DOS versions which aren’t as highly regarded as they were on the Amiga, but still some solid pinball.


Jazz Jackrabbit 2 – PC

Another pick up from Good Old Games. Although I did have this already, it was based on a dubious copy I’d acquired many years ago, and I’m glad to have it join my digital library. For more info on the game, do checkout the Run N Gun episode of the Maximum Power Up podcast, where I try to convince my suspicious co-hosts to play it.


Pinball FX 2 VR – PSVR

Yet more pinball! I already own all these tables in my Pinball FX3 collection on PC, however I have been meaning to get the VR version for a while. At this point the PSVR library is better than many consoles.


Witcher 3: GotY – Xbox One

This was a bit of a panic buy when I got an email from Microsoft saying I had £16 of credit that was going to expire in January. There wasn’t anything else I fancied in the Winter Sale so I plumped for finally picking up The Witcher 3. I have been interested in it for a while, as I enjoy the Witcher novels, but I’m not sure how I’ll get on with the open world. Now we’ll find out!


Sega Power Stick – Mega Drive

A surprise bargain I just saw in the windows of my local CeX. This is the stick I used to have for the Mega Drive before I sold my previous collection. Delighted to get it again, and it’s already improving some of my scores. Would still like to pick up a 6 button version, but it’s not really necessary for shmups.


Darius Burst Chronicles DLC – PS4

Probably a bit of a mistake since I’ve barely spent any time with the full game, I grabbed the Cave and SEGA DLC packs for this as they were on sale. Hopefully I’ll try those out at some point at least.