What are your goals

Personal Goals and Single-Use Plastic

Quite a departure from my usual topics, I’ve been meaning to put this post together for months now. Would have been a good thing to write about in January, but hopefully my picking it up in August still makes sense. Also this probably should be two separate blog posts, but I didn’t just want to make a post called “single-use plastic” that was heavy on affiliate links but light on content. Instead, it’s a wall of text. Hurrah?

Personal goal setting

Every year I like to set a few personal goals. These are essentially New Year’s Resolutions as I set them in January, but I much prefer the term goal. Not sticking to something you “resolved” to do immediately frames itself as a failure. Goals feel more aspirational, and thus positive. “This year I’m going to try to achieve these things, and if I don’t, then I might try again next year”. I also find it useful to check in every few months during the year, to see how I’m doing, if I even still want to do these things, or if I want to adjust them a bit.

Fairly obvious ones:

  • I like to set a reading challenge on goodreads – although I also set a personal target of how many of them can be graphic novels (usually aim for 50% of the target with non-comics)
  • Diet, exercise, weight loss, same as everyone else
  • Career / professional development – these have focused around either changing jobs or continued study. I’ve been pretty good at achieving my goals in this area, but studying and working full time continues to take its toll.
  • Money, get a better grip of budgeting and the like. Generally one of those most likely to be carried forward every year. Haha.

Some things I’d like to do:

  • Previously this included starting a blog, then I had one to move to private hosting, and subsequent years have focused on keeping it going. This year I’ve tried to move towards proactively scheduling more posts in advance. Very much still a work in progress.
  • Now I’m on a podcast I’ve started to think about ways to develop that. At the moment I’m just trying to get ‘better’ at it.
  • Hardware projects, previous years included building my RetroPie arcade stick. I now have one to finish modding a Dreamcast arcade stick with better parts. Still in progress…

Finally, things I think I should do:

  • I always try to budget to be able to support things my creative friends put out, whether that’s people I know personally or ‘mutuals’ on Twitter. Not something I can always afford to do as much as I’d like, but I have been setting myself goals around my support of other people’s creativity i.e. via Patreon and Etsy. (Also, if I know you and you write a book, damn straight I’m going to buy it).
  • Tend to be one or two personal goals in here, and this year is the reason for this post. Pretty late to the game, I started with the simple intention of getting a reusable cup for the coffee shop, to avoid single use cups with plastic lids. (Yes I saw Blue Planet 2 and got the single-use plastic message as well). I also realised that by the end of last year, I was buying a 600 ml bottle of Pepsi Max every day. I decided I was done buying those plastic bottles, so the obvious extension was to buy a reusable water bottle too.

Falling down a single-use plastic rabbit hole

Disclaimer here: the links to products on Amazon are affiliate links, where I’ll get a small commission if you buy something. Secondary disclaimer: I am of course aware of the ethical issues around Amazon as a retailer. Feel free not to use them. However, these are the switches I’ve made this year, hopefully someone reading might discover something they’d like to try for themselves.

Travel cup

Travel Cup - Reducing single-use plastic

This was a bit of a challenge, it took me ages to decide what cup I wanted. I even bought new ceramic ones from HMV for me and my girlfriend, then discovered they don’t hold much liquid. Certainly not enough for a large mocha from my choice of coffee shop. (Didn’t stop me picking up a third one from NERG last month though). Then I realised that a Marvel Comics one my parents bought for me years ago was actually perfect, and have used it constantly since. My girlfriend went one better, and now has a bamboo one, like this. I’ll probably do that when my Marvel one dies, since I wouldn’t have chosen to buy a plastic one.


Water Bottle

Water bottle - Reducing Single-use Plastic

This was also difficult to decide which to get. A lot of the available ones have intricate “sipping” systems in the lids that make me think they would be difficult to clean. I went with a very simple metal bottle from Wilko that was about £5. I now have my eye on one of the fun designs from Chillys though.


Razors

Safety Razors

Probably the most daunting change, I decided I needed to stop buying plastic disposable razor head cartridges. The alternative meant getting involved in the whole “double edge safety razor” scene, and they are a bit terrifying. However, as well as being a great alternative to the plastic system I was used to, they’re incredibly cheap. I bought this Bamboo Razor Handle* and these 100 blades* which helpfully came with some shaving soap. I notice that the blades I bought are currently out of stock, there are plenty of options for these though. However, do check the packaging details. Some of the “Derby” branded ones have each 5 blades packaged in little single-use plastic cases. Pretty much defeats the point of making the change!

I am starting to get better at using the razor now too, although still manage to do myself minor injuries. Oops.


Toothbrush

Bamboo Toothbrushes - Reducing Single-use Plastic

An easy change, I was a bit sceptical at first as to what they’d be like to use, but I bought these bamboo toothbrushes* and have been very happy with them. I could do with a solution for my electric toothbrush too, but not sure what to do about that yet.


Sandwich wrap

Sandwich wrap

This was less about single-use plastic, but more the realisation that I was buying kitchen foil simply to wrap my lunch for work everyday. I assumed there must be a solution to this, and Google didn’t let me down, sending me to this Guardian article picking out 5 options. I had a look at them all, and decided to go with Re-Wrap-it. I’ve got this green and white one, because of course I have.


Metal Straws

So far I’ve resisted buying these as I very rarely use straws, but the deeply unsatisfying experience of a McDonald’s milkshake through a paper straw is making me consider it. More so given recent revelations that there are even issues with recycling the paper ones. These straws from Chilly’s are well regarded, but I’m tempted by the more portable, collapsible straw variety. I’m considering something like these straws from Amazon*, as I might actually remember to take them out with me.


Cling film

Something else I haven’t tried myself yet, but I’ve heard good things about using these bees wax wraps* as an alternative to cling film, so will probably give them ago.


*these are those affiliate links I was talking about. By all means use them if you’d like to kick me a few pence. ^^

Virtua Racing Split Screen 8 Player

July Games

Incredibly busy month, where I’ve been mostly trying to study, but also applying for, and getting, a new job. Didn’t play a great deal, but managed a good amount in 2-player on the Nintendo Switch with my other half.

Games completed this month

Raging Justice July Games

Raging Justice – Switch

Barely feels like a completion, but we got a credits roll so I’m counting it. Girlfriend and I had a great time on this, the ride-on lawnmower section is a definite highlight.


Games played during July

Horizon Chase Turbo July Games

Horizon Chase Turbo – PS4

I had been on the fence about grabbing this for the Switch. I liked the idea of it, but was concerned it might feel a bit “mobile game”. Fortunately it popped up as a freebie on PlayStation Plus for the PS4, so I was able to spend some time with it. I played for about 45 minutes. It was enjoyable and certainly presses the nostalgia buttons for these classic arcade racers. However after 45 minutes I’d had enough and don’t think I’ll go back to it. Saved me buying it on Switch, although it did motivate me to immediately buy a different game on there. More on that below.


Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever – PC

Yes this is just about as bad as you think it is. I played it for an upcoming podcast episode, but didn’t entirely hate it. A couple of the later guns were quite satisfying, and there is a whole level early on where you’ve been shrunk and you’re driving around in an RC Car. I did enjoy that.


Metro Exodus – PC

Had a quick go on this, busy month meant I haven’t put a lot of time into anything, but I think this could be my next proper game after The Witcher 3, and was pleased the PC version was included in the Xbox Game Pass thing. What I really like is that it seems to be really well optimised, and gets 60+ fps on my PC with everything on Ultra at 1080p.


X-Men Legends

X-Men Legends – Xbox

As included in my NERG Pickups below, this month saw me acquire an original Xbox. This game was already on the Hard Drive, I’d forgotten just how good these games were. I think I’ll probably put a bit more time into it.


Doom II Switch

Doom 2 – Switch

Bethesda released Doom 1, 2 & 3 across all the modern platforms, coinciding with QuakeCon. Annoyingly I was supposed to go to the event in London but had to cancel to finish up some study. I did grab Doom 2 though, and have already had some fun playing it in split-screen with my girlfriend.


July Pick-ups

Virtua Racing - SEGA Ages

Virtua Racing – Switch

As mentioned above, this was the purchase I made straight after playing Horizon Chase Turbo. This port of Virtua Racing is incredible fun, these SEGA Ages ports continue to impress. I doubt I’ll ever get to try the 8 player split-screen mode but I’m glad that it’s in there. I really hope we see some more racing games. Naturally I want SEGA Rally, but it would be something of a dream if they could finally give us home versions of SCUD Race and Daytona 2.


Games and comic tat from NERG

NERG Pickups

I covered NERG in my last blog post, but thought I’d just mention the gaming items I picked up. First up was the modded Xbox that was a gift from Phil, have wanted to get one of these again for a while. I also picked up a 6-button Competition Pro pad for the Mega Drive the same as the one I had as a kid. Last bit of gaming related stuff was a handful of loose Game Boy games. Robocop, Terminator 2, Batman the Movie (or Batman inexplicably with a gun), Jurassic Park and Elevator Action.


Puyo Puyo Champions

Puyo Puyo Champions – Switch

To be honest, I just grabbed this because it was 50% off and I thought my girlfriend might play it. We’ve been playing a lot of Puyo Puyo Tetris again recently, but I just stick to Tetris. My little brain can’t Puyo.


Phantasy Star - Switch

Phantasy Star – Switch

The third SEGA game I bought for my Switch this month, I haven’t loaded this up yet. I’ve never really managed to get into the Phantasy Star games, but this looks like quite a polished port of the original Master System game, so thought I’d give it a go.


Brawl July Games

Brawl – Switch

This was 89p. I played Brawl a bit on PS4 when it first came out, it’s a fairly competent little Bomberman clone, with an odd horror aesthetic. I didn’t really get into it at the time but thought it might be nice to have some Bomberman action on my Switch without getting Super Bomberman R for the third time.


Retired this month

Witcher 3

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Xbox One

Well I tried my best, but the openworldness got to me. Found myself not wanting to load it up anymore. Think I’ll stick to reading the books and I’ll check out the TV series when it appears.

NERG – A Retro Pilgrimage

For the second year running I decided to make the 350 mile journey north to attend North East Retro Gaming, what is rapidly becoming my favourite retro event in the calendar. After a five hour train journey went quite pleasantly, I arrived in Newcastle early afternoon on the Friday, the day before the event. I was met by fellow Maximum Power-Up podcasters Phil and Paul (Phil kindly providing his house Friday & Saturday nights as our base) and we made our way into the event to observe the setup, get an early look at the bargains, and generally be under people’s feet.

Arcade Games

As usual with these events, there was a great selection of free to play arcade games setup. Included a few photos of some of them here, taken during the setup when you could actually see them without people in the way.

Outrun & Space Harrier sit down cabs - NERG
Yes I took advantage of the time before opening to play these bad boys. No regrets.

Games

Along with the arcade, there was also a huge selection of pinball tables and various classic games consoles. I somehow managed to barely take any photos of those, although Phil & I did play a bunch of Pinball.

Digital Pinball

This custom digital pinball cabinet was one of my favourite things at the event. So very cool, and great fun to play.

Virtual Pinball
I’m still not 100% what software this was running, but I definitely want one for Pinball FX.

Maximum Power Up grudge match

I think lessons had been learned after last year, and there was no 3 player Bomberman with me. 🙁 However, Phil & Paul did find time to go head-to-head on some PlayStation 2 football game. It wasn’t Sensible Soccer though so I left them to it…

Maximum Power Up Football Face-off
No, I don’t know who won. I’m just going to assume it wasn’t Paul.

Other games

While the football was going on, I spent some time with my old friend Virtua Cop. This PS2 collection of the first two games is a great package. Almost makes me think about getting a CRT Television so I could play it with light guns at home. I think I’ll stick to my collection of light gun games I can play on a modern tv though.

PS2 Virtua Cop Elite
I really wish they’d bought this collection to the Wii or PS3 Move

Also really nice to see TxK playable here, via a lesser spotted PSTV.

TxK on a PSTV
Always nice to see the greatest game ever, TxK, playable at an event

Vendors

Flash House Brewing Co

As usual Flash House had produced an official pale ale for the occasion, very much enjoyed a few pints of NERG 2019. The Oro Honey Pils was pretty good too.

NERG Pale Ale
A personal favourite amongst the vendors

Allan’s Japanese Retro Games

The ever pleasant Allan was in attendance, for what I believe was his first appearance at NERG. He specialises in import Japanese games and hardware and always has a huge amount of the more rare titles. Always nice to see Allan, even if I only tend to buy controllers from him.

Allan's Japanese Retro Games
Complete with Phil elbow deep in Famicom carts. As usual.

North East Retro Den

As per last year, these guys were present, and this was also where I spent the majority of my money. Most of the stuff I picked up below was from their stall. Particularly fitting was the 5 Game Boy games, as I bought my Game Boy from them at NERG last year.

NERG Haul
The stuff I picked up from NERG, including an original xbox that was a gift from Phil.

The last of my highlights, (although there were certainly many other cool stores there), Sore Thumbs Retro Games were also at NERG. To be honest though I saw much more of Lee in the pub Saturday evening, and when we retired back to Phil’s to watch the wrestling. Well, I gave up trying to follow what was going on at 2 am, but I understand Phil, Lee and co made it to 5:30 am.

I did find time on the Saturday to join my good buddy Shaun Holley, from Ten Pence Arcade podcast fame, as he recorded a short walk-around audio clip at the event, if the audio is serviceable I’m sure Shaun will include it in their upcoming episode.

Sunday

While I’d booked up to be at NERG the whole weekend with my train home being Monday morning, just before I headed north I found out I had a job interview at 9:30 am the following Wednesday. I thus called the Sunday a bit short, and headed to my hotel a little after 2 pm where I proceeded to develop the presentation element of my interview. Fortunately I managed to secure the job, so it was worth the effort!

Summary

For pure enjoyment and atmosphere, NERG is almost tied with Play Blackpool as being my favourite retro event. Blackpool tends to just about have the edge for me because more of my friends tend to be able to get there. However Blackpool seems to have moved to take place in October now, which is already taken up by Eurogamer and the London NFL games for which I’m a season ticket holder. So I think maybe NERG steals the crown by default, even with the combined 10 hours of trains in the round trip.

See you next year NERG!

Lego Speed Champions

June Games

June was a relatively quiet month for game progress, but have managed to find a reasonable amount of time to play. Even wrapped one game up.

Games completed this month

Nefarious

Nefarious – Switch

Well I cleared it. Nothing mind blowing but the boss fights were really fun even if the rest was filler.


Games played during June

Witcher 3

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Xbox One

Still playing this, mostly enjoying it but the crafting, alchemy etc are all tedious, and I’m already bored of Gwent. The story is great though so I’m hoping to stick with it.


House of the Dead Overkill

House of the Dead: Overkill – PS3

Dusted off the PS3 Gun Grips for the Move Controllers and played a few rounds of this with my partner. Still one of the best lightgun shooters ever.


Typing of the Dead Overkill

Typing of the Dead: Overkill – PC

Partly inspired by playing House of the Dead again, but also as it was something a bit different to what others were playing, I played a bit of this while setting up my PC to do some Twitch streaming. Not sure if I’ll ever stream much, but it was fun to dabble.


Timespinner

Timespinner – Switch

Only picked this up this month, but have already put a bit of time into it. It’s a very straight forward Castlevania: Symphony of the Night clone, with the graphic style of a Super Nintendo Japanese RPG. I have been enjoying it but the art style isn’t really my kind of thing and it feels very limited after Hollow Knight.


Lego Speed Champions

Forza Horizon 4: Lego Speed Champions – Xbox One / PC

Easily the best news out of E3 for me, this expansion for Forza Horizon 4 is a worthy successor to the Hot Wheels expansion for Horzion 3. I have been having a great time with it, but I’m mildly concerned I’m going to have to spend more time doing the boring stuff like drift challenges in order to complete the main single player content.


Dauntless – PC

Spent a couple of hours on this with 2 friends. We had a good time, and I think it’ll replace Apex Legends as our backup game for when we don’t have enough for Vermintide 2. We do tend to prefer co-operative experiences for these sessions.


Gears of 4

Gears of War 4 – Xbox One / PC

Managed again to get a bit more online time on this with my buddy. We’re finally getting there, and may even see the credits roll before Gears 5 comes out in September.


Dead Space Extraction – PS3

Another one that made my Top Lightgun game list, put a bit of time into this on the PS3 in preparation for an upcoming podcast episode. Still great fun, and having spent more time with the Dead Space series since I wrote that list, I can now say it’s my favourite Dead Space game…


June Pick-ups

Epic Pinball

Epic Pinball Complete – PC

Definitely one of those impulse purchases I’ll probably never play, but couldn’t resist this collection when it went on sale for a couple of quid on Good Old Games. Basically just another bunch of DOS based pinball tables I used to play on my old PC back in the 90s.


Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Xbox Live Ultimate

Bit of a ridiculous bargain this. Microsoft promotion meant that taking a £1 trial of Game Pass Ultimate (which includes Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass for PC) also converted whatever remaining subscription you had to any of those services, to be Ultimate. I had just upgraded my Xbox Live Gold for another year, so I got 13 months of Game Pass Ultimate for £1. Already a few games on there I’m looking to play, including Metro Exodus and the most recent Tomb Raider.


Kanye West

Kanye West – Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Perfect Album #10

Concluding my list of Ten Perfect Albums, this is where my hip-hop related cognitive dissonance comes home to roost. I love this album, but it’s easily the most problematic on my list, and I have a not insignificant love/hate relationship with Kanye West. This album is incredible, and very much deserves to be here. If you’re put off by swearing though, I suggest skipping this one, and maybe head back to the Pet Shop Boys where it’s safer.

Discovery

I first heard this album on a trip to visit my friend Charlie in the states towards the end of 2010. I went out there with a couple of other friends, and of these, Dave had this album (and an almost unreasonable amount of Drake) on his phone. We had rented a car which we took on an epic two day road trip from Charlottesville, Virginia up to New York via Washington DC and then calling at Philadelphia (for a race up the ‘Rocky’ steps) on the way back. Dave had control of the Aux lead so we listened to his phone. (I don’t drive so I did as I was told)

Standout Songs

Runaway

Pretty much became our theme song when I was living with my friend Tonia. It’s definitely time for us to have a toast.

And I don’t know how I’ma manage
If one day you just up and leave

Monster

My first exposure to Nicki Minaj, and an absolute stand out on the album (They aren’t kidding about that [Explicit] warning either). Can’t deny that Nicki’s verse completely steals the track, as much as I still enjoy the rest.

OK first things first I’ll eat your brains
Then I’mma start rocking gold teeth and fangs

Dark Fantasy

With the opening track, Kanye sets the scene for the album. That hook is still haunting. Can we get much higher?

I fantasized about this back in Chicago
Mercy, mercy me, that Murcielago

Relationship with the album

The album conveniently soundtracks a significant life change for me. As well as being the sounds of my trip to America, it was also the score for the few months that followed my separating from my ex-wife. Particularly the first 6 weeks where I was living in Tonia’s box room. Although obviously an emotionally charged time, Tonia was an amazing support and I think we must have listened to this album, with plenty of toast, every single day. Thank you Tonia. <3

Listening to the album now takes me back to that time in a positive way, for what are ultimately good memories. Things work out.

Kanye West

Urgh. He’s clearly very talented, but deeply unpleasant. One of those times where I’ve managed to separate art from artist. Have recently discovered I do have a limit for that though, as I can no longer listen to Morrissey…

Other albums and songs

Watch the Throne

As my previous Black Album post covered, I do have considerable love for Jay-Z, so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this collaboration album. It’s easier to reconcile liking it as a Jay-Z fan too.

No Church in the Wild

When we die, the money we can’t keep
But we prolly spend it all ’cause the pain ain’t cheap, preach

Diamonds From Sierra Leone

Back when I still naively thought Kanye West might be a force for good, and another great collaboration with Jay-Z for the remix.

This ain’t no tall order, this is nothin’ to me
Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week

Conclusion

While I struggle to reconcile enjoying Kanye West’s work, it doesn’t take away my enjoyment of this album. Its content isn’t going to be for everyone, but even then you can’t fault the production. It is perfect.

Handheld games

All-Time Top 5 Handheld Game Consoles

I’ve been meaning to do this for handheld game consoles since I posted my Top 5 Consoles in 2016. Admittedly that list kind of spoils the winner for this one, but I’m happy with my selections. I’m making no effort to be objective, because where’s the fun in that.


handheld game consoles
While I don’t own one any more, this pic is the same style as the own I owned from launch

5) Neo Geo Pocket Color

The only one on this list I don’t currently own, mostly because the games are now super expensive and like the Game Boy Color and original GBA the screen is awful without a light mod. I loved it at the time though, getting one for Christmas 1999. I convinced my Mum to get it for me on the UK launch in October that year, and then had to wait till Christmas to play it.

The library for the NGPC is pretty small, but it did have some great games. The main reason this made it onto the list over other contenders, is how good the little thumb stick controller is. To this day it’s the only handheld game console that I’ve really enjoyed playing fighting games on, even more so than on the consoles higher up in this list.

Games highlights

  • Capcom vs SNK: Match of the Millennium
  • Neo Turf Masters
  • Samurai Showdown! 2
  • King of Fighters R-2
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure
  • Metal Slug 1st & 2nd Mission

handheld game console
My baby

4) Nintendo Game Boy

This is largely earning it’s place among my favourite handheld game consoles based on nostalgia, but also because of how cool my custom modded one is. I picked it up at the NERG retro gaming event in Newcastle last year, where it already had the lovely orange shell and green buttons. I subsequently sent it of to Joe Bleeps who kindly fitted a backlight, bi-vert mod and replaced the two grey select & start buttons with green ones in-keeping with the theme.

While I’d still love a proper Game Boy Color with backlight mod, those remain very pricey. At least until I acquire one of those, my custom Original Game Boy will be my preferred way to play these games.

Game highlights

  • Tetris
  • Kirby Pinball
  • Solar Striker
  • Super Mario Land 1 & 2 (the only Mario games I really like)
  • R-Type

handheld game consoles
My PSPgo is extra special to me as I bought it used from James Marsden at FuturLab, and got a load of signed Velocity merch with it.

3) Sony PSPgo

Part of the reason this list took me so long to finalise, the PSPgo’s place on it is dependent on custom firmware. Along with housing a digital library of some great PSP and PS1 games, some excellent emulators means I’ve also used it extensively for Mega Drive and PC Engine games (amongst others) on the go.

Of all the systems on the list, this machine (just marginally beating the DS Lite) is the most conveniently portable, actually fitting comfortably in a jeans pocket.

Game highlights

  • Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
  • Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
  • Wipeout Pure & Pulse
  • Numerous Retro Compilations

handheld game consoles
I’ve owned a fair few of these systems, this is my current one. Tempted to get a green one again though now.

2) Nintendo DS Lite

This is where I cheat again, as for this system I’m including the Game Boy Advance library. A GBA EZ Flash IV Cart and DS R4 make this a monster of a portable machine for the library of games I can take on the go. My system currently has every GBA game and about 40 DS games on, without needing to carry any extra cartridges.

As with the PSPgo, the DS Lite is the most portable design for me, it’s size remains a worthy advantage over its XL versions. (I did have an original ‘phat’ DS, which served me well at the time but I have no business playing on one of those in 2019. For more on my favourite games in both the GBA & DS libraries, see the Video Pinball episode of the Maximum Power Up Podcast.

Game highlights

Nintendo DS

  • Metroid Prime Pinball
  • Elite Beat Agents
  • Castlevanias
  • 42 All Time Classics
  • Animal Crossing
  • Mario Kart DS

Game Boy Advance

  • Pinball of the Dead
  • Zoo Cube
  • Sonic Advance 1-3
  • Castlevanias

handheld game consoles

1) PlayStation Vita

No surprise this is number 1 given its position on the All-Time Games Consoles list. I still love my Vita and my sizable backlog means I’m in no danger of running out of things to play on there anytime soon.

I wrote more about it on that other post, but I can’t see anything taking the Vita’s place anytime soon.

Game highlights

  • TxK
  • Wipeout 2048
  • Everybody’s Golf
  • More PS1 and PSP games that I bought digitally
  • A whole bunch of “best on Vita” indies. Velocity 2X, Axiom Verge, Limbo, Stardew Valley etc.

Honourable Mentions and notable absences

Nintendo Switch

To be fair to the Switch, in many ways it would deserve to be on this list, particularly as it has taken over from my Vita as my format of choice for 2D indie games. However, playing the Switch in handheld mode feels like a compromise to me, and I’m doing it for a convenience at home. I much prefer playing it docked when possible, and I find it too big to use for train journeys etc.


Nintendo Game Boy Advance

As mentioned, I’m including the GBA’s great library with the DS Lite on my list above. However the handheld itself doesn’t make it because I don’t really find any of the models, original GBA, GBA SP or the Micro to be comfortable. They all give me bad ‘claw hand’ pretty quickly. The original GBA is the best of a bad bunch, but also needs a good light mod to be playable.


Nintendo 3DS

Animal Crossing aside, I didn’t find too much in the 3DS library I wanted to play. Although the backwards compatibility means you also have access to the original DS library, I still think a DS Lite with access to the GBA library is the better option. As with the DS, I also found the XL model too big, and the 2DS too hideous.

Beautiful South - Blue is the Colour

The Beautiful South – Blue is the Colour – Perfect Album #9

The penultimate entry in my list of “ten perfect albums” is “Blue is the Colour” from The Beautiful South. Never been sure how to classify their music, but google informs me that they’re “pop rock”. Apparently.

Discovery

I don’t really remember how I discovered the Beautiful South. My sister Audrey loves them, as did her late husband (my brother-in-law) Kev. It feels like The Beautiful South have been part of my life forever, but realistically I was probably 8 or 9. I don’t have strong memories of the first few albums though, just songs.

Standout Songs

Liar’s Bar

I think this is my favourite Beautiful South song. (Until I listen to another one, and then that’s my favourite too). I know some people who otherwise like their music that struggle with this one, given the scratchy vocals as Paul Heaton channels the style of Tom Waits, but I love it. Blue is the Colour is a darker album than most of their output, but we’re still not quite as bleak as Glasvegas.

If you took me away from this 
I’d be different you’d see 
‘Cause I didn’t choose the drink 
A drink just chose me

Rotterdam

One of the first songs ‘everyone else’ seems to think of when you mention The Beautiful South in conversation, this single was huge in the UK.

And when blondes and beautiful are multiple
They become so dull and dutiful

Don’t Marry Her

Much like “If Lovin’ You Is Wrong” on my Faithless post, Don’t Marry Her is the song that almost invalidates this album as being perfect by my own definition. Growing up in a household where “people only swear because they have nothing to say”, the album version of this often had to be skipped. I’m still amused by the sticker on the front of the CD case “Track 1 contains some Blue language” indeed. Censored for the radio edit, I think quite a few people were taken aback when they heard the album version. Pretty directly equivalent to the variations between the radio version and original of Radiohead’s “Creep”. Both versions stand up as great songs, but the original versions present strong cases for the use of profanity for emphasis.

She’s a PhD in “I told you so”
You’ve a knighthood in “I’m not listening”

The Sound of North America

Timeless, lyrics that it seems will always be appropriate.

Sometimes you feel expensive 
Sometimes you feels so cheap

Relationship with the album

While this is one of their more melancholy albums, listening to it is still often a source of happiness for me. (Although it is great to listen to if you do want to listen to something melancholy and Morrissey’s insistence on being an awful human makes it impossible to enjoy The Smiths.)

Whenever I hear The Beautiful South I feel close to my family, and Blue is the Colour continues to be my first choice for putting an album on and hearing it straight through “as is”.

The Beautiful South

Remember hearing Jo Whiley describe them as everyone’s second favourite band. Obvious hyperbole aside, that does resonate well with me. Although I mentioned this to Aud once and she was happy to assert that they were her favourite, so there’s that.

This year I got tickets for a “The South” gig for Aud, and we went along with my nephew. The South featuring former members of The Beautiful South and still singing a lot of their songs, it was a great gig. Would still be great to see Paul Heaton live at some point though.

Other albums and songs

Carry on up the charts

This is one of my favourite albums, and would have been in this top 10 if it wasn’t a greatest hits album. You obviously can’t count those for risk of coming across a bit Alan Partridge “the best of The Beatles”.

Sail This Ship Alone

Yes, also my favourite Beautiful South song. I might not remember when I discovered the Beautiful South, but one of my fondest memories of them is listening to this song on a car journey. Aud and Kev took me on holiday with them, and we sang this all the way there (I assume there were other songs, but I mostly just remember this and “Night Boat to Cairo” by Madness. I’ll Sail This Ship Alone is best sung at top volume, pronouncing all 27 syllables in “sail”.

Well they said if I wrote the perfect letter 
That I would have a chance 
Well I wrote it, and you burnt it 
And now do I have a chance anyway

Song for Whoever

Also known as that one song I made my friend Sam sing over and over with me 20 times when I was very drunk, and my other friends like to remind me about it. (I think Sam would like to forget, to be honest.)

In my defense:
1. It’s a great song
2. This was on the Xbox 360 Game “Lips” and there was a limited amount of songs available
3. Did I mention I was very, very, drunk?

Oh Shirley, oh Deborah, oh Julie, oh Jane
I wrote so many songs about you
I forget your name, I forget your name

Perfect 10

Don’t think this needs any further introduction, my favourite Beautiful South song. Ahem.

‘Cause we love our love,
in different sizes
I love her body, especially the lies

Conclusion

Perhaps more so than other artists I’ve picked, there are multiple contenders for perfect albums from the Beautiful South. Quench came pretty close, but I’m happy I’ve chosen the right one in Blue is the Colour. It is perfect.

May Games

Good productive month all-round. Well, where gaming is concerned anyway. I procrastinated the hell out of everything else I was supposed to be doing.

Games completed this month

Hollow Knight – Switch

Hurrah! So far I’ve only got the ‘basic’ ending, but that’s enough to count. Up to this point Hollow Knight is up there as one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I have some gripes with it after this though, now that I’ve been playing for the “true ending”. To get the true ending you have to clear a platforming challenge that feels massively out of place compared to the rest of the game. I have done that now at least, but then found the final, final boss infuriating. I intend to go back to it after I take a break. For now though, I had an ending and the credits roll, so we’re done.


RIVEN - April Games

RIVEN – SEGA Saturn

Really enjoyed my return to the MYST universe, definitely want to get to MYST III – Exile now. Also incredible fun playing with the Saturn mouse. Might have a look at some of the other adventure games that support it too.

Games played during May

Tetris 99

Tetris 99 – Switch

I fire this up now and then anyway, but this month had a limited time event where you could unlock a classic Game Boy Tetris theme for the game, complete with music and sound effects. I had to get in on that. Managed to secure the required points, so now my Tetris battle royale losses are much more nostalgic.


Witcher 3

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Xbox One

After putting Hollow Knight to rest, it is time to tackle one of the bigger games on the list for the year. I’ve been reading the books again to get into the mood and at four books in, I am ready. Played a few hours so far and am very much enjoying myself.


Nefarious

Nefarious – Switch

A bit of light relief after Hollow Knight. Difficult game to recommend, as the actual platform levels are pretty much just “filler”. The boss fights are amusing though, taking the role of villain and seeing the other side of classic fights from Sonic, Mega Man, SNES style RPGs and even a bit of Mario.


Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Switch

Thanks to one of my other pick ups below, I’ve been back on my Mario Karting. I’m aiming to 3 star all the cups up to Mirror Mode (200cc can bite me, I might try to do those with 1 star…) Maybe I’ll also get to playing online a bit now.

May Pick-ups

SEGA Rally – PS3

Picked this up cheap with the PS2 games below. I’ve been wanting to check it out for a while, since it mostly passed me by when it first came out. I played it for half an hour or so. It is fun but I’m not sure it’ll hold my attention now.


Super Bust-a-Move May Games

Super Bust-a-Move 1 & 2 – PS2

As per my top arcade puzzle games post, I’m a big fan of the bust-a-move / puzzle bobble games, and couldn’t resist grabbing them for my PS2 when I saw them cheap.


Robot Wars Arenas of Destruction

Robot Wars – PS2

Mostly picked this up for my partner, as she is a big fan of the TV show. The game seems fun, and I like how the controls are mapped for the robots. It seems like you need to put a bit of effort into gaining funds to build a robot though. To be honest we’d have enjoyed it more if we could just pick from a selection of existing robots from the show and smash them into each other.


Gameboy Games

As we were in Brighton shopping, I popped into Ninja Games Den again, and grabbed a few more loose Game Boy games. Mostly worth it for Dr. Mario, the others were just a bonus.


Pocket Rumble May Games

Pocket Rumble – Switch

Picked this up almost entirely because of how much I miss the Neo Geo Pocket Color. I have looked at buying it on Steam before, but the Switch version feels a bitter fit to closer replicate the old hand held feeling of a decent portable fighting game. If only I could get a Switch Joycon with one of those Neo Geo thumbsticks on.


Castlevania Anniversary Collection

Castlevania Anniversary Collection – Switch

I played all but one of these games for the Castlevania episode of the Maximum Power-Up Podcast. However that was mostly just dabbling with emulation and various EverDrive devices. I liked them well enough that I fancied this collection on the Switch, so I could give them a bit more time. Particularly Super Castlevania IV and Bloodlines.


Sundered Eldritch Edition

Sundered: Eldritch Edition – Switch

This game caught my eye back when we were researching for the podcast’s H.P. Lovecraft episode. I didn’t get to it at the time, but kept it on my radar. It popped up in the same Switch sale as Pocket Rumble above. It’s a metroidvania with some heavy Lovecraftian influences, so I’m looking forward to getting into it eventually.


Pro Controller

Pro Controller – Switch

As hinted at above, this is why I’m back on Mario Kart 8. A birthday gift from my partner, I do now see what all the fuss is about. This is an excellent controller, the lack of analogue triggers keep it from joining or surpassing the PS4 and Xbox One pads as my current joint favourites, but it is very good.


Obduction

Obduction – PC

Free this month on Humble Bundle, I’ve wanted this for a while. I was going to pick it up on PS4 when the promised VR support was added, but reports of that suggest it doesn’t run well on the PSVR hardware. PC version it is then!


Toki Retrollector Edition – Switch

Another birthday gift, this time from one of my friends. Didn’t know much about the game going in, but this collection made a great gift. All the parts are high quality, and the wooden arcade cabinet style stand for the Switch is awesome. I can see me using the stand with other games when not playing on the TV. I’ve played a bit of the game as well now, and it’s good fun. Looks great and is a straight up remaster of the old arcade game. I do have vague memories of playing it first time round (probably the Mega Drive port).

Faithless - Reverence

Faithless – Reverence – Perfect Album #8

Number 8 on my list of perfect albums is a trip into Dance music (I’m assured the cool kids refer to it as EDM, but what do I know), with the debut album from Faithless, Reverence. This blog series started with my original post setting out the “ten perfect albums” premise, so start there if you’re new.

Discovery

I discovered Faithless in 1996 with the re-release of Insomnia being everywhere. At the time the only other person I knew who liked them was my high school best friend. I’m not sure how long after that it took me to get the album, but it must have been one of the first CDs I purchased for myself. I do remember being very pleased that it also came with the remix album “Irreverence” in the package, everyone likes a bit of value for money.

Standout Songs

Insomnia

Obviously.

Insomnia please release me and let me dream
About making mad love on the heath
Tearing off tights with my teeth

Reverence

The title track of the album, and it’s also up first. I still remember getting the album home and putting this on. Masterpiece. The main draw for me in wanting Reverence was for the lyrics and flow from Maxi Jazz, the album starts strong for this.

It’s a fact you’ll attract all the things that you lack
So just chill

Don’t Leave

Took me a while to appreciate this one at the time, certainly wasn’t what I was expecting when I bought the album, and those Maxi Jazz vocals are no where in sight. Don’t Leave went on to become a favourite track though, and as we’ve established, the album is perfect.

Hanging with friends like we used to do
I didn’t know anything was wrong

Baseball Cap

This was my favourite song on the album for ages. Certainly the first one I knew all the words to. Maybe because I was also 14…

Sometimes you have to let the world know you’re not bluffing
But enough is enough, don’t lose your life over nothing

If Lovin’ You is Wrong

If Lovin’ You is Wrong almost breaks my perfect album rule of “not skipping any tracks”, however I’m letting it slide since I only skip this when listening would be inappropriate, like when it comes on in the office.

The lyrics are tamer in the video. Pick some out yourself. 🙂

Relationship with the album

Listening to Reverence at once takes me back to high school. It’s that rare album that is just as perfect to throw on when you’re feeling a bit melancholy and just want to relax for a while, as it is to crank up loud and and sing along.

Faithless

It’s funny, when I bought Reverence, I didn’t think I was buying “dance music”. Even when I picked up the album Sunday 8pm, that still didn’t feel like what it was about to me. The later albums all feel much more ‘EDM’ to me though, and I pretty much fell off. Years later I got a bit into Trance (specifically Above & Beyond) and found I appreciated the later Faithless stuff much more. The remix album Faithless 2.0 even features an Above & Beyond version of Salva Mea, along with other EDM acts remixing classic Faithless tunes.

In retrospect, I wonder if Maxi Jazz did more to set up my later love for rap music than Faithless did for me with dance.

Other albums and songs

Bring My Family Back

Depressing? Sure, but still a great song. Hearing this performed live on Jo Whiley’s TV show (I’m 80% sure it was that, otherwise it was Jools Holland) was how I found out their second album “Sunday 8pm” was available. I grabbed it soon after.

There was a time when my walls were decorated.
And under my roof children were educated.

Postcards

There are loads of Faithless tunes that just set a scene perfectly, and take you to a place. Postcards is one of those.

Anyway, all my love, God bless, I’m yawning
I really miss watching you get dressed in the morning

Tweak Your Nipple (Tiësto Remix)

The original version is great, but I do love this remix from Tiësto.

I see genius in everybody
To perceive it in yourself is the difficulty

Conclusion

If I was just picking my favourite Faithless album, there is a strong chance I’d lean more towards Sunday 8PM, I think that’s probably them at their best. Reverence though has both a sentimental edge for me, and also feels like the more complete piece. Sunday 8PM has a couple of tracks I’m not so keen on, that I might find myself skipping. Not so with Reverence, it is perfect.

February Games

Nintendo Digital Sale – May 2019

Nintendo are currently (in Europe at least) running an extensive digital sale on Switch and 3DS games on the European eShop, until 23rd May 2019. While scrolling through the list of 130+ discounted titles, I noticed the majority of the best offers were on games I already played through on other systems.

In this post I’m going to point out the games I think are worth picking up for Switch, but will include which format I originally played the game on for context / disclaimer in case the Switch port turns out to be terrible.

Standout titles

These are games I’ve already played elsewhere but heartily recommend on Switch if they have previously passed you by.

Abzû

An underwater adventure, something like a cross between Ecco the Dolphin and Journey. It’s beautiful, atmospheric and a delight to experience.

Version played: PS4 (April 2017)


Inside & Limbo

I’ve lumped these two together as I did when I included them in my top 5 horror games, despite them being separate purchases on the store. They’re puzzle/platformer games, where you’re uncovering a story that is pretty open to interpretation, while trying to avoid traps. If you’re only going to get one of them, I’d suggest picking up Limbo first.

Version played: Vita (Limbo) & PS4 (Inside)


Oxenfree

I almost missed this one myself. The title really doesn’t give anything away does it? Oxenfree is an excellent adventure game. It has a bit of a Science Fiction theme, and in parts is genuinely creepy. The writing is pretty good, and I found the dialogue system to be really engaging. Particularly worth a look if you like classic adventure games like Monkey Island and Broken Sword.

Version played: Xbox One (October 2017)


Tesla vs Lovecraft

My only complaint for Tesla vs Lovecraft, is that it isn’t Nex Machina, Housemarque’s masterpiece in the same genre. However, TvL is still a really competent Twin-Stick Shmup, in the style of Robotron 2084 and Smash TV. I was tempted to pick this up and play it again on Switch, but then remembered I still have a couple of difficulty settings to beat on PS4, so I should go back to that instead.

If the idea of fighting off a variety of Lovecraftian horrors using a selection of “Tesla-esque” electric weaponry appeals to you at all, then this is an easy recommend.

Version played: PS4 (November 2018)


Velocity 2X

Futurlab’s Velocity series started out as a Playstation Mini for the PSP and Vita. The first of those games I was really interested in. It was then followed up with a full release in Velocity Ultra for the Vita and PS3, and later we received this sequel, Velocity 2X. I played all 3 of these games on my Vita, and they are amongst the best games on the system.

On the surface, the Velocity games look like typical 2D Space Shooters, however with the teleportation mechanic and focus on speed running, there are also significant puzzle elements to the game play. Velocity 2X added platforming sections to the game, but these still play very similar to the ship sections, thanks to maintaining the teleportation element.

The music in the Velocity games is also incredible, one of very few I’ve ever bought the sound track for.

Version played: Vita


Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

This remake of the incredible Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap from the SEGA Master System, was also my top game of 2017. An absolute masterclass in how to do a remake/remaster.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is one of my favourite games of all time, expect it to feature prominently when I get round to listing my All-Time Metroidvania games. While I played this on PS4, the Switch seems like a good home for it, as I probably did 40% of the game using my Vita to remote play from my garden.

Version played: PS4 (May 2017)


Worms W.M.D.

The Worms series placed highly when I looked at my favourite local multiplayer games, and if anything I’m more certain that Worms W.M.D. is the best iteration of the game. It’s at least as good as Worms Armageddon, my previous favourite. Given the Switch trying to position itself as the local multiplayer system of choice, Worms is a perfect fit here.

Version played: PS4


Wulverblade

Okay I haven’t actually finished this, but I have played it quite a bit. Wulverblade is a brawler in the style of Golden Axe, although it goes more in favour of “brutal historic combat” rather than the fantasy magic & dragons of Golden Axe. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am friends with the developer so may be carrying some bias, however I still very much recommend Wulverblade, and other people I’ve introduced it to have also enjoyed it.

Version played: PS4 & Steam (January 2018)


Worth a look

A few other titles I’ve played elsewhere that are worth looking at if they appeal to you, but are perhaps not going to be for everyone. “Your mileage may vary” as they say.

Another World

I find it quite hard to recommend Another World in 2019. This remaster was very polished when I played it on the Vita, but I feel like 90% of my enjoyment was based on my fond memory of playing it on the Mega Drive back in the day. If you have nostalgia for that, this is a worthy purchase. The game play hasn’t aged well though in my opinion.

Version played: Vita


Darkest Dungeons

The second “Lovecraftian” game on this list, Darkest Dungeon is another game that is hard to recommend. I did discuss my thoughts about this game on the Lovecraft episode of the Maximum Power Up podcast, but basically, it’s just brutally difficult. It’s important to appreciate before you start that the game isn’t really about completing dungeons and gathering loot.

It’s much more about the physical and psychological toll on those adventures going into the dungeons and facing eldritch horrors. You’ll die. A lot.

It’s 10/10 for capturing the essence of despair and futility of H.P. Lovecraft’s works, but I’m still not sure if it is fun.

Version played: Vita


Dimension Drive

An enjoyable shmup with a unique element in that you’re playing in two play-fields at once. The only reason I’m not straight up recommending this in the list above, is that I simply haven’t spent enough time with it. I have very much enjoyed what I’ve played so far.

Version played: PC


GRIP

For both this, and Dimension Drive above, I won codes for these games on Twitter. I’ve played a bit of GRIP on PS4 now, and while in some ways it does capture the fun of Rollcage from the original PlayStation, it hasn’t completely nailed it. Even in this sale it remains a more expensive ask than other, better, games on the list. Hmm.

Version played: PS4


Pang Adventures

I loved Pang (also known as Pomping World or Buster Bros depending which version you played) back on the Amiga and PlayStation. This modern release captures the classic game play, and if you’re a fan, it’s easy to recommend this. Doesn’t really do anything new, but it’s pretty cheap. Does tend to feel a bit “mobile game” though, which I found quite jarring playing on the Xbox One, but may be less of an issue on the Switch.

Version played: Xbox One


Yooka-Laylee

I was quite enjoying this on my PS4, but when it first came out some issues with the camera meant it kept making me nauseous, and I couldn’t play for more than half an hour or so at the time. I understand this was fixed in a later patch, and shouldn’t be present in the Switch version. Unfortunately I never went back to it to find out though, so for now it’s gone back into the PS4 backlog.

Version played: PS4


Also consider

Lastly, these are the ones I’m thinking of picking up myself, haven’t played them yet so can’t vouch for quality, but this is why I’m interested.

Horizon Chase Turbo

I’m on the fence about this, heard lots of positive comments but not entirely sure it’s for me.


Pocket Rumble

I have now bought this, although still not played it as my Switch is still a dedicated Hollow Knight device. I really like what they’re trying to do in channeling the aesthetic of the fighting games on the Neo Geo Pocket Color. I loved those games, and miss having them around. While I still don’t really consider the Switch a handheld system, I’m hoping that in portable mode it’ll give me some nostalgia of that glorious console.


Sundered: Eldritch Edition

Only reason I haven’t bought this already is that I’m 40 hours into a different Metroidvania in Hollow Knight, so it’s likely to be a while before I want to jump into a new one. It is Lovecraftian again though so I might crack before the sale ends.