EGX Rezzed

EGX Rezzed 2019 – Game Highlights

The Event

Originally held in Brighton in 2012, EGX Rezzed was launched as a spin-off event (then simply called Rezzed) of the much bigger Eurogamer Expo held in London. Although it doesn’t have so many of the big “AAA” titles, there are still plenty of new and pre-release games to play, particularly those from indie games studios. The event also includes the opportunity to play and buy various tabletop games, a variety of games industry talks and presentations, and a selection of merchandise traders. Oh and a bar, because of course.

EGX Rezzed 2019

Rezzed has been a feature in my calendar since that first one in 2012, and although Brighton was much easier for me to get to, its current home at the Tobacco Docks in London is an interesting and unique venue that really suits the atmosphere for the event.

This was my first year attending as press though, with the aim of writing this post, and identifying games to cover in further detail both on here and on future episodes of the Maximum Power Up podcast.

The Games

There were over 200 playable games this year, and while I certainly didn’t manage to play them all, I did get hands-on with quite a few, and thought I’d cover those that I’m most looking forward to or that otherwise stood out to me.

Beyond Blue - EGX Rezzed

Beyond Blue

The surprise “game of the show” for me, this is an ocean exploration game similar in style to the Endless Ocean (Forever Blue in Japan) games on the Nintendo Wii.

Beyond Blue is inspired by the Blue Planet II TV show, and the publishers, E-Line Media are working in partnership with the BBC Studios to produce the game. E-Line Media previously produced the well received Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) in partnership with Upper One Games.

I really enjoyed the relaxing deep sea exploration of the Endless Ocean games, and have long hoped they’d get picked up for a new version on modern hardware. The story already feels familiar, and a play through of the demo at Rezzed confirmed it is just as enjoyable to play. Thankfully the creature identifying mechanic is more ‘scanning’ and less ‘rub them with the Wii pointer’. Beyond Blue already looks and sounds incredible, and first impressions suggest it is going to be essential for anyone fascinated by sea life.

Beyond Blue on Steam

Nanotale - EGX Rezzed

Nanotale: The Typing Chronicles

One of the games I was most excited to try at Rezzed this year. I was a huge fan of their previous game “Epistory: The Typing Chronicles“, which I played back in April 2017, and was very pleased to hear that it was receiving a spiritual sequel. Like Epistory, Nanotale is a really pretty and absorbing isometric RPG, with exploration and combat controlled by typing. Along with Beyond Blue, this is probably my most anticipated title at the moment.

Nanotale on Steam

Sunless Skies - EGX Rezzed

Sunless Skies

Sunless Skies is firmly in the realm of those games that can be said to be “Lovecraftian” and if you’ve heard me on the Lovecraft episode of the Maximum Power Up podcast, you’ll know I’m very much a fan of these games. This follow up to Sunless Seas will be instantly familiar to players of that game.

When I first heard about this follow up, I was originally turned off by the idea of flying trains. However, when I tried this at the event, those concerns were instantly forgotten the moment I left port. In retrospect, I’m pretty glad it wasn’t just zeppelins.

With just a demo to play, and the map still procedurally generated, I set off out into the murky distance to see how far I could go before something terrible happened or my crew ate each other. Fittingly I stumbled into an area called something along the lines of “Grey Wilderness” (this is definitely wrong, but I can’t remember what it was actually called) and lost a fight with a train that had tentacles coming out of the front. A chat with one of the writers afterwards revealed some interesting ideas for the future of these enemies in further content.

Like Sunless Seas, I love the idea of these games. The atmosphere and story is very much my kind of thing. Unfortunately I have limited patience for the roguelike genre of games so I might not make much progress with it, but I am looking forward giving Sunless Skies a proper go all the same.

Sunless Skies on Steam

Ritual of the Night - EGX Rezzed

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

I’m really glad I got to play this at EGX Rezzed, as although I’ve been looking forward to this and included it in my 2019 in Games post, recent trailers have had me slightly concerned. The demo however has mostly put those concerns to rest. I still don’t really like the graphics, while everything about the game screams the best of the metroidvania style Castlevania games, I do wish it was closer to Symphony of the Night in graphical style. As it stands, Ritual of the Night is a 2.5D game, and the graphics are reminiscent of the Dracula X Chronicles game on the PSP, albeit it much more polished.

The gameplay feels perfect for the genre though, and they have nailed everything else about it. Happily back to just looking forward to this now, and think it’ll be a perfect fit for the Switch.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Steam

Lamplight City - EGX Rezzed

Lamplight City

As I was passing the Application Systems Heidelberg booth, I was captured by the 19th century Victorian aesthetic of Lamplight City, and I do enjoy a good point & click adventure. The nature of the EGX Rezzed event means I only got to enjoy the first few screens and puzzles, but I’m now very much intending to play the rest of the game later.

Lamplight City on Steam

Dicey Dungeons - EGX Rezzed

Dicey Dungeons

This was another pleasant surprise on the day. I had heard murmorings of Dicey Dungeons over the last month or two, but didn’t know much about it. I sat down to the demo because one of my friends was interested in seeing it. I didn’t immediately take to the art style, but the mechanics were quite addictive. It felt a bit similar to playing Slay the Spire, with deck-building supplemented with added dice rolling.

One to watch I think.

Dicey Dungeons on Steam

Guntastic

Startlingly simlar to 2015’s Duck Game, the premise to both games is still great fun. A single screen arena for four players to shoot each other. On my second day at Rezzed I was joined by three friends, and we had a blast with this.

Guntastic on Steam

Super Arcade Racing

Another game that the four of us enjoyed playing together, and I still enjoy the novelty of 4 player split screen racing. The world needs more top down racing games. Haven’t been able to find much more about the game since the event though, but I would like to pick it up.

Outofthebit homepage

Other mentions:

Warhammer: Chaosbane

A pretty shameless Diablo clone in the Warhammer universe. Did have fun with the demo, but I found it lacks the charm and polish of Blizzard’s game. So far as the demo went, it didn’t really do anything new for me, but would certainly fill a gap if you’ve exhausted Diablo 3 and don’t want to go down the Path of Exile rabbit hole. Games Workshop fans can expect to get a lot more out of it too.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2: Wings of Magic

Was a bit disappointed by the demo of this. Vermintide 2 is the current game of choice for the four of us who attended Rezzed together. I had hoped we could try this expansion together, but they only had two PCs linked so we gave it a miss.

Dirt Rally 2.0

Was nice to get hands on with this demo. Like the original Dirt Rally, it is really impressive. Looks fantastic, the cars feel great and it oozes polish. Difficulty from the first game remains though, and thus it is still impossible for humans. (Well, for me anyway.)

Round up

The best events are always those where you can spend a good amount of time playing new games, but also take in the atmosphere, meet new people and spend quality time with friends. Rezzed has always ticks these boxes, and 2019 was no exception, an excellent event. Personally I think this year was the best EGX Rezzed yet.

See you next year!

March Games

March was a pretty solid month for gaming, mostly because I had a week off work to use up before the end of March, so I stayed home and played games.

Games completed this month

God of War (2018) – PS4

Really enjoyed this, although it has probably ruined all the earlier God of War games for me. Taking the best elements of various action/adventure games, I think this is my favourite 3rd Person Action game of all time.


Yoku's Island Express

Yoku’s Island Express – 100% – Xbox One

So I originally cleared the story for this back in December, but unusually for me I felt the urge to go back and complete all the optional stuff. 100% completion, what a really great game!


Batman Arkham VR – PSVR

This is a pretty short game, probably only 40 minutes to complete, but it is an amazing VR experience, and essential for a Batman fan.


Armored Warriors (Capcom Beat ’em up Bundle) – PS4

Might take me a while to get round to clearing all 7 games on this compilation, but I did enjoy Armored Warriors.


Tetris Effect

Tetris Effect – PSVR

Okay so I’ve only cleared the Journey mode on this, and still plenty to do. Beating that last stage was a challenge though, and worth logging the achievement just for that. I did play a little bit of it outside the VR and it is still great, but it really shines as a VR title.


Golf Story – Switch

A substantial reason behind why I bought the Switch last month, and it didn’t let me down at all. I really hope we get a sequel to Golf Story. The golfing gameplay reminds me a lot of Game Boy Golf, and it has an amusing story to follow as you play a selection of increasingly ridiculous, but fun, courses.

Games played during March

Call of Duty March Games

Modern Warfare Remastered – PS4

This was free on PS Plus, and while I’m still toying with the idea of replaying the campaign (not on Veteran again though, that was madness) I found time this month to jump online with my mate. While we struggled to make an impact initially, the old muscle memory started to come back and we were winning more. Enjoyed it for a couple of afternoons, even if I don’t end up going back again.


Vermintide 2 – PC

In PC land I’ve been playing this one with three friends as our new “we’re definitely going to regularly play this game together” game. Unlike all the other ones that died off after one or two sessions, we’ve already had three goes on Vermintide 2. I’m optimistic we’ll play it for a bit longer. It’s as well designed for 4 players as left 4 dead was, and I find it much more enjoyable for not involving zombies.


Hollow Knight – Switch

Partly playing this for an upcoming podcast episode, but also because one of my friends keeps raving about it and I was ready for something else to play on the Switch after clearing Golf Story. Really enjoying it so far, although it’s tougher than I usually like my metroidvania games to be.


Hidden Agenda – PS4

Picked this up preowned for like £3 or so. It’s a “PlayLink” title, a multiplayer game when each player uses their phone as a controller. I was curious about this as a narrative based game as an alternative to the various quiz style party games that this format usually takes. Four of us did a full competitive playthrough, and it was fairly well received.

March Pick-ups

Grip – PS4

I’d been following the development of this game for a while. It’s pretty much a tribute to Rollcage (from some of the same people) which I enjoyed back on the original PlayStation. However, when it was released the reviews were a bit average, and I was concerned about paying full price for it. I managed to win a copy of it on Twitter in March though, so I’m now happily dabbling with it for free.


Nefarious – Switch

Another game I’d had my eye on for a while, Nefarious is in the vein of 90s platform games, but with you playing as the villain. I heard about this on a podcast back in 2017. I’ve had it on my Steam wishlist since then, but hadn’t got around to picking it up because I know I don’t really play platform games on PC. The Switch is an ideal format for it though, and it popped up in sale for half the price it is on Steam. Result. Time will tell if I actually get round to playing it though.


Alex Kidd in Miracle World – Switch

Narrowly missing out on my top 5, but scoring an honourable mention in my All-Time Top 5 Videogames, Alex Kidd in Miracle World is one of my favourite games. This was a no-brainer to pick up the day of release on Switch. Maybe I’ll finally complete it now.

Games retired in March

Quantum Break – Xbox One

Had to give up on this, as ultimately I just wasn’t enjoying myself. I put a few hours in, and was about 40% through the game. I really liked the format of having a TV episode to watch after each act, and the story was interesting enough. Unfortunately it was the gameplay segments that felt like a let down.

Pet Shop Boys - Actually

Pet Shop Boys – Actually – Perfect Album #5

Album number 5 is from the Pet Shop Boys, and we go back to the 80s for the oldest entry on my list of ten perfect albums.

Discovery

As well as introducing me to Bros, my brother-in-law Ray is also responsible for a number of my other tastes. Amongst those we can count the Rocky movies, a selection of martial arts films, the music and movies of Elvis Presley, and most importantly, the Pet Shop Boys.

My initial experience came from borrowing Ray’s “Showbusiness” VHS tape, featuring music videos that still stay with me now. Of the six songs featured on this video, four of them are taken from “Actually”, with the other two being from the Pet Shop Boys’ third album, “Introspective”.

From the header image above, you’ll see I have two copies of “Actually”. You won’t have to look too closely to see that the copy on the left has a poorly printed cover. This is my original album, purchased for £3 back in the early nineties on a shopping trip with Julia, my eldest sister. Julia was keen to show me a new shop that had opened up in Hanley, selling “allegedly” ex-jukebox cds without covers (to this day I’m not sure if that was the case, or if they were just selling off the stolen contents of some poor record shop’s back room – answers on a postcard). I bought “Actually” there and then, delighted to finally own my own copy (on CD no less, one of the very first I bought myself). I went back a couple of weeks later with my mum and picked up “Introspective”. I produced the terrible covers on the family inkjet printer a few years later.

Much more recently I picked up the copy on the right in the cover photo and shown in full below. This is the “Further Listening” re-release, and is a much more complete package. I’m still sentimentally attached to my original album though, and won’t be parting with it.

Pet Shop Boys Actually Further Listening
Pet Shop Boys – Actually – Further Listening

Standout Songs

We’re going all hits here, do sing along.

It’s a Sin

Probably the first Pet Shop Boys song I heard, being the first one on the above mentioned VHS tape. I was captivated by the fairly ‘spooky’ video as a child.

At school they taught me how to be
So pure in thought and word and deed
They didn’t quite succeed

“What Have I Done to Deserve This?”

The Pet Shop Boys have gone on to record many excellent collaborations, but I don’t think any will ever top this incredible song with the iconic Dusty Springfield.

At night, the people come and go
They talk too fast, and walk too slow

Rent

Another great single from the album, and I’m going to stop here with these, because I could just link the whole album, and that’s not the point.

I never want anything, it’s easy 
You buy whatever I need

Relationship with the album

From that very early age, I’ve remained a fan of the Pet Shop Boys up to the present day. This album though, connects me to my youth, and to my relationship with Ray, more so than any other. Later albums still resonate, and I really enjoy 2016’s “Super”. However, listening to “Actually” takes me back to my childhood and weekends spent with Ray, renting action movies and playing Sega Master System.

When I try to pick a favourite Pet Shop Boys song, I frequently change my mind because there are so many that I love, but at least four of the top contenders come from “Actually”.

Pet Shop Boys

I find people’s perception of the Pet Shop Boys to be interesting, since many seem to dismiss them as just ‘pop’ even if they begrudgingly accept their staying power over the last 30+ years in the industry. Widely recognised as one of the most successful pop acts of all time, there is no way I could do real justice to them here.

As with Placebo & Glasvegas, I finally managed to see the Pet Shop Boys live last year, when they played the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. It was an incredible show at a great venue, and because we’re “cool”, my friend Nicky & I made a day of it, with front row seats at the matinee performance of the “Bat Out of Hell” musical. Best day ever.

I’m pleased to also report that Ray is still a huge Pet Shop Boys fan, and last year we managed to take our awful SingStar duet out to the people, and perform karaoke in a local pub. It was magic, bonding time with my brother. I’m sure everyone else hated it. Would do it again tomorrow.

Other albums and songs

I’m in the process of re-buying all the albums in their “Further Listening” editions, and very much enjoying listening to the bonus discs of material I haven’t heard before. Staying with singles here though, because there are just so many tracks to choose from and I’m supposed to be writing a blog not making a playlist.

Can You Forgive Her?

Another favourite, and the first track from “Very”. The change in sound for that album meant that 11 year old me didn’t get into it straight away, as it wasn’t what I was used to. I appreciate the whole album a lot more now than I did at the time.

She’s made you some kind of laughing stock
Because you dance to disco, and you don’t like rock

Always On My Mind

One of my favourite covers of all time, a masterpiece. Also love that the video is cut from scenes from the movie “It Couldn’t Happen Here”, mentioned below.

Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time

West End Girls

Yeah okay, so it’s pretty much the law I have to include this one. Fair play, it still sounds great.

The East end boys and West end girls

Inner Sanctum

This Bluray / DVD / CD boxset is the live recording from the gig I went to last year in Covent Garden, mentioned above. At the time of writing it’s not out yet, but I have a pre-order in, and I’m putting it here because I’m excited. Also because it’s pretty.

Pet Shop Boys - Inner Sanctum
Look at it!

It couldn’t happen here (Movie)

Last up, is the feature-length film “It Couldn’t Happen Here”. An incredibly surreal journey, but essential viewing for fans. Once you’ve watched it, you can also enjoy drunkenly explaining the context of the “Always On My Mind” video to your friends at parties, like I do. (No promises that your friends will enjoy this though)

Quality is terrible, as the person uploading it had to rip it from VHS, as it hasn’t had a more updated release.
Give us at least a DVD!

Conclusion

I think every Pet Shop Boys album is worth listening to, and has something to recommend. However, “Actually” stands out as the one album I always come back to. It is perfect.

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.