30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 14

14: Current gaming wallpaper?

I’ve never been big on gaming wallpaper, especially if you have to pay for it. That’s money and time that could be spent on games.

I did have an ace The Darkness wallpaper for my XBox 360, that I must have had for years. I really liked the game, enough to look at it’s artwork everyday anyway.

30 Day Challenge 14

At present, I’ve got the Playstation 20th anniversary wallpaper on my PS4 (though FYI, the above image isn’t from my PS4…I’d never buy Knack!) It reminds me of the PS1, I like the floating shapes and most importantly, it was free!


30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 13

13 A game you have played more than five times?

An easy one for me this, there is one game I’ve replayed many times….

30 Day Challenge 13

I’ve absolutely hammered WWF Smackdown. I wasn’t sure of it at first, but I fell in love with the career mode and played the game to death, even re-buying it for the PS2 and PS3 a few years later.

The career mode is simply a big ranking list, where you must work your way to the top. Rising up the rankings gave you the chance to fight for more titles. So 1st – 5th place could compete for the WWF World Title, 1st – 10th could compete for the Intercontinental Title etc.

The goal became to hold as many titles as possible; WWF Smackdown is basically a pro wrestling gold rush. I actually did a tally chart on one play through – it ended with Stone Cold Steve Austin as a 29 time WWF World Champion or something ridiculous.

The gameplay was great too – arcadey, but quite challenging (more so than the sequel, in my opinion) with lots of counters, epic brawling, backstage fights and nerve biting 4 way matches. I use to win the WWF World Title then nervously check my match for the next month, hoping for an easy match…then cursing when I had to defend the title against Austin, Undertaker and Big Show.

I fondly remember my time with WWF Smackdown. So many memories….leading 667, the marine from Hell, to all the gold. Taking the colourful and tattooed luchador El Loco to the WWF Title. Trying to break through the WWF’s glass ceiling with D’Lo Brown, Ken Shamrock and X-Pac. Fighting through the midcard with Hardcore Holly….

I don’t ever need to play WWF Smackdown again, I’ve taken all the enjoyment I can from it. I won’t forget those memories though; few wrestling games have held my attention for as long.

30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 12

12: A game every one should play

It would be easy to pick a well known classic or a personal favourite for this question, but I wanted to pick a game that seems to have been forgotten and is crying out for a remaster/re-release.

30 Day challenge 12

It’s Dungeon Master, the 1987 Atari ST classic. It’s basically an RPG, but with a first person perspective. It blew me away as a kid…spells, levelling up, huge monsters, reincarnating dead party members….compared to Bomb Jack, it was like something from the future. It’s a shame most of my time on it was spent selecting a party at the start….I loved doing that. Finally, I had a great party, was doing really well…then my sister saved over my saved game. Moral of the story? Make your floppy disk stand out as much as possible.

I think everyone should play Dungeon Master because a) it’s awe-inspiring what an Atari ST could do in 1987 and b) it’s a fantastic adventure that needs to be shown to new gamers. I’m no RPG expert, but I know Dungeon Master is an amazing game.

30 Day challenge 12 - A

It’s thirty years old, but I don’t think it’s aged at all. There were some sequels as well as SNES and TurboGrafx-CD versions, but the Dungeon Master series has been dormant for over 20 years now.

I honestly don’t understand why there isn’t a Steam version. In my eyes, it would be a license to print money.

30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 11

11: Gaming System of Choice?

You might be surprised by this one….

30 Day challenge 11

Did you think I was going to pick a Sega console? The Mega Drive and Master System are up there, as is the Gamecube. However, my favourite system of all time is the Xbox 360.

Why you ask? I think it’s down to three things.

  1. The Xbox 360 was the best we’ve got in terms of ‘modern console’ attributes.
  2. The Xbox 360 had an amazing library of games, both modern and retro
  3. It was the most invested I’ve been in a console.

Let me clarify…

The Xbox 360 was the machine that popularized many of the things we take for granted in this generation and I would argue it did them better. Online gaming? Superb – great chat functions, easy to use, fantastic games to use online. Wireless pads? The Xbox 360 was the first machine to really make them a regular thing. They were damn fine pads too – I’d argue only the PS4 pad is better. Online shop? Xbox Live Arcade was perfect, things were easy to find and there was a great selection of games.

Speaking of games, the Xbox 360 had a great library…let’s break down a potential Xbox 360 library

  • Xbox Originals – so that’s Halo, Halo 2, Buffy, Burnout 1,2 and 3, Max Payne, GTA3/Vice City/San Andreas, Panza Dragoon Orta and Outrun 2, to name a few
  • Xbox Live Arcade games – the varied likes of Paperboy, Double Dragon, Burnout 3, Castlevania; Symphony Of The Night, Street Fighter 2, Call Of Duty 1, Garou: Mark Of The Wolves plus things we never though we would see again like Simpsons Arcade and TMNT.
  • Great compilations – the brilliant Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection, Konami Classics 1 & 2, Capcom Digital Collection, Namco Museum…
  • Great games that were hits – Gears of War and Halo 3, if you like those games. Call of Duty 2 and 4 (the peak of the series, IMO), GTA IV, Fallout 3, Oblivion, The Darkness, Alan Wake, Stranglehold, Viva Pinata, Batman: Arkham Asylum…
  • Sports games – you had the amazing Fight Night Round 4, NHL12 (a game so good, it gets remade every year) a Pro Evo or FIFA (depending on your tastes) WWE 12, Brian Lara Cricket, the UFC games…
  • Racing games – Burnout Paradise, Project Gotham, Test Drive, Forza…..
  • Others – I could be here for hours…..Command & Conquer 3, Civilization Revolutions, Amped, Dead or Alive, WET, Perfect Dark Zero, Virtua Fighter 5…

I’m sure I’ve missed loads out – I know nothing about RPGs for example. There are some great games there though!

Finally, the Xbox 360 was a big console purchase for me. It’s the first and only console I ever bought on launch. I sold my PS2, Xbox and Gamecube and got a preorder via a friend who worked at Dixons. I just had a feeling that the XBox 360 was going to be special – gaming had consumed me at this point and I didn’t want to be left behind…I wanted to ride the wave! I still remember the day I got it, over twelve years ago. I asked my friend to come with me as I had heard the machine was heavy (it was!) and we spent an afternoon struggling to get the wireless pads working and pretending to like Kameo. Subsequent months were spent learning how to play first person shooters (thanks to Perfect Dark Zero) and getting use to having just one console with a few launch games on….I miss those days. There was an innocence about them. It was next gen gaming without the negatives, like DLC, loot boxes, Ultimate Team and constant releases of remastered games.

A lot happened to me too during this time…I grew up with the console. I was 21 when I got my Xbox 360. I was single, had spare money/time and was dedicated to gaming, playing the likes of Dead Rising, Burnout Revenge, Dead or Alive 4 and Amped. I moved to Didsbury in South Manchester and played a lot of NHL 2K7, Fight Night Round 3 and Pro Evolution Soccer 6 to acclimatize. When I got a place of my own in Hulme a few months later, the Xbox 360 was crucial in helping me cope with such a big adjustment. The first night, I felt very alone and scared. The second night I simply manned up and got Pro Evo 6 up and running. I never looked back. I got myself online and got dragged into the world of Call of Duty 2 and Command & Conquer. I spent my call centre wages on new games like Viva Pinata, The Darkness and Stranglehold (the game where I learned that special editions are NOT valuable collectors items.) My first Christmas back at home was spent playing Sega Rally in the corner of the living room.

I met someone…and met more games too. NHL09 had come out and I was obsessed with it, often playing it until 4am on the weekends. I was still addicted to Pro Evo and had to find time to fit Call of Duty 4 in too. When I moved back to Didsbury, I started actively collecting games now I had space, with around 32 Xbox 360 games. I discovered Fallout 3 in Didsbury, as well as trying to make sense of Call of Juraez and lots of other rental games from Lovefilm. I had to get a new Xbox, as the new telly had broken the Xbox’s TV receptor, so ‘treated’ myself to Bullet Witch and Dark Sector to soften the blow. I soon upgraded to the slinky Elite model and enjoyed Batman: Arkham Asylum. I moved again and got married in 2011, but was still hitting the Xbox hard. NHL12, Rage (remember that game? I was so disappointed…) and WWE 12 were getting lots of play.

I sold my XBox 360 at the start of 2012. I had a child on the way and felt I was losing my way with gaming…too many games, not enough time. I thought that was the end for me. However, messing around on my laptop got old and I ended up buying a PS3 in Summer 2013…which was the start of the journey to Retro Redress.

Anyway, apologies, this post ended up being 700 words longer than I intended! It’s made me miss my Xbox 360…looking back, they were some great days.


Golden Axe III (1993)

Before I get into Breath Of The Wild again, I decided to finish up a bit of Mage work by completing my trilogy of reviews on the Mega Drive Golden Axe games.

I like Golden Axe and think it’s better than given credit for. Hopefully, my review can change some minds….

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“After all, even the wool of a black sheep is just as warm”
-Ernest Lehman

HandheldMage1 “The following is a guest post by the Hopeful Handheld Mage.”

Title screen

The tale of Golden Axe III was told as a tragedy for many years; this game was seen as the final nail in the coffin of a once great franchise. Golden Axe III was the black sheep of the Golden Axe family – you had the much loved original,the lazy sequel, the mysterious arcade sibling… then the oddity. The game that no one knew a great deal about, apart from it’s inaccessibility. How did the Golden Axe series get from widespread acclaim to quiet banishment in the space of five years?


By 1993, the side-scrolling beat ’em up genre had seen better days. Despite the excellent Streets Of Rage 2 coming out at the start of 1993, the genre was…

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30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 10

10: Best gameplay ever?

For this entry, I’m going to have to defer to a game that I’ve spent far too much time on over the years, a game that is partially responsible for me missing out on so many other great games.

30 day challenge 10

I know it’s a football game, not a great RPG or a classic 2D platformer…but I spent hours and hours on this game.

See, it was the first football game to bring in aging and development. So suddenly all the young players would improve and the old players would decline then retire! This simple aspect of the game changed my life. Pro Evolution Soccer went from ‘Obsession’ to ‘Life’ in the blink of an eye.

When I got the game for Christmas (I didn’t buy it on release in October, because I knew I would fail university if I did), I spent all day playing it. Well…if you count dribbling around cones trying to improve players as playing a game. I became obsessed with trying to make these players better. Christmas Day consisted of 1) playing Pro Evo 2) Christmas Dinner and 3) a tea consisting of Twix and Chocolate Orange ice cream. I don’t think I’d survive a day like that now….

It helped that we had a great option file from day one too. This meant that all the kits and players were correct (Pro Evo is notorious for it’s fake teams and inaccuracies)  and I could play a fairly accurate Premier League. I created a Leicester City team (one of the emblems on the game was their badge so that was easy enough) and spent the next year hammering the game. I played 11 seasons, won everything several times (bar the Masters Cup…has anyone ever won that?) and made Collins John the top all time goal scorer in European football. Maybe Pro Evo wasn’t that accurate after all…

Nowdays, I don’t play football games – I can’t love FIFA despite it’s improvements, Pro Evo has gone backwards and I know how many classic games I’ve missed out on by ‘chasing the dragon’ with subsequent Pro Evos, looking for the high Pro Evo 4 gave me. The last great Pro Evo was Pro Evo 2011, with it’s brilliant online Master League…I hate to admit it, but I think those days are gone….

30 Day Video Game Challenge: Day 9

9: Saddest Game Scene?

Hands down, it’s Jenny’s death scene in The Darkness…it’s a tragedy and one that you are helpless to prevent; Jenny is trapped on the other side of the door with mob boss Paulie Franchetti while The Darkness is stopping you from helping her.

30 Day Challenge 9

What made the trauma worse is that, I was playing the game with a friend and he had decided to take a nap, which a) meant I had to endure this tragic event by myself and b) that I got blamed for it.

After Jenny’s murder though, there was no way I wasn’t going to finish that game; I was on an absolute mission and whupped everyone. It’s a shame the game kinda peters out towards the end…it becomes more narrative than game….

Still, it’s a powerful memory and one I remember vividly over ten years later….