Month: September 2015

Rocky Horror @The Playhouse, London

Last night, I was out at the Rocky Horror Picture Show in London. Not my first time seeing the live show by any means. As always, it was a great night out, much humour, and the audience participation was top notch. The cast were fantastic, and it was fabulous seeing Richard O’Brien as the narrator. You wouldn’t think he was in his 70s – he’s still got it!

The only disappointment was the poor showing of dressing the part. Seriously, London – I expected you to put Stoke-on-Trent (where I’ve historically seen it) to shame. I only saw one guy dressed the part as Frankenfurter! When I’ve been before, you stand out if you’re not dressed up. Not last night. Still, I feel that I rocked by corset and thigh high boots look, so not to worry! I was there with a couple of ‘virgins’, who told me later that it was one of the best shows they have ever seen.

Signs that maybe I’m getting too old for this – upon journeying home, the feeling of taking off the high heels and putting flat shoes on was the best thing ever. Getting rid of my hold up stockings was also a relief, since my thighs are apparently too thin to hold them up sensibly. Mental note – get a suspender belt for when I go to see the show again in Stoke next year.

Lessons learnt? There is no dignified way of pulling up hold up stockings without flashing fellow passengers on the tube (I was hiding under a long coat for the travelling portions of my night out). Investing in a decent feather boa is also a must, since I was leaving a trail of red feathers wherever I went. I’m still finding the bloody things attached to me even now. Feather attacks are almost as bad as glitter attacks, it seems!

Finally, London – up your game! Let loose a bit more, it’s Rocky Horror!

I’m going to get a pet rock.

Me and looking after things seems to be a fail.

2015-09-22 16.58.08

Why did no one tell me that growing plants if hard?!? Admittedly, I forgot to water them. Oops. The ones I have in a terrarium are doing somewhat better though!

Pet rock is where it’s at.

I miss that old spark

I spend a lot of my time watching play throughs (or playing) some of the old games of my childhood. Sonic the Hedgehog, Brian Bloodaxe, Shining Force, just to name a few. The thing is, however, is that I often come away feeling slightly disappointed.

I miss that old spark of playing something that is truly ‘new’ to me.

I think back to the very first time I played Sonic the Hedgehog at my aunts, and just remember how exciting it was. I’m not sure if it was just because I was young, or if it was the very first time I’d seen something like it – or even if it was just down to fluking the entire first level on my first try.

This is pretty much a conversation I have with my Dad at times. Never again will I be able to get these ‘first time’ moments. Too many of the ideas have already been done. That first time playing Tomb Raider, I remember dropping the joypad when the T Rex that had been hinted at first appeared (Yes, I subsequently died). Marveling at that cut-scene in Final Fantasy VIII, where there are feathers and hair blowing across a field, and thinking that *this* was the pinnacle of graphics. (Ha!). Even laughing at the cheesy dialogue in Resident Evil was a defining moment for me.

I’m not sure if I’m just too old to feel that kind of excitement with a new game, or if I’ve just become immune to the awesomeness that a new game should be. I came close to that old feeling with Dark Souls 1, but it still wasn’t what I’ve been chasing.

I guess I miss the feel of that old spark I used to get with games. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll still blow hours of my life thoroughly enjoying the games I am playing. But that old sense of ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’ seems to be gone, and that makes me very sad. Games have lost that sense of ‘Wow’, and it’s still a feeling that I chase – and I admit, I’ll carry on chasing it, just because. So, my own main personal ‘wow’ moments are below:

  • Pacman (Atari) – A-mazing.
  • Brian Bloodaxe (ZX Spectrum) – my first introduction to 2D platforming. The bees knees!
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Megadrive) – OMG, cartridges that load almost immediately! No tapes! Gotta go FAST!
  • Dune 2, Battle for Arrakis (Sega Megadrive) – my introduction to real time strategy games. It blew me away. I was always House Atreides.
  • Tomb Raider (Sega Saturn) – my first venture into 3D platforming. What was this wizardry?!?
  • Resident Evil (Playstation) – Possibly the first survival horror game? It was at least the first one I ever played.
  • Final Fantasy VIII (Playstation) – Those graphics. Surely they could get no better?

This list is by no means complete for all my defining gaming moments, but they are the main ones that come to mind when I’m overcome by nostalgia. Think I’ll go download some emulators now and get all nostalgic again.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture – Final thoughts

I’m writing this as I watch the ending credits for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. I figured I should write this now, before I chat to my Dad and have my own thoughts corrupted on how this game ended.

First off – mini review time! Spoilers lie ahead.

This game is pretty much a walking simulator. Little action happens, but that does not stop it being interesting. Also, it’s a very pretty game.

Overall, you are hunting around for bits of dialogue concerning some of the inhabitants of the village. You start off with Jeremy, the vicar, followed by Wendy, Frank, Lizzie, Stephen and finally, Kate.

I won’t go into full details here to avoid too many spoilers. Stephen and Lizzy both struck me as quite immoral – Stephen in particular. He is married to Kate, but is having an affair with Lizzy (who is also married). That said, Kate ended up being somewhat crazy at the end, though I’m beginning to think that the ending showed her fully taken over by the entity that had ‘disappeared’ the entire village. Wendy was something of an interfering busy body. Frank and Jeremy were probably my favourites to follow around. They seemed to actually care about the people around them, which gives them points in my book.

The most interesting characters to me though, were those who appeared in the various dialogues. Rachel was heartbreaking – a 16 year old girl who just wanted to get out of the village and see the world. Dr Wade, tirelessly wandering around trying to cure people of the ‘flu’.

There is no happy ending in this game. And it brings about the question – if unknowingly, you were living the last day of your life, how would an observer see your actions if only viewed through small snapshots like this? Maybe I judge some of the characters unfairly on the limited amount of information given. We are presented with interesting moral aspects though. The vicar who euthanised Franks wife. Frank, admitting he was too afraid to be with his wife in her last few moments, who hid down the pub instead. Wendy, encouraging her son to have an extra marital affair, but is later seen helping someone overcome a PTSD episode. Kate, who is so enamoured of an experiment that she made no effort to halt it when it became obvious that people were dying as a result.

There is so much more I could write about this game, but this is in danger of turning into an essay as it is. I may make another post when I’ve had more time to think about it.

Pet theory on what I think has gone on here – a lonely alien kidnapped itself some friends. Although spontaneous combustion is hinted at due to infection, I do think that the entity took the people before the nerve gas got them. I may well be wrong, and will probably have a different view on the matter once I start googling this and talking to people about it.

Overall, an entertaining and interesting game, but I’m not sure I’ll be playing it again – the replay value is incredibly low. Definitely worth playing (or walking through) at least once.

Everybody's Gone To The Rapture™_20150919162047
Pretty waterfall!

The last 5 things I watched on Netflix

Not sure if this list casts me in a strange light or not!

  • Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
    • This has become one of my all time favourite animes ever. Just awesome!
  • Once Upon a Time
    • A fun spin on fairy tales. Really cannot wait for the next season to start!
  • Grimm
    • A darker spin on fairy tales. Another I am awaiting the next season of.
  • Dead Like Me
    • I’m sad it ended when it did. Really would have liked to see more.
  • Merlin
    • Simply awesome, and hilarious at the same time. Yet another that I feel could have had another season in it. Shame!

In conclusion – I need to start watching things that don’t seem to end prematurely. Story of my life!

Role Playing Games – Or how I learnt patience

Role Playing Games were my first love when it came to computer gaming in general.

The first one I really remember was Shining in the Darkness, which I played on the Sega Mega Drive. I wasn’t that great at it back then, though. I didn’t realise that I would have to work to level up my characters and such. In fact, my Dad used to sit up late at night, reading a book after I had been sent to bed, and walk up and down a corridor in the labyrinth, dutifully killing as many enemies as possible for me, so that upon my return to the game the next day I could progress thanks to the extra levels he had gained for me. Thanks, Daddy!

Shining in the Darkness did teach me the value of levelling up. It also taught me how to draw out a map – a map which Dad and I worked on together until he found a book in a local bookshop that contained all the maps. Remember this was back in the days before the internet was a thing, so we all had to rely on gaming magazines or books if we wanted to get answers to things. Of course, working out the secrets for ourselves was way more fun. Even now, I will always complete a game before I even dream of googling it, just to recapture that old feeling of excitement through exploration.

Thanks to Dad’s good example to me, when I got around to playing Shining The Holy Ark, I’d gotten this levelling up gig figured out. I patiently walked around a labyrinth to level up my characters, and loved every second of it. As trite as it sounds, it’s a skill I’ve been able to take forward with me. I can easily fall into this mindset of working at a monotonous task with the aim in mind of getting better at something.

I still love RPGs even now my Dad has progressed to first person shooters, and I can generally be found playing an action based hack and slash game. I would also quite happily argue that we can learn life skills and lessons from computer games, even if they are seen as a leisure activity. Here are the things I feel I learnt through many different RPGS;

  • Patience. It *is* a skill.
  • Never go the obvious route.
  • Exploration is rewarding.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, level up to 100 and blast your way through everything.
  • The Shining series of games is still awesome. Play it.

For my sister – how to make custard

Since my sister is apparently allergic to google, or to reading the cook book at Mum’s house, I figured I’d publish the rich custard recipe I use here, so she can stop asking me how to make it. Sis, if you don’t print this out and keep it somewhere, I reserve the right to feed you 10 litres of rich custard through a funnel in your nose.

3 egg yolks
1/2 – 3/4 tea spoon cornflour
2 table spoons caster sugar
150ml milk
150ml double cream *

Combine 3 table spoons milk, the cornflour, sugar and egg yolks. Mix well.

In a seperate pan, heat the milk and cream until simmering. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. At this point, you can add a vanilla pod to infuse (or cheat like I do and use a couple of drops of vanilla essence).

Strain the milk and cream mixture over the egg mixture. Ensure milk and cream has cooled enough at this point, otherwise you will curdle it, and get a strange texture to your custard.

Return everything to the pan, and heat at a low temperature, stirring all the while, until mixture thickens to the consistency you like. This will take somewhere between 6-8 minutes.

Voila! Custard.

* You can just use 300ml milk instead of cream, if you want a slightly healthier alternative.

I got the original recipe for this from The Cooking Book, which is still my kitchen bible even now. I would recommend it for all skill levels in the kitchen.