Friday 5 December 2008

Games, Tunes and long long waits

OK, so at last the longest delay I can think of is finally over.

After a fourteen year wait, guns and roses finally have released the Chinese democracy album.
So, technicly I guess its more of an Axl Rose album than GNR as most of the band are missing and slash has been replaced by a guy with a KFC bucket on his head called (I kid you not) Bucket head.

Having spent many impatient months and years waiting for the latest games in my favourite series's's's's's' errrr... like street fighter, sonic and paper mario, I should be used to it by now but come on Axl, what the hell have you been doing all this time?

Anyway, I digress. When you have been waiting for such a long time for a release, be it music, games or films there is always the risk of serious dissapointment and so being a die hard GNR fan it was with some trepidation I slid Democracy into my aged Kenwood stereo.

It's good. No really!
it's really really good!
Worth the wait?
Nothing is worth 14 years wait, but it's a damn fine album and maybe in time it will become one of my faves but it's not a patch on Use you illusion 1+2 or Appetite for destruction, but despite of that I am pleased the wait is finally over and looking at the sales, it looks like a lot of people kept the faith but I can't help but think that it should have gone straight in at #1 and stayed there for a long long time and if it had have arrived 5 years ago it would have done.

Maybe too much damage has been done by missed deadlines and rumours of 100+ tracks waiting to be recorded for GNR to ever be the bohemoth they once were but at least they are back and hopefully it will only be one or two years before the next one.

Yes, we primarily talk of games here at bucket monkey, but hell, you just know guns and roses guitar hero will be along any time now.


Wednesday 3 December 2008

Incorrect Game Progression

The Internet is a fascinating place. I discovered the other day that I can even buy artifacts that are technically illogical. After a bet with some colleagues, I discovered that I could actually buy a chocolate teapot, an inflatable dartboard, a solar powered torch, and a motorbike ashtray (Okay, this was actually an ashtray with a motorbike etched into it, but it still counts!) I am still struggling with a chocolate fireguard (although there is a record label with that name) and a screen door for a submarine. But, I’m pretty sure that it’s only a matter of time…!

Anyway, I digress. To the subject at hand – I was sitting in my living room with my 4 year old daughter the other not-so-long-ago, and we were playing a game together. The game in question was a Disney Winnie the Pooh educational game. Obviously at 4 years old, I am not going to subject her to the likes of San Andreas, or Silent Hill. Duh. Now, I know that this game is aimed at her age group, simple colouring games, odd one out, find the sound blah blah yackety schmackety Fatherly advice… and that without too much of my help, completed the game without a fantastic amount of brain power. This made me think back to times when I had struggled to complete games that had a more than significant level of challenge about them. From this, I could not help but wonder how the games industry was setting up my little daughter for the future… The game she was playing seemed to have two aims, to develop her learning skills, while at the same time improving her computer ability. However, delving into my own past made me realise that if she carries on playing games, at what point will they take that oh so familiar U-turn whereby the educational development ceases, and instead the values are challenged. When the fun and frolics of the young mutate into the battle hardened survival instincts required to complete games like Call of Duty. I find it odd that in a video store, there is a comedy section, an action section, a horror section… yet in a games shop, you will quite frequently find games like Silent Hill next to The Sims.

I must just take a moment to address the fact that I am not insinuating that I think all adult orientated games are violent or morally wrong, I have been playing games my entire life, and I know a light hearted game from a dark one regardless of genre in the same way that I can distinguish between a teen flick and a horror movie. Everyone has watched children’s TV as a child, and still remembers the first time they saw a film like Silence of the Lambs or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (not on children’s TV, obviously. Duh again…) For the odd (very odd) one or two who decide that this is the life for them, they get what they deserve. For the rest of us, we remember that it is purely fiction and get on with our well adjusted lives.

And the final word – for all of you out there who think it’s very unlikely that my daughter, being of the female species is unlikely to express an interest in Call of Duty – I also have a 2 year old son. I will be watching his gaming development with some interest...

- Galford.

Friday 28 November 2008

DSi? Isn’t that a rank in the Police?

So, Nintendo have created an update of an update of an overhaul of an update of an upgrade of an update of a concept of a small one-game LCD handheld from 1982. But, is it really anything new?

The Nintendo DSi is the latest in a long line of hand-helds that are tiding us over until they can think of something new. However, I will side with Nintendo on the fact that they make something new that is really rough around the edges, and then continuing to improve on it until they have absolutely bled the concept dry. The original GameBoy was a brick, in every way. By the end of it’s particular arc it was the GameBoy Color. Smaller, lighter and generally nicer to use. The original GameBoy Advance was like something from Early Learning, without even so much as a backlight. Two revisions later it was the epoch making Advance SP, finishing off as the Micro. Then, the original DS was a dog, but the DS Lite is quite something to behold, and the DSi is obviously following on the trend that little further. Smaller form factor, bigger screens, other basic revisions… etc. etc.

They have certainly made more of an effort than Sony. 3 revisions to the PSP later, and nothing has changed. Even after all this time, they still can’t place the power button in a more sensible place! I can see the design meeting now: ‘Oooh, I know. Let’s change the layout of the buttons and make it a little less hackable. People will want to pay through the nose for that! Right, okay guys, job done. Let’s hit the golf course!’ The PSP, most definitely the Porsche 911 of the gaming world.

So, the DSi is just a logical progression of planned technological evolution. I do think though, that the DSi could be heading for a rather sticky, stereotypical end… because they have added a whole new range of functions to it. Okay, the camera is new. But, the ability to play mp3s, view photos and movies, while already available to those with carts like the DSOne, has been done before. Hmmm. Let’s think back… Oh yes. The Gizmondo!

- Galford.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Ten Percent of a Fifty-Fifty Chance

Okay, so this is bad. What is with Sega? My shining light in the dark world of video games has started to distinctly fade. Having known about most of the Sonic games, and the troubles housed therein amongst others, I was hoping that after a little bit of high-powered inertia which seemed to be dragging down their efforts to create good games into the trough between peaks may have been coming to an end with Golden Axe Beast Rider. Alas not, it seems.

Now, everybody knows that Sega’s Arcade games are nearly always top-notch, instantly playable, usually with a good learning curve for those who really get hooked and very graphic-tastic. But why, then do Sega always seem to stumble when it comes to making games that last longer than a pound or a dollar will allow?

There is a glaring contrast between the 16 bit era and today. In most cases, in the days of the NES and the Mastersystem, even later on during the domination of the Megadrive and the SNES, we always thought that games programmers were doing the best with what they had to work with. The potential that games could reach always felt hampered by the feeling that the hardware was underpowered. I personally think that was because arcade games were always vastly superior to their home counterparts. These days, there is virtually no difference between the technology in the gaming machines we have at home and the games in the arcade. The main difference lies in the games available. This, I feel is where Sega are letting themselves down. Because people have more time to sit in their living/bedrooms, the games we can play can be much more drawn out and in-depth. I don’t think anyone would want to stand on their feet in a seedy arcade to play World of Warcraft for a 12 hour stretch. That’s like being in the army. If the army played games as part of their training. Which, if they did, I would be toting an M-60 around and desperately trying to get out of going to Afghanistan…

Are Sega following the same path as Atari? Will their finest hour come after the darkest? If they insist on continuing to abuse their flagship licenses in this way, they will lose everything. Will there even be another finest hour? Come on guys, step up to the mark, and start thinking outside of the 15 minute arcade mentality. I know you can do it! Just… leave Streets of Rage alone until you have started to gain a little divine inspiration.

- Galford.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

The Great Console Divide

First of all, apologies for website downage. It appears that I don’t know quite as much about web domain management as I thought I did. I think it’s also fair to say that I don’t know as much about the internal workings of the shrew as I thought I did. Although I don’t think I actually care too much about the latter. Usual service will be resumed shortly. Anyway…

I love old games. Personages that frequent these pages will know that by now. In fact, they probably know that to death. However, there is something that I have only just started to understand, and I’m going to share it with you today.

When I was growing up, I loved taking trips to the local (and not so local) arcades. I loved playing games that only cost 20p in my youth. I really got my money’s worth, because a lot of these games I could play for a lot longer than the usual five minutes that most people seemed to get out of them. I loved going back again and again, to get a better time, a better score, to progress further into the game or in most cases, feed an addiction. But I was not a big games console player. I was never taken with the ubiquitous Atari 2600. The games were just too basic for my liking. I remember being impressed by the Nintendo Entertainment System, but not enough to warrant the purchase of one. Considering what a Segaphile I am, I didn’t even really take to the Mastersystem until I decided that I wanted something less irritating that my old C64.

For me, there was always a big, big difference between an arcade game and it’s home console counterparts. An arcade game was quick, simple, punchy. A five minute blast for the paltry sum of (usually) considerably less than a pound. The only way I could put up with the rubbish that came out for the 8-bit era was by telling myself that these seriously chopped down, simplified excuses for games were to serve as a reminder of the superior coin-op games while I was unable to visit them. Final Fight, for one had a very turbulent time in the home console conversion. The C64 version was rubbish. The Spectrum version was worse. The NES version employed stupid childish graphics. The Amstrad version was a graphical travesty. The Amiga version was unplayable. Even the Super NES version was missing a character until an expansion pack was released at additional cost! I could never understand why. Sure, the arcade cabinets may have cost like ten times more than the average home games console of the time, but the games that were released were in many cases unforgivably poor, unless they were specifically designed for the machine in question.

Now, I am a regular viewer of the works of James Rolfe, AKA the Angry Video Game Nerd and it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this. It is true, as much as a lot of die-hard fans will defend these old games until their dying breath, a lot of these portals to the past are really under par. Nowadays, console and computer games are so good, that the arcade is dying. But how did this industry get to this point when it was built on such weak foundations?

I personally believe that it’s due to the fact that you would pay up o £1 to play an arcade game, and if it was not good, you didn’t play it again. Games that were rubbish in the arcade didn’t generate much revenue, and were quickly replaced with something better. But for me, spending a few 20p pieces from my weekly allowance was not a lot of money to sacrifice – but buying a computer or console game was. Therefore, in the days before shops like Game let you return your games after 10 days if you didn’t like them, and swap them in for money or a different game, when you bought a game, you were stuck with it. When your only income was £5 a week, this was a big investment. And if it was crap, tough luck. Therefore in order to justify the expenditure, you would play it to death out of principle, probably knocking years off your young life out of total stress. But that did not bother the likes of Atari or Nintendo. You had bought the game, they had made their money and we were the ones that lost out. I entered the world of gaming towards the end of the 8-bit era, thankfully – and was truly wooed by the speedy blue spiky one. Since then, for me at least, there has been no looking back. Well, only looking back to a certain point, anyway.

- Galford.

Thursday 25 September 2008

A Moment of Silence, Pray…

Recently, we lost a friend. A good friend. A friend of many years. A friend that has had a fond mention within the hallowed sanctum that is BucketMonkey more than once.

That friend was Weston Super Mare Pier.

Now, for those of you who frequent BBC news, or have been anywhere near there recently will have known about this for some time. But for everyone else, Weston Pier was severely ravaged by fire recently.

I am writing about it now because I paid Weston a visit a few days ago to see the horror for myself. As I stood there, I felt like I was standing beside someone flat-lining in a hospital bed. It was heart-breaking.

The Pier was just over 100 years old, and had seen many big development projects over the years. Apparently, it was meant to be a landing port for steamers, but due to choppy tides, it was converted into a full entertainment venue instead. Stretching 2,000 metres out into the sea, it had everything from a big kid’s fun house to a ferris wheel housed within.

But, enough of all that crap. It was also the home to many, many a classic and modern arcade game. I spent a lot of my youth there, sometimes frequenting it’s heavenly eden every weekend… Not a bad feat considering I live over an hour’s drive away and… couldn’t drive. Therefore, due to my complete and utter hatred for public transport, my unbelievably tolerant parents spent a lot of time there too. Weston Pier quite often had the latest games on there – it was the location where I played such games as Final Fight, Daytona USA, Ridge Racer, StreetFighter 2, Tekken and Virtua Fighter for the first time. It was also the place to go where you could find classic old games such as Operation Thunderbolt and Commando tucked away in hitherto forgotten corners with trademark flakey controllers and phosphor-burned screens. One of the few places that had not succumbed to the rob-them-completely-blind concept that is ticket redemption games. Bliss.

But now all that has gone. I have heard that there are already plans to resurrect this portal to the past, present and future – but I doubt that it will ever be as awe-inspiring as it once was.

A two minute’s silence for the loss of an icon for many a generation. Long live WSMP!
- Galford

Thursday 15 May 2008

Harassment at the Workplace...

Okay, so I now have semi permanent access to a Wii. I say semi permanent, because it’s actually located at my place of work. So I get all of the joys of playing on a Wii, without actually having to face going out to procure one.

Or not, as the case may be.

Now, I have never particularly been in favour of the Wii as a console, because as I have stated before, I really don’t think that it is a serious gaming machine. It still suffers from the old Nintendo stigmatism of being cute and cuddly, and for my money, aimed at a consumer demographic a lot younger than me. That, and being little more a new year’s party distraction. I have never felt particularly cool playing on a Wii, my attempts to play games well normally resulting with me looking like a deranged chimp with Parkinson’s disease. But I guess this was okay, when the rest of the people in the room are either impossibly drunk, tired past the point of no return or just simply not there in the first place. Now imagine trying to maintain some kind of composure when boxing or playing tennis in your lunch break with your colleagues of mutual employment walking past you. Or dodging past, more accurately.

The workplace is a bizarre environment. It is a place where the average full-time employee may well spend more time residing in than the comfort of their own home, around people that you see more than your own spouse or offspring in the average working week. Therefore, I am of the opinion that your reputation and moral standing are more important in this pseudo residence than anywhere else. Also from bitter experience, I know how the slightest act of forgetfulness, malice, out-of-character actions or just a simple slip of the tongue can be the beginning of a life-sentence of ridicule. If playing on the Wii is somewhat un-cool in the first place, then the effect is magnified to almost biblical proportions in the office – Multiplied by the fact that I am known as a gamer where I work, and this is just the icing on the top of the proverbial reputation cake. When one of my flailing companions does manage to beat me on the Wii – a console that I am not afraid to admit my lack of competence on – A whole new dimension of soul-crushing ensues. But if I win – then the ‘Well you’re a games nut. I guess we all expected that’ down playing starts.

It appears that you’re damned if you do and damned if you Wii. Particularly in a public place…

- Galford.

Monday 28 April 2008

Scum society

when I post here I usually try to keep things light hearted and amusing. Normally we talk games and electronic culture but sometimes something happens that just blows my mind (for better or worse) and today I read a news story on the bbc site that made me feel physically sick.
A gang of teens have been convicted after beating a gothic girl to death and almost killing her boyfriend too because "They looked different". I am not gothic but I have leanings in that direction and so have had a lot of contact with true goths and I can tell you that you would never meet a more intelligent gentle and genuine group of people (yes of course there are ecceptions but still..). I try very hard not to judge people from how they look, but the chav culture is getting waaaaaay out of hand and it is getting harder and harder to see the best in people when this kind of behaviour is getting more and more commonplace.
Of course if I was to say that just because someone chooses to wear tracksuits, hoodies, baseball caps at a stupid angle and fake gold, they are a thug I would be guilty of predjudice and no better than some of the ignorant masses themselves. But people are getting scared to go out, scared to dress the way they feel comfortable, scared to stand out and scared to be themselves.
I may have a dig at chavs every now and again but the truth is gang mentallity makes me very angry and ashamed to be british. When I see gangs of roaming clones looking to intimidate and make peoples lives a misery, I wonder what is happening to this country and the world as a whole.
I'm not going to go off on a big rant here, but I would like to point you in the direction of the news article that got me so upset...

OK, so they got long long prison sentences, but surely this sort of thing can be avoided. Maybe its time for ASBO's to be abolished and the police force to take stronger action aggainst gangs.
The police have to have known that these people were violent and dangerous. Not every assault can be prevented but there must be something that can be done before things get any worse.

OK, deep breath now...
Had to get that off my chest.
Normal service, and gaming goodness will be resumed shortly.
p.s. Anyone who blames video games for the deteriation of society is an idiot.

Monday 21 April 2008

Fighter's fight back

Here at we love a good scrap, at least in the video games term.
I for one am extremely excited by the recent gambits of news flying across e-space about all the returning fighting franchises and new additions to ongoing series.

I have a wish list of course like any true gamer has.
I want Capcom vs. SNK 3, Marvel vs. capcom 3, Guilty gear vs Samurai showdown, etc....
Can you spot the patern?

Well it seems as though someone has been reading my mind.
With word of Mortal Kombat vs. DC universe, and Soul Calibur 4 featuring Darth Vader and Yoda (I want spawn back!), Street fighter 4, and new Guilty gear and TNA Impact on the way, I'm set to be a very happy camper.

But then I got to wondering, who from the DC universe will be featured in MK vs. DC?
Batman and Superman are both confirmed, but so far that's it.
I prey we don't have to suffer Wonder woman and Robin, but Nighthawk, Joker, Bane and Lobo would be just awesome.

Of course what I really want is Capcom to make DC vs Marvel but I guess thats too much to hope for.

Later, true believers

Friday 4 April 2008

Quit while you’re behind…

Okay, I hereby revoke my own subscription to the Sony store. What a load of shit. I honestly thought, when it started out that it would be the answer to all of my ‘But I want to play PS1 games on my PSP’ lamentations. I sang it’s praises when I first learned of it’s existence. Now, I realise that the Sony Store reflects everything I remember about my experiences with the original Playstation.

My purchase of a PS1 was more of an afterthought. I had a Sega Saturn. I still had a MegaDrive on my desk along with a PC and an Amiga. I was more than happy with my lot. But, I pined after the great Gran Turismo. It was around this time that I learned that the PS1 had been subject to the usual 6 monthly increment reduction in price. This was around a year into the Playstation’s life, and I had already learned from the Mega CD and 32X debacle that I should not purchase games consoles upon launch. The price tag was around the £100 mark, I had just been paid, and I thought what the hell, I would invest. I purchased it brand-new, with a copy of said game. Over the next month or so, I also purchased half a dozen more titles, including Tenchu, Streetfighter EX+Alpha, and Driver. Then, the fateful day arrived. I walked into my local Electronics Boutique (as it was at the time) to decide on my next title. After wandering up and down the PS aisle for at least 30 minutes, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that everything else was total dross. Uninspiring, boring, under-par, pointless, or just a complete waste of my hard-earned cash. There were at least four times more games in the Playstation section than the now dwindling Saturn section, yet I could glance across and see many classic Sega titles, most of which I owned, many of which I wanted a hell of a lot more than all this PS shite. It was then that the cold feeling of realisation that I had bought a turkey. In the entire course of owning an original Playstation, I only bought a grand total of 8 games – compared to the near 100 titles on the Saturn, and God only knows how many PC games. I have owned almost every games system in existence at some point in time, but none have had the dubious accolade that the Playstation had of ‘Most Uninspired Waste of Money’. None.

The Sony Store is doing exactly the same thing. I have a handful of titles from the woefully under stocked European version of the store. Destruction Derby. Wipeout. Hardcore 4x4. The Ridge Racer 2 demo. The Wipeout Pure Demo. And that’s it. Nothing else on there is even remotely worth the money that is now stuck in my account due to the minimum deposit requirement.

Thanks a fucking lot, Sony.


Monday 17 March 2008

Lead Me Not Into Temptation…?

Okay, so CeX Computer Exchange (is that pronounced Kex, or Sex?) is nothing new. They have been around for a while. My nearest one resided comfortably far away, in the not-very local shopping centre Merry Hill. I have hitherto avoided this haven on the grounds that it would ultimately bankrupt me. But no. The slavering tentacles of what is quite possibly the perfect chain of shops has just landed in my home town. Worse yet, within 100 yards of my current place of employment…!

Apart from eBay, there is nothing that comes close to this paradise. A shop, specialising in buying, selling and exchanging games, gadgets and phones, Undercutting Gamestation and Game for second-hand PSPs and the like. I am the technology rag-and-bone man, and I love amassing used stuff both because it is cheaper than new, and if it’s flat lining or completely dead, I like nothing more in assuming the role of Lazarus or Dr. Frankenstein by breathing new life into it. This is the sort of shop I want to own. Apart from the fact that it would not make any money, because I would personally lust over everything that came in through the door. The bowels of the shop already look like my office desk, albeit better equipped.

I have already been known to pour far too much money into eBay, buying oddities that I will then systematically gang-rape in order to discover every possible function. I love making things do stuff that they were not exactly designed for, and my Gizmondo is the ultimate flagship on the subject. I am not geeky enough to write the programs myself, but I will go out of my way to find them. The thing with eBay always was – all you see of your potential purchase is a very low-grade photo. That’s normally enough to put you off there and then. But, when it’s right in front of you, like Jessica Simpson in an edible bikini, it’s really (I mean really) hard to ignore. It’s true. There’s very little I won’t do for CeX…!?!

- Galford.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

The Contemporary Veteran

Well, here’s an interesting one. Not all that long ago, in a pre-redesign post, I mentioned that the Gizmondo should be re-invented, become a public-domain handheld games console due to it’s flexibility and homebrew. Well, it seems that someone was listening. And that someone just happens to be one of the original founders of the old Giz. Now I do realise that there is a little inflated self-importance here. I must be honest, I do not think for one minute that it was my efforts that brought on this turn of events… but I can pretend.

I happened upon an interesting topic on one of my regular haunts recently. The question was raised – which games are better, old or new? A lot of people will automatically jump onto one band wagon or the other, as was obvious in the thread. A few would pull out very specific titles from their own personal games-playing past, and others seem to enjoy exhaustively demolishing games that have already been dissected due to substandard ness previously. I however, did my usual trick and read far too deeply into the subject matter.

It seems to me that what we have here is a paradox. Because without new games, there would be no old ones. As with everything in life, if you do not experience the new, then there can be no old. A lot of people were saying that older games lack the graphics, gameplay or quality of new titles. This surely goes without saying, as games are forever improving. On the other hand, I do believe that new games are subject to such stringent rules and expectations from the industry and the players that in some ways, they over-improve. GTA Vice City was great, and is already on the way to becoming a modern-day classic. San Andreas? Yes. Good game. But does it really need to be that complicated and big? Final Fight will always be one of my own personal favourites. But Final Fight: Streetwise seems to have been on the receiving end of a lot of effort to disassociate it from the original. Yet it is a good game. Strike me down if it fails to entertain. No! Not with a Dragon Punch, thank you!

We love new games. We get to sample some of the most cutting edge design and technology. We get to marvel at the fantastic graphics, the fluid and engaging gameplay. Explore massive new worlds and tailor our avatars. Feast on all the extras. Yet we love old games. The quirkiness of the controls, the glitches. The nonsensical or complete lack of storylines. Yet the feeling that we belong within the universes of both old and new games.

Which is better, old or new games? That, is a very good question.

- Galford.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Long Live the Arcade!

Okay, so we all know that the video arcade as we know it is coming to the end of its life. Gone are the days when I could go down to my local Shipley’s or Quasar, Armed with the loose change left over from my week’s pocket money (or a generous cash injection from my ever benevolent parents) and spend some time engaging in one of my all-time favourite pastimes. In my hometown, the establishments that used to house row upon row of video gaming bliss are still there, but now they have simply replaced everything with gambling machines. I completely misunderstand the allure of any of these money-suckers.

To my knowledge, there is only one sort of place where you still find arcades that house semi-modern games of this ilk, and that is at the coast. I recently visited Weston Super-Mare of a weekend. This used to be a haven where in my Youth, I would travel down with my parents for the day, and upon arriving and securing copious amounts of junk food, left them to wander aimlessly while I frequented all of the local arcades. I could spend the whole day darting from one gaming parlor to the next, spending coinage with complete carefree abandon.

That was 15 years ago. Shit, I feel old.

Now, there is only one place left in Weston that still has that nostalgic feel. The pier. It’s amazing just how much they can cram onto those timbered floors, and there is a certain feel of unease when you stand playing a game, and you can see the sea pulsating through the cracks in the boards right beneath your feet…

I love these places. I also know of arcades in Blackpool, St. Ives, and the Isle of Wight. To name a few. The only problem I have now is, with a family in tow – I don’t generally get to spend anywhere near a fraction of the time I used to playing these last bastions of my vanishing youth. When my kids get a bit older, I may be able to get them to understand the virtues of these sacred places. Until then, I must sit back and watch, and hope that when the time comes, I can return to what is now nostalgic bliss. I hope that the humble video arcade still exists…

- Galford.

Thursday 7 February 2008

NO! Bad PSP! Dirty, DIRTY!

Okay, so here is a bit of advice for all would-be self-servicing games console owners out there. I am not addressing the professionals, the sort of people who completely neon-up their X-boxes, because doing it to your car is now illegal, I am talking about the dabblers. People who feel like having a go. People equipped with a penknife and a blush-brush. People like me, it seems. Do not, under any circumstances attempt to clean the innards of your PSP. It will drive you clinically insane. It will never be clean enough.

Recently, I decided that there was far too much dust under the plastic fascia, and elected to remove and clean it. So, armed with a small Philips screwdriver, fresh-air spray, some computer monitor cleaner, a blush brush (not from my own personal collection, I might add) and a glasses cloth I set to work. Getting the fascia off was easy. But that was much, much less than half the battle. I didn't realise quite how many times I would be repeating this part of the procedure. First things first. Give it a blast with the air spray. It removed most of the dust, but unfortunately agitated all of the other invisible dust that had gotten in from much pocket-carrying. So, after half a dozen more sprays, I set to the outside and inside of the fascia plate with the monitor cleaner and glasses cloth. Now I wear glasses. I know how delicate they are, and how the slightest scratch can cause untold and continuous irritation by being permanently in view, until such time as I can afford to get the lenses replaced. So I cleaned extremely gently, with the utmost of care using practically no pressure at all. After letting it dry, I then replaced it back to it's familiar position on the PSP. Then, I realised that in replacing the fascia, I had disrupted yet more dust in the actual PSP itself, and now more crap lay between the main screen and the display than when I had first started! Annoyance. Displeasedness. So I started to remove the fascia once again.

Several more blasts with the air spray later, the screen was almost clean again. A momentary lapse in concentration made me wipe the inside of the screen with the back of my hand. Smudge marks! More cleaning a la glasses cloth & monitor cleaner. Fascia replaced.

This time, much better. Or, so I thought. I was still annoyed by absolutely miniscule pieces of debris that had still managed to work their way onto the screen. I should not be this pedantic, but after all my efforts I wanted absolutely crystal clearness from my PSP's display. Calm down, I thought. I do not have access to a dust-free chamber. Live with it. And I did, until I came to play in daylight...

Despite my oh-so careful cleaning with the cloth and cleaner, the inside of the display looked as if I had rubbed it down with sandpaper! What? What the fuck is this?? I could not play in any kind of light if I wanted to see what I was fucking doing! I eventually had to resign to the fact that I was going to have to purchase a brand-new fascia. What a drag!

I did not want a cheap Hong Kong knockoff, and I didn't want to have to pay the £30 Sony was asking! 3 new Fascias, or a new PSP...? Tough decision... er, niet!

I finally found a genuine fascia on eBay in Florida. Florida!! Well, it arrived, and I started painstakingly placing it on my PSP. Then, I took it off again. There was a human head hair in there! What the fuck? Where the hell did that come from? For Christ's sake. Eventually, job done. Or so I thought. Now, I notice that I can't see the power light, the Wifi light, or the Memory Stick light. The plastic conductors that are required to transfer the light from the chassis LEDs to the front of the fascia are not present! Nor are they available anywhere on the Internet! And I cannot remove them from the old fascia, because they are welded into place.

I am now going to lapse into maniacal laughter, clawing at the walls...

- Galford

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Bedroom Etiquette

Okay, so I have been bed-ridden since Monday, due to a terrible 'injury'. (I am not going into any further detail on this subject...) But I have had a revelation into the way that the modern workplace should be. It's like this - Sat up in bed, winter sunshine pouring in through the window, laptop on the lap as nature intended... PSP, DS and Giz next to me in case of sudden need of digital entertainment, Monte Carlo or Bust on the TV providing ambient distraction. Apart from the semi-consistent screaming and shouting from the kids downstairs, I think all offices should adopt this environment. I could really get used to this...

Right, well, games. Yes. Apart from the inclusion of Need for Speed: Pro Street on the PS2, I have been almost pathologically playing through the various Capcom, EA, Sega and SNK collections I have recently procured on the PSP. I really can endorse these collections, as friend of the Wife's (called Rich) showed me practically all of the games I have on his custom firmware PSP. Without the added advantage of better compatibility. I really hope that more collections from various software houses make an appearance on the handheld systems, as I can't get enough of them!

Oh yes, and I might get round to playing NFS:PS before long too...

- Galford

Wednesday 9 January 2008

To Hack, or Not to Hack...

Okay, so due to family responsibilities, I was unable to post before Christmas. So therefore let me be the first person to wish you a happy Christmas. For next year.

Some of my more annoying pseudo-hacker friends have been telling me that getting my PSP fixed up with custom firmware is a good idea. They have been trying to sell the idea that 'opening up the full potential' of my PSP is really the thing to do, and that the chance of it getting totally bricked in the process is not very likely. Is it me, or are these people starting to sound worryingly like politicians? I personally am not going to advocate either, because I believe that the chance of rendering a very expensive (at the time) and very sentimental piece of hardware inoperable for the chance to play downloaded games does not seem that big a plus point, but after being completely and utterly disappointed by the Sony Store and the chance to get one over on the ultimate faceless conglomerate is on the other hand, makes it an appealing concept.

I like the idea of being able to play old games on my handhelds, games that once required you to have hardware that was tied to the wall. It seems that, until the Sony Store gets it's shit together, there is still one small ray of hope in an otherwise darkening world.

I received Gamestation gift vouchers from my place of employment as a Christmas gesture. This is a nice thing, and their philosophy behind it is 'We are going to get you vouchers to somewhere that you personally like shopping, so that you have to buy something that you like, and not something that your spouse orders you to procure.' So I spent most of it on the Metal Slug Anthology, Capcom Classics Remix and Capcom Classics Reloaded - which are now at the bargain price of 'Buy two for £20, or £12.99 each' That, coupled together with a copy of Everybody's Golf makes a grand total of 48 games for £40. Less than a quid a game! And when you consider that the whole lot were purchased with vouchers - that's as good as downloading roms from the Internet, with the added bonus of being legal and not risking my hardware! Bring it on!

My group of friends and I are of the opinion that we are nearing the end of buying games and software on physical storage mediums such as CD and cartridge (that would be nice, up yours Blu-Ray!) and that downloading is cheaper, more convenient and especially with the PSP, save battery life and increase portability by not having to carry round unequivocally the worst form of digital media ever devised - the UMD. I have already seen the advantages of flash media being used on the GBA and DS with conduit cartridges (courtesy of the same annoying people as in paragraph 1), but Nintendo still look down on this illegal and damaging to the industry. Take a hint - produce your own! Sell the games online for a large percentage less than it would cost to create single game cartridges, let the punter download them, not have to switch carts to play other games! It makes so much sense! Cartridges and discs are as pointless as a man with no fingers saying 'there it is'!

- Galford.