Anyway. Whatever. Letters, yes?
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I regard my mother as a hardcore gamer. She liked my DS so much she broke it, and now owns two DS lites, to play one while the other charges.
She's also the first person I ever saw beat a game, when I was little. She sat me down said "Watch this' - then beat Treasure Island on my C16+4.
Though she did wipe all the saves on my PlayStation memory card, but that's another story.
That ruined Christmas Day...
Greetings old chum
In last week’s letters you called me an N64 Zealot, which to prove your point I took as a compliment.
I bought a book called N64 Anthology by Math Manent which I’d like to recommend to fellow N64-ists. You can get it on geeksline-publishing.com along with similar books for lesser formats such as PS1 and GameCube. It’s quite lovely and amongst other things it contains information on every N64 game.
The aforementioned book is where I heard about a game called Shadowgate 64, it’s billed as an RPG - of which the N64 had very few (and rightly so; who even wants those! Long live the N64!). I thought “Well this looks dreadful, I must spend my money on it”... and you know what?
It is dreadful, but also somehow not. It’s such a hodgepodge of ideas and genres, a medieval fantasy FPS try-every-item-till-something-works puzzle game. I also got the impression that they simply got sick of making it, and just put in an ending. However, up to that point I was compelled by a combination curiosity and confusion to keep playing it.
It annoys me when reviews complain about what a game isn’t, rather than focusing on what it is. However, in this case I can’t wrap my head around what Shadowgate 64 is meant to be, or if I even enjoyed it, so I think I understand this lazy journalistic trait.
Now please tell me games that you have struggled to review because you didn’t know what you thought or for another reason. Or does being Mr Biffo mean you can Biffo your way out of any tight spots?
Stay tuned next week for my thrilling reviews of Chameleon Twist and Chameleon Twist 2!
That is all.
Aside from not being particularly interested in motorbikes, I'd pretty much said all I could find to say about it within the first couple of hundred words. In short: that it was a motorbike racing game, and it was fine for what it was. I had to cobble together another 2,800-plus words of utter padding. It was like removing all of my hairs, one by one.
On a tangential note, my other worst freelance games journalism experience was being sent by one of the mags to interview Jason Kingsley, boss of Rebellion. It was post-Digitiser, and - at the time - I very much wanted to leave games journalism behind. Unfortunately, my TV writing career was going through a bit of a lull, I felt slightly rubbish about myself, and I'd taken the job because I desperately needed the money.
Kingsley was accommodating and pleasant enough, but he did spend quite a lot of the interview telling me that he was rich and successful, which - given my circumstances at the time - meant I didn't enjoy the experience as much as I could have. I remember being so fed up that I had to stop the car on the way home and have a little cry.
Aside from my Edge and Retro Gamer columns, I think that interview was the last time I ever did freelance magazine work.
1) This probably isn't a fair question because it isn't the primary purpose of computer games, but whose performance would you have nominated for a games BAFTA for best actor/actress, if you could have? I can think of several and while I wouldn't compare it to a great acting performance like Sir Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot or Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer I think that Mark Noble's performance as Regis in The Witcher 3 was just about as good as I have seen in a game.
2) After your article about some games that should be revived - many of them I had thought of myself - and one thing is common to them, a distinctive, fixed viewpoint. It seems to me that Streets of Rage, Desert Strike and Road Rash all benefitted from their viewpoint - do you agree and if so, how crucial would that be in any remake?
3) What, in your opinion, is the worst mishandling of a character, setting etc. from any game?
2) Yeah, I think, as you say, a fixed viewpoint makes them distinctive. I've never felt that everything needs to be fully 3D, and photorealistic, and it's why I'm increasingly playing retro or indie games over big, mainstream, releases. Has any scrolling beat 'em up felt as good with a free-roaming, 3D camera?
3) Eaaaaasy: Sonic The Hedgehog. Without question. Sega seems to be righting that ship now, since Sonic Mania, but man... they basically had the only games character who could rival Mario, and just completely ballsed it up. I've been saying since Sonic Adventure - which, I accept, had its fans - that the character only really works in 2D, and it took them 20-odd years to realise. I mean, how many times can you make the same mistake before realising? In Sega's case: many, many times.
This month, the Digi game diary contains a plea for suggestions. It's right at the start, so you don't even have to read the technical bits!
Mr. T would have far less trouble with those kids from the estate if his bins were all labelled "100% MACHINE CODE".
For some reason I missed your recent review of Inside when it first came out and have just read it. I bought Inside (PC version) upon its release and it's one of the few games that took me in so much that I played it from beginning to end in my first sitting.
I've just looked at the game on Steam and it appears that I've only unlocked 21% of the game. It's rare that I ever try and get 100% in any game (I'm pretty sure GTV V is the only game I've strived to achieve that with) but it's enough of an incentive for me to download it again and play through it a bit more thoroughly methinks.
On a completely different note, I went to the local Co-Op supermarket late last night and bought a whole duck for 50p, six fresh chicken breasts for 75p, and four packets of dry-cured bacon for 75p each. I'm a sucker for bargains.
The odd thing is, I don't really eat that much meat. Alas, I left the lot behind the bar at my local, and they have all mysteriously disappeared. I know the landlord has had them but it's trying to prove it.
When you sit down and think about it, Mario is an extremely weird video game protagonist. I mean, I know this is hardly an original thought, but it really is testament to the fantastic game designing abilities of Nintendo that people were willing to get behind a fat guy with a mustache wearing dungarees. Not only get behind, but turn into the biggest gaming icon of all time: even bigger than Bobby Davro!
It's odd how we take for granted that this rotund smiley Italian plumber is the figurehead for a global brand.
Even in the radical 90s, where everything had to wear shades and have a big gun, Mario remained stubbornly true to himself and this is to Nintendo's credit. They could have so easily made him into some sarcastic-catchphrase-spouting, minigun-wielding muscle head or something, but they didn't. No "Mario's Awesome Adventures XXX" here.
Quite the opposite; they turned him into a baby and plonked him into a child's drawing book. Guess what? It was amazing.
What is the point of this letter? Mostly that you asked for one. But also this: staying true to your roots, knowing what you do best and sticking to it is what has got Nintendo this far, and kept Mario from getting ripped and blowing Bowser's head off with a shotgun.
This is why I admire your output. Whatever it is, you remain true to the Biffo ethos. Some might say this is just a lot of bums with a smattering of innuendo, and some might be right. But I say, give me bums or give me death! DEATH!
This is going to be horrendously rambly but it does have a point.
I recently lost my father and it occurred to me, after talking to my friend Ten98 on Discord, if it were not for Digitiser I would not have the friends I have.
I have been friends with MrPSB, Ten98, Wagoo, Mentski and Hicks - and so many others over the years, and we've been all in the same #Digi chat room since 1997. We've grown up and then grown old with each other, and although some of us have not met in real life we share a bond that really just transcends "real friends" in a way that really blows my mind even now.
I tried to recreate this in the Digitiser Discord channel, and that never really took off, but I am hoping after Digitiser The Show, and some pushing from me, that people might actually follow this link and pop by and say hello (and actually stick by it for a while and make it good).
Link is here: https://discord.gg/g7M7yYA
I know other people have been through shit, and we've been there for them online - I know there are kids that exist because of this chatroom. This is a bizarre thing, but it really happened. I know the days of that kind of thing are over, but come along. We might not get you pregnant, but we'll at least say HI!
Back then if you had told me we would be talking to Biffo on Twitter, and even getting him back in the chatroom to answer questions, and getting people like Mentski and MrPSB on his shows, I would have thought you were mental - but all this has happened!
I have made friends that will last a proper lifetime - they've shared all the ups and downs, and it has been so good, I just have no words to explain it. I am sure you, Biffo, would agree that you never thought after all these years you would have a community of old farts who grew up when you did, and still want to be part of the whole Digi thing.
I never really made it as an online personality - mainly because I don't have the funny or the personality to pull it off - but I have seen my friends go from fans to people being IN your shows, and it makes my heart happy.
One day it might be me! But until then I would like to thank everyone who's been there for me over the years, and kept me company at 3am. thank them for all the Youtubes, tweets, and all the other shit - it has been so fucking cool!
Looking forward to your show, Biffo, and thanks for doing it for us. Come by Discord and do a Q&A one day. When the series goes live let's all get on and watch it together, like the old days when we watched the Comedy Awards together, the Eurovision Song Contest together, and all the elections we've followed in #digi on Dalnet.
If you don't want to Discord we are always on IRC, now and forever.
But yeah, I never expected there to be a community like there is around Digi. Least of all after the previous Digitiser community - The Board of Biffo - imploded in horrible fashion. I so regret that it happened, but I know that even some of those people are still in touch with one another at least, and that makes me happy.
It seems that everyone's a bit older, wiser, and more mature now, and I love that I've done a "thing" that brings people together. I see it as a big responsibility, and is probably the most heart-warming aspect of the whole Digitiser experience.
I'm also lucky that I've met a lot of lovely, brilliant, people, and made many new friends, in the last few years, because of Digi. Long may it continue, until we're all too old and incontinent to remember it.