Tuesday, April 29, 2008

So, GTA IV is released at long last!

Delayed from October last year to ensure absolute perfection in the finished game, finally Grand Theft Auto IV is here, released today all over the world (except Japan - sorry Japan!)...

Grand Theft Auto IV

Available on the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles, it has met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, suggesting that the delay has paid off handsomely. Here are two of the earliest reviews:

"As a fan, my expectations were exceeded," said Ricardo Torres, editor of GameSpot, a game review site.

"It's what GTA was always meant to be, but couldn't be because of the technical limitations of the previous consoles. With the current hardware, they have a canvas that lets them paint whatever they want. The city, which used to be just a background for the game, has so much detail that it feels alive. The level of immersion is crazy."

New York Times reviewer Seth Schiesel went even deeper: "The game sets a new standard for what is possible in interactive arts. Grand Theft Auto IV is a violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun."

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated video game ever, GTA IV is expected to become the biggest selling game of all time. I've been a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series since GTA2 came out on the first Sony PlayStation nine years ago, and I certainly intend to get hold of a copy of this latest installment as soon as possible... You can visit the official site for the game here.

There is a free Flash online game that is very similar to GTA2 in one of my fun and games sites - click on the following link, or the image below, to play it:

Gangster Life

The title screen of the Flash game "Gangster Life" - click here to play it

Monday, April 28, 2008

Concerning the quality of free online games...

This may sound a bit ungrateful of me, given that the games are all free to play, but I have noticed a growing tendency amongst many of the free online game websites to put every single game that is available on the web into their sites, regardless of the quality and reliability of the games concerned. Indeed, a great many of these games are of poor quality with bugs that cause major problems when playing the games, often including "logic traps" and other "fatal errors" that stop the games all together. Oops!

It seems that the chief motivation for this approach is simply to rapidly increase the number of games the sites concerned have in their inventories, so that they can boast things like "we have a collection of 2,500+ games". In my opinion this is a rather silly approach, because surely when someone plays any of the "buggy" games that don't work properly, they will get frustrated and annoyed. Surely that defeats the whole point of playing the games, and visiting the sites, in the first place? Oh dear...

Because I have always valued quality over quantity(!), my group of online game sites currently feature a more modest total of around 750 carefully selected high quality games. I have personally fully tested each of them to ensure there are no bugs and that they all work properly. So you can rest assured, you will find no frustrating and annoying problems with any of the games in my sites! To add to the fun, there are also many galleries of images, animated GIFs, music samples, movie clips, desktop wallpaper pictures and more, related to many of the games in my sites...

You can visit my sites (and check the quality of everything for yourself) by using these links:

Online Amusement Arcade #1

Online Amusement Arcade #2

Online Amusement Arcade #3

Online Amusement Arcade #4

100+ Mario and Sonic Games

More Mario and Sonic Games

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dan Dare Exhibition at the Science Museum, London

An interesting new exhibition entitled "Dan Dare and the Birth of Hi-tech Britain" opens on the second floor of the Science Museum in London this coming Wednesday (April 30th). It runs until Sunday October 25th next year and admission is free (to the whole museum except the IMAX cinema).

Here is what the official page for the exhibition at the Science Museum website says about it:

Dan Dare’s rocket fleet roars high over Venus to trounce his arch foe – the power-mad Mekon. Meanwhile, back on Earth, another extraordinary future is unfolding – one which laid the foundation for Britain’s hi-tech consumer society.

After 1945, though war-weary and broke, Britain found huge pride in wartime advances such as radar, penicillin and the jet engine. Discoveries like these were now tipped to kick-start world-beating industries, bring prosperity and bankroll the emerging welfare state.

In an age before globalisation, products from rockets to radios sprang from local roots. Together they reveal a fascinating ‘lost world’ of British design and invention – a glimpse of a time when the TV in the corner was a Murphy, not a Sony.

This exciting new temporary exhibition explores the role played by technology in creating post-war Britain.
(End quote)

There is an excellent article about the exhibition in yesterday's Times newspaper entitled "How the 1950's hero Dan Dare helped shape history with Utopian visions" and sub-titled "A new exhibition suggests that the Eagle’s Dan Dare had an influence way beyond his time" - you can read it here.

For more information on Dan Dare and his arch-enemy The Mekon, visit this one of my Dan Dare websites here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

St. George's Day, England (viewed from Thailand)

Today is St. George's Day in England, which (because St. George is the patron saint of England) is an annual day of English national celebration that has risen in popularity in recent years after decades of being somewhat ignored. See this article in today's Daily Telegraph newspaper regarding the growing interest in, and importance of, the day in England.

(Note: For those of you not entirely clear on the subject, the country of England is part of the island of Great Britain (Britain for short) which also consists of the countries of Wales and Scotland. Great Britain together with the country of Northern Ireland (which is geographically joined to, but politically completely separate from, the nation of the Republic of Ireland) forms the nation of the United Kingdom (U.K. for short). So, to be English is also to be British, along with the Welsh and Scottish peoples, and together with the people of Northern Ireland to be British is also to be a U.K. Citizen. I hope that clears all that up for you! :-)

Although I currently live in Thailand, it seems a good thing to me that England celebrates itself more these days - for far too long English people (myself included) have been rather reluctant to rejoice in our national identity. Since almost every other nation on earth seems to properly celebrate itself at least once per year, so should England, surely? After all, we have given the world so many modern-era benefits, such as the English language, parliamentary democracy (first established in 1707), the Industrial Revolution (which started in the late 18th century and which continues today as Industrialisation), Portland cement (which helps build the world we live in), modern railway systems, the electric motor and the jet engine to name some of the most important. Oh, and William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin - three of the most famous men in history, surely - were all English. :-)

I didn't realize until I carried out a search on the subject that other countries also have St. George as their patron saint and celebrate the day too, though sometimes on a different date than April 23rd. Amongst these are Bulgaria, Georgia (which makes sense!), Greece and Portugal. See the Wikipedia entry on Saint George here for more details.

Happy St. George's Day!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Thierry Henry wants to leave Barcelona! (Allegedly)

My all-time favourite football player, and one of the greatest former Arsenal players ever, Thierry Henry, reportedly wants to leave Barcelona (for whom he left Arsenal last year - see my previous post about that here) and come back to play in the English Premier League, preferably based in London.

See this article in today's News of the World tabloid Sunday newspaper for full details of the story.

If Thierry really is going to leave Barcelona, it's clearly going to be too much to hope that he will return to Arsenal given the views of the club manager (Arsene Wenger) on the subject, which just makes me even sadder now after the initial sadness of seeing him leave the club in the first place. I have been an Arsenal fan virtually all my life, and a fan of Arsene Wenger since his arrival 11 and a half years ago, but since last year I have become increasingly of the opinion that Wenger should quit!

A controversial opinion perhaps, but I feel that despite his previous great success at the club he has seriously lost the plot now. He has failed to win any trophies for the past three seasons (including the current almost complete season - Arsenal are, realistically speaking, out of the race for the Premier League title now despite winning yesterday), he increasingly blames poor refereeing decisions for causing defeats (see here for a recent example) rather than accepting that his own tactical errors are actually to blame, he has an apparent almost pathological non-English player bias (see here for details) which is quite embarassing to me at least (being, as I am, English, and with Arsenal being an English club), he still insists on selecting Philip Senderos who is without doubt the worst defender ever to play for the Arsenal first team (although he was only a substitute yesterday, thank goodness), and he let Thierry Henry leave only to possibly now let him return to a rival Premier League club. Good grief!

Note: I will of course fully retract the above satatement if Thierry does return to Arsenal and/or Wenger wins at least the "Double" next season if, as I suspect will be the case, he doesn't quit. Lol! :-)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Some of the most popular games in my websites for you to try

Here, for you to try for yourself when you have time, and based on visitor stats from last month, is a list of 10 of the most popular online games in my group of fun and games websites which include MarioSonicGames.com and FreeFun.Dan-Dare.org:

(Note: Many of the game recommendations below also appear in other posts in this blog - they are collected together here to make it easier to find them all.)

Sonic the Hedgehog: Ultimate Flash Sonic
One of the most popular Flash games on the web, and it's easy to see why - this incredible fan-produced effort is as close to a perfect game as you will find anywhere. With fast-paced, flawless Sonic platforming fun all the way, this game incorporates the best elements of all the classic 8-bit and 16-bit Sonic games, and includes unlockable extra characters, levels and other fun bonuses too.

And just in case you want it, here is a lovely little cheat password for the Ultimate Flash Sonic game that allows you to level-select the Ice Paradise zone when you play the main game as Tails, and also allows you to have Tails follow you if you want when you play the game as any other character (just like in the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive/Genesis "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" game if you have Tails follow Sonic): 115013101010101

(Additional note: If you use the above cheat password and have Tails follow Cream, he replaces Cheese the Chao who normally follows Cream.)

Sonic the Hedgehog: Shadow the Hedgehog Flash
An excellent official Flash mini-version of Sega's 2005 "Shadow the Hedgehog" game for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox, complete with the gunplay that is now synonymous with Shadow.

Super Mario Bros.: New Super Mario Flash
Play as either Mario or Luigi in this brilliant fan-produced Flash remake of the classic 8-bit and 16-bit Super Mario Bros. platform games. As well as including its own excellent ready-made series of levels for you to play, the game also features a programmable level editor for you to create and play your very own levels (and some example level codes are included for you to try too). This is rapidly becoming one of the most popular Flash games on the web - play it for yourself to see why.

Here is an additional level code for you to use in the New Super Mario Flash game's level editor, just in case you want it. It is called "Bowser Dual" (the name says it all) and was submitted to me by Caleb Burton. To use it just click on the text box below, right-click and select Copy, then click on the game link above to open the game page and follow the instructions in there for how to insert the code into the level editor and play it:

Super Mario Bros.: Super Mario Sunshine 64
A superb fan-produced 2D version of the 2002 Nintendo GameCube game "Super Mario Sunshine", complete with a fully-functioning FLUDD.

Super Smash Bros.: Super Smash Flash
The name (almost) says it all - this is an awesome fan-produced version of Nintendo's brand new game for the Wii console, "Super Smash Bros. Brawl", with the ability to play as (or against if you prefer) Sega characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Knuckles and Shadow in addition to all the standard Nintendo characters such as Mario, Luigi, Link, Zelda, Kirby, Megaman, Zero, Samus Aran, Fox McCloud, Naruto, Pikachu, Mewtwo and more. The game features a host of unlockable extra levels and characters in single-player mode, plus there is a 2-player mode for some serious "VS." brawling action.

Megaman vs. Metroid
A challenging and fun fan-game where you must guide Megaman through a variety of levels featuring "Samus Aran" and other classic "Metroid" game characters.

Star Trek: Flash Trek V2.0
A truly amazing fan-produced Star Trek game where your mission is to try to free the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the Dominion and their Cardassian allies.

Ratatouille: Grab the Grub
An official game based on last year's smash-hit Disney/Pixar movie "Ratatouille" where you must guide Remy the Rat through a series of mazes grabbing food while avoiding the chefs trying to stop you.

Cars: Lightning McQueen's Desert Dash
An official game based on the 1996 mega-hit Disney/Pixar movie "Cars" where you get to race as Lightning McQueen against The King, Chick Hicks, Boost and Snot Rod.

Trivia: Did you know that "Cars 2", the sequel movie, has just been officially announced for release in 2012? See here for more details.

Buzz Lightyear: Operation Alien Rescue
An official Toy Story-related game based on the Disney cartoon series "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" - help Buzz Lightyear rescue all the Little Green Men who have been captured by the Evil Emperor Zurg.

Trivia: Did you know that a third movie in the Toy Story series, "Toy Story 3", is scheduled for release in 2010? See here for details.

I hope you enjoy all these games!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Virgin's Dan Dare digital comic has moved...

...to a new URL (with reference to my previous post about it, which you can read here).

You can now read the new adventures of Dan Dare from Virgin Comics online here.