Well, that's it for this year's Halloween fun-times here ate VGJUNK. Thanks to everyone that read my ramblings, and thanks for making October VGJUNK's most successful months so far. Normal non-spooky service will be resumed next week, once I have recovered from my bone-chilling holiday hangover.
I'll leave you with one final piece of Hallowe'en advice: Go play Zombies Ate My Neighbours.

Why? Because it's jam-packed with Hallowe'en flavour. The gameplay is great, the sprites are great, the music is great, and there's a level called Mars Needs Cheerleaders. You shouldn't need any more encouragement than that!

In fact, here's a task for you all: go send Lucasarts and Konami an email asking them to at least re-release ZAMN on the Playstation Network and XBox Live, or even make a sequel, a beautiful next-gen sequel. You never know.

Happy Hallowe'en to all!



With only two days to go until the big day, I won't waste any time. Here's part three of the VGJUNK Musical Hallowe'en Playlist! If you need to catch up or you want more, then here are Part One and Part Two. Onwards, to horror!

Dark Carnival, Blood, PC

Is there any type of music creepier than carnival music? I'm pretty sure there isn't, and if there is it must exist in some alternate dimension which, thank God, our ears are just not evolved enough to perceive. There's glockenspiels, accordion and at around the 2:08 mark there is the laughter of what I'm sure you'll agree is a clown that wants to eat your liver. A good track to play if you have any coulrophobic guests, then; also useful as music to have in the background whilst you tell your children why you're not taking them to the circus because Daddy can never go back there.

Title Screen Theme, Super Metroid, SNES

Some of the most utterly sinister music ever produced, I swear. Just this and a shot of some corpses, and Nintendo's reputation of only producing family-friendly games seems very odd indeed. Very (and one assumes deliberately) reminiscent of the themes of films such as Alien, it's the perfect mood-setter for Samus's adventure, filled with fragility and loneliness.

Intro Theme, Devil's Crush, PC Engine

When I wrote about Devil's Crush earlier in the Hallowe'en season, I mentioned that the main table theme was fantastic, and so it is. I'm also a big fan of this intro theme, a sort of John Carpenter / Planet Terror-esque slice of creepiness. Much more suited to a slasher film than a pinball game, even a horror-themed pinball game, and I guarantee that when you hear it you will be compelled to dress like Michael Myers and sneak up behind clueless sorority girls. Please don't though, and if you must, don't tell the authorities it was me that sent you.

Computer Station, Doom, PS1

One thing that the PS1 version of Doom had that was far, far superior to the PC version was the music. Gone were the hard-rockin' MIDIs ripped off from the heavy metal classics of the day, replaced with twitching, groaning ambient soundscapes that enhanced the playing experience massively. Much like the Cathedral music from Fallout that I mentioned in Part One, the PS1 Doom soundtrack overcame my usual apathy toward ambient soundtracks and lodged itself permanently in my cortex. I had trouble chosing a favourite, but in the end I settled on Computer Station, mostly because it has some wonderful sound effects, notably the indecipherable howling at the beginning and strange metallic scratching noise heard throughout, for example at 1:20. If you're looking for some ambient background music for a Hallowe'en get-together or even a game of D&D or something like that, you could do a lot worse than the Doom soundtrack, and you can download it all here.

The Oracle, Secret of Mana, SNES

Finally for this installment, and indeed this year, wrap your ears around the all-out sonic madness that is The Oracle. Chanting, heavy metal, glockenspiels, drum n' bass, it's all here, all crammed into one track that could have turned out to be an unlistenable mess but is, in fact, creepy as all hell and truly bad-ass at the same time. A lot of its charm lies in the samples; those gongs at the start that make it sound as though it's going to a standard "oriental" type theme (when it isn't), the clanging industrial steel, the chanting. The whole track really is a tribute to composer Hiroki Kikuda and his dedication to collecting the best samples and not just settling for pre-made MIDIs. A real-nerve-jangler as opposed to the slow burn of the Metroids and Dooms listed above.

Well, that madness seems like a fitting way to end the VGJUNK Musical Hallowe'en Playlist. Give them a listen on Hallowe'en night, and possibly rig your doorbell so that it plays The Oracle whenever someone presses it. That'll give the trick-or-treaters something to think about.



Devil's Crush is the bittersweet tale of Satan's unrequited love for a girl he saw on the bus one time... No, I'm sorry, it isn't. I've lied to you, and for that I can only apologise. Devil's Crush is, infact, a 1990 pinball game for the PC Engine / Turbografx by Naxat.

Eyeballs! As always, bloodshot eyeballs signify horror beyond human comprehension, or, in this case, a pinball game with a horror theme. Now, here's a confession for you: I am terrible at pinball. I'm even worse at pinball than I am at side-scrolling shooters, which is saying something. With that in mind, there are almost certainly some parts of Devil's Crush that I missed out on due to my incompetence in handling that silver ball, and I'm sorry. I guess my wrists just aren't supple enough. Still, there's enough her to give you a feel for the game, so onward we go!

Devil's Crush sadly contains only one table, but it's a good one. Here it is in full:

(Click for bigger)
For reference, the whole table is about three screens high, as you can probably tell with the three pairs of flippers and all. As is standard for most console pinball games, you activate the right flipper by pressing one of the buttons and the left by pressing a direction on the d-pad. To me, that feels incredibly odd, not pressing a button to activate something, but then I am a strange man and my opinions should be discounted. The first thing that you may notice after you have taken a look at the table is that the music is completely fantastic and deserves more recognition:

That is some hard-rocking music right there, and perfect for the fast-paced pinballing madness that's taking place in what appears to be a Satanic castle full of demons and such. It's a good job too, because it's the only music you'll be hearing during the vast majority of the game. That's the music sorted, so let's take a look at the denizens of the Devil's Crush castle.

1) A grinning dragon, who keeps on grinning even when you have crushed his/her eggs into a sticky mess beneath the cold steel of your ball. Truly, this is dragon's cheerfulness is an inspiration to us all.
2) The world's angriest turret. Shooting you ball into his mouth a) sound filthy and b) gives you a blocker between your flippers. Thanks, angry turret!
3) A boggly-eyed skull (also grinning) who is sporting a rather fetching head-dress made from some sort of translucent flesh. His eyes follow your ball around, and if you lose a ball he cackles at you demonically. You wouldn't want him as a spectator at your golf match, that's for sure. I don't know why he's laughing, he'd be rubbish at pinball. He doesn't even have any hands, and even if he did he lacks the musculature required to curl them!
4) Little four-legged skull spiders. They're an easy point-scoring target.
5) The same as no. 4, but with a helmet that has either a wide mouth or a Hitler moustache on it. I'm going for the Nazi 'stache myself.

Smack bang in the middle of the table is a shadowy face. Bash it a few times and...

...a pretty lady is revealed. How delightful. I'm sure that, as a disembodied face in the middle of a Hell-themed pinball table, she will be nothing but kittens and rainbows. So, I hit a few more times.

Oh dear. She's developed wild, staring eyes and either fangs or a very pronounced overbite. Well, I'm sure it's just the shock of being a disembodied face in the middle of a Hell-themed pinball table. Hit her a few more time? Sure, why not. I'm sure she not...

Ah. Fully a snake-demon now, huh? Well, I hope me repeatedly slamming my metal pinball against your face did not contribute too much. She's nearly as cheerful-lookin' as the dragon, so I guess a life lived as a buffer in Satan's own pinball table is a good one. She's got a couple of of little friends around her, too:

6) Skeletal Knights who line up, only to find that their shields are no match for a flipper-propelled steel ball.
7) Skeleton, sir, thousands of 'em. No data can be gathered on the skeletons' cheerfulness level, but it's pretty safe to assume that they're as happy as you can be without any skin.

As well as the main table, there are also a few bonus games to take part in, if you can find them. They're mostly accessed by getting you ball into something's mouth, such as the lizard-lady when she's in full snake-freakout mode.

There's a hydra-fighting stage, although I don't remember the hydra being known for having a spider-like body. I guess when you have a vast swarm of snake/dragon heads that regrown when severed, that's always going to be the thing that people remember you for.

This one is a little irritating: small demons pour into, and you have to destroy them while they're standing on an unlit light to light it. Light 'em all, get a big bonus. Sadly, they don't like standing in place, and when you've only got one light left to light, it's more frustrating than fun.

Obviously I missed at least one bonus stage, because that clearly says "Bonus Stage 4" at the top. Hmm. This must be the best one, though, because it features even more giant, happy skulls with bloodshot eyes that follow you around the room. That is what is best in life, Conan. I like the fleshy, cell-like walls, which certainly give the whole scene a strange sense of scale.

The top screen is probably the place that you will see least of, at least if you are as rubbish as me. It's got its own set of monstrous denizens:
8) This game's theme is skulls. Skulls skulls skulls, with more sunken eyes and gleaming cheekbones than a Victoria Beckham lookalike parade. At least this one gets some hands.
9) A wonderfully disgusting multi-eyed sphincter/tentacle/phallus thing that deposits your ball back onto the table after a bonus game.
10) Monks who are performing some kind of ritual, no doubt a dark sacrifice to the Steelballus, God of Pinball. Or a demonic conga.

And that's Devil's Crush (or Devil Crash if you're from Japan), pretty much. Apparently, you can complete the game, but I have no idea how and even if I did, I probably wouldn't be able to do it.

I really like Devil's Crush. I probably would have been quite so keen if I had paid full price for it when it was first released and I only had one table to play, but if you fancy a quick game of pinball and you're the kind of mud-eating peasant who doesn't have a room full of pinball machines, you could do a lot worse. The ball physics are about as good as they could be considering it's twenty years old, everything is cheerful and there's that music. If you've got a Wii, you can even buy it on the Virtual Console. If you don't like pinball, then obviously, don't bother! play Tetris instead. Everyone loves Tetris.



Have you ever wondered what a possesed bag of cement would look like like? If you answered yes, then you are a weirdo. If you still wish to know the answer, and some other things a weirdo like you would probably want to know , then join me as I highlight some of the more peculiar moments in Natsume's 1993 action platformer for the SNES, Ghost Sweeper Mikami: Joreishi wa Nice Body.

GSM is a fairly standard side-scrolling platformer, based on the anime of the same name which concerns a young woman called Mikami (whom you play as) who, I guess, sweeps ghosts? I don't know, it's all in Japanese. I think the plot is something to do with collecting magic stones to put in a statue, but alls I knows is Mikami runs around a lot in a minidress whacking things. Yes, it's a game that's full of demons, ghosts and other assorted bugaboos, all of which require a good firm sweeping. That alone gets it a place on the VGJUNK Hallowe'en list, but it was something creepy in another way that piqued my interest:

Dear god, those eyes! They look like they've just sat on something unusual and they're not sure whether they like the sensation. I assume that's what the eyes look like in the original manga/anime, unless perhaps the developers had a lot of spare pixels and decided to cram them all into the eye region. So, our hero sets out to sweep as many ghosts as possible, which may prove to be a daunting task because she appears to be armed with a rolled-up newspaper. How do you feel about facing this collosal battle against a horde of nightmarish foes?

I thought as much.

So, you start on the streets and make your way to a train. It's an odd mix of cute and creepy; little pink puffballs like Kirby's baby brother, followed by dripping sludge demons. Fortunately, your rolled-up copy of The Sun is more powerful than it looks, and soon you've upgraded it to shoot lightning. GSM is off to a pretty good start, thanks to some solid music and interesting enemies, including the skull-tadpole above and this sinister little pervert:

I could make a joke about groping on the subways in Japan, but I wouldn't denigrate another culture like that. All the enemies so far have been unaccountably happy, with big, friendly grins, and the boss is no exception:

The lingering spirit of a thousand noxious farts, trapped in a subway car? Quite possibly.

Stage two is a fairly generic climb up a waterfall-covered mountain, and it is only redeemed by the stage's boss: a cute little dolly that turns into this:

She's pretty cool, and I see she went for the "Satan's Razors" manicure set. Delightful. I don't know how complicated it is to come up with a magic spell that manifests your head, hands and none of your clothes except your collar, but I'm sure it's not easy and for that Dolly must be congratulated.

Stage three, and the madness really kicks in when Mikami is shrunk and spends the level on the back of a cat. A deeply, deeply disturbed cat:

Look at his eyes, dude. That cat has seen things, man. Terrible things. All the catnip in the world can't erase those memories. The stage is an auto-scrolling affair, where you have to jump and duck under obstacles whilst sweeping ghosts, much like the sewer surfin' sections of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game. Amongst the enemies to avoid are what appear to be happy little clouds of flatulence.

Hey, you look pretty familiar, Mr. Fart. Now where have I seen you before...

Why, it's little Stinky from Ren and Stimpy! Once you've defeated a bunch of little Stinkys as well as the flea-like end-of-stage boss, it's on to stage four, which is set in some kind of garden. I hope you are ready to genuflect before your new ruler, because here he comes.

Also featuring in this level, a woman, sitting in a chair. She's just reading and minding her own business. If you try to attack her, like the violent psychopath you no doubt are due to playing videogames, a big blobby thing appears and zaps you.

Serves you right. Also trying to kill you are these skull butterflies:

Which bear a strong resemblance to the Bitterfly enemies from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Is this common Japanese monster type? Leave a comment and let me know if they are.
The next stage is another scrolling one, this time much more in the vein of your typical side-scrolling shooter (anime witch division) like, say, Cotton.

It's broomsticks a-go-go, with the cat left at home to try and rebuilt his shattered mind. As you can see, there are anime witches to fight, anime witches being a subset of practicioners of the dark arts whose power is directly proportional to the shortness of their skirts. There are also little dragony things and kamikaze swallows. The boss is a vampire with a rather splendid cape, who took his attack pattern directly from the Tasmanian Devil.

Despite his floppy blonde hair and no-doubt androgynous good looks (he is an anime vampire, after all,) he's still more manly than Edward Cullen. Man, I sure do feel proud that I had to look up his name.
Now, the question you've all been waiting to have answered will reveal its secrets to you! Just what does a posessed bag of cement look like?

It looks like a bag of cement that can jump through the air. If you expected anything more, then you are a fool. A damned fool. Perhaps the cement bags can team up with the bag of fertilizer from the Punisher game and start a crime-fighting duo. They'd be rubbish at it, though, rubbish like a team comprised only of Aquaman. The boss of the stage is far more interesting.

That's right, he's an evil (as though there is any other kind...) clown riding a giant rat armed with a sewing needle. Between the doll boss and the clown, this game really does have a grasp of the things in this world which are just inherently creepy. As you can see in the picture, Pennywise up there can turn you into what is either supposed to be a child or a doll. The one good thing about having clowns in videogames is that it generally gives you the opportunity to beat a clown to death; this is not an opportunity I like to pass up. Clown defeated, it's on to the final stage.

This stage is what the Playboy Mansion might look like had Hugh Hefner been chosen as the Sorcerer Supreme, filled as it is with revealing statues, erotic murals and bunny girls who can shoot magical lightning at you.

A happy place indeed. It is also the most irritating level in the game, as you have to use your newspaper wand to create platforms to get around, all while your previous platforms keep disappearing, the gravity keeps changing and you wrestle with Mikami's fairly loose interpretation of when you pressed the jump button. Nice of them to try something different, but ultimately it fails. The boss of the stage is a goofy horse demon who, being a horse demon, naturally sends out a schoolgirl samurai to fight you.

I like his nonchalant pose. This kind of thing must happen to him all the time. Once his girl is defeated, he drops down to the floor and scurries around on all fours, crying, until you beat him to death. What happened to you, Horse-Demon? I used to look up to you, man. And that's the end of the final stage. Of course, it's not the end of the game. All the crystals are gathered and the statue is complete, but instead of the Good Thing that I think Mikami was expecting, a Bad Thing happens instead, and the final boss appears.

Your final battle is against this pitchfork-wielding devil lady, who looks like she has just escaped from an 80's hair-metal band called Black Sapphire or Layzzer or something. She jumps around a lot and fires blue ghosts at you, but she's really not that much of a challenge. In fact, GSM is actually pretty easy all round, and that made quite a refreshing change.

It's not a brilliant game by any stretch of the imagination; it's short, the level design is a bit bland and jumping in particular seems unresponsive. But it is a decent little time-waster, it's got some interesting enemies and the music is pretty nice too. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the music's the best bit.

So, give it a go... or not. But best to play it now, around Hallowe'en, hmm?



Today, I'll be discussing one of my all-time favourite videogames: Monolith's 1997 FPS Blood.

Ah, Blood, one of the many warping influences on my juvenile brain that lead me to become the pillar of the community that I am today. Did you ever play Duke Nukem 3D? If you did, this'll be easy for you, because Blood is Duke Nukem 3D but better. They are both first-person shooters built using the BUILD engine, a sort of 2-and-a-half-D game engine that gives the appearance of a 3D space with some restrictions, most notably the lack of a proper height component: for example, you can't have a room on top of another room using the BUILD engine. Otherwise, Blood is pretty much the same as most other FPSs, especially those from around the same time. Run around the level, shoot enemies, find items and ammo and keys, solve the ocassional puzzle, reach the end of the stage. So why is Blood any better than its peers? Well, there're a few reasons.

First off, Blood eschews the normal sci-fi approach of Doom and the rest, instead going for the storyline and overall atmosphere of a 1980's horror movie. As you can probably tell by the fact I'm having a whole month's worth of Hallowe'en on this blog, I am a huge fan of all things horror-related, so when Blood came onto my radar when I was about thirteen, my eyes probably flew out of their sockets like a cartoon wolf's after he's just seen a foxy nurse. You play as Caleb, a red-glowing-eyes type in a fetching black duster and fedora ensemble who is one of the the four Chosen Ones of a cult called The Cabal. Short story even shorter, the dark god of the Cabal decides he wants Caleb dead, Caleb doesn't like this idea and sets off to kill the dark god Tchernobog. Bam, story in place. Now for the blood!

Yes, Blood lives up to its name, with gouts of the red stuff flying from the corpses of your enemies, dead bodies nailed to the walls and zombie heads that can be kicked around for your amusement. This was a time of media panic about violence in videogames - with other PC games like DN3D and Carmageddon taking a lot of flak, Blood seemed guaranteed to cause both outrage and interest. Luckily, it's lower profile when compared to those other titles seemed to spare it from too much controversy. So, violence: but what can you cause violence with, and to whom?

Two things that I love about Blood are its weapons and its enemies. You start with nothing but a pitchfork, which functions as Doom's chainsaw or Duke's Mighty Boot, but you quicky progress to flareguns that set the enemy alight, Tommyguns and bundles of dynamite that cause Caleb to cackle wildly when you cause enough carnage with them. Later on you find some more exotic death-dealing devices, such as voodoo dolls (just point and stab!), aerosol-can flamethrowers and crazy-ass shaman sticks that drain the life out of your opponents. Blood was also one of the first games to feature alt-fire modes on its weapons. My favourite alt-fire mode? Probably the Tommygun, where pressing alt-fire just makes you wave the gun around wildly while spewing hot lead-based death everywhere. That sounded kinda disgusting, didn't it? And speaking of disgusting, you need something to fire these weapons at - and Blood doesn't disappoint in that regard.

Zombies - with axes, no less - are the first thing you fight, and they generally keep getting up until you knock their head off. There are flaming hell-hounds, gargoyles, shark-men, fat zombies who look like kebab shop owners and scythe-wielding spectres who emit such a brain-melting scream when you encounter them that you'll go all-out with your best gun to make sure they're dead (un-undead?) as fast as possible. Seriously, it's such a nerve-jangling wail of misery that I can't help but wonder if they recorded a man having his testicles placed in a mousetrap to capture it. However, the enemies that you'll be fighting most often are one/some of my favourite enemies of all time: Cultists!

Disfigured monks with Tommyguns are cool enough, but these guys have an ace up their voluminous sleeves: they have their own language. Yes, Monolith gave them their own vocabulary, and they aren't afraid to shout it out loud when you're fighting them. If you read VGJUNK regularly, you'll know what a sucker I am for old-school videogame speech, and this is some of my very favourite. Here's a video of some of the monks' favourite phrases:

Shouting "Maramas in fear books!" was a fairly significant portion of my childhood, as you can probably imagine. The best bit? Shooting them with a flare while they're speaking, so that they suddenly drop their cultist language and run aroung screaming "IT BURNS!". Genius.

Even better than its enemies and weapons, Blood has one thing that pushes it right to the top of my list: references to other things. The whole of the game is a paean to horror movies, and that's where most of the references come from, although there are plenty of others. For example, in the first level alone, there are references to Army of Darkness, Macbeth, Phantasm, The Crow and Return of the Living Dead. When I was a kid, I felt like I was the only person in the world who had seen Evil Dead 2, so when I came across some severed hands that chase you around shouting "I'll swallow your soul!" that was it, Blood had proven its greatness to me. There are even whole levels devoted to certain movies, including the "Overlooked Hotel", complete with a frozen maniac in the hedge maze, a level called "Mall of the Dead" which I think you can figure out the genesis of, and even a level called "Crystal Lake", home to everyone's favourite slasher film icon:

The music even contains the famous "ki ki ki, ma ma ma" effect. What's that? You prefer a different slasher icon? Well, how about this one?

See, Blood has you covered. In blood, presumably. It's not just films, either: the King of cosmic horror himself, H. P. Lovecraft, gets a few nods:

As does Edgar Allan Poe.

For the love of god, Monolith! A large part of the fun of Blood is hunting down these secrets, but in case you're lazy or have no hands or something, here's a video of some of them (it might be a good idea to click through to Youtube to watch).

There is one last thing that sets Blood apart from its rivals. You see, it contains mimes.

There are mimes. You have a pitchfork. You can stab a mime... with a pitchfork! You can find these... men, cursed souls who practise the least entertaining form of entertainment known to man, and put them out of their misery. You may be trapped in an invisible box, sonny, but it won't protect you from four steel prongs of pain.

Of course, Blood has its flaws: after all, it was released 13 years ago. If you're the kind of person who really cares about graphics you'll probably struggle with it, and the terrible mouselook is a problem. Also, the enemy AI is poor to the point of retardation, especially when the spectres just end up rotating ever higher into the air, screaming their terrifying screams until you manage to get their attention so you can kill them and shut them the hell up. But these are all minor flaws, and it's still as fun to play now as it was when I was a kid. It's a nice change from things like Halo at any rate, and it makes me wish more modern FPSs would concentrate on the single-player mode. If this has made you want to play Blood, then you can get it at GoodOldGames for a mere $5.99 (less than £4!), including both the expansion packs and DOSBox so you can play it on something that isn't older than Bruce Forsyth. It's a great deal and I recommend you go and buy it right now!
Well, that's Blood. Long shall it remain one of my favourites. Until next time - crudux cruo!



As inevitably as night follows day and severe mental retardation follows prolonged exposure to Loose Women, so approacheth part two of VGJUNK's frightfully fearsome playlist of Hallowe'en-flavoured videogame music. If you want to refresh you memory as to the contents of part one, then here it is. Ready? Then onwards!

Ghost House, Super Mario World, SNES

Why did I love Super Mario's spectral Boos so much as a child? Was it because I empathised, nay, identified with their crippling shyness? No, it is because they are super-cool, goofy-faced ghosts. If I was a cartoony ghost, I could not ask for better theme music than this. That descending "whoooo" sound effect? That's the stuff right there. Like all Mario music, its secret is its simplicity, a simplicity that crawls into you brain and takes up permanent residence so it can warn you not to turn your back on the roaming spirits of the dead for too long.

The Lair, Splatterhouse 2, MegaDrive

I could have chosen any song from Splatterhouse 2, really. They're all excellent and filled with more Hallowe'enosity than a pumpkin made of bats being carried by Michael Myers. I like that the track has the feel of an end-credits song that might play over a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel from the early nineties, perhaps accompanied by Robert Englund rapping. Now there's a nightmare for ya.

The Mystic Forest, Final Fantasy 6, SNES

Not a Hallowe'en game, but it does feature an honest-to-god Ghost Train. Final Fantasy 6 cements it's place as one of my all-time favourite games not only by including an honest-to-god Ghost Train that, yes, you can suplex, but by having some beautiful music, such as this track that plays on the area just preceding the train of ghosts. Another triumph over the limitations of the SNES's musical limitations. Plus, the arranged, orchestral Grand Finale version is a great counter to anyone who complains about game music just being all bleepy-bloopy:

Playrooms of Asylum, Shadowman, N64

A depressingly overlooked diamond of a game, Shadowman probably the only game I've ever played that can claim to challenge the big two of the Silent Hill series and Resident Evil REmake in terms of sheer creepy atmosphere. Deep in the titular Asylum, located in the voodoo equivalent of Hell, you come across the Playrooms, which are full of blood and chains and unidentifiable pieces of meat and... this music. I think this might edge out Silent Hill 2's "Betrayal" to become the most terrifying piece of sonic disturbance on this playlist. It will haunt you, especially if you listen to it on your own at night. If you do, I cannot be held responsible for any sudden feelings that there is a demonic butcher in your house and he wants to play with you, or that all hope and joy has been drained from the world.

Mars Needs Cheerleaders, Zombies Ate My Neighbours, SNES

To apologise for inflicting the Playrooms music on you, I offer you this: my favourite track from one of my favourite games (and indeed game soundtracks) of all time. It's like Danny Elfman wrote the music for a 50's B-movie using a SNES, and it is glorious. I defy you to not smile while you're listening to this. I want to have babies with that SNES theremin sound effect, beautiful vibrato babies that make the world a better place just by existing. Okay, you're probably not smiling now.

That's it for part two. Part one is here, and perhaps one day there will be (gasp)... PART THREE!



As incredibly rugged and manly as I am, sometimes even I need a change of pace from the standard "fly through space shooting space-aliens in space with your space-ship" plot of your normal side-scrolling shooter. So today, instead of spaceships and aliens it's cutesy witches and fairies all the way with Success's 1994 SNES testosterone-reducer, Marchen Adventure Cotton 100%.

There really isn't all that much to explain about Cotton 100%. It's Gradius with an anime witch instead of the Vic Viper, and instead of Options you get tiny forest sprites with death-dealing magic powers. Unlike many side-scrolling shooters, there isn't even a section where you fly upwards or something mind-blowingly innovative like that: strictly left-to-right, this one. That said, it's got some nice touches, so here's a quick run-through.

All you really need to know about the story is that Cotton is a witch who has a fairy friend called Silk, and Cotton wants, desires, lives for only one thing: to eat a kind of (one assumes) delicious magical sweetie called Willows. I think there's also a seperate element of the plot whereby Cotton has been framed for kidnapping some other fairy, but I can't read Japanese so your guess is a good as mine. Unless your guess is something involving the invention of the steam engine or the economic structure of Belgium in the 1870's; in that case, your guess is nowhere near as good as mine.
So off Cotton flies on her little broomstick in search of the mystical and succulent Willows. She may not be humanity's last great hope or anything, but goddamn she really wants those sweets, and selfish greed is as good a motivator as anything. Stage one is some kind of fairy forest, and it truly is an all-out assault designed to surgically penetrate the cuteness-receptors in the brain and turn them into so much congealed glitter and jellied rainbows.

Cotton doesn't receive power-ups in the standard shoot-em-up manner or finding them drifitng through space: instead, she has an experience bar which you can fill up by grabbing the crystals dropped by defeated enemies. Level up, and Cotton's shots become a little more powerful. Sadly, she only has one weapon type for the whole game, but hey ho. It never bothered the tank in Space Invaders. The cuteness is somewhat tempered by the sudden arrival of the stage's mid-boss, a creepy, floating jester's head whose lips have the appearance of an internal organ torn from a large animal and stuck on an Easter egg.

Brr. Well, let's counteract that horror with this little guy:

These flying eyeball monsters are everywhere, and darn sweet they are too, flappin' around, not caring that they're grotesque travesties of nature with poor depth perception. The boss is no such hideous freak, however, because he is a giant pumpkin.

Somehow, he is suspended from a hovering tree branch. Probably best not to question it. Look, just don't mess with him - he's a giant pumpkin, he could crush you like a gnat. Once he's beaten, you get to play a minigame that is very close to my (sterotypically) British heart: TEA TIME. Oh yeah, it's TEA TIME and it is on! Cups of TEA fall from the sky, and rather than avoiding the boiling beverage like any normal person would, you have to manoeuver Cotton underneath them. You're essentially trying to scald a little girl for a small amount of intangible, meaningless points. You sick fuck.

Stage two is a climb up a snowy mountain, shrouded in clouds. Clouds come in many forms: a nice fluffy cumulus, the majestic brushstrokes of a cirrus-filled sky, and or course, the cloud that looks like a baby that's just filled its nappy. Then you shoot said baby-cloud and its bloodshot eyes fly out of its head.

Haunting, I'm sure you'll agree. Speaking of haunted-looking eyes, there are also some flying, living knives:

Their eyes are halfway along their blade, which means every time they stab something, their eyes go into the wound. Truly, a cruel god sits in judgement of Cotton's world. The boss of stage two is nothing less that a baseball-playing snowman.

His expression is one of a (snow)man in deep concentration. And look at those eyebrows! He's the Kenshiro of snowmen. Whatah!
Stage three is set in a castle, and has two main points for discussion: One, it contains a cute little chimera. D'aww. Two, it also contains the most adorable anthropomorphic representaton of all men's ultimate and inescapable fate.

You wouldn't take Lil' Death there seriously if he showed up to claim your immortal soul, would you? The mid-boss is... well, he's something. I think?

I have not one clue what that is supposed to be. Mushroom monster, perhaps? Giant mummified penis? Answers on a postcard, please.
The main boss is a stupid snake thing with a perpetually dazed expression who keeps ramming his head into the ceiling and creating boulders for you to dodge.

After the baseball snowman, he ain't all that.
Stage four next, and it's back to the forest. It's filled with annoying little elves now, however. They're everywhere, firing arrows and generally being fey and annoying like all elves ever. Apart from Santa's elves. They don't have time to be graceful guardians of the forest, because they've got proper jobs, unlike the forest elves. What a bunch of douchebags. As you can see, the elves were starting to get me down until I was rescued by this little guy:

A pumpkin man with a pumpkin head and just the faintest hint of a smile. I wish he'd just be my friend and I didn't have to blast him with my magical powers. The mid-boss, perhaps unsurprisingly given that we're in a forest, is a tree.

For a moment I thought I'd wandered into a Kirby game. Give the tree enough punishment, and he extends his nose-branch, allowing a squirrel to run out and attack you. I shot that squirrel. I shot him good, and I felt good. Anyone who thinks Cotton is less brutal than your normal space-based shooters is a fool. In R-Type or whatever, you're shooting a clear aggressor, usually one with vastly superior firepower. In Cotton, you can fry a squirrel with magical lightning. I know which sounds more brutal to me.
The stage's main boss is a doll with rocket mittens and the ability to detach her head. As you fight, her head gradually becomes a skull, which is what I always imagine happens to ordinary dolls when you close your eyes at night. It's a good job that Cotton is fairly nimble, because it's harder than you might think to avoid a flouncing ballgown.

Stage five is set in an underground lava cave, filled with the fireball-shooting lava pits from every Super Mario game ever. It's a pretty dull level with no new enemies and no real surprises. Its one redeeming feature is the boss, who is a giant lava chicken.

God's greatest gift, the chicken that cooks itself! Judging by the look on the baby chick's face, he has reached Nirvana, or has at least just won ten pounds on a scratchcard. Although... is it just me, or does the lava chicken look like a Spearow from Pokemon?

Stage six is an underwater adventure, but it isn't nearly as irritating as that sounds. There are some bubble jets that push you around and, okay, they're a little annoying, but it's nothing that'll make your capillaries burst with rage or anything. This being an underwater stage the boss is, of course, a crab.

Yes, he fires bubbles at you. Not pictured is the other boss, which is a kind of sea dragon thing that spins around a whole bunch, You're not really missing anything by not seeing him.
Our witchy heroine bursts into the final stage, which is a castle with some questionable decor.

On the left, a supporting pillar made up of naked chicks. On the right, a mirror with a naked chick in it. They look like the furniture you might find in a parallel-universe version of Stringfellows. Cotton flies past a huge mirror, and if videogames have taught me one thing it is that there is always, always an evil doppelganger waiting in the mirror. Sure enough, Cotton's evil mirror twin appears and tries to kill you. No, she doesn't have a goatee.

She's one of the more interesting boss fights, at least, mostly because you're chasing after her/yourself and partly because for someone who is a rubbish at shoot-em-ups as I am, she's at a nice difficulty where it's a challenge but not too hard. Once your twin is dealt with, it's on to the final boss.

It turns out this devil lady was behind everything (I think). In a shocking break with final boss etiquette, she deigns to fight you relatively fairly, with no minions or transformations into giant hell-beasts. She starts off flying around with a shield...

And then she goes all Super Saiyan...

And then she's dead. Cotton ends up with one tiny Willow sweet, a turn of events which does not please her. I think the general plot is that while Cotton was on her mad, selfish quest to collect these sweets, she inadvertantly saved the kingdom. That's the kind of hero I'd like to see more of; the kind that doesn't actually do anything heroic but still wins. Like Flashman. That's right, I just compared a cute little anime girl to one of the true bastards of British literature, and I'd do it again!
And that's your lot. Marchen Adventure Cotton 100% is fun, and goofy, and worth a quick blast if you fancy a change from the normal side-scrolling shoot-em-ups or, like me, you have a strange fixation on pumpkin-based enemies.

Here's the Japanese TV ad for the game.

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