Now the Longscar Centre’s burned down….

For those of you familiar with the lovely seaside resort of Seaton Carew, you’ll notice that one of its major “eyesores” went up in flames yesterday. And for those of you unfamiliar with it, it was a major eyesore that had blighted the main part of Seaton Carew since its closure in 2009.

You could almost hear the cheering from Clavering.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get to Seaton to take my own photos, but thankfully, Chris sent me these…

I won’t speculate on what happened, why it happened, or any monetary exchange that may occur because of it – that’s for someone else to decide (and, of course, social media), so instead I’d like to go through some of the memories I have of the place.

The news said it closed for good in 2009. That’s probably right, as Coasters, the pub, remained open, but long before then were the arcades. I’d spend many a saved-up 2p and 10p in this place, and if pocket money could afford it, even an odd pound coin.

This place was one of the largest arcades in Seaton.

As you went through the door, past the rickety old racing machines (where the horses would judder along badly maintained rails, and you’d bet on which one made it to the end first – if you got it right, it would spit coins at you),

On the left, there was the “Prize Bingo”. This was great for the mams and aunties. I don’t think I ever went with my mam, but certainly went with my aunty when I was about 13, this would have been the first time I went there, it can’t have been log after it opened.

On the right were the arcades, on the far, right were the miniature bowling alleys. More on them in a bit

So, as I mentioned, the first time I went there was with my aunty. Now, she used to read the blog, finding out what I get up to, but apparently they stopped reading many years ago because I swore too much. I think that was a polite way of saying I’m a disappointing nephew. Ahem, Anyway, I knew that we went there, because I can still remember seeing the mechanical 7-segment display on the wall, showing the jackpot. No LEDs for us, not in those days!

I remember one of the very first times I was let out on my own, to an event. I must have been about 14 or 15,, and a slightly younger lad called Ste was with me. PJ and Duncan (as they were known back then), were headlining a local radio roadshow.. Of course, I cared little for their music, and while hordes of screaming girls belted their lungs out at the sight of the wee Geordie Grinners, myself and Ste got up to other activities, such as playing Ridge Racer in there.

When the whole Ridge Racer craze died a few years later, games started evolving, and Ridge Racer disappeared. They invested in new, large generic arcade cabinets, what you could sit down on, the controls would be separated from the game by about 4 feet, but the monitor would be comfortably large enough to see. One all-time favourite on here was, of course, Track and Field, the 1983 Konami classic. The original game used buttons, these cabinets used joysticks and buttons, making the whole running bit a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, due to the physical nature of the game, the joystick would always be broken, and the buttons unresponsive. Of course, you can’t find that out until you’ve deposited your 10p.

Other machines had more obvious faults. A “Punchout” had one of its monitors just showing a bright line (The flyback transformer was loose. Ironically, sometimes giving the machine a good thwack would bring it back to life.)

The years went on, and as I got older, I frequented it a lot more, usually with Chris. I went there on the day that I got my GCSE results. You know, to take the incredible feeling of disappointment away.

By this time, It was obvious to see that the arcade part of this place was beginning to go down the tubes. The mini-bowling had stopped working, part of the arcade got replaced with a tiny indoor go-karting track, and the few arcade machines that were there, fell more and more into disrepair. On my last ever visit, I noticed that even my beloved “Track + Field” had a board fault, as the colours were all wrong – the track showing as white background with black lines.

Shortly after, the arcade was gone. Rumour has it that the games were sold off really cheaply.

The only place that remained open was the pub “Coaster’s”. I don’t recall ever going in it, but I do have memories of a manager (who shall remain nameless) at an old place I worked at, offering to buy us curry every Friday night. Naturally, it was free food, so we all agreed. He’d disappear for about two hours, get absolutely legless in Coaster’s, drive back (hence the anonymity), and serve us all up with lukewarm curry! While I absolutely do not condone drink driving, it’s safe today what these Friday nights were the catalyst for my love of the spicy stuff – from takeaways anyway.

The manager retired, and Coasters closed. I don’t think there was any coincidence in this., but you never know.

And so, that concludes my brief history of The Longscar centre. Rather like The Wesley, I have a feeling it’s going to be even more of an eyesore than what it was beforehand…

‘Running through Russia” is a joke of a game…

Or rather, it’s a “joke game”.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a fan of Steam, the PC gaming “platform”, for want of a better word. I’ve made no secrets about it, leading to many a good long argument with old work colleagues (“DOWN WITH STEAM!”), however, there was one game that caught my eye, thanks to an article that popped up on some facebook group, and as you should have worked out by now, it’s name is “running through Russia”

Firstly, onto the gameplay…. Jump. Avoid bears. Collect bottles.

Secondly…. er, everything else. At the start, I mentioned it’s a joke game, because that’s exactly what it is, and the author actually states this in the opening screen. It feel like it’s been knocked up in half an hour, as the first tutorial in some really badly written game editor. No effort has been spared with this one.

Maybe it’s a two-fingers up at Steam’s policy on indie games or achievements, I don’t know, but it’ll be difficult to find a game where you unlock so many achievements (4,096 of them) for doing so little.

Every time you jump, (which is the whole premise of the game), you unlock an achievement. Jump 10 times, 10 achievements. as you can see from the screenshot above, they were streaming in. All you need to do is jump over 4,000 times, and you’ve unlocked the achievements.

The game has progressed since its initial release to add some “skill” element (collect 10 bottles in 1 run, etc). Not sure why these were added, as they’re also extremely easy, and if you do decide to play to unlock all of the achievements, you’ll inevitably get them anyway.

In conclusion…

Is it worth the 63p I paid for it? No.
Would I recommend buying it? Unless you like watching steam achievements pop up every second, no.
Do I feel like I’ve wasted 102 minutes of my life unlocking all of the achievements? Absolutely. But then, I spent 117 minutes of my life watching Ant-man at the pictures.

Obligatory “Pokemon Go” blog post

How do you get 100 Pikachus on a bus? Pokemon.

And, if you haven’t heard that joke before, you’ve been under a rock for the past 15 years, or you’ve not sat next to me for any period of time recently, because every time someone comes out with a Pokemon Go comment, I come out with that belter of a joke. And by “Belter”, I mean that I should be belted hard across the face. With a chair.

But it still gets a laugh from somebody. Sigh.

I know, I’m getting old, my knees are hurting from jumping on and off of these bandwagons, but this is one that I couldn’t pass, even though it’s possibly the “saddest” I’ve ever even got partially involved in.

Pokemon started off as a cash-in for Nintendo. A card game, highly successful console game, and of course, a long running cartoon. I personally paid absolutely no interest in any of these, so I had no idea what the hell Pokemon go was supposed to be.

So, what’s the premise of the game? Well, if you don’t know by now, you really should have stayed under that rock you’ve just crawled out from. You play the game on your phone. It starts off by having a street map of where you’re currently stood, and you walk around the area. Literally, walk. With your own two feet. Every so often, your phone will vibrate, and in the local vacinity, is a “pokemon” (short for pocket monster in case anyone’s still actually wondering), you click on the little monster, and it’ll appear on your phone screen, with whatever your camera is pointing at, as the background, so it looks like the pokemon is there in front of you. Obviously, when you move your phone, the pokemon moves with it, and you have to flick pokeballs to catch it. Sometimes, some pokemon are very common, and you’ll get sick of seeing them. They’re very easy to catch. Others are larger, and will run around, causing you to turn your phone 360 degrees, chasing after it, and often meaning you’ll miss with a pokeball and lose it, and some will break out, meaning you have to throw again to catch it

With me so far? No? That’s OK, neither am I, but I shall persevere.

The crafty thing is….. you only have so many pokeballs! and you have to earn more (along with other collectables) by visiting Pokestops. These are actual real life locations, usually landmarks, meaning if you want to actually get anywhere in the game, you have to get off your fat arse and get them. You can add “lures” to these real life locations, which means more imaginary pokemon visit there… and therefore more actual real life people who also play the game. And it works.

Some of you may remember in the Youtube video I posted a couple of months ago, where me and Chris went past “Jimmy’s Green”. I laughed because I thought it couldn’t possibly be a land mark. Well, here it is, swarming with Pokemon Go players…

Photo courtesy of ARD Photography
Photo courtesy of ARD Photography

I have a feeling this will be the same for areas up and down the country.

Here’s a couple of screenshots tro try and illustrate what it’s all about… This is me, walking across the street, and this little thing pops up in front of me…..
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… I have to flick the red ball towards it. If I hit it. I’ll capture it, and get points towards levelling up. The more you level up, the more you can capture easily, I presume.

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And here’s a wild Rattata I caught whilst sitting on the toilet. I could get him arrested for watching me like that.

And where would I be without the obligatory “Playing the game whilst pissed” photo…

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It’s one in the morning, As you can see, the bloody thing was to the left of me, as I was too busy trying to take the screenshot whilst walking after several pints that it had bounced out of view. I wasted so many pokeballs trying to catch that fecker, but a Hartlepudlian never gives up…

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Questions? You’ll have a few. But then again, too few to mention. So I’ll mention them for you.

“So, is there any point to the game?” Yes. You have to catch all of them. I think there are something like 136, and some are much rarer than others. Expect to do a lot of travelling if you’re going to attempt this.

“Aren’t you too old to be playing this”? Yes, and no

Yes, as in, I sort-of secretly play it. Obviously, you sort of have to wave your phone around flicking the screen at certain intervals, so I sort of do it in secret. I’ll load the app up when no-one’s around. I certainly wouldn’t go and hunt down a popular pokestop and join a group of people playing it. No, as in you’re never too old to have a bit of a walk, and if it adds to the “point” of the walk, I can’t see any harm in it. Remember, there’s no upper age limit on games (only perceived upper limits), and if I want to play it, I will. Though now that I’ve written this blog, I’ll probably never play it again.

“Where are the best pokestops in Hartlepool?” There’s loads in the town centre, as you’d expect. There’s quite a few on the Marina, especially around the lock gates (watch where you’re walking!), apparently, there’s 11 in Ward Jackson Park, and a load on the Headland.

Well, I think that covers most things. Comment if you have any other questions. I’m going for a Weedle in next door’s hedge.

It’s that time of year, now that spring is in the air…

Ah yes. Spring is in the air. You can tell that because the weather forecast has just put out a weather warning for bloody snow. Well, not snow with blood in, because that would be awful, but you know what I mean. March is always an interesting time of year, because it’s the time where I say I’m going to start doing something producting, but then stay inside every single nmight and laugh inanely, as it appears that Euro Truck Simulator has given me a huge dildo to deliver.

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Hur hur hur.

Yeah, so. Been quiet again around these pparts. I’ve yet to test out my mobile blogging device. If you missed the two test posts I made, then oh, boy, you missed a treat!

What I’ve mostly been doing is behind the scenes stuff. I’m in the process of uploading all of the old photos from flickr onto here. I was half-way through writing a long, drawn-out process about why they were hosted on flickr in the first place, but not even I want to read that bollocks. Let’s just say WordPress is much better than it used to be.

I have an interesting few days up ahead.

The Steam Easter Indie sale. My purchases.

EDIT MARCH 2017: No doubt there’ll be a steam sale in the next month or so, and in the off-chance someone finds this during the same, here’s my update on what I still think of these games…

So, for a few more days, Steam are having what they’re calling their “Indie” sale. These are games what are written by individuals, or small independent companies. My love for them dates back to the days where another word for them was “public domain”. and the games were on the Amiga. I would save up what little pocket money I had, and rush down to the now defunct “Peak Computers” in York Road. to pick up 3.5″ floppies, with some of the latest “PD” games on them.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and my love for the independent developer has not died, and as this is a sale, I thought I’d buy a few. I’m brassic for the next 5 weeks, so this couldn’t have came at a worse time, but I’ve still picked up a couple up.

First up… “Thomas Was Alone”, in the sale for £2.99.

This obviously comes out of the “Less Is More” stable of graphics, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Movement is fluid, as you’d expect from 4-sided polygons, music is perfectly acceptable, but the highlight of the game is strangely the narration, and the fact that each block has its own story. Narration is provided by Danny Wallace, someone who I have actually heard of. As with all of these types of games, you’ll think you’re stuck on a level, then get fed up and quit, only for you to sit there for the next 20 minutes, staring at your desktop, working out how to do this. You eventually have an idea, you load it straight back up, you complete the level, and the circle of life is complete.

MARCH 2017: I don’t really play this one anymore. It’d been a good 18 months since I last gave it a blast, but I do remember getting into it slightly. Probably worth getting if it appears cheaper.

Hokay… next up… “Garry’s Mod”, which set me back a whopping £1.49

I… I just don’t get it. It seems insanely popular, but I just can’t seem to be able to do anything at all with it, and where’s the fun in that? I spawned some balloons, which I popped. Some crows and seagulls, which I shot. A table, which I threw about a bit, and that’s practically been it. Maybe I’m just reading too much into a sandbox game which is many years old, but I can’t see the point in it? Is there any point? There’s even Steam achievements that claim “2 hours of your life wasted”. Maybe I’m just too old for this shit? See, now if I was 4 when this game was released, the little-me would have embraced it with open arms. The 33-years-old me keeps thinking “Well, I really could be doing the pots right now. Or getting myself a life”. naaah, the latter will never happen.

Well, I really hated this one, as I couldn’t get anything to work as it was supposed to. Currently uninstalled, and I don’t geel any great need to ever go back to it.

And so… onto “Super Hexagon”…

Well, this one set me back a silly amount of money. 67p. to put that into context, a can of coke out of the vendy at “Newest Employment Palace” sets me back 70p. therefore, if I can get 30 seconds worth of enjoyment out of this game, then it’s been worth it. And you, know what, I haven’t managed to get any more than what’s stated above – 24 seconds! Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily! It is very, very difficult. For me, anyway. If you’ve got the hand-eye co-ordination of a nettle, you’re going to struggle with this. And that’s its beauty, as strange as it may seem.

You control a pointer on the screen, which you rotate by the cursor keys, and you have to avoid hitting the bright lines. Seems simple enough, except the screen is constantly spinning, and the playfield is spinning in the opposite direction. The screen pulsates to the sound of the music, and everything gets faster, at more of an angle the further you get into it. I’d say, the average game length for me is 12 seconds. It’s something I can’t describe in text.

Before I loaded it up tonight to get the screenshots, I was going to put it in the “This is shit” pile, but then I broke my record by a few seconds, then a few seconds more, and those small time differences actually gave me a sense of achievement. Last time I felt that good after 20 seconds of action, I was [insert sexually explicit joke here]

MARCH 2017: Worth every single penny of what I paid. I decided to tackle the hardest levels first, then work back, as it made the easy levels so much simpler. Up to about 75 seconds on the easy level now. Get it, if it reappears.

Last, but not least, “Puddle”.

I do like my physics games. I’d put them up there with driving games as one of my favourite types of game. the premise is simple. you control fluid, you tell it where to go by rotating the game screen using the cursor keys. The more fluid you get to the exit, the better your score. If fluid leaves the screen, for instance, it gets caught somewhere, and it disappears off the top of the board, you lose it. Each level requires you to finish with a certain amount of fluid. Go below this, and it’s game over. Naturally, there are also obstacles that will evaporate fluid, making it just that little more tricky.

There’s plenty of worlds to explore, and the graphics are the best out of the bunch I’ve purchased of the last couple of days. Despite it being pretty much a physics engine simulation, it just feels too linear. You can only turn the board to a certain angle, which invariably leaves you with large smatterings of stuff everywhere, which naturally disappears off the top of the screen. I might just be in the early stages of the game. I don’t know if I can be bothered getting much further.

MARCH 2017: Got bored of this one really easily too. Not for me, I’m afraid.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Get these while they’re hot. Or cheap.

THE BINDING OF ISAAC

Have I mentioned this before? If not, get it. Now. 99p. This game is huge, yet you’ll actually struggle to see much of it. Think “Atic Atac”, but with poo jokes and random maps. I bought this ages ago, and have never been able to take screenshots from it. Odd.

MARCH 2017: Yeeeeeeah, it’s still OK I suppose. I could never get anywhere wit it, and it gets repetitive very quickly, even though the maps are different each time.

10,000,000

I would love this, but it falls into the all-too-obvious trap of getting easier and easier the more you play it. It’s not that you actually get better, it’s that the items you unlock just make the game easier. I’ve not played it for a while though, as I know I’m literally a couple of playthroughs off getting 10,000,000 points to complete the game (hence its name). I’d completely write it off, if it wasn;’t for the fact one of the tunes in the game is remarkably similar to “Monday“, one of my favourite Amiga chiptunes of all time. Also, this one, known as “intro33.mod“>. I’m posting it here, as it’s taken me 20 years to find out its actual name. I just knew it as the jolly little tune that played when I inserted my Project X disk, with its blue handwritten label, and the “Future Zone” logo emblazoned on the disk shutter. I digress.

MARCH 2017: I still really enjoy this game, and thankfully it’s still available on Steam, so if there’s a similar sale in 2017, I’d recommend getting it..

I was going to put a couple more in, but there’s no point. All I have to say is that everyone on the planet, whether, to mis-quote Johnny Mathis, you’re white, brown, yellow, it doesn’t matter. you just have to own Audiosurf, Chime or Beat Hazard.