Here’s a bold statement: Gaming nowadays is a serious life-drainer. How so? Fancy completing the latest GTA? Well how about spending the next 300 hours or so cooped up in your bedroom, battering old ladies to death and downloading tuxedos to wear as you skid around town in a stolen Cortina.
Is little Timmy playing Final Fantasy 15? There’s a chance your son will actually pass through puberty before he witnesses the credits rolling up the screen. The next time you see him, you’ll be teaching him to shave and smelling his breath in case he’s sneaking cheeky fags.
The “Mature” gaming scene is no different; once upon a time Dads would spend their lives assembling detailed miniature train sets in a spare room for bizarre and obscure reasons. Nowadays they are wired into World of Warcraft forming broad-band allegiances with complete strangers, screaming orders into a headset while they simultaneously plunge their swords into a dragon’s guts.
At least Mum’s happy, she’s got the TV to herself, and he got rid of that f****** train set.
It wasn’t always like this though, once upon a time a game was over faster than you could say “ten pence” and once you’d blown your wad (of cash) down the arcades you’d meander back home broke with the comfort that simply playing an arcade game wouldn’t sap you of your precious yoof-juice.
Psycho Pigs U.X.B. (Published by US Gold) Converted to Spectrum by Software Creations: Ste L. Cork, Peter Gough, Wayne Blake, Tim Follin Licensed by Jaleco Entertainment (known as Butasan in Japan)
Remember this one in the corner of your local chippy? Yes? Oh you used to play it every Saturday after your Wimpy did you? WELL YOU SIR ARE A LIAR because this game never ever made it to UK shores. While the motive for most arcade conversions is based upon the amount of dosh they hoover up from the trouser pocket, why a major software house such as US GOLD would choose to take a punt on an unknown is puzzling at the very least.
Known in its native Japan as “Butasan” this cutesy farmyard affair was given a serious image overhaul; the pigs, now PSYCHO PIGS, donned biker jackets and tarty billboard advertisements which spawned controversy in the gaming press of the day. Your Sinclair even offered a t-shirt emblazoned with a chainsaw wielding pig! (I wonder if they ever appear on eBay?)
So onto the game…
After a rather slick looking control menu we are treated to a short cut-scene introducing us to the various rank of piggies we are about to encounter. Some wear shades, others have slightly different pixel hairdos, but they all have the same purpose; to explode each other with big catoonish bombs. Like something straight out of Batman these precarious orbs have you ducking for cover as a countdown signals peril on the side of each one. Hang around too long and you’ll be smothered in brown sauce under a lightly toasted blanket on tomorrow’s breakfast table.
As a round begins, your hero wanders in from stage left, briefly highlighted with a blinking outline before he takes his place amongst the throng of porky adversaries he must destroy before he can claim his prize of, well… facing more porky adversaries.
The game arena itself is a rather Spartan affair; bereft of any landmarks or obstacles, your piggy legs it around an ocean of glorious Spectrum colour like a wanderer in some strange fluorescent limbo. Note that there is NO time to relax and smell the truffles as this game is MANIC to the core.
In fact, I love the feel of this game’s chaotic gameplay; during the first few turbulent seconds of a round there are so many bombs being tossed, your hero is inevitably amongst those who end up as sausage meat. Once the dust settles however, you can pick off your prey with precision, always one eye on the countdown of bombs in the local vicinity.
Occasionally the violence in Psycho Pigs is punctuated with a mini bonus round similar to a fair ground game where you bash little mole’s back down their holes with a hammer. In the game’s context you leg it around the screen trampling over pigs heads for points and prizes. A round summary tells you how well you did awarding more points for pigs with sunglasses etc.
And on it goes. There isn’t much more to expand upon with a simple arcade title such as this. Later levels reveal bonus power-ups which provide a plethora of protective goodness. In truth you die so often and with such explosive action, you usually never benefit from these items for any reasonable duration.
So there it is, a simple pork-themed arcade murder fest in vomit inducing Technicolor. If target renegade is the rib-eye steak of the Spectrum action scene, think of this as poor man’s gammon; quick and nasty with a slice of pineapple draped over the top.
Give it a chance you filthy animals.
Retro Yak Dave says: “Here is an example of the influence of the game’s title and cover art; the reason I never bought Psycho Pigs when I was young was that the front cover of the box made me feel a little uncomfortable! Although the scary looking pig wearing a leather jacket with menacing trotters might have been considered much “cooler” to young people than the original chibi style art of Butusan; it certainly didn’t appeal to me and was enough for me not to even pick up the box. I think I’d have given it a go if it had stuck with the “cutesy” route (a la “Bubble Bobble”, “New Zealand Story”, etc). I may fire it up on the emulator though just to say I played it.”