Escaping in games and chocolate for Easter

Happy Easter! I hope you’re having a lovely bank holiday and are reading this while juggling a controller in one hand and a chocolate egg in the other. A long weekend is the perfect excuse for doing nothing but playing video games while high on sugar.

I’ve written about video games featuring various animals associated with Easter, but I struggled to come up with something new because there are only so many digital chickens and bunnies you can cover on one blog. I thought about covering sweet-treats in games instead but I just made myself hungry. And while I appreciated a friend’s suggestion of an article about resurrected series, I’m not sure it’s entirely appropriate (although I can appreciate the joke!).

Instead, I’m going to do something a little different and go closer to home. We don’t have my stepson with us this year so my other-half and I have an entire weekend where we don’t have to be responsible parents. We’re therefore going to make the most of the next few days, and here’s what Pete and I will be getting up to.

All weekend

It’s not going to be all about video games, for me at least. While Pete is busy sleeping in late and then drinking tea, reading the news and pondering the state of the world, I’ll be out on the treadmill racking up some more distance for StrideQuest. This is an event currently taking place for SpecialEffect and participants are aiming to walk or run either 50 or 100-miles before the end of May. I’m off to a good start after reaching over five-miles yesterday and you can find out more about what’s happening in a post on Monday.

My reward for all that exercise will be plenty of chocolate. Rather than get each other Easter eggs this year, we decided to buy a load of good stuff from Hotel Chocolat as a treat and the fridge is fully stocked. We’ve got a little bit of everything, from your standard fruit-and-nut to raspberry pannacotta sweets, and I’m most looking forward to devouring the white chocolate truffles first. I’m sure there’ll also be a trip to the corner-shop at some point to pick up some Creme Eggs.

Friday

Our good friends Chris Durston and the_Ghost_Owl have been taking part in Brain in Hand’s Minecraft Marathon for World Autism Awareness Week since 10:00 yesterday morning and we’ll be cheering them on again over breakfast. The team are raising funds and awareness for Autistica Play and have already more than doubled their original target of £400. Join them on Twitch as they make some amazing creations for this year’s theme of ‘space’ and chat about everything from wearing glasses to eating chocolate.

Once the 24-hour marathon is over, Pete and I will finally get around to starting escape-room-in-a-box Hack Forward. I received this towards the end of last year after backing the Kickstarter campaign for Key Enigma’s project in February 2020 but we haven’t yet opened it – and we need to as soon as possible, as the team’s next campaign is now live. Calling Card will see players tracking down a murderer across the internet and you can find out more details, along with a link to a demo, in this post.

Saturday:

After spending the first day of the long weekend lazing around the house, I’m going to drag my other-half out for a walk around a nearby wood regardless of how much he complains. Spring is the perfect time for a stroll through the trees providing the weather holds out for long enough. There’s a nice five-kilometre route which takes you through fields, past ponds and ends in a beer garden, but unfortunately we’ll have to bring our own beer as everything is still shut for the lockdown.

Our 90-day challenge for GameBlast21 continues and on Saturday evening, I’ll be streaming a new full-motion video (FMV) game. I Saw Black Clouds was released by Ghost Dog Productions on Tuesday so get your popcorn ready and join us on Twitch for an interactive movie about an unexpected death, dark secrets and supernatural elements. I love FMV adventures and if it’s anywhere near as good as The Dark Side of the Moon was last month, then we’re in for a great night.

Sunday:

Friend-of-the-blog Phil will be taking over the Later Levels’ Twitch channel on Sunday afternoon as he streams what is likely to be the final part of Days Gone. Although I don’t tend to play zombie games myself, I do enjoy watching other people and I’ve really enjoyed the story so far. Will Deacon and Sarah stop competing to be the most annoying character? Will we get to see more of Rikki? Will Phil be able to finish of the final hordes and finally get that platinum trophy?

I’ll be watching the stream to find out while I’m cooking a Sunday roast. It wouldn’t be Easter without lamb for lunch – but sadly, our local supermarket didn’t have anything that wasn’t the size of an entire sheep so we’ve had to go for beef instead. Pete won’t complain as long as he gets a mountain of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. If we’ve managed to scoff all the chocolate, I’m also going to make a Victoria sponge so we can chill on the sofa with tea and cake.

Monday:

After meeting Darkshoxx during a stream last October, we’re going to get a chance to meet him as he’s moving to the UK this weekend. We’ve made up a box of typically-British food including Curly Wurlies, Jammie Dodgers and Marmite to welcome him to his new home, along with a few puzzle books to keep him occupied during the ten-day isolation period. We’ll obviously be observing all the necessary lockdown rules while dropping this off to him and will have to make do with waving through a window but it will be good to see him.

Once we’re back home, we’ve got another escape-room-in-a-box to try: The Balthazar Stone from The Mystery Agency. This was another reward received from a Kickstarter campaign backed last August and features a curious wooden chest, which must be unlocked to find the stone and break its ancient curse. I’ll then be starting The 11th Hour after completing The 7th Guest last month and receiving it as a gift from Darkshoxx, and we may even treat ourselves to a cheeky Chinese takeaway.

So that’s our Easter summed up in one post. What have you got planned for the weekend? Whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a great time!

Hop to it: bunnies in video games

It’s Easter! There may be a lot of other stuff going on in the world right now but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment to celebrate the start of spring. The days are getting lighter, the weather is getting warmer, and our gardens are full baby birds and budding flowers.

In past years I’ve shared some egg-cellent characters and feathery protagonists, so what do we have lined up this time around? This post has been written in honour of the awesome Luke from Hundstrasse after he sent me a bizarre game for my PlayStation 2 last month which features an indestructible rabbit. So from creatures who want to become famous stars to others who just want to save the world, let’s take a look at some of the best bunnies in video games.

1992: Tiny Toon Adventures: Bab’s Big Break

Tiny Toon Adventures, video game, Game Boy, Babs' Big Break, rabbit, Plucky Duck, Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, Hamton

This is probably one of the only platformers I’ve ever completed, and I did so numerous times on my Game Boy as a kid back in the early nineties. The player takes control of Buster Bunny and friends as they attempt to prevent Montana Max from thwarting Bab Bunny’s dreams of becoming a big star. The thing I remember most about the title was its mini-games and spending hours gambling gems on ‘Montana Mash’ – which probably wasn’t the most suitable pastime for a ten-year old.

1993: Sam & Max Hit the Road

Sam & Max, Hit the Road, rabbit, dog, detectives, Sam, Max

Although he retains a few characteristics consistent with a bunny such as white fur and big ears, Max’s disposition is somewhat different. This ‘hyperkinetic, three-foot rabbity thing’ is unhinged and uninhibited, preferring to use violence to solve problems rather than more peaceful methods. But that’s why we love him! He shows a huge amount of enthusiasm for new experiences, isn’t afraid to jump in at the deep end and always has an energy level like a toddler on a bag of Smarties.

1994: Jazz Jackrabbit

Jazz Jackrabbit, video game, rabbit, platform, sky, cloud, bird, bullets

A platformer with plenty of jumping and a story based on the tale of The Tortoise and the Hare could possibly be the best game out there for a bunny. In this title, an evil mastermind called Devan Shell starts conquering planets and kidnaps Carrotus princess Eva Earlong; so hero Jazz Jackrabbit searches for clues about her imprisonment and eventually saves his planet from the army of Turtle Terrorists. I’m not sure I can take any more bad puns so I’m going to leave this entry on the list there.

2003: Whiplash

Whiplash, video game, rabbit, weasel, chain

I hadn’t heard of this before Luke sent it to me but I can’t wait to try it. Let’s see if you’re as bemused by the plot overview as I was: weasel Spanx is chained to an indestructible rabbit called Remond and they must find a way to escape from an evil testing laboratory. The RSPCA, the Research Defense Society and the Police Federation of England & Wales were apparently shocked by the depictions of cruelty in animal product testing – despite the whole premise of the title as being against it.

2006: Rayman Raving Rabbids

Rayman Raving Rabbids, video game, Rabbids, rabbits, chicken

I bet these creatures were the first you thought of when I said this was going to be a post about rabbits in video games! These wild animals like to cause a whole bunch of mayhem, speak gibberish and yell ‘BWAH!’ whenever they experience an adrenaline rush. They were originally cast as the series’ antagonists but, due to their level of popularity, they eventually became the protagonists in Rabbids Go Home three years later and feature in a whole bunch of other media. Babs Bunny would be jealous.

2014: Five Nights at Freddy’s

Five Nights at Freddy's, video game, rabbit, face, Bonnie

Now this is one rabbit you really don’t want to meet. His creator has confirmed that the character ‘does not abide by the rules of time, space or physics, even going so far as to say: ‘The original Bonnie gave me nightmares. That was the only one out of the whole series.’ He might initially come across as a purple bunny who wants to be a rock-star, but between the hours of midnight and 06:00 when he’s on free-roaming mode, Bonnie would love nothing better than to forcefully stuff you into a bear suit.

Don’t be hopping mad if your favourite rabbit character didn’t make it on to today’s list. Find yourself some-bunny to play video games with and have a great Easter Monday.

Fowl play: chickens in video games

It’s Easter! For those in the UK, I hope you’re having a lovely bank holiday and are reading this while juggling a controller in one hand and copious amounts of chocolate in the other. A long weekend is the perfect excuse for doing nothing but playing video games and eating Easter eggs.

Last year I paid honour to the oval objects by writing a post to give you all sorts of eggy-inspiration when it came to choosing your next game to play. This time however, I’m going to mix it up and focus another thing it wouldn’t be Easter without: chicks. From mothers trying to save their eggs to fowls with guns to birds with a grudge, read on to find out about the best chickens in gaming.

1982: Chicken

The earliest release on our list today, Chicken is a modified version of the Atari arcade game Avalanche. Instead of catching falling rocks with a controllable set of paddles you’re now in control of a hen who’s trying to catch her eggs in a basket after a fox pushes them from the top of the screen. If one reaches the ground it’ll hatch into a chick; and if you step on one of your children, the farmer will appear and kick you off the playing field. There are so many clichés and metaphors here that I’m not entirely sure where to start.

1993: Alfred Chicken

Eggs have been disappearing in the wild and wacky town of Pecklesville and it’s up to our hero to save the day. Alfred Chicken has amazing abilities such as walking, jumping, pecking and falling, and must use these to overcome bizarre levels full of balloons, telephones and cheese. I’m not sure what the worst element of this game is: the fact that none of it makes sense, the terrible MIDI music, or because the protagonist doesn’t look anything like a chicken despite his name.

2009: Chicken Blaster

If you fancy getting out your lightgun and reliving the days of Duck Hunt, then this Wii release might be for you: there are chickens and you blast them. Sadly though they can’t really fly away like ducks and therefore have a very limited chance of escape, which means you’ll kill an awful lot of the creatures while trying to work your way through all eight levels. I like my KFC as much as the next gamer but I’m now starting to feel a little uncomfortable about including this game on the list.

2013: The Sims 3: Fowl and Feathers Chicken Coop

Fancy making some feathered friends in an add-on for The Sims 3? You can go and talk to your chicken about important things (such as why they decided to cross the road) and if you’re lucky they’ll receive some Universal Enlightenment. If you’re not so lucky however, you’ll run into something far worse. Selecting the ‘Fight with Charles the Evil Chicken’ option causes the glowing-eyed fowl to viciously attack your Sim and it’s up to you to show him who rules the roost.

2016: EGG-K-47

The eagle-eyed of you may notice that this title also appeared on last year’s list, but I wanted to bring it back again for two very special reasons. First, you play as a chicken armed with a gun: pick up eggs as ammo for your weapon, fight off the zombies and collect all the golden eggs to continue on your epic journey through this single-bird shooter. And second, I wanted an excuse to be able to use the phrase ‘clucking rampage’. That’s comedy gold

2018: Chickens Madness

This release is included in today’s post for no reason other than the Steam trailer (which isn’t the one above, because I couldn’t seem to find it on YouTube). I’m not sure what I like about it the most: perhaps the group of kids around ten seconds in and their enthusiastic interpretation of the game’s title. Or maybe the dancing teenager in the next scene, or even the chicken opera singer. I actually have no idea what Chicken Madness is about though because I was so distracted.

Bonus: The Legend of Zelda

Ever since the introduction of a Cucco in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a large group of indestructible chickens will appear and gang up on Link if he attacks one of them enough times. They won’t stop until he flees the area in fear or painfully perishes in a flurry of pecking beaks. I think it’s clear from the other entries on today’s list just how poorly mistreated chickens in video games have been over the years, so I can’t say I blame the Cucco’s Revenge Squad for their actions.



Hopefully this selection of games hasn’t ruffled your feathers too much (ahem). Let us know what you’re playing this Easter in the comments below, and make sure you eat plenty of chocolate!

Egg-cellent video games for Easter

Easter is here and we know all what the best thing about it is: eggs. Fluffy little chicks hatch from them; they’re used to make all sorts of cake; and the sweet variety provide chocolate for us to munch on while we’re gaming throughout the bank holidays this weekend. And not only that, they feature in some classic titles.

Last year we discussed the best secrets in video games, but this time around we’re focusing on eggs themselves and making them the star of the show. From hard-boiled characters to hatchling dinosaurs to chickens with a grudge, read on for eggy-inspiration if you’re looking for something to play this Easter weekend.

Chuckie Egg

This classic was a ‘game of skill’ released in 1983. It’s also one of the most innocent in the list: Hen-House Harry must collect 12 eggs positioned in each level before a timer reaches zero, collecting piles of seed before they’re eaten by chickens for extra points. It’s worth a play just to hear the rendition of The Birdie Song over the title screen (a little bit of this, a little bit of that and shake your bum).

Dino Eggs

Players stepped into the shoes of Time Master Tim in this 1983 release to collect dinosaur eggs and rescue tiny dinosaurs. Make sure you avoid the snakes, flying creatures and the worst enemy of them all: Dino Mom. Physical contact with any animal would cause our hero to become contaminated and devolve into a prehistoric spider, unless he returned to the transport force field before a timer run out.

Dizzy – The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure

This 1987 title was the first featuring Dizzy – who started off as a face with hands and feet, but then changed to an egg when the developers accepted that everybody thought he was one. It’s up to our oval hero to roll through the land of Katmandu while searching for five items needed to make a potion to defeat the evil wizard Zaks. This was a tough game to crack (pun intended) with only three lives, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a challenge.

Egg Venture

The aim of this 1997 arcade game was extremely simple: ‘shoot bad things’ and ‘avoid shooting bad things’. Each level involved a series of missions such as shooting frying pans instead of eggs, protecting egg scuba divers from piranhas and firing an egg’s submarine through the sea. Expect to have nightmares about CGI eggs with faces and floating hands after playing this one.

Egg Mania: Eggstreme Madness

This 2002 puzzler was Tetris in reverse: instead of laying down shapes to create rows and eliminate them from your screen, the blocks are instead used to create a tower to reach a hot-air balloon. You’d expect an egg-heavy game from all the mentions in the title but this only relates to the characters and so it might not give you your Easter fix. But if you’re sick of eggs after working through the releases in our selection, it could be for you.

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg

The peaceful world of Morning Land, where the Chicken inhabitants live in harmony, is shattered when Dark Raven and his army of crows cover the world in a blanket of eternal night. Billy Hatcher must obtain the Legendary Chicken Suit to begin a journey to free the six Chicken Elders and stop his nemesis from hatching the Giant Egg to receive ultimate power. I think you’re going to be all chickened out after playing this 2003 title.

EggK47

There’s something strange going on at Terror Taste Farm: the mean, old, greedy farmers have killed all the chickens… except one, who’s now armed with a gun. Pick up eggs as ammo for your weapon, fight off the zombies and collect all the golden eggs to continue on your epic journey through this single-bird shooter. The Steam reviews aren’t entirely positive, but it’s one for you if you want to go on a clucking rampage.

Hell

Created by Babylon Brooks for the A Game By Its Cover jam last year, here’s a weird little title about cooking, rebirth and punishment. It might seem simple with the player cracking eggs into a frying pan as the game starts; but drop one onto the floor and you’ll set off a bizarre chain of events that could see you ending up in the underworld. If you fancy something small and strange this Easter, Hell could be worth a download.

K.S.-n-Kickin

I’d never heard about this title before completing research for this post: why has nobody ever mentioned there was a Kinder Surprise game made for Ferrero with music by Phats & Small and N-Trance? It’s like every 90s dream came true at once. Apologies for the poor quality of the video (and the amount of swearing); there isn’t much footage of K.S-n-Kickin online, which goes to show I’m not the only one who wasn’t aware of it.



Hopefully this selection of games hasn’t scrambled your brain (badum tish). Let us know what you’re playing this Easter in the comments below, and make you eat plenty of chocolate!

Gamers blog party: spring 2018 invitation

Both Easter and our GameBlast18 stream are only a few weeks away now, and the anticipation for chocolate and video games is building. But before that, it’s time for the first blog party of 2018 here at Later Levels – there’s no better way to set yourself up for the week and meet some new blogging friends.

The rules are simple:

🎉   Arrive at the party: don’t be shy – say hello and introduce yourself in the comments below! Give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers and let us know what you’re all about.

🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written during the past three months and choose your favourite or one which was fun to write. Leave a link to it in your comment and explain why you’ve picked it.

🎉   Show us your GameBlast18 spirit: a gamers’ marathon is nothing without great video games and good food. Tell us which game and Easter treat you’ve brought along with you to share at the party.

🎉   Mingle: grab yourself a drink, some chocolate and a controller, and get to know your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent sites and meet new bloggers.

🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open until 06:00 GMT on Tuesday, 13 March 2018 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus we’ll be sharing your posts on our social media channels!

These blog party events are our way of giving something back to the amazing WordPress community and showing our appreciation for all of your support. We’ve met some lovely people and talented writers over the past year; here’s a little thank you and a way of finding some great blogs you may not have come across already.

Enjoy – and excuse me while I go grab some more batteries for the controllers!

Question of the Month: April 2017 edition

We’re back with our next question of the month, where we attempt to answer a quandary that has been taxing the gaming community since it first picked up a controller. We’re battling it out with our friends and blogging neighbours in order to find the ultimate response in 100 words or less – and we’re asking you to decide on the best by voting in our poll.

But first, let’s take a look at last month’s question and find out who the winner is!

Last month’s results: which video game has the best soundtrack?

We received 22 votes in total – a slight increase on our first question of the month in February so not bad at all. We also had some good answers from members of the community who opted to enter their own choices rather than choose one in our poll:

  • Brütal Legend – from PIXELDUMP GAMING
  • Hotline Miami – from Wakalapi
  • Super Metroid – from Imtiaz at Power Bomb Attack
  • The Flame in the Flood – anonymous submittal
  • The Legend of Zelda – from My Gaymer Blog
  • Virginia – from Rob at I Played the Game!

  • As for which of our contenders won: it was Final Fantasy IX (nominated by Tim from GeekOut South-West) with 25% of the votes. A big thank you to everyone who voted! Now let’s see the competition heat up for the next question…

    April’s question: what’s the best Easter egg within a video game?

    We’ve decided to go in a sweet direction this month seeing as Easter will soon be upon us. We all love finding secrets within games, surprise codes or nods to the classics, so it’s time to figure out which is the best of the bunch. Let’s reveal our contenders for the trophy..

    Answer 1:   ‘React Gwen’s Head’ in Borderlands 2

    Nathan says: “For the best Easter egg in a video game, I went for Borderlands 2 as the game is full of them! My favourite was the reference to the film Se7en. As you explore The Dust, you come across a shelter with a box that says ‘Press (insert button here) to open’ which reveals a skull wearing a blond wig as Handsome Jack shouts ‘What’s in the box!’. You then get a random elemental weapon called Gwen’s Head which is the name of Brad Pitt’s wife in the film.”

    Answer 2:   ‘Romero’s head’ in Doom II: Hell on Earth

    Kevin is a geek and proud of it: no matter the situation, no matter the environment or the people around him, you’ll hear him discuss novels, games and films with anyone who’ll listen. He’ll also discuss his answer if you ask him nicely and you can find out why he chose Doom II: Hell on Earth on The Mental Attic.

    Answer 3:   ‘There are no Easter Eggs up here’ in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

    Tim is a guy who likes to get dressed up, have a good time, meet people who are passionate about their respective geekdoms and encourage everyone to be vocal about who they are. He’s also vocal about his answer for this month’s question – check out his argument for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas over on GeekOut South-West.

    Answer 4:   ‘Makemeapirate’ in Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine

    NekoJonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog days: “As a kid, I loved adventure games. One of my first was Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine from LucasArts. There is a cheat in the game that turns you into Guybrush Threepwood and your bazooka shoots chickens then. I got introduced to the amazing Monkey Island series thanks to this Easter egg!”

    Answer 5:   ‘The End’ in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

    Chris from OverThinker Y says: “The Metal Gear series has a LOT of Easter egg, most of them just humorous novelties. But Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater takes the idea of a secret available to discerning players and kicks it up a notch. The End is a boss known as the most proficient sniper of the age; true to reputation, he’s not easy to defeat but his fight can be avoided entirely. The End can be sniped before he’s ever encountered in battle, or the player can turn off the game, wait a week, and come back to find The End dead of old age. Snake will regret either easy way out, but it’s one of my favourite instances of a game following its own logic in a way most don’t.”

    Answer 6:   ‘Dog ending’ in Silent Hill 2

    Luke is a research scientist by day and a gaming enthusiast by night. He has no gaming credentials other than enthusiasm and experience; and from humble beginnings owning a Sega Game Gear to his present PC, he’s seen many generations and genres. Find out why he chose Silent Hill 2 as his answer this month over on Hundstrasse.

    Answer 7:   ‘Ask me about Loom’ in The Secret of Monkey Island

    Kim from Later Levels says: “I first played The Secret of Monkey Island when I was nine-years old and had never heard of Loom before finding a pirate in the Scumm Bar wearing a badge saying ‘Ask me about Loom’. It was only when I signed up to Steam years later that I actually got to play it but I’d never forgotten that experience. Easter eggs are a great way of pointing you to games you may never have otherwise found, and that’s why I’m nominating this one as my answer this month. Look behind you – a three-headed monkey!”

    So who’s got it right, and who’s got it so wrong that they deserve to be haunted by Jolene Cranley-Evans for all of eternity? Cast your votes in the poll opposite or give your own suggestion and we’ll reveal the most popular answer on Friday, 05 May 2017 along with the next question.

    Got a question you’d like to see us struggle over next month? Or would you like to join in and add your own answer into our polls on a regular basis? Leave us a message in the comments below or get in touch!