National Poetry Day

I wanted to write a poem like Michael Rosen
For National Poetry Day.
So I hemmed and hawwed.
Hemmed
And hawwed.
And I got cross because
I just couldn’t seem to capture his style
And I looked out of the window at the zoo instead.
I thought about the zoo.
I thought about the lions
All mane and roar
Locked in their cages together
Like a big gold puddle that wants to eat you up.
I thought what Michael Rosen would have to say
About lions.
But I never really got it right
And got back to making video games instead.
Sorry lions.

Posted in Writing

The Star Trek Annual

I’ve inherited the 1968 “Star Trek Annual”; a slightly battered hand-me-down from my Mum, who was young enough to have drawn all over the inside cover with callous disregard for the future invention of eBay. That’s okay, though – I keep it around not for its pristine condition or resale value, but because it’s bloody hilarious.

For a start, the annual’s creators have clearly never watched the show. They’ve got the names and roles of the characters down, certainly, but that’s where they ran out of space on the cocktail napkin. 1968 was the height of the show’s popularity so it’s not as if the staff had to wait for VCRs to be invented, either – but instead of the thought-provoking stories and moral dilemmas of the series, we get things like this:

There are at least some token "space facts" to make up for the giant vacuum plant on the next page.

There are at least some token “space facts” to make up for the giant vacuum plant on the next page.

Each of the three adventures is taken straight from 50s pulp fiction; a planet of rogue construction machinery, a world of predatory plants and an prison asteroid whose leader just is Ming the Merciless. And it’s clear the writers haven’t even been told anything about the Enterprise beyond the name of the ship – the crew are packing “blast-rays”, Janice Rand spends the mission running around with a red beanie on her head and Spock commands that Sulu “Fire all rockets!”

In fact, Mr. Spock is my favourite part of the annual. Witness the deftness with which they’ve captured his stoic, unflappable countenance:

It! Should be! Shatner! Talking like this!

It! Should be! Shatner! Talking like this!

Yes, all they know about Mr. Spock is that he’s clever. Clever enough to casually order the extinction of an entire world simply because the predators are, well, predatory:

"The blast-rays are taking too long! Fire all rockets!"

“The blast-rays are taking too long! Fire all rockets!”

For anyone with the slightest knowledge of the show, every page is packed full of delights. Even the inside cover has its share:

The grafitti can only hide the pain.

The grafitti can only hide the pain.

For starters, just who is that in the Captain’s Chair? I thought at first it was meant to be a chubby Sulu but he’s wearing green, like Kirk. Perhaps he’s aboard to check all of those clocks above Uhura’s station – you know, clocks that would tell you what… the time is… on different… planets…

Either way, that thing Kirk’s holding is obviously a medical device he’s about to use to fix Spock’s burned and swollen hand. That, or he’s about to break into his spoken-word version of ‘Rocketman’.

It’s easy to mock the broad strokes and simple plots of the annual, but then, it’s hardly the first show to suffer low-grade tie in merchandise, especially when it’s stuff aimed at kids. The stories are simple and cliché, but they make sense within themselves and the drawing, on the whole, is pretty–

Vulcans long ago abandoned emotion in favour of excessive foreshortening.

Vulcans long ago abandoned emotion in favour of excessive foreshortening.

Huh, I guess his left hand is just ALWAYS that big.

Posted in Articles

Book Review – Shada

Shada, bless it, has been knocked about more times than Ben from LOST. The original script, penned by Douglas Adams (you might possibly have heard of him) fell victim to strike action and was never produced.

Since then it’s been resurrected in many a form. Adams himself reused aspects of the story to underpin the first of his Dirk Gently novels, raw footage was pillaged and swirlified for use in The Five Doctors and the story was retrofitted to the Eighth Doctor (you’re less likely to have heard of him), albeit as a bizarre audio-play-but-also-flash-animation-is-this-really-where-our-licence-fee-goes-auntie… thing.

And now it’s a book. A book based on a script about a book, no less, and one penned by Gareth Roberts – he’s written several of the series’ more light-hearted episodes since its 2005 return and the bombastic, don’t-stop-running-to-think-about-it tone he deployed in those episodes certainly has the potential to fit the Fourth Doctor’s manic frame like a particularly well-woven scarf. But then, you probably knew that much if you were reading this.

What’s surprising about Shada is not the Hitch-Hiker’s references or the period catchphrases; rather, it’s the delight it takes in being a 70s Doctor Who story written forty years after the fact. Roberts plays gleefully with time, seeding the narrative with sly nods to the bit-players and quirks of the Doctor Who universe that, were you reading this while ringing in the 1980s, you’d have to wait three decades to fully appreciate.

More than that, though, the spacey-wacey attitude of the older episodes is given a good lick of paint courtesy of modern television. In an era where your oldest episode is only a weblink away, and the angle of a man’s hat is imbued with deep philosophical intent, you can’t afford to take the slapdash approach that classic Who did to its own audience, and many of the nuts and bolts that form the “how?” of the story are given a quick tighten along the way – luckily, without ever dissolving into technobabble.

The backbone of the story remains largely unchanged, of course – at its core, this is still the tale that Adams wanted to tell – but for all that, Roberts seizes the gift of narrative introspection. The characters think, feel and remember in ways that a screen or audio play could simply never have accommodated, and these moments provide a refuge for many of the new jokes, sly references and likeable character traits that bring the book its fullness.

I’ve gobbled up every scrap of Shada over the years, and yet I still found many things to like about this book. It may not be the definitive version – there was only ever one man who could have written that – but it’s a fine addition to the bookshelf, a contented romp across familiar fields, and a far more confident adaptation of another man’s work than the sixth Hitch-Hiker’s book ever managed.

Also, it made me fancy Romana. I’m not too late, am I?

Posted in Uncategorized

The Christmas Spirits

1.

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house
Came their screams, and I quaked
In my bed like a mouse.

An old threadbare blanket
Hid me from sight
It alone could sustain me
To last through the night.

Just one glimpse, just a fraction
Of fingers or head
Would bring forth the monsters
To drag me from bed.

I knew not their names,
Nor the form that they took,
No nursery rhyme claimed them,
Nor child’s picture book

Yet some older instinct
From ancestral caves
Compelled me to hide
And stay still as the grave.

I knew without reason
These rules for survival
As surely as I
Could divine their arrival.

A singular curse,
Just my burden to bear
As my parents could never sense
Anything there.

‘Twas my childish fancy,
They chose to believe,
That the ghouls came to claim me
On each Christmas Eve.

Posted in Writing

Animal Crossing 012 – Ragnarok

People occasionally complain that Animal Crossing, packed to the gills as it is with Harvest Festivals and Graduation Days, pays short shrift to the British calendar – most notably, there’s no animal equivalent of Guy Fawkes Night. This is true, but if you stand back and consider the occasion from an outsider’s perspective it’s a rather grisly affair.

Every November the fifth we’re bundling the kiddies up warm and ushering them outside to take part in a commemorative lynch mob – gleefully burning effigies of a real, albeit deceased, human being who thought he was striking a blow against the King’s religious oppression. (Fawkes wasn’t actually burned to death, rather, he jumped to his death from the gallows on which he was to be hanged.)

And for a cat, that’s doubly unpleasant.

With such a grim and relatively recent event underpinning the holiday, it’s perhaps not that surprising that Nintendo carefully disassociate themselves, saving up the fireworks (and the bonfires) for New Year’s Eve instead. I had reason enough to celebrate, though – Nook had stuck to his word and his magical construction fairies had added a second floor to my already-expansive house.

Deciding to convert the upper storey into a dedicated retro-gaming sanctuary (depressingly like my actual living arrangements) I lugged all of the NES games out of the basement – unfortunately, even when all lined up they barely filled a corner of what was now a very large and very lonely house.

Deep down I’d always known my house was a bit spartan (so-called because of the Greek warrior caste who owned very little furniture and only a couple of NES games). In fact, I’d get daily letters from the distant and damning “HRA”, an organisation devoted to sneaking into people’s houses at night and making bitchy comments. “Your house looks like a warehouse,” they’d proclaim. “Pick up your damn socks!” “Stop being so lazy and buy more dishwasher salt!” The gits.

Clearing my substantial debt, plus the occasional trade from Robin, had given Tom the incentive to upgrade his store once again, from a local supermarket into a ritzy department store known as Nookingtons. Deciding to examine his new wares and pick up some much needed knick-knacks, I stepped outside—

The M6 was already shut.

SNOW!! The bane of my suburban existence was drifting lazily from the sky in my Animal Crossing world, instantly reverting me to an excited ten year old. It was far too early for it to settle, of course, the flakes fluttering to oblivion as they approached the ground, but it was a welcome sight nevertheless.

Less welcome was the length of time it took to actually go shopping – Nook always forced you to trudge through the same old dialogue whenever you entered or exited his store, but he’d also hired two diminutive cousins to run the upstairs of his shop with some unskippable patois of their own.

In total, the daily stock check now requires you to hammer the A button through at least four unchanging conversations, each bubble appearing torturously one letter at a time in that classic Nintendo “style”.  It is, frankly, a bit of a pain.

The following Sunday saw some commotion around the village pond – there was a fishing tournament in progress, organised by a strange and rather disingenuous newcomer named Chip, who was simply eating all of the fish presented to him.

It couldn’t be just any fish, mind you; something of an epicure, Chip was only willing to dine on bass. Not small bass, not sea bass, not buttery biscuit bass – only the largest and juiciest river bass would suffice, which added an unusual element of strategy. Other villagers had already taken up most of the prime fishing spots, forcing some unusual angles and a number of failed casts before I was finally able to land a 23-incher and win some furniture.

The following days saw a succession of new villagers to replace Nibbles – who’d followed me invisibly to Serenity, and stayed there – and before I knew it I’d maxed out my population, which causes Mayor Tortimer to shamble around in a drunken stupor building random bridges when you talk to him. My favourite of these new arrivals: a grouchy pink bear named Vladimir.

My first conversation with the lovable grumpster ended with him demanding I select an amusing speech affectation with which he’d pepper his sentences.  Hmm. What, I asked myself, would Nintendo president Satoru Iwata do in this situation…

“Then we thought, is it okay to change this so easily?”

Well, that cheered the place up a bit. With my village at maximum capacity and winter on the way, life was looking pretty rosy in Twycross. And yet a cloud was looming on the horizon – my village was about to face its greatest threat yet…

“Hey! How come I’ve not been mentioned in this blog yet, huh?!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, not that. Nintendo’s big bruisers were on their way – Mario and Link were here to claim the holiday for themselves, and they’d brought backup in the form of Skyrim and Arkham City. Would Olivia and Totakeke really be able to battle Batman for my attentions and claim my diminishing leisure time? And if they failed, just what would happen to the utopia I’d crafted?

The battle for survival had only just begun…

Posted in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing 011 – This Is Halloween

If my Animal Crossing avatar had been detailed enough, he’d have been sweating. Tonight was the night, after all, and while I was well-versed in the theory of the occasion, I’d had no opportunity to actually prove my skills out in the real world. Failure now, any aspect unconsidered or fumble of the controller, could spell disaster. The minute I stepped out of that front door, my safety net was gone, and all bets were off.

It was Halloween, and the clock had just struck six.

It wasn’t too many entries ago that I was bemoaning my exclusion from the villagers’ holiday antics. The Halloween festival, for the first time in my tenure, offered genuinely new gameplay opportunities – and a slew of new rewards to accompany them.

I really, really need a biscuit tin.

The rules of the Halloween ‘game’ are simple – while the village continues as normal, filled with fish to catch, bugs to collect and bells to unearth – the villagers are all dressed up in identical costumes, mimicking Jack the Halloween King. If they catch sight of you, a villager will do their best to track you down and, when they’re close enough, demand a piece of candy – the stuff Nook’s been selling throughout October.

If you surrender a sweetie, that villager will be satisfied for a little while. Refuse and they’ll play a nasty trick on you, transforming one of your items or dressing you in (actually rather stylish) rags. The rub, though, is that the real Jack is hidden in amongst the crowd. Approach him – he’s the only one of the revellers who won’t chase you – and surrender some candy and you’ll get a random, Halloween-themed item of furniture. Jack then teleports away, leaving you to start your spooky search all over again.

You’re very welcome, undead hellspawn!

I soon discovered that finding the genuine Jack amongst his dopplegangers was harder than expected; the villagers had a nasty habit of lurking behind trees and springing out, or clustering around the real Jack so that I’d have to take the hit to reach him. By the end of the evening – playing cautiously, it took me almost two hours to use up the last of my candy – I’d managed to amass a decent collection, albeit with a few missing pieces and some duplicate items. That didn’t bother me, though – I had mercenary ambitions for the gifts of the Pumpkin King.

The residents of Twycross were back to normal when November rolled around, their magical and transformative powers no longer in evidence, and didn’t seem the slightest bit apologetic for chasing me through the forest the night before. Taking a photo of my spooky furniture for posterity’s sake, I loaded myself with gaudy orange furniture and headed to Nook’s.

Once there, I was delighted to discover that the furry rascal was willing to pay a staggering 10310 bells for each item – more than enough to clear off my outstanding debt! The moral of the story is clear; if you want financial solvency, bribe the undead.

Never go trick-or-treating at Ikea.

Nook promised to add an entirely new storey to my house – the final upgrade, I assume, unless my residence is going to end up teetering like a drunken spree in Tower Bloxx – and that it would be completed tomorrow while I’m out and about in the real world. In the nihilistic universe of Animal Crossing, stuff only gets done while you’re not looking.

Deciding that I’d better tidy up if I had the builders in, I returned to my house, diverting briefly to engage in a quick fetch-quest for Mitzi – one that resulted in a large table matching the rest of Robin’s house, ready for collection next time he wandered into my village.

Once home I replaced the basement’s usual items – vending machine, fire extinguisher, toilet – had a quick go on Excitebike and went to sleep. Halloween may have ended, but the promises of fishing tournaments and harvest festivals yet to come, not to mention an entirely new room to decorate, mean my residency in Twycross may last into 2012.

Wait. What’s this? Another letter from home. Let’s hope this one’s slightly more sane than last—

I’m leaving this one alone.

 

Posted in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing 010 – No Escape

The sun was shining softly through the cherry-dotted trees as I stepped out of my home, patted my gyroid assistant on its wooden-topped head with a cheery “Good morning” and stepped into town. This was la vita nuova – a new life, free from Astrid! The malevolent kangaroo had upped sticks to the neighbouring town of Serenity, and now—

“Good morning, my pet! You haven’t forgotten me, I just know it!”

I’m not ashamed to say that I had a mild panic attack. Wondering if Robin had somehow used treachery, a glitch or some sort of voodoo curse to return the witch to my village, I mumbled my way through a minimal amount of conversation and before calling up the map. Fortunately, there was no new cottage to be seen – Astrid was merely visiting, her decision to reappear so soon surely being one born from a desire to torment my soul and shatter my sanity. She—ooh, candy!

Yes, it was time for the daily jaunt to Nook’s shop. On the run-up to Hallowe’en, the fuzzy fellow’s replaced his usual selection of trees and flowers. (Supplanted, perhaps. A-ha, a-ha.) In their place are large, inviting orange sweets; bigger than my character’s head and almost certain to induce instant diabetes, they’re the perfect gift to give villagers who come trick-or-treating – if you don’t mind their absence in future years , given the potential lethal sugar intake you’re bestowing.

While packing my basement to the brim with candy I’ve also been engaged in a more tedious, yet necessary, renovation. In earlier entries I talked at length about the fossils I was finding – well, it had become apparent in recent weeks that the supply was drying up.

Meanwhile, in Serenity…

The problem, it seems, is that a fossil – once placed in the landscape – remains there indefinitely until it’s discovered, and it won’t necessarily appear in a place that’s visible to you, what with the game’s fixed viewpoint and all. Hidden behind tree trunks, obscured by villagers’ houses – if you stick to the obvious fossils and don’t go digging around blindly, before long the odds will turn against you and all of your buried treasure will be somewhere out of sight.

My solution: BLOW UP THE WORLD. My slightly-more feasible solution: chop down and replant as many trees as possible – converting them into valuable fruit trees while I’m about it – and replanting them in a latticework that makes them easy to see behind. (Buildings, meanwhile, get flowers planted behind them, meaning that the hidden spaces are no good for fossils.)

Tedious work and, as with so much in Animal Crossing, best tackled by doing a little every day. It can also be rather dangerous, as trees sometimes contain beehives that don’t appreciate the delicate touch of an axe blade.  It’s worth it, though, as trawling through the acres of my village allows me to search for each day’s magic rock.

One rock each day will, for reasons best left to geologists, give out a moneybag when struck. Get enough whacks in with a shovel and more valuable money bags will spew forth along with, bizarrely, the Mario 1-Up sound.

There’s a fair bit of recoil when you do this, and I’m assured that Animal Crossing aficionados like to maximise their profit by digging a lattice of holes around each rock, stopping them from being flung too far. Me, I’m a bit lazy and normally just take what I can get.

Hallowe’en is just around the corner, and certain to provide a more substantial blog update when the spooky shenanigans are over and done with. For now, though, I return to my house – I have a copy of NES Excitebike clutched in my quivering hands thanks to someone burying it at the beach in an act of slightly-unhinged philanthropy – and carefully open another loving missive from my distant parents.

Lies! I wasn’t even there that Tuesday afternoon at 4:23pm!

What. What? …WHAT?!

Posted in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing 009 – Catcher in the Rye

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to put together a blog post, but that doesn’t mean life’s been anything other than hectic in the madcap land of Twycross. As we start our yearly march towards Ragnarok and the Devouring of the Moon, mankind likes to cheer itself up with harvest festivals – and the animals in my village feel the same way. Time for the Fall Sports Fair!

Rather upsettingly, my character wasn’t actually invited to take part in any of the four events that’d been teased so invitingly on the town message board – Aerobics, Footrace, Ball-Toss and Tug-o-War were open to the animals but I, a newbie human villager, wasn’t able to participate in the proceedings. While it was nice to see the villagers doing something other than wandering about I can’t help but feel it was a missed opportunity for some new mini-games and a chance to win rare stuff in a manner more involved than shaking a couple of trees.

Mayor Tortimer apparently felt sorry for me and gave me an Autumn Medal just for showing up, but it felt very much like a consolation prize – pretty much like every other Sports Day I’ve attended, actually, so maybe the game’s more accurate than I’m giving it credit for.  The day after the fair, everything was noticeably more autumnal – except for the ground, which had decided to turn bright pink in defiance of botanical protocol.

Yeah, well, I didn’t want to play anyway.

Local fauna’s also been affected by the change in seasons, of course, with new fish and insects making themselves felt around the village (and the first cockroaches scuttling into my home). Some of the new arrivals have made their way to the museum while other, more-familiar specimens have been traded with budding entomologists around the village (or just flogged to Nook for a tidy profit).

The strangest encounter of recent days, however, came not from Twycross but on a train to its neighbouring village of Serenity. Instead of the run-in with Rover that I’d been expecting, I found myself faced with some sort of nightmarish visage – a cat without a face, whose explanation for its absence… was that they’d scrubbed too hard.

Silent Hill’s got nothing on Twycross.

The abomination introduced itself as Blanca, and once we’d chatted I began to realise that:

a) You shouldn’t judge by appearances,

b) Blanca was actually quite an amenable sort, and

c) HOW THE IN THE DARKEST BOWELS OF HELL IS IT SPEAKING?!

Eventually, Blanca requested that I resolve the situation by – wait for it – drawing a temporary face onto their head until such time as s/he could find a permanent replacement. Unfortunately for Blanca, a chance to replace someone’s face means only one thing to an anime enthusiast of a certain age:

What I thought I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes…

My on-the-fly editing skills not quite matching The Laughing Man’s, the result was a serviceable, if slightly stretched, hack-job.

I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.

Blanca seemed quite happy with the replacement face I’d offered, and was later seen in Serenity wearing it proudly and terrifying small children. I felt as if I’d done a good thing, and it must have earned me some serious karma points, as when I returned to Twycross… Astrid had upped sticks and moved to Serenity! No more would I have to suffer her superior attitude and periodic attempts to scam me. With a soaring heart and a spring in my step from my adventures, I loaded up my newest K. K. Slider CDs and headed to bed for eight hours of faceless-cat nightmares and cockroach-induced panic attacks.

Sleep well, Twycross.

Posted in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing 008 – Shirked Responsibilities

The last human stronghold was burning.

Locust swarmed throughout the streets, cavorting and revelling in the carnage and fear they were causing. Terrified settlers raised guns in their trembling hands only to be swatted aside or blown apart by the vicious weapons of their enemies. Through it all, Anya screamed a single name over and over again, tasting her own tears as she cursed aloud, pounding her fists against the barrel-chest of the one man who could save them. “Marcus! MARCUS FENIX! Wake up!”

Marcus didn’t hear – Marcus couldn’t hear. He sat slumped against the wall like a puppet with its strings cut, eyes milky and soulless, staring at nothing. He didn’t register the door splintering behind them; couldn’t hear Anya’s terrified screams. Even if he wanted to, he’d have been unable to move his scarred fingers just a single inch towards the battered pistol – their salvation – that lay at his side.

I was off playing Animal Crossing instead, you see.

How could I stay away? I had a new goal in life – to track down the elusive giraffe that, a few days before, had parked her sporty little cabriolet in the middle of my forest and promised me an exclusive gift if I cleaned it for her. Only when it was sparkling so brightly the harvest moon was showing in the bonnet did she snottily declare that I’d missed a spot, and refuse to talk to me further.

Next time she visits my town of Twycross, there’s gonna be a safari.

At least the Harvest Moon festival itself was worth waiting for – many of the town’s residents came to stand by the lake, gazing blissfully up at the large yellow moon, and doddering Mayor Tortimer even gave me a model moon of my very own to commemorate the festival. It was large, hideous and Nook didn’t give me much for it, but it’s the thought that counts.

I decided it had been a while since I’d completed any fetch quests; unfortunately, no matter whom I spoke to, every chain of borrowed items or packages to deliver ended up focusing on Mitzi – who was asleep, and refusing to answer the door. Sulking, I instead decided to investigate the Able Sisters shop for the first time.

Inside were a lot of fabrics and a couple of hard-working hedgehogs – or needlemice, perhaps, it’s hard to tell. Having been told that I could fashion my own, er, fashion, I ended up staring at a pixel grid that made me all awash with nostalgia for Mario Paint on the SNES. In fact, I was feeling so retro that I decided to make a design loosely based on one of the borders from the Super Game Boy, thusly:

If you left the SGB alone, night would fall.

Unfortunately, the image looks a little odd when applied to clothes – there’s clearly a knack to this fashion malarkey I haven’t quite grasped yet. The residents apparently agree, as it’s been almost a week and none of them are wearing Super Game Boywear yet. Then again, they’re animals, so they can probably only see in black and white anyway.

Mitzi may have annoyed me by stubbornly sleeping the day away, but I couldn’t stay mad at her for long – she turned up on the doorstep on my birthday and said she had a present for me. I was expecting a t-shirt, so my flabber was pleasingly gasted when she pulled out NES Donkey Kong! It’s now taken pride of place in front of the TV Nook sold me – it’s not actually necessary to have a television in order to play your NES collection, but I like my village of talking animals and singing robot statues to have a certain gritty realism about it.

Most of the other villagers sent me presents, too, even Astrid – apparently she still hasn’t gotten the hint. Oh, and Mum sent me a birthday cake – one the size of a double bed, no less. Well, you know Mums… you leave home and they’re never quite convinced that you’re eating properly. That about wraps it up for this week’s adventures, which is just as well because someone’s at the door…

Hello? Oh, Anya… what are you doing he—…no, stay back! NO! DON’T F%*Ihhy?Fioo2

Posted in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing 007 – From Twycross With Love

Christmas has come early to Twycross! Well, if you spend your Christmases labouriously entering alphanumeric codes, anyway. As I touched upon last time, it’s possible, if unwieldy, to exchange goods with remote towns by telling Nook the item, player and town that they’re destined for and then passing along the code he regurgitates.

It was well worth the effort, of course – Robin had sent a Master Sword he’d found in Serenity’s Lost & Found office – well, a copy, more accurately. Once you’ve discovered a particular item in Animal Crossing you’re able to order as many duplicates as you like, which encourages you to share without risking your own collection in the process.

The American version of the game also came with a “grab bag” from Nintendo, which turned out to contain K. K. Slider tune and – wheee! – a couple of NESes which, when arrange in your house, let you play creaking Nintendo titles Tennis and Golf. They’re not the shining highlights of the catalogue, having been created in that post-Atari era where games crudely aped reality rather than exploring their creative potential, but they were nice to tinker with all the same. (That said, the Gameboy version of Golf still reigns supreme.)

Meanwhile, some online investigation revealed that the Nintendo Power website, while naturally defunct after a decade, was still being hosted online and displaying its most recent rare item – this turned out to be a Starman which makes you flash, Mario-style, when interacted with.  Some thoughtful soul has collated all of these ancient codes, so my intention is to use one in each blog post from now on – hopefully none of the contents have perished in the last ten years.

Out in the wild, I decided – inspired by a throwaway comment I made last time – to try planting a money tree in one of the glowing golden patches that crop up from time to time, since it had worked so well with my shovel. While I was able to rebury the money bags and summon a tiny golden sapling, none of my crimes against nature seemed to take root and were gone before long. Horticulture and alchemy don’t mix, it would appear.

My plans to send Robin a wardrobe in return for the Legendary Sword of Evil’s Bane – it’s perfectly fair, shut up – were nipped in the bud by the bane of my existence, Tom Nook. Having greedily raked in enough of my bells with his scams and extortion he’d decided to upgrade his shop, and wasn’t willing to let me in. I was tempted to write him a strongly-worded letter, but went fishing instead. Bottling up perfectly justified irritation and taking it out on helpless animals – it’s the British way!

Mitzi the cat had previously advised me to wait for a rainy day, a tactic I’d learned in another lifetime chasing the elusive Hylian Loach, so with the pitter-patter of virtual raindrops all around me I slung my fishing rod whimsically into the air, nearly taking my eye out, and plodded to the beach. Glory – or pneumonia – awaited!

Actually, coelacanths awaited, helpfully dumbed down to “living fossils” by the game. The rain had brought the prehistoric beasties out to play and not only was Blathers pellet-spewingly happy to receive one, Tom Nook was willing to buy them for a staggering fifteen thousand bells each – which, obviously, was my afternoon’s activity sorted.

An hour’s fishing was enough to completely clear the debt of my recent house extension, leaving me gloriously solvent for at least thirty glorious seconds – at which point I ventured back into Nook’s newly-opened gas station only to be forced into a conversation about which house upgrade I wanted next. Not upgrading wasn’t an option – literally. Talk about your hard sells.

I plumped for the basement rather than another house extension, largely because I was eager to have a more private location for my toilet. Not that my character can actually relieve himself, of course, but it’s the principle of the thing.  Hygiene, and that.

The following day, having returned from whatever hell my character’s plunged into when the game’s not running, I was greeted with a flight of stairs leading down into a remarkably spacious basement. I was genuinely disappointed to discover that you can’t redecorate it, and apparently its existence has no effect on the rating that your house receives – in a game all about customisation and creation it seems rather hard-hearted not to let me stick a rug down. Still, it had only cost me 50,000 bells, so I can’t complain at what amounts to the world’s largest wardrobe.

Another week in my virtual Twycross had come to an end, with a week in the real one looming over my shoulder. I couldn’t stray for too long, however – after all, the harvest moon was just around the corner…

Posted in Animal Crossing