Tag Archives: 90s

Why I Love The 90s: Awesome, Terrible Foods

20 Feb

Hot damn! It’s been a long time since I ranted about my irrational nostalgia. Previously I’ve touched on amazing sci-fi shows, brilliant dinosaur-related stuff, and videogame-related things. Today’s topic is the diet of delicious yet deadly foods that could be found in that wonderful decade.

Speaking of dinosaurs and videogames, there seemed to be an awful lot of foods based around those themes. Turkey Dinosaurs were, quite frankly, one of the most wonderful things ever created by man – or in this case, Bernard Matthews. Breadcrumbed turkey meat (at least it said it was turkey, it could have been anything, including velociraptor) shaped as either a Stegosaurus or Tyrannosaurus Rex, they were a part of my regular diet and made me realise that if I had ever been stuck at Jurassic Park, it wouldn’t be the dinosaurs hunting me for a tasty snack. Bernard Matthews made plenty of exquisite processed foodstuffs when I was a wee lad, for instance Turkey Twizzlers and Drummers, but the dinosaurs were, obviously, the best of the lot.

I should do their advertisements.

I should do their advertisements.

Meanwhile, Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the many cartoonish mascots looking for further ways to burrow into the social subconscious. I remember the Sonic crisps and the tiny biscuits that were available, but after checking this lovely website I suddenly remembered the variety of other blue hedgehog-related foodstuffs. Sega weren’t alone, though. Tom & Jerry and Dennis the Menace had make-your-own cupcake sets with edible paper transfers to add your favourite characters. I recently checked and found that these are still ruddy available, and may well need to spend some unnecessary cash to get them. Not all of the tie-in foods were as wonderful though. I don’t think I’d rush out to Tesco if I found out you could get Mr Blobby’s Pink Lemonade again…

"Drink my dubious fizzy, tangy liquid! It's definitely not piss!"

“Drink my fizzy, tangy liquid! It’s definitely not piss!”

To be honest, there were plenty of foodstuffs that weren’t really food. Other than the obvious marketing gimmicks, we had the ‘Toys & Food’ brigade. Best of the bunch were the edible treats that actually came with toys. Of course there were the Kinder Eggs, scrumptious Kinder chocolate with a fairly mediocre toy inside – although I will never hear a bad word about their range of turtle toys, those things were amazing. But even better was the Onken FruFoo range. It was a kid’s yogurt that inexplicably came with a toy alien thing. I had a huge collection of the toys and every single one was a surreal monster with an extremely derp expression.

Here’s a German advert for them:


Then there were those foods that were actually just edible toys. To this day I still maintain that Cheestrings had more in common with rubber than they did with dairy. Dairylea Lunchables weren’t much better, adding stale crackers and ‘meat’ into the mix. Fiendish Feet were yogurts with a horror theme and spooky faces on the side. Transform-A-Snack combined Transformers with Monster Munch to create corn-based crisps that didn’t really work and created an awful, albeit delicious, mess. Melody Pops were the perfect treat for a passive-aggressive kid, allowing you to not only get sugary crap all over the house but also create a piercing, evil sound wherever you went.

"Sure to give you tinnitus!"

“Sure to give you tinnitus!”

Not all of our imports were as healthy as FruFoo, though. The 90s was also an era of nutritionally-dubious US products. Mountain Dew hit the shelves, was amazing, and was promptly taken away again. Lucky Charms had the same fate. It was almost as if the British food standards agency was scared of an outsider coming in and taking away the ‘mental child creator’ crown from the likes of Tizer and Cocoa Pops. Meanwhile, Nerds and Atomic Fireblasts were fighting it out to see which candy could give British kids diabetes at a quicker rate. Neither of them were taking the appropriate approach though. Why appear to be dangerously additive-filled when you could sneak into shopping trolleys as a healthy alternative? That’s what Sunny Delight did, and its strategy was perfect. I applaud you, you sugar-filled monster. Hell, look at the adverts:


Finally, a few random shout-outs. Hedgehog Flavour Crisps were weird and made Walker’s Cajun Squirrel seem tame (also, they seriously existed). Space Raiders were excellent value for money once, even though they tasted like the Monster Munch that couldn’t make the cut because of a slight resemblance to polystyrene. Starburst will always be Opal Fruits in my heart, and under their new name they were never as good. And last but not least, I will happily forgive Findus for any horse meat in their meals because they gave us the wonder of Crispy Pancakes.

Actually, it could be human meat for all I care.

Actually, it could be human meat for all I care.

‘Til next time!

Why I Love The 90s: The Original Video Game Movies

2 Aug

I have a compulsion to watch every video game film I can find. I know most of them are trash, about 98% of them are directed by Uwe Boll, and they deviate crazily from the source material, but I can’t help but track them down, just to see how bad they are. I can count the number of passable video game movies on one hand. The only video game film that I think of as ‘good’ is Silent Hill.

Pyramid Head is a busy guy.

However, there are still plenty of enjoyable shit movies from the early days. Let’s have a look at the pioneers of the sub-genre and all of their flaws.


Super Mario Bros

Awww yeah! Super Mario Bros is the one that started it all. It’s a horrible, horrible mess of a film: part kid’s comedy, part action, part Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk nightmare. Bob Hoskins puts on a brilliant Brooklyn accent as Mario and John Leguizamo plays a snotty teenage Luigi. In spite of all its problems, I still love this movie. Dennis Hopper is brilliant as King Koopa, there are about ten billion quotable lines and some really fun set pieces. Hell, it starts with a couple of dinosaurs talking in New Yoik accents. Sure, it’s a bad film, and has nothing to do with the games, but it sits comfortably – and brilliantly – in the so-bad-it’s-good section of my movie library.


Double Dragon

We’ve all played Double Dragon, right? A kidnapped girl leads two brothers to go kick the crap out of a gang and generally be total badasses. The obvious choice for such a simple, dumb story, then is to add a bunch of jargon about a magical amulet and evil overlords. Throw the bad guy from Terminator 2 and Alyssa Milano into the mix and you’re sure to win an Oscar, right? Well, not quite. But you do get an awful movie full of 90s clichés and some awful performances. Kudos to them for making Marian, the girlfriend from the game, into an active character though.


Street Fighter

This film can be summed up entirely in a single casting choice: the lead character is Guile, a man so American he has the star-spangled banner tattooed on his arm. Who’s the best person to play this all-USA dude? Why, the Belgian actor and roundhouse-kicker Jean Claude Van Damme, of course! The movie-makers managed to squeeze a load of the characters from Street Fighter 2 in, which certainly deserves credit, but it means that the plot is completely insane. It all looks incredibly tacky, too. What saves it? Why, a brilliant performance from the late, great Raul Julia as M. Bison of course! It was his last movie role and it’s worth the cost of the DVD alone. Well, that and seeing Kylie Minogue acting. Yup.


Mortal Kombat

Aside from Silent Hill, I actually think Mortal Kombat is the best video game movie. It’s trashy and dumb, but it’s just so much darn fun. It’s also got a plot that kind of makes sense (well, in comparison to the likes of Super Mario Bros and Street Fighter), and who needs acting talent when you’ve got wise-cracking, shades-wearing kung fu heroes punching four-armed monsters in the bollocks? Great fight scenes, awesome special effects, awful one-liners: this movie has it all. Unfortunately, the sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation isn’t quite as good.


Wing Commander

Last and possibly least is 1999’s Wing Commander. The games had a great cast – with Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell in the brilliant Wing Commander III – and what better way to continue that trend than with the magnificent Freddie Prinze Jr. Ahem. The movie follows the usual plot of the plucky young rookies who manage to save humanity whilst being very cool and relatable for the film’s target demographic.


After these trendsetting films, the video game film adaptation trend really kicked off, particularly after the big success of the Resident Evil franchise. But for me, these 90s films are very interesting to watch back. In fact, I would rather watch Super Mario or Mortal Kombat than the likes of Max Payne or Hitman any day of the week.

Seriously, how can you ever beat scenes like this?

Why I Love The 90s: Violent Videogames

15 Jul

Violence has always had some kind of place in videogame culture. A lot of the time you are either the hunter or the hunted; from the extermination of invading forces in Space Invaders, the prevention of the apocalypse in Missile Command, and even the mindless destruction of various fungal and animal creatures in Super Mario Bros (har har).

It was in the 90s, though, that the world really seemed to take notice of it. Whether it was the more realistic graphics, the increase in widespread popularity, or the fact that violence in other media had gotten stale to argue about (“oh look, another newspaper article about violent movies. BORING!”), it was in the 16-bit era that videogame nasties caused a stir.

The Toxic Avenger had a goddamn toy and cartoon series

It must have been hell for a parent. As a kid, though? It was pure, unadulterated bliss.

So, here’s my pick of some of the most important – and some of the best – ultra-violent videogames from the 1990s.


Mortal Kombat

Like most kids of my generation, Mortal Kombat was the first real taste I had of a super-violent game. There was stuff in this game that was frickin’ awesome: ripping off heads (with spine attached), tearing out hearts, kicking people into spike pits, or burning your opponent to a crisp. Of course, knowing how to do those moves was entirely different to getting your ass kicked and having it done to you.

But Mortal Kombat was special for more than just the fatality moves. Every meaty punch and kick made a gush of ketchup-like blood from your enemy. It was ridiculous, marvellous, and amazingly realistic for a game of its time. It also rang alarm bells for concerned parents across the world.

I would give this game four Helen Lovejoy’s out of five.



This game taught me to respect the law. That is, if the law consists of two badass awesome dudes in a fast car who shoot up junkies in overcoats and mullet-bearing drug dealers. An interesting game mechanic was that you got more points for arresting a suspect than killing them outright. A game mechanic rarely used when one of the options is to ‘blow everything up with a rocket launcher’.

This game was originally released in 1988 but I didn’t see it anywhere until it hit home consoles in 1990. I’ve never completed this bitch of a game though, because of the hard-as-a-box-of-Danny-Dyer’s-nails final boss, Mr Big. Mr Big also happens to be Grade-A Nightmare Fuel:


Wu Tang: Shaolin-Style

Did you know that the Wu Tang Clan released a videogame back in 1999? Well, you do now. It is possibly the most concentrated mix of things parents hate in a single form: videogames, violence, bad language, dangerous weapons, and rap music.

“Stick around!” “Knife to meet you!” etc

Heavily controversial before its release, the game allowed for four players to pummel the crap out of each other on one screen. It lead to a game later on in this list, but most importantly probably paved the way for other ‘vanity’ projects like 50 Cent: Blood in the Sand.

Wait, is that a good thing?



I have lost years of my life to this game. Released in 1997 (the same year as the original Grand Theft Auto), it is still one of the most notorious videogames in history. You take part in a gladiatorial-future-nightmare-race in the style of Death Race 2000, and are given three directives: win the race normally, win by killing all your opponent racers, or win by killing all the pedestrians in the stage.

Yeah. You read the last one right. This point caused huge problems for certain countries, and in certain nations the game was either banned, or forced to make drastic changes, with pedestrians either turned into green-blooded zombies or into robots.

Interestingly, the game is coming back to us in the form of an Android/iPhone release in the near future. Hang on to yer helmet…


Lethal Enforcers and Night Trap

1992 was one of the most important years in videogames – if only for the constant debate over the classification of violent and ‘unsuitable’ games in an industry primarily aimed at children. It also led to the final classification of the two biggest competitors in the videogame market. In 1992, Mortal Kombat was released. Nintendo, for their Super NES console, took the blood and gore out of the game. Sega, though, kept it in.

90s trash talking is the best kind of trash talking.

Quite simply, Nintendo kept their foundation as the family-friendly company, whilst Sega came out as the ‘cool yet reckless’ option. What games were released on Sega consoles the same year? Well, Lethal Enforcers and Night Trap. Two incredibly different games that faced the ire of the tabloid press for their unsuitable content.

Lethal Enforcers was a lightgun game in the style of Time Crisis, whilst Night Trap was more of a point-and-click-thing that a) wasn’t really full of violence and b) was awful. But since it had video clips and kind-of-scantily-clad women, it was clearly much more dangerous than alcopops for British schoolchildren.


Thrill Kill

A game so violent, so controversial, that it was never even published. Thrill Kill was a four-player fighter with extreme violence and sexual content. The plot consisted of four damned souls fighting in a tournament to win reincarnation. So, what choice of character do you have?

If you choose anyone other than the midget on stilts there’s something wrong with you.

Each of the characters has their own Thrill Kills, in the style of Mortal Kombat’s fatalities. So, the hillbilly who fights with the severed leg of one of his victims can use it to make his opponent explode. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), the game was cancelled because of its content.

Interestingly, the engine for the game was used to create Wu Tang: Shaolin-Style. Only that had murderous plastic surgeons and dominatrixes replaced with rappers and stuff.



Let’s finish with the granddaddy of ‘em all, though. No Doom, no Call of Duty. No Unreal Tournament. No Half-Life. No goddamn first person shooters ever. It’s a beast of a game, one of the most influential games ever, and it’s brutal. It’s literally you versus the demons of hell.

One of the most modded games ever, Doom has made it onto pretty much every home console and still has a community to this day.

Not only that, but it’s had some great sequels and…erm…this:

So maybe not all great.


I’ll leave it there for now. Up next – some more horror movies you might want to see.

Why I Love The 90s: Dinosaurs!

29 May

In early 1990s, it became apparent that people were, like, so yesterday. Animals? Like, hello! 1985 is calling and they want their present-day snoozefest back! You know what’s cool? What’s hip? Things that had died 65 million years ago.

I’m sure you remember this cultural trend. Dinos were pretty much everywhere. Films, comics, cartoons, video games – if you were a kid then you probably owned at least three dinosaur-related things and loved them.

Of course, some of it was good, and some of it was bad. So – let your old pal Rob take you on a whirlwind tour of the best (and worst) dinosaur offerings.

Let’s start with the big hitters: In 1988, we had The Land Before Time, an animated movie from the mighty Don Bluth, and executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The movie was fantastic, heartwarming, and more than a little sad. A great Don Bluth animated adventure. It was, unfortunately, followed by about ten thousand sequels.

The Land Before Time 27: Littlefoot goes to the Podiatrist

TLBT can be seen as the granddaddy of the whole movement. It predates most of the major players and was a huge, huge success. However, the biggest Dinosaur-themed event was obviously this:


Jurassic Park was awesome. It’s still one of my favourite films. It’s still one of the best blockbuster movies ever. It had everything a kid needed: adventure, wonder, graphic violence, harm being done to annoying kids, brilliant hats, helicopters…not going to lie, I am still excited about the possibility of Jurassic Park 4.

Between the two, there were several other dinosaur adventures of…mixed results.



“You know what would be funny? A sitcom about Dinosaurs! They can be played by New Yorkers in giant suits! And they can be really creepy!”

“Yeah that’s totally a good idea…wait, how shall we end the show? Oh I know, with the FRICKIN’ DINOPOCALYPSE! That totally won’t scar people for life!”


Barney The Dinosaur!

I never really ‘got’ Barney to be perfectly honest. He had the cold, dead eyes of a killer. I felt as though his show was a little like Hotel California.

“You can never leave, children!”

For me, the best thing Barney did was help to inspire Death To Smoochy (one of the most underrated movies ever made, do check it out).


Denver, The Last Dinosaur!

Here’s one you may not know, or may have a vague, subconscious memory of. Let the title sequence refresh your memory. Warning: contains a GUITAR PLAYING DINOSAUR and many awesome 90s pop-culture references.



So. Much. Awesome. Seriously, just look at this:

The tag-line of the toy/cartoon was ‘HARNESS THE POWER OF DINOSAURS!’

The only way this could be improved is if Batman was somehow involved. I know the show was made to try and sell the toys, but quite frankly, I don’t care. It didn’t do Transformers any harm.


Extreme Dinosaurs!

Speaking of cartoons to sell toy lines, here is Extreme Dinosaurs, one of the many ‘we want to be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ series about. There will be more on that phenomenon in a later post. But for now, enjoy some brilliant wisdom from these anthropomorphised cool 90s Dinodudes:

(FYI, I think that using the phrase ‘Cretaceous!’ to mean ‘awesome’ is brilliant)


Theodore Rex!

Cyberpunk and dinosaurs team up to bring this crapheap of a film. That same duo was tried with the Super Mario Bros movie in 1993, to similar results.


Dinosaurs For Hire!

Originally a comic series, Dinosaurs For Hire came to my attention as a Sega Megadrive game. It involved Dinosaurs in sunglasses shooting people with shotguns. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of thing dreams are made of. If you don’t agree, I think there might be something wrong with you.


Primal Rage!

As part of the super-violent videogame trend that was personified by the likes of Mortal Kombat and Lethal Enforcers, along came this beat ‘em up where you could pit dinosaurs against giant apes and the like. It was…passable in my opinion. I never saw it in an arcade up apparently the arcade version was a lot better than the one that hit the home consoles.

Notice ‘Ape Skull Mountain’ in the background


To finish, I’ll leave you with this, the best thing to come out of the dinosaur craze: the music from the first stage of Jurassic Park on the NES. It’s actually the BEST SONG EVER.


Thanks for reading. Let me know what your favourite dinosaur-related things were from the 90s! Up next: something videogame-related.

Why I Love The 90s: Space Precinct

21 May

You know what’s better than a cop show? A show about cops in space. You know what’s better than a show about cops in space? A show about cops in space by Gerry Anderson, the genius behind Thunderbirds, Space: 1999, and Captain Scarlet. Space Precinct is one of the defining TV shows of my childhood. A vibrant set of locations and characters, fantastic alien creatures, mind-bending plots, and outrageous special effects.

Let me give a brief synopsis: Lieutenant Brogan is an ex-NYPD cop who gets transferred out to another precinct. This precinct is in SPACE. Brogan and his partner Jack Haldane have to solve a variety of crimes in the shady, noir-esque Demeter City. These crimes vary from drug dealers, master thieves, assassins, and even to horrifying, nightmare-inducing serial killers. I kid you not. But more on that later.

If you don’t believe me, that Space Precinct is one of the most overlooked gems in TV history, then please just take a look at the intro:

That tells you all you need to know. The great theme tune (STILL the best theme tune ever in my opinion), the incredible costumes, bizarre alien creatures, and explosive action scenes.

What I love most about the show, though, is the wide array of characters. Rather than just being about Brogan and Haldane, the show had a great supporting cast. Other cops including Jane Castle (Haldane’s on-off love interest), the psychic alien cop Took, the C3PO-meets-R2D2 robot buddy SLOMO, and the inexplicably Irish police chief Captain Podly.

Born in Space Dublin, Podly doesn’t like Brogan’s maverick renegade style. “Do you know how many space reports I need to fill in for your reckless space actions?!”

The most important thing that Space Precinct did, though, was to scare the absolute crap out of me. Since I was a little kid, I’ve basically been a poster boy for the conservative right: “this child has become completely desensitised to violence and horror! Ban this sick filth!” etc. This obviously happened due to my playing of videogames (such as the shocking and disturbing Super Mario Bros) and watching films such as The Terminator at age six. And, you know, it’s made me a total psychopath who isn’t happy unless copying videogames – I regularly spend my spare time jumping on turtles and wearing dungarees.

Anyway, there were very few things that really scared me as a kid. One of these things was The X Files episode ‘Squeeze’, about some monster bastard who eats people’s livers. Another was an episode of Space Precinct.

Entitled ‘Predator and Prey’, the basic premise is thus: there are a string of bizarre deaths in Demeter City, happening at places such as awesome 90s night clubs. It turns out that the murders are being committed by an intergalactic space demon that infects its hosts and feeds off their life essence.

And did I mention that the space demon in question is non-corporeal most of the time?

And did I mention that when it does appear, it looks like this?

Definitely what I should have been watching as a kid.

Yeah. It scared the crap out of me.

So – please, if you can, check out this brilliant show. There are a few episodes knocking around on Youtube. I also have the whole thing, so if you fancy having a marathon session sometime then it’s on like Donkey Kong.

This is my first blog on the 90s and why it was an awesome time to grow up. Join me next time for something video-game related…