We talked with the video game music based band, Paula Powered on what it is like preforming for gamers and non-gamers.
We talk a look at Halcyon 6 the game inspired by classics such as Star Control, Master of Orion, X-COM, Civilization and new classics like FTL and talk to its composer Steve London who loves classic Commodore 64 and Amiga games, cool pizza toppings and the Toronto Maple leafs.
Halcyon 6 began as a Kickstarter passion project with a goal of $40k and raised over $180k. We get into all that and of course Steve’s love of music in our interview.
In the midst of a disastrous war, you and your ragtag group of Terran officers discover an ancient, derelict space station, and attempt to harness its mysterious power to turn the war’s tides in a grand, desperate campaign to save the human race from extinction.
Halcyon is available now on Steam early access.
Bonus: Check out some Halcyon game music from SoundCloud.
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Whether or not these were a success has already been decided by history, but I’ve decided to revisit them, mainly because I’ve not played them all before, and also because I love the original cartoons. I have fond memories of the Top Cat and Scooby and Scrappy Doo Amiga games back in the day so it will interesting to re-visit these two most of all, however, the rest I am playing for the first time. Purely for alphabetical reasons out of the games I’ve selected, I’m going to first take a look at The Flintstones (1988) from Grandslam.
The title screen and theme tune appear nice and quickly on this single disk game, with even a little animation (inspired by the cartoon show) to get us into the game.
You play as Fred Flintstone, who cannot go bowling with pal Barney Rubble until he has painted a wall, once this mini game is completed you drive with Barney (also another mini game) to the bowling alley. The bowling section of the game makes up the majority of the game, once done you then go on a completely unrelated (in all senses of the word) platform style mission to rescue Pebbles, avoiding giant nuts and bolts along the way. Yeah, okay then.
The game play is, um, varied to say the least. A couple of mini games which consist of painting a wall and bowling, intercut with a driving game and rounded off with some platform action (Ed – I wouldn’t really call it action). With such a rich source of material that is The Flintstones cartoon series, that can be applied to a multitude of genres, you wonder how they could have failed. It’s a pure and simple case of “what were they thinking?”, or maybe they just weren’t thinking at all? Why did they think painting a wall would make a great game? Domestic chores, really? Even more frustrating is that if you don’t finish in the alloted time, the game resets and you have to start from scratch, with Wilma basically calling you useless and lazy.
However, for me, painting the wall was probably the most bearable part of the game, the controls weren’t as bad as I had read about, and with a little thinking involved it was actually pretty easy to beat if you stuck with it (good tip, do the top sections first, working from right to left, then the bottom working left to right). Painting done Fred is allowed to go bowling. The driving section consists of a side scrolling ride in the car, with Barney in the passenger seat, just don’t hit the rocks in the road, well, that’s if the terrible collision detection will let you avoid them. Oh wait, the car jumps? Really? Yup, you basically have to make the entire car ‘jump’ over rocks, otherwise your wheel falls off and you have to replace it. I’m really sure they could have thought of something a little more mind numbing, tedious and pointless? (Ed – Sheldon, sarcasm)
Controls from this point onwards really do let the game down a lot. The bowling section really needed some more thought in this respect, the little Fred and Barney animations when they bowl could have made for a really fun part of the game, instead it is painfully slow, difficult, and boring, even the scoring is hard to read, and given this fills the majority of the game it seems like a plus not to make to the next section (lucky for me, I didn’t make it to the next section). Thankfully, someone else has been brave and kind enough to do the hard work for us, the Amiga long play of this game is on YouTube, see link below, where the wonderful cubex55 has saved me from tearing my hair out.
Finally free from the tedium of bowling with Barney, you suddenly have to rescue Pebbles in the games final section. It unfortunate that the game descends into this, it looks rushed, and the enemies are completely unrelated to the show, it seems like the worst idea I’ve ever seen for a platform section of a game. I’m still not even sure how we got from a night out bowling to having to rescue Pebbles? Domestic chores to kidnapping, who would have thought it. In the end it looks like the Flintstones family are all re-united and happy, awww.
I do like to try to find some good in games, but this one was tough, the painting part of the game was okay, and the character sprites and little animations were pleasing to the eye (with low expectations, naturally).
Overall though it’s a frustrating menagerie of under-developed and miscalculated mini-games with the Flintstones name slapped on it. I guess in all honesty I don’t expect much from these types of licenses but occasionally you do get a good game in amongst them. There is also a Spectrum version of this game and a Master System one, in which the latter the characters are all the right colour on the title screen. Yay. For a game that retailed at £19.95 back in the day I expect a few people were disappointed with this choice of game.
A few stone age related games that won’t make you want to lob your Amiga out of a window are Prehistorik, Ugh! and Chuck Rock, so if you fancy a quick jaunt to the era of the caveman I’d recommend trying these 3, and leave The Flintstones firmly were it belongs, in the past.
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What if? The Amiga CD32
I love What if? scenarios. What could have been if things hadn’t gone a bit pear-shaped for a certain company. This particular scenario though surrounds the question, What if the Amiga CD32 had been a success… would we be seeing an Amiga console today? Equal to the PS3 or X-Box?
There’s plenty of debate on the interweb, schools of thought on the future of Commodore and Amiga. I’ve been dipping in and out of some forums recently and there is certainly a lot of passion surrounding this subject. However, my own personal opinion doesn’t seem to fit in with these particular debates. I’ve always dreamt of an Amiga console, a continuation of the CD32, with Commodore backed and developed hardware, chipsets and designs with the same Amiga enthusiasm for gaming, graphics and entertainment.
I look all bleary eyed as I imagine the release of the ‘Commodore Amiga *insert awesome console name here*’, the anticipation as to the specs of this new machine, the controllers, the online game play… I’ve pretty much invented this fantasy console already, it has everything that made the Amiga and its successors the gaming giants they were (and still are in my opinion).
I’ve imagined the specs, it rivals the PS3 and X-Box for graphics and online gaming, it has an entertainment centre for playing Blu-ray and downloadable movies, it has the retro back catalogue of Amiga games and software, all in a glorious online archive of classics from the past… sorry, drifted off for a bit there.
In short, I think an Amiga console would have easily fitted in amongst the latest gaming platforms, having an incredible legacy behind it and a gaming archive for it to include in its package, sitting alongside any of the latest games. Somehow (don’t ask me how) this latest Amiga console would also allow people to develop their own Amiga projects, the software played just as big a part in the history of Commodore and Amiga as the games did and it would be awesome to see that included, and of course backed by a genuine and passionate Commodore company.
Now, lets not forget this is a What if? scenario, I like to dream of what could have been, and of course in an ideal world this is where I would have liked the direction of the company to have gone. The reality of course was a lot more complicated and depressing, and currently, at least for the brand we all know and love, it’s not looking much better.
Check out another blog post on the CD32 over at Last of Commodore: Amiga CD32, it’s a lot more informative and a lot less fantasy (see above). Thanks for indulging my imagination, until my dreams come true, I’ll be playing on my Amiga 500.
Thanks to Gamester81 for the video review.
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The great thing about Knights of the Sky was that you felt completely vulnerable throughout every mission – even just a few direct hits with a machine gun could send you spiralling to a fiery death, which led to some tense dogfights. ~Lewis Packwood
Format: Amiga Genre: Flight Simulator Released: 1991 Developer:MicroProse
I was playing a demo of Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. the other day. The graphics were superb – the representation of Rio de Janeiro was almost photo-realistic – but the game itself was deathly dull. Like pretty much all modern flight sims, it basically amounts to lining up your sights over some plane or tank that’s so far away you can’t actually see it, waiting for a lock on, then pressing the fire button. *Yawn*
Unfortunately, it seems that as real-life planes rely more and more on flight computers to navigate and select targets, the computer games based on them become less and less enjoyable. Perhaps by the time we reach Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 10 you won’t even need to do anything – you could just step outside for a cigarette and let the game play itself.
Thank heavens then for Knights of the Sky, a blesséd antidote to all this modern fly-by-wire, fire-and-forget, head-up-display, ensure-contents-are-piping-hot nonsense. Here’s a simulation where top speeds rarely climb into triple figures, where fire and forget equates to lobbing a hand grenade out of the cockpit and hoping for the best, and where your head-up display mostly consists of a petrol gauge and a compass. Welcome to World War 1.
The great thing about Knights of the Sky was that you felt completely vulnerable throughout every mission – even just a few direct hits with a machine gun could send you spiralling to a fiery death, which led to some tense dogfights. Pretty much every mission I attempted would end with me coaxing a critically damaged plane back to my home base after a few too many close encounters with the enemy. The wings would be practically falling off, the petrol gauge would be virtually on empty, and I’d be wrestling with the joystick to just keep the plane going in a straight line… Most of the time I didn’t make it, but on the rare occasions where I somehow managed to land my charred mass of wood and canvas back on friendly soil, I’d be practically dancing round the room in excitement. And, to my knowledge, there are very few flight sims that can inspire dancing.
By far the best aspect of this game was the two player mode. There were surprisingly few Amiga games that you could play over a link cable, but these games were among my favourites, and most of them are (or will be) on this list (I’ve already covered one of them – Stunt Car Racer).
Knights of the Sky just came alive in two player mode. As much fun as it was having my plane shot to pieces by nameless Germans, it couldn’t even come close to the sheer thrill of having my plane shot to pieces by my Amiga-500-owning mate who lived round the corner. As I said earlier, dogfights were tense in Knights of the Sky, but they were a good deal tenser when playing against a friend, especially if he unplugged your joystick in the middle of a loop-the-loop (thankfully, the computerised Germans never learned that little trick).
Actually shooting down your opponent’s plane was surprisingly hard – the view from your cockpit was incredibly restrictive (most of your view was taken up by instruments and a bloody great big wing in front), so it was really difficult to keep the other plane within your sights. Also, because the planes were so slow, actually turning round to try and get on the tail of your opponent was a constant struggle. And any slightly more advanced manoeuvres were a risky business – the planes could only fly at low altitude, so if you went into a steep dive there was a good chance you’d end up ploughing into the deck, and climbing steeply would generally cause your plane to stall. In fact, participating in a dogfight was kind of like watching two valium-addled geriatrics wrestling each other for the last Werther’s Original. In slow motion.
However, the very fact that the planes were so completely rubbish was what made Knights of the Sky so exciting. Because it was so much of a struggle to fly your plane – and even to find, let alone shoot at, your opponent – winning a dogfight created a palpable sense of achievement. Especially if you could do it without unplugging your opponent’s joystick.
Of course, the game is not without its faults. The graphics, for example, could be politely described as ‘uninspiring’, and they look positively Stone Age by today’s standards. Also, the single player campaign could become a little dull after a while, and there wasn’t really enough variety to hold your interest for extended periods of time.
But for the two player mode alone, Knights of the Sky more than deserves to be on this list, if only because it proves that flights sims can be exciting after all.
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Ah, the point-and-click adventure – a genre so fondly remembered yet so close to extinction… ~Lewis Packwood
The fortunes of these most traditional of adventure games took a nosedive with the demise of the Amiga and never really recovered; the kids got into their fancy new ‘Grand Theft Autos’ and ‘Tomb Raiders’ and rapidly lost interest in figuring out how to combine broken string with some mud in order to create a mask with which to frighten the temple guard into giving you the key for the dungeon. Actually, when you put it like that it’s probably not surprising that the popularity of these games waned – after all, one of the best points about Grand Theft Auto is that you never have to spend twenty minutes painstakingly combing the screen with the mouse in a bid to work out whether you’ve missed picking up an essential item. “Ah, so that tiny yellow-green blob 14 screens back was actually a key!” is something you’ll never hear uttered by players of GTA.
Of course, I’m doing the genre a disservice – for all the frustrating back-and-forth wandering and pixel hunting there were a hundred more golden moments of ‘Eureka!’-style puzzle solving, not to mention elaborate plot twists. For, of course, ’tis in the narrative where these games truly excel, and Beneath a Steel Sky was a shining beacon in this respect. The developers even went so far as to create a mini-comic to be shipped with the game, detailing the events leading up to the opening credits.
Set in a dystopian future Australia, the comic describes how the main character, Robert Foster*, is raised by Indigenous Australians after a helicopter crash in ‘The Gap’ (the Australian Outback). He learns electronics and builds himself a robot, Joey, who becomes your companion throughout the game. Upon reaching adulthood, Foster is kidnapped by stormtroopers sent from Union City (a possible future Sydney), and his tribe is murdered. The stormtroopers have been sent by LINC, the mysterious computer mainframe that controls the city.
The game proper opens with a jaw-droppingly animated (for the Amiga) sequence as the helicopter crashlands in Union City and Foster escapes. It emerges that in this ruthless future world, cities comprised of mammoth skyscrapers have swallowed up most of the remaining liveable land. Working class citizens are confined to the upper levels of the city, whereas the leisure elite luxuriate below (‘beneath a steel sky’, geddit?). In order to confront LINC and learn the truth about his past, Foster must evade security and work his way down to the lower levels.
If the set-up sounds a little similar to Mega-City One in Judge Dredd, then it’s no coincidence – Dave Gibbons (of 2000 AD and Watchmen fame) did all of the artwork for the game (including the mini-comic), and every screen simply drips with cyberpunk chic. At the time it looked astonishing, and even now the dystopian backdrops are capitivating. The anticipation of what graphical delight awaited you on the next screen was almost as much of a draw as the fantastic plot.
Even though the game plot was more serious than some of it’s point-and-click contemporaries (e.g. The Secret of Monkey Island), BaSS still managed to squeeze in a fair amount of humour, mostly of the British variety (i.e. double entendres and sarcasm). Indeed, the fact that the game never takes itself too seriously is one of its most enduring features (Gears of War take note – non-stop, po-faced machismo is more likely to make gamers laugh derisively into their sleeves than empathise with the characters).
Of course, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. The chief problem with the game was it’s sheer size (in terms of memory space anyway): the Amiga 600 version of the game came on a whopping 15 floppy disks (which I believe is actually the most disks used by one Amiga game – correct me if I’m wrong). This meant that backtracking through screens might involve several bouts of disk-swapping and loading, which became very tedious very quickly. Luckily I upgraded to an Amiga 1200 after I got BaSS, which meant that I could load the game in its entirety onto the 1200′s mighty 60 megabyte hard drive.
Blimey, it’s crazy to think now that my current mobile phone has nearly 67 times more memory than my old Amiga 1200…
The other major problem with the game was the problem shared by many point-and-clickers – that of the obscure puzzle. To be fair, BaSS was relatively good in this regard compared with some other examples in the genre, but even one of the first puzzles in the game (which involved wrenching a rung from a ladder to use as a crowbar) had me backtracking between screens for AGES. And of course, all this was in the days before GameFAQs.com (God bless you GameFAQs! Sing hallelujah, for yay, the days of becoming frustratingly stuck in video games hath endeth!).
Of all the games on this list, I’d rate BaSS in the top five games I’d like to play again, which just goes to show how much of an impression it left on me (if you fancy giving it a go yourself, you can play it for free using ScummVM). Interestingly, it seems that point-and-click adventure games are starting to make a bit of a comeback, chiefly thanks to the Nintendo Wii and DS. The laid back pace of the point-and-clicker is perfect for the older end of Nintendo’s gaming spectrum, and the Wii remote and DS stylus might as well have been custom made for playing this kind of game… With talk of a Director’s Cut of Broken Sword to be released for the Wii and DS, as well as the release of a new generation of point-and-clickers (e.g. Sam & Max: Season One, The Secret Files: Tunguska), perhaps this is the start of a point-and-click rennaissance?
In the meantime, here’s a clip of BaSS to whet your appetite – this is the CD-ROM version of the game, which used voice acting rather than text (although, inexplicably, everyone seems to be American, even though the game is set in Australia…).
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Qwak is one for the adrenaline junkie gamers isn’t it?! There will always be some gamers who love fast-paced reaction based games…and those who don’t. That’s fine. ~Jamie Woodhouse
Qwak is one of those odd cases where the story behind the game could be argued to be more interesting than the actual title itself.
Not that Qwak is a bad game by any means – it’s a super slick arcade platformer of the type that you just don’t see enough of nowadays – but this is a title with a intriguingly long history. So here we go…
Released on the BBC Micro (and the Acorn Electron) back in 1989 by Jamie Woodhouse, the game was then buffed up and bought to the Amiga and Amiga 32CD in 1993 with the help of Team 17.
It seemed as if that was the end for Qwak, but a whole thirteen years later Woodhouse plucked his personal labor of love out of obscurity and bought it onto the GBA.
Without a publisher’s backing the game was released unlicensed from Nintendo, with only 300 copies of Qwak created and sold directly on Woodhouse’s site.
A handmade instruction manual and the option to make your own box just demonstrated how much care had gone into bringing the game over to the GBA.
This was not the duck’s final bow though, but merely a rebirth. Since the GBA release he has now flown his way onto three other formats – Mac, PC and iOS.
But that’s enough history – what’s most important is how the game stands up today.
It’s hard not to feel that Qwak’s core principles do seem like something from another era while playing, but this turns out to be a strength, not a weakness.
The game requires you move and think fast. You have a button to jump and another to fire your limited supply of eggs, with the latter essential for dispatching the many foes you’ll encounter.
Quite what your enemies are supposed to be (are they animal mutants…or something else?) is irrelevant, but range from the easily culled to ones of the irritatingly persistent variety (some can fly, and home in at you directly).
While avoiding foes you also have a set number of keys to grab to open each level’s exit, with fruit and gem pick-ups helping to elevate your score. A time limit means you’ll have precious little time to plan ahead.
In fact, boosting your high-score could be argued to be the main driving force behind the game, despite the fact that there are a set number of levels to complete.
Only the very best will manage to reach the end of these on the normal difficulty setting though, so beating your score is one of the main reasons to keep playing.
Stages are thrown at you in a random order as well, meaning you lose any chance of settling into a rhythm – with this only strengthening Qwak’s already highly challenging arcade sensibilities.
A highly competitive two player option (not available on the GBA version) rounds off things rather nicely.
Overall, there’s no real excuse if you haven’t at least tried Qwak (a free demo is available on the game’s site), especially seeing as it offers you the chance to experience videogame values that modern titles seem to have deleted from their repertoire.
Yes, there’s a good chance that the game’s demand for super quick reactions may put you off, but stick with it – seeing your high score steadily climb upwards may hold more appeal than you might think.
Here’s a little extra for the 200th post – a mini interview with Mr Qwak himself, Jamie Woodhouse.
Qwak has been released on eight systems over the course of 21 years – can you see yourself releasing it on more formats in the future, or are you just focusing your time somewhere else?
Nope, it won’t be appearing on any new formats, just yet. I’m more interested in creating new games.
A worrying proportion of the people I get to play my GBA copy of Qwak complain that it’s too fast and that they can’t keep up. Do you find it worrying how truly intense reaction based gameplay seems to dying out in a lot of big-budget modern games, or do you think that it helps make a game like Qwak stand out all the more?
Yeah, I think a lot of people feel that way, it’s too fast for them. It really is one for the adrenaline junkie gamers isn’t it?!
There will always be some gamers who love fast-paced reaction based games…and those who don’t. That’s fine.
You’re thrown back in time to 1989 – would you do anything differently in terms of the title’s design or what it set out to do as a game knowing what you know now?
I wouldn’t be the same ‘me’, so I’d probably do a whole lot of stuff differently. Hard to say though, exactly what could have been changed to make it better, or exactly what would constitute ‘better’.
Regarding the GBA version of the game, when did you send off the last of the 300 GBA carts? Did you include anything special in the final copy to be sold, and were you relieved or slightly sad when you sent it out?
I can’t remember the exact date, or even month; I guess it must be a couple of years back now? I didn’t do anything special for the last copy. Was quite glad when it was all over, was tired of stuffing things in to envelopes and licking stamps!
Finally – which is your favorite version of Qwak, and why?
That would be the iPhone version (which is basically the same as the PC and Mac version). It just feels more colorful, plays better, and I love the puzzle levels on world 2!
My thanks go to Jamie for his time, and wish him the best of luck with his future titles. The main hub of all things Qwak can be found here, including links to purchase the PC, Mac and iOS versions of the game.
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The holy symbol or spell-book must be in the characters hand and right clicking brings up a menu from which you can select your spells. Again players of current gen games will be familiar with the spells as they have only been added to over the years, not removed. ~Rusty Quiva
Eye of the Beholder
To this day one can often find reference in any official Dungeons & Dragons game to “the Heroes of Waterdeep”. This game is what they are referring to and i count myself lucky to have played this and its 2 sequels (Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon and Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor). I have fond memories of sifting through reems of old-school laser print-outs of maps made entirely of ASCII characters trying to find my way through some complex dungeon puzzle.
Story: Waterdeep is having some problems with their sewers. The local council employs 4 heroes to do something about it. A few steps inside the sewers and a trap is sprung sealing the intrepid party inside. To escape they must venture deeper into the sewers which turn out to be the beginning of a sinister dungeon.
Gameplay: You start by creating your 4 heroes. Players of current gen D&D games will be somewhat familiar with the character creation process.
Once you have all 4 created you can enter the game and begin your adventure. Characters have 2 hands each in which can be placed a variety of weapons, or in the case of clerics and paladins a holy symbol, and a spell-book for mages.
The weapons are activated by right clicking on their image next to the characters portrait. Melee weapons will be swung and ranged weapons will be fired or thrown. The hand that was just used becomes temporarily unavailable as the character recovers from its use. Spells are managed in a similar manner. The holy symbol or spell-book must be in the characters hand and right clicking brings up a menu from which you can select your spells. Again players of current gen games will be familiar with the spells as they have only been added to over the years, not removed. All spells had to be memorized before hand and the number of castable spells was limited by level. So a player would choose which spells to memorize and would then need to rest to be able to cast them. Inventory is a bit similar to Diablo in that each character has slots for particular equipment and a number of backpack spaces for everything else.
Everything in EoB takes up a single space and nothing stacks, with the exception of arrows fro which there is a quiver. Something not seen in D&D games since the EoB series is food rations. Characters get hungry and failing to feed them when their food bar is empty would result in hit-point loss. Movement in the game was square based like wolfenstein and relied on the numeric keypad. Puzzles were solved by interacting with the environment, for example clicking on a lever or placing a gem in a hole.
The player party could grow to include 6 characters total, either by finding other living characters or resurrecting the bones of dead ones found in certain places. Characters in the front rank of the party could use melee attacks while those behind were limited to ranged weapons and spells.
Monsters range from kobolds at the start of the game right up to the Beholder itself at the end. Beholders have 11 eyes, 10 on tentacle-like stalks and a main central one. In the rules of D&D each eye is supposed to cast a spell, but for this game the beholder is limited to about 5 spells. Like its predecessor games EoB would also allow players to move their parties that had successful completed the game into the next game (EoBII) a feature not seen in other games until recently (mass effect 2). The dungeon is broken up into levels, but the gameplay is not entirely linear, requiring the player to return to certain levels after obtaining certain items or to gain certain equipment.
Graphics: Excellent back in its era. Made full use of VGA graphics and was colorful and appropriate. The interface was simple and required little to no explanation. there were not a lot of sprites for each monster, but enough to let you know which way it was looking and which way it was moving and how it was attacking you. The screens I’ve included are only from the first few minutes of the game, but suffice to say there are few different looking areas, each inhabited by its own monsters.
Sound: Again, pretty awesome for its era. Made good use of your sound-blaster pro, but like most games from this era was equally good, just pumped out of a PC speaker. It is a common misconception that a PC speaker is only capable of beeps, but this is not true. The speaker is capable of the same range of sounds as any sound-card it just takes longer to program. However i do know of games that were released even earlier than this with better sound (like pinball dreams which had sound coming out of the speaker akin to today’s MP3s… No really! It had voice and all).
Controls: Keyboard only or keyboard and mouse. Keyboard only is more difficult, but the game is paced so that with practice a mouse user would only have the advantage of convenience not speed. movement is via the numeric keypad using 8 for forward, 7 for turn 90 degrees to the left, 9 for right, 4 and 6 for strafe left and right and 2 for step backwards.
Overall: An excellent game which will keep you busy for days without a walk-through and at least a full day with one. Has some replayabilty by trying different party make-ups. The ability to move your party into the sequels is awesome. The simple GUI means that back then and today a gamer could pick up how to play in minutes. I never saw a single bug and the game never crashed out.
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Oh, the hours I used to spend playing this bloody game. Not only was Alien Breed one of the best games on the Amiga, it was also one of the hardest – not least because of its incredible stinginess when it came to handing out health and ammo. God knows how I had the patience to keep playing, but I just couldn’t put it down.
Actually, when I come to think of it, the main reason this game was so damn hard was the control system. Because the Amiga only had a one-button joystick, you had to move ever so slightly in the direction you wanted to shoot before pressing fire, meaning that if an alien was sneaking up behind you, in the process of turning round to shoot it you’d more often than not end up walking into it instead. Of course, on modern consoles this problem could easily be solved by just assigning one thumbstick to movement and one thumbstick to directional fire, but obviously this wasn’t an option at the time (and I seem to remember The Chaos Engine suffered a similar problem).
Still, ropey controls aside, this was a brilliant game, and a brilliant-looking one too – the level design really managed to capture the feel of the Alien films the game was so shamelessly ripping off, and it’s still one of the best-looking Amiga games out there. Although I always wondered about the character design – why did the protagonist have an orange head? Did Earth’s government send one of the Incredible Crash Test Dummies to defeat the alien menace?
My favourite bit was when you were tasked with activating the level’s self-destruct system (obviously in homage to the films: “Mother! Turn the cooling unit back on! Mother!…You BITCH!” (Alien), “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” (Aliens), and so on and so forth (love those lines)). Suddenly the clock in the top left corner would start ticking down and you’d be left to frantically steer your crash test dummy in the direction of the (incredibly far away) elevator, cursing every godforsaken alien that leapt out in front of you and panicking as your already slim supply of bullets ran out. Classic Amiga gaming.
However, I can’t write about Alien Breed without mentioning Team17′s (ridiculous) long-running feud with Amiga Power. Like many Amiga owners, I was a big fan of Team 17, and the company turned out some absolutely classic Amiga games (the Alien Breed series, Arcade Pool, Project X, Worms, etc.), but any time that Amiga Power gave one of their games a mark below 90%, they’d throw their toys out of the pram. It was ridiculous. Sure, they made some great games, but they also made some highly questionable rubbish – F17 Challengesprings to mind – yet for some reason they seemed to think that everything they touched turned to pure gold, and they even tried to sue AP for giving one of their games (Kingpin) a low mark. You can read Amiga Power‘s account of the Team 17 ‘vendetta’ here, and here is a link to an astonishingly libellous article in the French magazine Amiga Concept, which basically claims that AP killed the Amiga by giving low marks to Team 17 games.
For me though, Alien Breed (along with its many sequels) was Team 17′s finest hour, and I’m very intrigued by Alien Breed Evolution, the Alien Breed remake (of sorts) that recently appeared on Xbox Live Arcade. Sadly, according to theGamespot review, the new game seems to do a good job of capturing the negative aspects of the original with its ‘repetitive and dated gameplay’, ‘occasionally unwieldy controls’ and ‘instantly forgettable’ story (although at least they’ve made it a little easier this time around, so hopefully players will be less inclined to gnaw their own limbs off in frustration). Reading this review made me think that perhaps I’m seeing the old Alien Breed through rose-tinted spectacles, that perhaps the mist of nostalgia has obscured the frustrations and limitations of Team 17′s magnum opus. Perhaps, as the review claims, the original AB is an example of ‘a classic game that wouldn’t hold up too well if you were to go back and play it today’.
Perhaps. But whatever the reality, I still have fond memories of this rough-edged Amiga classic, even if Team 17 tarnished their crown somewhat through their litigious relationship with AP.
And what’s wrong with being ‘repetitive and dated’ anyway?
Amazingly, the incredibly badly drawn intro took up an entire disk. Still, the music was good, even if the graphics looked like something from Tony Hart’s Gallery:
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Today is review a bad game day, a day I’ve been dreading. Mainly because I’m not only bad at reviews of good games, I’m even worse at writing reviews of bad games! Confused? Then we’re off to a good start. I had a few choices for this review, all on the Amiga, Rise of the Robots (1994) for one, a game called Graffiti Man (1987), andBattletoads (1992), another disappointing arcade conversion for the Amiga.
However, the game that stuck in the back of my mind was Yolanda(1990), no matter how many bad games I started to remember playing this one always seemed to be at the top of that list. You play as Yolanda, the mortal daughter of Hercules, cursed by a jealous Hera because of her beauty, the only way to lift the curse (any man Yolanda falls in love with will die) is to repeat the 12 tasks of Hercules. To be honest on the box this sounds like a pretty neat idea for a game.
The game play is platform based on a single screen, and as soon as it starts it looks like it could be quite an enjoyable game; platforms in place, check, enemies present, check, protagonist standing heroically, check. However, a few seconds after the level starts the platform beneath you either gives way or bursts into flames. Um, right… try again? Sure, why not. Level re-starts… hey wait… this isn’t the same lev….. Poompf. Arrrgghhh!!! (Ed – expletive replaced with generic sound of frustration). This is pretty much a summary of how most of the game will go for any player, novice or pro. You have to learn quickly that you only have a few meager seconds to move off of the platform you start on otherwise you will instantly perish in fiery style.
However, once you’ve mastered the initial ‘avoid fiery death’ you have the rest of the level to deal with. The objective for each level is simple (although I’m still not sure how any of it relates to the 12 tasks of Hercules), you must reach the exit door, which initially appears as a creature of some kind and then changes to a door once you’re on the move. The phrase easier said than done has never been more relevant in this game. Two main reasons are the poor controls (once you’ve jumped you cannot maneuver or change direction) as well as the terrible collision detection. Once you’re hit by an enemy you will die instantly, and the level re-starts, but as mentioned before, it is not always the same level.
The two problems above don’t even come close to the major issue this game has, which drops the playability down into a minus score. If you’re lucky enough to time a jump properly, and avoid any enemies, you may still not make it. Without any clues to guide you, platforms will disappear or burst into flames as soon as you land on them, leading to certain death. (Ed – meh, more like instant death ‘every’ time). Each level is like this. You have to memorize and learn the traps and pitfalls of each level, some of which can be completed but most (if not all) seem virtually impossible due to their randomness.
Sometimes there is a fine line between a game being difficult, and a game being unplayable. I believe the controls and buggy game play ofYolanda land it squarely in the latter. Every level needs to be learned, every jump timed perfectly, every platform memorized. However, even if you do all this some levels are just impossible to complete, alongside the random level select it makes the game very hard to play and very very frustrating.
When I first played this (budget version, £7.99) I really looked forward to it, the blurb and the box art sold the game to me, even the title screen and music I remember fondly. The title screen artwork and the music remind me a lot of The Great Giana Sisters, which I really like. The graphics aren’t so bad either, however, none of these elements can make up for the fact the game is terrible. I personally don’t think it went through enough, if any, play testing, otherwise I think they would have gone back to it and created a half decent platformer. For a commercially released game it feels poorly made and unfinished, I’m surprised it received reviews of above 20% back in the day.
Thanks for reading this review, take a peek at some of the links below for more information on Yolanda! Given some of the original retail prices for this game I’m glad I paid the £7.99 rather than the £24.99.
Lemon Amiga page for Yolanda, game info and screen shots.
Review of Yolanda from Amiga Action 12 (Sep 1990)
Game Rating: 70%
Review of Yolanda from Amiga Format 15 (Oct 1990)
Game Rating: 49%
Review of Yolanda from The One for Amiga Games 38 (Nov 1991)
Game Rating: 4/5
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Developed and published in 1992 by Codemasters Spellbound Dizzy is just one game in a long series of egg related shenanigans involving the Yolkfolk (this time with the help of Theo the Wizard). Each game follows the usual set of rules and gameplay, (puzzle solving platformer with inventory menu and dodgy music) but each retaining its own unique charm. The series was originally developed by the Oliver twins, two British brothers, Philip and Andrew Oliver, who started to professionally develop computer games while they were still at school. However, they had little involvement with this title other than signing the game off and letting Big Red Software take over the design and development aspects of the game.
The game itself is well drawn and immediately boasts about its size *cough* but never really gets further than that in the interesting stakes. The graphics are bright and colorful, the usual combination of cartoonish scenery and well drawn objects throughout.
However, compared to earlier games, this one seems inferior in design and presentation, even with the extra animation scenes such as Dizzy becoming stunned, swimming and the mine cart.
Spellbound Dizzy does feature some minor differences in game play from other Dizzy games; fruit and cakes are dotted around to restore energy, water doesn’t kill instantly, although without the aqua lung drowning is inevitable, and the mushrooms (magic?) are spinny objects that can propel Dizzy to greater heights, allowing him to reach unseen platforms and the odd cloud. Unfortunately these minor differences in game play don’t really make up for the lack of storytelling (it’s nice to have a little bit), puzzles that don’t seem to make much sense, and some very irritating music.
Long and ever so slightly dull (being generous) the Dizzy games seem to work best when they are kept simple and short, this makes them a lot more fun to play as opposed to (an hour in) switching the music off and wanting to throw Dizzy from a great height shouting “Survive that!”
As much as I love other Dizzy games this one didn’t work for me, childhood memories tell me it was a lot more fun ‘back in the day’, in my opinion there are better games in the series, Fantasy World Dizzy (1991), Magicland Dizzy (1991), that are genuinely still fun to play as an adult.
Need more Dizzy? Visit this fan site for more info!
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Dune II: Battle for Arrakis
Plot: Arrakis, also known as Dune, is a planet rich in the valuable resource known as the spice melange, a rare resource that has caused 3 armies of the galaxy to battle for control over the planet. A challenge is set by the Emperor Frederick IV of the house Corrino to the other houses of Atreides, Harkonnen, and the Ordos to see who can harvest the most spice and therefore win control of the planet.
Review: Dune II: Battle for Arrakis is a far cry from its predecessor; its only comparison is that it is a game based on Dune. This sequel is a completely different type of game sharing; no story-line or game play, but is in fact an RTS game released in 1992 by the legendary Westwood Studios who also brought us Command and Conquer.
The player must select one of these 3 houses to begin playing. Each house is represented by a mentor who guides you through the basics of the game, structure building, placing, harvesting and building vehicles. Each mentor is characterized by its house, the creepy yet powerful Harkonnen, the noble and advanced Atreides, and, err, the Ordos (a race created for the game, the one no-one really likes to use).
The game starts off easy at level 1 (as you would expect) and your mentor takes you through the basics with a few minor attacks for you to defend against. The game then progresses each time you defeat the enemy (or in the earlier levels have harvested the required amount of spice). Credits are accumulated through harvesting the orange spice field on the map and returning the full harvester to the refinery, credits can then be exchanged in the usual manner for new buildings, defenses and vehicles.
The game is played over 9 levels, perhaps it doesn’t sound like much but the later levels require skill and patience to beat. Your enemies appear in the form of the 2 remaining armies you didn’t select at the start, later levels sees you pitted against both armies as they team up against you, the final twist coming in the last level when the 2 remaining houses and the forces of the Emperor’s Sardaukar (an unplayable elite force whose heavy infantry are particularly powerful) must all be defeated in one last epic battle.
Even though the buildings style and appearance remain the same for each house (apart from the color) they each have their own special units, such as the Harkonnen heavy-duty Devastator tank, and the powerful Sonic Tank of the Atreides. The Ordos use the Deviator, a rocket launcher like tank that can change the alliance of any unit it hits for a limited period of time. Like modern RTS games you can take over buildings and build units of other armies as well as defend with walls, turrets and rocket turrets. As the game moves up through the levels you gain more advanced technologies, the final super weapon becoming available in the final levels through building the Palace. This provides the Harkonnen with a “nuke” type weapon known as the Death Hand, the Atreides can call on the help of the native warriors of Dune known as the Fremen and the Ordos rely on the Saboteurs to achieve their goals.
Conclusion: Dune II: The Battle for Arrakis contains all those things we love in the modern RTS and can be seen as the father of all things war like and destructive. Take your combat tanks and siege tanks proudly into war (never mind how slow they’re moving) and watch out for sand worms (players claim the sand worms are not biased but I’ve lost more tanks to them in one level than the enemy). Dune II is one of Westwood’s greats and an inspiration for the beginning of the Command and Conquer series released by Westwood in 1995. Recent RTS games, (ignoring the heavy emphasis on graphics, movie style clips and network/internet gaming) still takes its basic style of game play of base and army building, unique super weapons and vehicles, and the collection of resources to fund this, from Westwood’s original classic.
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I’ve always been interested in politics and, well, power. I distinctly remember aged 7 or 8 explaining to a classmate that Margaret Thatcher was a Prime Minister, not a President as Britain didn’t have Presidents. When I was given the action figure of Hordak (main villian of She-Ra and former mentor of Skeletor of course) I considered the ramifications amongst the villians of suddenly having the old boss back. Who would they back? Could Skeletor be deposed? Could civil war break out on Snake Mountain?
I was an odd child in many ways.
By the time I was 13 I had started to think about how power should be used and, most importantly, who should be in charge. My conclusion? That I should be in charge. Yes, me. Sadly at 13 I realised I was some time away from seizing power. Sorry, did I say seizing? I obviously meant to say ‘become politically active, maybe getting involved in local politics or something’…
While I waited to get old enough to fulfil my political destiny I played games that seemed to have a political or, ahem, power-hungry bent. Civilization, Command & Conquer, Colonization, Rise of Nations, and, the subject of this post,Syndicate.
Syndicate is set in a Blade Runner-esque future where nation states and governments have been replaced by corrupt corporations. The people have been numbed into submission by having a chip inserted into their heads which alters reality, making them see a world of sunshine and lollipops rather than the dystopian nightmare it actually is. Imagine the iPhone ten years from now.
Rather than make you a freedom fighter or something similar (booooooooring),Syndicate puts you at the head of one of these naughty businesses. The aim of the game is to forcibly take over all other rival corporations – effectively take over the world. You do this by sending a team of four heavily armed cyborgs into various global hotspots to commit sabotage, oppression and bit of old-fashioned political assassination. Successfully complete the mission and a chunk of the world would become yours. It certainly puts the aggressive in ‘aggressive takeover’.
Each mission takes place in a city. One of the most impressive things aboutSyndicate, especially considering when it came out, is the way each level felt like a real city. Yes, they all look the same, but they seem like living, breathing places. Police are patrolling the streets, cars and trains are moving around the place and people are going about their daily business. Well, they were going about their daily business until cyborgs got in the way.
Of course you didn’t just have to kill people, you could also hypnotize them, kidnap them and turn them into cyborgs to use in future missions. You could raise taxes in each territory you owned and invest those funds in weapon research and upgrading your cyborgs, giving them fancy new legs, skin and eyes.
The great thing about Syndicate was, though simple to play, it had a surprising amount of depth. It wasn’t a case of just shooting everything that moved (though there was thankfully a lot of that) but also managing your resources. The way each of your cyborg agents reacted in missions could be altered by adjusting their IPA (Intelligence, Perception and Adrenaline). Raise taxes too sharply and you might have a rebellion on your hands in your territory. Want more intelligence before you start a mission? OK, but that info will cost you money.
There’s something about seeing the colour of your empire slowly spread across the map of the world that is just so appealing. Every time you successfully completed a mission you saw the cut scene below. I never got tired of watching it.
Unfortunately, for various reasons I never played either of the follow ups – ‘American Revolt‘ (an expansion pack for the original game) and Syndicate Wars, a full sequel released on the Playstation and PC in 1996. I would love an updated version though. Even though it’s not something I ever do, an onlineSyndicate would be awesome, especially as the world of Syndicate seems to get a bit closer every day…
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Stunt Car Racer
Format: Amiga Genre: Racing Released: 1989 Developer: MicroStyle
Bizarrely, the inaugural post on this blog is for a racing game. Bizarre because generally I don’t actually like racing games that much; yet, when I think about it, the two or three that I’ve really enjoyed (Ridge Racer, Burnout 3, Gran Turismo) probably rank up there as some of my favourite game experiences, and Stunt Car Racer certainly deserves a special mention.
Most racing games before the mid-nineties were pretty rubbish. It was only with the 3D revolution that racing games really reached their full potential – before that it was all stripey grey race tracks and simplistic leftright leftright holddownthebutton gameplay (try playing a game like Lotus Challenge now and I guarantee the nostalgia won’t last beyond a couple of pixellated crash barriers). However, Stunt Car Racer WAS in 3D at a time when perhaps only a handful of games were, and what’s more it used the 3D space in a way that few games have, before or since.
The raison d’etre of Stunt Car Racer is the tracks – glorious, insane, rollercoaster-like tracks that leave you gripping the joystick for dear life as you hurtle through the air after burning up impossible ramps, then gritting your teeth as you plummet back down, engine still racing, the screen cartwheeling as you miss the track by inches and smash into the dirt below with a bone-shattering crunch. At a time when racing meant dodging in and out of identical 2D cars, Stunt Car Racer did vertical – and how. There was even a loop-the-loop…
The key thing about all this vertical fun was the ever-present sense of danger – there were no barriers to any of the tracks, so you always felt that just one small slip of the wrist could send you hurtling into the abyss, costing you valuable time as your stricken vehicle is winched back onto the track and, more importantly, causing potentially race-ending damage to your car. Above all, it was the intense adrenalin rush this caused that is my stand-out memory of the game; that and the excellent two player mode (only available over a link cable, but more than worth the considerable hassle of stringing together several wires and tellies).
I sold my Amiga recently (sacrilege I know), but I booted up Stunt Car for one last go before I carted the whole lot off to Mr Ebay. It’s lost none of it’s charm: sure, the graphics are basic (even for the time) and there’s only one other car on the track at any one time (believe it or not, that blocky red thing in the screenshot is a car), but it still retains an impressive sense of speed and danger as you hurtle round those suicide bends.
The creator of the game, Geoff Crammond (dubbed ‘Sir’ by Amiga Power), later went on to create the seminal Formula One Grand Prix series on the Amiga, but I’ll always remember him for this classic game. Nice one Sir Geoff.
Micro Machines (1991)
By: Code Masters Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, SNES, NES, Game Boy, CDi, PC, Amiga
People will always have differing opinions of things. Whether it’s games, films, music or anything else you can think of; there will always be at least one person that worships something and another who hates it with just as much passion. However, generally speaking, good things are regarded as good by the majority and likewise bad things remain bad. This is as true of video games as anything else but there’s bound to be a few people that dislike well-regarded games and that includes me – it was the whole reason I created the ‘Overrated!’ feature here at Red Parsley of course. I’ve only covered four games so far though, which suggests it isn’t something that happens too often, but if there was one game I always had at the back of my mind to add to the feature, it would be this one. I don’t think there’s any game so universally lauded that I dislike, but I caught a lot of flak for its omission from my recent Top Five so I figured it was as good a time as any to address the issue!
Micro Machines themselves – the little toys – are pretty cool. I’ve even collected a few such as the range they released based on the awesome Babylon 5, and when the game was released it was met with universal acclaim from reviewers and players alike. I’ve always been keen on games of this type so I sought it out with the utmost haste. Being equally keen on my splendid MegaDrive, it was this version I plumped for and first impressions of the game were… superb! The presentation is outstanding with nice cartoony intro and options screens which give you the choice between single or multi-player games. The latter offers the choice of ‘Single Race’ or ‘Tournament’ for two players while the former allows you to choose between ‘Head to Head’ or ‘Challenge’ games, and it is the first of these that I prefer by some way which is basically the two-player mode but against a CPU-controlled opponent.
Before starting you first need to choose your own character as well as your opponent’s from a selection of eleven cartoony human oafs whose skill level supposedly increases gradually from one to the next. You’ll then race each other in your various miniature vehicles over a series of courses based on household locales. The first, for example, sees you racing powerboats around a bubbly bath tub! Other vehicles include Sports Cars, Formula One Cars, Tanks, Turbo Wheels (buggies), Warriors (hot rods), 4×4’s, and Choppers, and they are raced around the house on things like desk tops, breakfast tables, snooker tables, and even around the workshop and garden. All race locations feature items and obstacles appropriate to their setting which most of the time make themselves unwelcome. In the two-player Single Race mode you can choose a vehicle which is then raced over its ‘home’ course, but in all other play modes the courses are arranged in order and you have to win one to see the next.
Unfortunately, this is where the problems start, at least as far as I’m concerned. The single player Challenge mode features a series of twenty four races which includes several courses based on each house location with corresponding vehicle type used. Races are against three CPU vehicles with very simple rules – complete the required number of laps and finish in the highest position possible. If you finish in the top two, you can move on to the next race. If not, you’ll lose a life. All the other play modes feature one-on-one races, whether that’s human vs the computer or another human. On the left side of the screen are eight coloured circles – four red, four blue. The object is to turn all the circles your own colour which is done by getting far enough ahead of your rival that they drop off the screen. Each time you manage this, a circle is filled in your favour. This can make races very short or immense endurance contests depending on the skill and luck of the participants, with the latter playing a notably more prominent role than the former in my experience.
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, in all head-to-head play modes, by their very nature you’re frequently racing high up the screen with little warning or view of upcoming corners and obstacles. Secondly, the design of the courses, while original and very appealing, also leaves masses of obstacles all over the place which not only slow you down if you hit them, but are also very easy to get stuck behind. On top of that, many of the courses take place on a table or something similar which means slipping over the edge and crashing to your doom is also commonplace. I can’t really say the courses gradually increase in complexity and difficulty as you might expect, either – the course that makes me most angry is only the third, and the one after it is a piece of cake! As annoying as all this stuff can be, it’s all manageable in slower vehicles like the 4×4’s or Tanks, but when you have to zoom around courses in fast, skiddy vehicles like the Sports or Formula One cars, mistakes come often which soon proves immensely frustrating.
It might seem like a game that’s hard to get pissed at judging by the screenshots though. As mentioned, the presentation is fantastic, and the audio is great too, with plenty of catchy tunes and various noises. Graphically, there are no flashy special effects or anything here and it’s easy to see why the game looks more or less the same across a variety of systems, but it’s still very pleasing on the eyes nonetheless. It’s certainly a mighty colourful game and the appropriately tiny vehicles all look nice enough as they career through the smoothly-scrolling courses, but the varied backgrounds and the great attention to detail is where the work has really been done. Most of them show great creativity and are filled with a conveniently-arranged mess befitting their setting. For example, the breakfast table course is marked out by Cheerios (or something similar) and has various foodstuffs dotted around like waffles and fruit. On-course obstructions are caused by spillages such as baked beans, and there’s even a cereal-box jump!
Most of the other courses are just as detailed and imaginative, and discovering their various sights and features is highly enjoyable the first few times you race them. However, as amusing and comedic as the game may be, the object is still surely to make progress and win races while having fun, not instead of? Success comes from driving round the more difficult courses time and time again until you can do so blindfolded; until you can do so without making even the tiniest mistake. Doing so is immensely tense/exciting during the race and immensely satisfying afterwards, but this is likely to happen far less than the alternative which I at least found incredibly frustrating and rage-inducing: winning, winning, doing well, BANG! … stuck behind trackside object, near-instant last place… racing, racing, doing well again, regain the lead, skid a teeny bit too far on a corner, fall off the table, near-instant last place, racing, cross the finish line in last place, lost a life… GrrrrrRRRRRR!!!!
Okay, I know I’m probably going to take a right kicking from the legions of Micro Machines fans who loved and still love this game and its sequels; I know its faults that annoy me so are mainly limited to certain courses on which the faster vehicles are used, and even then can be found in many other overhead racers (though not nearly so prominently, I submit), but I can scarcely recall any gaming experience that makes me as angry as this one is capable of doing – something which is much more pronounced in the Challenge mode in which you have to manage to go without making a mistake for much longer than the short bursts of skill/luck required in the other modes. Control of the vehicles is flawless though, admittedly, and with two players, both of you are as disadvantaged as each other I suppose (unless one has had a lot more practise!) but winning is still often more down to luck than skill.
Based on my prior experiences with this game I was preparing to give is cursory play to refresh my mind, then duly unleash the diatribe it deserves and give it a very low score, but I suppose I have to begrudgingly admit that I enjoyed Micro Machines much more this time. It’s still reallyannoying though, and frequently so – some times I’ll play it and do extremely well, even having enormous fun in the process, then catch myself thinking “this game is great, I was wrong, I’ll give a glowing review!”, but then my next session with it makes me angrier than ten Incredible Hulks and I end up smashing stuff up. The ideas behind the game are amazingly great and there’s many laughs to be had here, but in the end, this is a great example of a game that can be effing awesome and incredibly annoying, often within seconds of each other! Does that make it terrible game? No, I guess not, but it’s not a great one either in my opinion, sorry.
RKS Score: 6/10
By: Atari Genre: Maze / Run ‘n’ Gun Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 20,332 (starting with 2000 health)
Also Available For: Master System, MegaDrive, NES, Lynx, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Atari 8-bits, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the ‘Maze Games’ feature here at Red Parsley arrived at the Gauntlet series for a review but the decision to return to it wasn’t a hard one. This is mainly because it’s one of my favourite games but I’ve actually spent surprisingly little time with the arcade original. The decent conversion for the Spectrum occupied much of my time in the late 80’s before the fantastic Gauntlet 4 arrived on the MegaDrive (basically a conversion of the first game but with tonnes of extras) and occupied much of my time in the 90’s as well! The series certainly has its detractors, though, who argue that it’s repetitive and frustrating. I definitely didn’t agree with them back then but perhaps time has dulled the appeal of Atari’s classic. Henceforth, I shall find out…
The basic gameplay of Gauntlet (and Dandy – see below) must surely be known by near enough all gamers by now but for the benefit of those who have somehow missed it, it works like this: between one and four players can play simultaneously but first each needs to choose a character from the four available – Thor the Warrior (who has good fighting strength), Thyra the Valkyrie (who has strong armour), Merlin the Wizard (who has strong magic), and Questor the Elf (who is the quickest). From then on, your party (or maybe just you) are faced with an unending series of overhead-viewed dungeons filled to the brim with malevolent beasties intent on shortening your adventure! Whether they do or not is entirely up to you though, as each coin you insert gives your character health points and you can insert coins, and therefore play, forever if you want.
There are six types of enemy altogether – Grunts, Ghosts, Demons, Sorcerers, Lobbers, and Death. All of them except Death are created endlessly by generators placed all around the maze-like stages which have three strength levels with each monster they create being of the same level. The generators can be destroyed in the same way as the monsters they produce – either by shooting or fighting them one at a time or by collecting potions and using magic which clears some or most enemies on screen in one go. The strength of both of these attacks depends on the character chosen although special potions can also be found occasionally which boost an aspect of a character’s abilities – extra shot power or extra armour, for example. Watch out though – a pesky thief appears now and then and it’s these abilities that he’s most keen on stealing. Deaths appears in smaller numbers than the other enemies but they can only be killed by magic – otherwise they’ll drain 200 health points before disappearing. Grrrr!
The stages themselves are each around two screens wide by two screens tall, although some loop instead, and they are usually designed in as maze-like a way as possible. Most include several paths, some of which are often dead-ends. There are usually many doors blocking off sections that must be opened by finding keys and some stages feature teleporters which move you to the nearest similar device. Treasure chests for bonus points are abundant but far rarer are special medallions that grant temporary invisibility (the enemies home in on you as far as possible otherwise) which are a welcome, albeit brief, reprieve when they are encountered. Each player character gradually loses health points as the game wears on anyway but contact from enemies does of course reduce them much faster so it’s a good idea to keep an eye open for revitalising food which comes in two forms – cider, which can be shot, and what looks like roast dinners, which cannot.
As original and distinctive as it seemed at the time though, the concept of Gauntlet may not have been entirely born in the futuristic labs of Atari’s secret underground bunker. Ed Logg, credited as designer of Gauntlet, may or may not have had one eye on an Atari 8-bit game called Dandy, released two years previously, while putting his game together but the two titles certainly have some similarities. Whoever was responsible though, Gauntlet was the game which rose to prominence and it’s one that’s attracted and maintained a sizeable fan-base over the years. There could be many reasons for its enduring popularity but the simple fact is Atari’s game was available to a much wider audience, and arguably came at a much more convenient time as well.
Another reason for Gauntlet’s success over that of Dandy could simply be that it was better. It has a huge number of stages for one thing – a hundred unique dungeons which appear in random order from the eighth one onwards, and after the hundredth stage they start repeating as well so it’s a game without end! The cast of characters, both heroes and villains are also very memorable too. The differing attributes of each – shot strength and speed, magic power, fighting ability, armour, etc – meant that everyone had their favourite even if the differences between them became purely cosmetic once a few of the special potions had been collected which each boost one that character’s attributes accordingly. The relentless onslaught of enemy creatures pouring from their respective generators meant that you rarely get a minute’s peace too!
The enormous abundance of evil creatures to slay may make Gauntlet a tough slog for the most part but it’s rather impressive from a technical point of view. All sprites, objects and pieces of wall and floor take up one square on an unseen grid of 15 x 15 which makes up the visible play-field so everything is more-or-less the same size. This doesn’t take much processing power with regards to the inanimate parts of each stage of course, but the sprites are all animated, detailed, and there are absolutely masses of them nearly all the time. It’s still pretty impressive now so you can only imagine how mind-blowing it was at the time! Of course, this did present a challenge to the talented programmers charged with converting the fab game to home systems but even then the results were mostly spiffing!
Sadly, the audio here is almost silent though. There are a few simple sound effects but no in-game music which is hard to get used to since the fantastic MegaDrive conversion that I’ve played so much has had an equally fantastic soundtrack added. Breaking the near-silence now and then though, is the famous voice of the unseen dungeon overseer who offers occasional advice and support. He may sound a little ropey today but back then he was a revelation and his many comments have proved to be almost as enduring as the game itself! Indeed, despite the inane wafflings of the many naysayers, Gauntlet is still great fun and a highly enjoyable challenge. Yes, it is repetitive, as most games in the early years were, but not many of them offered four players the chance to unite and fight evil monsters to the death! Even for the solo-player, the lure of seeing new mazes or achieving a new high-score is enough to keep you playing. A timeless classic that offers a near-unlimited helping of simple, addictive adventuring. Still hate those bloody Lobbers though. Grrrr!
RKS Score: 9/10
Test Drive (1987)
By: Accolade Genre: Driving Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari ST First Day Score: 7,460
Also Available For: Amiga, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Apple II
There are a few games you could credit with the surge in popularity of racing games on home systems during the 90’s but the one that sticks in my mind most is probably The Need For Speed on the 3DO. Not only was this unexpected release fantastic but it was also quite realistic. The many, manysequels that followed it soon went down the manic, arcadey route rather than continuing the approach of the original and this is also true of most of the similar games that starting appearing. Amongst my favourite of these were the Test Drive games on the PlayStation. The series had undergone a ‘reboot’ around this time (purely coincidental, I’m sure) but the first games in the series actually had a lot more in common with the original NFS.
In fact, I had forgotten just howsimilar the two titles are until I played Accolade’s game for the first time in about twenty years for this review! There’s no options before starting the game aside from one important one – the selection of your car. The choices here include many of the supercar favourites of the day – Porsche 911, Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Testarossa, Corvette, and the good old Lotus Esprit Turbo. Each comes with a detailed stats screen to help you make your choice, after which you’re on the road, ready to go. The game is viewed from the driver’s perspective and each car can only be driven with manual gears, and it’s a full gearbox too, not the usual ‘low’ and ‘hi’ gears! There are five stages altogether with each separated by a stop at a ‘gas’ station where you’ll discover your average speed and points earned.
The stages are all segments of the same road which winds along a clifftop, movie-stylee – one side is sheer rock with the other side presumably consisting of a drop of equal sheerness! Normal traffic passes along the road in both directions now and then, although it’s not too busy, and there are also police radars which will summon a police car if you go too fast. There’s no time limit or other vehicles to race so you can approach the presence of the rozzers one of two ways: either go too slowly to bother them, or the way I’m sure most gamers will choose – go as fast as possible to outrun them! The supercar you’re driving isn’t a Daytona stock-car that will bounce around all over the place though – they’re very delicate things, even more so than I would’ve thought. Not only does hitting the rock face or another car cause you to crash (indicated by a smashed windscreen) but even revving the engine too high will result in obscured vision too!
Fans of the original Need For Speed will no doubt find most of this very familiar but it appears that Accolade got there first! Indeed, Test Drive must have surely been the first ever ‘supercar simulator’ and it’s the opportunity to drive these amazing cars that provides the game’s biggest draw. To that end, it’s a pretty good game. Each of the cars handles differently and the roads, which later on feature the odd oil spill or pothole, are good fun to drive along. Graphically, I remember being mightily impressed with this all those years ago but the intervening years have seen it age considerably. The presentation screens are still lovely but the in-game aesthetics less so. The oncoming cars (and occasional big rig) aren’t too bad but the scaling can be quite poor. If you’re travelling at any decent speed they’ll often seem to appear from nowhere prompting panic-lunges to try and get out of the way in time!
Don’t think that the absence of any kind of time-limit means you can crash as often as you want either – five wrecks equals game over here! Talking of which, one area that Need For Speed improved dramatically is the crashes. EA’s game was famous for its spectacular comings together but the spectacle here begins and ends with the broken glass in front of you. Even the track-sides and backgrounds are rather dull too, and the sense of speed isn’t great, although there is a handy rear-view mirror. So, the visuals might have aged somewhat, which is understandable with this kind of game, but I’m confident the audio was never any good, or at least this version. There are a couple of short (and not especially nice) tunes but the in-game sound is restricted to a horrible engine sound and that’s it! So, this is certainly one to play with the sound turned down, but is it one to play at all?
Well, like NFS, I think Test Drive was probably made as more of a technical showcase than as a thrilling and involving racing game. Accordingly, there’s really not much to it – no opponents, no car upgrades, no forked roads, and certainly nothing as radical as a championship or tournament mode. What there is, though, is pretty good. No time-limit or opponents also means you can relax and drive how you want to rather than be forced to tear through the stages like a maniac, although having said that, the between-stage pit-stops do encourage you to up the ante (as well as provide the odd lairy ‘motivational’ comment) and the lure of improving your average speed is quite strong. It is all over pretty quickly though, so that, along with the number of superior examples of the genre on the ST and Amiga, means that this original probably won’t hold your attention for long
RKS Score: 6/10
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Platform games as a genre have been around over thirty years now and this kind – where each stage is only one screen in size – was how the genre began before fancy stuff like scrolling was introduced. That’s a lot of time to be trying to come up with new ideas. There is, after all, only so much you can do with one 2D screen filled with platforms. Impressively though, most of them manage to add at least something to the genre, or sub-genre as it now is. This effort by German fellow, Harold Müller, which appeared pretty late in the Amiga’s life, does not. Apparently, this is typical of Mr. Müller whose games often feature, shall we say, ‘borrowed’ elements or ideas. Clearly, if true, that makes him either lazy or just lacking in creative abilities but does that mean his games aren’t any good? I don’t know yet so let’s find out!
Happy Monster, if its title is to be believed, is a game that features at least one happy monster. I don’t know why they’re so happy but it could be because of all the booty they have lying around the place. Many lush, ripe fruits, tasty snacks and desserts, and even gemstones, can be found in abundance across the twenty stages that make up the game. You play the part of a small, bearded fellow (who reminds me of Silver Neelsen from F-Zero X) whose job it is to collect (probably steal) each of these items, although defeating (probably murdering) the monsters that duly petrol their stash is optional. Successfully clearing a screen of all that inhabits it opens the exit from where you’ll begin again until all twenty screens have been conquered. Items to help him do this include 1ups and speed-ups, which are among the other items, but other than that, you’re on your own.
Actually, now that I think about it, this must be how Mr. Neelsen was able to fund his F-Zero exploits. Oh well, he’s no worse than Zoda I suppose. Whether the F-Zero tournaments are tainted or not, our hero is gifted with only the basic platforming actions here. He can drop down through platforms, and he can fall an unlimited distance without harm, but contact from any monsters causes instant death. By means of offensive abilities, he can shoot fireballs from his torso to take out the monsters, of which there are several colours which determines their speed and how many hits they take to defeat, but he can only jump a short height. This presents the game’s only major problem – one or two stages have parts that you can fall into but can’t jump high enough to get out of. This basically means the stages in question fall victim to trial-and-error gameplay, particularly since there’s no ‘suicide’ button allowing you to start the stage again.
As you can probably already tell from the screenshots, aside from the arrangements of platforms and collectibles the stages that make up Happy Monster don’t differ a huge amount from one another. The same tiled background adorns each stage, albeit in alternating colors, the enemies are all copies of Spud from Superfrog, although again in different colors and the player’s character is tiny, even smaller than the monsters in fact, and animated very basically. The sprites and items are quite well-defined but that’s about the only positive as far as the aesthetics are concerned. The sound only consists of about three effects, one of them rather irritating, and no music at all. Well, except for a rather unassuming title-screen jingle but it’s not really what I’ve come to expect from Amiga games, whether made by big multi-million pound corporations or by a guy in his bedroom!
Indeed, from a technical point of view, Happy Monster is far from the pinnacle of Amiga gaming and it’s also one of the least original games of this type I’ve played. I suppose I shouldn’t be too judgmental though, Mr. Müller has achieved a lot more than I ever could! It may at first seem like a sightly tough and unfair game, but you’ll soon discover that it’s actually too easy – most stages can be beaten on the first try with no loss of life and even the few trickier ones only require a couple of tries at most before they are overcome, especially since stages are reset when you do lose a life. There’s no time-limit so you can spend as long as you want messing around. The only thing you have to be really careful of is to not fall into an inescapable part of a stage as I did a few times. This is my only real issue with the game as it can completely ruin an otherwise enjoyable session. Grrrr!
Apart from that, though, despite its technical inadequacies and lack or anything remotely fresh or creative, it’s actually pretty good fun, but it’s still really hard to recommend it as could have so easily been much better. There are only twenty stages and they lasted me around an hour. With practice I finished the game in fifteen minutes without losing a life. Even with such a short game, some later stages re-use sections from older stages and a couple are even repeated as a whole. There are also only five different colors of otherwise identical-looking enemies and just the one power-up in the entire game. There’s not even an ending – it just loops back to the start! It seems to me that Happy Monster is very much like a free shareware game that a fan made to test his programming abilities or something like that, but I’m pretty sure it was a full commercial release, and that means it’s average at best. Fundamentally, it’s an enjoyable enough game but with more enemies, more stages, and more varied stages, it would still be very unoriginal but would be so much better than it is now.
RKS Score: 5/10
By: Andrew Braybrook / Hewson Consultants Genre: Shooting / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Commodore 64 First Day Score: 1,275
Also Available For: Atari ST, Amiga, Archimedes
Download For: Wii Virtual Console
Well, I suppose it’s time I got around to reviewing some Commodore 64 games here at Red Parsley. My unfamiliarity with the system makes choosing one something of a ‘lucky dip’ though, so how do I choose? Most of what I know about this game is a result of the coverage the remake that appeared on the 16-bit computers received in my favourite magazines of the day. This C64 version is the original though, and many fans would insist that it’s still the best, so let’s see what the fuss is all about. The game is apparently set on a fleet of spaceships, each of whose various decks, which are viewed from overhead, are populated by lots of droids which have been turned hostile by some malevolent asteroids. It’s therefore your job to destroy them. Sounds simple enough!
I’ve always assumed that this is a rather complicated and puzzley game but the first few minutes I played it were spent moving my amusing-looking droid around shooting all the others I encountered. I suspect it gets more involved than this, however, and that indeed proves to be the case, but not by as much as I thought. As mentioned, the object of the game is to take out all the other droids on each deck of the ship. The humorous droid I spoke of is the very weak one you start off with and a device known as the ‘Influence Device’ allows you to exert control over it. You can move it around the spaceship in the eight basic joystick directions and it can fire an energy weapon in its direction of travel. The decks of the ship vary in size and all but the smallest are divided into numerous rooms. Droids occupy these rooms but you won’t know how many there are until you enter.
Each game is started at a random point on the first of the never-ending ships. Each of them has lifts to facilitate your movement up and down through the decks and there’s also terminals here and there which you can log onto which give information on the remaining droids. Each one you encounter is represented by a number which indicates its power (your default droid is numbered 001). The higher the number the faster it can move and the harder it is to destroy. Some droids can also shoot back, with the power of their shot also increasing with their number. There are no power-ups to collect so to contend with the ever powerful droids you’ll have to employ an alternate technique. Any droid can ‘link’ with another and this enables you to take them over via a mini-game which involves basic circuit diagrams and logic gates.
Here, you control one side of the screen and the droid you’re trying to take over controls the other side as you battle for control of the droid’s circuitry. Success means you ‘become’ that droid but they only last for a limited time so you’ll need to continually transfer to new droids. It’s also wise not to try and take over a droid that is much stronger than the one you already control as you will likely lose, and losing means your current droid is destroyed and you’ll revert back to the weedy default droid. If this droid is defeated in an attempted transfer, it’s game over. And it’s a game over screen I’ve seen quite a few times now! I was a bit worried about playing this game as I thought it was going to be rather complicated meaning I’d have to spend hours learning how to play it, searching the internet for guides, etc.
Fortunately, it’s not as complex as I feared, but it is pretty tough. This is no console game so there’s no multiple lives and continues to ease you in. If you lose the default droid, that’s it! Mini-games have never really been my forte either, and it is here that I predictably have most trouble with Paradroid. It’s a good concept though and, whilst probably not invented here, it does suit the game very well. Also suiting the game are the graphics. My experience with C64 games is limited but I do know that they often look quite blocky and use a distinctive colour palette and that is the case here too. It’s not a bad thing though and the style used is a good one. The mostly-monochrome colour schemes change from deck to deck and they can get a little garish (green and red? groo!) and it would be helpful if some colours were altered when being used against some of the lighter background colours, but overall this is a decent looking game.
The sound is pretty minimal which was surprising to me – all this tooting C64 fans do about their beloved SID chip and there’s nary a tune to be found here! There is a few ditties though, and some atmospheric sound effects too. I suppose full-on musical tracks might not really suit a slow-paced game like this either, so perhaps it was a conscious decision to not include any. In any case, it doesn’t adversely affect the gameplay. I think it’s safe to say I’ve not played anything quite like Paradroid before and playing it for the first time over 25 years after its original release makes me think about how many other unique games I missed out on. It’s certainly a captivating game and pootling around these ‘robo freighters’ is an oddly therapeutic experience. I’ll probably have to play it for years before I get really good at it but with a game as original and well-designed as this one, it’s no real hardship.
RKS Score: 8/10
By: Technos / Taito Genre: Fighting Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 29,800
Also Available For: Master System, NES, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple II
Poor old RKS has a tough life as a gamer. Despite being relatively normal in most ways, I only have few friends who share my interest in this particular subject and only one who also likes retro games, and he lives far enough away that I don’t see him often. When we do meet up, one type of game we nearly always play is scrolling fighting games, but it only occurred to me recently that we always play the same few: Double Dragon, Final Fight, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, etc. Upon realization of this, I decided to give a few other examples a try to vary our rare gaming sessions a little. One of the first games I thought of was Renegade – one of the first such examples of the genre and supposedly also one of the best which, alarmingly, is yet another title I’ve never gotten around to trying. Playing it for the first time for this feature, however, revealed that it’s not strictly speaking a scrolling fighting game at all. Hmmm.
As most of you probably already know, each of Renegade’s meager four stages are quite small. They do scroll, but are only about four screens wide – a space which is populated by different ‘hoodlums’ on successive stages as well as a boss character who becomes active once only three of his henchmen remain. Your job as the unnamed (in the arcade version, at least) vigilante is merely to beat the crap out of them. You can move in eight directions and there are three buttons – one attacks in the direction you’re facing, another attacks behind, and the last performs a jump. A double-tap of either direction allows you to run and you can attack while doing this or jumping. Even the most basic enemies require numerous hits to defeat but you can knock them to the ground fairly easily at which point you can straddle them (oo-er!) and continue smacking them up. It’s also possible to grab an enemy and perform a throw but they can grab you as well. All of these moves can also be performed on the boss characters, but since they’re stronger the attacks are often less effective.
The four stages take place on a subway platform, a harbor an alley, and the gang’s hideout, and each is home to unique enemies. The amount of energy their attacks cost you is dependent on what they attack you with. Some have only their fists but others are armed or even riding motorbikes. Thugs wielding knives or guns can even kill you outright with one hit, and this makes an already rock-hard game harder then ten adamantium-coated diamonds! You only get one life, you see, and unusually for an arcade game you don’t even have the option of adding coins to continue. I’m not an especially gifted gamer, admittedly, but I was having so much trouble I even had to resort to fiddling around with the DIP switch settings. However, despite changing the difficulty to easy upping the lives to the maximum of two (!), I was still making little headway. The extra life wasn’t much use as it makes you start the stage again anyway, so I decided to try a more strategic approach of running around and picking off thugs only when an opportunity presented itself. And then I ran out of time instead!
Even some sneaky tactics such as knocking enemies off the end of the railway platform on the first stage usually backfired as I was knocked off instead. Boo hoo. It’s quite a nice-looking game though. Stage graphics are good and the sprites, whilst not too numerous, are varied, distinctive, and animated fairly well too. The sound isn’t bad either, with average music but pretty good effects and even the odd snippet of speech (“Get lost, punk!”), and it’s an exciting, action-packed, and enjoyable game to play, but that difficulty means that any enjoyment is usually short-lived. Even having not previously played it, I knew that Renegade was a landmark title that brought with it several innovations, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so unforgiving! Arcade games are usually tough but would a continue feature have been too much to ask? Renegade is actually a Western ‘localisation’ – the original Japanese game is part of the ‘Kunio-kun’ series, so I’ll have to give that a try to see if it’s as tough. For now though, I’m either a wussy who needs a lot of practice, or by jove, Renagade is a toughie – too tough for me!
RKS Score: 6/10
By: Hewson Consultants Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga
Also Available For: MegaDrive, Atari ST, PC
Download For: Xbox Live Arcade, iOS
The years of the Atari ST and Amiga were conflicting ones for me. For the first half of their tenure, my main system of choice was my trusty Speccy. As great as Sir Clive’s marvel was, it couldn’t hold a candle to 16-bit machines, technically. For the second half of their tenure, I was the proud owner of the all-powerful MegaDrive console where I found myself in the opposite situation. Whichever side of the fence I found myself on though, I always kept an interested eye on releases for the ST and Amiga and one that always intrigued me was Onslaught. It was available on both machines and looked suitably impressive for either. It wasn’t long, however, until I learnt a valuable lesson – appearances can be deceptive…
These are basically boss fights but feature a floating, four-armed head! You control a hand that can move around the edge of the screen and fire magic stars, and this you must do until the strange creature is no more. Victory means you’ve won the territory and then it’s on to the next. The temple stages are the same as mind duels and there are also plagues, crusades, and rebellions to contend with. These occur at random intervals and make the going even tougher, particularly the latter which costs you a previously won territory. During the battle sections, it’s also important not to let too many enemies past you unscathed as if enough of them make it, they can grab your banner too!Set a good few hundreds of years ago, Onslaught is the tale of many warring kingdoms. At the start of the game you’ll see a map screen consisting of a 16×16 grid of tiny squares which presumably represents a sizeable portion of the world of Gangore. Each red square is a kingdom and each red dot with a light ring around it is a temple. You start the game as a random warrior, all known as ‘Fanatics’, and at a random point on the map, although usually towards the edge somewhere. From here you can select any kingdom or temple within one grid square of your position. The former are multi-tiered, side-scrolling platform/combat sections which come in three parts. First you have to battle your way from left to right until the end where the enemies banner is located, then it’s on to a ‘siege’ section which is more or less the same except the enemy banner is at the top of a castle, and then it’s on to a ‘mind duel’ which are rather stranger.
Each of the kingdoms on the map has a status panel type thing that can be viewed prior to attacking them. This includes the popularity of the warlord who’s currently in charge (which affects the strength of the enemies), population (number of enemies), and warband (types of enemies). The last one is of particular note as the enemies can take several forms, some more dangerous than others. Footmen attack with conventional medieval style weapons, wizards cast spells, and spearmen are fairly self-explanatory. There are also soldiers with cannons and other more powerful weapons aimed in your direction and landmines dotted around which should be avoided at all costs. The last kind of enemy is the most annoying.
They are the riders. Their vehicles range from boars, horses, or even magic carpets, and they travel across the screen in either direction. If your warrior is touched by any enemy it will push him backwards a little but this effect is considerably increased by the riders. The armaments used by your ‘fanatic’ can sometimes lesson the likelihood of this happening though. You’ll starts the game with a mace. This is obviously very short-range and not terribly powerful so it’s fortunate that some defeated enemies will leave behind shield icons. These are new weapons which include crossbows, bombs, and homing shots. They all have a limited lifespan but are invaluable for making progress, as are the magic scrolls which can be collected from the same source which give you abilities ranging from screen-clearing smart-bombs to freezing the enemies.
The first thing you’ll notice when you load Onslaught is the splendid piece of music and the impressive loading screen, above. These both make a great first impression and the in-game graphics and music, while varying little, are still of a high standard. The battle stages are quite cluttered and the colours a bit garish but the detail and animation of the sprites is great. Overall it’s very atmospheric though, especially the fantastic music. However, as is typical of Amiga games the music comes at the cost of any sound effects, although you can turn the music off on the options screen if desired. Something else you can do here is raise the difficulty but I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing that – if taking over a load of kingdoms single-handedly sounds tough, that’s because it is!
Your warrior may have a reasonable amount of energy but it’ll soon get worn down – most of the battle stages are fairly short but are so full of enemies that most of them will take a while to get through. The enemies re-spawn too and they really do throw everything at you including arrows, meat-cleavers, cannonballs, and land-mines to name a few (although it’s not surprising I suppose since I’m pretty sure you play the part of the bad guy, attacking and ransacking innocent villages!). Some stages can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult to even make any headway, particularly stages populated by riders. This kind of thing just compounds the already highly challenging nature of the gameplay and sadly makes playing Onslaught a very frustrating experience. All this and you get just the one life and no continues!
The screenshots and description probably make Onslaught seem like a really interesting game, I’ll certainly agree there. There’s a lot to do and the mixture of combat and strategy seems like it’s been well thought through, so I really wanted to like it, but after giving it numerous chances to impress me, the result is always the same. Its design seems very disorganised and chaotic but most of the problems are caused by the very high difficulty. I don’t know how insanely gifted some of you might be but I often don’t even finish the first stage nevermind rule over the whole land of Gangore! It is quite addictive but I can’t imagine I’ll make it too far into the game – I certainly haven’t yet! It’s hard to know what to make of it really. There’s lots of great ideas and potential but sadly it’s just been executed in a frustratingly unsatisfactory and… well, frustrating way. Time for a remake?
RKS Score: 5/10
Alien Syndrome (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Run ‘n’ Gun Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 96,400
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Sharp X68000, NES, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Like many game companies in the mid-to-late 80’s, it seems almost certain that Sega were also bitten by the ‘Alien’ bug, so to speak. That is to say, they drew inspiration from the Alien movies for one (or some) of their games. The fact that this release came the year after the super-successful sequel to the classic 1979 film would tend to back up that theory as it’s a game that may seem familiar to some fans. Rather than a gound-based colony, however, it takes place in a series of seven spacecraft. These were presumably craft operated by humans but they have become overrun by hideous alien creatures of various descriptions and their human crew taken prisoner. It therefore falls to Ricky and Mary, two suspiciously Space Marine-like soldiers, to liberate each ship in succession and eradicate the alien scum that now dwells within.
The interior of each craft is viewed from an angled overhead perspective and usually consists of a maze-like series of corridors, rooms, or open areas linked by walkways. The human captives, or ‘comrades’, are dotted around the scrolling stages and a set number of them must be rescued (by touching them) within a pretty strict time-limit before the exit is unlocked. This inevitably leads to a much larger and more dangerous alien boss who you must shoot the crap out of before moving onto the next ship. Each stage has unique enemies, usually two different kinds, and from the second stage onwards an infinite number of them are produced by Gauntlet-like generators. Destroying these will finally stem the flow of alien filth and allow you to cleanse the stage. If you want to, that is, as the only actual requirement is to rescue those pesky comrades.
Blasting the idiotic aliens does take up valuable time of course, but it also makes the game a lot more fun! Each new alien encountered looks and acts differently to the last. Some can spontaneously reproduce, others chase you, but most of them are able to shoot at you. A single touch from any alien or one of their projectiles is enough to take a life from Ricky or Mary but surprisingly the aliens are just as fragile – from the first stage to the last, a single shot is all that’s required to take them out. Except for the bosses, obviously. Typically, you start the game with a pea-shooter gun which just about does the job, but its range and rate of fire is somewhat limited. There are four other weapons available, however – laser, flamethrower, napalm, and a rapid-fire cannon – which, impressively, not only have unlimited ammo but also last forever as long as you don’t lose a life.
It’s also possible to collect up to two small guns that follow you around and shoot backwards every time you shoot your normal weapon which can be shot in eight directions but only forward. These, and all the other weapons, can be collected from panels on the walls where you can also find bonus points and maps that show the basic layout of the stage as well as the location of the remaining comrades. Points are awarded at the end of each stage for any remaining time and for any comrades rescued beyond the quota but, if you’re like me, you probably won’t see too many of them! I usually tend to play games in a very meticulous way, trying to do everything and see everything, so I found the time limits to be quite tight. Aside from that though, Alien Syndrome isn’t an overly tough game and is actually, dare I say it, even pretty fair.
Part of the reason for this it that the aliens are defeated by a single shot from whichever gun you’re carrying at the time (even the one you start with) but it also helps that their movement doesn’t seem to conform to any repeating patterns. Their appearances are apparently random and their movement is seemingly dependent on your own, so your progress is pretty much just down to your own ability. Accompanying you on your refreshingly-unfrustrating mission are some tunes and sound effects which aren’t too bad, although not especially memorable, but about the only thing I don’t really like about Alien Syndrome is its graphics. It’s running on Sega’s System 16 board which I`m not hugely fond of at the best of times and this means that most of the colours used are rather pale and drab and there`s some quite unpleasant patterns used for the stage floors. That aside though, there’s little to complain about, and some of the aliens look great!
This is particularly true of the big and imaginative bosses and there’s quite a few different normal sprites too. The two playable characters don’t look much different and are even less different to play as but they’re not there to provide a bit of variety – they’re there to facilitate a two-player game, and they do that well. A few differences between wouldn’t have hurt anyway though, I suppose! Oh well, it’s still an enjoyable game, for one or two players, and proves to be a very addictive one as well. The stages themselves get bigger and more complicated but are never overly large or complex – this is a game that’s about fast and frantic shooting and nothing more, and with the ever-increasing hordes of aliens in the later stages, you’ll need to be precise as well as fast! It’s a shame it doesn’t look a bit nicer but if you can handle the offensive patterns, this is a game that’s aged well.
RKS Score: 7/10
The Handy from Epyx, was the brainchild of David Morse, Dave Needle and the legendary RJ Mical. All three were the masterminds behind the Amiga. The collaboration of the device was done on a napkin in August 1986 – well before anyone else had thought of a portable gaming device like this. The Handy was the first full colour, 16-bit portable device. There are arguments till this day about how many ‘bits’ this device had. For me, it was, and still is 16-bit.
Epyx, not having the finances to take the product to market themselves were planning on selling the technology to Nintendo. Little did they realise, Nintendo was already working on their own portable device, the Gameboy.
When the Nintendo deal fell through for the Handy, Epyx approached none other than Jack Tramiel, owner of Atari at the time. Atari had attempted to create their own portable device (the Atari 2200), however, they could not get it right, so the Handy was perfect timing for them. The Handy became the Atari Lynx and the rest as they say, is history.
The Atari Lynx was released in the US in 1989 (1990 in the UK). The price of the unit was $100 more than the Gameboy. This price disparity, and the fact that Nintendo bundled the killer app Tetris with their unit, basically killed the market share for Atari’s new portable device. The original Lynx unit was bulky and also suffered from a short battery life – it chewed the 6 x AA batteries in no time when compared to the Gameboy. This just added to the woes of the Lynx.
Atari eventually released the Lynx II, which was half the price of the original unit and was also smaller and cheaper to manufacture. The Lynx II introduced stereo sound and a pause button. This newer version also had longer battery life – a relief for avid fans.
As Atari thought they were on a winner with the Lynx II, along came Sega’s Game Gear in 1991. Although the Lynx was far superior than the Game Gear, it could not compete with Sega’s vast advertising budget and resources. The Game Gear was also backward compatible with the extensive library of Master System games.
Even though Atari’s Lynx was relegated in the portable device market by the Gameboy and later by the Game Gear, it was still home to some awesome games and arcade conversions like: Chip’s Challenge, Klax, California Games, Blue Lightning, Rampart, Lemmings, Roadblasters, Paperboy, Rampage, STUN Runner, Xenophobe, Xybots and Zarlor Mercenary.
The Lynx fate was sealed in the early 90′s, not due to inferior hardware, but to better and smarter marketing from the likes of Nintendo and Sega. The device enjoys a cult following till this day in the retro gaming realm. So, do yourself a favour, grab a Lynx II. You will not be disappointed.
And so… we finally reach the end of My Favorite Games. As expected there’s lots of games I’m fond of that I couldn’t find space for, and I’m sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven’t previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
Wiz n Liz – MegaDrive (1993)
Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don’t need to be remotely violent to be great fun – aside from a few bosses there’s not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect – some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can’t stop playing it!
Goldeneye 007 – Nintendo 64 (1997)
Yep, sorry, but I had to include it! This was pretty much the first FPS I played properly and what an experience it was! Being a fan of the Bond films didn’t hurt either. In fact, I had just watched the Goldeneye movie before I first played this and, having been used to terrible movie tie-ins generally, wasn’t really expecting much from it. To my amazement, however, not only was it amazingly playable but it also stuck to the plot of the film too. That was unheard of! This fantastic game represents many firsts for me, notably my first use of a sniper-rifle which was awesome, as well as probably the first game I’d played where stealth and cunning yielded more rewards than charging in all-guns-blazing like a bull in a china shop! Goldeneye is probably more famous for its multi-player deathmatches than for its one-player game but it was the latter that kept me playing this, even when I got stuck in the damn jungle level!
Soul Calibur – Dreamcast (1999)
Being a big Sega fan, not many games made me prouder of being a Dreamcast owner than this one. Stunning graphics (which actually improved on the arcade game) and a equally stunning soundtrack were the icing on the cake of this ground-breaking game from Namco. It had a lot of flashy moves which weren’t too difficult to perform, a great range of characters, and flawless combat physics, but my biggest surprise was discovering the Adventure Mode which saw you travelling around completing various missions to unlock many treats in the game! Many were hoping for a good conversion of this game. What they got was so much better than the arcade original it defied belief! This is still the finest 3D fighting game I’ve ever played.
Operation Wolf – Arcade (1987)
Out of all my many visits to the arcades of Hayling Island in the late 80’s/early 90’s, this was the game that received most of my money. It was my first experience of a light-gun game, and it was a hell of an intro! An Uzi with grenade-launcher? Yes please! The force-feedback on the gun made things all the more authentic and I just loved playing this over and over, even if I wasn’t very good at it and never managed to complete it. No game of its type ever ensnared me like this did, until Point Blank of all things arrived! Shooting the helicopters and trucks was always particularly satisfying. Of all the home versions, only the Master System version was much cop, but even that didn’t offer the tense atmosphere of this fantastic original.
Sonic 2 – MegaDrive (1992)
Last and not least… as a Sega fan I can’t possibly leave out a Sonic game, and as most will probably agree, the series never surpassed the second MD game. Released after a MAJOR hype campaign, this was one of the rare games that actually lived up to expectations. It took everything that Sonic 1 started and added a whole lot more – bigger, prettier stages and more of them, a new character in Tails, two-player action, those famous tunnel-based bonus rounds, a bigger challenge… Some of the later Sonic games were good but none of them were ever as endlessly entertaining as this one. Going back to play this makes me sad in a way as it marks not only Sonic’s peak, but arguably that of Sega themselves too. Oh well, let us Sega fanboys remember the good times – even Nintendo fanboys must’ve been jealous of this one!
Name: Torben Larsen
Profession: Creative Director
Favorite Classic Game: Ping Pong
Quote: It was the first game I played sometime late 1970’ties on a TV console. The simplicity and fun factor still holds today and reminds me of how far the games have developed since that time 🙂
Cope-Com was founded in 1987 by Martin Pedersen and Torben Larsen with the aim of making great Amiga computer games. With the award-winning game titles Hybris and Battle Squadron they successfully proved the capabilities of the Amiga home computer.
Martin Pedersen started out with a ZX81 (actually an upgraded ZX80) in 1982 and later switched over to the ZX Spectrum, which was eventually exchanged with an Amstrad. In 1985 he did the game “The Vikings” for the Amstrad. At the same time Torben Larsen was doing the graphics for the same game on the Commodore 64. This was how the two met.
Feeling limited with the Amstrad and its technical abilities, Martin and Torben decided to take a closer look at the Amiga in 1985-86. The technical aspects of the Amiga in terms of more advanced processors, better screen resolution, more colors, and 8 bit sound sampling, was very impressive to both of them.
Being excited about the great possibilities of the Amiga, they decided to develop games for this machine. They started out with their first Amiga title, a shoot’em up called Hybris. For this game they teamed up with the American publisher Discovery Software International Inc. Hybris was published worldwide in 1987 and was an instant success on the Amiga. The game received several Amiga awards and was praised for its high technical standard, great game play, and sharp graphics.
Taking on the challenge after Hybris, they decided to develop an even better vertical shoot’em up for the Amiga called Battle Squadron. This time they teamed up with Innerprise Inc. as publisher. The game was released worldwide in 1989 and again an Amiga classic was born. The game featured two simultaneous players and a novel gaming “predator” enemy effect. Battle Squadron received a 109% rating in Amiga Computing, and 90-100% in many other computer magazines of that time.
As of 2012 Cope-Com is now working on converting their great classic Amiga games to new formats, such as iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Android.
Have a look on the past and current projects from Cope-Com here on their website:
Overall Rating: 4/5 Stars
In early 1989, Konami released an 8-bit video game cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System console under their Ultra Games label that would prove to a singularity among the typical shoot-’em-up choices available to a player: Gyruss.
Gyruss is a one-player game. Although it exists within the shooter genre, it neither scrolls horizontally nor vertically; instead, this is a “tube shooter,” somewhat like the classic title Tempest, with a fixed viewpoint that provides a faux three-dimensional feel. The player controls the ship by rotating it around a ring formation, always facing the center. Enemy ships not only move around in circles also, but also at different depths, sometimes as far out as the player-ship, while other times so far away they appear as just a couple pixels in the center of the screen.
There are two control modes offered, A and B. Control Mode A ensure that pressing Right on the directional pad always moves the ship to the right, no matter which vertical half of the screen the ship is on. In other words, if the ship is at the bottom center of the screen, and the player presses Right until the ship is fixated at the three o’clock position at the right center of the screen, the ship will stop there, at which point the player must start pressing Left to continue the ship’s movement rotation around the screen. While it is nice that the game provides a steering mode that prevents the cognitive dissonance of a D-Pad direction only being “correct” half the time, the effect of each pause halfway up the circle is jarring, and Control Mode B is preferred, in which a continual, smooth motion of the ship is achieved, and pressing a direction on the D-Pad will always go clockwise if pressing Left and counter-clockwise if pressing Right.
Of course, there is much more to this video game than simply providing the tube shooter experience, though it is significantly notable for that accolade, considering it is the only example of such a game for the NES. The loose plot, explained in a single frame if allowed past the title screen, only says “Mankind must rid the universe of evil. It’s a death defying risk, and only a hero can succeed.” A foreboding, humanoid figure appears in the background against the starfield as a backdrop to this ominous text.
Play proceeds throughout the solar system that human beings are familiar with. Beginning with Neptune, and proceeding through each of the other planets (even Pluto, which must be during a portion of its orbit that takes it inside Neptune’s), the player is aiming to arrive at the Sun for the final showdown. Each planet has a few fairly short levels, that conclude with a boss fight, and then a bonus stage afterward for points.
In order to defeat each “warp” or wave of enemies, the B button fires the blaster cannon, with a maximum of two shots on the screen at a time. Earning a weapons upgrade enables double-fire, which is obviously a great boon to success, and can be achieved by blasting the two side barriers off a bonus orb before hitting the orb directly. The A button fires a special weapon, of which the player only has a limited amount and most slowly earn more throughout the game. This blast plows through everything in front of the player, towards the middle of the screen, and includes eliminating certain objects and projectiles that the normal blaster cannot get rid off.
The majority of the obstacles to victory consist of groupings of enemies that fly in, dance around in some form of pattern, then make their way to the middle of the screen. Much like Galaga, a handful of groupings will all form together, and should be dealt with before they begin coming back and dive-bombing toward the player. In fact, similar to other shooters such as even Sky Shark, shooting down all the crafts in a particular squadron before they reach the middle garners bonus points.
Besides the alien spacecraft are other challenging deterrents to deal with, such as asteroids and solar fireballs to dodge, along with the lasers and other weapons fired by various enemies. Some weaponry utilized, like the homing solar flare fireballs used near the end of the game, actually slightly veer toward the player as they come from the center of the screen, placing an enhanced demand on reflexes and reaction time.
There are about forty levels in all, with a brief ending afterward before a “second quest” begins. The Konami code is intact, if the player wishes to begin with 30 lives, instead of the usual three extra. Thanks to the deft programming skills of the development staff at Konami, Gyruss proves to be a slick, fun, very enjoyable 8-bit video game. As a shooter, it is a very distinctive title, and although not as tortuously difficult as some, with or without proper endings, still offers a worthy playthrough for shmup fans. That being said, this is not a game for everyone: It is so different that many will balk at its strangeness and simply never quite “get it.” Gamers have tastes, and some may fall in love with this selection.
Gyruss is a good-lookin’ little vidya game. The action is frenetic and fast-paced, complete with Konami’s signature visuals, even down to the small yellow-and-orange circular-oriented explosions that can be seen elsewhere in such NES cartridges as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. Solid ship designs and fancy beam weapon visuals aside, what may be most admirable of Gyruss is the crazy amount of sprites, for an 8-bit hardware machine at least, that it manages to juggle on-screen all at the same time. Granted, this comes with some flickering issues, but surprisingly minor, and without slowdown. The bosses are honestly a letdown at times, being somewhat small and not quite intimidating, but the strictures of the characterization were likely limited by the tube theme—which, in itself, is a graphical feast that mostly makes up for other nitpicky flaws. There is something very appropriate about a shoot-’em-up that strives to make the player feel as though they are shooting through space toward an ultimate destination.
The soundtrack is great. Really, it is a Konami work, so the usual high quality can be expected, complete with the familiar Pause sound effect. The background tunes get away from the period rock of something like Base Wars or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project, and settle into a motif more apropo of the setting at hand, fast-paced enough to keep adequate adrenaline pumping, with skillful composition that will never distract by its badness.
If one were to look too closely, one would have to frown and conclude that Gyruss is not entirely innovative: The “space shooter” trope has been endlessly retread for decades, down to the spacey designs of pattern-flying enemy squadrons that dive-bomb at a double-firing protagonist against a shooting-starfield background effect. It is, almost exclusively, the tube element that makes this an original, creative entry in the NES canon of gaming.
The most critical of observers could also say that Konami did not seem to try as hard with this one; the level-by-level execution is fairly straightforward, even with some quirky variety at points like the level without enemies where the player only needs to dodge incoming objects. The ending consists of a modest animation and one line of text (note: to be fair, the version on the Famicom Disk System is longer and less stripped-down). However, to purely take on a gaming perspective, that of a fan of video games, that of a human being with a controller in hand ready to take on the villains of the galaxy, that of purely sitting down in seeking a fun way to pass the time, Gyruss deserves its rating of four stars out of five. The five-word review goes like this: This is a great game.
Mobile gaming has not only added new gamers to our world, but also allowed classic games to have yet another platform to be played one. When I first began playing mobile games, I always thought it would be the perfect place for retro games to be played since it would not require much in the way of system resources. Battle Squadron ONE is one of those games that translates well onto the mobile platform giving gamers a great classic game to enjoy on their Apple or Android device.
Battle Squadron was a top down shooter developed by Cope-Com and published by Innerprise and EA for the Amiga computer and later for the Sega Genesis. This version stays true to the retro feel of the game with its classic sound and graphics, but it looks very good and clean on a mobile phone, which is important since you have so much going on and various attacks being flung at you.
The plot and gameplay is classic greatness, your commanders were kidnapped and you have to rescue them by going into the enemy’s base and destroying everything. Oh, did I mention the base is the size of a planet? The game starts off by tossing you right into the fray and you soon realize you need more than your standard gun to take out the hordes of enemies on the screen. You can upgrade your weapon by collecting the cubes dropped by defeated enemies which makes the game much easier especially with the spread shot and if all else fails you have your bombs which creates an area effect pulse of destruction that takes all enemies near you out.
Level design stays true to its retro roots where instead of having a stage and a boss and then a new level you instead have a “master stage” where you take out the enemy and then come upon a large crater in the planet. It is at this point you can enter the next stage, or you can continue on. Now if you did not purchase all the levels you will not be able to continue, but you can play the master level over and over. There are also bosses in the game and some levels have two bosses.
The graphics as said feel like the classic version of the game and the sound is direct from the Amiga version. The controls are easy to use and can be switched between the standard touch and drag controls with onscreen buttons or an analog slider, you can even use motion controls, but I liked those the least. In multiplayer mode, you play using a split screen, which on smaller phones can be a bit difficult, but on a larger device, like the iPad, it works very well.
Overall, Battle Squadron One brings true classic gaming to smart phones and should be in any retro gamers collection. We give this game a 9 out of 10. You can find the App Store and Android version of the game here.
Long before GoldenEye established the gold standard for James Bond action games, 007 had a PC gaming presence, with games dating back as far as 1983 (the Commodore 64 game James Bond 007). Most were based on the various Bond movies, and were either interactive fiction, such as James Bond: A View to a Kill(1984) and James Bond 007: Goldfinger (1986), or arcade action side/vertical scrollers, such as The Living Daylights (1987) or 007: License to Kill (1989). Some were forgettable, some enjoyable, but the first graphic adventure James Bond adventure is today’s featured game: James Bond: The Stealth Affair.
Box art for James Bond: The Stealth Affair
The story revolved around a missing F-19 stealth fighter, stolen from an American base and tracked (how did they do that?) to somewhere in Latin America. Who did it? Could it be the Russians pulling a Red October or could it be some Latin American tinpot dictator or crime lord? The danger of having a Latin American drug lord having stealth technology was sufficient to bring in the best troubleshooter in the business: James Bond. The action began as fast as our man James stepped off his flight into the Santa Paragua airport, holding only a briefcase and his airline ticket, with the need to somehow get past a maddeningly efficient airport security guard. “I don’t care who you are. In this country you are all outsiders.“ The game moved on from there, with a variety of puzzles to solve, as well as a few arcade action sequences to complete.
Splash title page for James Bond: The Stealth Affair
The Stealth Affair was a graphic adventure using a point&click interface, which means an inevitable pixel hunt. The command menu was brought up by right-clicking the mouse, and consisted of EXAMINE, TAKE, INVENTORY, USE, OPERATE, and SPEAK. Descriptions were provided when you used the EXAMINE command on objects, and you could either TAKE some items to later USE them in other situations, or OPERATE devices immediately. You could not EXAMINE your INVENTORY, however.
James Bond The Stealth Affair copy protection screen
Interestingly, The Stealth Affair was a James Bond adventure game title only in North America. The game was originally released in Europe as Operation Stealth, and it wasn’t James Bond that was attempting to recover the missing stealth technology, it was agent John Glames. The developer of The Stealth Affair was Delphine Software, based out of France. Their previous hit was Future Wars, but would go on to produce some amazing games, including Out of This World (released as Another World in Europe), Flashback, and Fade to Black, among others. Interplay Productions was the game publisher who distributed Delphine’s games, and whose logo was emblazoned upon the box covers of the North American versions. It was Interplay who acquired the James Bond license and who initiated the change to the Operation: Stealth game from a generic spy adventure game to playing 007 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The powers-that-be decided that the James Bond franchise was a bankable commodity, so they altered all instances of John Glames into James Bond. In addition, some of the action sequences were removed, presumably to make for easier gameplay, and some of the bad French to English game text was reworded. Oddly both Bond and Glames were working for the CIA, which to a Bond enthusiast, is a serious faux pas. But I digress.
Box art for Operation Stealth
The game simply begged for Sean Connery voiceovers, but, alas, the IBM PC version lacked digitized voices. Darn technology and/or budget limitations! However, the Amiga version had synthesized voices (with 1 MB or higher RAM), but a serious bug in the code can lead to a full system crash if using the player got tired of listening to the dialogue and attempted to click through with the mouse button. As one of the attention-challenged brethren of gamers, that’s a serious flaw that exploits a common weakness!
Why is James Bond working for the C.I.A.?
The Stealth Affair was released on three formats in North America: IBM PC (MS-DOS), Amiga, and Atari ST. Reviews were generally favorable, with .info giving the game 4.5 out of 5 stars in their March 1991 issue, stating that, “No Bond fan should miss this one.” However, some reviewers were more ambivalent towards the game, such as the review in the May 1991 issue of Compute!, wherein the game is described as, “Controlled by either keyboard or mouse, the Bond of The STEALTH Affair moves and acts in a manner like that of his namesake in latter-day 007 movies-that is, choppy and silly, trading the quiet sophistication of Ian Fleming’s hero for a goofy nonchalance.” Still, accepting the technology limitations of its day, James Bond: The Stealth Affair was a fun game. Perhaps not worthy of the top 100 games of all time, but still in the running for the next one hundred, and well-worth a look by any retrogamer yearning for a spy-based adventure game!
Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here
Once upon a time it was a lot more avante-guard to be a pirate, long before the unwashed masses embraced the Disney Jack Sparrow movie juggernaut, and even before some wag convinced enough people to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day. In the heady days of the dawn of the PC graphic adventure, pirates were nothing more than literary devices or the stuff of all things dastardly; pirates portrayed in PC games were more Blackbeard or Captain Hook than Errol Flynn. And then along came Sid Meier.
Box art for Sid Meier’s Pirates!
Sid Meier is a gaming legend today, a name that is as much a brand and promise of great gameplay, but in 1987, this was not the case. To be sure, Sid Meier’s name already carried some weight in the simulation community, as a designer of games such as F-15 Strike Eagle and Silent Service. His games were always enjoyable and well-coded, but more importantly, sold well. The marketing gurus at MicroProse suspected that people were buying Sid Meier games because they were designed by Sid Meier, so it seemed reasonable to help make their buying decisions for them by announcing his involvement directly in the product title. From this reasoning the very first game to feature “Sid Meier’s…” in the game title was born: Sid Meier’s Pirates!
Sid Meier – Gamer godThe game was for single players, made long before the mad, lemming-like multiplayer rush of today that all gaming companies seem to have embraced. (Wait, was that an editorial?) It was an open-ended game, letting the player make the choices on where to travel and what to do, with the only caveat being that eventually the player’s character would grow too old to continue on the pirate’s path, and would retire. Depending on what actions the player took (that is, what rewards and successes they achieved during the game), the game would then give a litany of how their character lived the rest of their days, from a lowly beggar in the streets to the prestigious role as adviser to the King. The game world itself was created using a series of questions-and-answers, beginning with what pirate era the player wanted to play within (1560: The Silver Empire; 1600: Merchants and Smugglers; 1620: The New Colonists; 1640: War for Profit; 1660: The Buccaneer Heroes; and 1680: Pirates’ Sunset). This was followed by which nationality they wished to be (Dutch Adventurer, English Buccaneer, French Buccaneer, or Spanish Renegade), which Difficulty Level they wished to play in (Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer, or Swashbuckler). Finally, a Special Ability was chosen: Skill at Fencing, Skill at Gunnery, Skill at Medicine, Skill at Navigation, or Wit and Charm, each with its own advantages (for instance, Wit and Charm was used to keep on a Governor’s good side; whereas Skill at Medicine kept injuries to a minimum and prolonged the character’s life).
Swordplay in Sid Meier’s Pirates!The game world was then generated from these questions. Of course, the final variable was the copy protection, which requested when either the Silver Train or the Spanish Treasure Fleet arrived in a particular city. Failure to provide the correct answer stacked the odds so far against the player that even the game manual stated, “Heed the advice and start over, otherwise you’ll find your situation most bleak.” Takethat, software pirates! Actually, in some ways the manual was as interesting as the game, as there was a wealth of historical information on pirates and the historical context within which they plied their trade. Well worth reading!
As for actual gameplay, the live of a pirate was sometimes short, but always challenge-filled and exciting, which the player soon discovered for themselves. Since a pirate fought with a sword, fencing was part of the game. Since pirates sailed the seas to prey upon treasure-laden ships, navigation and naval combat was part of the game. Since pirates often sold their loot to merchants (money laundering was alive and well in the pirate era), trade was part of the game. Since pirates sometimes sacked small townships, that, too was part of the game. Since pirate ships didn’t magically manifest crewmembers to sail the seven seas, recruitment was part of the game, and since a silver tongue helped a pirate live a longer life, diplomatic contact with town governors was also part of the game. All in all, this was an impressive pirate simulation.
If the Career Mode was too large of a time investment, Sid Meier’s Pirates! offered six historically accurate scenarios to test your swashbuckling mettle. Each scenario was in a different time period, and each offered unique challenges to overcome. These scenarios were: John Hawkins and the Battle of San Juan Ulua – 1569 (wherein you have a slow, but powerful galleon to command, with many ports unwilling to trade and a fleet not powerful enough to force them to comply); Francis Drake and the Silver Train Ambush – 1573 (can you match the verve and skill Drake showed battling the Spanish Fleet at the height of their power with only two small ships?); Piet Heyn and the Treasure Fleet – 1628 (your fleet is powerful, but the season is late and finding the treasure ships is becoming a difficult task and will take expert planning to locate and dispatch); L’Ollonais and the Sack of Marcaibo – 1666 (an abundance of manpower but a shortage of powerful vessels make ship-to-ship battles difficult, but port sacking attractive, with the additional challenge of the fragile nature of your men’s morale);Henry Morgan the King’s Pirate – 1671 (the dangers of having a powerful pirate fleet in both naval power and manpower in that you must keep everyone fed, content and treasure laden to succeed); and Baron de Pontis and the Last Expedition – 1697 (the munchkin scenario, in which you have a large strike force and a more than reasonable certainty to win any battle, making the only challenge how much treasure can you loot?).
Sid Meier’s Pirates! was first released in 1987 on the Apple II, Commodore 64 and IBM PC (PC Booter) platforms. It was quickly ported over to the Macintosh (1988), Amstrad (1988), Commodore Amiga (1990), and even the Nintendo Entertainment System (1991). It would be remade in 1993 with improved graphics and sound, then published under the title Pirates! Gold, for IBM PC (both DOS and Windows), Macintosh, and – because Nintendon’t – the Sega Genesis. The remakes didn’t end there, as it was again remade in 2004 for Windows XP, returning to its original title ofSid Meier’s Pirates!, and then again in 2008 for mobile devices, imaginatively calledSid Meier’s Pirates! Mobile. Perhaps in the next decade it will be remade once again. (I recommend they try Sid Meier’s Pirates! Gold as the title for next time.)
Sid Meier’s Pirates! was not only popular amongst gamers, it also performed well in the eyes of the gaming press. It was awarded “Action Game of the Year” by Computer Gaming World, and also the Origin Award for “Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1987”. The game also ranked at #18 in the Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time. Clearly, this game has remained in the gaming public’s eye for a reason, making Sid Meier’s Pirates! a worthy addition to anyone’s game collection.
Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here
Lost Vikings, The (1992)
By: Silicon & Synapse / Interplay Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: SNES, GameBoy Advance, Amiga, CD32, PC
Now that I think about it, the sub-genre of platform/puzzle games, on which I am rather keen, is a little obscure as genres go, but the combination of two older and exceedingly popular types of game has proved to be a fantastic partnership. Examples have taken many weird and wonderful forms over the years and one of the most interesting (though not necessarily best) is of the sort that includes multiple characters with differing abilities. This was of course made popular by the great Lemmings. Dozens of similar games soon appeared and most were average at best, but The Lost Vikings is a pretty rare example of another game taking that premise, putting a different slant on it, and actually succeeding.
Starring as the multiple characters in this game are the Vikings of the title who are indeed lost. Actually, ‘captives’ might be a more appropriate word as our three Nordic friends have apparently been abducted by the curiously-named Tomator, emperor of the alien Croutonian Empire, who has been collecting unique and interesting specimens for his intergalactic zoo. They obviously weren’t confined very effectively though as they immediately set out to escape their shackles. To do this you must guide them to the exit on each of the 41 levels (or 37 in the other versions) which are set over various themed worlds (through time, of course!). The first is apparently set within the Croutonian spaceship but others include an Egyptian one (obviously), Pre-Historic, and even toy/food-related ones (not sure what time-period it’s supposed to be though!).
Before I get carried away though, I’ve just realised how rude I’ve been by failing to introduce the stars of the show – the Vikings themselves! So, say hello to Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout! As you may have guessed, they each have unique abilities so you must use them all as a team to successfully finish each level. Erik can run and jump around the platforms and can also smash down certain walls by headbutting them, Baleog is equipped with a sword and bow (with infinite arrows) with which to battle the various enemies, and Olaf has a large shield which protects him (and indeed the others if they’re behind him) from enemies and hazards, and he can also raise it above his head and glide down from high places.
To complete a level you must succeed in guiding all three Vikings to its exit. On the first level this takes about one minute but as you go through the game the levels get larger and more complicated as you might expect. They are multi-tiered and most feature ladders, colour-coded keys/locks, switches, and various monstrous and not-so-monstrous enemies. As you progress you’ll encounter more and more obstacles and features such as spring-pads, moving platforms, and even a device that inflates our heroes allowing them to float! The enemies take many forms usually related to the environment you’re in. The pre-historic world, for example, features vicious cavemen, small dragons, and… umm… snails. There’s also numerous guns and other projectile-firing devices around, and a touch from any of these things, or indeed falling too far, will cost the unfortunate Viking one of his three health points.
Contact with some of the hazards found in the levels, such as spikes or electric forcefields, can cause instant death too, so careful planning is required for the most part, rather than charging around recklessly. Fortunately, hit points are replenished each stage and there are also a few items that can help you such as various foods to replenish your energy and smart bombs to clear the screen of enemies. These items can be transferred from one Viking to another too, depending on who’s most in need, which further emphasises the teamwork aspect of the game which is so prevalent. In fact, in some versions of the game (including this one) it’s possible for you and a friend to control more than one Viking at once.
As I mentioned earlier, after the success of Lemmings there was a good few games released that tried their own take on the ‘multiple characters with differing abilities’ formula, but in most cases it either seemed unnecessarily tacked-on or that the developers put too much emphasis on it, forgetting to create decent stages for them to explore in the process! Luckily, Silicon & Synapse (who would later become Blizzard Entertainment of Warcraft fame) got the balance just right with this amusing adventure. The levels are well designed for the most part and before each one there’s some humorous banter between the three Vikings (via speech bubbles). They all have unique abilities but they are simple too, and all vital for successful progress through the game’s ever-tougher levels.
Aesthetically, The Lost Vikings is pretty average. It doesn’t really need flashy graphics and, whilst there is a lot of colour and some nice backgrounds and foregrounds, it’s certainly not ground-breaking either. It’s the same with the sound – effects are kept to a minimum and the music suits the game well enough but isn’t particularly memorable. As with all games of this type though, it’s other aspects of the game’s design that counts, such as level and character design. Happily, near enough every aspect of the gameplay is spot-on. The Vikings themselves are appealing (helped by their entertaining chatter) and are easy to control, and the difficulty curve is reasonably well-balanced too. The only problem is that there’s something of a ‘trial and error’ aspect to some sections of the game, and if you make a mistake and kill a Viking it’s all the way back to the start of the level, and they can get pretty big and complicated later on! Still, each level has a password and it is addictive, with the unique abilities of each Viking making for an interesting and fairly originally-designed game that’s well worth a look.
Retro King Simon is a 36 year old guy from England, and likes lots of stuff, including retro videogames, movies, and anime. You can check out his blog here – Red Parsley.
RKS Score: 8/10
If there ever was a game that you weren’t really sure if you were playing a game or using an educational tool…but you didn’t care because it was so much fun, SimCity: The City Simulator was it. Published by Maxis Software in 1989, SimCity was written by a young Will Wright (he of the incredibly addictive The Sims fame), and would go down as one of the most influential and popular games in gaming history.
In SimCity, players had to construct an entire metropolis starting from nothing but a bulldozer and random terrain. Along the way to full city status sims begin to populate your city and make demands. They may need more housing or shopping centers; perhaps crime is rampant and a police station is needed; maybe frequent brown outs are creating a demand for a new power station; perhaps your sims are bored and want a stadium…and so on. Meanwhile, the city needed just the right level of taxes to encourage growth, yet still pay for all those fire and police stations. Random emergencies could wreak havoc on your city, with tornadoes devastated entire zones, earthquakes leveling buildings, airplanes crashing and resulting fires requiring immediate response. If you guided your city with a steady hand, your tax coffers filled up and your sims considered you Simsville’s best Mayor ever. If you failed to keep on top of the ever-changing developments within your city you could find yourself in the ranks of the unemployed.
Although the core of the game was designed for open-ended gameplay, the game also included scenarios which revolved around achieving a specific goal within a certain time period. These were based on both past situations as well as possible futures that urban planners had already had to solve or were in the process of planning for. The past scenarios included dealing with crime-ridden and an economically-depressed Detroit in 1972; a post-earthquake San Francisco in 1906, and rebuilding Hamburg at the end of World War II (this one was only in the IBM PC, Amgia, and Atari ST version). Future scenarios included Boston suffering a nuclear plant meltdown and Rio de Janeiro flooding from global warming. There was even a fantastic scenario based upon the classic Godzilla movies, wherein the player had to rebuild Tokyo after an attack from the King of the Monsters. Further scenarios were released in the SimCity Graphic Set 1: Ancient Cities and SimCity Graphic Set 2: Future Cities.
The path to SimCity’s initial release wasn’t an easy one. Originally titled “Micropolis,” Will Wright, its creator, developed it for the Commodore 64, a platform he had previous success in with the now-classic, Raid on Bungling Bay. By 1985 the game was ready to go, but he couldn’t find a dance partner willing to publish it, as the powers-that-be struggled with its open path gameplay and lack of winners versus losers. He believed in the potential of what he had coded, so he partnered with Jeff Braun (a successful publisher of font packs for the Commodore Amiga) and founded Maxis Software in 1987, and sought the rights to publish his game with his own company. After two more years of code changes and legal wrangling (which included cementing Broderbund Software as Maxis Software’s distribution agent), SimCity was brought before the gaming public.
Interestingly, although Will Wright had originally coded Micropolis for the C64, the first platforms SimCity was released on were the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga, followed by IBM PC (MS-DOS) and then the Commodore 64. EventuallySimCity: The City Simulator would be ported to the Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga CDTV, Amstrad CPC, and even the Super Nintendo. The game was, of course, a smash hit, and garnered several gaming awards, including: Best Computer Strategy Game (Video Games & Computer Entertainment), Game of the Year (Computer Gaming World), Best Consumer Program (Software Publisher’s Association), and many, many more. Its legacy is also well-recognized, earning a top ten position on the still-respected Computer Gaming World’s 150 Game of All Timelist.
The legacy of SimCity is more than just accolades, as its incredible success motivated Maxis Software to publish many variations on the theme: SimAnt, SimIsle,SimCopter, SimLife, SimFarm, SimEarth, Streets of SimCity, SimTown, and SimSafari. Maxis even picked up the publishing rights for two similar Japanese games, A-Trainand Yoot Tower (which was renamed SimTower to take advantage of the sim-craze). SimCity also spawned several sequels and remakes, including SimCity Classic(updated for Windows), SimCity Enhanced CD-ROM (which added FMV to the SimCity experience), SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, and SimCity Societies. And, of course, there is a direct link between Will Wright’s SimCity: The City Simulator and his epic seller, The Sims (and all its subsequent sequels and expansion packs). Clearly,SimCity had a huge impact on the gaming universe.
Sadly, Maxis Software did not last as an independent company. Although Maxis had been partnered with Broderbund since its inception, by 1995 they hired their own sales team and launched their IPO, taking Maxis public for the first time. Unfortunately, the buzz from SimCity 2000‘s success had long worn off, and the pressure to fulfill the stock analysts’ projections took its toll on the company. Wright and the other designers were pressured to abide by a strict deadline in 1996, with Maxis’ management team demanding all four games in development by released. The designers complied, but the games they published that year did not catch the gamerverse on fire (I’m looking at YOU, SimCopter), and the share price of the new company which had such an incredible history slide precipitously. In 1997, Electronic Arts made $120 million stock offer that they couldn’t refuse, making Will Wright and Jeff Braun very wealthy young men. For his part, Braun became the biggest shareholder of Electronic Arts, and gave him the ability to invest in a variety of technology companies. As for Will Wright, the money afforded him the time to do what he most loved – and did best – in developing new games. Thanks, Electronic Arts!
If you’ve never played SimCity: The City Simulator, you’ve missed out on an integral piece of gaming history. For a retro gamer, it’s still as fun as it always was, which is a sign of just how well it was crafted by Will Wright. Between great gameplay and a long-lasting legacy, SimCity deserves to be on anyone’s best games of all time list. Pick up a copy and see for yourself!
Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games. If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here
It’s generally accepted that, outside of the arcades at least, shoot ’em ups have always been the province of consoles. There were a few good examples on the Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore 64, Atari 400 & 800, etc, and the arrival of the more powerful 16-bit machines should’ve heralded even more, but they never really came, despite the genre’s enduring popularity. Few could argue with either the quantity or quality of offerings on the likes of the NES, PC Engine, or MegaDrive, and I myself, in my days as a die-hard Sega fanboy, used to champion the latter console as Lord of Shmups. Of all the computers, however, it was arguably the Commodore Amiga that fared the best with its shmups with not only some decent arcade conversions but also a good few original games too. In fact, I believe all the games in this Top Five were Amiga exclusives! Here they are:
Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: Unlike my usual Games-Related Top Five Disclaimers, which cover my arse by mentioning that the list was compiled only from games that I already know and love, and that any great games not featured may well not yet have been played by me, this one is different, mainly because I never was a big Amiga gamer and probably hadn’t even played five shmups on it! Therefore I had to research this list thoroughly by playing each game via emulation. However, to finally get to the actual ‘disclaimer’ part, there was a few supposedly great games that I wasn’t able to play (because they didn’t work). Therefore, assuming I ever am able to play them, I’ll make a revised list accordingly. Phew!
5. Agony (1992)
Regarded as something of a tart by many Amiga owners, it’s easy to see where Agony gets this reputation – the presentation and graphics really are something else and leave the gameplay with a lot to live up to. It’s certainly a pretty original concept, with you in control of an owl which uses echo-location to take down the masses of evil creatures spread across the six worlds that lie between it and the ‘Cosmic Power’ that it seeks. The intro/loading screens feature beautiful artwork and music, and in-game action is similarly gorgeous. This certainly isn’t the most playable shmup I’ve played, even just on the Amiga, but at the same time its reputation seems a little unfair. Besides its stunning aesthetics Agony is a unique and enjoyable horizontal-scroller which would’ve blown my socks off if I’d discovered it when it originally came out!
4. Project-X (1992)
Released to much fanfare by Team 17 during their superb run on the Amiga, this is another one with amazing aesthetics. It’s far less original and moody than Agony, being a somewhat generic game set in space and across all the usual landscapes, but it nonetheless comes closer than any other Amiga shmup to duplicating the arcade/console style of shooter. The hi-res graphics are beautifully drawn and feature some amazing effects, and the sound is equally impressive with some great music, effects, and speech that MegaDrive owners (myself included) would’ve killed for. In fact, the only thing stopping this from taking top-spot is its insane difficulty level! Even at the peak of my skills I couldn’t get anywhere near the end of this otherwise ultra-playable game. Responding to pleas from gamers, Team 17 did release a Special Edition of the game which toned down the difficulty though, and if I get around to buying that version perhaps it will feature higher in the list next time.
3. Scorpio (1989)
This is one I had absolutely no knowledge of prior to looking into this Top Five but I’m very glad I found it, for it’s one of the most addictive little blasters I’ve played! Initially seeming to be a very basic and fairly uninspiring game, it soon reveals itself to be a tough but rewarding, not to mention highly enjoyable shooter. Its creators had clearly been sniffing around the back-catalogue of Irem though, as this is basically a vertically-scrolling take on R-Type! Your little ship can be equipped with a Force-style attachment, the weapons are a copy of those from Irem’s classic, the power-up capsules themselves look the same, and there’s even a circle of guns! Some of the the ‘homages’ are far from subtle, but it’s hard to complain when it’s as well done as this.
2. Datastorm (1989)
Here’s another one that takes its inspiration from elsewhere, this time from both Defender and Dropzone, the latter of which is itself a Defender clone! The object is to rescue at least one of the eight pods drifting along the floor of each stage and drop them at a portal while pesky Landers try to steal them. Millions of other enemies also swarm each stage and all must be eliminated. Datastorm is a tough, fast-paced game that rewards practise and is a fantastic score-attack game! This is one of the few Amiga games I really have spent a lot of time playing, first on my friend’s Amiga, then on my own when I finally got one, and now again via emulation, and it’s never gotten boring. Fantastic music and sound effects too.
1. Apidya (1992)
For some reason I never knew about this one when it came out but I’ve heard about it repeatedly over the intervening years and know how highly regarded it is amongst the Amiga fraternity. Having finally played it for this feature, I can see why! Much like Agony, it’s a unusual premise for a shoot ’em up. Here, you take control of a magical honeybee (although it looks more like a wasp to me) and must battle against other insects, garden beasties, and all manner of others monstrous adversaries across five stages. The game has nicely detailed, colourful stages and great music, but it’s the finely-honed gameplay that is most responsible for Apidya’s grand reputation. The stages and weapons are nicely designed and it’s a real pleasure playing through this interesting and unique shooter.
Fans of classic space shooters rejoice because R-Type is coming to your Android phone starting today from DotEmu.
Pilot the R-9a Arrowhead, the last hope of human race in its war against alien invader! Your mission is clear but not so easy: blast off and strike the evil Bydo Empire!
Initially developed and published by Irem in 1987, R-Type has become an essential game on arcade cabinet, Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Commodore 64 and PC. Today this masterpiece is ported and published for Android devices by DotEmu SAS.
R-Type for Android is a real diving in your youth and will include all the features you enjoyed in the original game:
- A large amount of items and powers-up to collect through various and sharpened sets.
- Strong enemies and bosses at the end of each level (8 altogether).
- The famous « charge shot » for more power!
- Share your results with your friends with OpenFeint!
R-Type for Android will come along two difficulty modes and a new intuitive control system – full touch mode – to directly control your spaceship. Get your hand on a real blast from the past and (re)discover all the hype from the 80’s!
R-Type for Android is compatible with devices running on OS 2.1+ and with a screen resolution of 480×320 HVGA or above. Supported devices will include Samsung Galaxy S / Google Nexus S, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, etc.
Also great news for fans, R-Type Android is officially Xperia PLAY optimized providing the best user experience!
[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMlrLbxywGU[/youtube]
R-Type Android is now available for $2.99
Android Market: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.dotemu.rtype
And soon for Amazon Appstore.
This video is just to awesome not to share. This video shows death scenes from various classic games to a great remix tune. Enjoy.
[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ6APKIjFQY[/youtube]
(Dir.: Rob Beschizza, BoingBoing. Music is Rob’s MIDI homage to “Mad World,” by Tears for Fears, and you can download the MP3 here:http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/28/game-deaths-mp3.html and buy their original song here [MP3]: http://tinyurl.com/4wzqgry ).
By: Hewson Genre: Run ‘n’ Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 15,850
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Enterprise 128
Having recently revisited one game by the great Raffaele Cecco, and the one I knew best, I thought it might be time for a long overdue look at another, this time on the system where he made his name. I was always enticed by the attractive-looking screen shots of Exolon in the Speccy magazines I enthusiastically read in the mid-to-late 80’s too, which makes the fact that I never played it all the more odd. There’s no story here as such with the game merely plonking you on some alien-infested planet and advising you to proceed from left to right wiping them out! This involves guiding your battle-hardened space marine through 124 screens filled with everything the aliens can throw at you.
The marine is outfitted with the snazzy Exolon suit, a powerful exoskeleton equipped with a hand blaster and backpack grenade launcher, and it is these that will facilitate your progress. The screens, or ‘zones’, are occupied by a mixture of targets. Some feature aliens themselves who swarm from right to left across the screen indefinitely. These can be taken out easily with your hand blaster but there are also ground-based guns and missile-launchers which can only be taken out by grenades, and it’s the same for the non-hostile but still inconvenient obstacles which appear to consist of hardware such as satellite dishes as well as strange alien structures. You’ll also encounter land-mines which can’t be destroyed at all. Your brave space-marine is a little delicate though as contact with one of these, or indeed any enemy/bullet/missile, results in instant death!
The first thing you’ll probably notice about this game is the quality of its graphics which really are superb. The colourful screens full of well-defined sprites and objects are enjoyable to battle through and still impress today. The sound is pretty minimal though with just a few basic effects to listen out for. Control over spacey is pretty good – he can jump and duck to avoid enemies and, although his blaster and grenades supplies are finite, he can pick up more along the way which also includes a power-up for the blaster. You’ll get a bonus at the end of the level (25 screens equal one ‘level’) if you forego the upgrade but I’d get it if I were you – this is a pretty tough game (much like all of Mr. Cecco’s games, in fact)! It’s not too unfair though with few screens proving notably harder than others and you should make gradual progress, and you’ll want to too as Exolon is a well-designed and thoroughly enjoyable run ‘n’ gunner and among the best on the Speccy.
RKS Score: 8/10
Come to think about it, the only thing not unique about Space War Commander (hence SWC) is its name. It’s definitely apt mind, though as far from imaginative as computer game names get. You actually get to assume the role of a commander in what can only be described as a space war. Then again, gamers never really cared for names, did they? It’s the way a game plays that matters or, well, should matter, and SWC plays a great game indeed.
SWC could best be described as an RTS version of a board game with intuitive controls, simple rules, simple sounds and Amiga-like graphics. And don’t expect something at the frantic pace of Command and Conquer or Dune 2. This is a much slower -you can even pause the game completely to issue orders- and way deeper affair, that does away with base building and focuses on resource gathering and -mainly- tactical movement. All you seemingly have to do is buy some ships, group them into fleets if you so wish, left click to select and right-click to move them around, make sure you have a steady influx of resources by conquering planets or even trading (nothing more complicated than another movement selection), and make sure you beat each level before your base explodes. Should a ship or a fleet contact the enemy it will automatically attack it and give you the tactically handy option of disengaging parts of your fleet for repairs, and, well, that’s all there is to it really.
Getting to grips with SWC is thus incredibly easy. Mastering it is wholly different matter, as the aforementioned depth comes into play. Think of SWC’s gameplay as chess with a bit of chance thrown in and you won’t be far off. Each ship has its own unique strengths and weakness and each map its unique tactical necessities, sometimes even making the whole experience feel like an elaborate puzzle game. An excellent, tough and addictive puzzle game to be precise, that would definitely benefit from some multiplayer options.
After all, the only thing SWC really lacks is the chance to pit yourself against another human player in some lovely multiplayer carnage. That and a bit more variety , though all in all it admittedly is a great indie strategy game that will appeal to most PC gamers of the thinking while gaming persuasion. Oh, and it can easily be played in 15 minute chunks too!
Verdict: Simple, deep, addictive, smart and -dare I say- sexy as an Amiga game. You really have to at least try it. Really.
Cope-Com have releassed their classic Amiga hit Battle Squadron for iOS and it’s now now available on the App Store.
The original Amiga Game was very highly rated, with one magazine, Amiga Computing, rating it at 109%.
The game the developers converted the code from the game line by line from 68000 Assembler into C++. They had this to say
For the iOS version we have conserved the highly praised gameplay exactly like on the original, while at the same time adapting it to excellent play on mobile devices. Further improvements, not possible in the original, include Game Center to compete against your friends, and Daily Leaderboards updates with player comments.
The game plays, sounds and looks just like how I remember it on the Amiga, so it’s well worth checking out.
Anyone who is a fan of classic gaming has to be a fan of gaming music. Even though some of the music from the 8-bit generation was simple, often it was well done and entertaining. I think most of all the music stuck in our heads and just as we wanted to push it out, we realized it was a pretty good tune.
Meet Seth and Michelle two people who loved classic video game soundtracks so much they began creating their own music and have performed across two continents. Obsolete Gamer was lucky enough to see them live at E3 2011 and even recorded a bit.
[youtube id=”UM1bmLk5zLI” width=”633″ height=”356″]
After the event, we had to interview them and they were kind enough to answer all our questions.
What was your first computer and what got you into using computers?
Michelle: My brother is who got me into using computers because he had a C64 and would let me play games on it.
Seth: The Commodore 64 was the first computer I could call my own. My neighbor Oscar had one and I’d spend countless hours watching him play his, especially Adventure Construction Set by EA. Hearing the music and watching the graphics etc, I had to get one. I begged my Dad to get my brother and I one and he eventually did.
What do you like more, consoles or computers?
Michelle: I grew up playing games on the C64 and the Amiga and I have the fondest memories using the computers because I would play games like Zack McCracken and the Alien Mind Benders, Maniac Mansion and Little Computer People and I still enjoy playing those types of games today.
Seth: I grew up with computers (C64/IBM/Apple II) and never owned a console myself until I got a game boy in 1992. I enjoy them both equally now, however computer’s had the best RPG’s hand’s down over consoles. Games like Wasteland, Bard’s Tale, Dragon Wars, Ultima’s etc were either unavailable or watered down/changed for their console versions.
What is your favorite sound platform to work on (SID, etc)?
Michelle: I use my Game Boy because it’s the most portable. My favorite sound is the SID though.
Seth: I love working with all the chips like an orchestra, but the Commodore 64’s SID chip will always be my favorite.
Name the top 5 musicians or musical groups that inspired you to make the music you make today!
Michelle: DEVO, Depeche Mode, Gwen Stefani, YYYs, The Doors
Seth: DEVO, Vince Clarke (Depeche mode/Yaz/Yazoo/Erasure/etc), Alan Wilder (Depeche mode/Recoil), Kraftwerk, and Jean Michel Jarre. There are also chip music composers like Dave Warhol, Martin Galway, Kennith Arnold, George “The Fatman” Sanger, and Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka that inspire me from a chiptune perspective.
What do you think about people’s desire for all retro stuff (video games, as well as if you want to make stuff like movies such as The A-Team, G.I. Joe, Transformers, etc.)
Michelle: It’s cool that people are into the retro stuff, but it’s also making it harder to acquire items I want.
Seth: I think it’s fun, but yeah, ebay is getting more and more expensive as we compete with collectors while trying to acquire more gear! lol
What was the old console or computer that you wish you had back in the day but couldn’t afford?
Michelle: My family had all of them, so I was lucky.
Seth: Amiga 500 I wanted pretty bad but I knew my family could never afford it. Now we have an Amiga 1200, so dreams do come true!
What is your favorite kind of music to sample from?
Michelle: I don’t use samples.
Seth: We don’t sample any music or sound effects. Everything you hear is from us controlling the chips of each computer or console directly with software to make original music with.
8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, or 64-bit and beyond… which do you like the most, and what do you like the most about it?
Michelle: 8-Bit for it’s simplicity.
Seth: 8 Bit 4 life~! It’s powerful enough to run games, graphics, and music without over doing it.
What is your favorite medium for distributing music and why?
Michelle: CD Baby because they do all of the work.
Seth: MP3 because we don’t have to make them by hand and mail them out all over the world. haha
What do you like the most about your fans?
Michelle: They are very unique people and are interesting to talk to. They are also very supportive of my music and I really appreciate that.
Seth: Our fans our really great people! Some are fans of gaming, some are not, but they are all about the music!
You can check out their website 8-Bit Weapon and find and purchase their music here.
Kid Gloves (1990)
By: Logotron Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 48,550
Also Available For: Atari ST
The poor old Amiga games industry was ravaged by pirated copies of games flooding the market and friends copying games for each other, it was this more than anything else that brought Commodore down in the mid-90’s. I’ve always tried to avoid that sort of business but when I belatedly got my Amiga, a friend gave me a box of discs with copied games on. Some didn’t work, others were pretty sucky, but of them all Kid Gloves is probably the one I played the most, guiltily of course, but seeing as it was later given away free by Amiga Power magazine I don’t feel so bad now! However, since I no longer have my Amiga and have developed a deep fear of using WinUAE, it’s been a long time since I played this game. It’s not looked upon too favourably by the Amiga community these days, I wonder if I’m about to destroy my happy memories of playing it too…
It’s a pretty simple game which sees you, as Kid, attempting to rescue your kidnapped girlfriend or some such nonsense. In order to do this he must make his way through the danger-filled, flick-screen world between him and his goal. Each of the screens are populated by various creatures and obstacles, such as pigs, goblin things, whirly blades, etc, which move in short, simple patterns, and some which remain still, such as fire. Contact with any of these objects means instant death for our hapless hero. Fortunately he can fight back, against the creatures at least, by firing coins at them, and there are other weapons available in the shop that appears periodically including Flames, Deathstar, and Megalaser. Many of the screens also contain other items like food (for points), keys (to pass barriers), money (to spend in shops), smart bombs (to clear screens of enemies), and ankh’s (for extra lives) and he can also use magic to turn the barriers into food too.
If there’s one thing about Kid Gloves which is still as true today as the first day I played it, it’s that it’s a pretty tough game! Some screens have objects such as blocks that fall down when you touch them to help you reach certain areas. Not only does this kind of thing kill you if you go so much as a pixel too close, but they can also have the opposite effect and prevent you from accessing an area. Most of the enemies in the game either walk backwards and forwards on platforms or bounce on the spot but there are also some that appear some time after you entered a screen. These ones can move freely around the screen and pursue you like Baron Von Blubba! Luckily, unlike the Bubble Bobble meany, these can be shot, but they always appear in the same place regardless of where you are on the screen which means they might appear right on top of you if you’re not careful! There are also some fireball things that move much more quickly around the screen if you hang around for too long, and these cannot be shot. However, leaving the screen then returning to it will reset everything to its original place, except the enemies which do not reappear.
That’s pretty much the only problem with this game. I knew even back then that it was a simple game, looking more akin to a Public Domain game than a full-price release. The backgrounds and sprites look okay but are poorly animated and hardly push the Amiga to its limits. There is some nice sampled sound effects and speech though, and a pretty decent title-screen tune, but there’s no in-game music. None of this is really reason to dislike the game, it just has a few minor gameplay flaws that are so frustrating. The collision-detection is pretty shocking for one thing which obviously doesn’t help matters, and the controls can be really fiddly too – you try going up or down a ladder in a hurry! I never could get very far in Kid Gloves and that hasn’t changed since I started replaying it. Every time I think “right, I’ll get really far into it this time” it just ends up annoying me too much and I play something else. I don’t think it’s aged too badly, but it’s flaws are more apparent to me now. Ultimately it has a certain charm but this is a very average game that could’ve so much better with a few tweaks.
RKS Score: 5/10
FFF, as Feyruna – Fairy Forest will henceforth be referred to, probably features Feyruna, a fabulous fairy (which could also be the name of FFF’s setting mind you, but really, I like the idea of calling the fairy Feyruna), and is quite frankly an alliteration heavy casual and/or retro gamer’s wet dream. It also is one of the more polished (but less innovative…) indy games I’ve recently seen and one of the few PC offerings with three unlockable mini-games. They might not be much, they might be simple, basic even, but they’re definitely a touch that shows the amount of care gone into the game.
Then again, bonus games are just that, a bonus. The main course of FFF has the player assuming the role of a fairy (you know, the one probably named Feyruna), a decidedly non-slutty female character, and going on to liberate places from the Princes of Darkness in a rather ordinary plot, that certainly doesn’t takes itself that seriously. After all, FFF, just like every other action heavy game before it, isn’t about plot, it’s about fun, and this it delivers in abundance.
The game, a reflex honing experience with slight shoot-em-up tendencies, is surprisingly non violent and thus quite appropriate for kids, families and small orgies. You, the player, the happy lil’ sprite, travel through 60 levels, each comprising of a beautiful screen, enemies trying to kill/stall you, power-ups and glowies (and butterflies and stuff) you must collect, and …uhm… collect stuff and avoid/destroy the baddies. Eventually you’ll have enough stashed glowies to progress to the next level, that will definitely be more challenging and might also add a new enemy, power-up or tactic to the whole experience. Mind you, that even though the gameplay does indeed get repetitive, these constantly appearing new elements do keep FFF an addictive little pass time, while some progressively tough boss battles to spice things up.
Now, have a try for yourselves. Download the FFF demo. Oh, and I suppose…
That’s a (seven and a half) out of (ten).
Bubble Bobble (1986)
By: Taito Genre: Platform Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 180,180
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, Saturn, PlayStation, X68000, NES, GameBoy Color, GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS, FM Towns Marty, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, MSX, PC
What more can be said about this all-time great? Whilst perhaps not as well known as Mario or Sonic, the cute dinosaurs of Bubble Bobble are just as iconic to many gamers, myself included, and have now appeared in a lot of games on nearly every system ever created, in one guise or another. My first encounter with the bubble-blowing twins was in ‘Kwiki Meals’, the cafe near my college. It was here that I ventured every lunchtime to play Bubble Bobble (and eat a burger), and I was often late back to class! It was the game that first brought the great Taito to my attention and they’ve been one of my favourite companies since. Sadly, both Kwiki Meals and the arcade masterpiece it once housed are now long gone but I’ve had a regular fix of Bubble Bobble ever since.
Most of you will know the drill by now – Bub and Bob have been turned into dragons by the evil Super Drunk who has also kidnapped their girlfriends! In order to get them back and be restored to Human form, they must battle their way through a hundred rounds of multi-platformed, monster-infested caves until they can face, and hopefully defeat, Super Drunk. Bub and Bob, who start each round in the bottom left and bottom right corners of the screen respectively, must clear each single-screen round of baddies in order to proceed to the next. To do this you must trap them in bubbles which both Bub and Bob can blow at will. The bubbles fly forward quickly, before floating up the screen being carried by the air currents in the caverns. Freshly-blown bubbles are surrounded by a shiny orange aura until they are a certain distance away and it is only during this brief period that enemies can be trapped in them.
Once an enemy is trapped in a bubble, it must be popped quickly to kill it, either by touching it with the spines on Bub and Bob’s head and back, by jumping on it, or by pushing it into a wall. If you fail to pop it quickly enough, it will pop by itself, and the re-released enemy will be angry and much faster. It’s also possible to bounce off bubbles instead of popping them when you jump on one or fall on one from above. This is an essential skill to learn as sometimes it’s the only way to escape from part of a level or reach some high platforms. Bubbles also stick together if they touch each other, whether they contain enemies or not, so if you time it right you can cause a mega-pon chain reaction meaning mega-points! There are eight different types of standard enemy altogether and each has his own movement patern. Learning these are obviously the key to success here, but don’t take too long – if you stay on one stage too long, the undefeatable Baron Von Blubba will appear and stalk you until there’s nowhere left to hide!
One of this game’s many memorable points is that it jointly holds the record with its own sequel as one of the most fruit laden game ever (this is a good thing)! Items are spilled on a platform somewhere in the level every time an enemy is vanquished and other items appear seemingly out of nowhere now and then. There is an enormous amount of them to be found, some of which are very useful, particularly the umbrella which skips several levels, and there are power-ups and various kinds of screen-clearing smart bombs too. Some other items are even available in different colours, varying their effect. Also appearing liberally are lots of different fruits, gems and foods which can be seized for bonus points. Additional bubbles sometimes get ‘blown’ onto the screen by the air currents running through the caverns, and included amongst these are ‘special’ bubbles which, when popped, unleash special powers. These include fire bubbles, which spill fire which scorches enemy’s, lightning bubbles which sends a enemy-killing lightning bolt across the screen, and water bubbles, which send a torrent of water cascading down the platforms killing all enemies in its path. The last kind of bubbles to be found contain letters. Collecting them will gradually spell out E-X-T-E-N-D down the side of the screen. Complete the word to clear the round and get an extra life!
There are many more little intricacies and nuances to this game and to be honest, I could go on all day about them, but discovering them for yourself is one of the things that makes Bubble Bobble as great as it is. Despite initially seeming random, almost everything you do has some sort of affect on the game, from how quickly you finish a round right down to a particular digit of your score when you reach a certain point. Many games have been called classics over the years. Whether they truly are or not depends on your definition of the term I suppose, but few are as genuinely timeless as Bubble Bobble.
The cute, colourful graphics which are full of character, that music by Zuntata which could just be the catchiest tune of all-time, the flawlessly structured gameplay, the fiendish stage design, the fantastic fun of jumping around the platforms trying to time an attack to perfection, playing the game with a friend, it goes on and on. It’s regularly sited as one of the greatest games of all-time, and it’s hard to argue. Bubble Bobble isn’t just a single screen platform game, for many it’s the single screen platform game! It’s certainly true that it’s among the most enduring platform games of all-time and that kind of lasting adulation can only be for one reason…
RKS Score: 10/10
Chase HQ (1988)
By: Taito Genre: Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 4,723,860 (one credit)
Also Available For: PC Engine, X68000, Master System, Game Gear, NES, Game Boy, Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console
Before the days of polygons, it was pretty rare to find a decent driving game. Even in the arcades they were pretty rare. If you asked any gamers around my age to name their favourite, most would probably say OutRun, and with good reason – it was a revolutionary game that made a huge impact. There was a few other good examples from around that time as well though, and one was Chase HQ. This effort from the awesome Taito was clearly influenced by OutRun – what else wasn’t in the years after its release? – but it’s not just a shameless rip-off, no sir. Whilst the basic gameplay has shades of Sega’s classic, Taito also injected it with themes taken from some of the American buddy cop movies and TV shows which were so popular at the time. It sure sounds like a perfect combination but how does it stand up today?
Taking on the role of police detective, Tony Gibson, it’s your job to pursue one dangerous criminal on each of the game’s five stages. They have all commandeered some sort of powerful sports car and are fleeing out of the unnamed city (which is probably LA), They have got a head-start too so you, along with your partner, Raymond Broady, need to move quickly to make up the lost ground. After a briefing from the lovely Nancy back at ‘Chase Headquarters’ you’ll get sixty seconds to catch up with each felon in your black Porsche 928 Turbo. Once you’ve reached him, you’ll get another sixty to smash his car up until they stop (they’re all men – women don’t commit crimes, remember)! Your ride is equipped with three helpful turbo boosts per stage/credit which can either be used to catch up with the ‘con’ quicker, or to smash into him more aggressively once you already have.
You’re probably thinking that it sounds like a lot of fun, but you may also have thought that it sounds rather short. Well, you’d be right on both counts, but the latter point is pretty much the only bad thing about the game. Rather than attempting to craft a longer lasting, more subtle kind of driving game, Taito have instead gone for an intense ten minute blast of a game. It’s not particularly difficult either but some replay value is added by the accumulative bonus you receive for passing each of the many civilian cars the roads are filled with without hitting them. Technically the game is a noticeable step up from OutRun too. The sprites are probably a little better and more varied and the game plays a bit faster, but the biggest improvement is in the stages themselves.
Rather than sticking to one backdrop each, the backgrounds and scenery here change numerous times per stage and are pretty varied too. The courses are also much less flat than OutRun’s and each features a fork mid-way through with one route being longer than the other. The audio is also pretty half-decent. The music, whilst perfectable fine, could never hope to best Hiroshi Miyauchi’s immortal tunes, and the effects are okay too, but Chase HQ’s most noticeable addition is the speech. Your partner is pretty vocal throughout the game, willing you to drive faster and getting excited once battle commences, and good old Nancy has a fair bit to say for herself, both during the briefings and over the police radio during the game too.
Such is the glorification of crime and violence these days, I’m confident that if this game was released today you would play the role of the criminal, most likely with the object not only to escape from the pursuing police officers but to kill them too, and bonus points scored for killing civilians too, or some such nonsense. As it is though, this is very much a ‘good guys sim’ and remains one of the most memorable cop games released. The combination of OutRun and cop film was a superb idea for a game and makes this play very differently to the former. It also creates a fantastic atmosphere and makes it a different enough game to stand proudly next to OutRun instead of in its shadow. It won’t take you long to see all Chase HQ has to offer but it’s such a fast, exciting rush of a game, you’ll be back time and time again. A genuine classic.
RKS Score: 9/10
Our daily vid comes to us from Recorded Amiga Games and features the 1988 action adventure game, Rocket Ranger. Developed and published by Cinemaware, Rocket Ranger is set in an alternate world during World War II. The Nazi’s are on the brink of a breakthrough that will almost certainly win them the war. A rocket pack is sent back from the future to our hero in order to prevent the Nazi’s from winning the war.
Why I Prefer Video Games Over Board, Card, and Pen & Paper Games
I grew up playing a ton of board games, card games, and pen-and-paper RPG games but for many years now I’ve been sick of playing them and have favored video games ever since multiplayer and playing online against other people became abundant.
Well, even before then back in the days of hotseat (hotseat is multiple players playing on the same system at the same physical location), especially on my Commodore 64 and Amiga, as well as my friends’ NES, Sega Genesis, and SNES consoles, I would rather play a good balanced video game than deal with the arguments and drama that playing traditional games came with.
Now I love board games, card games, and RPGs but the problem I found throughout the years is that most people you play with will cheat at every opportunity or they don’t really know the rules of the game or they create their own house rules that sometimes make the game have nothing to do with the original game.
I grew up playing Monopoly, Sorry, Talisman, Battletech, Hero Quest, Munchkin, Guillotine, Chez Geek, Magic the Gathering, Jihad (the Vampire the Masquerade card game), Dungeons and Dragons (every version; AD&D every version as well), Shadowrun, Mechwarrior, and Vampire: The Masquerade. I’ve played more but those are the ones that easily pop into my head right now. I remember playing Battletech at a game store called Gamesters here in Miami with my friend Tom Birmingham and it was us two against two other players. The other players would do shit like waste time then make their guys move twice and fire twice. Even with their cheating, we decimated them.
For card games, especially Munchkin, there would be so many arguments that one time my friends stayed up all night playing the game and they decided to wake me up at 5 AM asking me to make a rule judgement. The conversation went something like this:
Friend 1: “Yeah we wanted to know how to interpret the Loaded Die card…”
Me: “You have got to be fucking kidding me. You know I’m going to kick you guys each in the balls the next time I see you.”
Friend 2: “I told you not to wake him up because of the game.”
Friend 1: “Shh… Anyways, we want to know if you can counter a Loaded Die card with another Loaded Die card.”
Me: “Yes, now please fuck off and never call me again not even if there’s an emergency. And yes, I will cock/cunt kick you all next time I see you. Good night.”
For pen and paper RPGs people would cheat on their die rolls just so their character would always do well. What’s the point of doing something if there is no penalty? How about playing a game where your character can actually die? What would be the point of real life if no bad things happened? Another problem that I found is that almost nobody knew how to actually role-play anything other than being a combat monster useless fucking character that killed everything that the Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) had spent hours designing. I always think of the D&D sketch by the Dead Ale Wives when I think of RPGs. For that I’d rather go play Diablo, at least that’s the point of that game!
Anyways, I grew tired of people ruining games for me so even as a kiddo I knew that unless the controller was broken in hotseat or somebody was using a bot online, video games would solve all that shit by preventing arguments from happening. Whereas on a traditional game you have to enterpret the rules and logic, in a video game everything is happening much faster (no need for die rolls other than internally within the program) and everything is more fluid. Whereas before playing something like Battletech, a battle would take 4 hours of real life time, that would translate into a 5-10 minute match in an RTS game.
The logic is simple and it’s even more obvious to me these days as I grow older than video games will continue to propagate even more and those old games will just continue to die. Now yes, I do agree that they should continue to exist. What are you going to do when a natural disaster happens and there’s no power? They’re great for that. Sometimes they’re great for parties so that at least you can play something with a non-gamer.
Now I’m not encouraging people to play an MMO unless it’s something like Auto Assault or Mechwarrior (two dead games) or PlanetSide (still around but almost nobody plays it) where skill and strategy mean something but more something along the lines as playing Starcraft or any favorite FPS game or anything else for that matter, so long as it’s not a gear based shitty game.. Just be careful with the online cheaters that will employ bots to win like a little bitch!
Another problem that traditional games have versus computer games, especially pen and paper RPGs is that they would take up so much time that it essentially became a ritual that you would have to dedicate time for each week. Think of it as the dedication a WoWhead gives their guild for raiding and other stuff in that game, except instead of clicking on World of Warcraft from any computer to connect you have to go to their house, buy food and drinks, and then drive home (usually really late that night or the next morning). It was even worse as a kid because of parents imposing curfews but I guess that doesn’t matter these days since parenting has gone to shit. =P With online gaming these days, you literally can play any game 24 hours a day and find people willing to play with you. You can’t beat that (although that does create problems like gaming addicts and more but that’s another topic for discussion)
I’d rather play a video game against a friend where it’s much harder to cheat than play a traditional game that could potentially ruin a friendship. I’ve seen some of my friends get into a permanent feud both over traditional games as well as video games but not as much for video games. Anyways, I’ll take something like a hotseat game of Star Control 2 (The Ur-Quan Masters) over a shitty game of Monopoly! However, just because I love video games that doesn’t mean that I won’t join you for a quick board game or card game or RPG session either!
Free Stuff: Zophar’s Domain – Home to all Emulators
Many of us grew up playing on many different platforms and systems. Whether you were a computer person or a console gamer, it probably has been many years since that was our main gaming platform. Just because we are now playing on modern computers and consoles doesn’t mean that we won’t get the urge to play a classic game from a dead system of our younger days. That’s where emulators come in, and Zophar’s Domain has EVERY emulator you can think of from any platform to any platform.Zophar’s Domain Logo
Whether you use a Windows PC, a Linux system, BeOS, an Apple, an Amiga, a console, a phone, or a calculator, if there is an emulator for it so that you can run old computer or system like a Commodore 64, a Commodore Amiga, a Sinclair Spectrum, an Atari console or computer, a 3DO console, a Turbo Grafixx 16, arcade (MAME always comes to mind), any Nintendo or Sega system (ZNES and Genecyst always come to my mind when I think of emulators for these), or some rarer ones, Zophar’s Domain will have them if they exist (usually).
As a quick summary, usually when you want to emulate something you need a properly installed emulator and you’ll need a bunch of ROMs (think of them as disk/cartridge images for games/software/etc, depending on the platform). Now, although Zophar’s Domain will give you the emulators you need and you have every right to emulate software that you have already bought before, the legality of sharing ROMs is not as clear. For that reason, you will NOT find ROMs at Zophar’s Domain but it’s really easy to find them, even using google these days or torrents.
So… fire up a good emulator and relive part of your childhood once again! Either click the name Zophar’s Domain above or click here. If you’re too lazy to install an emulator on whatever it is you use or are worried of the legality of it, you can always go to our arcade section and play an emulator directly from Obsolete Gamer.
Mechwarrior 2 Soundtrack
What can I say about the music to Mechwarrior 2 except that this IS how you write the best soundtrack to one of the ultimate PC games of all time!
Mechwarrior 2 blew me away in such a manner and the music was so chillingly good that this was the game that made me mothball my Amiga in the closet in favor of PC gaming. This was a whole new experience and this was the future of gaming.
Here was an inmersive 3D giant robot simulator and after having played years upon years of Battletech, this game was heaven-sent. Yeah, I played a ton of Cyber Empires but this was lightyears ahead of that. Not only did they make an amazing followup to the original Mechwarrior that a few handful of people got to play online as one of the first MMOs but what a most successful sequel did they create using the Clan factions (The Jade Falcons, my old favorite Clan) rather than the Inner Sphere kingdoms.
Check out the amazing intro, although there’s no way a Thor would stand a chance against any configuration of Mad Cat, especially my builds:
[youtube id=”X3GD0UnBCk” width=”633″ height=”356″]
The game played in such a way that made it seem like you are in control of a real of a 20-100 ton fully equipped Battlemech. It gave you a feeling of piloting a damaged vehicle and taught you how to manage heat and ammo religiously.
For fun, you might want to know that this same engine tweaked to hell was used in other Activision games such as BattleZone (a superior game to the Mechwarrior games) and also Interstate 76 (the grandfather of AutoAssault). Mechwarrior 2 had an expansion called Ghost Bear’s Legacy as well as another game based on the Mechwarrior 2 engine called Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries, which I also have (and its soundtrack; if you guys want, I can post it).
I didn’t really play Mechwarrior 3 and I played and have Mechwarrior 4, which I loved. I even heard that you can download it for free, so I will post links for that if I find them.
All Battletech and Mechwarrior fans are dying for Mechwarrior 5 to come out but because the Battletech universe used robots from Robotech and somebody owns rights to them and is being a baby, that won’t let the release the game until they settle the lawsuit, the game is on hold. Rather than release the game with an agreement to reach an agreement, the game just gathers dust. Who knows if it’ll ever come out.
In the meantime, here is the amazing trailer (eyecandy) for Mechwarrior 5:
[youtube id=”orhOvbfyyJw” width=”633″ height=”356″]
Anyways, enjoy the Mechwarrior 2 official soundtrack! Christmas is coming early this year since I found a box of my old PC games and I’m ripping a ton of music for you guys! HO HO HO NOW I HAVE A MACHINEGUN!
Unreal Tournament Music
In the late 90s people in the FPS camp were divided between the people who liked Quake 3 and those who preferred Unreal Tournament. I was one of the ones that fell into the Unreal Tournament camp.
I found the gameplay faster than Quake 3, along with the game having much better colors, a more efficient engine, and completely blowing it away as far as music went. Quake 3 was butt ugly and UT99 had a palette of bright colors instead. UT99 ran so well on so many machines that is was what I used as a benchmark to get people to buy my custom-built computers. It sold me the most computers back in those days other than Everquest 1.
Getting to the music it was all tracker music and having grown up playing Amiga, it felt right at home with the fast action that was usual in old Amiga games. Even the samples used in the songs seemed perfectly picked. The music is so classic for this game that even in the later sequels to Unreal Tournament the music is mainly remixes of the old tracks. The songs range from adventurous space sounding songs to epic industrial rock songs that will get your blood pumping and go hand in hand with the brutal carnage of the game.
My kudos to Alexander “Siren” Brandon, Michiel “M.C.A.” van den Bos, Andrew “Necros” Sega, Dan “Basehead” Gardopée, Tero “Teque” Kostermaa, Kai-Eerik “Nitro” Komppa, and Peter “Skaven” Hajba for creating yet another favorite soundtrack in one of my favorite games of all time! Enjoy and go blow stuff up!
Obsolete Gamer has been working with the good folks over at Viva Amiga on their creation and marketing of their upcoming documentary. Earlier this year we published an article with Zack Weddington of the film.
Now you can check out their first teaser trailer.
Name: Kim Soares
Company: Nitro Games
Profession: Lead designer
Favorite Classic Game: The Faery Tale Adventure
Quote: For me, classic means something from 1980’s. From that era, Faery Tale was the most mind altering experience (along with Elite, of course). I still remember first reading a review that told about the huge game world and freedom to go anywhere.
The experience was nothing short of profound. It was like all the confines of games had been removed. To top everything were excellent graphics, music and audio that the new Amiga 500 could produce on screen.
Bio: Nitro Games Ltd. is a Finnish game developer that produces high quality video games for worldwide distribution. Since its founding in 2007 the company has grown rapidly and become one of the largest game development studios in Finland.
The company focuses on creating interesting titles with strong intellectual property values. Our office is located in Kotka, Finland. Our internal team is comprised of skilled professionals who know what it takes to make a game that is fun to play and easy to sell. We also use some of the best outsourcing partners in the industry.
Nitro Games has just finished working on East India Company a PC-title combining trading, management and naval battles in novel fashion. The game was released worldwide in Q3 2009 by Paradox Interactive. In the game players will enjoy building the World’s largest trading empire and engaging in vigorous battles within a breathtaking cinematic game environment, in both single player and multiplayer modes. You can read more at our Games section.