Remake and Reboot

Video Game Remakes

Hollywood is going through a phase at the moment. The “reboot” of films such as Batman Begins, or the remake of titles including “The Taking of Pelham 123”, demonstrates a lack of original ideas and voices. And the games industry seems to be following suit, relying on summer blockbusters and sequels as much as the cinema.

Prince of Persia is a good example. Jordan Mechner’s classic had already undergone an ill-advised leap into 3D before Ubi Soft’s Sands of Time rebooted the story and added the amazing time rewinding feature. The two sequels added little, even with a Wii remake of the Two Thrones giving motion control. And so it was rebooted again, adding a controversial new game mechanic and dividing opinion.

Tomb Raider has also had its share of remaking and rebooting, with Legend and the 10th Anniversary editions. By handing the series over to Crystal Dynamics, Legend got closer to a true 3D world and Anniversary revisited the old locations with new polish.

The Wii is also seeing several of these new “interpretations”, as evidenced by Klonoa. The original game of the series appeared nearly ten years ago on the original Playstation, and was a 2.5D platformer with the player’s movement controlled along set paths. Fast forward and the graphical makeover is very good (the dreadful Americanised character voices less so), but the movement restrictions remain. The old-school game mechanics may feel uncomfortable to the new audience drawn to Wii, but there is a real challenge in there.

Other titles such as Resident Evil Files have had little done to improve them for the new hardware. The Play Control range has featured some gems brought up to date with Wii controls – Pikmin, for example – but Nintendo would be advised to cherry-pick the best titles to update.

Perhaps the most successful reboot has to be Call of Duty. Arriving first on PC, the console-specific versions (Big Red One) were followed by the unusual idea of two developers alternating work on the franchise. But the biggest surprise was waiting for Call of Duty 4. The subtitle Modern Warfare gave it all away – the franchise moved from its World War II setting (and its competitors Medal of Honour and Brothers In Arms) to the present day. However, despite plans to call the 2009 sequel Modern Warfare 2, Activision has gone back and put the Call of Duty tag in front to avoid losing sales.

So rebooting is not all bad news. In the end it would be nice to be swamped with new and original ideas every time we looked at the shelves in our local game store, but the companies cannot be blamed for the fact that the familiar titles (and gameplay styles) will sell more.

Exile

 

Exile title
Exile title

 

Exile is probably the best game most people have never heard of. It was first released on the Acorn Electron and BBC Micro in 1988. The game was designed and programmed by Peter Irvin and Jeremy Smith (the author of Thrust, another ground breaking game that was converted to all the computers know to man).

Like Thrust, Exile is a game based on cave exploration with a physics mode. But unlike Thrust instead of just having Gravity Physics, Exile also has features such as inertia, mass, explosions, shock waves, Water, Wind, Fire, Intelligent Animals (Frogs, Wasps, Frogman, Snail, Fish, Spiders, Birds and Imps), Automated Turrents, Serveral different types of Robots all with Artificial Intelligence, Teleportation, Gravity, Weighted objects, and different weapons. It was the most complex game available for the BBC Micro, and possibly all 8bit machines.

 

Exile Amiga Title Screen
Exile Amiga Title Screen

 

The game also offered an enormous and detailed world, which was perfect for exploration. This large map was inhabited by many different creatures, robots, and puzles. All this was explained in the plot as the crew of the Pericles having set up a base in a natural cave system, with Triax having his own base in caves deep below.

Exile’s AI programming featured innovative routines like creature strategy code that knew about noises nearby, line-of-sight vision through the divaricate caves and tunnels, and enemy’s memory of where the target was last seen.

The main game is an character astronaut with a jet pack. He cannot die, if he is attacked or injures himself when he reaches a point near death he is automatically teleported to safe locations previously reached and designated by the player, until he these locations run out and he is ultimately back to his orbiting spaceship. Despite this, the game was still very difficult to complete and could take hours to play through.

The story of game starts as follows;

The player takes control of a space-adventurer Mike Finn who is ordered by his superiors on Earth to divert his spacecraft to the planet Phoebus to investigate the distress calls broadcast by the members of a previous mission. Finn’s mission is to rescue any survivors of the mission from a psychotic scientist, Triax, exiled there many years before.

 

Exile Amiga Gameplay
Exile Amiga Gameplay

 

Exile was supplied with a novella setting the full background story to the game and the game objective. It also provides limited clues regarding the scenery, objects and lifeforms that are encountered in the game.

The game came out for the Commodore C64’s dying days in 1991, and it the last game I bought for my c64 before I sold it. I pre-ordered the game after being blown away by a covertape demo (given away with Commodore Format, I think). When I upgraded to the Commodore Amiga shortly after, Exile was my first purchase.

The Commodore 64 offered better graphics and sound than the BBC and Acorn versions, and the Amiga version which was also released in 1991, had even better graphics and sound including a an atmospheric theme tune containing a deep voiced Exile sample and some eerie strings.

Allthough most gamers have never heard of most people have never heard of Exile, those you have played it will never forget it. Amiga Power magazine voted the  Exile to be the best game of 1991. The multi-format magazine Edge retrospectively awarded it 10 out of 10, together with only 2 other games.