Especially in the early days of this website, we produced a number of game reviews which we later decided really needed replacing. This could be because they didn't fulfil the minimum length requirements (established after the reviews' original publication) anymore or also because we were simply not satisfied with the view they represented or even just the writing style anymore. If you want a more current, hopefully more satisfying impression of those games, please check out our current reviews on the respective game's pages.
The writers of the old reviews didn't do anything wrong at the time; all these reviews were accepted and acceptable by the rules of the site and its community when they were published! So there is no harsh criticism intended. In any case, it would be sad to simply lose the information found in these reviews forever; or, in those cases when there is really hardly any information to be found in them, they are at least a testament of their time and (hopefully) people's personal development. So here they are – the reviews formerly used, resurrected, and presented in chronological order of their original publication!
Cyber Empires & Fantasy Empires
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published in March 2000
Cyber- & Fantasy Empires: These two games are so similar that it's almost impossible to write separate reviews for them. In both games the objective is to conquer the whole world. Up to four opponents try to do the same. You command your army on a strategic map in a turn-based way. You can build fortresses in order to improve your defense and different kinds of 'factories' (in Fantasy Empires they're barracks) to produce more units. With those you conquer more territories and so on. Then there are some other options like simple diplomacy and spying.
A real problem in both games is that the map is always the same. Neither are there random ones nor can you create your own.
Something that makes the games feel special is the combat. Whenever you get involved in a fight, the map is zoomed in so that you can see every single unit. Now the action begins. In real-time you control one of your units while the others follow the orders you've give them before. These battles are really a big plus in these games.
Now to the differences:
Cyber Empires was published first. Your army consists of giant robots, a kind of Battle Mechs. Therefore your army is always not too big, quality counts. Most units are somehow specialized for a certain kind of terrain (e.g. city or plains). So it's not enough to have hundreds of the same type. I like that.
Fantasy Empires takes place in a D&D world. You control armys of dwarves, elves and skeletons. In contrast to Cyber Empires your army is always very large. Mass counts. Most units are somehow similar anyway.
But there are other things that make Fantasy Empires different. First, you have to create and develope your own character. When you become better, you get access to better magical spells and skills. Then there are the heroes. These are especially strong individuals who have special abilities. For example a sorcerer can throw fireballs. The heroes can also be sent to quests where they find powerful artifacts and gain level themselves. A really nice feature!
It's difficult to decide which of the two is better. It mainly depends on what theme the player likes better. I'd prefer Cyber Empires because fighting with few but powerful units is just more fun to me. But then again Fantasy Empires has more options to weaken the enemy without attacking them directly (the spells). You really have to figure it out for yourself. Try both!
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published September 8th, 2000
Most people already know this classic. Because it was a huge success. And it deserved it! Inspired by Sim City, Sid Meier wanted to do a real-time building game. This was the product.
The most significant thing about the game is, that there's no real goal. Just like in Sim City you just build and build. You can't really win the game, only climb the highscore list. You just try to build up a huge railroad company.
You can choose to play in either England, Europe, Eastern USA or Western USA. All these scenarios are quite different from each other. While Europe's city are already huge and England profits from wool, Western USA is especially hard as there aren't many things to transport.
Then there are different difficulty levels which let you add to or reduce realism. Up to three opponents are there, too. And they act really realistically mean. The AI is great!
You'll spend most of your time building tracks and planning routes for trains. But apart from that micromanagement, there's also another feature: the stockmarket. Here you can trade shares of your own and the opponent's companies. So you can even buy enemies and control them then. And you can make a lot of money if you're clever.
All this is presented with the stylish graphics that are so typical for Sid Meier games. Similar to Civilization or Colonization you can get much information from the map itself. No need for long statistics. Just fun.
But behind this simple front, Railroad Tycoon is a very complex game that'll keep you motivated for years, decades and maybe even centuries!
Siege & Ambush at Sorinor & Walls of Rome
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published September 11th, 2000
Siege & Ambush At Sorinor & Walls Of Rome: A series of games very similar to each other. The screenshots look almost identical. And all the games are quite similar in fact They're all pioneers of the RTS genre. That means much action is in them. But in contrast to current titles, the strategy- component is stressed. This becomes clear when you discover that you can give orders to your army when the game is paused.
Siege is set in a medieval fantasy world. As the name suggests, you have to either defend or conquer a castle. There are hundreds of scenarios but not too much maps. Depending on the difficulty level you can have more or less units at once.
The number of possible actions is really impressive. The all-round units are engineers who can (if they have the right equipment of course) do almost everything, e.g. deploy ladders on the wall or pour boiling oil on the attackers. But they can't survive without protection by proper soldiers. Again there is a sheer unlimited number of different ones.
Although the goal is always the same, Siege is the best of the three games. It's just a load of positive stress. The best situations are the close ones, e.g. when your walls are about to fall, you'll probably start shouting at your reinforcements to move faster!
Ambusch at Sorinor takes place in a similar fantasy world, but apart from that it's quite different. This time you're the commander of a group of mercenaries. Six different clans who fight each other offer you assignments. You can work for all of them. But your payment depends on how much they like you. And if you've just fought against them, they won't. A really cool concept!
There are two kinds of missions: offensive and defensive ones, i.e. ambushes (blocking a trade route, killing some passing creatures) or prventing ambushes. You have to recruit new soldiers for each mission. So there's no unit developement.
This game also has a comfortable map editor, very simple to use.
Walls of Rome is almost the same as Siege. Again you have to conquer or defend fortresses. But this time in a historical context. But for some reason it's much less fun. I can't really explain why, but this is by far the weakest part of the series. I didn't really enjoy playing it, it's here only to make the selection complete.
These classics by Mindcraft were very innovative for their time and they are still. I've hardly ever seen such deepness in RTS games!
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published September 18th, 2000
Border Zone is another of Infocom's IF masterpieces. That means it uses the greatest parser ever made. But that alone doesn't make a great game!
There are other things that cause this. First the plot. It is a spy thriller. With microfilms, evil agents, an assassination and all the other cool features you know from these old movies. Only that YOU are involved this time!
The story is told three times, each time from a different perspective. You can choose in which order you want to play them. You'll only understand the whole background if you've solved all the three mini-adventures. In fact it isn't the same event you play each time, but three different ones which together form the story.
The puzzles aren't really hard. The main point is “beating the clock”. The game continues in real time, even when you're just thinking. Of course that means that you have to be at the right place on the right time. If you miss something important, you just can't win anymore. Trial and error is sometimes the only way.
If you like adventures, you should really give this a try!
North & South
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published September 30th, 2000
This game demonstrates the Amiga's superiority over almost every other system. It was also released for the C-64 and the PC. Both versions feature much worse graphics and sound. While this is quite logical for the C-64, it is quite surprising for the PC from today's perspective. Even though the game was ported to the PC much later, the graphics are still really bad. Not to mention the sound...
But the content is the same in all versions. North and South is a game about the American Civil War. You can choose to play either side and in which year you want to start (important for yours and your opponent's strength). Then there are some other options to choose which add more or less random factors to the game.
Well, I think you all know that N&S isn't a really complex simulation. It's a funny cartoon war game! You move your armies around on a map and try to occupy the train stations. These are important for your money and if you've earned enough
you can place a new army somewhere on the map.
But the stations all have forts to protect them. This is one of the arcade sequences. The attacker controls a soldier in a classic 2D-Jump&Run. The aim is to simply come through. The defender sends his soldiers to prevent this. The other arcade sequence is the battle. The army is subdivided into three parts: Artillery, Cavallery and Infantry.
These two made the game so famous. Wargames were always insider-stuff before. This game changed it. Very accessible and real fun, especially in multiplayer (the AI is really DUMB !
James Pond 2: Codename Robocod
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published October 21st, 2000
James Pond is as fast as Sonic and as smart as Mario. But he's even more! He's a secret agent on a mission. The evil Dr Maybe captured all the penguins of the antarctic and all the christmas toys! James 'Robocod' Pond has to rescue the penguins and defeat Dr Maybe.
Being a fish, he's wearing his power armour which not only allows him to breeze, but also has a really nice feature: It can expand so that James gets taller and taller! It also provides some protection against nasty foes like snakes and robots with cake-heads. But James doesn't carry any weapon. Therefore he has to beat his enemies by jumping on their heads.
The game begins when James arrives at Santa's toy factory where somehow all the toys have gone mad. The connection to the penguins isn't really clear, but who cares? It's a huge building with many doors. Behind each door, there is a level.
Not all of them are necessary to complete the game, but most are. The doors open in a preset order, so that you have to complete them in this certain order. About each third door has a question mark on it. Behind these, huge creatures are waiting to be beaten up. On the whole, there are so many levels, that it can take days to complete the game.
Normally, James just runs and jumps around. But sometimes, he finds cool vehicles like a car, a plane or a bath (!) which make progress easier or possible. Up to five lives and a kind of energy bar make the game fairer, but it's still very hard!
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published November 24th, 2000
You travel through space with your ship. For some reason, there are lots of evil guys attacking you. To be honest, there are only evil guys who attack you. Not a single friend to count on. Only enemies. And they all want to shoot you. I hope you know why. You have no other choice than to defend yourself by destroying them first!
But the opponents clearly outnumber you. And they don't only have different space ships but also huge stationary cannons and missile launchers. They're all after you. And the cruising asteroids don't make it easier...
You shoot your way from level to level this way. Between them, you can upgrade your ship in three categories with the money you are awarded the faster you complete the level.
There are tons of levels, but don't expect them to differ very much. Only some new enemies from time to time. There are also some two player modes like dogfight or coop.
You may have already noticed, there isn't much to describe about this game. Transplant is just an ordinary Asteroids clone. Nothing more, nothing less. But surely fun for some time!
Advanced Destroyer Simulator
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published November 25th, 2000
Everyone who tries this game will notice the similarity to Silent Service. Graphics, sound and even controls are almost the same. And also the topic differs only slightly: Instead of a sub, you're in charge of a british destroyer in WW2.
There isn't a career mode though. You just choose one of the preset missions which take place either in the North Sea, the English Channel or the Mediterranean Sea. The goal is to destroy some of the opponent's ships most times.
Again you're on your own, so you have to try to seperate the enemies from each other. Then you sink them with your cannons or torpedos. If you feel suicidal, you can also ram them, but that should only be a thing for tragic heroes...
The Italians/Germans own some different types of ships and subs. Especially combined fleets are quite hard to take out. But it's always possible to complete the missions - never too unfair!
Although ADS tries really hard to imitate its idol, it doesn't quite measure up to it. Controlling a destroyer is just less fascinating than a sub. Sure, it's fun, but the certain athmosphere which makes Silent Service a classic is lacking. Attacking frontally with a big ship is just not the same as sneaking up from below and launch a surprise attack...
Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published November 28th, 2000
This is the first part of a series many people consider as a classic. As you can see from my rating, I don't agree with that. To describe Lotus, just one word is needed: boring!
Nevertheless, its historical value is out of question! It's the ancestor of all the 'modern' action racers, e.g. the Need for Speed- or Screamer-games. And what's even more important (and interesting!) is the fact, that Lotus is almost identical to those newer ones!
Everything that's typical for this genre is already in it: Automation options without which you can't even drive, badly designed and uninspired courses, dumb opponents who ram you from behind because they just drive on a fixed line,
a league that only continues if you've won the last race and high speed! Only slight differences can be found: Lotus has better graphics than the 'modern' games. It's not as ugly! Still quite average graphics. Lotus doesn't try to cover its nature by huge option screen on which you can't set anything.
If you like Action Racers, you'll love Lotus. If you don't (like me), you'll find every single piece of prejudice to be true here!
Einmal Kanzler sein
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published November 30th, 2000
Ever wanted to rule a country? This is your chance! Your party has just won the election and now you're Chancellor (that's similar to the British Prime Minister).
Now you have to start working. Many decisions await you! What's your first step? Getting drunk? Giving an interview
on TV? Or maybe talking to your ministers?
You get confronted with the everyday problems of a politician: Unemployment, regression, scandals and private stuff.
Everytime you have three choices what to do. According to what you choose, your ratings in seven categories rise or fall.
These categories are popularity, party, coalition, score, health, foreign countries and family. In most cases it's pretty obvious how your decisions' influence will be. Working all the time won't be too good to your health for example...
If you drop below 20 in one category, you have to try to improve your stats there immediately, otherwise you have lost.
From time to time, you can take a break and play a quick action game.
Einmal Kanzler sein doesn't take itself very seriously! Most of the situations and choices are quite humorous. And
the game is not too hard either! It's just fun - but surely not on the long term...
Written by Elwood, originally published 2001-02-27
Yes folks - this is good ol' Tapper. The old game you might remember from your C64 - or maybe even from your old XT.
The concept is still the same - you're a barkeep' and have to serve beer to your customers who get angry and start moving towards you till they finally get their beloved beer. If they get it early enough they will just leave - if not they will slide their glass back and want more beer. Do not break any glasses or you are out!
The levels get harder as more people come and want beer. It can get pretty ridiculous later on, but it sure is fun. The graphics are great - they give the game a funny touch and just make you want to play that little round in between. Damn good remake I'd say! Oh and don't worry if you don't understand anything in the menus - the game is in swedish (Falcon is a swedish brewery) - you can start a new game with F1.
Invasion of the Mutant Space Bats of Doom
Written by Elwood, originally published 2001-03-04
This is by far the best remake of the Space Invaders idea. Packed into a lovely B-Movie environment you fight against several creatures that are dropping down from above.
When I came across this game at Jamie's Abandonware and read the very positive review I just had to try it - after all the first game I ever added to my first abandonware-site (Elwoods Groovy Old Goodies for those who don't know...) has been Space Invaders. If there was a way to really make a great game out of the idea - the guys at Pop Software did. You just have to love this game. The only downpoint I found was that the game gets hard pretty soon. Well, call it challenging - after a while you will find a strategy to master the different situations as each wave of aliens seems to have different attacking tactics. Enjoying yet simple Arcade Shooter!
Written by Adhoc, originally published 2001-03-18
Red Baron is kind of a predecessor of Dynamix' Aces series. This time it's about World War I and featuring its respective planes. All known features can be found in this game: single missions, a career mode and the possibility to record your most glorious deeds.
You can fly anything from the sluggish monoplanes early in the war to the famous Sopwith Camel and the even better known triplane ('Dreidecker') which was flown by Manfred von Richthofen. In the single missions menu you can practice the mission types which you will encounter during the career like patrolling the front, balloon busting or intercept missions.
During the career you'll be confronted with the usual random selection of missions but there are some differences to the latter 'Aces' games. For example you can be challenged to a duel by enemy aces which you can accept or not (but beware - sometimes they lure you into a trap!) and after reaching a certain rank you can paint your plane to your likings.
The graphfics are quite good for the time and actually don't look that different compared to 'Aces of the Pacific' which appeared two years later. But overall flying WW I planes is quite a different experience compared to WW II fighters. When you have a fast PC be sure to use a slowdown program because otherwise you could be downed quite fast...
Red Baron is yet another great simulation by Dynamix and one of the best WW I sims I know even today. If you liked 'Aces of the Pacific' and 'Aces over Europe' be sure to download this - it's well worth it!
Written by NetDanzr, originally published July 12th, 2002
Now you may wonder what is Tetris doing in the GameBoy category. The reason is simple: Tetris, while popular on arcades, needed a platform to propagate among the general population, and GameBoy proved to be the perfect platform. When GameBoy was first released, it sold with the Tetris cartridge included, a move that not only boosted the GameBoy sales but also made Tetris a household name. In fact, many speculated (and I think they have a point) that GameBoy was designed with Tetris in mind; such is the integration of these two.
Tetris is a very addictive action puzzle, where you have blocks of different shapes falling from the top of the screen. You need to manipulate them into a position where they would fill any empty spaces on the bottom; only if a row is full of blocks and has no empty spaces if disappears. The game gets progressively faster, and ends when your screen is full of blocks. The game offered several different modes of play. You could either play the simple game or one where a few blocks were randomly placed on the screen. In the latter mode, your task was to clear the screen, after which you get a small victory music, the first ending in a game I was looking for. There was even a multiplayer mode; you could connect to another GameBoy and play against another player. Every time you scored a big hit - several rows disappearing at once - a few random blocks appeared on your opponent's screen.
Tetris would never become popular without GameBoy, and GameBoy would never become the dominant handheld console without Tetris. These two share a unique symbiotic relationship. Unique, because of its tremendous success, which was fully deserved.
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published April 5th, 2004
A well-known shoe company of the 80s teams up with a well-known environmental organization of the 80s to present you this economical simulation. Commercial advertisement mixed up with promotion for a 'good cause' - very, very questionable.
Your task is to manage a 'natural resort' for elephants somewhere in Africa. The situation is quite different from reality, though. There is no trouble with getting cheap land, no fuss with bureaucracy, it's no problem finding sponsors and even making profit is a piece of cake!
Basically, all you do each turn is increase the size of your land, build more wells, admit a few more tourist buses and answer a few easy trivia questions about elephants.
The game is obviously made for kids. Cute graphics with funny small animations, easy success. However, also no longtime challenge, because the purely economic branch of the game can be figured out even by pre-school children and the questions start repeating themselves after 10 minutes.
The 'educational' aspect is certainly a good one, and there is indeed a little to learn here, but - as mentioned before - the logos of the 'elefanten' show company popping up again and again do leave a sour taste, especially considering the 'impressionable' target audience. Sure, everything has to be financed some way... but... seriously... I mean...
Alien Bash II
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published May 1st, 2004
“Yeah ok so its a routine plot”. This refreshing honesty welcomes you to Alien Bash II, the sequel to an equally unknown freeware game. In the predecessor, the protagonist escaped from an alien prison ship - or rather he would have, in case anyone actually finished that not-very-good game. Now, he wants to end the alien threat once and for all by committing genocide on the aliens' homeworld. Routine indeed.
The game itself is more interesting, though. It strongly resembles the commercial classic Chaos Engine. Especially the graphics style is very similar. Not a bad choice which game to imitate. Chaos Engine, in turn, borrowed from Gauntlet's gameplay. That makes Alien Bash II a Gauntlet clone as well: you run around in top-down view and shoot monsters. At the end of each level, a 'generator' is waiting to be destroyed in a shootout with gradually rising difficulty per level.
A few extras can be collected, and money can be used to buy powerups between the levels. All the usual categories are covered: better guns, hand grenades, additional lives and so on. Special attention has been paid to the excellent controls. You can choose between three 'modes', determining whether or not (or how) you can move and shoot simultanously.
One important aspect of most Gauntlet-style games which also makes Chaos Engine so great is lacking, unfortunately: the two-player action. You're always on your own against the evil hordes.
With this one exception, Alien Bash II can even measure up to professional standards. Compared to the ackward first part, that is especially surprising! A gem amongst the masses of free stuff.
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published December 14th, 2004
When a game takes more than two years after the announcement to be released, it usually means something. Gamers who are waiting for the game to come out get pissed off. And the publisher almost certainly has a good reason to hold the game back. What this reason was in the case of Blade Warrior is unknown.
Whatever it was, from today's point of view, only the final result counts. Blade Warrior's story is quickly told: To defeat the evil tyrant Murk, you have to find seven fragments of a stone. Each is owned by a powerful wizard whom you have to find.
On his way back and forth through the country, the hero encounters numerous monsters of various types. Against the weaker ones, his sword proves to be powerful enough. Later in the game, tougher opponents await you. To beat these, you can combine ingredients you've picked up to make magic potions and spells, or trade in other items for spells at the wizards.
That relatively fresh mix of side-scrolling fighting action and and touch of adventure is fittingly presented in an imaginative way. Instead of 'regular' graphical representation, you only get to see the silhouettes of everything in the foreground. Trees, bushes, bridges, monsters and even your own sprite are just black shapes.
The backgrounds consist of the sky tinted in dark shades of blue and grey. This combination works surprisingly well. It doesn't look cheap as one might expect, but rather stylish. A definite plus.
The original graphical approach is the only thing the game has in its favour, though. The gameplay is solid and playable enough, but nothing groundbreaking. If this is what you're satisfied with or if it's exactly what you're looking for, Blade Warrior certainly isn't the worst choice.
Written by Mr Creosote, originally published August 5th, 2016
So-called Roguelike games are having a bit of a revival right now. With a lot of these projects being Open Source and even generic libraries which do the heavy lifting concerning the basics (level generation, input-output routines, pathfinding…), many new ones keep popping up. In fact, so many that it's hard to keep track, let alone tell the worthwhile ones apart from the rest. Dungeon Mercenary's first version has only been released this year, and it's been improved & extended since then (it is in active development, so this review may not reflect the latest status). Still, it's currently (at the time of writing) only a ten level dungeon, so overall play time is definitely short. Good, because that makes it much less scary to give it a try!
The first thing noticeable about the game is that it uses a very stripped down interface. Instead of relying on a multitude of memorized keyboard shortcuts, almost everything is rather performed in an object-centric manner through the inventory menu. The introductory hurdle is therefore manageable, but it comes at the cost of restricting the player to a fairly low number of possible actions.
Graphically, it goes a similar way, with a generally clean, slick look. Likely inspired by Brogue, it uses a pseudo-character-based display, but without supporting actual text terminals. Light and colour effects make for a non-static impression. Generally pleasant, if only the constrast were a little higher – some monsters can easily be missed, because they blend in with the grey of the background a little too well.
Gameplay offers only few features (for now?). Collect armour and weapons, equip them and bump into monsters to dispose of them. Like in Brogue, equipment can be enchanted with what is called “Runics” here. This can either provide the items with special abilities or generally make them stronger. It's also possible to improve the Runics themselves with other Runics first, to optimize a special ability even more.
The latter is apparently considered a big selling point according to its author. Whether it is actually a good thing, I have my doubts. Certainly, this concept leads to strong procrastination effects on the side of the player. Always, you will think that you may come across an even better basic weapon, and if that happens, but you spent all your Runics to improve your current weapon before, you will end up frustrated. So you may end up never using the Runics at all, eventually dying, because the enemies became too strong for your non-upgraded equipment.
And really, that's about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Dungeon Mercenary. It's a good, viable game, which you can use to pass your lunch hour with. However, at this state of development, there is also really nothing to set it apart; nothing which would make you choose it out of all the alternatives. It is, in fact, so close to Brogue (but minus many of the more advanced, fun things and also minus the difficulty balancing) that it is almost superfluous for now (it even shares Brogue's biggest irritation: the buggy “emulation” of diagonal movement which fails to work when the player is standing next to an obstacle).
A recent version added special modes, like running, a dash attack etc. Maybe that will be a promising way to pursue. What it already does do pretty well is that there is no hunger clock; instead, it simply removes the usefulness of waiting by having no “natural regeneration” of the player character (healing is solely done through items). However, as of today, the main impression nevertheless is that Dungeon Mercenary is overly focused on its pointless “achievements” system and similarly useless graphical fade-in/fade-out effects rather than things which may make the game more unique and interesting.
Comments & Discussion