It's time to rewind and take a look at this last year. As you know, if you have visited lately the site, we have been following a theme on most of our new reviews, which was "games from 30/25/20/15 years back".
Reading those numbers one starts to see how "old games" really start to be about "old". As years pass, and young people don't even have the change or interest to play these games (because, let's face it, most people won't play anything from before they were twelve years old), we risk forgetting many of the steps the videogames industry has taken.
I won't start about how the world is ending, there is always a doom in the horizon, no matter what you are talking about. But right now there are few places trying to keep that piece of history that are old games, even the (very few) government backed projects act as if they were some sort of secret organization.
Yes, offering people a way to find out how were the games decades ago is important because few take care of it. But of course there is another much more important reason for it: to keep interest. Both us, the people who work on the site, and you, the readers, tend to become more interested when the updates have some sort of continuity.
And that's why we made these reviews. Oh, I didn't say which ones, but luckily for you we have some galleries where you can take a look at them, so at the same time I do a recap you can take a look at some of them:
We have reviewed games from 1983, 30 years ago. Some of you weren't even born back then (well, me too, but for a few years).
Also we got games from 1988, which are 25 years old.
Then we have 1993, on 20 years ago.
And finally 1998, which was just 15 years back. I am sure many of our readers had the chance to try at least these ones.
Which means we had four years to take games from, and made a total of 39 reviews. Going into a bit more of detail, we had 13 from 1983, 12 from 1988, 3 from 1993 and 11 from 1998. Which makes an average of a game each month for each year except, of course, 1993, which got only 3 games. But, as we usually say, you can always help with those gaps, and we will be glad to publish those reviews.
So this is all for this year, which is close to end. But is not the end of our updates, and much less thematic updates.
Chances are high that if you are reading this post you have been following the other games of this year's site theme too. So you might be wondering, what game will be the last one for 1998. Well, let me start by telling you that it got a real in depth review, since I asked Wandrell and Mr Creosote for help for this flawed masterpiece. We are talking about a game that tried to achieve a lot… and naturally fell a bit short, yet it does have its merits. If you were a bit generous, you could even call it the pinnacle of its genre, the epitome of the interactive movie.
By 1998 this genre was nearing the end of a steady decline. During a short lived hype about such buzzwords like 'Multimedia' and 'Full Motion Video', most of those games tried to imitate their rather successfull progenitors. They just refined the formula by increasing the game's size, throwing in even harder puzzles (that made even less sense), increasingly better actors or rendering more beautiful backgrounds. Things started to go in circles, and I am neither talking about the CDs in their drives, nor about having to start swapping disks heavily again.
Still, there are some of them that stand out a bit and one of them is todays game. For one it breaks the record of needing 8 CDs, which also means it is one of the longest games of its kind. But there is also something about the story of a lone detective that sets out to unravel the mysteries of a most famous murder, while spoiling the plans of Nazi sorcerers. Featuring Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet and… Super Mario Bros.!) and Teri Garr (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) in a one man's struggle to save the world from the power of the Black Dahlia. Oh, and it also has one of the most annoying mazes in video game history.
Being unpopular is a way to make people know you, as it happens to some NES games. This is such a case, which many people only know thanks to those lists of bad console games.
In this case I reviewed the Japanese version, Mad City, but it is better known as The Adventures of Bayou Billy, and I must say that, no matter the fame of a game, film, book or wathever, you have to take a look to know if it is actually as people say.
Of course, offering my review to read is not giving you the chance of making your own opinion, but of reading mine. So after you read it, why not giving it a try?
Warlords… our former partner-in-crime NetDanzr considered it his favourite game due to the balanced map and the nevertheless differentiated challenges it brought. SedrynTyros now provided scans of the manual, the reference card and the map of the IBM version – all very high quality – while Herr M. made new (full sized) screenshots of the Amiga version.
Gravitar concludes the 1983 stream of this year's site theme. Unless, of course, someone else would like to squeeze in a last minute addition – you're welcome to!
Looking at the overview gallery, you might notice that the number of arcade style games like this one turned out to be quite high. This is not quite by accident, of course – it was just a time when arcade machines were still a major market compared to the home systems which were not nearly as common then as they became later on. One genre I had planned to cover in addition to what I did was tactical war games. You know, those hex maps on which you shove tank icons back and forth. Unfortunately, technical issues with the candidate game prevented this. Can't have everything, I guess – I still believe this was a good selection. Not all games being good, but at least they were interesting! On this particular note, I'd like to thank Herr M. who also contributed one entry for this year; it was probably the freakiest one.
SedrynTyros provides high resolution scans of the manual and the world map of The Patrician. Thanks!
Let us go back to 1998 again! This time to the swan song of one of the major gaming pioneers. Whether you like Sierra games or not, it is a fact that in the 90s, the adventure genre was dominated by them and Lucas Arts, up to the point were they decided how an adventure should be. There were some signs that the rather humorous and simplified style of Lucas Arts was about to prevail, but in the end, both of them failed at a critical point: During the change to 3D graphics.
Of course it might also have been the saturation of the market, or that gamers lost interest with linear one-way games with the advent of the internet and easy access to walkthroughs. Anyway, the classic adventure game (and with it almost an era of computer gaming) was coming to an end. And for both software houses at the same time too.
For Sierra this meant a departure from the usual. From beautifully hand drawn 2D graphics they changed to somewhat clunky 3D polygons, and tried to turn their games more into some kind of role playing games instead of adventures. However, the results were pretty mediocre. Two of their grand Quest-series got a final part in this last year of their adventure department. Kings Quest: Mask of Eternity had (with the exception of a couple of names) nothing in common with its predecessors, and was an adventure game only in a generously broader sense.
The conclusion of the Quest for Glory series was a bit more successful. It took nine years and five games, in which you developed a hero further and further, from the humble beginning in the town of Spielburg up to a grand finale. Was it all worth it? Could this be the only Sierra Quest series with a satisfying ending? Well, take a look at our newest review for Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire to find out!
This is it – our final update about this year's Interactive Fiction Competition! The results have been posted a couple of days ago. Not too many surprises there. Maybe the biggest surprise is that there were no big surprises. In any case, here is a final update of our article reflecting the actual results, including some mild attempts at interpretation.
Arkanoid II: Revenge of Doh for the NES is a strange game for a simple reason, it was published worldwide for computers, but only on Japan for the console.
Why? It's hard to say nowadays, when we are used to worldwide releases and platforms which differ little from each other.
Still, one thing we can say, it's part of an old custom of the game industry we have lost nowadays, offering and alternative to the game cabinets at your home, so you can have all the fun at a smaller cost.
But the game itself, what does it offer? Well, you will have to check the review to find out that.
Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life concludes our string of IF Competition discussions. Check back after the results have been published for a final update of our corresponding article.
The year is slowly advancing and there are not all that many games to go in our main theme left. From 1983, there just had to be another sports game. International Soccer not only fits this bill, but it is also one of the truly seminal games in the history of the medium.
Now, the issue with many groundbreaking games of historic importance is that they are imitated so often that it is hard to see the appeal in retrospect. The question, however, has to be whether these later imitations really clearly improved things. This depends very much on what you consider as a target audience. In a time where so-called 'casual' games are making the majority of the market, something along the lines of this original could very well have its appeal over many of its spiritual successors again.
Captain Verdeterre's Plunder is a game about which Herr M. and I could not agree at all. Is it a well-written, fun diversion or an excercise at frustration? You decide.
proc joins me in an in-depth discussion about the qualities of Robin & Orchid.
In the scope of our theme of games from 1983, I have reviewed a couple of arcades games and a couple of arcade games ported to home computers. Lode Runner is different: It is an original development of a home computer. While the gameplay itself might now show this, it takes advantage of this different environment in another way: It pioneered the use and published inclusion of a level editor! The legend goes that the developer made it to enable the kids of the neighbourhood to create levels for him to include in the final game.
Of course, the question is always whether it is a good idea to also hand such an editor out to the buyers. One line of thinking is that this kills the market for extension packs and followups. However, over the last three decades, I believe it has been shown time and time again that for really good games, this is essentially untrue. Fan-made extensions can keep a game alive beyond its regular lifespan and well-made official extensions will probably even have a bigger market due to this extra community attention.
Ollie Ollie Oxen Free is the second game discussed in a little more detail between Herr M. and me. About this one, we were mostly in agreement. A game well worth playing!
Starting the announced dedicated reviews with a discussion about The House at the End of Rosewood Street. As was to be expected with such a game, the main subjects quickly became general questions of game design and we even touched upon what constitutes art.
As promised, I added some closing remarks to the IF Comp article. In case some of you got interested, there is still time to play & vote until mid-November… or, obviously, you can play these games also at any time in the future. In the meantime, we are already preparing a couple of dedicated reviews of some of the more interesting games.
Fitting to the ongoing IF Competition and to our site's current theme, I searched for a piece of interactive fiction from 1998. In doing so I stumbled across a very interesting story about a robot going rogue in a machine world, a so called Bad Machine. OK, this premise might actually sound a bit clichéd, but its implementation is quite creative: Everything is presented in some kind of pseudo-code, and most of the usual commands have been replaced with rather uncommon variations. And this makes for quite an unique experience.
But the strangest thing about this game is that I've got the feeling it hasn't aged at all. Compared with all the other 1998 games I reviewed over the last couple of months, I can't imagine this to play any different than 15 years ago, something I can't say for most of the other games. Maybe it's because back then text adventures were as dated as they are today, or maybe it's because putting more effort into a great idea and showing some creativity in it's implementation makes for a more timeless game, than spending a gazillion on (supposedly) pretty graphics and marketing?
…and there we are: Captain Verdeterre's Plunder concludes my playlist of the IF Comp 2013. Though, of course, it is not the end of our coverage – those were just some brief notes on the games. The serious stuff if yet to come!
Today, I can present you some short comments about the game which will win this year's IF Comp: Coloratura. Does this mean that I unreservedly recommend it, because I share the impression that this is indeed the best game? Those of you who have followed this site for some time should know that things are never this simple…
We're getting close to the finishing line by now. Only three more games to go in the IF Comp! Does 9Lives have the breath left to make it?
Threediopolis is a question of taste. Either you like this sort of thing or not. I did not play it for long, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad game.
Tex Bonaventure and the Temple of the Water of Life gets us back on the track of good games in this year's IF Comp. Not that I see any chance for it to win the competition…
Continuing with the IF Comp games, next on my list was Mazredugin. In spite of the promising premise laid out in the game's 'about' section, I did not have much fun with it.
Unfortunately, we cannot present you any update today. The reason being that… none of you submitted one. Seeing how many people are asking how to earn site credits on the forum on a regular basis, this is kind of strange, isn't it? I know, I can't explain it, either. So let me once again remind you that this year's theme is about games from 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998. Contributions in these areas will be rewarded with a 50% bonus on the regular number of points. It's really not hard. A couple of people have been doing it all year. You could do it once.
I said I would play Reels, but it turned out to be an ill-conceived promise. Now I have to live with the knowledge that I have wasted my time.
The Cardew House also represents a group of games which appear in each year's IF Comp: It's basically unfinished. This is always a pity!
The Wizard's Apprentice is the obligatory old-school game written out of pure nostalgia for treasure hunts as they were common some decades ago. This sort of game seems to turn up in every year's IF Comp. Just think of Castle Adventure or R. Some of them are really well done and – having played & enjoyed many old games myself, obviously – they do put a big smile on my face. Others… not so much.
The IF Comp continues with Robin & Orchid. This is a decent enough game which is fun, but given the expectations based on the fact that it was written by a former competition winner together with another former competition participant who delivered a very good game last time around, it's almost disappointing.
A Wind Blown from Paradise was the first game on my IF Comp playlist which I really disliked. This is the sort of thing which pops up again each year, probably written by people in their teens who believe it is ultra-sophisticated to write intentionally screwy sentences. Let me tell you: It can be, but only if there is a point to this stilistic device!
I know, Solomon's Key was published one or two years earlier. But I actually wanted to check this version, having known the more popular NES one.
And actually this shows one of the things on computer games back then, the competency between platforms. Now it's all consoles which, more or less, do exactly the same, but there was a time where one computer or another, and also this happened among consoles, were actually different.
They had their own hardware, and their own way to do things. So these versions, no matter they were all done at the same time or years apart, could manage to be a different deal one from another.
Our user camelord tells us about an Apple iOS port of Winzer. Whether you really want to play this game… well, there is a target audience for everything, isn't there?
Phew… my comments about The House at the End of Rosewood Street turned out longer than initially planned. In spite of my not so positive conclusion, this should tell you all one thing: The game is worth the contemplation. There are always all too many games which are polished well enough, but completely forgettable. This one, I will remember.
As expected after the strong start of the random playlist, things are slowing down a little in the IF Comp. Further is a game which it would be tough to recommend overall. It's not without its merits, but it's also not been thought through sufficiently.
The Paper Bag Princess came up next on my playlist of the IF Comp. It's a game which achieves what it tries to, I guess. So it's a winner of sorts – even if its plans are not particularly ambitious.
Now that this year's IF Comp is running, it was only appropriate to also have something similar in our main site theme. After all, thirty years ago, text adventures were the booming genre! Feasibility Experiment is a good one to present to you, because it fulfils two functions in this context. First of all, it is a fairly good one which could still be of interest to open-minded players. Second, it also illustrates how much the genre has evolved over the years.
The typical current IF Comp game is very different from the gameplay style found in Feasibility Experiment. Oh, sure, about every year, there are one or two nostalgia pieces in classic style, like last year's Castle Adventure, Luster (which was basically the attempt to remake this 1983 classic if I'm not mistaken) the year before or R in 2010. The bulk of the modern-day text adventures is much more simplistic in its gameplay, much more forgiving to player blundering and often much more focused on storytelling. For better or worse – that's up to everyone to decide for herself; objectively it's just different.
Trapped in Time is the second IF Comp game I played. With this, we're really pushing the boundaries of the site's scope insofar that it's not really an electronic game. Rather, it is a game book, like those popular in the 1980s. So there we are, this is exactly what we're usually talking about here, isn't it? Games from the 1980s…
The 2013 IF Comp has begun! 34 games are competing this year, which, extrapolating from previous years, will probably cover a wide range of themes and gameplay styles. Personally, after going through the list, I have picked 16 of them to play over the next few weeks. The first one, called Ollie Ollie Oxen Free, I've already finished. Don't worry, the game is much better than its title!
What do you get if you take the blocks from Tetris, arrange them in a Sokoban-like fashion and add some Boulder Dashesque characters? Well, if you add the flair of a foreign movie (that is funny speaking people with subtitles) too, you get Fish Fillets.
Released with little to no response in 1998, this obscure little title from a Czech indie studio was made Freeware around the turn of the century. Soon after they released the source code too, and some dedicated people set out to make it more adaptable, so it would get the attention that it deserves.
If somehow you should still have missed this little gem (probably because you don‘t run a Linux system, where an excellent reproduction is found amongst the packages of almost every distribution) here is your chance to do some catching up!
Sometimes it can be noticed we lack some of the classic games. Well, there are lots and for some reason or another we don't add them.
A few times, we may like the game, but don't feel the review will be good enough, after all knowing a game well makes it harder to talk about it and not get lost in details. Other times it's just the game doesn't fit into our tastes, as it happens with the punishing Sierra games. And from time to time it's just we haven't played the game in a long time, and don't feel like playing it again soon.
California Games is one of the classics missing, but in this case probably is because the better known second part (which we are also missing) takes all the attention away from the first game. But be happy, now we have solved that.
gorzka reviews Die Kathedrale (The Cathedral) – the second of the text adventures from the southern German company Weltenschmiede. So, as usual, we're going through a series backwards
Another game from 1983? Even if you usually skip these, because you think everything thirty years old must be really bad, you should give this one a try: M.U.L.E. is a very timeless game, because rather than trying to impress with technology (which admitted has aged quite a bit), it's the fun gameplay idea which makes the game.
As usual with games from Dan(ny) Bunten, this is achieved by having multiple players not just playing alongside, but with each other. You're not just taking turns and comparing your pile of money in the end (this is a trading game), but you're actually interacting, for the mutual benefit, but also to beat each other at the same time. Devious stuff!
Casually browsing around the site myself, I noticed Transplant also suffered from screenshot suckiness. All images came from the first two levels and so they only showed one type of enemy. Not very exciting. So here we go – I actually got into it again so much that I played straight through the whole game
I wish that I could turn back the clock… Oh, wait, I can, at least on this website! Here we are back in 1983 – imagine yourself thirty years younger, i.e. no back problems, hearing still intact, full of hopes and dreams and then, being all excited about this new game coming out. You sit down on the floor in front of the TV, put the cassette tape into the drive, enter some cryptic commands to load it… and there you are in the middle of something which could very well be Star Wars! 3D Spacewars, it is called.
Thirty years later, everybody hates Star Wars. Who would have thought back in 1983? 3D Spacewars, on the other hand, although its shiny exterior has certainly become just a little dull, is still playable in all its yellow goodness. And if you turn up the volume high enough, you can even pretend that your hearing still works as it did back then. Don't blame me if the neighbours complain, though…
Parashooter has got screenshots. You know, back when I first added the game to the site, this was actually a problem. I just didn't manage to make any. Tough days.
Today we add a game to our database that almost fits all of the years of our current theme: Game & Watch Gallery 2 is part port, part reinterpretation of a couple of Game & Watch games which belonged to a very successful series of electronic games that ran from 1980 to 1991 and could be counted among the first handhelds. Its demise almost coincides with the advent of the Game Boy, to which said games were ported to, together with a general overhaul and one updated version each.
In Japan this game was one of the last ones to be released for the classic version of this handheld console. As usual it took quite some time until it reached the rest of the world, a year to be precise, but at least it got a colour update too, since it was one of the first titles to be released alongside the new Game Boy Color.
So, you see in many ways this game is a milestone, a transition from the old to the new. If you want to know more about how it actually plays, just take a look at the newest review.
Speedball is the next game whose turn it was on the schedule for old game entry renovations. Although the review would be a candidate for replacement, too, it did not get quite the luxury treatment Border Zone did. At least we did manage some new screenshots, though.
Mixing both of the latest trends on the page, that being the thematic updates and enhancing the content, we have remade an old review of the site, that review being the one for Border Zone.
And I say "we" because this is a three-parts review, who are the other two who took part? What do they think of it? What is the difference between this an a conventional review? Only checking the review will you find out.
But I don't forget I just mentioned something about better content, and the thing is I've just added some better docs to the game, including the feeling and all those things which are both a feelie and a copy protection measure, such as the visit card or the tourist guide.
All of this takes the place of the old review and docs in a completely new, yet at the same time improved, entry for this Infocom classic.
Earlier this year, I had the chance to have a go at a couple of classic arcade cabinets at the evening event of a professional conference. One of the newer ones was Vindicators, first released 25 years ago. The bad thing about it was that the gaming experience was that there was annoying 'music' booming from all too large speakers and that the light was flickering with an irritatingly high frequency. But honestly, that could hardly be blamed on the game, but rather the people who organised the whole thing.
The good thing was that it was a great chance to try those games in their original format, on the original screens and with the original controls and there was a good number of people available for two-player games. That, surely, is something which the typical emulators cannot properly capture!
Desperabis is a game which is about as old as our own site, i.e. it was a fairly new one when it got first reviewed. Now, we could almost call it a classic on its own right. Time flies…
Today's update comes courtesy of GigaWatt again. It's yet another CD image, this time of the board game conversion Hero Quest.
Today, we stay in the year 1983. I am proud to present you the one game which nobody believes came out that year, but it's true: It's actually been thirty years now! It doesn't get less typical, but that is what makes it so noteworthy. A game which everybody loves to hate: Dragon's Lair.
No matter how many times we died, we always came back to it. The reason being that it was just such a sensation! One could argue that it is probably the most timeless game ever. It has not aged at all. It could be published as it is today, without any changes and (if it weren't already known), it could easily pass as a current game without any 'retro' ring to it. Unbelievable… but also unbelievably bad!
One of the few remaining old game entries which were still plagued by crappy screenshot syndrome was The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes. Now check it out again – aren't these nicer?
GigaWatt prefers CD images to pre-installed versions of games. A sentiment which many share these days, so he's willing to share one: Might & Magic III.
Once again, we rewind our time-travelling wheel and reset it to 1983. This was the year a company which later became one of the internationally successful giants of the industry got its start: Microprose. Solo Flight was one of their first two games and it showed where the company would be headed – to become a specialist for flight simulations. This was probably not completely surprising given founder Bill Stealey's military background; although Solo Flight is indeed a completely peaceful game.
We all know how it went, of course. At the zenith of their success, i.e. in the early 1990s, Microprose diversified its output into all kinds of genres, but that was not a controlled expansion. The financial risk of such an undertaking took the whole company down and it got bought up by the competition. Knowing the draw of the well-known brand, pretty much all the subsequent owners continued to publish games under the Microprose name. The original company, though, ceased to exist twenty years ago.
This time, it's Gesetzgebung which receives fresh screenshots. It is one of those quaint games which I really like – somewhere between 'educational' (teaching about our political system, in particular how a bill becomes a law) and 'propaganda' (teaching how our political system is so absolutely great).
If I were to ask you to think of the most popular gaming genre of the 90s, real-time strategy games would certainly be under the top three. And if you were to name some of them, it would most likely be Command & Conquer, since for a very long time this game was the epitome of RTS. Now, I am telling you nothing new, when I say that it wasn‘t the first game of its kind, and that there is some argument about which game actually deserves this honour, but to me it was Dune II. And at the time it was one of those games you play and never forget, because even if it might not have been the first one, it definitely was something brand new.
But what would happen if you were to combine these two titles? Create a Dune game with the possibilities of the improvements from the Command & Conquer games? Enter: Dune 2000. A new Dune II, with better graphics, action packed screenshots (probably manipulated, since Westwood used to do this quite a lot back then), scenes like from the film and a cool 2000 in the name! OK, the latter one was lame even back in 1998, yet the game itself did sound exciting.
But did the final product live up to those expectations?
Gunship 2000, added to this site 13 years ago, gets some enhancements from Tatarus33. In particular, we've got scans of the box and the disks and the game's full documentation. Thanks!
It's yukin again who jumps in with a game from 1993, the year we otherwise don't treat quite as comprehensively as we should. The game is Epic Pinball, and it comes from a time when fast, and even more so smooth scrolling was still quite an issue on the IBM PC. Interestingly, it was the smaller companies who managed to perfect those code routines which finally made action games bearable on this system.
The great thing about this: Many of these companies used the shareware business model. So you could try their games out in a demo version which sometimes had quite a decent size. In the case of this pinball game, you got a full table with absolutely no restrictions about for how long you could play it. Then, if you liked it, you could buy additional tables. Yukin gives you a full overview in his review.
Herr M. provides new screenshots for Shadowrun.
What do we have today? What we may have today? Well, today it's time for Donkey Kong Jr..
You know, it's one of those arcade cabinet ports, in this case the second part of Donkey Kong, as the name implies. It's curious to see how older Nintendo games tried to be different from their predecessors, while nowadays they make all the copies they can with their licenses.
The reason for this is unknown to me, but after all we are talking about a company that, even if they like to milk all the money they can from their licenses, tries to be original from time to time. A good trait, even if they have many bad ones to compensate.
Tatarus33 extends our entry of LHX Attack Chopper by three new document scans and he also provides us with a glimpse of the Mega Drive version of the same game. Thanks!
On the screenshot side of things, The Guild of Thieves is another one of those very famous games from Magnetic Scrolls – the first of which (The Pawn) a certain other website called quite obscure just two weeks ago. Kids these days!
Our next game from 1983 comes from the world of consoles again. Unlike so many games from the time, it is not some third-rate arcade point, though, but rather an original development. Decathlon became one of the truly seminal games of the young industry. Its formula is simple and it has been imitated countless times since then. Which makes its historical importance immeasurable, but – to be honest – detracts from the fun one can get from it these days, because what seemed like a great gameplay idea 30 years ago has become quite stale over the years.
The game also started another trend, though: It was the first game to stimulate hardware sales. Remember those times when you had to exchange hardware in your PC constantly in order to get the latest games running? Well, Decathlon didn't intrude quite a deeply into the bowels of the system's hardware, but it did make you go back to the store repeatedly for at least one major peripheral: to replace your joystick.
Shadow of the Comet is one of those rare games which got better with age. Or rather, my appreciation of it grew over the years. When I first played it about 20 years ago, I was only mildly impressed. It seemed like a nice enough game, but I didn't care much for it. Every time I replayed it, it grew on me more and more. Maybe it was the fact that I didn't need to concentrate so much on solving those puzzles anymore which, admittedly, aren't all great. Instead, I could simply appreciate the plot and the small details which make the world come alive in a much more believable way than most other games.
One of the main reasons to try a game created by independent developers is, without a doubt, that some of them offer some unique, unconventional ideas. One of them is Operation Cleaner, a homebrew freeware game, in which you take on the role of a demolition expert, in order to boldly blow up buildings, no man (or woman) intends to go into anymore.
Written in mid-1998 its creation coincides with the decline of the shareware movement. The cheap CD-ROMs bundling hundreds of those games (most of the time created by amateur programmers) were starting to vanish and it wouldn’t be long until flash games would be starting to fill the opening gap. So this game was created at a turning point, for it’s probably one of the last few homebrew games that was made with a MS-DOS market in mind. This is one of the reasons why I have decided to take a look at it, 15 years after its creation, in order to once more have a go at one of those minimum budget games I used to play quite a lot back then. That and the fact, that it’s a Finnish game.
There are games which you should know regardless of what you think of them. Without a doubt, Archon is one of those classics whose cultural significance is so immeasurable that there is no way to deny its status as one of the seminal games in history. You owe yourself to have played it!
Here I am, trying to kill two birds with one stone. Last week, yukin came along with our first game from 1993 this year. Shortly before that, Wandrell entered the first Mega Drive game. Both would not be a little lonely, I gathered, so here is a Mega Drive game from 1993: Night Trap. Well, sort of… to be quite honest, it was first released in 1992, but it took a year to cross the big pond and so it was 1993 when it was released where I live.
Now, this is a game which, to this day, does not seem to have lost its edge. People either hate it or they get very defensive about it, while desperately – and unsuccessfully – trying to play it cool by mocking the people working against this game when it was new. Neither approach is particularly useful if you just want to learn what this game is all about, of course. But then, admittedly, there isn't much to describe… but read for yourself.
In the mid-80s, The Pawn finally made adventure games look good. Those beautifully drawn landscapes were really something! Lucky world, because now this is finally visible even on the screenshots on this website.
Hope you guys haven't forgotten, but we're trying to get some games from 1993 covered this year, too. OK, half of the year may already be over, but here it finally is – thanks for yukin!
The game is Lost in Time, the penultimate Adventure game designed by Coktel Vision's Muriel Tramis. On our site, it's only the second of those games to appear, after Fascination. In many way, these games have their own style which distinguishes them from the better known output of Sierra and LucasArts.
What else was going on in 1993? What did you play twenty years ago? Why not show it to the world, too?
Keeping with the newer games which want to be old one, there is a name which no RPG fan can miss, and it's Legend of Grimrock, a modern attempt to create a new Dungeon Master clone. And also one which managed to make it's place in the modern games market, as a second part is in preparation, I wonder how will it compare to the first.
Originally published in 1987 for the FDS (FamiCom Disk System), the NES addon which allowed to play the console using Nintendo's own kind of floppy disks, and one year later published in the USA Castlevania II: Simon's Quest fits perfectly for our theme. Just I hope you forgive me for playing the European edition, which was actually published two years later, on 1990.
Actually this brings an interesting point. If there is a weird Japan-only addon which enhanced the games with features such as save systems, shouldn't we be reviewing these games. Well, sadly my experience is that most of them are no different from the cartridge game, except for being Japanese and allowing saving. And the FDS exclusive games are in Japanese mostly. All this reduces the interest this console has.
Of course that doesn't mean there are no games there that could be reviewed one day. Just knowing that what we all know as Super Mario 2 is actually a FDS game adapted for the western audiences gives us a very clear target. Anyway, that will have to wait for another time.
3D Cyberpuck, a very nice remake of the Lucasfilm classic Ballblazer, received new screenshots – including pictures of the later levels.
The adventures of Infocom are generally well remembered. One which is not mentioned with quite such a regularity is Infidel. The reason probably being that it is not part of a longer series, like Zork, Planetfall or the mystery games. At the same time, it is not one of the drastically innovative departures from the genre traditions which started appearing around the same time.
Infidel is still rooted in the caving/treasure hunt tradition which started the genre. However, being part of this genre, it can offer some interesting reflection on what it is and what it contains. Admittedly, you have to be willing to go through some very traditional parts to discover those reflections, but it is worth it!
Federal elections are coming up here in Germany again this year. Time to remember the embarassing attempts of the political parties to attract voters in the past. Abenteuer Europa would almost be worth a pity vote. Almost.
By the end of the 90ies adventure games were nearing the end of a steady decline. Innovation was a rare thing and often treated with scepticism by the hard core of the fans. Games were simply copying each other and there was a flood of (to put it politely) mediocre titles, which just followed a standard formula. So, things started to get boring and new gamers were a lot more interested in exciting new FPS and RTS with their eye candy and 'revolutionary' gameplay. Adventure games were, as they say nowadays, dying.
There is one game in particular that has the dubious honour to be seen as the last big adventure game, somewhat of a tombstone to the genre. It was LucasArts last attempt to brake new grounds, to come up with some fresh ideas in order to revive the whole genre. The critics loved it… the buyers didn't: Despite wining a lot of praise it was a commercial failure. In the end it became the penultimate game of their adventure game division. As you might have guessed by now I am talking about Grim Fandango.
Somehow I managed to avoid this game for 15 years, so I thought it was about time to do some catching up. To offer a bit of contrast I was joined by Mr Creosote, who is one of the loyal fans that actually played the game on its release. Interestingly enough, our opinions didn't differ that much, probably because some things are simply timeless…
Hollywood Pictures used to suffer from screenshot downsizing – until this day, when it was cured.
if I name 獣王記 (Jūōki) nobody will know what I'm talking about. But if I say it's known as Altered Beast things will become much more clearer. Why the name change? Well, the original version was published in 1988, just that, there is no much difference from one to another.
In this case, it's the Mega Drive/Genesis version. So it also means we are opening the door to games from this console, including it's addons: the MegaCD and the nearly unknown 32X.
And, of course, you can also review any game from this console you happen to love. We would be happy to hear from you!
Ugh! is a homebrew version of Infection, a board game whose most popular version was probably the one included in The 7th Guest. Until now, we didn't have any screenshots of it.
Darkstar introduces us to another game released under the hood of Electronic Arts in 1988: Sentinel Worlds 1: Future Magic. It is a fairly obscure role-playing game whose success on the market was apparantly not sufficient to make the intended sequel. Which makes the "1" in the title look quite stupid.
As we all know, though, neither market success nor management decisions based on this are really good indicators of the actual quality of a game and the fun you can have with it. Sometimes, a game's target audience is just too small, but for those people, it might be perfect. Or it might just have been the wrong game at the wrong time. Or it might actually suck. Find out in the review!
Jagged Alliance… I could swear I uploaded the missing title screenshot a couple of years ago, but quite obviously, I was mistaken. This time, it's for real – and in case you really don't know the game yet, it comes highly recommended!
I recently had the lucky opportunity to try Joust on an original arcade machine back from 1982. Friendly competition was also available for aerial duels. I must say: It was great fun – this game, as simple as it may be, still works!
The arcade version being from 1982, I saw the opportunity to include this into our running theme and, oh joy, the primary home version for the Atari 2600 indeed dates back to 1983! So, this being a website primarily concerned not so much with arcade games, but home computer / console systems, I checked it out and… I was devastated! So much in fact that I decided to show two decent versions (not from 1983) to the site as well. You'll find them linked from the 2600 version, but first, in spite of everything, read my warning about the latter.
Dunkle Schatten, which just received new screenshots, may be one of those cheesy promotional adventure games which is in many ways typical for that wave which appeared in the early/mid 1990s, but at least it tries to teach people some positive values. Instead of trying to sell a product, its goal is to teach people about the silliness of xenophobia. OK, still not the greatest game, but at least a worthwhile cause.
After my Escape from 1983 I return to 1998! A very eXtreme time, at least judging from the titles published at the end of the 90ies: Extreme Assault, Extreme Bullrider, Extreme Canoeing, Extreme-G and so on. But there is one title, that is really outstanding amongst all those halfbaked games: Extreme Paintbrawl a first-person shooter in a fresh setting, namely paintball a teamsport that lends very well to the genre. It also uses the slightly dated but still excellent Build Engine, which you might know from Duke Nukem 3D or Blood.
Before you take a look at what I have to say about the game, wheter it is has been rightfully forgotten or if it's high time it should find a place in your collection, I ask you to consider one question: What makes an excellent first-person shooter?
PS: I am still looking for players for a multiplayer match.
Up for some cheese? The End of He-Man just got new screenshots!
We're off to a good start! Mr.Compaq provides the first non-planned contribution to our running site theme, entering a game from 1998 called You Don't Know Jack. It is an interesting one with regards to its year of publication, because it was truly 'localised'. Being a quiz game, that means that the questions are specific to the country of release, accounting for cultural differences. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case in this genre. All too many quiz games have been released not just untranslated, but 'unadapted'. I still shiver thinking back to the experience of trying to play a certain Family Feud game; it was virtually impossible without a US background, although the show had been on German TV as well for many years! A positive example in this respect, on the other hand, is the 1980s adaption of Jeopardy which I enjoyed quite a lot!
Anyway, have fun with YDKJ and thanks to Mr.Compaq for joining us in our look back at the world 15 years ago. Why not follow his example and be next?
Although its intensity has decreased, we've not forgotten about the necessary renovations of the old contents. Like most SNES games on this site, X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse had distorted screenshots before. The new ones should look more beautiful.
It's my turn to present a game from 1988 this time. Not quite by accident, it hooks in with one major point of the short article series I ran earlier this year. You see, Fugger is one of those games which would never have happened in the tightly controlled world of game consoles. Not just because the whole genre was virtually unknown on those platforms, but because the freedom of the bedroom programmer necessary for this development simply did not exist. It took the open platform culture of the home computer world to nurture this creativity.
The lines between producers and consumers blurring – that would have been the ideal world. Unfortunately, things went differently; the corporate world won out. We have nobody to blame but ourselves for that. We got what we asked for. No point crying over spilt milk, though. At least we've still got the fruits of that period of freedom such as this one which we can still enjoy!
We actually play newer games, as Creosote has mentioned already we like those things they nowadays call indie games, which from time to time try to revive old genres like, in this case, graphical adventures.
A New Beginning is a really interesting modern game of that genre, which really managed to grab my interest, something not so easy nowadays, so I recommend you to take a look at it and, maybe, even try the game.
While we were searching for potential candidates for this year‘s site theme, Mr Creosote dug up a very special curiosity from the darkest recesses of the internet: Ultima: Escape from Mount Drash, a side episode of the well known roleplaying series, which was thought to be lost for quite a long time. This pretty obscure spin-off celebrates its 30th birthday this year. Which means it‘s about time to start up the Commodore Vic-20 emulator and take a closer look at it.
How closely does it follow the example of its great name giver? Why did we hear so little, almost nothing, about it over the years? Are prices of $3000 and above justifiable for this collector‘s piece? How happy will he, who paid so much for this game, be after actually feeding it to his Vic-20? Why didn‘t my fellow reviewers want to give this game a try? A lot of questions, with one definite answer.
Is it Saturday again already? Certainly looks like it! So I bet you came here expecting a new game addition related to our great theme, didn't you? Maybe you've been wondering whose year's turn it was? Unfortunately, there is a problem with this, and it's quite a simple one: You did not enter that new game – it was your turn! Yes, your very personal turn. Not the next guy's.
So this is a reminder: We're trying to provide spotlights into the years 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998, i.e. that's looking back 15, 20, 25 and 30 years. What are the games you are associating with those times? What did you spend your time with? Which games from those years did you only discover much later, but you wished you had known sooner? Or maybe there are some you wish you had never gotten to know and now you want to warn the rest of humanity? That is what spots like today's are for. Waiting for your impressions and thoughts!
Paul Thunderstorm uploaded scans of the infamous copy protection card deck used in Alone in the Dark 2. Why infamous? Well, because even if you knew how to use them and owned the original version, the error rate was still significant! 'Good' old days, indeed…
After last week's short break it's my turn to spin the hamster wheel. This time we drop in on the year 1998: One of the oldest role playing series gets an urgently needed facelift in Might&Magic VI, The Legend of Zelda continues with the most higly praised Ocarina of Time and Baldur's Gate revives AD&D on computers and sets out to spawn a subgenre of it's own.
At the same time a somewhat unnoticed role playing gem from the previous year is continued: Fallout 2 is a more than worthy sequel to it's allready excellent predecessors Fallout and the original inspiration Wasteland. Offering an even larger game world, with the same dark humour and the still unsurpassed character customisation from the first game, it turns out to be a very compelling role playing game.
That was 15 years ago... does it stand the test of time? Should you still bother to start it up? What could be so special about it? Let's find out!
Korondor is back with another review in the genre he likes to call 'dwarf simulation': Wiggles is all about digging tunnels, cooking mushrooms and all the other things dwarves like to do when they're not being watched.
Since it was somewhat unlikely to have you guys joining in and providing games for our theme so quickly after its launch, I took the liberty of preparing another one myself: Carribean Disaster. This one came out in neither of the theme's years, so it also serves as a reminder that out-of-theme additions are still very welcome as well!
Otaku entered a video longplay of the enhanced version of Maniac Mansion – thanks!
Again we start with thematic updates. This time I'm coming with games from the 80's, from 1988 to be more precise, and to get a strong start I've come with one of the most famous games from the story of RPGS.
Which one? Well, it's Wasteland, one of those games which most of us know by name but never gave it a chance. I decided this was a good chance to know what this game was a about and... well, if you want to know more, why don't you take a look at the review?
Here I am already, starting off what I announced only yesterday with an excellent game from 1983: Murder on the Zinderneuf. Behind this title hides a Cluedo inspired murder mystery which holds the distinction of not just adapting a board game environment, but using the capabilities available to computer games in innovative ways, such as having characters wandering around the 'board' freely in real time. Even after 30 years, Zinderneuf has undoubtedly stood the test of time!
Its designer, Paul Reiche, was also responsible for Archon, a similarly original take on chess, and later (with his new company Toys for Bob) followed that up with a science fiction variant of the same idea called StarControl – a series primarily remembered for its groundbreaking second part which pushed the definitions of player freedom in epicly scaled games. At the dawn of the so-called 'multimedia' age, he came up with The Horde, which employed some deliciously quirky humour, but it did not do quite as well in the gameplay department anymore.
Back in Time…
Like last year, we've decided to run a series of thematically linked updates again. Numerous options and variants have been proposed and discussed, but the poll about what our visitors would prefer to be covered remained unconclusive. The general rough preference seemed to be in the direction of doing an age-based theme (like last year) again. Between the choice of going back 15 years, 20 years, 25 years or 30 years, things remained fairly open, though.
So we're going for all of them! Well, at least in theory. As a baseline, we have made detailed plans to add one game from 1983, 1988 and 1998 each month. What about 1993? It's part of this theme in principle, but due to capacity problems, we don't want to promise anything we cannot fulfil. Since we already looked at 1992 in great detail through most of last year, 1993 seemed to be the obvious lowest priority as it would have been very similar.
So three updates per month – that still leaves plenty of room for all of you to join in and share your own favourites! As a small incentive, all game or review submissions fitting the theme (i.e. belonging to a game released in either 1983, 1988, 1993 or 1998) will be awarded a 50% bonus on the regular amount of contribution points (any other contents not in the theme scope are still welcome through the regular channels as well, of course).
Curious at what's to come? Then stay tuned to see what our hamster wheel will spit out next!
It's the site's 13th anniversary today and I have got a confession to make… it does not come easy to say it, but I think Retro is Stupid! No, this is not a joke, but the result of serious contemplations. Whether you're enraged or maybe even agree with some of the thoughts, feel free to leave a comment in the appropriate thread in the forum.
This also concludes our mini-theme run in January and February. I guess the link between those updates should have become clear by now. The next big announcement will appear in this very place soon!
As promised, I'm following up last weeks editorial with another article. While the former offered an interpretation of the death of independent game development in the 1990s, this new one tackles the effects of the Re-Emergence of Indie Games. It's great! Or isn't it?
Biker Mice from Mars, the Snickers game, just got a screenshot boost thanks to Herr M.
Otaku nicely provided a manual scan for Maniac Mansion.
CommanderRex offers a second opinion about Black Gold. He seems to view the game in a much more positive light than I did – make up your own mind, we can always use more of these different views!
Surprisingly enough, we continue with new screenshots for a game which has been on the site for half of a lifetime already: the first part of Captain Gysi.
Pudgy is one of the amateur games which were offered to us for publication by their authors in the early days of the site. Definitely still worth a look!
Herr M. continues the screenshots overhaul with Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe.
Welcome to this year's site anniversary celebrations! In fact, we're already right in the middle of them. Instead of doing a standalone, big update just on the anniversary day itself, we've decided to do a small series of thematically linked updated over January and February this year. What the common theme is, you should be able to surmise at least after the updates following this one. Check some of the previous weekend updates and you might see it already.
Today marks publication the first of three linked articles which tackel this subject which has been central for this website since its inception. It is about the changes in the computer gaming industry caused by the concentration of the market on few systems. Any thoughts on this opinion piece are welcome in the comments thread on the forum.
More screenshot renovations over at Super Offroad. Check back tomorrow for some major news!
To get some variety into these updates, Otaku has entered a third gameplay video of Desert Strike – enjoy watching!
With new screenshots added for Secret of Mana, it would seem we have now reworked half of the problematic old game entries, because sorting the games by entry date, we've concluded page 13 whereas the last obviously faulty game can be found on page 26. Though keep in mind that the density of bad screenshots decreased over time – so we're actually way over the 50% mark already!
The next game to get the screenshot overhaul is Frontier: Elite 2; surprisingly, it does not seem to be nearly as controversial anymore as at the time of its release.
Super Metroid received the formerly missing title screen, but the rest of its images isn't all that great, either. Maybe someone else could step in there?
Proliferation is one of the games I revisit time and time again. It not only takes me back to similar board games I used to play, but it simply impresses with its balanced rules and varied game progression. Thanks to Herr M. for replacing those tiny old screenshots!
Herr M. presents another modern-day 'retro' game which goes by the name of Abobo's Big Adventure.
Title screen update of Formula One Grand Prix.
Hirschacker was so nice to upload a couple of screenshots for another language version of Might & Magic 5.
Nascar Racing – now with full-sized screenshots.
The whole '3D shooter' genre of the 1990s pretty much passed me by without leaving a major impression. The exception was Descent – the effect of 'actually' flying through those narrow tunnels while taking advantage of all three dimensions coupled with a fun cooperative multiplayer mode got me as well.
Destruction Derby was one of the games which marked the transition of Psygnosis to then modern console systems in the mid-1990s. The studio has recently been shut down by its current owners as discussed on the forum.
One of the cases of 'all screenshots bad' used to be Airline as it uses a higher resolution than one of our previous designs dictated.
Basically as a reaction to deepfree's recent review of Barbarian, which he treated quite harshly, I'm reviewing Gladiators. Why? Because as unspectacular Barbarian might be, our readers just have to know that there are still much worse games in the genre!
Syndicate remains to be one of Bullfrog's most popular games. Now, you may be able to see why.
Der Planer… a game which can really only come from one single country. Love it or hate it.
Next in line for renovations is Populous 2.
Death Gate – probably the finest hour of Legend Entertainment's graphic adventures period – received an image overhaul by Herr M.
Z got all of its old screenshots replaced. Back when it was first added to the site (tm), in the dark days before Dosbox, the problem was that it did not play nicely with either of the MS-DOS screenshot applications all of which ran as resident drivers under the non-multitasking operating system.
Taking new screenshots of Speed Haste was not quite trivial. It does not play nicely with Dosbox, so I reactivated my old MS-DOS computer which unfortunately is plagued by a slightly defective video card. Still – success!
As a kind-of followup to my own last review (three weeks ago…), here is another game about cars running over pedestrians on the pavement: Payback.
Diplomacy (PC) was an entirely different case alltogether. Its screenshots had been watermarked by a shareware imaging tool. Very ugly!
Ivanhoe suffered from the lack of a title screen present here on the site so far. The reason being that the disk I had from back in the day simply did not include one! Having located another version, this has been corrected and, for the sake of completeness, that version has been added as a download as well. Mind that this version which includes the full intro has not been trained, though, so it's hard to play – the game is notorious!
Renovation work continues with Comanche.
Until today, we only had two screenshots of Wild Streets. The reason was that back when it was entered into the database, we were using animated GIF files to display them and since many people were still using slow modems, we tried to keep the files as small as possible. Yet another case of layout issues dictating contents – a word of advice, never do that; you will regret it sooner or later!
A little entertainment at work? This was what the Microsoft Entertainment Pack was made for.
Matthew Stibbe's Imperium holds the distinction to be one of the most complex strategy games in the history of gaming. You haven't seen anything until you've played it – but beware if you're used to the shallow games of today!
There are several Science-Fiction games I wanted to try, and I just got one at random. It was IronSeed, and even if I must say it could have been much better, still managed to surprise me.
Stunts, a classic racing game, is still so popular that there is still a community dedicated to it, organising driving competitions all year around. If you enjoy the game, why not check it out?
Ports of Call is one of the few games from back in the 80s which is still continually updated by its original developer. Reason enough for us to honour it by keeping its entry our database similarly up-to-date!
Our screenshot bonanza continues with Legend of Kyrandia and its sequel Hand of Fate.
Great Naval Battles 4 had quite a severe issue: Its screenshots had been crunched down unnecessarily. In the case of Task Force 1942, on the other hand, it was just the usual speckling of the images.
Same idea as yesterday, just with different games: Red Baron and Stunt Island.
Until today, Super Street Fighter 2 lacked a title screen image while Return of Double Dragon's images were all distorted.
Renovation of the site's dirty secrets (i.e. game entries which wouldn't even be approved anymore if they were submitted these days) continues with Face Off and Falcon Beertender.
This time, it's screenshot replacements for Dune and Eternam. In case you're wondering, both of these games' screenshots suffered from the same problem: They had their colour space reduced from RGB to a palette using an algorithm which dithered the colours. Not immediately noticeable, but nevertheless not original anymore. Herr M. took the opportunity to even take pictures of all language versions of the first game.
Today brings you yet more improvements to existing game entries, namely comparisons for Space Quest and King's Quest 2. You know, when you find gaps like this, what's stopping you from filling them?
More screenshots have been added for Tube and Ugh!
A second opinion about one of the existing game entries is something which has been possible here on the site for… well, pretty much its beginnings back in the last millennium. It seems to have caught on only recently with a couple of people writing and submitting additional reviews. deepfree is one of these people, providing an alternative view on Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior. Hardly a rose-tinted look back, I might add.
Little Big Adventure, Panzer General and Populous continue yesterday's tradition.
Screenshot renovations continue with Eishockey Manager, Invasion of the Mutant Space Bats of Doom and Legend.
In the last year, there have been a number of 'retro' themed game releases. One which has been getting quite a bit of attention is appropriately called Retro City Rampage. Seems like an obvious candidate to appeal to readers of this site, doesn't it? But does it actually deliver or is it just an attempt to cash in on some lifestyle trend? What I can tell you here without spoiling anything is that it is at least much more versatile in its allusions to the past than most games in its mould, i.e. it does not only try to appeal to fans of one particular old game, console or whatever. So far, so good – read the rest in our review!
Continuing from yesterday, numerous new files have been added for Flight Simulator, Acquire and Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator.
Replacing old screenshots will still be a big topic this year. Starting it off again, we've got Goof Troop, The Lost Vikings, Rock 'n' Roll Racing and WWF Wrestlemania.
Today's update comes from OldGamer and Igsh Firn, and it includes videos for Don't Go Alone and Das Schwarze Auge: Die Schicksalsklinge as well as a manual scan for the latter game. Thanks!
What other way to start the new year than with a new review? This one comes from dogchainx and it is all about Master of Orion, a game which has been added to the site back in April 2000 and which was the first one to receive the absolute top rating (on a finer-grained scale back then). Enjoy!