Classic Archives - Page 4
October 18, 2005
Lost in the mix of the such classic gaming legends Will Wright and Sid Meiers was Cliff Johnson, one of the best game designers of the late 1980s. Cliff created award-winning puzzle games for the Macintosh and and in many ways the forefathers for modern puzzle games such as Bejeweled and Zuma.
Of the many games Cliff released his most popular and beloved were The Fool's Errand, At the Carnival, and 3 in Three. All three games feature simple yet striking graphics, original puzzles, and a central storyline. I have many friends who almost failed out of college playing these games and they just as much fun today as they were back when I was in college.
The Fool's Errand is probably the hardest of the three, At the Carnival has the most interesting setting (classic amusement park rides), while 3 in Three has the funniest story (the number 3 escapes a spreadsheet looking for freedom). If you like puzzle games definitely give these a try, they play great on modern systems and the graphics still look good to this day.
October 12, 2005
When I first saw Wolfenstein 3D way back in 1992 it was one of the most amazing games I have ever seen. It featured full "3D" graphics, intense (and scary) first person action, and huge interactive levels. I was in college at the time of this game's release and it spread through the campus like wildfire. Everyone was playing this game and everyone was totally blown away.
Well, times sure have a changed! You can now the play the entire Wolfenstein 3D game in your browser ... using Flash. WolfenFlash 3D (requires the new Flash 8) plays exactly like the original and is still fun, but doesn't quite amaze me (or scare me) like it used to. What is amazing is that this entire game was so seamlessly translated into a Flash application. I can only imagine what things will be like 13 years from now ... where we'll play Xbox 360 on our cell phones. Now that's scary!
October 6, 2005
The 1990s is often considered the "golden age" of PC gaming with some of the best games ever released at that time. Of course everyone remembers Civilization, TIE Fighter, Doom, X-COM, Myst, Half-Life, and so many more, but often lost in the shuffle of these classics is the excellent Star Control series. For those of you who have never heard of Star Control it was a trilogy of games released in the early/mid 1990s and all three are often considered some of the best video games ever made. Combining a nice mix of strategy, action, and adventure the Star Control universe is creates an complex compelling atmosphere unmatched by most modern games.
For those of you who have never played the original, or want to rekindle their Star Control love affair, you can now download and play Star Control II on your modern operating system! Back in 2002 the original creators of Star Control II Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III released the source code of the 3DO version as open source under the GPL. Since then, The Ur-Quan Masters (UQM) project aims to port Star Control II to modern operating systems and enhance the gaming experience with updated music and effects.
Of the three games released Star Control II is often considered the best and has almost a cult-like following. During the game you will create alien alliances (with 21 truly unique alien races to interact with), go on exciting missions, collect various resources, build a combat fleet, trade captured alien life forms for advanced technology, and, oh yeah, save the universe (no biggie!). The graphics might be dated, but the fantastic writing makes for a deep gaming experience.
Available for Windows, MacOS X, and Linux Star Control II might "look" dated but the gameplay holds up extremely well and will quickly suck you in. I just started playing again and I'm having a very hard time pulling myself away from the action. Definitely download this game and give it a try (and check out the walkthrough for a little history and how the controls work).
October 5, 2005
I used to love origami when I was a kid (I guess it's just "one of those things" that all kids get into). Making paper cranes and flowers was pretty cool, but I really liked the crazy hard origami models, like cars and trucks and the like.
Well what could be cooler than making Super Mario origami! Make sure to check out the very cool Bowser model (all five parts, yikes!), the cute little red pikmin, and the always popular "Mario in a bunny-suit".
And if you're looking for more video game origami also check out the Advance Wars Papercraft.
October 1, 2005
September 15, 2005
It appears that the immensely popular Sam & Max adventure series, which has been threatening to make a comeback more times than John Travolta's career, is finally returning to the gaming world. Steve Purcell (the original creator of Sam & Max) announced at the end of his keynote speech at "The Future of Digital Entertainment" conference that Telltale Games has received the go-ahead to develop another Sam & Max game.
The new game will be completely original and will have nothing whatsoever to do with the canceled Lucasarts Sam & Max: Freelance Police title. So why after all this time have Sam & Max finally returned? It appears that Lucasarts lost the rights to the series and creator Purcell, who was familiar with Telltale from their days together in Lucasarts, went to Telltale to answer the legion of fans who have been begging for another Sam & Max game.
Not much is known about the game right now, but what is known is that Telltale Games will release the game in episodic format, much like their upcoming Bone series whose first episode is due for release later this fall (update: you can now download the demo/trail for Bone from Telltale).
This is the third attempt to make a follow up to 1993's Sam & Max Hit the Road, the first one being an Xbox-bound action/adventure title from now-defunct game studio Infinite Machine, and the second of course being LucasArts' ill-fated attempt at a sequel, Sam & Max Freelance Police. Both of those died before having a chance to live, but here's hoping third time's the charm!
September 13, 2005
It seems fitting that on Mario's 20th birthday (wow, he still can't drink in the States) that we all show the original "Jumpman" some love today. For those of you who can't find a Donkey Kong arcade machine near their home (remember when arcades could be found in any shopping mall in America? But that's another topic...) head on over to this great Arcade Games Emulation web site where you can find Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3, Mario Bros., as well as several other non-Mario classics.
Also make sure to check out a salute to Super Mario Bros. Villians, watch the Super Mario Brothers Super Show (and view the Bros. in drag!), play the Donkey Kong board game, or eat some Super Mario Ice Cream.
But whatever you do today do not -- repeat -- do not rent the absolutely horrible Super Mario Bros. The Movie. Let's just all try to forget that this ever happened shall we? Happy Birthday Mario -- I'll buy you a drink next year!
August 1, 2005
Back in the very earliest days of computing (AKA when I was a kid) some of the most popular PC computer games were "adventure" games. Easily one of the most popular gaming genres of its time, adventure games basically consisted of you "walking" around a world, picking up items, combining items, solving puzzles, fighting monsters, and so on until you won game. The graphics for many of these games were rudimentary to say the least, usually consisting of nothing more than simple line drawings, the sound-effects were beeps of various lengths, and the controls were usually along the lines of "drop", "inventory", and "look". In many ways these adventure games were nothing more than interactive stories since the graphics/sound/controls were so limiting. But yet these games were so popular because the stories were often quite good and you could save your progress throughout the game (a rarity of the time).
And of all the adventure games on the market the most popular ones consisted of no graphics, no sounds, and barely adequate controls. This strange hybrid of gaming was called the "text-based adventure game" which is pretty much what it sounds like. You had to play the entire game using nothing more than a text-based interface. That's it. Just text. Nothing else. Oh yeah, and these games were, by far, some of the very best games ever made. No really, I'm not kidding (stop laughing please).
Nearly all of these text-based games were made by a company called Infocom and they were the Bioware/EA of their day. Every couple of months they would release a new game, each featuring a deep, rich story, a fascinating universe, and some of the very best writing I have seen in gaming to this day. Seriously, don't just a game by its graphics. These games might not look like much to those of you waiting for the Xbox 360 to come out, but these games have deeper stories and more involved gameplay than most of cookie-cutter junk coming out for consoles today (Tomb Raider VII, I can't wait!)
I only bring this topic up because everyone who loves the video games should know its history, as well as the fact that I discovered a little gem on the web. It appears that you can actually play the entire game of Zork within a web browser. Zork is the granddaddy of text-gaming and if you are going to start anywhere you might as well start at the beginning. Of course Zork might not look like much now, but this game was "The Sims" of its time and managed to top sales charts throughout a good part of 1980s. You can also download all three original Zork games if you want to give them a whrill. And if you're interested in any of the other Infocom games out there you can pretty much find every single one if you look hard enough (not that I support those illegal activities, not at all). But if you are interested in giving some a try may I recommend Enchanter (as well as the other two games in the series), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (yeah, this game rocks), Planetfall (one of the funniest games ever made), Stationfall (the sequel), The Lurking Horror, and the Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
And for those of you who never played a text-based adventure game make sure to give Zork a try. It might look incredibly primitive, but the writing is fantastic and some of my very best gaming memories are from these games (I have played nearly all of them). You might just be surprised...
July 7, 2005
Summer is usually slow for the world of gaming, but this has to be the slowest summer in recent memory. And with no big news articles expected in the upcoming months I hereby declare this summer as "The Summer of Retro Gaming” in which I will regularly focus on classic games and systems of the past. And to kick things off I bring you the Portable Video Game King … Football!
Yes, that’s right … Football. That's it. That's the entire name of the game. Football. Not "NFL Football" or "Smash'em Up Football" ... just Football. It might not sound very impressive but of all of the handheld game systems this is perhaps the most recognizable and most beloved handheld game systems ever made.
For those of you out there who don't remember life before the Gameboy you actually had to buy your portable games one at a time with one game per system. In the late 70s through the 80s hundreds of these systems were released, each centering around a single game and the "graphics" on these systems usually consisted of nothing more than blinking LED lights. And let me tell you ... we loved these things!
As for Football, it was one of the very first handheld games ever released. Originally released in June of 1977, Football was released by Mattel (it was their second handheld release, the first being Auto Race) and was sold only through Sears stores (yes, in those days you actually had to buy your video games at Sears). Initially Football game sales started out slow, with Sears selling only a few thousand copies a week, but once school started and kids starting bringing these red blinking demons into the classrooms, sales took off. By February 1978 Mattel was selling 500,000 units ... a week! These things were everywhere and were being played by everyone -- if you were alive in the 70s you played Football.
When it first came out in 1977 Football cost around $35. Adjusted for inflation Football would cost $110 today! And you think the PSP is expensive?
As for the game itself, everything on the screen was portrayed by a red blip -- you, the ball, your players, the other players, everything. The controls were simplicity itself, up, down, and forward, that's it. The goal, what else? Start from your 20 yard line, run down the field as fast as possible and score a touchdown. Of course, running down the field actually consisted of you rerunning the same field over and over again since there was only space on the screen for 9 yards (yes, 9 yards, not 10), so you got to the end of the screen you would just wrap around the screen to the other side and keep on running! Surprisingly the real rules of football were well represented in this game. The game would keep track of your field position, the down, the time remaining in the quarter, and your score, pretty amazing for the time.
You always played offense (the bright red blip), the computer always played defense (the slightly dimmer red blips) and the defense touched your blip play stopped. Believe it or not, the defense AI was actually pretty sneaky and could require you carefully plan your trip down the field. Of course, the entire field was just three pixels high so there wasn't a huge amount of space to maneuver.
"If the game malfunctions, try fresh batteries" ... so smashing the game to the ground after my buddy scores a game-ending touchdown isn't part of the problem?
Another great feature of the game was that it allowed for two-player action. In fact, that was the only option. You played both sides, so after you scored a touchdown or were stopped by the defense you would take over as the other team. So to play against someone else you just passed the game to the person you were playing after your turn was up. Again, this might not sound like much, but being able to play against someone else was freaking awesome for the time and is easily responsible for hundreds of hours of lost time.
So what on earth made this game so damn popular? First, it was simple. Sure it was insanely abstract, but there was a strange elegance to this game and you could pick it up and figure out how to play in seconds. Second, you could play against someone else, which greatly helped the social aspect. And third, it was addictive as hell … like Tetris-addictive. Let me tell you, once you got that open lane and could run all the way down the field, you would pound that run button like a woodpecker on crack. Forget about "cell phone thumb", I'll put my “Football" thumb up against those cell phone jockeys any day of the week. Ah, nothing compares to running an 80-yard touchdown in Football, where you get into that "Tetris zone" where everything goes into slow motion you become one with the blips. Nothing.
So much fun in such a tiny package.
Of course, this game became so popular it basically started the entire handheld gaming market still seen today (hello PSP, meet your great-grandfather). Football sported the sequels "Football 2" (yes, even back then sequels were a big deal) and "Head to Head Football" (two-player action!) as well as few million other Mattel sports games (Baseball, Hockey, Soccer, etc.).
Football was actually reissued a few years ago both as a full-sized replica as well as a keychain(!) version. Definitely pick it up if you want to get a good laugh/relive your childhood, and don't blame me if you get addicted!
June 29, 2005
I never fully understood why during the hot humid summer so few quality games are released. Sure, we got Battlefield 2 and a few others coming down the pipe, but the gaming landscape is looking mighty bleak in the next few months. So it is times like these when I go back and play some games from the past.
Now when I mean "games from the past" I don't just mean those "older" games like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog ... I mean old school, like Pitfall!, Yars' Revenge, Kaboom!, H.E.R.O., and Chopper Command.
For those of you reading this who just said to themselves, "what the heck is he talking about? I never even heard of those games!" then I think it's time that you spent a little bit of time learning about some of these classic games and fully understand what it was like playing a game where "you" were represented onscreen as a yellow dot. And yet, it was freaking awesome!
Perhaps the best place to start is by playing Activision's best game of all time, Pitfall! Pitfall! was created in 1982 for the Atari 2600 where you had to collect 32 treasures across 255 screens in less than 20 minutes. All the while you needed to solve puzzles, avoid snakes, scorpions, pits, crocodiles, rolling logs, and quicksand.
Sounds pretty cool, eh? It actually still plays great and is quite a challenge and, oh yeah, the entire game was programming using only 4K of memory. 4K of memory ... for an entire game experience ... all the graphics, sounds, controls, everything in a whopping 4096 bytes of memory. Think about that for a second.
Creating an entire game experience with such a limited amount of memory is almost beyond comprehension. Heck, I think my pen has more than 4k of memory! And when I was a kid I used to gladly spend hours of time playing these games, games which most people today wouldn't even seriously consider "real games", but what's really amazing is how many of these games still hold up today. Sure, they're no Metal Gear Solid, but they get the job done and they're still fun and challenging, which I think qualifies as a quality game experience.
I think all gamers should at least play or read about these games just too fully understand how insanely far gaming has come along in such a short amount of time. Heck, I just like reading about them to just remember what gaming used to be like when I was a kid. Some of the places I like to go include The Video Game Critic, AtariAge, and MobyGames. And let me know what you younglings think of Pitfall!