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    in reply to: First Impressions? #6050

    A mini map does show up eventually once you can start researching upgrades.

    I’ve finished off both campaigns now (only the evolved without cheating). Out of the two, it’s the fairer and doesn’t get stupidly hard until the last mission where it requires foreknowledge of the map, zero time wasting and a ton of reloading. KKND stops being fun at this point for me.

    It all gets too relentless for my liking with timing absolutely critical. Any minor delay at the start can make these missions impossible as you don’t get enough chance to build your resources up between the relentless enemy attacks.

    I don’t mind the genre but can’t say I play a whole lot of RTS games. I’d guess that KKND had to be aimed at everyone who would already have played C&C, Red Alert, Warcraft etc.. It isn’t going to topple any of those but if you are targeting people looking for more of the same, then the difficulty level makes sense and the game overall is probably good enough for the job.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Which Campaign do you like better? #6042

    I got to level 10 of the survivors and hit a brick wall. That level throws so many enemies at you before you can even get your base sorted out. I was slowly making progress with enough saving/loading but decided it had stopped being any fun so I found a DOS game editor someone had put together for editing game stats. You can make units cheaper, tougher, fire faster, etc and I cheated my way past and finished off that campaign. Some of the later missions were a whole lot easier than the one I was struggling on actually. I hadn’t played the evolved at this point which would possibly have helped a little. I’ve kept a save game in case I want to go back and retry.

    I’ve rolled those cheats back and started the evolved campaign, done about 4 or 5 missions and have to say I think I prefer it so far. Maybe it’s just because they are led by a fellow Brit, maybe I’ll change my mind when it gets tougher. I do find them more sympathetic as a faction even if the survivors are funnier. There probably isn’t a lot to pick between them. I don’t intend to cheat this time around anyway – we’ll see how long that lasts.

    I’m quite liking KKND on the whole. It gets unfair but does seem to favour using actual tactics like pincer attacks, beyond just building up a massive force. With the high difficulty level, it gives the distinct impression of being a C&C mission pack but that’s not such a bad thing.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Who uses real hardware? #6019

    I’ve recently been piecing together the original DOS machine, an IBM 5150 which has been proving to be quite the undertaking to get fully set up and running. Nearly there now. I just got hold of the keyboard to complete the hardware set. I’ve still not got the floppy drives sorted out but have an CF hard disk installed so they aren’t strictly needed.

    Provided you temper your expectations, some of the earliest DOS games are really quite good fun. I’d love to see a month covering some of the oldest titles like Round 42 here.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First Impressions? #6018

    I’ve had a couple of hours on this and done 6 missions on the human campaign so far. It’s every inch the C&C clone as said, way more so than I expected. I’m liking the presentation and the humour in the mission briefings. I could do with being able to watch them more than once since they give you 3 things to look at simultaneously.

    I’m really missing a minimap from C&C. That’s my main complaint. It’s very familiar stuff otherwise. More music for the missions would be nice rather than the same tune every single time. The AI has the same build anywhere cheat from C&C. Mission 5 – it would keep rebuilding the same buildings over and over until I eventually tracked them all down. My troops will just sit there while being hit by a scorpion, etc..

    So far, it’s fun but Red Alert was better. Nice to play something new in the same vein though. Interesting to play something this late from Beam/Melbourne House also. I associate them far more with early Speccy games like The Hobbit.

    Pix
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    in reply to: How far did you get within the month? #6004

    I only got 6 missions into the Wolf clan. I was expecting to like it a lot more but I can’t say the game really grabbed me. Maybe if it had some Wing Commander style FMV to link the missions rather than the written text it would have drawn me in more. It’s possible I just didn’t spend enough time with it but I felt much the same when I played it years back.

    Pix
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    in reply to: My first time playing Quake #5838

    I’ve been playing through the standard Steam version this month since it was the easy option. I’d agree that the original game as a single player experience is underwhelming. I think the enemies take loads of hits because PC’s at the time could only handle a few on the screen at once, so they wanted to make the fights last longer. There are so few different enemies that they grow old very quickly. Single player Quake was an underwhelming experience even at the time – I can only assume all the fuss in magazines was because they got to play it on a LAN all day. On my own, I’d far rather play the 2.5D games of the era like Duke or Dark Forces which have way more going for them.

    The slight irony is that what I enjoyed most about the multiplayer was the sheer speed of it, and all the little tricks with bunny hopping and rocket jumping which you don’t get here. Essentially I enjoyed it more because of how it’s broken than by design. You can completely break some of these SP levels by doing rocket or grenade jumps in fact but I’ve been avoiding that.

    I’ve been having more fun with the expansions. I’ve never played any of them before and they have more going for them with the exception of Dimension of the Past which is actually worse than the original game. Apart from that, each has been better than the last. The levels have way more character and the new enemies/weapons while not massively memorable are at least a welcome change. I’m currently playing Dimension Of The Machine which is the new pack that got included with the Quake update and that blows all the others away. It’s only used the original enemies, at least so far, but the level design is way beyond what would have been possible at the time on DOS. I’d definitely recommend giving that one a go.

    Don’t be too hard on John. I got to meet him and Brenda a few years back at Revival and they seem pretty down to earth to me. The way John is mobbed at a convention like that would swell anyone’s ego. Brenda was essentially ignored by the same crowd despite being a developer in her own right which doesn’t seem right. I got her to sign one of the Wizardry manuals she wrote back at the start of her career at any rate. They are fellow big box collectors and both quite active in that community, especially Brenda, which makes them alright in my book. They are supposed to be opening a museum along those lines in Galway at some point which covid has delayed like so many things.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Favorite Mods and Levels? #5809

    There was a total conversion called Malice that actually got a boxed commercial release. I’ve heard very good things about it but it’s yet another one I’ve had sat on the shelf for years and not played. I’ll be giving that a go once I make it through all the regular expansion packs.

    The mod I remember causing a lot of fuss at the time was Quake rally, mainly just for being the first to change the base game completely.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Magazine Reviews #5750

    It probably is a record. There were loads for Lost Eden last year but nothing as lengthy as these.

    Only just read through them all myself. It certainly brings home the level of hype over Quake at the time. I didn’t really get it myself back then. It essentially looked worse and had less variety than the 2.5D games like Duke, especially on a 486.

    I only really got into Quake years later via Deathmatch Classic which was a Half-Life mod to essentially convert it back into Quake. I spent about a year playing little else, got to be one of the best players and even wrote a mod to add new modes and make it more Quake-like. I graduated to QuakeWorld around the same time I was doing that mod – the standard of play was ridiculously high as all the people still playing it were veterans but it’s easily the most fun I’ve had in multiplayer. That’s definitely where it shines.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Other DOS podcasts #5734

    Until this “Like A DOS” podcast started up in January, I think you may well have been. You ought to start calling yourself “The world’s #1 DOS gaming podcast” in the intro.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #5653

    I wasn’t aware of JITFL until I started seriously collecting Sierra games back around the end of the 90’s. I bought it some time back then but can’t say I ever spent a lot of time with it. I like a lot of things about it – the presentation is well done, the game zips along quite quickly, the quirky humour helps to keep a bit of interest. As a board game it’s reasonably well designed but I’m not convinced how much fun it is as a single player DOS game. I had a couple of goes at the start of the month which I quite enjoyed it but nothing makes me want to go back. It quickly becomes a repetitive grind as you say and soon boils down to earning money and studying with everything else being an occasional distraction. It’s fun enough for the odd game so I can enjoy it for what it is. An entire month on the other hand is a bit much, odds are I’m not going back to it. We should have done a board game month if you ask me. We could have added in games like Fooblitzky, Trivial Pursuit etc…

    Pix
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    in reply to: DOS on untraditional devices? #5550

    I dabbled with DOSBox on a PSP years back which worked fairly well but was limited by the controls of course. The best mobile system I’ve tried for DOSBox was the Pandora (https://www.openpandora.org/) – the full keyboard made it work well for most games with the caveat that the CPU definitely wasn’t fast enough for anything demanding. If you can buy some sort of clip on Bluetooth keyboard/controller for an Android phone, I’d imagine that would be a better alternative these days.

    Pix
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    in reply to: It’s podcast time! #5521

    You’ll probably not be surprised to hear that I’d be up for this one.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Magazine Reviews #5493

    I must have watched that ADG but can’t recall what he said – I’ll have to give it another look. Some of these verge on exploits but here’s a few tips for getting to the end of Raptor without savestates:-

    You take far more damage when a ship crashes into you than when being hit by bullets. If you have the choice, head for the bullets.
    The exception to the above is when you get ships firing lasers later on. These are best avoided if you don’t take them out immediately.
    Don’t be too greedy and try to shoot everything. It’s more important to keep your shields up.
    On difficult levels you can do better sticking to one side of the screen most of the time, only moving to take out anything ground based that shoots bullets.
    You can stack up to 5 of the energy shields and will need to do so on the later levels.
    If you hold down fire and keep pressing alt as fast as possible you’ll be able to fire all your weapons at once. This works better with slower firing weapons and if you don’t have too many different weapons.
    If you get a weapons power up during a mission and then abort that mission, you’ll still have that weapon (and any damage you suffered). You can repeat this as much as you want to get cash. Level 6 works really well for this, just abort as soon as you grab the dumbfires.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Space Quest 6 #5464

    There are two fan games that continue the series after this. Maybe they will offer a better ending?

    My plan of playing through everything in order came to a grinding halt with Space Quest 6 in the first part of the month. I really didn’t get on with this game. I only played the first section up to getting kidnapped and only got that far thanks to use of a walkthrough. Some of the puzzles were horrible – I couldn’t even identify the appropriate parts of the background as being interactible. I hate this sort of pixel hunting stuff. In one case the thing I needed to interact with was so dark I could barely make it out, at least on a CRT. I would literally never have got through this part of the game without cheating.

    Good to hear some later sections are better. I know Josh Mandel designed a lot of the game then got kicked off before it was finished. Maybe the bits that play better are the parts he’d completed.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Space Quest 5 #5424

    I’m with you on SQ5. I’m a lot less familiar with it than the first four in the series. I think I played through quickly with a walkthrough many years back but I didn’t have any real memories of it prior to this month. It’s probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most which isn’t what I expected at all. Part of that may just be that it’s essentially a new game to me but it’s more than that as I’m not liking SQ6 anywhere near as much. I appreciate the constant parody humour and the puzzle design in SQ5. I’ve enjoyed all the Dynamix adventures I’ve played when I think about it, I think Sierra killed their adventure gaming development when SQ5 didn’t do as well but they deserved better.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Space Quest 4 #5423

    Best Buy might not have stocked it but there was a floppy version – it’s the one I played at the time. This and KQ5 were the first VGA games I ever played. I ended up owning them for a few months before I got the PC to actually play them on and went in to borrow the computer labs at my Dad’s university during the school holiday when I was a teen just to play them. The step up in graphics was mind blowing at the time although I was of course missing the sound until I could play at home. I really enjoyed a lot of the little details like the music for each shop fading in and out in the shopping mall, the aforementioned EGA graphics parts, the whole notion of time-travelling between games. I’m sure it took ages but I managed to finish it back at the time at any rate. It’s a bit too familiar for me to really be able to judge it any more. I certainly loved it at the time. It’s a very different tone, darker with less humour.

    The game is fairly notorious for having timing issues on faster PC’s which might have made your experience with the time police worse. This is a very common problem with Sierra games – I can tell you from recent experience they were inescapable on a fairly average 486.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Space Quest 3 #5394

    Did you guys find the encoded message in the astro chicken game? That’s where you got the main quest as such but it was really easy to miss. I know I never found it the first time.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #5378

    I wouldn’t say it’s too bad but you may find it’s harder than you think later on. Without giving too much away, there is an item you need to get right at the start in order to finish the game. It’s cruelly easy to miss through no real fault of your own.

    I’ve finished the VGA SQ1 and 2 this morning. These games are amazingly brief going back to them. I really enjoyed the 50’s sci-fi style artwork for the SQ1 remake and the MT-32 soundtrack adds a lot. I prefer it to the original going back after all this time.

    As for the fan-made SQ2 VGA, it’s not quite as good but still extremely well produced for a fan-game. It’s faithful to the original so there weren’t too many surprises on the way. It did contain a complete remake of Trolls Tale (by Al Lowe) as an arcade game late in the game – that I definitely didn’t expect. Knowing all the puzzles is a problem with these fan remakes, you get through them in no time. A new game from these guys would have been way more fun. Speaking of which, it’s Space Quest – The Lost Chapter next which takes place between SQ2 and 3 apparently.

    Pix
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    in reply to: What version and/or games are you playing? #5344

    My plan is to try and get through the whole series, remakes and all. I pretty much grew up on Sierra games and I’ve played SQ 1-6 numerous times before. It’s been a few years but knowing all the puzzles, SQ1 wouldn’t exactly keep me going for the whole month. What I haven’t ever done is play any of the fan games so the idea is to go through everything at https://www.spacequest.net/misc/fanfiction/fangames/ + the main games in chronological order. I started early and have finished SQ -1 and SQ 0 so far, both of which were way better than your typical fan game, especially SQ0 which used the AGI engine – that could practically have been an official game.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Hugo 3: Jungle of Doom Impressions #5118

    This was definitely an improvement after part 2. Whoever did the art did a good job, the backgrounds were probably better than a lot of professional studios managed out of EGA. They’d all moved onto VGA of course by the time this came out.

    The puzzle design was better as well, if seriously obtuse at times. Having to type “look behind” in a game where you can walk behind whatever it is and type look is nuts. I’ve seen just as bad in Sierra games though – i.e. the bridle in Kings Quest 4. The bit that had me stuck was figuring out to make a voodoo doll out of clay when trapped in the cage. Puzzles like that would be easier if I trusted the game not to have put me in a dead end.

    It’s definitely an odd series that I struggle to see the love for. There are tons of obscure adventure games from this period and pretty much all of them are better than this, just by virtue of being done by a professional team. There is a quirky charm to Hugo but you clearly had to be there at the time.

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    in reply to: Hugo 2: Whodunit? Impressions #5105

    I agree with all the above. This game was way longer than the original at least but I wish it wasn’t as a lot of the design was just awful. That ******* bridge and matches – I ended up replaying most of the game because I didn’t know the matches had gotten wet until later and was foolish enough to think it must be a puzzle on how to dry them again when I did notice. That included playing the whole maze again. It took me about 10 minutes of reloads to successfully walk across a bridge when did I realise what to do. The collision detection is horrible, and the walking animation jerky as hell to rub it in. I honestly can’t think of a worse mechanic in any adventure game. Then there was a lecherous gardener who has to be frightened off with garlic breath! A needless maze with crucial items placed at the furthest reaches. Woman eating venus fly traps (with the same god awful and seemingly arbitrary collision detection). Dead ends around every corner. Who comes up with this stuff and thinks it’s fun? Part one was short and silly but nowhere near as frustrating. Part 2 has achieved the impossible and was quite definitely worse than Rise Of The Robots.

    I thought I’d played the whole series before but I must have only done part 1 before now as I have no recollection of any of this. On to part 3 I guess.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Hugo’s House of Horrors Impressions #5103

    I’m missing 2 points also – curious to know where. I think I played these games back when we did Nitemare 3D some years ago. Can’t say I remember them all that well but enough to know about that ridiculous hidden path to nowhere between the two rocks in the cellar.

    The biggest problem I had this time around was figuring out what the hell was in the bedroom cupboard on the 1st floor. The game refused to tell me and I’m supposed to know it’s a mask for some reason. I thought it was some sort of bag for a while, then maybe a severed head, took ages before I guessed the right word.

    I’m struggling to see the love for Hugo myself. I mean it’s passably good fun for what it is but this was essentially a very poor Sierra clone that lasts about 30 minutes. At $40 to register the 3 games, it’s about as expensive as those Sierra games. The worst SCI game I can think of (Codename Iceman) would be way better value.

    That said the opening screen outside the house is kind of iconic. I remember seeing that all over shareware publications even if I didn’t play the game back then. The fact that one (presumably young and inexperienced) guy did all this on his own from scratch is somewhat impressive but ignoring that aspect it’s a bit naff overall. I could forgive it, if the price was less but there were a myriad of better adventure games on offer at the same time. Maybe if parts 2 & 3 are much longer it might be justifiable.

    I did think for a minute this had to be the worst DGC game so far but then I remembered we did Rise Of The Robots so it’s not even close.

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    in reply to: First impressions #5097

    I’ve been working away at this all month, very nearly beaten the game now. It’s been a fun one to revisit and held up surprisingly well. Some of the mechanics feel kind of broken though and I have some gripes. I’ve stuck with normal difficulty the whole way and aspects of the game that should have added depth just don’t work. The car part upgrades appear to become available with rank but every time new parts become available, I’ve already enough cash to buy all of them so the choice of what to buy is meaningless. Cash maxes out at 999,999 and I’ve reached that long before I have anything to spend it on.

    Similarly, there is some mechanic where you get to drive your opponents cars by occasionally stealing them when taking them out during a race. Not sure if this is simply random but I’ve made it to the end of the game without getting a car I could seriously consider over the default. I only ever seem to get the underpowered ones making that aspect of the game almost worthless also. I’d love to have driven the bulldozer around or the car with the pedestrian zapping ray built in.

    I’ve also noticed that the game is cheating heavily with the opponents. As soon as they get a small distance away from you on the map, it’s clearly not tracking what they are doing in any meaningful way, they aren’t taking out pedestrians, they can go through walls, etc.. They literally warp around the map – it doesn’t matter if they were upside down with no possible escape last time you saw them. I’ve needed a basic understanding of these quirks to make it through the later levels.

    All of this is kind of understandable but there was definitely improvement to be made in Carmageddon 2. This game has been huge though, no way I’m going on to the sequel right now. It’s easily been the most time I’ve put into any DGC game to finish it. Despite that I’ve not gotten bored. The new levels, powerups and opponents just keep on coming. I do notice that most of the levels are effectively variants of each other – a new course on the same map. The maps are so huge I’ve been fine with this. I can see why Carmageddon got all the praise it did at the time – it’s almost a classic and still loads of fun but going back to it now I expect even its own sequel made this first game somewhat obsolete. Still not tried the new Carmageddon that got released within the last few years, might have to give that a go some time.

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    in reply to: Stunts / 4D Sports Driving (1990) #5085

    Would love to see this selected, I nearly suggested it myself. Never got around to playing it and I really should.

    I’m interested in the whole 4D sports series. Not sure if we would be doing Stunts a disservice but you could add the boxing and tennis games into a 4D sports month? I played a cover disk demo of the tennis loads at the time, you could even play it in first person which was seriously novel in the early 90’s.

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    in reply to: Who wants to join the podcast? #5057

    I’d be up for it. You only just had me on the other month though so I’ll stand aside if anyone else wants in.

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    in reply to: Difficulty / metagame #5050

    It changes the amount of money/time you make for near enough everything, recovery cost, the amount of said money you need to improve your rank + unlock tracks and reduces the price of new car parts. All these settings are stored in text files actually so you can go into general.txt and partshop.txt and fiddle with them if you like.

    I don’t think there is any change in the actual gameplay as such, beyond being able to afford better car parts. You could make a case for going for easy I guess on that basis. I’ll stick with medium difficulty. I don’t think it’s that massive a game so it should be beatable within the month.

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    in reply to: First impressions #5043

    I’ve had another look at it and got this running in DOS with a Voodoo3 and with the cutscenes this time. To cut a long story short, there is a different Voodoo2 patch I had to use + that patch doesn’t seem to like EMM386 at all but it’s fine if I remove it altogether.

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    in reply to: Who wants to be part of this? #5037

    For my part, I’ve been using and building PC’s since the 80’s so I know a fair amount from a user standpoint of getting things working but not necessarily the technical details underlying the hardware. I know my way around graphics standards, soundcards, etc.

    Looking at your list of topics, I don’t know too much about connectivity/multiplayer. All I ever set up in DOS days was a null modem connection. I won’t be the most knowledgeable about emulation either since I practically stopped using it about a decade back. Anything else, I’d probably be OK on.

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    in reply to: Who uses real hardware? #5014

    I’d be up for joining. No idea how interested other people would be in it but it would be up my street. I expect I’d learn a bit along the way too.

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    in reply to: First impressions #4972

    I sneaked an early go on this as well, just to try and get the 3dfx version running. It runs ok for me on a Voodoo3, provided I run the DOS version from Win98 for some reason but I don’t have any cutscenes. I’m thinking I can live without them so I’m just going as is.

    I finished this and the sequel back when they were new but haven’t been back since so don’t remember too many of the details. The first thing that struck me is that the manual has massive sections redded out (as per the attached image) and an insert page to replace them. The version I’ve got is the UK zombie version so I’m assuming this is to do with censorship. There was a massive fuss about the violence in the game when it came out. A new version got released with all the people turned into zombies and some of the cutscenes changed. This must have got coverage in magazines of the time it occurs to me – I’ll have a root around and see if I can find something. Patches were later released to put the blood back in. None of it makes any difference to the gameplay – it’s a lot of fuss over nothing as far as I’m concerned.

    Either way, the game still plays really well. It’s very impressive for 1997. This came out a little before GTA1 yet it’s all full 3D instead of overhead. I love all the little details, like the stadium full of American football players you can mow down, or the humorous advertising billboards. The car physics feel spot on. The car even slides around more and cuts the grass up when driving in the stadium. I’m not that big on racing games myself but it doesn’t matter here when you get rewarded for just going off exploring provided you take out pedestrians while you are at it.

    From what I can remember, the game carries on with more of the same the longer you play and doesn’t change things up all that much. It’s been a long time though and I don’t honestly remember anything of the levels other than getting to mow down cows at some point (possibly in the sequel?). It could get stale if so but will still be fun to dip in and out of I’m sure.

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    in reply to: Who uses real hardware? #4943

    Space is definitely an issue with this hobby. When I moved house a few years back, I got somewhere literally twice the size I would otherwise have needed purely to accomodate all this stuff. The house was strangely underpriced (for reasons that still aren’t clear to me), so it barely cost any more. A big loft room for all my old systems was a must have which is where all the older DOS machines are. It’s a lot more than just PC’s in there but I’ll spare you the rest. These are all the computers running DOS:-

    The monitors in here don’t neccessarily match up with the PC under them for space reasons. So the system on the right of the desk is an Amstrad PC1640 which was a common budget PC over here. It’s an 8Mhz EGA machine which is slightly too slow for most EGA games I find, so the PC driving the monitor is actually the 16Mhz 286 on the floor. That’s got my old Soundblaster and an MT32 set up.

    I wanted a composite CGA setup so I fitted the Amstrad itself with a CGA card which is driving the Apple monitor on the far left that’s sat on the IIGS. The PSU driving that PC is actually built into the EGA monitor so I have to have that switched on if I’m using that setup. The IIGS under the composite monitor is connected with a SCART cable I knocked together into a TV in the corner.

    The little grey machine is a Japanese FM-Towns 486SX25. They usually run Towns-OS but you can run DOS on these machines so it sort of counts as a DOS setup. It’s more or less a PC under the hood but with some bells and whistles bolted on to do things like sprite manipulation. It was one of the first machines to have a CD-ROM drive (back in 89 if you can believe it) and loads of DOS games got unique enhanced releases.

    Left of that is a Tandy TX 1000 with an IBM CGA monitor. I love these old Tandy machines for the extra speaker channels and the 16 colour graphics mode. That’s probably the one I’d keep if I had to choose from all of these.

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    in reply to: Who uses real hardware? #4938

    As fantastic as DOSBox is, I’m certainly all for real hardware. I’m loving the Atari branded PC. This is my main PC setup:-

    Modern PC on the right, my old XP era machine on the far left, and in the middle under the desk, a metric ton of cables normally hidden by the chair + a Dell Dimension 486SX 33 + a PII 400. The PII has basically 2 sets of sound and video cards in it and a DOS/Win 98 dual boot which I can pick and choose between depending what I’m running. The Dell was something of a barn find – it was absolutely revolting when I got hold of it, including petrified chewing gum stuck in the expansion slots. Miraculously everything still worked when cleaned up.

    It doesn’t get all that much use but I’ve got an old Mac set up on the left. They can be quite good fun with DOS/early Windows era gaming – e.g. playing Dark Forces in 640×480. I got the big Apple Studio monitor with the primary intention of DOS gaming but Apple being Apple, it doesn’t have all the usual controls and is set up slightly differently. It works OK most of the time but the brightness isn’t what it should be using it as a PC monitor and some DOS games you simply can’t see what you are doing. I’m loathe to get rid of it so I’ve ended up with 2 CRT’s in here and vertical stacking with my main PC monitors to fit everything in. I’ve a KVM switch to connect the two DOS machines to the other monitor.

    Never been aware of any degradation with Sound Blasters myself. My ears have probably degraded more than they have so maybe I just don’t notice. I still have my original Sound Blaster 1.5 card from about 1991 working in another PC on the top floor. For these PC’s down here, I feed all the various audio outs through a little board I got off Ebay that combines 6 signals into one, then into my line in on the modern PC so that the audio comes out in one place whichever machine I’m on. There’s a Roland CM-64 + SC155 for MIDI games at the front left that feed into that as well.

    If I fiddle around with caching settings in the BIOS, these two machines cover near enough everything put out during the 90s. I’ve got a few older machines upstairs for EGA and earlier. I’ll grab a picture of them next time I’m up there.

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    in reply to: Final Thoughts #4867

    The quality of puzzle design does vary a lot. I wonder if the missions were done independently by different people?

    The seventh and last mission was really brief in the original floppy game but extended for CD – that might have been my favourite of the lot.

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    in reply to: How to play #4849

    You are stuck with clicking through every time – much like Simon The Sorcerer. You’ll also need the map in the manual if you want to fly to the right place for each mission.

    At the end of every mission you are awarded with up to 4 commendation points, which improve the performance of your ship/crew. There is a really tough battle at the end of the game and you allegedly need something approaching a perfect score if you are actually going to win. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could keep track of your score throughout the mission but you only get to find out right at the end… A few general tips on scoring well are, always research the mission using the ships computer at the start, make sure your red shirts don’t get hurt, use tricorders on everything and generally be diplomatic. This is probably my least favourite aspect of the game – I replayed the missions until I got at least 3 out of 4 in the past before moving on to the next one. If you’ve ambitions to get to the end, I’d make sure to keep savegames and go back if you do any worse than that.

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    in reply to: Review from PC Format April 1992 #4824

    Your scans are serendipitous as it happens. I’ve only got reviews of the CD version one of which refers specifically to yours (and the 44/100) rating. I was very curious to see how they justified that score and didn’t think I’d get the chance to find out. I have some issues with the game but I don’t know what that reviewer was on about. They claim to be a fan but it’s like they have some sort of personal grudge about Star Trek.

    Case in point, the CD review below where they give Dark Seed a higher score on the same page. No one who has tried to play Dark Seed without a walkthrough could possibly claim it was the better game. The dead-ends and timed events are a nightmare from what I can remember.

    PC Zone were way more generous:-

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    in reply to: Note to self: this is not Gobliiins #4767

    Well, there are 3 protagonists, each with different skills in both. I suppose they are kind of similar except Gobliiins is puzzle-oriented and doesn’t have all the platforming. I always considered them to be adventure games essentially.

    I’ve played them a bit but can’t say I know the series all that well. They would be a good choice for another month.

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    in reply to: Lost Vikings 2 #4762

    Before this month, I’d have sworn I’d played the sequel before but I clearly haven’t as the new look was something of a shock. It certainly is a jarring change of style, looking every inch a PS1 game. I don’t hate it but 320×200 looked crisp and detailed in part 1, part 2 is crying out for some more pixels. It reminds me a bit of Skullmonkeys except not as good. The gameplay is much the same at least, the introduction of new characters was unexpected but doesn’t appear to change things up all that much at least so far. My main issue is the increased loading times which are a little grating when retrying a level. Even the screen where your vikings are resurrected takes a while to load.

    I had a quick look at the SNES version which probably is the way to go but this is DOS game club after all so I’m sticking with it.

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    in reply to: Who wants to join the podcast? #4758

    I didn’t actually play it last month but I ought to know these games well enough to join in if you wanted.

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    in reply to: My verdict #4756

    Finished! It didn’t get any easier – the last 4 levels literally took me all evening. I reckon I must have spent about 75% of my time on Lost Vikings on the last 8 or 9 levels. I’m still up for more this month so I’m going straight to the sequel.

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    in reply to: My verdict #4753

    Yes, that’s the one. You can’t even see what’s coming before you get there. The first time I just send one person down because I don’t know any better, then the next time I manage the first bit with Olaf but hadn’t seen Erik’s section below so I screw that up. That takes me a couple more attempts to learn until I get everything right except I mistime the last of the arrow targets so everyone dies again. I’m having to replay the whole level every time to get that far. It’s evil design.

    The game would arguably be too short and easy without this sort of thing though. I almost always do better with each attempt so I’m still enjoying it. Decent platform games were thin on the ground on the PC when this came out – I reckon it has to have been one of the best available at the time.

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    in reply to: My verdict #4750

    I played this some years back but didn’t remember it all that well. This month might as well be the first time and I think it holds up well enough. It’s kept me hooked so far and I think I’m only a few levels off the end now.

    It does start off really easy, I can see how it might put people off but it does teach the basics. The learning curve is quite gentle really but on these later levels the difficulty has been punishing. I just did a level where right at the end, you have to put all the vikings on a moving platform, swapping between them as it moves to dash off to the side to perform tasks and get back on it again. It’s not THAT hard when you know what to do but you have to learn by failing. I’m having to replay these levels so many times to figure out what to do. Some of this level design is outright aiming to make you replay the earlier parts over and over. I reckon it just about gets away with it by having smallish levels and not ramping the difficulty up until quite late on. I’d like to think it won’t get too much tougher in the last couple of levels or I may change my mind.

    Is there any way to look around the level that I’m missing? I feel it could really use it so that I could plan ahead instead of all this trial and error.

    One other thing I noticed – a couple of the puzzles rely on shooting an arrow then tracking to another viking further on the flightpath so that the game engine doesn’t destroy the arrow when it goes off screen. I really don’t like this sort of puzzle. It’s like the designers found a flaw in their game engine and instead of fixing it, made puzzles around it.

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    in reply to: Sequels #4627

    2 is definitely worth playing. Simon is a little meaner which put some people off, but didn’t bother me. It ditches all the empty screens from part 1 which is an improvement.

    3 was intended to be more of the same but every publisher turned it down because it was in 2D (this is a big part of why adventure games died out for a while around the end of the 90s). It got re-designed in 3D which took ages and it looked extremely dated already by the time it got a release in 2002. The humour is still in there but the gameworld is unnecessarily huge so there is tons of back and forth. It’s not as bad as it’s reputation though and the game is massive. I could only recommend it for the patient and it’s still probably best played with a walkthrough to hand.

    Never played the others after that. They were done by a team in Germany I seem to recall and they made Simon American for some reason.

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    in reply to: Play together #4612

    Having just checked, Tijn is right so it was dodgy advice from me. It also wasn’t in the Windows version either, at least not the one I’ve got. My memory is clearly playing tricks with me. That feature is in the DOS version of Simon 2 though if you get on to that.

    Glad I dug it out to check as it happens. My copy came with a swampling T-Shirt which I just discovered is starting to go mouldy after too many years in a box. Nothing a quick wash shouldn’t fix hopefully. One of the perils of big box collecting…

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    in reply to: Play together #4609

    I’m just listening to part 1 of this and you mention not being able to find interactable objects – one of the neat features in the game is if you press F10 it will highlight all hotspots which saves a ton of pixel hunting.

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    in reply to: Play together #4541

    This is a great idea but I already know how to beat these games so I’ll probably have to sit this one out. If you ever do any Infocom games or the like, then count me in. Been meaning to play more of those for years and never get around to it….

    I don’t reckon STS is unfairly hard but the puzzles can certainly be obtuse. It’s not on Discworld levels of impossibility but it’s a whole lot tougher than Day Of The Tentacle.

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    in reply to: Magazine Reviews #4363

    Probably. Not what I was expecting for what I thought was a somewhat obscure game.

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    in reply to: Impressions #4362

    The music is great throughout, same composer as the amazing Dune soundtrack, Stephane Picq. The story I was less convinced by, certainly not up with the likes of Gateway for me. It did enough to keep me interested.

    You can die, but there is an autosave every time you travel so it shouldn’t be a big deal. I didn’t find any dead ends except the inventory system appears slightly broken in that I couldn’t find any way to scroll it. Once you get more items than you can see on screen at once, you can’t get to them all! It’s possible to pick up loads of the same items as well and fill up your item slots so I’d guess you might be able to dead-end this way. I made sure not to hoard once I realised what was going on.

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    in reply to: PC Zone Review #4337

    You got in early with these! I only have one more to offer from PC Review:-

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    in reply to: Is this the 1995 game by Cryo and Interplay? #4334

    It’s the one I’ve been playing all morning so I’d hope so. I don’t think there is another Lost Eden for DOS, at least not on Mobygames.

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    in reply to: First Impressions #4258

    Looks like I’ve enjoyed it more than most here. I played through the whole thing over the last week or so and had a really good time with it. I did play this one when it was new so I knew what to expect but hadn’t been back since. Above all, I think I just like the fact that it’s different from pretty much any other FPS I’ve played + I really like the soundtrack. The bouncy pads god/dog mode etc.. are all ridiculous but kept me entertained.

    The first couple of episodes were the best. The fourth episode introduced bullet sponge zombie monks which you are shooting forever before they go down. The level design/weapons didn’t really change much so expect more of the same. They gave it a major workover but the Wolfenstein engine was showing it’s age by the time this came out.

    I recall there are a load of Easter eggs if you change your system clock to various American holidays. Can’t remember what they do now, other than snow and a new tune at Xmas.

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    in reply to: Maniac Mansion #4158

    The door at the top of the stairs was used for copy protection in the original computer versions. There is a Nuke’m Alarms disarmament guide in the box you have to use to look up a code.

    The version in DOS DOTT does have a save slot but only the one.

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    in reply to: Floppy and CD-ROM talkie #4149

    I also had (and still have) the floppy version. It was fairly standard for intros to have speech by this time so DOTT isn’t that unusual I don’t reckon. Admittedly, there was more than usual here. This sort of thing always made me lust after the CD versions.

    It’s curious that they didn’t change anything else like having a rendered intro or the like. Not that it’s a bad thing. Most of the games that did this (I’m thinking particularly of Shadowcaster) have dated worse than the 2d art in the floppy equivalents.

    I had Return To Zork on floppy. That actually had full speech throughout the entire game and came on 12 disks if I remember right.

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    in reply to: Maniac Mansion #4130

    There is also a fan remake, Maniac Mansion Deluxe for Windows which is probably the best version of the game (albeit not running in DOS). There is another fan remake in the works as well at https://meteormess.de/

    I know DOTT inside out already but never really spent much time on it’s predecessor so I thought I’d have a good go on Maniac Mansion this month. Had two playthroughs with different characters so far, one on the EGA enhanced version and one on Deluxe.

    There is surprisingly little story in this first game, beyond a few cutscenes. It’s more of a pure puzzler. I tried Lucasfilms first adventure game Labyrinth a year or two back and it feels like a halfway house between that and their later games.

    There are some pretty tricky puzzles and numerous potential dead ends to make life difficult. It’s certainly more intimidating than their later games. That said, the house isn’t too big and you can replay the game very quickly once you start learning your way around. I’ve noticed there are multiple solutions some of the time which is pretty neat. The idea of having different characters is cool as well but it only seems to make a limited amount of difference in the game. Without giving anything away I’ve only found one difference for each character where their skills can be used to solve a particular puzzle. It does give a bit of replayability that isn’t typical of adventure games. The game was really short with Bernard in my party, possibly why he was included in part 2?

    I’ll try another playthrough with some different characters this weekend. So far I’ve relied on Bernard’s technical and Michael’s photography skills to get me through, so I’ll see if I can solve it without either of them next time. I figure I may as well try a different version each time so it’s either NES or C64 next.

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    in reply to: Ski Jumping International (1994, Ville Kononen) #3991

    This is very similar to Deluxe Ski Jump other than the controls. Having played that first, I think I prefer the mouse controls.

    I do really like the tips from the coach after the jump. That’s a feature Deluxe Ski Jump could do with. These 2 ski jump games are my clear favourites so far. Not what I would have expected at all.

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    in reply to: Deluxe Ski Jump (2000, mediamond) #3981

    Just been playing this one. I can’t say exactly what it is about it but it really hooked me. I was playing for a good half hour before getting rudely interrupted by my shopping arriving. I’d probably still be on it otherwise. It’s really relaxing and addictive, gradually learning exactly what you need to do to get a good jump.

    I think there are a lot of hidden depths with the angle you need to be while flying seeming to change depending on the wind. I’m managing to get in the top 5 some of the time now but nowhere near winning anything. Easily my favourite of the games I’ve played so far. I may well go back to it but there are another 7 or 8 games to try first.

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    in reply to: Downhill Challenge (1988, Microids / Broderbund) #3969

    I’m playing this on an old Tandy at 4.77Mhz and it’s still a bit nippy. Kind of impressive for the hardware – you certainly get a sense of speed. I’m not getting any sound either so it must have been left off this version.

    This game is actually the first in the Super Ski series and got 2 DOS sequels (neither of which I’ve tried yet). Is it just me or are 3 of the 4 events essentially the same? The giant slalom seems to be the slalom with bigger flags and the downhill is the slalom with near enough all the flags removed.

    I can’t say I’ve entirely figured the ski jump but it seems like you press and hold fire at the end of the ramp and you can then move the joystick around to change your position. If I pull back a little and let go of fire when hitting the ground I can usually land it. This doesn’t necessarily net me any style points though so there must be more to it.

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    in reply to: Winter Challenge: World Class Competition (1988, Tynesoft) #3968

    It may not be deserved but I associate Tynesoft with terrible games on the UK 8 bits (e.g. Supergran on the Spectrum). This was way better than my previous experiences with them so they clearly got better.

    The downhill is just about completable at 4.77Mhz but still requires a good deal of luck. I got down in just over a minute the one time I completed it. It felt a whole lot like playing that hovercraft arcade bit from Space Quest where you have to avoid all the rocks, only with floaty controls to make life even harder.

    The other events were far easier, possibly too easy even if I didn’t quite know what I was doing. Not bad anyway, and decent music from a PC beeper.

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    in reply to: First time players impressions #3890

    I had my first go on this last night for about an hour. Bit early to say – I’m not blown away or anything but first impressions are that it’s pretty good. It all moves surprisingly smoothly on a 286, and the graphics are all nice for what they are (especially the cruising around town). I had mixed success but did manage to win a car and do some upgrades so I’m on the way. I’ll think I’ll go back and reread your guide now I’ve got some context for how this works before I play again. I had a mishap with one car where it ended up not being drivable after I did my upgrade and I’ve no idea why.

    The racing mechanics are interesting – the steering is arcadey but with a strong dash of realism with the crashing and engine blowing if you overrev too much. The racing part seems fairly easy on the whole. It’s a bit odd that you can bash into the side of your opponent as hard as you like but if you so much as nudge the back of their car you crash out. I’m not so sure about having 7% wear on engine and tires after a 2.5 mile race either – I’m fairly sure even 50s cars could manage more than 30-40 miles without needing a new engine…

    There doesn’t seem to be all that much to it if I’m honest but I did still want to keep playing after that first hour. It has that one more go quality and I’m definitely having fun with it. I’ll have a proper go this weekend and see if I can get a decent car put together.

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    in reply to: Tips for playing the game #3847

    Can’t say I tried running away up the tower but you should be able to get away from the werewolf easily once you get used to it. He will be attacking you throughout the game so you need to learn this skill at the start.

    A lot of the time you can just run away before he gets too near but failing that the best bet is to hit him a few times until he backs off and then run around him. This is really easy when you have the hang of it but makes the start of the game tougher than it should be when you still haven’t got the hang of the controls and combat.

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    in reply to: Tips for playing the game #3843

    You are correct about what you need to do. There is another route down there from much later in the game.

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    in reply to: Tips for playing the game #3833

    Two tips for you. If you aren’t well armed yet, search the village until you are. You ought to be able to see off any enemy except the werewolf.

    There is a house somewhere in the village with an unlocked front door…

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    in reply to: Tips for playing the game #3827

    Thanks for all the advice – it was definitely helpful. I played through the game last weekend and seriously enjoyed myself. It’s perilously close to being a bit of a classic. Going back and playing games I know is fun enough but the best times I’ve had with DOS game club is finding something like this that I missed out on. The atmosphere put me in mind of Another World in some ways which is high praise from me.

    I bought this when it was new and remember playing it quite a bit but not being too struck with it back then. The start of the game is punishing with the dubious control system, open world and constant combat. It pushes the player away when they are trying to figure out how things work. If you can break through that barrier, it’s actually a really well designed game. It was near enough always clear what I needed to do next and not frustrating in the same way as Alone In The Dark because of it. It’s also very short but this arguably works in it’s favour, I probably got through in 2-3 hours.

    For anyone struggling at the start, the main trick I found to combat is that you need to dodge a blow with the dodge key (5) and then strike if you find yourself getting constantly pummelled before you can land a hit yourself. The combat is actually really simple when you get used to it.

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    in reply to: Thoughts? #3765

    Once you request clearance to land, you have to fly within about 2000 of the Tigers Claw from the right angle. You need to approach it from the front. Basically as long as the sprite is showing the runway pointing straight at you, you are good.

    I’ve been making good use of the semi lockdown here and just finished up Wing 3 tonight myself. Having a blast replaying all of these again. The Wing 4 DVD is installed and ready to go next.

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    in reply to: Thoughts? #3757

    I know these games too well to give an unclouded opinion at this point. I’ve even played through most of the ports but it’s been years since I went back to the original versions like this. I’d agree that the story doesn’t add up to much in WC1. It feels tacked on but it was fairly unprecedented to have it there at all at the time. Chatting to the other pilots added a ton of atmosphere above just flying the missions – the game would have been far less memorable without it. You haven’t mentioned the Secret Missions add on packs. It felt to me like the story was far better told in both of those – with an actual overall arc instead of just bolting a few disparate plots together. The difficulty presented way, way more challenge also, especially in SM1. It seems to me like the real meat is in both of those rather than the main game.

    The collision physics are a consequence of the sprite engine I think. You are looking at 2D objects while moving around in a 3D space. When a sprite gets near to snapping to the next image, what you are looking at can be way out of what the engine is tracking. It’s especially noticeable if you are near to a capship where you can crash into it while seemingly flying through empty space. It’s a limitation of the technology really, not sure Origin could have done much about it other than making all the ships cube shaped. The graphics are clearly dated but looked amazing at the time (especially in screenshots). I think they work well on the whole considering this ran on a 286.

    I’m a few missions into Special Ops 1 having finished WC2 at the weekend. The sequel is very similar but a clear improvement on the original in just about every aspect really. The extra cutscenes give the story much more life but the gameplay is raised a notch as well. There is far more difference between the ships here – a Broadsword is so slow and lumbering compared to a Ferret. It’s a whole different experience flying those missions. I really like the addition of turrets and the need to use them when fighting the lighter ships. The capship missions are much more epic also with the new requirement to use torpedoes.

    I’d recommend the whole series for people who have the time. I’m intending to carry on going this month and see how many I can get through. There is no shortage of Wing Commander to be getting on with. There is even a whole series of novels, a collectable card game, a Saturday morning cartoon series, not to mention the fairly terrible movie.

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    in reply to: Controls #3730

    I’ve not looked on GOG to see what’s there. They do have a habit of missing important scans. Wing Commander has a fantastic in-universe manual in the shape of the Claw Marks magazine which I’d like to think they haven’t missed. It’s well worth a read but possibly doesn’t offer much in the way of actual useful advice.

    Since you asked here’s an off the top of my head guide for what newbies need to know. Starting with controls:-

    A – autopilot. This takes you directly to the next nav point on the map. As a general rule if the autopilot light on your ship is lit, use it. The action in Wing Commander essentially takes place at hot-spots with nothing inbetween.

    +.- speed up slow down. In combat you will nearly always want to be flying at maximum speed. Allegedly 250 is the safest speed in asteroids.

    TAB – afterburners. These will greatly increase your speed but use fuel which will eventually run out. You can still fly as normal when this happens, it only stops afterburning. Best used to get somewhere asap (e.g. getting to a ship you are protecting). Can be useful in a brief burst during combat to stay near to someone in your sights and try to tail them.

    T – cycles through visible targets. It’s usually best to concentrate on one enemy at a time.

    L – locks to the currently selected target. The box around the ship will be a complete box instead of just corners. You may need to do this to use locking missiles (can’t remember for sure)

    W – selects a missile type. You have a limited number of these which varies depending on the ship you are flying. The missiles are dumbfire – goes in a straight line so use at close range. heat seeking (locks onto the exhaust of a ship from the rear only). IR – locks on from anywhere. FF goes for the nearest enemy without locking. I tend to only use missles at the start of an encounter to thin the numbers down a bit. I’d usually beat the shields of the enemy down a little first in the hope of the missile finishing them off. Missiles usually work best when tailing a ship flying fairly straight

    G – cycles through the various gun types. These drain energy as shown on the HUD but this recharges over time. The guns have differing damages and ranges. I’d usually go with full guns – you’ll want to be fairly accurrate if you do this. Lasers are longer range and neutrons are shorter otherwise.

    C – Communications. Opens up a menu for your communications – select options with 1-4. About all you really need are to tell your wingman to break and attack (or attack a specific target). You can also taunt the targeted enemy which might stop them attacking a ship you want to protect.

    I think that’s the essentials. Here’s some general tips:-

    As a rule don’t shoot at the enemy until they are around 3000-4000 away from you, possibly nearer depending on how fast your guns drain in the ship you are in. If using full guns try to hold back for sure hits. Try to stay as close as possible without crashing into them

    The combat pretty much boils down to shoot at the enemy. Turn as fast as possible to get the enemy back in your sights and repeat. You can potentially tail ships if you can stay close to them during one of these turns and get a few shots off before another chicken run. If you are getting pummelled by another ship while doing this, turn away and/or use afterburners for a few seconds.

    Landing in WC1 is a bit tricky. Target the tigers claw with the T key. Use C to communicate with them and request landing. You can only land from the front so look to fly around until the runway is straight in front, then just fly at it until you dock.

    There is some dumb luck to asteroids and you can get hit out of nowhere through no fault. Don’t try to shoot them unless you really have to. Keep your speed around 350 and just give them a wide berth.

    You’ll probably notice quickly that wingman are fairly useless. I just let them do their own thing – be a little wary when on the last enemy as they don’t necessarily mind shooting through you. They are very good at taking down cap ship shields later in the game.

    That’s about all I can think of for now. It’s a simple enough game when you get into it, way more arcadey than the likes of X-Wing or Strike Commander.

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    in reply to: Lower and high game graphics. #3714

    I may be thinking of the sequel but I recall the cockpit damage animations being removed on systems with low memory.

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    in reply to: Controls #3713

    There are a few shortcuts with joystick controls worth mentioning. There may be others but the ones I use are:-

    double tap button two to afterburner (hold down on second tap).
    increase/decrease speed by holding button two and moving forward/back
    roll ship by holding button 2 and turning left/right
    fire missile by holding button 2, then pressing 1.

    Alt-B will order your wingman to break and attack without having to go through the comms menu.

    One other thing worth mentioning is that Wing Commander has a branching mission structure depending on success/failure. You don’t have to win every mission to beat the game and you will get sent down different mission/story paths if you fail. You won’t see half the missions in the game in one playthrough and there is a strong case for living with your failures and seeing where you end up. The sequels largely dropped this feature as most people just reloaded if they failed a mission.

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    in reply to: Suggested Control Schemes #3558

    I’m fine with the controls as well. This sort of control scheme for DOS games probably came about from programmers trying to avoid writing their own keyboard handler. You could apparently work around the BIOS limiting to one key at a time using shift, alt and ctrl.

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    in reply to: Related Games #3557

    More or less. It has the menu built in this time rather than being a launcher for the 3 different executables.

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    in reply to: Related Games #3546

    I hadn’t heard of Vinyl Goddess From Mars until you mentioned it but I played through it today. It’s more of a traditional platformer with moving platforms, fairly conventional weapons and no more transforming into creatures. Those latter two were some of my favourite parts of the original and made JOTJ a little different to the competition. The main character looks enough like Jill for it still to feel like a thinly disguised sequel.

    It’s in 3 episodes again, and takes about the same time to play through so you can polish the whole game off in a couple of hours. The save anywhere aspect was dropped in favour of checkpoints. Every time you die, you go back to the last checkpoint but nothing respawns so it’s easy to get back where you were. If there was a limit to the number of lives I never ran into it. Everything moves smoothly this time around which is an improvement but it’s a very average platformer overall. It was fun enough while it lasts but in 1995 no competition for the likes of Jazz Jackrabbit.

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    in reply to: First impressions #3544

    All fair points. As far as DOS games go, I wouldn’t say Jill compares favourably to Prince Of Persia or Another World either, both of which were released prior to this and also essentially developed by one person. As for shareware, I think the Keen series offered better gameplay with the smoother character movement being a major factor. The block based movement might be my biggest issue with JOTJ actually, it makes the jumps too easy to judge. I’m no doubt being ungenerous but I don’t see JOTJ justifying the $30 price tag given how brief the experience was. It’s an achievement having created it absolutely but arguably not the best value for money as a consumer.

    I’d be curious to know if any of us Europeans ever actually bought full versions of anything shareware like this back in the 90’s. Without Paypal, I presume that to register JOTJ I’d have had to post a US$ foreign currency cheque off to Tim Sweeney in the USA, then pay airmail postage + customs fees to get it back again. That process would have cost as much as the game itself if so.

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    in reply to: First impressions #3542

    Just been playing my way through this. I got the first episode on a magazine cover disk in 1992. I didn’t have many games back then so I’m very familiar with that episode, less so with the other two which I played a pirate version of a few years later but never went back to.

    It’s a very short and easy series of games really, under an hour per episode going back to it now. There is enough to keep it interesting but it was never much of a challenge, except for level 9 on episode 2 which had a long string of demons to fight. The graphics and sound were decent enough. The adlib music is particularly well done, that was the main appeal to the shareware episode as I recall.

    I did like the multiple creatures that Jill could turn into, that added some nice variety. The boomerang mechanic with the dagger is kind of fun also. It’s enjoyable enough all round but a bit average, fun to go back to but hardly what I’d call a classic. I feel like this about a lot of the shareware platformers from this era. They were free and didn’t have much competition on the PC so a lot of people remember them more fondly than they necessarily deserve. If you compare them to what was available on console at the time, there is no competition.

    I’m intrigued by the sequel which I wasn’t aware of until Mike mentioned it in another post. I’ll have to check that out as well this month.

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    in reply to: DosBox Warnings in Reviews #3535

    I’d have given the same advice for Tie Fighter so you may be ok with mouse here also if you are already used to it I suppose. It’s a standard notion among Wing Commander fans that you are better using a joystick, I expect everyone would give the same advice if you asked the question over at wcnews.com (the home on the web for Wing Commander fans).

    The WC mouse controls are essentially emulating the joystick – they literally move a cursor around the screen which turns you faster the further you are from centre. Its a clear attempt to shoehorn a solution in my eyes. You’ll find Wing Commander to require far less precise aiming than Tie Fighter. The combat more or less ends up as chicken runs where you need to move as quickly as possible, aim quickly and then spin around again. You’ll probably end up swinging the mouse all over the place for this but I’m sure it’s doable with practice. It’s natural (to me at least) with an analog joystick.

    Thinking way, way back to when I first played WC2 (before I had a joystick), I used keyboard in preference. Maybe mouse some of the time for more precise aiming but it didn’t work for me. I’d have been on a ball mouse back then mind you. If nothing else a joystick is more authentic. You wouldn’t be using a mouse to fly an F-15 after all.

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    in reply to: DosBox Warnings in Reviews #3531

    These warnings are way overstated. I don’t know what GOG’s setup is like but I’ve played this on DOSBox loads of times without any real difficulty. Bottom line is run it at a fixed cycle count of around 3000-4000 and you will be fine. If you really need to, use ctrl-F11, Ctrl-F12 to change the speed a bit.

    Wing Commander never ran at 60 fps. It simply wasn’t all that smooth in the first place. I think the main problem people have is that they crank up the cycles to get it running smoothly and it goes into fast forward.

    With real hardware, it should run fine on a 486 or Pentium if you switch off the CPU caching. The ideal platform is something along the lines of a 386-25.

    Whatever your platform, I would strongly advise playing this with a joystick. I suppose it should be playable with the analog stick on a controller either. I really don’t advise using keyboard or mouse.

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    in reply to: Gateway 2 down #3493

    Finished Gateway 2 last night as well. I thought the puzzles were well designed again but the plot got really hokey as the game went on. The Heechee could have easily been the squabbling aliens in an old Star Trek episode where Kirk has to go in and solve their problems for them. They were much more fun when unseen and mysterious in part 1. Adding the conversation system was a good idea but the writing just wasn’t as good all round. Still enjoyed it but nowhere near as much.

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    in reply to: Thoughts and comments #3467

    Just finished it today. Loved the sci-fi setting and really enjoyed it all round. Definitely one of the easier text adventures I’ve played but that’s not a bad thing. The difficulty ramped up nicely as the game went on and I really liked how breaking the VR was brought back at the end. The only bit that really bugged me was needing the gun to kill the spider. It didn’t occur to me for the longest time that I would need an item from Gateway when everything had been so self contained prior to this.

    I completely missed out on all of Legend’s games at the time they came out but they seem to have a really solid catalogue. I’ve caught up with some of their later point and clicks before now (Death Gate and Blackstone Chronicles are both superb) but the only text adventure of theirs I’d played was Spellcasting 101. That was decent but a bit of a let-down compared to other Meretzky games I’ve played. I much preferred Gateway.

    The interface for these games is kind of strange. Did anyone actually use the keyword list? I pretty much ignored it the whole way through myself other than maybe seeing what was in the room. I struggle to imagine anyone clicking on keywords to form their sentences. To me at least, it does smack of a desperate attempt to keep the text adventure relevant at a time when point and click was taking over. I really like just using the text parser myself. It opens up so many more options than point and click and makes you actually think rather than being able to brute force puzzles.

    I can’t even remember after all this time but the truth is I probably ignored Legend as a teenager purely because these were text adventures. I associated the genre with slightly clunky 8-bit titles like The Hobbit or Worm in Paradise so it’s people like me that helped kill it off. It’s a hard sell to a teenager when put up against games like Monkey Island but at least I can appreciate them 30 years after the fact I suppose. I’ll be firing up Gateway 2 next.

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    in reply to: Games to try? #3285

    We probably don’t need any more tables but I’m also going to be trying out Interplay’s Star Trek Pinball having got hold of a boxed copy recently.

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    in reply to: Magazine Reviews #3284

    Sorry, I moved my website over to a different server a few weeks back. The URL’s are all out of wordpress which includes the old ip address. Doesn’t look like I can edit my post for some reason so here is a find and replaced version with fixed links.

    Here are a couple of UK reviews from the time + a retrospective PC Zone did much later in their “Games That Changed The World” series:-




    The game breaking bugs mentioned in that 4 out of 10 were a bit of a thing with the later Ultima’s. The original release of Underworld which they praised in that review had near enough the same inventory bug as it happens but it didn’t hit until the deeper levels. Underworld 2 had a bug where all the staff in Lord British’s castle would go on strike permanently blocking all progress in the plot. Ultima 8 worked as such but had a jumping/platforming element that was so universally unpopular it had to be patched out of the game. The less said about Ultima 9’s bugs on release, the better. I still love all those games (apart from Ultima 8 anyway) but that will be helped by the fact they had usually been fixed by the time they got released on this side of the pond.
    Also one more review, the American release of the game came with a cover sheet over the back of the box with this particularly glowing review. Probably not a bad idea given the lack of information on that mostly black box.<br />

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    in reply to: Difficulty Curve #3233

    It’s a tough game, no doubt. You have to know what’s coming to have a chance half the time, save often.

    I just made it past the first boss without too much trouble having said that, primarily because I remember suffering my way to a solution years back. The main trick is to leave that invincibility floating in the middle of the large room next to the room with the red door. When you are ready to go through the red door, grab that and high tail it to the boss fight. Kill as many of the chain gun and homing missile bots as you can before it runs out (this should be nearly all of them), then grab the invisibility in the bottom of the pillar and kill any that are left.

    Once it’s just you and the boss, it should be pretty simple. Essentially fly round and round the central column, if you see the boss in front of you shoot it but don’t stop still for long. If he fires a smart missile at you, keep flying round and try to hug the pillar and you should be safe.

    The problem with all the above is that if you grabbed that invincibility the first time you saw it, you are fairly screwed. You also need to know the layout of the level before you go into the fight and where to grab that invisibility. There are bits like this throughout the game and it makes each level fairly gruelling. Even back in the day, I’d never want to play this for more than a couple of levels at a time. You definitely don’t want to grab an invisibility or invulnerability until you figure out why it’s been left there as there will almost inevitably be a room nearby that’s all but impossible without it.

    There aren’t any bosses until the end after that first one. These first 7 levels were a kind of Doom style shareware version at the time which is why some of the bots and weapons don’t show up until after this.

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    in reply to: Games to try? #3220

    The obvious ones are Pinball Dreams, Fantasies and Illusions. These started out on Amiga but supported some odd hi-res mode on PC so there is an argument that in this case it isn’t better on Amiga.

    The first 3 Pro Pinball games came out for DOS. These were super-polished one table games which had support for very high (for the time) resolutions. These are the pinnacle of DOS pinball as far as I’m concerned.

    There is also Epic Pinball which came out with a few different variations and names. I always saw it as a bit of a poor man’s Pinball Fantasies/Dreams personally but I’m probably in the minority.

    You wouldn’t go wrong with any of the above. I’m struggling beyond those. There is the Pinball Construction Set if you want to go really old school – I don’t necessarily recommend it these days. There was another in full 3D called Tilt published by Virgin that I vaguely remember playing the demo for. It looked like it could be OK from the little I recall.

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    in reply to: Deathmatch anyone? #3212

    It was only a handful of times. Our only option was null modem cable and dragging PC’s around to link them up was way too much hassle.

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    in reply to: Contemporary reviews #3211

    Never played this one myself but here are a couple of UK reviews:-


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    in reply to: Deathmatch anyone? #3191

    I’m up for it. Not played Descent deathmatch since my university days.

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    in reply to: Controls #3190

    I always liked to use a joystick. I’d been playing a whole lot of X-Wing/Wing Commander before I came to Descent and it felt like a natural fit with the full freedom of movement. It works really well with a throttle/joystick combination if you have them, setting the throttle to reverse when fully back. I use the hat switch to slide in each direction for dodging.

    Curiously you’ve picked two of the tiny handful of DOS games that have full support for VR devices for the next couple of months. There was no way on earth I could have afforded it at the time but I got an old VFX-1 a few years back, mainly to try it out with System Shock. It barely gets used so I figure I should attempt to play through Descent in 90’s VR this month. The picture is a bit grainy which can make it hard to identify things in the distance but it’s actually pretty good so far. The 3D effect works really well (apart from the flat looking explosions). On the downside, I’ll definitely have to limit myself to short sessions only or I’ll get serious motion sickness though. Also, the map is completely unusable as the resolution isn’t high enough.

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    in reply to: The Confusing Masterpiece #3006

    You don’t need to worry overly about stats in Ultima 7. As far as I’m concerned it’s barely an RPG, and has as much in common with adventure games. There was a lot of criticism at the time from displeased fans about this despite the high regard it’s held in these days. The stats were massively simplified from previous games at any rate. Combat is largely avoidable and essentially automatic when it does happen. Gameplay in U7 is more about exploring the world, talking to dozens of NPC’s and completing quests. It has a really compelling open world that you can tackle in nearly any order you like, only gradually learning what is going on and what the main quest is really about.

    There was an add-on (Forge Of Virtue) released some time after the original game which added an extra island and quest. Any version you are likely to play now should come with this pre-installed. This was kind of an authorised cheat pack as if you complete the quest it will up the stats of your avatar beyond the original limits and give you a talking sword with insta-kill powers. I highly recommend completing that quest at the earliest opportunity. Combat is not the strongest aspect of U7 and this will stop you having to worry about it much.

    I’m seriously looking forward to playing this again myself. I’m a massive Origin fan to the extent that I collected all the games and blogged my way through everything they ever released about 15 years back. I’ve finished every Ultima, many of them loads of times on different platforms but I rushed through Ultima 7 all those years back, didn’t give it the time it deserved and I’ve always meant to go back to it. I did play the SNES version later but it’s not quite the same to say the least. On the PC it’s definitely an absolute classic by any standards, can’t wait to give it another go.

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    in reply to: Contemporary reviews #2987

    Here are this month’s batch of UK reviews:-

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    in reply to: Period reviews #2938

    Here’s a couple more from the UK:-

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    in reply to: My Verdict #2929

    It’s the chess puzzles which need a lot of moves that get to me. The sequel was much better in that regard with the swanky 30fps video engine speeding everything up.

    I read the novel in one go on Saturday. I really enjoyed it actually – way, way more than I was expecting. It’s quite short but still fleshed out the events in the house no end, not to mention putting them in the right order. I’m surprised how closely it stuck to the game using dialog straight out of the script and mentioning a large number of the puzzles and animations. For anyone with nostalgic attachment to 7th Guest, it’s essential. The stakes in the book are higher as it introduces a Cthulu-like influence with Stauf receiving his instructions from voices from some other dimension. The 7th Guest is apparently the means to release them upon the world.

    I moved on to 11th Hour on Sunday. The FMV engine in that was just amazing for the time, nothing else ran like that without hardware assistance back in 1995. The gameplay took a step up as well with all the cryptic crossword clues adding another element. It seems like a better game all round except for the amazingly dumb storyline. That and hunting for some of those objects would be painful without a guide.

    This is all getting me in the mood for The 13th Doll anyway when it gets released at the end of the month. I backed that one some years back but have been avoiding the betas so I can go into it spoiler free. I may give Clandestiny or Uncle Henry’s Mindblower another go in the meanwhile.

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    in reply to: My Verdict #2924

    I would probably be less harsh although it’s hard for me to be subjective with a game I’m this familiar with from back in the 90’s. The 7th Guest is a game that made sense for a space of about 1-2 years in the first half of the 90’s. As soon as the technology loses the wow factor, it stops being a viable product. The nostalgia still carries it in my case but only because this was my introduction to games on CD-ROM.

    I just finished my own playthrough last night. I agree entirely about the slow pace. This is another of those games made entertaining for me with the aid of a long backlog of podcasts to catch up on. The animations in some of the puzzles can be interminable. I still quite enjoy the puzzles themselves for what they are but it’s a very basic gameplay concept held up by the technology.

    The acting/script is kind of entertaining but not exactly good and I’m not convinced anything in this game is even remotely scary. I do love the Fat Man’s soundtrack and the house design still holds up. Fun bit of trivia, there is a Doom wad on the original CD’s with the house mapped out. I think I read somewhere years back that it was created to prototype the design but don’t quote me on that.

    I’ve not had enough 7th Guest yet so I’ll be starting on the novel today. Really curious to find out how you turn that script into an actual narrative.

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    in reply to: Starting tips #2882

    Thanks. That search option in the menu is news to me. I’ll give it a go tonight.

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    in reply to: Starting tips #2880

    I’ve been playing the original 87 version. I actually like having to use a physical map with games of this era, it’s all adding atmosphere. There isn’t a lot of it but the game has 3 channel sound if you play it on a Tandy so I’d recommend trying that in DOSBox if you are OK with the reduced colour palette. Tandy doesn’t look much different to EGA the majority of the time.

    Does anyone have any tips on rescuing your family members? I’ve got all four pieces of the map for where my sister is, found where that is but I’m not seeing anything there.

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    in reply to: Radiators! #2680

    You seem to need a radiator every 4 or 5 squares in corridors. Every room needs at least one, bigger rooms 2 or 3. I think it works on a radius, at least in the corridors. Something like the character has to be within 3 spaces of a radiator or they start getting colder so make sure to have them near any waiting areas.

    There is also supposed to be a setting to turn up the heating but I never found it. You need a whole lot of radiators at any rate.

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    in reply to: First Impressions #2663

    I thought this was going to be easy on first impressions but progress came to a grinding halt about level 5. I was always ending up with sickness bugs running rampant throughout the hospital which I gather are caused by not getting people through fast enough.

    I’ve learned a few tricks since then like having multiple diagnosis rooms close together, building all your doctor rooms close to each other, and all your nurse rooms in another section. There are so many little things like this to figure out, it’s really quite difficult and frustrating. Having said that, when you get it right everything practically runs itself. When I did finally beat level 6, all I was having to do is pay a few bonuses to staff and watch the money roll in.

    I’ve not made it past level 7 and I’m currently being distracted by modern games having bought my first new PC in over a decade so that may be it for this month. I’ll definitely return to Theme Hospital some time though. Strategy/sim games aren’t my favourite genre but it’s hard not to be sucked in by this game. I enjoy Dungeon Keeper/Magic Carpet more having said that with less micro management being required. X-COM is definitely a step too far for my tastes so I’ll be sitting out August. I remember all 5 of my housemates getting completely addicted to that game in my student days and I just couldn’t understand what they saw in it.

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    in reply to: Post game thoughts #2609

    Only just listened to the podcast where it was mentioned that I never did give any feedback on the 32x version. Better late than never but there isn’t too much to say.

    The cutscenes were very much like the PC except with some tiny added animations. The rest of the game played identically except it was a whole lot more colourful with some pre-rendered sprites. I can’t say I hated either of these but they weren’t really an improvement.

    Other than the extra levels, the main thing of note about the 32x port is how pointless it was doing it for the 32x in the first place. I gather the hardware added extra colours but that appears to be the only feature being used. If I’d bought a 32x, I wouldn’t have been looking for yet another MD platformer to show it off. The likes of Aladdin were way more advanced without the 32x.

    I didn’t play all the extra levels but they seemed to be more of the same from what I did see.

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    in reply to: Way too hard? #2558

    The robots are way overpowered and have huge reaches to rub it in. You can just about beat the first two playing properly but it gets close to impossible after that. It’s actually easier in the hardest mode as you will be able to block without taking damage – the beginner mode is probably the toughest way to play the game.

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    in reply to: UK Reviews #2557

    It’s actually 14 floppies on PC. I only know as that’s the version I played this month. I went back to try the CD version after which is exactly the same except with more cutscenes. The whole intro was missing on floppy + about half the transitional scenes. ROTR makes slightly more sense with those back in – they were arguably the best part.

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    in reply to: UK Magazine Reviews #2452

    You are probably right. It’s a plus point for me to be able to play another game like Flashback/Prince Of Persia these days. I would say it’s fair criticism that Blackthorne isn’t necessarily better than any of the games it is copying. £40 does seem a bit steep looking at it now given all of those would have been budget titles by then.

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    in reply to: Post game thoughts #2430

    Just finished it! I’ve found getting to the end of this one a real challenge, much more so than anything else I’ve played for DGC so far. Level 12 was a nightmare – that jumping section that you have to do right at the end of the level got me time after time. When I eventually did manage it, I only then discovered I needed the key I’d just used for later on and had to start the whole level again! Part of the problem was the difference between this and Prince Of Persia in timing, I was always jumping too early.

    The ending boss on the other hand was a real let down – I got through that on the first attempt and didn’t even figure out the strategy at first. It needed a more climactic battle to round off the end of the game.

    It’s curious how little was introduced after the early levels in terms of new enemies or items. Near enough every game mechanic was there from the fist few levels. Other than the bit on level 12, the level design built really well on my slowly increasing skills and was extremely fair. I wouldn’t say the 17 levels felt short at all as a first timer. I’m sure I could play through it relatively quickly on a second attempt but beating it this first time has taken me a good number of hours.

    I do still prefer Flashback which has more going on in it’s world and more variety to the levels. I’m heavily biased toward more story driven games also and the story in this was clearly tacked on for the sake of it. It’s a really well put together game anyway. Not good enough to be a classic for me but extremely solid.

    My 32X doesn’t exactly see a lot of use so I’ll give that version a go and see how it compares.

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    in reply to: First impressions #2425

    I’ve more or less got used to ESDF but I still find myself using an item by accident every now and then. The main difficulty I’m having currently is falling from vast heights. It’s kind of annoying when you can hang off a ledge at the bottom of a screen and it doesn’t show you whats down below. It’s not entirely unfair about it as you usually get to see the lower screen beforehand but I don’t always remember what’s there. It’s surprising that a game of this era was flick-screen at all. It makes it technically less advanced than Lost Vikings so it must have been a deliberate design decision.

    The challenge definitely ramped up from level 9. I struggled with the blue machine gun guys for ages until I figured out the rolling to either side of them technique.

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    in reply to: First impressions #2419

    Thought I’d better give my first impressions since I’m about to go back to Blackthorne for the 2nd time. My absolute first impression was surprise at only seeing 2 disks in the box when I opened it. I was wondering if some had gone missing but apparently not. It must be a sign of the SNES roots that it doesn’t have a couple of floppies worth of animated intro tacked on like your typical PC/Amiga games of the era.

    I got as far as level 5 on my first go. I struggled a little with the controls at first. There is nothing inherently wrong with them but being so bunched up on the keyboard it’s all too easy to shoot the wrong way or use an item by mistake. I was getting to grips with it by the end.

    So far, everything is very derivative of Flashback – Prince of Persia with a shotgun is spot on. The only truly original aspect (apart from the cool backshot) is covering during combat. Since I love Flashback and have played so few other similar games, it hasn’t bothered me at all though. By the time Blackthorne came out, Flashback had gone full 3D with Fade To Black and I’d much rather be playing this.

    The pixel graphics look great, the sound effects do the job nicely and the difficulty has been ramping well. It’s a bit slower paced than Flashback and maybe a bit more puzzly.

    I can see why I would have missed this game at the time. It’s not exactly showy compared to all the FMV epics that were around back then but it’s probably aged far better because of it. Looking forward to getting a bit further.

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    in reply to: Ultima Series #2317

    I wouldn’t say the Ultima series is forgotten quite yet. The Ultima Dragons fan group is still very active at any rate. EA have had a couple of half-hearted attempts at reviving the series in recent years with Lords Of Ultima + Ultima Forever and Ultima Online continues to get updates over 20 years after release. The series would be an obvious target for some remakes though. I’ve been expecting something like that from EA for years. They wouldn’t be able to include Lord British as Richard Garriott holds the trademark still but it would be easy enough to substitute in another character.

    Underworld is one of my favourite games of all time. I would love to see that covered by DGC. Failing that 7 would be the most accessible to new players these days I reckon. Martian Dreams could be a good choice either especially given that it’s free on GOG. It’s one of the best in the series to me and the two Worlds Of Ultima games were built to ease people into Ultima after all. I love the whole premise of gallivanting around Mars with famous historical figures.

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    in reply to: Tie Fighter #2270

    They are both classics but I always preferred X-Wing. Part of this is because it’s the tougher of the two by a margin so if you had played through X-Wing first, Tie Fighter was over quite quickly. Shooting TIE’s is just so much more fun as well with them being much harder to hit but requiring fewer shots. Perhaps best of all, X-Wing had the trench run to build up to (not that my PC was actually capable of running it the first time I got there).

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    in reply to: First impressions #2231

    I’ve had a few attempts with Life and Death 2 now but I can’t say that I’m getting on with it particularly. It’s very much more of the same and brain surgery by guesswork is proving difficult believe it or not. Without the benefit of foreknowledge, I’ve not managed to get near to completing an operation yet. I’ve mastered the diagnosis stage but it’s really tedious compared to L&D1, with lots of banging of knees and elbows and the like. I’ve noticed in L&D1 that once you’ve mastered certain diagnoses, they are much less likely to come up. So if you keep failing at surgery, the next patient will usually need the same op so you can quickly give it another go. That doesn’t seem to be happening here and repeating the same steps over and over is seriously frustrating.

    I’m also having technical issues. There is some sort of buffering problem with the mouse input and holding the mouse button down for a while often sets the PC speaker off beeping like I have a stuck key. Worse still, when drilling into the skull you have to hold the button down to drill the right distance and then release when it breaks through. Except the release never happens so I end up drilling into the brain instead. I’ve tried slowing my PC down which hasn’t helped – I may resort to trying DOSBox instead.

    It’s certainly more of a challenge than part 1 anyway and the graphics are a lot better in VGA. There is in game documentation now to help with the diagnosis which is a nice touch but curiously no guidance whatsoever on the surgery sections.

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    in reply to: First impressions #2215

    Good luck! I imagine that coming to this cold will be tough going at first.

    I bought this one new back in 89. My first impression going back was just how much stuff is crammed in the box. There were 4 manuals, David’s link is a combination of the only 2 that will actually help you out. There was a history of surgery to set the scene, rubber gloves and surgeons mask just in case you fancy dressing the part while playing, the game on both floppy sizes, a paper pager for copy protection and about a dozen leaflets trying to sell you things. It’s a far cry from the Speccy games on cassette I was used to at the time.

    I just about remember playing this back then. I was definitely impressed with it graphically – CGA was all I had and this makes extremely good use of that palette with lots of gory detail in the ops. I do remember it being a very short lived experience. Once you can perform the two operations, the game is over and there isn’t a whole lot of point to going back to it. Doing exactly that 30 years later, I’d forgotten a lot of it but I’ve still made it through in a couple of hours. I definitely still knew a lot of the basics and all the diagnosis steps.

    The classroom material is very well done pointing out any mistakes and how to correct them. The game is very much trial and error though. I got slightly further in each surgery before having to guess again, usually getting it wrong and being told what I should have done. There is nowhere near enough info in the manual. Teaching surgery in Toolworks General is akin to learning how to beat Dragons Lair.

    A couple of tips for newbies. Remember the keyboard shortcuts for Atropine and Lidocaine (A & L). It’s way easier and quicker to correct heart beat irregularities.

    On similar lines, the best way to make a nice neat cut is to use the number pad. Straight lines every time. Also when you are stitching back up, you can just hold down a direction and tap away at 5 to get them sewn up in no time.

    I’m giving the sequel a go which I’ve never played before but involves brain surgery instead. I’ve absolutely no idea what I’m doing and the patients are dropping like flies. I expect this is very much the same experience for anyone playing the original for the first time. Learning brain surgery by guesswork has to be one of the most morbid things I’ve done in gaming. It’s only being emphasized by a screenshot of doctors chatting about my mistakes while eating a pizza off the corpse.

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    in reply to: Boloball #2136

    I’ve had a few goes on this one. It’s playable but didn’t exactly grab my attention. If I had to choose between Boloball and Minesweeper/Solitaire then there wouldn’t be much in it. It’s a game in that mould really so might appeal to non-gamers more. The computer did pose some challenge at first but is highly beatable once you know the rules. It’s the sort of game I might have got on a magazine disk, played for 20 minutes till I beat it and then instantly forgot about it. Definitely not a title I’m going to be going back to.

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    in reply to: Ugh! #2135

    I’ve spent quite a bit of this week working through every level of Ugh! I don’t want to have to say these words but it was definitely better on Amiga if only for the sound. It runs nice and smooth on PC anyway and kept me playing for a good few hours. I was arguably enjoying catching up on podcasts at the same time more than playing the game itself but it’s an easy game to relax into. It doesn’t have enough variety to it really, you’ve pretty much seen it all once you’ve done the first few levels. Weather gets introduced eventually with strong winds making flying extra tricky but it’s only used a handful of times. I did like the diving aspect that was in quite a few of the levels and the snoozing dinosaur that blows you around. It needed to introduce some more elements like this to vary it up.

    I really dislike the menu and password system. It takes far too long to get back into the game every time you restart and the ambiguous font combined with misspelled passwords caught me out a few times. It even still plays the intro every single time so you always have to skip it. Minor niggles aside, it’s easily the third best game for me on the list after Lode Runner and Alleycat.

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    in reply to: Alley Cat: first thoughts #2126

    Alleycat is one of my favourite early DOS games and the only one of these 6 that I know really well already. I played this loads on my first PC. Good arcade games were kind of thin on the ground when you had an 8088 CGA machine. This just plays and controls perfectly, there is loads of variety with all the different levels and the difficulty ramps up at just the right rate. It was famous for years for being so well programmed that it would run at the right speed no matter what machine you ran it on right up to the end of the DOS era with PII’s. Don’t know which version people are playing but if you want a few more colours and sound channels, there is a PC Jr release. This is one of the handful of PC Jr games that won’t run on a Tandy 1000 but there is a patch to fix that too if needed.

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    in reply to: Lode Runner #2125

    I have no idea where monks and bomb fuses come into this but I haven’t read the backstory yet if there is one. I thought I’d take each game one at a time so I’ve spent a good while on Lode Runner this weekend. It seems really simplistic at first but the depth to each level trying to figure out some of the tricks you have to pull off to reach everything without getting trapped is surprising. I’ve spent a good number of hours on it and have only made it through the first 40 out of the 150 levels so far. Progress is getting quicker but there is an absolute ton of gameplay in that 40k of code.

    It’s not a game I can spend ages on at once, I’m getting a bit fed up after 5-10 levels but being able to pick up at any level you like it is great for short blasts. The enemy movement is a bit odd and you have to try to figure out it’s quirks to beat a lot of these levels. E.g. if you are on a ladder underneath an enemy they will keep climbing away from you for some reason. My only complaint is the controls can be hit and miss on the ladders so I don’t quite time it right and keep on running instead of climbing. It’s a really great game for the the early 80’s anyway. I could probably play this one on it’s own for most of the month but I’d better try some of the other games as well.

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    in reply to: Alone In The Dark 2 & 3 #2006

    I’m not much the wiser but I’ve finished Time Gate. It was essentially another Alone In The Dark with all the technology being the same except you can hold shift to run and there are now FMV cutscenes. It STILL had the bug on fast machines making it impossible to push things around. It beggars belief that this hadn’t been fixed on the engines 4th outing.

    As for the plot, I can’t honestly say I know what was going on even now I’ve finished it. Story telling was not exactly a strong point of the AITD series and seemed to get worse as they went on. In essence though, you play the descendant of the last of the Knights Templar who starts the game being attacked by some sort of dark knight who you quickly dispatch with an axe you happen to have embedded in the desk for just such an occasion. Your fiancée (who hasn’t been introduced) is apparently missing and you are told to go to the museum if you want to see her again. So you go there, get threatened by a villain called something like Wolfram and ultimately get pushed down a well, at which point you levitate out of it in a load of light and wake up as your descendant back in the 1300’s. Cue adventures in an ancient monastery trying to rescue said fiancée who it turns out is also in the 1300’s somehow. There are evil monks, demons and ghouls around trying to get in the way. You have to restore jewels on the tombs of some dead templars so their ghosts can give you useful objects. You get to transform into an ass-kicking, gold armor wearing eagle at one point. It’s odder than ever and makes precious little sense. The puzzles are no better but there are hints and you are told if you aren’t close enough or at the right angle which makes the trial and error a whole lot easier.

    I can see why the subsequent sequels never happened after this one I have to say. It’s really showing it’s age and the first Alone In The Dark was so much better years earlier. There is no atmosphere at all and the formula is getting old. There have been some minor changes to combat with the addition of blocking by holding control but in the end the combat is worse than before mainly because of the lack of range weapons in the 14th century. The whole interface has been made graphical but while it may look fancier it is way more clunky than the original. If you liked the Alone In The Dark games, then Time Gate fits the bill for more of the same but it needed more innovation and better design. I think on the whole, we can be glad that the engine got retired at this point.

    That’s enough Alone In The Dark for me for one month so I’ll stop here rather than moving on the The New Nightmare.

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    in reply to: Polygons of Terror #2003

    I think Fade To Black has a worse reputation than it deserves these days. It was one of the very first 3rd person titles in a 3D environment, a whole year before Tomb Raider. It was really ambitious given the technology available and very well received at the time. My main gripe with it was how often you would see those death FMV’s. It’s a good job they were short.

    It’s a common misconception but Flashback isn’t actually related to Another World. Another World did get a sequel on the Mega CD called Heart Of The Alien which is punishingly difficult and had no involvement from Eric Chahi.

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    in reply to: Alone In The Dark 2 & 3 #1992

    I’ve been playing loads of Alone In The Dark 3 all this week. It’s set in a ghost town in the desert where a Western was being filmed but all the crew have vanished. You basically have to go in there and save Emily Hartwood (from part 1) who is now a Hollywood actress apparently. I’ve been really enjoying this one. I’ve cheated like blazes using a walkthrough if I’m stuck for more than 10 minutes but the puzzles haven’t been quite as out there as part 2. The game tends to lock you in to smaller areas at a time so even if the puzzles are equally crazy, trial and error can usually get you through.

    Part 3 still has a lot of combat but the difficulty has been dialled down and there are even options as to how easy you want it to be. The same techniques of staying too close to be shot work here so the combat is as silly as ever. After two games I’m even getting used to the funny angles. The open/search command from part 1 has been brought back again. There is also a small section where the jump command appears from nowhere just like AITD1. The whole game is much closer in spirit to part 1 but still not exactly scary. It does make up for this with the size of the town which is way larger than even part 2. This was the first AITD to be designed exclusively for CD and it shows.

    I’m not exactly certain what is going on in the plot of this one. I’m never sure whether something has been lost in translation with these games but they aren’t exactly forthcoming with the storyline. It doesn’t matter a whole lot really, you just have to deal with a load of undead cowboy gangsters and get past locked doors. There is a really strange section where you die, get reincarnated by a native American as a cougar and have to kill werewolves by covering one paw with tar and silver nitrate. Survive this to bring back an eagle statue and you get to literally rise from your grave. It’s followed by a Prince Of Persia like puzzle where you have to drop your gun, and run into a cowboy mirror image of yourself to merge into one and then play the rest of the game in full cowboy attire. It’s all very odd really and probably best not to think about it too much.

    I’m loving it anyway. My nostalgia for this series is very strong so it may not hold up as well for others but it’s a better sequel than AITD2 if you ask me. It doesn’t matter so much playing it now but it must have looked a bit dated by 1994. The engine hasn’t been touched as far as I can see so it doesn’t look any better than AITD1. It even still has all the same bugs on faster PC’s.

    I’m going to give Time Gate – Knight’s Chase a go after this. It’s largely forgotten these days but it was supposed to be a whole new trilogy using the AITD engine. Said engine was looking even more dated by 1995 so it didn’t sell well. I’ve had it sat on a shelf since the early 2000’s so this is the excuse to play it at last.

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    in reply to: Some Tips #1981

    Another tip more along the technical support lines. The game is very sensitive to what speed it’s running at and this includes that double tap to run. To get it to work at all, I had to slow down my PII by using moslo. It’s still temperamental even then. I assume this is an issue in DOSBox as well.

    If you are trying to run the floppy version, it has similar problems with the adlib sound in that you either won’t hear any at all, or it will drop notes depending on just how much faster than expected your machine is. It worked for me once I slowed my machine down enough.

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    in reply to: RPGs #1879

    I saw your request for RPG suggestions on Twitter. There are so many! I don’t know where to start. From my point of view, I’d love to go for one of the classics I’ve never played. Betrayal At Krondor would fit the bill perfectly. Or failing that Might and Magic 1 or Wizardry 1 would be great. There is a tool available to add automapping and other bells and whistles to those last 2 which makes them way more accessible.

    I’d also quite like to play Superhero League of Hoboken or any of the gold box games. The same goes for Darklands. RPG’s are always such a time investment that there are loads of classics like this I’ve never got around to having a go at.

    Origin games are kind of my specialist subject and you wouldn’t go far wrong with an Ultima. They did a few more obscure RPG’s in the 80’s if that’s what you are after. 2400AD is a fun little game in the Ultima style except with a sci-fi instead of fantasy setting. The best non-Ultima RPG they did was AutoDuel which is a car combat RPG based on Steve Jackson’s Car Wars in a Mad Max setting. Autoduel is a bit of a classic for it’s time. I’d definitely recommend it if you don’t mind a 1985 game.

    The Legacy is an underlooked gem. It’s a Lovecraft inspired first person horror RPG. Would be a good one for an October.

    I could keep going but I’ll stop at that.

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    in reply to: First impressions #1867

    The 5 from Telltale only really add up to the one game but it’s clearly way too much gaming. I’m not going near another PC game for at least a week.

    I’m with you on Monkey Island 2 yet I remember absolutely loving it when I first played it. It was probably the first Lucasarts adventure I played so I’m wondering if that coloured my opinion. A couple of the puzzle solutions are so stupid that the answers are jokes in their own right. The only way through those is trial and error really. This sort of design is really unusual in a Lucasarts game and I can’t think of any other examples outside of MI2.

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    in reply to: First impressions #1865

    I’ve made it through the rest of the Monkey Island games so I may as well give some opinions on them. Escape From Monkey Island used the Grim Fandango engine which meant 3D characters and Alone In The Dark style tank controls. This interface is fairly horrible with Guybrush bouncing around all over the place when you try to walk down narrow paths. It was a massive step back and clearly designed with consoles in mind at the expense of PC gamers. As for the game, there were sections I liked but a lot of the jokes were painfully unfunny. I really didn’t enjoy the whole tourist resort theme – it just didn’t feel like a Monkey Island game any more. The game as a whole was maybe slightly above average but a huge step down from previous entries. It’s arguably the worst adventure game Lucasarts ever did, the only competition being Labyrinth and I have far more sympathy for a game that had to run on a C64. MI4 was the game that killed off adventure games at Lucasarts and we should probably be glad Sam and Max 2 and Full Throttle 2 never happened on the whole.

    I really enjoyed Tales of Monkey Island on the other hand. It had the most plot of any of the Monkey Island games, some great puzzle design and a lot of fun new characters. I’d go as far as to say that out of the 5 games, this was the one I had the best time with. A large part of that was not knowing it inside out already of course. I just wish Telltale were still doing these sorts of games. They were my favourite developers for a while in the noughties but I got bored with their modern day interactive movies years back.

    I have to say I find it hard to believe just how little I remembered about these last two games given that I’d played them both before. This may as well have been the first time so that’s one advantage of a dodgy memory.

    I had a very quick look at the Secret Of Monkey Island remake. I don’t know what anyone else thinks but I absolutely hate the new character designs. The originals almost had an oil painting look about them in closeups, I don’t know what Lucasarts were thinking about with these angular cartoon versions. The backgrounds look nice enough at least. I wasn’t entirely convinced about the voice acting either, I think it always works best in games where it was designed that way from the start. It seemed quite stilted and unnatural to me but I didn’t play very far. Maybe as a new player the remake is an improvement but I couldn’t see it myself.

    That was way too many games in a short space of time anyway. The constant rain recently was a large factor but if I ever try something like this again, I’m pacing myself a bit better.

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    in reply to: First impressions #1838

    I’ve played way too much Monkey Island to be able to offer a first impression any more. I’m amazed how well it still holds together though. The humour is still fresh, the puzzle design spot on, the graphics have aged well and the music is as catchy as ever. It’s a game where everything seems to have gone right. About the only criticism I have was the amount of silence there was in the soundtrack which surprised me a bit going back. The version I was playing didn’t even have most of the sound effects if you were playing with MT-32 music.

    I’ve moved onto the sequels and while it’s still a classic, I enjoyed Monkey Island 2 less than I expected. Guybrush was a less sympathetic character and there seemed to be a good deal less humour with more high adventure in its place. The production values were certainly better with a full iMuse soundtrack and more animation. It could just be a case of playing it to death years back having spoiled it for me these days but I think it lost a little of the charm. Some sections were quite dark really so maybe it was going for the moody second entry in the series like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. God knows there were enough references to both of those elsewhere. Some of the puzzle design was definitely worse than anything in #1 (e.g. the infamous monkey wrench).

    I might even prefer Curse Of Monkey Island which isn’t something I expected to say. The humour fell flat on a few occasions but it had enough memorable sections to make up for it and the graphical and audio overhaul were fantastic for the time. I particularly loved the sea shanty bit and the banjo dueling.

    Playing all these games back to back, it’s noticeable how inconsistent they are with the characters and world. Personalities change every time and each sequel appears further removed from the original. Monkey Island was vaguely true to the historical period of the game but by Monkey Island 3 we’ve got beach clubs with cabana boys, amusement parks of death with roller coasters, radar guided cannons, etc.. It isn’t just the graphics that got more cartoony as the series progressed.

    I’m on to Escape From Monkey Island now which is going to take far longer as unlike the first three I don’t already know how to solve all the puzzles. I did play it back in the day but only once and I’ve forgotten it all. I’m hoping I like it more now than I did then but I’m not hopeful.

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    in reply to: Polygons of Terror #1808

    Yes, I played Ecstatica at the time but haven’t been back since. I think it was basically the work of one person who had spent years on it. Those sorts of games tend to end up being a little odd and this was no exception. I can’t say I remember much now other than a werewolf wandering around that made life a misery. I don’t think I got too far without a walkthrough. It did have a really unusual elipsoid based engine where everything looked a bit like balloon animals. There was even elipsoid nudity which got it a bit of press back then.

    I’m way more familiar with Alone In The Dark. We seem to be on a roll of some of my favourite games from back then at the moment. Definitely looking forward to going back to this series again.

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    in reply to: Alley Cat #1760

    I used to play this one loads on my “trusty” Sinclair PC 200. It’s a bit of a classic, another one of those games that seemed to come with DOS as it was on every PC at the time. Definitely wouldn’t mind revisiting it.

    I’d like the idea of doing a month with a few smaller CGA games such as this. Another two I used to play loads were Flightmare and Sopwith which were great fun at the time if a little difficult to control. I’d be really curious to see what people make of Flightmare, it has you controlling from above and side on simultaneously which takes some getting used to.

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    in reply to: UK Magazine Scans #1747

    It should say on the scans but the top one is PC Format Issue 50, the bottom is PC Gamer #24.

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    in reply to: Magazine Scans #1683

    That’s great and strangely accurate. I suppose it takes one really successful game spawning a load of copies to create a genre and it didn’t happen until Dune 2 came along.

    One of the first games I ever played on PC was The Ancient Art Of War which I’d consider an RTS and that came out in 1985. You couldn’t build anything in that one though so were stuck with your starting units. It would be a fun series to cover one month (not that there is any shortage)

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    in reply to: Magazine Scans #1669

    They are from my collection. I rescued a box of my old magazines from my parents a few years back but most of them are from a small van full I got cheap off a guy on Ebay. For some reason UK PC magazines seem to be neglected by most of the scanning sites. The consoles get well represented but there doesn’t appear to be much love for PC gaming. I’ve been working on scanning in PC Zone for some years myself to plug this gap a bit. There’s an archive of everything so far at http://www.pixsoriginadventures.co.uk/PCZone. I’m adding one a week with a view to finishing off the early issues which I’m not missing before the end of the year.

    Bit of a long shot but if you happen to have any of the issues I’ve not got at your parents and wanted to help out it would be much appreciated.

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    in reply to: First impressions #1656

    I finished off the orc campaign last night. There were two more missions as it happens which were certainly bigger and more challenging with air based units being sent at my bases and the introduction of dragons on my side. The levels definitely did get better as they went on but there was also more setup and destruction required so they took forever.

    If there is a bug with the AI not building units, I ran into it every single time. It would still build workers and oil tankers but rarely anything agressive. It would never rebuild buildings other than town halls and oil wells. It seemed like once I started attacking (usually clearing out the sea first), it stopped sending anything new at me but I don’t really know where the units came from before this since I couldn’t see the map.

    I’m not going to go and play the human campaign now as I’ve kind of had enough already. I do have the expansion pack so I could carry on the orc campaign which would be more tempting but for now at least I’m just going to stop here.

    I’m really struggling to see the big appeal with Warcraft 2 and feel like I must be missing something. Strategy games aren’t exactly my thing which may be a large factor – X-Com is torture as far as I’m concerned. I’ve played a good few RTS games over the years though from Ancient Art Of War, through Dune 1&2, the C&C series, Total Annihilation, etc and I honestly prefer all of them. I’ll have a dig through my old magazines next instead and see how many reviews I can turn up.

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    in reply to: First impressions #1652

    I finished the single player campaigns back when I was a student but haven’t been near this since. At the time, I remember being underwhelmed compared to Command & Conquer but I was expecting I’d appreciate it more going back. It’s not terrible but if anything I’m liking it less now than I did then.

    The interface is really quite labour intensive and requires lots of micromanagement with units getting stuck, not using abilities automatically, not being able to stack builds, etc.. The opponent A.I. is frankly terrible. As far as I can see, the CPU never actually puts up new buildings once they are destroyed. This means for instance that in the later levels you can just go around clearing out the oceans and your base on another island has impunity from attack from there on out.

    The Command and Conquer CPU enemies cheated like blazes rebuilding anywhere they liked but they offered more of a challenge than this. The whole level setup basically acknowledge how useless the AI is with a huge base with loads of units built in advance. If the CPU didn’t keep sending one or two units at a time and just attacked flat out at the start every level would be completely impossible.

    This sort of gameplay can still be fun but it doesn’t do any favours to the pacing of the game. The start of a level offers some challenge in establishing a base and surviving the early attacks. Having got through these stages though, the levels drag on for ages when you are clearly in a winning position. In fact, I reckon that’s where I’ve probably spent most of my time, with the speed set to maximum trying to clear up units and buildings all over the map. There isn’t any strategy involved to this and it’s just a matter of patience.

    I’m up to what I think is the last mission in the orc campaign now and it barely feels like the game has got going. The campaign has felt almost like a tutorial in all honesty. I’ve never tried it but I can only assume Warcraft 2 comes into it’s own as a multi-player game. It is no doubt a very different experience against a real opponent but I’m really not struck with it as a single player game so far.

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    in reply to: Prince Of Persia 2 #1616

    This definitely doesn’t match my experience. When fighting heads, if I was in the correct spot and got pushed back. I wouldn’t be able to strike them as a rule. I could get pushed back several times in a row and they would still stop outside my range.

    The same goes for the jumps. It wasn’t just about timing with some jumps as they were literally impossible without changing my starting point. It was as though the game was trying to hold back my jump until the tile edge but screwing it up so I would run off the end first.

    Maybe POP2 is susceptible to what hardware you are using? There’s plenty of DOS games with timing bugs on faster machines. I’m glad to say I’m not running into this sort of thing on Prince Of Persia 3D.

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    in reply to: Prince Of Persia 2 #1606

    I also got the impression that it was intentionally harder, presumably after some criticism about the first game being too easy. I’ve never actually saved my game in Prince Of Persia 1 as I didn’t even realise it was an option when playing a pirated version back in the day. Assuming it works the same as in POP2, you would be able to complete the game pretty quickly using saves I would imagine. In POP2, I made constant use of saving/loading.

    Other than the heads/snakes, I don’t reckon the combat is necessarily much harder but there is way, way more of it. There are sections where you must have to get through a dozen guards at a time. The snakes seem to have the same problem as the heads where you need to be in the right position to be able to strike them. Combined with the jumping it smacks of a minor bug to me where the player can get out of alignment with the tile positions. The game is hard enough without having to deal with this sort of stuff. So much of beating POP2 seemed to come down to learning by rote exactly where to stand for each fight or start each jump and I was having to use trial and error to figure it all out. It’s akin to playing the likes of Dragon’s Lair.

    I was also getting a good number of crashes on my PII which rubbed it in when they happened after one of the mid-level checkpoints that I’d struggled to get to for ages. Maybe I should have tried slowing my PC down a bit in hindsight.

    For all of this it’s still a good game with some memorable moments but I’d question whether it was actually an enjoyable experience. The main emotion I had on beating it was relief. The difficulty did work for it on a few occasions. There was a lot of satisfaction to cleaving through a load of goblin heads after getting a full length sword again.

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    in reply to: Memories of the game #1586

    I’d guess I’ve had this one for 15-20 years now. It wasn’t all that easy to get hold of even back then or I wouldn’t have ended up with the Mac version. If there are any on Ebay, I can imagine trying to find them among all the sequels being a nightmare.

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    in reply to: Tips for new players #1584

    You should have time to run clear if you start immediately after tapping the ceiling (as long as you run in the direction you are facing). You can sometimes knock out the ceiling on the adjacent tile if you are near enough the edge. This seems to work when you have just climbed up a ledge and then turn around and jump.

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    in reply to: Memories of the game #1583

    It’s also a favourite of mine back from when I was first getting into DOS gaming. My Dad worked at a university and would occasionally take me along and leave me in one of the computer labs to play games on all the state of the art PC’s that were about 10 times faster than the one I had at home. I remember one of the techies showing me this for the first time and my jaw hitting the floor. It still looks decent but you really have to have been there at the time to know how mind blowing the animation was. Safe to say I took a pirated copy home with me so I also didn’t pay for it at the time. Surprisingly, it ran just as well on a lower spec PC + the digitized samples with a Soundblaster were as amazing as the graphics.

    Prince Of Persia actually has the gameplay to back it all up. I really like the one hour time mechanic in this with the unlimited lives. It can be harsh sending you back a good way every time you slip up but the controls are precise and you will get further every time you play the game. There is enough risk to make some of the jumps extremely tense even when you do know the game. It’s as much a puzzle game as a platformer with a good few leaps of faith required to actually get to the end.

    Once you do know what to do, it’s not all that hard. I was no speed runner but used to be able to finish with well over half the time to spare. I ran out of time on the penultimate level last night but won easily enough at the second attempt with 22 minutes left having jogged my memory about some of the levels. Rather than try to beat that, I’m going to take on the sequel instead. I don’t know it anywhere near as well but remember it being the single most difficult and frustrating game I’ve ever actually finished. I’d like to think that I won’t find it as tricky this time around but I’m probably kidding myself.

    I did buy these games eventually. Here’s a few photos of the box which is one of the more unusual ones out there. This is actually the Mac version but it’s near enough the same as DOS.



    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #1514

    I played through Tyrian about a year back. With it being open source, I actually played this on an OpenPandora where it’s had a full port and runs perfectly. I’m assuming it plays the same as the original DOS version.

    It’s long enough ago for the details to be fuzzy so I can’t give a detailed review or anything. General impressions were that it’s a fun and graphically varied shooter. One of the best on the PC at the time it came out but there wasn’t a huge amount of competition. I definitely liked the fact that you have a shield and don’t die in one hit like so many other shooters. The number of weapons available is impressive and the number of different enemies, levels and secrets crammed into the game.

    The messages that you can pick up and the storyline are mildly amusing but throwaway. Plot isn’t exactly a neccessity in a shooter so it’s a bonus that it’s there at all really. It does feel a bit cheap that it’s all done through text and some tiny portraits. This isn’t exactly Wing Commander IV in terms of cutscenes.

    Where the game mainly falls down for me is that it just seemed to be lacking a creative spark and I wasn’t won over by the level design. It’s highly generic in many ways. I’ve only played a handful of shmups in recent years so I’ve tended to seek out the big name stuff like Radiant Silvergun or Tatsujin Oh. This doesn’t have the wow factor of either of those two for me and it’s amazing how little I can remember about it now in all honesty. It clearly didn’t make much lasting impression on me.

    It’s a lot fairer to the player on the other hand than those other shmups. Being able to tackle one level at a time is much less repetitive. The recharging shield is way more forgiving and gives the whole thing quite a different vibe. I suppose Tyrian wants the player to have less frustration and more fun than your typical shmup which may explain the strange humour throughout. It didn’t entirely work for me and I certainly liked Tyrian but didn’t love it. I’d place it a bit higher than Death Rally from last month but still relatively middling, maybe a 65-70% rating.

    I just about recall playing this from a demo CD when it first came out. The graphics did impress but it wasn’t even close to persuading me to buy the full version. This was roughly my usual experience with the shareware model at the time. If every £4 magazine had enough demos in to keep you busy for most of the month, why bother buying anything? And if you did buy a game, why make it one where you’ve already played 1/3 of it for free? Even ignoring those hurdles, there were usually much bigger and grander games available for similar money and I went for those instead. I imagine this wasn’t just me as there is a reason why boxed shareware games are often so rare and expensive these days. The easy piracy didn’t help either of course.

    Pix
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    in reply to: UK Magazine Scans #1513

    The UK mags would tend to review near enough everything that had a full release even if it only got a few lines at the back of the magazine. I reckon shareware was still seen as second class and more something to fill up those demo CD’s with. It’s probably a hangup from before it got professional with the likes of Id and Epic. They would sometimes have a separate shareware section but it would be brief considering just how much was being churned out.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Multiplayer #1457

    Count me in as well. I’m busy tonight and Saturday but would probably be good for any other evening.

    It apparently does 4 player over IPX. Really curious to see how this plays in multiplayer. I’m anticipating carnage at the start of the race.

    Pix
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    in reply to: UK Magazine Reviews #1456

    Carmageddon came out in February as well which would have been only a month or two after this review. UK magazines weren’t always the best place for a balanced opinion in the 90’s if you ask me. I guess I can see where the reviewer was coming from but it was only a budget game after all.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #1442

    I’ve never tried it but I guess it should be possible to play this multiplayer via DOSBox IPX. Wouldn’t mind giving it a go if anyone is up for it.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #1402

    I wouldn’t say expert but I’ve certainly spent way too long playing dos games over the years. You can add at least another hour from the night before so maybe 4-5 hours total. It’s not that hard a game as there isn’t much new to learn once you get going.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #1397

    My initial thoughts on Death Rally are going to also be my last thoughts as I ended up finishing it in a marathon 3 hour session last night. I certainly hadn’t intended to play for that long so it’s definitely got an addictive quality.

    The game is a sort of RPG/racing hybrid if you ask me. It’s more important to always be making money than actually winning races so it’s very much about grinding away for cash to get the best car. What car you are driving and a high degree of luck has way more impact on whether you win a race than driving skill. The opening sections were quite tough though as it’s tricky to compete with the basic car at the start of the game and you are still learning the ropes.

    I didn’t especially like the actual racing mechanics. The cars handling isn’t all that satisfying as racing line, conservation of speed and the like don’t seem to play any part whatsoever. The cars don’t really drift either which would have added a bit more skill to things. The racing comes to little more than not touching the sides and using your turbo at the right times. I never used my brakes once in the entire game. As far as the combat aspect, the cars get more and more expensive to repair and the only way to play the game is to hang back at the start while everyone blasts through all their ammo in the first half a lap. This just feels a little broken. Also, I found I never bought anything from the underground garage as it wasn’t worth spending the cash when you were always trying to save up for the next car.

    The hardest part of the game is transitioning from the medium to the hard races. I hadn’t really noticed up until this point that there is a scramble for which driver goes into which race. This is where the dumb luck comes in. I found I could earn good cash in the hard races but if I ended up against the best drivers in much quicker cars on a fast track, they would lap me every time and I’d get nothing. Basically, it comes down to saving your game, entering the hard race and if you get the wrong drivers or track, load up your game and try again. You simply can’t compete until you get a good enough car.

    I didn’t realise it until it happened but apparently the aim of the game is to get to the top of the leaderboard at which point you face “The Adversary” in a one off 9 lap race. This guy is in a quicker car than you are so winning this race is not easy. I tried about 5 times until he ended up stuck on a wall and I just about held the lead until the end at which point you win the game.

    Graphics were nice enough for the era but nothing too special. The same goes for the music. My general thoughts on Death Rally are that it’s fairly average and a little bland. I know other people love it but I’m just not seeing it. I’d much rather have been playing Micro Machines if I wanted this sort of racing game or if you want a car combat RPG, something like Autoduel has way more going for it. I should say this isn’t the sort of game I would usually play so I’m not really the target audience. It was still a whole lot better than Nitemare 3D.

    Pix
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    in reply to: Final Thoughts #1328

    I got off to a running start which certainly helped. I’d already put about 5 hours in on the 1st of the month which was nearly enough to max out my ship and crew. Since the game after that mainly relies on knowledge, it’s fairly easy to speed things along with judicious use of saved games.

    I don’t reckon Starflight is particularly tough in all honesty especially for the era. Compared to Wizardry or Might and Magic, I’d go as far as to call it forgiving. There seem to be several ways to find some of the clues and farming minerals/endurium was never difficult even when close to Arth. The aliens gave enough hints to get me to the end of the game, I don’t recall ever having to entirely chance upon anything. The hardest part of the game by far was at the start where I was still trying to figure out how everything worked.

    Pooling resources might not be a bad idea. I could certainly offer hints but I’m trying not to give anything away. If you know where you are going, I expect it could be completed in about 15-30 minutes once you have the ship upgraded. I’d hate to be the only one to see the ending at any rate.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #1312

    The version I’m playing came on 2 5.25’s but I have obviously installed it to hard disk. I guess if you are saving the data along with the planets themselves, it still works when split across a couple of disks.

    There is a whole lot of game for so little data. I’ve started following the plot now. I won’t give too much away here but the clue that vede mentioned does point you toward somewhere else to go via a message in a ruin. I didn’t get all that far into that particular quest but ran into others when talking to some aliens who intercepted me along the way. The conversation system isn’t massively complicated but the aliens are really chatty once you get them started. There is way, way more text than I expected. A lot of it appears to just be for atmosphere/background but there are loads of clues to places to explore in there as well. This part of the game seems to be like one big treasure hunt.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #1267

    I’ve just spent a big chunk of my bank holiday Monday playing Starflight. Far longer than intended in fact so it clearly has that addictive quality.

    You definitely need to read the manual on this one. There is no indication as to what you are supposed to be doing in the game itself. Actually, I’ve been playing for hours and I’m still not sure myself. The only real brief is to boldly explore the galaxy. I figured I should treat it like an RPG and start out sticking close to home to earn money and beef up my ship and crew. I’ve spent my time mining minerals on planets and doing a tiny bit of exploring. I’ve yet to meet any alien life forms friendly or hostile.

    What I’ve seen so far doesn’t really resemble an RPG as there has been hardly any combat. It’s seems to be more about exploring all the planets and driving the little vehicle around trying to find minerals or alien ruins. There is certainly no shortage of planets to be going at and the universe makes Elite look small. I’ve raked in a decent amount of cash through mining. I think I’ll save a bit more up for some lasers then head out further afield.

    Considering how repetitive it is, I should be getting bored with the gameplay. I’m not sure why but I’m finding the mineral mining and learning how the game works strangely compelling. I am catching up on podcasts at the same time but I’m really liking this so far. I could see myself losing a whole lot of free time to Starflight this April.

    Some advice for anyone playing this. The save game system is seriously old school. The game doesn’t have any data files but essentially has an executable for each of the 5.25 floppies it came on. As you play, these executables are updated with the current state of the universe. The one and only savegame you get is apparently also stored in these executables and needs to agree with the universe state. The result of all this is that if you die in the game or want to load a savegame having cocked up, you can’t since the two states will vary. The hd installation from the two floppies actually creates two directories and you are supposed to manually copy the entire game into the save directory every time you save, then copy it back again if you want to load your game.

    If that sounds bad enough, anyone playing this on a floppy disk originally would presumably have to copy their disks every single time they saved their game. At least it’s nice and quick on a hard disk.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #973

    I’ve played my way through the rest of the 87 levels over the last few days. It got a whole lot tougher so the second half took way longer than the first. It’s not a long game but was probably about right to not outstay it’s welcome. There was nothing new really, just more of the same so there isn’t much to add to what everyone has already said.

    I wouldn’t say there was much consistency with the difficulty. Some of the later levels can be done in no time with others taking me ages to figure out. No matter how tough it got, I always found it less frustrating than Lemmings which would maybe have been the main competition at the time. It’s the fact you can quickly change things and try things out with no real penalties.

    I liked the game a lot. Not enough to put it in the classic category but close. There is a slight lack of variety and the puzzles can be hit and miss. I expect the sequels improved on both of these aspects so I’ll certainly be giving them a go at some point.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #907

    I have played TIM a few years back so not sure if this counts as first impressions. At any rate, I had about an hour on it last night and it still a fresh experience going back. It seems like there is a single solution in mind with every puzzle which could be problematic if you don’t grasp the intention of the designer. It picks up in the later levels where things can get a bit more chaotic and I’m sure some of my solutions weren’t entirely the ones intended.

    I actually like the pixel perfect nature of some of the puzzles. None of the solutions take more than a few seconds to run and making little adjustments and setting the machine off again to see what difference it makes can be more entertaining than building them in the first place. I’m sure my PII is running the game faster than intended having said that. If I was at the original speed, I might not feel the same.

    I quite like the music as well. It’s kind of upbeat and quirky and reminds me of the Willy Beamish soundtrack a lot of the time. Can’t say I’ve checked if it’s the same composer.

    The interface could use a little refinement. I don’t like having to flick through the lists of components so much when there are loads for a given puzzle. It’s crying out for a scroll bar with mouse wheel support. Assuming it doesn’t actually remember where I’m up to when I restart the game, I could seriously live without the long level code to type in to pick up my progress. Other than that, this is holding up really well for such an old game.

    I’ve got the opposite concern that there possibly aren’t enough levels. The box says there are “over 75 levels” which means 80 if I recall correctly. I got through 41 last night so at that rate I might finish it with another go. I can’t say I remember the individual puzzles but maybe the solutions are buried in there somewhere and speeding up progress. I’m curious to know how other people are getting on. The expansion pack added another 80 levels but I don’t actually own that one.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #725

    I’ve spent a lazy Saturday morning playing a whole lot more and it’s definitely grown on me. It’s either getting easier or I’m getting the hang of the controls and stange combat style you have to adopt (probably the latter). The better weapons definitely help and some of the levels have had much reduced enemy counts with more focus on exploring.

    I had noticed the little pixel on the eyeball for spotting secrets although I’m just going around hugging walls and clicking all the time as it’s quicker. That pixel doesn’t light up for the walls you have to shoot either but I eventually noticed that these always have a slightly different texture. Once you know to look for these it’s obvious but it took me long enough to spot it.

    The later levels have started introducing boxes and gravestones which can be pushed around. There have been some sneaky puzzles involving walls you have to shoot at distance from one side to clear a path so you can then push a gravestone from the other. There is certainly more brainpower required than Wolfenstein 3D anyway. You can quite easily make some of the levels unwinnable so I recommend keeping a spare save file for the start of each level just in case.

    Now I’ve got into it, I reckon I may actually be enjoying this more than if I were to go back to Wolfenstein. It seems to me like you need to adopt a slightly different mindset to play one of these oldschool FPS titles. I’m probably getting too used to being guided around on rails.

    I’m halfway through episode 2 now. This has ramped up the difficulty with far more enemies in one area at a time. There are lots of human enemies in this second part who are barely damaged at all by the wand at the middle difficulty so I’m having to make sure I have the right weapon all the time. If I hadn’t played episode 1 first I probably wouldn’t be able to get anywhere in this but I’m making steady progress.

    The only place I could find to buy the full game was direct from the author at http://www.dgray.com/n3dpage.htm. It’s slightly steep considering the age of the game at $12 which gets you Windows and Dos versions. The Windows version won’t actually run on Windows 10 but the installer does work and dumps the DOS versions in the installation folder.

    Pix
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    in reply to: First impressions #717

    I’m also playing this for the first time not having run across it before now. I don’t think we should be that unkind about the graphics/engine. This only came out in April 94, a few months after Doom. There were still Wolfenstein-like commercial games coming out around then like Corridor 7 and this doesn’t look all that much worse to me. I can’t say I bought any of them at the time mind you when I had Doom to play instead.

    I definitely agree on this being hard. I’ve gone for the middle difficulty level and those women in white who float around the place can take half my health in a single hit. The enemies appear to be able to shoot through walls at times which isn’t helping. The only way to get through plenty of sections is knowing where the enemies are in advance requiring constant saving. I notice that the damage done/received drops massively depending how far you are away so a tactic that sort of works without using too much ammo is kamikaze runs straight at enemies since they can’t shoot back while you are hitting them. I can’t say I’m too struck with the combat. There is none of the satisfaction that comes with a decent shooter.

    A big part of that is the controls are somewhat infuriating. I’m playing this on real hardware so keyboard mapping is out. Just playing with keyboard is ok but the turns are too inaccurate for me to hit often enough. This means using the mouse which conveniently has the right mouse button for strafe/open door. This should be fine except it only switches on strafe when you move the mouse side to side, not pressing left/right on the keyboard. Maybe if I play this for long enough I’ll get used to it but right now I’m getting by without any strafing. Even if I could strafe all the enemy attacks appear to be instantaneous so I couldn’t dodge them either way.

    The instructions talk about this game having puzzles. The only puzzles I’m finding are the usual find the keys and the ridiculous number of secret doors/walls. I wandered around forever before I found a section of wall I was supposed to shoot on level 3. The levels are huge to have to find these sorts of secrets to progress.

    I can’t say this game is entirely awful but it’s really not winning me over so far. I’ve only done the 3 levels though and will stick with it.

    Pix
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    in reply to: [DONE!] Horror Game in October #670

    There are loads of great suggestions here. Not enough people have played Realms Of The Haunting so that would be my personal choice from everything mentioned so far. It’s one of the handful of decent FMV games and more than a little weird but in a good way.

    If you want something obscure, The Legacy was an atmospheric Lovecraft inspired first person dungeon crawler and the last game ever put out by Magnetic Scrolls. I really enjoyed it but it seems to be forgotten these days.

    Veil of Darkness was a decent SSI RPG featuring vampires that I vaguely recall playing many years back.

    Finally, the Call of Cthulu series (Shadow of the Comet + Prisoner of Ice) is well worth a look as far as point and clicks go.

    Pix
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    in reply to: My thoughts on Quest For Glory #652

    Thanks for the welcome. I don’t know about having a lot of QFG experience. I certainly played QFG2 loads when it first came out and went back and finished the first a couple of years later. Having reached #4, I’d really like to see the series through at long last. I’ve had all 5 of them sat in a bookcase for a shameful number of years waiting to be played.

    As far as being on the podcast goes, I’ve nothing against the idea in principle although I doubt I’d be the most natural of podcasters. As long as I can make the time, I’d be up for giving it a go.

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