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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 />
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.