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Star Wars Pit Droids! Puzzle category

Title screen from Star Wars Pit Droids!

Hear me out on this one.

Star Wars Pit Droids! is a kids game based on the comic relief characters from the podracing segments of The Phantom Menace. If this game was produced by serial arsonists, it could not have any less going for it. You’d be excused for passing it over.

Against all odds, buried beneath a bleak exterior, some designers at Lucas Learning put together a decent Lemmings clone. Star Wars Pit Droids! » Read more

Roller Coaster Factory Simulation category

Cover art for Roller Coaster Factory

When I was a kid, I had this deep obsession with wanting to get a roller coaster video game. The object of my affection was Ultimate Ride, which looked incredible and extensive for its time. The demo took a full day to download on my dial-up connection, but in spite of my fervency, my old desktop computer didn’t meet the system requirements.

Flash-forward a few months to a trip to Office Max with my family. While rifling through the bargain bins, I found a copy of ValuSoft’s Roller Coaster Factory, which looked pretty awesome from the jewel case. It would have to do.

Roller Coaster Factory is awful. It’s inattentive and undercooked, even for a lowly budgeted game. (This time, it’s personal.)

Roller Coaster Factory » Read more

MissionForce: CyberStorm Strategy category

Title screen from MissionForce: CyberStorm

Many of the underdiscussed games featured on this blog tend to be a little rough and weird. Even perennial favorites like The Journeyman Project are a bit raw. Oddness makes an easy target for criticism or disinterest. That can partially explain their neglect on release.

I say this to underscore how seriously I believe that MissionForce: CyberStorm is one of the greatest turn-based strategy games ever released, an absolute milestone for the genre that earns a place alongside oft-cited classics like X-COM. Few games play with genre conventions to such creative effect. Fewer still use them underlie the dehumanization of technology and war. MissionForce: CyberStorm » Read more

Don’t Go Alone Horror categoryRPG category

Title screen from Don't Go Alone

Haunted houses never get a fair rap. They might be cheesy and schlocky, but you’re getting what you pay for. Sometimes you just want cheap scares and creepy decorations.

So thank goodness that Don’t Go Alone doesn’t put up any pretensions. It takes place in a haunted house, and you fight ghosts. Doors burst open and scary things crawl out. There’s a fairly fun RPG here, even without the corny spookiness, and it does justice to the roadside attractions and B-movies that inspired it. Don’t Go Alone » Read more

Frogger 3D: He’s Back! Arcade categoryPlayStation category

Title screen from Frogger 3D: He's Back!

The 90s reboot of Frogger kicks ass. I swear to god. This game is great. As great as Frogger can be, anyway. It’s like someone took the original and injected it with shark hormones.

Hyperbole aside, the Frogger remake (occasionally subtitled Frogger 3D or Frogger: He’s Back!) is easily the best in the series. It expands upon the original in clever, interesting ways without betraying its roots or stretching the formula to absurd lengths. Frogger 3D: He’s Back! » Read more

Back to basics Blog category

You might’ve noticed the lack of activity in the past half-year. I do this in my spare time, and there hasn’t been as much of that lately.

But the real issue is the videos. Putting up videos for each game takes an exceptional amount of time. It’s hard enough to get a good video that captures a game in 10 minutes or so, but when it involves editing or recording something outside of DOS, that can be an arduous task. It’s terrifically satisfying to see the nostalgic reactions from YouTube, but I enjoy writing about classic games much more than I do putting the videos up.

I’ve been sitting on several articles because they were missing videos, and I don’t want to keep putting that off anymore. The blog comes first now. I’ll still put up videos when I can, especially for Music Highlights (which I really enjoy doing!).

Like a terrible undergrad student, I will now cram and turn in all my essays by the end of the year. Expect a deluge of content shortly!

QuickTime turns 20 years old Blog categoryEssay category

December 2nd marks the anniversary of QuickTime, originally released by Apple in 1991. It might not’ve been the first video codec, but it was one of the most popular and widely distributed. Back when such add-ons were popular (and before it became bloatware), QuickTime powered every adventure game and multimedia presentation under the sun. And to an extent, that’s why a lot of them don’t work on modern computers anymore. As a telling example, the first program to use and to include QuickTime was the 1991 CD-ROM From Alice to Ocean, an interactive photojournal from writer Robyn Davidson’s travels across Australia.

In an age of open content standards, QuickTime lingers, an anachronism in the same pool as RealPlayer. But let’s take a moment to appreciate all the great things QuickTime enabled 20 years ago. If you ever played a CD-ROM game or application with video, good money says that it used QuickTime.

Thanks to The Register for the info!

Dinosaur Predators Educational categoryStrategy category

Title screen from Dinosaur Predators

If you were a child who didn’t like dinosaurs, please raise your hand. Then, stop lying. Every kid who ever existed loved dinosaurs.

The folks at Alive Software probably had a keen sense of this when they made Dinosaur Predators, the second installment in their educational strategy game series. A turn-based strategy game driven by encyclopedic data is a tough sell. But the same game with dinosaurs? Sign me up! Dinosaur Predators » Read more

Happy 18th, Myst! Blog categoryEssay category

Box art from Myst

Congratulations, Myst, go buy some lottery tickets!

Given that it has become something of a punchline for boring and uneventful games, it can be difficult to acknowledge the impact Myst had on gaming. Myst wasn’t the first CD-ROM game, nor the first point-and-click adventure game (even from that year – Return to Zork and The Journeyman Project beat it to the punch). It was the most accomplished, though, and the most technically stable given all the music and video flying around, and it hit at exactly the right moment.

Rolling Stone declared Myst to be “a breakthrough” and “as close to virtual reality as we’ve come.” The Village Voice went as far as calling it “one of those works that irrevocably changes the parameters of an artform, multimedia’s equivalent of Don Quixote or Sgt. Pepper’s.”

Myst got people thinking in terms of places instead of stages. There’s a popular refrain that Myst led the adventure game genre astray, kicking off a deluge of abstract, unengaging puzzle box games that removed characters from a format dependent on interaction and dialogue. But Myst also proved the merits of open-ended, environmental storytelling interlocked. It was okay to make an experience, even if people considered it more of a slide show than a game.

Best of all, you could play it in your home computer. Myst sold millions and drove interest in the CD-ROM format to a degree no other game had accomplished.

Myst gently but unquestionable curved the direction of future video games. It may not be a perfect adventure game, but from the perspective of this blog, it may be the most important.

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