Posts Tagged ‘Retro’

Eurogamer Retrospective: Toonstruck

By John Walker on April 19th, 2010.

Wouldn't work in 3D now, would it?

Eurogamer currently sports my retrospective of Toonstruck, the 1996 point and click adventure starring Christopher Lloyd and some cartoons. I went back to it having forgotten if I even liked it 14 years ago, and was absolutely delighted to discover that it’s fantastic. I say things like:

“In looking back at some of the best (and worst) adventure games of the eighties and nineties, it’s too easy to remain within the archives of LucasArts and Sierra. Perhaps Westwood’s Bladerunner gets quickly remembered, Cecil’s Broken Sword games, and someone will recall Adventure Soft’s Simon The Sorcerer games. But what about The Legend of Kyrania series, also from Westwood? Access’s Tex Murphy games? Microids’ Syberia? And what about Burst Studio’s Toonstruck? Why isn’t everyone talking about it? It’s absolutely bloody brilliant..”

And it continues here. Also, I can’t resist doing a gallery for this one either, so that’s coming up.

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Why X-COM Matters (To You)

By Alec Meer on April 14th, 2010.

Funny thing. Whenever I try to write about X-COM, as in X-COM the game, not X-COM the place in my heart, I stall. It’s too big. I need to do it at the right time (or perhaps for the right paycheque, I suspect). Where to start? Where to end? There have been superb summaries, makings-of and play diaries. It’s a well-documented game, for sure. Yet I’m not sure there’s been that simple one-two punch of why our collective knickers remain so thoroughly entwisted by it. Perhaps the words of one are not enough. Let’s try the words of many.
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Why X-COM Matters (To Me)

By Alec Meer on April 14th, 2010.

Oof, tough day. I totally get why people are upset, but once again it’s worth waiting for a few more details before you decide the new XCOM is the end of all that is sacred. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little honest hope. Today does, however, spell the end of a decade-long dream that someone would throw really serious money at resurrecting the fantastic hybrid genre 1994′s X-COM created. There is a great sadness there – so many ideas left to die, never bettered in the long gap between then and now. So let’s be hopeful, cautiously or otherwise, about XCOM, but let’s also raise a glass to X-COM. We owe it so much, and we may never see its like again. Sniff.

This is the first of two posts exploring why I (and many others) unwaveringly believe X-COM is one of the most important and greatest games ever made. We’ll talk about the game itself in the second one, but first please allow me to indulge myself with this autobiographical prelude. This is why X-COM matters to me.
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Eurogamer Retro: Day Of The Tentacle

By John Walker on March 29th, 2010.

OMG spoilers.

Day of the Tentacle is one of those exceptional games. A game that occupies a place in my memory as a defining game, and one that remains every bit as brilliant when played seventeen years later. In order to celebrate this, and discuss just why it’s so brilliant, I replayed it and wrote about it for Eurogamer, which you can read here. It contains this:

“I think if you surveyed people for their favourite LucasArts adventure, the chances are Grim Fandango would come top. For me it’s always been Day of the Tentacle. Not because it’s a deeper story, richer idea, more brilliant world, because it’s definitely none of those things compared to Grim. But because it’s a pure comedy. And that’s one of the rarest gems in the world of gaming.”

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Eurogamer Retro: Zak McKracken

By John Walker on March 8th, 2010.

Sigh, more rendered cutscenes.

As you know, I’m first with the comment on all the big games of the day. Which is why Eurogamer now carries my ruthless breakdown of LucasArt’s Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. In case you remember when it first came out, and in case you think gaming is a modern pursuit, let me offer you that slightly sicky feeling in your stomach: this game came out twenty-two years ago. I went to it remembering it as brilliant. I came out realising it was full of brilliant ideas, but not a brilliant game. Clearly others disagree. Let’s fight. But most of all, this was, to my mind, intended to be a piece celebrating my dad’s friend Ted. I hope I managed that.

“I wonder if I’m getting stupider. Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders came out in 1988, when I was 11 years old. It seems impossible to believe that at the age of 32 I can have become worse at games. And yet while my memories of playing Zak Mak when it first came out are extremely hazy, I certainly don’t remember getting stuck quite as often. What I do remember is that I really enjoyed it. I’ve since been told by those who should know that this cannot possibly have been true. So I’ve gone back to find out.”

Continues here.

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A Brief History Of Modern Retro

By Alec Meer on March 1st, 2010.

This feature was written for PC Format magazine what feels like a million years ago. It’s a very broad overview of some of the choicest morsels of PC gaming in the late 80s to mid 90s, primarily the pre-3D age, and aimed at those who didn’t grow up with a beige box rather than at those who did. Clearly too, it’s more shaped by my own experiences and influences than by anything like objectivity. My objectivometer must have been out for repairs that week. I repost it here with minor updates, and tired resignation about how many comments will say “what, no game X?” No wordcount in the world is big enough to encompass everything that should be mentioned – but it’ll certainly be useful if the comments thread becomes a juicy list of olden gems for other curious readers to hunt down.

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Eurogamer: Nomad Soul Retrospective

By John Walker on March 1st, 2010.

Wazza wazza wazza.

This weekend saw my retrospective piece about Omikron: The Nomad Soul arrive on Eurogamer. It was an interesting one – the process I mean – the game being from David Cage was obviously interesting. Trying to get it working on PC ended in sadfaced failure when I discovered ATI has stopped supporting DX6.1. Amazingly, having been commissioned to write the piece and with time running out, I found I owned it on Dreamcast. And that I still owned a Dreamcast. So while this is first and foremost a PC game, my playing of it last week was a brief affair with a (very) old lover. It starts like this:

“David Cage is a man of extraordinary vision. Whether you believe his games match his ambition is a very personal thing. I will argue with you that Fahrenheit is one of the most exciting games I’ve ever played, even though it’s broken in about 657 ways. Perhaps this is what’s most exciting about Quantic Dream’s output. However, I cannot find a similar love for Omikron: The Nomad Soul. And that’s not because I can’t run it on my PC.”

It carries on here.

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Retro – Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis

By Alec Meer on January 19th, 2010.

It’s just a brilliant, brilliant idea for a game. Jurassic Park: the management sim. Most attempts at bringing Spielberg’s dino fantasy into interactivity concentrated on the action: the running, the jumping, the shooting and even on the being-a-Velociraptor thing. They had their moments, but they were so staggeringly ignorant of what the Jurassic Park concept really was. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, so it’s far too easy to slam all those developers for not stumbling across the total sense that a tycoon game made for the license. After all, I can remember desperately wanting to shoot digital dinosaurs around the time of the films too. I wasn’t a subtle child.

Operation Genesis flickered somewhere in my peripheral vision back when I was reviews editor on a magazine. At that time, its two core attributes were things to be scorned: Jurassic Park 3, two years previous, didn’t lend much dignity to the movie series, and if I threw a rock in the air I’d hit at least five cheap, lousy tycoon games that we couldn’t/wouldn’t find the space to review. A Jurassic Park tycoon game? Gotta be awful. Gotta be. What a fool I was.
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Eurogamer: Klingon Honor Guard Retro

By John Walker on January 17th, 2010.

Ooh, you can see his pixels.

Come here, I want to show you something. It’s this retro piece I’ve written for Eurogamer, about FPS Klingon Honor Guard. It contains passages like this:

I remembered why I so fondly recalled the mag boots. It’s the drifting. Walk forward to gather some momentum, switch off the boots, and then float to the next arm of the vessel as a shortcut, the infinite reaches of space above, below and beside you should you misjudge this jump. Or indeed actually jump. Make it, reach a stable platform, and you reactivate the boots and safely land. It’s sublime. That sense of absolute danger, converted to affixed security at the press of a button. I could happily play a game simply dedicated to this sensation.

You can read the rest of it if you go here.

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Eurogamer: Kim Swift Interview

By John Walker on December 20th, 2009.

Happy Portal to you.

Over at Eurogamer today I have a great big interview with Kim Swift, the project lead on Portal who has recently moved to head up a team at Airtight Games. It’s part of EG’s Retro Sundays, so the focus of the interview was on Narbacular Drop, how that game came into existence, and the path it took to become the seed that inspired Portal. We also discuss that games that preceded it at DigiPen, and later Swift’s philosophy of gaming and where she’d like to see the medium heading. Also she mocks me. Here’s a chunk of it. The rest of it is here.

Eurogamer: And what makes something fun?

Kim Swift: Well, I suppose the word fun is really relative. I think games should be something really entertaining and should make players react in a tangible way. Whether that be anxiety and tension from Shooters, or sorrow from a character dying in an RPG, or a good laugh at an amazing line of dialogue. Games should give players the opportunity to create their own story because those are the sorts of experiences that they’re going to really remember. When people talk about games to other people they talk about what they did or what they played through, not the cut-scene that they idly watched. It’s the player’s actions that really count.

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Eurogamer: Half-Life Opposing Force Retro

By John Walker on December 6th, 2009.

He looks quite nice, I think.

This weekend I have been mostly playing Half-Life Opposing Force. Fortunately the thoughts I have as I play don’t have to stay confined in my strange little head, but instead are communicated to all the universe via the internet. It’s up on Eurogamer today, and has a bit in it that says this:

“There are definitely too many corny names for heroes in videogames. Pick up a random shooter and you’re bound to find yourself in control of someone called something like Dirk Death, or Rick Giantballs. Even Half-Life’s Gordon only keeps the nerd up for his first name, the surname sinking into the cliché of Freeman. Which is why we should celebrate the hero at the centre of Opposing Force. It’s Corporal Adrian Shephard. Has there ever been a central character for a game who sounds more like a geography supply teacher?”

Argue about whether it was Gordon’s first day of work below.

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Eurogamer: No One Lives Forever Retro

By John Walker on November 23rd, 2009.

I love this man's face.

Yesterday saw my No One Lives Forever retrospective appear on the mighty Eurogamer. Maybe you’d like to read a thing like that. A thing like that begins like this:

They say money makes the world go round, but this is somewhat inaccurate. Leftover momentum from the solar nebula makes the world go round. Money, in fact, is not responsible for rotation, gravity, nor indeed any number of other phenomena in the galaxy. It does, however, occasionally make games less interesting. You simply couldn’t make No One Lives Forever today. You couldn’t because it would be too long, require far too many assets, and most significantly of all, risk all the cost of development on a comedy game – a genre that no longer exists. Its international scale, its enormous volume of content and its emphasis on making you laugh add up to something that feels like it’s from another age – an age before an FPS lasted six hours and cost $250 million.

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Eurogamer: Jedi Knight Retro

By John Walker on October 11th, 2009.

I can see our spacehouse from here!

Over at Eurogamer today I’ve a retro piece about the completely brilliant Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. Or Jedi Knight to its friends. It includes words such as:

“And by crikey, it’s good. It’s very, very good. It’s so good that you can only look down at the ground, shake your head in confusion, and slowly pen a letter to LucasArts asking them what the hell they were thinking when they abandoned FPS development and handed the reins over to Raven. With this, Dark Forces, and indeed the enormous Mysteries of the Sith expansion, LucasArts demonstrated a rare and brilliant skill with a genre that’s so often so mediocre.”

Read the rest here.

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