3D Monster Maze, ZX81

3D Monster Maze was developed by Malcolm Evans for J.K. Greye Software in 1982.

This classic black and white maze game was one of the first ever video games to use a first-person viewpoint inside a 3D maze. Well, I say “3D maze”, but what I really mean by that is “blocky representation of a 3D maze”. And inside this maze you’re being pursued by a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex. You have to find the exit before Rex finds you.

In spite of there being no sound on the ZX81, and no colour, 3D Monster Maze manages to tap into something primordial when you play it. The fear of getting caught is palpable and learning how to evade when spotted is key.

Back in 1982 it really blew our tiny minds. Now… 3D Monster Maze is still great fun to play. Trying to evade capture is a still a tense and challenging experience. Mainly because programmer Malcolm Evans did such a great job of turning a good idea into something not only playable, but compulsive.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_Monster_Maze

Rendering Ranger: R2, Super Nintendo

Rendering Ranger: R2 is a rare run-and-gun game from the end of the life of the Super Nintendo. It was published by Virgin Interactive in Japan only in 1995. Which is strange for a German game…

Rendering Ranger: R2 was designed and programmed by Manfred Trenz at Rainbow Arts – the guy known for creating the Turrican series of games. Unsurprisingly it features run-and-gun style gameplay, although there are side-scrolling shooter sections (in the vain of Nemesis) as well.

Rendering Ranger: R2 is also unbelievably difficult.

It’s like everyone on the project thought: “the SNES is dead and I’m just wasting my time, so let’s make it ridiculous!”

Having a European game get a Japan only release is both perverse and – at the same time – a tribute, making sure someone actually got to play it…

Rendering Ranger: R2 is nicely-produced too, so it would’ve been good to have enjoyed it more. As it stands: I can only take so much of it. Rare, or otherwise. This is a headbanging game.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rendering_Ranger:_R2

International Basketball, Commodore 64

As good as International Soccer is (well, isn’t), International Basketball is on a whole ‘nother level when it comes to playability…

Again written by Andrew Spencer for Commodore, International Basketball looks very similar to its predecessor but is leagues better, in terms of gameplay.

The dribbling and passing in Basketball works better than in Soccer. Getting three pointers for long shots is exciting (and changes the game when it happens). End to end games are the norm. And the scoreboard, crowds and player animations are much better than in Soccer.

Spencer set out to improve on his football game and he did just that. The end result being beyond everyone’s wildest expectations. International Basketball taking Europe and North America by storm and cementing his name in the vaults of video game history.

International Basketball is both funny and exciting to play in equal measure, even now – especially between two players. The game was first released in 1985, just a year after International Soccer, and is one of the best Commodore 64 games of all time.

International Soccer, Commodore 64

Andrew Spencer‘s International Soccer is a very early football game for the Commodore 64. And by “very early” I mean: 1983.

It stood out from other football games on the market at the time because it had a modicum of playability. You could at least take possession of the ball and have shots on target. You could at least kick the ball in the right direction…

The graphics in this game have always been basic, but the expanded sprites I guess have become more endearing over the decades. Hell, the chunky graphics were dated even back in 1983…

Back in 1983 gamers also didn’t have much choice, and International Soccer cemented its name in gaming history when Commodore decided to release the game in cartridge format. Very few C64 games were awarded this honor and Spencer‘s game became the ‘go-to’ football game on the Commodore 64 as a result.

International Soccer was also re-released numeous times during the life of the C64. It is a game that most Commodore 64 enthusiasts have played at least once in their lives.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Soccer

Driller, Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 version of Incentive‘s classic Driller is surprisingly good, considering that the machine isn’t particularly suited to this kind of game.

The graphics have a chunky, C64 charm and look about them, and the subdued colours work well in the context of an atmospheric science fiction game. The frame rate is probably the lowest of the 8-bit versions, but that’s okay if you know how to play the game properly (ie. by adjusting your steps and turns by using the increment keys). Driller is quite a slow game to play anyway, so the frame rate doesn’t really get in the way.

Playing Driller on 8-bit machines is an interesting piece of time travel on the subject of 3D gaming. Freescape, and Driller, was one of the very first attempts to create a fully explorable 3D world inside a video game.

Driller versions:
ZX SpectrumAmstrad CPCAtari STPC MS-DOS, Commodore 64.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driller_(video_game)

Exile, Amiga (AGA version)

Jeremy Smith and Peter Irvin‘s groundbreaking Exile first came out on the BBC Model B in 1988 and was later converted to other systems.

The Amiga AGA version of Exile was handled by Audiogenic and came out in 1995.

Of the three versions of Amiga Exile available, two are notably different.

The earlier OCS version is more of a remake of the original Exile, with smaller sprites thoughout the game, and no grey background rocks. You can also easily identify the OCS version due to the purple panel at the bottom of the game screen.

The later AGA version (shown here) dispenses with the panel and uses overlays and on-screen messages instead. And – instead of a small guy in a space suit – you start as a large, blonde tough guy with a jet pack.

In fact: all the main sprites and backgrounds in AGA Exile have been given a size and a colour boost, although the playing area seems smaller than in the original Amiga version. Which is not ideal.

The gameplay is essentially the same as the OCS version though.

No idea why there are two versions. To make this version of Exile more like a console game for the CD32 is probably the reason.

Remember: if you want to play Exile in its original form on the Amiga, try the OCS version. If you want the suped-up, ‘Duke Nukem’ version, go for the AGA version. Or: just play both if you’re clever enough to get them both working.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exile_(1988_video_game)

Exile, Amiga (OCS version)

Jeremy Smith and Peter Irvin‘s groundbreaking Exile first came out on the BBC Model B in 1988 and was later converted to other systems.

The Amiga OCS version of Exile was handled by Audiogenic and came out in 1991.

Actually, three versions of Amiga Exile were released… An OCS version in 1991 (purple panel at the bottom), and an AGA version (with no bottom panel), and a CD32 version in 1995. Each took advantage of the Amiga‘s different graphics capabilities.

Exile‘s 2D, side-scrolling, underground exploration/shooting gameplay translates very well to the Amiga too. The scrolling is fast and smooth and the inertia is very good.

The 1991 Amiga version of Exile is much more like the original 8-bit versions than the later AGA version. All the usual tricks work, like using the Record function to Teleport past immovable robots. Picking up guns and shooting angry birds. It’s all there…

Exile is not a particularly well known Amiga game, but it is definitely up there with the best of them.

Flying around on a jetpack, blasting things to pieces inside a big cavern is a whole world of fun, and the core of the original Exile.

The physics. Exile is all about the physics.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exile_(1988_video_game)

Exile, BBC Micro

The BBC Micro version was the very first version of Jeremy Smith and Peter Irvin‘s classic Exile, released through Superior Software in 1988.

Yes, it has gaudy graphics, and yes: the gameplay takes some getting your head around, but Exile is undoubtedly a stunning piece of game design and world-building. Considering the limitations of the host machine.

At its core is a simple gravity game where you control a small spaceman. When you start exploring the caverns you begin to realise that there’s a whole ‘nother world out there. And some very annoying birds…

Exile is an extraordinary gaming achievement for a 32K machine. BBC Model B’s with more RAM could load an enhanced version of the game, with a larger playing area, sampled sound effects and digitised speech.

This classic BBC game inspired a whole series of side-scrolling shooters throughout the 1990s, and was re-made by its original creators several times for other platforms.

The even better Commodore 64 version, by the original programmers (with graphics by Paul Docherty), can be seen here.

There are two Amiga versions: the OCS version and the AGA version.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exile_(1988_video_game)

Everyone’s A Wally, ZX Spectrum

Chris Hinsley‘s 1985 follow-up to Pyjamarama sees the return – once again – of Wally Week. The mechanic turned mundane video game hero.

The unique thing about Everyone’s A Wally is that you can switch between five different characters and go about your adventuring business – two years before Maniac Mansion.

There’s big, yellow, colour-clashing Wally Week himself, who you start as. There’s Wilma, Wally’s cyan wife. And their friends Tom (the green punk), Dick (a magenta plumber) and Harry (a grey hippy electrician).

The aim of the game is to do a full day’s work for each character by picking up objects and solving puzzles. I don’t know about that. Seems like much too hard work for my liking…

Everyone’s A Wally even came with a promotional single by Mike Berry upon release. It might have even charted.

The game is well-remembered though, if a little bit archaic by today’s standards. The graphics and characterisation are pretty classic though.

The Wally Week series:
Automania (1984)
Pyjamarama (1984)
Everyone’s A Wally (1985)
Herbert’s Dummy Run (1985)
Three Weeks in Paradise (1986)

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyone’s_A_Wally

Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO, XBox

The “EO” part of Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO means: “Easy Operation”. Basically, this is the same game as the classic arcade beat ’em up of 2001, but with controls better suited to a gamepad. So, rather than hitting buttons to perform special attacks, you can now move the right analogue stick in a certain direction to activate them instead.

This enhanced EO version also has four new characters, and four enhanced versions of regular characters.

In total there are 48 playable characters. Most of whom come from the infamous Street Fighter and King of Fighters series from Capcom and SNK respectively.

Game play is based on the six-button Street Fighter series, but with special “grooves” that can change the fighting style. These grooves are chosen before a match and affect everything from special techniques to guard cancels. So can be important.

The 2003 XBox version (shown here) had online multiplayer for up to two players via XBox Live, and also had progressive scan display support (480p).

Classic 2D graphics over animated 3D backgrounds.

Fighting game fans will want to own and play this brilliant Capcom game.

More: Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO on Wikipedia