Quake, PC

Doom was good, but Quake – for me – was where id Software really broke the First-Person Shooter mould, with a game far ahead of anything else at the time – even their own games.

What made Quake so special back then was the engine upgrade. The Quake Engine used proper perspective. You could look up and down (you can in Doom, but it looks crap) – and, most importantly, you could “freelook” with the mouse. Opening the way for proper WSAD and mouse controls – a standard that persists to this day. That all started with Quake.

Quake also opened-up network (and online) multiplayer for First-Person Shooters, although it was Quake II that standardised them and made the process of connecting to servers easy.

Playing Quake single-player is still a thrilling experience. The use of light and dark in the game is phenomenal – very much ahead of its time. Lights flicker and lit areas plunge into darkness, to heighten the tension.

The monsters in Quake are also pretty special. Not only are they all modelled in glorious 3D (unlike in Doom, where all the monsters are 2D sprites that always face you), but their behaviour is also quite unique and interesting too. Fiends jump at you; Death Knights throw firey arrows at you; Vores fire explosive homing crystals at you; and zombies throw their own blood at you! And then there’s the Shambler – the legendary ‘boss creature’ that looks like a cross between a polar bear and the spawn of Satan… The Shambler has big claws with which to tear you apart, and also has an electricity attack that can singe all the hairs off your body with one ‘poof’. Once you meet a Shambler, you never forget it…

Still available to buy from various outlets, and still very much worth playing, id Software‘s Quake is one of the best games ever made and a solid gold retro-gaming classic.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quake_(video_game)
Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2310/QUAKE/
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/quake_the_offering

Doom II, PC

Doom II: Hell On Earth (to give the game its full title) was released in 1994 and is the sequel to the infamous id Software blaster, Doom.

It uses the same engine as Doom (id Tech 1), but has more variety and is optimised to be more detailed and quicker.

The stand-out feature in Doom II has to be the inclusion of the double-barrelled shotgun – a weighty weapon that makes the standard shotgun feel like a toothpick. Giving monsters “both barrels” is highly satisfying. The new shotgun demonstrates the fact that really well thought-out and executed weapons can take a game like Doom to the next level.

Doom II is bigger, better and harder than Doom one. Not to mention more complex – the level designs are dark, clever, intricate and full of secrets. Some of the situations are truly scary – the game’s designers have set many traps with which to test the player. There are some great moments of tension too as you enter a room with the light on; pick something up; then the light goes off and you hear the growls of monsters… Cue gunfire.

Doom II is still incredible fun to play even now, even though the graphics are a bit dated and the engine doesn’t ‘do’ proper perspective. Ultimately: Doom and Doom II are a mixture of 3D graphics (the environments) and 2D graphics (the monsters, and everything else), and the engine is kinda ‘faking it’. Quake was the first id Software game to make everything truly 3D, and also simulate proper perspective and camera Field-Of-View.

See also: Doom and Brutal Doom

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doom_II
Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2300/DOOM_II/
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/doom_ii_final_doom

Doom, PC

id Software‘s hit shooter, Doom, blew the roof off the gaming world when it was first released in 1993.

It was the first First-Person Shooter that moved really fast and smoothly, and gave you a real sense of ‘being there’ when you played it.

Doom used a controversial mix of monsters, science fiction and satanic imagery to create an atmosphere unlike any other (at least until Quake appeared). It was also pioneering in its use of sound effects.

I remember very well Doom‘s initial (shareware) release and the ripple of excitement it caused in the gaming world. I was one of the first people to review it in 1993, for Maverick Magazines’ PC Player magazine, and revelled in its unbridled joy. Nowadays: Doom is legendary. You can still buy it, and people still play it. Doom II might have the better shotgun, but Doom one was where it all started.

See also: Brutal Doom and Doom II

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doom_(1993_video_game)
Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2280/Ultimate_Doom/
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/the_ultimate_doom

Doom review PC Player

Bubble Bobble, Arcade

Taito‘s Bubble Bobble first came out in arcades in 1986. Its colourful, jolly, platform action proved a sensation among gamers, and it has since gone on to earn “legendary” status in the retro gaming community.

Playable as a one or two-player game, Bubble Bobble is a simple but hugely fun jumping game where you shoot bubbles out of your mouth to trap enemies, and then you headbutt them or jump on them to pop the bubble and kill them.

There are also special bubbles that show up, depending on the level. Fire bubbles set platforms ablaze; spark bubbles send bolts shooting left and right; water bubbles send torrents cascading down the screen and take you, and your enemies, with it. There are also bubbles with letters on them, which – when collected – spell the word “EXTEND”. Collect all six and you get an extra life and a ‘bye’ to the next round.

Holes in the top and bottom of the screen allow you to warp between them, if you can reach them. Some areas of the screen require you to jump on bubbles to reach them. That’s when the game really gets interesting. Or frustrating – depending on your point of view.

In total there are 100 screens to play through in Bubble Bobble. I couldn’t figure out how to get past level 37… The game hasn’t beaten me yet, though. I will be back once I’ve slept on it and adjusted my strategy (ie. looked it up on YouTube). 🙂

If you’ve never played Bubble Bobble before: find it and play it. It’s a “rite of passage” for any budding gamer, and is especially fun two-player.

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

SimCity 2000, PC

The very first version of SimCity 2000 was released for Apple Macintosh by Maxis in 1993, followed soon after by a PC MS-DOS version.

The game was one of the first to use “SVGA” high resolution (640×840) graphics on a PC and even used its own version of the Mac WIMP environment in a PC game. The designers of SimCity 2000 were obviously Mac fans who did everything they could to bring the (then) familiar Macintosh display style to the early PC. Ironically, a Windows version of SimCity 2000 followed soon after.

Although SimCity 2000 is only the second SimCity game, it is quite a leap from the original game. The same basic play tenets are there – build a city; make your residents happy; expand and enhance; do your best to clean up after natural disasters… The presentation, though, is so much more detailed than before. SimCity 2000‘s isometric graphics are beautiful and iconic. The in-game detail – in terms of variables to play around with – is so much more complex than before.

SimCity 2000 is pre-Sims era Maxis, but it sees them break new group for a second time. More, actually, because Maxis had released a number of successful Sim games before SimCity 2000 (off the top of my head: Sim Ant, Sim Earth, Sim Life, Sim Farm, and of course SimCity).

SimCity 2000 was Maxis at the top of their game, before The Sims sent them stratospheric.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SimCity_2000

Frogger Arcade, Commodore 64

This superb homebrew (unofficial) Frogger, by Hokuto Force, was published (for free of course) around Christmas 2015 for the Commodore 64.

It’s basically a playable beta – a demo really, but it’s a damn good piece of coding, and echos the classic arcade game remarkably well. Certainly better than any Frogger I’ve ever seen on the C64 before!

It’s fantastic to see people still coding decent games for this great machine.

Gods and Heroes, Commodore 64

Steve’s Bak‘s 1987 sequel to the hilarious Hercules, God and Heroes, is a just as difficult and frustrating as it predecessor. But just as much fun.

Graphically, Gods and Heroes is a tiny bit better than the awful-looking Hercules, but not by much. It still looks like a dog’s dinner. But the key thing with this – as was the key thing with Hercules – is that Gods and Heroes is playable and fun. The feel of jumping around is good, even if the endless traps and tricks are a nightmare.

Gods and Heroes is masochistic gaming. You play it to torture yourself. Hopefully, to eventually beat it. And there are 50 screens in total, so good luck with that.

More: Zzap!64 review

Neverwinter Nights 2, PC

The 2006 sequel to the hit RPG Neverwinter Nights was created by American developer Obsidian Entertainment and published by Atari, Inc.

In many ways Neverwinter Nights 2 improves on the original game, and uses a new game engine (actually a suped-up version of the previous engine), this one called the Electron Engine.

Gameplay is essentially the same as before: a mixture of third-person, real-time and turn-based adventuring with a multi-character party system. The version currently available (time of writing: September 2018) features a main single-player campaign, plus three add-on campaigns (one of them – Mask of the Betrayer – being considered a classic); multiplayer mode, and the toolset for making your own quests/graphics/scripts/games.

There are some subtle but fundamental changes to the game, though, which makes playing Neverwinter Nights 2 somewhat different to the first game.

For starters: companion AI is much more complex, creating a bit of a mire in the process. What I mean by that is: a “mire” of options, which you can switch on and off to activate/deactivate certain behaviours. You can have companions be full AI controlled, custom AI controlled, or ‘Puppet’ controlled – puppet control being full manual.

Also different to the first game is the fact that you can now have up to three party members with you, making a party of four. In the previous game you just had one companion. It makes this sequel much more involving, and probably a lot more interesting. Actually, it is a much more ‘well-rounded’ game, this sequel, although not without its problems. Initially I struggled to get the camera to do what I wanted it to do, and almost gave up, but carried on in the hope that it would get better. It did, with some practise, but it took a while for me to get used to the interface (not to mention quite a few deaths).

Overall: Neverwinter Nights 2 is a fine, tactical RPG. It looks great; plays like a dream (now most of the bugs have been ironed-out), and is a worthy follow-up to a great title. It’s definitely worth a look if you like RPGs but have never played it, so look out for it in the next GOG.com sale.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neverwinter_Nights_2
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/neverwinter_nights_2_complete