Fortnite, PC

A game that needs no introduction in this day and age – Fortnite is Epic Games‘ popular survival online shooter; a game that has taken the world by storm and a game that virtually every games-player has heard about (whether they’ve played it or not). It was first released in 2017 and currently has approximately 200 million active players worldwide. The numbers are unheard of…

The basis of Fortnite is a Third-Person shoot ’em up that allows one hundred people to fight it out against each other until there’s just one person left standing, who wins the game. This is called the “Battle Royal”*. You can play solo, or in a team, and you start by jumping out of a flying bus onto an island below. When you reach the ground you must then grab weapons and ammo, and also start hacking away at the scenery (with a melee weapon) to generate building materials, which you can then use to construct a range of defences. Actually, building stuff is key to survival because it shields you from gunfire. You can build walls, ramps, windows – all kinds of things – and you must learn to do this quickly if you’re not to remain as ‘cannon fodder’ for the rest of the game.

What is interesting about Fortnite is that it looks simple, but does have some depth when you get into it. As a game progresses a ‘storm’ breaks out, forcing players to remain within the ‘eye’ in order to survive, and as the timer ticks away the eye gets ever smaller, forcing players closer and closer together. This is a good (and reasonably natural) way of making players fight it out as the game goes on, rather than making them go searching for targets on a large map.

What is also interesting about Fortnite is that gamers playing on different platforms (whether it be Windows or Mac or consoles or mobile) all participate in the same games – something that some developers have shied away from in the past (mostly because gamers playing on mouse and keys generally have an advantage over those playing on a gamepad – in terms of reaction times).

Graphically, Fortnite is colourful and bold and the overall visual style of the game is very pleasing. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the game is “cartoony” in the same way that Valve‘s classic online shooter Team Fortress 2 is. Still: Epic GamesFortnite is a force to be reckoned with.

* = As an interesting side note: as a huge fan of the film Battle Royal, I can see where the idea behind this game came from! Kinji Fukusaku‘s 2000 cult hit (based on the 1999 novel by Koushun Takami) is a story about a group of Japanese schoolkids fighting it out to the death on a remote island – the last person left alive and standing being the ultimate winner. Which is the premise of Fortnite. So – in my mind at least – Fortnite owes a huge debt of gratitude to Takami‘s book and Fukusaku‘s film.

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

Slam Tilt, Amiga

Slam Tilt is a pinball simulator published by 21st Century Entertainment in 1996.

It was developed by Liquid Dezign HB for AGA-equipped Amigas (AGA being an enhanced graphical chipset) and features super-slick scrolling and amazingly fast gameplay.

It is (rightly) considered to be one of the best games ever released for the Amiga and also set publisher 21st Century on a pinball-based trajectory for some time to come. While it wasn’t 21st Century‘s first pinball game, it is arguably their best.

The Amiga release of Slam Tilt features four tables: Mean Machines; The Pirate; Ace of Space, and Night of the Demon.

A 3D version of Slam Tilt was released for Microsoft Windows PCs in 1999 but is generally considered as inferior to this Amiga incarnation.

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

Soft & Cuddly, ZX Spectrum

A follow-up (of sorts) to the horror-themed Go To Hell, Soft & Cuddly is a satirical horror platform game, designed and programmed by John George Jones and published by The Power House in 1987.

The graphical style is somewhat similar to Go To Hell although Soft & Cuddly is a side-on platform game, rather than an overhead maze game like its predecessor.

The ‘plot’ (and ultimately the aim of the game) is convoluted. You control ‘The Son of the Android Queen’ and must search for the body parts of your dismembered mother, then for the body parts of your dismembered father, then find a needle and thread and stitch them back together again…

Like Go To Hell, Soft & Cuddly is an attempt by its author to court controversy and outrage the ‘bland’ middle classes by adopting themes that are, well, outrageous. Except that on a ZX Spectrum a games programmer barely has the power and resolution to be offensive, without using offensive words. And there’s none of that in Soft & Cuddly. It’s a platform game for God’s sake…

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_%26_Cuddly

Go To Hell, ZX Spectrum

Go To Hell is a horror-themed maze game, designed by John George Jones and published by Triple Six Software on the ZX Spectrum in 1985.

The aim of the game is to collect seven crosses that are hidden within the maze, in order to rescue a person “near and dear to you” that you’ve ‘cursed’.

Contact with walls, or moving sprites, or stationary objects, will rapidly drain energy, and when that energy reach zero the game is over. Your only defence against any of the many creatures that are after your blood is to throw crosses at them. A direct hit will not only destroy them, but it will also replenish your energy a little.

Go To Hell generated some controversy upon its initial release, because of the horror-themed graphics. Some reviewers called the game “vile”, “nasty” and “disgusting”, but – in reality – this criticism was nonsense (as this kind of criticism always is) because the stylised graphics were neither realistic nor particularly gruesome. Like the “video nasty” hysteria of the mid Eighties, the idiots pointing the finger of outrage at this game were utterly wrong in their convictions.

Designer Jones also created a follow-up (of sorts), in 1987, called Soft & Cuddly.

Dragon’s Lair, Arcade

Dragon’s Lair is one of those old arcade games that has developed a legendary status, even though there isn’t actually much of a game there. And what there is is incredibly difficult.

Dragon’s Lair is an on-rails reaction game – an interactive movie, basically, played to the amazing audio and visuals of an animated film – specifically: Don Bluth‘s animation of Dirk The Daring on a quest to rescue Princess Daphne from the clutches of a dragon and his evil forces.

Amazingly, the game has been re-mastered in high definition, and here are a few grabs from that newer HD version.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon’s_Lair_(1983_video_game)
Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/227380/Dragons_Lair/
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/dragons_lair_trilogy

Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, XBox

The first Crash Bandicoot game that wasn’t a PlayStation exclusive, The Wrath of Cortex is a fun platformer with varied gameplay modes, including flying, rolling balls, driving, swimming, submarines – and more.

Graphically, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex is bold and colourful, with decent 3D modelling and animation, and also nice lighting effects.

Gameplay-wise: it’s easy to play and fairly compelling. There are some nice, surprising moments, such as the rhino stampede (or any of the chase sequences), and in some respects The Wrath of Cortex is a compendium of ideas from previous Crash Bandicoot games, but with better refinement.

Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex was developed by British-based Traveller’s Tales and was published on the XBox by Universal Interactive Studios in 2002.

More: The Wrath of Cortex on Wikipedia

F-Zero X, Nintendo 64

The sequel to Nintendo‘s hit SNES game, and the first F-Zero game to use 3D graphics, F-Zero X was initially released in 1998 on the Nintendo 64.

It is a futuristic race game that runs at breakneck speed.

You can compete in a championship league, where the aim is to finish as high up the rankings as possible (preferably in first place), or you can fight it out in ‘Death Race’ mode where the aim to be the last car standing. I say “car”, but these vehicles are hardly what you would call cars… Unlike in the first F-Zero game you can now ‘attack’ other craft with a side or spin move, which is also useful in multiplayer (up to four players can compete simultaneously in split-screen).

Track-wise, F-Zero X‘s courses are varied and imaginative. Some are fairly straightforward, although others see you racing inside (and outside) tube-like tunnels, which are frighteningly tortuous. There are areas of the track where you can recharge your craft, which you do by simply driving over them. Come to the end of your charge (by hitting the side walls, or crashing in other ways) and your ship will explode. Not what you want to happen in the middle of a championship race, because you’ll get a DNF. And nobody wants a DNF…

F-Zero X is a tough game to master, although – like any decent Nintendo game – perseverance reaps its rewards.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-Zero_X

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Nintendo 64

Released on the Nintendo 64 in 2000, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time.

It uses the same game engine; it even uses some of the same character models and a number of the graphical assets of its predecessor, although it is a very different game overall.

Both Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask are rightly regarded as classics. Majora’s Mask, though, is a nightmarish adventure through time and space that Nintendo themselves – in the intervening years – have admitted is so weird that it would probably never get made today. Indeed: you begin the game as Link – as ‘normal’ – but soon fall under a curse that robs you of your identity, and then the rest of the game is Link assuming the identities of any one of a number of different characters, all by wearing various masks found within the game.

And – as if that wasn’t weird enough – Majora’s Mask also employs a very strange time mechanic that sees Link re-playing the same three days in the game, but every time in a different way. Groundhog Day-style….

Oh, and the moon is hurtling towards the planet and will eventually collide with it and destroy everything… That is: unless you stop it.

A lot of people prefer Ocarina of Time to Majora’s Mask, but – for me – it is the other way around. I love how dark this game is – it’s a surprise from Nintendo, and a refreshingly different one.

More: Majora’s Mask on Wikipedia