Zany Golf, Atari ST

Zany Golf was released by Electronic Arts in 1988. It originated on the Apple IIGS but was quickly ported to 16-bit computers, including this fine Atari ST version.

Zany Golf is a crazy golf simulator, with simple controls and complex courses. Up to four players can compete at once.

You make a shot by left clicking and dragging on the ball, then letting go of the button. If you’re skilled (and lucky) the ball will go where you want it to go. Invariably, though, things do go astray…

There are nine holes – plus a bonus hole – in total. Some holes have weird animated objects on them (like the iconic giant hamburger) which you have to deal with, and some have special abilities (like the magic carpet, which allows some control of the ball with the mouse). You have a limited number of strokes per hole, but can pick up extra by touching fairies or hitting certain other targets. Getting to the ninth hole can be quite an achievement.

Zany Golf is a classic physics-based golf/maze game. I have fond memories of playing it back in the day, and still find it fun to play now.

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

Albion, PC

Blue Byte‘s 1996 PC release, Albion, is a classic science fiction role-playing game.

Albion mixes traditional 2D graphics – in this case overhead, isometric style – with first-person 3D sections. You begin the game on a spaceship playing Tom Driscoll – a pilot on a shuttle sent by the DDT corporation to scope out a nearby planet for mineable minerals. Tom’s ship malfunctions, causing him to crash, and he finds himself on the target planet

The fantasy storyline is quite good. Especially for a German developer – the English dialogue is full of humour and is very well-written for the most part.

Getting going in Albion is a challenge, but once you’ve got a party member with you the game really opens up. Combat is turn-based and simple enough to get your head around, and exploration is generally fun.

With perseverance (or a walkthrough) you can create a party of up to six characters, which makes combat a lot more interesting. Actually, it makes the whole game a lot more interesting.

Albion is a superb game overall. It isn’t too well known and is quite hardcore as an RPG, but it is beautifully constructed and absorbing to play. It’s still available to buy online now. I suggest giving it a go if you’ve never played it before and like unusual RPGs.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albion_(video_game)
GOG.com: https://www.gog.com/game/albion

Gunfright, ZX Spectrum

Another isometric action adventure from Ultimate Play The Game, this one with a Wild West theme.

Gunfright was first released in 1985 and uses the Filmation II Engine as first seen in Nightshade.

You play a sheriff in a small town called Black Rock who must hunt and kill a gang of outlaws who are hiding in it.

The game starts with a minigame – a shooting gallery type game – where money can be earned by shooting falling bags. The money can then be used to buy ammunition.

The main part of the game is similar to Nightshade – exploring an isometric, scrolling environment. Residents wander the streets and some are even helpful and point towards the outlaws. These residents have to be protected, though, as any deaths are penalised with fines.

When you find an outlaw Gunfright again switches to the shooting gallery game, only this time you must shoot the bad guy before he shoots you. You can wait for him to draw, or you can just plug him ASAP.

Graphically, Gunfright decent enough. It’s not as colourful as Nightshade was, but it does have character.

Gunfright was the first Ultimate-developed game to be published by another company. US Gold were the ones who released it, and not long afterwards they bought Ultimate out. So Gunfright is seen by some as the last ‘proper’ Ultimate game.

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

Nightshade, ZX Spectrum

Nightshade is an isometric action adventure, released by Ultimate Play The Game for the ZX Spectrum in 1985.

It is something of a continuation of the Knight Lore theme, with the Filmation Engine once again employed to provide the environment and physics, only this time the screen scrolls, with the main character staying in the middle.

You play a knight who is trapped inside a plague-ridden village and who must track down and defeat four evil demons who are wreaking havok. People in the village have been turned into vampires, werewolves and other supernatural creatures and are now after your blood. You can pick up antibodies inside houses and fire them at infected villagers to destroy them. To kill the demons you need to find one of four special weapons and use the correct one against them. Certainly not an easy task because the position of the weapons and demons changes with every game.

Nightshade is another fine Ultimate release from the mid Eighties. It’s certainly not up with their very best, but it is an impressive and important 8-bit game nonetheless.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nightshade_(1985_video_game)

Klax, Arcade

It says “copyright 1989” on the title screen, but Klax actually made it into arcades in June 1990.

Klax is a realtime puzzle game – for one or two players – with falling tiles that you must catch, then drop, into a small trough at the bottom of the screen. The idea is to arrange the tiles in rows of colours, either in straight lines or diagonals. The paddle, on which you catch the tiles, can hold up to four of them at once and drops them from top to bottom (ie. it drops the first tile you caught last and the last tile you caught first).

A ‘Klax‘ is a row of three tiles. A row of four tiles counts as two Klaxes. Some levels require you to get a certain number of Klaxes, and others: a certain points total. Early levels are fairly easy, but quickly increase in difficulty.

Klax is a very easy game to understand (even if my explanation doesn’t quite cut it), and an absorbing and exciting game to play. It’s a bit like Tetris in some respects, and is almost as good.

This arcade original was created by Atari Games and remains a solid challenge.

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

Wings, Amiga

One of Cinemaware‘s last games, Wings was released in 1990 to critical acclaim.

It’s a First World War-based scenario, with you piloting a biplane over German lines, dogfighting enemy fighters and bombing positions on the ground.

Dogfighting uses a third-person cockpit view, with simple 3D graphics, and bombing runs use 2D bitmapped graphics (with overhead and isometric viewpoints). Cut scenes – like in all Cinemaware games – use high quality 2D graphics throughout.

As you create and lose pilots you get a great feeling of loss from the game, which is as it should be. You don’t recreate First World War battles and have everyone cracking jokes every ten minutes… The subject matter is treated with respect, and the result is: Wings is one of Cinemaware‘s (and the Amiga‘s) best games.

Note: Wings was re-made for the Game Boy Advance in 2002. and remastered for the PC in 2013. The remaster is currently available on Steam and GOG.com.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wings_(1990_video_game)

It Came From The Desert, Amiga

One of my favourite Cinemaware games, It Came From The Desert is a satirical detective story based on 1950s sci-fi B-movies about giant ants.

In it you play Dr. Greg Bradley, a geologist arriving in the desert town of Lizard Breath in order to study the site of a recent meteor crash. Unfortunately radiation from the meteor has caused the local ant population to mutate and grow in size – to gigantic proportions. Which you (as Dr. Greg) discover early on in the game.

Initially none of the local residents or law enforcement take you seriously and your job is to convince them and organise a fightback. The game is played in realtime and you have a limited time (15 days) in which to defeat the giant ants before they start breeding and become unstoppable. You explore the local town and its many locations via an overhead map, plus you can use the telephone to speak to people in a hurry. Conversations with locals often reveal clues, some of which will lead to an encounter with a giant ant.

One-on-one you have a chance to defeat an ant by shooting its antenna, which you must do with the first one you encounter, but in large groups there’s not much you can do but run, which happens via an overhead scrolling section with you represented as a titchy character in the middle of the screen. If you get stranded in the desert you will pass out, but are always rescued and wake up in hospital.

It Came From The Desert is a fun and imaginative game. Many of the characters are distinctive and humorous. The game mechanics are easy to understand. There are also driving sections and flying sections. It’s a game that has aged well, is still fun to play, and is fairly beatable.

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

Lords of the Rising Sun, Amiga

This 1989 release from Cinemaware is probably one of the least played Amiga games ever made.

It is based around historic (12th Century) Japanese warfare, with you playing one of two famous generals (Yoritomo or Yoshitsune) fighting to unify (pacify; subjugate) Japan under one rule.

Lords of the Rising Sun is an extremely difficult game to get into – at least initially – because the action sections are so unforgiving. Within minutes of starting a game you will almost certainly be faced with a Ninja Attack, which activates a first-person action sequence. In it you must deflect thrown shuriken with your sword for a short period of time. The problem is: doing that is nigh on impossible… I could deflect two, maybe three… but anything more always ended in my death. I tried over and over again to beat it, even using emulator quicksaves, but to no avail. Just what the game’s designers were thinking, including this scene in the game I do not know. It’s way too hard and completely ruins the game.

There is a way around this problem, though. By selecting the second of the two generals (Yoshitsune) you can play a purely strategic game. This means that the action sequences are decided in private by the computer and you’re not forced to play them yourself. It is a highly unsatisfactory solution though, because you’re not experiencing the game as it is meant to be played. Actually, Lords of the Rising Sun is a highly unsatisfactory game overall because I know that there’s a good game in there – I just can’t get to it!

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

The Three Stooges, Amiga

The original Amiga version of Cinemaware‘s The Three Stooges was released in 1987.

With ‘mini games’ inspired by classic Three Stooges films, it features Larry, Moe and Curly on a quest to save an orphanage from an evil landlord.

The intro boasts of an ‘interactive movie’ (as is often the case in Cinemaware games), but in my opinion this is one of their least cinematic games.

Not that it’s bad – it isn’t – but it plays more like a regular game than something like The King of Chicago or Rocket Ranger, which have a lot of cut scenes. This game seems to centre around the animated sprites of the three main characters, rather than rely on a lot of cut scenes. Which is fine by me.

Playing The Three Stooges feels a bit like a board game, which is how the game was designed. Every move is decided by a button press, then the characters move and a mini game is played. The problem with this is that there are mousetraps on the board which will snap your finger if you point at them. Get caught six times and it’s game over.

The Three Stooges is not my favourite Cinemaware game, but is reasonable fun nonetheless. If you’re a Three Stooges fan you probably already know about it. 🙂

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

Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon, Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 version of Cinemaware‘s Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon is the version to play in my opinion – the earlier Amiga version of this excellent fantasy adventure game is uncharacteristically poor in terms of presentation.

Sinbad is a disk only release and succeeds in bringing the swashbuckling adventures of Baghdad’s favourite sailor, complete with monsters, magic, platforming sections, and sword fighting.

At the core of the game is an open-ended world map which you can travel around, exploring places and talking to people. Random action sequences intersperse the story, bringing various challenges. There’s sword fighting; ship sailing (avoiding rocks), side-scrolling platform running and jumping and rope climbing, and even a Cyclops boss battle!

Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon is classic Cinemaware. Graphically, the Commodore 64 version is top quality (unlike the Amiga original). Gameplay wise it’s excellent too. It is an intriguing love letter to Ray Harryhausen films, and of adventure stories in general, and it works extremely well.

More: Sinbad and the Throne of the Falcon on Wikipedia