Beyond Good & Evil, PC

Michel Ancel (the creator of Rayman) and his team produced a video gaming classic in 2003 with Ubisoft‘s Beyond Good & Evil.

It is a pseudo sci-fi fantasy, third-person action/adventure where you control a young woman called Jade, with a pig sidekick called Pey’j, and who is battling against the sinister “DomZ”.

Gameplay is a mixture of running around, pushing buttons, taking photos, blasting stuff, hitting things, having boss battles, driving a cool hovercraft, and all manner of other interesting mechanics. If there’s one thing Beyond Good & Evil is it’s “varied”.

Graphically the game still manages to hold its own on modern systems and is a pleasing mixture of wild colours and ethereal special effects. The game is reasonably child-friendly too, although I wouldn’t say that it is a game necessarily for kids. I really enjoyed it and I’m an old b*stard…

Always worth picking up in a sale, if you haven’t yet played it.

More: Beyond Good & Evil on Wikipedia
Steam: Beyond Good & Evil on Steam
GOG.com: Beyond Good & Evil on GOG.com

Lasso, Arcade

Lasso is an obscure arcade game, developed and manufactured by SNK Corporation in 1982. In it you play a rancher/cowboy trying to round-up his cattle with a rope.

The game generously gives you an opportunity to practise throwing the lasso at the beginning with a “warm-up” screen. Then you have to catch loose sheep and shoot fireballs at attacking wolves… Ah, you can’t make this stuff up… Let a wolf or any of your cattle touch you, though, and you lose a life. Lose all three lives and it’s game over.

If you complete the sheep level, it’s then onto the cow level at a slightly harder difficulty; then the horse level. And so on. Extra hazards, like fire(?) breathing lizards, also become more frequent as the stages progress.

Lasso is basic at best. Like Food Fight and Domino Man it is a video game idea that doesn’t really work that well in practise, but probably sounded good on paper. It’s fun for a short while, though.

More: Lasso on arcade-history.com

Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Nintendo 64

Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a surprising 2001 release – on the Nintendo 64 – for British developer Rare, in collaboration with Nintendo.

What is surprising about it is that it is an “adult” game – meaning: it contains cartoon characters behaving in ways that you don’t normally see in a Nintendo game, like vomiting on people’s shoes, making sexual innuendo, and using mild swear words.

The game begins with a cinematic Clockwork Orange-style scene, with Conker (a squirrel) looking over the top of a glass of milk as the camera slowly tracks backwards while a pseudo Beethoven musical score warbles away in the background. You know – or at least should know – at this point what kind of game this is going to be… And that is: extremely satirical, and with maybe a bit of a screw loose…

When Conker’s Bad Fur Day eventually gets going the first thing you have to do is get rid of Conker’s hangover, which is an unusual way of introducing a player to the game. Then you go on a surreal 3D platform adventure, full of Pythonesque characters, toilet humour, silly and poor taste jokes, endless tasks and puzzles, tons of film references, and of course the occasional boss battle (including one where you fight a giant turd).

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a game that will appeal to adults who like puerile humour, and also to children as a “forbidden” game that “must not be played under any circumstances”, but they all do… It’s actually not that bad in terms of its ‘adult’ nature, and doesn’t contain anything too contentious, which is why Nintendo allowed Rare to make the game in the first place.

More: Conker’s Bad Fur Day on Wikipedia

Amidar, Arcade

Konami‘s 1981 arcade classic, Amidar, is a maze game with a difference.

Rather than moving through a maze (a la Pac-Man), you instead move along the edges of a series of interconnected boxes, trying to ‘paint’ them a different colour (or pick up coconuts, depending on the level). If you manage to paint around all four sides of a box it fills itself in, and the ultimate aim on each level is to fill every box on-screen. Which is not easy because there are a variety of chasing monsters and they are tricky to avoid.

The key to getting anywhere in Amidar is to learn the movement of the enemies. They move ‘deterministically’. Meaning: to set, recognisable patterns. The game calls this “Amidar movement”. Regular enemies are called “Amidar” and these move left and right, and up and down the screen. A single enemy, called a “Tracer” moves around the outside of the maze at the same time. If you watch enemy movement carefully you can avoid them and go about your painting duties. That is, however, until the Tracer has done a certain number of ‘laps’, after which point it starts to chase you.

You do have a ‘jump’ ability to help you, although pressing jump makes the enemies jump – not you. They jump, and you move underneath them. Which is weird, but it works well enough and can save your skin when in a tight corner. You start with only three jumps but can be awarded more.

Another useful thing to remember is that you can attack the Amidar if you colour all four corner boxes in the maze. The Amidar change colour and you have a short space of time in which to touch them to kill them for a bonus.

As the game gets harder the mazes become more complex, and more enemies are added. And if that wasn’t enough, the time it takes before the Tracer starts chasing you reduces – to the point where it only has to do one lap before homing in on you.

Amidar is another classic Konami arcade game that takes a simple idea and turns it into a challenging and compelling video game. And for that it should be fondly-remembered.

More: Amidar on Wikipedia

Frogger, Arcade

Konami‘s Frogger was released into video game arcades in 1981 and was an instant hit with gamers.

The basic premise of Frogger is to guide a hopping frog over a road and a river, to reach a safe haven on the other side. The road is full of dangerous traffic that will squish the frog on contact. The only way of crossing the river is by jumping on a series of floating logs that move from left to right at varying speeds. It’s basically an amphibian assault course…

Get five frogs to their homes on the other side and you complete the stage. Bonus points are also awarded for catching and guiding other frogs home.

Every new stage sees the introduction of new and more dangerous hazards. The first stage is relatively easy, with a quiet road and fewer dangers on the river (there are diving turtles that you can only stand on for a limited time). By the second stage, the road is much busier, and there are now alligators to contend with on the water. Later stages also introduce otters and snakes as frog predators. There are so many ways to die in this game…

Frogger is a very simple game to play (requiring only a single joystick – no fire button needed), but feels very satisfying – the game is a masterwork of timing and design and is both challenging and absorbing. Frogger has seen a number of sequels over the years, plus the usual torrent of clones and tributes. It is undoubtedly one of the best and most fondly-remembered games of the early arcade years, and is still worth a play today.

More: Frogger on Wikipedia

Sam & Max by Steve Purcell.

Sam & Max Comics

A little bonus, on the back of our Sam & Max Hit the Road feature published today: not grabs, but a small selection of high quality Sam & Max comics, as written and drawn by LucasArts veteran and all-round master of the paintbrush, Steve Purcell.

I love Purcell‘s artwork so much – not to mention Hit the Road itself – that I had to share these with you.

Steve Purcell created a range of hilarious strips based on the infamous dog/rabbit duo. Some were full-length comics and other were just small, single panels. He also drew lots of different Sam & Max posters, a few of which I’ve included here.

As Max would say: I’d be peeing my pants if I wore any!

Enjoy!
The King of Grabs

More: Steve Purcell on Wikipedia
More: Sam & Max on Wikipedia

Sam & Max - Freelance Police - versus the Nazis.

Sam & Max – Freelance Police #1

Sam & Max - Freelance Police - versus the Empire.

Sam & Max – Freelance Police #2

Sam & Max - Freelance Police - versus the Death Star.

Sam & Max – Freelance Police #3

Sam & Max Hit the Road, PC

Sam & Max Hit the Road, released by LucasArts in 1993, marks the video game debut of the infamous dog/rabbit crime-fighting duo.

Created by artist Steve Purcell, Sam & Max are “freelance police” and basically engage in a series of surreal mysteries involving bigfoot, and a whole host of other weird characters and strange situations.

The game begins with an animated cut scene that sets the tone, and then you have to use Sam & Max to find your way into the story. The control system is mouse-based and you use right-click to cycle through five cursor icons – walk, look, take, talk, and use. Left-clicking one of these ‘verb’ icons on a specific object or person on-screen, or in your inventory (a brown cardboard box!), will usually illicit some sort of response. The simplified control system is a joy to use, at least compared to other SCUMM games. Not having the usual verb list frees up the screen to hold more great graphics. And the graphics in Sam & Max, I think, are some of the best, most iconic, and most memorable visuals of the PC DOS era.

Like most point-and-click adventures: Hit the Road is extremely challenging. Playing is easy enough, but solving puzzles and making your way into the game is not easy. But it is very much worth it. The surreal nature of Sam & Max Hit the Road sometimes means that the nature of the puzzles is beyond anything you might have ever seen, but that’s okay. Just go with it…

My favourite parts: “Holy mackerel!” – “I’m a trout, stupid!” – “Holy trout!”, or Max retrieving the message from the cat… And my favourite character has to be the foul-mouthed, spanner-bending, turban-wearing man in the revolving restaurant. He still makes me crease up with laughter today… Sam & Max Hit the Road is packed full of wacky characters, crazy dialogue, and dangerous stunts. There are even a bunch of “minigames” hidden away in there too…

Often referred to as one of the best video games ever made, Sam & Max Hit the Road is probably the best adventure game LucasArts ever produced. It’s certainly one of funniest games I’ve ever played and will appeal to anyone with a sense of humour.

If you’re one of those with a low tolerance to frustration, play it with a walkthrough. There’s no shame in it. 🙂

U.S. Gold published the game in the UK in 1993. A number of sequels have also been released over the intervening years.

See also: Sam & Max Comics

More: Sam & Max Hit the Road on Wikipedia
Steam: Sam & Max Hit the Road on Steam
GOG.com: Sam & Max Hit the Road on GOG.com

Sam-And-Max-Clean

Raffles, Atari ST

Known as Inside Outing on 8-bit home computers, and Raffles on 16-bit computers, this excellent isometric platform game translates very well to the Atari ST.

The name change was because someone at publisher The Edge obviously thought that it would be a good idea to name the central character (he didn’t have a name in the original game), so they called him “Raffles” and the rest is history. Except it isn’t. US publisher Epyx later changed the name again, to the ludicrous “Debon Aire in the Hidden Diamond Caper“, when releasing in North America.

The name confusion is a pity because Inside Outing/Raffles – whatever you want to call it – is a brilliant little self-contained adventure game. The aim is find 16 jewels hidden inside a big house, and return them one at a time to a woman who resides in a particular room in the mansion.

A lot of the puzzles in Raffles are physics-based, or involve stacking items to reach higher places, but the extra ‘pull’ mechanic really brings the game to life, allowing you to completely rearrange the furniture in most rooms.

It has to be said, though, that Raffles has some of the most annoying enemies of all time… Usually either innocent-looking mice or birds. But both can move furniture and items and deplete you of your energy if they touch you. So you have to avoid them. But that’s easier said than done when you’re trying to move a load of furniture away from a blocked doorway. You can lose a couple of lives easily by being harassed by a single bird. Thankfully some rooms don’t have any enemies in them so you can grab a breather and think.

The Atari ST version of Raffles has extra rooms, and extra diamonds to collect, compared to the original 8-bit versions. The pool table room, for example, now has a door in the top right hand corner, leading to a series of new rooms. And – thank God – this time you get three (count ’em!) whole lives to play around with, instead of the single one you got in the original. How generous.

Note: One thing I didn’t like about this (and the Amiga) version: candlesticks now hurt you when you stand on them. Whichever ‘genius’ decided that was a good idea deserves their qualification for video game development revoking! 🙂

More: Raffles on Wikipedia

Inside Outing, ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum conversion of Michael St. Aubyn‘s Inside Outing was programmed by Pamela Roberts with graphics by Mike Smith.

It has to be said that this version lacks the visual appeal of the Amstrad original. In fact: it’s quite ugly. The lack of colour doesn’t help. Also: the main character is drawn quite strangely, and the perspective on some of the furniture looks wrong.

Gameplay is relatively intact – you’re still a thief, searching a big mansion for 12 gems while avoiding all the mice and birds that sap your strength. You only get one life, so keeping that life bar topped-up is imperative.

Given the choice, I would play the Amstrad or C64 versions of Inside Outing, over this one. It’s just not as appealing as the other 8-bit versions.

More: Inside Outing on Wikipedia

Inside Outing, Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 version of Inside Outing features graphics by the game’s original designer – Michael St. Aubyn – although the coding itself was done by Timedata/Pamela Roberts.

Gameplay is identical to the Amstrad original. You play a thief exploring a big mansion, looking for 12 hidden jewels. Finding them is not entirely straightforward as some of them are hidden in nefarious ways. For example: in the pool table room you must ‘pot’ (ie. kick) the balls into the pockets in the right order to make the jewel appear, and even then it materialises under the table so is hard to spot.

Isometric action/adventures are not particularly fashionable on the Commodore 64, but Inside Outing is an example of one that works. Granted: the enemies are extremely annoying, but otherwise the game is very good.

More: Inside Outing on Wikipedia