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

Mr. Wimpy, Oric

It could be argued that the Oric version of Mr. Wimpy is better than the ZX Spectrum version. It does look slightly better graphically, but I think that a more diplomatic solution would be to say that both are as bad as each other…

Maybe that’s a little harsh. Maybe it isn’t. It depends on your point of view.

Both games feature the same two-screen sections – fetch the food (times three), then a blatant BurgerTime rip-off. Both games have flickery sprites and colour clash. Both games have unremarkable gameplay. Both games have sketchy AI on the enemies… Need I go on?

The Oric version has a better attract screen and a more colourful Mr. Wimpy sprite, so is the best. There – that’s solved that one… 🙂

More: Mr. Wimpy on Wikipedia

Mr. Wimpy, ZX Spectrum

Mr. Wimpy is an early ZX Spectrum game from Ocean Software, first published in 1984. It is based on (and licensed from) the Wimpy chain of restaurants – in particular their mascot: Mr. Wimpy. Wimpy restaurants were more widespread in the 1980s than they are today, but this was still a surprising release from Ocean.

What is not very surprising is that Mr. Wimpy is a clone of BurgerTime, although it does have an extra level that you have to play through before getting to the BurgerTime clone.

That first level is a simple ‘fetch’ game where Mr. Wimpy walks from the left side of the screen to the right, picks up an item of food, then returns back to the starting point – the caveat being: if Mr. Wimpy is touched by one of the moving hazards he loses the item and must try again.

Mr. Wimpy is neither a particularly great game, nor a particularly memorable release from Ocean, although it is an interesting curiosity from the mists of time. Is it still worth playing today? Of course it is! 🙂

More: Mr. Wimpy on Wikipedia

Horace and the Spiders, ZX Spectrum

The third and final Horace game on the ZX Spectrum, written by William Tang and published by Sinclair/Psion in 1983.

Horace and the Spiders is yet another ‘clone’ game, this time copying Space Panic and also elements of Pitfall.

The game is split into two distinct stages. The first one sees Horace walking along a side-scrolling cavern and jumping over spiders that come his way, then climbing moving spider silk strands to cross a ravine. The second stage is a single screen platforms and ladders game where Horace must stomp holes in the web platforms so that spiders fall into them, and when they do he must stomp them again to kill them.

Like Hungry Horace and Horace Goes Skiing, Horace and the Spiders is a game that many see through rose-tinted spectacles – the memory of playing it as a kid is stronger than the game itself. In truth: it hasn’t aged well, and isn’t much fun to play nowadays.

But at least Horace himself has become iconic among Spectrum fans.

A further ‘official’ Horace game, called Horace in the Mystic Woods, was released for the Psion 3-Series palmtop range in 1995, but it wasn’t written by William Tang. Further to that, a ZX Spectrum conversion of Horace in the Mystic Woods was released by indie coder Bob Smith in 2010. Other fan-made Horace games exist too, including Horace Goes to The Tower, released in 2011. It seems that our love for Horace continues ever onwards, in spite of his rather chequered past…

More: Horace and the Spiders on Wikipedia

Fallout 4, PC

The fourth Fallout was released by Bethesda in 2015, some seven years after Fallout 3, and five years after Fallout: New Vegas. In fact: I would call this the fifth Fallout game, because Fallout: New Vegas was more than just game number 3.5, in my humble opinion – it was the best game in the entire series. But anyway… What do I know?

What Fallout 4 retains from the previous games it benefits from (like lockpicking, hacking, and companions, which are essentially the same), and what Fallout 4 loses from the previous games it also benefits from too. Excepting for maybe the Perk Chart, which I found to be a big step backwards, usability-wise, in Fallout 4.

That ‘blip’ aside, I love the sparse and refined interface of Fallout 4; the story and conversations are simpler and more realistic; and ‘crafting’ has taken on a whole new meaning this time around. New additions to the gameplay, such as building and defending settlements, the use of power armour, and manufacturing helper robots, I think are all excellent. Although base-building in Fallout 4 is not perfect (trying to get fencing to connect up is a bitch), the fundamentals behind it work very well and add another dimension to the Fallout experience.

Of course, Fallout 4 is all about chasing quests, gaining and using experience points, playing politics with different factions, and hoarding every piece of tech and weaponry you can get your hands on. Exploring the crumbling, post-apocalyptic Boston, Massachusetts yields many surprising moments.

What I love most about Fallout 4 is the world itself. And the atmospherics. The effort Bethesda has made to create a believable, destroyed world is remarkable. The use of light/dark; coloured lighting; weather effects; music and sound effects all combine to make something really worth experiencing. On normal difficulty Fallout 4 is a challenging game – that I like too. At times the enemies in the game can be utterly ruthless and punishing (try meeting an Assaultron Demon and its friends when you’re lower levelled and see what you think of that experience…), and there are many unique monsters in the game that are way beyond your initial capabilities and who will mince you for dinner without warning if you make a mis-step. Which is all part of the Fallout RPG experience – fear, followed by eventual domination (when you go back to get your revenge later). And – there being no real level cap this time – you could in theory just keep on surviving indefinitely.

At times Fallout 4 can be frustrating. A game this big and complex is going to have some bugs, and I did experience a couple that broke my game (which I had to use to the console to fix), which nobody wants to do, but at least a fix was available, saving hours of gameplay that I’d otherwise have to re-do. I also think that the item management is still not quite as good as I’ve seen in other games. Organising items can be quite tiring in Fallout 4 and a few tweaks to the menu system might have made it a lot easier. But overall: I don’t want to complain about it too much, because I really enjoyed playing Fallout 4.

Where would I put Fallout 4 in my list of best Fallout games? Is it better than Fallout: New Vegas? Mmm. I would probably put it joint top with Fallout: New Vegas. In some respects, Fallout 4 is better, but in other respects: not. The story/characterisation and world-building in Fallout 4 are outstanding. There’s no doubting that.

More: Fallout 4 on Wikipedia
Steam: Fallout 4 on Steam

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Saboteur II: Avenging Angel, ZX Spectrum

This 1987 sequel to the pioneering Saboteur is so much bigger in scope than its predecessor, but retains much of what made it good in the first place.

The main character – a stealthy ninja, on an infiltration mission – is actually the sister of the previous character, out on mission to avenge his death. So you’re controlling a woman inside that ninja outfit, which is great in my opinion, and Saboteur 2 was one of the first videogames to feature a female protagonist in the main role.

In Saboteur 2 there are nine separate missions that take place in the same gigantic location, with the difficulty level increasing as you progress. The basic aim is the same as the previous game: sneak around a guarded complex, looking for pieces of punched tape (yes: punched tape…), while at the same time avoiding guards and their pet pumas! No – not dogs this time – but pumas. And they do actually look like pumas, which is pretty cool.

There are also other incidental puzzles to solve along the way, such as having to disable electric fences that are blocking the way, and also a number of rather exciting motorbike sequences that do add some much-needed variation to the game.

The introductory sequence – of the ninja arriving by hang glider, then dropping down to begin the game – is iconic in ZX Spectrum history.

Note: the loading screen actually shows a map of the entire game. Or, at least: the entire complex that you’re exploring, and it is very useful if you want to play the game seriously. A lot of games-players didn’t even realise it was a map of the game at the time! Looking back: this was both a unique and clever thing to do – put the game map on-screen during loading – so players could study it while they waited for loading to finish (which could take more than five minutes).

More: Saboteur II: Avenging Angel on Wikipedia

Saboteur, ZX Spectrum

Written by Clive Townsend and published by Durell Software in 1985, Saboteur is a stealth action platform game that was something of a hit with ZX Spectrum users back in the day.

You play a ninja on an infiltration mission, who arrives by boat and who must sneak around a large warehouse, looking for a floppy disk with “names of rebel leaders” on it, and then make good his escape. Unfortunately the warehouse is crawling with guards, dogs, and automated security systems, all of which must either be destroyed or avoided. The level of difficulty can be chosen by the player beforehand, and there are nine difficulty levels to choose from (one to nine), and the higher the level is: the more concentrated the defence.

The saboteur can run, crouch, climb ladders, do a high kick, and throw shuriken, and – for the time – was a versatile and rewarding character to control. Playing Saboteur now still brings some joy, and the game has aged reasonably well, considering the Spectrum‘s limitations.

A much bigger (and better) sequel (by the same author and publisher) came out the following year, in 1987.

More: Saboteur on Wikipedia

The Addams Family, Super Nintendo

Back in the early 1990s Ocean Software had a reputation for producing mostly movie-licensed action games, and The Addams Family on the Super Nintendo is arguably the pinnacle of that niche.

Because of the strict approval process for Super Nintendo games (basically having to demonstrate to Nintendo, well in advance, that the game was free of bugs or unplayable sequences), The Addams Family was obviously highly polished by Ocean before release. Which makes it an enjoyable game to play overall.

Based on the 1991 film of the same name, in The Addams Family you play Gomez, and you must explore the platform-based mansion – and surrounding areas – in order to rescue your family members. Each one has been kidnapped and is being held by a boss that you have to find and beat, and they can be tackled in any order.

The Addams Family owes a huge debt of gratitude to Nintendo‘s Mario games. To kill enemies you either bounce on their heads, or use any of the available weapons (which of course must be found and picked-up first), which is pure Mario. It has to be said, though, that The Addams Family is nowhere near as good as any Mario game I’ve ever played. It’s far too simple to be even in the same league.

That said: The Addams Family is still a decent game and is especially good for kids to play. Like many SNES games: it’s aged quite well.

More: The Addams Family (The Game) on Wikipedia