Qix, PC

The 1989 PC MS-DOS conversion of Taito‘s classic arcade game Qix was programmed by the Alien Technology Group and is excruciatingly difficult. At least: that’s what I found.

I love Qix and wanted to make some headway in this but couldn’t make it past the second screen. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because I’m sh*t? I don’t know.

Otherwise this is a very good conversion.

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

Q*bert 3, Super Nintendo

Q*Bert 3 was developed by Realtime Associates and released in 1992, and it was a bit of a missed opportunity in some respects.

The SNES could’ve done a great follow-on from Q*Bert, but instead we get an animated technicolor yawn… The first backdrop – the blue skies and clouds – is brilliant. Love it. After that it’s a procession of mind-bending colour schemes and patterns – it’s just too much! Every now and then you might get a less garish backdrop, but they’re rare.

Which is a pity because the underlying mechanics of Q*Bert 3 are fine. A bit dull maybe, but still fine. I just don’t think that the game is as imaginative – or as good – as it should have been. Especially graphically. Whoever designed (most of) the backgrounds was out of control… Jeff Lee – creator of Q*Bert himself – worked on the graphics for this game. Maybe it was him? 🙂

Never mind. Q*Bert 3 is what it is. An alright game. Certainly no classic, but fun for a short while (ie. until it leaves you blind…)

More: Q*Bert 3 on Wikipedia

Sparkster, Super Nintendo

Konami‘s Sparkster is a side-scrolling platform action game released for the Super Nintendo in 1994.

Sparkster is also the name of the main character who you play – an Opossum Knight who fights wolves and robots with a sword that can fire energy bolts and a jet pack that helps him fly short distances.

It’s a cool game, and moves at a fast pace. There’s plenty of variety in both the graphics and the gameplay. The section where Sparkster rides a giant robot bird is just awesome.

Yes: I did cheat when I took these screenshots. The energy bar barely drops across them all… Dead giveaway. It does give a good overview of the first half of the game though.

More: Sparkster on Wikipedia

Airball, Atari ST

Published by Microdeal in 1987, Airball is a weird and challenging isometric puzzle game where you play a bubble exploring a trap-ridden castle, looking for gems (which convert to a low number of points), and also looking for ‘Inflation Stations’ because the bloody stupid ball has a slow leak and needs to be constantly topped-up with air…

Touch anything dangerous and the bubble will pop, losing you a life. Lose all three lives and it’s game over. At least the pump stations also act like waypoints, so you return to the last one you visited if you die. At leastAirball is a tough game. Touch the wrong pixel and you’ll pop…

Airball on the Atari ST is slightly better than the Dragon 32 original. It just looks so much better and is more varied and playable. It’s still a relatively frustrating experience, although I am glad it exists! 🙂

More: Airball on Wikipedia

Airball, Dragon 32

Microdeal‘s isometric adventure/puzzle game Airball originated on the Dragon 32 in 1987. This is the original version.

It doesn’t look like much, with its (sub Knight Lore) monochrome graphics, but it plays okay. It’s frustrating to play in general. Mostly because of the premise, which is: you are a delicate bubble, exploring a large, trap-ridden castle for hidden treasures (for measly points too – it’s hardly worth it). Touch anything even remotely spikey and you go “pop!”. You also have a slow leak so must find pump stations to keep the air topped-up. As if the game wasn’t difficult enough…

I had multiple goes over the space of a couple of hours and the most I ever scored was 15 points. I think you get one point for each item of treasure… The measly bloody programmer! 🙂

Thankfully, Airball was converted to other systems and proved a bit more interesting than this Dragon 32 version. The Atari ST version of Airball is much better.

More: Airball on Wikipedia

Rampart, Arcade

Atari Games1990 arcade game Rampart is a strange but compelling single-screen castle-building action game, with artillery-based shooting sections.

You start off in round one having to quickly build a 2D castle using bricks that you can rotate and place on the ground. The castle’s walls must be completely enclosed otherwise you lose the game. Round two sees you placing cannons inside the walls of your castle. And round three is the artillery shooting section where you must blast away at an invading armada at sea in seingle-player, or your opponent of playing with others. The enemy ships (or your opponent) fire back and damage your castle, so you must then repair your walls before the cycle repeats itself.

Up to three players can play Rampart simultaneously – against each other – and a full-on three-player game is something to behold (and rare). The original arcade cabinet featured three individual trackballs for fast analogue movement, so you had lots of elbows during three-player games! The cabinet – and screen on this arcade game – were pretty big though, so there was just about enough room for three players to play comfortably.

Playing Rampart now is still a blast – especially with friends. The analogue controls of the original arcade cabinet are not absolutely necessary (as they are in something like Arkanoid), Rampart can still be played okay with a digital controller because there’s also a joystick version available.

More: Rampart on Wikipedia


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

Bank Buster, Atari ST

Programmed by M. Pezzotta and published by Methodic Solutions in 1988, Bank Buster is an obscure, single-player Arkanoid clone in which you break into a bank by tunnelling underground.

Bank Buster is a strange idea, but somehow works quite well. It certainly had me captivated for a few hours, even though my first impressions of the game were not that favourable.

Graphically, the game is adequate – arguably a little rough around the edges – but, gameplay-wise, it seems to have something compelling about it that isn’t easy to pinpoint.

The idea is to bounce a ball upwards into the underground soil, which removes it, eventually opening up a hole into the next screen. You then bounce the ball into the next screen and follow it, repeating the process until you reach the bank’s vault. “You” being a bat with a pair of eyes underneath (and in a nice touch the eyes constantly follow the position of the ball).

Like Arkanoid, the bat can collect power-ups to give it extra abilities, such as spawning extra balls, or allowing it to fire upwards. Unlike Arkanoid, this has various bank-robbing tools scattered around the various screens which you collect for points, and to open up previously locked doors.

When you near the vault itself, extra hazards start popping up, such as robots and alarm bells, and your ultimate aim is to avoid them and reach the treasures inside.

If you like bat and ball games, Bank Buster is worth searching out. It’s sufficiently different to other bat and ball games out there, and has a certain je ne sais quoi about it that makes it worth playing. Just don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed.

More: Bank Buster on Moby Games

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