Number 10 to Number 6
In the words of Pete T(w)ong: “and we continue…”
10. Actraiser (SNES)
Part side scrolling slash-em-up, part god sim – this was one giant slab of Japanese awesomeness.
It shouldn’t have worked, with two drastically different types of game – yet somehow they managed to gel together like they plopped out of the same demigod’s womb. Like a computer game version of Riggs and Murtagh… or other of the various Odd Couples of history…
After glowing reviews in the excellent Play magazine I couldn’t wait to get little fingers around it. It lived up to it’s billing being a joyously entertaining game, with the vastly differing game styles offering compelling reasons to keep interested.
Because of that it was one of the first games I remember completing.
One Line Review:There’s been nothing like it since, at least not on the Western Shores.
9. Cannon Fodder
“War has never been so much fun.”
The theme music said it all really. Taking the hallmark graphics of Sensible Software you had to guide your band of four 30 pixel squadies through huge mission landscapes.
You used the mouse to point-and-click around the maps, which worked extremely well with their elevated top-down view. You could split your squad into different groups attempt different plans of attack against the enemy forces. Think Command & Conquer (without the tedium) crossed with Commandos.
Underlying the wonderful game mechanics there was some fantastically subtle black humour and social comment. The title screen of the game featured a hill where a long line of raw recruits lined up to join your squad. As you progessed through the game inevitably members of your squad would be killed. Their graves slowly filled the hillside as the eager recruits queued up for their destiny.
Even with the tiny pixel graphics Sensible tried to push home the brutality of war. For example it was possible to shoot enemies in the stomach, where they would lie slowly bleeding to death, screaming all the time, until they were put out of their misery.
Sensible didn’t do bad games.
One Line Review: Dark, funny, clever, playable, addictive, Sensible.
8. Speedball II
Ice Cream! Ice Cream!
Ahhhh the Bitmap Brothers. The Amiga would have been a much less interesting place without you guys.
Speedball was a cross between footy, rugby, American football, handball… all taking place on a pitch that was like an overgrown pinball machine. You commanded your team of metal armour clad guys around the pitch bashing seven shades of crap out of the opposition.
The basic idea was to score goals, but you could also score points for lighting lights and other furniture like on a pinball table.
In single player there was a full career mode with proper league structures and transfers and with all that naked brutality multiplayer was a joy.
There have been a couple of attempts to rebirth the franchise, none that have been successful… but there have been rumours of an Arcadeification.
One Line Review: One of the most fondly remembered Amiga classics from one of the most fondly remembered developers.
7. Monkey Island – all of them… (Amiga)
During the 3D hyped would of the original PlayStation you can sort of understand why these style of games fell out of favour with publishers, and that’s a shame.
All of the Monkey Island games were stunning pieces of work. They successfully combined engaging story lines, genuinely funny scripts, great graphics, amusing animations, and (sometimes ridiculously) fiendish logic puzzles. These were all wrapped up in the easy to use point-and-click environment of SCUMM.
Even though I was too young to ever get anywhere in the games, and even though they often left me tearing my hair out, they still left a huge impression on me.
You were able to roam around relatively freely. You had a lot of control over the comic conversations with NPCs. You could take part in spitting competitions. Most of all the games came on enough disks to make even the sturdiest of desks sag a little bit in the middle – always a sure sign of quality.
It’s a shame these games have gone… maybe in these days of skyhigh production costs someone might be willing to look at these games again?
One Line Review: Too complex for my little youngster brain, but still cracking stuff – I feel a revisit coming.
6. Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1,2,3 and 4
I came late to the PlayStation party. I had started uni, and I’d invested in a ninja fast PC (350Mhz of raw powwwweeeerrr!). Obviously not much work ever got done on that machine, but I played plenty of games meaning I didn’t need a little Sony console.
Tony Hawks changed my mind. I had played the demo on PC and I was impressed, but it didn’t work on a keyboard that well… a PlayStation was purchased soon after.
THPS was the first game to nail a digital version of an ‘extreme’ sport. Not just the mechanics of the game, but the whole package. Everything from the look of the game, down to the expertly chosen soundtrack… which is what a lot of the extreme lifestyle is all about.
Underneath the accurate skate atmosphere lays a game that’s easy to get going with, but is deeper than the deep end of dried out Cali swimming pool. The way the game was originally structured was also inspired with two minute intensity packed missions that practically screamed “Just one more try you useless bastard, you almost nailed it that time!”
Alas THPS became a victim of it’s own money making success. It fell into the EA trap of annual updateitis, when it got a bit stale they threw ideas at it, and cranked up the Kerrrrazy – it was all a bit rubbish and lost sight of the core goodness.
By all accounts the new Tony Hawks Project 8 game is a cracking job, and one I hope to be checking out soon!
One Line Review: Great gampeplay, great atmosphere, simply the best extreme sport sim ever.