Retro Games Worth Playing.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Captain Forever

Captain Forever is a wonderful blend of Elite, Cosmic Pirate and Lego.

Best of all, it's free.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Spelunky v1.0

One of my favourite freeware games, Spelunky, has finally gone to 1.0 and it's also been announced that the bloody hard random platformer is headed to Xbox Live next year.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Origami and Papercraft

I'm just getting into origami and papercraft, both are much cheaper than gunpla :D Here's some great links for videogame related papercraft:

Happy folding!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The BBC Micro - Videogaming’s Unsung Hero

(Written for Edge magazine job application, I got an interview, but didn't get the job)

As Samuel L. Jackson puts it in Pulp Fiction: “A dog's got personality. And personality goes a long way.” Whilst lagging behind the sleek greyhound that was the ZX Spectrum and not quite matching the lupine power of the Commodore 64, the BBC Micro‘s personality and robustness gave it the charm of a St. Bernard and the reliability of a bulldog.

The Spectrum was a black slab of cyberpunk future, but with its shameful keyboard, anaemic graphics, and dubious joystick adapters, the authentic arcade experience was lacking. The C=64 was closer, a full keyboard, dedicated joystick port, with graphical and audio capabilities that weren’t bettered until the Sega Megadrive, but stylistically, the tan-and-grey breadbin had little to shout about. Finally, the behemoth of the bunch, the BBC Model B. A full, black keyboard with red-orange function keys, all but drowned out by its enormous cream casing. So huge was the BBC Model B, that its joystick adapter was barely noticeable, but its size was reassuring; here was a real computer.

Bulk aside, the BBC wasn’t easily ignored. Unlike its rivals, it featured a built-in speaker which announced itself on startup with a comforting, house-waking ‘MMMM-BEEP!’ Its 4-channel sound chip was used to frequently deafening effect, such as on Cylon Attack’s thundering title screen, and no subsequent version of Elite matched the audio of the original. With shields draining, every Thargoid laser pulse was felt through monumental crashing and screeching.

In game terms, Elite was unquestionably the BBC Micro’s killer app. David Braben and Ian Bell’s space-trading masterpiece has arguably yet to be bettered and its praises sung at great length by many, leaving little more to be said, save this: It started here.

Despite its seven graphics modes, the BBC’s colour palettes were limited, frequently resulting in garish, punk-esque colour schemes, but also visually authentic versions of early arcade titles. As to migrations from other platforms, one look at the Beeb’s chunky, psychedelic take on the legendary Jetpac offers more evidence of the machine’s innate charm.

The manufacturer’s software house, Acornsoft created physically large but graphically minimalist packaging. Black boxes with a standard font, Acornsoft in blue, title in white and a pop-art screenshot were arresting as they were indulgent. The exceptions to the standard design were for Acornsoft’s fiendish text adventures, which gained appropriate paintings in lieu of screenshots. Just two titles ever fully bucked the trend: the aforementioned Elite and Geoff Crammond’s painfully authentic Formula 3 sim, Revs.

Thumping sounds, tripped-out graphics and arcade-perfect clones like Acornsoft’s Snapper (Pac-Man); Planetoid (Defender) and Hopper (Frogger, unsurprisingly) were impressive enough in the living room, but it wasn’t at home the BBC had its strongest presence. As the school computer, the BBC Micro offered an authentic and unmatchable arcade experience in the classroom.

BBCs were still extant in secondary schools into the early 90s, albeit usually in the more formidable guise of the Master 128. This was despite Acorn’s final foray into home computing, the Archimedes, being released in 1987. The Beeb continues to have a strong emulation scene, with many still sweating through such labyrinthine classics as Exile, Citadel and Imogen. Its Wikipedia entry lists several examples of BBCs being used well into the 21st Century, so it’s not too much to hope that these relics take the odd spin around Revs’ Brand’s Hatch or are still working towards that ever elusive ‘Elite’ rating.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

A.I. Die Part 2

That'll be part 2, then.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

A.I. Die Part 1

For a change, here's the first part of a short story, made using Second Life.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Retro Games Worth Playing 3 - Sentient

Name: Sentient
Platform: Playstation, PC
Release Date: 1997
Publisher: Psygnosis
Designers: Psygnosis
Predecessors: Brataccas, Snowball,
Return to Eden, The Worm in Paradise (The Silicon Dreams Trilogy), Planetfall
Descendants: Deus Ex

Although this is yet another space-based game, it couldn’t be more different from the previous two in terms of pacing, environment and especially plot. It’s also the third British game in a row, and the second to reference 'Icarus', neither of which are intentional, honest.

Released early in the Playstation's life, Psygnosis’ ambient tour de force was years ahead of its time. Better known for the Wipeout series and various graphically sublime, but fundamentally flawed Amiga games, Sentient was an ambitious departure for Psygnosis. Featuring complex AI, branching plot threads, multiple endings and bags of atmosphere, Sentient is also an example of that still-rare genre, the first-person adventure.

Similar to Level 9’s Silicon Dreams trilogy, to which it can be considered a spiritual and thematic successor, Sentient begins by placing you in immediate peril. As medic and Moby look-alike Garrit Sherova, you’ve been sent to assist with the outbreak of a mysterious disease on the space station Icarus. So-called due to its close orbit around a sun, a solar flare causes your shuttle to crash in the station’s docking bay. Once this is explained in the opening movie, it’s immediately game on. You’re in the radiation-flooded shuttle bay, a barely-conscious engineer to your left and no means of protection. Well, what are you waiting for?

Time and timing are cruical. Events happen only once and if they're missed, the plot is sent spinning off in another direction. The main ‘action’ of the game is either participating in, or merely listening to, conversations between the Icarus’ crew and using the information gained. Exploiting the station’s politics are the key to your success, with your actions in the radioactive opening sequence affecting allegiences from the very start. Regardless of your actions in the bay, you’ll soon find yourself unconscious and trapped in a maze of lush hedges and ornate stone pillars. The maze is the first of many and adds a delicately surreal touch to Sentient, contrasting nicely with the sterile setting of the Icarus. That’s not to say that the Icarus lacks atmosphere, station announcements appear throughout the game, with warnings of solar flares and updates on damage to the Icarus. The effect of the station's oppressive heat is conveyed by frequent brow-wiping and occasional adjustment of bumcrack-bound underwear by the Icarus' personable inhabitants.

I haven’t even mentioned the political assassin, Shatterjack, the relevance of the game’s title (think 2001, but on a far grander scale) or the effect of your facial expressions on conversations. Sentient is a thoroughly deep game, but it’s not for the impatient or those looking for all-out action. Persevere with it, however, and you’ll find a Game well Worth Playing.