Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Commodore 64

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders is the 1988 successor to Maniac Mansion. Successor in the sense that it uses the same game engine and gameplay style, but does not exist in the same universe.

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Maniac Mansion, Commodore 64

Released in 1987 for the Commodore 64 and Apple II, Maniac Mansion was the birth of SCUMM (Story Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion), the game engine that defined LucasArts point-and-click adventures for a decade. Actually, back then they were called Lucasfilm Games, and they were breaking new ground in a number of different places.

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Labyrinth, Commodore 64

The actual, full title of this 1986 adventure game from Lucasfilm Games is Labyrinth: The Computer Game, but I’ll refer to it from now on as Labyrinth.

Labyrinth was the very first Lucasfilm Games adventure game and is based on the fantasy film of the same name – the one written by Terry Jones, directed by Jim Henson, and starring David Bowie in a big white wig.

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Simon the Sorcerer, Amiga

Simon the Sorcerer is a very fondly-remembered, British point-and-click adventure game published by Adventure Soft for the Amiga in 1993.

It looks and plays similarly to the classic LucasArts adventures of the late 80s and early 90s – Loom, Monkey Island, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis – and has the same verb/icon system as pioneered by those games.

It also has a similar, dry, satirical sense of humour to the aforementioned LucasArts games, which is somewhat surprising because Simon the Sorcerer was written by a teenager – specifically Mike Woodroffe‘s son, Simon. Mike was the director of Simon the Sorcerer and Simon, his son, was the writer. His “big break” you could say, and he didn’t let his dad down…

Simon the Sorcerer has a lot of great scenes in it – all beautifully drawn and coloured by pixel artist, Paul Drummond. All the characters are nicely animated too. Overall it is a top quality production. A ‘talkie’ version (with full voice acting) was later released on CD-ROM and I would say that that’s the one to play if you’re going to play this game. Word of warning though: it’s quite a difficult game, so be prepared for some frustration, unless: A. you’re an adventure game genius and have no fear, or B. you’re happy to use a walkthrough

A 25th Anniversary Edition of Simon the Sorcerer was released in April 2018 to mixed reviews. I haven’t played it yet so can’t comment. These screenshots are from the original 1993 Amiga version.

More: Simon the Sorcerer on Wikipedia
Steam: Simon the Sorcerer 25th Anniversary Edition on Steam
GOG.com: Simon the Sorcerer 25th Anniversary Edition on GOG.com

SimCity, Super Nintendo

The 1991 Super Nintendo version of Will Wright‘s classic SimCity was developed by Nintendo themselves, so is somewhat different to previous versions. It’s actually one of the best versions of SimCity around.

SimCity is about city-building, land/power/transportation management, taxation, and dealing with natural disasters. Basically: keeping your growing (or maybe even declining) population happy.

The viewpoint is overhead, and you build your city by clearing land and laying tiles on the scrolling landscape. You build roads, rail tracks, residential areas, industrial areas, and commercial areas – not to mention your own house – and must attract people to come live with you. When you reach a certain size you can then build more advanced structures, such as airports and sports stadia. Of course, you need power stations and police departments, and maybe even a port if you’ve got some coastline.

Nintendo‘s involvement added a lot of nice touches to SimCity on the SNES that aren’t in other versions, not least of which is a Bowser attack on Tokyo! Aping the Godzilla attack of the original game… Or the golden Mario statue awarded for reaching a half million population. Or the special buildings that are awarded for reaching certain milestones, such as casinos, amusement parks, and expo centres. Some of these ideas were incorporated into SimCity 2000 later, so it was prudent of Maxis to approve Nintendo‘s own development of their precious game, in exchange for new ideas.

A regular game of SimCity is an open-ended ‘sandbox’ affair, where you choose a random map and just build on it until you run out of steam. There are also six different disaster scenarios to “beat” – earthquake, pollution, crimewave, nuclear meltdown, coastal flooding, and the aforementioned monster attack.

Not as boring as it looks, SimCity is a classic SNES game and still a lot of fun to play.

More: SimCity on Wikipedia

The Great Escape, ZX Spectrum

Denton Designs made this smart little POW game for Ocean Software in 1986.

It basically re-enacts the risky life of being a Prisoner of War during the Second World War, with a planned escape being top of the list of things to do.

Prisoners have to comply to a strict prison timetable, but can ‘go walkabout’ in-between compulsory attendances. Meaning: if you miss roll call, they’ll notice and come after you. So you have to be careful. The flagpole on the left indicates your current morale. Each time you discover a new part of the camp, or each time you find or do something useful, your morale will increase. However, getting any of your items found and confiscated, or getting locked in solitary for attempted escapes will severely damage it. When your character’s morale reaches zero you lose control of him and he then just follows routine and it’s game over.

Like most isometric action/adventure games on the Spectrum, The Great Escape is relatively slow to play, but also quite absorbing. The sparse graphics do a good job of creating a good atmosphere and the controls are responsive enough to at least give you a fighting chance. Puzzles are mostly timing, lockpicking, outfit changes, and basic item juggling problems, although there are a couple of alternative solutions to escaping.

You can play the game as a POW ‘sandbox’ game if you like, and not bother trying to escape. And if you’re really lazy you can leave the controls alone and the prisoner will just go about his daily routine! I’m not sure how far you can get doing that, but it demonstrates that Denton Designs at least tried to create a self-contained, ‘living world’ inside this little 48K prison camp.

More: The Great Escape on Wikipedia
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Eye of the Storm, PC

Eye of the Storm was the first game released by Rebellion Developments in 1993, and also the first video game designed by Jason Kingsley, co-founder of Rebellion and current owner of 2000AD comic.

Back in 1993 I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Rebellion, in Oxford, England, to see Eye of the Storm; to have it demo-ed to me by Jason himself, and then to take it away for review. Luckily, at the time I was working in Oxford (at Maverick Magazines), so it was only a short walk from our offices to theirs. I spent probably three or fours hours with Jason, playing the game, discussing it with him, and later being given a sneak peek of the Aliens vs. Predator game they were also working on for the Atari Jaguar… It was a memorable day.

Playing Eye of the Storm now I have the same feelings I had when I first played it back in 1993. It’s a clever, playable and absorbing game (identifying alien lifeforms for cash in the atmosphere of Jupiter and shooting down poachers); initially a little confusing (easily sorted with a little bit of effort), and it could easily be dismissed by those who just don’t ‘get’ it.

The basic premise of Eye of the Storm is that in 2124 life is discovered (by a probe) in Jupiter’s great red spot, and there’s a mad scramble by mercenaries to bring back specimens for cash. Except you’re no mercenary – you’re a representative of the Interstellar Conservation Executive (ICE) and you’re there to document these lifeforms for posterity. Not kill or catch them, but identify them. And you’ve got a small, blue spacecraft in which to do it in. And not get killed. So you’re a conservationist of the future, with homing missiles and lasers, of course. And you are encouraged to blow the poachers out of existence!

The ship’s Heads-Up Display (HUD) is nicely designed and each instrumentation module can be turned on or off using key commands. The 3D graphics are simple by today’s standards, but are fast and reasonably colourful. The 3D models are comparable to Star Fox on the SNES, which came out the same year. Not as complex, sure, but only a couple of people made this game – not a large team. The random explosions when you die are quite nice. Kinda weirdly kaleidoscopic and unique…

The mouse and keyboard controls work very well and flying around is fairly relaxing, when you get the hang of flying in a 3D space with a limited turn speed. If you want to play Eye of the Storm seriously: there is a very good game in there to be had. With missions and objectives (watch out for messages that come up). Exploring and marking landmarks will help you find your way around the seemingly featureless “gas giant” although a lot of people may be put off by the lack of ground-based landmarks. There is no ground! There is a mysterious monolith though…

Eye of the Storm is a good concept and a decent game, nicely executed, but with limited appeal. And, while I wouldn’t rate it as a “must play” game, I would recommend you try it out if you’re interested in space cockpit games that are different from the norm. Personally: I really like Eye of the Storm; I enjoyed revisiting it and remembering how to play it properly. In fact: I’d love to see Rebellion bring it back with a few new ideas and features… Extra-terrestrial conservation will be a future trend, I feel. 🙂

Eye of the Storm was released on only two platforms: on the PC, in MS-DOS (the version shown here), and also on the Amiga. I’ve actually never played the Amiga version, but aim to rectify that soon.

More: Rebellion on Wikipedia
More: Eye of the Storm on Mobygames

Because Eye of the Storm is so good, and because it may seem confusing to play for some people, I’ve written a little starter guide to help first-timers get the hang of it. Hope it helps!

Eye of the Storm (1993) by Rebellion Developments Ltd.

Mini Guide by Mallo, September 2019

The basic aim is to survive long enough to record the creatures and events in the great red spot of Jupiter. To earn money, all you have to do is fly around, observing, identifying and shooting things. First of all: don’t shoot the lifeforms. Shoot the mercenaries that are shooting at you. Of course: to spend that money you make you’ve got to make it back to base alive. To do that, simply turn towards your base (the blue doughnut-looking thing with the red stripe on the side) and fly into the black area, which is the entrance. Once you’re docked you can check your money totals and buy new things. Some upgrades will be out of your reach at the start, but you should buy a number of fuel upgrades and PODs, namely: Defence PODs and Sentinels, which you can then release in space and use as your eyes and ears. From time to time you’ll get a message to capture a certain creature for a bonus. You don’t have to do this, but it is the quickest way to get those engine and hull upgrades.

Tip #1. For your very first sortie: don’t go far, or you will probably die. Just stay out for a few minutes, then return to base. You should then have some money to use for extra fuel. Make sure you save the game every time you dock when you’re starting out.

Tip #2. Identify everything (by pointing at it and pressing ‘I’). Check your ID totals in the Player Status option in the Save/Load menu.

Tip #3. If you catch a creature and there is no market for it, release it back into the wild. Make sure not to accidentally release your last fuel POD by accident, otherwise you’ll plummet into Jupiter’s core. In fact: use the ‘Release’ command as carefully as possible!

Tip #4. Getting an engine upgrade opens the game up significantly, so make that a priority. The Agile Engine is only 20,000 credits.

Tip #5. Getting a hull upgrade will mean that your ship can withstand the crushing pressures deeper down inside Jupiter’s atmosphere, where the weirder lifeforms dwell.

Tip #6. On the HUD, at the bottom are three coloured, horizontal lines. These are important. The top (yellow) line is your speed. The second (orange) line is your fuel, and the third (red) line are your shields.

Tip #7. Make sure to sell your empty fuel PODs once you get going, and to replace them with new ones.

Eye of the Storm keys:

1 – Net
2 – Release
3 – Map
5 – Homing Missile
6 – Missile
7 – Laser

I – Identify

R – Radar on/off
P – POD view on/off
M – Map on/off

B – Base (Turn toward)

Speed up/slow down – either hold right mouse button and backwards and forwards, or plus and minus on the keyboard

S – Sound on or off
G – Ground on or off

Raid on Bungeling Bay, Commodore 64

Raid on Bungeling Bay was Will Wright‘s first ever video game and it was released for the Commodore 64 by Brøderbund in 1984. Will Wright – in case you didn’t know – was a co-founder of Maxis and also designer of SimCity and The Sims.

Raid on Bungeling Bay is an overhead helicopter shooter and the basic aim is to set off from your aircraft carrier to bomb six enemy factories found located among a chain of islands. They’re of course heavily defended, and they also ‘develop’ as the game unfolds, giving you a time limit to stop them from taking over the world.

You have a front-mounted cannon which can blast boats, ground emplacements, aircraft, and other ground vehicles, but you need to drop bombs on the factories to destroy them. The process is to find a factory, clear the area of enemy defensive positions, then place yourself carefully over the top of a factory, before dropping your bombs. You can hold nine bombs per sortie and each factory pretty much takes a full payload of nine to destroy. Landing back on the aircraft carrier will replenish your bombs.

Other things to watch out for: enemy aircraft attacking your carrier (you have to go and fight them off), and an enemy battleship that is gradually built, before setting off to intercept your carrier. The battleship resents your presence and will fire homing missiles at you if you are within range.

I have a soft spot for this game, even though it looks quite dated now. I played it for hours as a kid. I just loved the feel of flying around in the chopper – viewed from overhead – blasting stuff on the ground. And it still feels good to play now… I picked it up and played it recently and almost completed it. It’s a nice little self-contained action game with some interesting mechanics and a wonderful control system.

MSX and NES versions of Raid on Bungeling Bay exist, but – rather strangely – none anywhere else. I say “rather strangely” because Bungeling Bay is a great game and would probably have worked well on other platforms.

More: Raid On Bungeling Bay on Wikipedia

Offendron Warrior, PC

Offendron Warrior is a superb retro gaming tribute to Eugene Jarvis‘s arcade classic Defender, using modern pixels and effects, by talented and prolific Korean Hijong Park. It’s currently available for free or donationware on Steam.

If you don’t know Defender – look it up, then go play it. Then come back and continue reading this.

Now… Imagine Defender, but with a few modern twists applied. Such as: homing missiles! And a transforming ship (Interceptor mode flies faster and Offender mode has rapid fire rate).

The basic premise of Offendron Warrior is the same as Defender: protect the vulnerable civilians from waves of alien Infectors, which will try to carry them away from the ground. You can shoot an Infector and it will drop the civilian, but if the civilian falls too far it will die. So you can (and should) catch them. You can catch a bunch of them and chain them up, which is neat. If you lose all your civilians it’s game over.

Holding down the transform button turns you into a mini mech, which shoots rapid, multi-coloured lasers out the front. Firing while moving up and down in mech mode creates a spread of fire, which is a good tactic for dealing with small groups of enemies. For everything else there are homing missiles. Homing missiles will take out every enemy on-screen, but are limited so must be used sparingly. The visual effect of a large group of enemies being wiped-out by homing missiles is quite amazing and really has to be seen to be believed. They are very satisfying to use!

Offendron Warrior is a simple but brilliant blaster. It’s a great tribute to Defender and a very playable and compulsive game in its own right. And – like all Hijong Park‘s games – it really is a tough challenge. It’s great fun, though. So don’t miss it!

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Steam: Offendron Warrior on Steam