Amberstar is a German-developed RPG that was originally released for the Atari ST, Amiga and PC MS-DOS in 1992. It is an incredibly difficult game to get a foothold in, but is worth the effort because it is such an interesting gaming challenge to take on.
Amberstar is extremely detailed, different (possibly arcane), tense, and atmospheric. Some say that it is a cross between Dungeon Master and the Ultimaseries of games, and I’d probably agree with that. It is a curious mix of real time and turn-based gameplay, mixing first-person and overhead viewpoints.
The screenshots here are from the PC DOS version of Amberstar, as that version has the most colourful graphics (and the least bugs).
If you’re going to play Amberstar, which I highly recommend you do if you’re an RPG enthusiast, then I would advise playing along with an online guide or walkthrough. It really is that tough. Great game though!
Before they made the classic Dungeon Master, FTL (or Software Heaven as they are sometimes known) made the classic Oids – a challenging 16-bit gravity game shooter on the Atari ST.
Again: Oids is one of those games that doesn’t look like much at first glance. At least not until you see it moving. The fast/smooth scrolling of the landscape, and excellent feel of the craft inertia makes Oids something of jewel in the crown of the gravity game genre.
Dark Star, released in 1984 by Design Design, is a very underrated game, in my opinion. Back in 1984, when I first played it, I couldn’t really be bothered to work out what to do, and just flew around blasting things randomly. When I eventually learned how to play the game properly I realised that this beautifully presented (and simple) 3D shoot ’em up was something special. The key was in knowing how to orient yourself in the landscape (by using the maps), and knowing what to blast and what not to blast. And, having played the game quite a bit recently, I have to say that Dark Star has stood the test of time extremely well. Considering the Spectrum’s limitations, this game is something of a technical miracle. Especially when you see how fast everything moves (and I admit: the game doesn’t look like much in stills). Well worth a play now, and (in my opinion) one of the best ZX Spectrum games of all time.
That yellow thing is a planet. If you fly into it you’ll descend down to the surface.
Planetary data for TES 281 T. A planet with an atmosphere that is “not for programmers”.
Dark Star is obviously Star Wars influenced (as in: Star Wars, the Atari arcade game), and features wireframe (vector) graphics of structures and objects.
Flying through a yellow tunnel thing. Dark Star doesn’t look like much still, but moving it is a thing of beauty.
Destroyed a tower (or something) there.
Just about to crash into that structure by the looks of it.
The Tactical Galactic sector map, with the key on the left.
Atari’s 1984 arcade hit was a very early proponent of isometric (meaning: “equal measure”) graphics, with a viewpoint that takes an overhead, three-quarter perspective of the game play area, and as a result was a huge influence on many games that followed it. It wasn’t the FIRST isometric game ever made, but it was certainly one of the first really popular ones. Marble Madness still stands up extremely well today, being very playable and beautifully constructed.
Bruce Lee 2 is an unofficial ‘homebrew’ sequel to Ron J. Fortier‘s classic Bruce Lee, released free by Bruno R. Marcos in 2013. And it is a marvellous game in its own right!
Not only do the graphics and gameplay follow on brilliantly from the original, but you can also play the game in a number of different screen modes, meaning: you can make it look like an actual C64 game, or even an Amstrad CPC game.
Fallout: New Vegas really is the game Fallout 3 could have been. Don’t get me wrong: I quite liked Fallout 3 (and loved Fallouts 1 & 2), but the storytelling and decision-making in Fallout 3 I felt left a LOT to be desired.
In Fallout: New Vegas, if you really wanted to be bad, you could be very “bad”. And, this game being set in Las Vegas (and the surrounding desert), there is plenty of scope for being VERY bad.
And there is also plenty of scope for getting yourself killed, and for killing other people too. In Fallout: New Vegas, life is cheap, and the weapons are even cheaper…
In short, Fallout: New Vegas is a Role-Playing and shooting classic. Cazadors, deathclaws, Glowing Ones… They are all now part of gaming folklore.
Actually, Splash Lake is a PC Engine CD game, and was released in 1991 on CD-ROM only. Which is a pity because it’s so much fun to play – it deserves more attention.
You play an ostrich who must bounce around a series of maze-like platforms, pecking key tiles, and sending all the meanies to their doom by falling in the water. It’s simple, devious, addictive, and fun, with a jolly soundtrack to keep things moving along at pace.
There is no Wikipedia page, and not much (useful) information about this game on the internet, but it does deserve tracking down. There are, however, a few disc images floating around, if you can find them. And the image I found worked perfectly in Magic Engine.
Splash Lake could do with a re-release. Not a re-make, but a re-release of the original game. If I ever saw one on Steam: I’d buy it.
Developed by Cyberdyne Systems and published by Thalamus (the software arm of Newsfield Publishing), Armalyte is known for its furious blasting action, and it’s wonderfully detailed and atmospheric graphics.
Considering that it was squeezed into 64K (less, actually), it is a remarkable achievement.
A sequel was planned, but the guy who did the graphics in the first game (Robin Levy) left Cyberdyne and as a result the game was canned. One Armalyte is enough, I think, though. There’s only so far you can take this type of game – even with rose-tinted spectacles…
One of the best Castlevania games, Symphony of the Night on the PlayStation is a brilliant mix of platforming and Level-Grinding Role-Playing, with some wonderful graphical moments and evil gameplay touches.
Initially, after the game’s first release in 1997, Symphony of the Night was not a hit, but word of mouth and good reviews turned it into a cult success, and now a retro-gaming classic. The soundtrack in particular is very highly regarded.
In my opinion the Morrowind Game of the Year Edition on the XBox is even better than the much-loved PC original, because the controls are more intuitive.
You may scoff, but having played all the Elder Scrolls games to death over the past two decades, and having written about them a lot in many different magazines, I think that qualifies me to override the opinion of someone who hasn’t done any of those things! 😀
I was lucky enough to play this on an original XBox devkit, which allowed me to take uncompressed screenshots over a LAN. Thus: the unparalleled quality of my shots.
There is no doubting that Morrowind is one of the best RPGs ever made. Better than Oblivion; better than Skyrim. Why? Because it is much more open and detailed than either of those games, and because the magic system is so much more expansive and fun. Not to mention the brilliant volcanic setting and scary diseases that you can catch.
Sure: the graphics are a little basic, compared to most modern big team games, but the gameplay is second to none.
When I last played this game I think I spent close to six months milking it of everything it had to offer, and took around ten thousand screenshots. These are just a few of the best!