Dark Star, ZX Spectrum

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.

Marble Madness, Arcade

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.

Continue reading Marble Madness, Arcade

Bruce Lee 2, PC

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.

Brilliant to play, not easy to grab, and well worth downloading and playing now.

Fallout: New Vegas, PC

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.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallout:_New_Vegas
Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/22380/Fallout_New_Vegas/

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time
100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Splash Lake, PC Engine

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.

More: YouTube

Armalyte, Commodore 64

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…

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

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, PlayStation

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.

More: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on Wikipedia

Morrowind, XBox

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!

Click: The Elder Scrolls series on The King of Grabs

Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/22320/
More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elder_Scrolls_III:_Morrowind

100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time
100 Best Level-Grinders Of All-Time

Sub-Terrania, Megadrive/Genesis

A shoot ’em up/gravity game on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis that is a massive amount of fun to play. It really is one of those obscure little titles that is a pleasant surprise to discover.

Released in 1993/1994 (depending on where you lived) and developed by Zyrinx and published by Scavenger. The smooth scrolling and fast-paced blasting action requires skill and dexterity to progress, and there is plenty of satisfying pixellated destruction along the way. A fantastic blast from the past. well worth tracking down if you haven’t played it before.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-Terrania

King of Demons, Super Nintendo

This 1995, Japan-only release is a game that begins fairly un-remarkably, but quickly opens up to become one of the most interesting and visually exciting action platform games on the SNES. The fantasy horror theme in King of Demons means plenty of gruesome set pieces, some of which could have surely fallen foul of the censorious Nintendo of America (and maybe Europe too).

There are fan-made English language versions around, should you decide to play it. It is definitely worth a look-see, even if it is a little on the tough side.

Grabbing amazing video game screenshots one game at a time.