Tag Archives: ants

Stonekeep, PC

Stonekeep is a strange first-person Role-Playing Game, developed and published by Interplay Productions in 1995.

I say “strange” because Stonekeep comes from a time when developers were looking for any excuse to inject some full-motion video into their games, and Stonekeep uses digitised video quite a lot, and it now looks very dated. Actually, Stonekeep uses two very dated graphical techniques to create the world you’re exploring – the second technique being Silicon Graphics-rendered graphics (the first being the aforementioned digitised video technique, a la Mortal Kombat). It’s the clash of the bad graphics techniques…

The way the digitised video has been used in the game means that a lot of the characters and monsters in it look kinda like pantomime villains… Well I felt like I was playing a pantomime fantasy game with Stonekeep… The visual style of this game reminds me of that TV show, Knightmare – the one that superimposed live actors over painted fantasy backdrops… That’s what they tried to do with this game – film people in costumes and incorporate them into a Role-Playing Game… And the end result is a bit of a weird mess!

In spite of the outdated presentation Stonekeep plays excellently. Movement is quick and simple, and is tile-based. A journal keeps track of quests, items, maps, stats and available spells (which are cast using runes inscribed on wands). Combat is real-time; similar to that seen in the mighty Dungeon Master. Quests and puzzles are fairly simple – mostly unblock a route or kill a bad guy – although there are a few surprises along the way that take Stonekeep beyond the merely ‘generic’.

I wouldn’t say that Stonekeep is a ‘solid gold classic’, but I would recommend that RPG fans give it a try. Or even better: play it to the later stages at least, because that’s where it gets more interesting. That said: if you have a low tolerance for goblins, faeries, and ice queens then maybe this game isn’t for you…

Stonekeep is a game that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten and does have its moments, even though the story and setting are a little trite. Don’t let me put you off though – Stonekeep plays nicely in DOSBox and is cheap on GOG.com and is well worth adding to the collection.

More: Stonekeep on Wikipedia
GOG.com: Stonekeep on GOG.com

Phantasy Star II, Megadrive/Genesis

Released in 1989 for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, Phantasy Star II is a pioneering RPG for its time. It’s a sequel, obviously; to the classic Sega Master System release of 1987, Phantasy Star.

Phantasy Star II was the first RPG released for the Sega Megadrive, and pre-dates the release of Final Fantasy on the NESin the USA, that is. Both Phantasy Star II and the long-awaited English translation of Final Fantasy helped popularise RPGs in the USA and Europe in the ’90s.

Set some one thousand years after the events of the first game, Phantasy Star II is another sci-fi-based level-grinder with a party system and turn-based combat.

Graphically – and in terms of user interface – the game is a nice ‘step up’ from the original. The graphics are less cartoony and better-defined. In this sequel you can also now see all your party members above their associated info panels during combat, and they animate depending on what they’re doing. Which is neat.

The first-person sections seen in the first game have been dropped, and Phantasy Star II is played almost entirely with separate ‘overworld’ and dungeon sections, shown from an overhead perspective.

There are also fewer abbreviated names in the game, compared to the original, which is good although the names of items and magic and stuff in this are still pretty weird. We can at least thank Sega for trying to do something different with the genre with this weirdness.

As far as gameplay goes: Phantasy Star II is fast and slick, and the timing of all the different processes is pretty much perfect. It’s very easy to get sucked-in to the hypnotic gameplay of this classic level-grinder, but the experience is worth it.

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

It Came From The Desert, Amiga

One of my favourite Cinemaware games, It Came From The Desert is a satirical detective story based on 1950s sci-fi B-movies about giant ants.

In it you play Dr. Greg Bradley, a geologist arriving in the desert town of Lizard Breath in order to study the site of a recent meteor crash. Unfortunately radiation from the meteor has caused the local ant population to mutate and grow in size – to gigantic proportions. Which you (as Dr. Greg) discover early on in the game.

Initially none of the local residents or law enforcement take you seriously and your job is to convince them and organise a fightback. The game is played in realtime and you have a limited time (15 days) in which to defeat the giant ants before they start breeding and become unstoppable. You explore the local town and its many locations via an overhead map, plus you can use the telephone to speak to people in a hurry. Conversations with locals often reveal clues, some of which will lead to an encounter with a giant ant.

One-on-one you have a chance to defeat an ant by shooting its antenna, which you must do with the first one you encounter, but in large groups there’s not much you can do but run, which happens via an overhead scrolling section with you represented as a titchy character in the middle of the screen. If you get stranded in the desert you will pass out, but are always rescued and wake up in hospital.

It Came From The Desert is a fun and imaginative game. Many of the characters are distinctive and humorous. The game mechanics are easy to understand. There are also driving sections and flying sections. It’s a game that has aged well, is still fun to play, and is fairly beatable.

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

Ant Attack, Commodore 64

The ZX Spectrum original of Ant Attack was so good that it spawned a decent 1984 Commodore 64 version, by Paul Fik and Bitterne Software.

C64 Ant Attack is pretty much identical to the original, but with a few extra colours and slightly different system fonts. Possibly even runs slightly faster than the Spectrum original, although that could have been the time distortions caused by the magic mushrooms… I’m not sure.

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

Questprobe 1: The Hulk, ZX Spectrum

Text adventures, with graphics and complex command parsers, were very popular back in the early days of home computing.

You would sit there, typing instructions into a fantasy world on your computer, climbing imaginary trees, and walking imaginary north. It was all “imaginary” because you had to have an imagination to play these games. Your average moron with no imagination would never play a text adventure, like they would never read a book. Because they cannot read the text and then construct a visual world inside their imagination.

The Questprobe games, by Scott Adams and Adventure International, were groundbreaking for their time, because they used recognisable, licensed Marvel Comic characters, and also because they were quite short and difficult as adventure games go.

Graphically, The Hulk is bold, striking and limited. The blue background with yellow text makes this one stand out although it probably played hell with legibility to some people.

In terms of the text parser (the routine that handles your typed input), Questprobe 1: The Hulk is limited and unforgiving, In fact: all the Questprobe games are like this. You have to make big logical leaps to survive, never mind get anywhere. These games are iconic though. Best-in-class examples of the kind of game that never gets made any more.

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

Questprobe series on The King of Grabs:
Questprobe 1: The Hulk
Questprobe 2: Spider-Man
Questprobe 3: Human Torch and The Thing

Sim Ant, Super Nintendo

I’ve played a number of different versions of Sim Ant and would have to say that the Super Nintendo version is probably my favourite.

The PC and Amiga versions are graphically higher resolution, and slightly more technical with the displays, and give you various windows to move around the screen in a WIMP-like environment, but the SNES version condenses the gameplay into something more focussed and interesting, as you play the role of the overseer of an ant colony.

Scavenging for food; following pheremone trails; balancing the production of soldiers versus workers; cleaning and storing eggs; dealing with floods, fires, lawnmowers and other invasions – it’s all in a day’s work for your average ant colony.

If you have any interest at all in “bugs” (they’re called insects…) then playing Sim Ant is a must. And if you’re fascinated by them (like I am), then you may just be able to not only beat the game, but also squeeze every last drop of goodness out of it as well.

The Super Nintendo version of Sim Ant was developed by Japanese company Imagineer and released via Maxis in 1993.

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

Wriggler, ZX Spectrum

A weird, colourful, original worm-based race game on the ZX Spectrum, released by Romantic Robot in 1985.

Actually, Wriggler is less of a “race” game and more of a “crawl” game. The pace is not very fast at all.

You’re a worm, in a race with other worms, and have a number of route choices on the way to the finish line. How you make that choice is anyone’s guess, as the route of the course is not particularly well defined, and the going is continuously perlious.

On the way you to the finish line you have to avoid contact with creepy-looking spiders and other enemies, or otherwise see your Wriggler body stripped down to a skeleton and die.

Here’s a fairly in-depth look at ZX Spectrum Wriggler, from start to finish.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wriggler_(video_game)

Ant Attack, ZX Spectrum

This innovative 1983 ZX Spectrum game was one of the very first to use isometric 3D graphics.

It was written by Sandy White for Quicksilva, and was a revelation back in the early days of gaming.

Ant Attack is still great fun to play even now. You basically have to rescue a boy or a girl from a city overrun by ants. You can run, jump and fire grenades, and that’s about it! Simple.

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