Meta-Review of Older Video Games

Republishing a deleted page in which I briefly surveyed video games that I have enjoyed in the past, but for which I don’t plan on writing any reviews on account of their age.


2000s Games

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) – after you (B.J. Blazkowicz) escape from Castle Wolfenstein, Allied intelligence debrief you on rumors of ominous Nazi experiments in the the occult, advanced weaponry and bio-mechanical engineering. You end up traveling across Europe battling undead Saxon warriors, terrifying bio-robotic Super Soldiers and the resurrected Dark Knights of ancient Teutonic legend. Way back I even wrote a fictionalized story about this game which I’ll upload whenever I can be bothered. If you live through all that, you can download the free follow-up Enemy Territory, an excellent multiplayer where you can join the Axis or the Allies and fight to fulfill certain objectives within a limited time period.

Far Cry (2004) – an excellent game with stunning graphics that follows Jack Carver, a US Special Forces operative who is stranded on a tropical archipelago after the boat he was on gets blown up by an RPG. He needs to find and rescue a female journalist who was with him at the time. Dark forces stir within the white-shingled beaches, lush rainforests, fetid swamps and volcanic outcrops… Protected by mercenary camps and hidden amidst the verdant lushness of these isles, the mad scientist Krieger has been busy assembling bio-engineered horrors the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Civilization 4 (2005) – an extremely addictive game and a definite improvement on previous versions. Three big problems, however. First, they’ve encumbered it with far too much graphical eye candy at the expense of functionality. As someone who would choose functionality and minimalism over cluttered beauty every time, this did not appeal to me. Second, I have a lot of quibbles about how they implement many historical elements (the economy, political systems, war management, etc) – many elements are redundant and unnecessary, while some major ones are lacking. Third, the add-ons are low-life money-pinching schemes. That said, like all Sid Meier Civilization games it is extremely addictive (“just one more turn!”), so despite my multiple complaints with its implementation I can’t really over-criticize a game that kept me up until 5am on several occasions.

Doom 3 (2005) – revamps the old linear shooter with excellent new graphics. You are a Marine on Mars in 2145, working for the UAC (United Aerospace Corporation), a military-industrial conglomerate conducting scientific research into esoteric areas like teleportation, biological research and advanced weapons design. However, the teleportation experiments inadvertently open a gateway to Hell, resulting in a catastrophic invasion by demons. As one of the few survivors, you must fight through the base and find a way to stem the demon onslaught from making it to Earth. Very atmospheric… good use is made of darkness, ominous noises, weapons caches, scattered PDAs (personal data assistants) lying in pools of blood from slain UAC workers, etc. Though this is taken too far by the “no duct tape on Mars” problem (you’re not allowed to simultaneously use a gun and a flashlight).

Half-Life (2001) – a particle physics experiment goes very, very wrong. There appears an inter-dimensional rift into Hell through which all kinds of monsters pour into the research base you’re working on. You have to don your Hazmat suit, strap on your countless weapons and go forth and kill those alien bastards. The feature allowing “Barnies” and other friends to tag along with you in a fire-team is helpful, but in general the AI is quite disappointing. Though I know it was only 2001, I still think RtCW was a much better game at that time.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) – you’re Carl “CJ” Johnson from the hood in the state of San Andreas (California), out to gain respect from your niggaz. To do this you need to travel around Los Altos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Vegas) completing missions like robbing banks, making hits on rival gangstaz, and other anti-social behavior. What’s so entrancing about this game is that the environment is so immersive and malleable; you can drive (or fly) around the map for hours on end, while at the same time running over innocent bystanders and gunning down police officers if the fancy takes you. One bro’s ardent pursuit of the American Dream…

Manhunt (2003) – this is one very, very disturbing work. This was perhaps the only game to ever give me nightmares. Say what you will about the effects these games have on the moral fabric of society (or whatever), but I loved the storyline. You are John Cash, a brutal felon condemned to lethal injection; however, you are only sedated, “rescued” by a sinister, shadowy figure called the Director…who directs snuff movies. You are going to be the new “star” in his films. You need to fight your way through the post-industrial wasteland of Carcer City (supposed to represent a collapsed Rust Belt city), performing “gruesome executions” on the common gangstaz, bounty hunters, white supremacists, occult members and plain psychotics for the benefit of the Director’s security cameras who record your stunts for his clients and personal enjoyment. The more “gruesome” your “executions”, the more points you get. You foil the Director’s plan for your own demise and turn against him, but find that even the city police and SWAT are on his checkbook.

Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (2002) – you are a genetically engineered hitman tasked with silently, stealthily killing your enemies: a perfect hit makes you a “Silent Assassin”. Unlike simple shooters, you need to carefully consider your surroundings to accomplish your mission; if you go in with guns blazing, you will probably die unless you’re really good. If you are silent throughout several missions, you are rewarded with bonus weapons like a sawn-off shotgun and dual silenced silverballers. Oh, and the suit with the red tie is really classy. Say what you will of his moral stature, but #47 sure has a great fashion sense!

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DOS Classics

Are you one of those people who have fond memories of great games from the 1990’s, but are too time-constrained to reverse the digital dark ages caused by the transition to new operating systems? In that case, the DosBox DOS emulator is just for you. Install it, get the old DOS games, and relive the good times.

Tetris (1984) – this game is a true classic and absolutely addictive. You have to drop differently-shaped blocks so as to completely fill up horizontal layers, upon which they self-destruct, thus clearing space for more. The speed at which they drop gradually increases throughout the game until it is no longer possible to keep up. There are many variants to this game. One that I remember enjoying had a small gay going walking around at the bottom and you had to maneuver and drop the pieces in such as way as to to not crush him.  The game was originally developed by a guy called Alexei Pazhitnikov who was working in a Soviet computing R&D facility. There were a lot of ugly squabbled over proprietorship of its IP, about which you can read more here.

Prince of Persia (1989) – in this classic you have to battle the evil Jaffar, the evil Vizier of Persia who seizes control of the empire while the King is away and imprisons his beautiful daughter. She is threatened with execution in one hour unless you, the Prince, escape the palace dungeons and rescue the Princess. To do this you need to battle the assorted perils of the Orient: a plethora of lethal traps, immortal skeleton swordsmen, the fat dude, your own mirror image and the dastardly vizier himself. You have to complete all 12 levels in one hours, or the princess dies. The record-holders are two really sad Dutch dudes who finished it in a little more than 17 mins. My best record was 29 mins, which is also pretty sad.

Loom (1990) – this game of fantasy landscapes, rich dialog and mysticism is possibly the closest thing to art amongst its DOS brethren. The magic system involves the intriguing idea of playing different notes to manipulate the fabric of reality. The year is 8021, during the “Age of the Great Guilds”. The story follows one Bobbin Threadbare, a gray-cloaked outcast from the Weavers Guild that controls the Loom – an object which is both a reflection of the world and a portal into its future.  Accompanied by the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Bobbin journeys through the lands of the glass-makers, the shepherds and the blacksmiths in a quest to save the world from the evil Cleric – a megalomaniac who wants to raise an army of the undead and rule the world. To do this he must acquire the Scrying Sphere (crystal ball) of the glass-makers, the swords of the blacksmiths and the distaff of the Weavers with which to perform the incantation. He captures Bobbin and acquires his distaff, using it to rip open the fabric of reality across a graveyard. This unleashes Chaos, who slays him. Bobbin has to fix the damage and battle Chaos for control of the Loom and the world’s destiny. He splinters the Loom, leaving Chaos holding sway over one half and providing a refuge for the Weavers in the other.

Minesweeper (1985) – first released on MS-DOS ages ago, this has since become a classic on multiple platforms. It is extremely addictive and has inspired an excellent comedy. My current records are: 8 seconds for Small; 45 seconds for Medium; 2:52 min for Large. This however pales besides the world record, which is a mere 37 seconds for Large – now that is sad!

Wolfenstein 3D (1992) – this shoot-em-up featured revolutionary graphics for the time, that is, rudimentary 3D (which they boasted about in the title). You are B.J. Blazkowicz, a captured US special forces soldier who must escape the prison at Castle Wolfenstein, kill the Nazis and their dogs, steal their gold, eat their chicken, thwart their twisted experiments and eventually assassinate Hitler. Observe a crazy speed run through Episode 1 here.

DOOM (1993) – this was another huge step up for graphics, this being the first major game to enable movement in three dimensions. You are a Marine in outer space tasked with single-handedly saving humanity from the hordes of demons unleashed when UAC teleportation experiments go awry, opening up an inter-dimensional rift into hell. This game became infamous for the numbers of sad people who set astounding speed run records, even through the hardest Difficulty levels which are beyond the skillz of mere mortals to complete.

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Flash Games

  • Helicopter. Possibly the simplest and most addictive flash game ever. Click to go up and do nothing to drop down. Avoid obstacles. My best score is 3730 – beat that!
  • 4 Second Frenzy – complete 50 games each lasting 4 seconds…pretty addicting. The prequel 4 Second Fury was also excellent.
  • Doom – this guy has converted the Doom DOS game to Flash! I’m impressed.
  • Pang 96 – very good 2-person cooperative game in which you have to shoot balls in such a way as to avoid them killing you.
  • Stop the Zombies! – nuke city blocks to stop the infestation from spreading…containing the epidemic is very hard.
  • Slime Athlete – play football and volleyball with slime people, either single player (the last, flashing-colors volleyball player is HARD) or multi-player (very addicting).
  • PacMan – eat the food and avoid the ghosts. I managed to get to Level 8 in the linked version. Widely used for computer science AI classes.
  • 13 Days in Hell – survive 13 days in hell where you are attacked by hordes of machete-hacking psychos.
  • Space Runner – good obstacle game, try to get to Level 7 that is HARD… (the password for Level 5 is “l1v1lfem”).
  • City Jumper – jump over the city blocks, another excellent obstacle game. Do all 24 levels to complete the original. The sequel is open-ended. Do the fast version if you’re a real hardass – beat my record of 113 levels (don’t worry, they repeat from the beginning after 64 levels)! The actual maximum ever reached is apparently 4064; I wonder what degree of sadness and mad skillz you’d need to do that.
  • Escape! – move the red bit in such a way that it does not hit the black walls or the (accelerating) blue obstacles. This becomes exponentially harder with time, my record is around 23 secs.
  • Metaphysik Ball 4 – avoid the obstacles and guide your ball to the target.
  • The Last Stand 2 – kill the oncoming zombie hordes.
  • Boxhead: More Rooms – more zombie action.

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Tom comments: “Man you scare me with your computer games. We bloody have the exact same taste for games. Rtrn to Cstle Wlfstein, Far Cry, Dm 3, Half Life, Hitman, San Andres all these are my favorites too.”

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