In my life I have owned or had the use of:-
Grandstand Games Unit
3 or 4 Windows PCs
2 or 3 laptops
and 2 Playstations
During that time I’ve played all manner of games from Pong to my current addiction World of Warcraft. Recently events got me thinking about all the other games I’ve enjoyed playing over the years.
Wacky Waiters – Wacky Waiters was a game for the Commodore Vic 20. By today’s standards it was shit. But for a 10 year old it was a fantastic bit of escapism. Basically you had to serve drinks to customers in this weird bar which the tables were reached via lifts. Hours of fun.
Blitz – Of course the Vic20 was shit and there were only a handful of decent games for it the other classic I enjoyed was Blitz. This game involved levelling a city with bombs in order that your plane might land and the pilot can get out and wave at you. My dad and I got rather good at it and we really weren’t bothered by the crappy blocky graphics.
Thunderbirds – With the arrival of my Commodore 64 one Christmas my middle brother Chris and I went forth to Bits and Bytes in Liverpools Central Station (now a cheap leather coat shop) and City Software on Lime Street (which, I found out long after it was closed, was owned by my good drinking buddy and former HSE Cell mate Nick’s relative (dad??)). Anyway during this post Christmas shopping excursion we picked up a copy of Thunderbirds by Firebird software. The premise of which was using Thunderbirds 1 & 2 you had to navigate a maze of tunnels and push coloured blocks out of the way so that the craft could reach their destination. Sadly I have not been able to find screenshots of the game but you can download it here for your C64 emulator. I promise you, gaming does not get any more intensive than Thunderbirds!
Cauldron – On the same shopping trip I also obtained Cauldon. In this game you were a witch that had to collect various ingredients for a potion. You flew round on a broomstick shooting bats and things then did a bit of platform jumping in mazes. It was bloody hard! Furthermore, it was down right impossible to complete because there was no save facility. I remember leaving my C64 and this game running one night and all through the school day because I’d gotten so far into it I didn’t want to lose my place. Within minutes of getting back to play it I was killed out right by a frigging pumpkin! I wasnt happy! A sequel came out a few years later entitled Cauldron II this was equally as hard. You can play it online here
Big Mac – The previous two games were a pricey £5 each. Your pound tended to go a lot further in the 80′s. Probably because the world was in meltdown. Fortunately in the new Sainsbury’s supermarket complex in Woolton somebody had thoughtfully included a news agents. This newsagents sold Mastertronic £1.99 games. Of course £1.99 was a lot of money then but never the less I managed to get at least 1 new game a month by saving my 70p pocket money and foraging under the cushions on the sofa. The one of the best finds was Big Mac . A simple platform romp where the player guides Mac (a poor Mario clone) from platform to platform flipping switches. Delightful!
Phantoms of the asteroid – Another seemingly endless game. You played an astronaut navigating a maze within an asteroid. You had to collect a series of blocks and often had to top up your fuel, oxygen and energy levels. Kamikazi ghosties would appear out of nowhere and bash into you draining your energy. I managed to collect all the blocks but I’d used all the fuel and oxygen dumps up so I could never get to the bit where you finished the game. A great loss and waste of time ;-)
Mercenary – I obtained Mercenary as a copy from Ronnie Cham at school. Ronnie was the only other kid in my year to have a Commodore 64 and he was into copying games in a big way. Often I would lend him my games to copy in exchange for copies of games from him. Mercenary was one of the best he gave me (there was another game I got from him which involved landing on a planet to pick up an stranded pilot but you didn’t know if the pilot was a nasty alien or a genuine human. I liked that too but can’t remember for the life of me what it was called) . Mercenary was a primitive vector graphic game where you flew round a city helping out in order to buy a spaceship. There was an easter egg within were you could pilot a piece of cheese about the place. Hours of fun :-)
Jet Set Willy – I cannot forget Jet Set Willy can I? Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy and Jet Set Willy II were games I would often play for hours on end. Again I never knew anyone that finished these game. A simple platform romp where you guided Willy through his untidy house collecting bottles and stuff. Unfortunatley they didn’t have a save feature where you could return to where you were and I would often get bored and send Willy down the toilet into Hades. Timeless fun.
Frontier: Elite II I picked up my Amiga 1200 from the bargain bucket of the Dixons shop that used to be in Central Station in Liverpool. With it I got Frontier. A space/flight sim again in vector graphics. Looking at the screen shots now one would scoff at their simplicity but you have to remember that when the game came out these where cutting edge! Frontier allowed the player to explore the galaxy, trade and fight pirates. Fantastic stuff. I’ve only ever seen 2 slightly similar games of late Freelancer which was a bit restrictive but seemed to once hold promise of expansion (of course this never surfaced) and the online MMPORG Eve Online which I found too cliquey to actually get anywhere in.
Captive II – Along with Elite, Captive II helped while away my time on the dole. I would often spend days and days playing this and other Amiga games instead of looking for work. The graphics were crap but the intro movie was stunning and so was the music! It was a type of one player roleplaying game where you guided 4 robots around some cyberpunk futuristic city trying to find out who grassed you up to the coppers and gathering evidence that there were people wrongly imprisoned. You could upgrade the robots with all manner of gubbins and the play went on for hours and hours and hours. I don’t think it actually had an ending but I suppose it taught the player about the futility and mundanity of life.
Civilization – My eldest brother introduced me to Sid Meier’s Civilization. A turn based strategy game about building a civilization. Since that first play of Civ I have bought every version released (though not the add-on packs). Again crap graphics to begin with but like those iconic games before them, cutting edge at the time. One unemployed day I played Civ on my Amiga from 6am to 6am the next day and built a fantastic empire stretching across the globe. Three times. Because I could. A shocking waste of time. But bloody good fun.
UFO:Enemy Unknown – UFO was another game for the Amiga that was also available on PC. I was deeply fond of UFO and like Civ, Theme Park, Captive II and EliteII I would dedicate entire days during my unemployed period to trying to complete the game. I managed to complete it on nearly every level of difficulty apart from the super human one. I’d developed strategies and all manner of tricks and tactics to help me win. Unfortunately I should really have been looking for work rather than playing games. But meh! what can you do about it now eh?
Syndicate – Syndicate was another cross platform classic. You controlled an army of subversive androids which you used to take over and heavily tax the world. I’d managed most of the levels in this game but the last level was always the hardest when the enemy just kept on coming relentlessly. Still I gave it a bloody good go. They don’t make games as good as this any more. Again the graphics were crap by todays standards but made people ooze with excitement at the time.
Tomb Raider – During my unemployed era, the fuckwit known as Shitbag lent me his Playstation while he went on a “journey of self discovery” somewhere (Butlins with his mam). Bundled with his Playstation came Tomb Raider. If you don’t know Tomb Raider you’ve probably been living in a convent somewhere but basically the player guides sultry proactive archaeologist Lara Croft about mysterious temples around the globe. I absolutely loved this game. In fact I was so smitten with it I broke my two year unemployment status so that I could save and go and buy a Playstation of my own. I completed Tomb Raiders I & II just in time for Tomb Raider III to hit the shelves. But then came the ginger monster Dawn. Girlfriends and computer games do not mix and my Sunday evenings gaming with Chris Herbert soon faded away like the clouds of cigarette smoke that filled Chris’ flat every Sunday night. Dawn suggested I took out a loan and bought a PC so that she could do job applications so in an effort to raise funds the first Playstation went the way of the C64 and was sold through the classifieds section of the Liverpool Echo.
Dungeon Keeper – Ha!! As if that was going to stop me! With the new PC came all manner of new gaming opportunites. One such classic was Dungeon Keeper. In dungeon keeper you were a devil and you had minions. Your minions would help construct a base from which you emitted evil. However the goodie goodie humans would come and try and kill you and it was up to you and your minions to try and prevent this from happening. Hours of gaming fun though not as many as spent on the Amiga games. Still I was impressed enough to fork out on the expasion pack when that came out and also the sequel.
The Sims – I know a lot of you guys like playing the Sims. I did too once until it got a bit too samey and dull. Yeah I too sat there watching my sim go to work, feed, reproduce and get into all kinds of scrapes but it was too close to reality for me and getting up to go to work in order to clothe and feed myself was what I longed to escape from. Still I got an good average of 6 months play out of the entire series (and expansion packs) before my sadistic side came out and I was building disastrous households and bricking up entire families just so that I could laugh demonically at their ghosts causing the new occupants abject terror.
Rollercoaster Tycoon – Jamie-who-wanks-on-webcams introduced me to RCT. RCT involves designing and managing a virtual theme park on the scale of Alton Towers or Busch Gardens. Cue hours of wholesome fun spent with Mrs Gnomepants building vast theme parks containing all manner of physics defying rollercoasters. My favorite design was one called the “Spinny Spinny Sick Sick”, a corkscrew type coaster with spinning cars, the passengers of which all left the coaster with green faces but they kept on coming back for more! Heh.
This is by no means a definitive list of my favorite games. That would need indepth consideration and I know I’ve missed ton of other games I’ve enjoyed. However you should see this list as a kind of “Best of best of” or a “Games which I have spent more time on than anything else”. More recently I have been tied up with other ground breaking games but nothing as monumental as those listed above. However World of Warcraft has been the only game I’ve played this year and it doesn’t seem like it is going to end (but it will in September when my subscription runs out!).
So what games did/do you like?
EDIT – that game I couldnt remember was called Rescue on Fractalus