Spy Hunter

With its smart weapons, awesome cars, Spy Hunter was viewed as a very stylish game back in the arcades on the early 1980s. It was a title that playing into any boy's fantasies- secret agents, nasty weaponry, and a driving lincese. Make no mistake though, it was the action packed gameplay that kept people coming back for more again, again, and again...


The year that the war ground on may have been 1943, when rationing continued to bite down hard, construction work on the Pentagon was completed, and the Japanese forces were driven back from Guadalcanal, but it's a whole lot more enjoyable if you think of it as this wonderful little vertical-scrolling shooter from Capcom, released for the delight of the arcade-going populas in 1987...


The game isn't just a good looking isometric dungeon crawler, it is THE best dungeon crawler. A simple - almost brainless trek through caverns and catacombs filled with vile creatures, not to mention all the loot. Blizzard spent a lot of time working on the generation of the game's spaces, making items, enemies, and geography be different every single time you load up the game...

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

The Elder Scrolls games are best known for the fourth chapter in the series, Oblivion, released in 2006. In comparison,The Elder Scroll's Morrowind is altogether more of a curate's egg, neither as commercially successful nor critically applauded as it's successor. Perhaps because of that, however, it's also a much more interesting game...


Rogue first appeared on college Unix systems in 1980. It contains an infinite variety via a series of randomly generated, ASCII-rendered dungeons that must be explored in a bid to retrieve the Amulet of Yendor (Rodney spelled backwards) from somewhere behold the twenty-fifth level -- an unlikely achievement given the imposing difficulty of even the earliest dungeon layers.

26 September, 2011

Metal Gear Solid

  • Release Date: 1998
  • Platform: PC, PS1
  • Developer: Konami
  • Genre: Stealth

When designer Hideo Kojima brought his Metal Gear series to PlayStation, he did more than just kick-start the most popular stealth franchise in gaming history. He began a conversation that continues today, sharing his fears of nuclear holocaust, his distrust of the industrial-military complex, his love of movies like The Guns of Navarone and You Only Live Twice, and his sympathy for the soldiers discombobulated by war. "Ghosts of the battlefield," he would call them, putting a fresh slant on the tired old cliché of the video game action hero.
Egoraptor's parody: Metal Gear Awesome

Retired special agent Solid Snake has been dispatched to Shadow Moses, a remote fortified island in Alaska. His mission is to quell and uprising staged by FOXHOUND, a terrorist cell in control of the island's secret: a walking nuclear doomsday weapon called Metal Gear Rex. Little does Snake realize that its mastermind, codenamed Liqud Snake, is actually his genetic twin, part of a government project to breed the ultimate soldier. His lieutenants, furthermore, are psychopaths and assassins with their own twisted agendas. The government calls them traitors, but can anything be that simple in this new world order?

If you think that sounds convoluted, wait until it gets going. Kojima isn't a man to use five words when fifty will suffice and didn't make a game to be played only once. The threads established here would multiply tenfold in games to come, as would the options for combat and stealth. Officially a "sneaking" game, Metal Gear Solid is fast and relatively forgiving; escape often as simple as hiding under a cardboard box. Intensely cinematic with its reaction shots and cut scenes, it's more fondly remembered for toying with that illusion: one boss's weakness being a quick change of controller port.

Metal Gear Solid revolves around stealth combat.

24 September, 2011

The Legend Of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages

  • Release Date: 2001
  • Platform: Game Boy Colour
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genre: Action / Adventure

The follow-up to the Game Boy's brilliant The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was always going to have its work cut out, even before you consider that, for the first time, third-party developers were handling the most delicate of Nintendo's children. And although Capcom can't compete with the master company's own designers, it does a pretty decent job of playing babysitter to greatness, with a couple of games that certainly cover very suitable territory and repeat all the right moves.

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages are a pair of complementary interconnected games. The two games, released simultaneously, interact via a Nintendo Game Link Cable, enabling the two titles to be played on two different Game Boys at the same time. Each game transports our hero Link to a different magical land, where a powerful oracle has been kidnapped. While the larger story can only be understood when both games are completed, each title can still be enjoyed as a standalone adventure in it's own right. And, helpfully Capcom has been taking notes, with adventures that unfold in a familiar progression of item-gathering, over-world exploration, and dungeon crawling. It's not a bad copy of the previous games, and the development team manages to throw in enough new magical twists and ideas to keep you chugging along on a series of journeys that only just fall short of what Zelda fans traditionally expect.

With visuals and controls almost identical to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the Oracle games never quite reach the heights of Nintendo's own work, though they still do a decent job. Heartfelt, varied and often clever, they serve as a reminder that the right property has the power to lift everyone associated with it.

16 September, 2011

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

  • Release Date: 2001
  • Platform: PlayStation 2
  • Developer: Naughty Dog
  • Genre: Platformer

Jak and Daxter's own precursor was Crash Bandicoot, a character who became something of a mascot for the original PlayStation and an example of Naughty Dog's technical skills. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is similarly demonstrative of the developer's talents when it comes to character design and the manipulation of Sony's hardware: players are treated to a high level of detail, charismatic animation, and a streaming world with no loading screen in sight. The game also paved the way for Nolan North's later proliferation of vocal appearances by caster Max Casella (an actor who nowadays also has The Sopranos and Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony on his resume) as the voice of Daxter.

As 3-D graphics had been well exploited for the previous generation of consoles, standing out from the crowd in the 128-bit landscape required new tactics. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy's main innovation is the aforementioned lack of loading. Before this, games were predominantly discrete experiences lacking in holistic permanence, but here players could travel to locations visible in the distance, and challenges begun would remain in the state they were left, rather than requiring restarts. The stage props used by preceding platform games had been transformed into a living, breathing world.

That the mechanics of the game are heavily evocative of classics like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie is simply another reason to recommend it; the polished, fluid controls ensure that simply moving Jak around is a joy. Thought is also put into the reinvention of genre cliches: The collectibles here aren't as abstract tokens but energy orbs, which make sense in the context of the plot, setting a new bar for consistency and motivation.

13 September, 2011

Super Mario 64

  • Release Date: 1996
  • Platform: N64
  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Genre: Platform

Mario would seem to have come to the end of his natural life as games embraced the third dimension. Nintendo's mascot was getting on a bit, and he was so emphatically linked to the suddenly rather tired world of two-dimensional scrolling that many fans suspected either retirement or, worse, irrelevance awaited him on Nintendo's new console, the N64.

In fact, neither was the case. Mario's first three-dimensional adventure saw the plumber as trailblazing and trendsetting as ever, showing competitors how it's done, and throwing analog controls into the mix (a little push forward to walk, a push all the way to run) to create an adventure no one would forget in a hurry -- particularly Mario's rivals on other platforms.

Certain things had to change. Rather than a long travelogue quest heading from the left side of the map to the right, Super Mario 64 introduces Peach's castle as a hub from which other levels would be accessible once enough stars had been collected from the game's various challenges. The means of entering these themed levels -- leaping through paintings -- is still a genuinely magical piece of design. The worlds found beyond, all of which have room enough for a handful of different tasks, are masterpieces of thrifty imagination, providing the space for a coin hunt one minute and a boss fight the next.

Like the hub itself, the levels become non-linear arenas, and from the mountainous peaks of Cool, Cool Mountain to the tangle of pathways that make up Big Boo's Haunt, Super Mario 64 almost feels more like a theme park than a series of themed courses. No matter where exactly it's getting its inspiration from, however, Super Mario 64 remains one of the most influential -- and one of the best -- video games ever made.

05 September, 2011

Battlefield 1942

  • Release Date: 2002
  • Platform: PC, Mac
  • Developer: Digital Illusions CE
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter

Battlefield 1942 puts intelligence into multiplayer team-based shooters. PC players had been ganging up since Half-Life Team Fortress, and limited coordination was hinted at as early as Starsiege: Tribes. But by placing multiclassed team combatants within cunningly designed Word War II arenas, Battlefield 1942 forced the issue, making for an epic multiplayer behemoth that rolled over and crushed the opposition.

The core action takes place in loosely authentic theatres of war in the game's "Conquest" mode, which pits two historically appropriate armies against each other: the British versus the Germans in Europe, or the Japanese versus the United States Of America in the Pacific. Each team is assigned control points, typically villages or islands, where action begins, from which fallen soldiers can re-spawn as one of several specialized character classes. Fighting side-by-side with other players -- up to thirty-two in total -- you battle to seize control of these strategic points, forcing back the enemy and depleting the tickets that end the game at zero. Every death reduces tickets too, nearly forcing players to fight for their lives rather than go on suicide missions or camp at home.

The game also plays smart by dumbing down, enabling you to drive, pilot, or plunge to your death in dozens of vehicles -- from jeeps and tanks to aircraft carriers and airplanes -- but it rids fussy control variations in favour of a cartoon-like equivalence. The graphics engine copes well, with ceaseless cinematic moments emerging from the random actions of you and your comrades.

It all conspires to unite far-flung and (often idiotic) online gamers to give the illusion of a cohesive fighting force locked into battle. Think Wacky Races meets Medal Of Honor -- and don't get too snooty, because the result is a blast, and it spawned a true masterpiece.

03 September, 2011

Age Of Mythology

  • Release Date: 2002
  • Platform: PC, Mac
  • Developer: Ensemble Studios
  • Genre: Strategy

Ensemble didn't take risks. It didn't have to. From the moment the historical strategy game Age Of Empires launched in 1997, its course was set: It would be king of real-time strategy, absurdly successful, regardless of whatever naysayers might claim about the PC and Mac platforms. The studios owner Microsoft closed the studio in 2009, and it didn't seem to add up. No developer knew how to be a reliable money-factory quite as well as Ensemble.

Age Of Mythology, the studio's first game for Microsoft, doesn't take risks either. It does quite the opposite, dragging the fantastical elements that less successful rivals tend toward into its own straitlaced but highly polished strategy structure: harvesting wood and stone, building bases in exact order, deftly making every unit a precise rock to some other soldier's paper or scissor. Ensemble took someone else's risk and made it into the most sensible thing in the world. It has Minotaur and sphinx and Valkyrie, but somehow they arn't an outlandish pretense among the more familiar cavalry, swordsmen and archers. Instead, they're smart, strategic high-end units, vital to tipping the game's mathematically precise balance into your favour. Age Of Mythology knows exactly what it's doing, and being in the company of mythical beasts doesn't change the solid formula one bit.

Age Of Mythology may have played it safe, but it did suggest Ensemble might be a little more playful from thereon in. That didn't happen. Next in line came the button-downed Age Of Empires III, and then Halo Wars as the studio's last dying breath. That leaves Age Of Mythology as an aberration; perhaps the only game where this one-time king of studios allowed its own character to appear alongside its unsullied strategy-design skill.

The Trojan Horse

01 September, 2011

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

  • Release Date: 2002
  • Platform: PC, Xbox
  • Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
  • Genre: Action/Role-Playing

The Elder Scrolls games are best known for the fourth chapter in the series, Oblivion, released in 2006. In comparison,The Elder Scroll's Morrowind is altogether more of a curate's egg, neither as commercially successful nor critically applauded as it's successor. Perhaps because of that, however, it's also a much more interesting game. This isn't the traditional fantasy of the later version; instead it is a weird blend of traditional fantasy with people and places that are characterized by an almost eerie other-worldliness.

One thing that is true of both games is the unparalleled freedom that their creators have blessed upon the players. More than many other similar games, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind contains entire societies and cultures that are completely convincing (and, by including the Elder Scrolls construction set, even allowed players to create their own).

In one inspired piece of design, the tutorial contains the entire character creation process as part of the narrative, with attributes and skills generated by the choices the player makes while describing their character's background to a prison bureaucrat. In another, character skills advance as players use them. If you want to become good at say, sword-fighting, you simply keep sword-fighting.

For a set of rules designed to let gamers play without worrying about the numbers, the latter system is easy to exploit by anyone who wants to artificially inflate their abilities. In this, however, it is also a well-intentioned, albeit a bit flawed piece of design -- but flawed in such a way that it enriches the experience. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind grants players the freedom to play it as an experience, absorbing the story and forging their own, or as a set of rules, to be ransacked with an obsessive-compulsive eye for exploits in a bid to "beat" the game.