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.

24 December, 2011


  • Release Date: 1981
  • Platform(s): Arcade
  • Developer: Konami
  • Genre: Action

In theory, you should never lose at Frogger. The gaming world's first frog superstar has a straightforward task: to get across a highway, and then a river -- dodging vehicles in the first stretch, jumping across logs and turtles on the second. The surrounding world is obvious to its struggle: The cars speed along on their own, and the alligators and poisonous frogs that patrol the river come and go regardless of where it hops. All you have to do is spot the path through the obstacles and complete it. If you find the right trail, you can make it in seconds. The whole thing should be a cinch, because only you can put yourself in trouble; the game hardly notices you're there.

Keep your head up.
That, however, is all easier said than done. Moving too quickly is one of the things that leads to mistakes. Panic is another. The obstacle course gets harder as cars speed up and sections of the river change their flow.  You're tempted to make a jump onto a turtle when you know it's about to sink underwater -- dragging you to your doom. And it's easy to get impatient around the slow-moving cars, even though the game counts you as dead if you hit the front or the rear. You're led to make errors by fearing your own vulnerability, by your eagerness to grab that difficult far-left berth on the safe end of the board, or by the chance to grab a fly for extra points.

A monster hit of the coin-operated arcade era, Frogger anticipates the pleasure of platformers like Super Mario Bros., and it appeals to players who would rather keep themselves alive than kill everything else around them. The frog's predicament draws the player into an environment that may be colourful and pleasing but is also full of threats. It's a place where shiny opportunities are put there to tempt you off the safe path, and where mastering the world breeds ridiculous joy.

22 December, 2011

Daytona USA

  • Release Date: 1993
  • Platform(s): Arcade
  • Developer: Sega
  • Genre: Driving

The first time you successfully drift around a turn in Daytona USA, it all makes sense. First, steer into the curve. Then hit the brakes -- you'll learn how hard you need to push on the pedal -- and correct against the turn just so . You'll find yourself sliding sideways at high speed, your car in a delicate equilibrium between spinning out and bolting off the course, poised to explode onto the straightaway. Realistic? Not exactly, but so natural that any other racing game you play afterward will feel stilted and awkward.

Among its many technical innovations, Daytona USA is credited as a pioneer of texture-mapped polygons, giving its 3-D models a more organic look than those of Sega's earlier efforts, Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter, with their plain, flat-shaded polygons. Texture mapping is used to great effect here, framing the racetracks with lush greenery, imposing cliff formations, and varied cityscapes. Up to eight competitions can be networked locally for epic in-person battles, which is where drafting -- riding the slipstream behind another player's car to create a slingshot effect out of turns-- can really make a difference.

Daytona USA also has its share of infamy. During the attract mode and on the Dinosaur Canyon racetrack, you are subjected to a cheesy, lounge-style song called "Let's Go Away," sung in English by a heavily accented Japanese man. You won't be able to get it out of your head.

A disastrous home version for the Sega Saturn in 1995 is reviled for its choppy frame rate and flickering polygons. In 1996, Sega would rectify the situation with Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition, which sports improved graphics, truer handling, and three new racetracks. More faithful to the arcade original -- except for its instrumental only version of "Let's Go Away" -- the Championship Circuit Edition is the definitive home version.

20 December, 2011

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

  • Release Date: 1996
  • Platform(s):  MS-DOS, Windows, PlayStation
  • Developer: Westwood Studios
  • Genre: Strategy

Real-time strategy games tend to be fairly serious sorts of experiences. They're about war, for one thing, which is already serious enough, and they're generally enormously taxing and demanding, requiring players to take in an entire battlefield's worth of information, to isolate threats very quickly, and react to devastating changes on the fly.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert features some hectic conflicts
So it's no surprise that Command & Conquer is a fairly serious real-time strategy game. Series offshoot Red Alert, however, really isn't. Red Alert is a counterfactual real-time strategy, turning on the notion that Einstein went back in time Adolf Hitler when he was still a nobody (already things are becoming fairly unserious), only to return to his own to find the Allies hard at war in Europe, fighting against a massive Soviet war machine that has sprung up in the absence of Nazi Germany. It could happen. What's less likely to happen, however, is the development of some of the units that Red Alert lets you mess around with. These include science-fiction standards like Tesla Coils, capable of zapping troops in a flurry of electricity. Subsequent games would take this concept further until, in Red Alert 3, you were firing armoured bears at enemies or dispatching tanks that transformed into fighter jets.

That said, despite the wobblier sets and campier acting, Red Alert remains serious about being a game. Factions and units are well balanced, maps are clean tactical spaces, and the user interface sets the genre's standard. With the series getting loopier and loopier with every installment -- the Russian shock trooper in hot pants -- Red Alert remains a necessary antidote to the glum world conflicts of the main Command & Conquer plotline, providing an explosion of colour in a heavily cratered landscape.

15 December, 2011

Star Wars: TIE Fighter

  • Release Date: 1994
  • Platform(s): PC
  • Developer: Totally Games
  • Genre: Shoot 'Em Up

Star Wars: TIE Fighter features visceral space combat
It was perfect symmetry. Before making Star Wars: TIE Fighter, designer Lawrence Holland of Lucasfilm Games created a suite of World War II dogfighting games, including Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. For Star Wars' space dogfights, George Lucas looked to The Dam Busters and 633 Squadron for inspiration. When Holland was asked to think about creating a space combat game, he quickly realized that he and Lucas were already looking squarely at the same sources. The result was a series of games that represent some of the best file tie-ins ever created.

The secret is in the subtle blend of strict adherence to Star Wars lore and a willingness to design imaginatively on top of them. Immediately striking are the intense, twisting dogfights against star fields streaked with beams of bright, green and orange laser fire, as well as the iconographic lines of Star Wars' distinctive spacecraft. But the meat lies in one of gaming's most beautiful mechanics: your craft's power system. Demanding that you delicately balance your finite energy supply between lasers, engines, and shields, you are continually asked to think about how to approach each situation. Dump all your power into engines for speed, and you'll risk running out of lasers and having no protection when you meet trouble.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter, which has you fight for the Empire, features smoothly shaded fighters and meticulously designed missions. And though you might assume you'd always want to fight for the plucky Rebellion, the game's vision of dark political intrigue oozing below a veneer of mundane bureaucracy is gripping. It remains a terrible thrill to pilot a craft as fragile and feather-light as a regular TIE. Showing Star Wars from the dark side resulted in one of the most enthralling visions of its universe.

Mario Golf

  • Release Date: 1999
  • Platform(s): Game Boy Color
  • Developer: Camelot Software Planning
  • Genre: Sports

As Mario's unlikely shadow career as the world's most versatile sportsman evolved with the glorious playable Mario Kart games, golf was perhaps the most likely candidate for further expansion. The rolling hills of the Mushroom Kingdom would be an ideal location to sink a few holes. Golf games already had an established formula to riff on -- Nintendo had already made a couple of stand-out entries -- and Mario's crazy cast of friends and enemies would probably look delightful in plaid slacks, polo shirts, and funny little hats.

Who knew it would turn out as well as this, however? Camelot's game has (exceedingly light) elements of an RPG as you explore the local clubhouse, learning the ropes, setting up matches, and making friends, but it's also a smart, calculated, gold sim for one or more players. It may be easy to play but Mario Golf is filled with variables that affect play, as well as charming, rich details, such as a suite of brilliantly structured courses; nice physics and ball effects; and a lovely, comprehensive leaderboard made for keeping track of your best shots and bragging about them to your friends. Visual and aural feedback is absolutely great too, as you might expect, and the whole thing basks in the warm glow of the Mario universe -- even though you spend a rather large part of the game unlocking a range of characters who aren't the famous plumber.

Some of Mario's later excursions into sports have seemed a little tired at times as the branding, special moves, and general gimmickry became increasingly desperate and shrill, but here, on the Game Boy Color, the whole thing meshes perfectly together, and Mario is as at home on the emerald greens with a putter and sand wedge as he is dressed as a raccoon soaring over a gaggle of Koopa Troopas.

11 December, 2011

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

  • Release Date: 1997
  • Platform(s): PC
  • Developer: LucasArts
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter

Imagine the pressure. The original Dark Forces successfully coats a doom-like first-person shooter with the veneer of the Star Wars universe, it delights gamers, sells well, and a sequel goes straight into production. The anticipation for the next installment of Kyle Katarn's adventures was through the roof, and LucasArts delievered a stunning shooter experience that integrated role-playing style, Jedi power progression, and story choices into a more traditional run-and-gun action product. And it introduced lightsabers, Oh, yes, the lightsabers.

A Fierce Looking ATAT
Building a system that would fluidly switch to a third-person perspective when Katarn draws out the big stick proved to be a significant technical hurdle that was executed perfectly. Katarn's story as a former Imperial officer turned mercenary takes a huge leap forward when he uncovers the force. Now he can learn new Force powers and choose whether to follow the Light or Dark path on a quest to find his father's murderer.

It's a gripping progression that invests the player with an important role in this post-Return of the Jedi story-line. Even after the single-player plot-line is exhausted, it's easy to replay, choosing different Jedi powers and experiencing the story from the other side. Then you can take those skills online in a multiplayer mode that pits Light against Dark Jedis in classic four-player match-ups.

This package set a new ambition bar not just for all future Star Wars games, but for the first person shooters in general. As three-dimensional graphics cards were gaining a foothold, this game was one very good reason to join the revolution, if you hadn't already. For fans of the series, all it takes is for that famous score to start playing, and the chills run down their spines.

02 December, 2011


  • Release Date: 1987
  • Platform(s): Arcade
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Genre: Shoot 'Em Up

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 sequel to Capcom's cracking 1942, 1943 is set in the Pacific as the player fights off waves of oncoming enemies to take the battle to the heart of the Japanese fleet. Once again, victory depends on mastery of standard and special attacks, as you take down spinning, cycling, warping, and flipping waves of oncoming aircraft and ground troops, fighting elaborate boss battles and collecting brilliant power-ups. The health system has been modified somewhat, but the game remains as challenging as ever, and overall success is still as unlikely. (Although the introduction of two-player cooperative action evens out the odds a little, especially during the larger boss confrontations.) Like the previous title, 1943 is now considered one of the kings of the one-credit-play-through challenge, popular among a particularly hardcore group of the game's fans.

Having created the arcade iteration, Capcom handled a home version for the NES, but a cast and unwieldy range of ports across different platforms range widely in terms of quality and degrees of fidelity. Faced with such a compromised muddle, if you're itching to re-stage the Battle Of Midway in entirely unrealistic terms today, you'll probably want to hunt down the mighty Capcom Classics Collection -- a generous PS2/Xbox compilation -- which features this game, along with many other greats, and has some rather delightful menus to boot.

They just never stop coming