Tag Archives: Games

Podcast 24: The Games That Didn’t Quite Make It… Part 2

In part 2 of our round up of the games that didn’t quite make it, Lewis questions why on earth he didn’t write anything about these frankly brilliant games:

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Podcast 24 Games That Didn’t Quite Make It Part 2 – Lewis

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Although seeing as this is the last podcast, if you’re only just subscribing now you’re a little bit late to the game. Ho hum.

There are a few games we talked about that deserve a bit of a special mention, as they came within a gnat’s hair of making it into the magic 101. Here’s a video of the stunning (for the time) Hunter in motion. Long before GTAIII, Amiga owners were stealing power boats and hijacking tanks in 3D:

Then, of course, there’s Rez: it came so close but in the end it didn’t quite make the list, mostly because Lewis couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to add to the mountains of fawning praise that have already been heaped at its door. However, if you’ve never played it, click the video below to see what all the fuss is about. And make sure you have the sound turned up.

Global Gladiators is probably one of the more obscure games on the list, and the cynical McDonald’s advertising that runs all the way through the game is a little hard to stomach at times, but it’s an undeniably brilliant platformer with some superb animation.

Finally, Point Blank was an absolutely wonderful light gun game that unfortunately Ian doesn’t seem to remember. Hopefully the video below will jog his memory:

And that’s that. The end of 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better. It’s a sad day in many ways, but we’ve really enjoyed writing the blog over the past couple of years, and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading it too. Thanks for listening to our ramblings and reading our musings, and special thanks to everyone who’s left a comment. (Unless it was a negative comment, in which case don’t bother next time.)

We’ll be back in the summer with a new (non-games-related) project, but right now it’s time to climb back into our big Morecombe & Wise-style comedy bed and turn the light off on 101 Video Games.

Goodnight all.

Lewis & Ian

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Filed under Feature, Podcast

#101: Journey’s End

Format: Spectrum Genre: Adventure Released: 1985 Developer: Games Workshop

Nothing lasts forever. Here we are then, at game number 101. The last in our (not really) definitive list of games that made our lives slightly better. What game do you pick to adequately round off this 3 year journey? How can you represent 100 entries, thousands of words and several podcasts?

We’ve been through a lot on 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better. Doing this blog has been fun, has brought friends together and has given Lew and myself a great sense of achievement. At times it’s also been frustrating, has caused arguments, has been distinctly annoying and seemingly never-ending, and there have been long periods where nothing has really happened. Our final game was all those things for me, plus its name is perfect for the last post (natch). We have reached our Journey’s End.

My best friend for most of my childhood was a guy called Tony. Between the ages of 9 and 16 we saw each other pretty much every day. We lived on the same road, walked to school together and were in the same class at school. During the school holidays we would hang out together along with my younger brother. When you’re 10 years old, school holidays seem to last forever and we were often bored and struggled to think of things to do. Things got pretty desperate at times; one holiday I’m pretty sure we went to Woolworths every single day just to look at the videos and toys, never buying anything. Those were the days eh?

Tony had an old Spectrum (a hand me down from his older brother I think) and we used to dig that out and play on it, especially if it was pouring with rain outside. Even back then the Spectrum was pretty old fashioned, but we had no other options. I may be wrong but I think Tony didn’t own any two player games either. We were forced to play collectively, with one person controlling the game while the other two gave advice. This was surprisingly fun and kept us occupied for hours at a time. By far our favourite game to play this way was Journey’s End.

To the castle comrades! Just to warn you it's further away than it looks...

Journey’s End was a fantasy game, featuring the usual fantasy tropes – bands of warriors, spells, dragons, goblins (or was it orcs?) and so on. The game stood out by being split into four distinct parts which all played quite differently. It was also a long game. A very long game. So it was the perfect distraction to fill those long summer holidays.

Everything about the game took time. To begin with, of course, you had to load the game. It’s an obvious point to make but it did take aaaaages to play a Spectrum game. I remember we would sit there waiting 20 to 30 minutes for a game to load. Or should I say try to load? Often games would crash half-way through loading so you would have to start again. I’m sure Journey’s End often did that. It was quite possible to spend 45 minutes just trying to start a game. Looking back it absolutely amazes me that two 10 year olds and a 7 year old had that level of patience.

Here you can see all the gems, pots of gold and potions. But you can't see the stupid invisible traps.

The first part of Journey’s End was set in a maze. You would move around, exploring more of the maze until you found a key and a gate to escape. There were gold, gems and potions to find as well. Unfortunately there were also traps. Stupid, invisible, impossible-to-avoid traps. One of the most frustrating things about the maze was that you would only find the traps once you had set them off. The mazes were randomly generated and there was no logic behind where the traps were so it was sheer luck whether you ran into them. Not only that, occasionally you had strength points taken off because of a trap your character had fallen into during the bit between mazes, when you weren’t even controlling him. IT WAS INFURIATING. But we played it all the same.

ARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHH!

After a certain amount of mazes (again it seemed random the number you would have to tackle) you start the second part of Journey’s End: recruiting your band of warriors, wizards and warlocks (I know warlocks and wizards are kind of the same thing, I just wanted to use another ‘w’ word).

Using the treasure you found in the mazes you recruit a group of men to come on the quest with you. Not enough gold? Well make some on the rat races!

Just like my old Grandad used to say, always bet on the Green Rat.

Being 10 year old boys we particularly enjoyed renaming the mercenaries so they had stupid and/or rude names. As a 31 year old man I suspect I would still find that funny.

After advertising this is all I got. Rubbish!

Once you’ve got your gang together it’s time to go to the enchanted castle where the ‘Elixir of Hagar’ is being guarded by a giant dragon. How exciting! Oh, first you’ve got to get there.

Yes the third part of the game was you making your way to the castle. It’s actually quite similar to walking around the map in Final Fantasy 7, with the same random annoying fights. It’s this stage of the game that I really remember. The image of Tony, my brother and I, sitting on a large cushion transfixed in front of the TV, using the cursor keys to sloooowly move our group up the map while being watched by Tony’s haughty cat Claude is burned onto my mind’s eye. That stage was hard and often we wouldn’t reach the castle. The battles would pick off your men one by one, it was easy to get lost, and of course there was always the danger that the game would crash.

So here we go. Easy right. Nope.

Looking back, this stage of the game does successfully recreate the feel of the first Lord of the Rings book, which emphasises just how far the Fellowship of the Ring actually have to travel. The problem is, while a book can use that time to concentrate on character, and while a film can distract you with flashy CGI and battles, a 1985 Spectrum game can only recreate the feeling of travelling nowhere fast. Again, the patience we had was incredible.

Thrilling action from the map screen.

If you did manage to survive the random battles, find the bridge to take you over the river and then find the castle itself, you could move on to the fourth and final part of the game – the Dragon’s Castle.

Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about this stage as we rarely reached the castle. Even if we had got through the previous three stages without dying, by the time we got to the castle it was usually dinner time and my brother and I had to go home.

The couple of times we did get there though it seemed impossibly hard. I think we reached the Dragon once, but by then our party’s strength had been massively depleted, and we had used all our spells so there was little we could do.

Saw this screen a lot.

Despite all of this we loved the game, and I think there was more to this adoration than just being able to call one of your warriors Arsebum. The very fact the pace of the game was so slow allowed Tony, my brother and myself to play it together. We gave our characters personalities, argued over the way to go, shouted at the TV in unified anger when we had tripped over an invisible bit of stone in the maze losing 5 strength points, laughed at each other’s jokes during the dull slog looking for the Bridge across the river and cheered when we found the castle. We may have never actually reached the End but the Journey was fun in itself.

Speaking of endings, we’re at the end of this post and this blog. Well, we do have two more podcasts to come about games that didn’t quite make the magic 101, but our list of games is now complete. For those who have read/listened to all 101 posts I hope you enjoyed them and Lew and I would like to think that the blog has made your lives (very, very, very slightly) better. Or at the very least not worse.

Every ending is a new beginning though and our new project will be launched sometime in the summer. Hope you can join us on that journey too.

One last thing before I go: fancy playing Journey’s End? Then go here for this excellent repository of old Spectrum games. Isn’t the internet marvellous?

Ian

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Filed under 1985, Adventure, Games Workshop, Spectrum

Name That Game

Throughout the history of this blog, we’ve regularly changed the header at the top of the page. Below you can see all of the many different headers in all their glory, but can you guess which games they’re from? Some are games that have already been featured on the blog, but most of them haven’t (and one isn’t even a game at all, but I’m guessing you’ll figure that out pretty quickly). There’s some fairly obscure games in here, so we’d be frankly astounded if anyone gets all of them. Click on the comment button at the bottom of the post to register your guesses, and good luck!

Oh, and anyone who does particularly well might even receive a highly coveted 101 Video Games pencil!*

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*Despite originating as a joke on a post way back in September 2010, these do actually exist now (listen to the 2010 Christmas Special). Pencils will be awarded based on the whim and fancy of the authors.

The highly coveted 101 Video Games pencils. You know you want one.

Lewis and Ian

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Podcast 22: Crazy Taxi (#100)

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Racing, Arcade, Sandbox Released: 1999 Developer: Hitmaker

Here at 101 Video Game Towers we often enjoy games that somehow turn mundane activities into fun adventures. Yes, you may have a good time being a space fighter pilot, or the heroic saviour of a post apocalyptic wasteland, or even a low-level gangster in the 1980s clubbing someone round the head with a baseball bat, but it can also be just as satisfying walking a dog, fishing or running a railway business.

Despite this fine pedigree there must have been some consternation when, during a meeting at Hitmaker HQ, the Big Boss pointed with his fat cigar at a lowly, nervous looking  programmer and demanded he make a game that recreates the thrills and spills of driving a taxi.

The advertising was very subtle.

Still, they don’t call Hitmaker ‘Hitmaker’ for nothing. They know how to make hits. In case you haven’t noticed it’s literally their name. Hitmaker… a maker of hits. If they didn’t know how to make hits their name would look stupid and boastful. Which it certainly isn’t. Though they did change it a couple of years ago to Sega AM3 which suggests they tired of putting so much pressure on themselves and instead became extremely early risers.

Anyway, all it took to turn mini-cabbing into a successful game was to add a bit of *pause* ‘Crazy’ (raise eyebrow when reading the word ‘Crazy’).

A taxi flying into the air? How crazy.

Welcome to the 22nd 101 Video Games Podcast! Listen as Ian and Lewis discuss Crazy Taxi on the Dreamcast, the disappearance of Tower Records, how pretty much anyone can’t help but like Offspring while playing this game even if they don’t usually, what a British version of the game would be like and once again reminisce about wasting time at university.

So, as someone with some kind of throat problem once said, ‘Hey, Hey, Hey its time for Crazy Taxi!’

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Podcast 22 Crazy Taxi

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In many ways Gena is Ian's perfect woman - beautiful, cool and, most importantly, she can drive.

Ian & Lewis

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Filed under 1999, Arcade, Dreamcast, Hitmaker, Podcast, Racing, Sandbox Game

Podcast 21: Fallout 3 (#99)

Format: Xbox 360 Genre: Action Role-Playing Released: 2008 Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

So, Fallout 3. It’s buggy. Occasionally awkward to control. The in-game characters sometimes know stuff they shouldn’t and/or the conversations get stuck in odd loops. It is also fantastic.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3

2008 was not a great year for Ian. All sorts of horrible things happened and his life took a very different direction to where he thought it was going. Come November he found himself single and living with his Mum. The best laid plans of mice and men eh? Ian’s personal misfortune coincided with a global misfortune, as the economy went belly-up. Basically to Ian circa November 2008 everything seemed f*****d.

So what did he do? Ian sulked for a bit, then went out and bought an Xbox 360 and Fallout 3.

Now let’s just stop a moment and think about this. Ian’s not happy. Banks are going under. The Russians are showing off in Georgia. Global Warming. The possibility, however slight, that McCain and Palin might actually win… The sense (and admittedly that sense is still kind of around today) that the world was falling apart, that we are, in best Daily Mail tradition, going to hell in a hand cart. And what does Ian buy? A game which depicts a horrific, post apocalyptic waste land. Where the inhabitants live hand to mouth, struggling with radiation, marauding gangs, mutants and monsters.

Take that mutant!

Take that mutant!

It was just the tonic! Ian plays the game as a virtual saint, becoming a hero to the people of the Wasteland.

Fast forward to Christmas 2010. Lewis receives Fallout 3 from the kindly old soak that Ian has become. Lewis is newly promoted, happily living with the love of his life in his own flat (bought that year) in a trendy-but-not-to-trendy-but-still-nice bit of London. Lewis is happy and comfortable. He plays the game as a ruthless evildoer, enslaving, murdering and looting as he goes.

There’s an important lesson there. Do write in if you work out what that lesson is.

Lewis's trusty companion Sergeant RL-3 - never leave home without one. His 'lively' phrases have a knack of sticking in the memory, such as: "Do that again and I'll put my boot so far up your ass you'll cough up boot polish!"

It’s the 21st 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better Podcast! In this one we discuss Fallout 3. For ages. Seriously, it’s about 45 minutes long. Sorry about that.

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Podcast 21 – Fallout 3 (Post #99)

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We’ll leave you with something that goody-two-shoes Ian never got to see – the stirring sight of Megaton being annihilated…

Ian and Lewis

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Filed under 2008, Bethesda Game Studios, Podcast, RPG, Xbox 360

#98: Lost Kingdoms

Format: GameCube Genre: RPG Released: 2002 Developer: From Software

It’s been incredibly difficult to decide which games to cover for the final few places on our list, and dozens of equally worthy titles were considered for this particular spot. In the end though, I felt that this almost unknown GameCube title thoroughly deserved a place on the list: not least because I think more people should find out about it.

The utterly dreadful cover art for Lost Kingdoms. There's definitely something not quite right about the proportions of that woman's face...

Lost Kingdoms made my life slightly better because it’s one of the few games I can think of that I enjoyed from start to finish – there were no frustrating difficulty spikes and no tacked-on ‘stealth’ sections, just pure, unadulterated fun from the moment I picked up the controller to the moment I watched the credits roll. Admittedly, the time in between the two wasn’t particularly long, and this is probably the game’s biggest flaw – it’s far too short. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – particularly if you’re an older, time-poor gamer – and considering the game can now be picked up on eBay for an absolute pittance, you’d be mad to miss out on it.

The cards in your hand are on the right, and the rest of the deck is shown on the left.

The key to the game’s success is its innovative combat system, which is based on ‘Magic: The Gathering’-style trading cards. Each card summons a specific creature, which either performs a one-off attack or hangs around for a while and attacks any wrongdoer that ambles by. All of the cards have specific affinities (Fire, Earth, Wood, Water), and part of  the game’s enjoyment comes from carefully preparing your deck before a level to ensure that you have the right balance of cards to fight the upcoming monsters (e.g. if you’re going to be facing a lot of fire-breathing monkeys, it’s probably a good idea to bring along a few water-based cards).

The best thing about the game might just be conjuring up a host of Harryhausen-esque walking skeletons. They're fairly rubbish in battle, but they evoke fond memories of Sunday afternoons spent watching Jason and the Argonauts.

The best thing is that all of the fighting is done in real-time, so the fights can get enjoyably frantic as you sift through your deck, trying desperately to find the right card to deal with the monster that’s just jumped up through the floor in front of you. The creature cards themselves are also impressively designed, and there are some particularly good showstopping animations for the more powerful beasts (á la the Guardian Forces in Final Fantasy). Best of all, there are around a hundred different cards to collect, and you can also upgrade your cards by ‘transforming’ them, so there’s plenty of fun to be had for the compulsive collector.

You can see the main protagonist in the centre - she's certainly up for the worst-dressed-hero award. Are those booty slippers?

Speaking of which, isn’t it weird how obsessive collecting has been such a part of video games since the very beginning? From collecting coins in Super Mario Bros. to finding Riddler Trophies in Batman: Arkham Asylum, it seems gamers like nothing more than to gather pointless tat for hours on end – although to be fair, the cards in Lost Kingdoms are a little bit more interesting than many game collectibles.

I think the worst example of pointless collecting I’ve witnessed in recent history was Assassin’s Creed, which tasked you with collecting several hundred flags of various types. And what did you get for painstakingly collecting these flags? A poxy little Xbox ‘Achievement’ and the knowledge that those five hours spent trawling through every street and alley in Jerusalem are five hours you’ll never get back.

Beware the glowing red dome of scariness! OoooOOOOOooooh!

The thing is though, I get totally suckered in by these collecting quests: once you’ve started collecting these little in-game trinkets, it’s very difficult to stop. Assassin’s Creed was definitely a watershed moment though – receiving the ‘Achievement’ for collecting god knows how many flags was the point at which I seriously asked myself “What the hell am I doing?”

Still, certain games handle item collecting well, and because it kept the number of collectibles down to a reasonable level and made each item unique and interesting, Lost Kingdoms was certainly one of the better ‘collect ’em ups’ (another good example is Ghostbusters: The Video Game – the ‘haunted artefacts’ scattered throughout the levels were genuinely worth finding).

To sum up then, Lost Kingdoms is a cracking little game that’s well worth picking up if you’re in the mood for a spot of RPG-lite collecting and card battling, and its relative shortness means it’s guaranteed not to outstay its welcome – definitely one of the GameCube’s high points.

To whet your appetite, here’s a video of the first level:

And below is a video of the final boss battle – it gives you a good idea of what some of the higher level cards do. (But don’t watch if you don’t want to see the ending. Obviously.)

Lewis

(Cover image fro gamefaqs.com, screenshots from Softpedia)

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Filed under 2002, From Software, GameCube, RPG

Podcast 20: Amiga Power (And Other, Lesser Gaming Magazines)

Welcome, wanderers of the SuperInformationCanalPath, to the Podcast of Champions: an entire 26 minutes (count ’em!) dedicated to the MIGHTY BEINGS of Amiga Power (and other, lesser gaming magazines).

It's Doom... but on the Amiga.

Pay attention as we DISSEMINATE ESSENTIAL INFORMATION about Stuart N Hardy, the Amstrad CPC464k (NOT the Amstrad CPC6128k), Bob The Hamster, Office Joust, Doom… but on the Amiga, “Orwellian dandies” and AP’s dreadful, hateful magazine rivals: we’re looking at you, (“Michael Jackson” – Ed).

Despite receiving some devastating feedback from a certain anonymous, whining, childish hatemonger, and despite Ian’s repeated attempts to torpedo the conversation, we struggle through to produce the finest podcast the world has ever seen. With hilarious consequences.

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Podcast 20 Amiga Power

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And if this podcast has whet your appetite for more Amiga Power shenanigans, we recommend you hasten forthwith to AP2 (it’s Amiga Power – but on the computer) and Stuart Campbell’s forum for the chastising of useless, cretinous morons, World Of Stuart.

Ian lines up another laser-guided conversation torpedo, yesterday.

Lastly, here’s a video of Bob The Hamster*. BYE-BYE BOB. YOU WERE A GIRL HAMSTER.

*Not the actual Bob The Hamster. Natch.

Lewis & Ian

(Cover image from Amiga Magazine Rack)

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