Saturday, March 31, 2007

Download of the week: UFO - Enemy Unknown (PC)

I think it was this game that really sparked my love and interest for turn-based strategy in the first place, and I think most gamers in their late twenties or early thirties would agree that it is one of the best strategy games ever made. Its prototype,
Laser Squad 2, was picked up by Mircroprose Software and published in 1993 as UFO: Enemy Unknown (in Europe).

In repelling the extraterrestrial threat, the player is tasked with managing the base and the troops, as well as looking after the funding and research development. The action elements of the game comes into place when you order units to intercept the UFOs, and then sending units to investigate the crash site, neutralize the survivors and salvage the alien technology. I discussed this game with a friend the other day, and the alien autopsies came up. Seems we both agree they were much more fascinating than the 3D illustrations/renderings of today. The level of authenticity and detail of the pictures are really impressive, meaning one could study them for a long time. Truth is you couldn't wait to bring the next specimen to the slab. Morbid, but true.

One of the most important aspects in making UFO a classic was the line-of-sight system. The fact that you could only see what your soldiers were able to see kept the game interesting. During the enemy phase, you can hear movement or even catch a glimpse of your alien foes, plotting against you. The depth of gameplay was well ahead of its time, with research and funding needing constant supervision and combat and character customization central to the strategy element. Hands down one of the best games ever, it had several successors, none of them better than the original.

Click here to download the game. It should run on Windows, et al. No promises.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Retro game of the week: Shadowrun (SNES)

Adapted from the pen and paper RPG, Shadowrun was a pioneering attempt at open gameplay, worth looking into even today. It was developed by Australian company Beam Software (now Melbourne House) and released in November 1993.

The gritty dystopian atmosphere presented in Shadowrun is typical for the classic cyberpunk setting - the main characters last name,
Armitage, is even (rather blatantly) derived from William Gibson's famous cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. The story takes place in an miserable future where massive corporate structures control a world inhabited by humans as well as orcs and elves. An integral part of the storyline revolves around the conflicting/symbiotic relationship between magic and technology. Riiight.

Shadowrun combines both the statistical factor of the tabletop game with real-time combat. Controlling the slow cursor is something to get used to, especially when enemies respawn in almost every room and sometimes in the streets, making the sluggish crosshair even more irritating. Besides that, I see little reason for not delving deeper into this game, once again. A new Shadowrun game is coming to the PC and Xbox 360 later this year. I have no faith in it.

Instead, use an emulator and start looking for the ROM.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Download of the week: Guxt (PC)

Guxt is a top-down shooter from Pixel. As the name of the developer suggests, it's entirely minimalistic in design. It is fast paced and elegant, with small bursts of color interrupting its otherwise chromatic palette. Although beautiful to look at, with nice pixel sprites in the same constrained color scheme, it doesn't allow for much sight-seeing: as with many other modern shooters, Guxt is very difficult. Still, challenging as it may be, it's nothing but a delight to play. Guxt is not yet complete, but there's a five stage demo available for Windows.

here to download Guxt (270 KB).

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Internet game of the week: Rick Dangerous (Flash)

A true classic, Rick Dangerous (by Core Design) made a splash on the scene in 1989 as one of the most frustrating games on the Amiga. One might even call it the ultimate game of trial and error. And traps.

I used to play it with at least two friends at the time, so each could memorize different parts of the levels and keep track of the numerous traps. Did I mention Rick Dangerous is all about traps? Poisonous darts and wooden spikes, everywhere. This Flash version of the game even has a built-in cheat to help players suffering from short term memory like myself: all you need to remember is to press
home every now and then to revive and replenish your ammo. Although the first game is dear to me, Rick Dangerous II is obviously the better game. I figured it'd be boring to put it as Download of the week, so I decided to include it in this post. Enjoy.

To play the Flash remake of Rick Dangerous, follow this link.
Click here to download Rick Dangerous II for Windows (2 MB).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Download of the week: Eternal Daughter (PC)

Eternal Daughter is an epic side-scrolling adventure game that took some two years to complete. According to the creators, it's an homage to their favorite games from their early years, like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but there's also a good deal of Zelda-esque elements in there. Eternal Daughter is very demanding and difficult, but is so in a good way - there are no sluggish controls or bastard platform jumps to ruin the whole experience.

Download Eternal Daughter here (9 MB).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Retro game of the week: Outcast (PC)

I remember installing the demo of Outcast when it was released way back in 1999.
I had seen screenshots of it in magazines and it looked
gorgeous. I had my hopes up. Did it look good? Yes. Did it look better than anything my eighteen year old mind could ever imagine? No. But it really fascinated me. As with
Trespasser, I never got a chance to play the whole game, and that kept me wondering how it would be like. I wondered for a long time. Eight years, actually.

I tried Outcast yesterday, and I have to say I'm impressed. It certainly shows its age, but still has a graphical flair and special feel about it. The game is an even split of action and adventure (viewed from a first or third person perspective) and it's completely nonlinear in its structure - you can pretty much go anywhere at any point, and there are plenty of optional quests you may not even encounter unless you talk to every character you come across.

Outcast used voxels, a pixel technology developed and employed in games at the time. There's a more technical explanation of how that works here, but the short version is that
voxels are efficient when it comes to rendering large outdoor landscapes without the use of polygons, allowing spectacular draw distance.

Unfortunately, Outcast isn't freeware, but it's available at your favorite Torrent search. There's also a demo, if that's more convenient (130 MB).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Internet game of the week: Gateway II (Flash)

Another indie-developed game from Sweden? Well, why not? Gateway II, developed by Anders Gustafsson, is simple but stylish and delivers an
excellent narrative, thick with emotion and dark humor. Guide the avatar through a series of rooms, solve the puzzles within each room to advance to the next. Give it a try.

Visit this
page to play Gateway II.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Retro game of the week: Alone In the Dark (PC)

Alone In the Dark is simply one of the best horror games ever released. Much responsible for paving the way for other "survival horror" games such as Resident Evil, Alone In the Dark used multiple fixed camera angles and low-resolution polygon zombies years before that. Developed by Infogrames (now Atari) and released in 1992, it might seem that I'm romanticising the early and mid 1990's, but as I recall it, a lot of good games were published back then. And a lot of awful games, too.

However, Alone in the Dark is clearly a innovative and artistic game. Players are given the option of choosing between a male or female character (Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood, respectively) and then tasked with investigating the suicide of a friend at the mansion of Derceto, which is the setting of the game. The unfolding of the story is revealed when exploring the mansion, looking for clues in books and notes scattered throughout the game. The storyline clearly draws much of its inspiration from the works of the late H.P. Lovecraft. For example, the occult tomes found in the mansion's library include the Necronomicon and De Vermis Mysteriis, both taken from the Cthulhu Mythos.

Gameplay involves inventory/environmental puzzles and some pretty confusing shooting/fighting elements, later copied, refined and more successfully implemented by the Resident Evil series. If you're into scary games, don't miss out on this one.

Click here to download Alone In the Dark (5 MB).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Download of the week: Grand Theft Auto 2 (PC)

Everyone is eagerly awaiting the new trailer for GTA IV. That is, everyone with nothing better to do. It's easy to forget that one of the worlds most infamous and successful franchises started out as a top-down game in pixelated 2D.

Grand Theft Auto 2 was originally released for PlayStation and PC in October 1999. While the gameplay concepts and storyline (make your way as a low-life crook through the crime underworld) established just two years prior in the original Grand Theft Auto are essentially the same in the follow-up, the second installment in the series expanded the open-ended crime world formula with a host of new features, including the advent of multiple rival gangs.

GTA2 has been optimized to run on modern PCs and is available gratis here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Internet game of the week: Orisinal (Flash)

There are quite a few charming games over at Orisinal, maybe too many, but if you haven't tried them already I recommend these games (represented by their icons):

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Download of the week: Death Worm (PC)

I couldn't find any information at all regarding this game, but I guess there isn't much to be said about it, either. In Death Worm, you control a huge underground-dwelling worm. Your goal is to eat things above the surface - birds, people, aeroplanes, giraffes, and so on. It reminds me of the classic Amiga shoot 'em up Wings of Fury (1990), only less sophisticated.

Visit this page to download Death Worm (4 MB).

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Retro game of the week: Another World (AMIGA)

(...Right, here we go. Don't get distracted this time, just finish the post. Hope it doesn't come out all nostalgic and pretentious like it usually does... Note to self: Don't forget to Wiki that rotoscoping-animation-thing... No big deal. Alright...)

Another World was all about trial and error, instant deaths and endless frustration. Still, it was one of those bright moments in gaming history. Developed by Eric Chahi in his garage
back in 1990, Another World clearly reflects his solitaire vision. It has a lonely, cinematic atmosphere that's evident throughout the game. Upon seeing this game at age 12, the graphics and the gameplay mechanics were too good to be true. The groundbreaking visuals were created using an Amiga 500 with 1MB RAM and a 20MB hard drive, Deluxe Paint being the tool for pixel perfection.

While gameplay elements like combat and jumping are flawed and imprecise, adding to the already high difficulty of the game, such imperfections does little to hamper the unique and immersing experience offered. Now available as a boxed collectors edition for its 15th anniversary, Another World features high-resolution backgrounds and increased detail.

To download the demo version for Windows XP, click here.