Pac-Mania

Pac-ManiaThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around relatively simple mazes, gobbling small dots and evading five colorful monsters See the videowho can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, larger dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and you can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to chase you anew. If you clear the maze of dots, you advance to a new maze and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Tengen, 1990)

Memories: Having watched its own home video game unit fall into obsolescence with the rise of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Atari Games – the original Atari’s arcade division, spun off into its own entity after the Tramiel family split the company – quietly started a new subsidiary to begin mining the NES market. This new division, Tengen, produced only a few games – and in so doing, wound up in big trouble with Nintendo. Read More

Ultima: Quest Of The Avatar

Quest Of The AvatarThe Game: Darkness has fallen anew upon Britannia, and Lord British calls for your service again. You start out alone, accumulating traveling (and fighting) companions along your journey, striving to live by the Eight Virtues that govern conduct in the kingdom. Along the way, numerous creatures, both evil and simply pesky, challenge you. As you go forth on the quest, you must also collect the mantras of each Virtue, travel to the corresponding Shrines, and meditate there until you reach enlightenment. With enlightenment and experience come the strength to rid Britannia of evil – but, to quote a little pointy-eared green guy, beware the dark side… (FCI / Pony Canyon, 1990)

Memories: Where the NES edition of the third Ultima game took place in a compressed version of the original computer game’s expansive world. If the map of the world of Sosaria from the Apple II version of Exodus: Ultima III was printed on one of those squishy little stress balls, the NES version was what you’d see if the ball was squeezed: all the continents, while vaguely similar, were suddenly jammed up against each other. Ultima IV‘s even larger map is surprisingly intact on the NES. Read More

Yoshi

YoshiThe Game: Mario has to keep more plates spinning than usual. With a plate in each hand, Mario must be moved underneath a never-ending onslaught of enemy creatures. The object of the game is to stack up identical creatures to eliminate them from play, and, when possible, to stack up the two halves of Yoshi eggs to allow a new Yoshi to hatch. Management of the creature stacks is vital, since a stack exceeding the height of the play area ends the game. In two-player mode, both players simultaneously try to outdo the other. (Nintendo, 1992)

Memories: Yoshi first appeared in 1990’s Super Mario World on the SNES, but Nintendo was keen to keep the character in the public eye. The result is a game for the NES that looks and feels just a little bit rushed. Read More

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next GenerationSee the videoThe Game: Captain Picard puts you in charge of a simulated mission aboard the Enterprise. With the helpful advice of Commander Riker, Data, Geordi, Worf and Chief O’Brien, you have to command the pride of the Federation fleet into a number of difficult situations, accomplish as much of the mission objectives as you can, and bring the Enterprise home in one piece. (Absolute, 1993)

Memories: It’s funny how so many of the Star Trek games I actually like can actually be traced back to Sega’s 1982 Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator arcade game. Though Star Trek: The Next Generation tacks on a bunch of bells and whistles, such as consulting the bridge crew about the situation (how Picard Star Trek: The Next Generationis that?) and having to go to their screens to kick in things like the shields, weapons and warp drive, when it comes right down to it, if you strip away these elements, it’s the same basic game: you’re blasting away at enemy ships and hoping to get more clean shots in at them then they get at you. He whose shields fail first gets blown out of the sky. In 11 years, the basic Star Trek game hadn’t evolved that much (but at least The Next Generation doesn’t get the torturously slow “story” scenes of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary). Read More