Archon

ArchonThe Game: What if chess pieces were living creatures, each with its own unique abilities? And what if, every time to pieces met on the board, they had to fight amongst themselves to occupy the square in question? That’s Archon in a nutshell. (Electronic Arts, 1983)

Memories: Whoever came up with this game is a total genius. This is the sort of game that won lots of fans in the early days who may not have necessarily been computer or video game afficionados – a modern variation on the game of chess, with arcade-flavored action segments to determine control of contested territories. Continue reading

Music Construction Set

Music Construction SetThe Game: If you’re a music lover of any kind, from student level upward, Music Construction Set guarantees that you can make music with the Apple II right out of the box, even with the machine’s puny built-in speaker. A drag-and-drop interface – best used with a mouse and sometimes tiringly clunky with a joystick – allows you to piece together your own music, save it, load it and tweak it later. Several built-in tunes illustrate how to do this. A sound card is almost required, but even with the tinny sound of the Apple II’s built-in speaker the results are surprisingly good. (Electronic Arts, 1984)

Memories: What I was doing with this, I’ve never quite figured out – I compose in my head and can’t even read sheet music. But it’s still an intensely interesting little program. I never had a sound card for my Apple-compatible machines, but I was still stunned at how good it all sounded coming out of the machine’s native speaker – real live polyphony, it just about knocked my socks off. Continue reading

Skyfox

SkyfoxThe Game: The invasion is on, and as usual, you’re the only thing standing between Earth and alien domination. (Ever wonder why no one else is answering their pagers at times like these when the call goes out?) Fortunately, your aircraft is See the videoa kick-ass piece of military hardware, capable everything from breaking the sound barrier to hovering, helicopter-like, over a friendly installation to defend from an onslaught of enemy tanks. But the enemy makes up for its occasionally lackluster hardware with impressive numbers – and whether the hail of gunfire is coming from their tanks, their jets, or their motherships (which look suspiciously like little Comet Empires from Star Blazers), you can rack up a fatal amount of damage pretty quickly. (Electronic Arts, 1984)

Memories: To my day, Skyfox is still my favorite combat flight sim. Actually, it’s one of my all-time favorite flight sims, combat or otherwise. Continue reading

Adventure Construction Set

The Game: Digital dungeon masters never had it so good. From the design of tiles and characters to the basic rules governing the player’s interactions with his world, it’s all up for grabs. Items can be placed, their abilities defined, and enemies can be generated. Let the games begin…but is it more fun to create them or play them? (Electronic Arts, 1985)

Memories: Offering everything from pre-built elements to user-defined items and characters from scratch, Adventure Construction Set was a revelation. Where Garry Kitchen‘s Game Maker from Activision allowed budding game designers to create their own arcade-style games, EA‘s Adventure Construction Set gave them control of a top-down, tile-based 2-D adventure game. Those familiar with the Ultima series or Questron would instantly be within their element. Continue reading

Mail Order Monsters

Mail Order MonstersThe Game: Put your money where your fangs are in this monster mash-up that pits twelve different types of creatures against each other in the ultimate battle for survival. Arm your creature with the best weapons and armor to prepare him for games of Capture the Flag, Tournament-Style Battles, or an all out invasion. (Electronic Arts, 1985)

Memories: In the fall of 1985, my parents opened Yukon Software, a computer store specializing in PC, Apple and Commodore software. Every week I drooled over the stacks of brand new games my parents received to stock their shelves with. Occasionally I’d talk my dad into letting me open a game to demo it on one of our in-store computers. Mail Order Monsters was one of those games. The thought of building and battling monsters really appealed to me as a young teenager, a fantasy Mail Order Monsters delivered. Continue reading

One-On-One

One On OneThe Game: Dr. J and Larry Bird take to the hardwood for one-on-one half-court basketball action. Each player has his own signature moves, from lay-ups to three-point shots to steals. One or two players can play to a predetermined score or to a time limit. See the video(Atari [under license from Electronic Arts], 1987)

Memories: Having already become a hit on such home computers as the Commodore 64 and Apple II, Electronic Arts’ One On One ushered in a wave of celebrity-driven sports games that would eventually lead the company to a far more profitable franchise in the Madden [insert year of your choice here] football games. Atari had courted (no pun intended) EA as a potential developer of games for the Atari 7800, and while that courtship was short-lived, it did result in one of the better looking iterations of One On One. Continue reading

Skate Or Die

Skate Or DieThe Game: Don’t be a poseur! Skate hard or die trying in the ultimate skateboarding game for the Commodore 64. Practice or compete in five separate events that will lead you over ramps, down streets and even into abandoned pools. (Electronic Arts, 1987)

Memories: Throughout my teenage years, I had three distinct career paths in mind. The first one was professional breakdancer. When I realized that probably wasn’t going to pan out, I began planning on a more obtainable, more realistic goal: professional ninja. This was of course during the big ninja craze of the mid-80s. When that career path didn’t pan out, I set my sights on a third goal: professional skateboarder. Continue reading

Command & Conquer: Red Alert

Command & Conquer: Red AlertOrder this gameThe Game: It’s the Cold War all over again – but worse. Tampering with the timeline has wreaked immeasurable damage with the development of technology, and the result is a new wave of deadly weapons, including Tesla tanks and turrets (which discharge immense electrical energy at their opponents) and Chrono-tanks (which can shift their position on the map instantly for a brief time). You must build and protect your base, produce units necessary to defend and attack, and orchestrate an invasion of enemy territory – all while accumulating as few casualties as possible. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1996)

Memories: Westwood’s real-time strategy classic is a major evolutionary leap from the original Command & Conquer, with vast improvements in the artificial intelligence used by both your soldiers and by computer controlled enemies. And it’s a tough game! It’s pretty common practice for me, despite a couple of years of playing Dune 2000 (a later Westwood game which is built on the same engine as Red Alert), to build up quite a nice base and then get my ass kicked big time. Continue reading

ReBoot

ReBootThe Game: No one said it was easy being Mainframe’s Guardian, and this game is proof. You’re Bob the Guardian, trying to protect the citizens of Mainframe from a series of deadly tears unleashed upon the unsuspecting populace by an unholy alliance between Megabyte and Hexidecimal. Various characters show up along the way, like Mike TV, to offer advice, but aside from some vital health power-ups, you’re on your own. As you advance from level to level, a new ReBoot adventure is gradually revealed until you reach the end of the story – but if you fail in your mission to protect Mainframe, that episode’s going to come up short. (Electronic Arts, 1997)

Memories: What better property to base a game on than ReBoot, the all-CGI animated show from Canada which has never gotten a decent time slot in the U.S.? Originally shown on ABC in the early 1990s, ReBoot started out as standard kid-friendly fare. Its second season introduced some more violent elements, after which ABC dropped the show and its third season – complete with battles, psychological drama and character development aplenty – wound up in a dead-of-night slot on the Cartoon Network. (And this treatment of the show hasn’t changed – the fourth season was aired on the Cartoon Network, and went almost completely unpromoted.) Continue reading

Dune 2000

Dune 2000Dune 2000Order this gameThe Game: The Padishah Emperor has declared open season on the planet Arrakis – better known as Dune. With no rules and no limits, the Houses of Atreides, Harkonnen and Ordos are cordially invited to mine the precious Spice from Dune’s subsurface strata – and smash each other into smithereens with any and all weapons and technologies available. (Electronic Arts [developed by Westwood Studios], 1998)

Memories: Dune 2000 is an updated version of the Dune 2 computer game that has been around for a few years. I’ll warn you right now, and I’m only doing this See the videobecause I feel it’s a valid warning…Dune 2000 is extremely addictive. It’s right up there with SimCity and the Ultima games – proving that complex computer games can eat up just as much time as any ultra-simple arcade-style action game. Continue reading

Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena: Warrior PrincessOrder this gameThe Game: An evil sorceress, in her plot to destroy the gods, needs to sacrifice a mortal queen – and decides that Gabrielle will do, since the bard is also the Queen of the Amazons. Xena must fight her way through numerous obstacles to challenge the might of the sorceress and defeat her – the world, and Gabrielle’s life, depend on her success. (Electronic Arts, 1999)

Memories: Xena is a natural property for a video game, and indeed, there have already been games on earlier platforms that explored the Xenaverse. But this multi-level, first-person fighting game is the first to attempt to match the scope of the television series, offering individual “episodes” to fight your way through en route to the final goal. Continue reading

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