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Galaga ’88

Galaga '88The Game: Commanding a small fleet of sleek fighter ships, you’re up against an alien invasion, arriving in wave after unfriendly wave. Alien fighters resemble butterflies and bees, but the real prize is the handful of motherships which arrives See the videowith each wave. Capable of taking two hits – the first weakens them and turns them dark blue, the second destroys them – the motherships also come equipped with a tractor beam with which to snare your fighters. But if one of your fighters is captured, and you can destroy the mothership which is towing it, your wayward fighter will be returned, doubling your firepower. (Namco, 1987)

Memories: Where the Galaga sequel Gaplus turned some elements of the game play around, Galaga ’88 returns to the original rules and adds a lot of visual flair. Continue reading

Oo-Topos (Apple II)

Oo-ToposThe Game: A prisoner awakens in a cell aboard an alien spaceship, parked on an unknown world. with nothing more than the meal that’s been provided and his wits, the prisoner has to escape his cell, overcome guards and automatic defense system , collect items that could help him escape his captors. The guards always seem to be just around the corner, always helpfully prepared to escort you back to your cell to start again… after a little bit of needless brutality, of course. (Polarware, 1987)

Memories: A former Infocom designer and programmer (Infidel, Suspended) who stuck around just long enough after Infocom’s acquisition by Activision to design Tass Times In Tonetown, Michael Berlyn became a freelancer after the slow-motion debacle that was the Activision/Infocom merger. One of his final Apple II games took him to Polarware (which had started out the 1980s as Penguin Software, makers of a nearly-ubiquitous Apple graphics toolkit called Graphics Magician), where he proceeded to remake one of his earliest pre-Infocom games. Continue reading

Hyper Lode Runner

Hyper Lode RunnerThe Game: Cavernous rooms are loaded with gold, just ripe for the picking. But before you celebrate hitting the mother lode, look again – there are other gold-diggers homing in on the treasure. What do you have that they don’t? A drill gun that can blast a hole in the floors, into which your opponents will jump blindly. Eventually, the holes will reseal themselves, and that process will swallow your enemies (and you, if you See the videohappen to be clumsy enough to wander into the hole yourself). Grabbing all of the gold will reveal a passage to the next level of the game. (Bandai, 1989)

Memories: A nifty revival of the computer classic, Hyper Lode Runner actually manages to pack in a surprising amount of what made the original game so addictive – right down to the “edit mode” that allows players to build their own levels. Continue reading

Ribbit!

Ribbit!The Game: Two frogs, Bull and Pip, set out on a hazardous journey…to find some flies to eat. They must grab yummy flies while avoiding several lanes of poisonous spider “traffic”, and they also have to cross the occasional river on See the videothe backs of turtles and logs, snatching more flies out of the air without falling into the water. Each screen is cleared by the frogs eating the required number of flies. (Sega, 1991)

Memories: It’s not Frogger. It’s not even officially a sequel to Frogger (by this time, Konami, the originators of that game, had reasserted their ownership rights). But I’ll be croaked if Ribbit! isn’t at least “inspired by” Frogger – how that one didn’t get the lawyers suited up for an amphibious mission, we may never know. Continue reading

Dig Dug

Dig DugBuy this gameThe Game: You are Dig Dug, an intrepid gardener whose soil is infested with pesky Pookas and fire-breathing Fygars. You’re armed with your trusty pump, which you can use to inflate your enemies until, finally, they blow up. But both the Pookas and Fygars can crawl through the ground and can pop out into your tunnels, and if a Fygar sneaks up behind you, he can toast you if you’re not careful. In New Dig Dug, you guide Dig on a series of subterranean adventures, trying to unlock buried doors by finding some equally buried keys. Pookas and Fygars still stalk the underground tunnels in the new game, only each one that Dig dispatches is replaced by a new Pooka or Fygar from above. (Namco, 1992)

Memories: Okay, so we’ve got arcade-quality Dig Dug on the Game Boy Advance thanks to Namco Museum. But I thought it’d be fun to go back and revisit the original monochrome Game Boy version of Dig Dug to see how close it was to the arcade game. And the answer is…well, not very. Continue reading

Q*Bert 3

Q*Bert 3The Game: Q*Bert, a nosey little guy with a propensity for hopping, spends his time hopping around a three-dimensional pyramid of cubes, avoiding Coily the Snake and other assorted purple and red creatures, including a few who operate on a slightly different plane (i.e., they move down the pyramid as if it were rotated one-third). Changing the colors of the top of every cube in the pyramid to the target color indicated at the top left of the screen will clear the pyramid and start the craziness all over again. If Q*Bert is hit by an enemy or falls off the pyramid, he hits bottom with a resounding, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (NTVIC, 1992)

Memories: Released a full decade after the original game, Q*Bert 3 for the SNES seems to draw its inspiration in equal measure from the 1982 arcade classic and the Game Boy version by Jaleco, which broke the arcade game’s “pyramid of cubes” mold and brought newer, more challenging shapes to the table to confound long-timers who thought they had the game licked. Continue reading

Hyper Pacman

Hyper PacmanThe Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small dots and evading colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. Large red dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted items appear in the maze, and See the videoyou can consume these for additional points and power-ups. (Semicom, 1995)

Memories: Take Pac-Man, add a Lode Runner-style “only one way to solve this maze correctly” puzzle mentality, add NES-era power-ups, boss battles and vaguely 3D graphics, and the result is Hyper Pacman (note the spelling/punctuation there – a complete divergence from any of Namco’s first-party output). Continue reading

Galaxian3

Galaxian3The Game: An alien war fleet is closing in on Earth, armed with a powerful weapon that can eradicate the entire planet. You (and, if you happen to have some fellow gunners, four others) man the artillery batteries of an armed-to-the-teeth ship on a mission to take the fight to the aliens before they can bring it to Earth. If you successfully complete that mission, you can also move on to a second mission to defend the planet Gourb from the Galaxian fleet. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: This is the home adaptation of Namco’s theatrical walk-in video experience which appeared in arcades and amusement centers around 1990. How theatrical is it? The game’s literally in widescreen, with scoring information and statistics appearing outside of the letterbox area. Continue reading

Hyper Crazy Climber

Hyper Crazy ClimberThe Game: You’re crazy-climbing the inner city no more. As one of a party of three adventurers, your mission is to scale mystic mountain peaks, Big Ben-style clock towers, and even enormous beanstalks, all to gather various items and move on to the next stop on your quest. Obstacles such as an avalanche of killer boulders and monkeys tossing bananas at you could send you plummeting to your death. The three characters along for the adventure have different rates of speed and endurance (as in endurance for things falling on their heads, though nothing will save you from a huge boulder). Watch out for falling rocks! (Nichibutsu, 1996)

Memories: This is one fiendishly difficult game. Normally, when I put together a Phosphor Dot Fossil, I play to get as far as I can in the game so you can get a glimpse of as many levels as possible. Not everyone reading this has all of these games, so I try to show you everything that I can. Continue reading

Tempest X3

Tempest X3Buy this gameThe Game: As in the original Tempest, you scuttle along the rim of an abstract, hollow geometric tube as a strangely crablike creature, zapping red bow-tie-ish critters and purple diamond-shaped things which carry them. There are also swirly green things (swirly thing alert!!) which spin “spikes” like webs, and by the way, you should still avoid spikes. (Interplay, 1996)

See the videoMemories: My first reaction to Tempest X3 was “DUDE!” And that’s not even a “Dude! It sucks!” or “Dude! It rules!” Nope, it’s just a “Dude! What gnarly graphics!” This is kind of like the original Tempest, except psychedelically tie-dyed. To put it mildly, it’s a very…colorful updating of the game. The tube walls now have colorful (if subtle) patterns, and power-ups are hailed by more lens flares than an early episode of Babylon 5. Continue reading

Frogger

FroggerBuy this gameThe Game: Frogger is back for another ribbeting chase through the traffic, and countless other locales as well. The object of the game is to rescue as many baby frogs as possible without croaking. Jump on anything that moves – provided it doesn’t eat you – to reach your goal. (Hasbro Interactive, 1997)

Memories: One of the earlier Retro Revivals to appear in the past couple of years, Frogger doesn’t quite live up to its arcade ancestry as an addictive, play-and-play-again game. My favorite screen is still the “retro level,” which is basically the arcade screen – a busy street followed by a hazardous river – given a 3-D makeover. Once you get past that screen, you might as well be playing a different game. Continue reading

Xevious 3D/G+

Xevious 3D/G+Buy this gameThe Game: Evil aliens are taking over the world and building heavily-fortified installations on land and undersea! Our last defense against them? You – and your well-armed Solvalou Fighter. You can repel air attacks with your lasers, and See the videotake out ground bases, missile launchers and tanks with your bombs. (Fortunately, you never run out of either of these!) Every so often, you’ll have to fight the odds to take out one of the aliens’ primary bases – and then you’ll have to deal with the huge “Bosses.” (Namco, 1997)

Xevious 3D/G+Memories: This somewhat obscure Namco title updates and revives their classic arcade title Xevious, which accumulated a cult following in 1983 when the game was released Stateside by Atari. Truth be told, Xevious 3D/G+ doesn’t rewrite the book or reinvent the wheel. For the most part, the game simply puts the original Xevious in a vaguely third-person 3-D perspective, adds some weapons and enemies (most notably the enormous and hard-to-kill Bosses), and kicks ass graphically. I liked this a lot. It has a great deal of respect and reverence for its source material. Continue reading

Asteroids

AsteroidsBuy this gameThe Game: As the pilot of a lone space cruiser, you must try to clear the spaceways of a swarm of free-floating asteroids, but the job isn’t easy – Newton’s laws of motion must be obeyed, even by asteroids. When you blow a big rock into little chunks, those chunks go zipping off in opposite directions with the speed and force imparted by the amount of energy you used to dispel them. To that screenful of bite-sized chunks o’ death, add an unpredictable hyperspace escape mechanism and a pesky UFO that likes to pop in and shoot at you, and you’re between several large rocks and a hard place. (Activision, 1999)

Memories: Another entry in the race to revive as many video game classics as possible (at least the popular ones – I don’t see anyone reviving Bagman…), Activision’s update of Asteroids is fairly straightforward. This is the same company which produced such a winning resurrection of Space Invaders, so we can trust that these people know what makes for a good Retro Revival. Continue reading

Centipede

CentipedeBuy this gameThe Game: You are the chosen one! Cool, huh? Oh, wait…chosen for what? You are Wally, a bumbling elf who is apparently destined to rid the elven world of a vicious army of centipedes and other bugs. You travel from village to village in different locales to undertake your divine exterminating duties, armed with a hovering weapons platform/vehicle simply called the Shooter. (Hasbro Interactive, 1999)

Memories: Sometimes it seems as though the modern video game manufacturers are overdoing their attempts to bestow a Hollywood plot upon the simpler games of the past. Exhibit A: Centipede, based on the mega-hit Atari coin-op of the same name – a game which, to my knowledge, never really needed a plot because most people don’t look kindly upon wormlike creatures with a hundred legs anyway. Continue reading

Frogger

FroggerBuy this gameThe Game: You are a frog. Your task is simple: hop across a busy highway, dodging cars and trucks, until you get the to the edge of a river, where you must keep yourself from drowning by crossing safely to your grotto at the top of the screen by leaping across the backs of turtles and logs. But watch out for snakes and alligators! (Majesco, 1999)

Memories: Ah, the joys of Frogger. It’s still one of the simplest and most deceptively difficult arcade games Froggerever to come down the pike, and yet finding a decent port of it over the years has proven to be almost as difficult as getting the amphibious one across the road in the game’s sixth level. But ask anyone about favorite video games from the early 80s, and you’re almost certain to hear Frogger in that list. The popularity of the original Frogger is borne out by the fact that a series of licensees has attempted to turn out a modern-day descendant of Frogger, and while some of those have been fun in their own right, they’ve also barely lived up to the simple joy of the original. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertBuy this gameThe Game: Q*World is attacked by the evil purple snake Coily, and the apple of Q*Bert’s eye, Q*Dina, is abducted by Coily, along with several others. Q*Bert pursues Coily through several dimensions to rescue his friends. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 1999)

Memories: Another quest-style revival of an arcade classic, this new version of Q*Bert still manages to stay faithful to the original, perhaps even moreso than See the videoPac-Man World. While one never had to deal with the yellow fellow jumping, butt-bouncing, or rev-rolling, Q*Bert sticks to the mode of movement from the original game – hopping around diagonally. In short, if you could play the original, you can play this. Continue reading

Space Invaders

Space InvadersBuy this gameThe Game: 21 years after the first relentless alien invasion of Earth, the Space Invaders are back – and so are you, in a vastly advanced version of the ubiquitous “tank” which was so critical to the defense of Earth in 1978. But the aliens have made some improvements to their hardware too, and they still outnumber you by at least 20 to 1. Handy survival tip: start blasting, and keep blasting. (Activision, 1999)

See the videoMemories: Now this retro revival surprised me. Updating Pac-Man and Q*Bert, that I could see. Those games had Saturday morning cartoons, vague plotlines of their own (in fine print on the arcade cabinets), and so they’re easy to update. Space Invaders, on the other hand, had a T-shirt, and a legacy of many wasted after-school hours spent on the Atari 2600. The only plotline one could assign to Space Invaders was that you could fight and fight and fight, but you’d eventually perish in the battle. It was inevitable. There were just too many of them. (And you thought UFO paranoia only blossomed in the age of The X-Files and Art Bell?) Continue reading

South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack

South Park: Chef's Luv ShackOrder this gameThe Game: Chef’s got his own cable access game show where eligible bachelorettes can compete for his affections! However, in the total absence of eligible bachelorettes, Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman have shown up to play the game. They answer three rounds of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-style trivia (only much more scatological than Regis usually gets) and then go into a randomly-selected “mini-game.” To the victor goes the Cheesy Poofs! (Acclaim Studios Austin, 1999)

Memories: This hysterically funny party game is a hit around the Green household. Now, just the presence of the words “South Park” will very likely tell you that this isn’t a game to get for your kids. With that in mind, it’s still a good game. Continue reading

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