Elevator Action

Elevator ActionThe Game: As a daring spy, you break into a top secret enemy facility, trying to grab vital secrets and evade or kill as many enemy agents as you can. Your only means of getting from floor to floor through most of the game is via the elevator – which gives you an advantage and also makes you vulnerable. (Taito, 1991)

See the videoMemories: I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, audiovisually (and, for the most part, game-play wise as well), the original B&W Game Boy’s version of Elevator Action is incredibly faithful to the arcade game. On the other hand, there are major changes to the structure of the game that I’ve never been crazy about. Put simply, Elevator Action on the Game Boy adds some NES-era conventions to a game that just didn’t need them. Continue reading

Klax

KlaxThe Game: It is the nineties, as the intro screen says, and there is time for this home version of Klax, in which players try to stack colored bricks according to on-screen instructions: horizontal, vertical and diagonal rows may be required. The conveyor belts carrying the bricks gradually speed up until the bricks are zipping toward the bottom of the screen at a dizzying pace. Allowing too many bricks to slide off the bottom of the screen without catching them will forfeit the game, as will failing to come up with the configuration of stacked bricks demanded by the on-screen instructions. (Atari, 1990)

Memories: A late attempt to keep the Atari 7800 relevant in an age where the NES had firmly dominated the home video game landscape (even the Sega Master System enjoyed a larger market share than the 7800), this adaptation of Atari Games’ arcade sleeper hit Klax seems fitting somehow in retrospect: Klax was a puzzle game also-ran, trying to catch up with Tetris. And Tetris had already been snapped up by Nintendo, which was handily beating Atari with both the NES and the new Game Boy, making the 7800 an also-ran too (and let’s not talk about that whole dust-up over Atari Games’ arcade Tetris and the Tengen version of the game for NES). As if there needed to be a way to make Klax even less relevant in Atari’s fight against Tetris, there’s one more wrinkle: this version never actually hit the stores. 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

Namco Museum Volume 2 (“A”)

Namco Museum Volume 2Buy this gameThe Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest exporters of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995)

Memories: The second volume (also known as Volume A) in Namco’s 5-disc collection of arcade emulations for the Playstation is the most difficult to find – one often sees it going for nearly twice its original retail price in eBay auctions – and yet it has some of Namco’s biggest “cult” hits… and yet only volumes 1 and 3 have been reprinted. Go figure. Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)

Namco Museum Volume 2 (Japanese version)The Game: Old games never die – they get emulated. Fortunately, one of Japan’s greatest makers of video game hits has built a museum around several of its most popular titles. With Pac-Man still underfoot, you wander the corridors of the Namco Museum yet again. (Namco, 1995, for Sony Playstation)

Memories: It’s hard for me to really justify blowing $25 on this particular import. Maybe it’s just the perversity of having two different versions of Namco Museum Vol. 2 when the American edition is hard enough to find as it is. Or maybe it’s because I want to be able to play as many classic arcade games as possible on my Playstation. Continue reading

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2

Namco Classic Collection Volume 2The Game: Three of the most popular games from Namco’s arcade heyday are brought back in the ’90s, both in their original forms and in “remixed” versions with updated sound and graphics and tweaks to the game play. Pac-Man Arrangement adds power-ups, new mazes, new graphics and a whole new breed of See the videomonsters to the most classic arcade game of the 80s, while Rally-X Arrangement refuels with power-ups and audiovisual enhancements of its own. Dig Dug Arrangement revamps the underground classic with a new breed of enemies – and a new variety of ways to eliminate them. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Building on the success of the Namco Classic Collection Volume 1 coin-op compilation, Namco returned here to the jewel in its crown. Not that Mappy or Xevious are anything to sneeze at, mind you, and Galaga certainly isn’t a minor entry in the arcade pantheon. But how can you possibly beat a revisitation of Pac-Man? Continue reading

Namco Museum Volume 4 (“C”)

Namco Museum Volume 4Buy this gameThe Game: Namco has even more games they’d like us all to remember, only this time, you might not remember them half as clearly as Pac-Man, who’s still dragging you through the halls of the Namco Museum, eager to play each and every one. Oddly enough, you’ve probably never seen any of these games before. The greatest challenge in your path in Volume 4? Figuring out the controls for The Genji And The Heike Clans and Return of Ishtar. (Namco, 1996)

Memories: Personally, I don’t remember any of these games, save for the bizarre scrolling exploration game Pac-Land and Assault, which I believe was licensed to Atari. Inspired by the ABC-TV cartoon series, Pac-Land may indeed be the only reason anyone might now try to track down the now out-of-print Volume 4 of Namco Museum. Continue reading

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceMemories: As various heroic characters from the days when Jedi Knights still enforced justice in that galaxy far, far away, you must expose the danger posed to peaceful Naboo by the Trade Federation’s army of battle and destroyer droids, and escort Order this gameQueen Amidala out of the clutches of the invaders who would force her to surrender her world into slavery. (LucasArts, 1999)

Memories: Oh, what a frustrating game! The Playstation is a recent acquisition for me, and I like the wealth of Retro Revivals and emulations available for Sony’s nifty little game console. But this game and the Xena game just about drove me nuts…yet this is the style of game that most everyone seems to be trying to create these days. Continue reading

Lego Rock Raiders

Lego Rock RaidersOrder this gameThe Game: The Rock Raiders are zipping through space, looking for another planet to explore, when a gigantic wormhole opens up and whisks them into the next galaxy. Before you can say “Mister Paris, engage!,” Chief and his crew are already scouting out new worlds to mine. One planet seems like a particularly promising candidate, but sensors detect other life forms there. Your job is to help various members of the Rock Raiders crew perform mining, exploration and rescue tasks on the surface of this strange new world as safely as possible. (Lego Media, 2000)

Memories: This may be just about the coolest game I’ve seen on the Playstation since MTV Music Generator. Now, you’re probably already laughing it up, wondering why in the world someone who’s pushing 30 is playing a game where the protagonists are well-rendered little Lego men (yep, just like the ones that come with the toys). But believe it or not, despite the exceedingly simple early tutorial missions that kick things off, this is actually quite the crafty little real-time strategy game. Continue reading

Haunted House II 3D

Haunted House II 3DThe Game: As with the original Atari 2600 game, you’re exploring a dark haunted house populated by ghosts, spiders, and even a few walking skeletons. Your task is to track down all the treasures hidden in the maze-like rooms of the house without allowing any of these creatures to touch you. If they get hold of you three times, game over. And if you find all the treasure before that happens? Well…you’ll just have to find out. (Mean Hamster Software, 2002; written by John Swiderski)

Memories: One of 2002’s bumper crop of homebrew Atari 5200 releases, Haunted House II 3D is a sequel to a favorite among many 2600 owners. But is it radically different from the original? No – and that’s a huge part of the game’s charm. Continue reading

Katamari Damacy

Katamari DamacyOrder this gameYou control the pint-sized Prince, whose dad, the massive King of All Cosmos, seems to have inadvertently blotted out every star in the night sky. Now, your old man is sending you on a mission to go down to Earth – a planet blessed with a lot of stuff – to gather that stuff into large sticky clumps called katamari. You start out small, picking up tiny everyday items like pushpins and matchsticks, but as your katamari grows in size, it can pick up larger objects – frogs and mice, crabs, dogs and cats, people, cows, cars, trees, and eventually even things like buildings and giant squids. At the beginning of each stage, you’re tasked to accumulate enough stuff to grow your katamari to a predetermined diameter, and once the timer runs out for that stage, your katamari is either launched into the sky to become a new star See the video(don’t ask us about the astrophysics on this one, because this game’s universe throws the whole hydrogen-and-helium thing out the window), or the King of All Cosmos returns to chide you for your puny efforts and makes you start again. There’s also a split-screen battle mode where two players can not only build up their katamari, but hurl their katamari at each other; a katamari of sufficient size can engulf your opponent and his katamari too! (Namco, 2004)

Katamari DamacyMemories: I love Namco. When I go looking up my favorite classic arcade games of all time, they’re almost all by Namco. And some of them are so strange. I mean, think about Pac-Man on a purely conceptual level. Or Dig Dug. Or Phozon. Now apply the same attempt at a logical explanation to Katamari Damacy. (Good luck.) Give up? Even a generation later, Namco’s still turning out some great, offbeat, innovative, fun games. Continue reading

Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, Episode 1 – City Of The Daleks

The Game: Promising to take his time-traveling sidekick Amy Pond to London in 1963, the Doctor is shocked when the TARDIS actually gets there – and London, and the rest of Earth, is in ruins. The human race is extinct and the Daleks have taken over. Completely unarmed (except for the Doctor’s trusty sonic screwdriver), the Doctor and Amy have to avoid the unstoppable Dalek patrols, make their way back to the TARDIS, and do whatever it takes – no matter the risk – to defeat the Daleks and set history back on its proper course. This means setting the TARDIS on a course for the heart of Dalek power: Kaalann, the capitol city of the Dalek planet Skaro. (BBC, 2010)

Buy this gameMemories: Offered for free in the UK and Wales (and for a fee everywhere else), Doctor Who: The Adventure Games not only sets out to bring an interactive component to the spectacularly revived long-running British science fiction series, but it also aims to make the games an official part of the show’s ongoing story, and tries to stick to the underlying premise of the series – namely, that the Doctor employs wits and words in lieu of weapons. And for the first time in the history of the franchise, we have, in City Of The Daleks, a game that succeeds spectacularly on all of these fronts. Continue reading

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