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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

Star Wars

Star WarsThe Game: You’re an intrepid X-Wing pilot participating in the last-ditch Rebel attempt to destroy the Death Star – before it destroys the Rebel base on Yavin IV. TIE Fighters try to intercept you, but you can destroy them (as well as See the videouse your own lasers to blast their incoming fire out of the sky). Then you move in to attack the Death Star itself, with its incredibly hazardous system of gunnery towers and bunkers. Once you’ve gotten past the surface defenses, you dive into the trench that will lead you to an exhaust port which is the only means of destroying the Death Star – but there are defenses in the trench as well, and your deflector shields can only take so much… (Parker Brothers, 1984)

Memories: In fairness, at the time Parker Brothers snagged the lucrative home video game license for Star Wars, home computers with 64K were still not quite a household fixture (though the Commodore 64 was in the process of changing that). The guts of Atari’s slightly lower-powered home computers were originally designed by the company’s engineers to be their next generation game machine, and the XL series of atari computers was only just being phased in. Faced with these obstacles, Parker Brothers toned down its home computer version of the ambitious Star Wars arcade game, slimming it down to a cartridge with just 17K of code. Continue reading

The Halley Project

The Halley ProjectThe Game: Your sleek spacecraft is launched from a base installation on Halley’s Comet (!). Your mission is to scout various bodies in the solar system – both planets and moons – which meet strictly defined criteria as dispensed by the computer. In some cases you must land, in others you must simply achieve orbit. You must learn to navigate the solar system using the constellations of the Zodiac, and learn to judge distance so you won’t overshoot your target (and therefore exceed your allotted mission time) with brief bursts of your faster-than- light drive. You climb in the ranks as you complete more missions. (Interscope, 1986)

Memories: As a life-long space buff, I adored this game. I was always a big fan of such interplanetary missions as the Vikings, Voyagers, Pioneers and Mariners launched by NASA (and, for the most part, overseen by JPL, though to give credit where it’s due, the Pioneers were an Ames project). This game put me into the role of a surrogate space probe, navigating planets and their moons and generally exploring the solar system. Continue reading

Star Wars

Star WarsThe Game: You’re an intrepid X-Wing pilot participating in the last-ditch Rebel attempt to destroy the Death Star – before it destroys the Rebel base on Yavin IV. TIE Fighters try to intercept you, but you can destroy them (as well as See the videouse your own lasers to blast their incoming fire out of the sky). Then you move in to attack the Death Star itself, with its incredibly hazardous system of gunnery towers and bunkers. Once you’ve gotten past the surface defenses, you dive into the trench that will lead you to an exhaust port which is the only means of destroying the Death Star – but there are defenses in the trench as well, and your deflector shields can only take so much… (Domark / Zeppelin Games Ltd., 1988)

Memories: Years after Parker Brothers’ lumpen version of Atari’s Star Wars arcade game, someone finally had the decency to bring Atari’s hit game home to Atari’s home computers in a form that’s worth playing. And as luck would have it, North American Atari 8-bit owners didn’t get to see this one – it was a British exclusive release. Continue reading

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). 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

Star Wars: Rebel Assault II – The Hidden Empire

Star Wars: Rebel Assault II - The Hidden EmpireOrder this gameThe Game: Darth Vader, forever vigilant in his quest to destroy the Rebel Alliance, has apparently enlisted some new help – and it’s up to you, a lone Rebel pilot, to brave the odds against enormous flotillas of a new breed of TIE Fighters, blast your way through entire platoons of armored stormtroopers, and bring home the details of the new Imperial plan – and then return to the fray to defense the galaxy against this nearly-invincible threat. (LucasArts, 1996)

Memories: I have to hand it to ’em – Lucas Arts finally came up with a game set in the Star Wars universe which won my heart. Rebel Assault II is somewhere between a video game and a movie. There’s a lot of action and forwarding-of-the-story in the game’s numerous well-produced cutscenes, and the whole thing honestly does feel like an untold, yet worthy, entry in the Star Wars canon. There is a straightforward plotline, a set goal you’re trying to achieve, which rings true to this long-time fan of droids and Jedi Knights. Continue reading

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy – Strategic Command

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy - Strategic CommandOrder this gameThe Game: You’ve just embarked on the most challenging field of study at Starfleet Academy: Command College. Your instructor, the recently-promoted Captain Sulu (still two years away from his command of the U.S.S. Excelsior), arrives just a little bit late for his first lecture. Your initial missions include such tasks as destroying minefields, but your assignments soon grow in both complexity and risk. Not only must you battle alien threats in Starfleet’s most advanced simulator, but you must also get your crew to cooperate and learn how to lead them. (Interplay, 1998)

Memories: Though it’s mired in the mid-1990s trend of endless cutscenes and movies, inside Starfleet Academy is actually a fun little game, really more or less a 90s update of the old Star Trek arcade game with much flashier graphics (not the least of which is the full-motion video foreground of your crewmembers at the helm and at other stations) and a slightly different storyline. Continue reading

Starcon

Starcon for PlaystationThe Game: In a first-person space shooter set in the Star Control universe, the player is charged with maintaining order in the spaceways, a job made a little more difficult See the videoby rival warlords trying to stake their claims on the interstellar shipping lanes. Your patrol ship is armed to the teeth, which is good – because so are their ships. (Accolade, 1998 – never released)

Memories: Left in an unfinished state and never officially released, Starcon represents the most recent, and most baffling, attempt to drag the Star Control universe into the console realm. It’d already been done spectacularly well on the 3DO with Star Control II, which actually managed to trump the original PC version in some respects. But while the Playstation should’ve been capable of an equally spectacular port of Starcon II, Accolade instead licensed the name, and some placenames and species, for a game that has almost nothing to do with the rest of the series. Continue reading

Galaga: Destination Earth

Galaga: Destination EarthBuy this gameThe Game: A couple of centuries after the attempted Galaga invasion of Earth in 1982, human terraformers have set their sights on a nearby world for colonization, and a massive expedition is launch – but, of course, since such an exploration is a costly venture, defense cutbacks are made, leaving Earth vulnerable to a new Galaga invasion. Of course, you’re the only surviving space fighter pilot in the outer solar system, so it’s up to you to take on the Galaga invaders single-handedly. Now, however, you wage war on the bugs from one of three perspectives: Alpha configuration (an exceedingly difficult first-person vantage point), Gamma configuration (a side-scrolling shooter, a la Defender), and Delta configuration (an upward shooter like the original Galaga). You can also capture the aliens’ tractor beam device and use it against them, capturing their own ships and commandeering them. (Hasbro Interactive [under license from Namco], 2000)

Memories: This game has been much pooh-poohed by the modern gaming press, as well as by several classic gaming outlets. I’m here to break ranks with the masses – who are all too ready to declare that a new title sucks anyway – and let you know that Galaga: Destination Earth isn’t that bad. Continue reading

Star Trek: Invasion

Star Trek: InvasionOrder this gameThe Game: Starfleet’s long-range probes detect a massive Borg invasion fleet headed for Sector 001 – an incursion that couldn’t happen at a worse time, since Starfleet is still licking its wounds after the costly Dominion War. Worf, now Klingon Ambassador to the Federation, dons his Starfleet uniform once more to head up the training and deployment of the Academy’s ace Red Squad pilots in a new class of solo fighter vessel, the Valkyries. In the course of training, unwelcome surprises come from all corners – the Romulans, the last remnants of the Cardassian Empire, a Starfleet Captain who inexplicably goes renegade, and a new threat as well… (Activision, 2000)

Memories: This long-awaited Star Trek game for the Playstation demonstrates that Sony’s nearly-ubiquitous little grey console still has a few tricks up its sleeve before the PS2 grabs the spotlight. Continue reading

Star Wars: Rogue Leader – Rogue Squadron II

Star Wars: Rogue Leader - Rogue Squadron IIOrder this gameThe Game: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Rebel Alliance calls on the hotshot pilots of Rogue Squadron for the toughest assignments – and that means you. You and your wingmen take on the defenses of the Death Star, buy time for a Rebel retreat from Hoth, beat Imperial forces away from Cloud City, and take on other high-risk assignments. A variety of ships is at your disposal, though initially you start out with a choice of the trusty X-Wing and the robust Y-Wing; if you advance to later missions, A-Wings and B-Wings become available too, along with a few others. (LucasArts, 2001)

Memories: It was hard to decide whether this game should be classified as a Retro Revival Review because in so many ways, the early stages of this game are the 1983 Atari Star Wars arcade game, resurrected with the benefit of 18 years’ worth of graphical advancement. Continue reading

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar GalacticaOrder this gameThe Game: Help Ensign Adama and the rest of the remaining humans defeat the Cylons and save humanity in Battlestar Galactica, the space-shooting prequel set 40 years before the popular televsion show. (Vivendi Universal, 2003)

Memories: Like millions of kids, my life changed forever back in 1977 when my parents took me to go see Star Wars for the first time. I loved Star Wars, I lived Star Wars. I had Star Wars toys, Star Wars cereal, and Star Wars Underoos. And for the first time on television, the following year we got… Battlestar Galactica. Ok, so it wasn’t Star Wars, but if you squinted your eyes just right Vipers looked like X-Wing Fighters and Cylons resembled shiny Stormtroopers. Between that and the fact that my parents told me that Starbuck was Luke Skywalker’s cousin, Battlestar Galactica became my “bargain bin” version of Star Wars. Continue reading

Star Fire

Star FireBuy this gameThe Game: This may sound awfully familiar, but you’re the lone surviving pilot of a space squadron decimated by enemy attacks. The enemy’s bow-tie-shaped fighters are closing in on you from all sides, and you must keep an eye on your own fighter’s shields and weapon temperature (overheated lasers don’t like to fire anymore), all while trying to draw a bead on those pesky enemy ships. You’re also very much on your own – nobody’s going to show up and tell you you’re all clear, kid. (Xype/AtariAge.com, 2003)

Star FireMemories: A nifty after-the-fact version of an oft-imitated arcade classic, Star Fire isn’t undiscovered 80s vaporware, but was rather programmed from the ground up by Manuel Polik, paying homage to and slightly expanding on the original game. Continue reading

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