51 Shades of Geek

South Park Rally

South Park RallyOrder this gameThe Game: As any one of a large number of residents of that blissful burg known as South Park, Colorado, you compete against the rest of the town in a no-holds-barred race through the snowy streets. Helpful power-ups and hapless cattle are sprinkled liberally through the town like so many Cheesy Poofs. (Acclaim, 2000)

Memories: This hilarious third entry in Acclaim’s series of South Park video games takes a classic arcade staple – the first-person racing game – and adds some sound bytes, characters, and scatological humor to create what may be the best South Park title available. Continue reading

Star Wars: Demolition

Star Wars: DemolitionOrder this gameThe Game: Jabba the Hutt has convened a host of hotshot pilots and a fleet of modern (i.e. original trilogy) and outdated (i.e. prequel-era) vehicles to engage in winner-take-all vehicular warfare. Contestants and opponents include Boba Fett, super-armed Snowspeeders, Trade Federation tanks, bounty hunter Aurra Sing on her swoop bike, Battle Droids astride their STAPS, and others. Obstacles include slow-moving Jawa sandcrawlers, unpredictable Banthas, and a little thing we call the Sarlacc – and that’s just on the Tattooine track. Other tracks include Cloud City, Hoth, Naboo, and – how did Jabba get permission to race there? – the Death Star. (LucasArts [developed by Activision], 2000)

Memories: Star Wars: Demolition is right up there with the upcoming PS2 game Super Bombad Racing. Demolition is a decent game, but for the fans who demand something that cleaves tightly to the continuity of the Star Wars universe, you’d best look elsewhere. If you have any doubt, check the bullet point on the game’s packaging: Interactive environment – blow it all up! ‘Nuff said. Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

Star Trek: Voyager - Elite ForceOrder this gameThe Game: As Ensign Alexander (or Alexandria) Munro of the elite Hazard Team of the U.S.S. Voyager, you take the missions that no one else wants. You have a phaser rifle in your hand, your teammates at your side, and Captain Janeway counting on you to get the job done. Now go forth and show that alien scum exactly what Hazard Team’s Prime Directive is! (Activision, 2000)

Memories: Here’s a game that I’m sure all true Star Trek fans have been waiting for with bated breath: a first-person shooter in the grand traditions of Doom and Quake set in the Star Trek universe. Elite Force fulfills that desire quite admirably. 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

Mario Kart Super Circuit

Mario Kart: Super CircuitThe Game: It’s a big day at the races, with a field of drivers selected from the Mushroom Kingdom: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Toad, Bowser, and even Donkey Kong Jr. are among the racers vying for the top spot. From the grassy Mushroom course to the punishingly muddy Star course to the oceanside Flower course, there are challenges, hairpin turns and obstacles. Whoever can learn to navigate each course the fastest without ending up out of bounds struggling to get back on the course will be the winner. (Nintendo, 2001)

Memories: A better-than-merely-passable handheld version of Super Mario Kart, this game may actually exceed its inspiration by offering new environments, new drivers and other neat twists. For the most part, it’s a genuine improvement. 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

Skeleton+

Skeleton+Buy this gameThe Game: You’re wandering through a dark, twisty maze. So are the dead, apparently, and these reanimated skeletons have a bone to pick with you. You have a single weapon with which to protect yourself, as well as a sensor that picks up on the proximity of nearby skeletons. Using the hints provided by that sensor, you must track down the living dead and dispatch them yet again – and hope they don’t get you first. (Eric Ball, 2003)

Memories: This fun little number is yet another of the current crop of newly-prorammed homebrew games by hobbyist authors. In this case, Eric Ball has brought the first-person shooter genre to the Atari 2600 with surprising success. Now, sure, it’s a first-person shooter by way of a Hunt The Wumpus-style game mechanic, but that makes it no less impressive. 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

Tron 2.0

Tron 2.0The Game: By passing up a lucrative programming job within ENCOM, Alan “Jet” Bradley Jr. has earned the disdain of his father, the creator of the Tron security program. But when Jet’s father disappears under mysterious circumstances, Jet See the videogoes to the lab and discovers that his father’s most trusted program, Ma3a, has instructions to digitize Jet into ENCOM’s mainframe – a process not unlike the one Kevin Flynn endured 20 years before. Once inside the computer world, Jet trains for a mission to free the system from the spreading corruption of Thorne, another digitized user whose botched entry into the computer world left him twisted and evil – and along the way, Jet hopes to discover how he can help free his father as well. (Buena Vista Interactive, 2003)

Memories: For anyone who’s ever dreamed of being zapped into the computer by the MCP, this is as close as you’re going to get. I don’t have a problem with that, though: Tron 2.0 is a gorgeous game, capturing the feel of the pioneering 1982 computer-animated movie better than I would’ve thought possible. The look and the sounds of the game go a long way toward immersing you in that world. Normally I’m not big on first-person explore-and-fight games, but this one I’ll make an exception for. 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

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate DestructionOrder this gameThe Game: Hulk Smash. Okay, he runs, jumps, punches and throws stuff too in this action-packed game, but mostly he just smashes. Instantly theraputic for anyone who’s ever wanted to hit anything, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction allows players to use the Hulk (and just about any item he comes across) to destroy his enemies and the environment around him. (Vivendi Universal, 2005)

Memories: Within five minutes of launching this game for the first time, I had destroyed a dozen tanks with my bare fists, knocked two helicopters out of the sky by throwing boulders at them, and killed an enemy soldier by beating him to death with a cow. If that’s not a recipe for fun, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary

Namco Museum: 50th AnniversaryBuy this gameThe Game: To commemorate their 50th Anniversary, Namco has released pixel-perfect translations of sixteen of their greatest classic arcade games, all on one budget-priced disc. (Namco, 2005)

Memories: Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary brings sixteen classic arcade games such as Pac-Man, Galaga and Dig Dug directly into your living room. All the games play exactly like their upright counterparts, and they should by now; this is at least the third time Namco has released ported versions of these arcade games to the home console market. Continue reading

Tron Evolution: Battle Grids

Tron Evolution: Battle GridsThe Game: In the era before Clu’s forceful takeover of the grid, Tron is kept busy with securing the digital world, leaving a vacuum from which a new champion can emerge in the grid games. Various factions have their own champions, who now battle each other on the game grid in various contests: light cycles, hyperball, disc battles, tank battles, and various vehicle races. (Disney Interactive, 2010)

Memories: Though tied into the new Tron movie, Tron Evolution: Battle Grids shows strong signs that its DNA is infused with the original movie and its associated games. Scenarios that didn’t even appear in Tron Legacy are front-and-center in Battle Grids, despite the story mode that sets up the era between the two movies. 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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