Crossbow

CrossbowThe Game: Your friends (wait a minute, I’ve never seen these people before in my life!) are venturing through treacherous deserts, unfriendly See the videovillages, and a variety of other inhospitable settings. Armed with a crossbow – controlled with a fancy light gun mounted on the arcade cabinet – your job is to pick off any threats, be they nasty critters, falling projectiles, snipers, or what have you, and allow your friends to pass safely. (Exidy, 1983)

Memories: Y’know, I had to play Crossbow on MAME to remember what the heck the game was about…but once I did, I remembered that it was a very influential game on me at the time it was released. The novel concept of picking which game screen you’d explore next by shooting a representative icon on a menu-style screen was very cool, as was the watered-down, vaguely-D&D-ish atmosphere of the whole thing. Continue reading

Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt

Super Mario Bros. / Duck HuntThe Game: Intrepid plumbers Mario and Luigi have fallen back on Mario’s original mandate – rescuing the damsel – as they journey through the kingdom, battling Koopas and braving falls from dizzying heights, all to Buy this gamerescue the princess (who, as always, seems to be in another castle). In Duck Hunt things are a bit more normal – you’re just trying to nail some ducks in the wild, with the help and encouragement (and, if you let one get away, derisive laughter) from your trusty huntin’ dawg. (Nintendo, 1985)

Memories: Right up there with Atari 2600 Pac-Man in ubiquity, and almost universally loved (think about that for a moment – how many video games reach quite that level of popularity?), Super Mario Bros. was the ticket the NES needed to break into the U.S. market. Continue reading

Star Wars: Dark Forces

Star Wars: Dark ForcesOrder this gameThe Game: Former Imperial officer Kyle Katarn has defected and joined the Rebel Alliance – and they intend to use him as an undercover operative. With his knowledge of infiltration and Imperial procedures, Katarn is the perfect choice to wreak havoc from the inside. But getting back in to an Imperial facility is the trick isn’t it? And it’ll cost you a little something extra – namely, a lot of pain, and a lot of time spent hiding, running, and blasting away at hordes of stormtroopers and a few other enemies, including bounty hunters Boba Fett and Bossk. If you can help Katarn survive long enough, he may discover the secret of the Empire’s legion of darktroopers, a new breed of stormtrooper with more advanced weaponry and almost invincible armor. (LucasArts, 1995)

Memories: Though clearly inspired by the Doom / Duke Nukem genre of first person shooters, Dark Forces won many a fan simply by virtue of being a Star Wars game that doesn’t involve spaceflight. 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

Doctor Who: Destiny of the Doctors

Doctor Who: Destiny of the DoctorsOrder this gameThe Game: The Master strikes again! The evil Time Lord has trapped the Doctor’s first seven incarnations. You assume the role of the Graak, a telepathic entity created by the Doctor in the event of just such an emergency. You must travel to different time zones to rescue the Doctor’s various incarnations, battling Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians, Sontarans, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Autons, Zygons and more along the way. You may be able to make telepathic contact with the Doctor periodically, or use the time-space telegraph to consult with the Brigadier. In the meantime, the Master challenges you to accomplish various hazardous tasks… (BBC Multimedia, 1997)

Watch a video of this gameMemories: Despite the fact that Destiny of the Doctors is essentially a Doom/Duke Nukem engine with Doctor Who settings, villains and soundbytes, I find this game strangely addictive. Even more than Star Trek, Doctor Who has been a part of my pop culture/sci-fi consciousness since childhood, and there’s something appealing about finally getting to plaster some Daleks for myself rather than watching someone else do it on TV. 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

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

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

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

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