Activision Classic Games

Activision Classic GamesThe Game: Old Atari cartridges taking up too much space in your apartment? Have no fear – a huge portion of Activision’s catalog of titles for the 2600 have been squeezed onto a single CD. (Activision, 1999)

Memories: Now, this is a trip back in time! Activision has recycled many of its early Atari 2600 games for this release, perfectly translated for the Playstation and looking just like they did nearly 20 years ago. 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

Battleship

BattleshipThe Game: Two fleets of four warships conduct long-distance naval warfare, randomly firing torpedoes (and occasionally some higher-powered ordnance) at each other, guessing at the positions of their targets. Whoever sinks the entire opposing fleet first is the victor. (Hasbro Interactive, 1999)

Memories: This game will always have a special place in my heart. Imagine, if you will, my new bride and I, laying in bed on our honeymoon, glistening candlelight reflected in our link cable, trying to blow up each other’s fleets in a two-player death match. Most couples wait a while before they try to shred each other viciously. But this is one of those advances they talk about with modern technology. 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

Godzilla Generations

Godzilla: GenerationsThe Game: Smash your way though half a dozen cities as one of several incarnations of Godzilla. (Sega, 1999)

Memories: Some people claim the Dreamcast tanked due to the release of Sony’s Playstation 2. Others say the Dreamcast failed because of widespread piracy of the system’s games. My own personal theory is that the Dreamcast failed because Godzilla Generations sucked so badly. Continue reading

Monopoly

MonopolyThe Game: Does anyone not know this game? You and quite a few other players make a mad dash around the Monopoly board, snatching up properties, railroads, and utilities, hazarding the fickle fortunes of the Chance and Community Chest spaces, and trying to avoid taxes and jail – not to mention bankruptcy – while building an empire that will make you rich. (Majesco Sales, 1999)

Memories: This is sort of like the Game Boy editions of Pac-Man and Space Invaders – it’s an excellent reason to own one of Nintendo‘s portable powerhouses o’ fun. The Parker Brothers board game classic is faithfully reproduced despite the small screen, and the game play is engaging. In many ways, I prefer the Game Boy version of Monopoly to the PC or Playstation versions for the same reason I’d take the Game Boy version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? over the Playstation version of that game: no cutscenes, no animations you can’t bail out of (or shut down from the options menu), no bull – the Game Boy has just enough room for the game. And I like it that way. 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

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

Star Wars Episode I: Racer

Star Wars Episode I: RacerThe Game: Strap yourself into the very fast, very dangerous world of pod racing. Rocket through dozens of different courses, facing off against opponents who Order this gamerange from patsies to cunning and ruthless adversaries. Save up your winnings along the way to make your pod faster and handle better. Aim for the Boonta Eve race on Tatooine and try to win it all. (LucasArts, 1999)

Memories: The first video game released in conjunction with The Phantom Menace is this racing game developed by LucasArts. This game holds the distinction of having one of the oddest titles (and dullest packaging) in recent years, but inside is a decent and fun little racing game. 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

The X-Files

The X-FilesOrder this gameThe Game: FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are investigating a mysterious disappearance at a wharfside warehouse when they come under fire themselves – and then become the next to disappear. As junior FBI agent Craig Willmore, you are assigned to the case. Your mission is to find out what happened to Scully and Mulder…but in the course of investigating this case, you’ll find that you’re vastly underequipped to take on a job where enormous opposition will stop at nothing to prevent you from finding them. (Fox Interactive [developed by Hyperbole Studios, 1999)

Memories: I’m torn on this game. On one hand, it’s an exceptionally cool concept – the “interactive movie” experience that has been sought by game makers since the days of the 1983 laserdisc cartoon game Dragon’s Lair. But on the other hand, it’s a frustratingly limited (and limiting) game, not unlike that same dragon-slaying opus of yesteryear. Continue reading

Star Trek: Starfleet Command

Star Trek: Starfleet CommandOrder this gameThe Game: As the captain of one of Starfleet’s ships of the line, your assignments range from routine patrol duty to full-on combat with Klingons, Romulans, Hydrans, Lyrans or Gorn. You may eventually even attain control of a small fleet, issuing orders to each ship in turn to accomplish your mission. Standard 23rd century armaments like phasers and photon torpedoes are at your disposal, as are other offensive measures as sensor decoys and suicide shuttles. But remember, since Starfleet’s the good guys, the enemy will always have more wicked weapons than you. Stay on your toes, Captain. (Interplay, 1999)

Memories: How close did this game come to being classified as a Retro Revival? It’s based on a pencil-paper-and-dice turn-based tactical game that’s older than even Pac-Man. We’re talking, of course, about Star Fleet Battles, which served as the inspiration for this really snazzy bit of Trek gaming. Who doesn’t remember the 20-sided dice, the hex-grid maps, and the starship markers and miniatures with the hexagonal bases? I’d go so far as to say that Star Fleet Battles kept the Trek franchise alive in the minds of fans the same way that Kenner’s action figures kept the faithful adhered to the Star Wars saga, even after the third movie passed with no signs of a seuqel or prequel to come. Continue reading

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? online gameThe Game: You mean you’re the one person in the country who doesn’t know all the rules and the lifelines? Well, ooooooookay. The computer (sitting in for Regis Philbin) asks you a series of questions with four possible answers. Only one of these is the correct answer. If you’re not sure, you can ask an equally-computerized audience or phone a quasi-friend (actually, the phone-a-friend option in ABC.com’s online version of the game draws from a bank of answers given by people who have actually been contestants on the show), or you can eliminate two of the wrong answers. If you guess the wrong answer, you wind up going home a little less rich than you might be if you simply walk away. (ABC.com, 1999 – this game has since been removed from the site)

Memories: Admittedly, I’m waiting for Sony to get it in gear and release the Playstation version of Millionaire in late June, but for now, there’s the rather good online version of the game on ABC’s web site. At the behest of the benign overlords as Disney, ABC.com repeatedly – and I do mean repeatedly – reminds you that you’re not playing for any kind of money or prizes. Continue reading

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