Why are so many people these days, surrounded as they are by some of the most sophisticated gaming technology ever designed, still captivated by so-called "obsolete" games like Pac-Man, Joust, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and Frogger? Why are so many thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people running MAME or any number of other computer/console emulation programs on their modern PCs? Indeed, why would someone with a "decked out" PC capable of running the latest FPS in near-cinematic quality want to run programs intended for the humble Commodore 64 or the outright meek Atari 2600? The reasons, I think, are not as obvious as we might think.
"The Creature of Kapu Cave," the 15th episode in the popular Nancy Drew graphical adventure game series, scores big in some areas and misses in others. In some ways, this is the strongest entry in the series, scoring particularly high marks in graphics and interface. The problems are a bit trickier to isolate. Essentially, the problem is making a long story short. I've been covering Her Interactive's Nancy Drew games for some time now, and this one felt the briefest. Of course, that's not always a problem, and I prefer a game that leaves me wanting more rather than one I can't wait to be over. Unfortunately, what's abridged here are some of the most charming qualities of the series--fun, well-developed characters, intrigue, and plot twists. The focus here is mostly on a series of simple mini-games, all held together with the Hawaiian theme.
Well, it's finally over: Check out the results of the 12th annual IF competition. As you can see, there were plenty of entries and plenty of judges. The winner (no big surprise) was Emily Short, a very notable IF author whose game "Floatpoint" scored 113 points. Runners up include "The Primrose Path" by Nolan Bonvouloir and "The Elysium Enigma" by Eric Eve. Even my own humble entry "The Initial State" didn't fare as poorly as I feared, but came in at #28 with 63 points. Download them all and revisit the days when Infocom was king.
"Roll up, roll up, see the amazing Tyrannosaurus Rex, king of the dinosaurs, in his lair." Of all the things you might expect to find running on a ZX81 in 1981, a real time, first-person, 3D maze game would probably be somewhere near "impossible" on your list. Yet, that's exactly what Malcolm Evans was able to pull off--basically in his spare time, as little more than a diversion for himself. Nevertheless, Evans' tinkering became one of the most celebrated games for the ZX81 and a forerunner of the modern first-person game.
I was just reading an interview with Phil Harrison, the head of Sony's worldwide studios, and I must admit I'm very impressed with what I read. Apparently, Sony has recognized the appeal of downloadable games on next gen consoles and have decided not only to embrace the concept, but to pretty much sandblast the competition. The idea is not just to offer small "freebies" and retrogames, but actually pay out for some 40+ premium quality games that push the PS3 hard in all directions. The fact that every PS3 comes standard with a hard drive may make the difference.
We just received a head's up from a chipper named Mandrixx about his new website, Plopbox.net. It's a "jukebox" written in Java that's loaded up with all the great chiptunes (or "ploptunes"), classic and modern. You can even register on the site and create your own playlist, or just trust the judgment of the other users and play highly ranked tunes. At any rate, this is about the easiest way I know to listen to chiptunes, and Mandrixx seems dedicated to expanding and refining his site. Check it out and let us know what you think!
Thanks to Mano for sending us a link to the live trailer for the fabulous Commodore 64 Orchestra (see below!). The idea here is simple--take those great classic tunes from C-64 games and work them up for a "real" orchestra. The Japanese have been doing this for years (decades?) with their NES and SNES tunes, so it's nice to see someone else representing the C-64. This outfit appears to be from the Netherlands (I'm bitterly jealous, Mark!), so if you're in the area check their tour dates.
Jeff McCord's The Sword of Fargoal, released in 1982 for the Commodore VIC 20 and updated in 1983 for the Commodore 64, is one of the most accessible and innovative of the 8-bit computer role playing games. Every serious "Commodork" is familiar with the title, and for good reason. As I see it, there are essentially two qualities that earn this game its venerable status as classic. First, it's a highly accessible game that anyone can learn to play in minutes. Secondly, the creative "fog of war" effect, real-time gameplay, and creepy sound effects generate far more suspense than most other early RPGs. Even in 2006, nearly a quarter century after its release, The Sword of Fargoal still offers compelling and addictive gameplay.