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Reviews of software, hardware and everything in-between.
Matt Barton's picture

Review: Texas Instruments' "Tunnels of Doom" (1982)

Tracing the history of the modern computer role-playing game can take us to some interesting machines and even more interesting games. Tunnels of Doom, released in 1982 for Texas Instruments' TI-99/4A computer, is a very early attempt to adapt the conventions of table top D&D roleplaying games to the home computer. I was surprised to see how many of the game's features ended up in later games, especially SSI's popular Gold Box series. While the game is one of the less accessible titles for most modern gamers, it was one of the best-selling games for the TI-99/4A and is quite interesting from an historical perspective.

Matt Barton's picture

Review: Electronic Arts' "M.U.L.E." (1983)

Dani Bunten's multiplayer trading game, M.U.L.E., is the best family-friendly multiplayer computer game ever designed.

Matt Barton's picture

Book Review: "Stan Veit's History of the Personal Computer" (1993)

Stan Veit's History of the Personal Computer, authored by--you guessed it, Stan Veit--is a roughly edited collection of memoirs and editorials Veit wrote during his tenure as editor-in-chief of Computer Shopper. Veit's personal experience with personal computer history is tremendous. He was the first personal computer dealer in New York City, and got to know almost every early luminary in the industry on a first-name basis. He's one part technician (he can talk chips and boards with the best of them), one part salesman, and one part patron. In short, it's hard to find an author better qualified to take us on the journey from the Altair to the IBM PC. However, the book is not without its flaws--it's poorly organized, and the typos make your head hurt.

Matt Barton's picture

Review: FTL's "Dungeon Master" (1987)

Dungeon Master: The Atari STDungeon Master: Dungeon Master (Atari ST Version) FTL's Dungeon Master, released in 1987 for the Atari ST and a year later for the Amiga, represents a defining moment in the evolution of the computer role-playing game. Although it is certainly not the first 3D real-time computer role playing game (see Dungeons of Daggorath), it's probably the first such game to really hit the mainstream. It was the #1 best selling product on the Atari ST platform, and remains one of the best-known and playable of the early CRPGs. Indeed, I've recently become addicted to the game and will probably not be happy until I've completed it! What I intend to do here is discuss some of the game's more innovative features and try to get at what makes this game so endearing and important.

Matt Barton's picture

Review: Her Interactive's "Nancy Drew: The Creature of Kapu Cave" (2006)

"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.

Matt Barton's picture

A Review of Malcolm Evans' "3D Monster Maze" (1981)

"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.

Bill Loguidice's picture

I Finally Kicked the Tires on GameTap...

GameTap for PCGameTap for PCFor those following the ongoing GameTap saga on Armchair Arcade, for instance here, I recently signed up and finally gave it a whirl. What follows are some stream of consciousness first impressions...

I got a chance last night into early this morning to play around with GameTap on my MAME arcade machine in between paying bills, backing up my main PC and working out (don't ask). If you remember, the arcade cabinet contains a fairly high end 1GB PC with a 128MB ArcadeVGA card (ATI-based) and 27" Wells Gardner arcade PC monitor. I have a regular mouse and keyboard inside the cabinet, but use the main control panel as my primary means of doing most things, save for typing. It has a plethora of buttons, three joysticks, a trackball and a spinner.

Matt Barton's picture

A Review of Epyx's The Sword of Fargoal (1982)

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.

Matt Barton's picture

Review: Her Interactive's "Danger by Design" (2006)

Her Interactive's fourteenth and latest entry in the Nancy Drew series, Danger By Design, has met with mixed reactions among fans of the series, and I'm no different. There are certainly some interesting innovations here, and I have to give Her Interactive credit for being willing to take the series in new directions and experiment with new types of gameplay. This is the first time in the series that Nancy Drew has actually fought an opponent in hand-to-hand combat. It also introduces one of the series' wackiest yet memorable characters, the masked Minette. Finally, like much of the Broken Sword series, it's set in Paris, a setting which never fails to provide amusing cultural eccentricities for the bumbling American. Overall, I must admit to being somewhat disappointed by Danger By Design, but it's nevertheless a highly playable and enjoyable game. The key problem is a couple of counter-intuitive puzzles that'll probably leave you stumped--a problem that must explain why Her Interactive decided to include "the official strategy guide" with the game. In cases like this, Her Interactive is its best competition--if we consistently compare each new game to past masterpieces like The Final Scene and The Secret of Shadow Ranch, we're raising the bar a bit high.

Matt Barton's picture

A Review of DynaMicro's The Dungeons of Daggorath (1982)

DynaMicro's Dungeons of Daggorath, released in 1982 for the Tandy CoCo, is one of the earliest examples of a first-person computer role-playing game. I recently had the chance to play this innovative title a few weeks ago as part of my research on the Tandy CoCo, and I must say that I'm impressed with the title--and can easily see why the game has managed to retain such a devoted cult following that's lasted nearly a quarter of a century. So, what makes the game so great? What I want to talk about here are three features--the immensity of the game world, the intensity of the action, and the creative use of sound. Although Tandy's CoCo arguably suffered from a rather dismal game library, DoD really stands out as a true classic.

Essentially, DoD is a game in the tradition of first-person "D&D" games in the vein of Richard Garriot's Akalabeth (1980, Apple II) and Sir-Tech's Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981, Apple II). All three of these games focus on exploring 3-D wire-frame dungeons, killing monsters, and picking up various goodies along the way. The basic story behind DoD is of the usual ilk; an evil wizard has built his home deep in a monster-infested dungeon. A terrible curse has come upon the village, and the only way to lift it is for some foolhardy warrior to saunter down there and liquidate him.

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