Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 10 Videogames Ever

The following games are the games that have been responsible for more sleepless nights, wasted holidays, broken relationships and bankrupt parents than any other games I have played.

10.  AD&D (Intellivision - c. 1981)
Quite possibly one of the most frightening games ever to grace the big telly in the front room.  It was a simplified RPG game that allowed you to explore hidden dungeons under mountains before collecting enough arrows and items (and kahunas) to attack the snow-covered precipice of the final, ultimate challenge.  As you moved through tunnels, they would open up in front of you and you wouldn't know what was in a room until you entered.  But, and get this, they would use sound effects to give you clues, a first in them-days.  It *was* 1981.  For instance, dragons would snore, snakes would hiss, bats would flap and that bloody blue demon-thing wouldn't make one damned sound until you were right on top of it.  As soon as you heard the rasping sound of a vicious snoring dragon, you knew things were going to go downhill.  Playing this on the hardest level was not recommended for people of a nervous disposition.  The monsters, as you inadvertently stumbled upon their lair, would streak across the screen with alarming alacrity, roaring and snarling as they did so and the only thing you could do was to mumble 'oh cripes', vainly trying to shoot one of your three remaining arrows before being devoured by a small, blocky and vaguely dragon-like animal shape.  It's only after you'd finished rocking in the corner of the room and wiped the dribble from your chin would you dare try again.

9.  International Karate+ (C64 - c. 1985)

In the olden days, computer games programmers were revered as Gods.  One deity achieved such lofty status that he was made King of the Universe - he was THAT good.  That man is Archer Maclean.  Not only was he responsible for Dropzone (a Defender-clone that was even better than the original Williams arcade machine) and countless snooker and pool simulations (that are all rather good) he created International Karate and its successor here, IK+.  Set against various backdrops from around the world (A lovingly-rendered Sydney Opera House was one), you could attack your opponent with a variety of punches, kicks and if you pressed the space bar, by making their trousers fall down.  It's really the way that Mr Maclean did his games - they all had a touch of panache, flair and cheekiness about them and were immensely playable.  Plus, you never did get tired of making your opponents trousers fall down.

8.  Rainbow Islands (Arcade and later, the Amiga - c. 1987 onwards)

God, this game was hard.  It was a platform game where you had to progress *up* the screen, avoiding baddies, collecting power-ups, treasure and fruit, all the time staying ahead of the constantly-rising water that would engulf your character if you hung around too long.  The thing is, it always allowed you to get that little bit further each time and that, coupled with the cutesy graphics and an unbelievable amount of hidden features, made for a compelling experience.  The Amiga version was a pixel-perfect conversion of the arcade and was brilliant - plus you could play forever without having to put money into it and bankrupting parents (see number 6 below).  The end-of-level bosses were insanely difficult.  I once broke a joystick playing this game.  I was so frustrated, I just threw it on the floor and started jumping on it, screaming loudly.  I was 24.

7.  Impossible Mission (C64 - c.1983)

'Stay awhile, stay FOREVER', so says the voice of the Evil Genius (Professor Elvin Atombender) as you enter his futuristic, underground lair in a bid to destroy him and save the world.  What no-one told you was just how difficult it was going to be.  This game is revered as an all-time classic and rightly so.  The first thing you notice is how well your character and resident robots are animated - graphics were really starting to take off thanks to the humble little C64's dedicated chips and this game is a great example of how well the commodore could do things.  The game consisted of you running and jumping from room to room, searching furniture for pieces of the puzzle that would help you destroy the big baddy.  To stop you were the robots ('Destroy him, my robots', Atombender would occasionally say in that creepy, nasally twang of his).  These weren't ordinary killer robots either - they all had different personalities.  Some were sentinel-like and would just move from side to side, without thought.  Others, however, would pretend to walk / roll away from you before turning and streaking at you, the little red light on their heads blinking ominously.  Some would even electrocute you before you even had chance to jump out of the way.  It was bloody hard and I never, ever completed it - not even remotely close.  I didn't even *know* what the final bloody puzzle was.  It didn't stop me trying though.

6.  Ladybug (Arcade c. 1982)

I was 12.  I ruled at this game.  I spent so much money playing this game that my parents lost their house and had to live in a small cardboard box.  I didn't care, I ruled.  The game itself, on the face of it, was little more than a Pac-man clone.  But, its gimmick were the rotating doors that made up the maze.  This meant the maze was constantly changing and no two games were ever the same.  One of the most addictive parts of it though was to discover which 'vegetable' would be next.  Huh? Let me explain: Scrolling around the edge of a screen was a timer.  When this timer reached zero, a baddie (an insect such as a beetle, wasp or weird-blobby-thingasaur) would be released into the maze with the intention of eating your character (a ladybug you see?).  Once five baddies had been released, a vegetable was then made available to be chomped for mega-points.  This vegetable could be a radish, a cucumber, a rampant rabbit, a Japanese egg-plant - you get the idea.  It changed after each level was completed and a new vegetable would be discovered.  I was never happy until my name covered every single slot on the High-score table.  That's why I bankrupted my parents -

Me: 'Pleeeeassse, just one more game, one more ten pee pleeeeease'

Mum: 'But I've already pawned your dads car and sold your sister to the circus, what more can I do?'

Me: 'But I've only got one more slot to go, pleeeassse', etc.

They never forgave me especially when my sister fell off the trapeze.

5.  Racing Destruction Set (C64 - c. 1983)

This was a little known game and was very much a precursor to the mercurial delights of games such as Micro Machines that would come later on the consoles.  In the style of a top-down racing game, you had to race around twisting and turning tracks while at the same time, trying to run your opponent off the road.  If you hit him hard enough, the car would crumple and a little man would roll out onto the floor, his body in flames.  Brilliant.  It even had a track designer so you could make courses that lasted for 10 minutes per lap (plenty of burning-man opportunities you see?) but the best part was when your equally-delinquent mates came round and you could all join in the fun.  It's funny how times have changed.  My friends and I would spend many an hour playing games such as this, not a bottle of alcopop in sight and a right old time we had as well.  Nowadays, if they're not off their tits on some kind of illegal narcotic, it's not fun - what happened?  Anyway, this game always bring back memories and it sure is funny seeing that bloke roll around in a gristly fireball of death.  I'm not sick, honest.

4.  Baldurs Gate 1 + 2 (PS2 - c. 1999 onwards)

Really, these two excellent RPG games introduced my wife to the 'pleasures' of computer gaming which explains their high standing.  Rather than being 'opposition' games, you and your partner worked in co-operation, watching each others backs as you fought battles and following the involving, quest-based storyline.  Gorgeously-lavish graphics (for the time) completed the experience.  I always went for the weedy wizard who stands at the back casting some crappy little spell, while the missus would be wading in with a sword the length of a Volvo-estate and stats so high, she only had to raise an eyebrow and whole squadrons of undead skeletons would drop dead out of fright.  She'd also nick all the fallen treasure too.  Still, at least we were playing together and we had a great time completing the games right up to the hardest settings.  Ok, *she* won the games on the hardest setting - I just said 'love, help me, I'm being attacked' a lot.

3.  Sensible World of Soccer (Amiga c. 1993)

Or 'SWOS' as we in the know called it, came from the Sensible Software stable and featured their distinctive graphics of very small but nicely-animated people.  What made this special was not only the brilliant gameplay as perfected in the original 'Sensible Soccer', but there was now an element of management that allowed you to manage your club from any number of different leagues around the world.  It also featured every single Premiership player from the time.  You couldn't *tell* it was them, even if you squinted, but still, it was them in name.  You could buy and sell players and take your club from lowly division 3 right up to the top.  It was the gameplay that made it though and the amount of spin you could put on a ball would be enough to make Ronaldo weep.  Passing was quick and easy and there were no such things as step-overs or feints - this was a mans game.  Also, scoring from the halfway line was possible if you aimed for the corner flag and put the right amount of spin on your shot.  Beckham?  Pah, I did it every game.  For me, the best football game ever made.

2.  Bruce Lee (C64 c. 1984)

Produced by Datasoft sometime around 1984, Bruce Lee looked like an average run-of-the-mill platform game.  But, there are a few things that elevate it above (nearly) everything else.  First of all, you're Bruce Lee - remember, this is the guy who handed Chuck Norris such a beating, at a time when Chuck was the undefeated World Karate Champion, that  Chuck promptly retired and went into films - Chuck managed to get in one solitary kick before being totally Brucealized (it was in that documentary, 'Way of the Dragon').  Fair enough, it's a small, blocky representation of Bruce Lee, but in 1984, this looked *real*.  Secondly, there are two baddies in the entire game.  Just two.  One is a big fat Buddha lookalike and the other is dressed in a ninja suit and it doesn't matter how many times you kill them, they always come back with enthusiastic, ferocious stupidity.  Thirdly, your mate could take control of the Buddha-guy and either hinder you or, as we tended to do against a backdrop of guffawing and hollering, gang up on the weedy little ninja and push him over a waterfall or make him run into an exploding bush.  Maybe it was being 14 that made this so riotously funny but no, I have this game on a C64 emulator for my PC and it's STILL as funny as I remember.  You simply cannot tire of laying the Kung Fu smack down on that Ninja's ass - every screen presents more opportunities to stifle the ninja in his relentless pursuit of ninja-nirvana, and it's brilliance personified.  Oh, and the game's quite easy so you actually *do* have a cat in hells chance of seeing the end of the game (before starting all over again).  Altogether now, 'Wataaaaaaah!'

1.  Quake 3 (PC - 1999)

After the incredible success of their first-person shooters such as Castle Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake, ID Software made quite a controversial move by releasing Quake 3 as an almost exclusively -online game.  Previously, the online modes of their games were extensions of the single-player 'story' and battles were fought over long, winding and quite often boring levels.  In Quake 3, they knocked this on the head by making the levels smaller, more cleverly-designed and devised a movement system so perfectly balanced that a whole sub-culture of 'trick-jumpers' was borne.  Now in decline but still available to play on hundreds of servers around the world (how many other games can say that after nine years?), it's probably the most perfect multiplayer game ever created.  The range of movements you can perform (sneaking around, whispering into a mouthpiece?  That's for wimps) are staggering.  The weapons are perfectly balanced (except for the BFG).  Levels are designed so that not one single spot gives any kind of advantage (which is REALLY hard to do).  And you're *not* bombarded with the insane gurglings of some spotty American turd wearing a head-set microphone and singing Shania Twain as you fly around the arenas.  Simply, perfect.

Thanks to the internet and a solid community of emulation software, all of these games can still be enjoyed in one form or another.

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