Thursday, January 05, 2006

My Favouritest Games

I got this idea from Terry Cavanagh's website, Distractionware. With the bugs gone from my game, for the moment, I felt it was a good time to reminisce before introducing new ones. Here are are some of games that have influenced me. In reverse order of awesome-superness.

10. Bubble Bobble.

This game is quite simple but one of my favourites. It's best played with a friend. You play Bub or Bob two dragons that for some mysterious reason are descending to the bottom of a volcano or something. Each level is one screen wide and filled with a number of enemies. Each of you can breath bubbles - these can capture enemies and you can also jump on them. (Each time a bubble bursts it's 10 points). Once an enemy is in a bubble you jump on him and he dies and turns into fruit. If you pop a lot of enemies at the same time - you get better fruit (sometimes gems and other random items - that give you points! We all love points!). If you do really well - at the end of the level a massive piece of fruit (or gem or cake or whatever) drops down and you must rush to grab it before player2 gets it. And that's the key thing about Bubble and Bobble on the one hand you're cooperating but on the other hand you're in fierce, bloody, competition with each other for the bonuses, higher scores and pieces of fruit, and cake! It's a mechanic that's also in other games but I’ve never experienced it so intensely as in Bubble Bobble.

9. Privateer

Privateer basically copied Elite but it had better graphics and better missions and a plot thrown in there too. I loved it because you could go and do anything but it didn't ever feel empty or impossible. I enjoyed being a pirate or a smuggler having to deal with the police ships and inspections. The main mechanic was to keep making money so you could upgrade your space ship with cool new weapons - or even buy a whole new ship! It had the same space combat system as Wing Commander, tried and tested - a lot of fun. A great game.

8. Super Mario World

Super Mario’s strongest feature is the interface. It's something that's been tweaked to perfection. Very addictive basic game play but there's still a lot of hidden things to discover. A game that shines with polish.

7. Master Of Orion

It was going to be this or Master of Magic but I think Master of Orion is just a little bit better. A wonderful, solid strategy game, choose a race and try to take over the galaxy. There's technology to reserch and you can even design your own ships. My personal favourite ploy was to create a really cheap small ship with a single nuclear missle - usually I could build a few 100 a turn. Then I'd make a massive stack so I'd have thousands and thousands of these one missle ships. They packed a massive punch even though an enemies lazer cannons could dessimate hundreds of them. You could also spy, conquer planets, even board ships. You also got to decide what buildings where built on your planets. A very absorbing game.

6. Final Fantasy 7

When I heard this was coming out on Playstation I replayed all the old Final Fantasies on the emulators not understanding that they didn't really follow on. Still this was an amazing game, which really sucked you in. Sephiroth is possibly the coolest bad guy from any RPG. The plot barely made sense but was still attractive - I couldn’t help but hope that at some point, near the end, everything was going to be clearly explained with plenty of flash backs and I’d find myself saying “Ohhhhh now I see”, unfortunately this wasn’t to be. The music and CGI videos were unbelievable for the time, what’s more unbelievable still is that they were used extremely well and always added to the game and didn’t become wearisome. It was a game on a new kind of scale, epic.

5. Monkey Island

I really do wish they still made adventure games. Adventure games, though single player really lend themselves to being played with more than one person as everyone can contribute. Monkey Island was great, funny and very engaging to play. You played a rather rubbish pirate who's out to make his fortune. There are the undead, monkeys, sword fighting, spitting, grog, excellent music and extremely good puzzles. I'll always remember watching the credits right to the end (which where also very humorous).

4. System Shock 2

System Shock 1 was good but it took a leap in graphics to do what system shock 2 does best ... shock you (though I admit jumping many times playing the first)! The game is a little like Ultima Underworld set in space, but instead of being trapped in a mammoth dungeon you're trapped in a mammoth space station. Nearly everyone's dead - you're on your own - you have to discover what happened. A great set up for a game. You can read people’s logs files, pick locks, bash things with pipes. There's loads of different ammo, items, computers to hack, mind powers and when you find out you’re not alone you will jump. The atmosphere is creepy, the place is deserted so when automated holographic records come on – you’re given a near heart attack. Exploring the station itself is cool, parts are locked and you pass lots of areas inaccessible until much later - it almost teases you with them. "Look! Look! There's a lift button for the research deck! I bet there's loads of cool weaponry there! But it seems the lift is broken oh well!"

3. Ultima Seven Part Two

Another incredible game from Origin - any game where you can kill a dog, takes it's corpse to the crematorium, cremate it and then put the ashes on your mantel piece - deserves to be in anyone’s top ten. The game was wonderful but perhaps more importantly was the world that the game was set in. It was a living world; people went to work, ate and slept. They lit candles, shut doors, muttered and complained. It was great. There were wagons, flying carpets, boats, dungeons, crates full of dried fish, cities with different currencies and a paperdoll system that allowed you to dress you male party members in drag. Now that's a game.

One of the great joys of Ultima Seven is taking a house. This usually involves killing the owner (if you pick someone important this tended to break the game later on :( ). Then you'd stock the house with crates that you'd lugged in from various cities – to store your shiny magic trinkets and treasure. Also you could cast a spell that made automons - robot like creature. They would make your bed, open and shut the windows and do other wonderful stuff like that. One final thing about Ultima is that the plot line is quite mature; almost unlike any RPG today, moral choices aren't clear cut. Wonderful stuff.

2. Doom

There's not much that needs saying here. I guess this appeals to me most because I had access to local area network. Doom was a wonderful game to play both cooperatively and in deathmatch mode. It's a shame cooperative play seems to have fallen out of favour in recent games. The bosses where wonderful and it was delightful to see what new hell spawn would pop up next.

1. Ultima Underworld

For some crazy reason not many people seemed to have played this game but it's brilliance through and through. You're trapped in a gigantic dungeon and you must escape. It was released before Doom but had a much more complicated 3D environment. An early demo of this game inspired John Carmack to write Wolfenstein 3D. The dungeon, itself, is full of traps, monsters, hidden areas, weapons and armour. Exploring all of it, as you worked your way down, was extremely enjoyable. In the best Castlevania / Metroid stylings there was plenty that was initially inaccessible but later something deeper in the dungeon would grant you access (the levitation spell for instance.) Of course it was so much more than Metroid or Castlevania, it felt more like a living world. There were NPCs to interact with and perform quests for, a groovy spell system that had you hunting around for rune stones and trying to guess spells, a paper doll system allowing you to mix and match armour and a solid combat engine. Truly a land mark RPG that nothing has really approached since. (That said, Ultima Underworld Two was very good as was System Shock)

Notable Mentions: Fallout, Thief, Morrowind, Daggerfall, Dune, Dune II, Deus Ex, Sonic, Shining Force Two, Front Mission, ADOM, the first two years of Ultima Online, X-com, Eye of the Beholder Two, Lands of Lore, Day of the Tentacle, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Colonization.


Anonymous said...

Ultima 7:2 /underworld were both fantastic. I haven't seen any game that captures the feel of that.

Ever play the savage empire?

Did you try Ultima ascension? I, when I got a computer that it didn't crash on, really got into it.

And do you know the trivia that underworld was the first game in the world ever to use B-splines?

Anonymous said...

Hey, pretty neat. We seem to have radically different tastes though :)

Thanks for the GDR link btw - it's really interesting to see what influences who.

balaam said...

I loved Savage Empire - for some reason I never got very far and would nearly always play from the start rather than a saved game.

It always took me an age to find the labratory but it was always so cool when I did because it was full of great stuff. That was a fine game.

It made me want to play Martian Dreams which I recently managed to have a crack at via the wonders of the internet - unfortunately the interface hasn't really stood the test of time.

I wasn't a big fan of Ultima Ascension because of the crashing and because I'd expected Ultima Seven in 3D. I did try it much later with all the various patches and it wasn't a bad game but it didn't feel like Ultima.

I didn't know about B-splines - was it Ultima Underworld 1? I can't remember anything curvy but it's been quite some time since I've played them now.

Chaotic Harmony: Interesting to read yours too. I vaguely remember the creatures game for the c64 but nothing about the gameplay. Also it's interesting to see your RPG development :D