Classic computer games
Ah, classic computer games, they bring a tear of nostalgia to your eye. This is, quite necessarily, a rambling, reminiscing page where spaceman recalls classic games of years gone by. As a bit of background, the computers/consoles that spaceman has owned are as follows:
Spectrum 16K, upgraded to Spectrum+, then finally replaced with Spectrum+3 (long since discarded after it completely stopped working)
Amiga (now sadly chucked - it was beginning to show its age)
PlayStation 1 (nicked, dammit)
PSOne (a like-for-like replacement, currently lent out)
PC (without which this site wouldn't be possible)
PlayStation 2 (has pride of place under the TV)
In spaceman's humble opinion, most of the above machines have held some sort of gaming dominance at some point or other in history. In particular, the Amiga was the king during the golden age of gaming in the early 1990s.
Spaceman's top 5 classic computer games (in no particular order) are: Sensible Soccer (Amiga); Doom 2 (PC); Lemmings (Amiga); Civilization (Amiga); Chase HQ (Spectrum).
It's time for those rose-tinted glasses and a slightly misty screen...
Although now easily superseded by the 3D generation of football games, including the superb Pro Evolution Soccer (in all its incarnations,) this was the best football game (and indeed sports game) of the 1990s. When it was first released (in 1992), Sensible Soccer's main rival, on the Amiga anyway, was Kick Off 2 - but the lack of control available in Kick Off 2 could be inhibiting and frustrating.
When spaceman first played Sensible Soccer, it was as a demo given away with Amiga Format magazine. You could play a two-player game until someone scored, but then you'd have to start it again. However, the simple passing and neat if unspectacular graphics meant that spaceman was hooked from this moment on. The game even boasted it's own theme tune (called 'Goal Scoring Superstar Hero').
There were several updates over the years, and the game was converted to many formats (from the Amiga), but it probably peaked with the release of the mighty Sensible World Of Soccer. This was pretty much a release of its own (rather than an update), and it took the best points of the original - the simple but effective control system, the attention to detail, the ability to customise teams, leagues, etc - and made them almost immeasurably better. There were also post-match stats, so you could see how many times you'd peppered the opponent's goal, or how much possession you'd had.
The creators of SWOS had painstakingly entered the details of all the players of all the teams in the main recognised leagues in the civilised world, from the Premiership to the El Salvador Division 3 (this meant over 1,400 teams and 29,000 players, apparently). There was a full transfer market and you could be a manager or player-manager over 20 seasons. The ability to set up a fully-customised multi-player league or cup competition (or a combination) had been improved and become as flexible as you could wish - ideal for a beer-soaked get-together.
A trip down memory lane has since been possible due to the release of the plug-in-and-play Megadrive Sensible Software collection, featuring Mega-Lo-Mania and Cannon Fodder as well as Sensible Soccer, all of them classics.
There'd been Wolfenstein 3D, and Doom, but then Doom 2 really hit the spot as far as first-person shooters were concerned. Maybe it was the array of different weapons, from chainsaw to BFG, maybe it was the impressive and scary range of baddies, maybe it was the well-designed levels. Or maybe it was the ability to play against human opponents in a link-up - guaranteed to test friendships. Never mind what it was - it was hellishly addictive. Especially the sound of the double-barrelled shotgun being fired into a crowd of baddies, oh yes.
Although Doom 2 was superseded by a whole load of better, bigger copies (such as Quake, Unreal Tournament, etc.), for spaceman, this was the classic of its time. This is covered further in the Shooters section of PS3 corner.
Unique and original, this first emerged on the Amiga in the early 1990s, one of a raft of games that could only have been invented on the Amiga. It's barely worth explaining the plot since everyone must know what it entailed, but a brief summary will set the scene...
It was a cerebral mouse-clicking puzzler whereby you had to get a certain number of lemmings on each level from A to B (usually via an obstacle or twenty) using 1 or more of 8 skills (um, climbing, floating, digging, mining, bashing, bridging, stopping, exploding). And that was it. From memory, spaceman recalls being able to do about 114 of the original 120 levels (but all of them on a downloadable Lemmings for Windows version, which doesn't appear to have all the levels, strangely).
Where Lemmings really came into its own, however, was in the two-player version. Arguably best played with the cheat hack on (so that you had infinite usage of each skill), this head-to-head would invariably end in tears. The crowning moment for spaceman would always be when spaceman had ensured instant death for the opponent's lemmings as they were dropped casually into the level, via an horrific death plummet complete with cutesy lemming cry (this was achieved by digging straight down under the entry hatch of the other player). Winning one level would mean having more lemmings to play with on the next level - always a bonus.
Later incarnations were good, but lacked the impact of the first in the series. Oh No More Lemmings! had a further 100 levels (which spaceman found much harder than the original levels) and some more two-player levels. Lemmings 2 had different tribes of lemmings and far more than the original 8 skills (including pole-vaulting, flame-throwing, hang-gliding and the like). Crucially, however, the two-player version was absent and the one-player levels lacked the simplicity of the original. There was also Lemmings 3 and some sort of Lemmings 3D effort, but spaceman never really played them.
Although Civilization first appeared on the PC (which was, in truth, the better format for such a complex strategy game), spaceman initially possessed only the Amiga version (not owning a PC in the early 1990s was a major stumbling block). Civilization is perhaps the ultimate "just one more turn" strategy games that has probably taken up more of spaceman's gaming time over the years than any other. Admittedly, a lot of this was due to the relatively slow processing speed of the Amiga (more of this later), but mainly because it was such a deep, involving game. The desire to continue playing stemmed from the requirements to make a series of crucial decisions that would affect the path of your race.
It's very difficult to get across how and why Civilization was so addictive. Looking at the game in more detail, you are in charge of a particular race, from the English or the Germans to the Aztecs or the Mongols, facing a number of computer-controlled opponents (each with their own race, and each with differing characteristics). As leader, you have to found and build up an increasing number of cities for which you must manage the supply of food, resources and trade. Excess food propels the population growth, resources are used to create buildings (granaries, temples, barracks, banks, universities, etc) and military units (from the basic warrior to the mighty tank). Finally, trade is channelled into luxuries (to keep the population happy and away from civil disorder), research (a key part of the game is the discovery of scientific advances, from the wheel and the alphabet to electronics and nuclear power) and tax (to pay for the upkeep of buildings, bribe opponents, etc. Throw in a variety of government styles, corruption, resource wastage and barbarians, not to mention international wars and diplomacy, and you had a frighteningly complex game, and an educational one too.
Civilization, being the original, will always have a special place in spaceman's gaming heart, but it could be and was improved upon. Civilization 2 brought in a pseudo-3D landscape (to replace the top-down viewpoint), with lots (and lots) of minor changes. There were various add-ons for version 2. Civilization 3 was another big leap and is definitely spaceman's favourite (or was, until the release of Civilization 4. This version has better graphics, a simpler control system, better AI for the computer opponents, the introduction of cultural value and borders, more subtle and complicated diplomatic agreements and negotiation, not to mention more units, more scientific advances, more tribes, etc. A custom editor is also available on Civilization 3, which enables you to build your own maps. Spaceman has one of the add-on packs for Civilization 3 (Play The World), which tweaks the main version with added new features, including multiplayer capabilities (supposedly - spaceman has yet to get it to work). There's also a further update called Call To Power, which spaceman has neglected to invest in. It's definitely a game that can take up large portions of your life if you're not available. Comprehensive information on the game can be found at civ3.com. It being a strategy game, there are the inevitably numerous unofficial websites providing in-depth guides and the like. One of the best is the Civilization Fanatics' Centre.
This universal strategy game was improved upon once more in 2005 with the release of Civilization 4. Crucially, rather than as a messy add-on, Civilization 4 had slick multi-player functionality out of the box. In fact, the whole game was slicker, with a more flexible and intuitive interface and control system, less micromanagement (general effects such as health replacing one-off triggers or caps), improved AI (although still far from perfect in early versions), a flexible technology tree, a greater transparency of game information (for example, you can see why a rival civilization will not trade with you), religions, unit promotions, multiple governmental civics, etc, etc.
As with Civilization 3, the game was improved through patches following suggestions from the Civilization-playing community, which had subjected it to a more rigorous play-testing (naturally). This was either through eradicating bugs, or re-balancing gameplay. The Civilization cash cow rumbled on, with the release of the Warlords expansion pack (the obligatory additional units, civilizations, leaders, wonders, plus improved AI, better game balance) and then the Beyond The Swords expansion pack (more units, civilizations, leaders, wonders, plus further improved AI, better interface, and a vastly expanded late game - for example, spaceship development and corporations). Ultimately, this latter version was as complete a version of the game as had ever been released (although some might say that it has become over-complicated).
But still the members of the community develop and released modifications ('mods') and some clamour for the release of Civilization 5. There has been no news on this, but there was a version, Civilization: Revolution, released for the consoles, a kind of Civ Lite, as many of the depths and complexities of Civilization 4 were removed or vastly simplified. But it was a way in for casual gamers who were not into strategy games (or so they thought). Spaceman found it appealing for a short while, but it served only to increase desire to play Civilization 4 for the extra control and depth.
With due apologies for spaceman's fading memory, this was one of the classics of the Spectrum era. Adapted from the arcade game and displaying driving action in glorious monochrome white or yellow, Chase HQ was a thrill-seeker's dream of a driving game. The simple aim of the game was to drive from A to B within a time limit, and then follow a criminal's car with the intention of smashing it to pieces (within a further time limit). This task was helped considerably by the inclusion of boosts (albeit of a limited number, naturally). One of the most impressive features (for the time) was the sheer pace of the game, especially compare to the visually better-looking Amiga version (which seemed slow, slow, slow). Another good feature that spaceman can recall (look, it was the 1980s, okay) was the speech, including the phrase "Let's go, Mr Driver" at the start of every mission, which although muffled, was cool, and rare on a Spectrum game. Spaceman did eventually complete Chase HQ, and very possibly its sequel, Chase HQ 2: Special Criminal Investigation (or something), something which seemed generally easier to do with Spectrum games than Amiga games. It was a truly fine game for its time.