that changed our lives...
Pete Hulme and Lewis Denby get all misty-eyed
that computer games are traditionally about having a bit of
fun, this title may seem a bit pompous. But the fact
that we're sitting here today, taking the time and effort to
actually read and write about the medium, suggests there may
be more to it than that. We got talking about the
games that totally revolutionised what we had come to expect
of the medium, titles really drew us into the hobby and
refused to let us go. The only reasonable action, of
course, was to detail them in this very e-zine.
The criteria was wide-reaching. Each of us was to
choose one game. It could be an incredible example of
its genre that wildly
surpassed our expectations. It could have set unprecedented
levels of hilarious mayhem. It could have thrown away
conventions to create the sort of title we simply didn't
know would ever exist. Whatever the reason for their
selection, they're all absolutely games you should still
experience today, should you ever get the wonderful
(1993, Amiga 1200)
Back in 1993, my older brother gave me his Amiga 1200 and
a ton of games. I was thirteen years old and, as far as I
was concerned, I really had hit the mother lode. Amongst all
the games I found one called Syndicate.
I put it in the disk drive and waited for it to load up.
After watching the awesome intro - in which a member of the
public gets run over, kidnapped and turned into a cyborg - I
knew this was going to be good.
was released in 1993, designed by the now mega-famous Peter
Molyneux and developed by his company at the time Bullfrog.
The game was set in the future on an earth dominated by
rival mega-corporations, who sent out teams of state of the
art cyborgs to kidnap, assassinate, indoctrinate and
conquer. You controlled these teams of cyborgs, upgrading
them with better cybernetic implants and giving them better
weapons - after you had put money into researching them, of
course. Money came from taxes, which you could raise or
lower at will if you owned the territory. To own the
territory you would have to complete a mission such as
capturing a prominent scientist, assassinating a rival
company executive or just eliminating all other rival
cyborgs in the city. There were fifty territories with fifty
missions to complete.
by the orgy of mega-death..."
I had never seen or played anything
like it. I liked it even more because it reminded me of the
film Blade Runner, which I love. It
The actual missions were played from an isometric point of
view with a right click to move your agents and left click
to fire their weapons: simple, and very effective. You could
also inject various drugs into your agents, like adrenaline
to make them run faster, ‘Drugs? In
a game?’ I remember thinking. It was also incredibly
violent for the time, allowing the mass murder of hundreds
of civilians, setting them on fire with flamethrowers and
watching them run around until they collapsed in a charred
mess. The laser gun, which would vaporise anyone in the line
of fire. The mini-gun, a real eye opener with its spinning
multi-barrels of death and its ability to clear city streets
of anything living in a few seconds. It was all about
violence on a huge scale, and the end of my gaming
innocence. The future was dark, adult games like this.
‘Mario is dead to me
now,’ I mused to myself as I stared at the screen,
hypnotised by the orgy of mega-death.
is only one game I can think of that is still as exciting to
play now as it was when it was first released. That game is Super
Mario Kart on the SNES.
Ah, the memories of running home from school, or anywhere
else for that matter, just to cram in a few more hours of
racing. No matter how often you play it, the desire is
always there to beat that lap time on Ghost Valley, or run
through 150cc one more time using Donkey Kong without using
pick-ups. And you will always meet someone new that claims
no-one can ever beat them, resulting in a night of nostalgia
after tracking down the dusty old SNES from the loft (which,
more than likely, will only work if you turn it upside
down), to show them who really is the king ding-a-ling.
Nintendo have tried so hard to keep the series alive, with
follow-ups on the N64, Gamecube, GBA, and more recently on
the Wii, but as great as these games are, they still don't
live up to the thrill of the original. On the SNES, each
corner mattered. Power-sliding your way around the bend and
keeping as close to corner as possible was essential in
winning the race. The trademark yellow question mark threw
in an element of chance, so when you were in last place, and
you begged the Nintendo gods to let you have that lightning
strike you desperately needed to get back in the running,
you might just have had a hope of clawing your way back up
the ranks after all. It does also mean that no matter how
well you fling yourself around that track, you know that,
any moment, all your good work could be destroyed by one of
those pesky red shells. This brings me to two of the most
amazing feelings in two-player gaming history:
them who's the king ding-a-ling..."
Evading a cocky friend’s red shell. You know it’s right
behind you, and any loss in speed will result in a bad time,
spinning around whilst watching your coins scattering
painfully across the track. But if you manage to keep your
cool amongst the suspense, and if you cut that next corner
just right, it’s bye-bye red shell, and hello thrusting
the V-sign into cocky friend's face.
2) Hitting the guy in first place with a thrown banana skin.
I'm not talking about throwing it in his path, I mean
the guy. No game matches the satisfaction that this
achievement provides. None at all. The sequels are far too
pick-up orientated. It doesn't feel like the driving matters
any more, as long as you get the weapons you need. Sure, the
graphics are a lot fancier, and the there's a lot more
content within the new games, but it doesn't matter.
The pure thrill has gone. The charm and simplicity have
This doesn't mean Nintendo shouldn't stop trying, though. It
just means the game will evolve into something totally
different from how it started.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a SNES that needs
must have been significantly below the age restriction when I
first played through Quake with my dad. In
retrospect, that was probably a little irresponsible of him.
We'd just got our first home PC, which sat in the alcove
beneath our stairs: a whopping, super-charged machine, with
a whole half a gigabyte of hard-drive space and a
processor that ran at a hundred megahertz! We
could use this bad-boy for anything. So we used it to
Oh, we played a lot of Quake. I'd grown up
around SEGA's platformers, and had a bash on some of the
early first-person shooters in the shops, but the fully-3D
world of iD Software's new creation completely transcended
my expectations of what this geeky little hobby of mine
could lead to. That is, complete carnage, but carnage
that felt real.
It's difficult to explain to anyone who wasn't playing games
at the time just how incredible an achievement Quake
was. I remember being astonished that the game box
told me I needed 64 megabytes of free hard-drive
space to play the thing, but realising exactly why straight
away. The thing with Quake's engine was that
the fuss wasn't over its looking pretty. In fact, the
whole thing felt very dull and monochrome in places.
But the addition of a proper third axis that even the
monsters conformed to opened so many new doors for
design. Enemies could spring at you from all sorts of
different angles, the animations and AI working seamlessly
together. The innovative 'mouse-look' feature allowed
you to specifically target foes at different heights around
the level. The whole genre took a spectacular step
forward in terms of wild, outlandish possibilities.
wasn't allowed to use cheat codes..."
remember becoming a little obsessed. My best friend
and I would get together to draw our own monsters and design
our own levels, in the hope that one day we could make a
game like this. I read the official strategy guide
from cover to cover, then saved up to buy the unofficial
one. I got up extra-early before school, just to cram
another half-hour in. I delved into the scary world of
the internet to learn the cheat codes, but my mum said I
wasn't allowed to use them. Funny how she valued her
morals over my poor, childish mind, being tarnished by all
the blood and guts and grenades before my eyes.
I don't know how long it took for us to beat Quake,
but it felt like months. In the end, we battled to the
finale, only to find that it was... well, absolutely,
laughably awful. Still, it never tarnished my opinion
of this glorious blastathon. I installed it again last
year and, after a large amount of tweaking the thing to work
on XP, found myself shooting through the same brown halls,
as if 1996 were only yesterday. The magic
remained. I don't think the magic will ever go away.