Happy New Year. Yes, I’ve been taking a wee break from writing this blog; Christmas makes it allowed! Anyway, since it’s a brand new year I thought it’d be appropriate to say a few words about some of my favourite games from the last year complete with appropriate linkys in the header. These are, as ever, in no particular order.
A freeware side-scrolling shooter drawing obvious inspiration from both the Gradius and Darius series, this lovingly put-together game could easily have been published commercially 15-odd years ago for the Playstation or somesuch. Excellent graphics, brilliant music, branching levels, loads of features. The only real problems are that the in-game music has a bad habit of ending about a minute before the level actually does and that for hardened gamers its perhaps a touch too easy. Nonetheless well worth it for zero pounds/dollars/euros.
The best 8-bit platformer in years that isn’t actually for 8-bit machines. This freeware game takes inspiration both from European history and ’80s European gaming but manages to create something quite unique. The mixture of object-collecting and puzzle-solving works well and the old-fashioned “chunky” graphics ooze class in a “1987” kind of way.
Just as Strange Adventures in Infinite Space managed to create a space-faring strategy game that could be played in ten minutes, so this little freeware title managed the same with the (in)famous “roguelike” genre – explore dungeons, kill monsters, grab treasure. All without the dozens of control keys and hours of time lost. Unlockables help prolongue appeal. I’ve no idea why the “rogue” character looks like Hitler, though.
Yes, it originally came out in 1995 for Psion Palmtops (anyone? No, me neither) but this conversion to Horace’s home platform, the ZX Spectrum, which Bob Smith dropped onto an amazed retrogaming community in 2010, is easily the best release for Celebrity Mastermind star Sir Clive’s 1982 rubber-keyed beast of last year. Despite bearing superficial similarities to Manic Miner this game, with its inertia-based movement, offers a different challenge. Superb stuff. Even if Horace is white for some reason.
The only commercial (if indie) title in this list. I was bought this as a birthday present and it’s taken up far too much of my time. Despite the relatively crude graphics (which are arguably a plus since they mean that even older PCs can run it) this has proved a huge hit thanks to its true sandbox gameplay. Minecraft is, essentially, a game which dumps the player in a functioning world and lets them treat it like a lego set. A lego set with monsters which come out at night. Build giant underground lairs, mansions on clifftops, preposterously-tall towers. Then swear when a creeper blows bits of them up.