Posts Tagged ‘remakes’

Ten Pints

29 September, 2014
A nice touch in all the Beast games is the mixture of olde world fantasy and sci-fi aesthetics.

A nice touch in all the Beast games is the mixture of olde world fantasy and sci-fi aesthetics.

Oh, Shadow of the Beast. You’ll read on half a dozen videogame nostalgia sites that it’s a “classic” and although I think that it’s fair to say it’s remembered fondly it’s really got nothing to do with the games in the series being good.

Shadow of the Beast and to some extent its two sequels is an example from an earlier era of the phenomenon of the “shop-front game”; the title that was left running on a monitor in attract mode in the window in order to get people to come into the shop and buy the game and, crucially, the machine it was running on (in this case the then-new Commodore Amiga). Beast, even to this day, looks and sounds gorgeous. It’s just a shame that the gameplay is so utterly flawed.

The first title in the series is a game that wanted to be an epic arcade-adventure set in a huge, open fantasy world; that’s very much what it’s clearly trying to be when you start playing. The player character can run either left or right and explore the environment the player has found themselves in which is full of forests, monsters and traps. After a bit of experimentation, though, it becomes clear that there’s only one way you can go in order to get anywhere in the game. And once you get there you’ll quickly discover that it’s like this all the way – run around, find the right swtich, find the right key, keep progressing until you reach a locked door because you didn’t get a key or flip a switch you missed half an hour ago. Gah!

Shadow of the Beast 2 upped the Arcade Adventure aspect and again presented an apparent open world whilst being just as linear and about twice as difficult as its predecessor. The sequel added much more interaction and plot to proceedings and was notorious for featuring a few puzzles which, if not completed correctly, left the player stranded necessitating a restart.

Shadow of the Beast 3 is considered by many to be the best of the bunch introducing levels (which can be played in any order) rather than a fraudulent open world, lives rather than a single energy bar, and some sometimes genuinely brilliant puzzles – more numerous and better than those in Beast 2 – which bring to mind those which appear in the indie arcade adventure LIMBO. Unfortunately, though, unlike LIMBO which allows checkpoints and endless lives to give the player multiple chances to experiment and complete puzzles, messing the puzzle up in Beast 3 means losing a life before you can try it again. Harsh.

So, a pretty and iconic series of videogames, but at the same time bloody infuriating and badly designed. Does this still sound appealing? Then you’ll be delighted to know that a number of enthusiasts are working on porting Shadow of the Beast and its sequels to modern platforms. They’ve attempted to improve gameplay with continues and the ability to save (the latter of which isn’t properly implemented); and only the first game is actually properly playable and completable. Regardless of their legendary flaws there remains something attractive about the Beast games and I’ll admit to sitting down and playing them again for a while and feeling the need to return. Maybe, despite their obviously flawed design, these were games that really do have that special “something” that makes people come back, even 25 years later. Or maybe, y’know, it’s just nostalgia and we all need someone to say “Dad, this game’s rubbish.”

(And if you don’t understand the title of this post then I’m now going to tell you. Ner.)

Midwinter Remake?

14 January, 2014

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good festive period!Image

Something that caught my attention this month was a report about the possibility of the late Mike Singleton’s classic open-world arcade-adventure-cum-strategy game Midwinter being rewritten for modern systems.

It strikes me as a good choice for updating anyway because it was always a game punching a little above the weight of the 16-bit systems it was developed for (erm, if that’s not rather a mangled metaphore). For those who don’t know, Midwinter sees the player in the role of a lone freedom fighter tasked with exploring the land of Midwinter (itself the creation of some kind of environmental catastrophe do-da or something) recruiting people to help him fight the standard evil dictatorship and ultimately bring peace and some semblance of freedom to the frozen country.

What makes it unusual, though, and so likely to be a bit more than just “Skyrim but with guns and gilders” is that gameplay is a mixture of real time and turn-based. The player recruits allies to their cause, performs all of their actions over a certain period of time and then takes control of the allied characters over the same period of time. This would add a whole new layer of strategy whereby, for example, the player moves a sharpshooter into position over a ridge, then leaves them there with the order to fire on enemies before taking control of another character who needs to cross dangerous terrain: now protected by covering fire from the previously-placed character.

Will it be like this? Will we even see it? Who knows, it’s being funded through Kickstarter which worries me as Kickstarter favours the very well known and I worry Midwinter is a little obscure (even Dizzy came a cropper recently). We can but hope, though (and contribute, of course).

You can read a whole lot more about the remake here.

A couple of recs (contains fantasy lasers)

8 June, 2010

The next C64 game up for review is Tai Pan which is why it’s taking so long to appear. Tai Pan, for those who don’t know, is a complex trading game with a bit of RPG thrown in and needs a goodly amount of time spent playing it to understand and appreciate all of its ins and outs and roundabouts (so to speak) so it’s going to be a wee while before I get the thing written up. Until then, I’ve a couple of recommendations for you all.

Hurrah for Hurrican (and his massive weapon)!

First off is a homage to Turrican which came out a few years ago but which somehow passed me by. I’m still trying to decide if I like Hurrican or not. The graphics are excellent and the sound, especially the music, is very much in keeping with the original game. Unfortunately, after the excellent first level, the game starts bringing back rather too many of the original series “features” that should have been left well alone – things like floors that crumble suddenly underneath the player and other irritating traps. They’re slightly better implemented than they used to be, though (you actually seem to have a chance to avoid them this time around) and if you liked the original games then it’s still well worth a shot.

What do you call an entranceway five stories up that's also a scrolling shooter? Hydorah! Thanks.

The other, going by the name of Hydorah and which I found out about thanks to regular reader Gnome, is also a homage title; this time to Gradius and other classic scrolling shooters of the ’80s and ’90s. Early impressions are that it plays pretty-much as well as the games it’s paying tribute to although it might be a bit easy for those more used to the tougher old-school difficulty of the early Gradius titles.

So, give those a shot if you haven’t already (and let me know what you think in the comments) and hopefully I’ll get a review of Tai Pan up here soon (once I’ve actually managed to make a profit probably).

Hurrican can be found at this link here, whereas Hydorah is found here.


3 May, 2009

This is how not to do it.

This is how not to do it.

I have a love-hate relationship with the remakes scene. On one hand, remaking an old game for new hardware is a chance to iron-out the problems and glitches that often plagued games from twenty-odd years ago and make them into something closer to the original designer’s vision. On the other, many games of yesteryear felt “perfect” to their fans and remaking them often unintentionally upsets the gameplay by subtly changing things like the speed or collision-detection making them feel like a bastardisation to the very fans they’re often aimed at. There’s also the question of “bloating” with some games that previously ran on a 3.5mz machine in about 40K of memory now needing 256MB RAM and a P1000 just to get started which begs the question “where did it all go wrong?”. Some remakes are undoubtably worthwhile, though, if likely to still divide people and I thought I’d suggest a few below, in no particular order.

1. Arcadia.

Imagine’s 1982 survival-shooter was one of several good games the Liverpool software house released before succumbing to mediocrity, bad management, encroaching competition and eventually the bailiffs. This 2004 homage, by Peejay’s Remakes, adds trendy modern particle-based explosions as well as up-to-date graphics and sound whilst retaining the same enjoyable gameplay and clever scoring system. You can get it from the Peejay’s Remakes homepage

2. Manic Miner

A tremendous example of “if it ain’t broke…”, Andy Noble’s much admir’d 1999 DOS (ported to Windows and Mac some years later) remake of Matthew Smith’s seminal 1983 platform game barely touched the way the game played (there’s the option to have it move at the same speed as the Spectrum original if needs be) whlist beefing the graphics up to 256 colours (and thankfully not upping the resolution) and giving us an excellent new rendering of “In The Hall of the Mountain King” to accompany the jumping and key-grabbing. All we need now is for someone to do a similar job on the suberb, if sadly relatively-obscure, SAM Coupe version with its plethora of new screens and features… Manic Miner can be downloaded from its page on the Retrospec website.

3. The Ur-Quan Masters

Just one of the ships from The Ur-Quan Masters waiting to blow things up

Just one of the ships from The Ur-Quan Masters waiting to blow things up

In 1992, Accolade published Star Control 2, the sequel to Star Control a game that had enjoyed some success on the 16-bit machines and games consoles. Star Control 2 was released for a much smaller number of platforms (MS-DOS and the 3DO games console) which is a shame as it’s generally (rightly) held to be a far superior game to the original. Whilst Star Control was a mixture of strategy and Space Wars-style shooter, the sequel branched out further into an arcade-adventure which encompassed a collossal galaxy. Although there was a main story to follow involving freeing Earth from its extra-terrestrial overlords the player was pretty much at liberty to do what they felt like, visiting star systems and hoovering-up precious metals and minerals from planets as they saw fit. In August 2002, fans obtained some of the source code from Toys for Bob (the original programmers) and a fan-made port called The Ur-Quan Masters was released for a variety of platforms and is still being updated and tweaked. It can be found at this page here.

4. Pyjamarama

MicroGen’s 1984 arcade-adventure Pyjamarama (named after a Roxy Music song, of all things) was entertaining enough, if not the best example of the genre; but the 2005 remake is well-worth playing because it’s such a great example of what an latter-day homage should be. It manages to improve and update just about everything without putting a dent in the gameplay that made the original work. Download it and see for yourself by going to its entry at the Remakes Zone website.

5. Total Eclipse

In 1987, British software house Incentive released a game called Driller for a number of popular home computers and showed us the future. The game used an engine dubbed “Freescape” which allowed fully-navigable solid-3D landscapes. Although very much a precursor to modern 3D gaming, the relatively slow processing power of then-contemporary computers meant that the game was slow moving and both Driller and the Freescape games which followed it were more puzzle-based than shooter. It’s surprising it took so long for someone to remake a Freescape game and when they did, they decided on 1988’s Total Eclipse, a 1930s-set title based around a race against time to solve the puzzle of an Egyptian pyramid before the eclipse of the title ends the world. The fast processors and smooth 3D of modern machines means that Ovine by Design’s remake feels weirdly sedate and cerebral compared to what we’ve come to expect of first-person gaming but it’s worth playing not only for the fiendish gameplay of the original but the impressive atmosphere created by modern graphics and sound (including the unintentionally funny macho American bloke saying “Uhh, refreshing water!”) and the numerous “secret” areas that Ovine incorporated. It can be downloaded from its page on Ovine’s website.

6. Head over Heels

Retrospec’s remake of Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond’s famous 1987 arcade-adventure caused numerous ripples when it appeared in late 2003. Most were bowled-over by the successful retention of the look and feel of the original (even with the graphics redrawn in high-resolution) and the excellent new additions such as shadows (meaning objects are easier to locate in space) and a save feature cunningly utilising the reincarnation fish of the original; some, however, tutted at the apparent changes to Heels’ speed, the new doorways that jutted into the screen (unlike the “flat” originals) which changed the gameplay, the re-design of Castle Blacktooth, the divisive in-game tune and the loss of the “room entry” jingles. In spite of these problems, this remake is an undoubted labour of love and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the original even though some will doubtless feel it fails to supercede it. Make your own mind up by going to its homepage and downloading it.

7. Sir Fred El Remake

Sir Fred: Who art thou calling "Big Nose"?

Sir Fred: Who art thou calling "Big Nose"?

As with Pyjamarama, this remake by Computer EmuZone of Made In Spain’s (a software house from, erm, Spain) 1986 arcade-adventure is less worth playing because the original was a spectacular example of the genre (although it’s not bad if you don’t mind the tough learning curve) and more because it’s such a good example of how to remake a game. The graphics have been completely redrawn and designed and stick more to the “idea” of the originals rather than the looks and the whole thing has a pleasingly 16-bit feel, as though this is a high-class Amiga version meaning it feels both updated and “retro” at the same time. Why not see what you think by downloading a copy.


12 January, 2009
Yeah, explore that dungeon! Grab that scroll! Pull that lever!

Yeah, explore that dungeon! Grab that scroll! Pull that lever!

I bring you some exciting news (cue ‘exciting news’ music which probably involves a pounding drumbeat and maybe some trumpets). A long time ago (well, 1994) an indie title was released for the Amiga called Knights; not the most inspiring name, I know, but bear with me. This was a two-player game whereby each player took control of a knight in armour and a brightly-coloured cloak (the colour of which could be determined before the game started) and explored a randomly-created dungeon attempting to beat the other player. How the aforementioned beating occured was decided before the game: it could involve just killing the other knight a set number of times, or escaping the dungeon, or retrieving an ancient book written by gnomes or something. There were loads of settings that allowed changes in dungeon size, quest-type, zombie and bat activity (oh, yes, our knightly friends were not alone down there if so desired) and several other things. It was hugely configurable and hugely fun.

There was only one real problem which is that the nature of the game meant that it helped to be unable to see what the other player was doing. The programmer’s solution to this was to split the display down the middle and suggest to the player that they tape a piece of cardboard to their tv/monitor to act as a divider with each player on their respective side of it. This worked, but it wasn’t exactly practical.

But now comes something new, now comes a remake of Knights which, excellently, features network and internet play meaning no more fiddly dividers. This is the best thing, if not ever, then certainly this week. All it really needs is the ability to set up dedicated servers a la many other freeware online games but I’m hoping that will arrive eventually if this takes off. And even if you’re not willing to play online the old two-player option is still in the remake, just find yourself a bit of cardboard and a chum and get, erm, knighting.