PC DOS D-G

Alien Brigade – By Atari

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 Descent – By Interplay

What do you get when you cross a FPS with a spaceship simulator? The answer is “Descent”. You see, the mining robots in the Solar System have malfunctioned. A mercenary with a spaceship gets hired. The game has 30 levels (3 of them secret) spread across various moons, asteroids and planets. Level completion involves destroying the mine's reactor and escaping quickly through the exit. Optionally, you can rescue the hostages. Certain levels a “boss robot” needs defeating. Different weaponry types abound, those run on energy (with a few exceptions), replenish that from either the expended “orbs” from destroyed robots or at the “energy centres” inside the mines. Shields are available, restore those with “shield orbs”. The key thing here is the 3D environment. It really puts things into a spin – if you forgive the pun. Having 6 degrees of movement takes some getting used to, and makes getting lost very easy, but don't worry there is a map function. Numerous controller options are available, including an option for utilising 2 analogue joysticks. There are multiplayer options for serial link-up (for 2 players) or LAN play (maximum of 8 players allowed), including several gameplay modes (e.g. deathmatch, co-operative play, etc.). A software render is used for the 3D effect, as it was before 3D cards were available. Scrolling is quite fluid. Visually it looks dated, not helped by low resolution textures and a limited set of the VGA colour palette being used. The sound effects are decent. Catchy music appears in the game. In many ways it missed an opportunity, having a greater degree of movement in a FPS game's environment might have lead to more innovation in PC gaming. For now though, get some travel sickness tablets and prepare entry into the world of “Descent”!

Review by Katzkatz

8/10

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 Dune - By Virgin Games

Inspired by Frank Herbert's famous series of books, this game takes you into the world of “Dune”. Most of the characters from the books appear in this. Their appearances are clearly influenced by the ill-fated film adaptation. The game is a rather curious mixture of adventure and real time strategy. It tends not to get the attention that it more famous sequel game gets, that's a shame! You take on the role of Paul Atreides, who is the heir apparent to the “House of Atreides”. Your task is to set your family up with collecting the spice “Melange”. This stuff has very special properties, it can be used for space travel and more besides. Collect the spice and ship it off to the Emperor on a regular basis. Paul has to gather support from the local “Fremen” population, who will provide a useful workforce for his family. Later on as the story progresses, you will come into contact with your nemesis – the “House of Harkonnen”. This is where the game tends to turn to the strategy side a bit more. You then turn your Fremen into army by training them and engaging in battle. There are twists and turns along the way in the storyline, as well as many new characters and technologies to discover. All of this helps keep you enthralled. The VGA graphics are nicely rendered, with the exception of the tactical screens which are quite blocky. The game's control interface can be a little unwieldy at times. The music is very atmospheric. There is a CDROM version with slightly improved graphics and a speech pack available as well. See for yourself where the Dune saga began its journey into the gaming world.

Review by Katzkatz

8/10

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 Dungeon Hack – By Strategic Simulations Inc.

Are you a fan of Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, or one of the many real-time first person RPG's that were released throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s? Are you big enough of a fan that you’d play a game that would generate an infinite number of dungeons for you to adventure through? Well, here’s the game for you! What Dungeon Hack basically does is take the Dungeons & Dragons license, along with the mouse-driven interface of Eye of the Beholder, and puts it into a new game that generates its own levels. From the start, you can choose to either pick from a selection of pre-made adventurers, or make your own, selecting their race, class, and statistics. Then you get to decide what kind of dungeon you want to generate, picking from options that’ll determine how deep it is, how tough the monsters are, or how many traps you’ll find, or if you’ll encounter any undead along the way, just to name a few. You also have the option to enable permadeath for an extra challenge, which means that if your character dies, they’re erased from the disk permanently. The choice of options is great if you happen to really good or really terrible at RPG’s, since you’re free to tell the game exactly what you want to see or not see. Once you’re finished, you’ll enter the dungeon with the adventurer you selected, trying to find your way to the bottom of the dungeon while fighting monsters and collecting new loot. The game makes its own map for you, too The interface is pretty simple to get a hold of, since you can perform all actions with just a few mouse clicks. You pick things up by clicking on them and dragging them into your inventory, and you attack with a weapon by right clicking the icon for it. The main issue with the game is that it can be pretty tough to get into if you’re a newcomer to D&D. The manual does a good job of explaining things, sure, giving useful advice like how to best use certain spells, along with explaining what exactly a THAC0 is. But this is definitely a game meant for the D&D fans. And if you happen to be one, this game will be great for you. But if you aren’t, the constant wandering, same-ish looking dungeon floors, and lack of action might make this one a little harder to recommend.

Review by Bobinator

6/10

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 Eric The Unready – Legend Entertainment

Text adventures have come a long way. We started off with the olden days of Colossal Cave, before moving on to mounds and mounds of Scott Adams and his badly written crap. And then there were the golden days of Infocom, a company who’s advanced parser and writing skills could tell stories like never before. And in the twilight days of the genre, we’ve got this, the biggest, baddest text adventure of them all. You play as Eric, the most incompetent knight the entire kingdom has to offer. You’re sent on a mission to find and kiss the farmer’s daughter who’s been turned into a pig, because that’s the only job your superiors feel you won’t screw up spectacularly. There’s much more to it than that, with a conspiracy involving a kidnapped princess and an evil stepmother. Don’t think this game takes itself too seriously, though, especially since you’ll be looking for sacred artefacts like “The Raw Steak of Eternity”. The game actually has a very Python-style sense of humour, and if that’s your kind of thing, you’ll probably love this. Even despite its difficulty. A lot of the puzzles aren’t obvious if you aren’t great with the genre, and you’re constantly timed to figure out the solution. On the bright side, you’ve got a lot of help from the interface. There’s a full auto-map, Monkey Island-style conversation trees, a mouse interface that lets you click the verbs and objects you want to use, and even a 256-color picture of the area you’re currently in. The parser is excellent, with responses for nearly everything you can think of. Want to ‘blow farmer’? Yes, the game will let you try, and it’ll give you a unique joke just for that situation. If you can handle the difficulty, Eric the Unready is one of the best ways to send off the text adventure genre.

Review by Bobinator

8/10

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 Extreme Pinball – By Electronic Arts

There are a lot of pinball games for the PC, including some excellent ports of 21st Century’s games, like Pinball Fantasies and Pinball Dreams. This particular might not be as well known as those, but it’s still definitely worth trying if you’re a fan of pinball. You’ve got four unique tables, each with their own goals to accomplish for extra score. There’s not a whole lot this game does that’s especially new, compared to games like the Pro Pinball series, but what it does have is very well polished. There’s some nice artwork on the tables, a dot matrix display that shows videos of different events, and a great MOD soundtrack. It also has a near perfect level of difficulty, not quite hard enough you’ll get too frustrated enough to keep trying, but addicting enough that you’ll want to go back and improve on your score. It might not replace Pinball Dreams for some people, but it’s still a worthy addition to anybody’s collection of pinball games.

Review by Bobinator

7/10

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 Fast Food – By Codemasters

Honest confession, here: None of the Dizzy platformers ever gelled with me. So, I’d probably go ahead and say this is my favourite Dizzy game. It’s apparently barely even a Dizzy game at all, being a Pac-Man game that just barely avoided having a British fast food license attached to it. That’s not to say it’s not an enjoyable game if you happen to be into Pac-Man style games, though. Basically, you control Dizzy, the giant, anthropomorphic egg thing, who wanders around mazes trying to eat all the food while avoiding the monsters. One of the food items includes a roasted chicken, which raises a lot of questions that the game will never answer. The major difference between Fast Food and Pac-Man, however, is that the food items will actually move around the maze, which can make it a little harder than it needs to be to actually grab them. You won’t find any power pellets, either, although you will find the occasional power-up floating around the maze you can pick up. These do things like slowing down or speeding the game up, or making Dizzy go faster. The further in you get, the more aggressive the monsters get, but the game’s nice enough to give you an extra life after certain levels. These extra lives come with a quick intermission, which, while not hugely entertaining, are enough of a motivation to try to get to the end. You’re going to need these extra lives, too, since the monster s keep getting aggressive with no way to really hold them off like Pac-Man had. You’ll want to preserve, though, to see what new maze design you’ll come across next, like parks, mazes made of Lego blocks, and shopping centres. There’s also a rather catchy music track as you play, although, rather annoyingly, it’s only one of two in the game. Fast Food isn’t quite as addictive or timeless as Pac-Man, but it’s worth playing if you’re into the genre.

Review by Bobinator

7/10

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 Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist – By Sierra On-Line

One of the many Sierra games that never left its native PC format, Freddy Pharkas is a game brought to you by the creator of Leisure Suit Larry, Al Lowe. Unlike Larry, though, your goal is a bit more noble: Strange things are going on in the Wild West town of Coarsegold, and only Freddy and his medicinal skills can solve them before it becomes a ghost town. Using your standard set of icons to interact with the world, like walk, touch, look, and talk to, you’ll explore Coarsegold, find new inventory objects, and solve puzzles with them. There are also points where you’ll need to make different kinds of medicines by following the directions out of the manual, which feels more like busywork than an actual puzzle. There are also plenty of characters to interact with, like Srini, Freddy’s Indian sidekick. And we’re not talking Native American here, he’s literally from India. Most of the puzzles are fairly logical, although you might find yourself needing a guide once or twice to figure everything out. Death isn’t quite as common as other Sierra games, but it is very possible, so you’ll want to make sure you keep your game saved. The payoff for all this hassle is probably one of the funniest adventure games ever made, with a lot of silly situations and dialogue. Pretty much everything you do will get some sort of response, like using one of your inventory items on another. If you keep an eye out, you might even meet Larry’s grandfather! Overall, if you can handle the constant risk of death, Freddy Pharkas just might be one of the best Sierra adventures you’ll play.

Review by Bobinator

8/10

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 FX Fighter – By GTE Entertainment

Fighting games were a relatively rare thing to see on DOS, and if you want a 3D one, you've got about two choices: Battle Arena Toshinden, which is awful, and this. So, there’s this evil alien named Rygil, who’s using his planet to blow up other planets. The only way to stop him is to select one of eight fighters, beat your way through the competition, and then attempt to beat down Rygil for control of his ultimate weapon. You’ve got an interesting mix of characters to select from, such a mantis, a lava monster, a cat woman, and a robot. They all feel mostly distinctive, with some characters focusing more on combos, some with more emphasis on single strikes and some who work better as grapplers. Much like Virtua Fighter, you’ve got one button for punching, and another for kicks. Unlike VF, or any other fighting game ever made, to block you hold back and punch, which really isn’t an intuitive design decision at all. Also taken from VF are the ring outs, where if somebody ends up falling out of the edge of the ring they instantly lose the match. Overall it plays pretty decently although not as smoothly or as quickly as Sega or Namco’s efforts. One major issue is that if you’re playing the arcade mode the AI can get pretty brutal, even on the lower difficulties. The 3D graphics, for the time, are rather impressive especially considering the rather low system requirements. The characters look a bit blocky these days but they aren’t entirely devoid of detail. The Redbook soundtrack however is pretty decent, especially Cyben’s theme. Overall, this game gets points for being one of the few 3D fighters on DOS, but it’s still not especially great.

Review by Bobinator

7/10

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 God of Thunder – By Adept Software

From the guys who brought you Jetpack and Squarez Deluxe comes this Norse-themed arcade adventure. Loki, the god of mischief, has taken over Midgard, land of the mortals. As Thor, son of Odin and god of thunder, it’s up to you to find and defeat Loki and his two minions: Jormangund, the serpent, and Nognir, lord of the underworld. At first glance, you might imagine this game plays a lot like the Zelda series. That’s not quite the best comparison, although the game has a few features in common, with Zelda. There are characters you can talk to for information, and you can find items that help you progress further in the game. GOT generally has a faster pace to it, however, and the game tends to be far more linear. The path you need to take is usually pretty obvious and there aren’t too many detours on the way there. There’s also a lot more focus on puzzles or hitting magic orbs to raise and lower obstacles in your path. You’ll also need gems to grease certain palms, keys to open gates, and magic to power your magic items. There’s also plenty of monster fighting as Thor has his magic hammer, which returns to him no matter where you throw it. The game can be tricky but it’s kind enough to let you try again at the start of the screen you died on as many times as you want. The goofy dialogue is also worth playing the game for. Try asking the bridge (and TV, apparently) repairman to fix your dental bridge. The music sounds great, and the use of digitized sound effects really gives the game a professional, almost console-like feel to it. If you’re into arcade adventures that require a little more thought to them, God of Thunder is your game.

Review by Bobinator

8/10

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