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TB 100

They’re Back 100

LucasArts finally notice that there’s a budget market out there. We review.


Adventure games now hold a very strange place in the world of PC frivolity. It’s hard to believe that at one time it was /the/ genre on the platform, with titles coming out at clockwork regularity. There was even a battle between two software houses for who was The Best. Sierra with their Quest series, and LucasArts with their SCUMM series. Were you there? Wasn’t it great?!

The winner in hindsight (and probably at the time as well) is clear – LucasArts’ ability to combine decent comedy with playable puzzles was stronger that Sierra’s more serious and technical approach. From the insanity of Zak Macrakken and the Alien Mind Benders, through Maniac Mansion, and then its ground-breaking sequel Day of the Tentacle, LucasArts presented games with just phenomenal dialogue that genuinely had you laughing out loud. DOTT still remains their best adventure, and the following Sam and Max still holds the crown for being the funniest. And all of this is without mentioning the seminal Monkey Island Quadrilogy.

Grim Fandango appeared at a time when just about every games journalist in the world was holding the wrist of the genre, looking at their watch, and pronouncing it dead. Everyone knew that the company had managed to distract themselves from their Star Wars license for over half and hour, but no one was really expecting something of the incredible quality that arrived.

Risks have been taken, the most significant of which is the removal of a mouse, which in a style that had become known as “point and click” seems a dangerous departure. And to most extents, it works. It’s a slightly irritating niggle that must be grown used to (about twenty minutes) before you are able to relax and discover the serene joy within. It isn’t really possible to label the style of the humour within, but perhaps the words ‘laconic’ and ‘dry’ come close.

The puzzles are wonderful, embracing the traditional surrealist combinations and pseudo-logical methodology, that give LucasArts their distinctive approach, all without losing originality. Faults? Well, it feels too short, but this is probably more of a problem with the knowledge that it’s come to an end. (I like it).


Simply one of the best adventure games …ever.

Jedi Knight + Mysteries of Sith

Star Wars titles have always been a mixed bag. There have been incredible classics, and there have been big, fat poopy messes. When LucasArts announced that they were entering the First Person Shooter market, it’s fair to say people were sceptical.

But when Dark Forces first came out there was much deserved attention – the FPS was young, and this was Star Wars baby. And best of all, it wasn’t cannon to the movies – a completely new story that wasn’t inhibited by Lucas dominating series.

Jedi Knight, and the equally boxed Mysteries of Sith are the sequels to Dark Forces, sort of picking up where the former left off. In the first you take your Jedi friend Kyle through another series of levels to expose and destroy a second wave of more dangerous Dark Side enemies. The second sees you quickly train up and hand over the reigns to a young female Jedi-wannabe, with whom you will spend the rest of the game.

Jedi Knight has the intriguing ability to choose whether you are good or evil. Your actions, and your allocation of force powers, will decide which side of the Force you align yourself, and change the way in which you approach play. However, Mysteries of Sith plants you firmly into the side of the Goodies, instead concentrating on finessing particular powers, and most brilliantly, the use of your light sabre. For a good portion of the second, it’s the only weapon you’ll have, and it becomes a fantastic challenge.

Both games are absolute classics, and if for some reason you never played them, then £15 for the pair is a stunning offer. Go get.



You may be beginning to notice a theme this month. Yes indeed, it’s a bit of a LucasArts moment. And more than that, look at the red numbers all over the pages. It does rather seem that they are rather good. Or rather, that they were rather good, and are at the moment rather worrying, rather. But rather than worry about that, let’s celebrate this.

I’m racking my brain, and I can’t think of another company who have managed to make so many truly great games in so many different genre. Bullfrog may well have had a hey-decade in the 90s, but it’s fair to say that all were of a particular control-freakery style. And the late (sniff) Looking Glass may well have spawned some of the highest ranking scores this esteemed journal has dispensed, but again, find me a non-FPS-based idea.

With Grim demonstrating their mastership of adventure, and Jedi Knight showing their ability within FPS, it is X-Wing Alliance that confirms their title as Champions of Space Combat.

The story runs over 50 levels, telling the tale of a man beginning as a genuine nobody (not even an allegiance to the Rebels or the Empire exists at the start), and his eventual critical involvement in the events that were told in the increasingly confusingly titled Original Trilogy.

The winning recipe is made of two important ingredients: The enveloping and intriguing storyline, and the incredible level of difficulty. The former is linear, but this only adds to its own strength. The latter makes this one of the most challenging games in existence – not for the casual or occasional gamer.

This is certainly the best Star Wars title there is. What can I say to make you buy it? Buy it. That might work.



I feel a little bit silly. I got myself all in a muddle with the arrival of a triple pack of X-Wing games. I’ve already reviewed those ages ago I thought to myself, putting the box into the pile marked “Already Reviewed – Give To Friend To Prevent Further Bullying”. It took a while before I spotted the difference between X-Wing and X-Com.

Which goes some way to explaining my excitement at receiving the previously mentioned X-Wing Alliance. It’s not so often that the budget reviewer gets such advanced copies of major unreleased titles. I’m a very stupid man.

But thankfully, this is no box of tricks to dismiss. Within are three of LucasArts’ all time classic Star Wars titles: X-Wing, Tie Fighter, and X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter. Not only that, but also all their subsequently released mission packs as well. And not only that, but these are the versions that had been re-vamped following their initial release.

Guess what: Not only that, but there’s more. Occasionally older games get a brief update for their budget release, i.e. they ensure that the install procedure isn’t expecting a PC made from leaves and animal skins woven over a twig framework. LucasArts have put that bit more effort in. Each of these games for its Collectors release received a graphical overhaul, and for this pack all the textures and resolutions have been ported from X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter.

The oldest game here may be over seven years old, but after you get to know the personalities within, the age difference will eventually not be an issue. Sure your family may not approve, but you can’t let a small thing like age get in the way of true love.


Curse of Monkey Island
£ 15

My cards. The table. Laid upon. I think that COMI is the weakest of all four Monkey Island titles. Other people disagree. Fortunately this argument is easily settled because I’m right, and they’re wrong.

The first two were and are classics. The original was released in the days before games had speech, and when graphics didn’t have SVGA. These were the days when cars ran on steam, and the pocket calculator could only add up to fifteen. But yet there was a sense of humour there that had never seen the light of computer games. And the second, breaking the rules of all things sequel, was as much fun as the first. Running jokes had been established, and the sense of familiarity with recurring characters meant that the audience was given a sense of being “in” on the deal.

And then came the third. The problem was the man behind the greatness of the first two, Mr Ron Gilbert, was long gone by this point. This meant a brand new team was left to trying and run on with someone else’s joke. As is so often the case in these situations the end result was a mismatch of not quite getting the why the original was funny, and trying too hard to put in new ideas of their own.

But it’s not all bad. Actually, it’s quite good. It’s just not as good as the first two, and it’s very hard not to measure it up against them. The voice casting is excellent, and there /are/ some good gags, especially in the opening sequence, but overall it just doesn’t possess that intangible sense of greatness that enlivened the previous two.


And The Rest

Replay are back like the renegade master, beat goes down, and the power to the people. The people are empowered by Mech Commander Gold (82%). The fun of stomping around in 50ft killer machines that populated Mech Warrior does seem to be rather lost in a top-down game. But no, all is still lovely and fun, as everything goes Command & Conquer on your ass. Like the metallic hulks you boss about, this is a good solid strategy title, and at five pounds isn’t exactly over expensive.

Puzzle Bobble (75%) and Abe’s Exodus (68%) are both games that sit so much straighter-backed on a console machine, but both are converted across to the more powerful cousin neatly and effectively. Just so long as you computer isn’t going to get all huffy about having to play such primitive things. Pretentious bastards, PCs, you know.

More expensively on Best Of is Actua Golf 2 (76%). In its day it was one of the best golf games around, but out of its day it is one of the best cheap golf games around. Ten pounds to you sir.

Lastly for now from LucasArts (rumour has it that there are more on the way soon – wow, the world of budget reviewing is an exciting one. Gossip to hot for even The Spy to handle. Sometimes, with the knowledge I have, I fear for my life) is Rogue Squadron (64% and £15). Unlike the other names that occupy this month’s pages, this isn’t an all-time classic that stays up all night partying. This one probably wet the bed as a child. It’s Diet X-Wing, and hey, look at your figure, you don’t be needing that.