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TB 112

They’re Back 112

Sold Out

I believe there was quite a fight to be the first label to release this one on budget. All the companies gathered in a large arena. Focus Multimedia had enormous axes which they span impressively above their heads. Best Of opted for the spears and daggers approach – good for long and short range – a nice choice. Xplosiv surprised everyone by using knivs and (quick, someone think of another weapon that ends “-ve” or this joke won’t work). But it was the tactics of Sold Out that saw victory.

Their cunning plan was to release hundreds and hundreds of poorly animated mosquitoes and frogs into the arena, until all the others got so utterly fed up of the battle that they went home and had some cakes. Genius.

I’m not sure if there’s anything more annoying than stupid flapping creatures all stupidly flapping around one’s face. Like moths. Horrid little stupid flapping evil cretinous beasts. Swat them. Swat the moths. And everything else that stupidly flaps in your face. And there, in just the third paragraph of a worryingly disjointed review, is the solution to the ugly problem that makes up the opening scenes of Ion Storm’s great disaster – the first weapon should have been an enormous fly swat. Then, /then/, you’d have had a game.

And it is of course with stupid flapping mosquitoes and stupid jumping frogs that Daikatana greets the player – possibly the most irritating opening to an FPS of All Time. Which is a small shame as things do improve later on. It’s just that the chances of your wanting to hang around to find out are incredibly slim. It’s very hard to explain quite how annoying the first few levels of Daikatana are without your playing them, and there’s no way I can possibly suggest that you should consider playing them. So instead I suggest you do something that is equally irritating but without losing you £5: Sit in an uncomfortable chair and have someone hit you in the face with a newspaper for an hour.


While the level design certainly improves later on, and while the enemies do become less extraordinarily irritating, their AI doesn’t really improve, and the dreadfully out of date graphics in the Quake 2 engine really do make you wonder if Mr Romero quite knew what he was doing when he left id. One of PC gaming’s legendary flops.


Stupid flappy flappy stupidness. Flappy. And stupid.

Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption

John: The Reviewer: They’re Back.

Perhaps it is a bad omen when games have such ridiculously complicated titles. If you allow yourself some luxury time to consider the names of your favourite games, you’ll notice that most of them have nice, short, succinct titles. If you look at the sorts of games that have not just one, but two subtitles, for a reason as yet unexplained by scientists, you’re not nearly so likely to have a sure-fire hit on your hands.

However, one really does have to resort to this tenuous hair-thin warning sign that Vampire: The Mascara: Retention might not work, as all signs pointed towards its being a completely fabulous, awe-inspiring, time consuming, awesome game. It has everything going for it. It’s about vampires, and vampires, as we all know well, are inherently cool. It’s an innovative approach to RPG, changing the party stylee, and focussing on the narrative (which as all Good People knows is the way to Happiness), created by a breakaway team from LucasArts. And it’s based on the very successful Vampire: The Masquerade pen and paper game with full licence, giving it an elaborate and detailed background, and perhaps even more importantly, an already loyal fan base.

So with all that going for it, why does the tone of these words suggest a neon lit “HOWEVER” flashing annoyingly before your eyes?

It just lacks magical gaming glue – the substance that holds all great games together. The story is complex, but shabby. The graphics are gorgeous, but make movement awkward. The difficulty is there, but it’s imbalanced. All this promise, all this history, all this effort, and an extraordinarily dedicated and talented development team at Nihilistic – but no magical gaming glue.

However (oh, look), as a multiplayer game, the potential is huge. Think of it as a framework in which to build your own game, and you’re onto a winner. Otherwise, you’re onto a fifth place.


Rollercoaster Tycoon
Best Of

Of all the ideas that should never work, running your own theme park is number 3. Much like all those things that look so fabulously attractive from the outside, the reality of getting involved reveals the depth of hard work or tedium that is actually involved. The dream of working in the circus is usually the harsh reality of cleaning up elephant poo. The decidedly cool idea of working in a second hand record store as depicted in the cinema is usually the disappointment of arranging Tasmin Archer CDs into alphabetical order. And I would imagine that running a theme park is mostly pricing the burgers and ensuring that the bins are empty.

Which is why it’s remarkably strange that games like Theme Park and Rollercoaster Tycoon actually feature pricing the burgers and ensuring that the bins are empty.

The difference between the two of course is that one made it fun to price and empty, while the other made it feel like work. And by fortuitous coincidence I’m reviewing the fun one.

Rollercoaster Tycoon’s selling point is the glorious joy of creating your own coaster with an intuitive system. You click it into reality, and then sit back to find out whether your track design is going to result in the brutal slaughter of formally giggling children. And then thanks to the grudge-bearing nature of humanity, a drop in profits at your park. Or will it merely make everyone feel so sick that you have to employ more cleaners?

It works. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but it does. It’s an all-nighter, every-nighter. One of those games that makes you look at your clock, and then look at your calendar.

Oh, and the other two ideas? 2. Biscuit Dunking Simulator. 1. Driving Licence: The Written Exam.


I-War 2: Edge of Chaos
Best Of

I love the melodrama of game names. “Edge of Chaos”. What exactly does it mean? Chaos, right, is the “the disordered state of unformed matter and infinite space”. And like, the edge of something, right, is like, being on the verge of it, right? So where is it? Almost disordered? Mostly ordered, but a little unformed? Not quite infinite? A little bit infinite, and if only it were a bit more, it’d be there.

It’s the sort of title that shouldn’t be said without someone else shouting, “BUM BUM BUUUUUM”. In fact, if possible, it’s important to always have someone else with you to provide dramatic music for your words.

The title gives nothing away, so I’ll have to tell you that this is a space simulator. Obviously and accurate space simulator would consist of a black screen, with no controls, no sound, and most importantly, asphyxiation. For this alternate product, merely ensure that your computer is switched off, and then hammer away uselessly at the keyboard while your dramatic music providing friend remains utterly silent, but seals a plastic bag over your head. (/Don’t put a plastic bag over your head – Mum/).

However, this is a slightly more fantastical space simulator in the Elite mould of things. You fly, you shoot, you trade. You don’t shoot the people you trade with. You don’t trade with the people you shoot. It’s simple, and yet so complicated.

Less detailed than Elite, but more complex than X-Wing, I-War 2 is filling in that middle ground for those who want an impressively detailed galaxy in which to play, without it feeling like the coursework for a degree. It falters in the keyboard controls, but more than makes up for it by just being a darned solid game.


International Cricket Captain: The Ashes Edition 2001

When I was at school, the gym teachers had favourites. As extraordinary as this might seem, I wasn’t one of them. The bias towards the favourites was extraordinary, and I swear to you, completely true. For football, the favourites were taken to play on a pitch, and the rest of us were told to kick around between plastic cones. For rugby the same. And for cricket, the favourites were taken off to the stumps and taught to play, while the rest of us were sent off to the nets and left alone for an hour.

So for a few years, cricket to me meant sitting on the grass and having a chat. Little did I know how close this was to the reality of the game. It’s just they spend more time standing than sitting.

The ICC games remove even the presence of the nets from the amount of cricket you get to play, leaving you purely in a management position. So they in fact remove everything /except/ the chatting. And if you don’t like cricket, just quite how fast asleep are you by now? However, if you do, stick with this.

ICC: TAE 2001 contains accurate team information for the start of last year’s Ashes series, and lets you manage your way through the entire tournament. But it does so much more than that as well. It allows you to play a series as any of the test nations, and even to play as an English county side with the hope of being just the best county captain there ever did me, and hence earn your way to international cricket captaining glory.

Although it will clearly never hold the appeal of Championship Manager (for some sport called “football”), ICC is just as detailed and as intricate as the more popular cousin. Certainly a specialist interest, but a specialist at it.


And The Rest

Sold Out are on another of their blitzes. A whole bunch that have recently been featured in They’re Back are back once more, this time all for the ever reasonable fiver. They include the car driving entertainment of TOCA 2 (83%) and Insane (80%), but much more excitingly a couple of big name games at that ludicrously low price…

Severance: Blade of Darkness is the first, which is a gloriously violent, blood-laden fest of death and limb removal. The sort of thing you’ll want to show your grandparents. It’s a little repetitive, but enormously fun, and earns a big, warm, and friendly 89%.

The other is Thief 2: The Metal Age, which is, as we all know, one of the best games in the world, and is from the mind of the creator of the best game in the world. Although it is rather let down by its not often mentioned, mushroom inspired, silly monkey madness level, it’s still completely compelling and engrossing stuff. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, it’s 90%.

Xplosiv are also joining in with the five pounds thing, putting out a couple more. There’s Quake 2 for a fiver, but since the source code has been released under the GNU Product License, there’s not much point in buying it any more. But more interestingly, is Civilisation 2: Call To Power, which is ages old now, but still a fine game. Of course completely usurped by Civ III, it’s only five pounds, and gets a hefty 88%.

Off you pop.