John Walker's Electronic House

TB 115

They’re Back 115

All of the chocolaty goodness of your regular reviews, but with none of the fat! In five delicious flavours.

Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Take Advantage
(all spelling below is correct, despite appearances)

It would not be proper, for some reasons, to trouble the reader with the particulars of our adventures in the last outing of Serious Sam, for my conscience would not suffer me to imitate the bad practice of too many among my brethren. The last of these voyages are not proving very long ago written, by which I got some addition to my fortune. Let it suffice to inform him, that in our passage from thence to the Second Encounter, we were driven by volumous amounts of violence, so very refreshing, so long not seen in such a game.

When I found myself on my feet, I looked about me, and I must confess I never beheld a more entertaining prospect. The country round appeared like a continued garden, and the inclosed fields, which were generally hundreds of feet squared, resembled so many beds of flowers. These fields were intermingled with woods of half a stang, and the tallest beasts, as I could judge, appeared to be seventy feet high. I viewed the town on my left hand, which looked like the painted scene of a city in the throws of further hoards of winged creatures.

Soon after I heard a general shout, with frequent repetitions of the words, /more guns, more aliens/, and I felt great numbers of people on my left side desiring to see the effects of this second outing.

I would not have dwelt so long upon a circumstance, that perhaps at first sight may appear not very momentuous when compared with the previous game, if I had not thought it necessary to justify my character in point of originality to the world; which I am told some of my malingers have been pleased, upon this and other occasions, to call in question.

But because the reader may perhaps be curious to have some idea of the style and manner of this sequel, let it suffice to say that it is more of the same, but without the addition of anything made new. It is in fact with disappointment that this more recent adventure is received, being of too much constant action, and too little of the brain. Little forward ground has been taken in the year betwixt here and before.

Upon these, and the like reasonings, my opinion is, that a deal more work was required afore deserving a Second Encounter. Its health was much impaired by the continual drudgery of entertaining the rabble every hour of the day.


A swift sequel that appears to have gone nowhere in its travels.

Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive
Best Of

In order to write this review I have grown an impressive stubble. It’s good – rough as sandpaper, chiselled edges, and lots of other manly tool-related metaphors. I’ve got a matchstick in the corner of my mount, and I’m wearing an impressively large hat. And you’re really missing out until you see the size of my studs.

Ok, I confess, it’s mostly lies. The stubble part is true, except without all that butch stuff – I was at a folk festival all weekend, and there was nowhere to plug a shaver in. Yes, a folk festival. No, I don’t wet shave. Yes, you’re right – I’m utterly unqualified to remark upon a game featuring such a masculine subject. But dammit man (or woman), I’m the best you’ve got right now, and it seems a shame to put this face-hair to waste.

You begin playing that John Wayne-a-like hero, John Cooper (you’ll notice that many manly people have the name John), all knives and guns. The first few missions see you sending him in after his friends – friends who will later join you and become vital parts of your RTS team. Each of these five buddies have special skills, focussing a great deal upon the more stealthy approaches, which strongly defines the theme of the game. While in many ways similar to Commandos, Desperados has a far more stealth-based method for successful completion of the twenty five missions, but without robbing you of the right of a good old fashioned shootout across the village square. In fact, the great skill of the game is to let you feel as if you are strongly influencing the method by which challenges are completed: the key to a very happy player.

It’s different enough from Commandos to not need to be constantly compared, even though everyone will, but certainly has drawn its inspirations from this more famous series. An injection of masculine for the weediest of cowperson.


Grand Prix 3
Best Of

I’m not Trevor Witt. This can be easily spotted through a number of handy checks. My name is spelt differently, and, as proven to the left, I can’t pull off a manly stubble. Two handy checks. The results are conclusive.

That man knows his Grand Prix games. That man knows his Grand Prix games so well that PC Gamer will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that he is on hand to review any new Crammond release. For Grand Prix 4 he will be flown back from the planet Jupiter where he is currently residing, in a spaceship Kieron and Steve have been building ever since they read the preview. However, he is not on hand to help me here, since my attempts at interplanetary flight always end in embarrassing failure somewhere left of the moon.

Erm. Grand Prix racing is when you get in those really expensive cars that seem to snap far too easily and just drive around and around and around until you eventually pull over to let your more famous, better paid, colleague past you at the finish line, right? Oh, and they have those really cool petrol pumps that fill the tank in seconds. I wish they had those at my local BP, instead of that stupid hair-trigger thing. I wonder if the pit mechanics ever try and get the price to cut off exactly at a round number? That would take some precision…

Well, I can assure you that Grand Prix 3 replicates the above with far greater accuracy than any other racing game available. In fact, I’m very well aware that this is a truly incredible racing simulation, pinpointing every tiny detail to perfection, down to the trees growing beside the tracks. Oh, and something about the mechanics of the cars as well.


Midtown Madness

Chicago is the best place ever. Seriously, you really have to go there. No, you HAVE to. It’s in the contract you signed. It has the best coffee stores (please try The Perfect Cup, just opposite the Damen stop on the Brown Line of the “L” – tell Ann that “the British guy” sent you), the best second hand book stores (Myopic being my favourite, with the coolest basement, subsiding in the Biography section), and the best live music (Empty Bottle I recommend).

None of which appear in Midtown Madness, despite its being set in Chicago. Instead, it sees fit to make do with limiting its realism to recreating the roads of the city. And yet, don’t be mistaken, there’s a lot to be said for this – you can seek out famous landmarks, most importantly the fountain from the opening credits of Married With Children. Oh. Oh yes. There’s a cool game to play too.

Midtown Madness could not be much more unlike the aforementioned Grand Prix 3. Whereas GP3 goes to every length to recreate the accuracy of driving a formula one car, MM pours all such pedantry into a sink, and focuses on a really daft driving game, with its tracks laid out in the middle of a living city.

The idea is to hurtle your way through checkpoints, avoiding obstacles like oncoming traffic, buildings, and the police. And it’s all immensely well executed.

The inevitable however, however, is that a certain someone has rather stolen thunder. GTA3 provides almost as much of a racing-round-a-city simulation, but only as a mere aspect of its much more complicated gaming whole. However, however, however, if you don’t want to be a hardened criminal, murdering crowds in their droves, Midtown Madness is the Microsoftified healthy alternative.


Take Advantage

We don’t like to go on about it, but everyone who writes for Gamer is given a castle. It’s just one of the perks of the job. Yes, we /do/ get paid for playing games. Yes, we /do/ get to keep the games we’ve reviewed. And yes, we /do/ get given a castle when we’ve been writing on the magazine for three months. It’s no big deal really, and fairly standard in the industry. Everyone on Format gets a country house, at Edge they get a palace, and at Official X-Dreamstation they get a bouncy castle to play on, so long as they take of their shoes and don’t push.

So it is with some interest that Stronghold is greeted – how accurately will it recreate our spare time? And the answer is, remarkably well.

In order to run an efficient castle, it’s important to have the local peasants working nice and hard. You’ll need some farming, in order to make bread, in order to feed the people chopping down the trees to get wood for others to build with. The usual peasantry story. You then need to design your castle in such a way as to ensure it can withstand any enemy attack. You can’t put your guard towers just anywhere, eh Jim! Ho ho, just a little in-joke there.

The management of your peasants, and the balance of the positioning of things to make the locals happy – gardens, amenities, etc, are all very important in the running of a successful castle, and make up most of what Stronghold is all about. And hey, we all know how true that is, despite how boring it can become in the long term.

The other lovely thing here is the added opportunity of playing “Siege” mode, where you can attempt to storm another’s castle, avoiding traps, boiling oil, and all the other bits and bobs that Matt keeps for himself so that he always wins.

The most accurate portrayal of our daily lives your money can buy.


And The Rest

Despite its being some sort of Septembery-Octobery time of year, we’re still very much stuck in the games drought of the summer. It’s a combination of time-travel, dark majjicks, and Ross’ setting my deadlines so incredibly early in the month to ensure some hope of They’re Back’s being in on time to go to print. So there still aren’t such numbers of budget games being released to enable easy throw-aways in this delightfully green column.

However, Microsoft’s recent deal with Xplosiv means there are a few oldies appearing out of their patented, copyrighted, copy-protected cupboards. Microsoft Flight Simulator ’98 was hugely popular in, er, 1998. It cost about five billion pounds at the time, and everyone bought it because it was so completely accurate (read: no fun at all). To be played properly it really required those ridiculous foot pedals you could buy, which when mastered qualified you for a pilot’s license. It’s now four years old, and it shows. A generous 45%, and it will be either five or ten pounds, just as soon as Xplosiv can make their minds up.

The other is Links LS Classic, which is, of course, a golf game. You may have been fooled in the past, but all golf games are rubbish. In no way does pulling a mouse back and forth in any way simulate the act of playing the spine-damaging nonsense. You are only fooling yourself. 70% and a similarly vague price tag.

Ha! Two They’re Backs in on time in a row. That should scare them.