John Walker's Electronic House

TB 120

They’re Back 120

Star Trek Action Pack vs Star Trek Collection
Activision vs Empire
£20 vs £20

This is very silly. About a year ago – is it really a year? my goodness me – The Beta Band cancelled the release of one of their singles, ‘Squares’, that used a distinctive sample from ‘Daydream’ by the Gunther Kallman Choir, because of a single released at the same time by I-Monster, ‘Daydream in Blue’, that used a distinctive sample from ‘Daydream’ by the Gunther Kallman Choir. Despite their being different songs, there wasn’t room for both in the charts, and certainly not on the radio, at the same time. They both contained too many similarities.

Star Trek Action Pack – Ingredients: Star Trek Elite Force, Elite Force Expansion Pack, Star Trek Armada, Star Trek Armada II. Price: £20.

Star Trek Collection – Ingredients: Star Trek Away Team, Star Trek Hidden Evil, Star Trek Elite Force, Star Trek Armada. Price: £20.

What on earth is going on? Which one should you buy? How is it that two companies have simultaneous rights to sell the exact same game? Who’s making lots of money here? (Ross is).

Firstly, their common ground: Elite Force and Armada. The former is easy to deal with – it’s great. And interestingly, it’s not appeared in They’re Back before now. It’s the only decent FPS to have been made in the franchise, and was one of the first games to use the Quake III engine to its potential (unlike, for instance, Quake III). Although too short, and perhaps too easy, it’s plot driven, and very well designed. The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for Armada, which is but a mediocre RTS barely using its Star Trek clothing, and nothing to get excited about.

/Action Pack/ also offers us the Elite Force add-on pack, that didn’t really add-on a great deal, concentrating mostly on the uninspiring multiplayer levels, and Armada’s equally lacklustre sequel. Which doesn’t whet too much of an appetite.

However, /Collection/ throws in the better than average (and recently They’re Back’d) Hidden Evil – adventure gaming with the Next Gen. crew, and the completely uninventive but also better than average Away Team – fairly standard RTSing with tricorders and big guns. And in doing so, it wins.

Neither stands out, beyond offering Elite Force at a slightly reasonable price, but one is, well, better than average. It’s not the world’s most exciting conclusion, I admit. The answer? Buy the new Flaming Lips album – far better than The Beta Band, or I-Monster.

Star Trek Action Pack – 70%
Star Trek Collection – 75%

Either way, a stupid way to buy Elite Force on budget.

Silent Hunter II

Look at the titles this month. The phrase “scraping the bottom of the barrel” can’t be too far from that tell-tale thought bubble emitted from the top of your head. Normally it’s possible to at least find one or two games that make it look as if Budget Life is worth living, but this month is so mind-numbingly mediocre that it’s barely possible to dredge the will to write about it. The biggest name games are only featured in “And the rest” thanks to Sold Out’s releasing them all five minutes after the previous distributor, and hence their being too freshly reviewed. Like the late great Bill Hicks would say, let’s plaster on a fake smile and plough through this crap one more time.

What is the deal with submarine obsession? When did sinking metal tubes get so ridiculously romanticised, to the point where legions of films, books, and games manage to be set in their silly, claustrophobic insides? And let’s focus most of this wrath and scorn at the ‘games’ section of stupidity. Flight sims are rubbish – we all know that. Submarine sims are like flight sims, except with the trace elements of fun extracted with extreme precision. In a flight sim, you can pretend to be flying fast, zooming through the sky at the helm of your barely rendered cockpit. In a submarine sim you trundle through the waves like an aqua-C5, capable of turning around in well under a week.

Silent Hunter II is something worse – a sub-standard (oh, please, my sides, I’m King of Funny) submarine simulation, with dreadful graphics, uninspired levels, and watery-weak AI from the enemies.

If there were any fun to be had in playing a naval simulation aboard an oversized cigar tube, Silent Hunter II cleverly manages to ensure that there’s absolutely no hope of proving it here.


Descent 3
Sold Out

I have something of a soft spot in my heart for Descent 3. It’s nothing to do with its being an especially good game – it’s not, but more to do with the original review that appeared in these pages past.

Back in ish 72 when this was first reviewed, Kieron wrote a two page “Dear John” letter to the franchise, breaking up with the series forever, after the spark of their romance was lost. It was a review unlike any other I had read, and it made me realise something life changing: I can write completely incoherent nonsense like that. And the rest, as no one says, is history.

Some might argue that using a budget games reviews section to write self-indulgent bilge such as the above could be poor journalism. They might go on to point out that this very sentence is only further exacerbating the situation, and question my validity in having the responsibility of reviewing budget games at all. And I say to them, “thank you for allowing a beautiful symmetry to develop, in the existence of this game being the inspiration for my writing here, and the potential destruction of my career.”

It’s a sort of floaty first person shooter in a space ship. Levels are all about blowing up the right sorts of things in the right orders, finding keys for the right doors, and the rush to get out before the entire base explodes. It’s all from a time long ago, when FPS’s were about finding keys and blowing things up in the right order, which is something we’ve thankfully evolved beyond. And the desire to return to these old skool ways is surprisingly low. Such gaming no longer cuts it.

There’s little to recommend, beyond some very dated arcade shooting, which is far better achieved with something like Forsaken.


Soldier of Fortune

There’s an awful lot about Soldier of Fortune that stinks. And like with all our stinks, we go to a lot of measures to cover up that smell with metaphorical, and non-metaphorical air fresheners. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but after a while, no matter how fragrant your bathroom spray may be, its smell soon becomes utterly associated with the stench it is supposed to be disguising. And eventually, all you need do is smell your Lilac Breeze, to find your brain recognising the less than pleasant eau du poo.

Soldier of Fortune reminds me of poo. No matter how many arguments are used about the game’s developments in NPC skin damaging, expansive levels, or impressive scenarios, it’s very hard to protect ones nose from the odour of pro-American, anti-Middle East pop-patriotism, and some frankly racist design.

For those who never knew, SoF has you adopt the role of crazed lunatic (read: Vietnam vet) John Mullins, whose job is to go around poor countries, killing the terrorists the Americans had put there and funded in the first place. And he can do this in truly grotesque ways, allowing you to shoot noses off, remove limbs, shattering bones; engaging in all sorts of forms of illegal torture and war crime.

And if such lefty-libbo attitudes do nothing for you, perhaps the foul aromas can be invoked thanks to the quickly tiresome levels, losing their initial thrill thanks to repetitive gaming and some truly dreadful enemy AI.

Perhaps it’s not that bad. Perhaps the scope of the levels, and their real world settings are impressive. And perhaps the imagination that has gone into the combat deserves some credit. But for many, this just cannot hide the bum pie contents that permeate their green fumes through the entire project.


Sega Marine Fishing
Sega Bass Fishing


When Sega Marine/Bass Fishing were sold on the now dead Dreamcast console, it came with the most imaginative, the most ridiculous, and the most phenomenally stupid looking peripheral ever created. As much of a lie as it truly sounds, Dreamcast owners could buy themselves a… plastic fishing rod.

It plugged into the machine, and using the majjicks of force-feedback allowed the player to actually fight with, and reel in, their water bound prey. Imagine how fantastically stupid people must have looked as they played, rolling back and forth with that vacuum formed lump in their mitts. Especially when you take it into account that they were using this over-priced stick to play A FISHING GAME.

However, the location of face laughter needs to be amended by a full 180 degrees in light of this PC conversion. Now, instead of a uniquely designed, vibrating, realism-feeding device with which to simulate the hooking of our piscine friends, the PC gamer is left holding Mr and Mrs Mouse and Keyboard, and a sinking feeling with no colourful lure.

The original console version was never an attempt to claim fishing as some sort of extreme sport, but instead set out to capture the combination of serene peace, interspersed with frenzied killing, that makes fishing the popular pastime it is for so many. That the moments of action were met with an attempt at balancing your rod-like activities is something we can only stare at in jealousy, as we find ourselves pressing keys in a manner about as effective as going down to a river and try to bat the fish out of the water with your keyboard.

Still, nevermind eh? Since this is A FISHING GAME, and the desire to play such a thing is a gold pass to your local Theme Asylum, allowing you to skip all the queues, and be tied to a white bed within the hour.


And The Rest

Like the man whinged in the Silent Hunter II review (and he is a /man/), this month’s best titles appear in this month’s grossly green block. Thanks to the games either having appeared on budget far too recently, or having been released far too long ago, it can’t be justified giving them an entire column. Oh, and that I can’t think of any decent concepts to use with them a second time. I mean, just look at the lacklustre nature of this month’s jokes as they are – it’s hardly inspirational stuff.

Sold Out are putting out MDK2 for their regular £5. This is Bioware’s sequel to Shiny’s original (the game that invented the in-game sniper-rifle no less), which is a funny, gorgeous, and brilliantly designed platform game/action strategy, using involving puzzles and some really daft scenarios. It’s fantastic, it’s very big, and it’s only £5. That’s the same as buying five things that cost £1 each. Perspective. 85%.

Also the delayed Ground Control and Fallout 2 should be yours to buy by now for a fiver each. See, three good names already.

Xplosiv have remarkably dug out Diablo, which originally appeared in Gamer in ish 40. Probably back then, three years into the magazine, they thought they were at the top of their game. Silly funny old people. Diablo is so ridiculously old that it almost becomes irrelevant how good or bad it may have been on release (it was average), since it’s only any use to those ruled by the ruins of Retro. £5 and 51%.

Next month – better games, better jokes. We promise.