John Walker's Electronic House

TB 135

They’re Back 135

I love budget. Best of all the market share. I love budget. It’s my friend.

PCG 111

Morrowind’s ‘natural’ class selection system is an inspiration. Or an exasperation. Depending upon whether you edit this magazine or not.

1. When you see the letters ‘RPG’, do you
a) run far away with your arms flailing behind you;
b) wonder about Really Pointy Gnomes and what it could possibly mean;
c) don your +12 Helmet of Brutal Majesty and cast a Spare Time Spell

2. On learning that Morrowind develops skills chosen at the start of the game, instead of an experience point system, do you
a) look at the ceiling, and then pretend you left a bath running;
b) ponder how exactly you could get more experienced in the art of pointing anyway;
c) begin three weeks of research into benefits of thievery skills?

3. Discovering that this role playing game uses first person perspective, do you
a) raise an eyebrow, before noticing that there are no less potions for it;
b) start trying to figure out how you would make a second person perspective game;
c) look up at your Ultima Underworld shrine and weep a fond, gentle tear?

4. You can roam the game at your own leisure or join one of the twelve guilds. What do you choose to do?
a) attempt to discover how much custard you can pour into your floppy drive before the PC spectacularly explodes;
b) start thinking about the gnomes again;
c) begin browsing for B&Bs in the Vvardenfell area, keeping an eye out for National Heritage buildings.
5. To ignore all the guild-specific quests, and to only complete the main quest, would take at least 80 hours. Your response is
a) WHAT?! What is WRONG with you people? Seriously, look at yourselves;
b) how pointy are these gnomes exactly?
c) well, thank goodness there are the sub-quests then, as I hadn’t realised it was only a mini-game.

6. You are told that Morrowind, despite being very impressive, does lack the necessary atmosphere to be a classic. Quests are repetitive, and NPCs are uninspired in their conversations. It may be big, but it isn’t constantly brilliant. Your thought is
a) I can’t believe I sat through this;
b) Not Pointy Creatures?;
c) I don’t care what you say, it’s only £10 and it’s an RPG. Point me towards a shop.

Mostly a’s: Stop hurting me. Mostly b’s: Look! Shiny paper! Mostly c’s: You do look good in that hat.


Impressively large, but occasionally lacklustre. Short of ‘epic’.

Tomb Raider: Chronicles
Sold Out
PCG 90

Nine issues ago, the budget release of Chronicles was pronounced from the rooftop of these very pages, beginning with the words, ” ‘What? Again?!’ you cry, sat upon your precipice, high above the world. ‘Tomb Raider reviewed again?! You popular culture lacky.’ Ah, the irony that we should be back here again.

After some sort of shenanigans went on behind the scenes at Sold Out, the release of the fifth Croftian adventure was put off until the new year, and here we are now. Tempting as it is to just cut and paste the entire review in here again, my sleepless fear of Tony prevents my doing so. So once more we must struggle together enough enthusiasm to discuss the one-woman marketing machine again.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Chronicles. As we’ve argued before, the Tomb Raiders are some of the most complete and effective platform games the PC has known. Of course, depending upon which you played first, you’ll think that one the best, and every title since to have dropped in quality. The reality is that each has made steps forward in graphics and options, but lost its way with perfect level design. However Chronicles made an effort to get this more right than perhaps part four had.

Of course, now we have the benefit of seeing the older games in the astonishingly useless putrid light of Angel of Darkness, the failure to reinvent the series. In comparison, Chronicles feels like the pinnacle of gaming design, what with it being possible to have Lara walk in a straight line, or, I don’t know, jump.

The hardened They’re Back sees only truth, ignoring all around. And therefore sees Chronicles as a nice selection of extended flashbacks to previous omitted Laradventures, sleekly designed, but a little over simple.


Space Tripper
PCG 96

Back in the Olden Days, PCs were in 2D. This obviously put an enormous limit on the nature of games, but it did make them easier to fold away and put in a drawer.

But does 3D /really/ add that much to gaming? Has the massive increase in the potential for graphics reinvented the way we experience fun? If my case study, a lab-human called ‘Kieron Gillen 391’ is anything to go by, no, it may not be.

‘Kieron Gillen 391’ was given two games to play this month. The first was Far Cry, replete with astonish-o-graphics, sophistimicated AI technology, and killer helicopters. The second was a freely downloaded, top-down, utterly 2D RPG called Zangbandtk. He was left in his flat-cage for a week, previously trained to cook his own curry, to see which game would occupy his time.

The results are in, the graphs too complicated to print. But despite Far Cry being ohmygoodnesstastic, it was always Zangband to which he returned in the few spare minutes. The 2D has it.

Space Tripper (ah, there it is) is a no-holds-barred celebration of the 2D side-scrolling shooter. You might remember them fondly from your Atari ST, or at the arcades. Or you might have read about them in dusty old things called ‘books’, you dreadful young person. They were the pure gaming simplicity of trying to keep your little spaceship alive, no matter the barrage of alien beasts hurtling towards you.

And here it is performed to perfection. You scroll sideways, you shoot, you try to get further than you did last time, and you try to get a higher score than your friend Greg who is always better at these sorts of things.

Space Tripper proves you don’t need pretty pictures to have fun. But you might need a joypad to properly receive it.


Sudden Strike Gold
PCG 89

World War Two (along with Vietnam) is becoming something of a hackneyed subject for gaming backgrounds. While games like Call of Duty pay enormous respect to the horror and tragedy of the event, for all sides, most seem to take it as a convenient background on which to drop their pixel-bombs. However, when Sudden Strike came out in 2000, the deluge had yet to frustrate, and so it’s only fair that we sidestep the since overused detail.

Referring back to our earlier scientific analysis of the need for 3D, Sudden Strike also throws up the dimensions question. Contemporary RTS’s like Ground Control were already generating awesome 360 degree prettiness, but C&C was still defiantly on the flat plane. And as earlier proved, this isn’t just a question for historical reflection – a 2D title doesn’t need that z axis, so long as the game is strong enough.

Being an RTS, there is the usual torrent of statistics to throw at you: There are 49 missions spread over the three campaigns, capable of having a thousand units on screen at once (not quite as impressive as Cossacks, in ATR), and a further 22 multiplayer missions. But wait, like in all good late night informercials, there’s more! This is the Gold edition, including the add-on collection, Sudden Strike Forever. This adds on another four campaigns with 12 missions, seven extra single missions, another 20 multiplayer missions, 30 new units and on top of all that, a map editor to make your own levels should you ever run out.

But is the game strong enough? It’s frustratingly slow, snail-on-a-downer-paced, which worked well for Commandos, but serves to remove the thrill here. Sudden Strike is unfortunate to exist in a universe where others have made RTS’s so damn well. It just can’t stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Westwood’s C&C games, and they were the ones it needed to beat.


B-17 Flying Fortress
PCG 90

How long have I been writing this section now? Since I was five, I think. And yet I’ve still to find a way of writing a flight sim review that makes it look as if I have the faintest idea what I’m talking about. I really don’t. They are a complete mystery to me. Fortunately I am well surrounded by enormous minds of knowledge and wisdom when it comes to such things, people who can inform me as to quite how good a flight sim I may have before me.

As soon as I’m playing something entertaining to good, I become overwhelmed by a desire to smash the plane into the hard surface we fondly know as land, just to see what will happen. Will they have put in spectacular animation for the most rubbish of pilots, or will the plane embarrassingly refuse to go to ground level without a runway underneath it? But it turns out that is no way to judge this genre.

Because, you see, B-17 has so much more going on inside. You play a commander, with the charge of everything going on inside your metal bullet. There are ten crew members in total, sharing out the responsibilities of navigating, radio operations, gunnery, and the all important piloting, amongst others. And you can operate any of them at any time.

Flying the mighty thing is beautifully implemented, with all manner of confusing dials and switches at your disposal, each needing to be managed correctly if you wish to remain up, up, up and away. This is all sleekly designed, and a pleasure to be in control of. I am assured that it’s more than safe to recommend this one to you, you flight sim heads, you. And of course there is a manual the size of West Byfleet to read through… CRASH!


And The Rest

Oodles to tell you about. See my glee.

First up, Conflict Desert Storm from Sold Out. It was only released by SCi six months ago, but it was ten pounds then. Now it’s five pounds. In They’re Back, inflation has got a hole in it. It’s the tactical shooter for the weaker ones amongst us, removing all those complicated fiddly bits that make it all too much hard work, and just lets you get on with storming those poor deserts. It was worth 79% then, and it’s worth 79% now.

Last up from Mastertronic is Driver. With the third part coming out any moment now, along with its stupendously ridiculous alphanumeric name, it would probably be an opportune time to release Driver 2, rather than this aged sequel. As you may well know, you are an undercover cop, working as a getaway driver for some naughty criminals. So you must drive and drive, and preferably, get away. It hasn’t been in They’re Back for an incredible 47 issues, and it cost £10 back then. And, er, still does now. 80%. Did someone mend the inflation puncture?

Along with the delayed release of Tomb Raider comes the delayed release of Project Eden from Sold Out. It’s still a flawed 3rd Person action game, it’s still very charming, and it’s still worth 75%.

Finally, Xplosiv are also putting out Cossacks: European Wars for a tenner. The triple pack was reviewed but three issues ago, but if you want just the one of the amiable but average series, here it is a bit cheaper. 76%.

Two pints semi-skimmed please.