John Walker's Electronic House

TB 143

They’re Back 143

Beautiful games for beautiful people. And John Walker.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 2
Best of Atari
PCG116, 84%
PII 300, 64Mb RAM

Neither “wacky” nor “zany”, thank you very much.

I don’t see what’s so wrong about causing dozens of people to vomit. Surely that’s what people really want when they go on a rollercoaster? Surely it’s just a matter of bravado taken to the next stage? Surely this is the direction in which all thrill rides are heading? Surely? It’s just a matter of hygiene. And with the correct numbers of maintenance staff, I cannot see why this has to be such a big deal. I certainly don’t see why everyone should make such an enormous fuss and start bad-mouthing my theme park. If they’re not big enough to handle my rides, then they should be embarrassed, not shouting about it. And at the very least, they could use the toilets to throw up in, and not all over the path for everyone to slip on.

So what if I build all my ice cream, popcorn, fizzy drink and hotdog stands along the path of the coaster queue? It’s not as if I’m forcing the idiots to buy the stuff. They should think for themselves. “Oh dear, I /do/ have a weak and feeble constitution and a rubbish gag reflex – I’d better not consume any of this delicious and yet reasonably priced food before I get on the bwig scwawy wide, in case I might create the need for even more staff to be hired to clear up my tummy-splatters.”

Talking of which, those maintenance staff should be grateful they get paid at all to work for me. My park is so utterly fabulous to the eye that they should rightly be paying the entrance fee themselves just to come to work each day. The visual treat of my sublimely designed theme areas, accentuated by exquisitely appropriate décor, is all the reimbursement they should require.

And no, I don’t think it’s a problem that there is no way to get out the park once you’ve come in. I’m constantly researching new attractions, refining my coasters to up-chuck perfection, and chopping down trees to build more bins. There’s not a single reason to ever want to leave.


All the fun of the fair. And then some more fun, as fairs are rubbish.

In Memoriam
PCG 130, 81%
PII 333, 64Mb RAM

One of the best things about this job is using the powers within one’s fingertips to promote a small game to wider attention. Kieron and Uplink is a perfect example of where the critic recognises something special, and makes sure it’s heard about. And it’s a pleasure to do. This is my attempt at a modest way to say introduce how I did the same for In Memoriam.

At its simplest, it’s a puzzle game. But it’s the /way/ it’s a puzzle game that is of such note. Instead of asking you to solve clues within the game’s universe, the game transposes its universe into ours. A puzzle, set by a mysterious serial killer holding two journalists hostage, may provide you with snippets of information – a photograph of a college at Oxford, the name of a girl who died there. So you go to the Oxford Uni website, find that college. Then you search Google for the girl’s name, and find her blog. And a forum discussing her death. And a memorial site about her. And you start to feel that blur.

All the while, other ‘people’ playing the game are emailing you – to your regular email account. You know they’re not real, they can’t be. But when Julie emails you at 1am telling you she’s off to bed now, as she was up too late with the puzzles the previous night, you begin to wonder. And the blur grows.

The puzzles do grow weak later on, but the excellent video clips and reality distortion make this an obscurity deserving of your attention.


Raven Shield
PCG 120, 86
PIII 800, 128Mb RAM

That Tom Clancy’s a busy beaver. Writing about eighteen books a week, having all those films released, and still finding the time to develop about forty games a year. This isn’t the only Clancy game out on budget this month either. Focus are releasing Splinter Cell for £10, along with the mission pack for another fiver. There’s also Ghost Recon for £5, and in a Collector’s Edition bundle for £25 you can get Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rogue Spear – Platinum and Rogue Spear – Black Thorn. And via Mastertronic there’s Raven Shield. See what we mean?

Raven Shield is the nine hundredth instalment in the Rainbow Six series, in which you must taken on the evil forces of terror. Which is a bit like life. Well, almost, because Raven Shield contains an element not often employed by America’s anti-terrorist actions: planning. While it may seem far more realistic to just rush your troops in without any thought and just have them shoot at anything with a darker tan than their own, these games insist on having you think your tactics through beforehand with intricate detail.

Raven Shield doesn’t really differ from the rest of the series, perhaps in a slightly inhibiting manner. However, it still manages to execute itself (and its baddies) extremely competently. And as with the others, while the planning stages are the way the game is supposed to be played, if you want to chance it and take a more first-person approach, the game remains malleable enough to support this sort of wanton madness.


IL-2 Sturmovik – Forgotten Battles
PCG 121, 90%
PIII 800, 256Mb RAM

I was recently on a plane, flying to America to look at computer games for you. The extent of my dedication to the reader is astonishing. We were sitting around for ages before we took off, before being told there were an electrical problem and we had to return to be fixed. After an hour’s wait, the pilot’s voice appeared again to inform us, “The engineers have looked at the engine, but when they got there the problem seemed to have just gone away by itself. They say it seems fine, so we’re taking off.” Oh thanks! Thanks a lot! He could at least lie. “The engineers have looked at the engine, and found that the frontal Trundleflaps were set to seventeen. They’ve put them back to Blue, and everything is perfect.” When it comes to aeroplanes, you want exact science, not magical self-fixing electrical problems.

I’m getting better at linking these irrelevant intros into the subject of the review. 1C: Maddox Games know the science of the planes they’re dealing with better than any other developer. A lifelong knowledge of the machines they’re replicating shines through the seams of this realism-centric fighter sim. Cockpits are recreated in perfect detail, but not at the expense of including a game to play. This isn’t Microsoft Tedium Simulator – this is big, WWII flight fights, created by people with a passion for their subject.

Forgotten Battles builds upon the impressive base of IL-2 Sturmovik, creating what must be the ultimate warbird sim.


Enter The Matrix
Best of Atari
PCG 124, 65%
PII 450, 64Mb RAM

One of the most abundant flaws within the paradigm, the general conception of the nature of scientific endeavour, of philosophy – the academic discipline making explicit the nature and significance of ordinary and scientific beliefs – during the process of investigating the intelligibility of concepts through the usage of rational arguments concerning their presuppositions, implications and interrelationships, is a tendency toward employing the usage of, what some might call, and others dispute – as once cited by Grayford Fang in ‘Cardinal Works on a Concept of Dialectic Disturbance’ pp. 45-3011 – as being in the nature of an obfuscatory dialogue.

The Wachowski brothers made quite a good film once. Which makes it a shame that for the first follow-up they merely threw philosophical spaghetti at the wall in the hope that some of it would stick. And here is the game of that ruined dinner.

Having reviewed ETM (for some other, lesser, poorer, weaker magazine than this) /before/ the film came out, it might be thought that I’d have had the film spoiled for me. But no, spoiling the film for me was the special honour of the directors themselves. However, spoiling the game for me was all the work of Shiny.

Quite how such a competent and imaginative developer could come up with a game so mystifyingly dull, so pointlessly simplistic, and so brain-wastingly tedious should be a matter of scientific study. It’s lazy, boring, doesn’t work, and you can complete the final level without even touching the controls. Don’t.


Past Masters
The Operative: No One Lives Forever
PCG 91, 91%

Comedy in games has always been rare. Good comedy in games has been almost exclusively the domain of LucasArts. To get it right – to be genuinely funny, while remembering to also be a brilliant game – is incredibly tough. It must be, or so many people wouldn’t get it so very wrong. With No One Lives Forever, Monolith got it very right.

It would be all very well for the game to have managed to create humour on so many levels – Bond spoof, 60s spoof, male misogyny spoof, FPS spoof – but it would have all been meaningless if it hadn’t been a spot-on shooter with superb level design and memorable set-pieces. (As LucasArts recently prved with Armed & Dangerous). While it didn’t take the FPS in any new directions, it understood its genre entirely, and hence knew how to inject humour into all the right places. And insinuating that a man is in love with a goat is always funny.