John Walker's Electronic House

TB 79

They’re Back: 79

When Steve is away, he insists that someone keeps his seat warm 24 hours a day. I thought I might as well write the budget section while I’m here. It’s a collections’ “special”…

Broken Sword Triple Pack
Publisher: Sold Out Extreme
Price: £10

Sold Out’s method for picking Extreme triple packs must be something akin to donning a blindfold, plunging their hands into their sawdust-filled barrel of games, and drawing out three entirely random choices. There is as much logic to this one as any other.

The title piece is Broken Sword, Virgin’s classic point’n’clicker that has graced They’re Back in about four-hundred different forms. But who’s complaining – it’s a darned good game. It’s not awash with ‘snazzy’ 3D graphics, but their isn’t an adventurer the world-wide who would want such a thing. Pure and simple puzzling and chit-chatting provide a thick enough wedge of gameplay to keep you happy for a couple of days.

Following on from a point and clicker is obviously Apache Longbow, ancient helicopter flight sim. Back in the olden days, this was a truly great game, and therefore isn’t that bad now. If you are reasonable and accept that it isn’t going to dance on your polygon generating modules, then this is still an entertaining ride.

And to finish, following the set path, we have Terracide. An amalgamation of Descent and X-Wing, this graphically pretty number lost many points for originality on its original release, and loses more now in hindsight..

So altogether a truly mixed bag of good’s and alright’s. If you’ve never played Broken Sword, why not pick it up here for a tenner, and get a couple of extras thrown in the bargain.


Championship Manager 2 Triple Pack
Publisher: Sold Out
Price: £10

Another sooper-dooper bumper triple pack from those lovely Sold Out guys, and yet another confusing mixture. So now I will now present the argument that flying a military aircraft is in fact a sport. Convinced? Good. Here we go… This is a sporty triple pack.

First up, the eponymous Champ Man 2. Loved by millions, this was the management sim of choice for legions of would-be managers of champions. Arguably redundant in light of Champ Man 3 and it’s various and sundry add-ons, this is the cheap way to play the flat-capped loud-mouthed moron in charge of a team of mono-syllabic thugs, so long as you aren’t interested in up-to-the-minute accuracy.

Then it’s the turn of Mr Jimmy White and his Whirlwind Snooker. There is to be no escaping it – this game looks absolutely awful. This looks how you remember the graphics on the Atari ST. But in the realms of gameplay, you wouldn’t find more realistic rebounding balls or deep screws in a video from Amsterdam (boom-kush). If you squint it could almost be the real thing. But that would be one hell of a squint.

And to round up a sporting theme, it’s F16 – Fighting Falcon. For those of you who complain that all the coverage of military aerobatics war-sims is now on satellite, and you can’t get down to your local team each Saturday, this is The Next Best Thing. It’s a good flighty-fighty sim, not the best, but at this price are you complaining? Are you? Good.


Gabriel Knight Mysteries
Publisher: Sierra
Price: £20

It’s amazing how generous people can be when they want you to buy something. Sierra want you to buy Gabriel Knight 3, when it eventually appears, and in their feverous rush to win your love, they have bundled together the first two in the series, along with anything they could find in the backs of their drawers.

Thrown in with the games is a graphic novel promoting the new sequel along with a demo of said, plus a soundtrack CD, and lastly a novel of the original Sins of the Father written by series creator Jane Jensen.

The original Gabriel Knight was held aloft the shoulders of the adventure gaming public upon its release. And it’s a genuinely fun and engrossing little beast still. The pixelated graphics mean that you will have to reduce your desktop to 256 colours and a resolution not visited since the early 90’s, but it’s all worth it for a nice story and a few well written puzzles.

What isn’t worth anything is part two, The Beast Within. This is a horrid mess of frozen photographic backdrops and video captured characters, playing awkwardly and slowly, with phenomenally appalling acting from everyone within. Any gameplay is hidden too deeply beneath this nonsense to be worth looking for.

Which makes this a confusing purchase. The extras are fine, except for the novel which is as awful as you are expecting. So do you get it or not? Um, yes. Or no. I don’t know.


Cannon Fodder Triple Pack
Publisher: Sold Out
Price: £10

So we have established the Sold Out’s Extreme packs are by no means logical in their selections. This third collection stretches this to the limit.

Firstly you get Cannon Fodder. This is a very, very old game. It first came out on the Amiga, and then demanded PC’s boasting a whopping 386SX processor, VGA graphics, and a dizzying 1 Mb of RAM. Now we have established how old it is, is this dusty old museum piece worth having? For three pounds and thirty-three point three pence recurring, yes, it is. It’s still fun, if not so fast paced.

Following swiftly is Actua Soccer. Not exactly the greatest footy sim of old, being over shadowed by the likes of Sensi Soccer and Striker, this is a strange game to keep serving up at the bargain banquet. This is going to be the name to win your hearts and eternal undying love. But…

…Toonstruck could be. Life just isn’t fair – we all know that – but life has been especially unfair to this superb cartoon point’n’clicker. Starring Christopher ‘Doc’ Lloyd, and the voice of Homer, Dan Castenaletta, this well written, well acted, funny and engrossing adventure was completely ignored by the ungrateful gaming public. Okay, it’s not up to the excellence of Day of the Tentacle or Sam and Max, but it’s a darned close second. Play it, damn you.


Tycoon Collection
Publisher: Hasbro
Price: £30

A Tycoon collection from Hasbro is definitely a good idea. For years the Tycoon range has produced entertaining sims for a wide audience… and also, what better way to advertise Roller Coaster Tycoon again to pick up that post-Christmas market? Well, it would be a good way to do this, if it weren’t for the fact that those insanely generous chaps and chapesses at Hasbro have gone and put the darned thing in the collection.

That’s right, not only is Roller Coaster Tycoon out on budget already, but it also comes with two other top titles. Nestling alongside are Transport Tycoon Deluxe and Railroad Tycoon II, both great games, if a little older than their sprightly sibling.

Transport Tycoon has just celebrated its seven thousandth birthday, so many happy returns. And many happy returns there have been, most recently in the ‘Deluxe’ form, as it appears here. It’s the original, bundled with some scenarios and other exciting extras, and it is still just as engrossing now as it was seven millennia ago.

Railroad Tycoon II is much younger, just over a year old, within living memory of most PC gamers. It’s the sequel to the Sid Mier’s classic, incorporating all of the best features from the original, and adding some prettier pictures and more up to date prices. The only complaint is the mysterious exclusion of tunnels that were so helpful in the first, but this is only a small niggle in light of what is to follow…

And you all know Roller Coaster Tycoon. I think it’s safe to say that we mention it from time to time. It’s been the number one management game in Big Game Hunt for coming up to a year. (Come to mention it, Railroad Tycoon II still rides high in the same chart) And most importantly, Mr Gillen stood up and boldly announced that it is better than Bullfrog’s latest, Theme Park World.

So what more do you want? Three games that each hold a place in PC gaming history, all for a measly thirty quid.


X-Com Collection
Publisher: Hasbro
Price: £20

Imagine, if you will, that I have sat you at a table, and am slowly presenting you with a number of games. I want you to consider each game on its merit and worth, and calculate a price for me:

First of all, X-Com email. It’s one of the many new email games Hasbro are releasing just now, based on the popular series of games. Which series of games? Hang on, maybe these will help.

Here is UFO: Enemy Unknown. This is one of the earliest examples from 1994. It’s a game truly worth the title of ‘classic’. Despite being over five years old, it is still played today.

Okay, here is X-Com: Terror from the Deep. Presented at the time in’95 as a sequel to UFO, TftD reset the standard, gaining greater appreciation than its predecessor.

Next up is X-Com: Apocalypse. Dating from 1997, Apocalypse managed to score even higher than the two prequels, once again making its mark on the gaming world.

And finally, X-Com Interceptor. It shouldn’t surprise you now that this was also a truly classic number, from 1998. In fact, all four games on their original release scored 90% or above within these very pages.

So, a price? Yes, you’re right, it is twenty pounds. But you only got it right because you looked at the top of the page. Honestly, if you’re not going to play the game I don’t know why I should bother.


And The Rest

There’s one more pack from Hasbro this month (they generosity knows no bounds) in the form of The Armageddon Collection (80%), a rather strange way of releasing Worms Armageddon on budget, with a Wormy screensaver and the fun Addiction Pinball, all for twenty of your English pounds.

Then there’s a ton of stuff from Crucial. Dashing through quickly, Lords of the Realm (50%) is old and tired, Magic Pockets (42%) and Xenon 2 (45%) are older than God’s dog, Nascar Racing (56%) was alright once, but isn’t worth it now, Baseball Pro 98 (67%) is at least from this decade, as is Ultimate Race Pro (73%) which was a great test for 3D cards a year ago, but has been easily beaten since. They’re all yours for £5.

Finally in the collections theme from Gremlin is the peculiar grouping of Premier Manager 98, Men In Black and Motorhead, entitled Overlord. A particularly uninspiring bunch. MiB is horribly horrid, Motorhead was average two years ago and funnily enough, still is, and unless you have nostalgic longings for the 1997 football season and the management shenanigans within, their doesn’t seem much point to PM98. And this for £35, when compared to other bundles on this page, is a joke. So that’ll be 47% then.