John Walker's Electronic House

TB 83

They’re Back 83

Yes, please come in. Have a seat… Yes, I did get the seats in a sale… Mmm, the table was half-price… Okay, it’s all cheap stuff, get over it.

Thief: The Dark Project + Gangsters

Ahhh, The art of putting two games in one box – an ancient and respected method of enticing the giggling public into plunging deep inside their hefty pockets and whipping out piles of fresh smelling cash. “Two for one you say?” they cry, smooshing a wad of tenners into the innocent face of the shop assistant. “Two for one? How could any mortal resist such a temptation? Why, it pulls at the very chords of the soul. Hand me my engorged box, and a copper-penny change good sir, and I shall be on my way.”

And so it is that Eidos have somehow managed to squeeze two titles into just one cardboard box, namely, Gangsters and Thief.

Gangsters first, because it’s pushy that way. This is the type of gaming morality that forms the backbone of a Modern Britain ™. Playing as a gang leader, you must build a mob of meat-heads, take over a district, and eventually, run da town. To do this, much background bribery, nifty nickings, and the occasional “visit” to someone’s house, will all be in order. Threats are issued, gang battles are organised, and general law-breakage erupts out of every hole. As soon as you are done writing your letter to the Daily Mail, a lot of fun can be had inside. It all plays out more like a footie-sim than, say, a Bullfrog clone. Less Syndicate, and more Championship Manager with Tommy Guns. So watchit, alwight?

Lying neatly alongside in the same box is another title of criminal anticarry – your friend and ours – the wonderful Thief. Following in the tradition of all the best Looking Glass titles, it came out with the most minimal of fanfares, and then absolutely no one bought it for months. Finally it is getting recognised as the significance it truly was – a game that changed the perceived limitations of the first-person genre. Until then, the gun-floating, front facing, game world was all about bangs. Rush in, kill, kill, kill, GOTO 10. Thief let you sneak everywhere, huddling to the shadows, and pilfering your way to victory. It is horribly flawed in later levels by its zombie overload, but that forgiven, it is One Of The Greats.

A good double pack at a lovely price – just not for the law-abiding citizens.


Codemasters Classic

Were there a boy-band called “CARS”, or perhaps “KARZZ”, then this review would begin with a marvellous joke about them going on a tour. “Touring KARZZ?” I would say. “Is it a world tour? Can I still get tickets? No, honestly, they’re for my niece,” before the eventual hilarity at the discovery of my mistake. But sadly, and quite improbably, there isn’t. So I will start one. Auditions will take place in Bath town centre this Saturday. Please arrive with your own dance routines, and preferably floppy blonde hair. We will of course be needing at least one middle-class boy with badly dreaded hair and a slightly gruff look, so if you’re still rebelling from mummy, I’ll see you this weekend. The ability to look slightly disinterested at screaming crowds of school girls is essential, but formal voice training is not. Then, once we are complete and in the charts, I will be able to write this review with the opening I so want.


Oh. Okay then. TOCA 2 is a stunner of a racing sim. Accurately recreating the genuine, real-life version, down to the tracks, cars, drivers, and colours on the sponsor stickers, this is a truly engrossing racer that encompasses a number of styles in one complete entity. Released only a year after the original TOCA, it has managed huge leaps forward, both in graphics, and in gameplay.

You can play in all the usual ways – single lap, practice, against the clock etc, but it is in the full championship tours that it truly excels. Changing weather conditions, excellent opponent AI, and the inclusion of a new pitstop strategy, all add to a wholesome and addictive experience.

Although slightly let down by it’s occasional lapse into arcadiness, it can be forgiven by being one of the most enjoyable driving games you can shake a wheel at.



Infogrames set out to do what only the Japanese had managed to pull off so far. And how many times have we seen attempts like that? The Japanese have got it sorted, just look at Playstations. Anyone remember the Atari Jaguar? No? Exactly. All Western attempts to emulate the Japanese genius have been knocked into the proverbial cocked hat, and perhaps it is time we just stopped trying…

…But no! Wait! Ohmegosh! Silver is actually darned good. Shouldn’t be, but ’tis. Go figure.

Falling somewhere between Zelda 64 on the Nintendo 64, and Final Fantasy VII on Playstation/PC, Silver makes no claims of being completely unique, or even that it is particularly ground-breaking. Though nor is it a cheap rip-off of other peoples ideas. Instead it walks a finely balanced line between the two, providing everything that makes Final Fantasy great. Huge sprawling levels, and a plethora of NPC’s to interact with are trademarks of the long-running SquareSoft series, both of which are perfectly employed by Infogrames in their beautiful looking RPG.

It all begins with a gorgeous opening title sequence, featuring the mad-as-a-bag-of-fish voice of Tom Baker, giving the game an immediately “British” feel, helping you escape the inevitable comparisons with its Japanese counterpart. Then you are in, and it is time to start discovering what makes Silver unique. And the answer is the ingenious combat system. It uses a very simple “glyph” technique with the mouse, which allows combat to be fought in real-time, rather than the somewhat tedious turn-based ways of other titles.

Though too linear, Silver proves that the West can occasional match the power of the East. Shame that Final Fantasy VIII was so darned good though…



The second double pack from Eidos this month may not fill you with quite so much joy as the one on your left. Thief and Gangsters were both games that were generally well liked in their time, and also in hindsight. How fascinating that this pack should manage to break both those themes.

Cutthroats is a complete pile of rotten, stinky bollocks. No element of surprise in this paragraph. It’s a pirate based strategy game, in which you must sail from island to island, dig up treasure, fight with other boats, and probably plunder the high-seas, whatever that means. All is entirely soulless, never amounting to anything that could be described as “fun”. Missions are monotonous, and the control system is as awkward as a child in a supermarket. And could someone explain what “Fourteen men on a dead man’s chest” means please. And was he dead before they sat on his upper-torso?

Braveheart, on release, was met with the enthusiasm of an owner returning from holiday to pick up his puppy from the kennels. In all the excitement of jumping up and licking its face, the fact that it’s actually a bit crap seemed to slip everyone by.

In the cold light of Shogun: Total War, Braveheart begins to show its cracks. But let’s not be too unfair. Shogun is a much better game, and this highlights what Braveheart could have been. Hindsight is the undoing, and perhaps that isn’t the best way to go about pulling it to pieces.

But teamed up with Cutthroats, this is a really disappointing package. You may as well add £9.99 to your budget, and splash out on Shogun.



Mmmmmmmmmmm, gore. Lovely, lovely gore. ‘Dear The Daily Mail, more gore please! Love PC Gamer’. We like gore, and we think that it is both big, and clever. Why is Soldier of Fortune so good? The gore? Of course. What was the redeemable feature of Kingpin? You know it. What makes Animal Hospital almost watchable? Exactly.

And good Heaven’s, there’s quite a bit of the old stuff in Myth II. In fact, it would be a fair argument to claim that it is the most blood-splattered RPG yet. It is clear from the outset that Bungie weren’t the least bit interested in creating the world’s most accurate battle simulations, eschewing all that for the sake of pure plasma-soaked mayhem.

Set within a fantasy realm, Myth II is an RPG that focuses on the warring side of things. Don’t expect to be whiling away the hours with quiet crop rotation – you’ll be far too busy watching your hordes of undead having their bits removed. In fact, the word eviscerated is so beautifully onomatopoeic, that it almost entirely sums up the game in one go.

Things are really fast-paced here. Too fast-paced. In fact, so flipping fast-paced that you will have to turn down the speed during the battle sequences if you are to have any chance of keeping up, let alone surviving. And this is a real shame because it completely spoils the flow of what could be glorious dismemberment-fests.

The complete 3D engine is now being outdone by the new RPG spawns, but it still makes for a pleasurable viewing during the spectacular battles. It’s a shame that it’s quite so fiddily in places.


And The Rest

Sold Out cannot medically go a month without releasing at least one title. It’s a whole rash/sneezing/boils thing. This month’s antihistamine is Uprising (60%), a bit of a strange old RPG for £10. It’s all very tank orientated, with you working your way up to controlling the ultimate ‘Wraith’. The big problem is that there is nothing here that you can’t find someplace else, and carried out in a more complete and satisfying way. Plus, it’s also a bit too dated now, with other, better RPG’s on budget already.

Unreal Gold (70%) was mentioned a few months ago as coming out on budget. We’re all used to major new titles slipping, but missing the budget release? Very peculiar. Anyway, your held horses can finally be released, as it should be adorning the shelves even as you study these texts. The pack includes the abysmal mission pack, and some other tat of sorts.

Finally, imagine if Starcraft crashed into Total Annihilation on the motorway. And then, as is the way of these things, aliens came down and got involved in some way or other… Well, you know aliens. The tangled metal-heap result would be War Of The Worlds (49%). It’s a big strategy car-crash, and hey, no rubber-necking.