John Walker's Electronic House

TB 86

They’re Back 86

Another month, another haul of the dangerously cheap and recycled games filling budget shelves near you.

Ancient Worlds Box Set

The Ancient Worlds in question are the Romans and the Egyptians. Two mighty races, fiercely powerful and extraordinarily dominant. For the very first time they meet together in a single box.

No, you cry, they met in 50BC when Caesar had an affair with Cleopatra. They met during the Battle Actium, when Cleo and Mark took on the fleets of Octavian. And yes, you are right, they did. But unless I am very much mistaken, they didn’t do this in a /single box/. So there.

The two titles within are the ever-so-slightly old Caesar III and the slightly-younger-and-fresher Pharaoh. So, what do they have in common, other than having the letter “a” where you would least expect it? Well, of course, the latter is the sequel of the former, and hence both are of a similar feel. In the God game stylee, you must build your city, controlling numerous aspects of life, mostly through some remarkably detailed resource management.

Caesar III has two modes of play. You can either choose the lesser “City Construction Kit”, a SimCity-esque, open hatted play, that lets you choose from ten or so maps of varying degrees of complexity, and then build and build and build. There isn’t a target or aim, and this does rather leave you at a loose end. A much better idea is to play the “Career” mode in which maps have clear objectives (a target population, popularity, culture, and so on), which upon completion result in a pat on the head and promotions all round. Almost like levels really. “Almost” in the sense of “exactly the same as”.

Pharaoh is, unsurprisingly, set in Egypt. It’s really the same principles as above, though newer and more glitch free. This time things are split into five ages, with a rapidly increasing level of difficulty as you plod through. Each stage introduces you to more and more aspects of the full-stretch of the game, until you are neck-deep in resources, armies, and those funny little snaky-headband things. The trouble here is, that all around Pharaoh, rival games have been adding more and more to their combat elements of play. Pharaoh hasn’t, and if intricate war is your thing, this will leave you disappointed.

This is a top box, giving you two games for the price of one /new/ one. But it would have been nice if the price could have reflected the fact that one of them isn’t really that new.


History done the way you would have wanted. In a two-for-one stylee.

Tomb Raider
Sold Out

Is there a misprint? Does the title really not have a string of Roman Numerals following it? Nope, once more, Tomb Raider has found its way to the budget shelves in yet another coloured box.

It’s them boys at Sold Out again, who have just managed to pick up the rights to flog Lara at their stupidly low prices. So for the five billionth time, let’s take a look back at the One That Started The Whole Thing Off.

Core were never exactly renowned in the industry for their ground-breaking, innovative games. In fact, they were pointed at in the streets, accompanied by the melody of stifled giggling. Ooh, they must have been boiling inside. Somewhere deep within, they must have known that they were to be soon taking their revenge. From the darkest recesses of their minds, they knew that there was a huge pair of tits just waiting to get out.

And of course everything was okay in the end. Core did something that no one else had been able to do – they got a platform game to be acceptable on the PC. We don’t like to think of it as a platform game as we believe such things to be beneath us, more the territory of those Other People with consoles. But let’s face it, you run around jumping from platform to platform, shooting animals, until you get to the end of the level. End of argument really.

The sad thing is, time hasn’t really done Part One Lara any good. Things are all a bit saggy, and while this is undoubtedly still an excellent game, it really is an assault on the eye. If you’re buying your first Lara, and you don’t care about graphics, then for a fiver this is a top bargain. But let’s be honest, you already bought it.


Duke Nukem 3D

Talking of old games, good grief. Duke Nukem on budget again!? “They’re Back” isn’t really appropriate any more. Look forward to new section in coming months entitled “They Won’t Bloody Go Away”.

Hmmm. So, you haven’t heard of Duke Nukem? Well, you see, he’s this… Bollocks to it. You have heard of him. And the column inches are not going to be wasted here running through it all again. So something else shall have to be thought of to write about. Let’s write about incredibly bad graphics.

Duke Nukem has incredibly bad graphics. Unfair perhaps, being that after running the disk through our office carbon-dating machine it turns out to be over 50 million years old. But still, it’s a shocker on the eyes. And if memory serves, it wasn’t exactly hugely wonderful to look at when it first came out. Cartoony graphics compensated for a lack of realism, and all was drawn in pixels that would make Outcast jealous.

It’s actually rather strange how difficult this is to play once we have teased our eyes with the prettiness of Quake 3 and its cousins. Perhaps it’s snobbery, but no amount of level design or nudey dancing ladies can make up for the old-looking-ness.

Credit where credit’s due, 3D Realms did some special stuff with Duke. They proved that id were perhaps a little stuffy when it came to level design, taking their engine and snapping it in half. From the large areas that could be completely reshaped after a large explosion, to the numerous breakable objects scattered around rooms, they broke a mould laying the way for others to follow. It’s just that others /have/ followed, meaning that this is really a piece of history rather than a playable game.


Actua Ice Hockey 2

Sport is, without a question of a shadow of a doubt, a substitute for fighting. There are two rival teams, who both want to “beat” each other, but a series of obstacles are put in their way to prevent all-out fisticuffs. Rugby, for instance, is a great big fight, with the distraction of an ovular ball that must occasional make its way to one or other end of the the pitch. Tennis involves powering a small missile at over 100mph toward your opponent who is defended only with a stringy bat. And in football, where so many obstacles have been put in the way of a good punch-up, the ever-so generous crowd take up the baton. And then there’s ice hockey…

Never has the nose-removal element of sport been so thinly disguised. Two teams of very large men wearing full-body armour and armed with sticks attack each other on a very slippery surface. With deadly blades on their feet. Well, us violence-thirsty PC gamers must surely want to simulate this darned quickly.

The problem is that Actua’s second go-at-it is just a little too sanitised. It’s all very much about the rules, and less about the fun. You only have to compare it to that one everyone played on the Megadrive. Actua Ice Hockey 2 is never going to appear in the movies (EA’s Megadrive beast was featured in Chasing Amy and Swingers). It just doesn’t have the spirit.

But it does so its job reasonably enough. It’s perhaps a little too easy, and frustratingly has certain glitches that allow you to be guaranteed to score against the computer, which puts and end to single player play rather quickly. It’s just not as fun as a good fight.


Heroes of Might & Magic Trilogy

Who doesn’t want to be a hero? Or heroine if that is your sexual bent. Imagine the life of donning a pair of leather trousers and jerkin, chain-mail gloves, magical helmet and trusty battle-axe, then setting forth into the woods in search of a maiden in distress or band of badly behaved orcs. Just think about the pleasant evenings spent chugging back frothy ale in a homely, warm tavern. No wonder fantasy is such a popular genre. The vicarious pursuit of our most testosterone-filled desires, all from the safety of a swivel chair. And unless you’re Kieron (for whom this new spell-checker suggests “Queen”), you don’t have to dress up in the hefty garb. Though the chugging of frothy ale is still required by law.

This box set comes with all three of the Heroes series for less than the price of just one of them. A kindly offer indeed, but one that requires some scrutiny. Hold onto your hats as this next piece of information is imparted upon you: previous games in a series are older than their most recent versions. Egad. But while blindingly obvious, this is worth thinking about. Imagine that you are standing at the shop shelves, choosing between the sequels in the series. Are you going to pick the oldest and most out of date, or are you going to opt for the most recent and up-to-date? Okay, it’s not cut-and-dry, but when given the most recent and best, it is going to be difficult to find the desire to play the first two.

Fortunately this doesn’t matter as Heroes III is darned good strategy-meets-fantasy gaming, and for £25 it’s still quite a bargain.


And The Rest

After their month-long sabbatical, Sold Out are back with another armful of recently acquired museum pieces, and are already lining up the next lot which should feature next month. This months offerings include another pile for the £4.99 range. Alongside the previously mentioned Tomb Raider is 3D Pets Volume 2 (40%). They really are horrible you know. And it’s not as if real pets aren’t freely available. If you’re desperate, just get a Furby. In the light of Pokemon they are sure to have found their way to the bargain bins.

Also up is Might & Magic VI (49%). Some people should know when to let a good thing go. Ubi Soft certainly didn’t, bearing in mind that there was an equally awful Might & Magic VII. With the much better Heroes series all in one box this month, it’s really worthwhile digging slightly deeper into your pockets, rather than resorting to this.

More Sold Outs include the ancient Manic Karts (60%), Flight Unlimited 2 (80%) and Myth (54%).

The rather odd company Crystal Software and Electronics have are putting out the even odder The Fugitive (65%) for a fiver this month. According to the press release they are being released in a “new *limited edition* run of 500 groovy jewel cases”. Hmm. To see if there are any left, you can try to get your mitts on a copy by either clicking at or by calling 01865 481 421.