John Walker's Electronic House

TB 99

They’re Back 99

Best Sellers

Ancient Egypt seems to endlessly fascinate us. Look at some of the most successful tv/movie franchises: Indiana Jones, The Mummy, Stargate, etc, all relying on our lack of knowledge about what actually went on all those thousands of years ago. Each creates its own fantastical justification for the obscure relics and remains that have mystified all who have found them since. Which, in my opinion, makes it rather a shame that Pharaoh concentrates on the more down-to-earth elements of Egyptian history.

Pharaoh followed on shortly after the Caesar Trilogy, picking up the gaming style where Caesar III left off, but taking you an extra couple of thousand years backward in history. Beginning in 2900 BC, the game is split into five ages, each representing one of the significant ages in the Egyptian dynasty. As you play through, you first learn the basics of the local economy, building up agricultural and development skills; then things hot up as you learn to trade, and eventually build wondrous cities filled to the brim with ecstatically happy citizens. While there are battles, this is certainly no RTS – management is the genre of the day, firing off memes associated with Sim City and Civilisation, rather than the more tactical Age of Empires or suchlike.

It’s a great game. There is to be no denying of that. But, this doesn’t change the fact that there is the distinct lack of any ancient beasts reincarnating from their crypts after the disturbance of building a residence over it. And at no point does a large rolling ball chase one of the villagers through a mine shaft. I also spotted that the programmers failed to include any large wheels that transport people through dimensions, or the presence of a single alien life form (nor even its influence upon the development of the indigenous race). A gross oversight, and one that puts the so-called “historical accuracy” into question, wouldn’t you say?

Yes, it may have a superb learning curve, and yes, it might contain wonderfully crafted missions. Indeed, it may be a joy to play, but let’s be honest – there are no bandage-wrapped monsters, no mystical beams connecting the tips of pyramids, and no time-travelling adventures. What a to-do.


Excellent historical management sim, sadly lacking in Mummies.

Best Sellers

In order to write this review I had to install a copy of Gabriel Knight 3. Earlier I found a copy of an old PC Gamer in a local abandoned farm, behind the cow’s pen, which contained the information that I reviewed this game when it first came out. Which meant there should be a copy in my house somewhere.

I had a look in my pockets, but there was nothing resembling a Gabriel Knight CD. However, there was a blob of chewing gum I had found on a park bench this morning, and a spray bottle which I had filled with puddle water.

After wandering around my house confused for about an hour, I found a small cabinet hidden beneath a table. I noticed a tiny crack in the edge of the cupboard door, into which I put the chewing gum. I sprayed it with the puddle water, but nothing happened. It then occurred to me that I could mix some of the Miracle Growth Formula I had picked up in the nun’s house with the puddle water. This time when I sprayed, the gum swelled up until the door burst open. And inside was a corkscrew. Just the thing I needed to open the wine bottle that contained the piece of paper that might be a map to the location of my CD.

Gabriel Knight 3 contains some of the most ludicrous puzzles since Sierra began making ludicrous-puzzle-filled adventure games. But sadly it isn’t rescued by a LucasArtsian sense of humour – in fact it takes itself incredibly seriously, worrying too much about appearing to be a “horror”.

Adventure games have recently become far too short, but in a painful irony GK3 is far too long, and certainly doesn’t contain any good reason to see it through.


Sold Out

Not enough sports last for 24 hours. Cricket manages quite nicely, using up weeks, and sometimes months, but very few other sports have the stamina. Imagine how much better a rugby match would be if all the players were asked to keep going for a day, and some way into the evening. Or if tennis was played in stages on various surfaces for a weekend. Or if football players were driven head-first onto large, rough-edged spikes.

Thank goodness for the shining example rally driving provides us, lasting for absolutely ages. Of course, there is the advantage of being sat down, and having a large mechanical creation doing all the moving for you. Sitting down and having a machine do all the hard work – hardly a sport is it? Imagine if the 100 m runners used those dreadful electronic scooters. That would be great, wouldn’t I? I hope that happens soon. And then there could be another race for teenagers with just the ordinary scooters. And they wouldn’t wear tight lycra suits, but large baggy jeans and Limp Bizkit hoodies. Innit.

Rally driving. Colin McRae’s particular version of it in fact. This is very good. It has a lovely feel for the road, really picking up all the details your off-road surface has to offer, and throwing them into the already difficult driving conditions. Lots of lovely details get mixed in, letting you fiddle with all manner of parts of your car in-between stages, without it becoming annoying or over-complicated.

It was a Playstation classic, and one that survived being a platform cross-over mangleheap, but because of these roots it is best played with a wheel for that all-over body experience.


Grand Prix Legends
Best Sellers

What-ho old chap, it’s a really bad concept idea for a review here. How are you old bean? It should be quite clear to you by now that I’m meant to be some sort of old-fashioned person, probably in tweed, with one of those grey moustaches that just falls short of being a handle-bar. I’m probably wearing a peaked hat, and have an ornamental cane nearby. What?

No, I’m sorry, I can’t do this. I can’t take it any more. I’m a rubbish idea and I refuse to go any further. I’m having an existential crisis, and merely by being an idea that it is aware of this, I am post-modernly ironically post-modern. This is too much. Fortunately I am also adept at PC games reviewing, and since I’m here I shall let you know about Grand Prix Legends.

Set in 1967, GPL provides a fantastic opportunity for a driving game to do something that bit more interesting. Not having to do battle with licensing quibbles or the ever-changing teams and sponsors of a so-called up-to-date racing title, over 25 years of hindsight means that everything here is as loyal and as realistic as it could be. A lovely modern engine means that the racing experience is as good as any modern set titles, but also allows the realistic portrayal of motor racing at its most lethal.

There is enough information about the drivers, cars and period that this could have been sold as an educational title without including the driving element. As it is, it’s one of the most complete and comprehensive arcade-racer titles available.

Toodle pip.


Sold Out

Loyal fan bases are dangerous. In case you don’t fear them, begin… now. These are groups of people held together only by the glue of enjoying something once ages ago that hasn’t been equalled since.

Look at the following that Kieron Gillen receives for instance. Once upon a time he could write the odd good review, and built up a fan base. Now he churns out that same rubbish month after month, and yet thousands of fawning groupies lap it up as if it weren’t the utter sewer bilge it clearly is. This kind of blindness is sad and, well, let’s be honest, pathetic. Just pathetic.

It’s a similar mentality that allows Might & Magic to have had over forty-seven sequels. This is the seventh, and even in these early stages it was already incredibly tired. People still bought it – loyal fan base. Mmmm.

As if someone had taken Noel Edmonds, crushed him down, removed the bones, and then formed him into a PC game-shaped form, Might & Magic VII is entirely devoid of original ideas. Dull plots, unengagablewith characters, and nasty graphics mean that there is no good reason to even start playing this. Baldur’s Gate is out on budget, and it has proven to be over 76 times more betterer that this battered old series.

But yet there is still a loyal fan base. There are still sequels being made. Recently announced at E3 was Might & Magic LXVI: The Twevelty Tales of Mudder Fur Cuss, and a follow on movie-pencil case set. There’s only one sensible way to stop it happening, and that’s to stop buying them. There are also lots of stupid ways to stop them, and they will be available in a special booklet available free with next months GAMER.


And The Rest

Also out there, cheaper than you could ever wish, are a couple of flight sims, donated by those kindly souls at Sold Out. The first organ is F-16 Aggressor in which you are allowed to emulate the life of a person who would fly in an aeroplane called an F-16 Aggressor. It’s quite an old title, but it’s only a fiver. We say 69%

The second is F-16 Fighting Falcon in which you are allowed to emulate the life of a person who would fly in an aeroplane called an F-16 Fighting Falcon. It’s a very old title that shows its age, but it’s only a fiver. We say 60%.

Sierra’s new and almost exciting “Best Sellers” range also outputs the not half-bad Homeworld. This also carries the weight of meaning that it’s not half good either. It’s probably about five ninths good, and one third bad, with the rest a mixture of under-achieving and being spoilt. Do the maths, remember to carry the four, and you get an obvious 70%.