Friday, 1 May 2015

TOP 10: NOSTALGIC GAMES ON GOG.COM


Good Old Games is an indispensable resource for bringing back classic games updated for modern systems. It's a site that I've spent far too much money on, but feel the need to support it's mantra of DRM free, reasonably priced games both old and new. Today I'll count down my personal top 10 classic games that they sell. If you want to buy any of the games on this list, click on their custom cover art to head over.

 10
http://www.gog.com/game/magic_carpet

Bullfrog was a juggernaut of invention in the 90s and Magic Carpet was no exception. It had a brilliant mix-up of 3D action and strategy that enthralled me as a kid. The graphics were top notch for 1994 and was popular enough to warrant a sequel a year later (also on GOG).

While the ambition is unmatched, and the multiple of genres come together seamlessly, very few games have tried this style since. Perhaps it's due to the simple combat mixed with deep strategy mean that it can only go so far in terms of complexity. Even these two games suffer from a unintuitive control scheme that leaves you stumbling when there's a lot going on at the same time. The first game also saw a release on Sony and Sega's 32 bit consoles but their joypads somehow made the controls worse.

Although as a child I was never able to pass the fourth level, I still put many hours into it and enjoyed every moment.

9
http://www.gog.com/game/normality

Do you remember when magazines carried cover disc that were filled with awesome demos? With my limited pocket money, this would be the only way I could experience a lot of games at the time. The Normality demo came included with an issue of PC Gamer way back in 1996. I was immediately hooked by it's neon-punk aesthetic and unique adventure gaming mechanic that took place in a 3D Doom-style world.

It would be much later when I was finally able to play the full game and it didn't disappoint. Sure the graphics had dated a little and the puzzles were a little bit obscure, but it was filled with a character and charm that too few games take the effort to include.


8
http://www.gog.com/game/the_7th_guest

The 7th Guest is a landmark game when it was released in 1993. It was one of the first adventures to truly take advantage of the CD-Rom format and it did so impressively. 

At its heart the 7th Guest and its sequel are puzzle games with mild horror elements. You explore the haunted house of Henry Stauf solving logic puzzles in each one. Your reward would tend to be a spooky FMV cut scene of some ghosts or other goings on. Once you know what you're doing, it's a tad easy, but it served it's purpose by being a game that absolutely couldn't exist on floppy disks.

7
http://www.gog.com/game/theme_park

Bullfrog again - and this won't be the last time they appear on this list. Theme Park is a wish fulfillment strategy game released in 1994 that saw you create and run your very own Theme Park. Basically it's every kids dream. Subsequent iterations would improve on the graphics and Rollercoaster Tycoon (also on GOG) would improve on the formula, but the original is where it's at for pure giddy nostalgic glee.

Theme Park World would go on to add 3D to the mix, allowing you to ride your own coasters instead of a standard CG cutscene, but it's not yet on the site which is a shame as I haven't yet managed to get it running on modern systems. I poured hours into this, not even bothering to progress through levels, but carefully designing my themed areas. It's an absolute classic.

6
http://www.gog.com/game/gabriel_knight_2_the_beast_within

As I was beginning to be an ever growing movie buff, fascinated with horror movies in particular, the FMV genre always felt like a missed opportunity to me. With the vastly increased capacity that CD gave developers, they realised that movies could now be a part of their creation. Most didn't think much beyond that thought but those that did offered some great cinematic games. Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within was thankfully one of those games.

Not only did it fit into the adventure genre that I love, but the acting, graphics and atmosphere were all well thought out, if a little cheesy at times.That didn't distract from the story as a whole which is one of the best ever to grace a PC in 1995. Why did I pick this over it's predecessor? Well, this was a game I played as a child and one that has stayed with me ever since.


5
http://www.gog.com/game/sanitarium

Sanitarium is another horror adventure game that's stayed with me for many years. This game is vastly different from the Gabriel Knight mysteries in both it's theme and gameplay mechanics. At first glance, it would appear to be a 90s compute RPG in a similar vein to Planescape: Torment. It's played in an isometric view and the mouse controls are similar, but the story and puzzles are purely of the adventure variety.

The story here is also amongst the best I've ever seen in a video game and reminds me of the creepy writings of Steven Kin. You begin as an inmate of a decrepit mental asylum, your faced covered in burns and bandages. Throughout your adventure, you'll travel to a town populated entirely by creepy deformed children, an ominous circus on the precipice of a mountain and ancient Mesopotamia. It instills a great amount of dread and is well worth your time.


4
http://www.gog.com/game/dungeon_keeper

I must've lost months playing Dungeon Keeper and its sequel, both available to purchase at GOG. They're real time strategy games with a setting, style and sense of humour that I couldn't find in other similar game like Command & Conquer and WarCraft which seemed very straight-faced to me.

Dungeon Keeper revels in your mildly masochistic machinations. While some creatures will join you simply for the amount of chickens you can feed them, others will only arrive if you show sadistic tenancies by housing torture chambers and dominatrices. It's immensely enjoyable that I still go back to every now and then if I don't feel like sleeping for a few days.

3
http://www.gog.com/game/little_big_adventure_2

While Little Big Adventure (known as Relentless in the US) was an outstanding game, it would be its sequel that would bring it to a whole new level. This is an action adventure that suffers in the modern age by utilising some clunky tank-controls. It doesn't affect the game as a whole as you struggle to save the world's children from invading aliens.

The graphics design and stylistic choices hide a surprising deep tale that sticks with you more than its predecessor. It's an amazing game that every adventure gamer will enjoy.

2
http://www.gog.com/game/the_longest_journey

The Longest Journey (or the reason why my dissertation was late) is an adventure game that holds an amazing literary fantasy yarn. You are April Ryan, a university student who's plagued by life-like dreams which gradually encroach into the real world set in the near future. It is in fact an alternative dimension where magic rather than technology dominates mankind's progress.

It's a lengthy adventure with the odd and famously obtuse puzzles, but you won't stop thinking about it until it is finished. A 3D sequel named Dreamfall came in 2006 and saw a different protagonist. It was shorter and easier but it thankfully kept the truly engrossing storyline. Earlier this year the third entry was finally released as an episodic series entitled Dreamfall Chapter. All of these are available DRM free on GOG.

1
http://www.gog.com/game/the_secret_of_monkey_island_special_edition

I'm kind of cheating here as this special edition of the Greatest Game of All Time is actually a remake rather than the original, but how could I not?

A few months ago, GOG announced that they had landed the rights to LucasArts' back catalogue. It would mark the first time some of these had been available to buy for some years. While not all of their classic genre defining adventures are there, I had no limit myself to only one otherwise this list would be very one sided. As well as both Monkey Island 1 & 2 special editions, the also have the remastered Grim Fandango, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Sam & Max Hit the Road, The Dig and Loom.

As a special edition, the first thing to take note it the upgraded visuals. All graphics have been redrawn for modern HD systems but the animation has unfortunately not seen such an upgrade. The jerky movement, while fine with the pixelated style of 1990 seems at odds with the new look. There is the option to play the original version, but unlike the upgraded sequel the stellar voice work that saw the talented actors from Curse of Monkey Island return doesn't travel with it, which is a shame.

For those who've purchased this, there is a way to play it on ScummVM (an adventure game virtual machine). Follow this link to see the instructions.


There you have it - my first top 10. Each of these games were a big part of my PC-Gaming childhood and are classics that I think can still be enjoyed even without nostalgia goggles. Do you agree with my list? Let me know in the comments.

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Blade Runner  Ecstatica  Labyrinth

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