Brother None counts down his favourite games

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by Brother None, Oct 22, 2009.

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  1. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    [spoiler:de356073a1]15. Rick Dangerous - Core Design (Atari ST, 1989)
    14. Wasteland - Interplay (DOS, 1988)
    13. Earthworm Jim - Shiny Entertainment (Mega Drive, 1994)
    12. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands - Strategic Simulations (DOS, 1993)
    11. Diablo - Blizzard (Windows, 1997)
    10. Psychonauts - Double Fine Productions (Windows, 2005)
    9. Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura - Troika Studios (Windows, 2001)
    8. Vampire - the Masquerade: Bloodlines - Troika Studios (Windows, 2004)
    7. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - Rockstar North (Windows, 2003)
    6. Planescape: Torment - Black Isle Studios (Windows, 1999)[/spoiler:de356073a1]

    After the epic controversy of Per's Top 10 MP/SP list and the sad abandonment that is Ratty's Top 20 list, it's time for part 3: The Reckoning.

    Now remember; these lists are only to be done by interesting people (read: admins, we love abusing power), and are purely subjective favourite games lists, not "greatest games ever" lists.

    Now, I kind of suck at lists. There's a few games that fall out of this list despite the fact that I pushed the list up to an arbitrary 15 just to include games I wanted to. Stuff like Strife, Pirates! and *gulp* Monkey Island dropped out because while I love those games, they're just outside the 15.

    There's also plenty of games I simply haven't played enough of, or didn't get the first times I played it and have yet to pick up again, which is why this list lacks Gold Box RPGs, Darklands, Maffia or Bullfrog games.
    The bottom half of this list is fairly mutable, and could really move about at any time.

    Also, to take out a redundancy feel, I have not listed more than one game out of any franchise. Often enough top titles in a franchise come close enough to duking it out, and these lists just become snore-fests if you just relist the same franchise over and over. So instead I just take the top pick, even if it only narrowly edges out the competition.
    It also lacks certain genres, like FPSs or RTSs, not because I don't enjoy the genre but because either nothing sticks out at me or nothing was enjoyable enough for me personally to list.

    So without further ado...

    15. Rick Dangerous - Core Design (Atari ST, 1989)

    We're one game into the list, and I can already feel the "OMG WTFs" starting to heat up.

    Rick Dangerous, for the uninitiated, is a classic platformer on Amiga/Commodore 64/Atari ST/DOS, though I played it on the Atari, the only gaming platform available to me at the time. Rick Dangerous is a blatant Indiana Jones-homage/ripoff about British agent Rick Dangerous, who starts out archeologizing before inevitably running into Nazis, and to foil their evil plot he has to travel through an ancient temple, a pyramid, a Nazi castle and a Nazi missile base.

    "Nazi castle? Nazi missile base? I remember no such thing!" Yes, that might be because Rick Dangerous was completely impossible, and blatantly unapologetic about it. Most sane players got no farther than the pyramid, if there, as your limited lives would quickly dwindle throughout stage 1, along with your small stock of ammo and dynamite.

    Couldn't have been that hard, you say? Give it a try. If you make it out of the first screen alive it's only because I just warned you that making it out of the first screen alive is a challenge.

    Rick Dangerous is simply unfair, it's the only way to describe the game; hidden traps with no visual warning at all, falling down screens right into a spiky trap you had no way of knowing was there, countless enemies with no where near enough firepower to deal with them, hard-to-spot ladders and secret entrances you have to use. Rick Dangerous was the ultimate trial-and-error game, asking - nay - demanding you to use your limited life-count to memorize and perfect the execution of every single screen, and then come back to play through the entire game flawlessly.

    It is endlessly frustrating, and endlessly engaging. Here's a little secret about me: I friggin' love platform games. And Rick Dangerous is simply a good platform game, with intuitive responsive controls and a great look and feel to it, with a simple, cartooney touch to it that has an expressiveness that's been mostly lost in this age of CGI. The story is sufficiently meaningless, the level design solid, the gameplay is just plain fun.

    But it really is unfair.

    And that begs the question: would Rick Dangerous have been a better game if it were less unfair? There's sort of two sides to that question; if you ask "would it be more fun" then yes, considering teeth-grinding frustration isn't really "fun" it probably would have been more fun as a simple one-playthrough-does-it platformer.
    But would it have been a better game? Hell no. And this is part of why I love this game, it represents something game design has lost. Game developers have seemingly forgot that frictionless, unlosable games are a concept fitted to children ages 3-5 but no one else, and the attempts to replace this with fake challenges (where the player is fooled into thinking something is difficult because the game tells him so but gameplay-wise it is not an actual challenge) really works on only the simplest minds amongst us.

    Rick Dangerous has no such makeup on. It doesn't try to engage you through its story. It doesn't apologize for being impossible but nor does its impossibility stem from any flaws in the design. Instead, we have a game that actually engages by being impossible. As a player, you don't want to let this game win. And because its platform action plays so easily, you keep coming back to try again; it engages you by being so hard. Beating Rick Dangerous feels like an accomplishment not because of charming ending cutscenes about how great the world is now (spoiler: it isn't), but because it's actually really hard to beat the game.

    <center> </center>
    Rick Dangerous is one of those games that proves nostalgia isn't always just nostalgia, and that sometimes it seems like games of yore forgot more than our current game designers could ever hope to learn. With both a charm in visual design and wisdom in game design that have been completely lost to us, Rick Dangerous is the kind of gem Rick Dangerous would go to Africa for to save.


  2. Dead Guy

    Dead Guy Senate Board Director oTO Moderator Orderite

    Nov 9, 2008
    OMG WTF!

    Though I never even made it to the pyramid, and not very many screens into the game either for that matter, I have only good memories of this game. What I remember the most is how hard it was to fire and drop dynamite with a joystick.
  3. Dragula

    Dragula Stormtrooper oTO Orderite

    Nov 6, 2008
    No, fuck that game, you start with a fucking boulder up your ass. :(
  4. Per

    Per Vault Consort Staff Member Admin

    Apr 1, 2004
    I absolutely did not expect thiiiiis!

    But, just to beat Ratty to it: You suck!
  5. Madbringer

    Madbringer What is it that crawls behind the glass? Orderite

    Apr 9, 2004
    Wow, i somehow missed Per's list. All i can say, is, my head hurts after reading it and i need to lie down (whether because it's so awesome or so horrible, i shall not disclose, guuu~~uu~ ^_^).

    Back on topic, i've had tons of fun with Rick Dangerous, back in the day. I can vouch for it being fucking hard, it traumatized my childhood. In fact, i blame this game, Contra 3, and the Church of the New Epoch missions from Syndicate Wars for hating video games. I love them. But i hate them.

    So yeah, it is a good, memorable game, certainly one of the best of it's kind... but i don't think it stood the test of time, much like most platformers, and also, i don't think platformers in general are much more than passing joys, like a good action movie on a Sunday night, but i guess that's all falling hard on the Great Wall of Subjective Criteria. Nevertheless, my wall just went 'OMG WTF!'.

    Looking forward the rest of the list! :)
  6. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    Meaning what? To me, not "standing the test of time" means that a game has been surpassed by titles of the same genre to such an extent that it now looks stupid, or the game's graphics or interface are simply too backwards to have it be playable.
    Neither seems the case for Rick Dangerous; its graphic design is abandoned but not inferior to current products, its interface is fine, and the genre has only regressed since its heyday in the late 80s/early 90s.


    And that argument would preclude me from adding the title to a "greatest" or "most defining" games of all time. But why would that stop me from having it amongst my favourites? Some fairly mindless action flicks are amongst my most favourite films to watch too.
  7. Madbringer

    Madbringer What is it that crawls behind the glass? Orderite

    Apr 9, 2004
    I did say i appreciate it for what it is. I meant that the platformers in general are sort of a relic of times long past in gaming. They got shoved aside by games more sophisticated and engaging.

    It does negate their qualities a bit if viewed through the zeitgeist glasses (although that maybe won't be so true soon, considering the current gaming trends).

    Touche, i was just thinking out loud, there.

    Don't get me wrong, i enjoy my fair share of mindless games (i'm a huge Quake fan, after all), and i am not trying to argue that games like that don't belong on any lists at all because they're simple, i was saying i, myself, am seeking different qualities (first and foremost being replayablity) and based on those, would pick different, which is completely irrelevant, since this is your list, after all. :P
  8. The Vault Dweller

    The Vault Dweller always looking for water.

    Aug 24, 2004
    I'm very happy to see Brother None due this and not at all surprised he's gonna pick obscure things, because they deserve to be there regardless.

    I'm definitely gonna try this game when I get home, but in the meantime Brother None I would strongly suggest you play this:

    Same difficulty and play style with exceptional gameplay, graphics, and music.
  9. NFSreloaded

    NFSreloaded Still Mildly Glowing

    May 5, 2009
    Reminds me of a game I always played on my old Windows 95, called Dangerous Dave. This game has better graphics, though.
  10. MrBumble

    MrBumble Vault Fossil

    Jan 17, 2006
    Rick Dangerous is really insane.

    I remember playing it on the Atari ST...
    So difficult, so many traps, so much stuff to remember.

    Great game.
  11. Tycn

    Tycn Still Mildly Glowing

    Sep 27, 2008
  12. jero cvmi

    jero cvmi Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    Oct 8, 2008
    Wow. this brought back so old memories, i had forgotten all about it since so much time ago, it's the first time i actually see color screenshots. I absolutely loved how everytime you played you had to remember everything you did the last time and try to get it right this time. I've never read a review of it anywhere, thanks BN.
  13. Hellion

    Hellion Antediluvian Lurker

    Jun 20, 2003
    Good Lord, it must be over 17 years since I last saw or heard any reference to this game. The memories...I remember playing it on my father's Amstrad, still at a very tender age.

    Indeed, the game forced you to remember each and every bit of each level, to the point that you proceeded almost mechanically after a certain amount of play-throughs. I never made it past the Pyramid either, if I remember correctly.
  14. tfp

    tfp First time out of the vault

    Dec 8, 2006
    This was a great game. Interested to see the rest of the list.
  15. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    14. Wasteland - Interplay (DOS, 1988)

    Though I was definitely too young to play these games at the time, the mid-to-late 80s was a veritable nirvana for cRPG players, a time when inferior graphics had to be compensated by superior game design and complexity. After Ultima and Wizardry opened the path, Bard's Tale and the Gold Box RPGs romped through. The period changed the genre forever - or rather for a short time, until the mainstream bug bit and killed it (looking at you, BioWare). While Ultima IV and Pool of Radiance are traditionally the two kings considered to be duking it out for top crown in this period, they're not my pick.

    Mine would have to be Wasteland. Wasteland was not a ground-breaking game in a time when others were reshaping the cRPG landscape around them, as Bard's Tale opened up the concept of coherent worlds, Dungeon Master introduced us to twitch-based combat, Ultima IV gave us a torrent of new cRPG concepts and Wizardry IV gave us a delightful new angle to story-telling. Wasteland did none of this, but that does not mean it lacked ambition. Where everyone was racing to try out new things and reinvent the genre with every new iteration, Wasteland took a step back, put the Bard's Tale combat and interface concepts to a shotgun wedding with the pervasive top-down exploration view best known from Ultima, and then expanded the shotgun wedding into a Mormon one by adding yet another bride in the form of great RPG writing.

    While there have definitely been better-written games since, Wasteland's direction under pen-and-paper RPG writers Ken St. Andre and Michael Stackpole shows an understanding of using writing as an interactive tool. It gives a pleasant feel of there being an actual game master behind the text, as pretty much everything has to be described and is described in wonderfully atmospheric narratives. The gory combat texts are probably most well-remembered, but Wasteland had a way of using simple, short texts to make its world come alive extremely well. Going into an abandoned building and reading "these old dusty shelves have stood here unused for more years than you have been alive" tells me more than modern graphics ever could. Even before the concept of pen-and-paper emulation died for mainstream game development, when games were still trying it in the late 90s, none of them ever quite reached the quality of pen-and-paper/computer hybridization that Wasteland did.

    In many ways, though not in all, Wasteland was the culmination of what the cRPG-frenzy of the late 80s was trying to build up to. Its polished technical design was combined with great writing and a complex RPG system to build "the perfect cRPG" as imagined in that time.

    So they say, computer game, so they say</center>
    Actually, let's be honest here: the real question is not so much why I'm listing Wasteland, but why I'm listing it so low?

    Well, remember that this is my personal list, and when it comes to personal experiences, none of the early Gold Box-era cRPGs did "that much" for me, including Wasteland. This is mostly due to playing it out of sequence; I'm too young to have appreciated the late 80s cRPG era for what it was back then, so I'm mostly picking stuff up retrospectively. I only really played Wasteland after playing several mid-and-late-90s cRPGs, and while I'm not going to say it doesn't "stand the test of time", it's still a jarring experience.

    The game holds up, but it holds up in the same way Citizen Kane does. I can watch Citizen Kane, and I can appreciate it, and recognize all it meant for the film industry. But I can't really enjoy it the same way I do later seminal pieces. The same is true for Wasteland, my love of the game almost lies more in abstract appreciation for its accomplishments than in outright enjoyment of the game itself.

    <center> </center>
    It's somewhat odd to look back at Wasteland and its accomplishments. Its engine was used in the tepid Fountain of Dreams and the significantly less-well-known Bill & Tedd-inspired Richard & Alan's Escape from Hell, and was supposed to be used in the fascinatingly ambitious Meantime, so there's not much legacy there. Much of what they were trying to do back then is simply not amongst the goals of current-day cRPG developers. Understandable given the way much of the Gold Box era was hedged between text adventures and "truly immersive gaming", but more's the pity them.

    At least we'll always have Vegas.
  16. The Vault Dweller

    The Vault Dweller always looking for water.

    Aug 24, 2004
    Wasteland...I would play it just for its meaning to Fallout or its greatness as an RPG.

    Unfortunately after playing it an hour and absolutely loving it my PC suddenly and without reason decided that old games can't run on my PC. I have to try out DosBox one day and try to replay it.
  17. SuAside

    SuAside Testament to the ghoul lifespan

    May 27, 2004
    everyone is totally surprised to find Wasteland in your list, i'm sure. ;)

    Wasteland is probably the game that i've stopped playing out of frustration and did end up picking up time & time again.
  18. Per

    Per Vault Consort Staff Member Admin

    Apr 1, 2004
    Me and my panzer will be over here recovering from the BURN.

    Also: w00t !
  19. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    So is this a list of great games that are completely unenjoyable today?


    Gimme more.
  20. Brother None

    Brother None This ghoul has seen it all
    Staff Member Admin Orderite

    Apr 3, 2003
    I just did a headcount; this is the last 80s game on my list, with seven 90s games and 6 00s games coming up. I'm actually kind of shocked at having that many 00s games considering how critical I am of the recent game industry, but it is what it is.
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