Posts Tagged ‘1990’

Sid Meier’s Covert Action Review

Covert Action Featured

Covert Action Boxart

Developer: MicroProse
Publisher: Tommo
Platform: PC – GOG*

Sid Meier is still a pretty well known name in the gaming world thanks to Civilization and Pirates! But that’s far from the extent of his development history. One that seems to have been forgotten by many is Sid Meier’s Covert Action from 1990. Considering how neat it was, I can’t figure out why it doesn’t receive praise today.

The player assumes the role of a CIA agent (Maxine or Maximillian) and are tasked with uncovering criminal activities on a global scale. To be a good agent, you must discover clues and track down people before they can orchestrate their plans or run away. Interestingly, Covert Action utilizes two very different types of gameplay to make this all work.

First there is the information-gathering which primarily takes the form of wire-tapping and decoding documents. Decoding itself is a fun little minigame. You can take information to have it analyzed or see what your pals at the CIA have to offer. Gathering info often requires your agent to get into dangerous circumstances. Basically, they’ll have to infiltrate enemy headquarters.

Covert Action Screenshot

Checking out enemy buildings is where the game transfers to a top-down perspective. You must explore the many rooms of buildings and hopefully hack into their machines or open their safes. Enemies will meander about and even set off alarms if they spot you. Thankfully, a minimap lets you know where enemies are so you can get the upper hand.

There is a lot about Covert Action that seems tremendously intriguing. It does show its age and isn’t going to light up many modern gamer enthusiasm, though. Shooting is fairly clunky and hideouts always seem too vast and maze-like. Also, the reward of going to the beach after catching a crook is ridiculously hokey. Oh, did anyone mention the appalling artwork? Despite all this, I can’t help being lured back in for more Covert Action cases.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Wing Commander Review

Wing Commander Featured

Wing Commander Boxart

Developer:  Origin Systems
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Consoles – 3DO, PlayStation, Sega CD, SNES, PC – Amiga, Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG*

Wing Commander is a series that flourished in the 90s and helped bring about a whole new style for space sims to come. The first Wing Commander, released in 1990, was a revelation. The pixel graphics were crisp, the action was incredible, and the dynamic soundtrack kept excitement going. Over 20 years later, the game is still impressive.

You begin as the newest member on the TCS Tiger’s Claw. The crew of pilots are tasked with stopping the alien race Kilrathi’s plans of domination. Over the course of a dozen or so missions, you’ll have to fight against them time and time again. The meat of Wing Commander is dogfights, so you’d best be prepared.

The game is pretty tough. Battles are displayed from the cockpit, meaning less than half the screen actually shows what’s going on in space. However, the cockpit has multiple readouts that are necessary for skillful play. You can fly in any direction, speed up and break, launch targeted missiles, and order your partner about.  If you can’t shoot down the enemy then they’ll take you down. You always have a partner during missions but they can die too, or save your hide.  Whether you win or lose partners, the game continues. This is perhaps the strangest and most “modern” feature.

Wing Commander Screenshot

Shooting is difficult in part because of imperfect mouse control but also because of having to judge where bullets will land. After enough fights you get the hang of it, but sometimes it doesn’t seem correct. At least an audible cue sounds when a bullet collides with an enemy ship’s exterior.

The biggest letdown when playing Wing Commander is that there’s very little story to dig into. Although characters have been set up, they hardly bring anything noteworthy to the table. Instead, the focus is 90% on missions and battles. As entertaining as these are, the game is simply too short. Those who buy the GOG release gain access to the expansion packs The Secret Missions and The Secret Missions 2: Crusade which add more playtime via new missions.

Considering its age, Wing Commander is still an excellent introduction to the series. It offers an incredible amount of replay value (missions change based on your performance) and excellent fight sequences. Just don’t jump into the cockpit expecting a deep storyline. It seems that is only implemented later in the series.

Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas

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Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse Review

Castle of Illusion Screenshot

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Platform: Game Gear, Genesis (Reviewed), Master System, Sega Saturn

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a game that many players have held dear for years. Recently, Sega went back and re-envisioned the title to be suitable for modern gaming platforms. Having never played the original before, I decided to give it a go before trying the remake. How does it stand up for someone who doesn’t get nostalgic recalling the title?

The people at Sega certainly tried hard to make something special with the licensed character of Mickey Mouse. Honestly, it seems like we haven’t seen as many excellent licensed titles since the era of SNES and Genesis. The world is bright and colorful and Mickey looks just as expected. Levels are imaginative and mesh with a Disney aesthetic.

It seems the game shouldn’t be that difficult, but it still ended up being somewhat tough for me. The primary offender was that Mickey has a weirdly heavy jump. He can get up pretty high in the air, but it sometimes felt that he wasn’t responding as accurately as he should have to my button commands. This could be due to the controller or aged game, though. Who can say? I do know the remake suffers its own lag but that was obviously not purposeful.

Castle of Illusion Screenshot

Aside from that, the platforming is interesting. A mechanic showcased in an early level even allows the map to be flipped upside down/right side up. It seems a bit ghastly, though, considering each flip causes the enemies to fall down and die immediately. Well, they disappear rather than die, but the implication is the same. Mickey himself never dies but instead is given a handful of “tries” before a final game over. Considering this is a game primarily targeted to children why couldn’t there have been infinite tries?

All things considered, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse is a pretty good platformer. It has all the aspects you expect of one, such as  great music and attractive visuals. Still, those controls were problematic. And then aside from some neat concepts, the game doesn’t do much to make it stand out above the rest when it should. After all, this is a Mickey Mouse game!

Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas

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