Posts Tagged ‘1990s’

Monster Bash Review

Monster Bash Featured

Monster Bash Boxart

Developer: Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Software
Platformer: PC – Direct, DOS, GOG*

Monster Bash is an early 90s platformer featuring a protagonist who fits right into the time period. Johnny Dash is a cool kid (you can tell because he wears a baseball cap backwards). Along with his trusty slingshot he delves into the world of monsters. An overall theme might be that these are just dreams, as little Johnny wanders through dangerous stages in polka-dotted pajamas. In any case, the goal is to save caged animals without letting him meet an untimely end.

With a child protagonist and cute goal of saving cats and dogs you might think Monster Bash is effectively a kid’s game. And maybe it is, but it’s also an incredibly violent one. Your slingshot fires rocks (primarily) and when these hit enemies they bleed. Yep, it’s red blood too, not some fanciful alien goop color. Locations are definitely creepy too with hanged skeletons, hearts suspended via hooks, and other nastiness. In comparison to Apogee’s earlier works it has a more detailed, less garish visual aesthetic.

Monster Bash Featured

Platforming itself is pretty precise and challenging. Even in the first episode there are stages with a huge amount of animals to free – some of which are difficult to reach. Along the way you must always watch for enemies, enemy projectiles, and other dangers. For example, if you shoot light fixtures the glass will fall down and pose a brand new threat. Staying alive is tough even though you have five lives to start. Thankfully, checkpoints are liberally dispersed and extra lives are available as well.

Still, Monster Bash is quite the relentless platformer. My attempts to reach beyond Episode 2 were a tragedy. Those who love hard platformers should definitely find this one appealing. After all, it offers large levels and many secrets which seem to draw the attention of genre fans. Here’s hoping Apogee games continue to see modern releases even if they’re all likely a bit too much for me!


3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Bad Mojo Redux Review

Bad Mojo Featured

Bad Mojo Redux Boxart

Developer: Pulse Entertainment
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment, Night Dive Studios
Platform: PC – GOG*, Steam

Bad Mojo is one of those games that was deemed one of the last noteworthy adventure titles (before their more modern resurgence). Despite owning a copy of the re-release, Redux, near launch, it seemed too difficult and weird to get into. I’ve finally run through the unique experience and found it very much worth playing.

The game opens with a man who has apparently just committed a robbery or two and is about to leave town. His plans change completely when looking at a locket from his mother zaps him. After regaining consciousness, he finds himself within the body of a cockroach. From there, players must navigate the dangerous apartment rooms to solve puzzles and hopefully return to human form.

Exploring is a disgusting, interesting feat as you come across dead roach and rat bodies, bloodied half-prepared fish, and general yuckiness. It’s incredibly surprising to realize a form of this game launched in 1996 since the visuals are still as gross as ever. Puzzles involve looking everywhere and figuring out what exactly to walk over or push to cause a reaction. If you need help, other creatures will speak of hints in vague tones.

Bad Mojo Featured

Bad Mojo Redux is a visual upgrade to the original game and my GOG copy ran just fine on my Windows 7 64-bit computer. Buying via Steam or GOG nabs all Redux bonus videos (developer commentary, making of, hint videos), manual, soundtrack, and other goodies.

The acting in Bad Mojo is pretty hokey, but if you can get past that the experience is incredibly different from an adventure game standpoint. You might find the finale a bit tricky though, as I did. Save often! Performing different actions during a playthrough result in different endings. Although the endings might be hindered by the story and acting, crawling your way through is definitely enjoyable. Check Bad Mojo (Redux) out as long as you’re not the squeamish type.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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The Labyrinth of Time Review

The Labyrinth of Time Featured

The Labyrinth of Time Boxart

Developer: Terra Nova Development, The Wyrmkeep Entertainment Co.
Publisher: Electronic Arts, The Wyrmkeep Entertainment Co.
Platform: PC – Amiga CD32, DOS, GOG*

Thanks to increasingly powerful PCs in 1993, an entirely new genre (of sorts) was born. People may know them as Myst-likes; games where your goal is to explore expansive “3D” environments and solve puzzles. However, it appears The Labyrinth of Time arrived before Myst, so perhaps we should be calling everything The Labyrinth of Time-likes instead?

The game starts off in a depressing fashion as we hear the internal monologue of our protagonist. He speaks about the dull, horrid life they live day after day. However, on the commute home, something striking happens. Suddenly, they are no longer on their regular commuter train but in some complete alternate universe. They’ve been called upon by Daedalus to stop the vile King Minos before it takes control of time and space.

The Labyrinth of Time Featured

It’s obvious the story line is meant to be a big draw but it’s rather silly. Beyond that, you explore a variety of screens to collect items for use later. In keeping with the theme, areas are all given their own time and place. For example, one area is a western saloon while the other is a 1950’s restaurant. Visually, The Labyrinth of Time is gorgeous but that makes sense given the slide show nature of the graphics. Unfortunately, I found myself going around in circles because of it.

As someone who likes weird games, it’s hard to completely discount this one. I really like the art, themed areas, and general odd vibe throughout. However, playing it isn’t particularly fun. The Labyrinth of Time doesn’t stand up to the test of time but it’s a neat little reminder of when developers were willing to experiment.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Crystal Caves Review

Crystal Caves Featured

Crystal Caves Boxart

Developer: Apogee Software
Publisher: Apogee Software
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

As shameful as it may be to admit, Apogee Software titles were not a part of my youth. Crystal Caves was one of the many game releases by them over the years available in shareware form. The first episode, “The Trouble with Twibbles”, was available for free but episodes 2 and 3 required a purchase. If you buy the game on GOG it comes with all three episodes. How does this collectathon platformer hold up?

Surprisingly well, in fact! At least the first episode does. Crystal Caves’ hero is Mylo, a dude with bright pink clothes and a silly strut. Players navigate him through multiple stages to collect multicolored crystals. Enemies and traps are found in each cave, as well as tricks due to the level layouts themselves. The first chapter isn’t difficult to complete and really amps one up for more adventures.

Crystal Caves Featured

Episode 2 is harder than the first and at times even gets a little annoying. However, with dedication you can blast past it into Episode 3. That’s where it really becomes too much for all but the biggest Crystal Caves fans. At that point the difficulty is cranked up even more. Here things like your limited shots and three hearts get unfairly strained. Luckily, there’s no penalty for death because you’ll die a lot. Somewhere in between these levels it also becomes hard to ignore the precise nature of some jumps.

Crystal Caves is not the prettiest platformer on the block with its garish colors and slapdash monster designs. It’s also disappointing to realize that many of the 47 stages are too difficult for many to complete. Yet, there is an enduring quality about Crystal Caves that makes it enjoyable in small doses. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for a lengthy DOS era platformer.


Score: 2.5

2 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Redline Review

Redline Featured

Redline Boxart

Developer: Beyond Games
Publisher: Accolade, Tommo
Platform: PC – GOG*

Were you looking for a hyper violent, ridiculously bloody shooter in the 90s? The market was simply saturated with this stuff! As such, it took GOG’s recent release of Redline for me to even realize this game existed. It appears Redline slipped between the cracks for many players out there. It’s a bit of a shame because the game is actually pretty fun as far as FPSes are concerned.

You start off in the dystopian future of 2066. At this point the world is completely destroyed leaving various factions to fight for supremacy. Without much rhyme or reason, you seek to join one specific gang to help them achieve victory. Doing so involves a ton of firefights over the course of 12 levels.

Redline Featured

Stages are pretty large and often this is to grant access for car use. Aside from running around on your feet as per FPS conventions you can also hop into empty vehicles and drive around. Crushing enemies with your car or utilizing its various weapons add some much-needed uniqueness to Redline. Weapons themselves are not the most creative on the block but do burst enemies into bloody bits.

There’s a bit of story between stages but nothing very enthralling. Visuals are also par for the course of late 90s video games. Controls also fit in with that time period which means they are imperfect. You can rebind them, but that didn’t fix my issue with mouse control. It seemed to not offer complete freedom of aiming which I had to get used to. Perhaps that was just a personal setup issue, though.

Redline will last you at least 3 hours with FPS and vehicular combat fun. It is not the best of its class, but certainly better than some of its bargain bin peers.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime Review

The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime Featured

The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime

Developer: Presto Studios
Publisher: Presto Studios
Platform: PC – GOG*

The Journeyman Project first launched in 1994 by then newcomer developer Presto Studios. Their tale about a time travelling hero hooked many, which led to the creation of a second and third game in the series. After the second, Presto went back and remade their original game as The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime. It was a seriously hefty upgrade and is the version currently available on GOG. Does the game hold up today?

Yes! Although, there are certainly some really hokey things going on.  The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime begins with the lead character going through a dull daily work routine in Earth’s distant future. Of course, everything doesn’t stay routine for long. Something weird is going on and requires Agent 5 to enter into the Pegasus time travel machine. From there, it’s up to the player to travel between times to fix whatever broke the space time continuum.

The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime Featured

There are only three time periods to really fuss around with, which is a shame when the concept is so neat. In any case, your goal is to correct the wrongs present in these periods. This includes a variety of puzzles to solve, some of which require traversing between multiple time periods before you’re prepared to solve them. It can be tough for some adventure players to walk away from a puzzle, but that’s exactly what you have to do sometimes. Near the end there were also a few puzzles that seemed a bit too reliant on retrying (or maybe I was just really poor at them).

The story itself is not particularly amazing, and wraps up really suddenly, but what makes it worth experiencing is the ridiculous actors. Each character has a FMV sprite and overact with incredible devotion. If you pay attention, you can even see their eyes move subtly as they read their lines while acting out. I love games that have such overwhelmingly silly acting and The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime definitely provides in this respect.

It is not a very long experience, but it is mostly entertaining and unusual. Now I want to check out what the sequels have to offer!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Harvester Review

Harvester Featured

Harvester Boxart

Developer: DigiFX Interactive
Publisher: Merit Studios / Night Dive Studios
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*, Steam

Harvester, along with a few other FMV adventure games, paved the way for ridiculous violence in the 90s gaming scene. Of course, this was right around the time that people began to express concern and attempt to enact legislation about violence in video games. Instead of taking on the issue in a professional manner, developers rushed to make the most foul media possible. Harvester is a tremendous product of that era and somehow still manages to be shocking.

The town of Harvest is stuck in the 50s. Women are obsessed with the PTA bake sale and little else while men appear to have their own fascination with meat. Everyone is in love with the mysterious Lodge. Steve wakes up in Harvest with no memory and realizes the townsfolk are completely out of it. He finds his supposed wife-to-be Stephanie is also aware of the disturbing nature of Harvest. Steve decides to join the Lodge in hopes of finally leaving this ridiculous town.

As this is an adventure game, there’s a ton of puzzles to solve as you point and click your way around the small town. Most aren’t too difficult but some do seem to expect solutions without ever hinting at them. One nice feature of Harvester is that it won’t let the game progress if you’ve missed out on any key items. There are a good deal of colorful townsfolk and you’ll want to talk to most of them each day, although some are best left alone (nuclear base, anyone?).

Harvester Screenshot 1

The real meat of the game is simply talking with the townspeople and seeing what ridiculous event transpires next. Everyone is just so odd that they captivate you for the hours it takes it beat the game. I was perturbed by certain characters because things have changed over the years.

Is it really a great gag when the firemen are all lisping interior decorators? No, not really, nor are other characters who refer to them in derogatory ways. There’s also Stephanie’s proclivity to wearing lingerie and nothing else multiple times during the game. If aspects such as these were left out the experience would be easier to recommend. And even so, Harvester lends itself to a car crash reaction, where you can’t help but explore it entirely despite its inherent nastiness.

Harvester is beyond the B-movie. It reaches Troll 2 levels of ridiculous and that’s why it makes you need to beat it, just to see this all through to the end. As it turns out, Steve isn’t nearly as much of a kidder as DigiFX Interactive were. Playing Harvester takes one back to an absurd era of gaming where developers would rather give legislators the finger then ever tone down their games.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Review

Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Featured

Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Boxart

Developer: MicroProse
Publisher: MicroProse
Platform: PC – DOS, GOG*

If we were to be transported back to the start of the 90s we’d see that adventure games were still king. The two main combatants in the ring were Sierra and LucasArts, although many others tried to emulate them. One of MicroProse’s adventure game efforts was Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. With its own brand of adult humor, it actually does succeed in certain respects, although it falls apart in others.

Our star is Rex Nebular,  an apparently for-hire thief, who regales a very strange tale that took place as he attempted to recover something for a mission. While searching through the galaxy his ship is intercepted by hostiles who shoot him down, landing him on their planet. As is quickly revealed, the planet seems inhabited purely by women. The Great Gender War proved women the dominant gender thanks to their incredible biochemical skills, which wiped all dudes from existence. Rex is set to either be killed or used as livestock to keep the population growing.

Although that might sound like some sort of tawdry sci-fi lit, Rex isn’t exactly enthused at either prospect. What he cares about most is his mission and heading home. Of course, puzzles slow his adventure. Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender has multiple difficulty settings which dictate how many of the puzzles a player has to deal with. Although none are impossibly obtuse, some are a bit mean. Inventory management is downright horrible as you must scroll through an ever-increasing list of items to find the one to use. Anyone who relies on guess and check for puzzles will be in a world of pain here.

Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender Featured

Most point and click adventures that weren’t from the big companies had a hard time with humor. This game actually manages to (mostly) nail it. Jokes are ridiculous and silly without resorting to gendered jokes as I expected would be the case. Honestly, the whole “Gender Bender” thing seems overblown in an otherwise relatively tame adventure experience. Women in the game are routinely depicted as strong as they are the leaders of society and inhabit a great many roles. The biggest issue is that all the women fit a stereotypical Western depiction of beauty, minus one who is used as a completely useless sight gag.

So while it is actually a pretty funny romp, it is short and far less interesting than the name implies. The story feels like the beginning of a series of (as of yet unseen) Rex Nebular adventures. Rex just wasn’t cut out for that. Despite excellent writing overall, Rex himself is mostly a blank slate with a dash of machismo. Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender is best for adventure game lovers who can handle anything as long as it has snappy writing.


Score: 1.5

1 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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7th Legion Review

7th Legion Featured

7th Legion Boxart

Developer: Epic Games, Vision Software
Publisher: MicroProse
Platform: PC – GOG*

Real-time strategy (RTS) games were big in the 90s on PC. Thanks in large part to Command & Conquer, there was a sudden deluge of other games hoping to work the same magic. It worked in some cases but often not entirely. 7th Legion was one game born of the RTS boom and it stands as an average attempt with some newly introduced flaws.

At least the storyline is kinda neat. The Earth has been nearly destroyed due to pollution, leading the world’s government to send people into space while the planet recovers. Of course, only the smartest, strongest, and riches humans get to go. Everyone else is left to toil on the now inhospitable Earth. 7 generations later, the chosen people return to claim Earth, but the citizens left there aren’t going down without a fight.

The “chosen” are basically depicted as a Nazi parable in color choice, salute, and mindset (they are the ‘best’ specimens of the human race). It’s because of this fact that it is incredibly odd how 7th Legion lets you play as them if you wish. There are two campaigns but anyone playing should probably choose Legion’s side.

7th Legion Screenshot

Gameplay is all about upgrading your base, increasing troops, and working through the fog of war to find and destroy enemies. Any competent RTS offers the same. Where 7th Legion attempts to be creative is with a power up system, shown as five cards on-screen. These are used to strengthen your side, lay waste to enemies, and the like. The enemy can also use them against you which is when you’ll feel how overpowered some are.

Bringing the game to modern machines appears to have caused some issues, however. The biggest is related to troop control. The game wants players to click quickly to move troops somewhere and then hold click to open up a menu that makes troops aggressive or defensive. Thanks to faster computers, the pop up menu usually comes up immediately during a routine click to move troops. Sometimes this leads to troops not being able to move at all since you haven’t issued the “quick” click command to do so. As of now there’s no fix for it officially from GOG.

7th Legion was the first RTS I ever played and I cherish it for that reason. Still, I wholly recognize that the game does not stand up as anything special in the genre. It has some cool troops mounted on dinosaurs, but that’s really the best you get. Online functionality has also been removed from the re-release, making it much easier to skip over this game.


Score: 1

1 out of 5 alpacas


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SiN Gold Review

SiN Gold Featured

SiN Boxart

Developer: Ritual Entertainment
Publisher: Activision
Platform: PC – GOG*

SiN is a very unusual game with an interesting history. Back in the 90s, people were quickly being spoiled with first person shooters. Little did players of the time realize that a landmark title was about to launch in 1998 – Half-Life. Poor SiN also wanted to be that next great game but knew they would have to compete against Valve’s creation. So, they rushed to complete the project and ship it just a few days before Half-Life’s launch. Despite that, it was SiN that ended up as a footnote in FPS history.

It’s a bit of a shame considering SiN did a lot of neat things. The storyline is mostly adequate, dealing with a main character named John Blade, corporations, and evil people with power. Yeah, it’s not the most incredible tale ever but it handles itself well as a hokey b-movie style creation. Most of what makes it impressive is purely gameplay-based.

The shooting is solid and even shows the specific damage inflicted on enemies (mostly). For example, shooting a guy in the chest will tear off a bit of the shirt and cause a mess. Shooting in the legs will make them crumple as if their legs were really injured. Overall, firefights are intense but fun. It also helps that there’s a wide variety of weapons to mess around with. Another very neat feature is the level of control given to players for accessing computers to mess with security systems and otherwise hack stuff. It doesn’t feel like a minigame so much as actually interfacing with a simplified computer which is weird but very neat.

SiN Gold Featured

As with many FPSes of the time, SiN utilizes its own random control scheme. Okay, it’s not random, but would not be considered standard today. Buttons are mapped often to correlate to what letter the word starts with. For example, the action of talking to other players being mapped to T. However, this applies to most of the functions meaning you’ll have to learn the goofy specific controls. Or, you can rebind any and all keys but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth to just get accustomed to them.

Although it was once available on Steam alongside SiN Episodes, it can now only be purchased digitally via GOG. On that storefront it includes the Wages of Sin mission pack. There’s a lot that feels really weird about SiN Gold but it’s also a pretty competent shooter. Those who love the genre today owe it to themselves to check out more obscure titles such as this one.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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