As you all know, we have been involving you, the lovely Three Speech community, in writing articles for Three Speech. Here is another one for you… DolphGB is Editor-in-Chief at PS3 Attitude, in his own words ‘a UK-based daily news site that stamps on the bones of speculation and instead concentrates on reporting what is really happening in the wonderful world of the PlayStation 3′. Their scarily accurate PS3 Attitude Calendar helps you to determine the real launch dates for software and hardware releases as well as giving you the heads-up on worldwide events and exhibitions. Also check their monthly ‘Big Three’ feature and GameFlirt Chart which details happenings in the world of UK PS3 game rental. Be good to know your thoughts on this one…
According to all the recent research, it seems that the average age of ‘the gamer’ is 33.
This is great news for me, since if you’re the ‘average gamer’ (or a little over-average like me) this article is all about games that you should have played at some point in your life. If you do happen to be too young for the titles in this story, think of it as an education of what used to float our boat back in the ’80s.
The PSN is all about easily accessible games that are simple to play. Just look at the brilliance of games like Everyday Shooter, Super Stardust HD, PAIN and Warhawk.
Of course, Super Stardust HD is a remake of an old Amiga title I used to play. Warhawk is similarly an old IP brought back to life.
So when I was looking for games that could be re-imagined for the PSN I decided on a few criteria that would be most important; they should be instantly accessible, they have to be fun, they need to have been loved in the past by many and they should be able to be remade in a small, downloadable package.
So sit back, relax and read about the top 5 games from my youth I’d like to see re-imagined for the PlayStation Network.
5. The New Zealand Story
With the success of Super Mario Bros in the early 80’s, it was natural that game developers would ride the wave by producing a number of platform challengers.
Most of these were unremarkable clones, such as the pitiful Great Giana Sisters (which had to be removed from circulation for legal reasons - it was just too close to Mario), and the enjoyable yet derivative Zool on the Amiga.
But along the way, a charming little kiwi called Tiki captured our hearts. Partly due to being bundled with the Amiga 500 Batman pack, and somewhat due to its own success, The New Zealand Story sold over 2 million units.
As well as a good number of different weapons such as arrows, bombs and bouncing fireballs, Tiki was able to ride around in a wide variety of vehicles. Nine years before GTA existed, Tiki the kiwi could steal vehicles from other characters if needed!
One nice touch was that when you ran out of lives, you went to heaven. You could either then accept your defeat and watch the game-end sequence, or you could try to find the exit to heaven for another chance at winning. Cute.
With the expected success of a fully rejuvenated 2D Bionic Commando on the way from Capcom, I feel that this charming little platformer could also get the spruce-up-and-relive-my-youth treatment from Square-Enix, who now own Taito.
Of course, if they did reproduce The New Zealand Story, I’d want them to keep one of the most famous cheats in history. Pausing the game and typing MOTHERFUCKENKIWIBASTARDS into the keyboard got you infinite lives - priceless.
The first time I played Thexder was in 1987 on the extremely powerful, yet poor-selling MSX platform. It’s a shame sometimes that great platforms don’t get the props they deserve at the time, but that’s another article!
You play a mech warrior that can turn into a jet fighter. What’s not to love about that! The game came out one year after the release and immediate success of the Transformers comic books and TV series, and it shows.
Thexder was ported to a number of platforms and is considered by some to be the first real arcade gaming experience available for the PC. Of course I should say IBM-Compatible PC, since that’s what we all had to state back then.
With only 16 levels, Thexder would be perfect for the PSN. The gameplay was sublime, the characters and enemies were brilliantly imagined and the difficulty ramped up level-by-level to ensure it was a real challenge. What made it particularly replayable was the number of hidden items and the sheer effort required to complete it.
3. Typhoon Thompson
Prince of Persia was a ground-breaking game. The fluid graphics, that had been captured by Jordan Mechner on video and then meticulously rotoscoped, delivered animation that was way ahead of it’s time.
It was also the game that put Broderbund on the map.
Looking for their next big hit, Broderbund delivered once again with Typhoon Thompson in Search for the Sea Child, to give it it’s full title. The now-becoming-trademark fluid graphics made their appearance here too, but it was a very different game to PoP. In fact, it was a remake of an Apple II game called Airheart.
Both Airheart and Typhoon Thompson were created by Dan Gorlin, a programmer best known for creating Choplifter on the Apple II (soon to feature in PlayStation Home as one of the many playable arcade machines) and who was also the programmer for PoP.
Typhoon Thompson is a reluctant hero who has to find the single surviving baby from an intergalactic transporter that has disappeared. Three previous rescue attempts have failed, and it’s not until your start the game that you realise why.
You see, the Sea Sprites that inhabit the watery planet don’t like outsiders, so they make life particularly difficult for you. You do have help though - the Spirit Guardians will provide you with weapons if you, in turn, provide them with artefacts. Sounds simple, until you realise that to get an artefact, you have to capture all the Sea Sprites in a level and trade them for the item you need.
The animation was superb as expected by now from Broderbund, but this was a truly accessible game that required fast-paced thought and good control of your mouse-hand. Did I mention that you controlled the game with the mouse? It would translate well to the analogue sticks we use today, and I for one would love to see it make a return - rotoscoped graphics and all - to the PSN.
2. Marble Madness
Along with the other big names you are reading about in this countdown, I consider Archer Maclean to be a bit of a genius. But his recent PSP puzzler, Archer Maclean’s Mercury, owes much of it’s success to a Czech programmer by the name of Mark Cerny.
Mark, of course, is a big name in the industry in his own right, having worked with Sega on Sonic 2 and then moving on to work with Naughty Dog, Insomniac and Sony. The IGDA even gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.
For Mark it all started with Marble Madness, a game so brilliant that it still appears in various forms today and has inspired the likes of Maclean to produce various derivatives. In fact, my latest Sony Ericsson mobile phone has a version built in that uses the tilt sensor in the phone to control the marble! Kind of like a SixAxis on the move…
In Marble Madness you simply have to control the marble from the start to the end of the level. There were only six levels in the original game, starting with Practice and then moving through Beginner, Intermediate, Aerial, Silly and Ultimate, but the challenge of completing them within the time limit was immense.
The version I played most was actually in the arcades, although the best home version was on the Commodore Amiga. The arcade system saw you controlling the marble using a trackball, but you had to go on the hunt for a machine every now and then because they were prone to breaking.
Making Marble Madness for the PSN would work well, especially adding in the extra challenge of controlling the marble by tilting the controller - although I’d like the option of using the sticks as a backup. I’m surprise Mark himself hasn’t stepped in and made his own version yet.
1. The Sentinel
I upgraded my VIC 20 to a Commodore 64 back in 1984, and it opened up a whole world of opportunity. Previously, I’d been developing games and applications for the ZX81 and VIC 20 but with limited colours, poor sound options and a dog of a programming environment, the C64 was a breath of fresh air.
After some success with programming I actually spent most of my time playing other people’s games instead. And The Sentinel by Geoff Crammond was an experience I’ll never forget.
The Sentinel was a first-person puzzler. The most unique feature of the game was that it had 10,000 levels, a challenge I never completed.
You played as a character that couldn’t move, but that could look around the landscape, accumulate energy from the objects strewn around, create boulders, generate inert shells and then transfer yourself into these shells. The idea was to start from the lowest point and climb to the highest, where The Sentinel watched over the land.
The key to the game was climbing higher and higher but always ensuring you weren’t in view of The Sentinel. If he could see you, he would start to drain your energy until you were killed. To make it more interesting, The Sentinel would rotate, so you had to think about the direction he was facing and the direction he was going to face. On later levels, he even had minions that would act like him at various points on the landscape.
You beat the level if you could absorb The Sentinel, at which point you would create a shell in his place, transfer to it and hyperspace off to a new level. 1 down, 9,999 to go.
The Sentinel would be perfect for the PlayStation Network - a clever puzzler that requires skill, judgement and planning to win the day.
The Sentinel was originally released on the C64 in 1986, the same year I upgraded to the Commodore Amiga, which is the version many people will remember. There’s an unofficial flash version of The Sentinel in beta that allows you to play a single level - http://www.addink.net/sentinel/
So that’s my personal countdown of the top 5 old-school games that would be perfect if re-imagined for the PlayStation Network. In the meantime, we’ll just have to get that retro fix with Bionic Commando: Rearmed, due out on the PSN soon. Hey - I wonder who has the rights to The Sentinel now… where’s my wallet!