Featured Items
Software Demos Recommended News
Posts in "PC Gamer" channel about:

PopCap Games, Inc.

Show posts for all products, not just PopCap Games, Inc.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Striker 96 review December 1996, US edition">striker96

Every Sunday, Tyler publishes a classic PC Gamer review from the '90s or early 2000s, with his context and commentary followed by the full, original text from the archived issue. This week, Striker 96 is reviewed in the December 1996 issue of PC Gamer US. More classic reviews here.

To celebrate today's World Cup final, I've dug up one of the first soccer/football/who-cares-what-you-call-it games reviewed in the US edition. The first of them actually look to be FIFA International Soccer, Planet Soccer, and Sensible Soccer, all reviewed in the October 1994 issue. I chose Striker 96 over the much better FIFA debut (84%) in part because it's reviewed by Gary Whitta, who famously went on to become famous-er. I also happen to have it for some reason probably for some ancient, abandoned feature idea so I 'simulated' today's match with the help of DOSBox.

Argentina wins 1-0. Let's see if Striker, despite having no current rosters and not being a very good game at all, is an effective crystal ball. My bet is no, definitely not. Digressing, I'm happy that 18 years after Gary lamented that there's "a long way to go" before good soccer games, things have indeed improved.

Striker 96 review

Yet another soccer simulation lays claim to the crown, but does it boast anything the rest don't?

Soccer still isn't as comprehensively simulated on the PC as home-spun American sports, but it's getting there. EA's FIFA series has done much to raise the status of the genre, and with the professional game actually starting to attract crowds and TV coverage the games developers are finally taking note, it seems. Unfortunately, the quality of much of what's been seen so far suggests that we still have a long way to go before we're simulating soccer as accurately and entertainingly as, say, hockey or baseball and Striker 96 is the latest proof of the genre's shortcomings right now.

The game is not without its pedigree. Originally designed by the British team Rage Software back in the early 90s for the Amiga and ST, the game has since been through several revisions and updates for various formats, culminating in this souped-up version for PC. The approach is familiar: 3D perspective, multiple camera angles, and lots of bells and whistles. Players select from 41 international teams to take part in friendly games, league and cup tournaments, either against the computer or up to four human pals over a network or with the Gravis GrIP system (multiplay modes also allow for co-operative play). All the staple options are here variable weather, wind and match duration, adjustable rules and skill level and, in one original touch, a six-on-six indoor soccer mode which plays quite differently to the regular game.

Having fiddled with your team roster and selected a formation and team tactics it's out onto the field of play. Striker 96 looks nifty enough with attractive stadia to play in, although the player sprites aren't as impressive as the polygon-based characters in the likes of FIFA or VR Soccer. Fortunately the programmers haven't allowed themselves to get too carried away with the 3D views and, unlike VR Soccer for instance, there are at least a couple of straightforward, playable viewpoints along with the flashy but unusable TV-style perspectives.

The problems start when the whistle blows primarily, the speed of the game is too fast and nothing behaves quite how it should. Once again, all the familiar soccer AI problems crop up players seem quite happy to kick the ball into touch for no reason or otherwise behave erratically, you can never be sure that a pass will actually reach the player it's intended for because the recipient isn't smart enough to run towards the ball when it gets near him, the ball is all too easily stolen from you it's the classic headless chicken syndrome which has afflicted PC soccer games for ages It's erratic rather than fluid, random rather than logical. There's a simulation mode which theoretically lets you string a series of passes together, but rare was the occasion that I could get it to work properly. Granted, there are moments when things seem to be working and there's satisfaction to be had, but this is the exception rather than the rule. If players can move and behave realistically in a hockey sim, why not here?

The experience isn't exactly improved by a dull soundtrack even in enhanced mode the crowd doesn't react in time with the action, and the commentary, from former Scottish international Andy Gray, is spartan and equally badly synchronized. All in all, this game smacks of laziness where it counts the designers seem more concerned with re-creating the trendy circular mowing designs of World Cup pitches and adding other minor gimmicks rather than concentrating on what counts making a game that moves fluidly, intelligently and feels how soccer should.

Striker may find some fans amongst those with access to Gravis GrIP systems of networks for multiplay at least that way the frustration can be divided equally between up to four people. The more discerning amongst us would be much better advised to be patient and wait for EA Sports' FIFA 97, which promises so much more than is delivered here. Gary Whitta
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Metrocide is a stealthy, cyberpunk Grand Theft Auto starring a contract killer">Metrocide

It's a shame the preferred view for city-set action games is now an over-the-shoulder one, as there's something enjoyably Police, Camera, Action!y to viewing a metropolitan crime spree from a bird's eye view. It's also, I'd imagine, a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to implement. Metrocide is the rare city-set game employing a Cpt. Birds Eye perspective to tell its story of a freelance assassin doing his murdery job in a cyberpunk dystopia. It's a bit like Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2 (only seemingly without a fully open world). It's a bit like Syndicate, for obvious cyber-reasons. It's also a bit like Hitman, what with you being a hitman and everything. See how these various influences coalesce after the break.

Here's a quote from the site explaining what that video was all about. I've bolded the relevant part.

"You play as legendary contract killer T. J. Trench, taking out the trash one target at a time. Play through the three zones of retro-futuristic and cyberpunk-inspired MetroCity earning cash for completing kills in this brutal stealth-action game inspired by such classics as Syndicate and Grand Theft Auto." Developers Flat Earth Games go on to use the meaningless buzz term "living city" to describe the game, but I'll forgive them on account of the neat camera-follows-bullet thing at the cyber-end of their cyber-video. It's not listed as an influence, but I'm detecting a hint of Hotline Miami about this too.

Metrocide is coming later this year, and Amiga users will be disappointed to hear it will be "too large to fit on a single double-density 3.5" floppy disk". Booooooo.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Don’t Starve Together trailer shows haunting multiplayer, meaty effigies">don't starve

We already knew that Klei's beautifully illustrated survival game Don't Starve would be getting a multiplayer component this summer, but we hadn't yet seen a glimmer of it in action. If you think I'm leading up to a new trailer showing the new multiplayer mode in action...well, you're dead right. The following prototype footage reveals that it involves ghosts and meat-based effigies, just like my fourteenth birthday.

Admittedly we don't see a lot of cooperative play in the following video, but rather what happens when a player is made dead during multiplayer shenanigans. It seems they'll turn into a ghost, who will have to make do with attempting to haunt trees, charcoal and the like, before possessing a "meat effigy" and transforming back into a living person. Don't worry: you'll be able to chat with your chums while in spirit form, and basically pester them as they go about trying not to follow your example.

Don't Starve Together will be integrated into the main game when it releases later this summer, meaning it will be free for existing owners, and that the price of game will increase for people wishing to purchase it afterwards. There will be advance playtests sometime before release. (Ta, PCGamesN.)
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Mod of the Week: The Keep on the Borderlands, for The Temple of Elemental Evil">Keep on the Borderlands

I was scrolling through ModDB's latest offerings, as I do most mornings, when the words "The Keep on the Borderlands" first caught my eye... then caught my memory. See, The Keep on the Borderlands was the first module I ever played in Dungeons & Dragons, the pen-and-paper RPG, back when I was in grade school in the early 1980's. It's been modded into The Temple of Elemental Evil, the 2003 D&D video game by now-departed developer Troika. Though the full-conversion mod is still in development, I couldn't pass up the chance to check it out while getting all nostalgic for my first D&D campaign.

I knew nothing about D&D when I was first invited to play with a couple of grade school friends, except that it involved rolling a bunch of dice. They already had a fighter, thief, dwarf, and cleric, so I had to play as they were called back in the day of Basic rules a magic-user. I named my magic-user Greeble, and on the character sheet drew what I thought a spellcaster looked like: an old guy with a long white beard wearing a robe and a pointed hat covered in stars and crescent moons.

Magic Missile. Hello, old friend. It's been a while.

In the mod, I did my best to re-create Greeble, giving him the Magic Missile spell that pretty much defined his offense. I don't know how it works these days, but back then magic-users were only allowed daggers, which is why, to this day, seeing Gandalf with a sword in his hand just feels kinda wrong to me. I picked four more characters from those available, we geared up in the starter room, and began our journey.

Let us in. We're Level 1. Worry about us when we're Level... 10-12.

The mod begins the way the original module began, with the party arriving at the Keep on the Borderlands, and having to answer some questions posed by an understandably suspicious guard. Moments later, we're inside, running around and poking our heads inside all the buildings, looking for quests. I'm quite eager to visit the Caves of Chaos, the part of the module I remember best.

How many hours did I spend drawing maps like this on graph paper? I know not.

Looking at the original map (above) of the Caves of Chaos now, it strikes me just how ridiculously convenient an introduction to the game's monsters it was. A bunch of well-spaced cave entrances along the walls of a rocky ravine, each housing a different family of monsters, so players could just go down the line like they're trick-or-treating, meeting a new group of baddies at every door. In the original campaign, one door leads to a lair kobalds (plus a few giant rats, the starter monster of all starter monsters). Another area had orcs, and another had goblins. There's a cave for hobgoblins, owlbears, skeletons, and many more, providing a nice cross-section of baddies, including a big boss-type or two. There's even one chamber with a shallow pool, which taught me the important lesson that shallow pools usually conceal a) some shiny bit of treasure and b) some hard to spot slime monster (in this case, grey ooze).


In the mod, though, you can't just traipse off to any spot on the map and get your dagger dirty. First, some quests need to be collected. As we explored the sprawling town inside the walls of the Keep, I was pleased to find a hat merchant, allowing me to outfit Greeble in a suitably pointy hat. We also visited an animal seller, where I picked out Greeble's familiar. I honestly can't recall what Greeble's familiar was originally knowing my lack of imagination, I assume it was a black cat but this time I picked out a box turtle. Yeah, I know it's not fearsome, but neither is a dude named Greeble.

Missing adventurers? Dibs on their magic items, normal items, and "additional notes!"

We also came across the chambers of a priest who, if memory serves, I owe a nice big stab in the back from thirty-odd years ago. Sadly, he wasn't taking visitors, so perhaps I'll come back when we're all a few levels stronger. And, finally, we found a notice board in the general store, listing a couple quests we could agree to perform. The notice board isn't the only thing in the room, either. As with many of the rooms and chambers in the mod, there are lots of items in the shop to interact with: books to read, objects to examine, goodies to pilfer, giving the game some additional life and providing some reasons to really snoop around.

I know it's not pretty. It was 2003. Give 2003 a break.

We accepted the quest to find the missing adventurers, which took us to a swamp, which I definitely recall from the original module. I was expecting to run into some lizardmen, but instead we just found some snakes, big ones, that came slithering out of the marshes to greet us. It was a lengthy battle, mostly comprising of misses on all sides. Greeble, actually, turned out to be the best fighter in the group, something that definitely wasn't true in his past life. He scored several hits with his Magic Missile, connected with a couple acid splashes, and healed several injured and poisoned party members.

Less useful was our stupid monk, who didn't connect with a single fist or foot for the entire fight, which was doubly irritating because monks have a flurry attack so she missed twice as often as everyone else. Use a weapon, stupid monk! I'd be holding a damn battle axe if I were allowed. It didn't matter anyway, because after the snakes, some much larger reptiles completely slaughtered us.

Apologies to Richard Cobbett.

Reloading, we tried another quest, this time investigating some woods filled with spiders. Bigguns. That went a little better, but after killing some big spiders we were all killed by some little spiders. Huh. That seems backwards. We tried again, this time meeting some wolves. That went well right up until it didn't, and soon, Greeble was the only one left alive and was forced to summon his... well, his box turtle. It didn't do much to help. But it tried. Then it died. Then Greeble died.

That turtle fought like a champ. Brave little guy.

Clearly, one does not simply walk into the Caves of Chaos. Luckily, though, there are console cheats to let you load maps even if you suck at everything. Don't worry! I just wanted to take a look at the Caves to see if they were faithfully represented, and I'm happy to say, yes, they are. The ravine and the cave entrances along the walls are there, all ready for some D&D trick-or-treating! I even poked my head in and fired a quick magic missile at an Owlbear.

Eat hot missile, abomination! And now... everyone run!

I'll get there legitimately someday, and along the way, there will be plenty of new features of the mod to enjoy. It adds a new alchemy system and a number of other class and racial skills, and clearly, tons more maps. Despite repeatedly getting my new party killed by starter monsters, it was a great little trip to take: this mod brings new life to a great old adventure.

Installation: Obviously, you'll need a copy of The Temple of Elemental Evil. No worries if you don't have a CD copy: GoG has you covered. Then, download the mod here: it's self-installing, just plop it into whatever directory your copy of ToEE is in. It will also install a new front-end which will let you run the mod (and other mods and add-ons). Full instructions here for unpatched versions of ToEE. Once installed, you may need to launch it as an administrator (right-click it and choose "Run as Administrator").
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The Best Free Games of the Week">free glitch

This week: a painful coming out, a girl named Tess, a subtly improved Swindon, yet more intentional glitches, terrifying shadow monsters in a monochrome mist world, and one more Hitler than the norm. Read on for some great games that won't cost you a penny/dime/credit/gil of your (presumably) hard-earned cash.

Double Hitler by Damian Schloter Play it online here

Peer closely at any image of Hitler and it soon becomes clear something's amiss. No, not the monstrous fascism (although that was pretty bad), but the fact that he was two kids in an overcoat. Double Hitler recreates key moments in Adolf's adult life, putting you in the role of said kids in said giant overcoat. As you can imagine, even the act of walking is difficult when you're really two children in a big jacket, and about 90% of the game is spent trying to stay upright without toppling over and revealing your secret. Double Hitler is pretty much QWOP: ie wonderfully silly, and told with a masterfully straight face.

Coming Out Simulator 2014 by Nicky Case Play it online here

Nicky Case created the Public Domain Jam, as well as (inventive surveillance-state stealth game) Nothing to Hide. His latest game is more personal: a true, half-true and fictionalised account of the night he came out to his parents. Coming Out Simulator 2014 don't let the zeitgeisty title put you off is at times brutal, sharply observed and hilarious, in addition to being one of the tensest games I've played for a long while. There are several outcomes to the evening, determined via agonising multiple choice answers, though Case never picks the evening apart to tell us which bits of it are completely true or bogus. This stops the game from feeling too uncomfortably personal the witty, self-aware writing also helps. In a way, this is the Schrodinger's Cat of coming out stories: every part of it is true and false at the same time. (Via IndieGames)

Tess by GIRakaCHEEZER Download it here

A strange, sad, Cave Story-ish platfomer set in a dreamlike world. You're Tess, and you appear to be working out the frustrations of a bad day by jumping around shooting at feral plants and other hitpoint-spewing baddies. There's a touch of the Yume Nikki about this one, and Anodyne, and all the other games set in sad and lonely worlds.

Moiety by Dan Stubbs Download it here

Speaking of strange worlds, Moeity is a misty, watery plateau of a game populated by creatures of light and darkness. Encroach too far upon a shadow creature's territory and it will pursue you relentlessly, gobbling you up in a frankly terrifying bit of animation after catching you. Moiety is a piece of formless horror, mood and interrupted serenity, though there is a clumsy You won screen should you do what the game requires. Seek the light. Observe your environment. If you hear noise, it might already be too late.

Fallen Swindon by Richard Cobbett Play it online here

Yes, you read that right: Richard Cobbett did this, who you might remember from PC Gamer's own Crap Shoot or from his exhaustive knowledge of games made before you were born. Cobbett's put his fine words to good use in this affectionate pisstake of Fallen London: the expansive supernatural browser adventure, and the thing what Failbetter Games did before Sunless Sea. Fallen Swindon is set in the arguably less exciting Swindon, and will take you to such exotic destinations as the job centre, the pub and your local Tesco. Only, y'know, with added demons and obsidian spires and that.

Glitch Lab by nazywam Play it online here

Glitch Lab is cheeky, witty, smart and yes it's another platform game. It's quite unlike most platformers (except maybe Fez) though, using its glitch theme to break the game in new and surprising ways on every screen. It's a game that locks you into a battle of wits with its demonstrably playful creator, asking you to fathom the small or major changes they have enacted to spanner up your progress in every room.

detuned by Paul Lawitzki, Christoph Rasulis, Benajmin Rudolf Play it online here

It's a shame detuned ends just as it's really started to get going, as this is an enigmatic, ambient puzzler with a novel central conceit. You use the mousewheel to attune the game's various glitchy purple platforms to a particular frequency: a frequency that will let you step on them without falling through the floor. This idea is expanded and reverted a little before detuned's rather abrupt end point, but it would be great to see this detuning mechanic explored in greater depth. Either way, it's worth a play to experience its abstract, fairly malevolent tower environment, and to see the various ways that detuning is used throughout the game.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Battlefield 4 Dragon’s Teeth trailer is 30 seconds of compressed explosive action">Battlefield 4

This trailer for Battlefield 4's forthcoming Dragon's Teeth DLC might only be 30 seconds long, but only around 10 of those seconds have been wasted showing logos or release dates the rest is riddled with gunfire and explosions and a bit where a train carriage is knocked clean off a track. (Yes, there is a small explosion resulting from that.) Also pictured: the ballistic shields that will be added in the content pack, along with liberal use of speedboats and quad bikes.

Dragon's Teeth, you'll remember, adds four new maps Lumphini Garden, Propaganda, Pearl Market and Sunken Dragon to the game, along with additional equipment and a new game mode entitled Chain Link. It's releasing July 15th for Battlefield Premium members, and two weeks later on July 29th for everyone else.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Nadeo release time-limited TrackMania 2 and ShootMania demos">trackmania 2

Nadeo's shooty ShootMania and drivey TrackMania 2 games have both been given sizeable new demos, with the intention of increasing the player count in both Mania titles. The demos are pretty generous, offering access to a good number of environments, modes, tracks and the full editing suite in both games, although this unlimited access will expire after 48 hours, to be replaced with something perhaps a little more reasonable (an hour of play every day, or more if the player count falls below 100). Head here to check out the TrackMania 2 demo, and here to check out the ShootMania one, or stick around to hear exactly what you'll be getting.

Download the free trial of ShootMania and you'll be given access to the following:

3 multiplayer ranked modes: Battle, Elite & Siege

Full multiplayer experience (Nadeo and user-created gamemodes and Title Packs)

Access to all editors (Map, MediaTracker (Video), Actions & Weapons, Items)

Custom Titles: solo & multiplayer innovative modes

TrackMania 2, meanwhile, has the following to offer:

45 white solo tracks

Access to the TrackMania multi-environment title (Canyon + Valley + Stadium at the same time!)(1)

Full multiplayer experience (Nadeo and user-created gamemodes and Title Packs)

Access to all editors (Map, MediaTracker (Video), Actions & Weapons, Items)

Up to 3 user made solo & multiplayer experiences

Thanks, Blue's News.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Saturday Crapshoot: The Palace Of Deceit">cs

Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, as Cliff Bleszinski unveils his latest game plans, it's time for a quick round of Before They Were Famous. What happened before the 'overnight' success?

Of course, there's almost never any such thing - almost all success coming from much hard work, effort, a little bit of luck, and often less celebrated success. I for instance have been working on death rays for years, yet still write a weekly column on obscure games rather than composing lists of demands to world leaders. Game developers meanwhile often start with, unsurprisingly, games. They may not be great to begin with, they may have the spark of genius right from the very start, or be somewhere in the middle. All that matters is that when you dare to dream, you never know what might come next. Unless you're talking about the game Dare To Dream, in which case it's probably something really, really goofy.

But we'll get to that one soon enough. First, there's a much more obscure adventure to check out.

Give me a Shock Rifle, and we'll see how tough these guys are...

Now, just to be clear, I'm not picking on CliffyB here or trying to poke at his early work in anything other than good fun - the idea just came with the week's news. You don't get to make anything good until you've first made things that are, well, not so good. John Carmack for instance started off with a blatant rip-off of Ultima called Shadowforge, then spent years churning out platformers and less-than-great shooters like Hovertank 3D before id struck bronze with Commander Keen, silver with Wolfenstein 3D, and then a raspberry-ripple type vein of gold and diamonds with Doom. George Broussard of Apogee infamously made the platformed Pharoah's Tomb, notable less for its Indiana Jones pastiching than Broussard managing to misspell his own name on the title screen. Before there was Duke Nukem 3D, the manliest game in the world, there was Duke Nukem, the tale of a man in a pink shirt who just wanted to get home and watch Oprah. Yes, really. This was an actual thing that happened. And at one point, Peter Molyneux made games as well as empty promises. Though it was quite a long time ago, to be fair. Oh, and he also made one called Entrepreneur that he admits sold two copies, and one of those to his own mother.

But what of CliffyB's old games? The one that's usually held up is the aforementioned Dare To Dream, or digging a little deeper, a Shadowgate style affair called The Palace Of Deceit: Dragon's Plight, written in high school. Dragon's Plight was actually a sequel though - the version you can find online marked "2.1". What of the original? Well, according to Archive.org, it was called The Secret Of Castle Lockemoer, and yes, there's a download. Unfortunately I can't get it working on my PC, even after much futzing around with virtual machines. The mailing address seems right, and the shareware screen definitely asks for donations made out to Cliff Bleszinski, along with the cry "LONG LIVE SHAREWARE!", but the actual game is just a blank screen. So, that's a bit disappointing. The only part that does work, but probably shouldn't, is the really odd message that pops up when you try to run it...

"This adventure was produced through many hours of toil and labor on the author's part. He blew off his homework many a night to fix bugs and his grades suffered. He was severely beaten by his mother with a spatula repeatidly (sic). His spelling is now pitiful and he can only groan once for yes and twice for no. On top of it, the only girl he ever loved outside of his spatula wielding mother, the lovely Tammi Lynn Kent, decided to stay with her ugly boyfriend instead of going for this talented, handsome, hung, moderately built dude. He is emotionally crippled from this experience. He needs your donations to get back on his blistered feet and write games, fight off his mother, do homework, and somehow defy the odds and prevent his relocation to California and marry this pretty thing. Asta La Vistsa, Baybeeeee...

-The Roaring Slime (and DON'T call me Bufford!)"

So... uh... yeah. That would appear to be a thing that happened. Either that, or we've just found the most terrifyingly niche hoaxer on the entire internet. I wouldn't want to rule anything out, really...

Before Epic Megagames, there was Game Syndicate. No relation to the game Syndicate.

Despite appearances, The Palace Of Deceit: Dragon's Plight is actually an important game in PC history. It's the game that caught the attention of programmer Tim Sweeney at what was then Epic Megagames, caused Bleszinski to be brought on board, and so starting the path to games like Jazz Jackrabbit. And also something called Unreal. It's pretty obscure. You're unlikely to have heard of it.

So, what is it? It's a point and click adventure that's fairly obviously inspired by Shadowgate, with the copy that's floating around the web officially version 2.1 Gold Edition, because even back in 1991, that stuff was happening. If you've played Dare To Dream, it'll look pretty familiar - it's a forerunner to the Unreal engine called simply the "Really?" engine, with its split windows, giant grey buttons and delightful cyan text that not merely informs you that the status box you are looking at is the StatusBox, but slaps a TM on the end to make absolutely sure. According to trivia on MobyGames (though not in this copy that I can find to confirm...), it also featured a plea for registration with the somewhat mixed message "not only will you get a great product and a company who stands behind it, you will help me to join a company like Sierra or Lucasfilm to make the greatest games ever someday."

So, that worked out, as long as you like shooters more than adventures!

This version does however include a reminder of much more innocent times, with a note saying that if you have any non-hint related issues to call a number and ask for "Cliff". These days, you have to bother registering on Twitter to bug a developer...

The villain may be evil, but at least he follows proper safety procedure when kitting out his slaves...

But let's look at the game! Squinting, because the already tiny window is further shrunk by the odd decision to put all of the scenes into the pages of a book. There's no animation or anything, but I suppose disk size might have demanded it. Also, you'll notice the traditional Windows Blue Gradient in the background, which was far cooler than you might think after the fact. I'm assuming that's not however the Blue Streak that Cliffy's new game is named after though, any more than this.

It's actually an unusual premise for an adventure - you're a dragon. The wussiest, least intimidating, non-fire-breathingest dragon in gaming, but still a dragon, trapped by a powerful wizard who was apparently beaten in the last game but without it managing to stick. This is the land of "Salac", incidentally, which the manual clarifies is pronounced "SAY-LICK", and the name of that evil wizard... is Garth. Not the most intimidating name, but lest we forget, the Unreal champion would eventually be called Malcolm. He's abducted you, you being a blue dragon called Nightshade, with plans to torture the location of your people out of your head unless you can first escape and have a victory that would be much more satisfying if the manual wasn't already talking about him getting up to more stuff in a third game that never happened.

So, um, we doing that torture thing? Anyone? Garth? Well, I'll just let myself out then.

Garth isn't a very good jailer though, having put our dragon hero not only into a cell, but into a cell with a secret passage that even a dragon can squeeze through. That's a pretty impressive oopsie even by evil overlord standards, and his first cells rooms don't show much dungeon keeping experience. For starters, he only has one cell. "Used for special prisoners", in much the same way that a fish and chip shop will sell a 'special' haddock, apparently. Elsewhere, there's a portcullis blocking the exit, surrounded by four buttons - red, yellow, green and blue. Press the wrong one and poison gas floods in for an instant game over. But for some reason, the portcullis also opens, as if to give anyone with the ability to, y'know, hold their breath for a couple of seconds a chance to make it through. Also somewhat weird is that this is only a puzzle, technically, as the previous room has the answer literally chiselled onto the wall.

Okay. Two questions. First, you learned this how? Second, why are you on this side of the lock you know how to open?

On the plus side, at least if you are going to die here, there's more warning than in Shadowgate.

This death, deserved.

Unfortunately what quickly becomes clear is that a better title would have been Castle Of Pixelbitching: The Dragon's Plight. It's a game whose idea of a clue is, if you're lucky, making something a pixel thicker than it might otherwise have been, and if you're unlucky, killing you dead. Here for instance, see if you can spot the hidden lever that opens up a secret passage. I'll give you a clue: YOU GODDAMN CAN'T!

It's in the bottom left. And there's no hint that there's a door, except bloody-minded inevitability.

The most frustrating thing is that as you continue exploring, rooms are full of what might be objects and might just be background decoration, to whatever degree MS Paint can decorate things. Two prominent boxes sitting on the floor for instance. Several different wine racks, of which one has the inevitable secret button. There's never really much of a clue about what you're meant to be doing, with even the occasional character not helping too much - admittedly because Nightshade keeps expecting prisoners and slaves of Garth to be able to tell him how to escape, and they're all too busy not having the answer to that to be able to help. This isn't too bad with the cheery mice who mine his diamonds and crystals, but is a bit weird when you can't even free a talking lobster from his seafood prison.

Huh. That lobster's generous with clues. I thought he was going to be shellfish.

Not a vast amount happens for the rest of the game, really. Nightshade lucks into - wait for it - THE SWORD, the magical weapon used to kill Garth during his last appearance, and due to being either a) strong of heart or b) strong as a goddamn dragon, has no trouble arming himself. Then it's simply a question of trekking through the castle to use it, past enemies like a giant spider, Garth's champion knight, and when all else fails, the villain writing "GIVE UP" on the wall in blood. Someone's blood. It doesn't really matter whose. Though there is one surprise guest to look forward to meeting...

After some of these puzzles, this isn't so much a cameo as a football. Punt!

And of course, the whole thing has a truly dignified finale.

Tolkein, eat your arse out.

It's probably lucky that Tim Sweeney was impressed, because... wow. This is not an impressive game, from its Visual Basic coding to lore so detailed, it would take almost two tweets to fully encapsulate. It's not surprising that it faded pretty fast from memory, and that's not really a bad thing.

Good job no jerk would dig it up now for minor comic effect, huh?

This is what an epic megagame looks like. According to Epic Megagames.

But what followed was notably better... which doesn't mean good, but, y'know, was definitely better. This was - Dare To Dream, a bit of a darling to shareware sections in the early 90s, which used the same - cough - 'engine' and really, really doesn't look impressive now, but was at least a bit different back when it came out, before games like Sanitarium and I Have No Mouth And I Must Play The Kazoo. It was set in the mind of a ten year old boy called Tyler, escaping into a dreamworld that was actually a pretty dark and moody city by shareware standards, to face a villain called Christian who haunts his nightmares. It had a certain charm to it, though the puzzles quickly started making full use out of the dream setting to be 'Whatever!' affairs or just plain odd. Like this description of vaseline stolen from a mechanic - I quote:

"You 'borrowed' this industrial size jar of petrolium jelly from Bouf's back room. He claimed it was for auto repair, but you wonder otherwise..."

The spin-off Dare To Wet Dream thankfully never happened. But whereas you'd think that the dreamworld was full of subtlety and hidden meaning, it was really just a load of random stuff with a side of nonsense, and a few biblical elements and the occasional quote or poorly drawn skull to scream horror, all smelted into a big golden hammer and used to smack the player around the head with the world "SYMBOLISM!" Not really symbolising anything in particular most of the time, just... y'know, symbolic stuff. Or shambolic stuff, like the scene where you use a pair of underpants to safely step in toxic waste and retrieve a shotgun, and this is a thing held up as a thing that makes sense and is a puzzle.

Leisure Suit Larry: The Wonder Years

Anyway, not very long story short, it ends with the shock reveal that Tyler is a little but nuts after the death of his father, with his best friend Terry actually his good self, and Christian his evil one, which you can tell because he has horns and a bowler hat. More important though is the realisation that this makes his alternate selves names' "Terry Christian". Serious questions have to be answered here...

Of course, whether or not these games were good or bad really doesn't matter; either way, the career that follows speaks for itself. Everyone starts somewhere. Everyone hopes to improve. Hitting the ground strolling really isn't such a bad thing, as long as you can build to a run, possibly holding a chainsaw gun. I've never played Gears of War, so I'm not entirely sure what the hell that is, but I like to imagine it's a gun that actually shoots chainsaws as if they were bullets. Maybe it's just because I grew up in the 90s, but I'm fairly certain that, empirically and with reference to the great works of Keats, Tolstoy and Wordsworth, that that is, like, totally the most awesome and badass thing ever, ever!

Except of course, for this. Because as we can all agree, nothing possibly could be.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to The PC Gamer Show episode 1: Killing Floor 2, Nidhogg, 4K gaming">pcgamershow-ep1-teaser

It's The PC Gamer Show! For episode one, we talked to Tripwire Interactive about upcoming shooter Killing Floor 2, played a high stakes game of Nidhogg with serious embarrassment on the line, and got our hands on a new Samsung 4K monitor.

In this episode...

Act I: Evan chats with Tripwire Interactive president John Gibson about Killing Floor 2. Gibson talks about what the team has been working on since our Killing Floor 2 cover story, including motion captured reloads and gore that looks like BBQ chicken.

Act II: Wes and Cory take a break from deadline day to play Nidhogg, with high stakes. Guest starring PC Gamer mascot emeritus Coconut Monkey.

Act III: Tyler and Wes talk about the performance and drawbacks of 4K gaming after testing out the Samsung 590D 4K monitor.

The PC Gamer Show is a new and evolving project for us, and we want your feedback to help make it better. What kind of segments do you want to see? What games should we play and talk about? Who should we have on as guests? What's coming up next?

Shout at us in the comments below, or shoot us an email directly at letters@pcgamer.com. We're listening. And we'll see you in two weeks.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to PC gaming hardware market worth more than $21.5 billion globally, new report says">world-of-pc-gaming

The overall demand for PC hardware may be in decline but the market for gaming specific hardware is actually doing quite well, according to a new Jon Peddie Research report (via MCV). The firm pegged the total worldwide market value of PC gaming hardware at more than $21.5 billion, and predicted that it will grow significantly over the next three years.

What exactly the PC and console markets entail within the context of the JPR report isn't made clear, although on the PC side of the coin it includes "computers, upgrades and peripherals used for gaming." What is clear is that the arrival of the next generation of game consoles hasn't had much of an impact on the momentum of the PC, nor is it likely to in the future not because the demand for home computers is growing it's not but because dedicated PC gamers are pouring more and more money into their rigs.

"We continue to see a shift in casual console customers moving to mobile," JPR Senior Analyst Ted Pollak said. "While this is also occurring in the lower-end PC gaming world, more money is being directed to mid- and high-range builds and upgrades by gamers."

He described "committed PC gamers" as power users who aren't interested in "pure content consumption platforms," which I'm assuming is a fancy way of saying "game consoles." Instead, they pay big bucks for hardware that will let them play at very high settings as well as perform other tasks, like video editing, content creation and arguing on internet forums, "with maximum horsepower at their disposal in a desktop ergonomic environment."

The report predicts that the PC gaming market will grow to to more than $23 billion by 2017, driven by the availability of increasingly powerful hardware that allows PCs to do things that consoles cannot. JPR President Jon Peddie noted that 4K gaming is already a reality for "highest-end" systems and said that even mass-market machines can now push 2560x1440 resolution, well beyond the 1080p resolution (1920x1080) offered by the latest consoles.


Jul   Jun   May   Apr   Mar   Feb  
Archives By Year
2014   2013   2012   2011   2010  
2009   2008   2007   2006   2005  
2004   2003   2002