GUEST POST by Richard C. Wolfman
Recently (about a week ago) Archive.org added to its catalogue of old DOS games and I had a little run through memory lane. While some of the games are trash there are a lot of hardcore wargames, quirky sims and old school RPG’s that should keep me entertained over the next few months. Here are a dozen games that caught my eye and need a bit more love.
While some of these games are from my childhood, most are games I came across during my three or four year long abandonware obsession. In essence I found myself sampling dozens and dozens of games like exotic foreign cheeses looking for anything that might fit my tastes. The games I’ve outlined here are not necessarily the best games on the list but they are all interesting, overlooked or important to me for personal reasons.
Hidden Agenda: (1988)
Okay top of the list; it’s time for a little GamerGate homework. One of loudest and most annoying complaints antigamers and super trendy bloggers have is that games ‘need to mature’. That they need to tackle serious social issues. Well then, dear readers look what we have here. Why it’s a political simulation set in 1980’s Central America. Hidden Agenda has you take the role of a newly chosen (not elected) president of a fictional country in the aftermath of a revolution. You will have to govern the war torn country of Chimerica and deal with it’s many problems. All the while your advisors quietly push their own agenda and/or plot to overthrow you (thus the name of the game.)
A serious mature politically charged game that is older than many of the talking heads attacking gaming. The sheer joyous existence of this game is a swift kick in the narrative to anyone who says that video games have always been childrens toys. I literally cannot recommend this game enough. Whether you enjoy history, politics or just writing annoying blogs on Tumblr you owe yourself at least one playthrough of this unique and nearly forgotten game.
Cross Country Canada (1991)
Ah the joys of educational software. This game was used to teach geography to Canadian students in a semi-funlike manner and also to brainwash patriotism into those of us who didn’t like hockey. This is actually a fun little game but too bad you non-hockeyplaying barbarians won’t have a Canadian road atlas handy in order to play this spiritual precursor to Euro Truck Simulator. (Evil laughter) Oh wait… you could probably just use Google Maps… sorry my bad.
Another grade school classic for me. One of the few games we were allowed to play during recess or lunch hour in the computer lab. Kermit the Frog was right, “It not easy being green.”
Nuclear War (1989)
Nuclear War is a tongue-in-cheek light wargame that’s all about blowing up cites and being a massive dick. Which are of course two essential elements of any proper male power fantasy. I’ve seen remakes around somewhere but didn’t care enough to take notes. Probably pay to win mobile bullshit anyway. A classic game that reminds you that it’s possible to make fun of anything.
This is one of the first games I have a clear memory of playing (the other was some kind of a Sesame Street counting game) and was a fairly advanced arcade shooter for it’s day. I could never remember the name of this game so until a year ago; (when I blindly stumbled upon a random article while chasing links down a rabbit hole) this very personal part of gaming history was only a vague dream to me. It was like jigsaw puzzle sitting on the table for hours while you look around the room for those last few missing pieces that the cat knocked off the table when you weren’t looking.
So I have to ask you, what old games are special to you? And have you fed your cat today?
What’s a rogue-like? Well it’s a game… that is like Rogue. This the original. Remember that this is a real thing. I honestly can’t remember if I ever actually played this one which is sad because I love rogue-likes in general. Keep it bookmarked for historical reference if nothing else.
(Mad I couldn’t get Caves of Qud to run on windows 7)
but moving on…
Floor 13 (1992)
Oh here’s a game /pol/ will like. You take on the role as the director of a secret British agency tasked with keeping the current government in power at any costs. That sounds really simple doesn’t it?
Sure it does. Just stock up on tinfoil before you sit and down and play this one.
Unable to verify that this is indeed Sargon of Akkad’s day job. A Ralph Retort intern was sent to London in order to investigate this rumor but is now missing and presumed #Rekt.
Empire Deluxe (1993)
A personal favourite; nothing too special but Empire Deluxe is a nice beer and pretzels 4x game that consumed quite a bit of my time. I played the windows 3.1 version that had a scenario editor. Much craziness did result. Time played? At least 800 hours and that’s probably a lowball estimate. Scenario editor + Wolfman = Maximum autism.
Defend the Alamo (1994)
This is the only game on this list that I know I haven’t played. Rogue is a maybe, I might have cracked it open once or twice. Whatever I have a trick memory not a photographic one. Defend the Alamo I know I haven’t played. So why have I highlighted this obscure niche wargame? Because I remember the excellent review PC Gamer did on it from TWENTY FUCKING YEARS ago. You see young readers once upon a magical time long ago gaming journalists at least tried to do their jobs and didn’t talk down to their audience. Alas those days glory days of PC Gamer have long passed. Now please get off my lawn.
And yes between the time I type this and the time you read this I will have played at least one run through of Defend the Alamo. I mean I did wait twenty years to shoot me some Mexicans. God bless Texas. Yeehaw!
It’s a text based adventure where you’re a rockstar. Nuff said. Recommended for let’s plays.
You’ve heard about Doom without guns? Well Rampart is Tetris with cannons! What will Ben Kurchera write about this one? I mean this fun enjoyable hybrid puzzle/shooter game is CLEARLY a piece of ancien regime Anglo-phobic war propaganda. So yes GamerGate, play Rampart. Come support the Sun King’s military industrial complex like a good reactionary sockpuppet. For vidya and gloire! Vive la France, motherfuckers! #Bitcheslovecannons
Oh! Sweet Robot Jesus riding a hellhound! This game!
Anacreon is a complex wargame that incorporates so many awesome sci-fi concepts that I’m actually at loss for words here.
Okay let’s start with the core concept. You’re the Space Emperor who comes out of cryosleep once a year to give orders to your interstellar space empire. Starting with a single homeworld you must reunite the surrounding worlds that have fallen into barbarism and then face down any rival empires that oppose your manifest destiny. Seriously epic shit there my fellow space cadets.
Two more points stand out. First jumpships and jumptransports travel ten times faster than your conventional ships but are weak and in the case of jumptransports carry far less than normal freighters. This adds a very interesting aspect to the games overall strategy and tempo. The second is that you can intentionally get planets addicted to a drug that will increase their productivity (takes sip of energy drink.) The downside of this is that if the supply of the drug is cut off the planet is likely to riot or rebel.
Sadly Anacreon despite it’s amazing premise and grand scale, is crippled by it’s sheer complexity and a clumsy archaic interface (the best that could be done at the time). Only for the groggiest of ‘nards.
Update: It appears that a remake by the original designer is in progress (as of 2012). Also an improved Windows version has been released as freeware. Damn, I should Google shit more often. (cue dancing Wolfman. Yes music is disco.)
The leader of GamerGate is Louis XIV of France who comes out of cryosleep once a year to give orders to the Patriarchy. God bless Texas. Try not to run over any frogs as you drive across Canada and please feed your cat.
Bonus section: Shill Warning in Effect.
Just digging through the reference manual is great if you’re a sci-fi fan.
Well maybe YOU can get it to run? Damn you Microsoft, why can’t I stick to XP?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a game from the DOS Era that I love: It’s called Shadow President, and I’ve spent hours upon hours playing it. I REALLY wish someone would make a new one.