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Tag Archives: TGWP

The Games We Played – The Original Grand Theft Auto (PC)

Grand Theft Auto (PC) (Image courtesy MobyGames)
By Andrew Liszewski

It really wasn’t until the infamous third iteration of Grand Theft Auto that the game became a target for the media and the poster child for video game violence. But believe it or not, many of us were stealing cars and committing unspeakable acts of civil disobedience long before GTAIII was even announced. That’s right, while it might have lacked the fancy 3D graphics of its descendants, the original Grand Theft Auto was still a heck of a lot of fun. The game featured a top-down perspective of the original versions of Liberty City, San Andreas and Vice City, and relied heavily on sprite animations for the cars and characters, though 3D effects were sparingly used for the buildings and other elements.

Grand Theft Auto (PC) (Images courtesy MobyGames)

Oddly enough, I don’t remember seeing the original Grand Theft Auto pop-up on the evening news in stories about how it was corrupting our youth, even though you could pretty much do everything you can do in the current versions of the game. I guess sprite-based characters just aren’t as endearing or realistic as their modern 3D counterparts.

One of the reasons I really liked the original GTA (and its sequels) was the sandbox approach to the gameplay that basically allowed you to ignore the missions, and just drive around ‘having fun.’ In fact I rarely completed a single mission in the game, even though I played it for hours on end. And while it might not be the most admirable thing to be remembered for, we can’t forget that it was the original GTA that first introduced us to the phrase, “Kill Frenzy!”

[ MobyGames - Grand Theft Auto ]

The Games We Played – Hot Wheels (C64)

Hot Wheels (C64) (Images courtesy Lemon64.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

To be honest, I always preferred Johnny Lightning’s die-cast offerings over Hot Wheels when I was younger. Sure, they were a bit more expensive, but I felt the extra attention to detail was worth it. But the one thing that Johnny Lightning never had (to the best of my knowledge) was its own video game. Hot Wheels for the Commodore 64 was a slightly more obscure title, and like Nintendogs or GTA it provided a sandbox approach to gaming where there was really no defined goal. You spent your time driving around a small city where you could stop at gas stations, enter demolition derbies and even swap your ride for a firetruck which required you to put out random fires around the city. Basically the same stuff you did with real Hot Wheels cars and playsets in your parent’s living room.

Hot Wheels (C64) (Images courtesy Lemon64.com)

At the start of the game you could choose from a small selection of pre-designed vehicles (which vaguely resembled actual Hot Wheels cars) or you could walk into the factory and design your own, which was probably the best part of the game. Using your joystick as a mouse, you assembled your car from various components and you could even send it to the paint shop and choose from a mind-blowing selection of 12 different colors! Overall Hot Wheels wasn’t the most exciting or challenging game in my giant box of C64 floppy disks, but it’s open-ended nature made it a staple of those occasional rainy Saturday afternoons.

[ Lemon64.com - Hot Wheels ]

The Games We Played – The Video Game Systems Of The 1983 Sears Wishbook

The Video Game Systems Of The 1983 Sears Wishbook (Images courtesy The Retroist)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’ve been racking my brain for the past few weeks, but I just can’t remember ever playing a video game that had some sort of Christmas theme to it. I know games like that existed, but I like to keep this column limited to titles that I’ve actually played. So instead, for this week’s special ‘Christmas Edition’ of The Games We Played, please enjoy these scans of video games and systems from the 1983 Sears Wishbook catalog, courtesy of The Retroist.

Let’s face it, before the internet or you were old enough to hang around with the weirdos at your local computer store, catalogs were really the only place where a kid could get information about what new games and systems would soon be available. And since 1983 was the year of the great video game crash, this particular Wishbook features everything from the Odyssey 2 to the Vectrex and even Merlin! I can remember a lot of these systems being on my Christmas lists of yesteryear, and to be honest, I wouldn’t mind finding a few of these under the tree this year either.

[ The Retroist - The Video Game Systems Of The 1983 Sears Wishbook ]

The Games We Played – The Great Giana Sisters (C64)

The Great Giana Sisters (C64) (Image courtesy Lemon64.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and time and time again we’ve seen that a bit of controversy can do wonders for a game’s popularity. Sometimes that is. While it didn’t contain any gore or adult material, let’s just say that Gary Coleman would probably refer to The Great Giana Sisters as the biggest rip-off since Webster. The game wasn’t just an homage to Super Mario Bros., it basically was Super Mario Bros. In fact, the version of the game I had for my C64 was cracked to include Mario sprites, and it wasn’t until years later that I learned Nintendo hadn’t actually produced a version of their beloved side-scroller for other systems.

And speaking of Nintendo, not surprisingly they didn’t feel that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, and pursued legal action to have the game removed from store shelves almost immediately after it was released. But since The Great Giana Sisters was one of the rare 2D side-scrolling run-and-jump games that existed for PCs at the time, it managed to live on as several unofficial ports throughout the years.

The Great Giana Sisters (C64) (Images courtesy Lemon64.com)

But apparently time does heal all wounds, and believe it or not a company called dtp entertainment has secured the rights to produce an official The Great Giana Sisters sequel for the Nintendo DS of all platforms. The game is scheduled to hit Europe sometime in June of next year, though plans for the North America release haven’t been revealed. But here’s to hoping for a most excellent rip-off of New Super Mario Bros. this time.

[ Shacknews - Famed Mario Rip-off Giana Sisters Coming to DS ]
[ Lemon64.com - The Great Giana Sisters ]

The Games We Played – Book Preview – Rogue Leaders: The Story Of LucasArts

Rogue Leaders: The Story Of LucasArts (Images courtesy StarWars.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

You can say what you want about George Lucas and his Star Wars prequels, but there’s no denying the man has incredible foresight when it comes to the melding of cutting-edge technologies and entertainment. Not only did he change the motion picture industry with Industrial Light & Magic and his championing of digital cinema, but way back in 1982 he saw the potential in the burgeoning interactive entertainment industry and formed his own game company called LucasArts. Today that burgeoning industry is worth billions of dollars, and while LucasArts has had its ups and downs over the years, they’ve remained one of the longest surviving and most prolific game publishers in the industry’s relatively short existence.

Now you’re welcome to argue amongst yourselves in the comments as to what can be considered LucasArts golden years, but looking back at games like X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, Full Throttle or Dark Forces, I know I can’t narrow it down. Thankfully neither does Rob Smith in his new 256 page hardcover book; Rogue Leaders: The Story Of LucasArts. The book covers the entire history of the company with interviews, concept art, character development sketches, storyboards (over 300 images are included) and even a glimpse at games that were never actually released. It definitely seems like a great trip down memory lane for those of us who actually considered a 386 to be a real gaming platform.

The book is available for pre-order from StarWarsShop.com for $59.99, and is expected to ship sometime in January of next year. It also features a foreword by none other than George Lucas himself, and a lenticular cover that changes between the Purple Tentacle, Guybrush Threepwood, LEGO Indy and Darth Vader.

[ StarWarsShop.com - Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts ]

The Games We Played – International Karate (C64)

International Karate (C64) (Image courtesy MobyGames)
By Andrew Liszewski

While fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and even Super Smash Brothers remain some of my favorite titles from the past 20+ years, you never forget your first. And for me that was International Karate on the Commodore 64. For being a C64 game the graphics in International Karate were actually quite good, but I guess when you consider the game just consisted of a couple of sprites bouncing around, it’s not surprising the developers were able to include some impressive backdrops like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sphinx and pyramids in Giza and even the New York skyline.

Of course International Karate came out well before the days of finishing moves, fireballs and other gimmicks, and was basically just a couple of guys (quite possibly twin brothers resolving an eternal grudge) duking it out using nothing but their karate skills. You scored points or half-points based on the hits you landed, and the first player to two points won the round. And in the event the clock ran out, the player with the highest score claimed the victory. There was also a series of great mini-games you got to play at the end of each stage like breaking stacked blocks with your head or jumping/ducking to avoid a barrage of throwing knives. Who needs fatalities anyways?

International Karate (C64) (Images courtesy C64.COM)

International Karate was definitely one of the staples of my C64 (you could tell because it always had a home near the front of the diskette box) and from what I recall, the fighting mechanics and control were actually pretty decent. However, I distinctly remember one little quirk that drove my friends and I crazy. Besides moving your character around and punching and kicking, you were also able to control which direction they faced. Now in modern fighting games the two opponents automatically turn to face each other if they cross on screen, but that wasn’t the case with International Karate. If you jumped over your opponent (or simply walked past them) you had to make sure you turned around in time, otherwise you basically set yourself up for a fist in the back of the head. It wasn’t the prettiest way to win a fight, but to a kid a win is a win.

[ MobyGames - International Karate ]

The Games We Played – Trespasser (PC)

Trespasser (PC) (Image courtesy TresCom)
By Andrew Liszewski

If you asked me to sum up the 1998 DreamWorks Interactive title Trespasser in just a few words, I’d have to say it was hands down the worst game I ever loved playing. Before Trespasser was released, it seemed to have everything going for it like a unique control system which eliminated a cluttered HUD, open-ended gameplay, cutting edge graphics, a robust physics and AI system and even a real-time foley engine for generating and mixing sound effects on the fly. Not to mention the fact the game was based on an insanely popular film franchise, and it involved dinosaurs! But in the end, Trespasser as a whole was definitely not greater than the sum of its parts. In fact, it was far less.

A long list of development issues had plagued the game, including an ever expanding budget and a race to release the title in time for Jurassic Park’s sequel. And it resulted in a final product that didn’t even come close to the ridiculous amount of hype that Trespasser had generated before its release.

Trespasser (PC) (Images courtesy TresCom)

And while I (and most reviewers) considered Trespasser to be an incredible disappointment, I still really enjoyed playing the game, at least as far as it allowed me to. One of the biggest problems with Trespasser was the unending list of bugs that made the game both hilariously entertaining, and frustratingly impossible. While it was quite amusing to see a Triceratops suddenly jump 50 feet into the air for no explicit reason, you could end up in tears trying to perform a simple task like stacking a few crates in order to traverse a broken staircase. But the game still had those rare moments when all of the elements worked together like they were designed to, and while hiding behind a rock watching a pack of Velociraptors go after a T-Rex, it kind of made you forget what Trespasser could have been. Hey Valve, any chance you’d be interested in taking over the reins and cooking up a sequel for us?

[ Wikipedia - Jurassic Park: Trespasser ] & [ TresCom ]

The Games We Played – Tooth Invaders (C64)

Tooth Invaders (C64) (Images courtesy C64.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’m not entirely sure where the idea to develop a video game based around oral hygiene and dental care came from, but it almost seems like Commodore was trying to make up for the other… let’s say… ‘less educational’ titles available for the system. And this was 1982, well before video games became the scapegoat for the majority of society’s woes. As I recall, Tooth Invaders was included with certain Commodore 64 bundles since I’m sure it would have had a hard time competing with other more exciting titles on store shelves. I mean it’s hard enough to get kids to brush every day as it is, I can’t imagine too many would have been thrilled with the idea of doing the same thing in a video game.

Tooth Invaders (C64) (Images courtesy C64.com)

But it turns out that Tooth Invaders was one of the first games my uncle actually had for his Commodore 64, and whenever I visited it was usually the best option. In the game you play a kind of an oral superhero who goes around brushing small parasites off a set of 8 teeth. You had to be fast though, as the parasites were spread by a small army of roaming green meanies who were quick to undo all the work you had done. Once you had a tooth completely cleaned you could call for a fluoride rinse which would permanently protect the tooth so you could concentrate on cleaning the others. Of course if you didn’t stay on top of things a tooth would quickly become so covered with parasites that it would basically fall out, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make an impression on a 5 year old kid who felt brushing was a waste of time. Though it did take our family dentist quite a few years to convince me that my mouth was free of those roaming green meanies.

[ C64.com - Tooth Invaders ]

The Games We Played – NHLPA Hockey ’93 (SNES)

NHLPA Hockey '93 (Image courtesy MobyGames)
By Andrew Liszewski

While last week’s NHL Stanley Cup for the SNES was a genuinely enjoyable title, it really couldn’t hold a candle to the most recent entry in the EA hockey franchise at the time, NHLPA Hockey ’93. It’s still regarded by many (and immortalized in a certain ‘money’ film) as one of the best video game hockey titles of all time, and it definitely remained one of the staple cartridges for my SNES. While NHL Stanley Cup had the license for the NHL teams but not the players, NHLPA Hockey ’93 was just the opposite, with actual players’ names and numbers, but no actual NHL teams. But in the end I think having the license for the actual players who were bona fide celebrities to my friends and I was far more important, and it helped make the game a bigger success.

At the time, NHLPA Hockey ’93 was considered the must-have version of the game because in the ’94 edition the blood, violence and fighting that made the game extra fun for teenagers like myself, was removed. It seems the NHL and NHLPA felt it was harmful to the sport’s image, and they demanded that EA remove those elements from future games. They were eventually put back in a few versions later, but their removal helped keep NHLPA Hockey ’93 popular for years to come.

NHLPA Hockey '93 (Images courtesy NHLPA'93.com)

Unfortunately, just like NHL Stanley Cup suffered from the unfortunate ‘dump the puck’ bug I mentioned last week, NHLPA Hockey ’93 had a similar and just as annoying glitch. Basically the goalie’s AI prevented them from switching sides of the net fast enough during a wraparound shot, which resulted in a guaranteed goal if there were no opposing players to stop you behind the net. In fact, since neither my friends nor I could be trusted not to use the trick, we ended up having to create unique variations on the game, like pulling the goalies altogether, just to keep it interesting.

And of course let’s not forget NHLPA Hockey ’93’s most awesome feature, the instant replay. It made rubbing in a particularly sweet goal or body check even more satisfying as you replayed the event over and over and over again, much to the annoyance of your opponent. In fact their only response was to just sit there and take it, or trip the reset button on the SNES console, which as I recall was how half the games actually ended during our own regular seasons.

[ MobyGames - NHLPA Hockey '93 ]