What We’re Playing – ’90s Hyper Turbo Edition
With our sights this week set on videogames from the ‘90s here’s what we’re playing. Let us know if we’ve inspired you to dig out any classics in the comments section below.
The Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular board games ever. It’s also one of the best. Designed by Klaus Teuber and released in 1995, it has sold well into the millions. It entertains people all over the world with its perfect mix of tactical gameplay, resource management and a sprinkling of luck. I bought the board game just last week and have since played a couple of great games. The second game took us two and half hours to complete! Even the non-gamers got really into it, thanks to its accessible nature. Truly a nineties classic, it has undoubtedly helped influence videogame design.
I was first introduced to its brilliance via its Xbox Live Arcade equivalent, Catan, designed in collaboration with Teuber. Unsure at first of what I was doing, the more games I played, the more involved I got. After exhausting AI, I decided to hit online, expecting an empty community. How wrong I was. The online playing community for Catan is thriving! It was released five years ago now, but people are still playing. The gameplay is hugely addictive. The aim of the game is to colonize the island of Catan, by collecting and using resource cards, that you receive on particular dice rolls. Sometimes it can be infuriating when the dice rolls are going against you, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. There are two skins, but I prefer the classic board game skin, as the 3D, ‘living worlds’ skin is a little too busy. The game replicates the real thing perfectly, which is all you want. It means you’ll always have someone to play against. Rarely boring, always interesting, I can see myself coming back to Catan over and over again.
It’s not always to a genre’s benefit to simplify. Shmups are complex, manic things where the screen is often washed over in controlled showers of bullet hell. And that thought of reducing them to the iPhone always came across as questionable. When they’re ported over, shmups are often reduced to the bare minimum of control: put your thumb down and worm it around the screen and that’s about the extent of the mania.
Blazing Star is slightly closer to the real thing, allowing for more complexity, and making the most of its on-screen button setup, despite the chaos on-screen. Its early CG backgrounds hold up well enough, signaling that period of transition between the simplistic 8-bit shooters and a generation where the genre could reach its full potential. It’s refreshing to see SNK dipping into their catalogue and coming out with something different and worthwhile, and hopefully we’ll see this trend continue with future Apps.
I’ve actually never beaten Half-Life. I’ve watched friends beat it and I’ve watched my brother beat it. But I know that mere spectating garners only half the experience to any game. Since it’s been a good few years since those days, it seems like a good time to personally walk down the shouting corridors of Black Mesa.
What I’ve always admired about Half-Life (though the devs never quoted it as inspiration), is that it comes off as a game version of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story From Beyond. Same premise: misguided scientists construct resonance technology, taps into other worlds hidden beyond the veil of human consciousness, shit hits the fan. Plus, the citizens of Xen, and Xen itself, bears much in resemblance to the horrors of Lovecraftian lore.
After completing Half-Life, with time permitting, I plan to kick down each of the expansion episodes before taking on the sequel. So yeah, okay….I’m pretty far behind…