Skkra Recommends… Zork!
Well, it’s the end of January 2016 here at SDC, and it’s also the end of Classic Games Week. I don’t think there’s a better way to finish this off than by recommending Zork.
Zork is more or less the godfather of all adventure games, and is certainly considered the king of the classic text adventures. Yes, the game is all text. Yes, I know we have fancy graphics now. But throw on some music, start up Zork, and enjoy one of the most detailed adventures you’ve ever played. The game’s writing still holds up perfectly, and if your imagination hasn’t been utterly deadened by our modern society, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy it. If you’ve ever enjoyed A BOOK in your life, you can enjoy Zork.
Zork is so legendary that many modern games pay homage to class lines and moments, like the Maze of Twisty Little Passages, being eaten by a Grue, or references to the white house, sword or lantern. You may well have run across references to Zork that went completely over your head because you’re uncultured and had no idea.
The game is available to download and play completely for free now, so give it a shot! You can even play it on your phone if you download Frotz.
Skkra Recommends… Space War!
Yes, Space War. Arguably the first game ever made. Steve Russell created it in the early 1960s on a DEC PDP-1.
If you want to play it now, it’s very easy to find a million remakes of the game. Ideally, find one that mirrors the original. Incredibly simple, but it’s still quite fun.
It’s simply a 1v1 game where two players attempt to shoot the other’s spaceship. A sun with configurable attractive or repulsive gravity sits in the center of the board, and will kill you if you touch it. The physics are remarkably fun to play around with, so if you’ve never seen it before, it’s worth checking out. I remember stumbling upon this game (in a DOS remake version) as a young kid and playing it for hours on end.
Skkra Recommends… Archon II!
Well, we did Pitfall II yesterday, so why not another sequel?
Archon II on the Commodore 64 is one of the coolest frigging games ever made. A followup to the original (and spectacular) Archon, which was a loosely chess-based game, Archon II keeps the board-controlling strategy of Archon but turns it on its head. The new playboard is no longer a chess board, but a unique playfield comprised of the 4 elements.
You use a base of acolytes and an energy system to cast spells or summon creatures. Controlling the board keeps your energy up, and there are multiple layers of strategy based on creatures you summon and which elements they thrive on. When fights occur between the two players, the game changes from the main board to a single-screen arena where the players fight it out, arcade-style.
I’ve been playing this game for the majority of my life, and I still enjoy it. It’s that good.
Skkra Recommends… Pitfall II!
I was a huge fan of the original Pitfall as a kid, but Pitfall II is what really stands out in my mind when I hear the name.
It’s a traditional platformer, where the object is simply to collect all of the major items on the map. Nothing special there. But the gorgeous graphics, catchy musical themes, and tight gameplay were a total shock when this game came out on the Atari 2600 at the end of the 2600’s life. The capabilities of the console were pushed beyond what people thought possible.
What I remember most fondly is the game’s main musical theme. I’m not sure exactly what emotion it evokes – pleasant adventure, if thats even a thing? – but it really sticks with me. If you die, a “sad” version of the theme plays while you’re brought back to the last checkpoint.
Interestingly, you can’t lose the game. You don’t have lives. You don’t have a timer. Anytime you “die” you’re simply brought back to a checkpoint on the map.
Skkra Recommends… Impossible Mission!
It’s “impossible” to do a list of some of the greatest classic games of all time without mentioning the original Impossible Mission. This is another Commodore 64 game, and I firmly believe that, even today, it’s one of the best platformers of all time. Much like Forbidden Forest, this game was also way ahead of its time in terms of the implementation.
The quick rundown: you’re an agent who is infiltrating the fortress of a famous, brilliant, and now crazed robotics genius. You need to search his compound and avoid his robots, finding puzzle pieces along the way. Your goal is to assemble the puzzle pieces into a final access code, which you use to unlock the room of the game and stop him from launching nukes.
The game is an insanely fun platformer which, as I mentioned, was ahead of its time, particularly in terms of replayability.
The location of every room in the compound is randomized, so you never encounter the same rooms in the same places, or order. Within each room, the behavior of every robot is randomized, so even if you’ve played the same room a dozen times, you’ll still have a chance to be presented with a unique challenge in navigating it. Lastly, the puzzle pieces which you need to complete the game are placed randomly as well… its not a game that you can easily shortcut simply because you memorized a few locations. Back when this game came out, no other titles were doing anything close to this in terms of replayability.
The saddest part? I’ve never frigging beat this game. I’ve beaten Impossible Mission II, but this one is so damn challenging. I think now, in 2016, I’m going to beat it. This’ll be the year.