Week no.3 and a little bit more time for some gaming fun this week.
Last weekend I was hunting around in my game library to find a Sega Dreamcast game I’d offered to lend a friend (Shenmue) and whist I was doing that I came across a a couple of PC games I’ve haven’t played in ages. Being quite old now and released around the 98-2002 I thought I’d see how they’d fair on my Netbook*.
NHL 99 & NHL 2002 (PC/Windows)
Of all the yearly EA Sports game franchises that I immediately took to, it was the NHL Ice Hockey series of games. I’d played the cartoon-ish versions of early releases on the Snes and Megadrive but it wasn’t until a (Ice Hockey playing) friend of mine introduced me to NHL 99 on the PC did I really get into it and it’s real life sport in a big way.
The first part of the slow-mo intro to NHL 99 with it’s David Bowie track mixed game commentary still gives me goosebumps when i see it and the second part with it’s hard hitting heavy rock fueled track really gets you fired up. Great saaaaaaaaave Joooooseph!
NHL 99 was also a game that could take advantage of those new fangled 3D accelerated cards that were starting to become popular with PC gamers back then. Up until then, games like this would either looked jagged and/or ran at a snails pace but with a 3DFX card in my PC, NHL 99 looked stunning with it’s a new shiney ice rink with reflected lighting, fluid moving players that had mapped faces to match those of their real life counterparts such as Koivu, Hassic, Lindros, Gretsky, Shennahan, Forsberg and on and on.
Audio was vastly improved including real life play by play commentary by Jim Hughson and other esteemed commentators , ice rink announcements, audio ditties between plays and the playing of the US and Canadian national anthems all helped to provide the perfect atmosphere not seen on any sports games (apart from soccer) that I’d witnessed before.
As with all EA sports games, each year saw a new game in the series, sometimes with huge improvements and sometimes it seemed like the same game churned out with minor differences. I brought each copy of the NHL games up until around 2007 when they dicked around with the control set so much I lost interest.
These days and for a fun game, my favourite has to be NHL 2002. It looks fantastic, plays fantastic and is still heartily supported by the huge modding community that sprung up around these great games. Want real real centre ice and Ad boards?, how about Bauer, Easton or CCN skates and equipment? or how about full team mods and helmet skins to match those of you favourite goalie? There are also a great many new features introduced in this release including emotion meter (players get a boost when you you’re on the up, perform a big hit, score shorthanded etc or decline in performance if you’re on the downside). There’s also hero moments when the camera zooms, everything goes bullet-type-esq as you break away to a 1 on 1 showdown with the goalie.
NHL 2002 also includes the feature to use a digital picture of yourself to create a player of your own which can be added to any team.
Yup that’s me, although looking slightly alien as I’m not sure why it’s placed my eyes about a foot apart and my nose looking like it’s been squashed. But who care, I get to join the might Bruins!
Not a great idea to square up against Todd Bertuzzi. I fear a 5 minute penalty isn’t going to be enough to get over this pounding!
StiGGy takes the to the ice and whips one in…the crowd goes wild and thanks to the audio importer my victory dance is played out to a section of Welcome to the Jungle by Guns and Roses. Rock on!
Thanks y’all, I’ll be here all season.
*Both of these play absolutely perfect on my Atom powered Netbook running full screen at my native resolution (1366 x 768) with all graphicall niceties set to max
Next up is an Atari 2600 game I picked up as part of a small cartridge bundle I won eBay a few weeks ago.
Gravitar (Atari 2600)
‘The evil Gravitar has set out to destroy the universe His deadly weapon? – Gravity
Gravitar bombards unsuspecting galaxies with his hostile gravitational forces. He then installs a powerful reactor within each solar system of the defeated galaxy, creating a killer sun that destroys all life on the surrounding planets. He blockades those planets with lethal rammers and automated bunkers programmed to shoot.
So far, Gravitar has conquered four galaxies, each made up of three solar
systems. And intelligence reports hint that our galaxy may be next. Gravitar
must be stopped before he adds our galaxy to his list!’
Gravitar is such a cool gravity based shooter and quite the challenge on the Atari 2600. Unlike it’s arcade counterpart, you don’t have a precise multi button control panel to help you out. With the single Atari joystick, for example when collecting the fuel pods, you have to precisely juggle between pressing up and down on the joystick to get them without crashing into the terrain. Fans of Thrust, Oids and Lunar Lander will absolutely love this game…but I’m guessing as fans of those particular games, you’ve already played Gravitar!
The arcade version might contain those cool looking Star Wars vector graphics unlike chunky stuff on the Woody but forget about that minor detail, it’s plays just as good as it’s big brother so give it a whirl, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
That blue thing that looks like a horizontal ‘T’, that’s you that it. Shoot everything else apart from that blue square which is a fuel pod you need to collect. Yep, you’re going to have to use your imagination a bit with these visuals!
Select a planet or take on the invading ships to earn a few extra points…but whatever you do, fight the gravity and don’t fly into the sun…d’oh!
This last game is just truly epic and has taken up so much of my free game time this week.
Fractal Fighter – PC Windows (Free)
No it’s not a new Vectrex homebrew game…although that would be awesomenessly-awesome, nope this is classic black and white schmup game by Jonatan Soderstrom.
The game is simple, steer your little craft around and shoot the guns turrets off the randomly generated mother bucket of a ship that wants all your bases.
Two games modes are on offer – Normal mode will start the game off nice and simple and will get harder as you destroy each mother ship. Random mode sticks you right in the deep end and it’s here that I’ve been spending most of my time trying to beat my previous score (using a one ship rule).
..but first, here’s the start of level 1. Start blasting off the outer turrets with your guns (Z key) whist avoiding incoming fire (Cursor Keys). Note the foot tappin chip tune.
With that done, you can move onto the next set of turrets which shoot out a stream of machine gun fire. You have two other weapons that you may wish to use here. A laser beam (X key) which is under powered but great for hitting turrets that may be hidden from view or blocked by another part of the ship where your guns cannot reach them and the third weapon is a set of missiles (C Key) that you have to manually aim with the cursors.
The mothership get angry with this next set of defensive weaponry as they hone in on your position and can be a little tricky later on when you’re up against a whole barrage of them. Get in there fast ,duck and shoot the crap out of them.
The final guns are these huge firing plasma beams. They’re pretty easy to pick off until they start moving around on later levels!
Now that you’ve had a bit of practise, try out that awesome random mode.
Welcome to bullet hell!