RPG fans like nothing more than to take control of a character or group of characters, and immerse themselves fully in a fantasy world where they can increase their character’s stats, find magical and rare weapons, and rescue a kingdom or two. It’s pure hero fantasy…and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention is a fantasy turn-based tactical RPG. It was developed by Climax Entertainment and Camelot Co. Ltd., and published by Sega in 1992 in Japan, and 1993 in North America and Europe. Released on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, it would later be released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004 (under the title of Shining Force: Resurrection of Dark Dragon), Wii Virtual Console in 2007, iOS in 2010 (discontinued in 2015), and Windows, Linux and Mac (Steam) in 2011. It can also be found as part of the Sega Smash Pack Volume 1 on the Dreamcast, Sega Smash Volume 2 for Microsoft Windows, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. For this review, I revisited the version found as part of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3.
Millenia ago, in the Kingdom of Rune, a battle between good and evil took place. Dark Dragon, who led the forces of evil, was defeated by the Warriors of Light who cast him into an alternate dimension. Dark Dragon vowed to return in 1000 years to once more wreak havoc in Rune. 1000 years later, in which time peace and tranquillity existed in Rune, the Kingdom of Runefaust attacked Rune hellbent on helping Dark Dragon to return.
A young man named Max, who lives in the Kingdom of Guardiana, is sent to defeat the evil warrior Kane and his army. Along with an army of his own, Max soon discovers that Darksol is behind the plot and pursues him throughout Rune to stop Dark Dragon’s ressurection.
Max (You): Max is human and an all-round fighter, both fast and accurate. If things are looking bleak during a battle, he can cast Egress to whisk your party away to safety. Be warned, if Max is defeated in battle, you automatically lose the confrontation, and are sent back to your last save spot minus half your gold! To prevent this, keep an eye on his health and don’t be afraid to use Egress or keep a supply of Angel Wings for each member of your party (Angel Wings have the same use as Egress).
Luke: Luke is a dwarf and a great warrior. He cannot cast spells and his movement is limited, but he is strong.
Ken: Ken is a centaur and a good fighter. Centaurs have quite a long movement range so be careful he doesn’t go too far and get separated from the group.
Tao: Tao is a young elf who is training to be a mage. As she gains experience, she will be able to cast spells from afar but she is weak in hand-to-hand combat. Make sure your protect her.
Hans: Hans the Elf is an archer, perfect for ranged attacks. Again, protect him from hand-to-hand combat.
Lowe: Lowe is a halfling priest. Although weak in attack, his skill lies in healing your party during battles.
There are nine other characters who will join your party along the but you’ll have to wait to meet them to find out who they are.
For the most part, the game takes place from an almost top-down view, in the traditional Japanese-style RPG. There are no labyrinths, and only a few puzzles to solve. You must make your way through various towns and through the overworld map in pursuit of Darksol. In the towns, you can talk to the citizens, some of whom offer insights to help you progress. You can buy and sell weapons and items from the shops to assist you on your quest. You can also find priests who can resurrect fallen characters, cure them of various ailments, promote those who have reached level 20, and record your progress.
Unlike many other RPGs, there are no random battle encounters as such, but there are areas where you can find battles should you wish to increase your stats before progressing in the game.
Battles take place on a square-grid system. Depending on their stats, characters can only move a certain number of squares at one time. Depending on your proximity to an enemy, you can either attack with a weapon, cast a spell, use an item or choose to do nothing. If you are adjacent to a member of your own party, you can swap items. This does not class as a move, and so items can be exchanged without losing your turn.
When an attack occurs, a beautifully animated action scene appears with a blue dialogue screen explaining damage given or accrued, and experience points and money earned etc. When an enemy is hit by your weapon or spell, your attacking character will earn experience points for themselves. When an enemy is defeated, a larger amount of experience points will be awarded to your attacking character and the money earned will be added to your party’s kitty. For every 100 points accrued, that character will level-up increasing their attack, defence, MP, agility etc. Once a character reaches level 20, they can be promoted to a different class of fighter.
What can I say other than this game looks beautiful. The overworld map and village scenes are bright and vibrant, and detailed with clear distinction between the sprites and environment. The fight scenes are beautifully illustrated and animated with incredible looking sprites, action shots and backgrounds. I really cannot compliment this game enough on its graphics. For me, they are superior to games like Final Fantasy V (1992), Treasures of the Savage Frontier (1992) and Paladin’s Quest (1992). However, by the time this game reached North America and Europe, the SNES was beginning to take the graphics up a notch with games like Secret of Mana (1993) and Illusion of Gaia (1993). Had Shining Force been released a year or two later, it would have looked a but dated.
The only thing that lets this game down for me, is the music. By 1992, Both Nintendo and Sega had released games with fantastic 16-bit soundtracks like Super Mario World (1990) and Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) respectively. Now I know that these are different genres from Shining Force, but it is an indication of how good the music could be in games. I just feel that Shining Force loses a few marks in this department.
Did I complete the game?
What the critics said:
Mean Machines Sega: “A beautifully crafted piece of Megadrive software with just the right balance of action and adventure to satisfy all needs. Overall 91%”.
Sega Power: “A beautifully produced RPG. Great tactical battle sequences. Loads of unique, cute characters, speedy gameplay and lots to see ‘n’ do. Gorgeous to play and look at. Overall 89%”.
Megatech:“Finely presented combination of exploration and fighting leads Shining Force to victory. Overall 90%.”
“Blood, death, war, rumpy-pumpy, TRIUMPH!!! I love this game. Shining Force looks beautiful with great graphics, illustrations and animations with plenty of different characters to get to know. The chess-like manoeuvring during battles is challenging and enables you to prepare your army for strategic assaults on the enemy. However, hardened RPG players may find this game a tad easy though.”
What are your memories of Shining Force? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
There is something inherently violent about humans, there really is no way to ignore it. Archaeological evidence of mass graves where the occupants show signs of sharp and blunt force trauma, and historical records of battles throughout history attest to this. This may be why gamers are drawn towards to violent games. Although, it is not so much the killing but the hero fantasy that we seek. We are never going to take on an entire castle of baddies using only our guile, sharpshooting and hand to hand combat skills in real life (thankfully). So we immerse ourselves in artifical worlds. Some may think there is something wrong with that. I say, what’s wrong with a little hero fantasy every now and them?
Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a first-person shooter, and a reboot of Wolfenstein 3D (1992). It was developed by Gray Matter Interactive (Nerve Software developed the multiplayer) and published by Activision. It was released for the Microsoft Windows in 2001, Linux and Macintosh in 2002, Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2003, and Steam in 2007. I chose to review the Microsoft Windows version.
It’s 1943 and World War II has been raging for four years. The Nazis have uncovered an ancient demon named Henrich who has been trapped deep underground in magical prison for 1000 years. They’re also developing a super soldier capable of destroying the allies and winning the war. You play as US Army Ranger William Blazkowitz who is charged with investigating the Nazis’ SS Paranormal Division and stopping their evil plans.
The missions consist of assassinations, data retrieval and sabotage. Some of the missions rely on stealth and your mission is over if you are spotted, which adds an extra layer of difficulty and breaks up the action nicely. It’s quite a long game, with some of the missions being quite lengthy for the time. There are plenty of authentic World War II weapons to choose from as well as fictional weapons such as the Tesla gun. Along the way, you will find ammo, armour and health packs to restore you weapons and health.
The story, although fantastical, is engaging. The graphics and sound effects are good for the time, but the AI, as with lots of gmes of this era, still needs work. Enemies vary in strength and difficulty, these include standard German soldiers, experimental soldiers and the undead.
There is not much replay value here but the multiplayer addition was critically acclaimed.
Did I complete the game?
I am adamant that I completed this game when I first played it after its release. However, this time around, I couldn’t get defeat the final boss.
What the critics said:
Computer Gaming World:“If all you want to do is blast your way through countless Nazis and zombies, then this game is probably for you. But if you want a deep, engaging storyline with surprising twists and turns, this probably isn’t for your cup o’ tea. Overall 3.5/5”.
Eurogamer: “Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a worthy addition to the stable of id Software affiliated shoot ’em ups. The single player game is average to good and takes quite a while to finish, but the game really earns its salt by shipping with a first class multiplayer element. Overall 8/10”. 
Game Revolution: “But in all, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is not what it could have been. As a story it’s utterly bizarre, as a sequel it’s sub-par, but as a stand-alone game it’s very good. The simple truth is that regardless of the detractions, killing Nazis will always be fun…always. There are few times that you can play a game and feel you made the world a better place. Wolfenstein 3D was one of those times. If the world isn’t any better after playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein, at least it might brighten your day. Overall 3.5/5”.
Gamespot: “In a weird inversion of the typical shooter model, Return to Castle Wolfenstein features an amazing multiplayer component coupled with a good if somewhat underwhelming single-player game. Then again, fans of id Software’s previous 3D shooters should be familiar with this model. But honestly, Return to Castle Wolfenstein is well worth buying for the multiplayer game alone, so the fact that you get a solid single-player game in the box can only be considered a bonus. Overall 9.2/10”.
IGN: “The single player campaign is certainly decent and will hold people’s interest long enough to get them accustomed to the various weapons in time to jump into multiplayer. It’s not quite the revolutionary trip back to Castle Wolfenstein that people may have been hoping for, but that’s no reason to discount it, as it is nothing less than a solid and satisfying experience. But it’s no doubt that the real value in the title falls on the multiplayer which is definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in quite a while. It all adds up to a really fun game that fans of the genre will love to get a piece of. Overall 9/10“.
Defeating the Nazi’s always feels fun and for the most part so is this game. I like the story, I like the graphics and I like the variety of missions. Unless you play multiplayer, there isn’t much replay value, but the game is long enough to certainly justify the purchase.
What are your memories of Return to Castle Wolfenstein? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
In the early 90s, I was at the height of my Sci-fi geekdom. I watched and re-watched Star Trek and Star Wars movies with unhealthy regularity. The video games that the franchises were producing in the early 90s were also filling my daily quota of science fiction. Resisting the entreaties of my parents to go out into the summer sun, I preferred to stay in a darkened room and lose myself in these cherished universes. Some would say it was an unhealthy hobby for a teenager, and they could be right…if it wasn’t for the fact that I played competitive football at least twice and week, and worked part-time jobs that is. However, the memories I have playing these games with a childhood chum (who I shall refer to as MC), are not to be discarded lightly.
Star Wars: Dark Forces is a first-person shooter developed and published by Lucasart in 1995 for MS-DOS and Macintosh. A year later it was released for PlayStation. In 2009 it was re-released on Steam. The version I played for this review was for the PC.
You play as Kyle Katarn, who is studying agricultural mechanics with the intention of working in the family business. Whilst at the academy, he is told that his parents were killed by the Rebels, causing him to enlist in the Imperial Army. Whilst working for the Imperial Army he meets Jan Ors, a double agent working for the Rebels. She informs Katarn that it was an Empire raid killed his parents. With the truth known, he helps Ors escape. He then becomes mercenary and begins to take on jobs for the Rebel Alliance.
The first mission is set during Rogue One, and sees Katarn charged with stealing the Death Star plans (naturally this storyline is not considered official canon). It then skips to after A New Hope. Once the Death Star is destroyed, the Rebels ask Kyle to investigate an assault on a Rebel base by a new type of Imperial soldier.
This first-person shooter sees Katarn navigate his way through several locations including a Star Destroyer, Jabba the Hutt’s Palace, and the planet Coruscant. The levels are well designed and challenging, and really give the illusion that you are in the Star Wars universe. Throughout the levels, there are lots of secret doors which contain power-ups and goodies to help you on your way.
You can choose between a number of different weapons with which to fight the Imperial soldiers including blasters, thermal detonators, land mines, and some more explosive weapons. All weapons have a secondary mode which offers a different effect when fired. All weapons need ammunition so use the more powerful weapons sparingly.
The map unfolds as you progress for the level, adding to the feeling of isolation and the unknown. You can toggle this map to be overlaid whilst you are walking around the level too which is a useful tool to have. There are times in the game when you need to use night-vision goggles and breathing apparatus which are nice touches. Just remember that you’ll need to pick up batteries for the night vision goggles as they only have limited power.
The in-game music is atmospheric, but very basic. Don’t expect John William’s well-constructed musical themes blasting through your speakers in high fidelity. The in-game graphics are generally good. Although the levels are 3D, the baddies are 2D. However, they are well illustrated and use familiar exclamations such as “You’re not authorised in this area!”, and “There he is, blast him!”. Sadly, they do become a little pixelated as you get closer to them. The cutscenes are beautifully illustrated but sadly, it’s not the real Darth Vader’s voice.
The controls let this game down a little. Whilst you are able to run, jump, duck, swim and look around, the mouse only allows you to look horizontally turning left and right. You need to use the keyboard to look up and down. This makes it unnecessarily difficult when shooting at enemies on high ledges. The jumping is frustrating too as the player doesn’t stop instantly when landing which, although realistic, means plummeting to your death alot as it’s difficult to gauge when you are near to falling off the edges.
The three difficulty settings, and the fact this is a Star Wars game, give this game some replay value, but I don’t think this is a game that will have you returning time and time again.
Did I complete the game?
What the critics said:
Gamespot: “Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the game is set in the Star Wars universe. It’s much more fun to blast Imperial lackeys than faceless monsters. The familiar setting is enhanced by your enemies’ taunts, like “Stop, Rebel Scum!” Dark Forces’ only real flaws are its tragically short length – less than a dozen levels – and its lack of multiplayer options or add-ons, which severely limits the replay value. Overall 7.6/10”.
Next Generation:“Ultimately, Dark Forces offers nothing that Doom didn’t provide a year ago apart from some pretty Star Wars cut-scenes. And Technically, it’s on par with the most accomplished 3D games, but it seems that LucasArts’ reputation as a software pioneer has made it wary of producing an instantly playable title. Dark Forces will be judged by Doom Standards, and in most areas, it falls just short. Overall 3.5/5”.
PC Zone:“The best Doom-inspired game to date, based on Star Wars. Overall 95%.”
“Overall the game has a good storyline and is fun, even for non-Star Wars gamers. Some of the controls need a little fine tuning but the number of weapons you can use, the level designs and familiar phrases such as “There he is, blast him!” make this game worth playing. However, single player limits the replay value a bit.”
What are your memories of Dark Forces? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
Adventure game creators have always sought to immerse gamers into their imaginary worlds but have sometimes been limited by technology. For example, I remember some early Spectrum games that were simply text based. Although they were fun, I never felt immersed in the game. Myst was the first game I’d played where I felt that the immersion experience was successful on me. Others may differ but I can only tell you how I felt about it. I should also warn you that there is a spoiler near the end of the review.
Developed by Cyan Inc. and published by Brøderbund Software, Myst was released for the Macintosh in 1993, Windows in 1994, 3DO in 1995, and PlayStation in 1996. A remake was released for Windows in 2000 and Macintosh in 2002, and the realMyst: Masterpiece Edition was released on Steam in 2014. The game was ported to many other platforms including Sega Saturn, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Android, iPhone, Nintendo 3DS, Jaguar CD, Amiga OS, CD-I, For this review, I replayed the original Windows version.
Viewed in first person mode, Myst is a graphics adventure puzzle game which sees an unnamed protagonist (that’s you) falling into a fissure and appearing on a mysterious island. You are able to move and turn by using a cursor to click the route you wish to take or the direction you wish to turn. You can also interact with objects by clicking and dragging them.
As you explore the island you learn more about its history and the worlds you will soon visit. Some notes also offer hints to help you progress through the game. You soon learn that you need to gather blue and red pages and restore them to two books found in the observatory. Two brothers, Sirrus and Achenar, have been trapped inside these books. As each one speaks to you through garbled transmissions, they explain that the other brother is mad and has imprisoned them in the books. They both try to convince you to free them instead of the other brother, both claiming that the other brother murdered their father. To find the pages you must explore several other worlds and solve various puzzles.
One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that you are simply thrust into this game with virtually no back story and no idea what you have to do, and oddly, you cannot die! At first you are simply wandering around, searching for buildings to enter and objects to interact with. This can be quite off putting to some as it can take a while to understand what the hell is going on. Some of the puzzles are fun and challenging. Others are less obvious to solve. One annoying aspect of the game is having to return to the same worlds to collect the other page you didn’t collect on your first visit, as you can only pick up one at a time.
I remember when this game was released, and I played it with a school friend. However, we never got that far as it was a bit too difficult for our teenage brains. When I came to it years later, I fared better having gained much experience with these sorts of games. I thought the graphics were out of this world. The background music and minimalistic SFX bring an eerie air to the game adding to the feeling of being truly alone. Having revisited the game over 25 years since its release, I think the game has held up pretty well. Sure the animations are basic and not as smooth as modern games, and the 3D design of the worlds look dated, but the gameplay is straightforward, once you realise what you need to do, and I found myself being immersed in the game once more.
There are four possible endings, with one of them being the true ending. However, the true ending is frustratingly and unsatisfyingly none existent and I found myself wandering Myst for some time before searching online to see if I had missed something. Nope, sure enough there is no ending. I guess I will have to play the sequel Myst: Riven, to see what happens next.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, but definitely needed help from the walkthrough on this on!
What the critics Said:
Gamespot.com: “Myst is an immersive experience that draws you in and won’t let you go. Overall 8.9/10”
My verdict:“This is a tough game and seems to be aimed towards more experience adventure gamers. However, I loved the concept of the game, and the ambient music and SFX immerses you into the game. I just feel it could have been so much better if more story was included. I also felt the way you can only carry one coloured page at a time, meaning you have to go through each world twice, was a cheap way to prolong the game. I mean, who can’t carry two pages!”
What are your memories of Myst? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
Age of Empires (AoE) allowed you to take part in the rise and domination of Ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, Babylonians, Yamato and Romans. The Roman Empire has now collapsed and a power vacuum has appeared in Europe. You can take control of civilisations such as the Mongols, Holy Roman Empire, Moors, and Franks, and follow the stories of some of history’s most famous people such as Joan of Arc, William Wallace, El Cid, Saladin and Barbarossa. It’s time to shine up your armour, sharpen your weapons, and prepare to build an army capable of dominating your enemies. We are now in the Age of Kings!
The Age of Kings
Released in 1999, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is a real-time strategy game and the sequel to Age of Empires. It was developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft (for Windows and Macintosh), and Konami ( for Playstation 2) for the 2001 port. A spin-off was created for the Nintendo DS in 2006. I chose to review the PC version.
If you are new to AoE, and even if you’re not, a tutorial campaign is available where you help William Wallace (1270-1305) and his armies defend their lands from English encroachment. Other campaigns include:
Joan of Arc (1412-1431): Help the French push the English out of France during the Hundred Years’ War.
Saladin (1137-1193): Fight with the Muslim armies and help expel the Crusaders from the Holy Lands.
Genghis Khan (1162-1227): Lead Khan’s army on their invasion of Europe.
Frederick Barbarossa (1122-1190): The Teutonic expansion of the Holy Roman Empire.
As with AoE, you have the option to play Campaign or Random Map modes. In Campaign Mode, you are given a specific objective fitting with the storyline. You must send your villagers to collect resources (wood, food, gold and stone) in order to build a base and an army. By gathering resources you will also be able to progress from the Dark Age through the Feudal and Castle Ages to the Renaissance. If resources are scarce, you can used trade cogs or the market to sell and buy materials.
In Random Map Mode, the computer generates a range of differing landscapes and conditions. You have the option of choosing between 13 civilisations. Once chosen you can then opt who you compete against, and your and your opponent’s starting ages. You can win by either defeating your enemy, by building a Wonder that stands for 1000 years, or by collecting relics in a certain amount of time. The additional Deathmatch Mode starts you with an abundance of resources to quickly build a powerful army, and Regicide Mode sees you needing to kill the opponent’s king unit to win.
Before each campaign mission you are greeted with a screen showing text, illustrations, and voice over narrating the context of the mission. During the missions, some of the characters converse with each other offering hints to help find resources, make you aware of enemy locations, or simply helping to move the story along.
AoE II has also introduced counter-units to ensure more strategic gameplay. For example, infantry such as men-at-arms and swordsmen, are good against buildings but poor against cavalry. So how do you defeat cavalry? You train spearmen and pikemen who, in groups, make short work of cavalry. Each civilisation also has one or two special units. For example, the Britons have Longbowmen, archery units with an increased attack range. Like priests in AoE, monks can convert enemy units and heal your own. They are also able to pick up and carry relics back to their churches. These relics can offer bonuses such as giving you a slow but steady trickle of gold into your coffers.
Another new interesting feature is the option to garrison units in town centres, castles, archery ranges and guard towers. When you garrison archers and villagers into the aforementioned buildings, additional arrows will be fired to help defend your base.
One more helpful feature is the town bell. By pressing the bell icon when the town centre is selected, villagers will automatically garrison in the nearest building, which is handy for when you are being attacked. Interestingly villagers are now male and female adding more realism to the game.
The graphics and sound have been greatly improved from the first instalment. Buildings and units are more colourful and intricately illustrated, adding to the idea that technology has moved a long way since the Classical world. The overall look of the landscapes has also greatly improved from AoE.
This game has tons of replay value. Once you’re bored with the expansion campaigns and random map modes, you can also play multiplayer online where the game really comes into its own, or so I am told.
Last, but not least, you are able to read a short history of all civilisations featured in the game. As a history buff I find this a neat little feature as it adds more context to the campaigns and offers further insight into civilisations that we didn’t learn about at school.
What the Critics Said:
PC Zone:“Easy to learn, hard to master…detailed graphics and finely balanced units. Vastly improved single-player game…perhaps too similar to the original game. Overall 90%”
Gamespot: “No matter how you play it, chances are good that you’ll enjoy Age of Kings if not for its careful historical detail then because its context never takes precedence over the game’s playability. And if you’ve ever liked any other real-time strategy game in this classical style, then you’ll clearly see why this one deserves so much credit, even in direct comparison to the finest examples in its category. Overall 9.1/10”
Wikipedia states that AoE II won several other awards but I have been unable to verify those claims.
In 2000, the Conquerors Expansion was released adding five new civilisations (Aztecs, Mayans, Spanish, Koreans and Huns) and four new campaigns:
Atilla the Hun (406-453): Follow Attila’s rise to power as he battles against a crumbling Roman Empire.
Montezuma (1466-1520): Ruler of the Tenochtitlán who must defend the Aztec Empire from Hernán Cortéz and the Spanish invasion.
El Cid (1043-1099): The Castillian knight who fought for both Christians and Muslims in Spain.
Battles of the Conquerors: A group of unrelated but famous historical battles including the Battle of Hastings (1066), the Battle of Tours (732), and the Battle of Yamazaki (1582).
The Conquerors also introduced several new features and tweaks. New buildings styles and units indicative of the civilisations were introduced such as the Eagle Warrior for the Aztecs. The addition of the King of the Hill, Defend the Wonder and Wonder Race scenarios, add new criteria for winning Random Map games. New winter and tropical maps have been included, and it is now possible to garrison infantry troops inside battering rams, increasing their speed and attack strength.
AI has been improved to help manage your settlement. For example, villagers will automatically begin to collect the nearest resource once they have built a resource gathering site such as the lumber or gold mine sites. When building walls, villagers will spread out and build separate parts of the wall rather than massing on one block at a time. Also if more than one villager is sent to a farm, the second villager will automatically seed a new farm and begin to harvest food. Siege weapons such as mangonels and onagers will not automatically fire if they are at risk of hitting their own soldiers, which I know was something that annoyed a hell of a lot of gamers about AoE and AoE II.
What the Critics Said:
Gamespot: “Virtually every addition in The Conquerors helps make Age of Empires II a better, more thoroughly enjoyable game. Nevertheless, it’s true that the enhancements to the interface and the tweaks to the game’s balance are more obvious to more experienced Age of Kings players. This is largely because Age of Kings was an outstanding game to begin with – and as such, any improvements in an expansion pack such as The Conquerors understandably provide only a marginal improvement overall. At the same time, the multiple additions in The Conquerors add up to be more than enough to entice Age of Kings players to focus their attention on this ambitious, deeply strategic game once again – and for a long time. Overall 8.5/10”
According to Wikipedia, The Conquerors won PC Gamer US Best Expansion Pack of 2000, but I was unable to find the magazine to verify.
In 2013 another expansion pack, The Forgotten, developed by SkyBox Labs and Forgotten Empires, and published by Microsoft Studios, was released. It introduced five new civilisations: Italians, Indians, Slavs, Magyars, and Incas. It also offered seven new campaigns which included:
Alaric of the Visigoths (370-410): Fighting back against the Romans.
Bari (c.800-Middle Ages): The fall of Rome left room for competing Italian states to try and gain power. Here is the story of one such Byzantine family.
Sforza (15th century): Sforza is a mercenary offering his services around Italy where they are needed. His fate is in your hands.
Dracula (1428-1477): The Story of Vlad the Impaler amidst incursions from the Ottoman Empire.
El Dorado (1540-41): Francisco Orellana and Gonzalo Pizarro travel to South America in search of the Lost City of Gold hidden somewhere in the Amazonian rainforest.
Prithviraja III (reign c.1178-1192): Help Prithviraja III unite the warring clans of India.
Battles of the Forgotten: More independent historical battles including the Conquest of Cyprus (1570-73), Battle of Langshan Jiang (919), and Dos Pilas (629-761).
The Forgotten fixed a few bugs noted from the Age of Kings and The Conquerers. As well as new technologies and new units consistent with the new civilisations, it also introduced Capture the Relic and Treaty modes for Random Map games. Not only are new maps included but some maps have been expanded so that they are four times bigger than previous maps.
What the Critics Said:
I was unable to find critic reviews for The Forgotten, although it has had mostly positive ratings from users on Steam.
The African Kingdoms
In 2015 yet another expansion pack called The African Kingdoms was released. It introduced four new civilisations (Berbers, Ethiopians, Malians, and the Portuguese). The new Campaigns included:
Sundjata (Malians c.1217-c.1255): The Ghanaian Empire has fallen leaving a power vacuum in West Africa. Help Sundjata build the Malian Empire and rule over West Africa.
Francisco de Almeida (c.1450-1510): Wars between the Moors and Christians have taken its toll on Portugal. They must branch out to find new sources of wealth unavailable to them in Europe. You must help push East to India.
Yodit (Ethiopans c.960): The Ethiopian Princess is accused of theft by her jealous nephew and is forced to flee her homeland. Help her regain her birth right.
Tariq ibn Ziyad (Berbers invasion of Spain and Portugal 711-718): Lead your army across the Strait of Gibraltar to wealth and glory in Iberia.
As well as the usual bug fixes, tweaks, new units and technologies, consistent with the new civilisations, and new maps; a new mode, Sudden Death mode, was added.
What the critics said:
I was unable to find critic reviews of The African Kingdom, although it has had very positive ratings from users.
The Rise of the Rajas
Finally, in 2016, The Rise of the Rajas expansion pack was released. It included four more civilisations (Burmese, Malay, Khmer and Vietnamese). The new campaigns were:
Bayinnaung (Burma 1516-1581): A warrior king is betrayed and assassinated. His devoted servant pledges to carry on his legacy and seeks to reunite south-east Asia and create an empire.
Suryavarman I (Cambodia 1002-1060): The Khmer Empire is in turmoil due to internal politics and warring factions. There are also external threats from the surrounding, hostile neighbours. You must help Suryavarman I rise to power, defeat the warring factions and restore the Khmer Empire to dominance.
Gajah Mada (Java 1290-1364): Prime Minister of Majapahit, Gajah Mada, plans to build an empire that will rule the archipelago. However, he has sworn an oath to the king. How will he reconcile his ambition and his loyalty?
Lê Lợi (Vietnam 1384-1433): Vietnam is in the midst of a civil war and the Ming Empire of China has intervened and seized control. Minor noble Lê Lợi must reunite the warring factions and regain independence.
As with the other expansions, many bug fixes and balance changes were made. A multitude of more maps were added, as well as the usualy building and unit style changes consistent with their respective civilisations.
What the critics said:
I was unable to find critic reviews of Rise of the Rajas, although it has had very positive ratings on from users on Steam.
The graphics of AoE II and all respective expansion packs are beautiful. The lush green maps, arid deserts, and coastal areas and are vastly improved from AoE. Although not perfect, and there are plenty of similarities, they have done a fine job in trying to create unique buildings and units distinctive to their respective civilisations.
The music has also been improved. Although the in-game background music isn’t designed to take your attention away from the action, the music adds a feeling of dread to the game, and is very atmospheric.
The campaigns are excellent and are far superior to AoE. Before each misson, the cut scenes really help set up each scenario, drawing the user into the story. The mix of different civilisations and empires rising and falling is based on real history, highlighting how violent our past was, and how things could easily have turned out differently for the winners or losers. Imagine if the Normans were defeated at the Battle of Hastings, or if the Aztecs were able to repel the Spanish invasions. History may have turned out differently. The addition of the expansion packs focussing on the history of not just European empires, but Asian, African and South American empires as well, means that the history of those non-European empires can be brought to the western world, where these histories are not taught in mainstream education. Learning about other cultures and histories will only enrich us.
One of the downsides to AoE was that once you had an army of maxed out hoplites, you could pretty much win any scenario. The introduction of counter units in AoE II has added an extra challenge to the game, forcing players to use a plethora of different units in their armies in order to be successful.
For me, what lets this game down, and this is why I have only given it four stars instead of five, is that I feel that this was made for hardcore real-time strategy gamers only. There is nothing wrong with that of course. What I mean is that I found the majority of the missions too difficult, even on the standard difficulty setting. You barely have time to figure out your location before you are inundated with wave upon wave of attacks. In some cases I got the feeling that the game must be cheating as they seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of resources.
“Get good!” I hear some of the hardcore real-time strategists say.
You may be right. Maybe I need to get better, but surely that is why difficulty settings are there. I also found that some of the missions took over two hours to complete. That just seemed too long for me.
Did I complete the games?
I have completed the games, but I mostly had to use the resource cheats as even the standard difficulty setting proved too difficult for me on many occasions.
“All real-time strategists will love this game. The sequel and expansion packs are great value for money with tons of replay value. They are beautifully designed and very challenging. Too many similarities between units of different civilisations and the overall difficulty was too apparent to allow a clean sweep of five stars.”
What are your memories of Age of Empires II? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
Star Wars is one of the most loved franchises in movie history, and has a place in the hearts of millions of cinema goers everywhere. Now it’s your turn to get into the cockpit and help fight against the evil Galactic Empire. May the Force be with you!
Star Wars: Rebel Assault is a rail shooter developed and published by LucasArts, and released in 1993 for DOS, MAC, Sega-CD, and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. I chose to review the version downloaded from Steam. There is a spoiler below so watch out for it.
The game is set during Star Wars: A New Hope, although for some reason, the Battle of Hoth seems to takes place too. You play as Rookie 1, who is a trainee Rebel pilot. Once you complete the trainee missions, you are sent to take on the Empire in battles that sees you navigate asteroid belts, fly in close proximity to a Star Destroyer and many other hazardous situations. There are three aspects to this game. First person shooter, overhead view, and third person view, depending on which level you are on.
For the time, the graphics looked great, and the SFX and music are authentic music and sounds from the movie which really adds to the atmosphere of the game, making you believe you are in a Star Wars movie. Nowadays, the pixelated film footage from the movies looks fuzzy and cheap, and for some reason the original dialogue containing voices of the original actors has been replaced, which detracts from the game because it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault had so much potential, and as a Star Wars fan I loathe to criticise the franchise, but the gameplay really lets this game down, to the point where the fun of playing was drained out of the experience. An example of this is during the battle scenes. The cross hair used to aim is so jittery, and because you don’t have control of the craft, aiming is incredibly difficult and accuracy goes in the toilet. Using a mouse as oppose to a joystick or joypad surprisingly only makes things worse. Flying through the canyons and through caves also becomes frustrating because it is difficult to gauge when you are going to hit obstacles. The attempt to make the game 3D simply plays havoc with your depth perception, especially because this is a rail shooter and you have no control over the craft.
Another odd factor was that the ending of A New Hope was re-written for this game. There is no sign of Luke, Wedge or Han Solo, and it’s you who destroys the Death Star. You are then shown the ceremony at the end of A New Hope and see Luke Skywalker as he walks down to collect his medal…how come you aren’t awarded a medal? Unless that is supposed to be you of course, which wouldn’t make sense if you choose your pilot to be female.
Did I complete the game:
Sadly, I could not get past the asteroid field in Chapter 6 and became so frustrated that I decided not to continue playing.
What the critics said:
NEXT Generation: “The clips from the Star Wars movies, the music, and the 3D rendered graphics are all great – however, they all function as little more than window dressing for a not-so-hot, shooter-style game. The control is none too solid, and the gameplay is rudimentary. Overall 2/5.”
NEXT Generation: “Yes the gameplay is silky and yes, the music and visuals are terrific, but this is, after all, an “arcade” game, and the rails here will get old fairly quickly. If you’re really into Star Wars, Rebel Assault will make you happy. Overall 2/5.”
Computer Gaming World: “Rebel Assault is a gorgeous, fast-paced shooter that is a lot of fun to play. The problem is, the fun is too short lived, and the game certainly doesn’t lure us back to play again and again (No rating given).”
Electronic Gaming Monthly:“Being a Star Wars fan I tried to give this one a chance but to no avail…The digitalised looking graphics are just too grainy, and the gameplay is simple and not interesting enough to maintain your level of attention. Overall 5.75/10.”
“For me, this game was a cheap way to cash-in on the Star Wars franchise and has very few redeeming features. The music and some of the graphics are the only reason why this game gets a 2-star rating instead of a 1-star rating.”
What are your memories of Star Wars: Rebel Assault? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
Avast me hearties! Guybrush Threepwood be back with a new adventure for ye. So grab your mouse and be ready for more whacky adventures says I.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge is a single-player, point-and-click adventure game, and the second game in the Monkey Island series. It was developed and released by Lucasart in 1991 for the Amiga, FM Towns, Mac OS, and MS-DOS. The special edition was released in 2010 for iOS, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. I chose to review the version downloaded from Steam.
Now I realise that I only recently reviewed The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, but I felt that I had to play this second instalment straight way.
Seven months after defeating the pirate LeChuck, wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood finds himself back in the Caribbean in an attempt to locate the treasure of Big Whoop. From finding ingredients to make a voodoo doll, to attending fancy dress parties, rigged gambling, and drinking and spitting contests, Threepwood attempts to locate the map that’ll lead him to Big whoop.
The gameplay and graphics are identical to The Secret of Monkey Island (I won’t repeat them here). Once again you are able to switch between the original and updated graphics at the click of a button.
Lucasart have done it again. They have produced yet another fun game with plenty of humour, challenging puzzles and plenty of head scratching moments. The animation is smooth, the characters and the backgrounds are colourful and detailed.
However, for some reason that I can’t put my finger on, I didn’t enjoy this game quite as much as The Secret of Monkey Island, and that may be because there was nothing new to learn. Then again, that may just be me being very picky.
Did I complete the game?
Yes, I did complete the game with the assistance of a walkthrough on several occasions.
What the critics said about the original:
Amiga Computing:“…horribly close to being a perfect game. It’s certainly the best adventure game I’ve seen in ages… Overall 95%”
Computer and Video Games Magazine:“Already Monkey Island has staked a claim to the best game of this year…. Overall 96%.”
What the critics said about the Special Edition:
“…good, but the lack of keyboard support took something away for me. That said, the game picked up on the problems I had with the first and changed it for the better. I did feel that this game took away some experiences, so that brought its score down a little. There are things you should be told but you should also learn on your own, and they gave away too much to the player this time around. Overall B+.”
Winner – 1992 Computer Gaming World ‘Best Adventure Game of the Year’
My Verdict:“A worthy sequel. Funny, challenging and beautiful to look at…just keep your walkthrough guide close by.”
What are your memories of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s revenge? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 Whitehead, D., . ‘Review: Amiga – Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge’. Amiga Computing. (August 1992). Issue 51:10-1. (http://amr.abime.net/review_8171 Accessed 17th February 2020).
Hold on to your hats guys, its time to rev that engine, feel the horsepower, and leave your competitors to eat your dust. Glory awaits!
Super Hang-On is a single-player motorcycle racing game developed and published by Sega. Originally released in the arcade in 1987 as a sequel to Hang-On, it would later be released for the following:
1987 – Amstrad CPC, Arcade, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum.
1989/1990 – Atari ST, Commodore Amiga, Macintosh, DOS, Sega Megadrive, and Sharp X68000.
2003 – Game Boy Advance (Sega Arcade Gallery)
2010 – Wii’s Virtual Console (2012 in North America)
2012 – Xbox Live Arcade (Sega Vintage Collection)
I chose to review the Sega Mega Drive version found on the Mega Games I package.
Whilst still similar to Hang-On, there is now a choice of four new tracks, based on the continents of the world. Each continent contains a different number of stages to increase difficulty (Africa = 6 stages, Asia = 10 stages etc.). A turbo button is also available should you need an extra boost.
The Megadrive version, which I played as part of Sega’s Mega Games I, contains both the full arcade mode, and an original mode. The original mode is a bit more in-depth and allows you to gain sponsorship and earn money to upgrade your motorbike.
I have vague recollections of playing this in the arcade at Folkestone Rotunda Amusement Park when I was a pre-pubescent imp. It had the full arcade set up complete with a replica motorbike that you could sit on and use your weight to lean left or right. Being small at the time, my father would stand at the back of the bike and help me lean it, ensuring I didn’t go flying off.
The bike is easy to control, and the game is easy to learn. The graphics are clean, with brightly coloured sprites making it easy to distinguish yourself from other riders. The backgrounds and time of day change as you move through the stages of a race giving you a real sense of location and distance. At the top of the screen you have information telling you your score, speed, what course and stage you are on, and a countdown dial.
The game can become frustrating when you crash in Arcade mode as there is no way to make the time up again, so you may as well restart the game. I also dislike the time countdown in arcade mode too. In the arcade one can understand a time limit as you want games that are “quarter guzzlers”, but for gaming at home, it’s just plain annoying. Admittedly I didn’t spend that much time on this game as I’m not a racing fan, but if you are, I am sure that you will enjoy the challenge of this game.
Did I complete the game?
Nope, nowhere near.
What the critics said:
Mean Machines: “A high quality racing game which is a must for speed freaks. Overall 86%”.
Mean Machines:“This cart manages to contain all of the playability of the coin-op, coulpled with slick audio-visuals. Definitely worth getting if you enjoyed the coin-op, or if you’re after a decent Mega Drive game at a bargain price. Overall 90%.”
Sega Power: “Brilliant biking coin-op conversion. Terrific sensation of speed and movement, with good graphics and smooth 3D update. Thrilling to play and lasts for ages. Overall 5/5“.
Sega Power “Another coin-op classic of yesteryear. Fine, but a bit mouldy. Overall 4/5.”
My Verdict:“I’m not a fan of racing games but if you are, this may prove a challenge. Beautiful graphics and scenery too, and enough replay value to make it worth adding to your collection.”
What are your memories of Super Hang-On? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
Get ready for a swashbuckling adventure and set your wits against the cream…well the dregs, of the Caribbean. Only by solving mind-boggling puzzles and matching your witty repartee with your enemies will you win the day.
The first in a popular franchise, The Secret of Monkey Island was developed and published by Lucasfilm Games in 1990. The special edition version was released in 2009. It can be found on many platforms including the Amiga, MS-DOS, Atari ST, Macintosh, CDTV, FM Towns, Sega CD, OS X, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. I chose to review was for the PC.
This point-and-click adventure game starts with Guybrush Threepwood declaring “I want to be a pirate!”. What ensues is an adventure full of humour, perilous pirate trials, the rescue of a damsel in distress and the defeat of the ghost pirate LeChuck, all set in the Caribbean. Along the way Threepwood must complete tasks to progress in his adventure, many of the tasks are peculiar and to solve them involves thinking not just outside the box, but outside of any other shape you can think of as well.
The Special Edition sees the game get a makeover with slick new graphics, improved music and sound, and vocalisation which adds to the humour of the gags. However, for the purists you are able to revert back to the original music and graphics at the touch of a button. On many of the screens you can opt to hear commentary from the games creators explaining how they created the graphics and music, which I think should be incorporated into more games.
In order to interact with the world around you, you must choose from 12 commands at the bottom of the screen. These commands include ‘pick up’, ‘talk to’, ‘open’, ‘close’ etc. This can become quite tiresome, especially when you are stuck and need to enact the “try everything with everything” method of problem solving.
Although cartoonish, and originally in 8-bit graphics, the backgrounds and characters are very colourful. Oddly enough, when close-ups of characters occur, they look very life-like, which is the opposite of the Special Edition. The music also sounds great and captures the pirate mood exceptionally well. For me, the Special Edition graphics adds more life to the environment.
The only thing that let’s this game down, and it is only one thing, is that some of the puzzles are so convoluted that you will need to use a walkthrough to find the solution. I like a mental challenge as much as the next person, but most would never think of using a rubber chicken as a zip-line.
Did I complete the game?
I did finish the game, but there were many times that I needed assistance from walkthroughs.
What the critics said of the original game:
Computer and Video Game Magazine – “Usually the entertainment you get from an adventure is derived solely from solving puzzles, but the hilarious characters and situations, and the movie-like presentations make playing this more like taking part in a comedy film so it’s much more enjoyable. Overall 94%”
Dragon Magazine:“If you enjoy a great graphic adventure spiced with humour top-notch graphics, and a soundtrack filled with really good, original compositions, this is a must buy for you. We haven’t stopped laughing yet! 5/5”.
Zero Magazine:“At last an adventure game that’s enjoyable rather than frustrating. Overall 84%”.
What the critics said of the Special edition:
Eurogamer.net:“Few games can stand the test of time with such confidence, and whether your interest stems from its genre-defining significance or its reputation as an unforgettable game, you won’t be disappointed by time spent on Monkey Island. Anyone who disagrees probably fights like a cow. Overall 9/10.”
IGN.com: “The Secret of Monkey Island has a special place in the museum of videogames for its quick wit, its personality, and the way it surprises us at every turn. Playing this adventure will take you back to a simpler, more innocent time before games needed to bash us over the head with ultra-violence to get our attention. They definitely don’t make ’em like this anymore. The Special Edition doesn’t offer any new gameplay, so its appeal may be limited if you’ve already been initiated. But if you’ve never seen a three-headed monkey, download this now. Overall 8.7/10”.
Gamespot.com: “If you’ve got opposable thumbs, a sense of humour, and a brain that you’re not afraid to use, this puzzle-filled adventure is one well worth taking. Overall 8/10.”
My Verdict:“Avast me hearties, here be a fun, classic point and click pirate game for ye. The puzzles be tough, but there be plenty of laughs for a landlubber such as yourself. Now pass me the grog!”
What are your memories of The Secret of Monkey Island? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.