[1001] Advanced gaming…

UCHG

Here’s a few games to try on the awe­some lit­tle hand­held that is the Gameboy Advance…

1001 No.57: ‘Advance Wars’ (Gameboy Advance, 2002)

advance wars  (1)

In the past, turn-based-strategy games have turned me right off. These are type of the games where, unlike some­thing like Command & Conquer, each player takes turns to decide their next move — and deci­sions are dic­tated by a num­ber of points that can be used to move, attack etc.

Frankly I always found the idea extremely bor­ing and tedious — where would the excite­ment be? Turns out I was wrong… so very wrong.

advance wars  (2)

Advance Wars has ten­sion — and if any­thing it is even more tense than your nor­mal strat­egy game. What’s my next move? What is my oppo­nent think­ing? It’s like a game of chess, but the kind of chess where your pieces go around shoot­ing, shelling and bomb­ing eachother. It’s bril­liant. And it’s tough — one small error early on can cost you the game, and it requires some real care­ful thought about how you deploy your armies. Don’t you dare con­sider send­ing those lit­tle mech­a­nised infantry against those heavy tanks — and woe betide you if you leave your anti-air units undefended!

advance wars  (1)

Try it, it’s bril­liant fun, with awe­some anime style graph­ics and a good learn­ing curve. Thanks 1001 for get­ting me to try Advance Wars! There were a cou­ple of sequels too, so at some point I’ll have to check them out…

1001 No.58: ‘Drill Dozer’ (Gameboy Advance, 2006)

drill-2

It’s always great to see some­thing fresh, a new spin on an old idea — and so I really enjoyed stum­bling upon Drill Dozer, an odd lit­tle 2D plat­former on the Gameboy Advance. It’s like very many games of its type, with var­ied lev­els, bad guys, and cre­ative end-of-stage bosses — but what makes Drill Dozer dif­fer­ent is in the name: your drill.

drill-3

You basi­cally con­trol a mini drilling machine, and with the use of the L + R but­tons you can shift through gears for more power. Your drill is your one and only tool — it is your weapon but also is used for all sorts of things — spin through main­te­nance shafts; pro­pel your­self across gaps; attach a pro­peller to go through water, or fly through the air.

drill-1

The orig­i­nal car­tridge fea­tured a built-in rum­ble pack; but was never released in Europe. A snappy sto­ry­line, funny dia­logue, cute graph­ics, and not too long — this one is most def­i­nitely worth a go.

1001 No.59: ‘Astro Boy: Omega Factor’ (Gameboy Advance, 2005)

astro-1

Not a huge amount to say about this one — it’s a bril­liant side scroller by some of the guys who made Gunstar Heroes, so you can guess at both the tough level of dif­fi­culty and the epic mad­ness that’s in store for you should you try it.

astro-2

It’s based on some anime tv show thing, which prob­a­bly adds some­thing if you know the char­ac­ters — but it doesn’t mat­ter. One odd thing about it is the amount of revis­it­ing of old lev­els you need to do to get the true end­ing — [spoiler alert!] the first time through the game, you actu­ally lose. Weird. And tough. But good. Features fly­ing robot horses.

astro-3

Point ‘n’ Click roundup: Revolution (+free games!)

UCHG

While LucasArts are known as the kings of Point ‘n’ Click, another stu­dio in the 90’s was pro­duc­ing some of the best and most grip­ping adven­ture games of all time — and they were British. Revolution Software, based in York, were behind one of the biggest fran­chises in adven­ture game his­tory — Broken Sword. The 1001 book touches on the first game in the series, as well as another point and click clas­sic, Beneath a Steel Sky.

1001 No.55: ‘Broken Sword’ (1996)

Playing Broken Sword is one of my fond­est child­hood mem­o­ries, and is one of those games where see­ing the open­ing cutscene and first screen of the game just brings back waves of nostalgia.

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It’s an amaz­ing story, an adven­ture that starts so sim­ply but ends up in loca­tions around the world. You are George Stobbart, a sim­ple American tourist, caught up in an explo­sion at a Parisian Café. Everything and every­one is of course not as they seem, and the plot descends into a com­plex con­spir­acy, involv­ing mur­der, decep­tion and the Knights Templar.

sword-1

It’s a bril­liant plot, one that twists and turns all over the place as more mys­ter­ies are uncov­ered. The voice act­ing, sound and music are all top notch, and the con­trols are so refined com­pared to the ear­lier LucasArts adven­tures. Despite being set mostly in France and star­ring an American, it’s full of very British humour — and the puz­zles are clever but not so abstract that it requires a walk­through at every step.

sword-3

I’m a huge fan of this whole series, which is still going today, but the orig­i­nal game is undoubt­edly the best. Play it, and the sequel ‘The Smoking Mirror’, and if you like them try the oth­ers — they went 3D for the 3rd game onwards, so it’s a bit of an acquired taste. Never feels quite the same as the good old original…

1001 No.56: ‘Beneath a Steel Sky’ (1994)

One of the ear­li­est adven­ture clas­sics from Revolution Software, Beneath a Steel Sky is set in a dystopian future, where the world has been rav­aged by con­flict and pol­lu­tion. There’s a great atmos­phere through­out, and it’s awe­some. You can see how Revolution honed their craft, going on to pro­duce the Broken Sword series — and if you’re a sci-fi fan like me, you’ll love it.

sky-1

It’s short but sweet, with some excel­lent humour, but also a real sense of dan­ger — you can die in these games, not like in those cutesy LucasArts adven­tures! Like Broken Sword, your char­ac­ter is thrown into a mys­tery, and you have to uncover the truth about the city that you’re lost in. It was a huge com­mer­cial suc­cess at the time, and won numer­ous awards — and is still called by some the best adven­ture game of all time.

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Get some free games

One of the best things about this game though is that it is now free­ware — either sign up with www.gog.com (an essen­tial resource for your clas­sic gam­ing needs) and down­load it from them, or get it straight from www.scummvm.org — which I hope you’ve vis­ited already to get your old awe­some LucasArts games work­ing. You can also grab Lure of the Temptress while you’re there — the first game that Revolution produced.

[1001] Wario Ware

UCHG

It’s a lit­tle dif­fi­cult to describe the WarioWare series — every game is very sim­ple at heart, and yet so bril­liantly put together. You could call them a bunch of ‘minigames’, and have done with it — but that doesn’t come close to show­ing how much fun and often down­right hilar­i­ous these games can be. The UCHG had fun a few years back with the Wii edi­tion of the series, ‘Smooth Moves’ — check out that vid here.

The 1001 includes a cou­ple from the series:

1001 No.53: ‘WarioWare, Inc.: Mega MicroGames! (2003)
& No. 54: ‘WarioWare: Twisted!’ (2005)

WarioWare

Mega MicroGames was the first in the series, with Twisted! com­ing out later — both on the Gameboy Advance. All WarioWare titles fea­ture the char­ac­ter Wario, straight out of the Mario series of Nintendo games — but the story and use of char­ac­ters is never impor­tant. What is impor­tant are the minigames — and there are tons of them.

Reaction times are a huge fac­tor in each game. You have mere sec­onds to assess what the hell is going on on-screen, and then react accord­ingly. The sheer ran­dom­ness and bizarre nature of some of the minigames is what gives the WarioWare series its charm: some chal­lenges range from try­ing to shave someone’s beard off, to catch­ing weird bits of food to make a giant sand­wich. And some of them are really odd — but the con­trols remain ever so sim­ple it becomes instinc­tive in no time.

WarioWare

Each sec­tion of each game has a set of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, together with their own kind of theme, my favourite being ‘9 Volt and 18 Volt’. Like the UCHG these guys love retro games, and every minigame is full of ref­er­ences to bits of gam­ing his­tory. Part of the fun is just recog­nis­ing what each screen has been pulled from.

All these WarioWare games are sim­i­lar at their core. The Wii ver­sion obvi­ously uses the Wiimote, and the ‘Twisted!’ edi­tion actu­ally shipped with a kind of accelerom­e­ter built into the car­tridge to pro­vide the actions — though because of the mer­cury in the car­tridge was never allowed a European release. I really urge you to track down at least one game from this series — it’s hard to explain how much fun it can be, so just give it a go yourself.

WarioWare

Inspect a gadget 2012 – Live show!

UCHG

Every year, thou­sands of nerds and gad­get fans descent on the real-life accom­pa­ni­ment to a pop­u­lar TV show: The Gadget Show Live. This year the UCHG sent a del­e­ga­tion in the form of Fen and Ross, and this is what they saw.

There were count­less stands, from all sorts of tech com­pa­nies — rang­ing from the tech­nol­ogy of tomor­row (like con­trol­ling stuff with your mind), to the more use­ful house­hold gad­getry — such as a flush­ing toi­let for your cat.

3D printing

Of course, there are some things that catch your eye more than oth­ers: it was great to see some 3D print­ing going on, with real-life objects being cre­ated straight off a USB flash drive; a mini ver­sion of robot wars; and some super smart fly­ing drones, con­trol­lable from your mobile, full of gyro­scopes and accelerom­e­ters to keep them steady as a rock.

Altair 8800

Custom built arcade machines made an appear­ance, though priced at £2-5k they were deemed a ripoff — and no where near as authen­tic at Fen’s own restored original.

There was a com­pany that deliv­ers retro gam­ing to par­ties, con­fer­ences, cor­po­rate events – though peer­ing behind their flashy LED screens revealed just a pile of wires and consoles!

Hidden consoles

And of course there was the live show, though most of what we can recall is a few chicks
danc­ing about in skimpy out­fits. Ross seemed to be too dis­tracted to take a picture.

The PC hard­ware area was quite a draw for us — as long time cus­tomers of the site
overclockers.co.uk it was great to see them have a pres­ence there. They showed off some of their rigs to us: cus­tom made water-cooled beasts, run­ning at nearly 5ghz with 4 meaty graph­ics cards. Rivalling this was Scan’s effort, a ridicu­lous machine called Swordfish: with three screens and some ter­ri­fy­ing specs! It wasn’t func­tion­ing when we arrived, but we couldn’t stand by and not mess around with stuff: we had it work­ing in no time.

Fen rides the Swordfish

We couldn’t leave with­out seek­ing out the retro com­put­ing area: as well as tech from through­out the years like an ancient morse code machine, PDAs the size of bricks, and the orig­i­nal com­puter that inspired Bill Gates (Altair 8800, pic­tured above) there was a host of gam­ing history.

TURBOGRAFX

We tried out a TurbograFX, Amiga CD32 (which was deemed to be shit, and took for­ever to load the game), Binatone pong machine, Commodore 16, Atari 600 XL and some early hand-helds includ­ing Astrowars and Munchman (which unlike the orig­i­nal Pacman only allowed you to eat the dots in one direction).

In sum­mary it was damn awe­some, so look at some retro consoles.

Binatone

Atari 600 XL

Astrowars

Munchman

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