I’ve loved computer games for as long as I can remember, and I still do. We’re truly spoilt with the level of technology in games these days, they represent the ultimate combination of art, technology and entertainment. If done correctly, they combine great design, animation, immersion, gameplay and atmospherics. I’ve always thought of them as the cutting edge of contemporary design and technology and its nice to know the UK its still a leader in the field.
So, imagine my delight when I discovered all manner of emulators archiving the history of games and computers / consoles are available for free online. A great way to spend a winter sunday. My first stop was getting hold of a SID Player (An emulator for the sound chip that came with the Commodore 64) and a decent C64 emulator. This was an era very close to my heart.
In fact, the Commodore 64 was really the main impetus for me personally to get involved with computers. At the time its graphics were bold and colourful, the sound and music scores were streets ahead of the other computers (more later on the ground-breaking SID CHIP), and the best games of the era were incredibly addictive, plus the programming was relatively easy if you fancied poking about and learning a bit yourself. The whole thing was a treasure trove of creative tools to play with. By today’s standards its all very dated, but getting back into the emulators, the games are still just as fun as I remember them and taught a good deal of skills I still use in today’s design industry. There are too many to mention but here are a few of my personal faves:
Skate or Die
Electronic Arts had a knack of putting out top-line games this far back, Skate or Die had a killer soundtrack from Rob Hubbard, using sampled electric guitars (quite a feat back then), plus the various skating scenarios were incredibly addictive, enabling you to compete against friends or go solo. Its still one of my all time faves with an iconic intro song.
This was a fairly tough game, with a classic intro line! The animation was very neat, you could just run around making your character do parkour style jumps and it was an impressive bit of animation for back then. It combined a really tricky puzzle element – kind of an early RPG / Adventure. Frustratingly, I never solved this one. Great all round package though.
I first saw this on my friends Spectrum and had to get it. What’s not to love about firing your catapult at the school bully and scribbling obscenities on the classroom chalkboard. Fantastic stick-men graphics and basic sound, yet its still addictive!
International Karate +
This was a classic, great sound, great game-play, great graphics. Enough said.
The Last Ninja
This was a very refined game with a classic Chiptune soundtrack and a lot of stickiness in terms of game-play; sometimes frustratingly difficult, but not too much to stop you coming back for more. Music by the excellent Ben Dalglish.
They Stole A Million
A fairly unknown one, but I used to play this for hours; the graphics were pretty basic, but I can still hear the theme tune in my head after all these years. The basic plot was that you hired a crew of villains to rob a place (eg, a bank or museum). You had to form your team from lockpickers, safecrackers, get away drivers, thugs etc etc then set about trying to plan the perfect job, avoiding detection from security systems and guards. Very addictive; surprised the idea hasn’t been re-cycled.
There were thousands more, varying from truly awful to extremely addictive; a testament to the ingenuity of the teams involved; getting all that fun packed into a tiny 64k; quite a feat when your average graphic on the web can weigh in at that size pretty easily.