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Vintage Gaming

The current trend, well one of them anyway, is reinvention. Just as women go to charity shops (I think they’re called vintage now?) and buy a dress from the 80’s, the gaming world is doing the same. With games, not with dresses. Take an old IP, wrap it up afresh and sell it to mixed responses from die hard fans and noobs. Some have done great jobs while others have floundered under the shadow of nostalgia.

With Syndicate, two XCOM re-imaginings, Max Payne and Tomb Raider on the horizon we’re set for more comparisons between the old and new this year. However there are still some untapped gems from the past worthy of a revival, and others that are best left to rot in their electronic coffins.

Baldur’s Gate

Released: 1998 Developer: Bioware

Have a Bhaal!

A surprise success that still carried weight a decade later when Bioware labelled Dragon Age the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate. Alas it didn’t live up to the high bar set by its forefather.

Based in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ Forgotten Realms the journey is a familiar one: humble backgrounds and a tale of self discovery with major importance. You traverse ancient catacombs, dangerous forests and even a fairground or two

But whereas Dragon Age assigns you with a group of companions, each with quests and pages of dialogue options, Baldur’s Gate wasn’t so rigid. You weren’t restricted to the same set of followers, instead there was a host of possible adventurers to join your posse: from a mage and thief duo who clearly hated each other despite being joined at the hip, to a hardener warrior who spoke to his space hamster Boo. Each adventure varied depending upon who your entourage included. The range of companions didn’t diminish how unique they were, with certain characters fighting with one another, or even sparking ‘relationships’, not on the level of Mass Effect, but certainly entertaining. It set a benchmark that’s kept me waiting for an opportunity to lead a six man (woman and orc) group into battle once again.

And oh the battles! As well as hordes of monsters, you occasionally faced other groups of adventures. Your six versus the enemy. Would your warrior best theirs? Who’s mage would prove the strongest? Tactical prowess, timing and luck meant the difference between huge experience points and loot, or annihilation (basically quick loading to before the battle).

Unfortunately Bioware favoured sex scenes in Dragon Age. Alas, here’s hoping for a true spiritual successor.

Deer Hunter

Released: 1997 Developer: Sunstorm Interactive

Deer God not again.

Do not get this confused with the film. Although there is about as much action in both, if you exclude all the Vietnam bits. And the wedding.

Choose a rifle, a location and hide in a tree waiting. Look out over fields. Wait. Change location. Peer through forests. Wait. Blow a deer whistle. Wait. Welcome to Deer Hunter: A game so dull you’re satisfied when you uninstall the damn thing. If you do ever manage to kill anything, you faced the possibility of being punished if it was a protected species. So a glimpse of any potential excitement was further reduced.

The brainbox that devised this shocker inspired other geniuses to create a range of fishing sims. I can put up with it in a mini game in Zelda, but a whole release to choose baits or deer whistles. God no. Games are meant to be fun. Wherever this is buried I’m praying there are several big locks, a miasma of deadly traps and an ancient guardian protecting it. If not hopefully the tagline to the original will warn how dire this is: Interactive Hunter Experience. Enough said.

Dungeon Keeper

Released: 1997 Publisher: Bullfrog Productions

Flaming great.

Humour galore in Bullfrog’s greatest achievement. Tired of being a hero? How about this…Build a dungeon, fill it with traps, monsters and torture chambers, then wreck havoc upon the angelic knights of old. You are the Dungeon Keeper.

‘A knight has entered your dungeon’ would bring a devilish smile to my lips as if I was the creator of Dark Souls. A hapless fool had ventured too far underground and was about to be crushed by a bolder, frozen solid then toasted by my loyal salamander before being tortured into submission and turned to the dark side.

As well laying traps you had to keep your minions happy, providing them with live chickens to eat, casinos to burn their cash in, and some even enjoyed playing with each other on the rack. Whatever floats your boat.

Today we play as Nathan Drake, Masterchief, Batman, and however they’re wrapped up they are still goodies. Here is the solution to good-guy syndrome. There were rumours and even trailers of a Dungeon Keeper 3 which never surfaced. A hell of a game.

Hidden & Dangerous

Released: 1999 Publisher: Illuion Software


This is a classic. One that really stands the test of time, whichever examination board marks that test. Perhaps not the first game, but reinstall Hidden & Dangerous 2 and you’ll be surprised how good it still is. However it’s one that mustn’t see the light commercialized-day. A forbidden scroll if you will. Let me explain.

A strategy shooter in which you command a group of SAS to take down the Nazi war machine behind enemy lines. Stealth, sniping, fire fights and even vehicles. A gripping experience with a range of compelling missions. This game must be protected.

I’m not anti-capitalist by any means, but I don’t want to see a good thing ruined. Imagine the result if Activision got its claws on this beauty: An explosive rollercoaster shooter that puts you in the boots of American SAS commander Zack Blaze as you single-handedly defeat Hitler’s mutant mob. Voiced by Tom Cruise and Vin Diesel.

Been there, done that so many times I don’t know which franchise that is any more. Call of Honour? Medal of Duty? In an era of FPS clones where explosions equally quality (or is that just profit?), Hidden & Dangerous needs to remain hidden until trends change.

Kings Quest

Released: 1984 Publisher: Sierra

Golden Grahams.

Fallen giants Sierra were a force to be reckoned with. Among their accomplishments is Half-Life, but also a lesser known title: the King’s Quest series, which charted the rise and struggles of King Graham and his family. You faced overcoming evil wizards, ship wrecks and falls into water (always treacherous without swimming lessons). Carefully thought out and lovingly created in a time when games were played at the gamer’s pace, not the developers.

Set in the kingdom of Daventry and neighbouring lands, all of which were a pleasure to explore. Puzzles of all shapes and sizes needed solving. Witches and monsters needed defeating and the needy…well needed helping. Obvious. But not the solutions, which were fair but challenging, unlike other adventure games of the time that required a thesaurus to discover the exact verb to solve. The stories were woven together with craftsmanship like the Bayeux Tapestry.

An effort to introduce the King’s Quest series into modern gaming was attempted with King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, but abandoned it roots, so much so that it is the only game of the series in which a member of King’s Graham’s family is not the protagonist. Shocking. It was a second rate hack and slash.

There have been fan reworkings of the early titles in the series that are well worth a revisit, and even whispers that a new beginning may be in store. Here’s hoping an insightful developer sees the potential beneath the dust. Granted, the point and click era is over, but a creative developer may be able to turn this past classic into something special. All the ingredients are there, now where’s that magic wand…


Released: 1991 Publisher: DMA Design

There’s the edge.

It was fairly amusing watching one hundred lemmings fall and splat one after another. Unfortunately guiding the critters through the puzzling levels wasn’t nearly as fun as killing them in a variety of ways. Explosions, drowning, leaping into a wall head first: fantastic. Saving them? Not so much.

If you’ve never heard of it, lucky you. You guide a group of smurf look-a-likes through levels, using a selection of skills. Simple, right? Enough for one game, not much more you can do with that? Oh no.

Talk about overkill. Numerous versions, with little reason to revisit any of them were churned out. Maybe times haven’t changed that much. I’d be surprised if a modern reimagining would be able to inject much enjoyment…unless the protagonist was a single lemming who scaled towers and leapt great distances, wore a hood and spoke in an Italian accent. Enter Lemmingzo Auditore.

Space Quest

Released: 1986 Publisher: Sierra

One giant leap for mankind.

Sibling to King’s Quest with similar dynamics, but a darker side. A mature sci-fi world with plenty of comedy. The opening game of the series introduced a space station. And who did you control? A commander? A special forces expert? A pilot? Of course not, you controlled the cleaner, Roger Wilco. More likable than Gordon Freeman – that’s right! In fact, the best sci-fi hero ever. Can I say that? Well check it out, you’ll see what I mean.

Solving puzzles with jockstraps was a joy, as was seeing Roger’s rise from cleaner to space captain, or whatever his title was. A Joe average, maybe even less than average. Commander Shepherd would eat him for breakfast, Alex Jenson would ball-bearing him in an instant. All’s he’s got are the crappy objects he picks up and a little luck to save him from the disastrous situations he finds himself in.

Ripe for a modern spin. Imagine a Heavy Rain-esk version. Shaking the game pad to rub berries over yourself, or use Kinect to push a bolder onto a mechanical spider. Maybe. Maybe leave it to the experts.



If the short history of video games has taught me anything it’s save often. And perhaps we can ‘save’ our past. See what I did there. Seriously, there are some great titles, games that deserve to be shared with a new audience. Of course it’s easy to look back with rose tinted glasses reminiscing about the games of DOS. But aside from nostalgia, there are reasons why these games have stayed in our memories when hundreds of others have fallen into oblivion. We loved them then, we may hate them now, but it’s a revelation going back to classics. Just as Dracula was written years ago and is still a gripping read, the same is the case with videogames. Old graphics are just like an old vocabulary being used to express some brilliant ideas.

But what are the games that you recall? What would they be like today? Is there even a need to dig up old titles instead of creating whole new worlds?

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