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Olivier Masse @omasse


Resident Evil 4 (Wii)

By Olivier Masse on September 6th, 2007

Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding (Xbox)


The Good
Well, simply put, the realism and graphics are great. Heck, if I can't see thousands of trees for miles ahead, then I must be turning blind or something -- the view is almost infinite. The frame rate being very high, you really feel like you're there, and nothing is left to your imagination. That's the best I've seen until now. Okay, I must say that I'm not such a gamer, even less with skiing games (the last one I played was in 2D), but nevertheless I was impressed a lot.

The GREAT soundtrack also needs to be mentioned. Chances are you'll play for a while without hearing the same track twice -- and most of them are pretty good. 5 years ago, the music with such a title would have been lyric-less techno music. Now you're greeted with hard rock, ska, punk and other titles that can please almost anybody. Some styles irritate you? No problem; just exclude them from the track list and you won't be bothered.

Another thing... the title now went platinum, so you can get it for a bargain price now! It's a really good deal.

Those three reasons make it a great game to add to your Xbox collection.

The Bad
Sound effects are limited. Especially the cameramen's voices -- it looks as if they only taped up one guy saying 50 or so lines, so it gets very repetitive over time and annoying. And unlike the music, you can't turn their voices off when you've had enough.

The learning curve is really high. My guess is that most snowboarding titles have a similar difficulty, but what really frustrated me is that everything was going well in my "career" and the challenges quickly became REALLY HARD to beat. I don't have hours to spend to learn a game anymore. So thank god there are cheats to unlock all the mountains. :)

Not helping the learning curve issue is the absence of a real tutorial. Further more, there is no slope designed especially for practice. So you're pretty much on your own, and when you don't know much about snowboarding terms (like me) you've got to do a lot of guesswork and experimentation. The manual isn't really clear on what buttons do what, and you really have to try it by yourself to see the results -- assuming you can achieve all the moves.

One last thing, the two player mode sucks. It would have been really cool to have a split-screen setup, but you have to play one after another. That pretty much limits the interest of multiplayer gaming.

The Bottom Line
This release title really showed, and still shows, what the Xbox is able to do. Hats go off to the programmers and level designers who have been able to make such detailed levels. Is this the result of clever tricks or am I just too used to older 3D games? I don't know, but this game sure blew me out of my socks. I couldn't stop watching it.

I can only suggest to those game companies who make all these bloated PC games to look at Amped really well. Yeah, I'm talking to you who make games that only work well on a double Athlon system with a 256Mb video card. Microsoft pulled something really impressive by making such a game in 2001 on a 64Mb, celeron-based system! It's clear that they optimized a lot their code and their levels. This makes for a great gaming experience at a bargain price.

By Olivier Masse on February 26th, 2004

Microsoft Train Simulator (Windows)

For train buffs only

The Good
I've always been fascinated by trains and I'm not alone. Microsoft obviously knew that and therefore they attempted to make a train simulator franchise.

I'm no train driver but from what I experienced with Train Simulator, the designers did lots of homework and they built a really good simulator. Is it realistic? I couldn't know. But does it SEEM realistic to me? Yes it does.

The graphics are okay, and I can run it at full speed on an average 2003 computer with an under-average 3D card. So performance-wise it runs fine on today's machines. There are some nice details, such as snow or rain that get stuck on the cameras. The sound effects are not as good as the graphics, however: there are lots of clicks that could have been polished.

As with all simulators, the learning curve is high, especially for those who want to ride the Orient Express which is a steam locomotive. However, the all-electric Acela Express is easy to learn and you'll have a lot of fun driving it.

Now let's get to the community that this game spawned.

For those who take the game really seriously, Microsoft wisely included a load of building tools to let train buffs design their own tracks and scenery. I haven't tried them, but many designers used these tools to build what are called "Virtual Railways". These virtual railways are online clubs reserved to selected members that travel and maintain TS railways. That's way, way cool and it shows the extent of dedication by some users, but it takes too much time for me to consider joining.

Look for an add-on pack with more tracks and locomotives, while some people also sell their own tracks online.

The Bad
The 100 page or so .pdf file that is included as a documentation is limited in depth. Although it gives a lot of technical details on the locomotives, it doesn't really help you driving them. The tutorials are therefore a must and while they're better than nothing, I find them limited as well.

Interior views of the trains are boring and the cabins are always empty. It would have been nice to include some people in there, even unanimated, for more realism.

The exterior camera view of the train is also severely limited, since you can't use any angle that's too much close to the horizontal angle. This is obviously a clever trick by the designers that prevents having to draw to the horizon, since you always look down. Some games used fog in the old days to hide the horizon, but instead in TS you end up with limited exterior camera angles.

The Bottom Line
A definitive must for any train buff. But people not into trains will definitely find this simulator not really exciting.

By Olivier Masse on December 29th, 2003

NetHack (Linux)

Go ahead. Fight my semi colon.

The Good
What's likable about this game? Well, you have to go back waaaaay back in time to understand. Back in the time of green CRTs. That's right, the yellowish beige monitors connected by a serial cable to a Unix server in universities back in the early eighties. I'm no historian, but from what I can recollect is that back then, people relied on a few Unix games, notably one named "adventure", but these were text-based adventure games. Rogue came in with a more complete full-screen interface, then came hack, then came nethack.

What is likeable about nethack? Well it's an easy way to get back to that period, with a game that has been ported to many platforms and is still developed. The game is complex if you like high learning curves.

This is a handy game if you want to impress your friends by showing that an obscure operating system such as DG/UX or Tru64 can actually run a game instead of a business application, although Nethack is not what I could call a modern game.

I haven't played it enough to qualify it as a classic. I compiled it in my box and tried it out of curiosity. But it has a big following which makes me believe that there is more than meets the eye. Time will tell.

The Bad
Absolutely horrible and hard to master interface, but having been introduced to Unix systems in the nineties under the X Window influence, it's probably just me.

The Bottom Line
Nethack (and its ancestor, Rogue) has been best described by a Unix admin friend of mine many years ago as "The game were you fight with a semi colon".

So if you enjoy fighting semi colons, this game is for you.

By Olivier Masse on December 28th, 2003

Fuzion Frenzy (Xbox)

Not for 14 inchers.

The Good
I'm not fond of party games but I wanted to have a bloodless and easy-to-play title in my Xbox library for children paying me a visit. This one does the job at an acceptable price (the cheap Platinum Edition, that is).

You have a choice of 45 minigames to choose from, most of them being a variation on 5 or 6 similar themes. Some are funny, such as the hamburger-eating, bug-smashing episode. Some are excellent for multi-player gaming, such as the sumo game. Some are less interesting, but you'll have to sort them out. The learning curve is small, and just a few of the controller's buttons are used.

I found the music entertaining, but it's limited. You can use your personal soundtracks if you get tired of it.

The Bad
Release titles are not always bad. But this one could have been polished some more. Graphically-wise, it does not show a lot of the capacities of the Xbox, except for a few of the minigames and then some.

There is no instant replay feature, and it could have been a nice to have to settle arguments on how a player won. An instant replay could also be used to set the camera where I want it, like it's done in the introduction video, since normally you're limited to a distant view to include all the small characters on the screen.

Speaking of small characters, I wouldn't want to play this game on a 14-inch TV. Parents beware: don't buy this game if your kids have their console hooked up on a small screen, or else they might experience some eye strain.

The Bottom Line
Nice to have if you need a permanent party title in your collection. The Platinum Edition is much cheaper than the original release price, so it's not a rip-off. Otherwise if you need it for just one occasion, just rent it .

By Olivier Masse on December 28th, 2003

Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon (DOS)

Roger's back, with a vengeance

The Good
While Space Quest II didn't really deliver something as interesting as the first of the series, the third installment came back with new ideas and a better storyline overall, but it was on the technical side that is was the most astonishing.

Let's start with the storyline. Not everything was explicit on-screen; sometimes you really had to "look around" to find objects, and looking around every new room quickly became a habit. Some references to the previous episodes were interesting, such as a Terminator which comes to take care of you since you never paid for the whistle you ordered from Gippazoid Novelty (sic) in Space Quest II. It also looks like being sued by Toys 'R Us didn't scare Mark & Scott as they didn't hesitate to put a McDonald's parody within the game. Although I don't remember the whole storyline, it involved space travels as usual and less time spent walking around in solo on a lonely planet as it was the case in the first two episodes. More encounters meant more fun.

One thing that was great was the fact that the game wasn't as hard as the previous ones. I was actually able to get through it in a few weeks without a hint book. Some might have disliked the fact that it was easy, but I preferred that style of gameplay.

Technically, it was the first to use the Script Interpreter with its 16 color 320x200 resolution and full sound card support. Sierra was slow to upgrade their graphics engine, but they finally did it. The artists used enough dithering techniques to make the overall graphics pleasing. As for the sound, it even supported the digital output of the Tandy 1000TL series to squeak occasional digital sound effects. That was great!

1988 can be remembered as the year when video game producers started using professionals instead of programmers to make music. The producers hired a once-star member of Supertramp to make the music and while I can't say he had an extraordinary talent for composing video game music, he was good enough with percussions to make it sound good.

The Bad
[spoilers] The ending was so lame!

Bringing back the two guys to earth was okay but landing in Sierra's parking lot and seeing Ken Williams hiring them wasn't funny. Fantasy must remain just that: fantasy. What was the pertinence of going back to the real world? It's like if DOOM ended with the hero falling in a timewarp, showing up to ID software's office, cleaning off the blood on his hands in the executive bathroom and receiving a medal from John Carmack. Give me a break.

The Bottom Line
a) A sequel that is better than Space Quest II. b) The last SQ adventure before the point-and-click interface. c) Humorous as usual. :) d) Never mind the ending.

By Olivier Masse on November 18th, 2001

Space Quest: Chapter I - The Sarien Encounter (DOS)

Wildly funny, yet frustrating enough to buy a hint book

The Good
Sierra did know how to make good bucks with their technology. They mixed a lot of different themes with their adventure games, and I guess that almost everybody had at least one Quest that they liked. Mine was Space Quest with its wicked sci-fi humor.

The two guys from Andromeda showed us that adventure games didn't need to be serious to be enjoyable. Space Quest, without being a total joke, was funny and refreshing. It was even funnier to play it two at a time, since new jokes popping up could be laughed even louder. Imagine the initial storyline: you're a janitor doing an on-shift nap in a closet and the first thing you know when you wake up is that your ship has been abducted by enemies from another planet. Now, it is time to get the hell out of there and save the world!

Technically, this game didn't have much more than King's Quest I and II. However, the designers managed to program a lame action sequence using Sierra's AGI interpreter. This at least showed that the AGI could be used for more than a graphical text parser and that might have spawned some other projects such as Manhunter. The graphics, while having a really low resolution (I think it was something like 160x200, a PCjr limitation) were colorful and nice for their time.

The Bad
I don't know if Sierra wanted to push the sales of their hint books (which by the way used a special ink that disappeared over the years, making them a less useful collection item), but this game was really hard, at least by my standards of the time. I just can't see how I could have had the patience to finish it without the book.

Until LucasArts got it right with their "adventures in which you could go back and don't die", Space Quest suffered from the lack of flexibility most adventure games had in this era. That means that you ended up dying for stupid reasons without warning, and that could be frustrating. That also means that if you messed something up early in the game, you might not find out about it before hours of gameplay.

For example, if you forget to get a cartridge on the spaceship when the game starts (for which you need to know a password given by scientist who shows up out of pure random luck), you won't be able to use it around the middle of the game and you'll be stuck. Of course, all your saved games until then will be crap, so you then have to replay from the beginning all over again. Ah, well...

One last thing: there is a part in the game in which you need to play slot machine in order to have enough bucks to buy yourself a spacecraft. No, you can't buy the cheapest one, try it out and you'll understand shy. This is the long and boring part of the game, as you have to play a while (and save your game often) in order to win enough. I really would have liked an option to bypass that useless sequence.

The Bottom Line
No matter its problems, this game is worth it.

Space Quest fans must try it out. It started the whole series and while it is certainly not the best, it gives you an idea of what Mark and Scott were up to back when they started. It is also an interesting alternative to those who dislike the medieval theme of King's Quest. Just don't leave the spaceship without the cartridge!

By Olivier Masse on August 31st, 2001

Doom (DOS)

ID not only created a game, they created a culture.

The Good
Those who were there know.

It came out at the right time and set new standards for modern gaming. Many things we today take for granted were introduced by this game. Doom was way before its time when it got out and yet it was runnable on an average computer. That was something.

ID managed to make a fake 3D world that ran almost smoothly on a 386. (Editor's note: I ran Doom on my 386/40 in low detail and got 35 frames per second -- very impressive.) They managed to make a truly interactive networking game. They understood that not only graphics but sound was important to make you react. And the list goes on and on.

The Bad
This game pushed gore way too far. It made gamers used to realistic violence. I'm not faint-hearted. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed all the gore a lot. I've never laughed diabolically as much as with this game. However, this game is not only a trend-setter in terms of game technology, it's one with violence too. Doom is the first Texas chainsaw massacre in which you have control. I find that pretty disturbing.

The Bottom Line
There is no better description for this game than this: Perfection. You simply couldn't, and can't, get bored of this game. Most of us out there played Doom at every imaginable place, at every imaginable hour and in every imaginable - er, condition.

By Olivier Masse on October 28th, 2000

The Demon's Forge (PC Booter)

Don't laugh. I *bought* it!

The Good
Needless to say I didn't like nothing. Well, the cover was nice, but that's all.

The Bad
It looked as if it was designed for a VIC-20. Crude graphics, no ambience, nothing. The interface was ugly and required strict text-based commands. I didn't get very far in the game, I got stuck and didn't have the courage to waste more than a few hours on it.

I was especially surprised to find out the game was a booter. Back then, a booter game was considered as outdated.

The Bottom Line
Didn't pay much for this game. Took it a bargain bin at Radio Shack. I got nuts however when I realized this was a game I had actually "evaluated" almost a year before but deleted to use the disk for something else. Oups.

If I remember correctly, this was a double-sided disk in every sense of the word: one side was the IBM PC version while the other was for the C-64. The floppy had two notches on each side, one thing one would not see often with a PC. (Correct. --Editor)

By Olivier Masse on October 28th, 2000

Wishbringer (DOS)

By Olivier Masse on December 14th, 1999

F-19 Stealth Fighter (DOS)

By Olivier Masse on December 3rd, 1999

Blockout (DOS)

By Olivier Masse on November 30th, 1999

Ski or Die (DOS)

I used to fire it up just for the music

The Good
One thing: the soundtrack. This is one of a few games that showed how FM music could really sound. The distorsion guitar instrument has been well designed and there are lots of effects such as vibratos that make the songs extremely realistic.

I once had a friend who didn't beleive me that owning an AdLib was worth 150 bucks. I taped him the theme song from this game and he got convinced immediately. I can't speculate on the MT-32 sound, but I guess it must be as good.

The Bad
You get bored quickly. There are not a lot of games and they don't get harder as you get used to them. After a few days, you'll have enough. Therefore, buying this game at the full retail price is not a good investment.

The Bottom Line
Without the great AdLib soundtrack that blew me out of my socks, this game wouldn't have much to be remembered of.

By Olivier Masse on November 29th, 1999

Microsoft Flight Simulator 98 (Windows)

Realism takes over arcade

The Good
Many views are customizable and can be put anywhere on your screen. It is theoretically possible to play with multiple screens, but I haven't tried it.

The so-called "adventures" (read: scenarios) have realistic spoken air-traffic control instructions - no need to read instructions, just listen to what the controller has to say. But don't trust your co-pilot on handling everything even if he should: the guy can make mistakes!

Internet play lets you log on and share a flight with friends. Performance is decent even on an analog modem, and it is plain fun.

The Bad
Performance was sluggish when I first played in 1997, considering what it had to show off graphically. Most "modern" computers will be fine.

While the rendered cities are extremely realistic and have all expected landmarks, don't be surprised if you do not see much known landscape as soon as you go in the countryside. This seems to be especially true outside the United States.

There is a total lack of printed documentation. Sure, the online help can keep you awake for hours reading about aeronautics and physics, but such a bold subject would have been so much more enjoyable if readable on paper.

And on a final note: boy is the Microsoft splash movie useless...

The Bottom Line
Total realism without any sacrifice: you have to invest a lot of time learning how to pilot the planes and the reward of being able to make a successful trip is priceless. There is no "instant action" button here; those who do not have lots of time in their hands will be warned.

While the hobbyist or professional pilot might find a lot of flaws, as an amateur I consider the game as exceptional. This is one of those rare Microsoft products I've actually bought, and even if I didn't spend as much time on it as I would like, it was worth it.

I strongly recommend that you purchase an analog joystick if you don't have one. It will make the game much more enjoyable. From my experience, my 12-year old Gravis does just fine and has found a second life.

By Olivier Masse on November 22nd, 1999

Bubble Ghost (DOS)

By Olivier Masse on November 9th, 1999

Duke Nukem 3D (DOS)

By Olivier Masse on November 2nd, 1999

Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (DOS)

Is it a movie or a game?

The Good
Actually, not much. The only thing that could justify paying for this game when it was released was the great amount of cinematographic content which was a way to show off your new Pentium back then. The movie sequences were pretty impressive! Some scenes were filmed depending on what you chose to say or do, and I found that nice to finally be able to control a movie character.

The Bad
The action sequences were just too plain hard for me to spend weeks trying to get a hold of them. Since there's no diversity in them, the only thing that kept me going was the tentation to see a new cut scene.

This game is spilled on seven - yes, seven CD-ROMs. Swapping CDs is like going back in the eighties when you had no space left on your 20 meg hard drive and had to swap floppy disks in order to play games which took increasing real estate. If I still had this game, I should try to burn it on a DVD just to get rid of these nasty memories.

The Bottom Line
Origin often surprised us with technological breakthroughs. This one pushed the term "interactive movie" even further by letting us spend more time looking at multimedia content than playing the game. I heard rumors that the game cost a whole bunch of money to create, which is clearly due to the large amount of film in it. The actors must have got as bored as much as those involved in Star Wars as it is obvious that they spent a lot of time in front of blue screens.

While this game is really something the first time you see it considering it was released in 1995, you quickly get bored and the gaming sequences aren't good enough to keep you interested.

Chris Roberts finally had its chance at directing a real WC feature movie in 1998, but you can see that creating a movie, not a game, was his trip with WC4. I can't really blame him as he brought us great games before that.

By Olivier Masse on November 2nd, 1999

Stunts (DOS)

Maybe not everyone liked it, but I did!

The Good
I think that everyone has the right to have his own opinion. However, blasting a game like is something I can't let happen. I've had so much fun with this game!

The object of the game is simple: pick from one of 11 totally different cars and try not to mock it up while driving through classic stunts such as loops and corkscrews. You can race against the clock or a computer-controlled character.

The cars are really heterogenous and range from a F1 to a 4x4. Some of them are slower, but can be handled more effectively on dirt or snow. Personnally, I liked the Audi Quattro as it was the most polyvalent car. Compared to TD3, you have a choice of a lot of more cars.

Tired of racing the same tracks? I guess you could eventually be; just build your own! This is a feature that is really cool: you can create totally wild tracks, which gives a lot of more value to the game. Many websites on the internet still feature some tracks that you can download and try. Before Doom came out, I didn't enjoy designing game levels as much as I did with Stunts.

Now let's evaluate the game considering it was released in 1990. First of all, it was fast and it was totally playable on a 286. Even if the 3D engine didn't feature the texture mapping and all the gizmos we're now used to, it gave a good representation of the environment. Unfortunately, you couldn't see far ahead. As for the sound, the FM effects were good enough. As a matter of fact, Stunts squeaked much better sound out of my AdLib than other racing games. Of course, the engine sound changed depending on your car.

The Bad
No head-to-head modem play. Stunt Driver by Spectrum Holobyte did have this option and it would have been really fun if it was in that game.

The Bottom Line
Distinctive software must have had it with the Test Drive series. Accolade went on its own and released Test Drive III the same year Stunts was released. While TD3 was technologically better, Stunts deserves a mention as a game which let you actually enjoy playing it all the time, no matter if you're good or bad. Win a race against a nasty opponent and you'll be glad; crash your car like hell and you'll also laugh your heart out.

No matter what, I consider Stunts as one of the best games I've ever played. It took quite some time for me to get bored of it. I guess the track builder helped a lot. Stunts is half a simulator, half an action game, so don't play it too seriously.

By Olivier Masse on October 27th, 1999

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (DOS)

By Olivier Masse on October 21st, 1999

Wing Commander (DOS)

Not only an action game: A breakthrough in interactive fiction.

The Good
I'll start with the technical aspects. First of all, the game was perfectly playable on a 286, albeit you had to get rid of some details. The music was also really good; sound cards were being used since a maximum of two years in 1990 and this game really set a standard in terms of music quality.

Along from the very beginning at the credits, you were immersed in what looked more like a movie rather than a game. Nice cut scenes, briefings, funerals and chit chat in the mess hall gave a never-before-seen dimension to this game. All of this on three 5 1/4 HD disks!

Some might disagree with me on this as I don't have a huge gaming portfolio, but this was the first game that I've played that featured interactive fiction which you really felt that you were part of. You could talk to other characters and get to know them; rather than seeing an idle image or a text description of the characters, you saw them interact with you. This really contributed to give a more realistic image of the game.

WC was the first game in which I've somewhat got involved personally. I was so inside the game itself that I remember feeling really bad when one my colleagues was KIA. I've never felt anything like that again in a game afterwards.

I must have got used to it.

The Bad
On a system with low memory (1 Mb), some options were disabled, such as seeing the face of people who talked to you on your radio.

The game was difficult, and I eventually got discouraged. That's too bad, as I didn't have the opportunity to see the ending.

The Bottom Line
In perspective, a trend-setter. Most games now feature lots of cut scenes and cinematographic elements, but I still believe Wing Commander was the first to do it so sharply.

By Olivier Masse on October 20th, 1999

Indianapolis 500: The Simulation (DOS)

By Olivier Masse on September 28th, 1999

Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel (DOS)

This beats Virtual Cop for sure.

The Good
This was the first Quest which I could compare to a movie in which you were an actor.

Most of you will remember that the "Quest" series only offered fantasy or sci-fi themes until Police Quest came out. It featured a more adult and serious theme. As a matter of fact, even if it was fiction, you felt more as part of the game than other unrealistic Quests of that era.

You could feel the game was designed by an ex-policeman as the game featured some jokes which are obviously seen in police locker rooms. For example, an officer is almost always in the shower and colleagues don't hesitate to find this rather funny. When you try to chat with him, he'll gladly reply "Do you know what's the best thing with this shower Sonny? It's free".

The object of the game was not only to be in "pursuit of the Death Angel". You had to do more down-to-earth cop stuff such as taking care of an accident or pulling off a drunk driver.

Actually, driving around town and pulling off bad guys was fun as it was something obviously not seen in another Quest before. The game actually came with a full-size map of Lytton, map which could still be used for the sequel.

As with any movie, the game reaches an expected climax at the end. However, I remember it being very intense.

The Bad
As it was the case with other Sierra games, the game went over instantly if you performed the wrong action, action which could be rather dull in this particular game. An approach à la LucasArts (in which games you have to be reallly reckless to die) could have been taken since this could get frustrating.

For example, if you forget to walk around your car before driving it, you'll end up having an accident since you didn't inspect it throughfully. Don't even try ordering a beer at the bar when you're on duty, this isn't allowed either and the game will end abruptly if you do so.

Traffic lights... The same goes on if you run over red lights. However, when driving you have a 90 degree bird's eye view of your car and lights are shown using simple rectangles on the street. Considering many people still had monochrome monitors back then, how in hell were you supposed to guess the color if you had one? I had to resign driving around with my siren on to prevent dying!

Technologically, the game didn't bring much, since the AGI interpreter used to develop this game was pretty limited in itself, especially the low resolution which was plain ugly.

In order to advance in one point of the game, you had to play poker - and win a lot. Don't laugh, but I've never played poker before trying this game. Even if it came with a reference card to show you how to play, it was simply annoying.

The Bottom Line
Even if it's old, it's a must if you're interested in being a police officer for a while.

By Olivier Masse on September 17th, 1999

Lode Runner (PC Booter)

Another variant of the "ladder" theme with customizable levels.

The Good
Action was at the center of this game. While Big Top had a slow and dull pace, this one was more satisfying as you were able to fool the bad guys at will by trapping them in the holes you burned in the ground. Thus, instead of simply fleeing them, you were able to trap them. The action was fast enough considering the speed the good old 4.77 Mhz PC was able to offer.

Although a "ladder" game was nothing original back then, there was one special thing this game had: customizable levels. If you ever found that the 150 standard levels were not good enough, you were able to edit your own levels and save them on disk. This might not sound so hot today, but it was the first graphic game that I've personnaly been able to edit myself. This added a lot of pleasure and value.

The Bad
Alhough the game was not bad, it was yet another one based on ladders and small men running everywhere. As it has been the case with 3D shooters for many years now, this style of game have been used ad nauseam in the early 80s and it was harder and harder to be original. No wonder Pac-Man has been such a hit not long afterwards.

The Bottom Line
A traditionnal ladder-and-layer game where you must flee or trap bad guys coming to get you while collecting items that will let you enter the next level. What is particular with this one is the ability to "modify" the layers by burning holes through them (thus avoiding the ladders) and creating your own levels.

Sierra published a remake a few years ago which had full-blown graphics and music. I tried the demo and it was not bad, although I would have waited for the game to be in a bargain bin before buying it.

By Olivier Masse on August 31st, 1999

Jumpman (PC Booter)

Lots of action for a lypical ladder game of that era

The Good
Lots of action for a typical "ladder" game of that era. The character moved and animated at a fast rate, which resulted in a game less boring than slow-mo Big Top which was also released in about the same time. It was funny to see it flow on your screen with its arms and legs moving in a cartoonish manner.

The game actually featured balls floating around the screen that hit you if you didn't move fast enough. Don't try it on a 386 without slowing it up though, as you'll get killed instantly.

Like most similar games, Jumpman was not complex and you learned how to play it in a matter of minutes.

The Bad
The noise the character made while moving, while being one of the elements which contributed to give you lots of action for your money, got annoying over time. You couldn't just play it with someone else sleeping in the house. To my knowledge, there was no way to turn off the sound, so I actually hooked my speaker on an on/off switch just to play this game late at night.

The Bottom Line
A classic. Most of those who have owned PC's and XT's in the mid 80s remember this game for sure. Even those I knew who came out too late to see lots of self-bootable games had a good chance of having a copy of good old Jumpman in their diskette box.

A must if you have a computosaur floating around and want to see what "fast & simple" meant in 1983!

By Olivier Masse on June 23rd, 1999

Test Drive III: The Passion (DOS)

The best of the best... for those who like to go slowly

The Good
The amount of detail was incredible for a game of that period. Working traffic lights, moving trains, airplaines, chicken walking inside barns... it was totally awesome. Many objects were alive and moved everywhere.

You also could use headlights, a radio with a few channels and wipers. Wipers came in handy to remove insects that stuck on your dash. :) Want to drive backwards? No problemo: just remember to check your rear view mirror. The game featured a "chase car view" to see your car from many angles and an instant replay which was very fun to review crashes.

This game featured 256-color VGA graphics with lots of huge digitized pictures. Back in 1990, this impressed a lot of my friends.

The game was also in real 3D - yet again nothing fancy compared to now, but a major improvement over the older TD games. It was playable on a 286 (although a 386 was best in high detail mode) and supported many sound cards.

Although the main object of the game didn't change - you had to race as fast as you could to go from one point to another - the creators finally got it right: they understood that some players didn't want to race at all, but to explore. Exploring the virtual TD3 worlds at 35mph was so fun in itself, I've never enjoyed racing.

Other improvements over the older TD games included the possibility of racing against other cars controlled by the computer.

The Bad
If you've played TD or TD2 and didn't like the gameplay, you ain't seen nothing yet. TD3 must have the worst gameplay of any simulator of all-time. You always end up crashing or hitting something, no matter how much you practice. You just can't keep on the road, unless you have a straight strech of interstate in front of you. It is so frustrating that most payers will prefer taking their time, exploring the big detailed 3D maps. Well, maybe not everyone, but I did.

If the game would have least offered the possibility of driving a Chevette or Tercel, it would have been less insulting. You end up using a car that can do high speeds, but you can't control it over 60. Not at all. I'm not saying that going at 150mph in real life is easy, but the game would have been much more enjoyable if it could have been possible to use an "assisted" driving mode that would help you take the curves.

On another note, the sound on my AdLib was not really realistic. The engin sounded like a mosquito (as a comparison, those from Stunts really kicked ass). The music was good, however. I remember trying it on my GUS with an MT-32 emulation and it sounded quite better, try it out if you can!

The Bottom Line
The first "real" driving simulator. You can drive

The good: Extremely detailed. Nice and fast 3D engine, lots of moving objects. A major enhancement over the previous Test Drive games. You can actually explore all the different maps, since there is no minimum time limit.

The bad: Much too hard to play at high speeds, while going fast is supposed to be the object of this game.

Alternate games: I strongly suggest you try out Stunts which came out at the same time.

By Olivier Masse on June 19th, 1999

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