Continuing on from my previous post, here are some more of my favourite computer games that I enjoyed in my youth, many years ago. I will be getting on to PlayStation games in the next part, but before then, I want to talk about a few games I enjoyed on Microsoft Windows, plus a console my best friend had (and still has now), and one or two other things too.
I mean, this is obvious, right? Everybody knows of this, the classic Windows time-killer.
Solitaire is what Americans and Canadians call the card game of Patience, where the goal is to get the cards sorted into 4 piles, one for each suit (hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs), and with all the cards in order in each pile (Ace to King). There has been much talk over the years about productivity being lost in offices to these game, and it’s not surprising, it had a knack of drawing you in when you had nothing better to do (nowadays the internet does that job perfectly on its own, of course). The animations on the back of some of the cards was a fun touch as well, but the most satisfying of all was when you managed to complete a game and the cards bounced around the screen in celebration. That always made it worth the effort.
There was also a Vegas scoring option, as if you were in a casino, where you would start off with a negative value of -$52 as your starting payment, then every card you successfully sorted would earn you a $5 reward (so you’d end up with $208 at the end of a successful game). Which sounds easy, but you could only go through the deck once, you couldn’t refresh the dealing pile after that. And the score was cumulative from one game to the next, so the aim was to earn as much money as possible, or at least stay in the black (above $0) for as many games as possible. It was an interesting variation.
Another card game was added later called Freecell, which I also played a bit, but I never enjoyed it as much as Solitaire. And I never really got into Hearts either. I gather Microsoft have since also introduce the Solitaire Collection with a few other games and features, but I’ve never tried that as I don’t own a Windows machine any more. And besides, the original Solitaire will always be the best to me.
Also, although it’s not computer-related – while we’re talking of card games, I need to give a shout out to Uno as well, which I used to play a lot with my family and friends. I still remember the rules, with the matching of numbers and colours, making the other player draw 2 or 4 cards, skipping and reversing, using wild cards (including draw 4) to change colours, etc. And I still see it being mentioned today, most recently in a video by The Blind Spot (a channel I follow and recommend), so it’s great to see that it’s still out there. Always makes me happy whenever I see it, it brings back really fond memories. It’s interesting to see how the Americans pronounce it too – they’re saying “Oo-no”, while we always said “You-no”. I don’t know if that’s a common language difference or if we were pronouncing it wrong all these years, but it’s just something I noticed! But anyway, I digress. Back to the PC…
If we’re going to mention Solitaire, then this warrants a mention as well. I enjoy logic puzzles, so I enjoyed this for that reason. You had to be careful to avoid the mines and reveal just the empty squares in order to win. If you clicked on a square (assuming it wasn’t a mine), it would show you a number telling you how many mines were in the squares immediately surrounding it (but not which squares they were in, you had to work that out for yourself). If there was nothing surrounding it, it would be blank. You could place flags on squares that you felt certain had a mine in order to lock them down, or mark squares with question marks that you were unsure about. There was often a degree of luck involved, and the only reaction you got for winning was the smiling face icon wearing sunglasses at the end, so it wasn’t quite as satisfying as Solitaire – I still preferred that to Minesweeper ultimately. But this was still fun to pass the time.
There have been loads of versions of this game released over the years, but the 1995 Westwood CD-ROM edition is the one that myself and my best mate have played countless times over the years. After many years of owning the game myself, I eventually gave it to him when I no longer had a use for it, and I think he still has it. There’s just something really charming about it. The 3D graphics of the pieces moving around the board is really nicely done, and the ragtime MIDI music tracks are pretty good as well.
The controls were easy enough to understand, and it was very customisable with various options. We always used to turn on the double salary feature, whereby you would get £400 instead of £200 if you landed on the GO square itself. We also turned on the fines option for Free Parking, meaning that anybody landing on that square would collect all the money gathered from fines paid up to that point. It added an interesting extra twist to the game, as you could get a decent amount of cash there sometimes, if nobody had landed on it for a while. We also used the rule for even building – i.e. you must have 1 house on each property in a set before you can build a second, then 2 properties on each before you can build a third, and so on. I never understood the “Cheating is allowed” option though – I don’t know what it did though, as we never tried it. Presumably it allowed the computer characters to cheat – but why on earth would you want to let it do that?!
Talking of which, we used to have fun playing against the computer characters, because they were generally pretty stupid. In particular, when it came to auctions, they would do anything to get a complete set – even if that meant giving you every last dollar and every other property in their possession. So you could clear them out, giving you one or more complete sets of property yourself, as well as all their cash – and leave them with one complete set of properties they couldn’t build on. That always gave us a laugh, and always ensured they lost!
Of course, nothing beats the enjoyment of playing the real-life, physical version. That is always fun. And as a big Queen fan, I’ve been intrigued to learn about the Queen version that’s come out in the last couple of months. But the 1995 CD-ROM version has been a great way to play too. More modern editions will undoubtedly look much better, but the older classic is the one I’m familiar with and still love to this day.
Again, this is a game that I owned for a long time until I passed it on to my friend. And again there have been many versions of it over the years. The interface on this one was really colourful, with a nicely animated 3D board. The music wasn’t anything special, but hearing it back still jogs the memory a bit.
What we most liked, though, was that the questions were spoken to you – not by a speech synthesiser either, but by recorded human voices. They also made comments when you selected a category on the board, and answered a question rightly or wrongly. One or two of them did seem to be slightly euphemistic in nature, or maybe that was just our teenage sense of humour (“Let’s slip a wedge right in there!”, “You’ve earned a pink wedge!”, etc).
The questions were multiple choice, so you could simply type a number or click the relevant answer – unless you were extremely brave/foolish and opted to type in the answers by hand without the multiple choice options, but we never did that! There were tons of questions, and me and my friends didn’t play it that frequently, so we rarely ended up memorising any answers. So the game stayed with us for years, and continued working on some later versions of Windows that my mate had. I don’t know if it would still work on current Windows systems, but I think my mate still has the disc.
These were 2 classic first-person shooters by the Rare development team that my mate had – and indeed still has – for the Nintendo 64 console, which he also still owns. Only a couple of years ago the two of us (along with a couple of other friends) were playing these games when I was staying over for my friend’s stag do.
They were classics of their time, and are still fun to play now. Especially Goldeneye, that seems to be our favourite of the two, but Perfect Dark is also great. I’m rubbish at both of them to be fair – when you have poor distance vision and eyes that constantly move thanks to nystagmus, trying to spot and target people before they shoot you isn’t easy. But somehow that doesn’t matter here, and the winning or losing isn’t really the point. It’s just great fun to play either of these games in mutiplayer mode with your mates, because the carnage that ensues is hilarious. And sometimes you are able to get some pretty good shots on target if you concentrate hard enough.
Youtube is amazing for nostalgia with things like this as well, as you can enjoy full playthroughs and the complete soundtracks of both games on there.
I can’t talk about games without mentioning the classic Nokia mobile phone version of Snake. It was addictive and fun, and I remember there was one day when I got a really high score and very nearly completed it, with a couple of friends watching eagerly. So it was a fun, if sometimes frustrating, way to kill the time.
Ok, this isn’t a computer game in fairness, but it did require a TV screen. And I thought I’d finish this post with something a little bit different. In some countries it was called Nightmare, apparently.
This was a board game with a twist, because you had a video to watch as you played. Not a DVD kids, but a video – there used to be these bulky things called VHS tapes that you’d have to put in a big machine called a Video Cassette Recorder. It’s scary to think that some youngsters will have no concept of what this is now, just like the Teletext stuff I mentioned in my previous post. It makes me feel old even though I’m only in my thirties! Later versions of the game did have DVDs, apparently, but we never played those.
Anyway, the game master would appear on the video and give instructions every so often as you played the game. I don’t remember the game vividly, although I seem to recall the guy on screen being quite scary, deliberately so. I don’t think we played it too many times, because once you’ve seen the tape once, you know what’s coming, so the novelty and surprise probably wore off a bit. But we certainly got a good few games out of it, otherwise it wouldn’t have stuck in my head.
Incidentally, I also vaguely remember a show about technology and computer games as a kid that required the use of a video recorder for part of it. Now that I look it up, I’m reminded that it was called Bad Influence!, and the segment I’m thinking of was called Datablast, where frames of information rapidly appeared on screen near the end of the show. The idea was that you would record the show on your video recorder, and then use the slow motion and pause features to read each frame. It was an interesting way of giving people lots of information to read through. Just another of those random things I remember.
So I’ll leave it there for this part, thank you for reading. Next up will be the PlayStation games I enjoyed. But for now, I’ll leave you with the full-length video of the original tape that accompanied Atmosfear. Don’t have nightmares! 🙂