Right: Screen shot from "Tetris Classic" Windows CD ROM game
|Gazillionaire||CC Football||Master of Orion|
Late last year, Microprose announced the introduction of its budget "Player's Choice" and "Classic Series" lines, priced very competitively at about $20 to $30 US. There are about a dozen titles available in the two lines, covering a fairly wide field from fantasy role playing to space shoot 'em up and sports games.
All titles are available on CD-ROM for either DOS or Windows. They're basically older catalogue items that Microprose has reissued on CD with new packaging and reduced prices, kind of a "let's get one more kick out of these games before we retire 'em" strategy. It'll probably work, too, because while these games pale in comparison with some that are now available, they're at impulse item pricing and so offer pretty good value, especially for people with older computer systems.
Watch out for a few things if you're getting these titles. Some of them won't run under Windows 95, which means you'll have to exit to DOS mode and run them from there. That's not necessarily a big deal, but we had some problems with "Not enough memory" messages and the games refusing to run despite the system we were using being a 486 with 16 MB of RAM! We had to poke around the memory settings, which is something many people may not want to do.
Some of the games don't come with printed manuals, either. They're given to you online, which would be fine except that you have to leave the game to get at 'em, which is a real pain in the neck.
One thing we liked was the presence of many demos of other Microprose games, though we ran into the same memory problem as with the games themselves.
Here are our opinions of the games themselves:
Do you have what it takes to be a Gazillionaire? Well, we tried and failed to make the grade; the computer always beat us to the galactic financial stratosphere, but that's not necessarily the game's fault, is it?
Gazillionaire sets you up as an entrepreneur, wheeling and dealing products and carrying passengers among the seven planets in the galaxy of Gogg. You can trade stuff like moon ferns, oggle sand, diapers, X-fuel, and even toasters. The object, of course, is to buy low and sell high. Along the way you can pick up passengers and take them to your next port of call, raking in additional loot via their fare.
You can warehouse your goods, keeping them in storage until they can fetch the best price for you, and you can advertise in various media for customers, either warm bodies (assuming all these alien races are warm blooded, of course) for passengers or buyers for your various commodities. Insurance is available, and highly desirable with the number of calamities the game has in store for you.
One nice touch is the tutorial that walks you through the game process, adding more sophistication as you become familiar with the workings of the fictional universe. There are also some "quick keys" that let you skip over redundancies like the screen of your ship zipping through space (which is always the same) or paying for fuel or insurance.
Gazillionaire is okay on the surface, but it wore thin quickly. Perhaps it's aimed at a more juvenile audience than the TechnoFILE staff (if there is such a thing!), but we found its low-tech sound and graphics left much to be desired in a gaming world that now gives us experiences like DOOM and Stonekeep.
Computer requirements are: 386 SX 33 MHz, Windows 3.1 (or 95), 4 MB of RAM, VGA (640x480, 16 colours), 3 MB hard drive space minimum.
We had a really tough time liking this one, mainly because it's hard to get a handle on it. That's because it's quite complex to play, what with all the different play options and the fact you don't get any documentation except for the online tutorial, which is only accessible if you leave the game. So if you want to read the book, you have to save where you were, find the advice in the manual, then go back into the game (and if you're like us, by that time you've forgotten what you were doing!).
We completed very few passes, though we did slightly better with our running game. This is probably because we lacked the hand-eye coordination to be good quarterbacks (we were more setbacks than anything!) and had the dickens of a time getting the little red spot that indicated where your pass would land to be anywhere near an eligible receiver. We put it down to bad scouting on the part of team management
The team rosters are from the 1993 season, which tells you the vintage of this "Players Choice" title.
On the plus side, if you're not losing too badly by half time you can take advantage of advice from your coach, who's been watching your performance during the first 30 minutes (or ten minutes if you have a short attention span) and has plenty of comments to make. We tried taking his advice to heart, but that abysmal scouting that wreaked such havoc on our first half performance stayed true and we ended up losing badly.
Granted, if we'd spent more time with the game we probably could have done better, but by then we were so depressed we scrubbed it from the hard drive and got the pants beaten off us at Gazillionaire again
Requirements: 386 or better, 2 MB of RAM, 605K conventional memory, 2 Meg EMS memory, VGA graphics, MSCDEX 2.1 or higher, and a mouse.
This was one of our favourites, 'cause it combined a science fiction setting with a "Civilization" style of game. The object is to build an empire that stretches across the galaxy, but to do that you have to start small, with a single planet, and go from there.
Naturally, there's competition from other alien races who are just as determined to make sure their empires are the eventual galaxy spanners. And they put up a tough fight!
Building an empire means more than just zipping over to the next planet and planting a flag. You have to build colony ships to take your people there, and of course you have to build various types of warships to ensure those other races don't take the planets away from you.
You also develop new technologies to advance your civilization, and you can form alliances with (or declare war on) other cultures. Wanna find out what the Silicoids are doing? Send a spy to not only nose around for info, but to sabotage their facilities or steal their technology.
Sounds like the cold war all over again, doesn't it?
You can bomb the hell out of their bases, softening them up for your landing troops who, with luck, will be sufficient to take over the colony.
Sound and graphics quality of Master of Orion are pretty good. It's a DOS-based that requires a 386 computer or better with 2 MB of RAM, VGA graphics, DOS 3.3, keyboard and mouse.
Another favourite, this one brought back memories of sitting squinty-eyed over a Nintendo Game Boy when they first came out, flipping and dropping those little shapes ad infinitum.
This version works well under Windows (thank the Lord!) and is as addictive as the other versions we've played. Colour and sound are fine, though one doesn't expect much from Tetris.
The game was developed in the former Soviet Union and hit North America in 1988, whereupon it took the market by storm. The Classic version adds VGA graphics and Russian melodies along with sound effects.
You can also customize the game in various ways, for instance there's a competitive mode and a cooperative mode and even timed games for those who might otherwise while away an entire day doing nothing but guiding those shapes into place.
Tetris Classic included ten levels of play and a random height selector that lets you decide how deep your Tetris pit will get.
We had a lot of fun revisiting our computer gaming past with Tetris Classic, and it didn't require us to kill even a single alien!
Game requirements: 286 or better(!), Windows 3.0 or better(!) VGA or SGVA, CD ROM drive and hard drive.