Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl Non-Review

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has been a game I’ve declined to review. There are some things I’m just not comfortable casting judgment on. A review implies that the reviewer has authority over the game, an intellectual superiority. I can tell you what I think about Stalker, but Stalker is a complex game full of loose ends; it calls upon a creative power within its players to piece them together. What I think about it is constantly changing the more I play and the more I learn. Any review of the game will say much more about the reviewer than the game itself. This is my non-review. It’s just what I think right now.… U R Not lamE.

Best Game Ever – Dungeon Keeper 2

One of the critical problems of the gaming industry today is that nearly every game is an adaption of a successfully proven concept. This is probably why there is a lot of hullabaloo (scrabble bonus points) whenever an interesting new concept game comes out, even if the concept and execution are flawed. But at the end of the day 95% of the time we’ve done it all before: whether we’re shooting aliens with force shields that are oddly susceptible to melee attacks (Halo), humans who have developed chainsaws with invulnerability shields (Gears of War), any civilization game, etc–despite minor variations, games are typically incremental improvements of a proven formula.

That is why I gave an exclamation of glee when I recently re-dug up Dungeon Keeper 2 (now classified as Abandonware, woohoo), a game with a refreshing concept that seems so simple yet has never been followed up on.… Ridge Reader V

Best Game Ever – Shadowrun

One of the hardest challenges of making an RPG is finding a way to integrate plot, setting and gameplay into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Some games, like the Final Fantasy franchise, are surprisingly good at all three. Others unapologetically settle for one or two–Fire Emblem being an example of one that eschews plot and world for superior gameplay. But wrapping all three together, and doing so in an innovative way is a rare treat.

Finding a game like this in 1994 is even more amazing, but Shadowrun for the Genesis managed to pull it off when Square was trying to figure out how they could make the most complicated Final Fantasy plot ever–a feat that would take them nearly another decade to achieve, in 2001, with Final Fantasy X.… They’re reading her… and then they’re going to read me!

Best Game Ever: Star Control II

This Best Game Ever is brought to you by developers making their old games open source, which is a wonderful thing. Toys for Bob, the developer of Star Control I and II, released the game as open source in 2002 under the “Ur Quan Masters” title, since the name Star Control remains a copyright of Atari. The game is now up to version 0.6.2, giving an incredibly robust, bug free experience that surpasses the original 3DO version. I played the 3DO version back in the early 90’s, and I was overjoyed to find the Ur Quan Masters project and replay Star Control II. It’s free and fun – who could ask for more?… May God smite me if I stop reading here!

Best Game Ever – Seven Kingdoms II

Playing the disappointment that was Seven Kingdoms: Conquest got me nostalgic for Seven Kingdoms 2.

I’m not going to talk about the plot, because there is no plot. There are 12 (increased from seven) nationalities, existing alongside a half-dozen or so Fryhtans. No past or future given. The campaign is a set of randomly-generated scenarios, with the ability to carry over your king (and up to five selected “royal units”) to each successive scenario.

The heart of Seven Kingdoms 2 is in its great complexity. Simply put, no other RTS has the depth of SK2. This is somewhat hidden – after all, each nation only has three units, and one of these is the villager type, identical for all human nations.… Densha de Read! Shinkansen

Best Game Ever – Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition

Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition (hereafter referred to as JP:RE) is truly a one of a kind game. In my decades of playing games, I have never come across anything quite like it.

Whee!

Back in the early nineties some developer released the movie tie-in game Jurassic Park for the Sega Genesis. The game used digitized sprites, similar to those of Mortal Kombat. You moved a photorealistic (for the time) Dr. Grant around, shooting tranquilizer darts at spitters and compies so you could make it through very slow paced and quite challenging platforming levels. Any drop over 10 feet tended to kill you. Most dinosaurs would kill you with a few hits.… You lost me.

Best Game Ever – Drug Wars

About two years ago my mother walked in on me… Playing Drug Wars. (Get it? You thought I was going to say “masturbating.” But I pulled the old switcharoo on you. Ha…haha…h…sigh…) Anywho, my mom walked in and asked:

“What are you doing, Gunter?” Normally, it’s her loving nickname for me, but the emphasis on the word made it sound like something dirty.

And I said, “Why mother dearest, I am playing Drug Wars!” I indicated the exclamation point by spreading my hands and doing a quick shuffle.

“What Wars?!” she said; indicating the question mark/exclamation mark combination by fainting.

“Drug Wars” I repeated, waving the smelling salts beneath her nostrils.… All you need is read.

Best Game Ever — Baldur’s Gate 2, Shadows of Amn

When Jay asked me to write a “Best Game Ever” entry for Baldur’s Gate 2, my first instinct was to refuse the offer. Why? Because I love the game too much and I feared that nothing I could write would do it justice. It would be like trying to write a review for New York City. I mean where would you even begin something like that? How would you dissect something so steeped in its own mythology? Would you even want to? And just because here I am writing, does not mean that sentiment has changed. Whatever ideas I might express here will ultimately fall short of accurately encompassing the experience of playing Baldur’s Gate 2.… Knock knock. Who's there? This article.

Best Game Ever – Lumines 2

When deciding upon which system to purchase next, many people will look for that one game to satisfy their needs almost immediately. Xbox had Halo and GameCube had Smash Bros. Melee. Well, you can add Lumines 2 for the PSP to that list. I’m here to tell you that you should buy a PSP for Lumines 2. Even if you never play another PSP game, you would still have spent your money wisely.

You’re probably asking yourself, “What makes Lumines 2 so special?” Well I’ll tell you, smartypants. Lumines 2, although somewhat of a Tetris clone, does some amazing things with its sound design. Things that I can say, without hesitation, are perfect examples of art within games.… And so it games…

Best Game Ever / Review – Dragon’s Trap / Curse

It’s somewhat bizarre that my normally useless extensive knowledge of the Sega Master System would come in handy because a Turbo Grafix 16 game is released on the Wii. But despite the comical circuitousness, I happen to know a thing or two about Dragon’s Curse. You see, as far as Master System games go, this game is anything but obscure. It’s actually so beloved that a great Master System emulator is named after the game.

In an attempt to completely confuse America as revenge for dropping atomic bombs on them, Japan has seen it fit to rename the game called Dragon’s Trap (Master System) for release on the TG16, where it would be called Dragon’s Curse.… Sounds mildly entertaining, I guess.