Over the past two decades I went from PC to console to occasional gamer. I’d be the first to admit that gaming memories are rose-tinted, particularly with regards to graphics. I love Deus Ex and much of it still stands up but characters look like Play Mobil.
A way round graphics limitations was stylised art work, a method use frequently by Nintendo. I am desperate to see the advantages of updating the visuals of these titles which used genuine art to side step hardware limitations.
So many classic titles now get sequels or remastering, here’s my five 1990s PC titles which I think deserve a little HD TLC
Before Gears of War or Unreal, Cliffy B’s first success at Epic was Jazz Jackrabbit. With an awesome midi acid jazz soundtrack, psychoactive colours, and the bad ass titular green hare as its protagonist; the game brought the side scrolling platforming as PC exclusive for the first time. Maybe, my love of this game had to do with Bucky O’Hare. Its already available via browser, but as gaming leaves the muddy grey and brown palette, imagine these sharpened lurid colours in HD, burning out retinas with its frantic action!
My little pal had Grim Fandango back when I was younger. Whilst, this undoubted point and click legend deserved its own remastering, as did the similarly hilarious adventures of Guybrush Threepwood; I played another point and click adventure, Toonstruck. I brought the title as via the budget Sold Out Software range, fascinated and terrified by the nightmarish clown insert on the cover. What I got once installed, was a full motion video Doc Brown inserted into a fully realised cartoon world which would descend into a twisted animated hell. With the cast and premise, its clear that Virgin Interactive, was inspired by Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and luckily all of the humour of that cracking movie rolled into this interactive homage.
Outside of the zany worlds within the aforementioned titles, Rune used the Unreal engine and had Arthur Rackham inspired artwork. The game has a complexity of weapons and explores Norse mythology competently. It wasn’t the first to use Ragnarok as a setting and won’t be the last. My continuing adoration of Rune and its Viking setting means I am desperate for something different to scratch this itch. Creative Assembly’s pig-headed Viking: Battle for Asgard isn’t smart enough. The Disney-style art of The Banner Saga and Jotun are far more sophisticated and both fine games but lack the arcade action I am so desperate for. The best hope for Rune is a fan-led resurrection to allow me to revisit the Human Head Studios angular Norse adventures of Ragnar.
Shiny Entertainment’s most prestigious title MDK got a HD remake back in 2011. It’s most visually interesting game, Sacrifice, didn’t perform well financially despite strong reviews. The Dali-esque environments and familiar yet alien units to be commanded remain stunning. By eschewing genre tropes, the game which undoubtedly is fantasy strategy, uses characters which look like they have been created by Hieronymus Bosch. The game was genuinely ground breaking with how it over came the shortcomings of the hardware and in the words of THE Kieron Gillen’s revisited review outclassed offerings on the Xbox 360. Sacrifice continues to appear on lists of the most underappreciated, revolutionary and greatest PC games of all time and hopefully this means one day it’ll get the chance to shine again.
Kingpin: Life of Crime
Before Christopher Nolan attempted to do gritty neo-gothic – but game already did it, but with more humour than a po-faced Christian Bale gargling gravel. It fair to say that Kingpin: Life of Crime is so late nineties, sound tracked by Cypress Hill and lifting lines wholesale from films Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski. But it’s fantastic atmosphere and nostalgic vibes would go down well today. Like every game on this list, it used art to make the best of limited processing power. Its soap like characters have a certain charm and their clay-like properties signalled damage in an innovative way. Whilst Rockstar deserves it legacy as creating mature games this predates them whilst not falling into the obscene novelty trap of Postal.
Featured image is sourced from an article titled “They’re mastering manufacturing” on MIT News.
Screenshots of games are sourced from Moby Games, and the following users on the site: *Katakis*; Alan Chan; Andrew Hartnett; Depeche Mike; monkeyislandgirl.
All images Used without permission, please contact squareblind (at) email (dot) com if you are the copyright holder and wish this to be removed.