Andrew Newton on the video games we were playing back in the day…
July 1991, can you believe it was 30 years ago eh? The 16 bit era was well and truly in in the UK, there were still fans of the old 8 bit computers (myself included) but more and more people were upgrading to the Amiga 500 and Atari ST. Some folk even ventured into the domain of console gaming, though computers were still the preferred choice due to cheaper games and the ability to copy pirated software using software like XCopy on the Amiga and Fast Copy III on the ST.
HeroQuest – Gremlin Graphics – Amiga, Atari ST, Acorn Archimedes, MS Dos, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.
If you recognise the image above then you deserve 50 points for a great memory. This image adorned the box to the table top game HeroQuest as well as the videogame box and shows the four heroes engaged in battle against the evils that lurk in the dungeons. These 4 heroes, Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf and Wizard, had different strengths and weaknesses and it was up to them alone to tackle all the quests to defeat the evil wizard Morcar (the bearded chap lurking at the back in the screenshot below).
The game followed a strict turn-based sequence where actions such as search and fight could only be carried out before or after movement, not only that but the movement itself was limited by the number rolled on the dice and proved infuriating on the occasions that one character moved faster than the others.
There were 14 missions in the game and the dungeons for each were filled with monsters such as skeletons, mummies, orks and worse. Alongside the threats of attacks from monsters there were also traps that would be revealed when searching. From personal experience I always found more traps than treasure.
HeroQuest was well received by the magazines of the time with Amiga Computing awarding it a stonking 90% and Sinclair User giving it their Gold status. It also had a sequel made fore it in 1994 titled, HeroQuest II: Legacy of Sorasil.
Toki – Ocean (home computer version) – Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64.
Originally an arcade game, Toki was ported to the home computers by Ocean, a company who I have very fond memories of, and is a very decent port. The game starts with a small cut-scene showing an evil witchdoctor kidnapping princess Miho, Toki’s ladyfriend, and then turning Toki’s Tarzan-esque physique into an ape. It is then up to players to guide Toki through a number of different levels, including caves, frozen landscapes, lakes and volcanoes, to defeat the witchdoctor, rescue princess Miho and undo the curse that made him an ape.
To help Toki get past all the hostile creatures on the island he could collect different power-ups allowing him to fire energy balls or fire from his mouth.
The game was a very sound port of the arcade original but many complained that it was quite slow, despite this it was still a very challenging platformer. Amiga Format and ST Format both gave it 78%. It also went on to have a a port made for the Sega Megadrive, Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari Lynx and even more recently had a remake on Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch.
Turrican II: The Final Fight – Rainbow Arts – Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum.
Turrican II had already been available for a very short while on other formats, however July saw it’s release on the humble ZX Spectrum.
The sequel to Turrican, Turrican II: The Final Fight saw players once again step into the armoured boots of Turrican and set off for the planet of Landorin in response to a Mayday message for help from the Landorians. The planet Landorin is under attack by a race of mutants and robots known as The Machine and have got the Landorians trapped in their shelters. It’s up to players to shoot countless enemies and rescue the planet’s inhabitants.
Turrican II has become legendary among gamers of the time, not just for its smooth gameplay and animation but also for it’s absolutely amazing soundtrack from Chris Huelsbeck.
Crash magazine gave Turrican II a whopping 95%, earning it a much sought after Crash Smash. While slightly earlier in the year Zzap!64 gave it 96%.
Skull & Crossbones – Domark (home computer version) Amiga, Atari ST, MS-Dos, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum.
This arcade port had players take control of a pirate in order to find a wizard who kidnapped their princess. In single player mode, players took control of One-Eye but in 2 player mode, player 2 took control of Red Dog (not very piratey sounding names).
To rescue the princess, players had to journey through seven levels filled with various themed enemies and a level boss, levels included caves (every game of the time had to have a cave level by law I think), a Spanish castle and not one, nor two but three different pirate ships. It also featured a level where the pirates had to fight through a Ninja camp (not the last time for pirates ever to cross the path of ninjas in video games).
Players could collect booty throughout each level and this could be traded for weapons but the type received depended on how much booty there was. These weapons included the weak cutlass, the slightly more powerful knife and the very powerful but much rarer flintlock pistol. It was essential to get a weapon as soon as possible as the default punches were pretty pants.
Skull & Crossbones gained a decent score from Your Sinclair who awarded it 72%, while Amstrad Action thought it pretty much stank, giving it a measly 48%.
Dirt Track Racer – Zeppelin Games – ZX Spectrum.
Not every game of the day had a storyline like the games mentioned above, the majority, particularly budget games, were just for casual playing with no commitment. One such game was Dirt Track Racer by budget publisher Zeppelin. This budget title sold for a mere £2.99 and was a fun top down racer. It didn’t tax the old brain cells to play, it had some nice tracks to race round and it was relatively easy to see your car on the track.
The only downside to the game was how difficult it was to maintain the 1st place in the table through each of the five stages. Only by doing so could you be titled the champion.
Crash were disappointed by Dirt Track Racer and awarded it just 48%, meanwhile Your Sinclair gave it a much more deserving 73%.
Did you play any of these games back in the day or are you new to the retro scene and played them recently. Share your stories with us on social media. We’d love to read them.
Until next month, be happy and stay safe.