Friday, June 01, 2007

Another sweet memory

A long time ago - when I was still at school or starting university - "Apogee" was a name I knew well. The software company produced some of the best games I've ever played, including the "Commander Keen" series, "Alien Carnage", "Duke Nukem" and "Hocus Pocus". "Apogee" has become "3-D Realms" by now and is working on the newest part of "Duke Nukem" while I'm writing this (and they have been working on the game for ages, literally).

But what I remember far better than "The Duke", are their old Jump'n'Runs. I have played all six parts of "Commander Keen" from the very first to the last. I raided numerous strange castles in "Hocus Pocus" in search of powerful crystals ... and I saved the world as muscle-packed ex-marine in "Alien Carnage" (which was published in Germany as "Halloween Harry").

I haven't thought about those games for years ... I only own "Commander Keen 6" any longer (and until today I rather decided to sell it, provided someone wanted to buy it). But "3-D Realms" has started to release the old games as freeware now - and with an emulator they can still be run on modern machines - and I downloaded "Alien Carnage" and the "Hocus Pocus" shareware episode yesterday.

Unlike my meeting with the TV-series I watched as a teenager, playing those games again was actually fun. I've been going through the first episode of "Alien Carnage" yesterday (and found some parts harder than a lot of the games I play these days) and I've played four levels of "Hocus Pocus", too. (Hopefully the full game will be released as Freeware, too.)

Admittedly, the graphics are bad, really bad. You should see the animated cut-scenes with Harry and his boss Diane (yes, Mr. Tough-Guy-and-ex-marine works for a woman, but that's the year 2035 or so) ... hardly anything is moving, except for words of the subtitles and the mouths of the speakers. On the other hand, I don't mind it. The characters (especially the monsters) are cartoon-type anyway and so they don't need to look realistic. The whole game is in 2D - so my graphics card probably is wondering about what to do with all the free resources while I enjoy blasting nasty aliens and green-skinned zombie-office-workers with my handy (and in those graphics almost cute) flame-thrower. The graphics of "Hocus Pocus" are slightly better ... the game was released a year or so after "Alien Carnage". But still, the young wizard-in-training doesn't look as eye-catching as Simon in his newest game.

But so what? I've always loved games for their content, not for their looks (and with "Boppin'" on my hard-disk now, I won't start with it). Playing those old Jump'n'Runs has shown me how little 'good games' have to do with 'brilliant, state-of-the-art graphics'. A valuable lesson.

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