My Gamer Geek Past, Part VI - Honorable Mentions: The Not Star Wars Entries

Way back when (it was May/June, so it wasn't that long ago) I did a multi-part series on the video games that resonated with me most in younger years, and for which I feel a particular continued fondness today. Now I present to you those that didn't make the cut, the honorable mentions of games that I will always remember enjoying to a great degree. I'm splitting this list as well, since half the games are Star Wars-themed and half aren't. In no particular order:

The Thief Series

First-person shooters have been and continue to be all the rage for many gamers. In most cases, your goal is to blast as much as possible, and the more pyrotechnics/explosions, the better.

Blowing things up is actually a lot of fun. And there's no mess to clean up.

That's why the Thief series was such a refreshing change to the first-person style of games. The premise is that you are Garrett, a master thief who uses his skills of stealth, agility and staying under the radar to maximum effect. Instead of blasting your way into and out of any given situation, you must sneak in and around, using what shadows and dark corners you can find to stay hidden. In fact, getting into a fight is a horrible thing, since you will almost always die (or at least get really hurt). Even your footsteps can give you away, making surfaces like grass and carpet your best friend.

That crystal in the middle-bottom of your screen? The darker, the better.
It means you can be neither seen nor heard, just like Milford taught.

That's not to say your weapons are useless. They are, as it turns out, valuable tools when put to the right use. You have a blackjack, a leather bag full of sand or gravel or something that you can use to knock an unsuspecting guard or enemy out cold. If deadly force isn't prohibited, you can use your sword to put someone permanently out cold, though killing is often not allowed. In addition to standard arrows, you can equip your trusty bow with water arrows (useful for putting out torches), fire arrows (more damage to enemies), rope arrows (useful for getting to hard-to-reach places), and moss arrows (they create patches of moss on the ground, making your movement totally silent).

I don't know what he's shooting at, but apparently a water arrow is the right move?

It's the kind of game that requires skill on a very intricate level, which is probably why I never got very far in it without skipping from mission to mission via cheat code. But it was still a lot of fun to play, and I've rued the fact that newer computers have a hard time playing the old software, leading me to get rid of my Thief games.

That, and I could never get picking locks down.

Tachyon: The Fringe

I've always loved flying games, even if I've had to cheat to be any good at them. Tachyon: The Fringe is easily one of the best space flying games I've ever played, in some ways superior to the Star Wars games I mentioned before.

The Orion multirole fighter: by far one of the coolest designs for a spaceship
 I've ever seen.

The basic plot is this: It's the distant future, and you're Jake Logan, a pilot-for-hire doing odd jobs around the Solar System. Interstellar travel is facilitated by Tachyon gates, which use the faster-than-light particles to transport you almost instantaneously across vast distances. When you're implicated in the destruction of a medical facility, you are convicted and banished to the fringe of civilized space. There, while carving out a new life, you get caught up in a near-war between the ever-expanding Galactic Spanning Corporation and the Bora colonists.

One of the eponymous Tachyon gates. It's the thing on the left.

What separates this game from others more than anything is the storytelling. It has a bit of "choose your own adventure" in that your missions depend on which side you choose - GalSpan fighters get one set, Bora fighters get another. Affiliating yourself with one side gets you one story, choosing the other gets you another. Each side has its own unique set of ships to fly and weapons to use, and each side has areas you can only explore if you're on their payroll. There are other smaller decisions to make throughout, making each play-through potentially different, to an extent.

The New Vegas star base: your casino of the future.

I admit to not having played a ton of space flight sims, but this one has a storyline worthy of film. You could honestly make this into a movie or TV show/miniseries, it's so good. Add to that the fact that actor Bruce Campbell does the voice for Jake Logan, and it's a winning combination (there are even some one-liners akin to those Campbell made famous in his Evil Dead series).

Your hero, Jake Logan.

His voice, Bruce Campbell (circa 1987)

Like I mentioned about TIE Fighter, this game is extra appealing to a guy like me because even if you have cheat codes, you can play the whole thing. The best part about the cheat codes is that the game itself calls you out on it. You put one in, and Jake Logan/Bruce Campbell says something along the lines of "Oh, so now you're using a cheat code" or "You know, you're pathetic, just play the game." That never stopped me, however.

Cheat codes mean I can turn this big'un to space dust with naught but
 my Battleaxe heavy fighter.

Hidden and Dangerous

World War II has spawned an untold number of video games, of which I've played, like, 3. This is the best one of those three, though, combining a little bit of Rainbow 6 strategy with good, old-fashioned M-1 rifles and potato masher grenades.

Throwing the potato masher like this gives it wicked motion as it crosses the plate.

The story revolves around your team of SAS operatives carrying out a number of missions behind enemy lines during World War II. Before each set of missions, you choose eight men and the equipment you'll need. For that campaign, you're stuck with those eight men and that equipment, along with anything you salvage along the way (you can nab guns, grenades and other stuff from the German soldiers you take out). The campaigns take you to Italy, the North Sea and Czechoslovakia, among other locales, each one nicely designed and illustrated.

This oil refinery in Italy doesn't exit anymore. Because I blew it up.

One of the cool things about the game is that for each mission you have a map allowing you to plan each team member's actions. You can tell them where to go, where to wait, what to do, etc. I, of course, promptly ignored said map and just shot my way through (helped, of course, by ever-trusty cheat codes).

I get it, I get it: I'm the green circle, and I have to take out the red circles.

Another fun feature is the ability to climb into and drive various vehicles, including motorcycles, Kubelwagens, APCs and even tanks. Sometimes you'll need them to get through a mission in a timely manner or to make your escape. Other times it's just fun to drive around.

This is a Kubelwagen, in case you were wondering.

Compared to Rainbow Six, the other shooter I oft enjoyed in those days, the graphics aren't as clean and the movement of the characters not as smooth. For a first-person shooter it doesn't feel as comfortable or natural. But it more than makes up for that in not making you keep hostages alive until the end of the mission. Worth it.
Instead of keeping people alive, I have to figure out how to blow up this train
with a machine gun. Whoever planned this is an idiot.

Also, the other perk about this game is that you can download the full version (plus the expansion) for free.

Stay tuned for the second batch of honorable mentions, all of which carry a theme from a galaxy far, far away...


Peeser said…
Did I ever tell you that I once had a dream in which "Hidden and Dangerous" figured prominently? As in, somehow or other, the game was real and I was in it? It even included that theme music that would annoyingly get stuck in my head...
(The music wasn't in and of itself bad, as far as the game was concerned, but it got irritatingly repetitive when it was stuck in my head.)

And I find it interesting that you problems with Thief on newer computers... I haven't had problems with it on my laptop... (Well, I did have to go in and change some of the computer configuration, but it was an easy fix once I was told how to do it.)

Oh, well. Good times!

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