Andrew Newton on the video games we were playing in June 1991…
Welcome back to June 1991, a year of great games and some not so great games. I was going to traumatise you all by reminding you of Gilbert, the snotty alien from that Saturday morning show but then remembered there are much better games to talk about. Still, if I have to remember him so do you so enjoy the image. June ’91 saw the release of some brill games that really managed to eat into our free time including……
Mercs – Capcom/Tiertex – Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum
Mercs is a follow up to the 1985 hit game Commando and like its predecessor was a scrolling run and gun shoot ’em up. Players took control of mercenaries (or single mercenary in single player) and had to fight through the African country of Zutala (not a real country) to rescue the former leader of the country from rebels who have taken control.
As well as enemies on foot there were also big bosses in vehicles like helicopter gunships which would require a heck of a lot of shooting to bring down but fortunately during the level, players could upgrade their regular gun to something much more powerful such as an assault rifle, shotgun or grenade launcher. There were also smart bombs that would kill all enemies on screen (not including the boss).
I played Mercs back in the day with a friend on the Amiga and remember the game being quite enjoyable to play, but looking back at the reviews from magazines at the time it mostly only scored average. Sinclair User gave it 59%, Amiga Power awarded it a slightly higher 64% whilst Crash gave it a good 86%.
The Famous Five: Five on a Treasure Island – Enigma Variations – Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST
Once upon a time The Famous Five were essential reading for any kid, now it’s a hard job getting them to pick up a book. Still, the books were amazing adventure books that saw four children and a dog take on a variety of villains including gypsies, circus folk, smugglers and thieves with good old British pluck. The give also managed to become friends with a good assortment of people, including gypsies, circus folk and a strange child of a scientist who imitated car sounds a lot. Nowadays, the children would be taken into care under neglect and child endangerment issues but we didn’t care about that back then, it was adventure with sunshine, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread and bottles of lemonade.
The Famous Five: Five on a Treasure Island game basically took the first story in the series and put it in the style of a text adventure. Although being essentially a text adventure it did have one big difference that made it more interesting, the Five consisted of more than one character. Players could split the 5 up and take them to different locations, allowing them to switch between and control the different children at any different time. Plus it had very nice visuals familiar to those who had read the books.
Remember back in the day how we all used to check out text adventures to see if they recognised swear words? Well this one could and didn’t like it as it jolly well wasn’t English.
Five on a Treasure Island went down pretty well with the magazines of the time, Crash magazine gave it 81%, Your Sinclair 83% and CU Amiga 75%. If you’re looking for a text adventure to revisit on an emulator or something then this may be a worthwhile look up.
Additional – look up the theme tune to the 70’s TV series. It’s cheesy but that type of cheese that makes you smile.
Predator 2 – Imageworks – Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum
Before the Predator franchise became one that would make people groan with disappointment there was actually a couple of good films and these were accompanied by a couple of half decent games. I mean, they weren’t ground breaking or anything and they were only loosely based around the events of the films but they weren’t bad games.
As with the film, the video game is set in Los Angeles in the baking hot summer of ’97. There’s war on the streets as drug lords fight cops and Detective Lieutenant Mike Harrigan (played by Danny Glover in the films) is determined to stop the influx of drugs onto the streets. Taking the role of Harrigan, players scroll horizontally along the screen in a Operation Wolf style shooting the various bad guys that run into view, pop up from behind a crate and being careful not to accidentally kill the civilians who seem intent on running into a bullet. Players also have to contend with the Predator also lobbing the occasional projectile at them, although they can’t do anything about him until the finale.
Players have a number of weapons available to them in the war on drugs, these include a .45 Magnum, a shotgun, rifle, assault shotgun and a grenade launcher. These work excellently in killing the human opponents but ensure you have the ammo for the ugly mo-fo at the end.
Now, seeing the screenshots below you’re probably thinking it didn’t score great. I won’t lie, it didn’t get any super high scores but it did get a respectable 74% from Amstrad Action, 73% from Your Sinclair and 81% from Amiga Format.
Viz: The Game – Virgin Interactive – Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, DOS
Any British lad of a certain age will have read a copy of Viz at some point in there lives. Rumours of how rude the likes of The Fat Slags, Buster Gonad and Roger Mellie (I’m sure they based his look on Jeremy Clarkson) filled the playground and there was always that one kid whose parents bought him it weekly. Still, fun as the comic was, did it really deserve the video game treatment. If you look at the long play videos on YouTube you will be able to see if it lives up to the comic.
Viz: The Game allowed players to play as either unlovable bully Biffa Bacon, the whiffy Johnny Fartpants or Buster Gonad and his unfeasibly large testicles (seriously a character), and take part in a charity fun run through Fulchester. Each stage of the race will require players to use their character’s special ability such as bouncing on Buster’s nads or Johnny’s sprout power, in order to win.
To be honest, it wasn’t a patch on the comics. ACE awarded it 695/1000 for both the C64 and Amiga versions, Amiga Format gave it 70% and C & VG awarded it just 59% for the Amiga and Atari ST versions.
Klax – Domark/ Atari – Amiga, Atari, MS Dos, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, MSX, SEGA Master System, later on SEGA Mega Drive.
The time between arcade releases and home conversions became shorter as the home market increased but Klax was pretty unique in that it was developed for the home market alongside the arcade’s development and near enough released around the same time.
Klax is a puzzle game that requires players to stack tiles of the same colour on 5 paddles. Points were awarded for the same colour tiles stacked vertically, horizontally or even in certain patterns with bonus points for stacking in the more difficult patterns. The main gameplay took place in the small section at the bottom of the screen while players could prepare and strategise by looking at the oncoming tiles along a conveyor belt.
It was an addictive game but for me it was stress inducing when the tiles began to move faster. It is remembered as one of the finest puzzle games around though nowhere near as popular or addictive as Tetris. Didn’t score too badly either with Amstrad Action awarding it 78%, Crash gave it 84% and Amiga Action gave it 82%.
Watch Steve Benway play Klax on the Amiga in the video below.
June ’91 was an awesome time for gaming. If time travel was a thing it would certainly be one worth visiting if only for the games.
Thanks as always to Steve Benway for the use of his video. If you’ve not yet subscribed then “hit that subscribe button” as the young Youtubers say.
See you next month for more 1991 goodies.