Friday, December 30, 2011

The 3D Realms Build Engine

Not a lot of people have a favorite game engine. I sure as hell do, it's Kev Silverman's build engine, a first person platform designed with many new innovations and lots of new possibilities. Nowadays, we use Epic's Unreal engine, and this is the equivalent to that. A handful of games were released using this system, notably Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Shadow Warrior, and Redneck Rampage. We're going to be taking a look at all of these games, and what features came with them.

1. Duke Nukem 3D
"Hail to the King, baby"
In 1996, 3D Realms Entertainment released one of the most playable games in history. Duke Nukem, a typical masculine badass with crewed blond hair, a tanktop, some jeans and suspenders, gets pissed off that the aliens have come to take the Earth women. "Nobody steals our chicks, and lives" he says, exploding through well-designed 3D levels full of alien pig police, floating octopus brains, and crazy shitting monsters with chainguns. Using a variety of weapons such as RPGs, freeze rays, and the incredible shrinking ray, he single-handedly rips through Hollywood and Space in one of the three original episodes, saving all the babes along the way. Still one of the best games ever. Duke3D isn't free, but you can still get the shareware version.

2. Blood
"Boo-hoo, when's the hurting stop?"
Blood was originally to be developed by 3D Realms, but they sold the rights to Monolith, who released the game in 1997. Right off the bat it's apparently similar to Duke Nukem 3D, but still an entirely different experience. In this game, it's Caleb, some gunslinger who gets betrayed by his cult and murdered. This is where the game starts, stepping out of his grave, uttering "I live, again". Wielding only a pitchfork, Caleb sets off into a dark, horrific world, watching out for zombies, cultists, gargoyles, spiders, two-headed dogs, little hands that wand to choke you, and then some. However, that's alright by Caleb, because he knows how to use some really unique weapons, like a tommy gun, a can of hairspray and a lighter, or even a voodoo doll, to bring his enemies down. Amazing level design in this game keeps you playing for a very long time, and man, it's a good one. Not free, but here's some shareware!

3. Shadow Warrior
"Pain is for the weak"
  3D Realms Entertainment released this one in 1997. It stars Lo Wang, some crazy ninja dude with nonstop one-liners, who quits his job as a bodyguard, only to be chased down by the boss and his cronies. This game feels amazing and the level design is impeccable, sometimes you must solve puzzles, teleport, or crawl through something weird, just to progress in the level. Some of his weapons include the sword, shurikens, missile launchers, sticky bombs, and railguns. This game is amazingly captivating, you can get lost for a long time just playing around with the environment. Not free to this day, but hey. Shareware.

4. Redneck Rampage
"Hold on to your butts"
Xatrix Entertainment released this game in the height of the FPS industry of 1997. It's Leonard and Bubba, shooting their way through the most trashy hick town, on a mission to rescue their pig. In the meantime, they end up thwarting an alien invasion. Crazy dudes with guns are everywhere, even alien vixens with machinegun boobies. Your arsenal includes the usual revolver and shotgun, along with a bowling ball, or a crossbow that has dynamite strapped to it. Along the way, you have to watch your "gut" meter, which will make you extra flatulent and give away your position if you've eaten too many of the in-game items such as pork rinds or moon pies. Eating food does help you be less belligerent though, and will take your "drunk" meter down. Which is good, because if you drink too much liquor in order to numb your senses and not feel those bullets, you'll be stumbling around puking. While the game is pretty entertaining for a short ride, it just doesn't match up to the previous games, the levels seem very spread out and unnecessarily large. You can still get the demo version of this game, too.

Unfortunately these games are a pain in the ass to get running on your new Windows machine. Check out the info from this site, which will help you a lot in your gaming ventures. I was able to get them all working well using these methods, and hearing the sound is one of the best parts of these games. You can find a little more history on Ken Silverman's Build Engine from here. Thanks for sticking around, I'll be back tomorrow!

Alien Carnage/Halloween Harry

Alien Carnage was originally called Halloween Harry. It features you, Harry, on a little mission to save the world from some Aliens who are turning people into zombies and stuff. When I had it, it was called Halloween Harry, and I could swear that I remember the missions being different, but they changed a lot of it for some reason or another.

Gameplay: 7/10
Let's just get this off our chest right now; Harry can't jump. He must weigh like 500 pounds with giant gas tank and helmet he wears. What Harry lacks in mobility he replaces with the brute force thrust of his jetpack, subsequently draining his flamethrower fuel. That's right, they're linked together. If you run out, it sucks. You gotta go buy some more from one of these vending machine things, but in order to do that, you must make the money by killing a few of the many enemies in this game. There's blobs, spiders, zombies, aliens, and lots more weirdness. Every now and then Harry runs across a chick who's about to get some tentacle. He unties them and makes them disappear into another dimension or something. The controls are ridiculous and stiff, gravity just seems to suck in this world Harry lives in. That set aside, the game is still pretty fun to play and it runs well enough for me to only -3 points.

Graphics: 9/10
I've always enjoyed the graphics in this game. They're fresh and vivid, a little cartoon nature about them, and the levels look really good. Cut scenes are spectacular. It could have ran a little faster, as it seems a little skippy, but still very fast. Only -1 point!

Sound: 7/10
When I had this game around 1995, I don't think I had a Soundblaster, or even knew what that meant. I remember using the PC Speaker option, but it lacked music. Now when I play it, the music sounds pretty good, and the sounds are defiantly worthy. It's not very high quality, but I can't complain. -3 points.

Overall: 8/10
Alien Carnage, or Halloween Harry for that matter, is a staple of one of those wonderful Apogee sidescrolling games. Man, did they come out with a ton of them, but it's great. When I play this game now, it reminds me of many other games to follow in its wake, like Borderlands, running around getting money killing stuff vending machines and so on. I also can't help but wonder if Duke Nukem took a little piece of the storyline out of this game. I guess we'll never know. You should probably play this game, because it used to cost money, but now it's free to play and distribute.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Death Rally

Now we're talking. Death Rally was one of my favorite games. It came out in 1996, when video games were starting to be fast, graphical, intuitive, and challenging. It's a top-down perspective racing game against three other cars, doing laps around a winding street, using weapons such as machine guns, spikes, mines, or your car, to blow other racers off the road. Oh, and there's a little cameo. Some of you may know who I'm talking about.
Gameplay: 8/10
In Death Rally, the only thing that matters is to smash. Just straight blow through everyone you see and try not to get wasted while you do it. There's a bunch of other cars and weapons, but only one catch; you start with $495 bucks and a shitty Beetle lookin' thing. It handles like crap, too. Best win some races so you can upgrade this stupid car, or better yet, purchase one of the other ones. At first, you're probably going to get blown up a lot, which leads to having to repair the car, and eventually just being broke as hell, unless you can either not take that much damage during the race, or pick up enough of the repair powerups that you'll find along the track. The whole idea around this game is to enter races, rank up, and eventually race the badass at the end to become a total boss, or something. -2 points for the tracks being too short sometimes!

Graphics: 7/10
It runs fast and well. The menu screens are a little cluttered but look pretty good nonetheless. The cars don't appear to have enough detail, and the customization is nonexistent, with the exception of the color of the vehicle. The environments that you race in could have been a little more creative, as there was no animation or changing parts of the track. -3 points for those reasons.

Sound: 4/10
This game lacks severely in the sound department. The music is bland, repetitive, and the sound effects are a lackluster attempt with a lame product. They need some more kerpow, you know, more squealing tires, more gun sounds, more great music, all of this is practically not there. It sucks. -6 points.

Overall: 8/10
Despite the sound and graphics not being that great, even for 1996, this game is still a ton of fun to play. Guaranteed the minute you start it you'll probably be playing it for a long time. This game was ported to Windows, so there's no crazy stuff to run it, and best of all. It's. Free. To. Download and it has Duke Nukem in it. Pick this game up from here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


ZZT was released commercially in 1991. It was pretty far behind as far as graphics and sound went, but extremely rich in the creative element. You see, ZZT had a built-in game editor that you could use to make your very own adventures, however you wish. There's a ton of preset tiles, enemies, items and the like, or you can create your own objects using ZZT's language, ZZT-OOP. The game became a popular community experience, as users would create their own games and tweak ZZT for years. The four games that come prepackaged with ZZT are rubbish compared to some of the community games.

Gameplay: ???/10
Rating the gameplay with ZZT is impossible. If I were to review the one of the four games that game with it, say, Town of ZZT, I'd be giving this a pretty horrible rating. But that's not where the awesomeness lies in ZZT. The editor is very basic to learn, but extremely difficult to master, and with enough time playing around with it, you can do some pretty neat things. The enemies that are preprogrammed in ZZT are worthless when you learn how to make your own.

Graphics: ???/10
Again, it's really hard to rate the graphics. You see, by most standards, ZZT has horrible graphics and not very many capabilities. However, users have created some brilliant works, figuring out how to bypass the natural limitations of ZZT. I've seen some badly drawn stuff and I've seen stuff with color and shading. When it comes to ZZT, it's what you make it.

Sound: 4/10
ZZT's sound comes from a PC speaker. Back when they still had them. My PC would be beeping and booping little tunes that users had created using the difficult-but not impossible music code. Otherwise, ZZT's sound effects sound like this: Beep. Bop. Bonk. Click. That's about it. -6 points for superannoying.

Overall: 10/10
ZZT is badass. That's all there is to it. You can tell whatever story you want, make your game play how you want, and make the art good or bad. ZZT's limitations are its strengths, the real secret is pushing past them and doing something extraordinary for the game. Some of the best games were made by other ZZT users throughout the years, you can hop over to Z2, a community of ZZT users, download the game and get started immediately.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss

The Ultima series was a driving force in the RPG/Dungeon industry, creating a plethora of games throughout computing history. From Ultima 1 being released in 1981 to this, on the market in 1992, you could see they had come a long way. Ultima Underworld is a first-person dungeon crawl with the unknown around every corner. You creep your way through the Great Stygian Abyss, an underground dungeon with remnants of civility, on a quest to find the Baron's daughter and reclaim your freedom.

Gameplay: 9/10
The control in this game is pretty fantastic. Just exploring can be done easily with the mouse, hotkeys keep it as simple as possible. The inventory system works well, so does the spell casting. The fact that you can add map notes helps so much, otherwise you'd just be completely lost. The Stygian Abyss is freaking giant and learning its twists and turns is one of the real challenges of this game. They've also thrown in some platform-style jumping, forcing you to really master those controls. The fighting is easy enough and really isn't one of the hardest parts of Ultima Underworld. Most of the game, you're on your own as to where you're going or what you're doing, so -1 point for that.

Graphics: 9/10
You really feel like you've been thrown into the abyss. Lots of cave-like hallways with dirt floors and apparent carved stone walls, all of the items, enemies, and objects are easy to recognize. The game runs extraordinarily well, too, boasting only a few slowdowns and really impressing me with the framerate. That's one of the best things about this game is the fact that it's seamless like that. However, the tiles and floor get old after a while, so I have to -1 point for not enough variation on the walls.

Sound: 8/10
While the music is nothing incredible or thought-provoking, the strength in the sound comes from every thing else. If there's something to be done, it probably has a sound to it. Gotta love that. -2 points for too much silence when nothing is happening, though.

Overall: 9/10
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss will keep you entertained for a long time. When I first played it, I don't think I left it for a few days. This was 1992's equivalent to 2011's Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. This game encompasses you and takes you on a scary journey through a giant Dungeon in first-person. Dying is pretty common when you don't know what's going on, so remember to save a bunch. I say it's one of the best games of all time. The game was announced as freeware sometime in the early 00's, you can download it from here.

Monday, December 26, 2011


When Jetpack came out in 1993, it was an instant hit amongst me and my gamer friends. The single player levels that come with the game are seen as only one thing to me; inspiration to create a much more amazing level with the built-in level editor.

Gameplay: 8/10
Jetpack's main focus is relentlessly speedy gameplay. You're some dude with a Jetpack, a helmet, and a vicious world where the very fabric of existence involves collecting all of the green gems to open the door and make way to the next level. The whole time, there's enemy robots chasing you as you blast your way around ladders, conveyors and teleporters. You're also running out of fuel for your canisters. Worst of all, if you get touched by one of these evil bots, you blow the hell up. Makes for a good game, but -2 points for repetitive nature.

Graphics: 5/10
Let's face it, this game is fugly. Random-ass tiles can make it seem like you're in a factory, on the beach, or in a cave, all at the same time. If you wanted to make the game environmentally correct, you'd have to design a pretty dumb level. That's just the way this game is. The title screen is pretty sweet, though. -5 points for graphics being practically useless in this game.

Sound: 6/10
The sound repeats itself quite a bit, however it provides a much more immersive experience when playing Jetpack. Screams and explosions, grit and grind, dings and dats, they're what they are. -4 points for lack of music to rock to.

Overall: 7/10
If you haven't played Jetpack, give it a try. There's a ton of user-created levels out there for you to load up and run through. They could have improved by making multi-room levels, and more powerups other than the time stopper, but I liked it enough when it came out to talk about it now. Oh, and like most of the games I post, it's free to download.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


This is my first post. Thanks to all my new followers. I'm going to try to get a new game reviewed daily. Merry Christmas!

To this day, there hasn't been a game that keeps you gripping the keyboard, listening to the rhythmic tapping of the spacebar as you jump and bounce your way along an incredible floating road, high above various planets. I'm talking about Skyroads, of course, a game that I spent countless on as a young one, with my 21" CRT monitor and IBM386 desktop computer. I'd think to myself "No sir, graphics do not get much better than this" as the early hours of the morning struck.
Gameplay: 9/10
The control is a bit awkward at first, but eventually you'll be piloting this thing no problem. Everything seems to work well and sometimes gets a little quirky. They throw in certain changes of pace, pieces of the road that will slow you down, speed you up, or kill you. Combining this with the gravity changes keeps the levels feeling different and the skill needed to complete the level strong. -1 point for the lack of cutscenes or story, and the lack of courses/modes.

Graphics: 7/10
It's fine. Colorful and fast. Sometimes it's so fast you can barely comprehend what is going on. Not much to the graphics here, stationary pictures in the background provide little stimuli, while the blocks and ship tend to get old after a while. -3 points for that.

Sound: 3/10
There's also not much to the sound in this game. Something like three MIDI songs will keep you bobbin' your head while you jam down the course, and there's probably three or so actual sound effects in the game. Let's see, there's the sound you make when you blow up, the sound you make when you bounce on the track, and the woosh that you hear sometimes. -7 points for the lack of sound effects.

Overall: 7/10
Skyroads is a pretty good game concept, with a fairly lackluster product. They really missed different game modes, different ships, and maybe even a level designer. More sound and graphics effects would have been nice. Wouldn't mind seeing a remake of this classic DOS game. They did make a Christmas version, so if you need more, that's where you find it.

All in all, you should give it a shot sometime, you'll be glad you did. It's free as all hell.