Gaming in the 1990s

Some Reviews of Games from the Past


Archipelago (noun), a sea studded with many islands.
Archipelagos (Logotron) a very different computer game.

The dictionary gives only a hint about the game Archipelagos, add some people called Ancients and strange trees and it starts to look like a game. The ancients have been turned into obelisks, and you have to release their souls.

Essentially this is a puzzle type game, each archipelago has to be solved before moving to the next one. There are 9,999 to solve. To play the game you move around a 3D environment, with the mouse you can rotate 360 degrees and move forward. Destroy the stones and rush back to free the ancient from the obelisk.

Trouble is there are these trees that pollute the ground, and if you stand on infected ground you will die. You can also disinfect the land and create new land from the sea.

The first 19 archipelagos are easy to solve, but at level 20 you have to deal with the “Eggs of blood”. This makes the game much harder, and considerable planning is necessary to complete further levels. The background music adds to the atmosphere of the game.

There are two things that distract from this game. The disk protection method causes a very distressing sound to come from the drive. And the saved games are stored on the original disk, a policy I am not in favour of.

Although this is an original game, and should provide several hours of entertainment, the lack of variety in game play will soon become boring.

Balance of Power 1990

Balance of power comes from Mindscape, makers of Deja Vu, Uninvited and Shadowgate.

Balance of Power 1990 is all about power,(military, economic and political). Over the six years 1989 to 1997 you will be either the leader of the Soviet Union or the United States. At the end of 1997 the winner is the side with the most prestige points.

In charge if billions of dollars of funds, and thousands of troops you must make decisions that will effect the livelihood of the planet. If you fail a nuclear war will destroy the earth.

All you can do is reboot and try again.

The game comes with a double sided disk and a 90 page manual. Despite the complexity of the game it is surprisingly easy to get started without reading even the manual. The screen consists of a map of the world with GEM menus for your decision making. Each year you have to assess the world situation and attempt to influence events using the resources available to you. If you make some radical decisions four advisors will give you their advice on the situation. Ignore their advice at your peril. There are 80 countries to deal with, so each turn can take some time. The “bipolar” option gives access to more possible actions to take, there is even a two player option.

Overall I got the impression that the game was very realistic, the bibliography in the manual lists 22 publications from Henry Kissinger’s autobiography to the “whole earth catalog”. The only flaw is the exclusion of a certain very important south pacific nation. Despite what the manual says I
could not transfer the game to my hard disk.

I can recommend this came to anyone tired of blasting aliens.


Somewhere in space and the twenty-first century is the Gamma solar system. Around the star Dialis orbit nine planets and their nineteen moons. Into this human colony comes the comet Damocles (Haleys father ?). The residents wouldn’t have minded this celestial body if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s path is predicted to collide with the fifth planet Eris (in about 3 hours). So, the object of the game is tosave the planet from destruction.

Lloyds are interested in the comet as a tourist attraction, and will pay if you can avoid destroying the comet.

The game comes on a single disk with a instruction sheet and an A2 poster showing the Gamma system with the orbits and relative sizes of the planets.

Playing the game involves moving through a 3D landscape, finding and using objects. The 3D movement is smooth and colourful, however too many objects in one place will slow the movement down. Movement is by foot, car and spaceship using the joystick.

No text input is required, however if you can find a note book you can read it to get some hints.

Space, as they say is big, so big you couldn’t possibly see it all in the 3 hours you have to save Eris. To make matters worse voyages between planets is governed by Einstein’s theory of relativity. This means that while ship time advances normally, Eris time advances faster (as you reach the speed of light).

You start at Eris, where the President will give you the keys to a space ship and a file to start you on your way. So far I have tracked a Post Office delivery of detonators through three planets and eventually found a “Novabomb”, this could be useful.

Fortunately, even if damocles destroys Eris, you can still explore the planets. There are rumoured to be at least five ways to complete the game.

Moving between planets takes some practice, the planets are positioned by “Gamma system co-ordinates”. In space you use your compass to navigate between the planets (there must be a large magnetic planet beyond the known nine planets).

You can save the game at any time, but are limited to ten positions. I got a “disk error” using a blank disk formatted to 800K, however a disk formatted with the desktop worked.

If you like an adventure game that looks more like a flight simulator, and have lots of time to explore the planets and moons of the gamma system, you won’t be disappointed.

The disk for the June 1990 Issue of ST User contains a demo of the game.

Interphase (1989)

In the future the main form of entertainment is dreaming (just like political promises). Dreamers record their dreams for consumption by the masses. The trouble is that a dreamer has discovered subliminal messages in his dreams.

You play the part of the dreamer (Chad) who, with the help of his girl-friend Kaf-E attempts to find and destroy his dream in the DreamTrack Corporation’s high security building.

Kaf-E moves thorough the building, encountering doors, turntables, security cameras etc. Her movement is seen on a 2D map. You have to unlock doors, turn turntables and overcome droids to get to the lift of each level and progress up to level 12. Then it’s find the dream and get out again.

As Chad you can influence the building’s electronics through a man/machine interface known as the interphase. The interior of the computer is a 3D model populated with strange forms that are not pleased with an intruder.

The game-play involves entering the computer through a data-line to the 3D environment. Consult the map to find where Kaf-E is and manipulate doors, destroy cameras so she gets to the lift.

From the map lock onto an object (like a door that needs opening), exit to the computer and follow the direction arrows to find the object and destroy it. It’s not easy, if you bump into anything you lose energy, and craft run about taking pot shots at you.

Control in 3D is the same as Starglider 2 (using mouse), everything scrolls around smoothly. Because the environment is conceptual, rather than an attempt to recreate a real environment
like Damocles of Starglider 2, interphase succeeds in creating something believable.

The most common problem I had was inadvertently destroying the turntables rather than docking. This effectively halted progress, and I had to start again.

Sound is limited to effects associated with moving around and crashing into walls, shooting etc. At the end of each level the game can be saved. However only one saved game per disk is a problem.

ACE magazine compared Damocles to Interphase and rated Damocles the better game. The main reason is that Interphase is a linear game where it is necessary to think and move quickly to advance. Damocles is a bit more leisurely and more like an adventure game where interphase is more of a puzzle/flight simulator game.

This is an original game that doesn’t take long to master. Solving it will take considerable time. Experience with a flight simulator will help, but your ability to solve the puzzles ultimately determines success.

The story scenario has elements of “Total Recall” and the last film of Natalie Wood (can’t remember the title).

Kult (1989)

Kult comes from EXXOS (a French team), which brought us Captain Blood and Purple Saturn Days. The similarity between Captain Blood and Kult is due to the artwork of Michel Rho (who according to the booklet is a “standard humanoid type 3” and has an exhibit on Zeldar IX).

Fortunately much has been learned from captain Blood about game playability. So while the games look similar, Kult is the better game.

You play the part of Raven, a tuner in a time after the “burn”. Your mission:
– Take part in 5 ordeals to obtain skulls.
– Find your friend SciFi (yes, that’s a rather nice looking female).
– Smash the Protozorg plot (the evil empire)

The first part involving getting the skulls is similar to many adventures, you can manipulate objects and talk to characters. You also have your PSI powers to help, and a strange phonetic type of hint available from your “Gauss”. To get the skulls requires a bit of bravado and lateral thinking (So far I have four skulls). Don’t be deceived by the map given in the manual, the game is much larger. Unlike some games, in Kult you can roam around without having to find keys to doors. A tunnel in the mountain will lead you to the unmapped section of the game. Here I eventually found SciFi, unfortunately she was eaten by a turkey (yes, a turkey).

The graphics are first rate. Apart from the loading music the only sounds used are for effects (a nice clunk when opening doors) and speech. The speech is in some mutant form of french very similar to that used in Captain Blood.

Be sure to read the enclosed play manual and synopsis before starting, not only are they very amusing, but will give you the background necessary to advance in this game.

The overall combination of graphics, spot sounds, humour and game-play makes this one of the best adventure games I have played.

Shadowgate (1987)

Once again JRR Tolkien has a lot to answer for in this adventure. The scenario is vaguely familiar :

“Within the walls of the Castle Shadowgate lies your quest. If the prophecies hold true, the dreaded warlock lord will use his dark magic to raise the Behemoth, the deadliest of titans from the depths of the earth. Only you can stop the warlock lord from darkening our world forever”

Like Kult, Shadowgate is run by the mouse. The centre of the screen shows the current location, to the right the exits, to the left your inventory, and below a text window.

You start outside the castle door, above the door you will find a key. Once inside you will have to constantly watch your torch, if it goes out you will stumble and kill yourself.

The things to look for are keys and jems, just about everything I found has a purpose. To advance you will have to find hidden doors, unlock doors and overcome monsters. The puzzles I found to be a bit harder than those in the Sierra games like “Leisure Suit Larry”. A map will be required, and you will have to create it yourself. The manual gives nothing away about the game and I found I was soon referring to hints in back issues of ST User.

The graphics, while not as good as Kult’s are effective. Sounds are used to good effect and add to the atmosphere of the game (try opening one of the coffins).

This is a well designed game with interesting puzzles to solve, it kept me occupied for about a week before I began to come up against locked doors and impassable rivers.
Recommend to the experienced adventure player.

Time and Magik (1988)

Time and Magik is a trilogy of text adventures from level 9.
The games are “Lords of Time”, “Red Moon” and “The Price of Magik”.

These were originally published separately, here they have a new interpreter, and added graphics. The graphics are first rate and add to the atmosphere of the games, but after playing for some time I found them unnecessary. Graphics can be pushed up the screen in the same manner as a “Magnetic Scrolls” game. A book is included which includes a play guide and short stories which give a background to the games.

The manual acts as a protection method when restoring a game. “Lords of Time” involves using a grandfather clock to move through nine time zones, collecting priceless items that will lead to the downfall of the evil timelords. Because I have hints, this is the only game I have managed to finish so far.

“Red Moon” involves the rescue of a power crystal which has been stolen.

In “The Price of Magik” you have to defeat the magician Mylgar, who has been driven mad by the magic of the moon crystal.

The last two games involve the use of magic.

These games are among the best written I have found, the descriptions of people and places often better than the graphics of other games. Although the commands available are not as extensive as later games (like Corruption) there is the useful Ram save and restore, and using the up and down arrows to scroll back through commands. Interaction with characters is limited to giving instructions and giving objects.

If you enjoy text adventures, these are well worth a try. If you have not played a text adventure, then try “Wombats II” and “Colossal Cave”. Both are public domain from Start Magazine.

ManHunter San Francisco (1989)

From Sierra comes an animated adventure game involving aliens, murder and computers. Having escaped from New York (the previous game was Manhunter New York which I have not played), you find yourself in San Francisco. Upon landing you find someone squashed under the spaceship. Take his identity and travel through San Francisco, discover the secrets of the alien alliance and save humanity from serfdom (yet again). The game is similar to previous Sierra games with the drop down menus for saving games, inventory etc. The first thing you notice about the game are the graphics, these appear to have been converted from IBM CGA format and are very blocky.

The game incorporates arcade sequences, the first being an attempt to get across a room without being stomped on by killer robots.I didn’t like this aspect of the games design. In order to advance in this game involves being able to get through the arcade sequences, some being harder than others. I would have preferred an alternative route that required a bit of deduction rather than ability with a joystick.

Some of the graphics I personally found to be unnecessarily violent, however the packaging does indicate that this game is “thrilling and horrifying”.

The game comes on three disks, and you can put the whole mess on a hard drive. The game has no text input, movement is by using arrow keys and a “Manhunter assignment device” which will transport you around the city and track other people.

This is not the best game that Sierra has released, the combination of adventure and arcade puts it somewhere between the two markets.


Sidewinder is another vertically scrolling shootem-up. The scenario is not important, you either have to save the earth from the aliens or rescue some damsel in distress (who cares). The ship is a standard variety, probably modified from some other game. Anyway, the ship is at the bottom of the screen, the aliens come down towards you and there are ground forces which shoot slow moving bombs at you. Pick up the powerups on the way for more fire-power and destroy more buildings/tanks/aliens etc. The thing I like in this game are the explosions, nice big fireballs
and a good sound BANG.

Another thing that puts this game above most others of this kind is the game design, easy enough to get somewhere, and yet not so easy that you get complacent. Once rapid fire is achieved you can advance several levels.

Perhaps a prize for the person who can do better than my high score of 220,405.


Take five grid iron rugby players, give them armour and put them in an oversized squash court. This is something like speedball. Here is a game that I found very addictive.

Your view is down on the play field, with the joystick you control one of five players or the goal keeper. The object is to score by throwing a ball through an opening in the end walls. As the ball comes near one of your players you get control of that player, he can be moved in eight directions and can pass and lob the ball. Playing against the computer there are ten teams you play, after practice the lowest ranked team is easy to defeat, but the top team is near impossible.

Even more fun if you try the two player mode. Another creation of the bitmap brothers. Recommended


Space, Magic and Mystery. The Epic journey through TIME.
And graphical too, this adventure game is similar to Chronoquest II in that you have to find a time machine and journey through time. The game is large, with three disks and plenty of time periods to discover. The game starts with several minutes of graphics describing what has happened to the planet and how you can save us all from a future of nuclear devastation. Don’t expect to find clues from the enclosed guide this only has three pages of English to describe how to play. An A3 poster is included.

The screen is divided into two areas, a main display showing where you are and underneath icons for inventory, movement, object manipulation and talking. There is no need for text input, you progress through the game mainly by using objects. The graphics are good, and animation of characters clear and detailed. I have not progressed very far through the game, after exploring the space station where you begin I went down to earth to meet Doc Delaney who knows something about movement through time. So either I’m a bit stupid, or this game is a bit on the hard side.

Apart from the puzzles, the main problem with this game is it’s speed. Because of all the graphics, movement from place to place is determined by the speed of the walking figure. Once you have seen something once, you will wish for faster movement. Another problem is that there is very little to read. I find that although a picture may be worth a thousand words, a few lines about where you are helps a game and can give a few more clues about what you should be doing. Apart from these problems it is the story line which will maintain your interest in this game.