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John Walker


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FeatureBastard of the Old Republic

From the archive: John Walker's own personal Star Wars trilogy.

Picross E Review

Pixel (nearly) perfect.

FeatureRetrospective: Daemon Summoner

Sometimes the dead should stay dead.

FeatureRetrospective: Escape From Monkey Island

"I've got hands to kiss, and babies to shake."

I absolutely, categorically do not understand what everyone has against Escape From Monkey Island. While I admit I had been horribly wrong about The Curse Of Monkey Island, everyone else is entirely wrong about the fourth game in the series, and it's time for this mad prejudice to come to an end.

FeatureRetrospective: Driv3r

As brilliant as it was literate.

So I ran this guy over. I guess I didn't like the look of him. He gets up twice, but I pop him back down again until he runs out of getting up juice. This causes the police to arrive, two of them. They screech to a halt nearby, get out of the car and then stand still. One stands in front of his police car, which proves a mistake when a van crashes into the back of it, causing the policeman to be run over by his own abandoned vehicle. The other cop reacts by sprinting off down the road, remembering himself, then turning around and running back, colliding with the bonnet of another van and running madly on the spot. The previously squished cop gets up, charges off down the road, and starts shooting his gun at a passing taxi.

Crystal Dynamics' first go at the Tomb Raider license must have been terrifying. Such an enormously famous series in the hands of Core, so spectacularly falling to pieces after Angel Of Darkness, Tomb Raider was at once one of the most famous franchises in the world and one of the most despised. Lara overkill combined with the unmitigated disaster of its sixth game meant that it was something of a poisoned chalice that was handed to the Californian developers, and the result is a fascinating combination of fervent loyalty to the series mixed in with some interesting new ideas.

I'm calling a moratorium on boss fights. I've even looked up the word to check what it means, to be sure about that. We need them to be stopped for a while so everyone can gather together and discuss what's going on. I'm not banning them - you can relax. I'm just calling for a hiatus during which some sensible consideration can take place.

I'd never played the Kingdom Hearts games before. In fact, I only really noticed they exist very recently. I'm not sure how that happened, but I decided to put it right by delving into the original PS2 version of the first Kingdom Hearts. It's important to plug these gaps.

The Longest Journey is my favourite game. It's not the best game ever made. It's not the best-written, although it's up there. It certainly isn't the best example of an adventure game. But it's the game that most touched me - a game that literally changed my life. It changed how I think, an aspect of how my imagination works, and my philosophy. I'm not sure what higher praise could be offered.

FeatureRetrospective: Marble Madness

The six levels of Hell.

I'm really struggling to play Marble Madness. And not because it's incredibly difficult. It's just too much. Too much sensory overload, too many childhood memories evoked by a single sprite or sound effect.

There's a comic artist you've probably never heard of, despite his being one of the most talented single-panel creators of all time. A man without whom we'd never have had The Far Side, and all that followed in its wake. B. Kliban's cartoons appeared in Playboy in the States from 1962 until his early death in 1993, and the books collecting his work are worth whatever the second-hand book shop is charging. (He's far more than just some cat drawings, for those who've encountered that side of him.) And amongst them is a recurring theme which Kliban called "Sheer Poetry".

FeatureRetrospective: Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy

The one that isn't Ratchet & Clank.

I decided it was time to settle the debate, once and for all. It's been the subject of human conflict for generations, with more blood spilled over this matter than the world's religions combined. Unrest in the Middle East, uprisings in South America, and territory disputes within the second Mars colony have all been inflamed by one topic. Which is better, Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter?

Edna & Harvey: The Breakout

Out of its mind.

I'm in two minds. Which means I fit in well with the world of Edna & Harvey. An adult woman and the toy rabbit she talks to are trapped in a padded cell, with little idea why they're there. And as the title suggests, it's all about trying to break out.

There's a law of writing about games that is never broken. If you ever say any game is the first to do anything, somebody in the comments will sniffily point out that you're wrong, citing something that came out on the Amstrad or similar in eighties, and questioning whether you should be allowed to review games.

FeatureRetrospective: Tron 2.0

Please remain assembled during authorisation.

There's a sequel to Tron coming out soon. The film. The 1982 Disney classic, which on viewing today is in equal parts brilliant and bemusing.

FeatureRetrospective: Myst

The dark ages.

I absolutely blame Myst. I blame it for everything. Everything bad about gaming, every hateful puzzle, every stupid cut-scene, every dreadful piece of writing. I don't care if any of it is Myst's fault, I still blame Myst. I blame it for the recession, I blame it for X Factor, I blame it for the war in Iraq.

FeatureRetrospective: Uplink

Beep boop beep ba beep bo boop ba beep.

Come with me now, as we attempt to picture the year 2010. Let your mind stretch out and attempt to perceive the thrill, the technological adventure. What manner of life will we be living? And most importantly, what sort of computers will we be working with?

In the genre known colloquially as Diablo Clones, Titan Quest holds a special place for me, although oddly not so much for the game that was released, but more for what happened behind the scenes. Something that suggests we're trying to be God. So, since it's Sunday, why don't we see if we can find a berserk route to a teleological interpretation of videogames, via remembering a visit to Iron Lore during the game's development?

My poor immortal soul. The erosion began in 1997, when I was only 19 years old. Which seems... weird actually. The GTA games are only 13 years old? Surely the original came out in about '93?

FeatureRetrospective: Soldner: Secret Wars

You say bugs. I say gaming jazz.

Soldner never, ever disappoints. There are many games that you can rely on for offering you a fun time. But there is none other (that I've encountered) that provides so much endless, improvised hilarity. It is, without question, the funniest game ever made.

Why Tomb Raider IV: The Last Revelation? Tomb Raider I is loved with nostalgia, Tomb Raider II is the best in the first run of the series, Tomb Raider VI (The Angel of Darkness) has the novelty value of being awful beyond explanation, and VII, VIII and IX have all been absolutely superb. So why IV?

Golf has never been my sport. I tried it once. You have to hit the ball really hard. It just felt wrong. I couldn't bring myself to hit anything that solid such a long way. Someone could get hurt! Clearly, crazy golf is more my sport. (I still believe I'm going to get rich with my idea for full-scale crazy golf. Actual windmills for the windmill. Convert a hillside into a clown's head. It's the best idea any human has ever had.)

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

It's crunch time.

I think a mark of quality in a game is whether you can return to a room you've previously been in, and know you were there earlier by the destruction you wrought. Amnesia, the new first-person adventure from Penumbra developers Frictional, does not paint rooms in the blood of your enemies, but rather in strewn desk drawers, boxes and broken glass.

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